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

Thursday, October 31, 2013


There are some elaborate Halloween decorations around town. The one below has been up for at least a month.
Below is the view from the other side of the lot.
Three pumpkins stacked make a structure that looks a lot like a snowman.
I am not sure what the decoration below is supposed to be, but it is different.
A evil-looking cat at a business that caters to dogs.
They all probably look a lot better at night while eating candy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


So far the colors in the autumn leaves have been disappointing. As we end October, there is still more green in the trees than yellow or orange, and some trees are losing their leaves while they are still green. The most color I have seen is on the ground under the trees.
Also under trees are nuts. The walnuts seem to have produced a bumper crop.
(When I was teaching, I found that more than a few college students were unfamiliar with the term "bumper crop." I was surprised because I thought everyone knew what a bumper crop was. However, my surprise may simply reveal my small-town background and experience.)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Along the tracks

A number of things intrigued me recently as I traveled parallel to the railroad tracks. Do you know where the Rex Blacker village is and how many homes it contains? I had not noticed the sign before.
The Rex Blacker Village is very small. Do you know where it is? If anyone can give us the back story on this, I would like to hear it. Rex Blacker died in 2009. He owned the Rensselaer NAPA auto parts store.

The trailer that was serving as the office at the elevator is gone now that the new office/weight station has been completed.
There was a dumpster by the storage lockers on Vine. I wonder if a locker was abandoned. If it was, there could have been an auction--Storage Wars Indiana. (Some evenings the most interesting thing on the cable is a re-run of an episode of Storage Wars. So many channels, so little worth watching.)
There are for sale signs on the property at Walnut and Scott. I think Talbert has used this lot in the past. However, most of what is along Walnut is a mystery to me.
Also a mystery is the business in the large building north of the tracks on Melville. It seems to be a machine shop of some sort. I was intrigued by a Fed Ex truck either making a delivery or picking up a load.
Finally, I discovered a new business ready to open on Walnut Street, R&R Auto Repair. It it located just to the west of the city buildings near Walnut and Melville. It will be the third auto repair business in that area, joining Rich's Cycle Solutions and MG Repairs.
The owner gave me his business card, which has contact information.

Update: The Rex Blacker Village is the Habitat for Humanity area along the east end of Elm Street. Currently there is only one house there.

Monday, October 28, 2013


With the colder weather it takes more will power to get out of the house. Speaking of house, construction continues on two Rensselaer homes. The one in the the Sunset Ridge subdivision has much of the exterior completed.

The Building Trades house on Vine Street is not as far along.
I seem to be learning more by surfing the Internet rather than exploring the town. In sports, the Rensselaer football team won its first sectional game on Friday. If it does not win the sectional title, a lot of people will be disappointed.

No Rensselaer runners advanced to the state cross country meet, but I was happy to see that the Twin Lakes girls team will go to the big race. They managed to grab sixth place at the New Prairie semistate, beating out teams like Valparaiso, Chesterton, and Crown Point. The West Lafayette girls dominated the meet, placing five runners in the top 15. (How good were they--they tied the New Prairie semi-state record for lowest score and could have sat out their top two two runners and still won. However, they may not be good enough to beat Carmel next week.) (Why my interest in cross country? Because I had two sons in the sport, one of whom made it to the state meet. I watched and helped at a lot of cross country meets.)

Facebook tells me I have missed a few things, like a remodeling downtown and a ribbon cutting south of town. The Jasper County Historical Society reported on really old things, the meteor crater site near Kentland, here and here. I shared some pictures on Facebook of a dinner I attended last week. I may start doing more Facebook sharing--it easier than writing things here.

Morocco has had another fire, and there is controversy there about tearing down old buildings

And for something completely different, I found information on popular names that you may enjoy, for both girls and boys.

Friday, October 25, 2013


Last night was opening night for the murder mystery, Laura, presented by the Columbian Players at the SJC Theater. The play is set in 1948 and has a small cast, with only seven characters. The plot has several surprises and I was not able to guess who the killer was. If you want to know more, go to the play.
It is a fairly short play with three acts, all taking place in the same room. Starting time is 7:30 and the cost of admission is $5.00.

One thing that is rather funny is that the theater is a non-smoking facility, but several of the actors smoke. (And it is quite amazing how quickly the smell of the smoke reaches the middle seats of the theater.) Young people today may not realize how universal smoking was after World War II.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

More remodeling

Yesterday at the ribbon cutting for the riverside BP, I asked Linda from the Chamber of Commerce what ribbon cuttings were on the schedule. She said that none had a firm date, but that soon there would be ribbon cuttings for Home Sweet Home, the store with two names, Unique Finds and Kids Corner, and the McDonald's at the interstate. That reminded me that I should go out and take a look at how construction was progressing on the McDonald's.

I found something that I did not expect, though it is probably because I have not been paying attention.
That is not the McDonald's restaurant. That is the Dairy Queen undergoing remodeling. The drive up window is still in operation, though the seating inside is closed.

