The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 19, 2012

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Two-story bungalow holds — what else? — two stories

PITTSBURG, Kan. —  I spent a cozy afternoon at Jack Overman’s home recently and came away with two stories for the price of one.

My intent was to record his recollections of more than 80 years of history at Roaring River State Park, a place we both hold near and dear.

My bonus was a post-interview tour of Overman’s own historic place, a two-story Craftsman bungalow at 116 E. Lindburg St., across from Pittsburg State University. It earned a spot on the Register of Historic Kansas Places in 2001 and the National Register in 2002.

It was full of hidden surprises, each a clever device designed for efficiency. Some were especially impressive, given that the home was built in 1916. But not surprising when I learned that the inventions were the brainchild of the home’s former owner, J.A. Shirk, a professor of physics and mathematics at PSU.

“He was a real Rube Goldberg kind of guy,” Overman said. “You want to see his contraptions?”

How could I say no?

We began on the front sidewalk, where Overman pointed out a device that Shirk rigged up to ensure his safety when he arrived home after dark.

“Down here near the ground, he could step on a metal lever that was connected to electrical wires that ran under the porch to the light, and it would turn on,” Overman demonstrated.

Shirk created doorbells for the front and back doors, each with a different ring so he could distinguish which door he needed to answer.

He installed special electrical outlets in several places that were connected to a powerful outdoor antenna, allowing him to plug in his radio in any room and have instant reception.

In the kitchen, Shirk invented a sort of primitive central vac system. He could sweep the crumbs on the floor into a pile, open a sliding wooden door near the baseboard, and push the crumbs into a chute connected to a receptacle in the basement. Another chute connected to a basement receptacle helped Shirk recycle tin cans.

And there were more — many, many more.

Shirk retired as department chairman in 1946, but he remained a full-time instructor until his death in 1950. Overman, now 93, once had a statistics class from Shirk. Overman purchased the home from Shirk’s widow in 1954, and Overman and his wife, Doris, raised their two children, Sandy and Steve, there.

Shirk and Overman also share the distinction of having buildings on campus named after them. Shirk Hall, a men’s residence hall, was built in 1958. Overman served for many years as the director of the student center, which was named after him in 1984 when he retired.

If you see him around town, ask him to tell you about his historic home. He’ll gladly oblige, and if you’re lucky, he might just invite you for a tour.

Have an idea for a column? Email, or visit Facebook at Andra Bryan Stefanoni, Staff Writer - The Joplin Globe. Visit the Globe’s newest Facebook page at Joplin Globe: Pittsburg, Kan.

Text Only
Local News
  • Pseudoephedrine sales in Pittsburg to require prescription

    Starting Friday, those who purchase pseudoephedrine and related products in Pittsburg will need a prescription to do so.

    July 22, 2014

  • Cherokee County Commission accepts general counsel's resignation

    Kevin Cure, who has served as general counsel for the Cherokee County Commission since 2005, submitted a handwritten resignation to the board on Monday in the aftermath of a landfill controversy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Parents can get help with school supplies

    I don’t know much about demographics other than the fact that I no longer belong to a “targeted demographic.” When I was younger, I was bombarded by commercials and ads from companies that were trying to sell me things that I not only needed but wanted.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jasper County Commission reviews traffic plans

    The Jasper County Commission will hold public hearings today and Thursday on a number of traffic changes proposed in the county. No one spoke when the first hearing was held Tuesday as part of the regular commission meeting, according to Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin school board reviews audit procedures

    A team from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office has begun requesting documents in its task to audit the operations and management of the Joplin School District, the audit manager told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin man to stand trial in accident case

    A passenger accused of causing an accident on Interstate 44 in Joplin that injured three others as well as himself was ordered bound over for trial Tuesday on three felony counts.

    July 22, 2014

  • r072214soroptimist3.jpg Volunteers spend week providing camp experience to foster youths

    Karen McGlamery is a massage therapist. Terri Falis-Cochran is a finance manager. Jane McCaulley is a retired art teacher. But for a week each summer, the three are among dozens of area residents who become camp counselors.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Neosho school board hires company to manage substitutes

    Citing its hopes of shifting health care costs and utilizing more time from retired teachers, the Neosho Board of Education granted a contract Monday to a temporary employee company to manage its substitute teacher program.

    July 22, 2014

  • Main Street TIF district study to begin

    A measure that allows the city to charge its $15,000 in administrative costs for studying a proposal to create a tax increment financing district on South Main Street was approved Monday by the Joplin City Council.

    July 21, 2014

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

Must Read


A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter