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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

More bridge news

Work continued today on the foot bridge the will cross the Iroquois River from Weston Cemetery to Bicentennial Park. The span is 92 feet, and three of the pieces that had been delivered were fastened together to form that span. The workers used some very big wrenches.

The long span will be lifted by a crane, and this afternoon a crane came to Bicentennial Park. It was an old crane--I have not seen one this old for quite a while. It did not have a boom that telescopes. The boom of this old fellow had to be assembled.

The workers were not only tightening bolts, but were welding the sections as well.

One of the sections that had been unloaded at Bicentennial Park was supposed to be positioned in Weston Cemetery, so it was loaded back onto a truck and taken across the river, where city workers took it from the truck.

Maybe tomorrow they will put the main span in place, and maybe I will be lucky enough to get some pictures.

I would have posted more pictures today and given you more details, but my Internet connection at home is not working, and I am doing this from the Jasper County Library. Expect more pictures when Internet connectivity gets back to normal.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A bridge arrives

An article in Saturday's Rensselaer Republican said that the parts of the bridge that will link Weston Cemetery and Bicentennial Park would be delivered today, and they were right. This afternoon a long flatbed truck with several pieces of the bridge were unloaded south of the river.
Below is the last piece being unloaded.
If the bridge reminds you of a truck trailer, that should not be a surprise because it was manufactured by Talbert, which makes truck trailers.
I hope I will be able to catch some of the assembly when it takes place.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday and railroad crossings

How did your Black Friday shopping go? I looked a bit, but did not buy anything.

The weather now feels like winter. There was ice on the fountain at SJC this morning. There was also a stiff breeze making waves in the pond, which was not reflecting much of anything.
A day or two before Thanksgiving I noticed that new railroad crossing signs were being put up. The process was a bit like the railroad work in 2009. The signs were prepositioned along the tracks, and then a crew, which I never saw, erected them. The old signs posts looked sturdy, but one of the improvement is a vertical reflective strip on the back of the sign, making it stand out more at night. This is the crossing on Jefferson Street. One of the new signs did not get put up because its post broke. You can see it next to the old sign.
Below is the view from the other sign, and you can see that only one of the signs has been replaced.
On Mattheson there were four discarded signs. I am not sure where the extra two came from.
For some reason, I am interested in these things, though I suspect that many people are not. I am not interested enough, however, to have known the answer to all of the following questions: How many rail crossings are in Rensselaer? Which of them have flashing lights? Only those without flashing lights had signs replaced, so how many crossings were having signs replaced?

Late Update: I forgot to post answers. Only three needed to be replaced: Mattheson, Jefferson, and Scott. The other crossings (Cullen, McKinley, Franklin, Webster, and Melville, have lights. I think two of them also have gates.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Remington's decorations

Remington has its Christmas decorations up in its downtown. They have variety--Christmas trees, socks, and candles. Do you prefer that, or the matching wreathes that Rensselaer puts up?
The new Remington branch of the Bank of Wolcott is now open. It sits at the intersection of US 24 and US 231. Remington now has more banks per capita than Rensselaer. They also have a branch of Regions Bank and of Lafayette Bank and Trust. The Bank of Wolcott has two other offices, in Monticello and in Wolcott.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and may all your travels be safe and uneventful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Leaf Vacs

The city's new leaf vacuum came by my house today. I had noticed it several time recently, and checking the city of Rensselaer web page I found this item:
The City of Rensselaer Street Department's old leaf vac has been down several times for repair this "leaf season" and then after 5 hours of use the clutch would burn out repeatedly. With Council's approval the Street Dept. purchased a new leaf vac which was just delivered this week and can be seen below picking up leaves on Emmett Ave. The City of Rensselaer asks residents to please be patient as the new "GREEN MACHINE" makes it's way around town picking up leaves. 11-9-10
A few days ago the old leaf vac was in the neighborhood, making a lot of noise and spitting out a lot of smelly exhaust. If you look carefully, you can see the exhaust in the upper left of the picture.
There are not many leaves left to pick up. Soon the workers will put away these machines and get out the snow plows.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More odds and ends

This morning the downtown light-pole Christmas wreaths were set out, ready to be installed.

For much of the morning, crews from a couple of trucks hoisted them up and affixed them to the poles.
In my last post I mentioned some business changes, and this morning I noticed a few more. The old Sears Building, now the Town Mall, has a bunch of empty offices, including one next to Cutting Edge that was most recently Heavenly Touch Message. NWIIS has moved to the Midway Electronics building on North McKinley, and the office it had in the front of the building will soon be occupied by Hearing Care Professionals, which currently has an interior office in the Town Mall. Also along Van Rensselaer Street, in a window next to Janet's Kitchen, there is a sign for Tension Tamer, which sounds like another message therapy place.

