Old building was Old Houck Field House

Thursday, April 18, 2002

"This is an easy one," said Tom Lett. "It's the old field house at Benton, Mo."

Lett was looking at a recent photograph on the Faces & Places page of the Southeast Missourian.

Jim Wilhelm agreed with Lett.

"The old Benton gym was patterned after the old field house at Will Mayfield Community College at Marble Hill," said Wilhelm. In recent years, the Benton Chamber of Commerce has remodeled the old gym, and it is being used as a community center.

Bob Pikey identified the structure as the old John Cobb School.

Peggy Hitt thought it was the old Fornfelt Community Center.

All reasonable answers but just shy of a goal. The photo is actually old Houck Field House.

Roberta Vandeven was the first of five callers to correctly identify the building. She has good reason to remember it. "I watched the old structure burn in 1948," she said.

Old Houck Field House, built on the Southeast Missouri State University, the former State Teacher's College, campus in the 1920s, was ready for the district high school basketball tournament in March 1927.

Earlier in the decade, plans for Houck football field and stadium were introduced. The stadium bids were too high, so school officials decided to build the football complex itself and include a basketball facility.

Thanks to evangelist Billy Sunday, the school had some material to get started on the field house. A tabernacle used in Sunday's legendary weeklong Cape Girardeau revival was given to the college, and the materials were used to help build Houck Field House.

Houck Field House was used until February 1948 when fire destroyed it. The present Houck Field House was built the following year.

Bill Lewis, a longtime Southeast basketball fan, provided the picture of the old field house. In a 1946-47 brochure showing the field house were some players who may be familiar to Indian basketball fans.

One of the members of the 1946-47 team was the late Joe Uhls, who later served as assistant basketball coach and head baseball coach of the Indians. A few other names of the era included Weldon Hager, Ray Ludwig, Herb Upton, Bob Mize, Vernon Landgraf, Bob and Jack Klosterman and Bill McGeehon. The coach was the venerable and respected Emmett R. "Abe" Stuber, who at one time coached football, basketball and track at Southeast.

Bill Lewis is also another familiar name in Cape Girardeau. The Lewis family purchased "Wimpy's Burgers" in 1942. The family left the name intact, and Wimpy's was a favorite burger restaurant for more than 50 years in Cape Girardeau, until it closed in 1997.

Paul Revere and Raiders

Paul Revere and Raiders were a big draw in Cape Girardeau. The group rocked its way through four decades in the entertainment business, came to Cape Girardeau 40 years ago.

Between 1960 and 1975, the group recorded 20 straight hit singles. When the group appeared at the Arena Building here in 1968, thousands of fans turned out for the concert. Connie (Halter) Laurentius admits she was at the Paul Revere and the Raiders concert in 1968.

"I was in the picture which appeared recently in Faces & Places," said Laurentius. "I was wearing cat glasses."

Many of the young people -- mostly awestruck girls -- who flocked into the Arena Building on Feb. 14, 1968, wore cat glasses.

A crowd of about 3,500 people attended the show. Doors and a door glass were broken as fans shoved and crammed into the building.

A few years earlier in the Arena Building in Cape Girardeau, a young Elvis Presley attracted just a handful of people. Only 300 people were on hand for Presley's performance in 1955, a year before Elvis recorded a "sped up" version of "That's All Right, Mama," his first No. 1 hit en route to becoming the "King" of rock 'n' roll.

Riding for MS

Motorcycle owners throughout the area will participate in a "United We Ride" poker run to be held May 11, starting at Daytimer Lounge in Cape Girardeau at 11 a.m., and ending at the Corner Bar & Grill at Benton.

Proceeds from the event will go to fighting multiple sclerosis.

Among participants will be members of the SEMO Chapter of the Harley Owners Group (HOG); Freedom Of Road Riders (FORR) Local 16; Hawg Heaven Club; and the Vendetta's Club.

Entry fee is $15 a person.

Prizes will be awarded about 4 p.m., and there also will be a 50-50 drawing.

The event will include a pig roast, the band Nite Shift and a silent auction after the run.

For information, call Bob Cook, (573) 334-9357 or Trevor Michael, (573) 545-9909.

Barbecue consultant

Mike Mills is still owner-operator of the 17th Street Bar and Grill barbecue restaurant at Murphysboro, Ill.

A recent Faces & Places article said Mills, who owns three restaurants in Las Vegas, Nev., and serves as a consultant to a new downtown restaurant -- The Blue Smoke -- in New York City, once operated the 17th Street Barbecue restaurant.

"He owns three restaurants in Vegas, and divides his time between Las Vegas and Murphysboro," said his daughter, Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, who lives in Boston, Mass. "Now, he'll be spending some time in New York City as well."

Mills, a three-time world grand champion barbecue winner at the Memphis in May "World Barbecue Cook-Off," was hired recently as a consultant to help train chefs at the Blue Smoke.

"A number of people from Cape Girardeau regularly make the hour's trip to Murphysboro for a Mike's barbecue," said Tunnicliffe.

B. Ray Owen is the Southeast Missourian's community news editor. Contact him at P.O. Box 699; Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702, by phone at (573) 335-6611, ext. 133, or by e-mail at rowen@semissourian.com.

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