Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rosemary Clooney

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Every year during the holiday season, I watch one of my favorite movies, “White Christmas,” a 1954 film starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, a popular song-and-dance act. It also stars Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as the Haynes Sisters, another song-and-dance act.

In April of this year, Ruth and I visited Rosemary Clooney’s hometown of Maysville, Kentucky. After spending the night in Aberdeen, Ohio, we crossed the Ohio River at dawn on the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge, a beautiful suspension bridge built in 1931 to connect Aberdeen to Maysville.

We headed for the Maysville Downtown Historic District and parked near the Russell Theatre. In 1929, local businessman Col. J. B. Russell announced plans to build a 700-seat movie palace on the site of a grocery warehouse owned by the Russell family.

The theatre was designed in the atmospheric style that was popular in America in the 1920s. The dome was filled with twinkling stars and floating clouds. And when each movie ended, a rainbow would appear over the stage.

Four large columns with decorative capitals mark the theatre entrance. The entrance is clad in Cincinnati Rookwood tiles, including the ticket booth.

The Russell Theatre served the Maysville area from 1930 until it closed in 1983. Following its closing, the building was used for several businesses, including a restaurant and a used furniture store. Eventually, the building was abandoned and fell into serious disrepair.

In 1996, a group of Maysville citizens purchased the building and began efforts to raise the funds necessary to restore the theatre. In 1999, Rosemary Clooney founded the annual Rosemary Clooney Music Festival to benefit the restoration of the theatre.

Rosemary Clooney’s first film, “The Stars Are Singing,” premiered at the Russell Theater in 1953. There is a sidewalk star in front of the theatre entrance honoring Ms. Clooney and her film debut.

In case you’re wondering, actor/director/producer George Clooney is the nephew of Rosemary Clooney. His father, Nick Clooney, newsman and former host of American Movie Classics, is Rosemary’s brother.

The Clooney family has not only supported the restoration of the Russell Theatre, but also the restoration of Maysville’s Washington Opera House, the fifth oldest performing arts theatre in the United States. In 2008, the Washington Opera House held the premiere showing of George Clooney’s “Leatherheads” movie.

After we finished photographing numerous buildings in the downtown historic district, we visited the Maysville floodwall to see the mural honoring Rosemary Clooney. The mural, completed in 2007 by Dafford Murals, depicts highlights from Rosemary’s life and career.

We then left the downtown area and went in search of one final piece of history in the life of Rosemary Clooney: her final resting place. High on a hill outside of Maysville is the beautiful St. Patrick Cemetery, where Rosemary was laid to rest. The cemetery is relatively small, so we thought it wouldn’t take us long to find her gravestone. But we were wrong.

We drove slowly through the cemetery looking carefully on both sides of the gravel road trying to locate her grave. After checking each section twice, we still hadn’t located it. We discussed leaving without this final piece of history. But we’re not ones to give up easily. Finally, with a little more detective work on Ruth’s part, we found her grave. Now our work was complete.

Getting back to the movie “White Christmas,” Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen (the Haynes Sisters) performed a number called “Sisters.” It began with “Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters.” And one of the lines is, “All kinds of weather, we stick together, the same in the rain or sun.”

It reminded me to take this opportunity to thank my sister, Ruth, for all she does to make the sharing of my photography possible.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy Shunpiking!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tiny Depots

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In our travels, we have found many depots. They have been in use, restored and repurposed, or abandoned.

But several have been unique in that they are tiny. So tiny in fact, that I wasn’t sure if they really had been depots.

One of these is located in La Rue, Wisconsin. I’m not sure when the depot was built, but the town of La Rue was developed around iron mining in the area in the early 1900’s.

This mining proved unsuccessful, and by 1914, the mines were abandoned. At the height of mining, the town of La Rue probably had no more than 50 inhabitants, but it did have a hotel, lumberyard, church, general store, and two saloons.

By 1925, only two buildings remained – the tiny depot and the La Rue tavern, both of which still survive today. In checking the Railroad Station Historical Society, it does list this tiny little building as a passenger depot.

This small depot is associated with the Mid-Continent Railway Museum, which passes it towards the end of its route.

Another tiny depot is in the Mississippi River town of Port Byron, Illinois. On a trip to Davenport, Iowa, we crossed the Mississippi into Illinois and captured this depot as we traveled home along the river.

