When I was in the fifth grade at Eugene Field School, I met and made friends with Jim Tate, older brother of the slender little girl who would later become the love of my life. Jim was a pretty rough-and-tough boy, but had a sense of humor and happy outlook that made him fun to know. We played kick ball, dodge ball, and marbles together.
He usually brought a sack lunch to school, while I usually bought a weekly lunch ticket to eat in the school cafeteria. We ate many lunches together in the cafeteria, and I often traded something from my food tray for a sandwich or dessert he had brought in his lunch sack. His mom made the most delicious sandwich bread I had ever tasted!
I discovered, years later, that she baked homemade bread or rolls or cinnamon rolls every week. She used something called a yeast starter that had been passed down in the family for generations. When Jim understood that I liked that bread so much, he sometimes brought me a dinner roll, and once brought part of a cinnamon roll! Wow! That still today resonates with me as one of my favorite memories.
Meeting Mom Tate
On two or three occasions I remember going to his nearby house after school for a very brief visit. I had to hurry home, of course, but his house wasn’t too far off the path I used to walk to and from school. That’s when I got to meet his mother, and that’s where I first met my future bride.
Of course, she was two years younger than me, so I don’t even remember noticing her on those visits. I had a sister that was two years younger than me, so I knew how silly they were, and just didn’t pay any attention. I don’t remember much about the house they lived in, either. I don’t think young children pay much attention to that sort of thing, but I do recall that there seemed to be an awful lot of people in such a small house, and there seemed to be several running around still in diapers. I learned later that she babysat several neighborhood toddlers during the day.
Jim and I were good friends that year, and I was sorry when school started the next year to discover that they had moved, and he had gone to another school clear across town. I saw him two or three times over the next few years when our junior high football teams played against each other. We were on opposing teams, though, and didn’t have any time to visit. I played right tackle for my team, and he was left blocker for his, which meant we usually played almost directly across from each other!
During our high school years we met up again at football practice and renewed our friendship. He had been working for a Mr. Flick making home deliveries of glass bottles of milk and cream before school. Meanwhile, I had been working at the Frisina movie theaters in town.
Jim said that he had an opportunity to get on a hay hauling crew during the summer, and asked if I wanted to join him. I did, and we hauled hay for the next two summers in the blazing hot summer sun lifting and tossing bales of hay up onto a truck or trailer, and then again into the hay loft. All for a penny a bale! But, it was during one of those years that I met his sister, and eventually, she became my wife. But, that’s another story.
Trains were colorful when I was growing up in the late forties and early fifties. Passenger train themes, locomotive paint schemes, freight car slogans, and cabooses that were rolling billboards, left over from the “glamour era” of the railroads made every passing train an adventure. Keep in mind that this was in the days before television, so the freight train was like a travel brochure being paraded in front of you.
There was a Wabash Railroad switching yard located along Bear Creek just west of where the railroad’s mainline crossed Lindell Avenue. The Wabash traffic headed to Kansas City on one end, and Detroit on the other. The CB&Q yards, downtown on the banks of the Mississippi River, was too far from home for me to visit, but I would occasionally see their trains on the old St. Louis & Hannibal tracks in our neighborhood, particularly as I walked to school.
The Wabash Railroad (reporting mark WAB) was a Class I railroad that operated in the mid-central United States. It served a large area, including track in the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri and the province of Ontario. the Wabash Railroad carried a fascinating heritage. It earned pop culture status thanks to the folk song “The Wabash Cannonball” (which eventually led to a train of the same name) and flew a legendary logo with the slogan, “Follow The Flag.”
My mother used to tell the story of how she couldn’t trust me to stay in our yard at 1505 Vermont Street when the nearby switch yard got busy making up a train. She said that I would slip out the side gate and hurry to see the trains. It was only a few blocks to the Lindell Street bridge over Mills Creek where I could watch freight trains being made up. I always enjoyed watching the little steam engine shuffling back and forth through switches, moving freight cars from siding to siding to make up one long train.
It was a time of transition for railroad locomotive power as steam engines were being relegated to yard switching duty and colorful diesel locomotives did most of the line haul and passenger service, and boxey switchers worked in the yards. I liked the sleek and colorful round-nose diesel locomotives, but I had a particular affection for the chuff-chuff-chuff of the little steam engines that switched the Lindell Avenue rail yard.
I stood on the bridge over the creek and knew how far back to stand from the track so the steam engine wouldn’t scald me as it chuffed across the street. I don’t recall how I learned that lesson, but I’m sure it only took a time or two to figure it out. This was the route I took every school day on my way to classes. I may have been smart enough to take a clue from the conductor and brakeman as they got on and off the train to make up the strings of cars.
The switch engine would often go down the track into the yard to pick up a string of cars and pull them across and clear of Lindell Avenue. The conductor would wave the motorists and pedestrians through the intersection, and then would stand in the street to stop traffic, and wave the train to come back across the street and back into the yard. Even after the steam engine disappeared, and switching was done by a big, black, boxey, diesel locomotive, I was fascinated by the switching activity, and never lost my love of trains.
The Glamour of Steam
I recall some of my most familiar eye-catching lettering and slogans. They stirred the imagination as they passed by. “Everywhere West,” “PENNSYLVANIA,” “Santa Fe – All the Way,” “REFRIGERATOR CAR,” “Grand Canyon Line,” “Super Chief of California,” “Be Special – Ship Union Pacific,” and of course, at the end of the train, the bright red caboose with the lightening bolt, and, in big letters, “Radio Equipped.”
Other common railroad slogans were “Old Reliable” (Louisville & Nashville RR), “The Western Way” (Western & Pacific RR), “Mainline of Mid-America” (Illinois Central RR), “Heart of the South” (Seaboard Airline RR), “The Katy” (MKT), “Silver Meteor” (Seaboard Coast Line), and there were many more. It just stirred one’s imagination with mystical names, locations and journeys.
For more than a century the caboose was a fixture at the end of every freight train in America. Along with its vanished cousin the steam locomotive, the caboose evokes memories of the golden age of railroading. In those days the caboose was headquarters for the conductor, a head brakeman, and a rear brakeman.
I recall patiently waiting for the freight cars to clear the street because I knew that at the end there would be a caboose with colorful messages painted on it, and perhaps, a friendly railroader that might wave back.
Back Yard Switching
When we visited my great-grandparents on Market Street in Hannibal, their backyard ran adjacent to a siding leading to a lumber yard just two houses away. Beyond the lumber yard siding were two other sets of tracks; one for the Wabash and one for CB&Q. Often, I would get to see a CB&Q switcher go by with cars for local delivery at the same time the lumber yard was being switched. That was a thrill!
We played outdoors in those days, before homes had televisions or any type of digital device. I would hurry to the back edge of their yard when I heard a train coming, to watch it pass by, or deliver or pick up cars at sidings just down the block. The trains had cabooses at the end where the brakeman and conductor rode. I always thought it was fun to have a crew member wave back as they passed by. I guess, based on mom’s remarks, I was always a rail fan.
I admired the brakeman who rode on the ladder of the freight car of lumber slowly being pushed into the lumber yard. He would have the engineer stop the train on the branch line, jump down to the ground, unlock and throw a switch lever over to align the track with the siding. He then would unlock the large gate over the track and swung it back out of the way, and signal the engineer to begin pushing the cars back as he stepped back up on the ladder.
Sometimes there would be a long string of cars in the train, and the engine wouldn’t even get close to the switch. Other times there would be only the two or three cars stacked high with lumber. As the engine pushed the cars into the lumber yard, the brakeman would disappear into the yard as the cars moved past the gate.
A few minutes later, the engine would move back to the branch line track, clear of the switch, where it stopped while the brakeman shut and locked the gate, threw the switch back over to align the track, locked it, stepped up on the ladder of the end car, and motioned the train to move on down the track in the direction of Oakwood.
The Short Line
The St. Louis and Hannibal Railroad, known locally as “The Short Line,” the StL&H was originally incorporated as the St. Louis & Keokuk RR on February 16, 1857. The Civil war and various depressions and recessions prevented its actual construction until 1871. The first Short Line train reached Perry July 1892, and the track was extended from Oakwood into Hannibal. A brick depot was built at 501 S. Main Street in 1892.
Beginning in 1933, the railroad began operating four Mack AD model railbuses to bolster passenger service, and ran infrequent freight trains as well. It helped for a time but eventually the Perry Branch was abandoned in 1943 and the main line was abandoned in 1944. The company was finally dissolved March 12, 1945.
The final railroad configuration was mainline from Hannibal to Gilmore, and branch line from Ralls Junction in New London, to Perry. The railroad was never very profitable as it served a largely rural area with little industry and small revenues. The building of hard surface roads, particularly U.S. Highway 61, the ever expanding Foster Bus Line routes, growing trucking industry and finally the personal automobile spelled its demise.
The depot at Center, Missouri was preserved and donated to the Ralls County Historical Society. And, in August 19, 2003 a dedication service was held at New London naming Missouri Highway 19 between U.S. Highway 61 and the edge of Perry as the Short Line Route.
Hannibal, Missouri is a mid-western town located on the western banks of the Mississippi River, just south of Quincy, Illinois, and about one hundred miles north of St Louis. It had already become an important river town by the year 1859, boasting over 1,000 steamboat landings annually.
