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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Construction odds and ends

I had been told by a reliable source that this week we might see some foundations poured at the elementary school construction site on Melville, so this morning I went out to see what was happening. I did not see any foundations being put in, but it seems that they have finally stopped moving dirt around. There are stakes in the ground marking something--maybe where foundations will go?
On the way there I passed Superior Sales and Service, the bike shop. Yesterday I had stopped in to inquire about a bike repair and was surprised to learn that it has a new owner. Scott Donnelly has retired.

I always take pictures when I see guys working on the railroad, but I do not always use them. They were grinding the rails at the switch. It must have been causing problems.
Less photogenic but more interesting was a bulldozer on the lot just south of the city substation on Melville. (On maps it seems that this substation is not inside city borders. Am I misreading the map?) This lot is part of the Lintner Industrial Park, west of the big State of Indiana complex. Anyone know anything about plans for the site?
The third pump for the lift station arrived this morning, and by chance I passed by just as the workers were pushing it into the building. They had it on some kind of lift, so it slid in quickly and easily. You can see one of the old motors and one of the old pumps next to the fence.

At SJC the work on the smokestack seems to have been completed--the platform is gone. I expected them to continue whatever it was that they were doing to the top of the chimney all the way to the ground, but they did not.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

School project 2011-12

Among the signs of fall is the start of another Building Trades house, this one next to the one from last year on Vine Street. We are only two weeks into the school year and they are pouring concrete.
The late summer flowers are starting to bloom, the crops are maturing in the fields, and stores are having sales on summer items. The mornings have a hint of fall in the air. Last week you could see the water vapor steaming off the pool at Brookside Park.
Don't look for it this week--the pool was emptied over the weekend.

Tonight the last of the Tuesday Farmers Markets will take place. The high school pep band is scheduled to provide entertainment.

Friday, August 26, 2011

And I thought my Amtrak trip was interesting

I thought my time of the California Zephyr was interesting, (see here, here, and here) but thankfully it was not nearly as interesting what happened to these passengers. The train was in western Nebraska at 8:00 am, so it was really, really behind schedule--the story said it hit an abandoned car near Salt Lake City. (Looking at the Amtrak Status map, there is only one five train on the map and it is almost 17 hours late. Two fives and two sixes are not on the map but on the bottom, with service disruptions. So all the Zephyr schedules are completely messed up.)

175th birthday celebration

This afternoon Rensselaer celebrated its 175th birthday, or rather the 175th anniversary of the first white settler in what is now Rensselaer. The celebration was a little early--the plaque on the Washington Street Bridge says that Joseph Yeoman and his wife built their cabin in December, 1836, but who wants to celebrate that in December?

I got to the Gazebo by the Court House after the official ceremony. I missed the St. Augustine students singing (but they probably sounded about the same as they sounded at the Amtrak platform dedication), and the mayor's reading of the proclamation. I did get there in time for some cake, and there was still plenty when I left.
Joseph Yeoman and his wife built a cabin near what is now the Washington Street bridge and cleared some land. They did not have a title, but not too long after they settled, a man name van Rensselaer showed up with a title and told them to leave. They did, moving a bit to the west. Their son, Thomas Jefferson Yeoman, was the first white person born in Jasper County. The Yeomans married into other early families, and as a result, there are many people in the area who can trace their family tree back to Joseph Yeoman. The early Yeomans are buried in the Sayler-Mckeever Cemetery. In contrast, van Rensselaer went back to New York and there seem to be no descendants of his in the area. (If I am wrong, correct me in the comments.) Should Rensselaer really be named Rensselaer? (Correction--James van Rensselaer, for whom Rensselaer is named, is buried next to the First Presbyterian Church.)

There were a number of descendants of Joseph Yeoman who came to the event, some from other counties, and they had a good time trying to figure out how they were related.

There was a video playing a film about Rensselaer from mid-20th century. It is on VHS tape, and several people commented that it needs to be put on DVD. The historical society may do that and then sell the DVDs. It gives a fascinating look at a version of Rensselear that has disappeared, and does it with a little story to connect people and places in an entertaining way.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trails and meanders (updated)

Yesterday's Rensselaer Republican had a little note that there would be a meeting about trails at city hall. Two speakers, one from the Northwest Indiana Regional Plan Commission and the other from the National Park Service would offer presentations. I had nothing on my schedule, so I decided to go.

