Category Archives: Hannibal

Stories and photos derived from my experiences in Hannibal, MO.

Old Blog Photos: Series Three

Commenter Darrell e-mailed me some more photos which he had saved from previous incarnations of this blog; these Hannibal scenes date from around 2006-2008.

This one was taken from the little-used iron bridge which spans Bear Creek and leads to the ruins of the Marblehead Lime Co. I liked the reflections on the river’s surface:

Shots like this next one make me glad I get up early! This is a view of a sunrise from up on Grace Street:

This one might have been taken in 2009. The green-roofed building is the newly built and state-run Supervisory Center (doesn’t the name sound Orwellian?), a half-way house for ex-cons which helps them prepare for life in the bad old Real World. In the background can be seen the wooded limestone ridge south of Bear Creek where the Marblehead quarry tunnels can be found:

Oak stamens floating on the surface of Bear Creek with beguiling tree reflections:

A view of Hannibal from Lover’s Leap with a storm approaching from the north:

Here’s a photo Darrel took on one of his visits to Hannibal, a nice shot of the hills below Saverton; an autumnal scene. Saverton is a small town a few miles south of Hannibal, originally built as a company town for Continental Cement Company employees. Saverton was devastated by the flood of 2008:

It’s quite a treat to have photos I thought were lost forever wend their way through the fiber-optic cables and end up in my Inbox! Thanks, Darrell.




Filed under Hannibal, Photos

Bulldozer Vista

Long-time commenter Darrell e-mailed me a photo I had lost. It’s one of my favorite shots from the five years I lived in Hannibal.

One of my favorite walking destinations was the hollowed-out bluff just south of Bear Creek, the next bluff west of Lover’s Leap. A wide shelf had been blasted out on the north side of the bluff back when the Marblehead Lime Company (formerly Bear Creek Lime Co.) was quarrying limestone during the first two thirds of the 20th Century. The ledge or shelf allowed heavy machinery to enter the many quarry tunnels which extended farther back than I ever ventured; one tunnel actually pierces the bluff and you can see a disk of sky and trees on the south side of the bluff!

The ledge offers a great vantage point for looking down on Hannibal and the river. The bulldozer in the foreground is an ancient cable-driven machine which hasn’t moved in decades. I especially like the lighting in this photo:

Darrell once worked at the quarry as a chemist back in the early 1970s and his father also worked there for many years. Now the site is full of weathered and collapsing buildings and lime-kilns, a wonderful place for wandering around and taking photos.



Filed under Hannibal, Photos

More Thoughts About The Beatles

“Penny Lane” is a great example of how the Beatles integrated British post-war dance-hall music with American musical influences:

An even better example is this:

The Beatles during that era were a great example of musicians coming together and creating art.

I actually had something similar to this happen to me last year:

When I was living in Hannibal last year there was a crack-addict woman who frequently visited me. She was just so beautiful, a complex hybrid mix of Asian, American Indian, African-American, and Caucasian. I once told her that she was one of the three prettiest women in Hannibal. She had a boyfriend who was suspicious of me and he would cruise by my building looking for her car. J. would park a couple of blocks away on Spruce St. and I’d pick her up there and later take her back to her car. My sleep patterns were perturbed at the time; she couldn’t rouse me by banging on the door one morning, so she climbed through a window and woke me up.



Filed under Hannibal, Music

Chicken-House Frame-Raising

Towards the end of April I was at Paul and Sam’s place about a mile outside of Hannibal. I had been invited to help erect a pine timber-frame structure which is intended to be a rather elaborate chicken-house. I don’t think the chickens will really appreciate it, frankly, but at least they will be out of the garage where they have been living.