Out on Drexel Parkway, workers were finishing up an addition to the Wabash Valley Hospital Outpatient Services building.

Another busy weekend

It was a busy weekend. On Saturday the Bomber football team set out for Fort Wayne and a repeat meeting with Bishop Luers High School. They got a firetruck escort through town before they headed east, where they finished their season. They had a great year, losing only to a team that next week will defend their state title.
The merchants had a "Rocking Rensselaer" promotion but I was too busy with other things to see much of it. In the business news, the Ritz is now operating under new ownership. I saw by a flier that the local Subway is also under new ownership. I stopped by the old J&L Antiques and Things to see the preview for an auction that will be held soon. And I noticed that Curves is moving again.
Going through town late on Saturday afternoon, I saw a sight that you probably would not see in Chicago. I was told that we are in the shotgun part of the deer hunt.
And a new house or duplex is under construction in the new subdivision along Sparling.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Wow! I made it to 1000 posts on this blog--380+534+86.This may be a good time to tell you a little about how I do this blog, what the future holds, and why I am delighted that I could post this milestone blog today, a day that has special significance for me.

For well over a year I have been trying to do a daily post. Usually the process starts with pictures that I think tell a story. In the past I took most of them while jogging, but unless or until my legs start feeling a lot better, I will no longer have that source of pictures. After I download them to the computer, I review, select, crop, and resize pictures then upload them to picasaweb via the blog. The pictures from my cameras are from one to five megabytes; the pictures I upload are almost always under 100K both because they are resized and also because I save them at a low jpeg quality.

After the pictures are uploaded, I add text, usually including a few typos. Some of the typos I find before the post goes public, and some I only find later. Those who read the post early see a lot them. Then I schedule when the post will appear, usually for the early morning. On mornings that a post does not appear, it is often because I messed up the save, either with a pm instead of an am, or the post gets saved instead of published. (If you have played with blogger, this may make sense. Otherwise it probably will not.) Sometimes I have been able to prepare posts for several days ahead, and if anything time-sensitive comes up, I reschedule the future posts.

I receive all comments that are made in one of my e-mail accounts, which is helpful when people post on ancient posts. Occasionally I get spam comments that direct people to commercial or porn websites, and I delete these as soon as I see them.

Anyone can see the statistics that are available on the sitemeter tag. I also have access to statistics from blogger, the Google company that hosts my blogs. I have earned $96.77 from the Google Ads that you see on the side of the page. That works out to almost ten cents per post. If a post only took me a minute, that would mean I earned $6.00 per hour blogging. Unfortunately, I think the average amount of time per post is in the half hour range. I will let you figure out how much I earn per hour with that. The place I get this number tells me that I have had 78358 page views during the time this blog has been active.

I have access to another set of statistics that only goes back to May 2010. During that time, the most viewed page is this one with 385 page view. Here is second (197 views) and third place (145). (If you open up to, it does not count as a page view for this tally. The traffic to these pages is coming from search engines or links from other places on the Internet..) (Don't ask me to explain these rankings--I have no idea of why they are as they are.)

Although I have been trying to post daily for over a year, I have decided to quit trying to do that. I have another project that requires long and tedious stays at the computer, and hence posting is a lot less enjoyable. I will continue to post, but less frequently and more sporadically.

You might have noticed that I did not post on a few days recently. That was because I wanted this 1000th post to be dated November 21, 2010, which would have been my father's 100th birthday were he still alive. He was born Richard Rataczak in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 21, 1910. At the age of five or six his mother died and he and his siblings were sent to an orphanage even though his father was still alive. According to the keepers of family history, his father was an irresponsible loser. After a few years in the orphanage, he and one older brother were adopted by a childless couple in Long Prairie, Minnesota. After high school, he attended several colleges--St. John's University, Marquette, and finally the University of Minnesota, where he earned a degree in pharmacy. A year or two before his death I asked him to tell me about his early years, and he refused. He said that the memories were too painful.

He married when he was about thirty. My parent's first child was stillborn, the second had Down Syndrome, I was third, and two brothers followed me.

He served in World War II as a pharmacists mate aboard a submarine tender, the U.S.S. Proteus. He never saw combat--a submarine tender was meant to resupply submarines at sea and not to engage the enemy. He was very impressed with the Pacific and the islands that he saw while in service, and was also impressed with the discipline of the Japanese sailors he observed after the war. During the 1950s or 1960s there was a television series that recounted the exploits of various submarines in the Pacific, and he remembered most of the subs.

