All I know is that the negatives were labeled “Civic Center Baking Contest 8/30/1967.” I looked in The Missourian for several weeks figuring that it was probably a Youth Page feature, but I couldn’t find a story. Some of the faces look familiar, but I’m afraid to put names to them. It’s up to you.
June 17, 1959, The Missourian reported that citizens and churches were trying to raise $5,500 in operating expenses for the Smelterville Civic Center to be opened in the renovated Hartle building..
Fifty-two years later, a March 16, 2011, story by Scott Moyers said that the $2 million Shawnee Park Center was going to open March 28. Quite a contrast. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)
For years, residents in the central area had the Arena Building for activities; the Osage Center and the water park was built later for the northern part of the city. South Cape, always the municipal step child, was pretty much neglected until the Shawnee Park Center was built at 835 S. West End Blvd, next to the Shawnee Sports Complex..
14,541 square feet
The 14,541 square-foot facility includes:
870-square-foot fitness room.
720-square-foot activity room.
1,540-square-foot meeting room that can be divided into two rooms.
May 9, 1960 – Report of accomplishments: attendance increased from 15 to 20 children on a Saturday to over 100; demand grew so much that arrangements were made to use the May Greene School gym for Saturday athletic programs; a state-sponsored program taught many women in Smelterville the use of sewing machines; a quilting program had been started; the county medical society gave assistance and an eye clinic was held.
May 11, 1960 – Stephen Limbaugh, Miss Bertie Cleino and Rev. Owen Whitfield were elected to the Civic Center board of directors. Henry Ochs reviewed the center’s accomplishments and said that plans were being made to add washing machines and bathing facilities to the building. Gary Rust talked about expansion plans. Fred Thomas reported on Saturday activities. C.C. McClue announced a fundraising drive for June.
May 10, 1961 – Mississippi River was expected to crest at 39 feet, the fourth highest point since the modern record of 42.4 feet on May 27, 1943. [That compares with 48.49 ft on August 8, 1993.] Some Smelterville families move into the Civic Center when their homes flooded. The rise was unexpected. The river came up 6.9 feet in 48 hours.
Dec. 23, 1966 – SEMO students insured that Christmas presents were available to children at the Civic Center.
Links to old Civic Center photos
I’ve done two stories with photos of old Civic Center activities:
Here’s another story that’s fallen into Google’s black hole. These photos of girls at South Cape’s Civic Center were taken February 22, 1967 for The Missourian’s Youth Page. Unfortunately, there’s a whole range of dates missing from the Google Archives for that period, so I can’t tell you exactly what’s going on and who the girls are.
As best as I can remember, a young lady from Southeast Missouri State College showed up to lead the girls in something. I can’t tell if it’s modern dance, stretching or, in one photo in the gallery, the proper way to carry a heavy rock.
How the photos were taken
Since I don’t have any other info, let’s talk technique.
I got a little sloppy with this photo. See the legs of my tripod light stand in the back left of the photo. This must have been when I was experimenting with “hot lights” to boost the illumination enough that I wouldn’t have to use flash.
That’s a technique that I used for most of my career. Some guys are able to visualize what the light will look like when their strobes fire. I can’t. I have to SEE the light. That’s why I used photo floods or quartz lights. My theory was that if God had wanted the world lit by flashes, he’d have made lightning the standard, not the sun.
Rube Goldberg lighting
In addition to more formal lighting, I carried some homebrew contraptions.
The photo staff made up a sets of Rube Goldberg-looking portable lights that used a peanut-sized 1000-watt light bulb that fit into a special ceramic socket with two bare wires protruding from it. We’d twist those wires onto some lamp cord, attach the sockets to a huge metal clamp with pipe clamps and be on our way. The more diligent of us would solder and tape or use heatshrink tubing on the junction. They were great because you could clamp them just about anywhere and they’d throw out a LOT of light. OSHA and the loss control department would probably frown on them for a number of very good reasons.
As much heat as light
The bad thing is that they’d also produce a lot of heat along with the light.
One election day, chief photographer Jose More and I went around to all the campaign headquarters and stuck lights up so the shooters wouldn’t have to deal with it on the run. The next day, Jose and I went back to retrieve our gear.
Oops, one of the lights had shifted, leaving a large charred mark on the drywall. Jose and I looked at it, looked at each other, nodded, then slapped a huge campaign poster over the damage and bolted. Thank goodness this was still back in the day of smoke-filled rooms. Nobody noticed that the place was nearly on fire.
Civic Center Photo Gallery
If you recognize anyone, call ’em out. If you remember what was going on, please fill us in on that, too. I shot a sock hop at the Civic Center in the summer of 1967. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.
Mother and I took a cruise down to South Cape to see if Sprigg Street is open where the sinkholes closed the road near the Cape LaCroix bridge during the spring flood. (It isn’t.)
A roundish, triangular-shaped structure caught my eye to the east of Giboney Street, right around where the railyards are. I thought it might have been a kiln of some kind, but a quick call to Keith Robinson, who knows everything there is to know about anything that comes close to a railroad track, came up with the answer. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)
It’s a sawdust burner
The object was a sawdust burner, left over from the days when M.E. Leming Lumber occupied a good part of that stretch of the river. The river was a good thing and a bad thing for the lumber company. It provided a convenient way to ship trees and finished lumber to and from the mill, but it also meant that it was susceptible to Mississippi River floods.
“The river put us out of business,” Missourian associate edtor Ray Owen quoted Howard C. Tooke, president of the company from 1956 until it closed in 1992. Tooke said in the Feb. 28, 1993, story that “In 1973, we had a major flood. Over the next three years, we had seven floods. It got to the point where we were running only about eight months a year.” Ironically, the company closed before the big flood of 1993 that pretty much marked the end of Smelterville and the Red Star District.
Swamp replaced busy lumber yard
The Missourian story has an excellent photo taken during the company’s heyday in 1939 showing the area covered in stacks of lumber. This aerial, taken from a Cape Air Flight this summer, shows the area today. The light green patch across from the passing barge is where the sawdust burner is located. Most of the wooded area around the green swamp was once the lumber yard.
Directly south of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is the Missouri Dry Dock. The orange, cleared land to the west of it is the space that folks were speculating might become a minor league baseball field.
Leming Lumber founded in 1893
The company, founded in 1893, was one of Cape’s largest employers for many years. Today, about all that’s left is this sawdust burner. A peek at Google Earth shows what might be a few foundations scattered around, but I won’t check those out until a trip when it’s been cold enough to kill all the vegetation, cause the ground to get hard and to send the ticks, chiggers and snakes into hiding.