Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Chance Meeting at the White Light Cafe

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Three years ago, Ruth and I took an 11-day spring photography trip to the Ohio River Valley. We spent the first day working our way down through Illinois and Indiana. We spent the next two days working our way east along the Ohio River. On the morning of the fourth day, we crossed the river to visit historic Maysville, Kentucky.

After photographing many of the historic buildings there, we passed an old decorative building for the second time. We hadn’t stopped the first time because we were on a mission to capture all the historic buildings we knew about and this one wasn’t on our list. But it was too beautiful to pass up a second time.

The building was constructed of red brick and it had teal green decorative accents. At the top of the building’s center point was a nameplate that said, “White Block.” We often see buildings with this type of name on them. It’s usually the last name of the original owner followed by the word “Block.”

Often the year the building was built is shown under the name. In this case, the year 1884 was above a door on the right side of the building. There were several doors, so I’m assuming there were several businesses in this building. Usually when I’m photographing a building that’s close to the street, I need to get back far enough to keep the perspective straight, so it’s a challenge to avoid parked cars. In this case, I was blessed by a yellow curb along the entire front of the building and the best spot to photograph was in the parking lot of the Church of the Nativity across the street.

It was a Monday, so you would think the church parking lot would have been empty, but it was parked full of cars. I set up my tripod in the middle of the lot and started taking photographs of the White Block building. After only a couple of shots, a car pulled into the lot, so I picked up my tripod to move it out of the way. But the driver stopped, put down his window, and started a conversation. His name was Richard and he asked me if I would like some information about the building. Well, you can guess what my answer was!

Richard told me that the left-hand corner of this building once housed the White Light Café, home of White Light Hamburgers. He said it was the first fast food restaurant in Maysville in the days before the big chains like McDonald’s and Wendy’s. People would line up on the sidewalk waiting for a delicious burger. He said that you went inside to order and when your hamburgers were ready, they put them in a white paper sack.

Then Richard described the hamburger itself. It was small, but thick, and was basically a slider (which are typically small). As he gave me the details of the burgers and the building, his wife smiled and nodded and, several times, she seemed to want to join the conversation, but Richard always (lovingly) spoke for her. He said that she was born and raised on a farm in the Maysville area and that her family often came downtown to get some White Light Hamburgers.

Hearing that his wife had grown up on a farm, I shared a little bit about growing up on a farm myself. Again, she seemed to have something to say, but couldn’t quite get the words out. I wasn’t sure what the problem was, but I waited patiently as she tried to say a few words. Then Richard apologized for his wife’s struggles and thanked me for my patience. He said that she had Alzheimer’s and that her doctor said she would continue to remember her childhood. So, he decided to bring her back home to Maysville and she was enjoying her childhood memories. Her family farm had been sold, but many of the buildings were still there and she remembered living there. Such a sweet couple they were!

After they left, I crossed E. Third Street to take a few close-up photos of the building detail. Richard had told me that he thought there used to be a pickup window on the side of the café that faced Limestone Street. As I was standing there with my tripod, an old man came down the sidewalk and stopped to tell me that he used to come to the White Light Café for their famous hamburgers. So, I asked him about the pickup window. He said that you had to place your order inside, but then you could wait for your food outside at the pickup window.

The White Light Café may have gone out of business years ago, but the burger lives on. The recipe was purchased by the owner of a new restaurant called the Drive-in, which opened in Olive Hill, Kentucky. Olive Hill is only about an hour from Maysville, so anyone who longs for an old-fashioned White Light Hamburger can still get their fix by taking a short road trip. And speaking of road trips, when you’re on one, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a local. You’ll probably learn some interesting history!

Happy Shunpiking!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Grange Halls

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

When I first began reviewing listings from the National Register of Historic Places and marking them as places to photograph, I was pretty selective. After I marked what I thought would interest us, I passed the list to Joann to review and see if there was anything else I should mark. And when she returned the list with things I had missed, she had marked some things called Granges, or Grange Halls.

