Published in the Southeast Missourian, Jan. 1, 1995:
Haman's Sandwich Shop was a popular Cape Girardeau hangout during the 1930s and 1940s, offering food and dancing. From left are John Davis, Etta Carney, Ned Stuart, employees Elizabeth and Earl Blackwell, and owners Kate and Albert Haman. (Southeast Missourian archive)
CITY'S HANGOUTS CHANGE THROUGH 20TH CENTURY
By SAM BLACKWELL
Through the decades of the 20th century, young people in Cape Girardeau have hung out at places with colorful names:Wimpy's, the Rainbow Room, The Palms, the Blue Hole.
The number of hangouts has diminished with the years until, at the dawn of 1995, the most popular meeting place has become the climate-controlled, security-patrolled city of shops called the West Park Mall.
Ironically, Cape Girardeau was once that self-contained, a town where people walking to the movies or a drug store soda fountain created their own little sidewalk traffic jams on a pleasant night in the spring, summer or fall.
But from the days of Model T's to '90s nights of window-rattling rap, one youthful constant has remained:Every generation in Cape Girardeau has hung out by cruising Broadway.
Paula Kempe, who graduated from Central High School in 1925, doesn't remember that many choices of hangouts. "What entertainment we had you made yourself," she said.
Kempe, who played in the orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre, says cars already were important to people back then. "For entertainment we would take rides in a car at night. We'd make the loop and always end up at I. Ben Miller's and get an ice cream soda."
I. Ben Miller's ice cream was much-loved by Cape Girardeans in the first part of the century. The shop was in the 400 block of Broadway.
In Kempe's cruising days, Broadway ended at Capaha Park and the loop included South Sprigg Street to the quarry, where everyone at some time stopped for a barbecue at the Blue Hole restaurant.
Ice cream parlors must have been popular hangouts in the 1920s. Dorothy Goodwin, a 1928 graduate of Central High, remembers the one in the building currently occupied by Howard's at the northwest corner of Broadway and Pacific.
"In the daytime, after school, we went to Clifton's," she said. "I lived on Ellis Street and we'd go down there."
Goodwin's friend Mildred Vogelsang often was the driver on their teen-age excursions. "We always had a car and I never minded chasing around," she says.
The cruising often resembled a popular children's game. "You'd see boys you knew and you'd try to get away from them. It was a case of tag," she said. "I don't think our parents would have been very approving."
Vogelsang recalls that Clifton's at some point became Mickey's. "You went there and had a Coke when you had a date," she said. "It was one of the primary teen-age spots."
New hangouts arrived in the 1930s. A particularly popular one was Haman's Sandwich Shop, which opened in 1935 at the northeast corner of Kingshighway and Cape Rock Drive.
Morris Haman grew up helping his parents, Albert and Kate, in the shop, which provided curb service and had a jukebox and dance floor. Both high school and college students were attracted to the atmosphere.
Mickey's, the confectionery, became The Ritz, which gained a reputation for fighting. Some of those scraps, one patron suggests, might have had something to do with the college's insistence at the time that all freshmen had to wear beanies.
Another hangout was the Shady Grove on South Sprigg. Though actually a nightclub that served barbecue, teen-agers hung out there, too. "They weren't too strict back in those days," Haman said.
One of Cape Girardeau's best-loved hangouts during this era was Jos. L. Jones, in the 700 block of Broadway on the south side. The restaurant was enclosed on only three sides and the floor was covered with peanut shells.
Customers of all ages came for the cold beer and root beer in frosted mugs, the free popcorn in coffee cans on the tables and in the booths, and "the best chili in town," according to one patron.
Jones's restaurant closed every year when the weather turned cold and closed for good sometime after World War II, reportedly with the health inspector's blessing.
A number of these establishments doubtless were off-limits to black Cape Girardeans for at least the first half of the 20th century and in some cases beyond. But young black adults found their own places to hang out.
