Hawkins Street is a long stretch of road that basically follows the topography from the top-of-the-hill intersection with Bell Avenue on the northeast, across St. Mary’s Avenue, and rolling downhill all the way southwest to Minnow Creek.
This rambling road previously intersected the old Mark Twain School campus, with the three-story brick school to the east, overlooking the two-tier playground to the west. While today’s children are making memories in the sprawling new building that occupies the old playground site and what was once a block of Hawkins – yesterday’s students still remember the old school, its location and local nuances.
Jim Featherstone, now of Orlando, Fla., is one of those former students. “I started the first grade at Mark Twain Elementary at age 5, and was one of the smaller kids in the class,” he remembers.
He lived with his parents on Chestnut Street, in an apartment upstairs over his grandparents’ home. His grandfather, James B.Featherstone, was police chief beginning in 1951, and his father, St Clair Frederick Featherstone (Rains), was a Hannibal firefighter working at the Fourth Street station.
“One day, for whatever reason, two older boys decided they were going to beat me up after school. As soon as school was out they were following me as I headed down Hawkins toward St Mary's. Words were exchanged and I started running as fast as I could.”
He crossed St. Mary’s Avenue, heading for home. “I didn't want them to know where I lived, so I decided to proceed to the alley behind Chestnut Street. I had the backyard in sight,” he said, and could see his father standing outside.
“As I made the turn into the backyard, I saw my father take my mother and grandmother and put them in the house, and saw him toss a broken broomstick in the backyard, and he made sure that I saw him lock the screen door before he went inside.
“Lesson learned,” he said. He picked up the broomstick to defend himself. “Take care of yourself and fight your own battles, and don't worry if you are outnumbered and have an equalizer.”