After I ran photos of the Flood of 1943 from Dad’s scrapbook, a member of the Lamkin Family sent me this aerial photo of the flood. I asked who took it so I could credit the photographer, and he said, “No idea. It hung in my grandfather’s office for as long as I recall.”
Themis Street is on the left and Broadway is on the right. You can see the steeple of Trinity Lutheran Church and the Academic Hall dome in the background. Buckner-Ragsdale is the three-story building on the right, at the foot of Broadway. The St. Charles Hotel is the tall, light-colored building on the left side of Themis. The building with the checkered tile and sharp-peaked roof is Hecht’s Department Store. The Sturdivant Bank Building is between the St. Charles and Hecht’s.
Click on the photo to make it larger.
Here are some earlier stories about Buckner’s and the Lamkin family.
When you’re shooting your second full moon of a visit, it’s probably time to start packing your bags. The moon phase ap on my Droid showed that the orb was 97% full last night, so I told Mother we better be ready to saddle up to shoot it tonight.
We pulled in to the parking lot at the base of Cape Rock to find eight or ten cars getting ready for the free entertainment. Just about that time, a long, long, long southbound freight rolled by in front of us. It kept coming and coming and coming, slowing all the time. Finally, with the last three empty hopper cars and a pusher engine blocking our view, it stopped. Dead, put-a-penny-on-the-tracks stopped.
We decided to go to the top of Cape Rock, but feared that it would be parked solid. To our surprise, there was only one car parked there, and it moved on, leaving us some prime real estate to watch.
While I was setting up my tripod, a guy on a bike rolled up. We did all the ritual chicken dances that people with similar interests do and got so involved that I didn’t pay much attention to the horizon. I’d look over my shoulder from time to time and think, “Nope, not yet.”
Well, I had misjudged where the thing was going to come up. On one of my shoulder checks, I looked a little more to the south and did one of those, “Whoa! Where did THAT come from?” Of course, I pretended that I had been patiently WAITING for the moon to get 10 degrees out of the water before shooting.
I shot a few frames with the longer lens on my video camera, but I like this one better because it shows how low the river is now. That’s one BIG sandbox down there. The river’s about three feet lower than it was when I shot the little picture above from Cape Rock last fall.
Checked out the casino
When some clouds covered the moon, we headed toward town. I thought maybe there would be some night working going on at the casino, but it didn’t look interesting. I opted not to try for a moon shot from the floodwall and the bridge because I had done those before. I decided to see what the view was like from the Common Pleas Courthouse.
When I came around the corner, the two women going down the steps were standing shoulder to shoulder trying to get a moon photo with their camera phones. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that the puny little flashes built into those cameras weren’t going to do much good at lighting up downtown OR the moon. I didn’t do much better. It was already pretty small in the sky by now.
Cape IT director Eric McGowen, a reader, asked if I’d like to see the Jackson Courthouse and the Common Pleas Courthouse from top to bottom – bell towers to dungeon. Do bears squat in the woods? You bet.
Bright and early (for me), Friend Shari came down from St. Louis to carry lights and tripods, and we met up with Eric and Don McQuay, public works director. I’ll post the courthouse pictures later.
What we ran across was almost neater than the landmark buildings. In the basement of the Common Pleas Courthouse hung three framed prints. As soon as I saw the round shape, I knew immediately that it was on the few photos of Pfisters I’ve seen.
This is a section of the photo showing the Broadway – Kingway split just west of Kingshighway. Click on the photos to make them larger. I made them a little bigger than usual, so they may take a few extra seconds to load.
A wider shot
This is the uncropped version. The Broadway – Kingsway split is at the bottom right. The next street to the left is Clark. The curved one is Thilenius. Central High School is at the top right. Franklin School is at the top left.
I used a polarizing filter to cut as much glare as I could, but there’s still some left. There was nothing on the photos to indicate who might have taken them.
Central High School
This is an enlargement of the Central High School area. It looks like the school might still be under construction, which would mean the picture was taken sometime around 1952 or 1953. The first classes were held there in 1953.
Franklin School is at the top left. The Grace United Methodist Church hasn’t been built yet. I’m not even sure that the streets are paved. Caruthers Avenue, especially in front of the school, doesn’t look like it. Themis Street has some gaps between houses.
2011 aerial photo of Central High
It’s a junior high school now, but to me it’ll always be Central High School. I didn’t have one taken from the same direction as the 50’s photo. This is looking southeast to northwest, diagonally opposite of the older picture.
Caruthers and Independence is on the lower left. The long, red building in the middle of the top of the picture is where Pfisters would have been. Grace United Methodist Church is on the right, near the intersection of Caruthers and Broadway.
I was walking east on Themis toward the Common Pleas Courthouse trying to spot the old Teen Age Club that got to bouncing so hard one night that the city inspector shut it down because he was afraid the floor might collapse. On the opposite of the street was a nondescript red brick building that had a plaque on it. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)
The Rotary Club plaque read, “Telephone Service. In 1877 the first long distance telephone line in Missouri was completed December 18, 1877, between Cape Girardeau and Jackson. In 1896 here in a 10′ x 12′ second floor room the city’s first telephone exchange was established by A.R. Ponder, L.J. Albert, J.F. Brooks and M.A. Dennison doing business as the Cape Girardeau Telephone Company.”
As a former telecommunications manager, I was vaguely intrigued.
I flashed back to when I was offered the telecom job just before I left on vacation to head back to Cape in the early ’90s. I knew absolutely nothing about phone stuff, but I remember thinking as I was going through little villages like Old Appleton, “Wow, if I take this job I’ll have a bigger phone system than this town.”
That call to Jackson
I put the story on the back burner for a slow day. When Friend Shari Stiver and I took a stroll down Main Street one day when we were both in town, she said she’d like to swing by to look at the old telephone exchange, which had also been the Sturdivant Bank, the oldest bank in Southeast Missouri.
“The call may have originated in Cape,” she said, “but do you have any idea where it terminated in Jackson?”
Somehow or another, knowing Shari, I was pretty sure I was going to find out.
“The first call rang in my great-grandfather’s kitchen,” she elaborated. “He was the J.F. Brooks mentioned on the plaque. He was the engineer who laid out the railroad for Louis Houck. Houck wanted to be able to get hold of him, so he had him pull a phone line between Cape and Jackson.”
Major Brooks “advanced” down to Advance
“Are we talking about the Major James Francis Brooks who Houck told to ‘advance’ down the line another mile to a stand of mulberry trees where land for a train depot could be bought for $10 an acre instead of $30 an acre in Lakeville?”
Yep, it was the same guy. Major Brooks’ engineering ended up resulting in the establishment of many of the small towns like Sturdivant, Brownwood, Blomeyer and Delta.
Brooks came west on a spotted pony
Shari added that her great-grandmother, “Bookie” (Florence Adele Turnbaugh Brooks) played telephone operator after the initial excitement of the first couple of calls died down. Maj. Brooks got his engineering degree at Vineyard College in Kansas City after he rode his spotted pony west with a wagon train to get there.
The Turnbaughs were Southerners who owned slaves, which Shari suspects caused some heated discussions over a bottle of whiskey on the front porch of the Turnbaugh house in Jackson.
The book said that part of the project was to build a two-foot sandstone retaining wall along Normal Avenue, “although admittedly this last project was more to stop wayward farm animals from straying onto the grounds.”
As much as I love old buildings, I can see what the concern is. When you look through the gallery of photos taken over a three-year period, you can see that the upper level has deteriorated to the point that a covered walkway had to be constructed to protect passersby from falling wayward bricks.
A double cable around the top of the building keeps the walls from sagging outward. I don’t know that I can argue with a Missourian commenter who wrote, “Look how the front is shifting out. If it falls about all the plywood awning will do is separate the bodies better from the rubble.”
Sign says Cape Wiggery
I’m not sure what the last business was to be in the building. The sign still says Cape Wiggery Shop. The 1969 City Directory said Kay’s was in there.
Interior has been cleaned out
The inside, at least from looking through the window, looks pretty clean.
It’ll be missed
I’ve made some iconic pictures of the building over the years, so I’ll miss it if it’s pulled down. It would be nice to think it could be saved, but it sure has the sniff of a parking lot about it, based on what I’ve seen and the news stories.
101 North Main photo gallery
Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery. (Thanks to Shari for the Jackson house picture and for sharing the story of her great-grandfather.)