What stories a picture can tell


Photo date: 1948

As my regular history blog followers already know, I love to study a picture to see what stories it tells.

This photo, taken in 1948 by Otis Howell of the Hannibal Courier-Post (Steve Chou Collection) speaks to me. The buildings that are pictured are no longer standing, but the surroundings tell where Otis was standing when he took this photo.

The picture was framed on Church Street, 200 block. There is Long Bell Lumber Company in the background, and a block behind the lumber company is the old jail on South Fourth Street.

I wish I knew who the men are in this picture. Maybe you can help. If you have an idea, please click here and send me a message.

What catches my eye is the Johnson diner to the left. I did a little poking around in Hannibal city directories to find out that the restaurant was operated by Ross D. Johnson, who was born in 1886 in Pike County, Ill.

He was in Hannibal before 1922, and married to Sophia. I didn't see any reference to children from this marriage.

When Ross registered for the draft during World War I, he was described as "short and stout" with grey eyes and brown hair. At the time of his registration, he was working as a bartender for John O'Donnell. A physical characteristic noted on his file was that Ross was blind in his right eye.

In 1922, he was a taxi driver living at 609 Lyon. In 1927, he and his wife lived at 310 Church. In 1929, Ross was working as a chauffer, and by the time the 1930 census rolled around, he was a salesman for a cigar company.

Jumping to 1937, he was operating a lunch room at 205 Church, which he continued to operate at that location until 1946. In the 1953 and 1955 directories, the address of the restaurant had changed to 207 Church.

Ross retired in 1955, and died three years later. He is buried at Pittsfield West Cemetery, Pike County, Ill., along with his wife Sophia, who died in 1978.

Ross is one more piece to the huge Hannibal puzzle, contributing his best efforts to supporting his family and making Hannibal a better place to live and work.

Would you like to continue this conversation? Click here to contact Mary Lou Montgomery.

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