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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Open on a blustery fall day

I did not think I would have anything at all to post today. Yesterday I took a picture of machines moving dirt at the construction site for the new Tractor Supply store, and I rather liked the fact that I got a combine that was harvesting the field north of the site in the picture. But that did not seem like much of a post.
 However, this afternoon I finally ventured out into the cold wind and found that the newly relocated H&R Block office was open. It is only open one day a week now because it is a seasonal business, very busy from January until May, and then pretty quiet the rest of the year. The office was mostly put together.
The downtown merchants are planning a shopping event on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and though H&R Block has nothing to sell, it will host a couple of people who do. So if you want to check their new office, that might be a good opportunity.

As I was checking out progress on the Court House roof (the Rensselaer Republican reported that it might be finished by the end of November), I noticed that the pool hall was now open.

Passing through the College Square Mall, which is no longer owned by Hamstra but rather by Cross Property Management, I noticed that the business going into the previous Sears store site had an "open" sign on the door.
It will become a coffee shop/resale shop, though the coffee shop part will be more than just a coffee shop, offering some food items that I do not associate with a coffee shop. The emphasis will be on healthy food. The coffee shop part of the business is now open.
The resale shop, which will be called Re-Shop, should be ready to go in a couple of weeks. The hold up is computer software--the plan is to tag each item with a current price and also lower prices that will take effect if the item sits on the shelf too long. So if you see something you like but think it is too expensive, you will be able to wait and get it at a lower price if someone else does not buy it first. The store will accept consignments, but there are no plans to offer clothing or electronics. The emphasis will be on decorative items.

The owner has ambitious plans for this business and I hope they all come to fruition.

Finally, the medical office under construction along Drexel Drive has its outer shell mostly complete. Notice the gray sky. The picture could not capture the strong north wind--our participation in what was Hurricane Sandy.

Update: The Morocco Times reports that Morocco has a new business: The Butt Stop. It offers tobacco, pop, candy, and movies.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Now next to From the Needle's Point

The tattoo shop that was upstairs in the old Murray Building, now Home Town Bargains, has moved. Oddities Ink is now next door to From the Needle's Point, in the space that Gameland recently vacated. From the names it is hard to tell which is the gift shop and which the tattoo parlor.

We are getting some strong north winds today, the outer circulation of Hurricane Sandy that is coming ashore on the East Coast. The winds there must be something else.

I expected the workers on the Court House roof would take the day off, but they were up there putting on slate shingles. The roof has lots of peaks and valleys and maybe they were working in valleys that were protected from the wind.
The roof on the southeast side is almost finished, as you can see in the picture above.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


There is a new house (or maybe it is a duplex) under construction in the Sunset Ridge subdivision. It is at the westernmost part of Monnett Street.
I visited a different kind of house a week or so ago, the hoophouse at Saint Joseph's College. It is now producing spinach and lettuce. Chard and endive seedlings are emerging in some of the rows nearest the camera. Notice the metal hoops over the rows. When it gets really cold, they are covered with a cloth mesh and that keeps the plants from freezing even on cold winter nights. Apparently spinach sells for enough to make hoophouses profitable and it may be the most profitable crop to put in a hoophouse. There is a class of business students who will find out this year whether or not it can be profitable--the course will explore the profitability of this venture.
 I learned that the best spinach grows at about 40 degrees. At that temperature the sugars in the plants are at their optimum.

I noticed this sign on a house a few weeks ago.
 Here is the other sign that was on the door.
What happens to a house in this situation? How does the owner clean it up? It would seem that this would be a problem for people who rent houses.

Speaking of problems in housing, this year I have been introduced to short sales in real estate. I had always thought of a short sale as something a speculator did--borrow an asset and sell it in hopes of buying it back later at a reduced price. But in the real estate market a short sale is when the value of the house has sunk below the value of the mortgage on the house. Apparently there are a lot of them and two of my sons have gotten caught in short-sale nightmares. They are trying to buy but the banks, which have to approve the transactions, are overwhelmed with the number of short sales. I have not seen anything in the news or on the Internet that explores this subject and I have no idea if it is a problem in the local real estate market. Anyone know?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A rainbow east of town

Leaving town this afternoon I saw one of the brightest rainbows I have ever seen. It was also huge--I could not get the whole thing in one picture.
Can you see the second rainbow?

