Ice Cream Sodas, a Carousel, and Two Rivers: My Logansport

Just up the old Michigan Road from Indianapolis, about 75 miles, is Logansport, which, given its key location at the confluence of two rivers (the Eel and the Wabash), existed even before this historic route was platted to it.  Logansport was a port on the Wabash and Erie Canal and later became an important railroad town.  I’d always been intrigued by this county seat (alas, lacking a historic courthouse) with its plethora of fine old buildings and layers of transportation history.

It has a lot of personal history, too. Twenty and more years ago, my mother, who lived in the far north part of Indiana, would meet me here, a halfway point between there and Indianapolis, to spend the day together. We’d hike around, explore old roads, and sample the local eateries. If we stayed in Logansport, we wandered the downtown, the historic Mount Hope Cemetery, or the parks, usually Dykeman or Riverside (on the Eel River), where we’d ride the carousel and try for the brass ring. Mom would tell me stories about the carousels of her youth and her collection of non-brass rings! Once or twice we played miniature golf on an old course near the carousel, great old-fashioned fun. It’s still there.


In recent years Logansport has been making very good use of its historic assets.  In 2009 it was designated a Preserve America Community. Today a historic railroad depot downtown houses a museum and anchors an attractive riverside public space to the south, the Little Turtle Waterway Plaza City of Logansport, Indiana / Locations / Little Turtle Waterway Plaza & Trail , a nice place to start an exploratory walk downtown that still boasts a number of great old buildings, many of which now house interesting shops and restaurants.  From there also are trails to follow along the Wabash River. In the past few years quite a lot of new public sculpture has appeared downtown, including a carousel horse, clearly a tribute to that 19th century carousel in Riverside Park, which came to Logansport from its previous location in Fort Wayne in 1919. It was carved by master craftsman Gustav A. Dentzel, considered the best in his art, and is a National Historic Landmark–one of only three complete Dentzel carousels in the country. (By the way, Indiana boasts another at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis.) Despite this honored status, rides are only 75 cents, and you can still try for the brass ring!   Cass County Carousel, Inc | Logansport – Cass County Indiana  Unlike 25 years ago, the carousel is today housed in a climate-controlled building, the better to ensure its preservation. I appreciate the need, but I’m a bit nostalgic for those days when it was in an open shelter and its joyous music rang through the park on a sunny afternoon. The miniature golf course still remains, not far from the carousel, as does the old miniature train.


Along with Dyckman Park, Riverside Park contains several 1930s-era Works Progress Administration resources–always a plus for me!   Riverside is on the Eel River, and a recently constructed bridge connects the Eel River Run Trail in the park with the River Bluff Trail on the other side.  That trail leads to the 35-acre Hervey Nature Preserve, which even includes a labyrinth.

I’m fond of old drive-in restaurants, and Logansport has two I recommend.  The Char-Bett is located in a former 1930s gas station on the outskirts of town on the old Michigan Road (State Road 25) heading northeast toward Rochester:  tasty drive-in food and all manner of ice cream treats, including sodas, which can be hard to find these days. I had passed it several times in my journeys up and down the Road, but always in the off-season. This year I’ve managed to stop twice.


For some reason, over the years I had missed the Sycamore Drive-In, just off old US24, once a major route, at 316 20th.

Sycamore:L'port7:14I reveled in the discovery, for they, too, offer sodas among their ice cream treats and a nice assortment of drive-in fare. How fortunate Logansport is!



Posted in Following in My Foodstops, On the Road Less Taken... | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off on Ice Cream Sodas, a Carousel, and Two Rivers: My Logansport

Snow Wonder

Early January:


It is snowing–a big, old-fashioned snow as pictured on the Christmas cards.  The snow of my dreams, the snow of my childhood–at least as I remember it.

I grew up in Michiana glacial lakeland where the prevailing winds brought extra mountains of lake-effect snow from that nearby inland sea, Lake Michigan.  Indeed, there was a period of time when the town of New Carlisle, where I attended high school, touted itself as the “Snow Capital of Indiana,” although those in the know were aware that the community of Hudson Lake, immediately northwest over the county line, would likely receive an inch or two more.  For children it seemed glorious; over any given winter we could count on about 14 “snow days” off.  In the days before computers or robocalls, we eagerly listened to the local radio station rattle off names of closed schools.

I would spend hours at a time outside all bundled up.  In the yard beside the garage one year was my “igloo”–I think it actually may have a pile of building materials that my dad had gathered for an anticipated project in the spring.  I remember it was covered over with plastic sheeting but there was a hollow space in the middle large enough for me.  My grandparents lived next door, and in the adjacent lot my grandfather had planted perhaps two hundred white pines sometime after the war.  (That would be World War II, but a certain generation always called it “the war” and we all understood.)  We had a source of Christmas trees for years!  White pines grow very quickly, so that by the time I was in elementary school the trees were thick and fifteen to twenty feet high.  A good snowfall turned this little forest into a magic place with tunnels beneath the branches and crisscrossed passages.  Such fun!  Whenever I headed back into the house my mother would stop me on the porch with a broom to sweep the snow off me, front and back.

All this and more came to mind, walking in my urban neighborhood so very different from my childhood home.  But the snow took me back.

A few days later:     Wearing an outfit not so different from what I wore decades ago–longjohns and “snowpants” and thick coat–I head out to a nearby park to go sledding.  My sled, scored years ago for less than a dollar at a yard sale, is very like the one I used as a child.

