THE BRITISH ARE COMING!
In The Old North Church. The pews here are boxes that families would purchase back in the day. The church remains a functional Episcopal Church. See the name plaque behind Brian? How does Char manage to look 15 in all the photos and I look like a drowned rat? It was raining and as soon as we left the Old North Church, we got caught in gale-force winds and rain on our walk back to the hotel. Will never forget it, that's for sure!
We had a couple fabulous tours in Boston. If you haven't been, Boston has devised a great method for folks to see key Revolutionary War sites. It's a thin brick path built into the streets. It was nice to have guides as well.
This is the Old North Church, famous for Paul Revere arranging for lanterns to be placed high in the windows so Patriots could be signaled that the British were coming. Do you remember the code? "One if by land, two if by sea."
Tom pays his respects leaving a penny at Paul Revere's grave markers at The 1660 cemetery, Granary Burial Ground. Also buried in this city graveyard is John Hancock, victims of The Boston Massacre and Samuel Adams. In fact, the guide explained that across the street from Samuel Adams' grave is a pub that serves Samuel Adams' brew. You can toast Sam from there, looking at his grave.
I still have another post or two to make from our New England trip. Can't forget the Presidents' Adams in Quincy, Mass., and Martha's Vineyard. But I won't get to those today. I have a list of real-life stuff to get done. It's back to work and reality tomorrow, and today, a to-do list.
'AMERICA'S OLDEST RESTAURANT'
So if you're eating at the oldest restaurant in the U.S.A., and it's in Boston, with the Atlantic Ocean nearby, you're probably going to have a seafood meal. For the first time I ate raw oysters, "throwing them back" as is the proper technique, and they weren't bad. I then enjoyed this meal:
I had lobster once before in New England, several years ago in Maine with Gay Kirkton. You may disagree, but to me, these guys are a lot of work and mess for no more meat you get out of them. But I'm glad I ordered the big guy. When in Boston, eat like a Bostonian!
But just think. This restaurant has been here since 1826. But let's go back before that. Upstairs, possibly in the very spot where our group dined, starting in 1771, Issiah Thomas printed "The Massachusetts Spy. The paper's motto? "Open to all parties, but influenced by none." It's our nation's oldest newspaper.
In 1775, Ebenezer Hancock of the Continental Army established headquarters for early Federal troops here. During the Revolution, you would have seen the Adams, Hancock and Quincy women and their neighbors sewing bandages and clothing for the columnists in the building.
And who should live on the second floor? No less than the future King of France, the exiled Louis Philippe.
Before our trip, I had no idea what a big deal October is in Salem, Mass., home of the infamous Salem Witch Trials in colonial times. Let's just say that in the same way that Parke County does covered bridges, Salem does witches -- marketing the whole month as a festival.
Only we're talking hundreds of thousands of people, many wearing extraordinary costumes worthy of the finest movie set, taking to the streets of the city. I had hoped to get this post up before Halloween, but didn't. Maybe next fall I'll post a bunch of the costumed characters but for now, here's another.
I took a dozen or more photos of the characters, all happy to pose for the camera. Shows you what this Hoosier knows. I figured our trip to Salem would be visiting a sleepy little town where we would see some "witch" tombstones in a centuries-old graveyard, and maybe a history-laden film in a small museum, detailing the trials. Oh no.
"Witches" are big business here, and on a tour we took, for one small example, a whole coven of them, donning their pointed hats, had flown in from Texas, there for a "witches' ball" and sightseeing. Presumably they took a commercial airline.
Also, there are no "witch" tombstones to view. The girls who were tried and found guilty were hung outside of town at a site that was unknown until recently. There are no grave markers for them for at the time, our guide explained, they were held in such contempt that their remains might have been destroyed. So where they were buried, likely discreetly by their families, is unknown.
Along with the informal parade of fully costumed characters, there are vendors along the streets, as one would expect at, say, our Indiana Parke County Covered Bridge Festival. We arrived late afternoon, and stayed into the evening hours. We had a great visit with a police officer who said it's a calm enough place but late in the evening things get ... a little more challenging. We were tucked into our beds back in Boston before such a "bewitching" hour.
