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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Old Postcards (updated)

The Jasper County Historical Society Museum, which is open the first and third Saturdays of each month from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, currently has a display of old postcards. There are many different kinds of postcards on display, but the part of the exhibit that I find most interesting are the old images of Rensselaer. For them the images on the postcards were enlarged and hung on the wall.

I do not know the date of this iron bridge over the Iroquois on Washington Street. It looks like it was single lane, which would not have been a problem back in horse and buggy days.
Below is another scene from Washington Street, from the intersection of Washington and Front. You can see the building that is now eMbers. It looks very small next to the three-story buildings next to it. They housed the Wright furniture business. Sometime before they burned they also housed the Wright Funeral Business, which moved either before or after the building burned and is now Jackson Funeral Chapels. Also notice the early street light over the intersection. I suspect that most of the lines on the poles were for phone service.
I was a kid before dialing the phone was universal. Back then you had to talk to the operator to make a connection. My parents wrote in my baby book that I used to like to call my father at work, telling the operator the number, but I have no memory of using the phone before the automatic switching equipment even though I think I was almost in high school before the switchover took place.

Here is another photo from about the same place. There are no cars to date the picture, but it may have been taken before there were many cars available.
The roller mills building was on Front Street and it burned after we moved to Rensselear. Dr Sy's dental office is now where it was.
For several years after we moved to our present house, old timers would tell us that we lived in the Sprague house. Mr. Sprague owned or managed the feed mill for many years. I think he died in the 1960s and a few years after that the family sold the house. For the next decade several different families or people lived in the house before we bought it.

Back to Washington Street, but from the intersection with Van Rensselaer Street. The circus came to town with exotic animals at some unknown date. There are no telephone poles, but there are something that look like street lights. I think that this picture was taken after the telephone poles were removed.
This picture is from almost the same location but taken earlier. There are no cars but I think that is because it predates automobiles.

The building below is the oldest building in the downtown. It was originally a bank building, but the bank failed in 1904, so this picture probably is taken before 1904.
The same street scene but after the automobile has arrived. There is a Coca Cola sign on the right side of the street, and though you cannot read it, a Drugs sign a bit further down. The street is paved with bricks. The cars are models of the late thirties or early forties, I think. (Car buffs can probably give a pretty accurate dating to this picture.)

Do you remember when most of the stores had awnings? I remember them for the late 1950s. I occasionally had to roll the awning on my father's store out or up. I suspect air conditioning eliminated awnings.

If you want better views of these pictures, visit the Historical Society Museum.

Update: More on the Jasper County Historical Society and their excellent curator, who worked hard on this exhibit.


Gene said...

I remember, when I was a little kid, when Wright's Furniture store burned. We lived on the corner of Angelica and Melville on the East side of town and standing in our front yard we could see the cloud of black smoke rising up over the treetops. It was a BIG fire. Julie Wright was in my class from 1st grade all through the years.

And I remember that our first telephone (in the early 1950s) was the kind where you had to listen for the operator to come on the line and say, "Number please" and you gave the number which she hand-plugged into her console. Our phone number was 684 Green -- if your number had a color appended it was a party line, with up to five residences per line. If we lifted our receiver while they were talking, we could listen in on anyone on our party line. A three digit number without a color was a private line.

Once again you bring back long forgotten memories.


Anonymous said...

Those pictures are interesting pieces of history, and fun to ponder. The only familiar scene is the angle parking on Washington Street. (I think we called it Main Street when I was a child.)

My mother was a telephone operator from the late 20s through the end of WWII. She was one of those "Number, Please!" voices when the switchboard was located in the small brick building on the west side of Cullen Street, one-half block north of Washington Street. You would not believe how much time went into placing a long distance phone call, and how many hand-written notes on green slips of paper were required to complete the call and the billing, as she routed the call through the various cities along the pathway to the destination. If she was called in unexpectedly, I was toted along to watch her wrestle with the snake-like cords that made the direct connection between caller and receiver.

I notice the boy in the circus picture is wearing knickers, which leads me to believe the picture predates telephones.

"Thanks for the memories!", said someone famous. I hope I'm correct on that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. These old photos are fascinating. The Jasper County Historical Society would like people to share their old photos and postcards with the museum. If the owner would allow the society to make a copy of an old photo or postcard, and then eventually, those images would be made viewable online.