Richmond, Indiana – July 2018 – Gennett Records Walk of Fame

Gennett Records was a prominent record company based in Richmond, Indiana in the early 1920s. They are known for producing early recordings of numerous well known artists.

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The company was founded in 1917 by the Starr Piano Company. A park in Richmond contains the remains of the Starr Piano factory, as well as a walk of fame.

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The walk of fame highlights the artists and their history at Gennett. Each marker is a three dimensional, cast bronze and colored mosaic tile emblem in the form of a 78 record. A few are shown here including:

 

Hoagy Carmichael – An Indiana native Hoagy began his jazz career at Indiana University. While his early recordings were with Gennett, he only recorded with them a couple of years.

Hoagy had a long career and wrote such classics as Georgia on My Mind and Skylark. Hoagy remains a legend in jazz to this day, almost 40 years since his death.

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Duke Ellington – While he had a few early recordings with Gennett, Duke had a long career in jazz.

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Jelly Roll Morton – Another early jazz musician, he is most noted for a collection of recordings later that reside in the Smithsonian as the definitive example of jazz.

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Charley Patton – As a Delta Country Blues performer Charley wrote and recorded numerous classics. Known as a classic guitar player, Charley is sometimes known as the Founder of the Delta Blues.

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Fats Waller – With a style all his own, Fats could bridge the gap between white and black artists, jazz and blues. In addition he was known as quite the character.

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Gene Autry – Gennett Records gave Gene Autry his start. From there it was on to superstardom as a country musician and actor/entertainer.

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Artie Shaw – Known as one of the greatest clarinetists of all time, as well as a bandleader. His early recordings with Gennett were lost as the masters were inexplicably destroyed.

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Big Bill Broonzy – One of the original bluesmen. His style lead to Chicago blues. If you listen to Eric Clapton, you are listening to Big Bill Broonzy, as Eric idolized his style.

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Blind Lemon Johnson – Before Robert Johnson, before Big Bill Broonzy there was Blind Lemon Johnson.In 1929 he hired a Ford car with a chauffeur and came to Richmond, recording 12 country blues songs. Sadly later that night back in Chicago it is believed he became disoriented and lost. When he was found the next morning he had frozen to death on a Chicago sidewalk.

He continues to influence many, the bands Blind Melon and Jefferson Airplane are named in his honor.

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And finally – Sachmo – Louis Armstrong – One of the earliest recordings in Richmond were from Louis. He is likely the most important jazz musician of all time.

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There are more honored on the walk – make your way to Richmond for a music history lesson someday.

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The park is well worth the visit.

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Hagerstown, Indiana – July 2018 – Wilbur Wright Fly In

The small eastern Indiana town of Hagerstown is the home of an annual small airplane ‘fly-in’. Home to one of the longest, nicest grass runways in America, it is the perfect stopping off point for the planes headed to the large show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

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As we arrived and parked we passed by a number of vendor booths including this one manned by Bob, an elderly man who makes whirligig airplanes out of soda cans.

He is very skilled, and his touch includes having a picture on a can, if available to be the pilot.

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When I was there he was making one out of Pepsi cans featuring Ray Charles – it was cool enough it now is proudly hanging in my garage!

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But it was time to move on to the main display area. All of the planes were accessible to all who attended.

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Many had open cockpits.

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The pilots were on hand to answer questions about their planes.

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All were magnificently restored.

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It attracted photographers young and old.

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The grass runway resembled a fairway on a golf course – bordered by the Indiana cornfields.

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A sleek nose cone for the propeller.

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They came in a variety of shapes and sizes.

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The two bi-plane rides stayed busy throughout the afternoon.

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With many excited and happy customers.

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The weather was perfect, just a few puffy clouds far above where anyone was flying.

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Some had creative designs.

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While others looked like racing airplanes.

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But eventually it was time to fly out of there. If you are an airplane fan, and can’t make it to Oshkosh, this is a good alternative much closer to home.

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Indianapolis – July 2018 – The Ruins of Holliday Park

If someone blindfolded you, put you on a plane, and took you to this field before taking off the blindfold you might say ‘are we in Rome – what ruins are those?’.

