Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cows, Hogs, and Chickens in Munichburg

In the good ol’ days, folks in Munichburg (Jefferson City’s Southside) kept barnyard animals on their properties. In those days, all families had vegetable gardens for their food supply, and more than a few raised animals for food. A property was like a mini-farm.

For a long while, well into the twentieth century, animals were given free rein to roam. Folks had to put up fences to keep roaming animals off their properties and out of their gardens. That’s why you see such a huge network of fencing in old photographs. Today those fences are gone, and when people put up fences today, they’re to keep other people out.

Hogs roamed all over town in the nineteenth century. In 1873 it was reported that “cattle graze and hogs root in the City Cemetery upon the graves,” though the neighboring National Cemetery, well protected by a stone wall, was free from roaming animals. Newspaper articles were still calling in 1919 for hogs to be controlled in Jefferson City.

Cows could also roam about. The congregation of Central Evangelical Church gathered outside its church one Sunday morning in February 1891 after worship service for a congregational photo.

In that sharp photo taken by professional photographer Carl Deeg, a cow is standing just behind the congregation in the middle of muddy Ashley Street, looking straight at the camera. A roving critter to be sure. It seemed to be saying, “Just what do you people think you’re doing, invading my territory?”

In the early 1900s, residents kept a cow in order to have fresh milk in those days before refrigeration. My mother related that, as a young girl, her parents would send her the four blocks over to Mulberry and Atchison to get a bucket of milk from Mr. Petry, who kept cows.

When I was a young boy around 1940, Affolter’s pasture occupied the hillside from the end of Broadway (where four-lane US 54 now crosses over it) up to Swift’s Highway and included the site of today’s South School and Pamela Street. Grandpa led me through the cow pasture on our trips to visit his old German friends on Swifts Highway. Dozens of cows grazed that hillside.

People kept horses, too. Before cars, horse-drawn wagons and carriages were the way to get around. If you had a carriage, you probably had a horse and stable in the back of your property on the alley, or else you had to rent one from the several neighborhood liveries. When a horse- or mule-drawn wagon came by our house on Broadway, Grandpa was quick with his shovel to go out and scoop up droppings for manure for his garden. Until motor vehicles took over in the 1920s, businesses had hitching posts and horse-watering troughs in front of them. Today we feed parking meters in front of stores instead of horses.

Every week a buggy or wagon accident occurred and made the newspaper. The corner of Jefferson and Atchison had more than its share. In October 1906, two women in a buggy collided with another there. “Both women were flung and the hardly three month old child of one fell between the spokes of a front wheel. Fortunately the horse was steady and remained in place, otherwise the baby would have been slit to death.” At that same corner, farmer Ulrich Zehender, standing alongside his wagon, slipped and fell and was run over by his own wagon. And on the adjacent Jefferson Street hill, in front of what is now the Salvation Army, a team of horses bolted, causing a woman to fall backward out of the wagon. Her head struck a rock, “causing the blood to flow freely.” One day in 1916, thunder spooked the horses of Crandell’s ice cream wagon, and they ran away. Crandell was heavily bruised, but no ice cream was lost. These wagon and buggy accidents of the past have been replaced by car accidents today.

In 1915, the newspaper reported that a band of gypsies had moved onto the low ground along Wears Creek at Washington Park. “The gypsies turned their horses and cattle loose and permitted them to roam about the country. Residents complained that the stock was devastating their gardens. The protest had little effect upon the gypsies, who in effect told them to go jump in the creek.”

Some folks, like the Pash family on West Atchison, raised pigeons in dovecotes. From what I hear, boys raised these for “homing pigeons,” but it is likely that some were eaten, if the tastes of the family were such. Likewise, some families raised rabbits in hutches. Of course, men would still go rabbit hunting out in the country, but domestic rabbits didn’t have the “wild” taste, and they were there to butcher whenever you wanted. Our neighbors raised white rabbits during the hard years of the Great Depression. They also raised chinchilla rabbits for their valued fur, which they shipped by rail to fur markets in the big cities. In those days, people out of work did not get unemployment checks, so they had to be resourceful in finding ways to make money.

Apparently no one raised turkeys. Turkeys are an American bird and not part of the customary diet handed down from German immigrants. Nevertheless, it was common in the few days before Christmas for grocers to give away fresh-killed turkeys to shoppers. A news item in 1912 reported that “thirty-five turkeys are to be given away at the Southside pool hall Wednesday night.” That pool hall must have been busy that evening! Even barbershops got in on the turkey promotional giveaways.

Geese seldom appear in the records. “Goose Bottom,” the name used for the low ground around the junction of the west and east branches with the main Wears Creek (the area around the present junction of Missouri Boulevard with Highway 50/63) either got its name very early from wild geese there, or later from geese being raised there by someone. Max Baer (no relation to the boxer or to his actor son), who had a junkyard at Broadway and Miller, advertised for goose feathers. Someone was raising geese.

