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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Betty's Excellent Adventure part 2

Yesterday we started the Rensselaer adventure of Betty, the cosmopolitan gal from Indianapolis. Despite her fine breeding and elegant manners, she really is a biker girl at heart.
She is also quite a swinger. In fact, any adult with her will get tired of watching her swing long before she gets tired of swinging.
When I thought it was time to leave, Betty did not. So there was a little test of wills. She thought that if she waited on the bench, I would turn around and come back. I have had enough contests of will with two-year olds to know how this game is played, and to know how to win it.
Betty was away from her parents for the first time in her life, and whenever you have a child under those circumstances, it is always a bit uncertain how things will go. She decided she wanted to climb up onto the big platform at Brookside Park with this ladder. I would have preferred that she use a different approach, but she did fine. I wonder what her mother would have thought about this. Her grandmother was pretty agitated.
Some of the slides were too big for her--she could not control her body on the way down. It is too bad Brookside does not have a smaller slide just for toddlers over by the Emma house.
The playground equipment at St. Augustine's is much better for little kids. The slides there only have a vertical drop of about four feet. They also have nice gravel beneath them that little kids enjoy kneading.
The other big outdoor adventures for Betty were two trips to the LaRue pool. Last year when Desert Boy was in town, the kiddie pool was closed so we visited Lake Banet. As a result, I have not had a good excuse to post a picture of the dolphin.

A score of years ago when I spent a considerable amount of time in the kiddie pool, there was also a seal that spit water. Its foundation is still there. And I think when we first came, there was a slide where the dolphin is now.

One the first day, Betty was a bit reluctant to get into the water and spent much of the time pouring.
But she eventually got into the water and got comfortable with it. Then she saw people jumping off the diving board in the big pool and walked (or maybe ran--little kids do not like to walk when they are excited) to it, got on it, and probably would have gone out to the end of it if she had not been stopped. I suppose it would have been fun to see what she would have done, but the thought of a two-year old jumping off the diving board was far too frightening to allow her to proceed.

At the end of the day, she got mummified or swaddled.
On the second day at the pool, she was far braver. She crouched down so the water was up to her neck and walked around saying that she was swimming. She had to be watched because she is so small that if she falls, she has a hard time getting back up. And she did stumble twice, getting a face full of water, but it did not deter her.

Betty had a great Rensselaer Adventure and is ready to come back for more. Maybe she will stay with us again next summer.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Betty's Excellent Adventure part 1

There are some things that are hard to write about when you do not have kids around, and so I was quite excited to have a little city gal from Indianapolis stop by for a visit a week ago. Our first adventure was at the Whistle Stop Cafe north of Monon. The last time I had a two-year old visit, he really enjoyed this place, and so did our little "Betty."

She was, however, rather indifferent to the big equipment outside.
She was more interested in what the people were doing in the parking lot below than in the interior of the caboose.
But she absolutely adored the trains that run over head. Is there any better place to eat in the area if you have a preschool child?
Betty was very happy that we have Internet out here in the boonies, She cannot read or even know her letters, but she can control a computer mouse. It is fascinating to watch her accomplish things in the little games she likes. The program on the screen is called Burning Monkey Solitaire, and she could not play the game, but she could click on all the things that surround the game and get the reactions that are programmed for them.
A couple of years ago a colleague gave me an article that argued that the students in colleges were digital natives while faculty were digital immigrants. The students had grown up in the digital world and it was natural to them. The faculty had arrived in this world when they were adults, and it was a bit alien for them. What will the kids in Betty's generation be like if they are playing computer games when they are two years old?

Another of our indoor adventures was a trip to the library.
Betty liked the lion rug in the kids section.
The gold fish did not interest her much, but she did give a computer game that featured Dora a try. Unfortunately for her, almost all of the games on the library computers are meant for kids at least three years older than she is.
Back in the corner she found a toy that was more suited for her.
However, the fun of Rensselaer for a little kid is not what she can do indoors. It is the outdoors that promises the most fun. You can read about that in a post later this week.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Going to church the Parr Baptist 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 Parr Baptist is located at 1075 East Street in the unincorporated town of Parr, but it has a Rensselaer postal address. According to the "Church Services Directory" in the Rensselaer Republican, the pastor is  Brother Randall Gann. Sunday morning worship is at 10:30 a.m.

I could not find additional information about this church on the Internet.

