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Sprightly school janitor demonstrates his agility

In 1951, Herman Glasenapp made a trip back to his homeland, and returned with a bride. Photo reproduced from the Black and Red yearbook.


In 1950, German-born Herman Robert Glasenapp, a trained eisengiesser, (iron worker) was employed as a janitor at Hannibal High school on McMaster’s Avenue, following the 1943 closing of the Hannibal Car Wheel and Foundry company, where he previously worked.

Dusting the desks and polishing the floors of the first floor and cafeteria at the high school couldn’t compare to the grueling task of iron molding, but it did offer an opportunity for a little showmanship before the student body.

In 1950, Burt Emerson, a senior and one of the school newspaper’s photographers, coaxed the sprightly janitor into demonstrating gymnastic feats learned during his youth in Germany.

As Emerson focused the camera upon his subject, Herman Glasenapp, who stood at 5-foot-4 inches and weighed 130 pounds, performed a hand stand, using two sawhorses as props.

At right, Herman Glasenapp, a janitor at Hannibal High School in 1950, demonstrates his agility during a photo opportunity. Senior Bert Emerson took this photo. Born in Germany, Glasenapp practiced gymnastic feats during his childhood. He came to the United States after World War I. Photo reproduced from the Black and Red yearbook.

“Acrobatic stunts are my favorite pastime,” Glasenapp told a student newspaper reporter.

As published in the May 4, 1950 edition of the Black and Red: “When he worked in a foundry as a molder in Germany, the bespectacled little custodian belonged to an acrobatic club in his spare time and made extra money going from town to town performing acrobatic feats.”

He made the decision to leave Germany following World War I, when “he had plenty of money in Germany, but found nothing to buy. Finally, he decided America was the land of opportunity for him.”

The trip on the ship Ohio, Royal Main Steam Packet and Co., from Hamburg to Southhampton, N.Y., took 216 hours, Glasenapp said. Mr. Glasenapp told the school newspaper that he “will never forget the day he landed here, July 4, 1923, for that night he saw his first fourth of July Celebration.”

In 1925, he was employed as a machine operator for the CB&Q Railroad. A year later, his wife and three young children, Louisa A., Johanna, 12, Rolf, 5 and Gerda 7, arrived in the United States aboard the ship Washington.

In 1930, by then a naturalized citizen, Glasenapp was employed as a molder for the Hannibal Car Wheel and Factory, and the family was living in a one-bedroom, one-bath frame house at 2102 Spruce.

Three years later, Glasenapp and Charles E. Winegar, a shoe factory foreman, exchanged properties: Glasenapp moved his family to a 30-acre plot in Clay Township, Ralls County, one mile east of Watson school, and Winegar moved his family to the Glasenapp house at 2102 Spruce.

Glasenapp’s oldest daughter, Johanna, was married to Walter J.H. Bailey in October 1934.

The following May, Glasenapp’s wife, Louise, died at the age of 46. Survivors included her husband and the three aforementioned children; her mother, Mrs. Louisa Gottschalk of Germany; three sisters, and three brothers, all of Germany; and one granddaughter, Carole Jean Bailey. Burial was at Grand View Burial Park.

Rolf Glasenapp enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept. 4, 1942, and served until July 12, 1945. Prior to his enlistment, he was a structural and ornamental metal worker in Hannibal.

Rolf’s sister, Gerda, enlisted with the Women’s Army Corp, and served from March 9, 1943, until her discharge on Feb. 13, 1945.

Trip to Germany

In January 1951, Herman Glasenapp announced, via the Jan. 25, 1951 edition of the Black and Red, that he was making plans to fly back to Germany. The flight was scheduled to take 16 hours, aboard Scandinavian Airlines.

Once in Germany, he would not be able to visit the home of his only living sister, because she lived in the Russian section of Berlin. She would be allowed to visit him, however, in the American zone.

While in Germany, he was married to Senta D. Fransecky, whom he had known in his hometown of Schwarzheide, some 30 years prior. Schwarzheide was located about 80 miles southeast of Berlin.

Herman Glasenapp died in May 1969 in Dunnellon, Marion, Fla., where he relocated after retirement. He was buried at Grand View Burial Park in Hannibal.

Senta Glasenapp died in 1993. Her remains were brought back to Grand View Burial Park for burial beside her husband.

Rolf Glasenapp died Aug. 23, 1978, at the age of 57. He lived at 1309 Pearl St., Hannibal. He was buried at Grand View Burial Park.

Johanna Glasenapp Bailey Drebes died at Palmyra in 2008 at the age of 93. She was buried at Palmyra’s Greenwood Cemetery.

Louisa Gerda Glasenapp Ellery died Dec. 2, 2009, at Millbrae, San Mateo County, Calif. She was 91 at the time of her death.

Young photographer

Bert Emerson Jr., born in 1933, the high school photographer, was the son of Bert E. Emerson, long-time office accountant for the Hannibal Courier-Post, and his wife, Frances Romberg Emerson. In the early 1950s, the family resided at 3415 St. Mary’s Ave. (The house was torn down in recent years to make room for construction of Huck’s Food and Fuel.)

Bert Jr., had one sister, Phyllis, who married Roger Knowlton Johnson, Wilmette, Ill., in 1952. She taught school in Hannibal for a time after her graduation from Culver-Stockton College. She died in 2005 in Marion County, Fla.

The elder Emersons moved to Florida during their retirement years. Bert Sr., died in 1983 and his wife, Frances, died in 1996.

Burt Jr., and his wife, Doris, lived for a number of years in Jacksonville, Fla. She died in 2019 at Jacksonville.

During the early 1930s, Herman Glasenapp, his wife and three children lived in this one-bedroom, one-bath house at 2102 Spruce. Google map photo. The house has been torn down since the photo was taken.

An early and undated photo of Hannibal High School, from Steve Chou’s collection. The class of 1934 was the first to graduate from this building.

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author include but are not limited to: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870,” and “Hannibal’s ‘West End,’” 47 stories of the Market Street Wedge and on west to Lindell Avenue. Montgomery can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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