Our foursome thought we'd settle for street food, but then happened on a little cafe that was first-come, first-served, and we went in and were fed quickly. Ahhh, here's this trip's first taste of New England, with a classic:
I'll keep posting about our trip as time allows. There is so much to unpack! And I'm not talking clothes.
RARE AIR: FROM THE KENNEDY COMPOUND
You know those dreams? The ones where you wake up and say, “Oh my! You won’t believe what I dreamed last night!”
Then you describe the craziness: You and your husband are on the Kennedy compound with your pals and a bunch of folks you recognize, all walking around, coming and going from Joe and Rose Kennedy's home in Hyannis Port, Mass. You recognize it as the one you’ve seen your whole life on those home movies depicting young Joe Jr., Jack, Bobby, Ted, Eunice, and the rest of the nine sibs enjoying their summer home on the Atlantic coast with the parents looking on, smiling that Kennedy smile.
Each time I see those home movies, I can't look away. So much life and promise. They have no idea what's ahead.
Then the scene changes to the kitchen that looks like your grandmother’s kitchen from the 1940s, smaller than you would have guessed, well-used, not done up with the latest appliances or granite countertops you might expect from your notion of how rich people live.
There’s Rose Kennedy’s china, dining room table, piano and all the rest. Yeah, you even go into JFK’s childhood bedroom, frozen in decor from the time of his horrendous death.
Then you shake your head and think: Yeah right! Like that could happen in a million years! Me? In the Kennedy home?
Only it happened to us earlier this week.
Brian, friends Tom and Char, and I had the privilege of being part of the Tom and Sue Saunders’ travel group this past week. This time, the American-history-themed trip centered on Boston, Quincy, and more Cape Cod destinations of Martha’s Vineyard, Hyannis and yes, Hyannis Port.
Our group visited the Kennedy compound, courtesy of Tom Saunders’ magic wand and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute which now owns the historic home. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, arranged for two guides from the Boston-based Institute, which we also visited, to give us a tour. The home is used now for special events and don’t you suppose, Tom imagined, that one day it will be open to the public as are other prime presidential sites throughout the U.S.
No photos are allowed inside the home, purchased by Joe and Rose Kennedy in the 1920s, and donated to the Institute by the Kennedys. But we were treated to have one taken (by one of our Institute guides, no less) as we gathered around the living room fireplace and bookcases brimming with Kennedy belongings. It was the exact same spot as a famous picture that included JFK’s siblings, wife and parents the morning after he was elected President. (Give it a Google. Note the mirror which is easily identified in the famous photo.)
I had always imagined that the compound was located off to itself, something like the Bush mansion at Kennebunkport is set apart from the city of Kennebunk, island-like, not a home that’s easy to approach.
The Kennedy compound is in a neighborhood, past Bobby and Ethel Kennedy’s home, where she still lives. There's plenty of security, including a guard who has watched over the compound for decades. We couldn't have been on the property without an invite and appointment. (So if you are thinking of a visit, you'll need to contact the Institute first for sure.)
You think of the fun, games, family meals, and those lawn football games that took place there. And you imagine more: The horrendous grief for those parents and siblings when they endured the sudden unimaginable losses of their children and other family heartaches.
Whatever your politics, it doesn’t matter; you feel for their personal pain, the kind you may know from rough and tragic times in your own lives. You think back to being 5 years old and remembering where you were when you heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated. The same way you remember 9/11.
Is there any American political or celebrity family so well known, followed, written about and discussed? I would say none are even close. But what you quickly understand is that they were very real people, living very real lives and this was a place for the whole gang to gather and be family.
Originally, the Kennedys lived at the home seasonally, and later in life, Joe and Rose were there most all the time. You see the elevator that transported Joe after his stroke in the early 1960s. Ted and Vicki lived several years at the home up to the Senator's death.