The Jasper County Interim Report: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory says it was built in about 1910 and "was constructed to replace an earlier building destroyed by fire. Its side-steeple design exhibits Craftsman stylistic influences."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A crane visits the hospital

On Thursday I noticed a crane by the hospital, so I had to check it out.
It was lowering I-beams and a couple of workers were assembling them to form the steel framework for the new addition. It was pretty amazing to watch the two guys carefully position the beams so they could lock them in place.
There were some holes in the vertical beams, so I assume they were putting bolts in them.
On Friday they were working on the west end of the site and appeared to be almost done with the first horizontal layer of beams. The crane lifted two I-beams at a time, which probably saved some time. Next week we will see if they finish the iron work with a second layer at the top of the vertical beams.
Go here for the last report on hospital construction and a link to an earlier post.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Opening convocation

For the past few years Saint Joseph's College has had an opening-of-the-school-year convocation to welcome the freshman class. Each year the faculty dress up in their ridiculous academic apparel and march into the chapel, and they did it again on Thursday. I was not among them, though as a professor emeritus I could have been.
Seven different people addressed the new students. For me, the most interesting thing on the program was not a speaker, but a performance of the Alma Mater arranged by the new director of the choir. I liked it a lot and now am looking forward to see what the choir, which has had a lot of talent during the past few years, will be doing this year.

The keynote speaker was an alumna who graduated in 1990, which was a couple years before most of these freshmen were born. It is a bit disconcerting to realize that the first president that they would have remembered would be Bill Clinton, and maybe some of them only remember George W. Bush. This speaker had a list of ten things that she thought the students should do during their stay in Rensselaer, and the one that caught my attention was to go out and see the Moody Lights. I have never done that and probably never will. Any of you Moody Lights fans? Am I missing something that really is worth seeing?
The students seem to want to believe that there are ghosts on campus because there are a number of stories that circulate among the students about ghosts in various buildings at SJC. They were never happy when I told them that all these stories were nonsense.

After the faculty paraded out, a couple of friends asked me how I was handling retirement. I told them that I had cried all day on Monday, all morning on Tuesday, an hour on Wednesday, but only five minutes this morning. Neither of them believed me.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Passing through

Several weeks ago I fell in behind this biker riding east on SR 114. He was a bit too far ahead of me and going to fast for me to catch him. I would have loved to have found out where he was going, where he was coming from, and why he was doing more than a short commute on a bike.
There are so many interesting stories all around us and we hear so few of them.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Great Lobelia and other August flowers

I had the opportunity to walk along a road in Walker Township recently, and found this flower:
It is Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), a plant with pretty flowers but not much use. It is sometimes found in flower gardens. It blooms in the late summer when most of the other plants that are blooming have yellow flowers, so it stands out.

Another plant that I had to look up because I did not know it was Late Boneset or Eupatorium serotinum.
At least that is what I think it is. The leaf matches very well.
A final find of the day was Flowering Spurge, or Euphorbia corollata.
I always enjoy learning a few more plants.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shepard Swamp

I had read about Shepard Swamp in some of NICHES publications, though it is not listed as a NICHES property on their website. On my trip back from Medaryville's Potato Fest, I passed through Bailey's Corner and found it just to the west of the houses, on the south side of the road.
I was running late and did not have time to explore. It is about ten acres and there is water behind the tall weeds. The aerial view for google maps shows a parking lot, but it has been overgrown with weeds.

I know little else about this property. If you know more, please tell us what you know in the comments.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rocking for Food

Underway as I write this is the Chamber of Commerce's Rock-A-Thon for Food Pantry Items. It began this evening at 5:00 p.m. and will end Tuesday the 24th at 5:00 p.m. when all but one of rockers will be auctioned off during the Tuesday night farmers' market. There will be people rocking in those chairs for the entire 24 hours in shifts. (I do not think I would care for the 3:00 a.m. shift.)
Until Tuesday at 5:00 you can bring non-perishable food items and vote for your favorite rocker.

Construction news

It has been a while since I reported on construction.

The Habitat for Humanity house now has a foundation. The Rensselaer Republican had an article about its pouring with a picture.
The basement floor has been poured for the hospital expansion and the last bit of wall erected so it is no longer possible for the cement trucks to drive into the excavation. Also, some extensions now reach to the north, and it looks like they are getting ready to build up the walls.


