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

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ribbon cutting at Family Auto Sales

Today was ribbon cutting day at Family Auto Sales. They said that they have been pleased with the reception that they have received in their first month in Rensselaer.
If you want to know who all those people are, you probably can find out in tomorrow's Rensselaer Republican.

If I overheard a conversation right, the Tractor Supply Store will be opening a lot sooner than I expected.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Much of the railing (if we can call it a railing) for the Potawatomie Park bridge has been installed. It was not there just a few days ago.
Below is a closeup of the part that is on the approach to the bridge.
I recall hearing that the part that will be on the bridge will be clear. We should find out soon.

And on a completely different topic, did you get out today and enjoy the warm weather?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Tearing down the school--Updated

The final destruction of the Monnett Elementary School has begun> (There has been a slow process of demolition going on for a couple of months.) Two excavators were ripping apart the west end of the building today.
The mist and dampness of the day were suppressing any dust. The operators were carefully separating out various things from the wreckage, such as the metal. The old gym only had two walls left.
I asked a person who went to school in Rensselaer a few decades ago and she was pretty sure that the school was built in the 1950s, probably the latter part of them.

Update Tuesday: The workers were no doing much more demolition today. Rather they were filling up dumpsters with the debris, which was then hauled away to who knows where.
 I wonder if the workers who built the school ever thought that the administration building, which was part of the original Monnett School for Girls, would outlast the elementary school.

Update Wednesday: Most of the interior of the south wing is now been removed and the north wall of the south wing is gone. The photo below is taken from the west side of the school, and you can see the last of the modules that is along College Ave behind the excavator.
Here is the view from the east side of the building. The south wall is still standing, but there is nothing behind it.

 If the little dinosaur in the playground could speak, it might say, "What a big mouth you have."

Update Thursday: When I stopped by today the workers seemed to be on lunch break. I walked along the south side of the building and found this sign amusing. If you look through the window you can see the pictures of the planets that are on the walls of the north wing.

 Looking through another window, you can no longer see any of the walls of the gymnasium. It is rather amazing at how undamaged this wall is. The roof was ripped off and the walls separating the classrooms have been demolished, but the wall has not obvious cracks and the windows are mostly uncracked.
 I am sure that many of the students will long remember the elephant, turtle, and lizard that decorated the east wall of the south wing. They will not be there very much longer.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Open water

We have had a very cold week, with temperatures never getting above freezing most days. So I was a bit surprised that a good portion of Lake Banet was still open water. (The black dots on the ice are geese.)
I know it is a very deep lake, though I do not know how deep it is. The large volume of water is probably what is keeping it from freezing over.

Water is a very strange substance. Most liquids get more dense as they cool, and they are even more dense when they solidify. Water acts normally until it reaches 39 degrees--it gets more dense as it is cooled. However, as it cools beyond 39 degrees, it gets less dense, and when it turns solid, to ice, it gets less dense yet. Hence, ice floats. You may take it for granted, but that is weird. The bottom of a frozen-over pond will usually be about 39 degrees. Water that is warmer than that will rise and be cooled.

Friday, January 25, 2013

It's elementary

The 20th annual Elementary School Art Exhibit is on display in the lobby of the Core Building at SJC. The reception and awards ceremony is Jan 27 1:30 until 3:30 CST. The exhibit comes down on Feb 1.
 Nothing really grabbed me, though I suspect that not all the schools had hung their pictures when I stopped by. I could relate to the leaves in the picture below because that is how I do art--let nature be the creative force and just copy it.
 On the subject of elementary schools, I passed by the new Rensselaer Primary School a few days ago just before school let out. I was amazed by the line of cars ready to pick up kids.
Back in the good old days we had to walk to school uphill both ways in blizzards and storms. What will this generation of kids be able to tell their children about how rough they had it when they were young? "We had to wait for hours to get picked up because their were so many cars in the line?" Not as good as the walking uphill story.

