31 July 2009

welfare by any other name is still welfare: Cash for Clunkers

Much of what I see on tv makes my blood boil these days. And I am desperately hoping that Congress doesn't re-fund the Cash for Clunkers program that ran out of cash at midnight last night so that I don't have to be reminded by TV ads of my tax dollars being given to every car dealership in the region.

I don't know how conservatives can be for this program. It's welfare. It's not creating jobs, despite what Congressman Upton (R-MI) says. It is simply finally getting cars off the overstocked lots of dealerships around the country.

Since when has it been conservative, much less right, to encourage someone who probably should not be buying a car to go into debt? If it isn't welfare for the government to subsidize as much as 1/4 of the cost of a new car, what is? Is it only welfare when it goes to food stamps? And since the federal government is going to be handing money out, how about if they give me a $200 rebate for my old worthless TV? I mean, c'mon, they are the reason we had to buy the new one in the first place. Cash for CRTs!

And what about us guys who bought cars last year? The principle still stands-I want my $4500! And what about the stimulus funds underwriting new home sales? I want my $5000 for that too! I guess we're being penalized for being prudent. Heck of a concept. I'd rather be giving my tax dollars to someone who needs it for food or clothing than folks who continue in a false standard of living by debt.

As a nation, we have so screwed up our bearings of what it means to be a fiscally conservative. The enconomy is burdened down by bad debt and health care costs and the federal government's (both R's and D's) response is to have people spend more money they don't have. And it goes back to who really runs Congress....lobbyists.

Capitalism without moral consciousness is a disaster now on our nation's threshold.

30 July 2009

the digi-toll

I did it. I gave in and bought a frickin' digital television which is what "the man" wanted all along. But I'm not giving in to cable...I refuse. The bunny ears set in the window pick up PBS...which was why we bought the new tv anyway. I'm kind of an impulse buyer.....it just takes me six months (the length of time we talked about buying a tv since the switch over and we lost digital PBS, even with our converter box-don't get me started on that) to get my impulse up. A few Saturdays ago I was walking aimlessly through the house, then walked up to my wife and said "I'm going to go buy a tv" and returned 20 minutes later with a tv and new dvd player.

But so far I have watched the building of the parthenon and an archaeological dig in Utah and this fall Ken Burns new series on the National Parks comes out. Man, I've missed PBS. And of course, Homer Simpson looks so much better in digital too!

29 July 2009

wise words from Teddy

I came across this snippet and placed it on my playlist some time ago. I'm just getting around to putting it at the top for readers to listen in. Teddy Roosevelt was quite a guy. It seemed that he called things as he saw them and in this speech one understands why he found himself outside of the Republican Party.

His words are as true, maybe more so, today as they were nearly 100 years ago when spoken. TR comments on big business being able to cut deals with the leaders of the Republican Party and Democrat Party...."but they can't make terms with the people". This is true, but, maybe what he couldn't forsee is the incredible barrage of media that can be unleashed on the people funded by those special interest. It does control the people...more specifically, the voter.

Frankly, I'm not sure how we will ever wrestle away our precious Democracy from the grip of lobbyists working on behalf of corrupt corporate and special interests. It is the reason we cannot achieve solid health care reform. Both McCain's and Obama's plans fail(ed) to address the true issue and economically devastating impact of health care/health insurance costs.

Of course this is fresh in my mind because I received notice today that our health insurance, less than 1 year old, will have its premiums go up by almost 20%, and we've barely used it. Let me do a comparison for those of you who get irate over property taxes. Our health insurance INCREASE (not annual premium, only the increase) is MORE than what we pay in TOTAL PROPERTY TAXES in a year.

Why don't people beat down the doors of our health insurance providers? We're too busy getting up in arms over possible government intervention...and maybe rightly so....but God forbid we go after the real problem.

28 July 2009

the rest of the story...Elkhart County's LH

Continuing on Highway 33 after leaving the Goshen area (you'll notice the weather turned colder) the Lincoln Highway enters the small community of Dunlap. Dunlap is probably best known for the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1965 which nearly obliterated the community but sparing the Methodist Church. This is probably the best recognized tornado photo in Indiana....the double funnel clouds roaring down U.S. 33.

Again, expansive development has taken a toll on LH-era roadside architecture, but entering Elkhart's southeast side I spotted this remnant of those early days....another traveler's motor court with about a half-dozen brightly painted yellow cottages remaining.

Along this stretch of LH/South Main Street are a fine grouping of well preserved bungalows and period homes, including this Mission Revival home, giving a flavor to the early days of the highway in the city of Elkhart.

Once again a few alignments of the LH can cause confusion in Elkhart. A later alignment turns west onto Indiana Avenue and bypasses the downtown while the original route continues northwest on South Main. The original route has this interesting angled intesection near St. Vincent Catholic Church.