After the war he worked briefly for another pharmacist, and then set out to open his own drug store in small town America. We moved from Stewart, Minnesota to Morton, Minnesota to Little Falls, Minnesota as he searched for a viable business. In Little Falls his was the smallest of three drug stores, and when a small chain (then a new phenomenon in the drugstore world) opened around 1960, he closed and went to work for one of the other two drug stores. After a year or two, he found there was more opportunity in St. Paul, and moved back there, working for a couple of local chains. The rest of the family followed a few years later. His experience convinced me that I never wanted to enter the retail field, and has made me very sympathetic to the problems of those who try to run their own stores. What he did not see was that the automobile would completely change the way people shopped, and those changed patterns doomed the retail business in small towns. You can see the effects of that revolution in every town in our area.

I need a picture, don't I? My brother recently sent me the one below. My father must be in early adolescence because pictures of him a few years later look considerably different. So it must have been taken sometime between 1920 and 1925. There is not much resemblance between him and the young man who is next to him, but they were brothers. The two on the right were his adoptive parents, and I have no idea of who the old guy in the center was. One of the reasons I really like this picture is the clothing my father and the others are wearing. I do not know much about the history of clothing, but I think that my father is wearing knickers.

Addendum: Sometimes late comments can be quite interesting, though few people will ever see them. For example, see recent comments here and here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hospital expansion update

I had to spend some time waiting at the hospital on Friday, so I wandered out to see how construction was going. The west wall has had the facade of limestone block applied so it matches the main building. I am not sure why the fake windows are there--maybe the architects thought that a blank wall would be uglier.
Most of the rest of the new expansion is still cement block, but the wall nearest the back of the hospital has scaffolding for the masons and some of the block.
I was surprised to see what the blocks looked like as they came from the quarry. One of the workers said that they create them from slabs by appling pressure at the top. Notice how the top four pieces neatly fit together. (This look of limestone blocks has been replicated in cement blocks, for example in Dwenger Hall and in quite a number of other local buildings, especially garages, built early in the twentieth century.)
Stop by Sunday for a special post.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some SJC happenings

SJC had a couple of concerts in the past few weeks. On November 7, the choir had its fall concert in the Chapel.
They have a new director this year and I like his style. However, no one has stepped up to the role of super soprano that was filled for the past few years by several very talented women.
On November 14th a jazz concert had two parts. The first was the vocal jazz ensemble.
That was followed by the jazz band under the direction of Paul Geraci. They have a lot of very good saxophonists.
There were not many band shows at football games because there were not many home games this fall. The band looked very good for the last home game.
Speaking of football, a couple of students who I saw in many classes won conference honors. Congratulations especially to Andy Adamiec and Wes Schroder, first team defense and offensive lineman of the year, respectively.

Also a cultural note, the senior art show is on display in the Core Building Lobby for another couple of weeks. This painting reminded me of this site, which I found when I was looking for things on the Internet appropriate for a two-year old. (She was not as impressed with it as I was.)
By the way, the mystery photo from a few weeks is just a few feet from this painting. The corner stone is on the right of the central entrance to the Core Building lobby. I think it was from the old administration building that burned a year or two before I arrived in Rensselaer, but that is just a guess.

(When I was on the SJC website to get a link for this post, I noticed that they were highlighting their bloggers.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Around town-updated

After working at the computer most of the morning, I finally got out yesterday afternoon and looked around town. I was surprised to see that Irene's Consignment shop now is Amy's Attic. I thought the switch was supposed to be at the end of the month.
I forgot to congratulate the football team on their regional championship, won at Bremen in overtime. This Friday they will be in Fort Wayne facing Bishop Luers High School, the team that beat them last year at semi-state and the defending 2A champions.

I mentioned a week or so ago that the Ritz Theater was for sale. (Update: According to the Ritz Theater Facebook page, the theater has been sold.)
There was some activity in Weston Cemetery and Bicentennial Park this morning--some more foundations for the bridge that I thought would be built two years ago. The activity may not tell us that a bridge is imminent, but it does say that the project has not been abandoned. (I titled that old post "Part 1" because I expect a Part 2 would follow. It has not yet.)
Finally, there was a serious fire last night in a house on Susan Street. It was causing some traffic back up as the parents picking up their children at St. Augustine's School had to stop and take a look.
It is a reminder of how vulnerable we are to the unexpected.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Early shopping

