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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Geocaching adventure

Some of our Thanksgiving guests had smart phones that had GPS receivers, and they thought it would be fun to do a little geocaching around Rensselaer. (Geocaching, for anyone who does not know, involves searching for containers based on the GPS coordinates and also any hints that the hider provides. It is a bit like an Easter egg hunt for adults. If you do not have a GPS unit, and I do not think a car GPS unit is sufficient, you cannot take part in the fun. For more info, see the official geocaching site. A few clicks can get you to a map of geocaches in the Rensselaer area.)

Our first search did not  go well. There is supposed to be a small cache in Brookside Park, but when we got to the coordinates of the cache, we could not locate it even using the hints. Our search at second site, in Bicentennial Park, was successful. We found the cache, which is an old army ammo box. It had a register for people to sign and also junk. You can add to the junk if you wish, or you can trade your items for those in the box (unless the directions tell you something different.)
Anyone can register and set up a cache. The folks at the Rensselaer branch of the Jasper County Library have put a tiny cache on the library grounds. It you do not have the coordinates, I doubt that you would ever find it. Even with the coordinates, we looked at the hint before we located it.
A little digression: across the street the gazebo in Hal Gray Park has been decorated with lights and looks very nice at night. However, I had to laugh at the power cord for the lights, which crosses the sidewalk and connects to an outlet on the power pole.
Back to the hunt: we also found two caches that were south of Rensselaer, one on the Saint Joseph's College campus and another to the east of the college. The second one was in a really clever hiding spot--a place that is easily accessible but that will not be bothered or found by someone accidentally.

Have you ever done any geocaching? What did you think of it? My view of Easter egg hunts is that it is more fun to hide than find, and I think the same about geocaching.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shopping madness--updated

I ventured to the early Black Friday sale at Walmart Thursday night and was amazed at the size of the crowds. The Walmart parking lot was full, as was the Strack & Van Til lot as far north as Arni's Pizza. Inside the store the aisles were so full of people that it was hard to maneuver, and the checkout lines were long.
Only some of the items went on sale at 10:00 on Thursday night, and though my shopping partner and I got there just a bit after 10:00, the item we were looking for was already gone. The items that were to go on sale at midnight were still wrapped in cellophane, and there were lines forming for some of those items even though it was not yet 10:30.

If you venture out looking for bargains, I hope you have great success.

Update: I heard about another line this morning (Saturday), the line in front of one of the payday loans before it opened.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Recent acquisitions

The Jasper County Historical Society is between exhibitions right now, so it is featuring recent acquisitions and resources. The curator had not yet marked the first recent acquisition that you see when you enter the building, a water fountain (bubbler?) that was once in the Jasper County Court House.
In the entry way is the old cancelling machine that was once in the Saint Joseph's College branch of the Rensselaer Post Office. The sign says it was discarded in 2003; when do you think it was put into service? It looks like it served for many years.
Just inside the main room is old laundry equipment from 1890. I remember wringer washing machines from my childhood, but they were not this old. It was donated by Leon Biggs. Was he the owner of the auto junk yard that was a bit south of McCoysburg? I remember it as being a really interesting place.
The plaque from the old jail that was demolished in the summer of 2010 is another acquisition. It is not especially old, but it does represent a part of area history.
Some acquisitions are small. The truck commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Jasper County Fair and comes with its box.
Another anniversary is represented in the uniform of the fife and drum corps that was formed to celebrate the country's bicenntennial in 1976. A plaque at the fairgrounds also recalls this short-lived organization.
There are also many signs in the museum highlighting the various resources that the museum has. I thought their collection of scrapbooks was especially interesting. Some were donated and others were made by the historical society in past years.
I asked what sorts of things that the society would like to see donated. The number one request was for old pictures of buildings or people. You do not have to donate the original--the society would be happy for a copy and is hoping to get a scanner (another possible item that one could donate) so that they could scan in pictures for people who want the original copies.

Speaking of old pictures, the Remington Historical Society had a picture of downtown Remington from about 1940 on their Facebook page a few days ago. I think every building in that picture with the exception of the water tower is now gone. It is a reminder that sixty or seventy years ago life in small towns was very different from what it is today.

There is a Lake Village Old Photo page on Facebook. Maybe the Jasper County Historical Society could encourage something like that as well.

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Pictures--updated

Here are some more pictures in the spirit of yesterday's post.

Below is the Building Trades house as of October 17. A picture of its status as of Oct 25 is here.
Yesterday, November 17, the students had completed the roof and were working on siding and a garage door.
I like to keep track of new businesses, but I totally missed a new farm equipment dealer that arrived in June. A branch of MacAllister Machinery Company is now located just south of Castongia's John Deere. The company has several locations throughout Indiana. Their primary business seems to be heavy construction equipment, especially that made by Caterpillar. The Rensselaer branch is not in that division, but in the ag division. It does not sell Caterpillar equipment.
The building they are in once housed Sharp Electric.
The driveways and parking lot for the new K-2 school on North Melville were paved today. They put up signs to tell people to stay out, and then they make an inviting road into the site. What a mixed message.
The new storage building at 1003 N Melville that was pictured here now has a name: C&C Warehousing. An ad in today's Rensselaer Republican announced that rental space was available in the building and that it was especially suited for boats and RVs.