Unlike Charles Foster Kane, I cannot with 100 percent certainty recall the brand name of my sled, which was a hand-me-down from a cousin, I believe.  It was likely American Flyer but maybe it was Radio Flyer (not “Rosebud,” in any case).  I searched the internet hoping a photograph would jog my memory, but instead I was stunned by the prices old sleds go for these days and appalled they were considered merely a decorative item!  Sleds were meant to be used!  As usual, I am the only one at the hill with a sled of this kind.     A lovely bonus to the day was a bald eagle flying low over the park–no mistaking it!

snow2Days of bitter cold follow.  The snow lingers but sunny days melt patches that reveal harbingers lying in wait.


A month later:     The wonder returns.  Another beautiful snow, all fluffy and a lot of it!  Snow sifting through streetlights at night seems to create a fantasy land, not that of endless snow and temperatures worthy of Minnesota.   But we are tired of the cold.  When there is snow, the temperatures are too frigid to play.  And what of the snowdrops, after all those nights of below zero?  A month later, they are still biding their time.


Two months later:      Surely the last of the big snows (and not so big, at that), but who knows.  Perhaps, though, the last chance to go sledding once more.  The sun is weak and the clouds eventually prevail.  Oddly, the hill is deserted–have kids simply tired of sliding down hills?  Have they given up completely?  There are, however, some twenty or so squirrels frolicking nearby, as only squirrels can: up and down and tree to tree with mad abandon.  I suppose, as I shriek my way down the slope trying to steer around the bumps, that I am exhibiting the same.  I never grow tired of it and am grateful for another day on the hills.  But–the snowdrops are eager, and this snow lasts but a short time.

When more than a hint of spring visits for a day or two, we are ready.  And so, it seems, are the bees!

snow5Climate change brings great contrasts, and after today’s sunny and mild 60s, tomorrow brings rain, sleet, snow–and a sixty-degree thud in temperature.  March is indeed an angry lion.  The snowdrops will carry on until they are joined by other floral companions.

Posted in Country Girl in the City, The Past is Ever Present..., The Wonder of It All | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Snow Wonder

On the Confectionery Trail: A Movable Christmastime Feast

A new tradition began a year ago.  It happened to be on my mother’s birthday, which is why this trip is now marked to become an annual event though it was just a coincidence the first time.  Mom is gone now, but there is much of her in me.  She loved chocolate, and, possibly to my regret, instilled that passion in me right enough–oh yes, indeed.


Having visited Schimpff’s Confectionery in Jeffersonville, Indiana a few times more or less on business, we made a plan to go there just for fun a little before Christmas last year.  Located at 347 Spring Street, Schimpff’s is a family-owned candy store, soda fountain, and lunch counter over 120 years old.  (


Decorated for Christmas, the place is a fantasy land filled with jars and glass cases of Schimpff’s yummy candy.  Ooooh!


You can watch them making it in the adjoining space, where that day they were rolling out sheets of glassy hot cinnamon candy on its way to becoming their famous cinnamon Red Hots (they are)!


In the back is a fascinating–and oh so nostalgic!–little candy museum that features containers, advertisements, and candy-making equipment from all over the country.

Remember these?  They were still around when I was very young.

sdisplayChoosing from among all the wonderful candies was a lot of work, so we decided to have a light lunch in the back, where there is an old-fashioned soda fountain and some tables and booths.   Heavenly days, they had phosphates and venerable lunch counter fare, so I ordered an egg salad sandwich and a chocolate phosphate, just as I used to do when I had lunch with my Mommy and Granny at Kresge’s in downtown South Bend.  As I sat bathed in nostalgia I thought what an appropriate place to be.  It was my mother’s birthday, and she would’ve loved this place (and probably would have ordered the same thing.)  Not only for the childhood memories; she and I used to wander around the state quite a bit and sought out such places–not for us the boring fast food.  The tear that fell was one of joy and a sense of her presence.

The day was chilly but sunny, just right for a stroll down historic Spring Street with its many interesting shops.


I don’t knit or sew, but I have many friends who no doubt would love the yarn shop named Grinny Possum.

We did wander around Horner Novelty, rather a museum in itself.  Horner Novelty – The Party Planner’s Paradise  (I thought better of sharing the photo of me in a flamingo hat.)


We thought of popping back into Schimpff’s for a chocolate soda–tempting!–but decided instead to stop in Columbus on the way back to Indianapolis.


Why?  To go to Zaharako’s, one of the most wonderful historic restorations I have ever seen.  This confectionery, also into its second century, is itself a museum,with an additional room full of beautiful soda fountains and restored mechanical musical devices such as orchestrions and juke box pianos. Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor


When we entered Zaharako’s, the Welte Orchestrion, which is original to the establishment, was playing a robust and joyful medley of Christmas carols.  It made me want to dance (oh wait, maybe I did)!   Oh, why not, we indulged in a sundae and drank in the festive atmosphere, not in any hurry to leave.  A slow day of peace and joy and wonder in these fast times.

And that is why we will be doing it again this year.  Happy Birthday, Mom.