Chickens were everywhere. Roosters came with them, and their cock-a-doodle-doo’s crowed out at the crack of dawn across Munichburg. Of course, everyone was already awake by then. In fact, in summer housewives generally already had done their three loads of wash, put it through the ringer, and hung it out on clotheslines by seven o’clock to avoid the heat of the day. Today, roosters have been replaced by alarm clocks.

Hungry folks and rascals stole chickens. Hardly a week went by without some family reporting chickens stolen in the Southside, and the thieves were hardly ever caught. Since dogs roamed also, chickens were lost during the night to hungry dogs.

Chickens were kept in fenced pens and coops. If the property was large enough, a couple dozen could be kept this way, providing eggs as well. Others kept just a few chickens in small cages for shorter times. The space under the back porch served this purpose. Today, many people don’t have back porches.

By time the 1920s came, families began to have iceboxes and refrigeration, so that keeping chickens was dispensed with and replaced by a short trip to buy fresh meat from Hott & Asel’s butcher shop or one of the chain groceries that were moving in. But when the hard times of the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, which were then followed by the frugal years of World War II, families returned to keeping chickens along with their “victory gardens.”

We kept a few chickens in a chicken-wire cage behind our garage on Elm Street. My brother and I took care of them. When it was time to kill one for Sunday dinner, Dad grabbed a fat hen, took it to the gravel driveway under the purple martin box, put the hen on a wooden chopping block, and whacked off its head with one blow from an axe. The martins would go crazy and dive-bomb us (we thought in terms of planes fighting in the war going on). Sometimes Dad wrung the hen’s neck: He grabbed the hen by its head and whirled it around his head several times until the head twisted off and the body sailed off onto the gravel. I watched the headless body flop around for a couple of minutes, spewing off blood in all directions. It was great excitement! Then it was Mom’s job to dunk the critter into hot water and begin plucking the feathers, cutting it up, and getting it ready to fry for dinner. We ate every bit of it, except the head and feet. Dinner doesn’t come any fresher than that! Today we buy processed foods instead of eating our home-grown vegetables and chickens.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Nits and Lice and Cooties

My father was a barber, so I learned about head lice very early. Here’s how it happened.

While my family sat at the supper table eating, we always talked about what happened during the day. One evening while eating, Dad related that while he was cutting a man’s hair that day, he discovered lice on his scalp. Dad, holding his fork in his hand, pointed to the back of his head to show exactly where.

Mom interrupted, “Oh, Walter! Not at the table while we’re eating!

For the benefit of his young sons, Dad continued to describe how tiny the lice were and how they laid eggs, called nits, on hairs close to the scalp.

Following his training at barber college (and state law), Dad had to immediately stop cutting the hair of anyone with lice and ask the customer to leave the shop. He had to disinfect in formaldehyde his electric shears, cutting shears (scissors), comb, and anything else that had been touched.

He took the customer’s hair cloth, carefully folded it inward, and put it in a sack in his closet. While he did this, the next customer waited patiently on the bench and wondered if the disinfecting really worked. Nits and lice, as everyone knows, can be easily spread.

My own head suddenly seemed itchy, and I scratched it.

About that same time, Cole County Nurse Hetty Joach (pronounced Jo-ack) made her annual visit to Broadway School, where I was an eight-year-old in Miss Ruth Longan’s third grade. We pupils went singly into the cloakroom and sat on a stool while Nurse Joach looked at our teeth, throat, and a lot of other things and, of course, took a comb to examine our scalps for head lice.

I don’t remember if she found any in our class that year, but if she did, it was revealed privately to the pupil, the teacher, and parents. Nurse Joach told us all about head lice and reminded us to wash our hair often, which some kids didn’t do in those days. But my Mom and Dad made sure my head got washed more than I wanted.

We kids found out that cooties was another word for lice. It was common to tease someone, especially girls, by saying, “You’ve got cooties!” Teachers and parents frowned on this, because they knew it could be hurtful. People believed that contracting head lice was a sign of dirty, shameful housekeeping, and families were embarrassed when it happened.

Then one evening Mom’s bridge club met at our house.

I was allowed to stay up for a while and watch the “girls” play several hands. At one point, I heard one of them exclaim, “Oh, all I had in my hand was nits and lice!”--meaning that she held low cards, but I didn’t know that. I puzzled why anyone would be holding lice and their eggs in their hands.

I wanted to look, because I had never seen a louse, dead or alive, but I didn’t. Soon after, I went to bed and started imagining my head itching.