As the LH enters downtown Elkhart it passes by this old garage and service station constructed about 1920.

Downtown Elkhart also has some fantastic buildings including the Midwest Museum of Art, Hotel Elkhart built in 1923, and the Lerner (Elco) Theater.

The LH turns west on Jackson Boulevard at the north end of the downtown, then southwest on Franklin Avenue which becomes Vistula Street/Highway 33/Highway 120 traveling along the north side of the massive railyard, passing by this Deco inspired building, and entering Osceola on its east side.

The later alignment follows Indiana Avenue through the Morehouse Historic District that includes the 1921 Roosevelt School. This route continues out of the city, following the south side of the St. Joseph River passing the Jacob Boss house, a highly stylized Queen Anne constructed in 1897.

The Lincoln Highway turns south at Ash Road near the Ash Road bridge, and continues back to Highway 33 in the little town of Osceola on the St. Joseph County line.

half of Elkhart County's Lincoln Highway

With all of the attractions Elkhart County has to offer with its stretch of original LH, I decided to break this post into two parts. Following the LH in Elkhart County can be a little confusing with all of the changed alignments in Goshen and Elkhart. For original flavor, though, the stretch entering the county line from Noble County and leading northwest into Goshen can't be beat. Between Goshen and Elkhart the road gets overwhelmed by modern development-though a few jewels still remain.

The LH enters Elkhart County on County Road 50 from Noble County. It continues west until it reconnects with Highway 33 again, heading northwest. A short section is bypassed once it reconnects with 33, likely because of a tight curve (above). One of the best Indiana Lincoln Highway buildings is located just south of the little town of Benton. It is the Lee Cabin Inn, constructed in 1926. I had an interesting conversation with the owner written about before on HH here http://hoosierhappenings.blogspot.com/2008/11/finding-jesus-on-lincoln-highway.html.

The small town of Benton is next. The settlement has importance in Elkhart County history because of the Elkhart River ford located at this site that allowed the county to be opened up for settlement.

After a short drive through additional farmland, the LH enters Goshen on its southeast side near the highschool. Highway 33 joins with Highway 15 and heads north through Goshen's downtown. Goshen has a vibrant downtown with some great architecture of the LH period, along with some fantastic older buildings including the 1870 Elkhart County Courthouse.

On the southeast corner of the courthouse green is an Art Deco inspired police booth, constructed in 1939 to keep watch during the bank robbing heydays of the 1930's. I think it may be one-of-a kind.

The LH turns west and follows Highway 33 just north of the downtown for a few blocks before you have a choice to make on which route you want to follow. You can either continue west and cross the river, then make an immediate right onto Chicago Avenue, or you can make a right just before the river and continue following the east and north banks of the river (River Avenue)until you cross this fantastic old iron bridge (this is the original route).

Either route takes you past the Old Bag Factory, which is another must-see. The building houses a number of artisan shops along with an eatery. Chicago Avenue, probably because it was not a part of 33 has some older development including LH-era gas stations and this very old frame traveler's inn. The road reconnects with Highway 33 and continues toward Dunlap....which is part 2.

27 July 2009

for par in Indiana

Good ideas, even if executed perfectly, lose their value when given over to the undermining nature of tight-woddedness & laziness. Unfortunately it seems we see this all too frequently, particularly with public places, here in the Hoosier state. Grand, and good, work of past generations often lie in ruin for lack of simple care.

But it doesn't take generations to undermine a good idea. Just outside of Bloomington near the town of Elletsville is possibly one of the best concepts in mini-golf that I've seen. Whoever the proprietors were developed an elaborate putt putt in (I think) 1993. Each green was a different theme related to aspects of the Hoosier state, and explaining each theme was a well-crafted sign giving valuable detail. As I commented to my wife....what a great tool to teach people about Indiana and our history. I could imagine taking 4th graders to play mini-golf on school trips to learn Indiana history. It may not be as extravagant as some courses, but a solid business concept nonetheless.

But unfortunately, as our family played through the course, I quickly realized this great mini-golf concept had fallen into disrepair. Debris from what looked like several years, littered the greens and pieces of structures had fallen off and left to rot on the course leaving some "themed" objects laying in ruin.

I do commend the original proprietor for this great idea, but it appears that the current owner (and maybe they are the same) hasn't done a thing since it opened. And based on the number of people using the facility the night we played through, it doesn't seem like it is due to financial considerations. I'd hate to think they were just milking it.

Regardless, if you're in Bloomington, stop by this course, particularly if you have kids. While at the livestock green, which I think was Hole 12, I came up with my own brilliant idea....pig polo. Purely an Indiana game.