Update: I did not notice that the city was demolishing a third house for power station expansion. (At least I assume that the city is doing this). I cannot quite remember the house other than it was big, old and not in good shape. It was at 450 N Van Rensselaer, adjacent to the library and across the street from the power house.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mid-November picture dump

It's time for another meandering post that uses a bunch of pictures I have taken recently.

A few weeks ago the city was digging near the lift station east of Weston Cemetery. They were digging last winter, as well. I have not heard what the purpose of any of this digging is. (Not the best way to start a post, is it?)
This morning I noticed that iron fencing had been installed in tiny Hanley Park. It was not there a few days ago.
I also noticed a sign I had not seen before at the Medical Arts building where Washington meets McKinley. Many changes are happening in the medical community. I do not know if this--the Pinnacle association--is one of those changes or not.
I visited the Community Health Fair at SJC on Tuesday. The ballroom was arranged differently this year; blood donations were on one side, and the health fair on the other. The blood collector for this event is the Indiana Blood Center. Some of the other blood drives in Rensselaer are done by the Red Cross. There probably is an interesting story as to why there are two groups that do blood drives here, but I do not know it.
I took all the tests were available and found no real surprises. I was happy that I have the bone density of a healthy young female.

I talked a bit to the people from the KV Fitness Center from Demotte, which I was surprised to learn is part of Jasper County Hospital. The people at Fairmeadows Home Health Care seemed to remember me and said that they were dong well at their new location.

Still in the health area, the office of Randall Dermatology on North McKinley is being remodeled, probably to make it look less like an old gas station. The big windows are being replaced with much smaller windows.
Also being remodeled is the old Perkins Chiropractic office on N Cullen. Someone told me about this at the bridge dedication, and said it would be reopening in 2012. Someone else told me that the Rensselaer Republican had had a story on this, but I missed it.
Various construction projects continue. I liked this picture of the concrete pipes that will become part of the storm sewer system. They were next to the basketball court in Columbia Park last weekend. The pipes are made in Lowell, and the contractor is Gatlin from Griffin.
The storage shed on North Melville had six doors hung and four to go a few days ago. They are all in place now.
A "No Trespassing" sign greets visitors at the school construction site on North McKinley, which means that I cannot go places I was going before. The workers were building up the roads and parking areas with limestone.

SJC enclosed their new emergency generator and fuel tank. I thought it was an eyesore until I noticed the decorative finials on the left one (they have now also been added to the right fence), and that changes everything. (You may have to look hard to see them.)

Occasionally I take pictures of the quarry intending to do a post showing how it changes over time. Unfortunately, I can never find the older pictures to make the comparison. The quarrymen keep taking a lot of stone out, and I think the lowest level was not there a year or two ago. If you look carefully, you maybe see where a vehicle is drilling blast holes to move the cliff face back a bit further.

I mentioned the new tattoo place a few weeks ago. It had its grand opening on Halloween night and now has much better signage. It also has a name, Oddities, that might have served as the title to this post.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bridge dedication

The Bicentennial Park Bridge, which I have referred to in many posts as the Talbert Bridge, is now officially open. The dedication ceremony was held on Tuesday.
The people started gathering twenty minutes before the ceremony.
As more people gathered, they moved to the north end of the bridge. Shortly before eleven, the mayor arrived.
Then everyone walked over the bridge to the south side, where the official ribbon cutting took place. I was not positioned well to get a picture of that--I was in the back of the crowd, so I could not see it.

The dedication ends an ongoing stream of posts that began even before this blog came into existence. I never expected when I did my first post on this subject that it would take over three years to come to a conclusion. The bridge is meant as a part of a trails system, so perhaps the development of trails will provide new subjects for this blog.

Many of the people who attended parked in the new parking lot for Bicentennial Park. Last week park workers were using the broken asphalt from the recent street repairs to surface it. The new shelter now has a name, the Ervin L.Marlin Sr Picnic Shelter. It was made possible by donations from a member of the Marlin family.
The dedication was the first publicly scheduled use of the new shelter. Donut holes and hot chocolate were on the menu.
A press release for the dedication can be found here. (It is a pdf). There were about fifty people at the event, and almost all of them were on the bridge at the same time, which gave it a really nice bounce and showed that it is safe. There were many people who contributed money or time or expertise to making this bridge possible, and only some of them attended.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Yesterday afternoon workers in the 69K line were trying to finish up work on a pole as the sun was setting. Evening comes early in November.
The line of poles has reached US 231.