I really didn’t help much, as there were six or so guys working on the project when I got there. I took photos and talked with the official documenter of the occasion, a daughter of one the friends who was helping. She’s sixteen years old and wants to be a reporter and writer for the Quincy Herald-Whig newspaper. She wants to go to MSU in Columbia, MO and take their highly-regarded journalism course. She lives in Hannibal with her father but disdains the Hannibal newspaper; it does suck, I freely admit. That’s Duane standing next to her; he’s a guitarist I’ve played with off and on over the years:

It was quite an interesting process to watch. It was the first time I have ever seen a gin-pole being used; a gin-pole is a two-legged triangular structure used to hoist heavy items with the help of a block-and-tackle. A gin-pole is effective, but they aren’t seen much these days due to the advent of hydraulic power equipment. Gin-poles can be dangerous to their users — “Oh, no, it’s slipping! Heads up!”

Some more photos from the occasion:

That’s Paul, whose chickens will presumably one of these days live in the structure.

A cross-beam or girt being lowered onto a rebar pin:

The whole crew, after the frame had been successfully erected. Time to eat some spaghetti!

I got a kick out of witnessing this construction process; a group of friends making a structure come to life.



Filed under Hannibal

Early Good Fortune

Last year, when I was living at my building on Hannibal’s West Side, one of my neighbors was a black woman. I had gotten to know her and her extended family and I would often walk up the street for a visit. The woman is married, but her more-or-less estranged husband Lucky lives in Columbia. He comes to Hannibal from time to time and stays a few days. He would say “Aw, sometimes I just need to see what my grandchildren are up to!”

Lucky is a grumbly, gray-haired curmudgeon with a tendency to mutter. He uses an aluminum cane due to old war injuries which give him some trouble. He and I got along pretty well and I could usually prime his verbal pump. He has some interesting stories from his years living in West LA.

Lucky and his wife tended to wrangle after he had been at her house for a while. He would get fed up with family drama and come to my place and bang on the door. I’d let him in and he would complain about the steep stairs:

“Dammit, Larry, why the hell do you live upstairs?”

Lucky would stay for half an hour or so and we’d talk. During one of these visits I asked him “Why do they call you Lucky, anyway?”

Lucky chuckled. “Larry, there’s a good reason for that nickname; they’ve been calling me that ever since I was a day old.”

“My momma went to the hospital to have me and she had an awful time of it. She was in labor for hours and hours. When I was finally delivered I was stillborn — all blue and skinny, and I wasn’t breathing. I can’t blame ’em for thinkin’ I was dead.”

“At that hospital they had a room in the basement where they took dead folks. There were shelves for the bodies, and one shelf had cubbyholes for dead babies and little kids. That’s where they put me. Once a day the undertaker would come by the hospital and pick up the day’s dead bodies and haul ’em off. The hospital janitor would help load the truck.”

“Now, I’m still grateful to that janitor. He saw my toes twitchin’ a little bit and said to the undertaker “By gawd — I think that little black bugger over there is alive!”

“See why they call me Lucky?”



Filed under Hannibal

Boxcar Shantytown

During one of my stints in the Marion County Jail this summer I got to know a 62-year-old black man whom I’ll call C. We were the oldest prisoners in the cell block — most of the others were tattooed young meth-heads and such.

C. grew up on the West Side, Hannibal’s ‘hood. Back in the early 1960s he was Hannibal’s first black paperboy, and he still remembers the name of the Courier-Post woman who hired him. His route consisted of several streets such as Spruce, Gordon, and Griffith, then as now a predominantly black and poor part of town.

After we had been released from jail I would run into C. and his wife from time to time out on the street. They were friendly to me and invited me to their house. Over the next few months I had many pleasant visits with the couple, just sitting around talking, yarning, and watching TV. While I was there I’d fill up one of my water jugs and charge my cell phone.

C. had many stories of life in Hannibal in “the old days” and told them with great vigor and expression. He told me stories his father told him over the years. C’s dad had a trash-hauling business in nearby Palmyra before he got married. This was back in the 1920s. C.’s father routinely saved what money he could in a local bank; all in all it amounted to several hundred dollars, a sizable sum back then. Then the Crash of ’29 happened and the bank failed. Until the end of his life C.’s father squirrelled away sums of money in coffee cans which he buried in the back yard. He also had a leather portfolio which he hid inside his mattress. A quote from C.’s father: “I’ll be damned if I ever trust my money to a white man again!”