The Grange, formally known as the Patrons of Husbandry, was founded in 1867 by Oliver H. Kelley, who was an employee of the Department of Agriculture. Its purpose was to assist farmers with difficulties they faced. Among the problems of the time were swarms of grasshoppers, high railroad fees to ship crops, expensive machinery, high interest and mortgage rates, high cost to store their grain in silos, and falling prices.

We’ve had the best luck finding old Grange Halls in our travels to Ohio, which seems understandable since Ohio was reported to have more than 900 chapters. Not only were the halls places to hold meetings, but they were also a place to hold social activities which included quilting bees, dances and other social gatherings, which helped to alleviate the isolation of farm families.

Some of the granges even bought a few pieces of the more expensive farming equipment that could be shared among members. Our dad was never a “granger”, as members were called, but he never owned a combine. He hired a neighboring farmer who owned one (as many farmers did) to harvest our oats. This helped the farmer making payments on his combine, and allowed dad to not have the expense of his own machine.

In 2016, we hunted up the Scioto Grange No. 1234 in Jackson County, Ohio. It was built in 1897, the same year the Chapter was organized. It’s a simple white frame building, but part of the building served as a store for members from 1907-1937. It also served as a rural school from 1917-1935. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wisconsin had approximately 50 grange chapters. The chapters in Evansville, Cooksville, Magnolia, Brooklyn, Dayton, and Center banded together to form the Evansville Mercantile Association. In February of 1874, they bought $200 worth of plows and were in business. At first, they rented space, but soon outgrew it. They built a new building, but within a couple of years, outgrew that space as well.

In 1903, they purchased land on West Main Street in Evansville and built a new store. The store was huge for its time and employed 30 people. It had a bank and departments for groceries, eggs and butter, dry goods, boots and shoes, carpets and wallpaper, jewelry, books, crockery, hardware and tin, millinery, coats and suits. Two years later an undertaking business was added and a hearse was acquired.

The Evansville Mercantile Association continued in business for 81 years, when the store was sold to another group of men who operated it until 1980.

Another old building we found in Ohio was identified as a one room school and former grange hall. Most abandoned buildings that we find don’t have available histories, and it’s true of this building. It’s big enough that it may have included a grange store as well, but we probably will never know for sure.

On our most recent trip to Ohio in 2017, we hunted up several more grange halls. One of my favorites was the Sandy Valley Grange No. 1704 shown below. It’s another on our list where we know it was a grange hall, but the last meetings I could find were held in 2012.

The Willow Grove Grange shown below, is still an active chapter holding their meetings in the building as well as providing meeting space for other organizations.

The National Grange headquarters building is in Washington, D.C. and is the only private building in a federal block across from the White House.

With the current state of farming in the country, it’s nice to know that there is still an organization trying to stand up for farmers on a national level.

If you’re walking around any town, don’t forget to look up at the symbols and name plates on buildings. You never know what you might stumble on. Let us know if you find a grange hall!

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Spring in Ohio's Amish Country

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In our last blog post, Ruth reminisced about playing baseball when we were kids. It reminded me of an old-fashioned ball diamond we discovered in the spring of 2012 at Weaver’s Parochial School in rural Ohio. Here’s the view of the school from first base, with an old wooden backstop to the left of the school.

After having some fun on the ball diamond, we stood in front of the school, discussing the beautiful tile design on the front of the school. In lighter-colored tiles, it spelled out “Dist. 5, 1937,” so we assume this was originally a public school built in 1937.

We also discussed the pony barn located in front of the school. In the early days when most kids walked to school, there were sometimes pony barns for those kids who were lucky enough to ride a horse to school. We believe that Weaver’s School was a Mennonite school, so this pony barn could have been built by them after they took over the school.

As we stood there enjoying the rural countryside, an Amish buggy pulling a cart came around the corner and stopped near us. An Amish man got out of the buggy and began chatting with us. He told us he was having a problem with his cart and he was wondering if we would drive him quite a few miles to have a part fixed. We had a lot on our schedule for the day and were heading in the opposite direction, but we seriously considered his request. After all, we’d want someone to help us out if we were having trouble.

