Hillsboro Halloween House

Last year on Halloween I was out wandering around doing my usual Saturday thing when I came upon something that caused me to slam on the brakes.

Here it is.

This private residence in all its spectacular over-the-top Halloween glory is situated across the street from the Rite Aid in Hillsboro, Ohio.

Isn’t it fabulous?

Oddly enough, no one else seemed to be paying any attention. I’m assuming this is an annual tradition given the extent of the decorations, the creativity and presumed cost involved in making this macabre display.

Honestly, Halloween isn’t really my holiday but I couldn’t get enough of it.

These horses were pulling a hearse.

It’s a lot to look at and I’m guessing the neighbors aren’t super thrilled but I bet it’s fabulous after dark.

Deliciously Different

If you ever find yourself traveling through Hillsboro, Ohio keep your eyes peeled for this great advertising piece.

Vernor’s was created by a Detroit pharmacist in 1866, making it one of the country’s oldest soft drinks. Inventor James Vernor sold his drink exclusively at his soda fountain for a few years before he began selling it to other soda fountains. He even required them to install special equipment to serve it correctly.

Notice the apostrophe in the photo above. That apostrophe was dropped sometime in the 1950s to become just Vernors.

James Vernor’s son became President in 1896 but the elder Vernor remained involved in the company. The family joked that he retired just hours before his death in 1927.

The company was family owned until 1966 and has changed hands a couple of times over the decades.

I try not to drink a lot of sugary or carbonated beverages but it is a refreshing treat. It really is deliciously different!

Mad River Road Log Cabin

This circa 1830 log cabin can be found at Highland House in Hillsboro, Ohio. It was built by a fellow named George Robison along Mad River Road and donated by the Curtis Wilson family in 1980.

The cabin has stood at this site since 1990 and can be seen from the street. Highland House is a magnificent hometown museum which I wrote about a few times last month.

My favorite exhibit there is about the Hillsboro Marching Mothers who used peaceful demonstrations to end segregation in their elementary schools. Read it here. They also have a fantastic tribute to the old Colony Theater and a host of other items.

If you go, be sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy the outdoor exhibits as well as those outside.

Mad River Road Log Cabin

This circa 1830 log cabin can be found at Highland House in Hillsboro, Ohio. It was built by a fellow named George Robison along Mad River Road and donated by the Curtis Wilson family in 1980.

The cabin has stood at this site since 1990 and can be seen from the street. Highland House is a magnificent hometown museum which I wrote about a few times last month.

My favorite exhibit there is about the Hillsboro Marching Mothers who used peaceful demonstrations to end segregation in their elementary schools. Read it here. They also have a fantastic tribute to the old Colony Theater and a host of other items.

If you go, be sure to allow plenty of time to enjoy the outdoor exhibits as well as those outside.

The Colony Theater

There was a time that every small town across America had at least one theater. Whether they were known for movies or vaudeville they were centers of entertainment and culture.

So many have been lost to progress, neglect and apathy that it’s exciting to see one still operating. It’s equally sad to find the remains of a great old theater in a museum.

I paid my respects to the former Colony Theater at Highland House Museum in Hillsboro last weekend. The Colony was demolished in 2017. It opened in 1938 and was operated by the Chakeres chain for several years. It was owned by the city and then a nonprofit organization for some time but eventually fell prey to water damage and decay. It was deemed unsalvageable and torn down.

Highland House has a wonderful exhibit dedicated to this place. A mirror from the ladies room, small pieces of memorabilia, a stairwell railing, and a stunning piece of art called a bas relief are among the collection.

The bas relief will stop you in your tracks. This is a sculpture in low relief – so it has shallow depth but is three dimensional.

This one is a Renaissance Knight on a horse but the museum says that there were a total of eight sculptures that lined the theater walls and represented different places and ages including Egyptians, Native Americans, Vikings, Greeks and Romans. They were larger than life and skillfully created by Indianapolis artist Frank Boerder.

This type of art was commonly used in theaters of that era and they were typically uplit.

Whoever installed this piece at the museum did outstanding work and I found it most pleasing to the eye. Never fear – the other seven were salvaged and carefully stored.

Want to visit Highland House? You should! Click here to read about it and about the Hillsboro Marching Mothers exhibit.

Hillsboro Marching Mothers

About a year ago I stumbled into a story about the Hillsboro Marching Mothers that I struggled to believe happened here in Ohio.

This is what took me to Highland House in Hillsboro on Saturday. They have a nice exhibit about the topic in their Humanities Room. The centerpiece of this room is a short documentary that beautifully shows the human side of the events involving the Marching Mothers.

Here’s what happened.

In the mid-1950s many establishments in Hillsboro were segregated. For example, restaurants only allowed blacks to order takeout rather than sit at the counter or a table inside. While the high school was integrated, the elementary schools were not. In fact, black youngsters were forced to attend the Lincoln School, a building constructed not long after the Civil War.

The Lincoln School was subpar in every sense of the word. While it had been updated over the years to add indoor plumbing and electricity, the building was hazardous. They lacked basic tools like maps, globes and science equipment. The textbooks were outdated and many were missing pages. Multiple classes were taught in a single classroom.

These students didn’t stand a chance of learning as much as their white counterparts in the other two schools in town because they simply lacked the tools and resources to do so.

On May 17, 1954 (67 years ago this week), the US Supreme Court handed down their landmark ruling that established segregation in schools unconstitutional. Most school children learn about the case today and you may remember it as Brown versus the Board of Education.

This decision fell on deaf ears in many segregated school districts including this one. Instead, the school board flat out ignored the ruling.

That summer, Highland County Engineer Phillip Partridge took a remarkable, if not misguided step, to force the school board’s hand and to end segregation.

He set the Lincoln School on fire.

A few things happened as a result. First, Mr Partridge confessed to his crime as he feared the blame would fall on the folks of the black community. Second, he went to prison for his crime.

The school board’s answer was to fix up the building and send the children back to the 85 year old repaired school.

This set into motion a social movement the likes of which most American towns haven’t seen.

A group of mothers, disgusted by what they saw at their childrens’ school, said enough is enough. In 1954, they removed their children from the school and worked with Quaker teachers from nearby Wilmington College to offer their children a better education.

However, before engaging in school work every day, the mothers and about fifty children marched to the elementary school where they were turned away by the principal. Every. Day.

Over time, the NAACP got involved and a lawsuit was filed. The school board tried their hand at gerrymandering, redistricting in the most ludicrous way imaginable. A cross was burned in someone’s front yard. Some mothers had to drop out of the marches because their employers threatened their jobs.

And every day this group of determined mothers and their youngsters marched through the streets of town, likely terrified for their own safety.

The Hillsboro Board of Education finally relented, agreeing to integrate the elementary schools because the State Board of Education threatened to pull all their funding.

It just goes to show that many only do the right thing only when there’s money on the line. The fall of 1957 finally brought integration to these schools.

This sounds like stories I’ve heard out of the deep south. It doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that should happen in the north.

Yet, here we are telling this shameful chapter in our history. Honestly, I’m proud of the folks at the Historical Society for owning this story rather than try to sweep it under the rug. They handle it respectfully.

Talking about where we have come from can open a dialogue about where we are today and where we need to be. In these racially charged and tense times, these conversations can help us understand the complex system of racism in our country.

If you go, be sure to watch the film on this topic. It’s less than twenty minutes and it is powerful. The film interviews an elderly woman who was one of the Marching Mothers as well as her grown children who credit their mother’s bravery and persistence for helping them take their rightful place in local schools.

Cant make it to Highland House? They sell the dvd in their gift shop!!