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

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day at Weston Cemetery

For Memorial Day 2009, see here.

See construction, take pictures

In November, the city park workers demolished the shelter nearest LaRue Pool. On Sunday, May 16, they began rebuilding it. Naturally I took pictures because whenever I see construction I have an almost irresistible urge to pull out my camera and take pictures.
They rather quickly got the framing up. I asked how long it would take for them to finish, and they said that they expected to be done the next day, on Monday.
They were wrong. The weather did not cooperate, and it was not until a few days later that they finished the roof.
A few days later they were spreading stone to form the foundation for the concrete pad.
Then it was time to wait for the cement trucks.
On Wednesday, May 16 two of them arrived. It took about an hour to pour the cement.
The trucks came in from the highway entrance and made deep ruts in the grass. It may be a challenge to erase them. Notice that there is no re-enforcing rod or mesh. Is that because the load that this pad will take will be light so that no re-enforcing steel is necessary?
Workers then spent a hours smoothing the wet concrete before they enclosed it to protect if from kids who might want to leave a mark.
As of Memorial Day weekend, the shelter is not quite ready. Some of the electrical conduit is in place, but the wiring still has to be installed. Below is a view of the empty electrical receptacles and also another view of the ruts.
PS I was in Morocco on Sunday, and their swimming pool was open with quite a few patrons enjoying the water on a very hot day.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Past churches--McCoysburg

Recently I visited McCoysburg to search for what remained of what was once a church, and before that, a school.
I recall being there twenty or thirty years ago, so my memories were rather vague. When I saw the building below, I was not sure if it was the old McCoysburg Methodist Church. It looked new, and it it now seemed to be a residence.
The steps in front, however, did not look new. And a trip to the library to find out more confirmed that this was once the church, though nicely remodeled.
The building was built as a school sometime in the late 19th century--the Jasper County Interim Report says about 1890. Early it also doubled as a church on Sundays, which was probably pretty common at that time. The public school system in the 19th century was often the Protestant school system, and a major reason that Catholics developed their parochial schools was that the dominant Protestantism was hostile to Catholicism. (Separation of church and state in its modern form is a 20th century invention.) In 1906 the congregation meeting here was organized as a Methodist Episcopal congregation. The McCoysburg school closed in 1920 and the congregation bought the building in 1921. Additions were made in 1935 and 1956. In 1974 this church joined with several others, including Brushwood, which had been Evangelical United Brethren before its merger with the Methodists to form the United Methodists, to form the United Methodist Covenant Parish. The building was closed as a church in 1985. (This information is from The History of Jasper County Indiana, 1985.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Ahhh. Summer is almost here.
The pool at Brookside Park is being filled today.

Blue flag

I was several miles east of Rensselaer when I found ditches along the road that had large bunches of blue flag.
Blue flag is a native iris that loves wet locations. It can be grown in gardens, but I do not recall ever seeing it in one.
I have only occasionally seen it, and never in the abundance I saw it this week.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Customer Appreciation Day at Ceres Solutions

On Wednesday Ceres Solutions had a customer appreciation day. Ceres Solutions is the company that formed when Jasper County Farm Bureau merged with three other companies. Recently the office that Ceres Solutions had north of town was closed as headquarters staff was centralized in the Crawfordsville office. When I came to town, Farm Bureau ran an elevator, a lumber yard, and the service station that they still operate.

Ceres sells the Country Mark brand of gasoline; Country Mark began as a company with close ties to Indiana farm cooperatives, and previously was called Farm Bureau Co-op and Co-op. The pumps to the left sell diesel, and farm diesel can be purchased this station as well (if you have the credentials to buy it.) They are also the only station in town that sells E85.
This gas station is one of seven in Rensselaer. Five of Rensselaer's stations also have convenience stores attached, and one remains the full-service operation that was once the norm of gas stations. Ceres is unlike any of them because when you step inside, you find that you are in an appliance store.
I asked why they sold appliances. The woman at the counter did not have an answer except to say they have sold them for many years. In fact, I think they were selling appliances when I came to Rensselaer over 35 years ago.