One was the Black Masonic Lodge at 17 N. Sprigg St. Dating back at least to the 1930s, the lodge offered after-school shuffleboard, checkers, dominoes, hamburgers, hotdogs and a jukebox for dances. The lodge also had a stage where vaudeville performers did their act, and a boxing ring in the basement. The lodge closed the building in the 1960s.
Fred Lee, the lodge's secretary, said the Cobb School at Merriwether and Ellis was another source of entertainment for many years, sponsoring fairs and sock hops on Friday nights.
Lee said the Esquire, Broadway and Rialto theaters did not allow blacks in until ordered to do so by the courts in the 1960s.
Some nightspot hangouts for blacks old enough to drink were Porter's in Smelterville, the Blue Front on Good Hope and Charlie Young's on Water Street.
Hangouts were known as "jelly joints" in the 1930s, according to Wilver Wessel, retired Cape Girardeau postmaster. One of the most popular in his day was Dormeyer's, a drug store at the current site of the Playdium on Broadway.
Many high school students in the 1930s and '40s made Dormeyer's soda fountain their after-school destination. If they weren't there in the booths listening to the jukebox they could be found sitting on the wall across the street.
Later on, Dormeyer's opened a downstairs area for dancing.
Charles Brune remembers Dormeyer's as a cheap date. "You could go there and have a date on a dime. Cokes were a nickel," he recalled.
Kilgore's, another drug store next door in the current Pagliai's building, also had a soda fountain frequented by high school students.
Another popular hangout in the 1930s was the Rainbow Room, which attracted a somewhat older crowd to the Hotel Idan-Ha at the southwest corner of Broadway and Fountain.
The Colonial Tavern and the Alvarado opened at the western end of Broadway, selling both food and gas.
At the Palms in the 1940s, the Mills Brothers could be heard singing "Up the Lazy River" on the jukebox. The nightspot was on the west side of Kingshighway near the entrance to Arena Park.
The Rainbow Room also continued to be a hotspot, especially with the pilots-in-training at Harris Field during the war. One resident said the soldiers used to hang around the store counters downtown hoping to entice young saleswomen into dancing with them at the Rainbow Room.
Dormeyer's and Kilgore's were still after-school stop-offs and the Blue Hole remained a popular destination, especially for a barbecue and chocolate milk after a movie date.
Two other eateries that continued to develop loyal followings were the Colonial Tavern and the Alvarado, a restaurant housed in a Spanish-style building at the northeast corner of Broadway and Kingshighway.
A little round drive-in called the Park 'N' Eat that opened along the western end of Broadway eventually became Pfister's. Pfister's remained popular into the '50s, '60s and '70s, and may have been the first Cape Girardeau drive-in to install an electronic ordering system.
Across the river, the Purple Crackle beckoned with dancing, beer and back-room gambling. One patron remembers getting his license at 16 and almost immediately driving across the bridge for beer.
The Colony Club was an East Cape Girardeau attraction as well. Both the Purple Crackle and Colony Club booked big-name dance bands.
Wimpy's, another hangout established in the '40s, remains a Cape Girardeau institution today.
CITY'S POPULAR GATHERING SPOTS
Blue Hole Barbecue, 2425 S. Sprigg St.
