My first stop today was the former Furst-Kerber Cut Stone Company office … which is now a private home. My thanks to Mr. Hatfield, who now owns the property, for the gracious welcome, nickel tour, and permission to take pictures around the place.
We were reading some old news clippings Mom had found in her attempt to organize things here, and it talked about how Carl was building his new home within walking distance of the Furst-Kerber office. The entire place was expected to cost around $6,000 to $10,000 back in 1901. I’d hate to think how that would translate into 2008 dollars.
There was even an update that had been clipped that discussed the second story of the house being started. Apparently, building this house was quite an event in Bedford in 1901.
In any event … the office has been about a dozen things since it’s days as a stone company office. Mr. Hatfield mentioned a church, I know it had been a tanning salon most recently, and there were I’m sure several other things. Unfortunately, it’s in pretty severe disrepair, but I’m sure the Hatfields are working to bring it back. Almost nobody buys a piece of property like that without some kind of vision. The only downside to it is that it’s about 20 yards from the railroad tracks. Fine for a limestone office, where rail played an important part in shipping the product. Maybe not so much for a home.
Next, I just went downtown to see what I could see. The place has changed a lot since the days that I lived here. Pretty much none of the stores are the same, the banks all have different names, The Graystone Hotel is finally gone, The train still runs through downtown, but there need to be some constants.
Downtown looks a lot better than it did when I lived here. The old Woolworth building has been rehabbed and turned into a courthouse annex. The old Buck Lemon Furniture store has been transformed into a county museum, which used to be in the basement of the courthouse. As I said, The Graystone, which was at one time the hoity-toity downtown hotel where everybody, including the Fursts, went to see and be seen had become a dangerous eyesore, and has now been razed. Many of the storefronts have been cleaned up, and the parking meters are long gone. Today, there were lots of cars and it appeared that at least some business was being done.
I stopped by the Lawrence County Courthouse to catch up with Myron Rainey, who I worked with at WBIW back in the day. Myron is now the County Clerk, which is rather like our Supervisor of Elections. He hadn’t changed a bit, though he’s lost weight and apparently quit smoking. We chatted about old times and people we know (or in my case knew) in common, life in a small town, just like we’d seen each other day before yesterday.
The courthouse is unassuming, in a large-limestone-edifice-at-the-center-of-a-courthouse-square kind of way. I guess I’ve gotten so accustomed to seeing artists renditions of the someday-to-be-built Duval County courthouse and this just seem, well, familiar. I didn’t spend a lot of time in the courthouse when I lived here, fortunately. It was great to see Myron. I’m glad he’s found a niche beyond local radio, though he still does the play-by-play for local high school sports. John Williams did that for years as Mayor, so I’m sure Clerk of the Courts is not a big thang. And he’s darn good at it.
The final stop today was the former Bedford High School, which is now the middle school. The district isn’t big enough for multiple middle or high schools. In fact, this school was converted to a middle school when a big, new, consolidated North Lawrence High School was built east of town. I attended this school for two years, and it was only a block from my house. I could walk to school, and home for lunch, and it wasn’t uphill either way, snow not withstanding. Like so many things, it was made of limestone. In fact, the school mascot was The Stonecutters. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Breaking Away”, and they talk about the townies in Bloomington being referred to as “Cutters”, it was actually us in Bedford. And we were proud.
But progress reared it’s ugly head, and the consolidated school encompassed all of the tiny high schools in North Lawrence County. All of our traditional rivals were absorbed into one enormous school with a student body of over 2000. I managed to still get a decent education, and at the time, I wasn’t upset about “having” to drive to school. But the poured concrete buildings of the new campus were largely windowless, and the place looked like a prison. To some, it felt that way, but if you could game the system, you could get stuff done and still make your grades. I turned out OK, I guess.
I shot a lot more of the school and downtown. They’re all up on Flickr.
Tomorrow, Mom wants to take me to the museum, and I’ll need to leave about 3:00 for the airport. I’m glad I made this trip. As Myron and I discussed this afternoon, you CAN go home again, even if it’s only to wave as you pass by. I think even if there was something I could do here, I’d go back to Florida. I’ve become too much a creature of the tides to come back to landlocked Indiana and it’s brutally cold winters. If I can paraphrase Jimmy Buffett (which I am often wont to do) … “I’ve got a Caribbean Soul I can barely control … and some Hoosier hidden here in my heart.” Florida’s kind of in the middle … weighted towards the islands.
I think that works.