The average date for the start of navigation on the North Mississippi Region is March 22, depending on arrival of the spring thaw, and typically extends until Thanksgiving, about eight months, again, depending on the arrival of winter. Allowing for the additional days the river is closed to navigation for spring flooding or early winters, that’s an average of over 4 boat landings every day! That’s a lot of freight and passengers coming and going every day!
Hannibal was becoming a center of trade and industry, largely due to its strategic location on the banks of the great Mississippi River between the high limestone bluffs to the north and south. In the years following the Civil War, in the era known as Reconstruction, Hannibal grew from a busy river port into a bustling and thriving center of commerce.
Hannibal was not only an important port along the Mississippi River, it also boasted a large shipyard, and a thriving lumber industry. Later, it became a central railway hub for the country’s expanding railroads.
Hannibal’s shipyard is where many Mississippi River steamboat hulls were built. Located at Soap Hollow, the valley north of town where the Hannibal waterworks pump station was later located, the hulls were towed to St. Louis for outfitting and installation of engines and superstructures.
During my youth, however, the riverfront hustle bustle was long gone. The steamboat era had largely passed. Railroads were now dominate. There was only an occasional landing by a replica stern-wheel or paddle-wheel river boat scheduled for special events up or down the river. Frequently, they would provide an excursion from Hannibal’s riverfront for a few miles up or down river prior to departing for their main event.
Also, a locally owned excursion boat operated out of the riverfront area for many years, offering frequent hour-long river cruises and daily two-hour sunset buffet-dinner cruises, during the season. The three-story boat was cleverly outfitted with replica steamboat smokestacks, hand railings and paddle wheel housing to make it resemble a small steamboat. https://marktwainriverboat.com/
Most river traffic during my childhood, however, bypassed Hannibal in long lines of barges being pushed by river tugs to major ports further up or down the river. The exception to this was when long strings of barges were tied up near Turtle Island, waiting to load up the grain harvested from local fields. In this photo, a powerful river tug pushes barges against the current as it passes from view.
Hannibal Grain Terminal
There were huge grain terminal buildings that dominated the riverfront and the skyline for many years. They loomed over the nearby Hannibal power plant and dominated the low lying area between the limestone bluffs that framed downtown. Cardiff Hill rose to the north, with its renowned lighthouse standing guard, and the legendary Lover’s Leap rising dramatically to the south.
In the fall, during the weeks of grain harvest, there would be a line of loaded farm trucks in the center lane of Broadway, sometimes a dozen blocks long, as they waited their turn to be unloaded at the elevator
In some years, when sufficient supplies of barges was not available, for whatever reason, drastic measures had to be taken to protect the incoming crop in temporary storage until sufficient barges could be obtained to ship the grain to market.
In 1955, with the grain elevators full, and barges late in arriving, wheat was again temporarily stored on a bed of overlapping tarpaulins laid in the center of Broadway at the riverfront, and covered with additional tarps to protect the crop from the weather. The parking spaces on either side became the traffic lanes for emergency vehicles only. Otherwise, the area was closed to motor vehicle traffic. Notice the block long pile of grain covered with tarps.
Hannibal floods were common when I was growing up. Our home was on the other side of Bear Creek, on the west edge of town, away from the river. But, when the Mississippi flooded, Bear Creek and two other creeks that fed into it, flooded, causing Lindell Avenue to be closed. The Mississippi flooded the CB&Q rail yards which were parallel to the river below Lover’s Leap, and Bear Creek and its tributaries would overflow into the Wabash yards at Lindell halting rail traffic.
In the spring of most years, my uncle, Joe Hoffman, had to use a rowboat or hitch a ride in one of the National Guard’s trucks, to reach the power plant to “keep the lights on.” In Hannibal the minor flood stage begins at 16 feet and the moderate flood level is 22 feet. At 22 feet it would flood everything for three blocks from the river’s edge. In 1993 the flood reached 29 feet!
Hannibal Grain Terminal during the 1993 flood
The grain terminals were destroyed by the historic Great Flood of 1993, and had to be demolished as soon as the water receded. The dark building to their right was part of the electric power plant where my Uncle, Joe Hoffman, a WWII Navy veteran, worked. The power plant was also demolished soon after that flood.
The flood of 1993 occurred along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries, from April to October 1993. The flood was among the most costly and devastating to ever occur in the United States, with $15 billion in damages in around 30,000 square miles.
View of First and Bird Streets, along the waterfront in 1951. Note the commercial buildings along the street. Near the center of the photo, a railroad signalman’s shack displays warning flags on the front. Notice what appears to be a wooden caboose cupola floating near the right center of the photo.
Broadway at Main Street, during flood, 1951.
National Grocery Store, Collier and “Fourth Streets during flood
This is a Christmas story written for my pre-tween granddaughters, who were visiting us at our bed & breakfast during Christmas week, 1999. I had designed and created a new stained glass window for the front door of our Victorian B&B, and kept it secret until Christmas morning when we opened gifts, at which time I read this story, and revealed the new handmade stained glass window in the front door.
The Story of the Front Door Glass, by Larry E Vaughn
There once was a kindly, bespectacled, old Grandfather Elf, named Eugene, who lived happily with sweet Grandmother Elf, Marie, in a big gingerbread house on a country lane. Eugene loved Marie very much. And, he loved the old gingerbread house on the country lane. They were especially happy when their children and grandchildren came to visit the big gingerbread house.
But, Eugene was troubled. Christmas would be coming soon, and he had no money to buy Marie a gift. Eugene wanted a really special gift to show Marie how much he loved her. But, he looked through all his pockets and found nothing but a few coins. He looked under the rug in the parlor, where he sometimes hid money for special occasions, but found nothing. He looked under the big rocking chair, but there wasn’t anything there, either. He even looked in his best Sunday suit! But, alas, there was nothing there either.
“Oh my, oh my,” he thought. “I need some money! But, where can I get enough to buy my sweet Marie a really special gift.” He thought really hard. “I know,” he shouted out loud, “I’ll get a job!.”
But, Eugene couldn’t find a job any where. Santa’s workshop already had all the elves they could use, and it seemed no one else had work for a grandfather elf to do. So, after looking and looking, Eugene started to walk home, feeling very sad. On the way home, he stopped to rest in the shade under a large tree, across from the home of an mischievous old leprechaun named O’Haley.
O’Haley saw the sad old grandfather elf resting under the big shade tree in front of his house, and saw that Eugene looked very, very sad. O’Haley felt sorry for Eugene, and thought to himself, “I’ll bet Eugene would like something cool to drink. I’ll take him a glass of nice, cool water.” O’Haley filled up a big glass with fresh water, and took it to Eugene. Eugene was very grateful, and said, “Thank you Mr. O’Haley. This water is most welcome.” O’Haley asked, “Eugene, why are you so sad?” Eugene replied, “Because I want to give Marie a very special gift for Christmas, and I have no money. I have searched every where, but can’t find a job to earn some money for a gift”
O’Haley replied, “But, Eugene, don’t you know that a gift you make with your own hands, is a better gift than any you can buy with money? Why don’t you make something special for Marie? Maybe something real special. I’ll bet she’d really like a beautiful, colorful, stained glass window for her front door! It would make the front door very pretty in the mornings when the sun shines on your house, and she would receive the gift of beauty every morning.”
“But, I don’t know how to make stained glass windows!” replied Eugene. “That’s not a problem, “ said O’Haley. “I can give you the knowledge. But, I want something in return.” Eugene was cautious, because he knew leprechauns can play mean tricks.
“What is it you want in return for this knowledge, you mischievous old leprechaun?” asked Eugene. O’Haley laughed, “Don’t worry, Eugene, my days of playing tricks are pretty much over. I’ll make a trade. I will give you the stained glass knowledge, if you give me your secret recipe for shamrock muffins.”
Everyone knew that Eugene’s shamrock muffins were the best in the land, and he had kept his recipe secret for years. But, now, Eugene quickly wrote down the ingredients and gladly gave the recipe to the old leprechaun . O’Haley jumped up and down with joy, laughing loudly, and began to disappear in a wispy puff of smoke.
“What about my knowledge!?” shouted Eugene. “Here it is,” replied O’Haley, throwing a pinch of magic dust on Eugene. “This looks a lot like Magic Reindeer Food,” Eugene thought to himself. As O’Haley disappeared into his puff of smoke, Eugene thought he heard very faintly, “Hee hee! Don’t get cut on the glass! Hee hee, haw haw haw!”
All of a sudden Eugene realized that he knew how to make stained glass windows. The perfect design for Marie’s favorite purple flower made of colored glass popped into his head. It would be a beautiful in the front door! And, Marie would be able to see it every day. This would be a really special gift!
So, Eugene took the few coins he had in his pocket, and went to the colored glass store, and bought pieces of pretty colored glass to make Marie’s favorite purple flower. The colored glass was very expensive, and Eugene only had two coins left when he left the store. “But”, he thought to himself, “Marie will be so happy with the new front door glass, I would have gladly spent ALL my coins to make just what she would like.”
When he got home, he tried to remove the old faded glass in the front door to make a pattern for the new colored front door glass with the purple flower. As Eugene gently lifted the old glass, he heard a loud “snap!”, and saw a crack in the glass go all the way from one side of the window to the other! This was terrible! How would he ever explain to Marie how the glass got broken, without ruining his surprise?
