Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Thanksgiving Surprise

We celebrated Thanksgiving Day here at the old jail. Two of my brothers were here with their families, plus my mom and my sister-in-law's sister, Amber. In addition to a wonderful salad, Amber brought with her a scrapbook of clippings and other mementos that had been assembled by a woman who lived here for eleven years in the 1940's and 50's when her husband was the sheriff. The scrapbook included a lot of things about our old building.

I spent several hours for a couple of days after Thanksgiving scanning the clippings and photos that pertained to our building into my computer and printing them out for my own scrapbook. In the process of doing so I learned a lot that I hadn’t known before. I was especially excited to see a photograph of the fireplace mantle and wood moldings on the first floor, all of which had been removed by the time DH and I bought the house. I was saddened by a story about a little 10-year-old boy who committed suicide in his cell in 1948, discovered by the sheriff's wife when she went to bring him his dinner. When I read about a couple of prisoners who had enlarged a hole in the southeast corner of the jail and used it to escape, DH and I went into the cell block to look for the place where the wall had been patched. There was a cute photograph of a bunch of kids celebrating a birthday party on the jail steps, just in front of the "Visiting Hours" sign.

As I removed the items from their plastic covers for copying, it occurred to me that the last person who had touched them was probably the sheriff's wife who had assembled them, maybe even sitting in this same room, which was most likely her bedroom. I felt close to her, this hard-working, underappreciated mother of six who toiled daily for no salary, feeding the prisoners and her own family, seeing things no woman ever wants to see. She obviously felt a special connection to the old place, because included in the collection are clippings pertaining to the sale of the building long after her residence here. Near the end of the book was an article announcing the death of her husband at an untimely early age; I thought about how shocked and grieving she would have been as she placed it into the book.

Old buildings are like that--for a time they are the center of our whole world, the place where holidays are celebrated and tragedies are mourned, where children grow up and leave and return with their own children. Then we move on and another family takes our place and the whole cycle starts all over again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What happened to the train?

The picture above hangs in the entrance hall of the Lawrence County Museum; I see it just about every day and it reminds me of why historic preservation is so important. It is of J Street in downtown Bedford, the same street our castle faces, at a time when the railroad was a daily presence in the life of our town.

I remember being stopped by a passing train in Bedford on lots of hot summer days before car air conditioning. My siblings and I would count the cars while the sweat ran off our faces. A hundred or more wasn't uncommon. When DH and I bought the old jail and moved back here in 2007, the train still passed once a day, and it was always fun to wave at the engineer and hear him blast the horn so loud it made our windows rattle. Cars would line up on the street out front, waiting for the train to pass. The Christmas parade that year had to stop for ten minutes to let the train roll through downtown.

When I came back from my trip in early July of this year, I noticed that the train didn't come by anymore. I don't know why; I suppose I could research it, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that another part of our history has been lost, at least for the time being. Maybe some Bedfordians are glad to be rid of a noisy train, but I miss it.

October was really nuts--three big fundraisers to organize at the museum (take a look at for details), and both my kids were sick at some point. The kids are both healthy now, thankfully. The last of the fundraisers will be over tomorrow night; it was all fun but it will be great to be free to think about something else.

I'm looking forward to a visit from one of my sisters who lives out of town; Friday and Saturday I hope to go out with her and my mom for some girl stuff (probably antiques/crafts shopping and lunch in some cute southern Indiana town--stay tuned for a full report). I'm always on the lookout for places that serve real meringue pie, made with real eggs and browned in a real oven. If you know of any place like that within an hour and a half of Bedford, please share the information!