Clearly the intent of the placement of this school and the lack of sidewalks is to discourage kids from walking or biking to school.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Changes downtown and elsewhere

A reader of this blog alerted me to another closing. The JC Penney's Catalog store, which runs out of the Anders Water Conditioning building on the corner of Washington and Weston, is slated to close on February 15. I stopped by to find out more and discovered that this is not just a local closing. JC Penney is dropping out of the catalog business and closing all of its catalog outlets. The sign below will soon come down and the long association that Rensselaer has had with Penneys will end.
When we arrived in Rensselaer, Penneys had a store downtown. I do not remember which of the buildings below was Penneys. I remember it had a little balcony. I think at one time the store had the funny little canisters that took money from the clerk up to a central money station, and then the canister would come back down with any change. I remember being fascinated with them as a little kid. (Probably no one under the age of 50 has a clue as to what I am writing about. I could not find any real information about the system on the Internet.) The store may have abandoned the system by the time I came to Rensselaer, but I think there were some artifacts of it still in place.
Another stop downtown was at the Spaw, which I saw from Facebook will be moving. The owner is purchasing the building on the corner of Vine and Cullen, a building that at one time was a neighborhood grocery store. She will trade rent for mortgage payments.

I stopped by the Tractor Supply construction site for the first time in a couple weeks. They have doors, something that was not there the lasts time I was by.
Fair Oaks has another video that is almost like a movie trailer. It is hyping the Pig Adventure.

In some old news that I never got around to mentioning, Monsanto is investing $30 million to increase corn seed production at its Remington plant. That will increase its full-time work force by two according to the item in the Jasper County Economic Development Organization's newsletter.

Finally, I was surprised to see the Road Closed signs on the bowstring arch bridge. I thought it might be there because of ice, but then I noticed that most of the wooden railings were down. I hope this means that the permanent railing will be arriving soon.

Update: One more bit of business news I forgot to mention. The Chamber of Commerce calendar has a ribbon cutting at the new Family Auto Sales on January 31 at 11:00 and an open house Feb 2-9.

Update 2: The Store with no name seems to have settled on This And That Store.
The link referred to in the comment is It may operate on the same principle, but it is not what I remember. It has a basket, not a canister.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Some real winter

This week we are getting some real winter weather. The highs are below freezing and the lows are in the low teens or in single digits. The river has ice on it, but where the water flows it it open. It would take much colder weather than we will get to freeze it over so that it was safe to walk on.
The quarry has a nice display of icicles. 
 The pond at SJC has ice that may be thick enough to walk on, but I was not willing to try. Yesterday it definitely was not safe. The ice has interesting ridges. Perhaps it partially froze one day and then completed the freeze on another.
 The ice rink at Iroquois Park has a plastic border and a sign inviting skaters.
 I used to have ice skates but a few years ago when there was skate-able ice I tried them out and found that my limited ice skating skills had deteriorated to the point where it was no longer safe for me to be out there. I never was very good. I grew up in Minnesota, but my early years were in small towns in southern Minnesota where no ice was available and no one skated. Then I moved to the central part of the state and the town had an ice rink. I struggled to learn. When I went to high school, there were a number of very good skaters--my tiny school had a hockey team. The kids from the northern part of the state were very good skaters, but then they had winter nine months of the year.

The ice has leaves embedded in it. They will not affect skating this week, but when it gets a bit warmer, they will catch heat from the sun and cause interesting melt differences.
If you have some skates, take advantage of the good ice. It will not last long.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Death and dying

I was able to attend the reception for the art show, "Once Living Things," on Friday. A lot of SJC students were there and it was one of the better-attended receptions that the Fendig Gallery has had. It also set the theme for parts of my week-end.