Eugene thought and thought. He knew he would have to make another new window glass for the door! But, he didn’t want to give away his secret surprise, because he didn’t want to ruin Marie’s Christmas. Besides, making a new window would take several days. And, you have to be really careful not to get cut. Eugene decided to leave the old cracked glass in the door, and hope that Marie wouldn’t notice it right away.
Then he hurried back to the colored glass store, to buy more glass, to make a new window for the front door. “How much glass can I buy with just these two coins?”, Eugene asked.
“Only this old white glass,” the shop keeper told him.
Eugene looked at the glass. “Well, it isn’t very pretty,” he thought to himself, “But, maybe I can make a window that will be nice enough for now, and then I can replace it with the beautiful purple flower glass on Christmas eve. Then Marie will really be surprised!
Eugene worked and worked, through the evening, and all night, trying to make a pretty window design out of the old white glass. He was hoping to have the white glass window ready to put in before Marie found the broken glass in her front door. But, before he could finish, he heard Marie shriek, “Oh me! Oh my goodness! The front door glass is broken! Come quickly Eugene!”
Eugene was worried. He didn’t want Marie to know about the secret front door glass with a purple flower design he was making for her. But, he didn’t have the window of old white glass ready, either. Oh, my! What a terrible fix!
Eugene said, “What’s wrong Marie?”
Marie pointed to the front door glass and said, “It’s cracked all the way across! It’s such a big glass, I’m afraid it will fall out and hurt someone. We need a new window right away!”
Eugene didn’t like telling fibs to Marie, but he knew that he would give away his secret surprise if he didn’t answer carefully. “I’ll go see O’Haley,” he said. “Surely he still has a trick or two up his sleeve. Maybe he can fix the glass” So, Eugene went carefully out the door, closing it gently, and headed to O’Haley’s house, where he found the old leprechaun stirring up some frosting to put on the shamrock muffins he had just made from Eugene’s recipe.
“O’Haley,” Eugene began, “I need another favor from you, but I have nothing left to trade.” “Sure, me boy!,” the old leprechaun smiled, “And, this time it won’t cost you anything! The shamrock muffins are truly delicious! They will make a wonderful gift for my grandchildren. I’m making some for all of them! What is it you want?”
“Well,” Eugene started, “I need for you to help me keep a secret from Marie.” He then went on to explain the broken front door glass, and his plan for the two glass windows he was making; one to replace the broken glass until Christmas, and the secret front door glass with a purple flower. O’Haley agreed to help keep the secret, and chuckled, “This is as good as some of the old tricks I used to play as a young leprechaun! It’ll be fun!”
Eugene returned home and told Marie that O’Haley said he would help out with repairing the broken front door glass. It would, however, be a day or two before the repair could be made. “Oh, dear me!,” Marie said. “Well, I guess that will have to do. I will have to tell everyone not to come for a visit. That way no one will get hurt by falling glass.” She picked up the welcome mat, from outside the front door, and hurried it off to the storage room.
Eugene rushed to his workshop and worked all the rest of that day, and through the night, to finish making the front door window made of the old white glass. Later that day, after Marie left to go to market, Eugene took the old, cracked, door glass out of the front door, and carefully threw it away, so it wouldn’t cut anyone. Then he installed the new window, made of old white glass, just as Marie returned.
Marie liked the new front door glass, and was once again looking forward to having visitors. She cheerfully hurried off to the storage room, gathered up the welcome mat, and placed it cheerfully just outside the front door.
Eugene then went back to his workshop, and worked and worked on the beautiful stained glass window with the purple flower in the middle. When it was all completed, he held it up to the light, and was amazed at its beauty. “This is beautiful,” he thought to himself. “Marie is going to be very pleased!” He then carefully wrapped it in a blanket, and took it to O’Haley’s house, where they hid it until Christmas night.
Late that night, after Santa Claus had visited all the children’s homes, filling stockings and placing gifts under the trees, Eugene went to O’Haley’s house and got the stained glass window wrapped in a blanket, and took it home. He quietly installed it in the front door, took the old white glass window to the storage room, and tiptoed off to bed, with a big, happy grin on his face. “Marie will be very pleased,” he smiled to himself.
Early in the twilight of Christmas morning, Eugene found a gift for himself under the tree. A big, fuzzy, warm, scarf to protect him from the cold wind. But, there was no gift for Marie under the tree! She pretended that she really didn’t care, and told Eugene how handsome he looked in his new fuzzy scarf. Eugene said, “Oh, my! Look up there high in the tree!”
There was a little white envelope just barely peeking out of the boughs near the top of the tree. Eugene said, “I wonder who this could be for,” reaching up to rescue it. Eugene handed the card to Marie, and said, “Merry Christmas, Marie. I love you very much.” Marie said, “Thank you, honey. I love you, too.” She then opened the card, and read it aloud. “To Marie: here is a gift to bring you joy every day the year; your favorite purple flower, in the front door glass. Love, Eugene.”
Marie was just getting ready to ask what it meant, when the sun rose above the trees, and sent a brilliant ray of light through the front door glass, which made a faint purple flower on the floor in front of Marie. She was very surprised, and looked toward the front door, where she could see the new front door glass all lit up in the sunlight. It was all aglow with dazzling colors, pretty patterns, and her favorite purple flower right in the middle!
Marie couldn’t have been happier, and said to Eugene, “This is the best present I’ve ever gotten!” Now I can see my favorite flower every day, even in the winter!” Eugene smiled, very grateful that he had been willing to give up something that was special to him, that secret muffin recipe, to be able to give something very special to Marie.
And, they lived happily ever after, in the glow of that favorite purple flower made of colored glass.
A lot of the childhood memories I-think-I-have may come from photos and numerous discussions about the family over the years, but I feel that they are real memories and I claim them as my own. I can definitely recall that our childhood homes always seemed to be within earshot of railroad tracks, and that I always felt a little excited when I heard the whistle of a steam locomotive, or the horn of a diesel. I loved the mystery of trains.
In photographs my mother had stored away and forgotten for many years, there are snapshots of trips to Perry, Missouri when I was 2 years old, and again when I was three. My grandfather, William Thomas Vaughn, was pastor at the First Baptist Church in Perry at that time. Perry was a coal town, hit hard by World War II and the emerging trucking industry.
Perry was platted in 1866, and named after William Perry Crostwaite, a first settler. In 1892, the Perry branch of the St. Louis and Hannibal “Short Line” Railroad was completed to Perry. The railroad was a “shot in the arm” for Perry and remained a factor in the community’s fast growth. The strip and underground coal mining fueled the 1920s and 1930s bustling economy and limited operations continued into the 1950’s. The end of the Perry branch happened in 1943 and 1944 as World War II rationing and demand for manpower rang the branch’s death knell.
On visits to his pastorates I remember my grandmother, Jessie Beulah Phillips Vaughn, on numerous occasions, made sassafras tea for us from some roots she had dug up in the side yard and dried. I still recall the fragrance of the roots as she gently simmered them to make the sweet, aromatic, tea with just a hint of milk!
We sometimes made the trip to Perry with my first cousin Sharon, daughter of Helen Ruth Vaughn Sampson, and her husband, William “Bill” Sampson. The trip wasn’t that long; a distance of about thirty miles, but we would go on Saturday, stay overnight, attend church the next morning, and have a nice lunch and playtime before heading back to Hannibal. Of course, I remember very little, if any, of this, but relate what my mother had told me about those trips, and what I can surmise from the few photos she saved.
I don’t remember much about the parsonage properties themselves, except that they usually had big yards and lots of mature trees all around, with the church next door. We were not allowed to play on the church lot, and we never questioned that, because we knew it was the house of the Lord, our God.
Strangely, all I remember of the parsonages, is one particular kitchen, because of something that occurred during our visit that stuck with me! I remember the 4-place square kitchen table being set against two tall side-by-side windows, with white lace curtains pulled back, that looked out onto the lawn. Directly across from the table was a white porcelain double sink, kitchen range, and refrigerator along the inside wall. At one end of the room was the front door, and at the other was a doorway into the living room.
My grandfather came into the kitchen from outdoors one day, while Sharon and I were sitting at the kitchen table having a snack. He turned on the tap to run cold water into the sink, and spit blood into the drain. I didn’t know why he was spitting out blood, and I didn’t ask. I didn’t think I wanted to know, but it sure imprinted that memory!
Some of my earliest actual memories are of later visits to my grandparents’ parsonage home in Bevier, Missouri, where grandfather pastored the Baptist Church. Usually when Dad was gone to National Guard summer camp, mother would pack everything we needed, and we would board a train to Bevier for a few days with my grandparents. Of course, we didn’t see a lot of Grandfather during the stay, as he was always busy on church business.
When my grandfather, William Thomas Vaughn, was born on October 22, 1894, in Tunnel Hill, Illinois, his father, Lemuel, was 26 and his mother, Rebecca, was 27. He married Jessie Beulah Phillips on October 2, 1917, in Carterville, Illinois and shipped out October 4, 1917 for service with the U.S. Army. His first child, Helen Ruth Vaughn, was born 06 December, 1918, while he was serving as a machine gunner in France. He was discharged six months after her birth in June 1919.