On the way there I noticed that brick columns were rising in our smallest park, Hanley Park.
On Tuesday evening, coming back from a meeting in Monticello, I noticed a sign on a building that has seen a lot of different uses in the past few years. It will now be the Fairmeadows Home Health Center. When I stopped by yesterday I did not see anyone in the office, or I would have stopped in to ask what their business did.
Going into the city building, I noticed a map that showed the borders of Rensselaer as of mid July. What a bizarre shape our little city has.
The meeting itself was full of information. It was well attended--apparently it was well publicized at St. Joseph's College because about half the audience seemed to be people from there. Rensselaer has only nebulous plans for trails, and this meeting was largely one in which the presenters were trying to sell the idea of trails. The speaker from the NPS, who was part of their Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program, stressed the health and economic benefits of trails. The speaker from our north told us about the how trails are being developed in Lake, Porter, and Laporte Counties. They have gone from 13 miles of trails in 1990 to 80 now, with 50 more miles funded. Many of those trails follow abandoned railroad routes, something that is not useful to us because our abandoned rail routes are no longer even visible.
From the map it seems there is a plan for a trail that will follow the old Monon line from Medaryville to Michigan City. The trail that is most interesting for Rensselaer is the proposed Dunes-Kankakee Trail, which will follow SR 49 down from the Dunes, and there is a state plan that takes it to Rensselaer and then along the Iroquois River to Kentland. At Kentland it will connect with another proposed trail that will follow the route of the abandoned railroad line that runs north-south in Newton County.

One of the handouts available at the meeting showed the Kankakee River Water Trail, 85 miles of the Kankakee River for canoes and kayaks. It is still relatively undeveloped, but the map shows in detail where the access points are. It also points out areas where canoers and kayakers might have problems from low bridges and log jams.

There will be future meetings about trails. I will get more interested when there are actual proposals on the table. I suspect a lot of the trails will be a bike lane on existing roads--we have county roads that have light traffic and are excellent for biking or running.

After the meeting I asked the mayor if there would be a dedication for the new Talbert Bridge. He said that it would take place, but not until the sidewalk on the south end is installed. I joked that it would be sometime next spring, but he insisted it would be sometime this fall.

As I left the downtown I noticed impressive clouds to the east, clouds of a storm that missed us.
Just visible in the picture above are signs for the competing festivals. In a couple of weekends we will have the Little Cousin Jasper Festival around the Court House Square and the Jasper County Fall Festival at the Fairgrounds. Are you ready for both?

Update: Fairmeadows Home Health Center seems to be the first branch office of a large home health company located in Schereville.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Late summer improvements

I stopped by SJC this morning and discovered a large bullfrog in the reflecting pond. How common are bullfrogs in our area? Are they introduced or were they here a few centuries ago? They are native to the southeast, where a number of predators keep them in check. I know that they have been very destructive where they have been introduced in the southwest.
The pond is still not full, but has enough water to look nice.

Three guys were preparing to paint the track, which was recently resurfaced.
A lot of the campus roads and parking lots were resealed and repainted.

Outside the Core Building are concrete pads for an emergency generator. I am curious to see how this will look when completed. What will be on each side of the sidewalk?
The workers on the chimney have gone to the top and are now descending, putting a couple layers of something over the brick.
The students get to see some of the summer improvements finishing up.

The summer improvements at SJC

Monday, August 22, 2011


I see by Facebook that Jamie's Cafe and Banquets has closed. Sorry to see it go. They never did get many fans for their Facebook page.

Bazz's Eat-N-Sip was for sale a few months ago and I think it has also closed. (The Roller Rink remains open.) Is the north side not a good place for restaurants?

Correction: Bazz's Eat-N-Sip has not closed. See the comments.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Things I would like to see in Rensselaer (Updated)

A few days ago I spent about an hour in a park in Lebanon, Indiana. One thing that caught my eye was a small hill. I think it was a sledding hill, something that would be nice in Rensselaer. I know that various people have discussed it, and it came up a year or two ago when the park board was discussing visions of the future, but I guess it was not high enough on the wish list.
Seeing that got me to thinking about a couple other improvements I would like to see in the parks. First, a fountain that kids could play in. The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago has a fountain that has the spigots that shoot water embedded in a sidewalk. The water shoots up randomly, and the kids love it. Kids love to play in water, and some fountains are designed to allow them to do that. Another water-related change I would like to see is a slide at the pool in Brookside Park. This summer the Morocco Pool added three short tube slides. They should be at least as safe as the diving board. If Morocco can do it, why not Rensselaer? (A month ago I watched some kids swing in the park, and it occurred to me that most kids around here will never learn a skill that was almost universal in my generation--pumping a swing while standing. All the swings I see in parks these days have flexible seats, seats the conform to the body. They are meant to be sat on, not stood one. But when I was a kid, the swings were all rigid--you could either sit on them or stand on them. We learned to pump a swing sitting, but also standing. Any of you other "wisdom figures" recall making the swing go while standing? Or are they any of you younger readers that know what I am talking about?)

