Carter’s Motorcycle Shop

Today it’s owned by the 9th Street Gang Car Club. Back in the day, it was Carter’s Motorcycle Shop. Located near the Winslow farm where James Dean spent his formative years, it was a favorite hangout of his.

The car club keeps it looking like it did in the fifties. Notice the Indian Motorcycle sign over the door.

Jimmy’s uncle Marcus Winslow gave him his first motorcycle which he purchased here. He was just fifteen at the time.

That bike can now be viewed at the James Dean Museum in Fairmount. It’s one of two on display.

If you go, you’re welcome to pull into the parking lot for pictures. You’re also very close to the Quaker Church he attended, the family farm he called home, and the cemetery where he is buried.

Back Creek Friends Church

The Quaker church that James Dean attended with his aunt and uncle sits just down the road from the Winslow farm Jimmy called home. The Back Creek Friends Church or Meetinghouse was built in 1899. It has been preserved but they have added onto the church. Their website says that addition houses a pastor’s study, classrooms, fellowship hall and restrooms. Their church history also says that the first meetings were held in the log cabin home of Joseph Winslow – I assume a relative of James Dean’s family.

Can we pause a moment to appreciate that James Dean was raised a Quaker?

I have long been interested in the Quaker faith and their beliefs that we all have a unique value and that there is something of God in us all. Quakers seek religious truth from within.

It makes me wonder how faith informed Jimmy’s development. Incidentally, he attended Fairmount High School where the mascot was a Quaker.

To this day, this church holds a memorial service for their most famous friend every September. Want to visit? I’m sure they welcome guests. Learn more about them here.

James Dean’s Family Farm

When you think about James Dean, you probably think about the troubled persona, the race car driving risk taker who still epitomizes cool.

You probably don’t think about him out in nature, working on a farm, playing with animals. In fact, you probably don’t think about him as a kid at all.

He arrived by train at the age of nine, sent by his dad to stay with relatives after his mom died of cancer. Those relatives were Ortense and Marcus Winslow, an aunt and uncle who are said to have sores on their nephew. They raised Jimmy alongside their young son Marcus in a Quaker household.

Here, he tried his hand at sports including baseball and basketball. If you go to the town museum, you’ll find his basketball uniform and team picture. He also became involved in the school’s drama program and studied public speaking. He had a stable family life that seemed reasonably happy.

This is the place he called home.

If he had lived, Jimmy would be 92 years old. That makes his little cousin Marcus an elderly man now. Marcus still lives on the family farm and the local museum says he has kept the farm looking as it did firing his own childhood.

He understands the legacy of his famous cousin and the importance Jimmy will always have to the town. In addition to maintaining the farm, he has donated many of Jimmy’s possessions to the local museum.

Marcus invites visitors to stop and take pictures and to look around a bit as long as they don’t approach the house.

James Dean’s Hometown

Hollywood legend James Dean hailed from rural Indiana. Fairmount still celebrates the legend and tells the stories of the young man behind the persona.

He was born in Marion, Indiana and lived in California for a while until his mother died. His father sent him back to Indiana to live with relatives in Fairmount.

Here he lived on a farm with an aunt and uncle who doted on him and their young son who he thought of as a little brother.

James, or Jimmy as they call him around town, graduated from Fairmount High School before moving back to California to live with his father and stepmother. Believe it or not, he enrolled in Santa Monica College to study pre-law before transferring to UCLA to study drama. He eventually dropped out of college entirely to pursue acting.

But I think Jimmy always considered Fairmount his home and he certainly was the town’s favorite son.

There’s the James Dean Gallery, located in a historic home and filled with movie memorabilia, clippings and some rather unusual artifacts. Then there’s the Fairmount Historical Museum with an outstanding collection of James Dean’s personal possessions that have been given to them by that young cousin who he thought of as a brother. That little boy is now an elderly man who still lives on his family’s farm. It is a working farm but he still welcomes visitors to stop for pictures.