My grandfather was “Willie” to his family and friends, and was a stern, no nonsense, disciplinarian with a deep voice. I don’t remember affectionate moments with him, but, then, he died when I was only nine years old, and for most of those years he lived out of town. He stayed busy with church business, and we would only see him if he came to Hannibal as a guest preacher, or we went to their pastorate for an occasional visit.
My mother would laugh when telling that when I was a toddler, Grandfather brought home a live turkey for thanksgiving, and he put me on its back so I could “ride” it in the kitchen. She said everyone got a good laugh at him trying to keep me from falling off that frightened turkey as it tried to escape its predicament on the slippery waxed floor!
CB&Q to Bevier
My family traveled on a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad passenger train from Hannibal, Missouri, where we lived, to Bevier, about seventy miles away. The tracks ran on the roadbed of the predecessor Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad. Bevier, at the time was a very busy coal town, with active coal mines all around the area, and a short line that ran passenger and freight service to the mines.
As new mines were opened, the Bevier & Southern Railroad extended their branch lines to provide hauling service. I loved hearing the big steam engines pulling the heavy coal trains uphill from the mines and through town to the CB&Q railroad siding.
Several times we would hear a train approaching as we played in the yard, and I would run to the sidewalk out front, to gaze the few blocks toward the railroad tracks just to catch a glimpse of the steam engines chuffing through the intersection. I always enjoyed the noise and drama of the “working” end of the train, and admired the men in the cab of the locomotive who made the train “go.”
In later years Grandfather had churches in other towns including Meadville, Kahoka, Braymer, Hannibal, and St. Joseph MO. I only knew him for the first nine years of my life, but he left a resounding impression on me. I just couldn’t imagine a better person in the pulpit. I no longer recall him doing a church sermon, as the lasting impression is of tent revivals in Hannibal where my family assisted with passing out handheld fans with funeral home advertising, and printed programs during sweltering summer nights. Grandfather’s shirt and tie would be soaked with sweat by the end of the service, his suit jacket having been removed earlier.
Revivals and Bible Thumping
I recall going to his week-long summertime tent revivals in the Bear Creek Bottoms in Hannibal MO off South Arch, between what is now Warren Barrett and Collier Streets. The city has constructed a water treatment facility on the property, which back then was called “the fairgrounds,” and had previously held a professional baseball field. Many circuses had been held in that field, too, with their long trains parked on the siding provided just for that purpose.
I believe the huge circus-style tent used for the revivals may have been erected by a rental company, because I don’t remember being there during setup. Then, again, it may have been too dangerous to have small children around during what must have been a well coordinated event. The revival tent was heavy beige canvas held up by very tall poles down that lined the center with shorter ones around the edges. Really thick ropes tied the sides to stakes all around the outside, and the bottom flap was rolled up on the sides, to let the hot summer air circulate.
The end flaps were pulled to the sides to make a large opening at the back big enough to drive a truck through, which served as the entrance and exit. A piano was placed to the right of the plain wooden podium at the front, and the choir sat in rows of chairs to the left, facing the podium. I would guess there were 25 folding chairs side by side on either side of the wide center aisle, and I couldn’t venture a guess at how many rows there were, but it was standing room only!
Ushers stood at various posts throughout the tent to lend assistance to anyone needing help. I recall handing out cardboard fans with wooden handles at the entrance, and them being put to use immediately because there was no air conditioning. When you glanced at the congregation, those fans seemed to flutter in unison throughout the tent. As I recall, the fans were furnished by a local funeral home, and had a mostly red pastoral painting on one side, and the funeral home advertising on the other.
My grandfather seemed just perfect in the pulpit to me . . . loud, clear, emphatic, filled with God’s inspiration . . . straight and true. His voice trembled with conviction and echoed in the evening stillness as his bible met the podium with an emphatic “thump!” The flashes of light bouncing off the gold gilt edge as he waved the bible seemed to accentuate the point he was making. I just couldn’t imagine anyone being a better preacher!
His voice reverberated across the fairgrounds, and I was sure that folks must be able to hear him quite well for several blocks. His big black bible that he preached from lay open on the podium, its gilt edges gleaming as he turned pages. Occasionally he picked it up, waved it in the air, and plopped it down on the podium with a resounding thump! I was very proud of him, and thought, as a young boy, that I would become a preacher.
He died unexpectedly when I was nine years old, on the day before Easter, April 4, 1953. Easter was a sad event that year, although I didn’t really grasp the meaning at the time. He was a pastor in St. Joseph, Missouri at the time of his passing. I don’t remember going to the funeral, and doubt that we children were able to attend. My brother, the youngest, would have been only three years old.
For many years I had only one keepsake of my grandfather’s; a handsome metal-cased pocket knife inscribed with his name, “W.T. Vaughn.” I got the knife from my grandmother a few years later. She told me it had been a sales award, from the years before his full time ministry, when he was a hardware salesman for L.B. Price in St. Joseph (1939). Though kept in a memento box and stored away, the knife has been lost to history, and its whereabouts unknown.
The Hannibal shoe factories provided a substantial boost to the local economy as they worked full tilt to meet the deadlines of government contracts for combat boots and shoes for our troops during World War II.
The International Shoe Company was one of the first industries in Hannibal to convert to wartime production. In 1940, International Shoe employed twenty-five hundred workers. In 1941, it began to convert its shoe production to the use of wooden heels (as rubber was needed for the war effort). Up to fifteen thousand shoes were produced per day.
The Bluff City Shoe factory also converted to defense manufacturing by producing men’s shoes. In 1943, it began rebuilding used shoes for the Army, employing more than eight hundred workers who could refurbish as many as six thousand pairs per day.
Pictured are workers in the fitting department of the Bluff City Shoe Co., circa 1917, at the corner of Maple and Collier. The photo was originally contributed by Mrs. John Logan of Louisiana and is now a part of the Hannibal Arts Council’s Hannibal As History collection.
Making Do During Rationing
During World War II, many household items were rationed in the United States, to provide adequate supplies for the armed forces. Americans were urged to “make it do.” It might now surprise you that items like these were rationed: typewriters, gasoline, bicycles, silk, nylon, fuel oil, stoves, meat, lard, shortening and oils, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen), dried fruits, canned milk, firewood and coal, jams, jellies and fruit butter. But, what about shoes?
Japan controlled the part of Asia from which raw rubber was sourced. Due to the resulting rubber shortage, footwear made of rubber or with rubber soles was rationed or simply unavailable. The military also had a high need for leather, not just for shoes and combat boots, but for those popular leather flight jackets, belts and straps. As a result, civilians had to make do with less.
Starting September 30, 1942, men’s rubber boots and rubber work shoes were placed under rationing. To obtain a new pair, a man had to apply to the local ration board, prove he needed the shoes for essential industry—not for sport—and turn in the old pair. Galoshes and overshoes were not rationed because they used less crude rubber, but sportsmen couldn’t get boots, and sneakers were no longer produced.
In 1943, the New York Times devoted four columns to an official U.S. government statement on footwear. Effective February 9 of that year, the statement explained, Americans would need a special coupon to buy a pair of shoes. Everyone would receive three of these coupons per year. Shoe rationing had arrived!
On February 7, 1943, the United States instituted rationing of leather shoes to begin February 9. Each man, woman, and child could purchase up to three pairs of leather shoes a year, using designated stamps in War Ration Book One, and later in Books Three and Four. To simplify the system, only six shades of leather were produced. However, the supply of leather continued to decrease. On March 20, 1944, the ration was reduced to two pairs of leather shoes per year. Shoe rationing continued until October 30, 1945.
Second-hand shoe stores got a nice bump in business, and inventive manufacturers introduced shoes made from materials that weren’t rationed: mostly plastics, but also “pressed carpet, felt, old brake lining material and even reclaimed fire hose.” Plastic shoes and boots with fabric tops came into vogue, and Americans took it on the chin to get involved and support the war effort.
In the fall of 1944, 265 German prisoners of war were brought by train to Hannibal from Clarinda, Iowa, for a six-week project. More than two million shoes had been donated to the war effort from all across the country, and the Germans were brought to Hannibal to aid in sorting the shoes and preparing them for repair.
Bluff City Shoe Company had received the army’s contract to refurbish the shoes, which would then be sent to Europe. Clemens Field was converted into a temporary encampment for the prisoners, who lived in tents behind a barbed-wire fence inside the compound.
The town was abuzz, but the German POWs were well received. Bread and fresh vegetables were regularly brought to the camp by Hannibal residents concerned for the Germans’ well-being. There was even talk that the POWs might be allowed to attend a football game at Hannibal High School, but the U.S. Army vetoed the idea. One Hannibal resident recalled groups of locals gathering at the edge of the bluff at the end of South Fifth Street to listen to the prisoners singing as they sat around their evening campfires.
Durasteel, which had retooled in early 1940 to produce lawn furniture, instead began filling an order for more than 100,000 M47A1 chemical bombs the armed forces orders in 1942. Of Durasteel’s one hundred employees during the war, thirty-seven of them were women. After the war, the Durasteel plant converted back to manufacturing metal porch furniture. Many members of my family worked in these local businesses that supported the war effort, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and even my grandparents.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Hannibal joined the rest of the nation in support of the war. Civil Defense measures were practiced, including the use of camouflage in the home and at the workplace. To prevent light from being seen during blackout drills, Hannibal housewives hung heavy, dark drapes and blinds in their windows.
