By Ruth A. Ringelstetter
In 2011, during the early planning stages of our 2012 spring photography trip, Joann came across a picture of an abandoned school in Indiana. She shared the picture with me and asked if I knew of the school. I checked my research and saw that I had the school marked. I told her we hadn’t yet managed to pass it on the way to or from any of our trip destinations to the east.
She asked if we could manage to fit it into the spring trip we were already planning to Ohio, so I told her I would figure it out. The school tower is still standing, but the roof is gone and many bricks have fallen. We were worried that, if Indiana is anything like Wisconsin, the owner might decide that the land is more valuable than any memories of the school and take it down.
As usual, I had too many stops marked for our route to Ohio, and the route went further south than the school. I told Joann the school wouldn’t work going to Ohio, but I would be sure to plan a stop on the way home. Since the dawn hours are Joann’s favorite for photography, I hunted (and hunted, and hunted) for a motel that would be close enough to the school to make it our dawn stop the next morning.
The only motel I could find that would work for us (a mom and pop motel with outside doors), was a motel that was about 45 minutes west into Indiana, which was past the school location. I asked Joann if she wanted to overshoot the school on the way home and then drive the distance back in the pre-dawn hours. She thought about if for just a second and then said the school was special enough that we should go for it.
So, we checked into the motel in the dark on our first day heading home. We set our alarm for very early, and, in the wee hours of the morning of our last day, we packed the car in the dark and drove the 45 minutes back to the location of the school. When we arrived, as is often the case, it was still just a little too dark to start photographing.
But Joann got out of the car, and as soon as possible, started with silhouette photos of the old school. It was the Oak Grove School, which had been built in 1913.
Joann worked her way around the school, sizing it up from every angle and looking at every detail for photographic possibilities. I watched for a while, and then I leaned my head back and took a short nap.
When she finished at the school, we hurried to our second stop which was even further to the south. After that town, we began our journey home. And it was a long journey. Every time we got close to something cool, I would show Joann a picture and ask if she wanted to chase it that day, or save it for another trip.
Usually her answer was to chase it, so we didn’t get home until well after dark. That was one long day, but knowing we had captured this beautiful school made the day worth it.
As I prepared to write this blog, I searched on the school name, Jay County, Indiana history, and everything else I could think of. I couldn’t find any history about the school.
We have our pictures, but we don’t know anything other than the name and the year it was built. Maybe someday in the future, when I’m searching for something else in Indiana, I’ll stumble on some history. Or maybe, if we’re lucky, someone will comment on this blog or on a photo with memories of the school. We can only hope.