Then, the next Christmas, my Aunt Esther and Uncle Emil Kaiser came to visit. She told us about a group she belonged to in Kansas City called the Cooties of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Uncle Eme had served in the U.S. Navy during World War I, and the Cooties were veterans who brought fun and entertainment to sick and wounded veterans in hospitals. Women formed Cootie auxiliaries and had just as much fun as their veteran husbands did. My Aunt Esther was always singing, laughing, and cracking jokes, so I knew she could make vets in hospitals happy. The group was called “Military Order of the Cootie” because it poked fun at the lice that tormented troops living in trenches during the war.

When I learned all this, I started thinking of "cooties" as neat people who had lots of fun!


And in the early 1940s, this is how an eight-year-old found out about nits and lice and cooties!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Broadway School’s Last Day!

Broadway School, located on the northeast corner of Dunklin and Broadway streets, opened in 1904.

In the next half century, some 1,600 children in the Old Munichburg neighborhood of Jefferson City’s Southside attended the elementary school. They read Dick and Jane books in the first grade reading circle and had spelling bees in the second grade. In the third grade, they learned to write in longhand (now called cursive) by the Palmer penmanship method, using a scratchy ink pen dipped in an ink bottle. In the fourth grade, they memorized multiplication tables and then added long division and fractions in the fifth grade. By the sixth and final grade, they were sprouting bean seeds in glass jars on the window sills and drawing pictures of the sprouting process in their tablets.

After World War II, Jefferson City schools grew overcrowded. In addition to classrooms being cramped with thirty or more pupils, Broadway’s playground was much too small and bordered on two busy streets. When the school was built in 1904, Dunklin and Broadway streets carried horses and buggies, but by 1950 the same streets carried a couple thousand cars daily. Traffic posed a serious danger for pupils who ran into the streets to avoid being tagged during a game of “it” or to chase softballs.



In 1952 Jefferson City citizens voted by an astounding 86 percent to approve school bonds, which included the replacement of the Southside’s two historic schools, Broadway and Central, with two new schools. Broadway would be replaced by the new South School, four blocks father south on Broadway. South School was finished in February 1955 and ready to be occupied.

The last day of school at Broadway was Wednesday, February 9, 1955. It was an unusually balmy day for February, and during recess, pupils played in their shirtsleeves.

Boys made one last assault on the cinder pile next to the coal chute and played on the school’s back steps.

Mrs. Bonnie Haigh posed with some of her fifth grade pupils.

And for the final time, the janitor let the boys ring the handbell to signal the end of recess before they filed through the front doors.

During that night an unexpected cold front moved in, dropping temperatures below freezing! It had snowed! Moving day would have to be done in the snow! Boys and girls arrived at school dressed in coats and caps with earflaps and wearing sturdy shoes and galoshes, because they knew they had to hike in snow the four blocks south to their new school.

Grade by grade, starting with the youngest first graders, the pupils filed out of the school carrying their books and tablets, pencils and erasers, pens and ink bottles, as well as scissors, rulers, paste, and other school supplies in brown paper bags. (There were no plastic bags or nylon backpacks then!) Boys put their marbles in one pants pocket and their pocketknives (for whittling and playing mumblety-peg during recess) in the other. Each class of thirty or so pupils was led by its teacher, assisted by a few mothers.

Some classes sang as they marched through the snow. The schoolboy patrol halted Dunklin Street traffic for the procession of about two hundred persons to cross over. While they marched, the wind and snow started again and became, according to the newspaper account, “a near blizzard.”

The last to leave the old school were Miss Frances Elizabeth Smith, the current principal, and Miss Lily Andrae, who had been Broadway’s first principal in 1904 and had continued in that position until 1926. Miss Andrae had the honor of locking the front door and shutting down the school. To celebrate the new beginning, Miss Andrae presented to South School a set of the complete works of Charles Dickens.

Broadway School became a white elephant. What do you do with a fifty-year-old elementary school? That question was answered when the Carpenters Union 945 bought the building and lot a few months later, in August 1955, for $32,000.

The Carpenters converted it into an office building, but they retained some of the original furnishings. The original wooden stairways and banisters are still intact and polished, and the century-old wooden benches used for seating in the lunchroom remain in that same room, which is now a meeting room. The Old Munichburg Association occupies the former fourth grade room.

Thanks to my mother, Mrs. Edna Schroeder, for taking the photos of the last day and moving day of Broadway School. Her youngest son, my brother Tom, was in the fifth grade at the time. My mother, two of her sisters, and her three sons were among the approximately 1,600 who attended Broadway School.

Copyright 2012 by Walter A. Schroeder.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Cole County Bank

The Southside began to take off with its own business district in the decades around 1900. By then, the original German immigrants were dying off and the younger generation spoke English. Folks no longer used the German “Muenchberg” but began called the area “Jefferson City’s Southside.”