The Red Cross conducted countless fundraising drives, and defense savings bonds could be purchased from local banks. Rationing books were distributed, shared, and stamps traded. Victory gardens were planted to enable home canning in case further rationing was needed in the months ahead. Metals for ammunition and rubber to make tires for military vehicles were generously donated to support the war effort. It was a way of life. “Use it up – Wear it out – Make it do,” were common slogans appearing on posters everywhere during World War II.
I know there’s no such thing as the Hannibal National Guard, but when I was a boy, my dad was in the National Guard for almost all of my childhood, and we lived in Hannibal, so the name seemed correct to me.
Originally organized 21 February 1896 in the Missouri National Guard at Hannibal as Company F, 4th Regiment, the unit was mustered into Federal service 16 May 1898 at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, as Company F, 4th Missouri Volunteer Infantry; mustered out of Federal service 10 February 1899 at Camp Wetherill, South Carolina, and reverted to state control as Company F, 4th Infantry.
Reorganized, and Federally recognized 15 November 1947 in the Missouri National Guard at Hannibal as the 35th Military Police Company, an element of the 35th Infantry Division.
The Admiral Coontz armory, where the Guard unit was based, at Third and Collier Streets on the banks of Bear Creek three blocks from the Mississippi River, is where my dad worked during my childhood. He was a full time employee of the Missouri National Guard, and was responsible for maintaining the facility and property of the National Guard.
Inside the field was a baseball diamond and stadium, and across from it, inside the walls, was a large limestone building that housed the vehicles and mobile field equipment of the Guard unit. Off to the side of that building was a separate room where Dad kept all the batteries hooked up to a row of trickle chargers so they would always be ready at a moment’s notice.
As I mentioned in Mississippi River Town, downtown Hannibal would often get flooded by the river in the spring, and as flooding appeared to be imminent, dad would get permission from the company commander to move trucks, jeeps and other equipment out of the motor pool to higher ground. He then would activate a phone chain where he notified squad leaders who then notified the members of their squad that equipment needed to be moved.
Various members of the Guard would install batteries in the vehicles, load them up as appropriate, and take the equipment where it could be protected from the danger of flooding. Dad would drive one of the biggest motor pool trucks home, so he could ford the flood waters and get to the armory. He often pulled a very large trailer containing the field kitchen and equipment, with a “pup” water tank behind. These he could park in our large parking lot behind the house. Later, if the unit was activated, he would spot the equipment downtown as needed
Admiral Coontz Armory
The Admiral Robert E. Coontz Armory, was constructed at the corner of Collier and Third Streets, facing Collier, with Bear Creek at its back. Its original address was 301 Collier Street. The armory was named for US Navy Admiral Robert E. Coontz, the highest ranking military officer from Hannibal. CB&Q and Wabash railroad tracks ran down the center of Collier Street in front of the armory, and the Hannibal & St Louis Railroad tracks ran behind the armory on the banks of Bear Creek.
Built by the Works Progress Administration in a WPA Modern style and complimenting the newly built Clements Field wall design, it was built during 1938; and occupied 1939-1977 by the Missouri National Guard. The architect and builder was Harold L. Reeder.
Since quarry work had already been underway for the limestone wall, WPA decided to use the same quarry work crew to fashion the limestone blocks for the adjacent armory.
First erected in 1924, the original Clemens Field facility was destroyed by fire on August 14, 1936. The replacement stadium was built as a Works Project Administration project in from 1936 to 1938 with a limestone wall around the entire perimeter and a grandstand behind home plate. The historic field has served as a site for minor league baseball teams and Little League baseball for many years, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Quarry activity had begun in 1936 to cut stone for the new Clements Field wall, which was constructed in 1938. Construction on the armory was then started on January 24, 1938. WPA laborers were paid 30 cents an hour during the Great Depression, and WPA paid $54,400.34 of the $85,000 final cost for the armory.
The City of Hannibal contributed $25,000, the state $6,000. The building was completed on November 4, 1939 and the Missouri National Guard remained in this armory until the current Hannibal Armory was completed in 1977. The Admiral Coontz Armory reverted to the city and is now part of the Hannibal Parks and Recreation system.
In September of 1944, Clements Field was used to house German prisoners of war, who worked for a six week period sorting military shoes that could be repaired and shipped to Europe for war refugees.
Often, the Hannibal unit of the National Guard was activated by Missouri’s Governor to help with building retaining walls along the waterfront by stacking gunny sacks full of sand as high as the predicted flood crest, from the base of Cardiff Hill to Bear Creek. The wall of sandbags was then covered with tarps to hold back the water.
The workers rotated between filling the sacks with shovels full of sand, stacking the filled bags to create the wall, and then spreading the tarps and anchoring them in place with more sandbags. Many shopkeepers and other volunteers always pitched in to help protect the downtown shopping area.
Stacking the sand bags had to be done just right to avoid leaks, and when a leak appeared the stackers got after it right away. I never did know what the right way to stack them was, but, someone doing all the yelling and barking orders must have! This view is of the rear of the armory from across Bear Creek.
It was exciting to me to watch the men hurriedly fill the bags from the sand trucks that arrived one after another. The filled bags were then passed from man to man who were standing shoulder to shoulder from the sand truck to the wall. The end of the line sometimes would suddenly swing to spots where leaks occurred, in an effort to get the holes plugged before they got any bigger.
During flood duty the Guard unit was often activated for several days at a time, and they would set up their field kitchen in a very large tent on an empty lot somewhere in the downtown area where the troops could take breaks and get refreshment. What seemed like a steady stream of visitors brought food and beverages for the troops which kept the kitchen crew busy sorting, storing and dispensing.
The guardsmen treated flood duty as a training exercise, using the unit’s equipment to set up and operate just as they would if they were deployed to the field, carrying supplies, transporting support personnel, assisting in evacuations by jeep or truck, and all the other tasks that were required during the emergency. I remember a Captain Elmer Meyers being in charge at one point. My dad was a staff sergeant, and a few of the troops were . . . Delbert and Albert Tate, Bill Schenck, Webb, Tompkins, Brothers, and Robertson.
My father, Gene Vaughn, joined Company D, 4th Missouri State Guard, First Infantry Brigade, housed at the Admiral Coontz Armory in 1943. He entered the infantry unit as a communications specialist.
The unit attended a two week summer camp each year as a service requirement. They would receive their orders to move their unit from their home armory in a convoy by a particular route at a particular time. En route to their final destination they would join with other units of their battalion where they would move in a column. I remember them going to Camp Ripley, Minnesota a couple of times, Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, Fort Gordon, Georgia, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and others I no longer recall.
I heard Dad telling mom one year, after returning from camp, that his battalion had arrived at the camp as another was departing, and that the double line of military vehicles was so long you couldn’t see the end of it. He also said the mosquitoes in Minnesota are big enough to carry you off.
After being converted to a military police unit, the Hannibal National Guard unit assisted the local police department with traffic control during numerous parades, and ran a concession stand during wrestling matches held on weekends in the armory. The proceeds went toward the purchase of supplies the unit used while on weekend training bivouacs they organized once a month, to prepare for summer camps, and to qualify members of the unit for promotion.
Keeping the Change
In those days the National Guard wore olive drab fatigue uniforms with large roomy patch side pockets on each trouser leg. The pants legs were tucked in shiny black combat boots with black shoelaces. As a full time employee of the National Guard, dad wore his fatigue uniform to work every day, so it wasn’t out of the ordinary at all to see him at business or social events in fatigues or, later as an officer, in a dress uniform.
It was a great surprise, a source of much pride, when dad presented me with a fatigue uniform of my own, which he, himself, had made from old uniform parts. Although not an exact copy of an adult’s uniform, it had patch pockets on the trouser legs, and looked enough like a real uniform that I felt really good about wearing it to the armory to be with the men of the unit.
The uniform was popular with the guardsmen, and they would good-naturedly salute me when they came into the room. I was very young, and this kind of kidding around with the adults was a lot of fun to me. The guardsmen took it upon themselves to entertain me, instructing me in how to perform marching drill, facing movements, proper salutes, and how to stand at attention.
When I got a little older, I got to help out with the concession stand on several occasions, working first in the kitchen getting supplies and serving as a “gofer” for the adults. A couple of years later I served bottles of soda pop, retrieved from a huge ice-filled tub in the center of a square made of four banquet tables out on the drill floor. It was a nice arrangement, because we could serve from all four sides.
The first time I worked at the drink counter, taking cash, I was very impressed with how kind people can be. Many customers who bought a soft drink from me, said, “Keep the change.” Wow! This was great! So, I happily put the cost of the drink in the cash box, and put the penny change the nice people had given me, in my big patch trousers pocket!
By the end of the night my pocket was so full it bulged way out, the weight threatening to pull my pants clear down! This was a great bemusement to the guardsmen, who had been watching me do this all night. When the evening was over, and it came time to close the kitchen, Dad turned to me, and asked what was making my pocket so heavy. I happily reached into my pocket, pulled out a handful of coins, and told him about all the nice people who had been giving me their penny change.