Posted in Following in My Foodstops, The Past is Ever Present... | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on On the Confectionery Trail: A Movable Christmastime Feast

The Road Less Taken: Indiana’s Upper Right Corner

I always love a chance to go to the northern part of our state where the glaciers left behind lots of lakes and rolling terrain. And Pokagon State Park, one of our earliest, dating to 1925, in Steuben County is always good excuse. Pokagon offers all the activities you’d expect in a state park–I love to hike through the bird-filled woods–including swimming in a real lake, a plus. (I grew up on the Michigan border where it was impossible not to be within a stone’s throw of some lake.) In winter Pokagon offers a toboggan slide, still on my–cue the overused term–bucket list. All this and history, too: the park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its many examples of the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The last Sunday in July is CCC Remembrance Day at the Nature Center, an extension of the longest-lived CCC Annual Reunion in the country that began in 1953 as a 20-year reunion. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. And yes, some CCC veterans, 90 and older now, still come! There were three at the reunion this year.


The restaurant at Pokagon’s Potawatomi Inn is a fine place to eat; their Sunday brunch is decadence itself.  Still, whenever I’m in the area I try not to miss Clay’s Family Restaurant (7815 N Old 27, Fremont) just a few miles north of the park, just south of the Michigan state line.  Their food is just darned good and their pies are heavenly!  Clay’s IS, after all, the home of the annual Pie Day in June, when, for a fixed price, they offer unlimited samples of every pie they make. ( Following in My Foodstops: Pie in the Sky | Dancing with History, Wandering through Time, Embracing the Earth )



Steuben County is lovely to explore, what with its lakes, woods, small farms, and small towns.  About ten miles west of Clay’s on SR120 (a very old road, formerly the Vistula or Toledo Road) lies Orland, a small village, but it boasts the Fawn River State Fish Hatchery, constructed by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), listed in the National Register.  DNR: Fawn River State Fish Hatchery

Orland, originally known as Vermont Settlement, was the earliest settlement of European-Americans in the county (it and the settlement started in 1834); the area was formerly hunting ground of the Potawatomi tribe.  Orland has a strong association with the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad. Indiana brags Underground Railroad houses like Virginia et al. boast “Washington Slept Here,” and just about as misinformed, but in this case it’s true.  Abolitionist Samuel Barry hid runaway slaves in his house, which still stands.  DNR: Underground Railroad Sites: Orland   If you’re in Orland Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday, check out the Joyce Library downtown.  It’s charming, but check out the second floor, where the library first started.  It still has its original woodwork and a lot of the original books!  Many of us remember when most public libraries looked like this.

If, rather, you go east from Clay’s on SR120, you will encounter Fremont, founded in 1834 as Willow Prairie and platted three years later as Brockville.  The village rechristened itself once again in 1848 to honor explorer John C. Fremont.  Fremont, home to about 1700 people, has a charming downtown and a number of National Register-listed buildings.  Their library, surrounded by a bit of restored prairie on the west edge of town, offers several pieces of outdoor sculpture.  Behind the building an environmental trail winds through a woods.

The county seat and the “big city” in Steuben County is Angola, platted in 1838.  Its beautiful courthouse square features an impressive Soldiers Monument, topped by the allegorical figure of Columbia, erected in 1917 in the center, formerly the location of the town pump.  More men per capita enlisted in the Civil War from Steuben County than any other in Indiana.  The courthouse, dating to 1868, sits in the southeast corner of the square.  Opposite, in the northwest corner, are two historic movie theaters, the Strand and the Brokaw.  Angola is the center of recreational activity for the lake-filled county (101!, boasts the county website), which likely contributes to the continued survival of these theaters.


One of those lakes, only a mile to the southwest, was the first resort open to middle class black families.  Listed in the National Register, the Fox Lake Historic District is a modest collection of lake cottages built in the 1920s and 30s.  The area still retains much of its heritage with traditional activities, like the Labor Day picnic, that are decades old.

History, lakes, small towns, lakes, roadside farm markets, lakes, and more!  While it is much like going home, I still discover something new every time I journey to Indiana’s northeast corner.

Posted in On the Road Less Taken... | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Road Less Taken: Indiana’s Upper Right Corner

I Believe in Dr. Film!

I was asked to write a guest column in “Dr. Film’s Blog.”  Read it here:

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on I Believe in Dr. Film!

Following in My Foodstops: Pie in the Sky

Pie Day?  Who thought of this?  And who would be crazy enough to drive 170 miles to check it out?  Pie Day?

Well, to answer the second question, I was.  Clay’s Family Restaurant, a stone’s throw from the Michigan state line on former US27, just held its eighth annual Pie Day to celebrate what many agree they do best.  Mind you, most all their food is worth celebrating, not just their scrumptious pies.   But they make about thirty different kinds, and their customers find themselves in a quandary as to which one to choose–assuming they are capable after finishing their meals, which are tasty and generous.  And so. . . Pie Day was born. gjblog

I’ve written about Clay’s before.  (Check them out here Clay’s Family Restaurant ) For sixty years this family-run restaurant, perched above Lake George not far from Pokagon State Park, has offered great food and friendly service to local folks and people passing through who prefer the old highways.  When the restaurant opened, US27 was one of the major routes into Michigan, all the way up to the Straits of Mackinac.  When I-69 opened decades ago, US27 was routed onto it, but business remains brisk at Clay’s, owing, no doubt, to its having laid such a solid foundation.

Their entrees and especially the soups are fabulous, but the pies are positively divine.  I learned of Pie Day last year and thought it might be fun to do.  This is how it works:  normally Clay’s is closed on Mondays, but in June there comes a Monday designated as Pie Day when, for just four mad hours, Clay’s is open.  The restaurant sells advance tickets for a buffet offering of every pie they make–cut into smaller-than-normal pieces, of course, so one has a better chance of sampling several.  Just so that it is not complete decadence, along with the plethora of pies, Clay’s serves soups and melt-in-your-mouth pot roast.  Tickets, priced at $12.99 for all you care to eat, sell out quickly.  Even if your capacity gives out before you sample all the pies, it’s a good deal.