On the east side dirt was being moved. (The main reason for including this picture, however, was to show the trees changing color.)
The McDonald's restaurant was a beehive of activity. I do not often see as many contractors' vans as were parked there.
 Most of the work seemed to be going on inside. The parking lot looks like it has recently been resurfaced. Landscaping is not yet complete.
 Although there was some exterior work going on, the exterior looks almost finished.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ribbon cutting at the riverside BP

The remodeling of the riverside BP station is almost complete and today there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the station's reopening.
This blog watched the remodeling here, herehere, and here. The station has new ownership, three or four brothers who own a number of other gas stations. They own the Marathon by the rail crossing and the Raceway further north, and may be buying the BP at 205 exit of I-65. (It shut down because of septic problems.) They also own a number of stations in Indianapolis and in Lake county. The man holding the ribbon next to Mayor Wood is the manager of the local stations.

The station employs five people and I asked if employees could shift from one of the Rensselaer stores owned by the family to another. Even though the stores are separate legal entities, they can.

During the remodeling an underground tank was removed to the south of the station and that space was filled in with crushed stone. The two tanks that were installed next to Front Street were bigger than the old tank, and hence the need to cut into the bedrock. Stunt Dawg next to the station, which is built on the bedrock, felt and heard it all.

The interior has been remodeled, with the customer service desk moved to the northeast wall. The coolers were stocked, but the racks were still empty at noon. The manager expected everything to be in place when the store opens again tomorrow.
The store is open today for gas and whatever is on the shelves.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

First freeze

We had our first freeze last night. Maybe it was our first frost, too. I went out at sunrise to see how cold it had been and found my garden plants with a coating of white.
Frost outlined this leaf.
It was cold enough last night to freeze water left in containers. This water in a garbage can lid had only a thin layer of ice, but that means it had been cold enough so that all the cold sensitive garden plants--tomatoes, beans, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, okra, and a few more--are now dead, unless they were protected.
At least we are not getting the snow that parts of Iowa and Illinois are getting. The weather now matches the short days we have.

I stopped by the Fun Fest at Fountain Stone Theater on Saturday to see what was going on, and for lack of a better place to put them, I am tacking the pictures I took onto this post.
I was too late to see the Jesse White Tumblers, but I did see a funny looking dog walking across the field.
A clown was entertaining a group of kids.
I recall seeing this camel at the Fall Festival at the Fair Grounds. The petting zoo there charged admission.
There was also a free movie, which rumor said was Despicable Me II.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blocks two punts on same play

A video clip from the Rensselaer-Central Catholic football game that was played a week ago has attracted a lot of attention because it was declared the Play of the Day this past Wednesday on ESPN's Top 10 plays countdown. It has also gotten almost 170,000 views on Youtube. If you have not seen it yet, here it is:

For more info on the clip and how it got to ESPN, see Friday's Sports Page in the Rensselaer Republican.

Update: On Tuesday, October 22 it had reached over 277,000 views.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Two ribbon cuttings

This morning Walmart hosted a ribbon cutting to mark their remodeling. The project took 12 weeks and the associates seemed to be happy it was over.
 Walmart has remodeling crews that go from one store to anther doing nothing but remodeling. Not exactly a dirty job in the sense Mike Rowe classifies jobs, but one that most people would not like.

Before the ribbon cutting the store honored the sales associates who had been with Walmart Rensselaer since the beginning twenty years ago. There were nine who showed up plus some that did not. They all seemed happy to be working at Walmart.
 After the ribbon cutting those who attended were invited to a enjoy a piece of cake. There were pictures from the ribbon cutting twenty years ago on the cake table. Mayor Wood was mayor back then as well.
 I did not think that the Walmart cake was as pretty as the cake that the Rensselaer Republican had a week ago for their open house. (I knew I could eventually work that picture in.)
 As someone who does shops Walmart irregularly, I could not tell what the remodeling did. The store did have a map showing where things are now as well as paper maps that shoppers could take.
Walmart's ribbon cutting was early--8:00 am, probably to disrupt shopping as little as possible. A few hours later, at 11:30 am Rensselaer had a second ribbon cutting, this one at Dales Steak and Chop Shop.
 While stores open and remodel, they also close. The This and That store, aka The Store with No Name, is gone.

In other news, the Hoosier State Amtrak line will continue service for the next year. In 2008 Congress decided to stop subsidizing Amtrak routes that were less than 750 miles and threw the responsibility onto the states. The Hoosier State runs from Indianapolis to Chicago, so it is much less than 750 miles. It runs a deficit of about three million dollars per year. The state decided that the cities serviced should foot some of the bill, so now Rensselaer will pay $18,000 a year to keep the service. Lafayette and West Lafayette, which contribute many more passengers, will pay a lot more. The Hoosier State passes through Rensselaer four days a week; the other three days are served by the Cardinal, which originates on the East Coast.

Our summer-like weather has ended and we may get frost next week. We have wimped out and started our furnace. (Speaking of weather, did you see what Mother Nature did to the Black Hills area? See here and here.)