There was a good turnout for the free hamburgers and hot dogs. People keep trying to find a free lunch. If you look carefully, you can see the radio station van behind the tent. Either WRIN or WLQI was doing some of its broadcasting from the event.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Behind the scenes at the airport

I took advantage of the airport open house to explore and take pictures. Can you tell what this is?
It is a view of the airport beacon tower from the inside looking up. I bumped into a man who was doing something with another beacon (we will see it below), and he told me that commercial airports flash blue-white-blue-white on their beacons. (I have always thought it was green rather than blue because that is what the beacon looks like from my upstairs window in the winter.) Military airports flash blue-white-white-blue-white-white. One of the other things he told me is that the flashing lights on commercial airplanes go flash-pause-flash-pause while those on military craft go flash-flash-pause-flash-flash-pause.
Every airport seems to have a wind socket. They not only tell the direction of the wind but the velocity. The socket is weighted so that a five-mile-per-hour wind gives it one angle, and a ten-mile-per-hour wind gives it another, etc. Pilots learn to read the angle as well as the direction.
This is a relatively-new six-bay hanger. There are three bay doors on each side that lift up.
Below is the old hanger building with the taxiway on the left of the picture.
The grassy field below is actually a runway. It is not used much because the concrete north-south runway is so much better. But the grass runway is east-west, so occasionally when there are strong crosswinds on the north-south runway, planes will land here. I have seen this runway many times from Airport Road, so I felt I had to take the opportunity of the open house to go see what it looked like up close.
The lawn mower is probably a pretty important piece of airport equipment. They have a lot of grass to mow.
I have seen these structures from Airport Road and never knew what they were. When I visited them during the open house, I had the good fortune of meeting a man who was doing something with the tower. I could figure out that the airplane-looking thing on the left was a wind vane because it moved around as the wind blew. It is meant to help the pilots in the air. Do you know what the tower is for?
It is a low-frequency transmitter that sends out a three-letter, morse-code signal. Pilots can pick up the signal and from the three letters know that it is coming from the Jasper County Airport. Of course most of them probably do not use it anymore--they use GPS. It represents the old technology of navigation.

The tower is hinged with a crank so it can be set down on its side for maintenance. 

The man I talked to here gave me way more information than I could process. I do remember that he said that there are strobe lights at the ends of runways that are visible from a much greater distance than the runway itself. And there is also a red/white colored signal at the end of the runway that pilots can use to tell if they are on the right descent path. If they see both the red and white lights, they are OK. If they see only one color, red or white, it indicates that they are either too high or two low. (I do not remember which color is high and which is low.)

A bit further out is the automated weather advisory station or AWAS (which you can hear by dialing 866-7167), I had to show this picture because I was lucky enough to capture a plane taking off in the background.
 I still have more pictures to post, but they will wait for another day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sickly sycamores

Have you noticed that many sycamore trees are shedding leaves? Looking at the streets, One might think we were in October rather than May.
A search on the Internet suggests the problem may be a fungal disease called Sycamore Anthracnose. It is non fatal, and tends to be a problem in years with cool, wet springs.

The eagle downtown

It is not just vultures that live downtown. There is also an eagle.
It is on the old First National Bank building, that was also at one time the State Bank of Rensselaer. The Jasper County Interim Report says almost nothing about this building other than saying it was built in 1927. However, at the time the report was done, there was a false front on the building hiding the eagle and the window below it.

The little pamphlet Guide to Historic Structures and Points of Interest in Jasper County has much more:
Architect A. Wasson Coen designed the First National Bank building at 118 West Washington Street in Rensselaer in the Beaux Art Neoclassical style in 1917. Later this bank merged with Trust and Savings until it was closed in 1932. The State Bank of Rensselaer, chartered in 1904, moved into this building in 1933. It became Smith Realty in 1964, then Consolidated Insurance, and is part of the designated downtown Rensselaer historic district. The ionic columns and the Roman arch characterize the Neoclassical/Beaux Arts design, and just below the top pediment is a decorative level banded with a parapet. The present owners of the building have recently restored the exterior limestone and glass facade to its original splendor including the stone eagle that sits upon the keystone at the top of the central arch. As part of the extensive restoration, the interior of the building has also been opened to the large glass window plane of the facade consistent with the original design.
Bank buildings were meant to inspire confidence, and this building would have done that. Nevertheless, the original bank does seem to have been one of the many banks that did not survive the Depression. The number of banks in the U.S. dropped by about a third from 1929 to 1933.