For about two weeks before the event, the owner and all the family frantically roll out pie dough in large square pans and refrigerate them, because the pies themselves are made fresh the morning of Pie Day, starting VERY early.  During the course of the four-hour event they sell the equivalent of 80-100 regular pies.







And so, just for the experience, last month I called Clay’s and made the reservation.   As it happens, I had a number of libraries to see on the way up since I’m still hawking my books, so it was not entirely crazy to make such a trip.  (Well, okay, perhaps it was.)  My route included stops, all successful, at two small college libraries and two little Carnegies, one in Converse and this one in Montpelier.


On arrival at Clay’s around 6pm, the small parking area was full and there were only a few spaces across the street.  The aroma of home cooking was tantalizing and soon we were seated by the harried but friendly waitress.  Overindulging in the main dish fare would have been easy, but this was Pie Day, after all.  Even so, there was no hope to taste them all.


I think I managed to try about ten or twelve.  My vote still goes to the blueberry, which is the piece at top right, although the cherry is equally good.   My companion, who wore an appropriate shirt (pi), favored the blueberry also, along with the strawberry.

gjblog8Virtually every fruit pie one can imagine, but also several cream pies, and a chewy concoction called “oops” pie tempted the customers.  The atmosphere was festive, the staff resolutely friendly–indeed, everyone was smiling and laughing.  I do not advocate gorging oneself on a regular basis, but indulgence now and then sweetens life, and Pie Day is the place to do it.

Posted in Following in My Foodstops, On the Road Less Taken... | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Road Less Taken: Up the Pendleton Pike


Just a short trip from Indianapolis up Pendleton Pike is, well, the town of Pendleton, a pleasant place to play hooky for an afternoon.  I discovered it years ago, exploring the charms of a nineteenth century road, Pendleton Pike.  The first time I followed it I noted many mid-nineteenth century remnants from its early years, as well as roadside architecture from Highway 67.  Much less of either remains, lost to the growing northeasterly sprawl out of Indy; now you really have to look.

Pendleton, which was laid out in 1830, but whose site was where the earliest Madison County government was located (in 1823), still offers much of its history in plain view.


Falls Park ( Picturesque Falls Park in Pendleton, Indiana) is a special attraction.  Fully 150 acres, it’s a lovely park with trails and lots of “above-ground archaeology” in the form of remaining bridge abutments from interurban lines and such like.  It’s a great place to hike around.  Historically it is the site of the final chapter of the infamous Fall Creek Massacre, where the perpetrators of the crime–the brutal murder of several friendly Indians (once thought to be Delaware but tribal affiliations now in question)–were tried and hanged in 1825, marking the first time white settlers were convicted for murdering Indians.  Three men were hanged.  A fourth, only a boy for whom there was sympathy as people felt he was forced into the deed by his father and uncle, was about to be hanged when Governor James Brown Ray stepped out of the crowd and pardoned him.  Some accounts have it that Brown galloped up madly at the last minute and loudly proclaimed: “There are only two who can save this boy.  God Almighty or Governor James Brown Ray.  I am Governor James Brown Ray and I am here to save this boy!”  It makes a great story.

The park is dotted with charming rock features constructed by the WPA and a large duck pond that predates the New Deal, with a stone “lighthouse” recently restored (it had leaned for years.)  The ducks are always hungry, and if you go in spring, you’re likely to see whole families of them.


The Pendleton Historical Museum, remodeled from what had been a bath house (the creek once served as a public swimming pool) overlooks the falls; it is open to the public on weekends.

Only a couple of blocks from the park is the historic downtown, which offers nice antique and special interest shops, a coffee bistro called Gathering Grounds, and many marvelous old buildings for those of us who love them.  The New Deal-era post office features within a 1939 mural by William F. Kaeser, who a few years earlier had begun holding art classes for a group that decades later evolved into the Indianapolis Art Center.  The mural, a personal favorite, depicts muscular horses pulling a wagon of huge logs in lengthening shadows, silhouetted against the setting sun.

I recommend lunch or supper at Jimmie’s Dairy Bar ( Jimmies Dairy Bar) on the edge of town on Pendleton Pike near Water Street.   It’s an old fashioned drive-in that’s been there over fifty years. They advertise that they offer the “best barbecue in Indiana” and I’m not going to argue–it’s delicious, with bits of all kinds of things adding to the flavor.  The baked beans are wonderful, too.  It is, after all, a dairy bar, so you can satisfy your sweet tooth (any place that I can still get ice cream sodas is great with me!)


Posted in Following in My Foodstops, On the Road Less Taken..., The Past is Ever Present... | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Road Less Taken: The Lincoln Highway in Eastern Ohio

I do so love old highways, especially those that have become byways, bereft of their numbers.  How much people miss by not taking just a bit more time along the way!   As mentioned in earlier postings, I grew up just off the former Lincoln Highway–the original 1913 route–in northern Indiana, very near to an early roadside landmark still standing (albeit changed some), the old Bob’s Corner, which stood on the north side of the Lincoln Highway at the junction of what later became two major highways, US20 and State Road 2.  Decades ago the junction, always dangerous, was moved a good ways east and proper traffic lights added, leaving the abandoned stretches of 20 and 2–the Lincoln Highway–to become Oak Knoll Road.  My family and I continued to use the old way, shaving off a good mile or so and avoiding the traffic light to and from LaPorte.