The railroad arrived in Port Byron in 1861 and still has occasional freight trains passing through today. Before the Rock Island Line came to Port Byron, two railroads approached town; one from the north and one from the south. They did not join, and passengers and shippers had to use wagons to get through town to the other railroad.

For a time, the Milwaukee Road operated a gasoline powered train through Port Byron. The train was only two cars. The lead car was the engine car with baggage and passenger compartments and the second car was a passenger coach. The train was smelly and annoying to passengers, and service was discontinued in 1932.

Then, in 2015, on the way to Missouri, we visited the tiny town of Hooppole, Illinois. The HY&T (Hooppole, Yorktown and Tampico) Railroad depot sits restored next to a farmers field.

In 1908, a railroad promoter came to town selling stock in a railroad that would run from Tampico to Galesburg. The proposed line would connect the Burlington Railroad to the north with the Rock Island Railroad to the south.

After 14 miles of track were built between Tampico and Hooppole, the project to continue on to Galesburg was abandoned. The HY&T Railroad got an engine on loan from the Burlington Railroad, a couple of boxcars, and a bright red caboose. On April 4, 1909, the first train left Tampico for Hooppole. The engineer operated the train, as well as fired the boilers and the passengers road in the caboose.

The train was nicknamed “The Dummy.” There was no roundhouse at the end of the line, so the train ran forward on the way to Hooppole, then the engine was switched by hand and the train ran backwards back to Tampico.

In 1943, the railroad ran out of money, but one man took on the line’s debt and kept the train running until 1954, when “The Dummy” made its last run. And with that, “The Dummy” was history.

Happy Shunpiking!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

It’s an Edsel!

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

In the back of my mind, I knew that Edsel was a very rare make of car, so when I was doing research for our trips and saw a picture of an old Edsel dealership sign, I knew we had to try and find it.

The first Edsel models were introduced on September 4, 1957 for the model year 1958. The last model year was 1960 when only 2,846 cars were produced. Ford announced the end of the Edsel program on November 19, 1959. In total, only 118,287 Edsels were built. The company lost $350 million, and the Edsel became best known for being a marketing disaster.

Our first opportunity to look for the sign came in 2013 on a trip to Ohio. This was the same trip where I was overly ambitious in planning our stops driving to Ohio. When we look at the collection of photos, it is spectacular, but knowing that I practically wore poor Joann out on the first day of our trip, I know better than to plan that many stops on our travels to and from our chosen photography state. (Or at least I try to keep it lighter. I can’t say I’m always successful, but in my defense, sometimes I say we’ll get a couple of things in town, and Joann is the one who wants to look up more things.)

It was the morning of day 2 when we finally hit the town where I thought the Edsel sign was located. The problem is, even if it really was in town, I had no idea in what part of town. We found the downtown and started there. No luck. We went down my list of other locations around town, driving east and west, and north and south down the major roads. Still, no luck. We photographed other things as we stumbled on them.

Whenever Joann got out of the car to photograph something else, she asked anyone on the street if they knew of the sign. No one did.

We ended up back downtown, and Joann was just saying that she thought it was getting too late and that we had to leave without it, when a man mowing lawn across the street from where we were parked turned off his mower. She said she would ask him and if he didn’t know, we’d have to leave town without it.

But he thought he knew! He gave Joann directions, telling her that he apologized if he was sending us on a wild goose chase. But, he was right! We had been one block over from it, driving north on a one way street. Luckily, after Joann took photos of both sides of the sign, we could leave and continue on our way. (And only about three hours behind schedule.)

Now the problem was, we didn’t have an Edsel car to include in the story about finding the sign. Every time we saw old cars, Joann checked for an Edsel. Considering that they were only made for 3 model years, they are very rare and we never found one.

Then, just this fall, as we were driving around Sauk County, Wisconsin, Joann suddenly pulled over. I was looking down at the map, so I hadn’t even seen a photo opportunity. As she got out of the car to get her camera equipment, I asked what I had missed, and she said there was an old blue car, and she was running back to photograph it.

After a few minutes, she came back to the car and excitedly said “Guess what kind of car that was!” I said, “I have no idea,” since I hadn’t even seen a car at all, to which she replied “It’s an Edsel!”

Hopefully, this will be one of those things where, now that we’ve seen one, we’ll see more of them. (One can hope!)

Happy Shunpiking!