25 July 2009

Noble County's Lincoln Highway

Seems like it has been awhile since I've posted any pictures from the Lincoln Highway in Indiana, and since an uncle at our family reunion last weekend was asking questions about the old road, I thought I would include some from a trip through Noble County. This stretch of road has some great old farms set along rolling hills, just beware of the traffic rolling past you at 70 mph on this two-laner if you want to snap some pictures....or be a Sunday driver. The Lincoln Highway is essentially Highway 33 in Noble County, entering the county's south end near the town of Merriam. A few locations are bypassed, but the old road is mostly intact. Highway 33/LH follows a much older road between Goshen and Ft. Wayne.

Highway 33 skirts the south side of Merriam with a section of the LH bypassed so as to not traverse the town cemetery as the LH once did. It also goes past an unusual c. 1935 house dubbed the "airplane house" at least as relayed by its current owners. They weren't sure why it was called that, but I believe its Art Deco form gives some insight.

The small town of Wolf Lake follows and is home to the 1929 Luckey Hospital, once a private establishment, but now a museum. The Jr's Dari-Sweet on the north side of town appears to have been serving cool treats to passers-by since the late 50's.

The outstanding 1876 Kimmel Farm north of Wolf Lake, now a bed & breakfast and eatery, has been pain-stakingly restored and is a must-stop.

Continuing north, Highway 33 also bypasses the small town of Kimmel through which the LH also ran; Kimmel was once known for its onion production and written about before on HH. http://hoosierhappenings.blogspot.com/2009/05/teary-eyed-in-kimmel.html

North of Kimmel the LH/33 joins up with Highway 5 and at the junction of the roads is Stone's Trace, an exceptionally well-maintained pioneer homestead with Stone's Tavern constructed in 1838. This is maintained as a historical site with a fall festival held each year.

A brick section of the LH still exists north of Stone's Trace, bypassed by 33.

This is just south of Highway 6, the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. I would guess that before substantial redevelopment of this intersection, a fair number of early road-related businesses were located at this historic crossroads. This c. 1955 motel is all that remains of early construction at the intersection.

This marks the departure of Highway 33, which continues west on U.S. 6. The LH continues north on Highway 5 into the city of Ligonier. Ligonier is known for its unusually large and historically established Jewish population. The city has some interesting features along the LH including a street park with fountain and clock at the town's south end near an old gas station turned visitor's center and radio museum.

Ligonier's downtown is well-preserved, speaking highly of city leadership. One building, unfortunately though, was being demolished while I was in town that day. Just across the street, at the intersection where the LH takes a left and heads west out of town, is a fantastic old corner garage, c. 1930.
Following the LH west out of town takes you past a town park with some nice WPA features. The LH continues west on this county road until it enters Elkhart County.

23 July 2009

the crazy guy planting apple trees

I have an unproven claim to fame. Oral tradition in our family is that we were related to Johnny Appleseed....to which, when my nephew announced this at school, the children scoffed. I think I would too. But my aunt passed the story on to me that was passed down by her great aunt which was passed down by her grandfather from his father....a supposed cousin of the apple tree planting fellow.
My great x 4 grandfather's name was Ezekial Chapman. He was born in 1783 in Onondaga County, New York to family from Massachusetts. Ezekial settled with his family in Ohio before moving on to Indiana, first to LaPorte in 1840, then to Argos in 1844. Ezekial's son was Dr. Clarke Chapman, one of the first men to graduate from the LaPorte Medical Institute and also patented one of those cure-all elixirs in his day. Clarke was responsible for relaying the story of Johnny Appleseed visiting their farm in Ohio and called him his father's cousin.

So, I began to investigate the story. The time frame would work for John Chapman, aka: Johnny Appleseed, to visit their family farm in Ohio. We know that John Chapman was born in Massachusetts in 1774 and traveled mainly through Illinois, Ohio and Indiana planting apple trees. I did a search on Appleseed's kin and came up empty with the connection, however the generations would align. This is where I need the History Detectives to step in.

Dr. Clarke Chapman (1823-1898), second cousin to Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed died on Hoosier soil and was buried in Fort Wayne in 1845. Of course, everyone is familiar with the tale of the lanky fellow wearing a tin pot for a cap crossing the wilderness on foot planting apple trees. He has become an American legend due to his peculiar dress, transient lifestyle and generous nature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Appleseed

His relationship to me may just be one of those legends I let live on....and not try to prove or disprove. It does make for a great story; but I've not played it up too much with my kids.....they have enough trouble being related to Hoosier Reborn.

Laporte Medical Institute

For the record: I may have planted a lot of trees in my lifetime, but never an apple tree. My dad told me a story once about the old apple tree at his parent's farm that he planted as a kid. He traded a turtle (if I remember the story correctly) for the sapling. My only connection besides being a bit obsessive with planting trees is that I have a great weakness for apple dumplings. And occasionally I put an old tin pot on my head.