However, it soon became clear that he wanted us to wait with him while the part was being fixed so we could drive him back. This would have not only consumed our day but would have thrown a wrench in our whole trip schedule. So, as much as we hated to do it, we declined his request. He understood and thanked us kindly for at least considering it.

After leaving Weaver School, we explored more of the Amish areas of rural Holmes County. And one of the things we stumbled on was Millers Buggy Shop, where they sold Amish buggies and carriages.

And there’s nothing we like better than seeing teams of Amish workhorses. Since it was planting season, we didn’t have to work hard to find these teams of horses pulling the horse-drawn farm equipment to prepare the soil for planting.

This part of Ohio is filled with beautiful Amish farms and this farm was no exception. Seeing the Amish farmer driving his team along the edge of the field towards the farm on such a lovely spring day filled our hearts with joy.

Many states have areas where the Amish have settled, such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. If you’d like to take a step back in time, try driving the backroads of Amish country. It will be a respite from the fast-paced life you are probably living.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Play Ball!

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Growing up, the only sports we played were casual. We played baseball at home with our siblings, cousins, and neighbors on a makeshift field on our farm lawn. (No, we didn’t have benches and a backstop.)

Our little Catholic school didn’t have any organized sports either. It was just games with schoolmates on one of the two ball fields on the playground. One field seemed to be for the older boys, and the other was for everyone else. I don’t remember playing, but Joann does. She remembers batting one almost to the cemetery and scored a home run for her team!

I do remember being lucky enough on occasion to snag a swing on the set that faced the boys’ ball game. Sometimes, one of my classmates was allowed to play with the boys because she had all brothers, and was pretty good as a pitcher.

After we moved to our bigger farm outside of Lake Mills, there was an occasion or two when our second cousins came to visit and we walked over to a small “park” in Aztalan. There wasn’t much of anything at the park, but there was a little-used ball field. I don’t remember seeing other kids playing down there, but we did have fun the couple of times we did.

As we drive around the backroads, we are always on the lookout for old fashioned ball fields. We always worked so hard on the farm, but we managed to make a lot of happy memories. And seeing these small ballfields always makes us smile.

Several times we’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon baseball games in progress at Amish schools. We always sit and watch for a little while since we can’t point a camera at the kids. But it makes for great memories of our time out on the backroads.

Sometimes we’re not sure if the field we’ve stumbled on is still being used. Usually they’re mowed, so there might be some playing still going on. It’s really cute when these small town ballfields have dugouts for the teams.

In 2013, we were driving around rural Dane county, when we stumbled on a country ballfield called Krebs Field. It was a pretty professional-looking field. I told Joann it was the farm of a woman I had worked with and that she had a couple of boys.

In preparing to write this bog, I found an article from The Cap Times about a family farm and a real “field of dreams.” It was about the history of this farm family and how the ball field came to be.

The field started simply, but the boys were playing on little league teams and kept asking for improvements. Then they asked friends to come and practice. Then more friends came to practice and soon youth teams were practicing at Kreb’s field all summer.

In a small town near Joann’s house is a ballfield which is home of the Ashland A’s. They are members of the Home Talent Baseball League and say they play for the love of the game.

And if you look around hard enough, you might find a vintage ball team playing the game as it was played in the 1800’s. You can usually find these teams playing at open-air museums, living history villages, Civil War re-enactments and city parks. Vintage baseball is played in over 20 states. We found this sign in a county park in Indiana.

Watch the backroads for things that remind you of your childhood. It’s a great way to put a smile on your face.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Indian Baby, 1854

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Last September, on a beautiful autumn day, Ruth and I kicked off our annual fall photography with some exploring in Adams County, Wisconsin. One of the things we had on our list was the gravestone of a Native American baby on the shore of Petenwell Lake.

