This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stained glass at St. Augustines

With a rose window over its main entrance and its neo-gothic architecture,Saint Augustine's Catholic Church looks from the outside as if it might have some interesting stained-glass windows. Below is what the rose window looks like inside. If it has symbolic meaning, and it probably does, I do not know what it is.
The picture above was taken in the choir loft. Below is another picture taken from there, showing the main body of the church. It has the spartan decoration that became popular after the Second Vatican Council.
This window is above the main entrance. It has the chi-rho in the center.
I usually take pictures of plaques when I see them. The present church was erected in 1939.
All the big windows of the nave either look like this one below or are slightly smaller versions of this window. The main symbolism in the window refers to the rosary, a popular Catholic devotion. Each of the lower panes has ten roundish images, and they represent the ten Hail Marys in each decade of the rosary. The colors represent the three sets of mysteries, the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious. (Pope John Paul II added another set, the luminous mysteries in 1992, but since the window is far older, they are not there.) The crowns represent Mary Queen of Heaven. The person who told me how to interpret the windows, which I never would have figured out on my own, did not know what the little guy at the top was supposed to be.

St. Augstine Church is working on a website. It is still under construction.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Something strange in the drive up

One weekend I noticed a truck at the drive-up approach to McDonalds on the south side of Rensselaer. I wondered why a semi-truck was ordering there.

A closer look explained all. It was not getting food. It was a McDonald's truck delivering food.
(Some days a bit of junk food is all that is available.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Marsh Trail @ Jasper-Pulaski

The brochure that you can obtain when you stop at the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area visitors' center states:
Jasper-Pulaski Fish & Wildlife Area is dedicated to providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities while maintaining 8,062 acres of wetland, upland and woodland game habitat. Jasper-Pulaski's suitable habitat provides an ideal stopover for migratory bird. More than 10,000 sandhill cranes stop during fall migration.
It also says that land acquisition began in 1929. During the 1930s it was designated as a game farm and game preserve. Hunting began in 1958, and it was designated a fish and game area in 1965. Finally in 1972 its name was changed to a fish and wildlife area. It main purpose over time seems to have been to preserve animals so hunters can kill them. However, that may be appropriate because almost all the funds used to create the area and to maintain it comes from hunters and fishermen.
Though the Area has over 8000 acres, there are not a lot of places designated for hiking. One of the few is Marsh Observation Trail that starts about a mile north of the sandhill crane observation area.
Hikers and hunters do not mix well. It should not be a surprise that there are few hiking trails.
On the late afternoon that I was there, the pools of water along the road were reflecting the trees like a mirror.
Though the Marsh Trail is more a road than a trail, it is very scenic.
In addition to this trail and the hunting area, Jasper-Pulaski has a tree nursery, an archery range, and a shooting range. I recall that at one time it also raised pheasants, which were released in various places for hunters. I have never seen wild pheasants in Indiana (they were common in southwestern Minnesota when I was a kid), but some people who hunt tell me that there are places in Indiana where they have become established. (They are not a native bird.) I am not sure if the tree nursery and the Tefft Savannah Nature Preserve are included as part of the 8000 acres of the reserve or not.

When you get close to the platform, you are told to stop following the road.
The trail ends at a viewing platform.
The road continues, but it is probably only used by the staff. Below is the platform from the other end.
I would have expected that the sandhill cranes would roost in shallow water. However, I have never seen cranes in this water. In fact, I have never seen many birds at all here.
The sun was getting ready to set, and the photograph below shows a small island that is a bit hard to see well because the light is almost behind it.
My daughter-in-law had a much better camera than I have, and she was able to get a decent picture of a heron that was far enough away that our presence did not bother it.
Behind us we could see our shadows as we stood on the platform.
The sun was setting, so it was time to head back to the sandhill crane viewing area. What we saw there was reported here.

By the way, the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area also includes a bit of Starke County. Maybe it should be the Jasper-Pulaski-Starke Fish and Wildlife Area.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shopping at 4-county supply

The flapper--the little plastic valve that pulls up when you flush a toilet, allowing the water to leave the tank--on one of my toilets was leaking a tiny bit after Christmas, so I decided I needed to take a shopping trip to Rensselaer's cornucopia of plumbing supplies, 4-County Supply on Highway 114 near I-65.