Until last week I never have had a chance to try out the cute shopping carts at Strack and Van Til with a little kid. They are fun==this little girl liked the cart a lot, and was quite happy to drive the cart all over the store. It sure makes shopping better when the little ones are happy instead of whining.
For somewhat older kids, the store has these small, kid-sized carts. One mother gave each of her two kids a small cart and filled them with her shopping. She did not bother with a big cart and the kids were kept busy helping.
On the topic of shopping, on the way to the store I noticed that the space that was once the Doghouse behind Jordan Floral is now being converted into a beauty shop, Foxy's Hair Salon. (I once thought I should try to catalog all the beauty shops and salons in Rensselaer, and decided it would be too much work. There are a lot, they change constantly, and some are small and are part-time.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Onward to winter

Last week we had some unseasonally warm weather, and the large piles of leaves were very inviting to this little girl. She thought it was great fun to be buried in the leaves. And also to stomp through them. (I still like to do that once in a while--it brings back memories of childhood.)
Most of the trees are bare, but this oak sapling (which is growing in the wrong place so I will soon have to cut it out) still had some very pretty leaves. I liked the golden brown and orange colors in them.
There is not much of fall left--we are halfway through November. The days are short, the sun is low, and soon we will be enjoying the beauty of freshly fallen snow.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Saint Augustine fall bazaar

The annual Saint Augustine Bazaar was held last Thursday. For most people who attend, it begins with a turkey dinner in the church basement.
Then people can walk over to the school where there are kids games. This little girl was having a hard time with a golf club. She would have done better at the fishing booth, but there was no fishing booth this year. The fishing booth was great for the little ones because no skill at all was required. The kids always enjoy the little prizes that are often thrown away the next day.
Many of the adults enjoy the raffles and the big wheel. For some reason people are more willing to donate to charities when it is done in a gambling form. That has been true since the beginning of the United States--in the early days of the republic, lotteries were used to fund a number of things that taxes would be used for today.
I was not going to write about the bazaar until I discovered from some old-timers that they did not remember the beginnings of this annual event. One said that before the present church was constructed (which was in 1939), the bazaar was held in the old armory, which was where the fire station is now. He recalled that in the old days live chickens and ducks were the prizes that people were playing for, or turkeys that had to be cleaned and plucked.  He said that Gehring Farms used to donate fifty pound sacks of potatoes and onions. When we first went to the bazaar, frozen turkeys were common prizes. Now food is rare (except for popcorn), and money is common.

Are there any other church festivals or dinners in the area that have as long a history as the Saint Augustine bazaar?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Verterans Day 2010

The annual Veterans Day ceremonies were held in the new addition to Weston Cemetery yesterday . The invocation was given by Fr. Gilbert from Saint Joseph's College and the main speaker was sheriff-elect Terry Risner.

The ceremonies concluded with a 21-gun salute and taps.

Here is a brief note on the history of Veterans Day and why the ceremonies in Weston Cemetery were on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pictures from the North Newton Township School--the basement

Months ago I posted pictures of the decaying North Newton Township School and promised more. I have had the pictures ready to go for months, but just have not gotten around to writing the text.

One of the things I found most interesting was that the old water and heating systems were still there. The tank below was part of the water supply. 
And the machine below seems to be the water pump.
Even though I have never lived in the country, I do have some experience with what you have to do when you do not have city water. Fifty years ago I lived in Little Falls, Minnesota, and though we were well within the town boundaries, for some reason we had our own well. There was a pump and a small tank that kept the water pressurized. What I saw in the school looks like a bigger version of the water well that we had when I was a kid.

The building itself is probably beyond repair. Notice the severe buckling of this wall.
The old coal-fired boiler was also still there.
Below is a close-up of the label you can see in the picture above.
After sitting idle for about sixty years, the old boiler has plenty of rust. Also notice the old push-button wall switch. Do you remember them? There may still be a few at Saint Joes--there was one a year ago on the third floor of the science building.
My guess is that this room was for coal storage. The counterpart of this room at the old South Newton Township School is one of the few rooms that is still a room. Notice how the concrete floor has been cracked. I was told that this was the result of the freeze-thaw cycles of the seasons.
I never lived with a coal furnace--in every house I have lived in, they had been replaced by oil or natural gas. When I moved into my present house, the furnace was an old coal burner that had been converted first to oil and then to natural gas. After a few years, it developed some leakage, and we had the monster replaced. It had some similarities to this one, but our system is hot water and this one looks like it was steam.
You can see the name of the boiler company on the door. The picture below shows it better, the Kewanee Boiler company. It was in Kewanee, Illinois, and a search on the internet revealed its history. Started in 1868, it shut down in 2002. The assets of the company are now owned by a Pennsylvania company which services the old boilers. I wonder if they could get this one back to working order.
I did not take some of these pictures--they are beyond the capabilities of my camera. My son took them with a much better camera. You probably cannot tell, but the room that the boiler is in is completely dark.
I have more pictures, and one of these days I may do a final post on this old building.