C. recounted to me his father’s memories of a makeshift neighborhood on the edge of Hannibal, a settlement of indigent people who lived in boxcars during the Great Depression. The Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad had a lot where worn-out wood-sided boxcars were deposited after their poor condition made them unreliable. I imagine they kept the boxcars so that parts such as wheels and coupling mechanisms could be scavenged for re-use on newer boxcars.

I had some questions for C.:

“I suppose they carried their water in, but were these people completely without access to electricity?”

“Oh, there would be a few who could afford to run generators, while others would run extension cords. They would just move in, run a stovepipe out the roof, and start scavenging wood to burn before winter came.”

“Did they cut in windows in the walls of the cars?”

“Naw — if they wanted some fresh air they’d just open the big sliding doors. People were still living in some of those boxcars when I was a little kid, and I remember visiting some of those families with my folks. Y’know, when ya get right down to it, it sure was better than sleeping under a bridge!”

This story intrigued me. I had read about shanty towns during the Depression, but I had no idea there was one in Hannibal!

I don’t see C. any more because he is currently serving time in the Boone County Jail. One night C. and his wife were fighting, probably about money, and his wife either fell or was pushed down the long flight of steps leading up to their second-floor apartment. She broke a toe in the fall and from the bottom of the steps she called the police. When the cops came they ran C.s name and discovered that he had an outstanding warrant in Boone County.

I didn’t know about this unfortunate incident until the next morning. I was buying some food at the Save-A-Lot store when a black woman approached me. I had never seen her before but she knew who I was. She said “Hey, Larry, didja hear that your buddy’s in jail?” I was a bit nonplussed that she knew who I was and that I was a friend of C.’s; she told me the story, though in her version the number of toes broken had doubled. Later that day I talked with C.’s wife and she told me her version. I don’t think she really wanted to have her husband arrested and put in jail, but that’s what happened. She may not have even known about the outstanding warrant.



Filed under General and Local, Hannibal

A Machine of Antiquity

Yesterday morning I had just returned from a bicycle foray into town — I’d settled into the porch swing and returned to a novel by Edith Wharton, “The Custom Of The Country”. Only a writer as virtuosic as Wharton can interest me in the social intrigues of the wealthy classes in New York City during the 1920s (or any era, for that matter!).

As I reflected upon a particularly deft passage in the novel I happened to notice a typewriter sitting on a folding chair nearby. It hadn’t been there the day before; it was as if it had fallen from the sky, perhaps discarded ballast from a passing dirigible.

I examined the machine, an IBM Selectric typewriter. It’s armor-like case had a matte-green finish and its power cord dangled into a coil upon the concrete. When was the last time I’d seen one of these machines, a relic and survivor of a pre-digital age? I remember seeing these machines in innumerable institutional and commercial offices. Selectrics were innovative machines during their brief time, as the magically-rotating typeface ball with its intaglio letters could be quickly popped loose and replaced with a ball with an entirely different font, a feature which must have seemed wondrous before the advent of word-processors and their drop-down menus of fonts.

A few hours later I asked Doug about the machine.

“Where’d that typewriter out there come from, Doug?”

“Oh, I was helping out a neighbor and he asked me if I wanted it. I thought it might be fun to see if I could get it running.”

I should mention that Doug has the Magic Touch when it comes to machinery. He has an intuitive feel for devices and their maladies. After the recent flood I watched with admiration as he revived two waterlogged push lawnmowers, using only a a pair of pliers, a screwdriver, and a crescent wrench. Doug grew up on a farm and from boyhood has worked on the numerous internal combustion engines modern agriculture relies upon.

I said “Y’know, I’ve always wondered how those Selectric typewriters worked. I’ve never seen the insides of one.”

Before long Doug and I had the relict machine upended. Doug said “I can’t figure out how the bottom of the case is attached!”

