Reflections On The Rosa Parks Bus

When planning a day at the Henry Ford Museum, there was one thing I really wanted to do. I wanted to have a few uninterrupted minutes on the Rosa Parks bus.

To make this wish a reality, I was there when they opened and then headed straight for this exhibit.

For the benefit of my international friends, Rosa Parks was a pioneer in the American Civil Rights movement. In 1955, when segregation ruled the American south, she refused to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. The police were called and this mild mannered African American seamstress was led off to jail.

She became the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott which lasted for over a year and forced the desegregation of the city’s buses.

The Henry Ford Museum confirmed the authenticity of the bus and outbid some major players (including the Smithsonian) to the tune of $492,000. However, after sitting outside for about thirty years, the bus required a massive restoration project that cost another $300,000. As you can tell, they really wanted to preserve this piece of history.

And honestly, they did a great job.

Sitting there, I kept thinking it could be 1955 just as easily as it was 2019. The bus is immaculate but it’s not just a museum piece. You are welcomed aboard and invited to sit a while. You can even sit in her seat.

The docent was good at his job, answering my questions and relating the story for me. He even took my picture.

However, he also gave me time to sit quietly and absorb the magnitude of this space and of the actions of one woman, who on that one day, said enough is enough. History was made with that split second decision, made under the glare of a white driver who was known for being unfriendly to his black passengers on a good day.

A hastily organized boycott crippled the city bus system and forced changes into law. She wasn’t seeking fame or money or publicity of any kind. She didn’t appreciate the attention she received but later said she was just tired of giving in.

With all that is happening in our country today and with leaders who seem to encourage the divide between races, there was something reassuring about sitting in her seat. It was a great reminder that a 42 year old seamstress could start a revolution because she was tired of giving in.

The moment felt both sacred and peaceful.

I had that bus all to myself for several minutes before anyone else arrived and I was grateful for every passing second. Still, it was gratifying to walk by later in the day to find the bus full of a diverse group of people who wanted to have the experience too.

The bus is part of a larger exhibit that covers segregation and the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. At the same time the museum bought the bus, they also acquired a scrapbook containing a number of news clippings you can read. There are some interactive features here and some truly disturbing things including a flier for a cross burning that sounds like an invitation to a Sunday school picnic rather than a hate rally.

I felt sorrow that our country hasn’t advanced more than it has and I felt gratitude for the progress we have made, even knowing there are plenty of people who would look at such hateful materials and think they’re ok.

If you find your way to the Henry Ford Museum, make time for this exhibit. Read the materials, watch the videos, listen to the songs and think about what it all means.

Sixty-five years ago sounds like a long time but it isn’t that long at all. We have plenty of people living in this country today who remember all too well not being allowed to eat in a restaurant, drink from a water fountain or use a waiting room because of the color of their skin.

After Rosa Parks stood up for her beliefs by sitting down, close to another decade passed before President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law changing all of that for good.

But while the law guarantees equality, racial divide is still far too great in this country. I’m as white as can be and I do not take responsibility for things that happened before me but I do think it’s my right and duty to contribute something positive to the world I live in now. I can’t change the past but I can help change the future by showing kindness and empathy and by celebrating our similarities rather than complain about the differences.

The last words today go to Rosa herself.

“I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free… so other people would be also free.”

Road Trip to the Henry Ford Museum

My last road trip of the year took me to Detroit to visit the Henry Ford Museum. This museum of innovation features all sorts of things I love – artifacts from history, cars, planes, trains, machinery, furniture, dollhouses…. the list goes on and on.

This was not my favorite road trip but this museum is incredible, making it all worthwhile. I’m going to tell you about a few special exhibits in the coming days but for today I’ll leave you with a handful of pictures.

That last picture is of a train snow plow from Canada. That’s right friends – this museum is so big it has a set of railroad tracks to accommodate a collection of trains. Not to mention the airplanes hanging from the ceiling and the acres of other cool stuff at ground level.

Check back tomorrow. There are stories to tell.

Where Will the Road Take You?

This road is somewhere outside Washington Court House, Ohio and is about an hour from home.

But today I’m dreaming of where the road might take me next that’s a little further from home.

Follow your own path, friends. Whether it’s through the neighborhood or far, far away. Follow it and be happy.

Adventure Day Antiques and Vinyl

Yesterday was my first day of vacation and I spent it adventuring with a friend. We hit the Heritage Square Antique Mall, Tommy’s Diner and three (count ’em three) guitar stores in Columbus. Plus we still got out of dodge before rush hour.

Heritage Square is well worth your time if you enjoy antique malls. This one is over 50,000 square feet packed full of stuff. For under $30 I left with a like new red gingham Christmas tree skirt, a vintage Santa and two records, one of which I had never seen before in real life.

I also found this Crosley piece that I wish I had a reason to own. Original Crosleys in good condition are hard to find. This one still has the book and not a lot of wear.

