Sunday, March 27, 2011

You Might Be a Redneck

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Sometimes, when Joann and I finally make it to our motel during our photography trips, we look for something relaxing to watch on TV while we make our dinner and unload the day’s photos. Sometimes we’re lucky and we stumble on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour shows with Jeff Foxworthy. His “You Might Be a Redneck” jokes always make us laugh. Sometimes we remember something from our past or maybe something a relative has done comes to mind. And often we’re reminded of scenes we’ve seen along the backroads.

Here are a few of our favorites:

You might be a redneck if grass is growing in the floor boards of your car.

You might be a redneck if Friday night is “sneak into the drive-in night.”

You might be a redneck if you finally mow your front lawn and you find the pickup truck that you thought was stolen.

You might be a redneck if your bathroom is 50 feet away from your house.

You might be a redneck if taking your wife on a cruise means circling the Dairy Queen.

We often see humorous things along the way as we travel the backroads, so we’ve made up a few redneck jokes ourselves. Here they are:

You might be a redneck if you have to be told not to park on the sidewalk.

You might be a redneck if you need help aiming when you relieve yourself by the side of the road.

You might be a redneck if there’s a sign on your car that says “Honk if anything falls off.”

We often joke with our brother-in-law about being a redneck. Maybe he invites it by wearing shirts that say things like “PETA – People for the Eating of Tasty Animals.” Whatever the case, we always get a laugh out of it and he laughs right along with us.

Laughter is good for the soul, so when you’re out on the backroads, watch for those funny moments and scenes and laugh out loud.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Oasis Diner – Plainfield, Indiana

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In April, 2006, as Ruth and I headed towards home after spending a week on the backroads of Kentucky, we stumbled upon an old diner on Route 40 in Plainfield, Indiana. I was still shooting film then, and I was always very conservative with the number of times I clicked the shutter. I had three Canon cameras, each loaded with a different type of film. So I took one colored slide, one colored print, and one black and white print of the outside of the diner. We were on a mission to cover a lot of ground that day, so we didn’t go inside.

Last spring, on the last day of our North Carolina trip, we passed this diner again on our way home. This trip had been a long one -- a full two weeks pushing hard to cover as many North Carolina backroads as we could, so we were both very tired. Again, we were on a mission -- this time to make it to our favorite general store in Moonshine, Illinois, for their famous grilled sandwiches before they shut the grill off at 12:30 sharp.

Even though we were kind of in a hurry, I was drawn to see the inside of this historic diner. Inside, there were a few people enjoying their meals. Some were sitting on the old-fashioned stools running the length of the diner and counter. Others were sitting in burgundy-colored booths opposite the stools. I snapped a few photos while the manager told me a little bit about the diner. As she did this, I noticed an older gentleman on one of the stools. He was watching me and smiling, so I introduced myself.

The next thing I knew, I was sitting on a stool next to Samuel F. Hatcher and he was talking up a storm, mostly about his life and his family. He was polite and quite humorous and I was totally enjoying his company. He told me that he came to the diner as often as he could because it was one of his favorite places. Then he told me that he was at the diner the day it opened and that he drove there in a 1954 Chevy convertible. This was significant because the diner was built in New Jersey in 1954 and was then transported to Plainfield on a rail car.

I could have talked with him all day because he was such a happy guy, but I knew I needed to get going. When I stood up to leave, I noticed another man in the booth across from us who had been listening to our conversation and who now joined in. His name was Kenneth Hoffman and he told me that he came to the diner almost every day. He also said that he was there the day the diner arrived from New Jersey and was set in place.

This streamline Moderne-style diner, with its coffee cup sign, has served National Road travelers for over five decades. It was originally known as the Oasis Diner. Outside, the front portion is the original 35-foot chrome trailer, accented by red, white, and blue stripes. Inside, it still has the original 1954 peach and gray tile interior, with a peach-colored counter running the length of the trailer. Behind the counter is the grill, where the owner, Ray Piercy, and his staff made their famous breakfasts and huge tenderloin sandwiches for over twenty years. In January, 2008, Mr. Piercy closed the diner and put it up for sale. It reopened for short periods since then, and we were fortunate enough to have visited during one of those times.

A couple of months after our visit, the Hendricks County Health Department closed the restaurant due to structural deterioration. It is now on the Ten Most Endangered List put out by the Indiana Landmarks Association. The good news is that Mr. Piercy has now decided to donate the structure to anyone who will take on the cost of moving it. The Town of Plainfield reported that a relocation study is underway, funded by donations from the Indiana Landmarks Association, the Indiana National Road Association, and the Hendricks County Convention and Visitors Bureau. They also said, “The Diner is believed to be the last remaining structure of its kind on the US 40 National Road.”

According to the Indiana Landmarks Association, there were roughly 5,000 roadside diners in the 1950s serving folks who traveled the blue highways. These historic structures have disappeared from the American landscape at an alarming rate. If you’re ever out motoring and you pass one of these nostalgic diners, take the time to stop in and enjoy a piece of our history.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Never Fails on Baking Day!