We tugged and pried, as there were no evident screws holding the case together. Patience is the crucial factor when dealing with machines, and we finally got the bottom off. We found feathers mixed with birdseed filling all of the cavities of the typewriter. We pulled out a couple of gallons of what looked like chicken feathers and at least a quart of birdseed, mainly millet and milo (a nicely alliterative phrase).

Evidently a clan of mice had made the Selectric its home. A scene from an imaginary Disneyesque cartoon briefly flitted through my mind:

A rather hungry-looking family of mice is clustered around a table made from a saucer perched upon a wooden thread-spool. The mice sit upon chairs, each chair being nothing but a styrofoam peanut. Two bold-looking mice with tiny packs upon their backs, kerchiefs tied around their heads, and staffs made of cocktail skewers enter the mice’s kitchen.

One of them exclaims “What luck we’ve had! In the shed out back we found a hollow human contrivance, a pillow full of feathers, and a bag of seeds! We’re set for the winter!” The mice all cheer…

After the mouse debris was scattered on the ground we saw an impressive sight: the innards and guts of a Selectric, an awesomely-complicated maze consisting of hundreds of mechanical and electrical components. Those IBM engineers of yore had essentially reinvented the typewriter; seeing this sight was like peering into the layered and interlocked gears and pawls of an eighteenth-century ship’s chronometer. The machine looked like it was designed to last for centuries; it’s a shame that two decades later it was completely obsolete.

I noticed a sticker affixed to the inside of the upper case. The name of a Huron, South Dakota office supply company was printed on the sticker, along with an intriguing penciled scrawl:

“Serviced June 19th, 1971”

Yep, that was during the Selectric’s heyday. But how did the typewriter get to Hannibal? An unlikely but entertaining scenario blossoms in my mind:

The Selectric was bought new and used for several years by a secretary at a thriving insurance agency in Huron. After an office equipment upgrade the machine passed through a succession of businesses, each one less prosperous than the one before. It was just chance that caused the typewriter to move farther east with each new owner. It ended up in the window of an office supply store in a small town in Minnesota, perhaps the farthest north of the numerous river towns along the Mississippi.

A young writer lived in that town. His ambition was to write novels; his head was teeming with stories. He had just received a small inheritance from an uncle, and he saw this windfall as a message from his muse. He booked passage on an excursion riverboat which would take him downriver to St. Louis. Perhaps with the green Selectric typewriter he had just purchased he could use the leisurely cruise to write his first novel!

The excursion boat docked for a few hours in Hannibal. The young writer was nearing the end of his monetary resources by this time, but he had a promising first draft of a novel all typed out, a thick sheaf of paper in a manila envelope. He wondered if perhaps there might be a pawnshop in Hannibal. Selling that Selectric would give him money enough to survive until he reached St. Louis, where surely a literary agent would gasp in wonder after reading his manuscript and post haste find him a publisher.

The typewriter ended up at the Rags To Riches pawnshop — the year was 1978; after three more owners it ended up in a shed as a winter dwelling for mice, and then under my scrutiny and Doug’s.

So what happened to the writer? He went on to become a moderately successful author of mystery and suspense novels… but wait… the man is a figment of my imagination, and I’m a benign literary deity; I’ll give him a better fate. He went on to become a revered writer of forty novels, beloved by critics and readers alike, and eventually died in his sleep during the fall of 2045.

Pardon the divagation… I got carried away!

After the feathers were cleared away Doug and I peered into the electro-mechanical maze. Doug went to get an extension cord and I noticed a most intriguing detail; there were two 45-degree-angle gears which looked remarkably like miniature versions of the gears in an automobile differential.

Doug came back and we plugged the typewriter in. Nothing happened, but Doug noticed that the small cylindrical drive motor had heated up. So it was getting current; Doug removed the cogged drive belt from the motor and it silently revved up. The motor was remarkably quiet and vibrationless. I unplugged the cord. It’s surprising that neither of us received an electrical shock.

We found some pockets of corrosion doubtless caused by mouse excreta. I doubt that the typewriter will ever run again, but it was diverting and interesting to explore its innards!



Filed under Hannibal