All the guardsmen got a good laugh, and Dad gently explained to me that the change wasn’t meant to be mine, personally, but a gift to the unit itself. I was so embarrassed that I misunderstood! But, it quickly became clear to me, even at that tender age, that volunteerism, and selflessness, brings its own rewards. The guardsmen good-naturedly teased me about that for some time after that, but it was all in fun, and I became a regular helper for the weekend matches, helping with the concessions and setting up chairs.
The National Guard unit’s mission was changed from infantry to military police. They were designated the 35th Military Police Company of the 175th Battalion, Missouri National Guard. The unit traded their large 5 ton troop and cargo trucks for more jeep vehicles for their new mission, and the men were busy training for their new duties, studying police roles and responsibilities.
The MP company kept two 2 ½ ton trucks, nicknamed deuce-and-a-halfs, and a 5-ton with a wood and tin room on the cargo area which served as their command and communication center. It was equipped with rows and stacks of radios, desks and chairs, had a lock on the wood door on the rear. I got to peak inside it once when dad went in to put some papers on the desk, but it was too dark for me to really get a good view, and I was never allowed to go inside.
The unit’s jeeps were emblazoned with “Military Police” under the windshield and across the tailgate, and had “MP” painted on each corner of the bumpers. One of their jeeps, though, was painted white, in contrast to the olive drab of the other jeeps and trucks. The white jeep was lettered for use by the “Provost Marshal,” who is the Chief of Police in a military unit. The title originated with an older term for military police, “provosts.”
The white jeep had a two way radio installed behind the driver and had a very long steel whip antenna that stood several feet high, and when not in use, it was pulled down over the top of the jeep and fastened to the front bumper. Mounted on the front fender was a bright chromed siren with a flashing red light on the front of it.
The siren was activated by pressing a foot switch located on the floor next to the clutch pedal. The longer you held the button down the faster the siren would turn, and the higher pitched the tone became. (I never got to play with that either!). There were also flashing red lights mounted on either side of the front bumper that were activated by a toggle switch on the dash.
I thought that jeep was about the prettiest thing I had ever seen, and spent a lot of time pretending to drive it when I was in the motor pool building. Occasionally dad would take me to the motor pool where he performed various maintenance chores on the trucks and jeeps. I recall a room on the Collier Street side of the building that had rows of vehicle battery chargers positioned just above shelves where the batteries spent most of their time.
Since the unit didn’t use the trucks or jeeps regularly, the batteries were maintained in this room. I recall a large container of some mysterious liquid that sat on the shelf with the batteries, and a tool that looked like a turkey baster that dad would use to test the batteries. Often he would squirt some of the liquid in various parts of the batteries, but I only got to see this from a distance. That was okay with me, because I was usually pretending to drive one of the jeeps, flipping switches and running the manual windshield wipers.
Military Police Uniforms
Along with the change of the guard unit’s military mission came new involvement in the community. The unit could be found providing traffic control at large community events, including parades and the annual street fair downtown. The men’s uniforms had changed, too, for this new mission. They wore tan khaki uniforms with white pistol belts, white helmet liners, white gloves, white laces in their boots, with bloused trouser legs, and white gloves.
This seemed like the perfect uniform to me, and it was all topped off with a chromed whistle attached by a white cord to the right shoulder epaulet, and the whistle itself hung from a hook on the right pocket. Dad looked very striking in this uniform, and I was very proud of him when he dressed to perform some volunteer duty in the community.
Hannibal’s central business street is Broadway, which runs uphill to the west from the Mississippi River. The National Guard unit was performing traffic duty that day, in support of a parade that was scheduled to begin later that morning. One of my most vivid memories is being on the curb at Broadway and Third Streets, watching dad direct traffic from the middle of the street.
Pedestrians were lining Broadway all the way to the top of the hill at Fifth Street. There wasn’t a lot of vehicular traffic at that point, but military policemen stood in the middle of Broadway at each alley and street intersection, in their khaki and white uniforms, whistles blowing as they directed traffic. And, at the top of the hill, at Fifth Street, sat the white Provost marshal’s jeep, with its chromed trim and red lights flashing!
As the parade passed, the guardsmen went into action directing traffic to safely clear the congestion while getting normal traffic flow restored. Later, as the guardsmen debriefed at the armory, and were released from duty, there were lots of tales and much laughter
The Jeep Story
When I was about twelve years old, my dad was working for the National Guard as administrator of the local armory. One of his duties was to put their vehicles through routines, including starting, letting them run long enough to circulate all the fluids, and periodic short drives to keep them ready to go into immediate service when the unit was needed. I loved the jeeps, officially U.S. Army Quarter Ton General Purpose vehicles (GP). The GP eventually became, “jeep,” hence their name.
Some of the jeeps in the local armory inventory were configured for communications, with bunches of radios located in the back, or field kitchen support with the kitchen trailer behind, or troop support with shovels and axes attached to the sides. I appreciated the jeeps’ versatility and the fact that the top and doors could be quickly removed, or folded back as the case may be, to create my favorite configuration . . . the open top convertible.
Many times dad would drive one of the vehicles home for lunch, and sometimes he would park the big trucks in the front part of our driveway, so he could back out into the street, but the jeeps he usually parked in the rear of the house next to the back door. While he was having lunch, I would jump into the driver’s seat and pretend to drive. I had to scoot halfway out of the seat to reach the pedals, but had figured out from watching dad shift our car, how to progress through the gears.
One day he brought the Provost Marshal’s jeep home and parked it out back. I don’t remember the circumstances, but for some reason he left it at home while he went somewhere else. I thought that white jeep with all the chrome red light/siren on the fender, and flashing red lights on the front bumper was beautiful. I climbed up in the seat and pretended to drive it. My younger brother also wanted to drive, but, I usually was able to convince him that swinging the levers back and forth to activate the windshield wipers was just as important and gratifying.
On one occasion, while pretending to drive, I remembered how dad moved the floor gear shift lever into the center, and start the engine. I thought that sounded like fun to do. So, I pushed the shift lever until it popped into neutral and moved freely side to side. Then, I turned on the ignition very briefly just to make sure it would start without trying to move. It worked! So, I then started it! Afterall, it made it more fun to pretend to drive it with the motor running! Then I decided to try to back it up a little. I climbed mostly out of the seat and pressed the clutch to the floor and the shift lever into “R,” and let the clutch out ever so slowly. The jeep started inching backwards at idle speed.
I stopped the jeep and started backing a tiny bit again and again, until I had run out of room. Then it was time to go the other way. But, just to my left was the driveway leading to the street. We lived on the edge of town at that time, and the whole area for several blocks around had only gravel roads, and no through traffic in our neighborhood. That driveway beckoned to me! I couldn’t resist!
I jockeyed the jeep back and forth until I got it turned, facing the street, and then inched my way out the driveway to the street. I turned to the right, straightened it out, and then gave it a little gas to pick up a little speed. I turned left at the end of our block, to follow the outermost road up the hill four blocks distant. I figured out how to shift into second gear, and believe that was as high as I went, never reaching third gear or any real speed.
At the top of the hill were two houses on a short half-block that overlooked a steep cliff to a creek below. There was a little turn around at the end, by the side of an in-ground concrete block garage. I knew this when I headed up the hill, because this was part of my Grit newspaper route. As I turned onto that half-block, I eased over to the left side of the road so I could make a 180 degree turn and climb the little hill that covered the side of the garage. As I executed the turn, I was forced to stop short to avoid hitting a wheelbarrow and gardening equipment left in my way.
I stopped short, and looked back behind me. The cliff was not far behind, and there was no guardrail or anything else to keep me from going over the edge if I miscalculated. So, I set the hand brake and cranked the wheels as hard as I could so the jeep would turn sharply when I backed up, keeping away from the abyss below.
As I slowly released the handbrake, the jeep started backing as I planned, but as it came backwards, the left side lifted off the ground, because the wheels had turned so far the weight of the jeep forced it to stop and rest on the side of the front wheel. Oh, this wasn’t good! I could see that I was about to turn up on the side of the jeep. So, I moved it forward again, straightening out the wheels, and getting all of them on the ground again. Then, I backed up with a less severe cranking on the wheels.
This turning around thing was more difficult than I expected, and I was badly frightened. But, now the adrenaline was really rushing, and I knew I had to get the jeep back home, but I was afraid of how to keep it from getting away from me going downhill. It looked a lot steeper downhill, but, I decided that I would put it in second gear and let gravity pull me down, while I regulated the speed with the handbrake.
So, I got home from what had become a harrowing 8-block adventure that scared the dickens out of me. I parked the jeep where I thought was the correct spot, and got out to look at the right side. The lugnuts on the front right wheel were packed with grass and dirt. None of the paint was damaged though, which was a great relief! I dragged out the garden hose and fixed a scrub bucket with soapy water, and began cleaning up the wheel.
As I cleaned up, I checked for damage, and didn’t see any, but began to discover that I had splashed water over the surrounding metal, which turned the accumulated gravel road dust into splotches of mud. I decided that I would have to wash the whole jeep to cover up my escapade. When I finished, the jeep was shiny and clean, sparkling like the beauty it was. I didn’t think to clean up the mud and dirt that i had washed off the wheel onto our gravel driveway, and nothing was ever said, but dad never left a jeep unattended in our driveway again.
When I was a youngster, about 11 or 12, the families who lived in the Elzea Addition area of Hannibal, Missouri, gathered together to turn an overgrown field west of Lindell Avenue at Clark Street into a neighborhood park named Camery Field.