Update: Here is an example of a kid-friendly fountain. It has water that is only an inch or two deep and little gushers of water that are fun for little kids to play in. This one is in Rockford, IL at the Magic Waters Water Park (which you can see from Interstate 39 right before it ends at the tollway.)
Update 2: The sledding hill idea was killed because of insurance problems. The disappearance of the old solid-bottom swings was due to a government regulation. These sorts of problems are not unique to Rensselaer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I do not know what it was that I saw here

Over the weekend I stopped by the construction site on Melville of the new school to see what progress was being made.  It appeared that all the stuff that they want to put underground has been put into place, but there still is no sign of actual construction.

On Wednesday when I stopped by there was activity, but I could not figure out what they were doing. Along the side of Melville were two trucks that were filling two other trucks with something that looked like lime. As a truck was being filled, bags on top of it would inflate like balloons--it was a very strange site.
There was a truck spreading something over the surface of the site. I think it was a third truck that had been filled with the white stuff.
Again, I do not know what the purpose of this activity was. Are there any readers who can fill us in?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

And so it ends...

not with a bang, but with a hardly a splash.

The season is over at the LaRue Pool. School starts tomorrow for all the pool rats.

Thanks to all the lifeguards and to the pool director for a wonderful summer.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A few pictures of some minor changes (updated)

Over the weekend there was equipment in the city parking lot by the Hanley plaque. I was not sure what was going on here, but took a picture hoping that I would find out later.
This morning I returned and both the equipment and the flower boxes were gone. Something new is going to be built, and though I have heard it described, I cannot visualize it.
More important but less visible work was being done at the lift station next to Weston Cemetery. During the winter there was a lot of work being done behind the station on the buried pipes. I asked one of the workers what they were doing. He said that they were installing new pumps and controls.
The lift station, in case you were wondering, is part of the sewage system of Rensselaer. The pumps are what gets the water that goes down your drains to the sewage treatment plant. You may not want to think about it, but if this system ever fails, your life will suddenly become a lot more unpleasant.

Update: This morning (Wednesday) a truck delivered two pumps to the entrance of the cemetery. The truck was too large to get down the narrow road to the lift station, so the pumps had to be moved by their fork lift. (OK--what is the real name for this machine?)
They hauled it up over the hill and deposited it next to the first pump, which arrived before I did.
I asked one of the guys how they would get them into the building. He said that they could get them through the door using their blue lifter, but then the fun would start. They have to be lowered into of a pit, and that has to be done manually.

Update II: There are three pumps in the lift station. They will be replaced so that there is always at least one of them running. The building is designed to help move the pumps--there is a beam with a chain that is part of the structure. The old pumps had the motor on top of a long shaft that was connected to the actual pump, while the new ones have the pump and motor together. The new ones are designed to work even if submersed in water. Below is a picture of two of the new pumps and motors (one still has not been delivered) in the background and an old motor that has been removed. (When I called the orange thing a pump, I was corrected and told it was not the pump, but the motor.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cup Plant

This morning I found a plant I have been looking for, Cup Plant or silphium perfoliatum, flowering in the high school wetland area. It is a close relative of Prairie Dock and of Compass Plant.
The plant gets it common name from the cup that the leaves make around the stem.
Cup plant is supposed to be common in Illinois. It is not nearly as common here as Prairie Dock. There is an impressive display of Prairie Dock along Mattheson Street north of the railroad tracks. It was mowed down earlier this year, but it came back and is flowering. I think the plant is getting more abundant year by year. It is a perennial and may spread underground.

