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Almost Yesterday is a glimpse into the rich history of our region. Dr. Frank Nickell takes listeners on a journey to specific moments in time, such as the first radio broadcast on KFVS, the history of Farmington’s Carleton College, and the short-lived safari on a Mississippi River island. A gifted storyteller and local historian, Dr. Nickell’s wit and love for the past are combined with sounds and music that augment his narrative.On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Almost Yesterday received First Place in the "Special Programs" category at the Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet in Kansas City, Missouri.Almost Yesterday airs every Wednesday at 5:42 and 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Almost Yesterday: Franck's Gardens

Jackson Road, Cape Girardeau. 1864
Southeast Missouri State University
Jackson Road, Cape Girardeau. 1864

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the landscape of Cape Girardeau featured a number of special places where residents could relax and enjoy a pleasant change of scenery. In the middle of the nineteenth century Franck’s Gardens on the hill along Jackson Road, now Broadway, was such a place.

A product of the German migration to the region in the 1850s, this park-like beer garden was one of the social centers and “beauty spots” of the community for approximately four decades. Named for John A. Franck, but anglicized to “Frank”, the grounds included a mansion, beautiful gardens and varied amusements.

A visitor in May of 1864, during the Civil War, described the grounds as a beautiful, green, and shady park, with exotic plants, extensive flower beds, and pleasant walking paths, all surrounded by rows of silver poplar trees. Children loved the swing sets, the ten pin bowling alley, and the town’s only Flying Dutchman.

A long arbor extended to the back of the property to a small summer house covered with beautiful wisteria vines. The grounds also included a large poultry yard that featured giant peacocks and a hermaphrodite rooster.

Inside the mansion at Frank’s Gardens were small tables where lunches, beer, and other drinks were served. Here was an authentic German beer garden, one of Cape Girardeau’s special places.

Although there were occasional incidents that sometimes gave “Frank’s” a harsh image, the 1864 visitor said he observed only the faces of happy children and beautiful ladies.
Those who currently drive past the eleven hundred block of “Jackson Road,” – today’s Broadway – are unaware that they are passing by the site of Frank’s Gardens, an important social center from Cape Girardeau’s past.

Frank Nickell is a retired history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
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