Our Institute guide spoke of how the cook would lay out four spoons for the Senator to taste test what was for dinner upon his arrival home for the evening. Unless they had company, he and Vicki would eat in the kitchen. He sailed most days, right up to just before his death.
Our guide explained that the neighborhood, which sits near the water, was a draw for wealthy folks to come and relax back in the day. She said it wasn’t that the Kennedy family set out to develop an enclave, but through the years, more homes were bought by family, such as the one where Ethel lives now—next door. Another Kennedy also lives in the area, one of the grandkids.
She spoke of how Rose liked to keep up with whatever was current for young people. She would listen to rock music and read what the kids were reading. And, she challenged those who sat at the dining room table, which remains there today. If you were over 16 you were upgraded from the children’s table to the adult table. There was a topic posted for the daily discussion and everyone was expected to have input.
Those who came to dinner were expected to dress, be on time, and be prepared to discuss the day’s topic.
When he lived there in his later years, Sen. Ted Kennedy continued the format of a topic of the day for discussion. The Kennedys always hosted Thanksgiving. Often, the family sat on the porch where they read the newspapers and clipped items out for each other to read.
Music was a big part of the house and Rose’s grand piano was at the ready in the living room for the family to gather round and sing. There are 14 bedrooms in the amazingly comfortable, lived-in family home where generations gathered and relaxed.
Our Institute guide said that when Jack was elected president, Rose decided to hire someone to “fancy up” the home. Indeed, JFK even hosted staff there, and a small table was pointed out as where they met. A cardinal – who later became Pope – visited the home and the sofa he sat on remains there. Rose had a plaque made for the back of the piece to indicate that the pope sat there.
Our group descended the steep stairs where the basement is like basements of old, not designed for hosting guests. Rose kept her doll collection there that came from all over the world, now relocated to climate-controlled storage. Photos of the dolls remain. There is a small movie theater, very utilitarian, with a pull-down screen, and a room nearby holds a collection of old movie equipment.
Following the tour, we went into Hyannis and visited the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, and also St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church to which Rose walked daily, and where extended-family Kennedys worshiped while in town.
In Boston, we toured the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, along with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, located right across from the president’s library. The Institute has a full-sized replica of the Senate floor where visitors can sit, learn about the Senate and hear guest speakers and programs.
There is also a replica of Sen. Kennedy’s Senate office.
Our thanks to Tom and Sue, to the Kennedy Institute, and to Patti with the Hyannis Chamber of Commerce for wonderful opportunities.
Unless I wake up soon, it appears that none of this was a dream.
Note: This post covers only the Kennedy aspect of our trip. I’ll do another post or two on other parts of our adventure which includes dining at the oldest restaurant in America, and visiting the home of two more presidents. Not sure when though. Real life is calling.
RONALD REAGAN'S CHILDHOOD HOME
On our recent trip to Illinois with friends Rick and Gay Kirkton, our first stop was Dixon, Illinois, population 15,000. This is the hometown of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.
We toured the restored and immaculately maintained home where the Reagan family of four lived from 1920-1923. It’s a classic, two-story American home built in 1891 on a tree-lined street. As American as apple pie.
The Reagan family, which consisted of parents Jack and Nelle, and sons Neil and little brother Ron, rented this and other homes in the area. There was no family wealth; Nelle was a homemaker and Jack sold shoes.
Ron lived in the home, sharing a room with his older brother, Neil, when Ron was 9-13.
The family attended the First Christian Church in town. Ron and his mother taught Sunday School there.
The home has few original furnishings, notably a quilt that belonged to Nelle is all that was pointed out, but is filled with period décor. The bathroom tub is original, as is the woodwork and other features.
The original fireplace and tile surround on the floor are present and come with a cool story. Apparently Ron knew there was a loose tile and would lift it to hide small amounts of change.
Ron, Nancy and Ron’s brother Neil visited the home in 1984 when Ron checked out the tile and placed a few pennies there.
At that time, he was President and it was decided in advance that the Reagans might enjoy a quiet meal in the dining room. The story goes that during a pre-visit security sweep, Secret Service noted a window with a clear view of the table in the small dining room. They didn’t want to draw attention to the space, yet didn’t like the security aspect of the situation. So, they arranged to plant new landscaping just outside the window.
The situation looked as though the house staff was simply fixing up the place for the visit, but in reality, the new plantings created a block. The trees were removed after the President’s visit.
Ron had a variety of jobs in town as a kid. He worked at the Dixon Golf Club and spent six summers as a lifeguard where he is credited with saving 77 swimmers.
Ron went on to Eureka College where he studied economics and sociology. He was hired by a radio station to announce University of Iowa games and worked as a sports broadcaster for a variety of stations before moving to Hollywood in 1937 From there, his public career, which included being a fairly famous actor, took off.
Ron served governor of California from 1967-75 and U.S. President from 1981-89. He left office with a 68 percent approval rating. Ron spent his final years battling Alzheimer's disease, dying in 2004 in California.
Upon his 1984 trip back to town, Ron said, “My heart is still here.”
Gay captured Brian and me in Grant Park in Galena, Illinois Saturday. Here, we stand in front of the Galena River that runs through the heart of the town. Behind the river is downtown Galena. This is the adopted hometown of President and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The river feeds into the mighty Mississippi, just a few miles away.
Less than a year ago, Gay Kirkton and I took our annual summer girlfriend getaway to the unique and beautiful Galena, Illinois, situated in northwest Illinois, a hop and skip from both Wisconsin and Iowa. Next to Chicago, this is the most visited destination in the great state of Illinois, with Springfield third.
With a population of 3,800, this small city has more than 50 restaurants in its vibrant downtown alone, and several blocks packed with one-of-a-kind shops that sell everything from trendy housewares to kitchen goods, gourmet food, fashionable (and affordable) clothing, and costume jewelry.
So the shopping is certainly a draw -- let's be honest -- for women especially. The food? For everyone!
For the Cronks of Pendleton and our friends Rick and Gay Kirkton of Angola (but proud Illinois natives), history got us there.
When you think of Illinois and U.S. presidents, perhaps Abraham Lincoln comes first to mind. He certainly does for me. Springfield, Illinois boasts a number of tributes to his life and times that you can visit from his presidential library to the only home he ever owned, to a visit inside his law office, the cemetery where he was laid to rest, and more.
But don't forget the other presidents who called Illinois their home. Consider this one.
Do you remember that President, California Governor and actor Ronald Reagan came from Illinois and spent from age 9 to adulthood in Dixon, Illinois? Here we are in front of the home his family rented for a few years which is a tour-able landmark in the town.
I'll do a separate post later on the home, as it is worthy of its own essay. It was a fantastic stop, and glimpse into an iconic man of humble roots. Our fellas stand next to a life-size cardboard version of the 1980s president. It appears accurate in stature as President Reagan was 6'1" and our guys measure up to prove that about right.
After a stop in Dixon, it was on to Galena. The drive was exceedingly charming as we rode in Rick's comfortable pick-up truck chatting away the hours and looking out for miles and miles over tidy fields and farms in our friends' treasured home state.
You can have your majestic mountains, and while I love looking out over water, my personal eye candy consists of massive green fields of Midwestern crops. You've got the best view of those in Illinois and Iowa.
In Galena, it was like checking in with an old friend as Brierwreath Bed & Breakfast owner Joe Cook greeted us. His inn is perfectly located in this hilly city because it's an easy walk downhill to the downtown where we had our choice and then some of dining options. We went for a repeat of last year's trip as we sat outside at Vinny's for an Italian meal.
On Saturday at breakfast, that uncanny thing that always happens to Gay and me happened again. At the first of two fine breakfasts served by Joe, we met B & B guests with a connection to Gay. One worked in public relations for the community college where Gay's father serves as a trustee. The guest could not believe it! She knows Gay's dad and the two had a lot to discuss about the college and their connections.
Then it was on to catch our trolley where we got a splendid overview of Galena's history from a lead-mining and steamboat hub in the 1800s to the home of a future and then post-U.S. president in the form of U.S. Grant and family in the mid-to-late 1800s to a town that celebrates commerce, history and architecture in the city it is today.
We had a wonderful tour of the home of U.S. Grant and family, above. More than 90 percent of the home's contents are original. Grant had lived in Ohio and St. Louis, Missouri but after marrying a wealthy farmer's daughter and being gifted with land, Grant found that he was not cut out for farming.
He brought his family to Galena, Illinois where his family owned a tannery. It is there he worked, living in a small, humble home to suit his means until his true talents as a West Point-educated soldier were recognized and he became the key figure in saving the union and will forevermore be recognized in that remarkable way.
To thank him for his war contributions, some wealthy men in Galena gifted the Grants with this home. It never left the family until the Grant children gifted the home to the state of Illinois in the early 1900s as a permanent tribute to their parents.
We enjoyed lunch outside at Gobbie's and then it was back to our B & B to rest up in our rooms before heading out to dinner downtown at Fried Green Tomatoes. We had a lovely meal including Harvest salads, pesto and tomato brushetta and crab cakes.
When it was time to leave, we discovered a drenching rain outside the restaurant. We waited in the entryway for it to clear but before it did, the restaurant owner, Fred, graciously appeared and asked where we were staying. He sent for his personal vehicle to transport us to our doorstep at the inn! Talk about above and beyond!
I promised Fred (he said to think of his name as Fried without the i) that I would mention this in my blog. So this is for you, Fred! I also would recommend your food and staff to anyone!
Gay and I enjoy attending church services in the towns we visit. We took the United Methodist Church up on its offer, via a display board out front, to sit in Grant's pew. On Sunday morning we all went to church a short walk down the street from our B & B to the former Methodist Episcopal Church where the Grant family pew is distinctively and tastefully marked with a small American flag. We got the photo shortly after services.
A couple special moments for me from the weekend were during the meet-and-greet portion of the church service, turning around to shake hands with a woman who formerly lived in Shirley, Indiana. That's a tiny town in the circulation area of the newspaper where I work.
Also, in the Grant home, upstairs a framed picture depicts key figures in the Civil War and in the group photo is included one Gen Ambrose Burnside -- who happens to hail from my hometown of Liberty, Indiana.
When you think of Illinois, the Land of Lincoln, remember that four U.S. presidents called this beautiful Midwestern state home -- Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Barack Obama.
We'll certainly never forget.
Donna Cronk is a blogger, newspaper journalist and author of two novels: Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland, available from the author , at specialty venues and on Amazon.com.
In fall of 2014 I had the thrill of spending 10 days in Israel. I have never been the same since. I will never be the same in the future.
Today, Israel is on my mind and in my heart in a special way. It's the 70th anniversary today in terms of world governments and recognition. But it is the eternal city of God. And today, the U.S. Embassy is newly located in Israel's capital, Jerusalem.
So many moments, images, sights and sites, sounds and sound bites come to mind when I think of this most unique country of Israel and its Holy City and capital of Jerusalem. Here's one moment. Our group, about 35 of us with my Ovid Community Church, walked along together toward our next stop in Jerusalem. In the opposite direction some Jewish men walked by. One man's eyes met mine and with neither of us stopping or even slowing down, he called out, "Where you from?" I said "U.S.A." His response?
"God bless the U.S.A. and Israel, together."
And that is where we are in a special way today.
We don't get too far into the Bible before we read this in Genesis 12:3: "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." NIV
Indeed, Jesus came through the Jewish people ... the whole earth blessed by Him.
Is there any place on planet earth more important to so many as this spot? It is calledThe Wailing Wall, the Western Wall, the Temple Mount. This wall is part of the mount, or platform, that once held two Jewish Temples before they were destroyed. Jews pray here and leave notes in the wall. See the temporary fence at left with the women looking over it? This is where many Jewish boys have their Bar Mitzvah.
Psalms 132:13-14: For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, "This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it." NIV.
Israel is the size of New Jersey. Everywhere (EVERY-WHERE) you step, you are walking on history. In fact, I best describe this experience as one where someone dropped me into a Bible and allowed me to walk around there. Events of both Old and New Testaments merge and mingle.
Whereas the Bible was once in black and white, it is now in living color.
Psalm 122:6: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
"May those who love you be secure. (NIV).
As the man said in the crowd in the heart of Jerusalem,
"God bless the U.S.A. and Israel, together."
HOOSIER CONNECTIONS IN THE CAPITAL
This column ran Sunday in the New Castle Courier-Times.
By DONNA CRONK
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Earlier this fall, Brian and I visited Washington, D.C. One of my just-for-fun objectives was to look for Hoosier symbols wherever we went. They are, in fact, everywhere.
Consider the federal monuments and buildings alone. Indiana limestone and other stone went into these, along with many others not mentioned: The Lincoln Memorial, the interior dome of the Jefferson Memorial, the National Cathedral, The Pentagon and marble in the Indiana Memorial stone in the Washington Monument.
Also, Indiana limestone or stone grace the National Archives, National Theater, Departments of Commerce and Interior, Federal Triangle Building, Botanic Gardens, Federal Trade Commission and more.
In the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, Italian-American artist Constantino Brumidi painted the frieze that appears as almost three-dimensional around the rotunda. It illustrates major events in U.S. history. We were told by our guide that two spaces in the frieze remained when the painter fell from a
ladder and never finished the frieze. However, the artwork was completed by other artists.
One spot went to Henry Ford for his contributions with the automobile, and the last blank area to complete the ring went to Henry County native Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville in an homage to flight.
When the House of Representatives was moved for more space in 1857, the Old Hall of the House became National Statuary Hall. Each state was invited by Congress to provide two statues of its most notable citizens, according to a capitol brochure. These statues in the collection are displayed in the Hall, the Rotunda, the Capitol Visitor Center and corridors.
Can you guess the identities of the two Hoosiers who are depicted in
The first is Wayne County’s own Oliver P. Morton, Indiana’s Civil War governor.
He was a Centerville attorney whose home survives on the western edge of U.S. 40 (originally called The National Road) in Centerville and is on the National Register of Historic Places. He was elected to two terms as governor, beginning in 1861, and left office to serve as a U.S. senator. He died at age 54 during his second term.
Morton lived from 1823 to 1877. His statue graces the Statuary Hall collection.
The second statue is Gen. Lew Wallace.
Wallace was born in Brookville in 1827 and died in Crawfordsville in 1905. An attorney, Civil War Union general, governor of the New Mexico Territory, and Hoosier author. He wrote the classic Christian historical-adventure novel, “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” in 1880.
The state of Indiana commissioned his tribute statue in marble. In it, he wears a military uniform. The statue was unveiled in 1910.
During all of my childhood, Lisa Charles was a pleasant, curly-headed girl, two years my junior, who lived back a long lane in a big, pretty farmhouse. Lisa’s mom, Mary, was my mother’s hairdresser and I’m pretty sure she gave me my first professional perm – something other than the Toni ones out of a box at home.
At Lisa’s farm, just a couple of properties away from ours at Route 1, Brownsville (before they did away with rural route numbers), we had 4-H meetings.
But of course Lisa and I grew up and lost touch. I saw her for the first time in nearly 40 years two years ago at The Liberty Festival and learned that she and her husband bought her folks’ place and of all things – they have turned it into a Maple syrup farm!
On well over 100 acres of woodlands, they tap the maple trees (not with buckets, we’re talking modern technology these days, folks, and lots of cool equipment and tubes that drain the sap back at their central production area).
They sell their pure Indiana Maple Syrup and related products at some of the best farmers’ markets in the state. Pretty sweet.
So this weekend, today and tomorrow, Maplewood Farms are on tour and along with watching production and Lisa explaining how it’s done, you can purchase the delicious products too.
Right there at Route 1 Brownsville, on the Charles farm.
Only now it’s 3737 N. Philomath Rd. Brownsville, Indiana 47325. And it’s the Hart place. You can email Lisa at email@example.com.
I loved going down Lisa’s lane. I thought of it as Memory Lane.