I passed through Remington last week and noticed that the exterior of the new Bank of Wolcott branch is nearing completion.
Finally I noticed new construction at the west end of Vine Street and checked it out. It is this year's Building Trades house.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Going to church in Gifford the 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 Church of God in Gifford is located on 400 North in the unincorporated town of Gifford. According to the "Church Services Directory" in the Rensselaer Republican, the pastor is Gary Minard. Church services are at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday.
I could not find any thing about the Gifford Church of God on the Internet.

Gifford was named after Benjamin Gifford, who built a short-lived railroad from McCoysburg up into Lake County. I recall hearing that 400 North is the dividing line for the KV and the Rensselaer Central school districts. Those who live on the north side of Gifford go to KV, and those on the south side Rensselaer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What is it?

I saw this the other day and took a picture. I was going to ask if you knew where it is, but before you can answer that you probably need to figure out what it is?
So what is it, and if you can figure that out, where is it?

Update: Yes, it is a skylight. I would not have guessed that if I had not taken the picture.

Skylights were pretty common in the old downtown buildings--it was a way to provide light to the interior hallways of the second floor. Some of them have since been removed (they are prone to leakage and they are not as needed now that electric lights provide lighting). This one is in the second floor of the old Murray Department Store, which was also the old Harvey's and the old Schultz's. A great many offices have been on second over the years--the reason that there are so many second floors is that when the buildings were built, there was a demand for that space. Until about ten years ago Frank Fischer and Wayne Erickson had offices up there, and had had them for many years. Currently another photographer, Attitude Studios, and Birthright of Rensselaer are the only offices on the second floor.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Potato Fest at Medaryville 2010 Part 3

The tour of the day, and the main reason I had gone to the Potato Fest, was conducted by Brian Capouch, who had bought a house near the downtown, discovered that in that house the first telephone exchange for Medaryville had operated, and had tried to restore what that telephone office would have looked like.

First we walked across the street and around a corner to get to the old Medaryville Calaboose. I took a picture of it from the front, but it did not turn out. (Missed pictures are one of the drawbacks of taking pictures with a camera that has a nonfunctional display. But otherwise the camera works well.) The Calaboose was built in 1905 and served both as a jail and as the town hall for a number of years. Eventually it was turned over to the fire department, and the Medaryville fire bell still stand behind the building. You can see the tower for the fire bell below, and also the deterioration of the brick.
Below is a very early phone. It had no dial. You cranked a generator, which sent a current to the operator's switchboard. The operator then asked, "Number please," and connected you to the party you were calling. When you were done with the call, you were supposed to give the crank another little turn to send a signal that the call was finished just in case the operator was not listening to your call. (The early telephone was a lot like the Internet--there was no guarantee of privacy then just as there is not guarantee of privacy now.)

On the left you can see a jail cage.
The calaboose had two of these, and each could hold two prisoners. The two were bought from the Champion Iron company in 1905 for $128. (You can see the lower bunk. There was also an upper bunk that is not readily visible.)
Our group was too big for everyone to go next door for the switchboard demonstration, so it was split in two. Half went to the demonstration and half waited outside, entertaining themselves with snow cones or playing with this cast iron apple peeler. It worked really well and could peel and core and apple in seconds. I am sorry I did not take some video of it in action.
Switchboards were in common use until the 1950s or 1960s, when they were replaced by dial phones and automatic switching. I vaguely remember that in the late 1950s I went to an open house for the telephone company in Little Falls, Minnesota, and I think it was because they had made the change to automatic switching. At least one lady in the audience had worked as a switchboard operator and was a valuable source of information of how the old systems worked.

The photo below is of a switchboard from the 1940s. Brian thought it would be as close to the original as he would be able to get.
But then a person he was working with found a much older switchboard at an estate sale for a reasonable price and bought it. It is very close to what the switchboard for that Medaryville Telephone Company would have been using a century ago.
 It suffered some damage during shipping, but it operates. And it requires no power. The electricity to signal a call came from the phones.
Brian has also assembled a number of phones to illustrate the development of the telephone from its beginnings up to the dawn of the dial phone.
You can read a bit more about this bit of history here.

A post on the Potato Fest would not be complete without a link to the Potato Song.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Penultimate Tuesday night farmers' market

Next week we will have the last Tuesday night farmers' market, and the added attraction will be the auctioning of the Chamber of Commerce rocking chairs.