Needless to say they would be very surprised to find they are in the middle of Indianapolis.

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Surrounded by columns it is an impressive sight.

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But this structure is not a thousand year old Roman ruin. It is not even from Indiana. These are the remains of what is considered New York City’s first skyscraper – the St Paul Building.

Built in 1898 at 220 Broadway by Karl Bitter, a well known architect of the day.

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The building had three large statues made of Indiana limestone. These statues were called ‘The Races of Man’ and represented African American, Asian and Caucasian laboring together to hold the skyscraper up.

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By the 1950s it was decided to tear down this building to build a new, boring, glass and steel skyscraper. The owners of the building held a competition to find a new home for the sculptures, and Indianapolis won.

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The sculptures were relocated to Indiana and included in a reproduction of the facade. Over the years there were various modifications, and eventually the ruins, somewhat ironically, fell into disrepair.

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For almost 20 years they were roped off from the public.

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Fortunately in 2015 a restoration project began.

Today they stand proud in a promenade with other pieces including these 3 large stone ones with a portion of the declaration of independence carved into them.

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Holliday Park in Indianapolis is now a beautiful place to spend some time amongst the ‘ruins’.

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Zionsville, Indiana – July 2018 – A Big Fan of Fans

As you wander through the streets of an industrial park in suburban Indianapolis the last thing you would expect to find is one of the largest fan collections in the world.

So what you think – well look and be amazed at how stylish and functional these antiques are.

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Housed in the headquarters of a fan company called Fanimation, the museum has over 2000 desk and ceiling fan from more than 140 manufacturers (according to their website)

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Most are from the first few decades of the 20th century, and show that classic 20s and 30s style.

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When we arrived we asked if we could see the collection. The receptionist told us we were more than welcome to check them out, and lead us to the display room. She also indicated she would get Kim to tell us about them.

Kim is a retired Indianapolis firefighter who has been collecting fans for a long time. He is an excellent restorer of fans, having refurbished many of those in the collection.

The fan below however is in it’s original condition, after more than 80 years.

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The fans are owned by various members of the Antique Fan Collectors Association (of which Kim is a member with many of the fans in the collection being his personal ones).

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The oldest electric fans in the museum are from the 1890s, while they have non electric ones (steam and water powered ones) from the 1880s.

The Dayton fan company, represented below, is still in business today.

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They have numerous fans of different shapes.

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Fanimation was founded by Tom Frampton in Pasadena, California in the 1980s. They relocated to Indiana in the mid 1990s, opening this facility in 2003.

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Most have extensive use of brass, which adds a classic beauty to practical use of the fan.

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Numerous specialty designs are represented, such as this airplane fan – a cool way to stay cool.

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More of the collection.

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One of the non electric fans

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As a fan manufacturer their lobby fans are stylish as well.

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Even the replica terracotta soldier in the lobby has a fan! If you ever find yourself in Indianapolis, skip the art museum (although it is nice too) – check out the fan museum – ask for Kim!

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Kokomo, Indiana – July 2018 – Hot Times in a Glass Factory

Kokomo, Indiana is a city of 50,000 in north central Indiana, about 50 miles north of Indianapolis. Always an industrial town, Kokomo was surprisingly a nice town.

We were in town to take a factory tour (below) but while we waited we checked out all of the places in town noted on Roadside America.

The first site is the Seiberling Mansion. Built in the late 1800s it is a stately home along Sycamore Street.

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In the middle of town is the Kokomantis – a 17′ high steel sculpture of a mantis.

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A block down the street is the Storybrook Express, a quirky building used for a drive through beer distributor.

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Finally in Highland Park are two attractions including Big Ben who was thought to be the largest steer in history at over 5000 pounds.

He is now stuffed and on display inside a shelter behind glass.

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Also in this shelter is the remains of a giant sycamore tree. This stump is 57′ in circumference.

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Our main event for the day was a tour of the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company. It is the oldest manufacturer of opalescent glass in the world, with this factory in continuous use since 1888.

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Our tour started next to the furnace. We were about 50′ away and it was 120 degrees.

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They use an assortment of ladles for pouring the glass.

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The vintage carts have already mixed material for the various colors ready for the furnace.

