Kingsway Dr. – Kurre Lane Neighborhood

Most photographers I’ve known will always try to sneak in a couple frames of their homes when they’re up shooting aerials, and I’m no exception. Here are some shots of the 1600 block of Kingsway Dr., Kingshighway and Kurre Lane neighborhood from about 1966.

They were taken late in the afternoon when the leaves were off the trees. The sidelighting gave excellent modeling to the terrain.

Cape LaCroix Creek

In the photo above, you can see Cape LaCroix Creek – better known to us kids as 3-Mile Creek – meandering through its flood plain. What we used to call Old Jackson Rd. curves in to connect with Kingshighway  at a 90-degree angle. This was shortly after the intersection had been changed to conform with modern standards. Up until then, it connected with the highway at an angle, which is still visible.

The trailhead for the Cape LaCroix Recreational Trail is located there now.

Outside the city limits

When the Steinhoff family moved to 1618 Kingsway Dr. in 1954, we were one of the first three “modern” houses in the block. We were the house closest to Kurre Lane of the three homes in the center of the frame. Today, the neighborhood is not only inside the city limits, but population and boundary shifts have put it in the center of Cape.

There was a heavily wooded area between our house and the corner that belonged to Dennis Scivally, Cape Special Road District Engineer, for whom Dennis Scivally Park was named. Dad started trimming out the small trees and brush on the lot and eventually bought it.

It had a big old walnut tree that was perfect for building a tree house. Why my buddies and I didn’t get killed building it is a wonder to me today. On windy days, I’d climb as high as I could in the tall, spindly trees, jam myself in a fork and sway three or four feet for hours at a time.

At some point, Dad and Mother sold a piece of the property to the McElreath family, which owns it today. They built a home on the corner, which took out my tree house.

Try this persimmon, you’ll like it

There was also a big persimmon tree that would drop tons of the sweet fruit in the fall. It was always good for a laugh when you could persuade some unsuspecting kid to bite into a green persimmon. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sure I can find some in time for the reunion.

Cows in our back yard

There were two working farms with big barns on our street – the Hales and the Heislers. We had cows in the field behind our house.

The Tinkers lived directly across the street from us. After they moved out, Bill and Rhonda Bolton bought the house. They’ve made a bunch of improvements to the house and they’ve been great neighbors who keep a close eye on my mother.

John and Mary Gray lived in a house that he had converted from an old chicken coop. They had a big garden between them and the Tinkers. The Rose family lived in a two-story house in front of them. Two house down from us lived the Garners. The house between us and the Garners has had a variety of owners over the years. The Ailor family lived there when this photo was taken.

Kurre Lane dead-ended at Kingway in 1966. There was no fire station, Girl Scout office, or funeral home in those days. Traffic was light enough that my brothers and I could pile into our little red wagon and coast all  the way down to the bottom of the hill without fear of getting run over.

Here’s what it looks like today

You can zoom and pan in Google Earth to get your bearings.


View 1600 Block of Kingsway Drive in a larger map

The Spring on Bloomfield Road

When we were driving past the castle called Elmwood, my mother wondered if a spring she remembered as a little girl was still there.

I had heard her talk about it years and years ago, so I thought I knew approximately where it was alongside Bloomfield Rd. I parked my van at Kensington Lane and walked north, back toward the curve in the road leading to Cape.

This view, by the way, is the reason Bloomfield Rd. SHOULDN’T be widened. There should be some roads left that let us appreciate what the area was like before it became paved over. If the road isn’t fast enough for you, then don’t move out there. Ditto Route W. OK, rant off.

Just south of the big tree that’s shown in the photo above and on the west side of the road, I saw a small rivulet of water running toward what used to be the Elmwood estate.

Water boils mark the spring

I didn’t see a pipe running under the road that would account for the stream. When I looked at the pool through a polarizing filter on my camera, I could see beneath the reflections on the water’s surface.

Those black circles mark where water is boiling up out of the bottom of the pool.

I had found my Mother’s spring

“My Grandmother – my Mother’s Mother – Mary Adkins, would always buy some kind of pan at the dime store every time we came to Cape from Advance. On the way back, we’d stop at that spring and dip out a drink in the new pan. She died in 1938, when she was 75 years old, so that was quite a few years ago,” my mother, Mary Welch Steinhoff, recalled.

“I don’t remember what kind of car we had – it was before Model T days. Mother (Elsie Welch) would usually come along; Grandmother would drive. Dad (Roy Welch) never liked to drive.”

Did you stop for a drink on the way TO Cape?

“No, we didn’t have a pan on the way TO Cape.”

“Didn’t you ever think about bringing one along?” I asked?

“No, I guess she wanted a new pan and this was always an excuse to get one.”

View of spring looking south

That white fence marks what used to be the Elmwood property. I don’t know if this is in the 900 acres that were sold for the Dalhousie Golf Club or if it’s part of the 70 acres retained by the estate.