But I digress, which, of course, is the whole point of taking old roads.

The Lincoln Highway, a coast-to-coast route from New York to San Francisco, was the ambitious dream of Indianapolis entrepreneur Carl Fisher, a man known for his grand visions.  (Among other things, he and his partners founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and later, Miami Beach.)  In 1913 Fisher, long a promoter of automobiles, formed the Lincoln Highway Association.  The plan, audacious for its day (long before numbered routes), was for a clearly marked improved road across the nation.  By 1915 the route was complete, if not the actual improved roads.  A film of the entire length of the Lincoln Highway was made and shown at the Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco that year.  The route of the original Lincoln Highway roughly (very, in several places) follows old US30, that is, except in Indiana, where the original 1913 route swoops northward to catch Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, and LaPorte.  The revised 1928 route through Indiana did indeed follow mostly what is today old US30 through towns such as Warsaw and Plymouth.   Both routes became part of the Indiana state byway system last year.  Ohio’s portion of the Lincoln Highway in all its variant routes is part of a similar system.

Of course I’ve been all over Indiana’s routes, and over time and numerous trips, I had covered virtually all the spiderweb of routes of the Lincoln Highway in Ohio as well, except for the easternmost counties beyond Massillon, where, as in many Indiana towns, the main street is called Lincolnway.  In earlier posts I mentioned some of the joys of the route from Van Wert, not far from the Indiana line, eastward through Wooster, home to a fabulous Hungarian pastry shop and Books in Stock, a shop in which to lose yourself for hours.  I longed to see that last stretch of the Lincoln Highway that threads through Canton and beyond enters a wonderland of foothills, agricultural delights, and forgotten little towns.

And I had wanted to explore further the city of Mansfield, home to the Kingwood gardens (read about it here Home), a wonderful accidental discovery during one of those earlier Lincoln Highway diversions.  The first time I saw this it was late in the year and so there was no admission charge.  Endless gardens–not to mention hungry peacocks!  On its northeast side Mansfield also boasts the massive architectural wonder, the Ohio State Reformatory (Experience One of Our Nation’s Most Historic Treasures – Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society) dating to the 1880s.  The city’s downtown, smack on the original Lincoln Highway, boasts many wonderful buildings and some interesting revitalization efforts.

But I also had a yen to return to an old tourist attraction that my family visited before I was five: Ohio Caverns, which was the kernel of another recent post ( ).  The cave is northeast of Dayton amidst rolling farmland, so I planned a route incorporating the old National Road (US40, mostly) into Ohio, then northeastward to Ohio Caverns, and then continuing up to meet the Lincoln Highway at Bucyrus with a night stop in Wooster and breakfast the next morning at Tulipan Hungarian Pastry and Coffee Shop, good plan!

Starting eastward from Bucyrus, a county seat town (famous for its bratwurst!) on the Sandusky River, we watched for all those roadside artifacts that spoke of the Lincoln Highway’s heyday, such as the occasional road marker or something more esoteric, like this barely visible abandoned drive-in theater on the 1928 route via Crestline.

Much like Indiana and Illinois–and no doubt most of the other states this historic route traverses–Ohio’s Lincoln Highway diverges into multiple roads as the routes were refined over time or a town clamored to be included.  (Few part ways as much as the two main routes of Indiana’s section of the Highway, however.)  Earlier variations of the Lincoln Highway between Bucyrus and Mansfield wound through Galion, and it is a pleasant alternate route worth taking.

Most of the time what was once an old highway that has lost its official status is fairly obvious to me.  These roads shout out their former import in the way they are laid out, their width, and as I mentioned, evidence along the roadside, both glaring and subtle.  There might be the occasional Lincoln Highway pillar–a few do survive–or a barely visible remnant of a roadside park.   The architecture may suggest the heyday of the highway.  I  rarely listen to the radio or converse with my fellow traveler in the midst of these excursions, preferring instead to hear the road’s song.  It never grows old, although it is timeless.

The route through Crestline takes one into Mansfield north of the main drag but eventually goes to Park Avenue, passing the afore-mentioned Kingwood Gardens.  We decided to stop and see the peacocks, who evidently remembered that we’d fed them in the past.

After threading through Mansfield, the Lincoln Highway to Wooster is a very pretty stretch, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, winding through woods and farms and little towns like Mifflin and Hayesville.   We stopped to eat at the Oak Park Tavern, a roadside supper club near Mifflin dating to 1940 (read about it here:  Oak Park Tavern ) and spent the night in Wooster.

The next morning, fortified with a wonderful breakfast of rolled omelets at Tulipan ( Tulipan Pastry and Coffee Shop ) and armed with a couple of Hungarian open-faced sandwiches for the road, we set off toward Massillon and the unknown Lincoln Highway beyond.  I was delighted to discover another Twistee Treat (mentioned in an earlier blog on the east side of Massillon.   Two within a few miles on my favorite highway!  Cool!  These ice cream cone buildings are wonderful examples of mimetic roadside architecture and evoke a much earlier era than when they were actually built.

In the once-industrial city of Canton, probably known best as the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Lincoln Highway is Tuscarawas Street, the main drag, which boasts a number of architectural gems.  But beyond this urban diversion, adventure beckoned, and it was easy to feel the wonder of the early road.   In the days before road maps, how did an intrepid automobile traveler find his way?  The Lincoln Highway, as did others, offered guidebooks that relied heavily on landmarks and mileage.  A compass would have been useful, too.  But also there were concrete markers placed at intervals.  Here is one of several that survive in Ohio, this one about five miles east of Canton.

