Almost Yesterday


Weekly podcasts about Southeast Missouri history.More from Almost Yesterday »

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Henry Moore and his House

It seems like Almost Yesterday when Professor A. C. Magill stated on February 19, 1955, that colleges are not buildings, classrooms, nor even libraries....

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The Missouri River and D-Day

It seems like Almost Yesterday that American, British, and Canadian military forces invaded Adolf Hitler's "Fortress Europa," initiating the campaign th...

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Dedication of Cape Central High School

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the first Cape Girardeau High School was dedicated. The date was December 17, 1915, and the event serves as a...

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The Erlbacher-Gearhart Crank In

It seems like Almost Yesterday that a "crank-in" was held in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The motive that brought approximately eighty "Crankers" from...

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Bollinger Leads North Carolina Migrants To Missouri

It seems like almost yesterday that George Frederick Bollinger led a contingent of North Carolinians across the Mississippi River into Missouri. The...

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The Golden Eagles Marching Band Goes to the Super Bowl

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the State College Golden Eagles Marching Band became national media stars. In 1971, the 160 member Golden Eagles band was selected to perform at the Super Bowl in Miami, Florida. The band was given an intimidating schedule - a pre-game presentation, the national anthem, and a five-and-a-half minute marching routine during the halftime. Band director Leroy Mason began rehearsals in early September and they continued until the day before the game. The band performed the Star Spangled Banner in front of 80,000 fans and an international television audience. Orange Bowl officials later recognized the band as the best disciplined and easiest to work with in their history. Soon after this performance, the band was invited to perform at the NFL Pro Bowl game, making the Golden Eagles one of the most televised university bands in the United States. Culinary professional and cookbook author Nina Swan Koeller remembers her Super Bowl debut saying that in addition to her best-selling cookbook, her other fame to claim was that she actually played clarinet in Super Bowl V. But almost everyone who was a member of the 1971 Golden Eagles Marching Band remembers Super Bowl V. Oh yes, the Baltimore Colts won the game, defeating the Dallas Cowboys 16-13. It seems like Almost Yesterday.

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The Day the Streetcars Stopped

It seems like almost yesterday that streetcars in Cape Girardeau stopped rolling through the city. On August 10, 1934, the last car was driven into the north Main Street barns at 9:30 p.m., signaling the end of a community service that had been available for 29 years. The era of the streetcar began on December 27, 1905, when the service began on a line that ran from Good Hope Street on the south side of town to the shoe factory on the north and the college on the west. Occasionally, workers at the international shoe factory would entertain themselves by jumping on the rear of the cars and bouncing them up and down as the moved along the track. The track eventually expanded into a four-mile route commonly called "the loop" or "the big square." The rails began at the barns on Main Street, traveled north to the shoe factory, south to Broadway, west to Henderson, north to Normal, west to the fairgrounds (now Capaha Park), south to Independence and east back to Main. On occasion the route would be reversed to meet public interest. Although the cars ran for 29 years, they never made a profit in a single year of operation, and by 1934 the automobile was making street railway systems in small communities, obsolete. The system ended by an order of the Missouri Public Service Commission following a request by the city, supported by a petition of 1,500 signatures. Raymond F. "Peg" Meyer once stated that the day in the 20th century that was most memorable to him was August 10, 1934 — the day the streetcars stopped, as he had to walk to work every day thereafter. It seems like Almost Yesterday.

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The Big Freeze, 1918-1919

It seems like almost yesterday that the Mississippi River was solidly frozen over. It was the winter of 1918 and 1919 when a cold December with extended low temperatures closed the river to all north - south river traffic. Prior to the flood of 1927 and the construction of a series of coordinated dams, levees and dikes, the river's current was wider and slower. The river, thus, was more likely to freeze over more frequently than in modern times. As steamboats were generally made with wooden hulls, they could not function when the river was carrying ice. Consequently, at the first sign of floating clusters of ice, these wooden-hulled vessels would retreat to a warm water port, such as Paducah or Memphis, to tie up and wait out the ice and cold. Many would push their luck to get as close to Christmas as possible in order to benefit from the seasonal market and then they were out of commission for six to eight weeks. Ferries did not function when there was ice was in the river and as there was no bridge between St. Louis and Memphis, there were periods, almost every winter, in which it would be impossible to cross the Mississippi here in the middle section. One of the consequences of having the river closed for a long period of time due to ice was that the coal supply from southern Illinois was shut off. This meant shortages, high prices, and the rationing of coal in January and February of virtually every year, especially so in 1919. The situation was made severe by the presence of the great influenza epidemic of that winter. The winter of 1918-1919 was so cold and so difficult that even though it was almost a century ago, it seems like Almost Yesterday.

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Franck's Gardens

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the landscape of Cape Girardeau featured a number of special places where residents could relax and enjoy a pleasant change of sceneny. In the middle of the nineteenth century Franck's Gardens on the hill along Jackson Road, now Broadway, was such a place. A product of the German migration to the region in the 1850s, this park-like beer garden was one of the social centers and "beauty spots" of the community for approximately four decades. Named for John A. Franck, but anglicized to "Frank", the grounds included a mansion, beautiful gardens and varied amusements. A visitor in May of 1864, during the Civil War, described the grounds as a beautiful, green, and shady park, with exotic plants, extensive flower beds, and pleasant walking paths, all surrounded by rows of silver poplar trees. Children loved the swing sets, the ten pin bowling alley, and the town's only Flying Dutchman. A long arbor extended to the back of the property to a small summer house covered with beautiful wisteria vines. The grounds also included a large poultry yard that featured giant peacocks and a hermaphrodite rooster. Inside the mansion at Frank's Gardens were small tables where lunches, beer, and other drinks were served. Here was an authentic German beer garden, one of Cape Girardeau's special places. Although there were occasional incidents that sometimes gave "Frank's" a harsh image, the 1864 visitor said he observed only the faces of happy children and beautiful ladies. Those who currently drive past the eleven hundred block of "Jackson Road," – today's Broadway – are unaware that they are passing by the site of Frank's Gardens, an important social center from Cape Girardeau's past.

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"The Intruder" Comes to Southeast Missouri

It seems like Almost Yesterday that Hollywood came to Southeast Missouri. A production company headed by prominent director Roger Corman came to Charleston and East Prairie in 1961 to produce a movie based upon Charles Beaumont's novel about race relations and school integration in the American South. Filmed one year prior to the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Intruder was a commercial failure. Corman was unable to secure support for the film from Hollywood Studios, thus this socially daring movie was the independent work of Corman who took a second mortgage on his home to produce the movie. Consequently, in order to maintain a low budget, Corman made use of many local residents in the film. The key role in the movie was played by thirty year old William Shatner, five years before he assumed his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek Series. In this controversial film Shatner plays "The Intruder," Adam Cramer, who comes into the small southern town of Caxton in order to arouse opposition to the effort to integrate the local high school. Cramer is a smooth talking, mild mannered, and sophisticated individual who is very successful in rallying opposition to the planned school integration ordered by the U. S. Supreme Court in the 1954 Brown against Topeka decision. Soon the imaginary town of Caxton was the scene of violence, mob action and death. Only with the efforts of a number of courageous African-Americans and a white newspaper editor was order restored to the community. Although the movie was an economic failure, it remains a symbolic portrayal of the tension over school integration in twentieth century America – as played in a rural Missouri town.

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