(So far this week I do not have much to write about, and I liked this picture.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

On the Court House Square

Here is what was happening on the Court House Square at 8:50 in the morning on Saturday.
It is time to put away the sign.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Downtown Fowler

A few days ago I had some pictures of the Fowler town park. While I was in Fowler taking those pictures, I also took pictures of their downtown, which is mostly along a three block stretch of Fifth Street. The downtown is not in the center of the town--most of the residential area is to the north and east. The downtown still has a lot in it, though some of the retail business has moved to an area to the southeast.

One of the highlights of the downtown, at least according to the Benton County: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory, is the Fowler Theater, which is one of five Benton County structures on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1940 in the Art Moderne style and is still in use.
Continuing to the east along the north side of Fifth Street, the buildings are mostly from the 1890 to 1900 period and are mostly listed as in the Italianate style. Fowler itself owes its existence to the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s. The town got a major boost when the county seat was moved from Oxford to Fowler. It is named after Moses Fowler, a man who lived and made his fortune in Lafayette, but who owned a great deal of land in Benton County and was active in its affairs.
The only one of these buildings that gets special notice in the Benton County: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory is Neoclassical commercial building built in 1910, which I believe is this three-story structure.
The Benton County: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory also likes the Carnegie library, which has has a modern extension. The various county inventories always seem to like the old Carnegie libraries.
On the south side of Fifth Street, the business district begins on the east with a small but bizarre building that one cannot miss. It Fraser and Isham Law Office building, built in 1896. The windows in the front have curved panes of glass.
This is the other building in the downtown that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Next to it is the Fowler State Bank building, constructed in 1900 and still in use as the Fowler State Bank. It is in the Romanesque Revival Style.
There is nothing else too exciting on the south side of the street. I thought the Swope Building, Queen Anne style from 1895, was interesting, but the Benton County: Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory lists it as non contributing, which probably means that it has had too many changes and no longer meets their criteria for a historic structure.
Below you see more of the south side of Fifth Street.
The railroad that gave Fowler its start is now part of a small feeder line, the Kankakee, Beaverville & Southern Railroad. Unlike Rensselaer, which has a rail line on which most of the rail traffic is through traffic, all the traffic on this small railroad is local, picking up or dropping off cars at businesses or elevators.

There is a lot more to Fowler and Benton County, but I had to get to an event and did not have time to explore more. Maybe I will get back some day and find out more.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Seasonal maintenance

I heard some banging when I was near the Rensselaer water tower yesterday and then noticed a man at the top.
I was lucky enough to encounter a city official who told me that the man at heights was doing seasonal maintenance. The water tank has anodes to prevent corrosion, but they have to be taken out during the winter to prevent them from freezing. I do not claim to understand the process, but maybe this piece will make sense to you.

Providing water, which we mostly take for granted unless we live in Goodland, is a lot more complex than most of us realize.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Outside my door

As I left my house this evening, I was greeted by fallen leaves and fallen snow. And also a full moon near mighty Jupiter.
Most of the leaves are down, but it still does not look or feel like winter.

Merritt Street project

The installation of power line poles along Merritt continues. Yesterday I passed by as they were moving one of the poles off the trailer that they used to transport it.
In the above picture you can see the old power line on an old poles. As the new poles are installed, the old ones are being cut shorter or taken out and the lines are attached to the new poles--you can see this below. I asked it these lines would be replaced when the new lines are installed at the top of the poles and was told that they would not be replaced. The new poles will carry both the old and new lines. (Only time will tell if that is correct.)
In the picture above, the old pole remains next to the new pole, but has had its top cut off and the electrical lines moved to the new pole. The worker I talked to said that the shortened old pole would eventually be removed.

The new poles are spaced further apart than the old ones were, and I wonder if some of the old poles will remain in the spaces between the new poles.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Some pictures from Fowler

A few weeks ago I visited Fowler and while there I checked out their city park. Fowler is pretty well contained north of US 52 and the railroad track, but there is a little bit of it that squeezes out to the south, and the park is in that little extension. It features a pond with a fountain and a view of windmills.
There were no windmills the last time I was in Fowler and visited this park. That was for a Fourth of July 5K race which started and ended at this park. Near the end of the race I was trying to beat a grade school girl and she was determined not to let an old man beat her. She won our duel. I do not feel too bad about the defeat because in the years after she went on to star on West Lafayette's cross country team. She should be in college now--my last previous visit to the park was a long time ago.

It is even longer--twenty to thirty years--since I last visited their swimming pool, which was and probably still is the home pool of the Benton Eels Swim Team (BEST). Every other year the Rensselaer Summer Swim Team would have a meet there, and they probably still do. I do not remember much about those meets, but am pretty sure the pool did not have this slide at the time.
I wonder if the slide competes with the diving board. One thing I noticed at the Rensselaer pool is that a lot of kids were doing a lot of interesting dives last summer. They kept challenging each other, so even little kids were doing more than a standard head-first dive.