On Friday I took advantage of the warm up before the deep freeze to take a bike ride in the country. The strangest thing I saw was a deer leg in the middle of the road. Just the leg. I do not normally have the opportunity to examine deer parts and I was struck by the anatomy of the foot. Deer have split hooves, which means that unlike horses, which have evolved to run on the tips of their middle toes, deer have evolved to run on two toes, their third and fourth toes. Deer have two other toes on each leg that seem to serve no purpose and you can see them in the picture below. (If you google deer toes, you will find a purpose for them--they can be used to make rattles.)
 Maybe a coyote dragged the leg onto the road. About a mile away I came across a dead coyote along the road. The Rensselaer Republican, which like this blog is struggling to find things to report during these dead news days, had an article in the past week or two about coyotes. I keep hearing that they are common but I think I have only seen one in the wild once. This is the best view I have had of one.
 The final days are approaching for the old Monnett School. When I rode past on Sunday, I noticed plastic in all the windows. Investigating, I found the sign below by one of the doors. There have been vans there every time I go by, but they are unmarked. Once the asbestos is removed, the actual demolition of the building will begin.
On happier note, but one that still involves death, SJC will soon be offering a masters degree in forensic science and forensic entomology. I had a chat with Neil Haskell in the grocery store on Sunday and he told me more about the program than I could absorb. There should be an SJC press release about it soon. You might wonder how SJC can staff a program like this since the field is very specialized and SJC has only one person who is in the field. The answer is adjuncts. Professor Haskell had contacts all over the country who do forensic work for a living, and he plans to use those contacts to either get people on campus for short, intensive courses or to have students travel to these people for instruction. It looks like it will be an interesting program. If you like dead, rotting things or cutting up bodies, SJC will be the place to be.

Update: Here is the press release from SJc.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


I noticed a message sent to the Rensselaer Adventures Facebook page this week. (I am not always up on these things.) It told me I should stop by the new cycle shop at 201 E Washington because it is not just a bike shop anymore. So yesterday I stopped by. There are now two businesses run side by side, a bike shop and a car repair business.
 After a nice chat with the guys, I set off to solve another mystery. The Tuesday edition of the Rensselaer Republican had the Health Department Inspections, and the December 7 entry intrigued me; "Berrie'd Treasure & Treats, Rensselaer--Found establishment ready to open." I had not heard anything about any new eating establishment, so I stopped by Slice of Pie Pizza and asked the owner what he knew. He could not help me, but suggested that I go to the Health Department and ask.

So I did. They were very friendly, though I was a bit intimidated by the entrance. To get back to the Health Department, you walk through the Probation Department. They said that Berrie'd Treasure & Treats was not in Rensselaer, but in the country, on Iroquois Drive, which is a little strip of county road next to the Iroquois River as it leaves Jasper County. It is in the same location as Iroquois Guns and Repair.

I called the owner, Shirley LegGrand (phone 219-866-8532) to find out what she is doing. Her establishment does not serve meals or food on the premises, but rather she takes orders for a variety of dessert items and delivers them. I guess that makes her a dessert caterer. She has small ambitions, and her business is what I term a hobby-business. (I mean nothing disparaging by that term--much of what I do qualifies as hobby-business. I wish that this blog would earn enough money so I could add the business to the hobby part.) I told her she needs to get a Facebook page to let the world know about what she sells and how much it costs (and that I can link to). She said she has been thinking about it.

(Speaking of Facebook pages, the Rensselaer Adventures page just hit 400 likes. It is big compared to what it used to be, but it still is very small compared to some of the big local pages (Fair Oaks, Fountain Stone, Little Indiana).)

While I was in Slice of Pie, I noticed that the Park Department had set up a skating rink in Iroquois Park, so I went over to the park headquarters to find out the story behind that. The park superintendent said that the Park Board had wanted to revive the skating rink and this year the weather seemed to be favorable. They were still filling it, and with some warmer weather forecast over the weekend, it probably will not freeze solid enough for skating until next week, when we are supposed to get cold again. He was wondering where people would get skates to use the pond.
As you may notice, the site they chose was not level, so the ice will have different thicknesses.

We were trying to figure out when the headquarters building was built. I lived on Milroy Street for the first year I was in Rensselaer, 1974-75 and I am quite sure that the headquarters was not there at that time. Joe Effinger remembers spending time in the building as a boy, and he thought it was built in the late 1960s. Does anyone know exactly when this building was built?

On the same thread, he said that when Hal Gray ran the parks, he operated out of the white building in the picture above, the one that used to be the Strip Joint. Anyone know anything about that?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Changes around town, 01-15-2013

I noticed another closed business today, the gas station that is just to the north of Jordan's Floral on College Avenue. I am not sure what the name was.
 It looks like it is still operating except for the little white "Out of Business" sign in the window.

I encountered a friend downtown who told me that the station had closed at the beginning of the month. It had not sold gasoline for several months before that, but was focused on fixing cars.