This past Tuesday there was live dulcimer music and demonstrations of painting.
I talked to some of the people who are the driving forces behind some of our community events about Art in the Alley and found that this year there will be no event. There were some additional obstacles this year and they had lost some of the people who had worked very hard in the past, so they decided not to do it. However, Oktoberfest is still on the calendar, though I am not sure what the date is.

Update: Oops--I was wrong. There is another Tuesday night Farmers' Market planned for August 31, to the title is inappropriate. I wonder if this last one was a late addition.

Potato Fest at Medaryville Part 2

Yesterday you read about part one of the Potato Fest adventure. I was about to go into the Medaryville Historical Museum, which is next to the library. As the picture below shows, the walls are full of old pictures.
At the back of the aisle above, back by the old Coca Cola cooler, is an old sorter cabinet from the post office. The sign at the top reads, "Medaryville Post Office Sorter Cabinet Dated 1915 Donated by Greg & Pam Werner"
The other side of the building has more pictures and an old stove. The sign on it says, "Stove from Mr. D's restaurant it was located on the empty lot west of the post office and east of Wagners pizza." You can see another relict from the past next to the display case, a sink from an old barber shop. I am old enough to remember when even little towns had barber shops and they were a place in which people gathered to socialize.
Hanging on the walls are some old letter jackets from what must have been the Medaryville high school.
Do you know what this machine is?
It is a coffee mill, but there was no interpretive sign on it.

Next to and connected to the museum are two other buildings that can serve a variety of purposes. People were gathering in them waiting for a tour to start.
To see what they were waiting for, you will have to read part three, the final part of this series.

Updates for part 1: The people in the park were part of a family reunion, not part of Potato Fest. Due to dysfunctional leadership, Potato Fest consisted of the demonstration that is the subject of tomorrow's post and a dinner at the American Legion Hall, which used to be the auditorium or gymnasium of the White Post Township School.

The remnants of the William Gehring Farms remain on Country Road 250 E about half mile south of its intersection with County Road 400 N, or about a half mile south of Bailey's Corner. You can see them using google maps. Agriculture in this area could not exist until many drainage ditches were constructed, and you can see many of them along the roads in Walker and Barkley Townships. The man who was responsible for much of this was Benjamin Gifford, the man who built the railroad from McCoysburg north into Lake County. He owned tens of thousands of acres of land and when he died in 1913, his land was sold and divided into small parcels. Many of the new owners found growing onions more tedious than the expected, and in time some of the land was consolidated to become the Gehring Farms.

The Gehring farm fell victim to estate taxes and the bubble in farm prices that happened in the 1980s. When the people who had made financial plans based on a continuing rise in land prices had to face a quick collapse in land prices, many farm enterprises became victims. The Gehring farm went out of business in the 80s. The land has again been divided up into smaller parcels and it now grows corn and soybeans rather than onions and potatoes.

(If there are mistakes in this short history, please correct them in the comments. Also feel free to add additional bits of information.)

Another Update: From my e-mail:

"The old history books have two things wrong about Medaryville, and one of them is repeated in your blog post.

We don't know for sure who Medaryville is named after. The only famous person of that surname was a wild character named Samuel Medary. He wasn't ever governor of Ohio, but he was the governor of the Minnesota Territory at the time it got statehood, and afterwards he was the governor of the Kansas Territory. He also got a town named after him, Medary, South Dakota, the first platted town in the Dakota Territory. There is a Wikipedia page on him.

But Carter Hathaway (who platted the town) may have simply named it Medary Ville (such was the original spelling, two words) because his family seemed to have an infatuation with the name. His son was Richard Medary Hathaway, his nephew Medary Montez Hathaway. Both were fairly prominent characters in the area in their own right.

The other mis-stated fact about Medaryville has been repeated so many times that despite having been proven incontrovertibly wrong, no one wants to admit it "because we've repeated it so long people would be upset to hear that it's not correct." Yet it's so trivial I can't fathom why people actually get *mad* at me for telling them: if you look at the plat map that I included on Medaryville's Wikipedia page, you can clearly see that the plat was done in March, 1852. Yet Medaryville's official date of first existence is *always* reported as 1853.

For what it's worth. I appreciate your putting the spotlight on the town and its history, and as always enjoy reading your work."