Small Town America

I’ve been on a sort of quest for the last couple of years to find and informally document small town America. It’s fun to listen to the breakfast conversations of strangers and to chat with the shop owner who knows the story behind the painting you’re buying.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the people I’ve met and places I’ve been and wonder how they are and how badly they’ve been impacted by the pandemic.

Many of the people I interact with on the road are diner waitresses and small business owners. They’re not wealthy in the first place and their businesses are dependent on tourists.

Unemployment is slow. Stimulus checks only go so far. I hope they’re ok and look forward to getting back out there on the road to meet more folks and leave a little money behind.

The picture above is from downtown Mansfield, Ohio. The diner is a local greasy spoon where the waitress automatically poured a drink for the elderly woman at the table next to mine. It’s nothing fancy but the service was good and the prices fair. I hope that elderly lady is ok too.

Across the street there’s a gorgeous carousel where kids of all ages can take a ride for just a buck. My own mother took her first carousel ride there last fall at the age of 67.

Across town is the Ohio State Reformatory, an old prison that caters to tourists who flock to where they filmed the movie Shawshank Redemption.

Small town America is filled with places and people just like those in Mansfield. All those jobs depend on visitors who can’t come right now. Lots of people like me are dying to get back out there for tours and rides and fun. Let’s hope they’re able to survive and open up again as soon as it’s safe.

Never Too Old To Try New Things

My 67 year old mother had never been on a carousel until yesterday. Remember when I visited Mansfield’s Richland Carousel Park this summer?

It’s built to look old and is inside a building so it can operate year round. It’s gorgeous and, at just a buck a ticket, it’s a great bargain.

Plus, kids of all ages (even the big ones like us) race to get their favorite animal. And there is a beautiful selection of animals including traditional carousel horses as well as cats, rabbits, a giraffe, bears and even a ram.

So we took a little road trip up to Mansfield yesterday. I drove them by the old reformatory where the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed. They declined a tour but we could see from outside that they’re ready for Halloween. If you haven’t been, you really should go for a tour.

Then it was back downtown for a ride on the carousel and lunch at the Coney Island Diner just down the street.

My dad didn’t want to take a ride but we had a fun time while he held my purse and snapped a few pictures.

She chose a horse that went up and down while I chose the tiger. She had a blast and was glad for the experience. She came from a big family where money was tight for a minister, his wife and ten kids. While their needs were seen to, extras like carousel rides would have been an extravagance.

Who knew that a dollar carousel ride could fulfill a lifelong dream?

Is there something others take for granted that you’ve never gotten to do? It’s never too late! Tell me about it in the comments. Maybe we can brainstorm a way to make it happen!

PS: tomorrow we resume the road trip!

Coney Island Diner

Coney Island diner with bike

It’s been a Mansfield tradition since 1936 and I can see why. The Coney Island Diner in the heart of downtown Mansfield was a highlight of my visit to the city.

It’s traditional American diner fare. That means burgers and fries, ice cream and comfort food. They do breakfast all day so I had a veggie omlette with home fries and toast for just a few bucks. It was a large portion and tasted like something my grandma would have cooked.

The atmosphere is great with dinette tables, booths, a counter and stuff on the walls. And you can tell that it’s a good place because they have regulars. An elderly woman who sat near me waited patiently for the waitress to stop by and confirm she wanted her regular order. And did she want hash browns or home fries today?

Another woman had two children in tow, clearly grandkids, who were having fun sipping milkshakes at the counter. Two men in electric company uniforms kidded with the waitress about her tip over their large platters of food.

My service was great, the food was good and it was delivered lickety split – all requirements of a good diner. If you’re in town for the prison, the carousel park or the host of other fun things to do in the area, be sure to stop by for lunch or maybe just an ice cream treat!

Coney Island Diner is located at 98 N. Main Street and they’re open every day except Sunday. Go check ’em out and let me know what you think!


Beauty: Broadening the Definition

Writing about Mansfield this week caused me to revisit pictures of the Ohio State Reformatory where the movie Shawshank Redemption was filmed. I already shared some pictures and the story of this visit but have tons of photos from this day.

I have a broad definition of what is beautiful. Frequent flyers of this blog will see pretty sunrise pictures and images of flowers, buildings and trails that have a traditional appeal to most people. But they also know that I tend to see beauty in things that others would consider common eyesores. I love an old truck in a field. The chipped paint of a tractor or a church that’s seen better days  are common subject matter as well.

My cousin Walter paid me the nicest compliment a while back. He sent me a picture on Facebook of an old barn and it said “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” I love that he noticed and that he sees it too.

An old prison isn’t a traditional place to find beauty but here are some pictures that I find appealing and hope you will too.

Sometimes it’s just the light or the lack of light that I find appealing.



Sometimes it’s the color and texture. Look at those layers of paint, now chipping from the walls, and creating a unique kind of art work. Of course, it’s undoubtedly lead paint so try not to touch it!



Sometimes you can’t put your finger on the quality you like best. It’s just haunting and you know in your soul that it’s good for your eye to see.



Are you able to see beauty in the flawed or would you prefer to look the other way? There’s no correct answer to this question –  I won’t be offended if you don’t like this type of thing! It’s not for everyone and that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be.

Richland Carousel Park

carousel 5

Nothing says childhood like a carousel. So I practically squealed like a little girl at the sight of the Richland Carousel Park in downtown Mansfield.

Housed in an enormous pavilion, this carousel was opened in 1991 and is officially the first carousel park to open in the United States since the 1930’s. There are 52 figures that were carved in early twentieth century designs. More than half are horses but there are also cats, rabbits, bears, ostriches, a giraffe and more. Some are even handicap accessible, a detail that I loved.

A Stinson Band Organ provides peppy music for the ride which goes a little more than 3.5 miles per hour. Panels at the top of the carousel depict local history scenes.

It’s only a dollar to ride, or you can buy six rides for $5. They’re open seven days a week, year round, except for major holidays. They welcome groups, parties and even weddings. Imagine getting married here – the pictures would be amazing.

And yes, the animals are big enough for adults to enjoy too!

Want to learn more? Visit the Richland Carousel Park online and then go visit them in real life! Mansfield has worked hard to revitalize their downtown and there are other things to do here so plan to spend a little time exploring the town after you take your ride.