Ruth had stumbled on this unique gravestone in her research, so we just had to go check it out, but we didn’t know anything about it at the time. The gravestone sits inside a wrought iron fence and says simply “Indian Baby 1854.” After some additional research, I was thrilled to find a bit of history in the book entitled, “Weird Wisconsin: Your Travel Guide to Wisconsin’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets,” by Linda S. Godfrey and Richard D. Hendricks. According to the book, the original marker was wooden, but it was replaced by a stone marker after the original one was destroyed by vandals.

To add some historical context to this story, I studied the chronology of Adams County, which added meaning to this sad tale. In 1837, seventeen years before the death of this baby, the first non-Indian child was born on Fourteen Mile Creek in what would become Adams County. In that same year, the Wisconsin Ho-Chunk tribe was coerced into signing a treaty by which they gave up all their remaining land in Wisconsin.

From 1840 to 1844, federal troops attempted to force the Ho Chunk people out of central Wisconsin and onto reservations in Iowa. And in 1848, the Menominee Indians relinquished their rights to land in east central Wisconsin, including Adams County, which had been created that year by the Wisconsin Territorial Legislature.

Meanwhile, white settlers continued to arrive in Adams County. In 1850, the population (on both sides of the Wisconsin River) was 187 and the first post office was established at the Marsh House tavern, which had opened five years earlier. By 1852, all of Adams County had been surveyed and the land was ready for sale.

Now, back to the story of this little Indian baby which, according to the book “Weird Wisconsin,” comes from a pioneer woman named Emily Winters St. Clair. In 1854, she and her family traveled from Pennsylvania to settle in Wisconsin. As they made this difficult journey, their infant daughter died, so they buried her in Petenwell Lake as they crossed it to continue their journey to their new home.

Upon reaching the shore, Emily and her family heard the mournful cries of a grieving mother coming from a Native American campsite near the lakeshore. What they discovered was an Indian mother who had just lost an infant son. They decided to delay their travels to attend the burial of this little Indian baby.

Over the next six years, settlers continued to pour into Adams County. They built mills and schools, opened businesses, and created towns with post offices and courthouses. By 1860, the population of Adams County had increased to 6,492 (which is an increase of over 3,000% in just ten years). I have to assume that the Native American mother of this little baby boy was forced, along with her tribe, to leave central Wisconsin.

And what about the St. Clair family? Well, they settled in the area and Emily faithfully tended to the grave in honor of both the Native American boy and her little girl who both rest forever at Petenwell Lake.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The World’s Largest Teapot

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In the spring of 2017, Joann and I were on our way to photograph in East Liverpool, Ohio, but first I had a little detour for us into Chester, West Virginia, just across the Ohio River.

You have to get off the new Highway 30 onto Old Highway 30 (The Lincoln Highway) to see the teapot. It started as a big barrel advertising Hire’s Root Beer in Pennsylvania. In 1938, William “Babe” Devon purchased the big barrel and had it shipped to Chester. It was covered in tin to form a teapot shape, along with adding a spout, a handle, and a large glass ball to make the knob of the “lid.”

The Teapot stood in front of Devon's pottery outlet store. Local teenagers were hired to run a concession and souvenir stand which was set up inside the Teapot.

During World War II, the teapot was closed for two years. It reopened in 1947 with new owners and food was sold again until the late 1960’s.

For a time, the teapot was painted blue and white and sold other items including lawn and garden items, china, and novelty items. When the business closed, the teapot sat abandoned until 1984.

When C&P Telephone bought the land it sat on, it was in danger of being scrapped. Geneva Hill, a Chester native rallied the citizens to save it.

For years, the teapot was moved around town as money was raised for restoration and problems were discovered and resolved.

Finally, in 1990, the teapot was moved to a location at the intersection of Old Highway 30 and State Highway 2, and a white fence was built around it. When we visited, even the little creamer had been restored.

If you pay attention when you’re traveling, you’ll be surprised by some of the interesting, or kitschy things you might be able to take a slight detour to see.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!