This was only one of a seemingly endless stream of early road artifacts in this section of the highway, which grows ever more hilly as one travels east.  The road laughed and so did I at the joy of discovery.  Numerous old, mostly former, 1950s-era motels appeared; there were more concrete markers, and most intriguing of all, several short abandoned segments of the original highway, paved with brick and wide enough for a Model T.   Bumping along these, time travel becomes real.

The charming town of Lisbon, the Columbiana County seat, was worth a brief stop to admire the courthouse and other interesting 19th century buildings.  Ohio’s portion of the Lincoln Highway ends sixteen miles farther on in East Liverpool, situated along the fabled Ohio River across from West Virginia.  Here once thrived an immense ceramics industry, fed by the wonderful clay found in this region.  Almost all the scores of factories are gone now, and the two that I knew best (given my fondness for 1930s kitchenware), Hall and Homer Laughlin, have merged.  But the story is still told in the Museum of Ceramics, housed in the city’s glorious former post office built in 1909.  It is a fascinating place, displaying examples of all the pottery and china that was once made in the area (read more about it here: ).  Lifesize dioramas illustrate the manufacturing process.  The museum gets little funding, but boasts a dedicated and very knowledgeable staff.  Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building, hardly a block from the river, stands on the highway that was created four years later, with a concrete marker in front of the entrance to prove it.   Not terribly far from it is the Hall/Homer Laughlin factory outlet, at the site of the Hall factory; the Homer Laughlin factory, home of Fiesta ware, lies just across the river in West Virginia.  Tours are possible, but for another day.  East Liverpool deserves more exploration as well.  Always something to call me back! 


Posted in Following in My Foodstops, On the Road Less Taken..., The Wonder of It All | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Road Less Taken: Underground Wonder

On my way to somewhere else in Ohio, there was something I wanted to see again, an old tourist attraction in which my daddy had carried me around when I was a toddler, so my mom always told me. I have no memory of it; but indeed, a faded old photo survives from that visit to Ohio Caverns.  I’d always had a yen to go back and actually see it.  Now, since I later became an avid caver and knew something about karst, a geological landscape conducive to caves, I had assumed Ohio Caverns was in southern Ohio somewhere.  But no, it turns out the cave is in a most unlikely location northeast of Dayton amidst rolling farmland.  Fun with geology!   Seeing that, I planned a route incorporating the old National Road (US40, mostly) into Ohio, then northeastward to Ohio Caverns and onward from there.  Of course, the journey IS the way.


Ohio Caverns is one of those timeless attractions.  The entrance to the property is essentially the same since it was erected in the 1930s; the cave, of course, has survived decades of tourists and is as mysteriously beautiful as ever.  On a lovely fall day we were the only people there for a tour at that time, so we had the caverns to ourselves.  Ah.  It had been too many years since I’d been deep into a cave.  The current entrance and passage through the caverns was created in 1925 and takes one through a fairyland (indeed, old brochures marketed the site as “Nature’s Fairyland.”), enhanced with direct and indirect lighting.  Owing to a variety of mineral deposits, the Ohio Caverns are especially colorful.  The guide pointed out a narrow passage off the main trail that had once been open to the public in the early twentieth century, shortly after the cave was discovered in 1897.  Access to it was from the original opening, and with advance notice, one could arrange a tour.  But this year (2012), the “historic tour” has been opened up and is offered regularly.  I can never check places off my list; there is always a reason to return!


I was so taken with caves in my youth that after a visit to the granddaddy of them all, Mammoth Cave, I saw myself as a cave guide or some such.  I produced an exhibit on cave geology for the school science fair and wrote a paper on the history of Mammoth Cave for my English class.  But although I did not pursue a career in speleology, when I was in college I went on wild caving expeditions (also called “spelunking” by people who don’t actually do it), led by my geography professor, in whose earth science classes I excelled.  What adventures we had!  I continued for some years after to go caving in southern Indiana and even in the coral-based caves of Florida (painful for crawling!)  But this does not make commercial caves any less appealing to me.

Caves have a long history as tourist destinations.  Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave, discovered in or before 1797 (although no doubt the natives of the region knew of it), within a few decades became one of the major scenic wonders of an American tour.  Imagine the difficulty in traveling to such a forlorn location!  But the famous Swedish soprano Jenny Lind (among other celebrities) came to visit in 1851, and supposedly gave an impromptu concert seated on a chair-like formation, known today as “Jenny Lind’s Armchair.”  European visitors especially admired examples of America’s wild grandeur.  Imagine, too, the differences in cave touring then and now.  Guides led visitors by lantern or torchlight through passages that may or may not have been cleared of at least some of the rubble common to caves.  (Of course, this is rather similar to what cavers experience in wild caves, only we probably do a lot more crawling and climbing and clambering through mud, using heavy duty flashlights and carbide lamps, than the tourists did.)