Close to the farm is the motorcycle shop where Jimmy hung out, the Quaker church where he worshipped with his family and the cemetery where he is laid to rest.

There are sign murals like the one pictured above and a remnant of his high school – the old stage where he first discovered acting. He’s even on the water tower.

Agriculture, rails, patriotism and small town spirit are alive and well in this town of about 2,900. I really liked it there because it’s quaint and small and hasn’t succumbed to the commercialism some other places might embrace in favor of making a buck off their legendary former resident.

And make no mistake, people do come – both young and adult James Dean fans come looking for more about the screen legend who died too young.

I’m going to break up my day in Fairmount in a few stories because there’s a lot more to say than meets the eye.

Tomorrow we begin at the beginning with the family farm he called home.

Bob Ross Experience

He was born in Daytona Beach and was called Robert Norman Ross. To the world, he will forever be Bob Ross, the mild mannered artist who brought the joy of painting into American households. Literally.

Yes, he’s the guy with the big hair.

His PBS program The Joy of Painting ran from 1983 to 1994 but the show continues to be popular thanks to the magic of the internet and to channels like Pluto and Tubi that offer all 31 seasons of the show in reruns.

He filmed series two through fifteen for the PBS affiliate in Muncie, Indiana in the former home of Lucious Ball. It’s now owned by Minnetrista and it is that organization that operates the museum.

I watched an episode of his show last night where he talked about “distant trees that live far away” and “what a view they would have.” His tone and attitude were charming and his ideas for painting were approachable. He said you begin to see things when you paint and that it needn’t be perfect. “We call them happy accidents and they can be your best friend.”

“I’ve painted like this for twenty years and I still get excited when I see it work,” he said. And I believed him. He seemed genuinely excited about his work.

Perhaps that’s why visitors still come to Muncie from far and wide for a glimpse into his world at the Bob Ross Experience.

Please note that this is not a large museum but what they have is quality. There’s a living room area, a gallery of his paintings and, of course, the tv studio.

It’s all well done but I found the studio enchanting. They have set up a painting on an easel, along with his brushes. If you look into the camera, you’ll see a looping clip of the episode where he painted this piece. As he happily paints, chatting with the viewer, you’re almost certain you might catch a glimpse of him in real life – if only you could look quickly enough.

There was much wisdom to be found in his life philosophies and his words are almost as prominent here as his art.

That should come as no surprise, I suppose. The Cold War era US Air Force Master Sergeant lived a full life before becoming part of the pop culture landscape. He spent free time during his twenty years of military service painting and improving his art. He was a lover of nature and wildlife who sometimes took in injured animals. He was a soft spoken man, very private and seemingly kind. He grew to hate his permed hair but recognized that it was as much a part of his brand as the line of paint supplies he sold. He seemed zen, savvy and wise beyond his years.

There’s something calming about watching Bob Ross bring a blank canvas to life with his wet on wet technique. It’s a little like an episode of Mr Rogers for artistic grown ups when he says “let’s have some fun, let’s get crazy.”

Tragically, the lifelong smoker died of Lymphoma on July 4, 1995. He was just 52.

But he lives on through the countless budding artists he inspired, through the reruns that cause us to marvel at his talent, and through the Bob Ross certified instructors who continue to teach his method.

Admission includes the grounds and public facilities of Minnetrista as well as the Bob Ross Experience. Get info on all that here and check it out if you’re in the area.

Did you see my story about Muncie this week? Click here to catch up.

Chevy Bel Air Wagon

These photos are from a hiking expedition last fall. I encountered this 1964 Chevrolet Bel Air Station Wagon in the nature preserve parking lot and couldn’t resist grabbing some snapshots.

Isn’t she grand?

The profile!

The color!

She’s so wide she barely fits the parking space. This reminds me of the station wagon my parents had when I was a kid. The leather bench seat in the pre-seatbelt-law days of the eighties was a terrifying place to slide around.

I was dying to know who owns this car but will have to settle for simply knowing it exists out there in the world.