The firebrand behind the project was Mildred “Mickey” McGowan, sister to my Uncle, Joe Hoffman. Or, maybe I just thought she was the firebrand because I admired her so much. Many neighbors were key to its successful launch, including her husband, J.D.McGowan, a man with many helpful connections.
But, Mickey was our back door neighbor. Our back yards were just across the alley, and sometimes she would come to the fence and offer me and my siblings a sweet snack she seemed to have “too much of, and thought maybe we could help her out.” That made her special, and a lifetime heart-warming memory.
In those days Hannibal’s only parks were Riverview, Central, Nipper, and playgrounds at each of the grade schools. There was no playground equipment at the city parks and there were no other neighborhood parks. Clippings from the Hannibal Courier Post newspaper, and photos taken by Mickey and J.D. McGowan (provided by their son, Wes McGowan of Hannibal) give us a glimpse into the lifetime of the playground.
Elzea Addition Association Concerned that Elzea Addition children had to cross three sets of busy railroad tracks to play on the nearest playground at Eugene Field School, a mile away, the neighbors joined together to create a playground in their own neighborhood. Their efforts resulted in a park that served Hannibal for nearly 20 years, and was widely used by companies and organizations throughout Hannibal for picnics and socials.
In 1956 the community playground was created by the Elzea Addition Playground Association. Mrs. Mildred McGowan, Carl Jurgens, Mrs. John Honson, and Mrs Helen Rupp were the first officers. The playground was created on land directly across the street from “Mickey” and J.D. McGowan’s house on Lindell Avenue.
Camery Field Before Brush Was Cleared
Mary Camery Spence The land was the site of the former Camery Coal Yard, and owned by Mary Camery Spence. Mrs Spence leased the land to the Playground Association for $10 for a ten year lease (which she donated back to the Association).
In part, the lease agreement read, “It is agreed by the parties hereto that said second party may continue to use said lands without any rental charge, therefore, that the parties of the second part shall keep said premises in a clean condition, free from weeds, filth or any nuisance and comply with all city regulations and orders affecting said premises.”
Clearing the Land Fourteen families met in January, 1956 to begin clearing brush and small trees. The neighbors started gathering on weekends to clear the large area of trees and brush, and it was decided to completely clear the lot next to Lindell Avenue, and leave the trees on the acreage bordering Mills Creek to keep it as a wooded picnic area.
Easter 1956 – Egg Hunt in the partially cleared wooded area near the rear of Camery Field paralleling Mills creek. The trees would later be whitewashed to “brighten” them.
The Fireplace A concrete pad was poured on a small part of the picnic area, and a large concrete block fireplace was built. Several large skillets and stock pots could be heated at the same time. Picnic tables were scattered under the canopied and white-washed trees nearby.
On Saturdays, when our extended family of Eugene and Marjorie Vaughn, Joe and Betty Hoffman, Wallace and Nellie White, Tony and Nona White, and all the children, gathered to work, my great-grandmother Nona “Mom” White would cook up whatever food the families brought with them for lunch.
So, the meal was usually a combination of breakfast and lunch food that kept us coming back whenever we needed a break, to snack, or visit with all the neighbors. It was also the site of my first cup of coffee. “Mom” White slipped me a cup of my own on one chilly morning while my parents were busy elsewhere. It was probably mostly cream and sugar, but I felt really special. I didn’t mind working hard all day along with the other “men.” Thanks, Mom White!
Ladies prepare lunch. Marjorie Vaughn, at right, wears a light colored sweater
A Park Evolves The first swings were installed on a framework built with bridge ties donated by CB&Q Railroad. The structure is in the center of the photo.
Colorized from left: Pamela Vaughn and Chris Hoffman
A 1923 American-LaFrance fire truck was given to the playground association by the city, which was proudly displayed toward the front of the park, and ten of the neighborhood men donated their time to build a shelter for it. The fire truck was used as an attraction in many Hannibal parades, with a celebrity riding in the passenger seat. Notice the antiquated wooden spoked wheels.
Playground equipment eventually included monkey bars, swings, a merry-go-round, slides, a swinging gate, May pole, and sandbox. Other features included a volleyball court, ping pong tables, tether ball, badminton and basketball courts and a softball diamond.
Colorized from left: Pamela Vaughn, Chris Hoffman and Lawrence Vaughn on the seesaw, and Betty Hoffman.
Pamela Sue Vaughn at swing rings & Christopher Hoffman on the seesaw
David Vaughn Visits with Clown
Soon, the playground was also equipped with a great flat area for playing marbles. Sometimes there would be a dozen of us all crowded around a huge circle that required us to use our heaviest shooters to have any chance to knock a marble out!
Officials at the Dedication Service were (L-R) Mildred McGowan, J.D. McGowan, Rev. Billy Heriford, John Johnson, and Floyd Webster
Rev. Billy Heriford led the attendees in a reverent moment of gratitude for the blessing this playground was becoming and would be for many years.
Clamshells and Caretakers I also remember a railroad spur that ended within a few feet of the playground. Formerly a spur of the St. Louis & Hannibal Railroad, it was then operated by CB&Q RR. Often there was a railroad hopper spotted there that was loaded with thousands of clam shells. The hoppers sometimes smelled to high Heaven with the odor of rotting fish. Fortunately, the hot summer sun made quick work of neutralizing the offending stench.
Open top railroad hopper
The shells were for a local button maker, Joe Vaughn, who had turned his garage into a small button factory. The creek behind the garage was splendidly appealing to us boys because of the shiny clamshells with button holes punched in them. A really exciting find was one that had errors where the punch didn’t go all the way through.
The siding, where his railcar was spotted, used to have a scale and scale house in years past, a small shed on the other side of the track, and the ground underfoot crunched as you walked over millions of tiny bits of coal. There was a scary old German man we called Sharkey that lived in the little two-room scale house who ran us back into the playground when we ventured too far and tried to play on the railroad car. It seems the only time he was outside that little shack was when we were in trouble.
We didn’t know anyone who knew him, but we were pretty sure we shouldn’t mess with him. I always kept a wary eye on that shack as I scooted along the sidewalk to and from school. I learned, years later, that he was Mrs. Spence’s caretaker and was allowed to live in the scale house as part of his compensation. Eventually, the track was taken up, and the lot cleared off. Colorized L-R: Chris Hoffman, Betty Hoffman, J.D. McGowan
A Camery Christmas The park became the site of elaborate Christmas displays and Easter egg hunts, as well as company and church picnics. To mark the Christmas season, members of the Playground Association erected a life-like Nativity scene. it featured life-size mannequins pieced together from donations by local merchants. Native lumber slabs formed the stable and manger, and a star was placed in the background above the stable.
Full size nativity scene, using mannequins. Photos contributed by Bruce Hoffman
The members also decorated a 30-foot tree with more than 200 colored lights. A replica of Santa also traditionally smiled at passers-by from beneath the shelter house. Another Christmas feature included letters from Santa. A mailbox was placed on the playground near the Nativity scene, and all letters addressed to Santa were answered by members of the Association.
The Legacy The·equipment was dismantled in the mld-1970s due to a lack of interest in maintaining the park, since the city of Hannibal had starting developing their own neighborhood parks. The fire truck was returned to the city. The playground and field is now occupied by an eyesore commercial building, by comparison, with heavy equipment scattered around the dusty gravelled lot. The area back by the creek is once again overgrown with brush.
It is sad when those things that gave us such precious memories fade away, but, the memories are precious enough to be passed on. And, the folks who made Camery Field possible leave behind the legacy that became city sponsored playgrounds in neighborhoods where children can safely learn through playing, and just be kids.
After decades of waiting for the promise of autonomous vehicles (driverless cars) that will let us work or entertain ourselves as we travel, we’re disappointed they aren’t available yet, but still resigned to be patiently hopeful. Driverless cars are certainly in our children’s future, but are they in ours? Hard to say, but Google recently unveiled its latest prototype, which doesn’t even have a set of manual controls. That’s promising!
Seventy-five years ago, on April 30, 1939, the colossal New York World’s Fair opened in what is now Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, in the borough of Queens. The theme was “The World of Tomorrow.” General Motors had a hugely popular display titled, “Futurama,” which depicted radio-controlled electric cars that were propelled via electromagnetic fields provided by circuits embedded in the roadway. This was, perhaps, the first prediction of a mass produced autonomous car.
All the necessary technologies are now beginning to become reality. The autonomous car will, of course, be based on a number of technological modules. Some we have, some are in development. In fact, some of these modules you’re going to see in cars coming out before 2020. Assembling all these modules together to make the autonomous car can certainly happen by 2020, but, the challenge is putting it all together in a reliable, safe and affordable way.
And, as much as I’m a fan of the concept, and fascinated by the technology, I can’t help but feel that when 2020 comes around driverless cars will still be tightly controlled, restricted in use, and in very limited roles.
1. Infrastructure Isn’t Ready
Austin will be a good test ground for Google’s driverless cars because of the overwhelming population growth that is increasingly clogging its roadways. Common jargon in Austin for the 22-mile-long MoPac Expressway is “SlowPAC,” because of the seemingly endless bumper to bumper creep-and-crawl at “rush hours,” which seem to be getting longer and longer. Austin is ranked as the top city for technology job creation on a recent Forbes list, with 120 newcomers moving in every day. The Austin Technology Council expects 11,754 new tech jobs will be added to the mix over the next five years!