In addition to a large display of plumbing items, the front of 4-county has a variety of other things that are common in hardware stores.  I could have wandered the aisles looking for the part I needed, but instead I waited for one of the men working there to show me where it was. In my infrequent trips there, I have always found the people who work there knowledgeable and helpful.
There is vastly more in the unheated back of the the building. There were rows of bins with PVC pieces, and much, much more. 4-County serves both the retail customer and the local plumbers and contractors.
4-County has been at this location for many years. However, it started in on Walnut Street in Rensselaer. I thought it had been in the building that now houses Vision Ag, but the man helping me said that it was in another building near there that has since been demolished. Below is the original sign that 4-County Supply used in its first location.
I was able to replace the flapper and the leak has stopped, so the toilet no longer turns on every once in a while. That is close to the limit of what I care to do with plumbing. I know I can do more, but for some reason, plumbing scares me. In fact, I have when I have a nightmares, it is usually about plumbing. (Maybe it is because the plumbing in my basement really is a nightmare. It was installed back when Rensselaer did not soften its water, so the house had a water softener, and the kitchen would have had at least three faucets: hard water, soft water cold, and soft water hot. The pipes form a maze that is difficult to follow, and more recent repairs have left sections of copper and PVC in addition to the original galvanized pipes. Do any of you live in old houses that have similar mazes of pipes in the basement?)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Odds and ends at the end of January

The weather has limited my time outside, but I have noticed a few new things in the past week or so. There is a new sign in the window of the old Schumacher Building for the Johnson Car Company.

In the downtown the window of the empty building between the antique store and the bank has been gathering stuff.
In the College Square Mall, the signage for the Indiana Academy of Mixed Martial Arts is now up. Peeking inside, one can see a large floor mat and a big punching bag. The web address on the window takes one to a parked web page--maybe it is still under construction. A hand-lettered sign says that they are having an early enrollment on January 30 at 11 a.m. and a grand opening on February 13th.
(Update: This site previously had a payday loan place called Check 'n Go.)
There is a new sign replacing the Payroll Advance sign on the building that also houses Jackson-Hewitt. This is the building that had an addition to its back a few months ago. The new sign announces that we now have a pawn shop in Rensselaer. I stopped by and found that they were putting out merchandise--some electronics, guns, jewelry, musical instruments, and what looked like a lot of either DVDs or VHS tapes. They said that they have already made some pawn loans, and have been open for that business for about a week. A sign in the window says they fix computers. They will still make payday loans.

And they had never heard of Rensselaer Adventures.
I do not have a picture  of it, but there is also a second hand store that I had not noticed before in with the pool store next to the old Kirby Risk building. It is open only on Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

When the weather is awful, one can still explore Rensselaer on the Internet. In preparing another post, I found the web page for Rensselaer Septic Tanks. It is a business run by the Jacksons, and was an extension of their burial vault business. I did not know that when I wrote about it in August, 2009.

A number of businesses have Facebook pages, some of them quite active. Fair Oaks Farms is active, as is the Doghouse (which I just discovered). Doghouse also has a website--is there any other Rensselaer busines with as sophisticated a web presence? I also recently discovered the Facebook pages of the First Christian Church and Saint Augustines Church (which is very new.)

Other groups in Rensselaer that have Facebook pages and that are at least somewhat active are the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Rensselaer, which is from Mainstreet.

What other groups or organizations in Rensselaer are using Facebook to communicate with fans or members?

Update: The Jasper County Library has a Facebook page here.  Rensselaer Rotary has a Facebook page, but it has few fans and few updates.  Their webpage is here.
Update 2: The Ritz Cinema has a facebook page here. Right now it only has ten fans.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Regional art fair

The 17th Annual Elementary Regional Art Exhibition is being currently being shown in the  Core Lobby at Saint Joseph's College. Last year I had a post about the high school regional exhibit, but ignored the elementary kids. So what are kids up to these days in grade school?