SMS2 (Sew Many Stitches 2) has moved. It had been in the old Sears building on the corner of Van Rensselaer and Kellner. They are now in the the building that had been Professional Data Services. It has more space and a better location, and also its own parking to next to the building. As for Professional Data Services, the changes in technology have meant that the things it was doing no longer need the space.
 Isn't the roof tastefully decorated with those little icicles?

The building that will become Embers has its front hidden by plastic. Progress reports are often posted on the RyanMusch blog that is linked in the sidebar. The plan is to get it open for an event at the end of March.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

January thaw

Lots of people got outside today to enjoy the spring-like weather. It will not last--the forecast is for more normal temperatures next week. I saw people biking in the country and I noticed several joggers in short-sleeved shirts and running shorts. It was that nice out.

It is not too often that people can enjoy a pick-up game of basketball in mid January at Brookside Park.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A gathering of geese

On Thursday I noticed a tremendous gathering of geese at the college between the soccer field and Lake Banet. I tried to sneak up on them to get a good picture, but there were so many of them that there was no way to capture the number that were there. Below you can see a small part of the gaggle.
I do not know if I was the one who disturbed them or something else did, but suddenly they all took flight. The hundreds of big birds in the air all at once was an even more impressive sight, but again, not one that I could adequately capture in a photo.
Why are they concentrated at SJC and what do all these geese eat? I suspect that they are doing a good job of fertilizing the small soccer field that is to the south of the varsity field.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Crum show at Carnegie Hall

There is a new exhibit at the Fendig Gallery in the Carnegie Center. (Why not call it Carnegie Hall?) Artist Corey Crum has paintings, drawings, and sculpture in an exhibit called "One-Living Things" that runs until February 1.
 When I was there yesterday there were still no labels on the various items. I was curious about the strange sculpture below, which seems to be a rib cage with a heart on the top.
If I get to the artist's reception on January 18 (6:00-7:30), maybe I can ask him.

Corey Crum teaches some art courses at SJC.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Scaffold free

This morning workers were removing the scaffolding from the front of the court house.
 On the left of the picture, behind the tree, men were stationed on five or six different levels and were handing down the bits and pieces of the scaffolding. By this afternoon the court house was scaffold free, unless you want to consider scaffold free as only occurring when all the scaffolding has been picked up and is gone. There were piles of it leaning against the court house and on the court house lawn.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

News mostly from Newton Co

2012 ended tragically for Morocco, which lost its only grocery store.

The store had been an IGA store that closed a year or two ago, and for a while Morocco was without a grocery store. Residents were very happy when this new store opened in the same location. And now they are once again without a grocery store.

 You can find more pictures on the Morocco Times Facebook page.

On a happier note, Fair Oaks Farms, which is in Newton County, posted a video about the arrival of pigs at the Legacy Farms, which is in Jasper County.

In six months or so, they should be open for visitors, though now the buildings are still being constructed.

And finally, on another unhappy note, a business that recently opened has shut down. The Good Vibes Coffee Shop/ReSale Shop will be having a liquidation auction on January 20.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Moving offices at SJC

A few months ago, I am not sure how many, the Student Financial Services office vacated their space in the basement of McHale Hall (formerly Xavier Hall) because of a mold problem and moved into what was a computer lab in the Core Building. The computer lab disappeared--computer labs served an important purpose in the early days of computers before all students arrived on campus with their own computers, and no one quite knows what to do with them anymore. In the last few weeks Student Financial Services has moved again and now the space is being renovated for some use that is part of a grant that SJC received in 2012. I could not get a clear explanation of how the space will be used from the several people I asked. There will be a new floor because there are electrical outlets and computer connections built into the concrete that is the old floor.
The student financial services office has moved to Halleck Center, into the space that was previously the Dean of Students offices. They are now to the right of the stairs as you approach the ballroom. The Dean of Students offices are being relocated to the left of the stairs, in the area that was once the switchboard operator and also campus ministry offices. They will grab a bit of the hallway space with a new wall.
Campus ministry is moving back near the bookstore, on the north side of the ballroom into an area that I think was used for storage.

I do not see a lot happening but that may be a good thing.