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving, 2016

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

I don’t know about you, but I just can’t believe that it’s Thanksgiving time again. This year has flown by so quickly. It’s been a great year and I have much to be thankful for.

I hope you and your family are feeling blessed and that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Shunpiking!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Memorial in Zanesville, Ohio

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Ohio is one of our favorite states in which to photograph. Ruth has done some very extensive research on this state and we have taken four photography trips there – one in the winter and three in the spring. On all three spring trips, we spent two days in the Zanesville area, with one of our favorite subjects being Mail Pouch Tobacco advertising signs.

On our most recent trip there earlier this year, we visited the county courthouse in Zanesville for the first time. In her research, Ruth had discovered that a very unique veterans memorial had been erected fairly recently on the courthouse grounds.

The monument is a tribute to the servicemen from Muskingum County, Ohio, who gave their lives for their country during World War II and the Korean War. It consists of a pile of 297 helmets, each one containing the name of a fallen soldier from this county.

The sign on the helmet sculpture reads as follows: “297 men from Muskingum Co. Ohio died in World War II 1941-1945, and the Korean War 1950-1953. This monument is a tribute to that sacrifice. 297 empty helmets (symbolic of each fallen soldier, sailor, marine, and airman) have a name upon them.

“They are scattered atop an earthen mound (used for millennia to honor the dead) in an irregular chaotic manner as is the nature of the battlefield and war.

“To the rear of the helmets we have a 7' soldier in full battle gear grieving his fallen comrades, while being comforted by yet another soldier.

“In the front of the helmets we have a strapping young man striding forward with a purposeful gaze into the future, secured by the sacrifice of the men being honored in this monument.

“Many thanks to the donors who made this tribute possible. Alan Cottrill/Sculptor 2012”

And many thanks to all the men and women who have served and are serving our country in all branches of the military. We will be forever indebted to you.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lonely Gravestone - The Dandy Brothers

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Along a Wisconsin highway with traffic whizzing past at 55 miles an hour, sits a lone concrete marker. Most people driving past probably don’t even notice it. Joann and I were looking for it, and we missed it the first time past.

The marker sits along the highway at the site of the former inn and tavern owned by George Salter and his second wife Emma. In the early days of the railroad, all freight and passengers bound for central Wisconsin came to New Lisbon.

From there, stagecoaches and wagons continued on. The Salter inn and tavern was a popular place for both locals and travelers.

In June of 1863, George Salter went off to help neighboring farmers with the hay harvest, and the older children went off to school. Emma and her 18-month-old baby were home alone. George always told her that when he was gone, she was not to serve whiskey to the Indians.

While she was alone, a neighbor stopped by and warned her of Indians in the area. She told him that several had already stopped by to ask for whiskey and she had refused them and chased them off. She told him she would be OK.

Shortly after the neighbor left, the Indians returned and demanded whiskey, which she again refused. She tried to chase them off with an ax handle. The Indians took the ax handle from her and used it to kill her. Then they drank the whiskey, and while one of them, Jo Dandy, remained behind, too drunk to travel, the others left.

When another neighbor stopped by, he found Mrs. Salter dead and rode off to find George Salter. Mr. Salter returned home immediately and killed Jo Dandy, who was still in a drunken stupor. The following day, Jo’s brother, Jim Dandy was captured. Mr. Salter said that he would spare Jim if he would say who killed his wife. When Jim Dandy tried to escape, Mr. Salter killed him with the same ax handle.

The Indians were buried in the road outside of the tavern. Gus Nooney, a pioneer neighbor of the Salter family, made the marker, and along with the words, made an impression in the concrete of the ax handle used to kill Mrs. Salter, and later, the Indians who had killed her.

Although the marker is hard to read, a photograph of the marker from around 1925 can be found on the Wisconsin Historic Society website. The words on the marker state "Mrs Salter killed here by the Indians, June 13 - 1863, 2 Indians Jo and Jim Dandy killed by Salter and burried here. This ax handle killed 2 Indians and Mrs. Salter. Puck-A-Gee."

In the 1930’s, there was a movement to replace the crude marker with something bigger and more permanent. Nothing became of that movement, and the original marker still stands. It is very faded, although someone has tried to paint the lettering to make portions of it readable. The ax handle that was pressed into the marker is all but faded away.

