Should Cape to Jackson Calls Cost a Dime?

November 1944 Phone Book Cover

I was browsing through the November 18, 1918, Southeast Missourian when I saw there was a big controversy brewing. The phone company was petitioning the state utility commission to allow them to either raise rates on all users, or end free calling between Cape Girardeau and Jackson, and make it cost a dime a call.

Darned students are hogging the lines

Pay telephone booths near Scott Quadrangle in Athens, Ohio, c 1967

Cape Girardeau Bell Telephone said that from 500 to 700 calls a day are handled between the two cities daily. Their records show that at least 75 percent of the calls are for “social purposes. Students are frequent users of the line. Young people get much enjoyment talking to friends in the other town. Much visiting is done over the phone.”

Business calls were being blocked

The phone company complained that the 25 percent of the calls going to “essential business” has to wait until the 75 percent of social business is taken care of.

“Every businessman knows that not once in a hundred times can he get a prompt connection with Jackson, but must wait from a few minutes to a few hours.”

What’s the problem?

One of nine telephone system rooms at The Palm Beach Post

The phone company manager said there are only six lines between the two towns. If the free service is continued, he claimed that he would have to put in seven more lines to take care of the business that has grown through the free rate.

He estimated that the calls would drop from 600 a day to about 100 a day if the ten-cent toll was approved.

[In comparison, my old paper, The Palm Beach Post could handle more than 300 phone calls at once. I was on vacation when I was offered the job of telecommunication manager. As I was driving through Old Appleton, I thought, if I take this job, I’ll have a bigger phone system than most of the towns in SE Missouri.]

Missourian was vexed

Long distance rates from Cape in 1944

The Missourian editorialized that it “is not fully enough advised regarding the facts in the case to offer any suggestions for a solution, but it knows from its daily vexation that something should be done to clear the Cape-Jackson lines in order that essential business may be transacted with a little more promptness.”

The dime charge must not have been approved because this table of long distance charges doesn’t show one for Jackson.

I vaguely remember Jackson as being long distance when I was a kid, but I could be wrong. Anybody know for sure?

Labor Day

Ken Steinhoff deposit slip 12-26-1963While I was going through old files at Mother’s house, I ran across this deposit slip from December 26, 1963. I thought of it with Labor Day coming up.

It tells a number of stories

  • I was paid slightly under thirty bucks a week from SKJ – Steinhoff, Kirkwood & Joiner. Dad put me to work as a laborer one summer mostly to show me why I wouldn’t want to go into the construction business. It was the only time from age 12 until I retired from The Palm Beach Post in 2008 that I wasn’t employed by a paper in some capacity or another.
  • Even then, I had two deposits for photos: $5 from The Missourian, and $1.90 from the Board of Education (I don’t have a clue where that odd amount came from).
  • Another guess is that Dad must have leaned on me to cash all my summer checks before the end of the year so he could close out his books. As a kid with few expenses, I drove the poor accountant at The Missourian crazy because I wouldn’t cash my checks for weeks. This was the last time in my life I was able to cause that problem.

Mill Street Bridge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970When I’m not thinking about Cape, I hang out on the You Know You’re from Athens, Ohio, If… Facebook page. Folks there post memories of things I shot working for The Athens Messenger in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Someone brought up the old Mill Street Bridge this week.

This is a photo I took of the bridge the day it was destroyed on August 25, 1970, because the river was being relocated as part of a flood control project.

The bridge went splash close to deadline, so I rushed this photo in, only to be told, “Oh, I have that dummied in as a vertical. It’s too late to change, so go back and find a vertical.”

I told the editor to let me have his seat. I laid out the front page to give myself a nice horizontal ride, rewrote a couple of headlines, and said, “This’ll work.” That’s when I appreciated all the pages Missourian editor John Blue let me lay out and the hundreds of headlines I had written.

The biggest lemon in the world

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The vehicle on the left is my 1969 VW Squareback, the biggest lemon ever to be squeezed out of Germany. I loved the car, but it loved the repair shop more. I ended up selling it with the engine in a cardboard box.

Wife Lila and I lived in a basement apartment a few blocks from the bridge and the river. The landlord showed us a big valve they’d have to close if the river got high; otherwise, we were going to find ourselves wading in sewage.

Hocking River gauge

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The little square concrete structure on the far left is the river gauge. It was mentioned in a 1916 Water-Supply Paper talking about the Hocking River Basin. It was located “at a single span highway bridge at Mill Street, about three-fourths mile from business district of Athens, Athens County.” The left bank, it said, overflows at gage (their spelling) height 17 feet and the water passes around the bridge. The study noted there were ruins of an old mill dam 300 feet downstream.

Bridge was cut apart

Mill Street Bridge demolition 08-25-1970The horizontal members of the bridge were cut, leaving only the sides and bed behind. I don’t recall what actually brought the bridge down. The crane has been moved well back, and I don’t see the guy with the cutting torch in the final photos.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t use dynamite, like Dad did with a bridge over the Black River in Wayne county, Missouri. In his case, he had to drop the bridge straight down to keep it from damaging the new bridge next to it on one side and a bunch of phone lines on the other. The blast part went great, but cutting it apart like these guys are doing went not so well. You can see a video of it here.

Bridge demo gallery

Here’s a collection of photos of the bridge’s final moments. Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the images.

 

 

March Weather and Murder

Utility lines near Allenville - Delta 03-05-2016You couldn’t beat Saturday’s March weather: winds were calm, skies were blue, temps were in the mid-60s. I decided to take advantage of it. I spent some time at Salem Cemetery, then made a quick pass through Dutchtown, and updated my old pictures of the Allenville railroad bridge. You’ll see those later.

By the time I got through with the bridge, the sun was about to dip below the horizon and the temps were dipping just about as fast. I stuck my camera in the car and was just getting in when I looked up, probably to keep from bumping my folically-challenged head on the doorframe.

These utility lines caught my eye. I was going to keep getting into the car, then my old rule kicked in: shoot it when you see it.

A view down Hwy N

Utility lines near Allenville - Delta 03-05-2016This is what you saw if you looked down Hwy N instead of up in the air. Around that curve, headed to Delta, is where one of Southeast Missouri’s unsolved murders occurred.

On July 3, 1954, Bonnie Huffman’s 1938 Ford was found parked in the middle of this road. Sixty hours later, the body of the pretty, young schoolteacher was found in a ditch nearby. Her neck was broken, and the 100-plus-degree summer temperatures had caused advanced decomposition.

Over the years, countless theories have been advanced, leads followed and suspects interviewed, all to no avail. John Blue, a reporter at the time, covered the story from the start and became obsessed with the case. When he was editor of The Missourian, he kept the story alive.

Missourian front page

1954-07-06 Missourian - Bonnie HuffmanThis is the original story on the July 6, 1954, front page. The timing of the story was unfortunate for the paper: July 4 was a Sunday, when the paper didn’t publish, and Monday was a holiday. That meant the story didn’t break until Tuesday.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.