Coloring book of Cape landmarks promotes local history

Thursday, November 28, 2002

It's almost time to add some Crayola to Cape Girardeau's colorful history.

The Cape Girardeau Historical Preservation Commission is in the process of printing 4,000 copies of a coloring book that will feature several of the city's historical landmarks. The goal is to make children aware of Cape Girardeau's historical buildings.

The commission has secured $3,500 in commercial sponsorships and will distribute the books to children in grades four through six at all of Cape Girardeau's schools.

The copies should be finished printing late next week. City planner Kent Bratton, the city contact for the commission, has spearheaded the coloring-book campaign. He said the coloring books will be distributed as part of the commission's Traveling Educational Trunk. The trunk is a program where a commission representative, upon the request of a teacher, visits classrooms and educates children about local history.

The books were illustrated by Wedel Nilson, a retired school textbook writer and editor who has lived in Cape Girardeau about 23 years.

Nilson did several sketches, not all of which were included in the book.

"What I really hope is that children will get an awareness of the things they see every day and the importance of them," said Nilson, who did the drawings free of charge. "Children can draw things and make pictures of things in their own neighborhoods. Maybe this will get them started making sketches."

Nilson began drawing as part of his job while writing third-grade text books. When using words difficult for third graders to comprehend, Nilson said he would sketch illustrations of the words to help the students understand. He would pass his sketches on to commercial artists and they would rework them for the textbooks.

Nilson has never had his own drawings published, though he has dabbled with paint and pencils for many years.

Gina Herzog, a fourth-grade teacher at Blanchard Elementary, said children are always interested in coloring. She thought the coloring book would be a useful tool to teach history.

Students cut their teeth on Misssouri history and spend all year studying the Show Me State.

"We hit it hard," Herzog said. "We talk about famous Missourians, the different regions in Missouri, the symbols in the state flag and Missouri government. It would be nice to have something extra like this to give to the kids."

David Rutherford, chairman of the commission, said the board has been working on the coloring book for about a year.

Rutherford said the commission voted on which buildings to include in the book. Martha Brown, a city employee with planning services who helped with the project and who is Nilson's niece, said the commission chose a variety of buildings that were scattered around the city.

Rutherford said the coloring books are not for fund raising. The money received will go toward printing more copies.

He said some books will be given to the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chamber of Commerce and city hall for sale. Rutherford said prices have not been determined, but the books would be available for purchase in "the very near future."

335-6611, extension 127

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