It is said that for a long while, the Indians avoided the site except to fire upon the tavern in the dark of night. These days, someone does come to place flowers at the marker, and on the day we visited, there were some faded plastic flowers next to it.

You never know what sort of history you’ll find along the roadsides, so pay attention in your travels. But especially pay attention to traffic and stay safe.

Happy Shunpiking!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Adventures on Route 66 in Illinois

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The first place Joann and I ever visited on old Route 66 in Illinois was the former town of Funks Grove. I’m not even sure we knew it was on Route 66 on our first visit. Joann was visiting a friend in Bloomington, and it was a place we could go out of the city.

The old General Store looks a little worse for wear each time we visit, but it’s still there, just across the railroad tracks from the current old Route 66. The depot across from it has gotten some love since we first visited, but the old store sits abandoned.

The next time we visited Route 66 in Illinois was on a trip to the Ozarks in 2008. We always need places to get out of the car on long drives to other states, and I thought some of Route 66 would fit the bill.

Along the route, you can find signs for many of the restored and maintained sites. This sign was at the Soulsby Shell Station in Mt. Olive, Illinois. It offers a little bit of history to the traveler. If you don’t keep notes of your pictures like we do (and honestly, who does?), the sign will help you remember where on your trip you were.

Henry Soulsby had been a miner until an injury forced him to give up that occupation. When he heard that a new highway would be passing through Mount Olive, he took his life savings and bought two lots on the corner of 1st Street and what is now Old Route 66. With the remaining money, he built his gas station in 1926 from his own design.

When Henry retired, his children Russell and Ola took over the station and ran it together.

In the late 1950’s, I-55 began replacing the old highway, which left the station a mile away from most of the traffic. The station continued pumping gas until 1991 when the pumps were shut down. The station continued on, checking oil, selling soda pop, and greeting the new generations that were returning to Route 66.

They closed the station for good in 1993, and finally sold it to neighbor Mike Dragovich. When Russell Soulsby died in 1999, his funeral procession took him under the canopy of his gas station one last time.

Mr. Dragovich and the Soulsby Preservation Society began preservation efforts in 2003. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. The vinyl siding was removed, the original doors and windows were restored, and the building was repainted. Today it looks as it did during its best days after World War II.

Another stop on that trip to the Ozarks was at Henry’s Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, Illinois. This one wasn’t an original gas station, but was built as a replica of a vintage canopy style gas station to serve as a visitor center. It is filled with Route 66 and trucking memorabilia. When we stopped in, what caught our eye was the Route 66 Beer (Root Beer). We bought a 6 pack to enjoy on our trip.

The canopy of the station features an old truck and rusty old gas pumps. Around the building you can find old Volkswagon Rabbits and even pens of live rabbits. Old signs hang on the building and dot the grounds, including old motel signs, like the one below.

After this stop, we checked the time and knew we had to get going. We had a long ways to go to get to the Ozarks, so we got on the Interstate for the rest of our trip through Illinois.

The next time we made a stop on Route 66 in Illinois was in 2013 on our way to Ohio. I sort of over-planned the “to” route for that trip, but one of the stops was the town of Dwight, Illinois.

It sits on Old Route 66 and the best stop is Ambler’s Texaco Gas Station. Basil “Tubby” Ambler operated the station from 1938 to 1966. The original building was built in 1933 by Jack Shore with an office and a canopy extending out over the gas pumps.

Mr. Ambler added the service bays, and ran the station until 1966. The station continued on selling gas until 1999; a total of 66 years. Then it was an auto repair shop until 2002 when it was closed and donated by owner Phillip Becker to the Village of Dwight.

The Village restored the station to its former glory and today it serves as their visitor center.

Dwight also has a replica Shell Service Station with a red Ferrari painted on the front. It was formerly a Buick car dealership as well as several other businesses.

After this stop, we did manage to follow my plan and make it far enough into Indiana to be close to our first light stop the next morning. And needless to say, Joann asked me to not be quite so ambitious for first days on future trips.

We so appreciate the people who enjoy the nostalgic gas station memorabilia and restore them for display for others enjoyment.

We’ll have more Illinois Route 66 as well as Missouri Route 66 in future blogs. If you get the chance, get out there and have your own experiences on the Mother Road. In just the last week, two businesses along the route have been damaged by fire, and you never know which will be rebuilt and which will be gone forever.

Happy Shunpiking!