These first pictures from students at Saint Augustine's School are what I expect from grade school art classes.

A bunch of tropical birds appeared in the selections from Van Rensselaer. These watercolor paintings were very colorful, but  I could not tell if they were trying to copy a particular picture or they were just assigned the concept.
Some of the Wheatfield third grades were drawing city buildings, which takes imagination for Jasper County kids. The leaning buildings suggest a windy day. Do you think that is what the student wanted to suggest?

Tri-County third grades contributed the pictures below. The big bowl of ice cream made me a bit hungry.

So I was ready for the culinary art of the second and third grades from Demotte. Alas, they were not edible, but they sure looked tasty. 
Fourth graders from Kankakee Valley Intermediate School did the tissue paper collages and the drawings of shoes. 
There were also works from DeMotte Christian, North Newton Elementary, and South Newton Elementary. My apologies for all the clever pictures that I missed.

I wonder how many of these students will be exhibiting in another eight years. How many will develop their craftsmanship and creativity, and how many will lose interest and move on to other things?

The show goes until February 5. Then the high school students should be having an exhibit, followed by the middle school students.

Monday, January 25, 2010

More on the South Newton Township School

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Beverly Smith about the post on the South Newton Township School:
I went to S.N. grade school for 8 years. I can probably answer a lot of the questions you want to know.
I responded with a series of questions, which she answered:
The upstairs had 2 large classrooms, 1 teacher for 1,2,3, & 4th grade and in the other room 5,6,7, & 8th grade with 1 teacher. The teacher would have 1 grade come to the table at the front of the room and she would teach one subject to that class while the other 3 classes were studying and getting ready for your turn to go up to the front. You had to learn not to listen to what they were studying and do your work at your desk. We may of only had 15 or 20 kids in all 4 grades. Upstairs we had a small library, off of each large classroom we had a small room for our coats. Downstairs we had 2 large rooms, one became the kitchen and lunch room (I don't remember when we got the kitchen and no longer had to take lunch) the other room was like a small gym. The restrooms were in the basement and the furnace room was down there also. We had a music teacher who would come and teach music but I don't remember how often she came.
I usually only had 3 students in my grade, once we had five. The ones in my class  all 8 years were: Janice (Zeigler) Eldridge, Elinor Miller and myself Beverly (Wortley) Smith. The 3 of us graduated the 8th grade in 1954 and then we went into the high school. North Newton and South Newton combined the 8th grade graduation and believe we had 6 or 8 kids altogether.
Some others that I can think of living in Rensselaer are: Alan Fleming, Tom Lashbrook,  Alice Beth Miller Korniak,  Dorothy Wortley Cripe, Diane Miller Wood,  I know they are others that I can't think of now.
We had recess outside as much as possible and usually the older kids chose sides and played baseball. The teacher kept score and we picked up each recess where we had to quit and go back to class.
We had some playground equipment that the younger kids played on
My first year or two I was picked up in a car, but from then on a school bus
We always put on a Christmas program, the janitor and some fathers would put up a stage.
We would have skits and sing songs for our parents.
When the school closed it was sold to a farmer in the neighborhood.  I believe he had stored hay or straw in the building which caught on fire and that is what destroyed the school.
I hope this has answered some of your questions an if you have any other questions, I will try and answer them.
I asked if I could use her response in a post because I thought many readers would find it interesting. She said I could and added:
 I knew when I hit send I would think of others who still live in Rensselaer, the ones I remembered are: Carol Evers Hurley, Raymond Hickman, Ronald Kaufman, Donald Battleday,
I'm sure there are many others still living here also.
You may post whatever you'd like if you think people would be interested in our little school.
I do believe that Alan Fleming's grandfather was our janitor. Alan and I got together a few years back to try and name all the kids in our school pictures. I know he can probably remember a lot more things. He just lives about a mile from the school on Bunkum Road.
And now you know more of the story. If you have any questions, ask them in the comments and maybe they will get answered.

Here are a few more pictures. The first is from the top of the western stairs looking down.

The second shows the eastern staircase, or what is left of it. I am not sure what the pipe was, but my guess would be that it was part of the heating system.

