I Missed my Warriorettes

Okeechobee sunset 10-13-2015I like driving across the country, but this was a duller than usual trip.

All my Road Warriorettes came up with excuses why they couldn’t go with me this time. (What are the odds that they ALL had to wash their hair during those dates? And, how many times do you have to wash your hair, anyway?)

I got a characteristically late start, so the sun was dipping below the horizon before I got out of Okeechobee county. You can click on the pictures to make them larger.

Florida Citrus Tower

Florida Citrus Tower 10/13/2015I only made it Clermont the first night. The first place I stopped for lodging wanted too much money. It only took a sweep of my headlights to scratch the next joint off my list. I pulled into a parking lot to do a Google search for what my other options were. It happened to be across the street from the Florida Citrus Tower.

This wasn’t the first time I had ogled the tower.

Mississippi River Bridge at Memphis

Mississippi River Bridge - Memphis 10-16-2015I usually take two different routes from Florida to Missouri:

  • Mostly Interstates through Orlando, Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Paducah and Cape
  • Cross-country on U.S. 27 through the center of Florida to Marianna, Fla., then Dothan, Montgomery, Birmingham, Nashville, Cadiz, Land Between the Lakes, Wickliffe, Cairo, Cape. Interestingly enough, both route are almost exactly the same distance – 1,110 miles.

This time, I decided to go the U.S. 27 route to Birmingham, then cut across to Memphis and up I-55. That added about half a day to the trip because I pulled into Tupelo at dark and decided to stop so I could drive the rest of the way in the daylight. I mean, why go a new way if you can’t see the countryside? This was slightly longer than my usual routes, but the roads were much improved over the last time I had gone that way.

“Just go”

When I got to the Jasper exit, I called Wife Lila to ask if she wanted me try to find the worst motel we had ever stopped at.

It was well past Cranky O’Clock, with few prospects anywhere near, so I acceded to the requests (demands?) to stop at the first available place, sight unseen. I registered and handed her the room key while I started to unload the car.

She opened the door, turned around and scurried back to the car. “Let’s go,” she said. “Don’t even stop to get our money back, just go.”

She said I didn’t need to search for the place.

Do You Still Get a Paper?

Southeast Missourian under car 10-14-2006While looking for a picture I had taken on one of our vacations back to Cape, I ran across this 2006 picture of a Missourian under my van. Who knows why I shot it? Maybe I wanted to gripe if it was a pattern.

That got me thinking about my changing newspaper habits. When I used to go on a road trip, Wife Lila would give me a $10 roll of quarters to drop in newspaper vending machines outside motels and eateries along the way. I gradually stopped doing that when dinky dailies wanted a buck or more for 12 pages of mostly advertising and press releases.

I realized the other day that I left West Palm Beach on March 17, and, so far as I can remember, haven’t bought a single paper along the way. Even when I was in motels that gave them away free, I didn’t bother to grab one from the lobby.

Still a news junkie

Papers for Ken's Paper Route
Papers for Ken’s Paper Route 1961

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a news junkie. When I get up in the morning, I check for email and Facebook messages, then I turn to the USA Today ap on my tablet (I’m not crazy about USA Today, but their ap is clean and easy to use). After that, I check out Google News. If I have a lot of time, I’ll visit Digg. The other day The New York Times offered me three months of digital access for $5. I’ll cancel it just before it jumps to five bucks a week.

I’ll dip into The Missourian’s website (which I pay for) and take a quick glance at The Palm Beach Post’s headlines.

Even with my employee discount, The Post subscription costs enough that Lila and I debate renewing it now that has become the Incredible Shrinking Newspaper. The other night I told her she could stop saving them up for me like she’s done on all my other trips. “I’ve already seen the world, state, and regional news and comics online, and I don’t care about who was shot or in a car wreck overnight.”

The Three Bs

Post Editor Eddie Sears used to say that newspapers would survive because of the Three Bs: Breakfast, Bathroom and Beach. I’m OK with the first two and never go to the beach, so I’m not so sure survival is in the cards.

Rendville’s Hanging Tree

In my Ohio days, I spent a lot of time documenting dying coal towns. Rendville was one of them. It was one of the few town that had a sizable black population, partially because William P. Rend, a Chicago businessman who operated a coal mine there, paid black and white workers the same wages.

Click on the photos to make them larger. The black and white photos are square because I shot them with a 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 camera instead of my usual 35mm Nikon. I rarely used that format because it didn’t “feel” right to me.

Strange message on building

I never have been able to figure out this cryptic message on the side of a building means. “HOWE – West Virginia monkey with a white cap on. What’s he going to do when Halloween comes.” was what it said.

Ohio’s smallest town

A 2011 Columbus Dispatch story said that Rendville, population 36, was the smallest village in Ohio. During the 1880s’ boom days, the population was about 300 “coloreds” and about 1,500 whites. The town averaged one bar for every 25 residents.

By the 1890s, the mines were starting to go bust and the village was down to about 225 families, and they needed assistance from the state for food. In 1901, a fire wiped out sixteen buildings, including the town hall, at least one store and a Baptist church.

There was a brief economic uptick during World War I, but the depression hit Rendville hard. By the 1940s, the town boasted only two stores, one bar, a post office and a few over 100 hundred homes.

City Hall and hanging tree

I haven’t seen any printed references to the Rendville hanging tree, but three people within an hour made reference to it. It’s the tree to the left of the City Hall in this photo taken this month.

One man said it would be logical because the jail used to be located right behind city hall. Read this Rendville’s cemetery mystery to get a sense of what a small town it is.

Jackson’s hanging tree

Jackson MO Hanging Tree 03-26-2010Cape Girardeau County had a hanging tree behind the Jackson courthouse.

Ever Use a Two-Holer?

Curator Jessica and I were exploring a huge abandoned brick school house on a hill overlooking Rendville, Ohio, when a couple said they knew of a building they thought was an old one-room schoolhouse. They’d show it to us if we didn’t mind them tagging along. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

Definitely a school

Indeed, the nondescript building could have been just about anything from the outside, but once we looked inside, it was definitely a school. It had the chair rail around the walls that went below the blackboards. A long-gone central stove supplied heat, and there was the remains of an old piano against one wall.

Piano left behind

Time hasn’t been kind to the old piano.

Back before good roads and consolidation, the hills were full of small churches and schools because it was hard to get out of the hills and hollows of Southeast Ohio. On top of that, a lot of the towns were company towns where miners were paid in scrip which could only be redeemed at the company store. That discouraged workers from traveling.

Water came from cistern

Water came from a cistern that was located on the side of the school.

About 50 feet behind the school was a small building that was leaning at about a 45-degree angle.

Two two-holers behind school

Through the open door, we could see that it was a two-holer designed for urgent needs, no waiting. The hole on the right may have rotted away, or it may have been destroyed by wild animals who like the salt that soaks into the wood.

Figuring that unisex facilities probably weren’t common in the era when this school was operating, we looked around. Sure enough, about 50 or 75 feet away was another set of seats. The building was gone, but the seat remained.

Copyright © Ken Steinhoff. All rights reserved.