We are entering the time of the year in which we will a lot of yellow daisy-like flowers blooming. I keep trying to identify them, but there are so many and the differences are often very slight. But Prairie Dock, Compass Plant, and Cup Plant are easy.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

New name, new owners

A couple months ago I mentioned that the quickie lube place behind McDonalds was closed and seemed to be undergoing changes. Today I noticed that it had re-opened. The old name was Mr Quick's Lube Express. Since that name has disappeared from the sign, I assume it will have a new name soon.
I stopped in to ask what was happening and was told that it had new ownership.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting ready for the school year-Updated

Students will soon be arriving at Saint Joseph's College (and maybe a few have arrived already). There is one last band camp there this week, a large band from Illinois. A number of repair projects are finishing up. The water is back on in the reflecting pond, but it may take a while for the pond to fill if the fountain is the only source of water.
In addition to cleaning it and painting the sides of the pool, the stones were repaired on the fountain.
Repairs are being done to the powerhouse chimney. I have not seen any workers up there when I have passed by.
New lights seem to be on the way for the sidewalk in front of the Science Hall. You can see the old light in the picture below, and at the bottom of the picture is the foundation for a new light fixture.
This tree shading the sundial has been there a while, but I had not previously noticed the absurdity of the tree placement.

Update: I had to go out to SJC today (Wednesday) and found guys working on the chimney. They were raising the scaffolding, and instead of having a way to raise the whole thing, they somehow took it apart and reconstructed it a few feet higher.
 Fifteen minutes later they had finished and were doing whatever it was that they were doing to the chimney.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Over the weekend

On Sunday the Friends of the Library sponsored Peter Fletcher, a classical guitarist. Between 50 and 60 people attended. The Rensselaer branch of the library is not the great venue for musical programs--it lacks a room that can seat a mid-sized group of people.
There is something new at the library--a new display case of the Civil War memorabilia of General Milroy. (The general would not pass inspection with the missing buttons.)
For the last ten or fifteen or maybe twenty years, this has been the weekend of a health fair at the Jasper County Hospital and also a 5K. I saw no publicity or mention of either, so I am wondering if they took place. The 5K was always a week before the Demotte Rotary Ramble, which was a much bigger race and the last road race of the season for high school kids, so the field in Demotte is really tough. In its early years the hospital 5K was the only road race that Rensselaer offered. If it has died, at least it waited until Rensselaer developed a number of other 5K races--the Little Cousin Jasper race, the Chloe 5k, the Santa Shuffle, and the SJC Homecoming 5k, a 5k for earth day. (What did I miss?)

Maybe, just maybe, the Talbert Bridge was finished on Saturday. The crew installing the railing was back, hopefully finishing up. (If they did not finish, it may be another week, since they only seem to work here on Saturdays.)
On Saturday evening the railing looked finished, but it had tape on the south end. Maybe that is just to let the concrete set for the posts on the north end.
I am ready for some cooler air. It is hard to believe that in less than two weeks school will be in session.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A fourth birthday

On Thursday Jasper Junction celebrated its fourth birthday with a big sale. The radio station set up a tent and broadcast from it for several hours.
It is good to see Jasper Junction, which earns money for CDC to help fund its programs for the developmentally disabled, use old media. I have suggested that they venture into new media, such as using Facebook to highlight promotions and events. (CDC also operates another thrift store, one in Monticello.)

There were a lot of people, many with full shopping carts, in the store or out back when we arrived, which was a couple hours after the sale began. Kids enjoyed the toys. Inside the store I found a snow globe and asked a couple of boys playing with the toys if they knew what it was. They knew it was a snow globe because they had seen one in a movie, but confessed that they had never seen a real one before. I wondered how often that is happening these days--kids getting their first exposure to ordinary objects not in the real world but from a computer or television screen.
CDC serves Jasper, Newton, White, Benton, and Carroll counties. In Rensselaer they operate Jasper Village and a center at the east end of Anglica Street.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A dollar night surprise

The kids who were at dollar night at the LaRue Pool on Wednesday night got a surprise--popsicles provided by Slice of Pie Pizza.
The dollar nights have been fun events with pizza and games and lots of kids. There is one more on the schedule, Monday, August 15.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another storm, more trees gone

Last night another storm tore through Rensselaer at about midnight. The sky lit up with lightning, though much of it was not nearby, and the winds roared. The storm seemed to do more damage on the west side of town than the east side. Along Jackson Street near the park the wind damaged a large oak tree and snapped a power-line pole.
You could not tell from the road if there was any damage to the house.
There were several trees destroyed or damaged in Weston Cemetery. You can see one downed tree in the foreground and a crew working to cut up and truck away a second downed tree behind it.
We got a decent amount of rain but it had no noticeable effect on Brookside Creek or the river. The hot weather we have been having has dried us out.

Update, late afternoon: The big tree branch in the first two hit the roof of the house and did some damage to the roof and the gutters. There is a tarp over the damaged area. It also hit a car (the red object in the first picture) and caved in the roof and cracked or broke the windshield. It also has a tarp over it.