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

So says the first slogan of Clabber Girl Baking Powder. Our mother was a baker (when she could sneak a little time away from farm chores) and we have many memories of homemade bread, doughnuts, and cookies. In these modern times of fast food and convenience items, our younger sister, Peggy, continues in our mother’s footsteps, baking everything she can from scratch.

In the spring of 2009, Joann and I took our annual photography trip to the Ohio River Valley. During my research before the trip, I had found a sign outside Terre Haute, Indiana, for Clabber Girl Baking Soda. I didn’t remember having the brand in the kitchen growing up, but it looked like a cool sign, so I decided we should pass the sign on the way to or from Ohio.

Unfortunately, we ended up getting a late start on the first morning of our trip. We had planned to make it to Richmond, Indiana, just west of the Ohio border, by the end of the day. With our late start, however, we knew we couldn’t make it that far. We ended up stopping at a small motel with a vacancy sign in Brazil, Indiana, and true to our ways, it was pitch dark as we unloaded the car.

We hadn’t seen the sign on the western edge of Terre Haute, and it was too dark when we came out of town on the eastern edge, so seeing the sign at the beginning of the trip was out. On the way back from Ohio, I planned to pass through Terre Haute again. Driving into town on Highway 40, we found the sign.

Then, on our trip to North Carolina in the spring of 2010, we found another Clabber Girl sign, this time on the front of the Old Hampton Mill.

In the mid 1800’s, baking powder was made from a mixture of baked fireplace ash and sour milk called “clabber.” Herman Hulman was the creator of the new baking powder formula which was originally known as Clabber Brand. The packaging used a photo of a girl, and eventually the name was changed to Clabber Girl.

In my research for this blog post, I discovered that in the early age of the automobile, Clabber Girl had also been advertised on barns. In our travels along the back roads, we’ve seen barns with tobacco advertising and miscellaneous advertising for stores. Now I can only wish somewhere, on an old highway, there is a barn with a faded Clabber Girl advertisement.

If you’re passing through Terre Haute, Indiana, home of Clabber Girl, stop at the Clabber Girl Museum or enjoy a treat at the Clabber Girl Bake Shop, both located in the historic Hulman Building, built in 1892.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Beehive, Bah!

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Anyone, who knows me well, knows that one of my most favorite movies is the Wizard of Oz. In the movie, shortly after Dorothy and the Scarecrow discover the rusted Tin Man in the forest, the wicked witch appears on the roof of the Tin Man’s cottage and threatens to use the Tin Man as a beehive.

After the witch disappears in a cloud of smoke, the Scarecrow says, “I’m not afraid of her. I’ll see you get safely to the Wizard now, whether I get a brain or not. Stuff a mattress with me! Hah!” And the Tin Man says, “I’ll see you reach the Wizard, whether I get a heart or not. Beehive, bah! Let her try and make a beehive out of me!"

As Ruth and I travel along the back roads in all seasons, we come across beehives in the fields and woods alongside the roads. Sometimes we meet the owners, but usually the beehives are off by themselves with no residence in site.

Richland County, Wisconsin is one of our favorite counties in which to photograph. Several years ago, while traveling the back roads of this scenic county, Ruth and I came upon a self-serve honey shack (the only one we’ve ever seen). Last fall, we went back to that same location and the honey shack wasn’t there anymore.

It’s always fun to find produce stands beside the road, especially the ones that use the honor system. Another great place to find fresh honey is at the local apple orchards. One of our favorite apple orchards is Ski-Hi Fruit Farm near Baraboo, Wisconsin. In addition to apples, they sell many other products, including honey.

One of our favorite discoveries when we’re traveling the back roads is a road with an interesting name, like Hoot Owl Valley Road or Chicken Hollow Road. When we first discovered Smiling Goat Road in Richland County, I said, “We have to find something to photograph on this road so that we can add this interesting name to our photo log.” Luckily, we discovered an old gray barn with round hay bales next to it. A few years later, we visited this road again and found beehives in front of the old gray barn.

Four years ago in early March, I left the winter weather of Wisconsin to visit my friend, Margaret, in Texas. I arrived there the day before she was available, so I spent a day photographing on the back roads outside Fort Worth. After spending the first part of the day in the historic town of Granbury, I headed further south and stumbled on some blossoming pear trees near Chalk Mountain.

The scent of those pear blossoms was heavenly and all of the trees were buzzing with honeybees, moving from blossom to blossom. I stood for a long time taking in the wonderful scent and watching these incredible creatures as they pollinated the pear trees. It was especially enjoyable knowing that it was still cold and snowy in Wisconsin.

It’s been a long, cold winter this year in Wisconsin and Ruth and I are looking forward to spring. It won’t be long and the honeybees will be back on the wildflowers.

Happy Shunpiking!