I did not even have to fiddle with the color or other settings to make it clear.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monnett School auction

On Saturday I stopped by to see what was being sold at the Monnett School auction. I found a huge crowd of people there. I wonder how many were serious buyers and how many were like me, more curious than willing to bid.

The auction had started when I arrived and it was hard to get through the crowd of people near the entrance where the selling was going on. The hallways were full of tables and other things ready to sell. There were several of these play kitchens--they must have been standard in either first grade or Kindergarten. Some little kids will be very happy to get them.
 The library was one of the rooms that still had a lot of stuff in it.
 The gym, which also served as a lunch room, was packed. The sale included not just items left from the Monnett School but also excess items from the other Rensselaer Central schools.
 There was a huge pile of old computers, several rows deep. The monitors were in another area of the gym. Most were old CRTs.
 Outside the door of the gym were an assortment of old TVs and carts.
 Some of the classrooms had a bit of equipment and others did not. This probably was a Kindergarten room because it seems to have a bathroom in it.
 The Rensselaer Republican reported that the school board has solicited bids for the demolition of the building. Right now that seems to be its most likely future, though the city council may have to approve that. Someone once explained to me the ownership of that area but I do not remember the details. Some things are owned by the school corporation and others by the park district. In any case, I hope someone preserves a copy of the fire evacuation routes. It shows how the building was being used in its final year.
I did not stay very long though I am sure there were bargains to be had. It looked like the auction would take many hours to complete.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Another week slips away

The new pedestrian bridge connecting the city parking lot with what was once Austin Park is now open for use, though the permanent railing has not yet been installed. Here two little girls enjoy the view of the water.
Besides the railings, an area by the street needs to be finished with concrete and pavers. At least one of the three utility or light poles needs to be moved before that can be done.
I hope that there are also plans to connect the sidewalks on the south side to the sidewalk along College Avenue.

I had a unexpected adventure last week. Coming back from a trip to Lebanon, I stopped in the Walgreen's parking lot. When I tried to start the car, it made a funny noise and would not start. A gentleman who was parked nearby was kind enough to stop by Jack's Uptown Service and tell them of my problems. Very quickly one of the mechanics arrived, but he was unable to do anything on the spot. My car had to be towed to the garage.

The problem turned out to be a fuel pump, which is located in the gas tank. The next day Marvin and crew fixed it. It is never pleasant to have a car failure, but if you are going to have the car fail, it is nice when it happens in town during the day and you get a quick response for help. It is also good when the mechanics locate the problem and fix it, rather than have the car begin to operate again without knowing why it failed. That happened to me with one car and I could never be sure that I would be able to get back home when I drove somewhere with it. (It eventually failed enough so that the problem could be found--it was a faulty sensor.)

Two of my sons have had fuel pumps fail. One had a failure in a mountain pass in Wyoming when he was on the way to California. It delayed his arrival a day or two and tested his problem-solving abilities. The other had the problem when driving a car back to college in Illinois. I drove over to pick him up and then took him back the next day when the car was fixed. I bet some of you have had much more interesting car adventures.

This past week was probably the week of peak fall color. The rains the past few days brought down a lot of leaves and some of the trees are now bare, like the one below, shown just after sunset this evening.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Coming soon

There are a number of new businesses opening in Rensselaer. Some sort of motorcycle business is moving into the old gas station on the corner of Weston and Washington. The sign in the window says Rich's Cycle Solutions.
 The little building between the Uptown Girls salon and the new office for H&R Block used to be a tanning salon, Sunchasers, I believe. It is being remodeled and will become some other kind of salon.
 The former Sears store in the College Square Mall that was most recently a fireworks store is being remodeled. On the wall are slogans in crude lettering saying things like "Let Your Past Go," "Celebrate being different," and "Listen to what your body is telling you." Because I had no idea what these things meant, I asked at Kem's what they knew. One of the workers said that a thrift store/coffee house would be opening there. I thought that those two things made a rather strange juxtaposition.