With the coming of the automobile, particularly the affordable Model T, droves of ordinary Americans took to the roads of their vast country to see the sights.   Noting the profits made by the owners of Mammoth Cave (not yet a National Park), the poverty-stricken denizens of cave-pocked Kentucky saw the possibility of tourist dollars and scrambled amidst their rolling hills to find caves that could be exploited.  The Kentucky cave wars of the 1920s sparked lies and misdeeds (travelers were led to to other caves by false signs, for instance), violence, and ultimately, a death in 1925, that of Floyd Collins, every caver’s bad example.  He went off alone, telling no one where he was going (breaking two cardinal rules of caving), and became trapped underground in what later was named Sand Cave.  He had been searching for a new cave or a new entrance to the Mammoth Cave system farther up the highway to snag tourists.  Media circuses are nothing new–only the media have changed–so mobs of newspaper reporters and announcers for the newfangled radio came, as did the morbidly curious public, to cover what ultimately was the long, gruesome death of Collins from exposure and starvation.  Would-be rescuers reached his body three days after he died.  The remains were eventually buried on the Collins farm, but when his father sold the property a few years later, the new owner exhumed the body, placed it in a glass-topped coffin (no, I’m not making this up), and put it on display in Crystal Cave, which had been discovered by Collins some years earlier on the property.  Even more disgusting is that the body was stolen, later to be recovered sans one leg!  Still, the cave owners continued to display the body, the coffin now securely chained, until 1961, when the National Park Service (NPS) bought the property and closed the cave (now open to cave explorers with permission from NPS, no regular tours).  Collins was finally laid to rest in a real cemetery in 1989, when NPS buried him in the Flint Ridge Cemetery.  One suspects he might have wished to remain in the cave that he discovered.  Some tourist materials refer to Crystal Cave as “Floyd Collins [sic] personal backyard cave.”

The cave wars and especially the death of Floyd Collins strengthened the growing movement to make Mammoth Cave a national park, which happened in the 1940s.  Subsequent cave explorations have shown that most of the caves in this area are linked in one vast underground system.  A connection between Mammoth Cave and the Flint Ridge caves was discovered in 1972, detailed in the book The Longest Cave by Roger W. Brucker and Richard A. Watson.

Too much drama!  The Ohio Caverns, lacking such a grisly history,  are as beautiful as any I have ever seen, with more formations packed within its confines than many larger caves.  And the countryside surrounding it is so peaceful, with no hint of the beauties beneath it.  I am eager to return to experience the “historic tour.”  Besides, nearby West Liberty boasts other sites of interest, including the over-the-top Piatt Castles  (, which have been open for tours for one hundred years (!) and, of course, Marie’s Candies  (, a mere 56 years old, famous for its chocolates.  I hear the road calling to me!

Posted in On the Road Less Taken..., The Past is Ever Present... | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Guest column by The Endangered Moderate: Where Have You Gone, Richard Carlson?

Okay, I’m officially sick of it.  For eight years, George W. Bush consistently, if not purposely, mispronounced “nuclear,” “remnant,” and a whole host of other words.  Many people would accuse me of being an intellectual elitist for holding this against him.  I do not consider myself an intellectual elitist.

Now, Rick Santorum is raising anti-intellectualism to new heights–or is it depths?  He says that President Obama wants all Americans to go to college because Obama wants all Americans brainwashed by liberal college professors.

WHAT?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I went to college, and the point of it is not to indoctrinate, but to get students to think through problems.  Look, as a moderate I have a lot of problems with Obama, but when you tell me that he’s trying to indoctrinate people by sending them to college, then you’ve crossed over into the Twilight Zone, Rick.

Note to Republicans: If you want to win this race, or at least you want moderates to vote for you, then this kind of stuff has to stop.

Second note to Republicans and everyone who agrees with this: you want America to compete in the global economy?  You want us to be at the top of the heap again after becoming a laughingstock in the last 30 years?  Here’s a hint: we need to embrace intellectualism, achievement, and just plain horse sense instead of condemning accomplishment as “elitist.”  You love that sort of name-calling, and I get it, but there was once another school that condemned intellectual achievement.  They called it Communism.  Don’t believe me? Read Marx.  (By the way, Nazis did that, too.)

I miss the old halcyon days when being halfway intelligent was considered a good thing.  Bush paid lip service to “No Child Left Behind,” but then turned around and established a role model for America’s youth that makes my skin crawl.  I heard him give a commencement speech at Yale in which he boasted of being a poor student and saying that it had not hurt his career.  Stupidity is not a crime, certainly, and neither is knowledge of one’s own stupidity.  On the other hand, the idea that we should be proud of our own stupidity is beyond me.

I have many Republican friends who complain that we want to upgrade the school system and that our answer is to spend more money on the schools.  They say that spending money is not necessarily the right answer.  After all, many of the industrialized countries of the world spend less per capita than we do on our children, and somehow they beat us in standardized testing.  Maybe “all them foreigners” are elites.

Perhaps we are victims of a sick culture.  We have a culture today that appears to celebrate stupidity.  Any kind of thoughtful examination is sacrilege.  Introspection is for the weak.  But it goes deeper than that.  In our culture and in our media, people who are intellectuals are portrayed as geeks and social misfits.  They are people to avoid.  To be sure, there are a great number of intellectual people who are socially maladjusted.  However, that is a generalization about as fair as those who portray people from the South as possum-eating hicks.

When was the last time a major film depicted the scientist as a hero?  We get Jeff Goldblum in the Jurassic Park series, perhaps, but (much as I like Goldblum) his gawky look typifies the geeky intellectual that Hollywood goes after.  Goldblum doesn’t get the girl at the end of the picture.

I am generally of the opinion that Hollywood reflects society rather than shaping it.  If we look at the history of scientists or intellectuals portrayed in the movies, we see that they were mad scientists (Rudolf Klein-Rogge in Metropolis) in the 1920s, a little more controlled in the 30s, but still mad and over the top (Colin Clive in Frankenstein), and morphed into the diligent doctor who had good intentions but not enough ethics and foresight (Boris Karloff in The Man with Nine Lives) by the 1940s.  But in the 1950s, a new type of scientist emerged.  The kind of scientist we so desperately need as a role model for America’s youth of today.  Richard Carlson!

