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Building's interior served as frolicking ground

Becker and Mary Lou Spaun, circa 1954, in their father's second-floor office in the Hornback Building.


The Hornback Building on the northwest corner Fifth and Broadway in Hannibal was a playground for my brothers and me during the 1950s, as we amused ourselves via exploration of the interior of the three-story building that our father chose for his law office in 1937, and where his office remained for another four decades.

Our collective family memories center around a skeleton stored in the depths of the clay-floor basement, most likely a remnant left behind from one of three or four physicians with long-time association to the building. To us, that skeleton loomed larger than life, provoking squeals from this sister when her two brothers dared to taunt.

I can barely imagine the commotion we must have caused when Mom brought us downtown to see Daddy, and the three of us kids took off to visit the other office workers in the building.

All during the 1940s and 1950s, the Spaun law office was two rooms on the south side of the second floor, which had been occupied in 1912 by the Columbia Land Oil and Gas Co.

In 1959, our father moved his office to the first floor, renting rooms previously occupied by James C. Chilton, physician.

During the decades of the 1940s and 1950s, Roy Hamlin, noted attorney and former Speaker of the House for the state of Missouri, occupied a suite of offices on the third floor, overlooking Central Park. Vivian Link, a prim and proper woman with a thin facial profile, was his secretary, and cheerfully passed out candy when we climbed those daunting steps to pay a visit.

On the second floor, in rooms previously occupied by Dr. Mary Sophia Ross, was the Equitable Life Insurance office managed by Richard Turner and William D. Speak. The office secretary was Corrie Glascock, a rotund woman who treated us children as if we were visiting dignitary.

Dr. George A. Hornback – the son of the Dr. E.T. Hornback who had the building constructed sometime prior to 1907, maintained his offices on the first floor, east side of the building. Dr. Hornback fitted my older brother and me for our first glasses. My brother has worn glasses ever since; mine were pink and pitifully ugly and I chewed the ends off of the plastic earpieces, exposing wires that made them unwearable. I didn’t get another pair of glasses until I was in my 40s.

Our family grew to four and then to five children. Daddy moved his office from the south side of the second floor to the west side of the first floor in 1959, and the younger siblings picked up where the older siblings left off.

I can still hear the sound of our steps on the dark old wooden staircase. I can still feel my hands rubbing against the carved wooden bannisters. I can still smell the combined odors associated with medicine and law books. I can picture where my dad’s secretary, Stella DeLaPorte, sat in the second-floor office. I remember how our youthful voices echoed when we hollered from the top floor to the bottom. The memories remain etched in my mind.

When I started out researching Dr. Mary Sophia Ross for a related history story, (click here to read it) I realized that this prominent Hannibal physician who started her medical career in Hannibal pre-1910 was still practicing medicine – and living - in the Hornback building when my father first moved to Hannibal in 1937. They were next-door neighbors. His earliest daily diary didn’t mention Dr. Ross, but did reveal how his hopes would rise when he heard people climbing the steps to the second floor of the building, only to have those hopes dashed when the people continued on past his office door, and up another flight of stairs to Roy Hamlin’s office.

The three storied structure, a testament to the times when walking up two flights of stairs to conduct business was a way of life, remains – in my humble opinion – one of the most structurally picturesque buildings in Hannibal.

Reflecting upon memories of some 50 years past demonstrate that to every thing, there is a season.

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