The leaves seem to be turning a bit later this year than in previous years. My way of measuring is with cross country regionals. For a number of years I went to the amphitheater in Lafayette to watch sons run and the leaves were always very pretty at that time. Now, of course, the Rensselaer sectional feeds into the New Prairie regional and they have to compete with Chesterton, LaPorte, New Prairie, Valparaiso, and Portage, much tougher competition that what they used to find in Lafayette. If just one team from the Rensselaer team moves on to the semi-state, they are doing well. However, one recent change does help small schools. The top ten individuals from teams that do not move on qualify for the next round. It used to be that an individual had to be in the top 15 and only three or four individuals in the top 15 would be from schools that did not move on.

Update: I forgot to mention that PAC has a fundraising concert at eMbers tonight.  Also, I thought the list of cities that an upcoming group that will be coming in December to eMbers was interesting.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Talbert Bridge bench

The new granite bench is now in place sought of the Bicentennial Park Walking Bridge (aka the Talbert Bridge). It joins the monument on the other side of the sidewalk in guarding the south approach to the bridge.
There are inscriptions on the sides of the bench. On one side the inscription reads, "Past & Present Park Board & Corp. Members", while on the other side the inscription is, "Dedicated November 15, 2011."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Ribbon cutting at Farm Credit Mid America

Today the Rensselaer branch of Farm Credit Mid America had a ribbon cutting and open house for their new office building. Before the ribbon cutting there were some short speeches with introductions. One highlight was the announcement that Farm Credit (with an assist from the Jasper Foundation) was giving $10,000 to the Rensselaer Parks Department.
The other really interesting announcement was that Kendall Culp, on the right edge in the picture above, had just been elected to the Board of Directors of Farm Credit Mid America. Farm Credit Mid America serves four states, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Only four of its directors can be from any state, and now one is from Jasper County.

Almost all of the people in green shirts work in the Rensselaer office of Farm Credit. This office serves Jasper, Newton, part of Benton and part of Pulaski Counties.
After the ribbon cutting people were invited inside for a tour. Upon entering the building, you encounter a reception desk. To the left is an area of cubicles much like those in many other financial institutions. (For the floor plan, see here.)
Below is a closer look at a cubicle. Most of their furniture was moved from their old office.
Turning and going down the corridor to the back of the building, you pass three offices on the left and a work room on the right. The furniture in the offices looks much the same as the furniture in the cubicles. 
In the back there is another area of cubicles and six more offices. The building was built bigger than current staffing requires in anticipation of future growth.
On the south side of the building is a staff lounge or kitchen. Although meetings could be held here, there is a conference room about the same size on the southwest corner of the building on the other side of the far wall below.
Restrooms and a storage area line the corridor on the south that leads back to the reception area.

I asked to what extent that Farm Credit competed with local banks and I was told that it mostly did not. It is focused on agricultural lending and lending for rural home construction. Banks defer to it in those areas.

The building has about 6500 square feet of space and several staff members did say that they would have to walk more to get around the office, but they all were very happy with their new quarters. The building will raise awareness of the institution. Tucked in its old quarters next to Fifth Third Bank, many people were unaware that it even existed.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Appreciating Ashes

The Business After Hours event last Thursday, which featured a tree walk in Potawatomie Park, reminded me that I need to pay attention to the ash trees. The emerald ash borer is in the region and it will inevitably make its way to Rensselaer. The result will be as catastrophic for ash trees as blight was for the chestnut and Dutch Elm disease was for the American Elm.

Rensselaer has a lot of ash trees in its neighborhoods, and the ash trees are among the first trees to change color and lose leaves. There are some large and lovely ash trees north of St. Augustines.
 A smaller tree with nice color is a bit to the east.
 The public library planted several ash trees along Susan Street. These may be among the last ash trees planted in town. The tree is no longer recommended for planting--the danger of the beetle makes is a poor choice.
 There is a huge ash tree on the south side of Milroy near College Avenue and a couple smaller ones on the north side.
 Weston Cemetery has a lot of ash trees west of the creek. In this section of the cemetery the trees are mostly bare when the oaks and maples are in their prime colors. In a few years it may be mostly bare of large trees.
 I do not think I have yet posted a picture of the finished bridge over the creek. The picture below was taken about a week ago when the trees had not yet started turning color. It is fine for vehicles, but it will not be a good place for kids to stop and throw sticks into the creek. The road slopes down at the edge.
 There are several species of ash trees that grow in our area and I have never been able to tell them apart. Maybe because there are different species only some of the ash trees are turning yellow. Others are still green. A few seem to have lost most of their leaves and are full of ash seeds, which look like little oars.
 The other big sign of autumn is the harvest. Last week a lot of corn and soybeans were harvested. I noticed several fields in which only part of the field had been harvested. I wonder if that was because of the moisture of the corn.
 Harvest is over at the the community garden north of Rensselaer. It was tilled late last week. I enjoyed my summer there.
 We may lose many or most of all of our ash trees in the next decade but there is reason for hope. Scientists are trying in several ways to breed a chestnut that will be blight resistant. And among the trees planted in Potawatomie Park are some American Elms. There are now some cultivars that have some resistance to Dutch Elm disease, though they do not seem to live as long or gets as big as American Elms that I remember from my childhood.

There is now a commemorative bench dedicated to Herb Arihood by his family near the south end of the bowstring bridge.

One final sign of autumn--there was some patchy frost in our area early this morning.