Meanwhile, Rensselaer has a new coffee bar, Jazzman's Cafe and Bakery. It is a very attractive little shop in Halleck Center near the SJC Bookstore. It is aimed at the students, but it is open to anyone. They have several varieties of coffee and cookies and pastries for sale. It is run by Sodexo, the food service company that has the contract to provide SJC meals in the Halleck Center cafeteria. Soxdexo provides food service at many colleges and universities.
However, the most interesting coming-soon business is west of Rensselaer on SR 114. Tractor Supply Co has a sign announcing a new store and equipment was clearing a row of trees. (You can just see the excavator in the picture below next to the trees that it is getting ready to destroy.) The site is west of Kirby Risk, but not adjacent to it.
As I was out collecting pictures, I noticed that setup for tomorrow's auction at Monnett School was underway. If you need large numbers of very small, colorful chairs, you better get to this auction.
On another note, I stopped by the Gas Department's Open House today. It was pretty well attended. The purpose of the event is to highlight pipeline awareness--do not excavate without calling 811 to check for what lies beneath the ground. Hitting a pipeline is not a happy event. One of the vendors there was showing GIS mapping, which is available for Jasper County at And I learned that LED light bulbs are not nearly as expensive as they used to be, but are still a bit too expensive for me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Memory Lane Sectional

Earlier this month while I was on cleanup duty for the Saint Augustine School rummage sale, tossing the leftovers into boxes, a pamphlet caught my interest. My first impression was that it was quite old, but a closer look showed that it was from 1994.
 The pamphlet was the program for a basketball tournament to raise money for Charles Halleck Scholarships given to area students. The tournament teams were made up of alumni of the schools shown on the cover above. The program had a couple pages highlighting fifteen recipients of Halleck Scholarships and I knew a couple of them, though I probably never knew that they had received such a scholarship. This was the second such tournament. The first one had been held in 1991 and its results were reported in the program as well. The Wheatfield High School Alumni had defeated the Rensselaer Alumni 52 to 33.

Also in the booklet was a list of sectional championship games from 1923 to 1970. Look at those early scores: 15 to 14; 18 to 6. Was that the same game as is played today? And how did tiny Mt Ayr do so well in the 1940s?
 The program had a page on each of the schools in the tournament. The Rensselaer Bombers are the only one that remains mostly the same. The Morocco Beavers and the Mt Ayr Arydales are gone, now part of North Newton. The Kentland Blue Devils, The Brook Purple Aces, and the Goodland Trojans were consolidated into South Newton. The Remington Rifles (a great name) became part of Tri-County. And the Demotte Indians, Wheatfield Red Devils, Tefft Tigers, and Fair Oaks Cherokees became part of Kankakee Valley.

Some of these schools were very small. For example, the largest class to ever graduate from Tefft was 18.

Ads in these sorts of publications are always interesting. Even though it is only 18 years old, quite a few of the businesses listed in the booklet are either gone or transformed. I am not familiar with the many businesses listed for Newton County and northern Jasper County, so I cannot say whether they are still active.
 Charlie Roberts is still around, but no longer sells new Chevrolets. Brooks Motor Sales is long gone, as is its successor. Cargill no longer runs an elevator in Rensselaer. The building that once housed INTEC is now used by Waste Management.
 Most of the business on the above page seem to be still active. Jasper County Coop merged with a larger coop so its presence in Rensselaer is much diminished.
Bank One and First of America were bought by bigger banks. Hudgens House is long gone, as is the Rensselaer Chrysler dealer.