Not buying this may turn out to be one of my life’s regrets.

Tommy’s is a nice little diner not far from downtown that has a u-shaped counter and lots of stuff to look at. It’s a popular place but their lunch service is pretty quick so they get you in and out. The food was typical diner meals and I won’t make a special trip to go back but would absolutely return if I’m in the neighborhood.

The guitar shops were kind of neat too because they’re filled with pretty guitars and it’s always fun to hear my friend play around with the thing he loves best. But don’t tell him that I didn’t hate it – he will take me to more next time!

We encountered some quirky people in these stores including a fellow who makes customs in his German Village Music Haus.

Check out this guitar that features an old comic strip. That’s all wood!

We also found some bargains at Apollo Records, my current favorite record store. Located in downtown Chillicothe, it’s packed full of potential treasures that are priced to move. I’ve never walked out of there without an armload.

The great controversy of the day is that I beat him to a stash of Flying Burrito Brothers albums that he insists I cheated him out of. I say that I found them fair and square!

If you’re near one of these small businesses, stop by and give them a little love. Supporting a small business means you’re supporting local jobs and businesses that fill storefronts and often support our communities in a host of ways. The online retailers we all love so much don’t even know where you live. They certainly won’t give money to your school band or pass out candy in your Christmas parade.

In all, it was a fun day and I’m glad for it. And seriously, if you enjoy antique malls and haven’t been, find your way to Heritage Square!

Chasing Church Steeples

Not much makes me happier than chasing a church steeple. This one is in a little place called Paris, Virginia. Isn’t it pretty?

I had turned off a main highway onto another road to look at a barn but was quickly distracted by the way the light reflected off the steeple.

Even the smallest towns often have beautiful old churches with steeples that reach to the heavens, high above everything else.

This one is lovely. Have a happy Sunday!

Legendary Lights at Clifton Mill

Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News.

Photo courtesy of the Dayton Daily News.

If you enjoy Christmas lights, are anywhere near Ohio and haven’t experienced the Legendary Lights of Clifton Mill, you need to drop what you’re doing and go right now.

Seriously kids, it is a beautiful experience.

On a regular day, the historic mill in the village of Clifton is home to a nice restaurant. The mill was built in 1802 and there’s a very pretty covered bridge on site as well

But during the holidays it becomes a popular destination for kids of all ages. In addition to being adorned with four million lights, the property is home to a miniature village, vintage toy display and Santa Museum.

The lights are turned on with a single switch, making for a dramatic opening at 6 p.m. each night. But never fear if you can’t be there at 6. They turn off the lights twice an hour each evening, submerging the crowd into darkness, before flipping the switch and turning it on again. This allows everyone the opportunity to experience that special moment when everyone goes “oooh.”

They even have a laser light display that’s timed to the dramatic music of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

As much as I loved the lights, I may have loved the miniature village and Santa Museum of 3,600 unique Santas best.

This event is nationally recognized and they actually received a ton of publicity last year after winning a $50,000 prize on a tv show.

The introverts in the crowd will understand when I say that I didn’t love the crowd. I stopped here last year on my way home from an after Christmas road trip the last Saturday in December.

This was extremely poor timing.

My goodness, there where people everywhere and parking was a real challenge. While event parking is free, some enterprising neighbors sell yard and driveway parking so I happily tossed ten bucks at the problem in favor of parking just a block or two away.

I will absolutely go back but I would want my next visit to be on a weeknight when it’s not so busy.

If you go, they take plastic and cash. The cost is $10 per person but kids three and under are free.

I would aim for a weeknight as opposed to a weekend because it was almost too crowded to truly enjoy when I was there. I was fine on my own but would have worried about little kids getting stepped on or lost in the crowd.

While they do sell light concessions like hot dogs, popcorn and hot chocolate, the restaurant is closed and there’s nothing with any nutritional value. In other words, eat dinner before you go. Personally, I would go to Young’s Dairy about ten minutes up the road. They have a really good menu and a delicious veggie burger.

Visit the Clifton Mill website for a full history and all the details you need before you go. It’s under an hour from Columbus, thirty minutes from Dayton and ninety minutes from my community in Vinton County. And it’s well worth the drive.

If you want to make it an overnight adventure, there’s plenty to do in Dayton plus outlet mall shopping at nearby Jeffersonville and acres of planes at the Air Force Museum. Not to mention a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright Home in Springfield and an overwhelming amount of antiquing to be had in Springfield.

Geeze Louise, guys! I haven’t told you about any of those things. I’ll make a note to take you along on a Springfield antiquing trip and to the Wright house that happens to have a fun story of its own.

Please note that the above be picture is not my own. I thought I had taken pictures but am finding none so I borrowed a photo from the Dayton Daily News.

Now go and play your trip to see the big light display at Clifton Mill!