This last picture shows the ceiling from the basement hallway. It appears to be deteriorating, so at some time in the future the structure will become unsafe. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Going to church the Kniman Church of God way

(I thought it would be interesting to use Sundays to focus on Rensselaer's churches and to see how many Sundays I can go before I run out of material. Indiana is richly endowed with religious denominations, with influences from North and South, East and West. This is part of that series of posts.)

The little town of Kniman may not have many people, but it has two churches (and a tavern). In addition to its Methodist Church, it has the Kniman Church of God. It is not listed in the "Church Services Directory" in the Rensselaer Republican.

I could not find a website for this church, but the denomination has one. The website gives this brief history of the denomination:
It was 1886, in a crude meeting house on the Tennessee-North Carolina border, where the Church of God traces its roots. There, a group of eight sincere Christians had a deep desire for a closer relationship and life with Christ. Realizing the futility of reforming their own churches, they established a new church whose objective would be to restore sound scriptural doctrines of the Bible, encourage deeper consecration and promote evangelism and Christian service.
From this seemingly insignificant origin has grown one of the most influential worldwide Pentecostal denominations. For nearly 120 years the Church of God has been a distinctive movement focused upon communicating the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. Presently, the Church of God has a world-wide membership of over 6 million with a presence in nearly 150 countries.
More about the beliefs of the members is here.
Poking around on the Internet I found the Indiana Church of God website and it pointed to the Wheatfield Lighthouse Worship Center at 4746 W 900 N Wheatfield, IN 46392. It has the same phone number and pastor, Lary Fugett, and google maps says the address is in Kniman. 


The Wikipedia entry on this denomination is here. Lee University in Cleveland TN is sponsored by the denomination.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Housing construction update

Last Saturday I decided to check out the recent housing starts that I know about in Rensselaer to see if there was much change since the last time I looked at them. I could not see any change in the duplex going up on Rachel since the picture I posted at the end of December.

There is a bit of scaffolding by the Building Trades house on Warner, but it also looks the same from the outside as it did in the picture posted on December 24. Because it is being built by students, it should be the same--the students have only recently gotten back to school.
However, there have been major changes in the new house in Countryside. It was still a wooden skeleton on December 22, the last picture of its construction. You might recognize the bench from this post. If you look carefully you can see a garage that is also under construction on the extreme right of the picture. It has a couple of dormer windows.
Finally, the house at Vine and Monroe now has windows, so the interior has probably changed a lot.
My search for housing progress was not as interesting as I had hoped it to be. However, I did find a new roof being installed. It looks like it is a ceramic roof, but I am pretty sure it is actually a metal roof. Ceramic roofs do not do well here (as Saint Joes has found with the chapel). The freeze-thaw cycles damage them. So while they can last for many, many years in a warm, dry climate, they do not last well here. This house is south of the river.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Inside the Slice

I mentioned earlier that A Slice of Pie Pizza was open. I stopped by several days ago in the late afternoon when there were only a few people there. One crowd had just left and the next one had not yet arrived, so I could visit and take some pictures.
The kitchen area sure looks different from the last picture I posted. I wanted to take a picture of the other half of the kitchen area, but was told not to because they were making their garlic bread. The garlic bread has been a very popular item on the menu.
I did not have a whole lot of time to talk before more customers began to arrive. I did learn that few people are buying slices of pizza--people are used to buying whole pizzas. The owners and the staff are still climbing the learning curve--they are not yet comfortably in a routine. I wondered how they were affecting business at Ayda's, and they did not have an answer. (I suppose I could ask at Ayda's, but that would be rude and I might not get an answer there either.) I want to see Ayda's thrive--I think they fill a niche in the market. 

Lots of things in Slice of Pie Pizza have stories to them. The painting of an Italian street scene came from Jasper Junction's fortnightly flea market in the old Schumacher building (which was open on January 16, by the way). The waste receptacle came from someplace in Indianapolis--maybe it was from a restaurant in the old airport. The restroom has the strangest sink I have ever seen in a restaurant restroom.
Fast food has a lot of turnover, and already one of the first employees left for a higher paying job. However, with the labor market as it is, they should be able to hire good help. (I recall talking to the owner of an area restaurant about ten years ago when unemployment was exceptionally low, and he said it was really hard to find dependable workers. I have not seen him lately, but he should be pretty happy with the pool he can chose from now. Of course, he probably is unhappy with the level of business, but you cannot have everything.)