I doubt if another edition of this tournament could be held today. School consolidation happened in the 1960s, so few if any of the players for most of these teams would be younger than 60.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Weekend adventures

My plan for Saturday was to float down the Iroquois River as part of the fun float organized by the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District. I arrived early and waited as more people showed up. Then we all waited together. And we waited some more.
 Finally we learned that the truck bringing the canoes and kayaks had broken down in Chicago. Since rain was in the forecast, there was a consensus that we should cancel and not wait who-know-how-many hours for the truck.

It was time for plan B. The Masons were hosting an open house and I have always wondered what was in their big building on West Washington. I arrived to find that the rain had not put out the fire but certainly had discouraged people from attending. I wonder if any kids used the bounce house.
 The Masons have survived over the years while other fraternal organizations have not. Gone are the Odd fellows and the Knights of Pythias, both of which were once active in Rensselaer. Their lodge in Rensselaer dates back to the 1850s, but their building is not nearly that old--I think it was built in the 1950s. There are about 140 members of the Rensselaer branch, but some of them no longer live in Rensselaer.

The building has two floors. They were serving hot dogs and chips in the basement and I did not take a picture because there were people there. I did take a picture of their billiard table, which is over century old, a table built by the Brunswick Balke Collender Company.
 There were a couple of small rooms at the front of the upper floor. This one looked the more inviting--the other one was a TV room.
 Most of the space on the upper floor was taken by a large meeting room. There was a video playing for anyone who wanted to watch.
 Below is a better shot of the big chair on the right of the picture above.
 Here is a picture of the big chair in the center of the picture of the hall.
 There was one more big chair, at the back of the room and not visible in the picture of the big hall.
This was their first open house. I suspect that they were a bit disappointed with the turn out, but I think people just wanted to stay inside and avoid the rain.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The die-hard fans

SJC had a home football game today (Saturday). This weekend is their fall break, and today we had heavy rain for much of the afternoon. As a result, people had their choice of seats.
I did not stick around--I was wet enough by the time I got there. The game was delayed an hour due to the rain, and SJC was not doing well when I got there, down 16-0. They ended up losing 37-7.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Construction update 10-12-12 (Updated)

It has been a rather slow week, a good week to clean up the garden and enjoy the color of the leaves. For lack of anything else to write about, here are some notes of on-going construction projects as well as a new one that I noticed.

The roof trusses were put into place this week on the Building Trades house on Vine Street. 
This morning a crane was lifting roof trusses into place on the new medical building on Drexel Drive. Work is also being on what will become the parking lot.
The roofing project at Donaldsons seems complete.

Pavers are being installed at the bowstring bridge approach. This was what the approach looked like a few days ago.
And below you can see what it looked like last night.
Apparently what was Austin Park is getting a new name: Pottawatomie Park. (I am not sure of the spelling.) A bit of background may be here.

The roofers at the Court House seem to be very busy. Right now there is a lot of white showing.
The Methodists may finally be constructing the parking lot that they planned when they tore down an old house. While I was there, the workers were busy getting the garage moved.
Remember the SJC hoophouse? It seems to be finished and there are greens growing in it, covered in the picture below to protect them from frost.
Update: I noticed something missing on the Court House on Saturday morning.
 The scaffolding around the tower has been removed.

The stairs from the trap door to the flag pole are very obvious. They may be necessary for safety, but they are ugly.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Something that amuses me

Years ago I spent time designing typefaces. I had more enthusiasm than talent and realized fairly quickly that I could not compete in the important areas of typography. So I focused on niche areas, designing what might be called gimmick typefaces: letters composed of hammers, pipes, screws and screw drivers, wrenches and bolts, toilet items, umbrellas, footprints, hand prints, silverware, cigarettes, hammers and sickles, bows and arrows, and much, much more.

As a byproduct of something else I have been working on, I am releasing my first new typefaces in several years. They are gimmick typefaces, but can you see the gimmick?

I do not expect these faces to sell well (if at all) because they fill a niche that up to now was empty and no one was bothered by that emptiness. However, I enjoyed the challenge of designing them.

Update: The answer is here.