Map showing spring and Elmwood


View Bloomfield Spring & Elmwood in a larger map

Don’t Stare at My Mother’s Arm

Liberty with the truth warning: there may be some parts of what you read next that might not exactly be lies, but they stretch the truth to the point of snapping. [The story was originally written to promote the Convention Bureau’s Storytelling Festival.]

What’s the matter with her arm?

Mother couldn’t figure out why my brother Mark’s friends always looked at her funny. They’d appear to be staring, then glance away quickly when she looked at them.

She found out later that Mark had told them, “Don’t stare at my mother’s arm, she’s self-conscious about it.”

“What’s the matter with your mother’s arm,” they’d ask.

It’s a long story

Here’s how he tells it in (mostly) his own words:

After Dad died and all of us boys scattered all over the country, Mother got a little lonely. She was okay financially, but she wanted to do something a little different to keep busy, something that would let her see the sights, be around other people and make herself feel useful.

She was a cook on a riverboat

She decided to work as a cook on a towboat, The Robert Kilpatrick. She worked 20 days on and got 20 days off.

She had her own small utility boat that was kept on the barge on a hoist.  When she  ran low on supplies, she would have the captain radio ahead to the nearest town and give them the “grocery list.”  As they came close to the town, they would lower her boat into the water. She would take off, load up the supplies (the store would meet her at the river with them), and then she’d floor it to catch up with the tow.

One day as the tow was being broken up and put into the lock and dam (modern day tows now “push” as many as 30 barges at a time and dams/locks were not designed to accommodate more than eight at a time, two abreast),  she decided she wouldn’t launch her own boat, she’d stay with the tow. She was getting ready to climb a steel ladder from the the barge  to the top of the lock so she could board a waiting cab to go into town for the supplies when something went terribly wrong.

Tragic accident took her arm

Suddenly the barges shifted in the lock and her arm was caught between the edge of the barge and the concrete dam wall. It pinched it clean off at the elbow.

Tragic, yes, but not enough to keep our mother down.  No  sir.  In fact, some of the guys in the machine shop – the burly  guys who ate steak for breakfast and kept the massive engines working  down below – fashioned her a couple of custom “snap on” tools that were a little more functional than the basic hook that was all insurance would cover.

One was a spatula that could easily turn extra large omelets (and used to scrape the grill to keep food from sticking to it); the other was a meat fork with three tines.  Two tines faced the the same direction so she could pick up meat from the grill, and one tine was bent 90 degrees in the other direction, so she could open and close the oven doors with it.

OSHA said somebody’s gonna get an eye poked out

OSHA thought the custom tools created a hazard to workers who might get impaled if the boat hit rough water and caused her to stumble, so she quit rather than kowtow to bureaucrats.

She became a Happy Hooker

Her next job was working for the city of Cape Girardeau as a wrecker driver.  She drove a tow truck all over town looking for scofflaws who had outstanding parking tickets so she could impound their vehicle.  Nobody ever tried to  stop her after she raised her artificial arm and clicked her custom tool fingers at them like mad magpies.

Prosthetic technology progressed to the point where she decided to give up the hook and custom attachments for an arm that was covered in soft plastic that was almost lifelike. The doctors did a great job of matching her skin tone, too.

She got so she’d play along

When Mark’s friends threw him a surprise 50th birthday party, Mother, Son Adam and I showed up. When she noticed some of the guests giving her arm a quick glance, she pulled her hand up into her sleeve so it looked like she had left her prosthesis  at home.

“You can’t take that slot machine”

Storytelling is in our genes.

My mother’s family owned several businesses in Advance at one time or another. One was a tavern that had a few slot machines to bring in some extra (if illegal) income. Her parents had to leave one afternoon and left her in charge. She was all of about 13 years old.

It must have been an election year, because the place suddenly filled with law enforcement officers who were going to confiscate the slot machines as being illegal gambling devices. Mother knew that one of the machines was full of money, so she stood up to the sheriff and said, “You can’t take that one. It’s broken. If it doesn’t work, it’s no more a gambling machine than that bar stool.”

They left it behind.

Don’t forget the Storytelling Festival

If you made it all the way down here, you must appreciate tall tales. When this story was first published, you could click on the photo below, which would take you to the Convention Bureau’s Storytelling Festival website. I had optimistically written, “It’ll help me convince the convention bureau folks that this would be a great place to advertise, and it’ll set you up for a weekend that sounds like a lot of fun.” It might have done the latter, but the former never happened.

Tornado Drills and John F. Kennedy’s Assassination

Blaring klaxons at Alma Schrader School

Just as I stepped out of the car in front of Alma Schrader School Friday morning, an ear-splitting alarm cut the air. “Wow, that’s some greeting,” I thought. “They’ve got the sensor on the StrangeCharacter-o’meter set just a little bit too sensitive.”

When I got inside, I saw little kids hunkered down in the hallway and teachers taking headcounts. I glanced out the window where the skies were gray, but not particularly threatening. “Tornado drill?” I asked a staffer. “It IS a drill, right?”

I was assured that it was merely a drill, something they practice several times a year. I hope it’s more effective than the Duck ‘n Cover exercises we did to prepare for nuclear blasts.

It was a productive visit. Principal Ruth Ann Orr, administrative assistant Stephanie Voil Depro and counselor Julia Unnerstall were a great help in matching names to faces in the photos I shot of the school’s 50th Anniversary Celebration March 11.

What does Alma Schrader have to do with JFK?

My memory is a funny thing. It’s full of old stuff waiting for some kind of electrical spark to flicker between it and something I encounter in Today’s World. When I looked out the door at the gray skies, I flashed back to a stormy Friday afternoon on November 22, 1963.

The American History teacher was droning on. We were waiting for the end of the day and the start of the weekend. The PA crackled to life and we looked out at the threatening clouds wondering if we were going to hear a tornado alert.

Principal Fred Wilferth announced that President John F. Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas, Texas. Not long after that came the bulletin that the President was dead.

The Missourian reported that Central High School “held a period of respect and remembrance [that began] at 2:45, lasting several minutes.”

“All you could hear was breathing”

Shortly after that, a television set with rabbit ears was wheeled into the gym, where shocked students watched the story unfold. As soon as I saw the scene, I called The Missourian and told Editor John Blue that I’d have something for him. That promise would soon come back to haunt me.

EXTRA! EXTRA!

He said the paper was going to publish an EXTRA edition, but I’d have to hurry. They wanted the paper on the street by 6 p.m.

I ran up to the school darkroom, grabbed the Crown Graphic 4×5 camera and two holders of film. One side was empty, so that left me three shots. I didn’t see the school’s electronic flash, so I grabbed three old-fashioned flash bulbs on the way out the door.

Without getting too technical, the camera had to be set differently for each type of light. An electronic flash fires a very short burst of light, so the shutter has to be fully open when it goes off (that’s the X setting). A flashbulb ignites, then it gets progressively brighter until it dims out. That means it has to fire slightly before the shutter does so it is at maximum brightness when the shutter is open all of the way (that’s the M setting).

In my excitement, I didn’t notice that the camera was set for electronic flash. When I pulled the dripping film out of the fixer, my heart sank. It was almost blank. There was hardly any image on it at all. The flashbulb hadn’t had time to get to full brightness before the shutter closed.

Darkroom Magic

I knew I didn’t have time to reshoot the picture, even if the students were still around. I pulled out what meager little bag of magic darkroom tricks I had learned and managed to come up with a shot that made the paper.

It was the last time in my entire career that I ever told an editor that I had a picture before I saw it. You have to remember that my first Missourian news photo was published April 18 of that year. My credibility was on the line. You don’t tell someone to hold space in an EXTRA! unless you can deliver.

By the way, the “pupil” quoted as saying all he could hear was the sound of his fellow classmates breathing was me. The Missourian had this quaint style rule that you were a “pupil” until you were in college. Then you were promoted to “student.” I tried every way I could to get the style changed, but never succeeded.

Here’s a link to the EXTRA! edition. You’ll have to play around with the zoom settings on the page to be able to read it.

Polio Vaccine and Lee Harvey Oswald

I’ll publish all three photos, warts and all. In some ways, the dust spots, fingerprints and bad exposure makes the images feel more “real.” Or, that’s the excuse I’ll use.

My family and I went to Central High School on the Sunday after the assassination to get sugar cubes with drops of polio vaccine on them. When we got into the car to go home, we heard the news that Jack Ruby had shot Lee Harvey Oswald while he was being transferred from the jail to an interrogation room.

A change in the news business

The assassination, Oswald shooting and Kennedy funeral changed the way Americans would get the news. I know the The Palm Beach Evening Times put out an EXTRA! edition when the Challenger exploded. I’m pretty sure that was the last extra edition I ever worked on.

Radio and TV were much better equipped to handle breaking news. (I would argue that the 24-hour cable channels have mishandled breaking news in recent years with their obsession of staying live when there’s nothing going on.) The printed newspaper provided a keepsake and tangible proof that an event happened in a way that broadcasting couldn’t, but the Internet has essentially driven a stake through the heart of traditional media.

The screen shots, by the way, were taken off the Steinhoff family Zenith TV in our basement.

Innocence ended

JFK’s assassination was the first in a wave of killings and attempted killings: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Robert Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan

None of us who lived through that era emerged untouched. If you don’t believe it, look how a tornado drill at an elementary school in my home town can give me a flashback to a Friday afternoon nearly half a century earlier.