If you have eaten there, what did you think of the food and the experience? (There are already a number of reviews on their facebook page.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shopping at Sasquatchwoods

The other day when I was passing by J. Howard Enterprises, the "Open" sign was lighted, and because I had no pressing other things to do, I stopped in. You might not recognize the name as the sign on the store says

The store, which sells fine wood art, is located on Merritt Street just behind the closed Chrysler dealership. The building, according to the owner, John Howard, dates from the 1920s and had once been a grocery store and a radiator shop. There is no garage behind the garage doors you see below. On the side not visible below you can see that old windows have been blocked up.

Since Rensselaer provides a limited market for the specialized product of wood carving, the owner gets a fair amount of his sales online. In fact, you can get a much better idea of what he is selling from the website than you get in this post.

Much of the woodwork that is created here is used as part of clocks. The price depends largely on how much time is needed to create the woodwork, For example, the clocks to the right in the picture below are incredibly ornate and require many, many hours to create and as a result, they are rather expensive. In addition to selling clocks, Mr Howard said that he also repairs old clocks. (I have several nice old clocks that no longer work--maybe I should take them in.)
The handcrafted Christmas ornaments have been popular gift items in the past, but in the last couple of years sales have dropped. When economic times get bad, as they have been lately, decorative items take a hit. The sign out in front of the store said that items were 25% off, so this may be a good time to buy some Christmas gifts for next year.
This model ship was made by a craftsman in Paar. He makes about one a year and puts a lot of time into each one. The ship and the display case will cost you $2000, which may seem like a lot, but given the many hours needed to create it, the price is probably rather low. There are at least two other model ships in the store. I could not find them on the website.
The place is not laid out as a normal store with a big showroom. Rather it is a series of small rooms in which the work space and the display space are intermixed, and it makes for a really interesting shopping experience. In the room off the small entrance is a grand piano, which is covered with stuff as the picture below shows. Behind the display case with the clocks in the picture below is one of garage doors visible in the first picture.
A woodworking shop should heat with wood, right? This one does in a stove made from a 55-gallon drum. Also in the room with this stove and the grand piano is a barber chair.
The back room contains a variety of woodworking equipment and wood. I asked Mr Howard if he used any local woods, and he said he does, but the problem with using local woods is that wood has to be completely dry before he can work with it, and the surest way to dry it is in a kiln. If the wood is not properly dried, it will warp and shrink as it does dry, and that will ruin the art work. Hence, he gets most of his wood from a dealer in Arizona who sells a wide variety of kiln-dried wood.

There are several different kinds of woodcraft on display, and I have forgotten the name of one of them. Many of the pictures are made by taking a thin slice of wood, cutting out sections to form a silhouette, and then mounting that silhouette on another piece of wood. This process takes many hours and is done with a scroll saw. The blade is very thin and lasts less than an hour before it must be replaced. When doing this work, two pages of wood are used, so two identical pieces can be completed at once.
Below is a piece that is partially finished with the template attached. I think they were removing everything beneath the pink. This was a commercial template, but they can also create their own.

John Howard graduated from Rensselaer Central High School in the mid 1970s. He worked in auto repair and mechanics for quite a few years and then spent a number of years traveling the United States on a motorcycle, mostly camping out all over the U.S. He has been at Sasquatch Woods for about ten years.

The store is a very interesting place to visit. It has some wonderful items, and it is a lot of fun to admire the craftsmanship. (Since I have been writing this blog, I have noticed several local or area people doing excellent craft-work--for example, knives and baskets. I am confident I will be finding more this year.)

An interesting tidbit I learned from talking to him: at one time there was a brick factory where Antcliff Subdivision is now. It made most of the paving bricks that are on the streets on the court house square than that lie under the asphalt on some other Rensselaer streets. The pond at Antcliff was the mine for the clay used in the bricks.