I. Ben Miller ice cream store, 429 Broadway
Shady Grove, South Sprigg Street near intersection with Highway 74
Haman's Sandwich Shop, current site of Boatmen's Bank, Kingshighway and Cape Rock Drive
Colonial Tavern, western end of Broadway
Clifton's, current site of Howard's, Broadway and Pacific
Mickey's, site of Howard's
The Ritz, site of Howard's
Jos. L. Jones. 713 Broadway
Dew Drop In, 115 N. Main
Jos. L. Jones
Rainbow Room, in Hotel Idan-Ha, southwest corner of Broadway and Fountain
Kilgore's Drug Store, current site of Pagliai's, 1129 Broadway
Dormeyer's Drug Store, current site of Playdium, 1127 Broadway
Shady Grove, South Sprigg Street near intersection with Highway 74
The Palms (approximate current site of Cross Point Animal Hospital, 605 N. Kingshighway)
Wimpy's (current site of Boatmen's Bank, northeast corner of Broadway and Kingshighway)
Wimpy's Drive-in was a popular hangout for Cape Girardeau teens during the 1940s, '50s, '60s and /70s. (Southeast Missourian archive)
Published in the Southeast Missourian, Jan. 3, 1995:
HANGOUTS WERE PLENTIFUL IN CAPE DURING '50s, '60s
(SECOND OF TWO PARTS)
By SAM BLACKWELL
Freeman Lewis bought a Kingshighway hamburger stand called Wimpy's in 1942. His parents, Fred and Ethel, ran it while he and his brother, Frank, attended to World War II. When they returned, Wimpy's moved across the street to the northeast corner of Broadway and Cape Rock Drive formerly occupied by the popular Haman's Sandwich Shop.
To teen-agers of the 1950s and '60s, Wimpy's became the hangout, the place to be and to be seen.
Lewis is still a bit mystified by how that happened in the 1950s. "It was more of a family-type thing before then," he said. "We had a big Sunday trade. And soda and hamburgers were all we had."
But teen-ages started coming in their cars, and kept coming even when the high school cut their lunch period to half an hour. It was still just 15-cent burgers and fries, curb hops and a jukebox, along with some groceries sold on the side.
The operation expanded in the '60s to include a restaurant called Wimpy's Wigwam across from Houck Field House. But all the cars and competition from McDonald's, the A&W Drive-In and other places, caught up to Wimpy's in the late '60s.
Cruisers who filled the parking lot for long periods of time hurt business, Lewis says. "By dark we had just about all the parking places filled up. We did just about everything we could think of, but we never could cure it so we sold out."
In 1973 the land was sold to Boatmen's Bank.
But Bill Lewis, a younger brother, maintains a dine-in Wimpy's today at 506 S. Kingshighway.
Wimpy's was far from the only hangout in the 1950s. Tenkhoff's Drug Store at the corner of Broadway and Ellis was popular for cherry Cokes. Many high school students also had a standing lunch order at Thompson's Drive-In in the 1900 block of Broadway.
Wayne's Grill at the northeast corner of Broadway and Pacific drew a crowd after football games.
Jan Wittenborn, a Murphysboro, Ill., resident who graduated from Central High School in 1955, recalls working to help open a Teen Town housed in the top floor of the building at the southeast corner of Themis and Spanish.
"There was none of this meanness and orneriness there is now," she said. "We played records by the McGuire Sisters and Nat King Cole." Her pal, Gretchen Fee, said of Teen Town:"We painted it, made curtains and managed to get a soda machine. We played donated records and there was no air conditioning. You danced until you dropped."
Round-shaped Pfister's drive-in in the 2100 block of Broadway was another place to go.
And everyone cruised Broadway.
The upheaval of forces that shook the country in the 1960s did not diminish the need to hang out. And pizza was popular.
A pizza parlor named Tony's in the 400 block of Broadway became a late-night meeting spot. A Pizza Inn on Clark Street was another.
The A&W Drive-in had some of the same cruising problems experienced by Wimpy's. The Blue Hole barbecue moved to Kingshighway and became a popular place to turn around.
Another stop for burgers was the Dairy Castle on North Kingshighway, which offered curly fries and seven burgers for about a dollar.
A new Teen Town opened on Broadview and was successful, showcasing the rock 'n' roll bands that seemed to be growing in every garage.
And, of course, everyone cruised Broadway.
Rock clubs called the Spanish Door and the Bill of Rights opened in the 1970s, and Shakey's Pizza Parlor at the southwest corner of Ellis and Broadway had a vogue period before it burned down.
In the late 1970s, the Hushpuppy opened across the river in Illinois, offering 18-year-olds a place to dance and drink.
After school, students went to McDonald's or Burger King. Central students seemed to prefer McDonald's, and Notre Dame students Burger King, one '70s student recalls.
A bar called Rumors on Main Street offered a popular teen night once a week.
The Mule Lip Saloon on north Main street attracted a clientele of varying ages.
An attempt to operate a Teen Town on Water Street failed. Another in the old Esquire Theater also died due to lack of interest.
Construction of West Park Mall gave young people a new world of meeting spots. Some teens went there on weekends. But "All we ever did was cruise," says Julie Pierce, who graduated from high school in the 1980s.
The city tried to curtail cruising by making it illegal to turn around on Broadway at the circle in front of Houck Stadium. "It didn't work. We just went down to the (Centenary Methodist) church parking lot," Pierce said.
Teens gathered in parking lots of businesses where they knew someone and wouldn't be chased away, she said.
The penchant for congregating in parking lots continues in the 1990s. And the mall has become even more institutionalized as a meeting spot, especially on weekends and in cold weather.
The Ice at the Galleria has supplanted the roller-skating rinks of the 1950s (Mary Ann), '60s and '70s (Skateland) as a place to hang out.
Southeast basketball games are hot tickets among high-school students.
Fast-food restaurants have swamped the few Wimpy's-type holdouts in terms of popularity.
But on a weekend, you can bet most of Cape Girardeau's young adults will be hanging out just as their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did. On Broadway.
CITY'S HOT SPOTS BY DECADES
Airline Lounge, current site of Golden Dragon restaurant, 217 N. Kingshighway; Alvarado, current site of Burger King restaurant, northeast corner of Broadway and Kingshighway; Tenkhoff's Drug Store, 801 Broadway.
Wimpy's, northeast corner of Kingshighway and Cape Rock Drive, current site of Boatmen's Bank; Wayne's Grill, current site of J. Katherine Bridal & Formal Wear, northeast corner of Broadway and Pacific; Thompson's Drive-In, 1900 block of Broadway.
Mary Ann Roller Rink, Kingsway; Barn Drive Inn, S. Kingshighway; Blue Note, 710 Broadway; Idan-Ha Coffee Shop, southwest corner of Broadway and Fountain; Marquette Coffee Shop, northeast corner of Broadway and Fountain.
Sunny Hill, South West End Boulevard and Merriwether; Town Pump, current site of Broussard's, 120 N. Main; Colonial Tavern, western end of Broadway, current site of Capital Bank; Pfister's, 2125 Broadway; Teen Town, southeast corner of Themis and Spanish streets.
Wimpy's, 1950s site and second location at current site of Pagliai's; Teen Town, Broadview; A&W Root Beer, current site; Roll-O-Fun in Jackson; Skateland, current site of Big Al's, 610 S. Kingshighway; Pfister's.
Blue Hole Barbecue, current site of Arby's, 204 N. Kingshighway; Tony's Pizza Parlor, 400 block of Broadway; Dairy Castle, 1028 N. Kingshighway, current site of the Fireplace Center; Pizza Inn, current site of Pop's Pizza, 409 N. Clark; Purple Crackle, East Cape Girardeau; Colony Club, East Cape Girardeau.
Shakey's, northwest corner of Broadway and Ellis; Spanish Door, 731 Broadway, current site of Broadway Billiards; The Bill of Rights, behind Marquette Hotel.
Purple Crackle; Colony Club; The Hushpuppy, East Cape Girardeau; Skateland; Dino's, current site; McDonald's; Burger King.
Rumors on teen night, Main Street; The Hushpuppy; Purple Crackle; Mule Lip Saloon, current site of River's Edge, 701 N. Main; West Park Mall; McDonald's; Burger King.
The mall, parking lots, The Ice, Southeast basketball games.