Carlson (1912-1977) was admittedly not the greatest actor ever to grace the screen.  His screen career was marred with a plethora of sub-par early roles, although he did surface in Bob Hope’s The Ghost Breakers (1939).  His true breakthrough role came in 1953 when he was cast as the heroic scientist in It Came From Outer Space (1953).  This was followed by appearances in other classic 50s fare like The Magnetic Monster (1953), and The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).  In most of his appearances, Carlson played an earnest, handsome scientist who used his brains to get through the movie.  He was not insensitive to those who were less learned than he (especially hot chicks like Julia Adams), but rather, he worked with everyone to get the right answer.

Carlson was so successful at this type of role that he was recruited for a lamentably short series of  films made by Bell Telephone in the late 1950s.  Bell felt that the best hope for young Americans was to pursue and understand the sciences.  Wanting to promote these ideas, they did the same thing that the US Government had done in the 1940s to explain WWII to the masses.  They hired the best director they could afford, Frank Capra, and then Capra hired top creative people to help him make films that promoted science in the schoolroom.  (It should be noted that Mr. Capra was nobody’s liberal.)

Carlson appeared in Our Mr. Sun (1956), about the sun, Hemo the Magnificent (1957), about the circulation of blood, The Strange Case of the Cosmic Rays (1957), and The Unchained Goddess (1958) about weather and ways of measuring it.  These films are today minor classics in the field of education.  In most of them, Carlson appears as an inquisitive scientist or reporter, and is aided by real life intellectual Dr. Frank Baxter.  At interludes we are treated to explanatory cartoon segments directed by Road Runner creator Chuck Jones.

Carlson typified a type of character not seen today.  He was a manly intellectual, unafraid of his intelligence, ready to use it to help others.  The 1950s offered many similar characters.  One need only look to Gene Barry’s scientist in War of the Worlds (1953) or Kevin McCarthy’s kind but wise doctor in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).   While sometimes there were unethical or stupid scientists in these films, the heroes were always the smart ones and they got the girl.  They weren’t the drooling geek scientists of today.

Unfortunately, this kind of 1950s character did not live long.  By the time Star Trek got hold of the idea, they had split the character into the stoic scientist, Mr. Spock, and the action-minded pseudo-intellectual Captain Kirk.  It was never to be the same afterward.  Even the early James Bond movies presented Bond as a smart (albeit pompous) guy who was only slightly less capable than his superiors.  Bond would often attend a meeting with his boss only to turn the tables and end up lecturing the lecturer.  It was also a creative bit of screenwriting that helped advance the plot while amusing the audience.  Later on, this bit of character was dropped, and Bond became more mindless and action-oriented, rather like the films themselves.

Despite the spin that Pat Robertson would put on things, these 50s movies did not disdain faith in a higher power.  Certainly we can point to the preacher in War of the Worlds who gets fried by a Martian ray early on.  He’s quoting Bible verses as he walks toward the aliens, who take one look at him and open fire.  But the point here is that he gets fried not because his faith is wrong, but because he is so stupid!  Later on, the survivors of a wrecked city gather in a church to pray together, including the scientist, and those pesky Martians are eventually killed by Earth’s bacteria, those things that, according to the film’s narrator, “God, in his wisdom, put upon the Earth.”

This hammers home producer George Pal’s point that faith is helpful, and that reason is helpful.  Gene Barry’s scientist is fairly powerless to help against the onslaught, and the minister who blindly quotes the Bible is even more useless.  Perhaps the combination of faith and reason is helpful.

And this brings us back to the present day.  If we bring up reasoned arguments against Republican policies, then we are branded as unfeeling, unpatriotic people.  We can argue all we want about the facts that we have spent too much money in Iraq, that our goal of getting cheap oil has not worked, that our goal of getting the Iraqi people freedom has not (thus far) worked, that our goal of making the world a more peaceful place has not worked, and that our ideal of keeping nuclear nations from proliferating is not working.  Bringing up these reasonable facts is not unpatriotic.

The Republicans are throwing faith without reason at us.  By doing so, they are  being as naive as the preacher who walked straight at the Martians.  Alas, reason without faith can equally unattractive.  Can we have a balance?  Can we all just get along?  Do we have to call each other names and ignore a point of view just because it belongs to the other party?

The thing that saddens me is that anti-intellectualism has caught on like wildfire.  We were even sold the idea that Bush was the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with (although I shudder to have a beer with an alcoholic).  So what?  That doesn’t qualify him to be the leader of the free world.

The leader of the free world needs to be a person who understands faith and reason, who thinks before talking, who contemplates before acting.  He needs to be smart but not condescending, sensitive but not weak.  He needs to be not the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with, but the kind of guy you’d like to pass on the street and breathe a sigh of relief that he’s looking out for your way of life.  He needs to promote healthy intellectual activity as a necessary American trait and not one of geeks who will never get a date.

I want a president who knows that, no matter how much money we spend on schools, we’ll never get great academic achievement unless our culture changes to reflect a value in education.  We need to find that the classic rugged American individualism does not necessitate ignorance as well.  People who celebrate stupidity need to be the dateless wonders of the next generation, and the smart guys who should be running things need to start doing so.

In short, we need Richard Carlson for President.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment