Family Crosses

This piece originally ran here on May 30, 2022. I can think of no better way to observe Memorial Day than with this look back.

Twelve years ago, my parents noticed that many of the older graves in our family cemetery no longer receive flowers for Memorial Day or at any other time of year. Even the ones that traditionally had been decorated every year no longer received visitors. I imagine that those who traditionally cared for them were people like my grandparents who have passed.

My dad commented on how lonely some of the graves seemed. Forgotten, he said. These aren’t just stone slabs in the ground. He pointed out that each grave represents someone’s parent, sibling, child, friend. Each grave represents someone who walked this earth, breathed air, lived and died. To someone at some time, every person buried in that cemetery was the most important person in the world.

My folks had this conversation the day before Memorial Day 2010. The two sprang into action — my dad heading to the garage and my mom to the dollar store. Dad constructed simple wooden crosses using lumber he had on hand. My mom purchased inexpensive silk flowers to attach to each cross. And by the following day, they had enough wooden crosses adorned with flowers to place at every grave in Garrett Cemetery where some of my immediate family is buried. 

By the following year, they had painted all those crosses white, echoing the simplicity of the famous white crosses in Arlington.

Sadly, we lost another one of our own this year. My aunt Maryann left this world in August, joining her parents, husband and child in the little cemetery down the road from my home. My dad went back to the garage to assemble another white cross.

Thirty-five souls rest in that cemetery and thirty-five white crosses have been lovingly placed by my parents again this year. 

They are modest people and don’t do it for the attention. It is a simple act but one with great impact. It is a moving sight, these white crosses. My mother insists that if every person who takes flowers to a grave would take an extra bouquet for someone who doesn’t receive visitors, the world would be a better place. I think she is right.

I wish I knew more of the stories behind the headstones but I do know some. My grandma’s brother died of influenza, just a toddler in 1922. My aunt and uncle — two of my favorite humans ever — each died young, leaving behind a hole in our family like none other.

My great-great-uncle Hobart Garrett was a farmer who died an old bachelor. There is an empty space next to him that I presume was for a wife who he never met living out here in the country. Hobart’s sister was a school teacher who had no kids of her own and who seemed to not really like kids. I have a small hand bell she used at the school as well as a handful of postcards, textbooks and even a purse that belonged to her. 

All 35 were people just like you and me. All of them had a story to tell. Even if we don’t remember their stories, it’s nice to honor their memories. 

My parents seem to think that no one else notices their crosses but I notice and I’m glad they do it. 

If you’re out and about decorating graves this Memorial Day, perhaps consider taking extra flowers for a neglected grave or at least take a moment to brush the grass clippings off some headstones. Small gestures such as these may not change the world but you never know who is watching and besides, you’ll know that you did something nice for someone who can offer nothing in return.

Vintage SABA Radio

I gained a treasure this weekend. My folks found this SABA Wildbad radio for me at a yard sale. For free.

My vintage radio collection isn’t huge but I have several pieces, picked up as bargains along the way but none of them were free and none are German.

There’s not a lot available on the internet but I did figure out that it’s a fifties era model and that the company began by making watches in the Black Forest in 1835. The founder’s grandson moved the company to Villingen in 1918 to begin making headphones and radio components. By 1931, they were producing radio units with loudspeakers. This model has three loudspeakers.

They also were the first to develop automatic fine tuning in all bandwidths and, in the sixties, they had a short stint as a record label. Today they are known for televisions, home security systems and home appliances.

Too bad I don’t read German. I did figure out that the Ein-Aus button is On-Off!

This weekend has been busy so there’s been little time to research it but, if nothing else, it’s a great conversation piece. So I plan to clean it up a bit and give it a creative place to live. Someday I’ll circle back around to researching it.

Anyone have experience with mid-century German electronics?

Cambridge City, Indiana

I stopped for a picture here because I just liked the scene. The viaduct and the Chug-A-Lug Pub sign make a shabby but eclectic combination. Truth is, Cambridge City, Indiana isn’t a city at all. Their population peaked at around 2,500 in 1970. Today, about 1,750 people call this quaint town home.

Located along the historic National Road, I have antiqued here before. When I was there in April, it was just to drive through – although I did meander off the beaten path for a few minutes.

There are several nice murals that tell the story of the town’s history.

I live in Vinton County so I always look for this place along the National Road.

Worshipers were beginning to arrive for services at the Methodist Church when I was passing through.

The place is just quaint and lovely and clearly a source of pride for its residents. It seems like a nice place to live and it’s proximity to Richmond and Indianapolis are a plus to me. Residents can access the culture, healthcare, jobs and other amenities of the cities while maintaining their small town lifestyle.

It’s one of several cute small towns along the National Road in Indiana. If you’re a road tripper, I recommend following this route to get a taste of the kind of Americana you’ll only find in small rural communities. It’s a special experience so hit the road, brake for pictures, stop for diner pie and, as always, enjoy the journey.

One Cool Cat

If you are a fan of Garfield, you might enjoy following the Garfield Trail in Grant County, Indiana. I told told you about that yesterday. There’s also an exhibit about creator Jim Davis at the Fairmount Historical Museum.

This museum is mostly a destination for James Dean fans but they do have a room dedicated to Davis and his lasagna loving feline Garfield.

I told you a little about this place when I wrote about the exhibits regarding James Dean. They seem to be rebranding the James Dean memorabilia as the James Dean Museum. You’ll find a description of that collection included in this story.

The exhibit really is small but it includes some Garfield memorabilia.

Plus there are some comic strips and a few professional tools that belonged to Davis.

And, of course, part of the Garfield trail resides here. It’s Garfield dressed as James Dean!

I’m guessing this is the most photographed five foot tall James Dean impersonating cat in the world!

Tin Man of Muncie

Meet the Tin Man of Muncie, Indiana.

There’s no yellow brick road here but there is Kilgore Avenue that takes you right to Delbert M. Dawson and Sons Metal Fabricating where this guy stands sentinel.

He’s larger than life and kind of a neat thing to see if you’re in the neighborhood. Roadside oddities and attractions are remnants of days gone by when road trips ruled and before kids had iPads to keep them entertained on long trips.

Weird as it may sound, this is the kind of thing I live for. Anything different like unique architecture, a classic car, an interesting statue, a covered bridge and yes, a man made of sheet metal, are the things that make road-trips fun and keep you engaged with your surroundings.

You never know what’s around the next corner and that’s an amazing realization.

So how about it? Is there a roadside attraction you enjoy?