I decided I needed to stop in and see what the building looked like from the inside. Immediately inside the door are three steps up--that would not happen in any building built today. The marble floor and the marble along the walls in the entrance is original.
Before the building was restored, the large front window was covered with a shingled overhang on the outside. On the inside an office was built into the space in front of the window. When the building was restored, that second-story office was removed and the window re-paned. Each pane of glass had to be cut separately because none of them is exactly the same size.
Looking toward the back of the building, one can see some of the original woodwork. The door under the clock leads to what was originally the bank vault. The area around the vault, where the desk is now, was enclosed for the teller cages. (Banks separated tellers from customers a lot more 70 years ago than they do today.) The second-floor offices in the back part of the building were there originally, though there was a little balcony so that those on the second floor could look out over the banking below.
A feature that was not restored was the very large skylight over the front part of the bank. The restoration cost more than was planned even without the expense of restoring the skylight. Trying to bring back the skylight also would have made installing modern heating and cooling systems much more difficult. However, the original skylight is still there, hidden above the modern ceiling. (Skylights seem to have been much more popular early in the 20th century than they are today.)

Consolidated Insurance is a family-run business. It sells insurance products to organizations and individuals from five different companies.

Here is the building with its adjacent buildings and reflections of the court house in its windows. On the left is the empty spot where Bags, Bangles, and Baskets was until recently, and on the right is Irene's Consignment Shop.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Building trades open house

On Saturday and Sunday the high school Building Trades Class had an open house for the residence it has been constructing on Warner Street for this past school year. The open house was not need to sell the house--it has been sold. It is, however, an opportunity for the students to show family, friends, and the community what they have done over the past school year.
There is a front door to the left of the garage, but we entered through the garage. The closed door in the garage opens to a very small closet that contains the water heater and the furnace. The open door leads to a small utility room for the washing machine and dryer and then into the kitchen.
Below is part of the kitchen taken from the small dining area. The appliances are provided by Ceres Solutions (formerly Farm Bureau), and are only for display. The oven had two parts, one a convection oven and the other a conventional oven (?).
Below is a view from the same spot but into the living room. To the right of the picture and not visible is a door to the deck. The door in the middle of the photo leads to the bedrooms, which are on the east side of the house.
Below is the deck. Part of the back yard has been sodded, and part was mud from the heavy rains on Friday.
Back in the house, there are three bedrooms on the east side. The master bedroom is at the back of the house. The two windows you see on the right in the picture above are in that bedroom, and you can see them in the picture below. It is a spacious room.
As the master bedroom, it gets its own bathroom. Below is the bathroom from the closet, which is entered via the bathroom. The small window can be seen from the outside in the picture above of the deck.
If you missed the open house, this may be the only tour of the inside of the house that you will get.

Next year the building trades class will have a new teacher. And next weekend, on Sunday, RCHS will have its graduation even though the last day of the school year for the students is Tuesday, June 1.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Airport festivities

On Saturday, May 22 the Jasper County Airport had an open house and a runway dedication. (If you followed this blog last year, you probably got tired of the many posts I had about the construction of the runway. See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. So you knew I was not going to miss this event if I could help it.)
There were several planes parked near the terminal (for lack of a better word) for people to check out, but not touch. There were plans for about 15 planes to fly in, but very low clouds prevented flight by those who do not rely on instruments.
One of the featured attractions was Beth the Ventriloquist and her strange looking friend. She had planned two shows, one at 11:00 and another at 12:30. There were too few people for a formal show at 11:00, and at 12:30 I was busy exploring parts of the airport and I missed the show. Beth is a frequent performer at the Rensselaer Care Center.
The airport runway expansion received a couple of awards that the airport management and the contractors were proud of.

At 11:30 there were several short speeches. The airport manager, John Sjaardema listed the improvements that had happened in the ten years since he came. The size of the maintenance hanger has been doubled; a new six-bay hanger has been constructed; an automated weather advisory station or AWAS (or AWOS) was installed (and you can hear what it has to say by dialing 866-7167); a taxiway paralleling the north south runway was installed (you can see it in the picture above), improving safety; a new, brighter lighting system is in place; and finally, the main runway was expanded and some of the taxiway and parking surfaces got new asphalt.

Following Sjaardema, Andrew Andree, the president of the Jasper County Airport Board of Commissions spoke. He acknowledged the contractor and NGC, the aviation consultants who have done much of the planning. A final speaker was to be Brandt Hershman, but he canceled.

Below you can see the audience listening to the presentation. This building, by the way, is used by the experimental airplane enthusiasts to build or rebuilt planes. In the foreground you can see that lunch is almost ready.
Only two of the fifteen planes or so planes from around the area that had planned to attend made it, but a flying rainbow provided a bit of spectacle.
Then it was time for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Everyone was invited to get into the picture.
And many of them did.
After the ribbon cutting, there was a lunch of hot dogs, chips, and soda. Then people were free to wander around and see what was there. What I found will be the subject of some future posts.