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When they are done the pieces of glass are placed in barrels scattered about the factory for remelting and forming later.

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A few of the ovens.

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KOG is famed for their skilled glass blowers. We were treated to a demonstration.

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A trainee demonstrated how to blow glass.

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Our tour consisted of a number of elderly from a church and two moms who had 9 kids between them! As you can see the kids were thrilled to be there.

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Our tour took us back past the furnace area.

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Once completed, the glass is inventoried. With hundreds of colors and patterns the selection is immense.

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The storage reminded me of the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.

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Throughout the history of the company the workers have signed a wall, with some signatures dating back to the 1800s.

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They have high skilled workers who can customize the glass for various uses, including stained glass panel replacements.

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The pubic has the opportunity to come in and make their own glass beads.

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Another one of the skilled workers with some detail glass work.

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The Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company is a great place for a visit.

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Elkart, Indiana – July 2018 – RV Capital of the World

The town of Elkhart, Indiana is where an amazing 80% of the world’s RV production occurs. What Hollywood is to movies, and Wall Street is to finance, Elkhart is to campers.

As a result the RV Hall of Fame is located here.

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While I was questioned why I would want to see the RV Hall of Fame, as soon as we entered it was obvious. The first one we saw was one of the earliest ever, built in 1913.

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The inside has a simplistic beauty.

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Next door is a Model T with a structure on the back that contained storage, but when expanded had a bed. Built on a 1915 Model T, it was a one off build known as the Telescope Apartment.

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Many of the campers were from the 1930s through the 1950s. The one below is a ‘Yellowstone’ 18 foot travel trailer from 1954.

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The vintage ones had a lot of woodwork.

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The 1937 Hunt Housecar was built by a Hollywood cinematographer named Roy Hunt.

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The Hunt Housecar has a great interior.

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Another example of the detailed woodwork.

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This weird looking camper is on a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado base. Many refer to it as the Star Trek Camper.

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The 1931 Chevrolet Housecar was built by Paramount Studios for Mae West.

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It was at this point I came to realization that there many of the numerous manufacturing facilities in the area offered tours. A bit of internet surfing revealed that the Heartland RV company was located a few miles down the road, and had tours starting in 30 minutes.

Before you knew it we were touring their facility. The outdoor inventory included these axles used for the ‘bump outs’.

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With the number of campers built daily, they go through a lot of toilets.

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We toured the factory that builds ‘Fifth Wheels’, huge campers that are towed by a ‘wheel’ in the bed of pickup trucks.

Interestingly they build the interior components, then add the shell of the camper.

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Once the sides are on, the roof is added and secured by workers using this yellow catwalk.

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A bump out ready to be installed.

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The massive backs of these campers are one large component.

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Indiana – home of mobile homes and campers.

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Elkhart, Indiana – July 2018 – Gardens and Public Art

Our destination this day was Elkhart, Indiana – home of a collection of ‘Quilt Gardens’ and ‘Quilt Murals’. But first a quick stop at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond.

Hammond is in Lake County, which is a mix of industrial, suburban and farming set along the south shore of Lake Michigan. Their welcome center is built to represent the waves, silos and steel mills of the county.

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The movie A Christmas Story was set in Hammond (although filmed in Cleveland and Toronto). One of the famous scenes is where a little kid is talked into sticking his tongue on a freezing cold flag pole, thus getting stuck. It is recreated here in a statue.

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Once we arrived in Elkhart we saw our first mural.

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As well as the quilt garden. To us the gardens were somewhat of a bust – they are difficult to see because they are too flat to the ground, and just appear as a mix of flowers (albeit nice flowers)

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The entire county did have a collection of decorated elk though.

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We spent an hour at the Wellfield Arboretum, which has a nice collection of sculptures, plants and flowers.

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A steel rodent?

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There were also some water features along with a number of painted ‘sticks’.

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The arboretum was well kept.

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In nearby Middlebury is the ‘World’s Fair Gardens’. These gardens were first presented in the Chicago Century of Progress fair in the 1930s.

They were later moved to Middlebury where they have existed ever since.

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The Middlebury site had a quilt gardens that was easier to see as it was on a small hill.

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