Sitting under shade trees in Friemel’s beer garden one summer evening in 1912, an informal, tight-knit group of businessmen who called themselves the “Southside Boosters” saw the need for a community bank in the growing Southside. They chose the name “Cole County Bank” because much of the Southside’s business came from farmers in the county. The boosters had no trouble soliciting stock, and on October 17, 1912, the Cole County Bank was incorporated with a capitalization of $25,000. The bank had 85 shareholders, all of whom were listed in the local newspaper with the number of shares each owned at $100 per share.

Among the shareholders were Jacob F. Moerschel (of the Capitol Brewery), George Bartholomaeus (co-owner of the Dunklin Theater), John W. Fischer (prominent farmer), Joseph Pope (street contractor), Wm. F. Winkelmann (farmer and banker), T. G. Nilges (grocer and city councilman), Ernst Simonsen (manufacturer and namesake of the high school), and members of the Dulle, Bassmann, Busch, Schmidt, Tanner, Seidel, Renn, Sommerer, Schell, and Kielman families. The list even included Hugh Stephens (printer and banker). Officers at incorporation were T. G. Nilges, president; J. W. Fischer and A. W. Happy, vice-presidents; and Wm. F. Winkelmann, cashier and secretary.

The bank officers narrowed down the location for their new bank to two sites. One was “Schmidt’s Corner,” the southwest corner of Dunklin and Madison, where the Henry Schmidt Grocery was (the Wel-Com-Inn corner). The other site was “Kielman’s Corner,” the southeast corner of Dunklin and Jefferson, where the Farmer’s Home hotel was, where the ECCO Lounge is located. They chose Kielman’s Farmer’s Home location and began operations in 1912 in the corner room of the hotel.

A separate Southside Building and Loan Association, organized to provide loans for the large number of new houses then going up in the Southside, operated in conjunction with the bank.

At the same time that the Cole County Bank got going, Henry Schwartze quit his blacksmith and wagon repair business in the building catty-cornered from Farmers Home, the northwest corner of the same intersection. In 1914 that vacant two-story brick building was completely renovated into a retail business downstairs and offices upstairs. The old doorways, wide enough for wagons, were bricked in, new windows installed, and the interior space divided into rooms. The original, soft-brick exterior walls of the 1880s were replaced, or covered over, with new wire-brushed, weather-resistant brick to give the building the completely different appearance that you can see today. Following this thorough building renovation in 1914, the Southside Drug Store and Jefferson City’s first branch post office opened on the first floor and doctors’ offices on the second floor.

The corner room in the Farmers Home building had become entirely too small for the growing Cole County Bank, so shortly after 1921, the bank left that corner room and moved diagonally across the corner into the larger space that the Southside Drug Store had occupied. The drug store simply moved next door on the north, where it stayed into the 1960s. Doctors and dentists remained on the second floor.

The bank advertised heavily in both German and English newspapers. A neighborhood bank was a great help to Southsiders. They could do their banking while shopping in the Southside. Frugal families could create savings accounts rather than hiding their precious earnings in mattresses. They knew the officers and tellers and trusted them with their money.

Things went well during the 1920s. The bank quickly doubled its capitalization, then again recapitalized. In 1922 it passed the million-dollar mark in assets. As population grew in the Southside and nearby farmers prospered, so did the bank.

Then the unexpected happened! The national stock market crashed in 1929, which brought on the Great Depression. Small banks were vulnerable to the economic hard times and the huge decline in circulating money. Nevertheless, people continued to trust their neighborhood bank with their money, just as they would a friend.

But the Cole County Bank was overextended. It had too many unsecured loans for its assets! For instance, the bank had to foreclose on the mortgaged Farmers Home hotel for only $500, when the building was worth several thousands of dollars. The bank just couldn’t sell the property. There were no buyers with money during the Great Depression.

Try as they could to keep afloat, the Cole County Bank finally was forced to close its doors in May 1938, paying only 62½ cents on the dollar to shareholders. On November 9, 1938, the Director of Finance of the state of Missouri, after a six-month search to find owners of unclaimed deposits, liquidated all remaining assets. The bank had failed. The Southside Building and Loan Association, however, survived and stayed in business in that corner building.

Many Southsiders lost all their savings. Folks shared their sorrows with some bitterness. Single women, widows, aged couples, and younger people who were saving for retirement in those days before Social Security lost everything! Jack Howser, who as a young boy lived across the street in the Farmers Home hotel, had put his meager savings in the bank, and 74 years later his painful loss of exactly $3.25 was still etched in his memory.

A bank organized by and for Southsiders and county farmers no longer exists. However, the Southside does have a branch facility of Jefferson City’s Hawthorn Bank, which is said to be their most used facility. In late 2013 a completely new Hawthorn Bank building was completed on the corner of Dunklin and Washington, built to architecturally harmonize with the historic brick buildings of the neighborhood. If you live or work or visit in the Southside, you still have a friendly Southside bank to serve you!