It is doubtful that adequate highway construction could be accomplished by 2020 to relieve the congestion on that expressway enough to allow for the “platooning” of smart cars as has been proposed for many decades. As Danny Sullivan, writing for c/net recently wrote, there is still the elephant in the room: all the legal and technological challenges to be resolved so these cars can be allowed on freeways, separately, and in platooning mode.
2. Technology Isn’t Ready
The first cars with some of the self-driving features are already coming to market. Mercedes-Benz offers an extremely limited self-driving feature on a couple of models that can take the wheel in stop-and-go highway traffic. But, it only works up to 37 miles per hour, and it doesn’t work when you’re not bumper-to-bumper on a clearly marked highway. Other auto makers are promising to follow, and improve, that capability. Google’s newest autonomous cars are headed to Austin for testing and further development as we speak. But, it’s likely to be many years before autonomous cars are able to fully deliver on their promise of a safer, more efficient future.
Lance Vaughn, CEO of CabForward, a leading digital agency in Austin, commented, “Amazon is likely keeping an eye on the autonomous automotive market, because they thrive on innovative disruption and digital transformation. As technology advances, they tend to push the boundaries and think way outside the box. They don’t mind trying something new, failing, and learning from that failure about how to get their market approach correct. They may not have joined the driverless car initiative, but I’ll bet they’re looking at the alternative market segments like an automated (driverless) taxi or delivery service.”
Austin is one of the leading cities for advocates of alternatives to private car ownership, getting us out of the current multiple-car-per-family mode. Instead of dealing with the hassles of owning personal cars, many Austin residents are already opting to use alternative services like public transportation, Car2Go, Uber, RideScout and similar services. These early adopters are very likely to be subscribers to an automated car service that can take them wherever they need to go, when they need to go, without ownership hassles. This is going to be an attractive market for a company that thrives on innovative disruption and digital transformation.
3. Legislation Isn’t Ready
Once the roads are flooded with self-driving vehicles, accidents and traffic congestion will be greatly reduced, and travel by car will be safer, swifter, and more pleasant. Regulators are already working hard to bring about that future, but there’s already a catch. To get all of the great benefits, most of the vehicles on the road would have to have self-driving and intercommunication capabilities. Here’s the heart of that problem: American automobiles are so high in quality they are lasting a lot longer.
The average car on the road today is eleven or more years old. It’s possible that most every new car on the U.S. market will have self-driving capabilities within a decade. But even if that happens, it’s likely that it will take another decade before most of the cars on U.S. roads have that ability because of what auto manufacturers call the replacement rate. It would likely take an additional decade or more until most vehicles on the road would be driverless. Regulators have to figure out how to deal with those “classic” cars that are not driverless, and don’t have the intercommunication capability built in. (Is there an aftermarket app for that?)
Still, I am optimistic, if impatient. One recent study suggests 2035 as a more reasonable date for most cars to be self driving, with nearly all cars being autonomous by 2050. There will still be the collector classic cars that will need some technology to make them fit in. I’m certainly happy that so much progress has been made with autonomous vehicles recently, and being involved in the digital app development world, I am very much aware of the wonders of digital transformation in every segment of our lives. Technology is advancing quickly, and I’m certain the promises being made will indeed come true.
Will Your App Last into 2020?
CabForward can bring your app up-to-date. Our product development team cares about your product and your success. Our team designs incredible user experiences. We want to partner with you and work alongside you, for the entire lifecycle of your product.
Check out our portfolio page for some examples of our work.
Connecting with a strong digital product agency is becoming very important to businesses in every industry to help with keeping ahead of the fast changing competitive landscape. Companies are hurling into industry-leading positions through the development of disruptive software that changes how processes are performed. This digital transformation is the biggest opportunity enterprise has seen for decades. However, we must always keep in mind that strategy, not just technology, drives successful digital transformation.
Strategically selecting the digital development company you want as your product partner is an extremely important decision. There are several factors that you should consider when making that decision.
The agency you select should have a wide range of experiences with customers from a variety of industries.The more partnering the team has done across various businesses and applications, the better they will be able to architect a solution to position you as a leader. Our portfolio, for example, ranges from oilfield construction to ride sharing, real time border security and supply chain security to mobile apps and responsive web design. This variety means we at CabForward have seen a lot, and can leverage those experiences to better advise you.
Your development agency needs to be a polyglot shop; meaning they use a variety of different technologies, languages and frameworks. You should find a firm that has skills in integrating Java, php, .Net, C++, for a variety of platforms and has applications in the online stores for mobile devices. Even if they like to specialize in one discipline, such as Ruby on Rails, they should be able to leverage experience in other languages that might benefit your project.
Avoid a digital product agency that doesn’t have at least two times more software engineers than you will need working on your project. Most software projects flex in activity requiring more team members at different times than others. A large benefit of a company with adequate staff is their ability to increase or decrease the number of developers on your project with no notice. If the company is too small they may not be able to deliver on your timeline or within your budget.
A competent development team will make small but frequent releases, usually in weekly or bi-weekly sprints, depending on the size of your project. You don’t have to deploy those releases until you’re ready, but your software team should be posting improvements frequently for you to see and respond to along the way. At CabForward, we typically submit code enhancements several times a day until the objectives have been met.
Another very important trait of a reliable mobile app development partner is transparency, meaning that you have access to what progress is being made at any given moment. This is accomplished via an online project management tool. It should display user stories and features and also allow you to see the developer’s hours and notes. We use project management software that allows our clients to see the status of projects at any time, post questions and comments, read the responses from the development team.
Your selected product partner is likely to be a “time and materials” shop, rather than working from a fixed bid. This is becoming more and more common today. There are a couple of very good reasons for this; most fixed bid projects run over budget due to the discovery along the development process that additional features are needed. And secondly, “time and materials” lets you pace the development according to your needs and budget — starting and stopping progress as you need.
Avoid firms that will work in exchange of equity. It is tempting to use a firm that will work for a lower rate or even offer free services in exchange for a share of the company or profits. However, such a company generally needs a stream of income to make payroll, which could leave your project on the back burner when they have income producing work available.
Examine how those companies you are considering work with you. Study their Mutual Services Agreement, Non-Disclosure Agreement and sample Statement of Work. Make sure your proprietary information is well protected under your agreement and that ownership of the code developed for you is clearly transferred to you at the conclusion of each development sprint. You should expect ownership of the resulting source code, as well as any inventions that arise from the development process.
Select a partner that uses open source software, which has no fee for use. Open source software makes development less expensive, and because it has extensive libraries, it makes development faster. There are thousands of collaborators who work to continually enhance open source software, so it is always up to date with the ever-changing requirements of responsive web design requirements.
Your product partner should be able to offer you all the services you need from start to finish. Their offerings should look similar to our own:
● Discovery Sessions – This engagement provides customers with access to two or more solution architects to review the business and technical plan for your project. We provide our customers with documented user stories, estimates for development, architecture recommendations, hosting options and DevOps considerations, which gives them a detailed understanding of what it will take to build their application. The <a href=”http://cabforward.com/discovery-sessions/”>Discovery Session</a> also frequently offers our customers an opportunity to explore new business and technology ideas they had not previously considered.
● Custom Software Development – Technology innovation is a must for companies looking for a competitive edge in a business environment where change is the only constant. However, while technological advancements have enabled companies to operate more efficiently and effectively, they’ve often made it more difficult to stay current. CabForward has the experience and expertise to help you overcome these challenges through custom Rugged software that is scalable, maintainable, and defensible.
● Velocity Boost – Some customers need help augmenting their team with Senior Level Developer talent. We call this Velocity Boost. This can be driven by a need to meet critical milestones or deadlines, an inability to find full-time skilled resources, or to compensate for the loss of a key team member. Our team has <a title=”Portfolio” href=”http://cabforward.com/portfolio/” target=”_blank”>experience</a> working in many industry verticals and across a diverse range of technology architectures, which helps them quickly ramp up and provide immediate value. When we don’t have the talent that you need, we go out and get it. We like to say, “Fast Forward with CabForward!
● DevOps Process – This is a process of collaboration and communication between software developers and IT professionals to efficiently produce software products and services. Companies need operations delivered in a shared resource model that is cost effective. CabForward recognizes the challenges many companies face in their lack of DevOps experience, so we offer expert service in this area. CabForward’s Rugged approach to test driven application development, continuous deployment and operations meets this need.
● Open Source Software Consulting – CabForward℠ promotes the use of Open Source Softwar to help relieve our customers from the long-term financial burden of proprietary software, the exorbitant cost of mandatory virus protection, support charges, vendor-required upgrade expenses, and mandatory terms. Open Source Software is the product of thousands of developers worldwide improving the quality, security and stability of the source code. CabForward can quickly and efficiently modify existing Open Source code to provide the functionality our customers need with the reliability they expect.
Marketing Strategy Services – When it’s time to announce your product to the world, our product <a href=”http://cabforward.com/launch/” target=”_blank”>marketing team</a> will provide you with services to aid penetrating the market and getting your product noticed. We can create your product’s website and optimize it for search engine functionality, do social media marketing, analytics and customer development. We will even provide penetration testing for ongoing product assessment.