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Somewhere Around the Middle of Ohio
[Small Town America] Lincoln Highway Part 15, October 15, 2009
David McLane (davemclane)     Print Article 
Published 2009-10-20 12:54 (KST)   
Most of the Lincoln Highway in Ohio has been bypassed by US 30 but it's easy enough to find places where the original still exists as there are numerous Historic Byway signs, the first being just before Van Wert.

First Lincoln Highway Historic Byway sign in Ohio
©2009 D. McLane

Van Wert looked like it was having a hard time as there were many small stores, especially fast food places, that had gone out of business and some of the small factories looked like they weren't doing so well either. But up popped Kevin Jerome's Wild Hare BBQ, a converted delivery truck parked in front of a closed gas station.

Wild Hare BBQ, Van Wert, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane

Kevin Jerome
©2009 D. McLane
When I asked Kevin why he was open when so many other places were closed, Kevin hopped up on the counter and said, "I don't owe any money." He said he was born in Van Wert and had lived in the area for much of his life. When jobs went to Mexico, many people didn't know what to do so they "just crawled under the bed and cried."

For some reason, he got a "wild hare" that people would take to freshly cooked BBQ. So he worked the first part of the summer installing new roofs -- not something for the faint of heart given the temperature -- took the money and bought a mobile rotisserie smoker/grill, bought a used truck, outfitted it, and was in business. Doing reasonably well, it looked like.

Further east, between Van Wert and Delphos was the Van-Del drive in theater, mentioned in Brian Butko's "Lincoln Highway Companion". There weren't a lot of such places left but this one looked it was still being used (no trash around the entry booth). There was a Historic Lincoln Highway Byway sign across the road but I couldn't manage to get it and the theater into one composition.

Van-Del drive-in between Van Wert and Delphos, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane

Nothing else caught our attention until we got to Leesville where we came on Rev. Robert Lee's 1829 general store, now Joe Everly's J&M Trading Post. A sign in the window said it had "Official Lincoln Highway Products," but it was closed.

Unfortunately the Trading Post was in deep shadow and didn't look like much of anything. But next door, on what looked like a house built around the same time, there was a rusted five-pointed star that seemed to have some meaning, although I wasn't quite sure.

Rusted star on building next to J&M Trading Post, Leesville, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane

Lincoln Highway marker across from J&M Trading Post, Leesville, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane
Across the street was a fine replica of an original cement Lincoln Highway marker, complete with bronze medallion with the head of Lincoln (many times replicas don't have a decent medallion).

The building behind it looked like it had seen better days, with paint peeling over weathered grey boards giving it real character.

Just a bit further east was Crestline with two brick pillars which looked like they were on either side of an entrance to something but I found it was just a side-street.

As with the Trading Post in Leesville, both the pillars and the background were in shade, but open shade, as there were no surrounding trees. So I decided to give it a "Joe McNally" meaning a combination of ambient light plus flash (see "The Hot Shoe Diaries" for details). Getting the front of the pillar to light up with flash was relatively easy, but this didn't help take the sky down so it looked like what I saw. Most horribly, for the first time I began to see chromatic aberrations "a common defect caused by the failure of the lens to focus different frequencies (colors) to the same spot when shooting in camera RAW."

I'd never seen them before because I'd never zoomed an image up to the point where you can see each individual pixel. But this wasn't the really bad news: I went back and looked at some of the images I'd already published and found that while they look more or less okay onscreen (72 dpi), when they're rendered for print (300 dpi) the aberrations show up. Right now, I'm only rendering for screen so it's not a problem but later, that's another story.

Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, the aberrations don't appear in all images, just some. And this shot of the west pillar was one of them (green halos between leaves and sky) which I cleaned up with Adobe Photoshop.

Brick pillar dedicated to A.F. Bement, Crestline, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane

The text on both pillars read as follows:
East pillar (not shown): Dedicated to J.F. McMahon, First Lincoln Highway Consul, Crestline, Ohio, May 1, 1922.

West pillar (shown): Dedicated to A.F. Bement, Vice President and Secretary, Lincoln Highway Association, May 1, 1922.
Somewhere around here, the middle of Ohio, our focus began to shift from life in small towns during these hard times because the answers we got consistently fell into three categories: Most people said they their lives were proceeding more or less as usual, although with minor changes as to how much they spent on non-essentials. The key word was "downsizing". Few people said they were in serious trouble unless their income had been based on a job which had disappeared. Very few people said they were doing better, the best example being those involved with gold mining in Nevada which was booming due to the increase cost of gold.

Instead we began to be drawn to people and places that seemed to be out of the ordinary, especially people like Kevin Jerome and his Wild Hare BBQ, who were doing something that improved his life without any outside (read governmental) assistance. Thus when we missed a turn and got off the Lincoln Highway, we didn't try and get back on course as much as we saw it as an opportunity to come across something interesting.

We were definitely off course when we ran in Dave and Sandy Cover. We sailed past their vegetable stand when something said, "That looks interesting," so back we went, and it was.

Sandy Cover talks with Sueko near Reedsburg, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane

It turned out they'd lived in the area all their life and their previous house wasn't far away but had moved to where Sandy could have a vegetable garden with a stand to sell what they couldn't eat themselves.

The tomatoes looked particularly good as they didn't have that perfect store-bought look but were more like the kind of tomatoes that Sueko raises in her garden at our house in Arizona. Sandy also had some pure, white Silver Queen corn and gave us a few ears. Tasted very clean, very mild when we ate it that night.

One thing led to another and when we talked about our recent visit to the Amish back in Shipshewana. When we said how surprised we were to find them in Indiana, Sandy said there were Amish in their area; she bought eggs from Katie who lived just up the road.

We got directions, went there, bought a dozen freshly-laid brown eggs for $1.25, and tried to start a conversation but it was no go. Sueko did most of the talking but Katie gave nondescript replies while her oldest child, a girl of maybe 10 or 13 years, looked on like we might have been from outer space. She finally loosened up a bit when we left and she returned Sueko's wave goodbye.

Months ago, when we were still in California, we ordered two items from the Lincoln Highway Trading Post in Canton, Ohio, a T-shirt for Sueko and a hat for me. We'd hoped to pick them up along the way, but the address got mixed up -- my fault, I think -- and we'd never received them. Instead, they were waiting for us when we showed up in Canton.

The Trading Post is mostly an on-line store whose business is handled by the Klingstedt Brothers Company which began about the same time as the Lincoln Highway. Veno W. Klingstedt, the eldest son of Swedish immigrants, moved to Canton in 1912 and started the business by buying the DeVinne Press. Later, he was joined later by his brother, Harry, and the company was incorporated in 1921 and moved to its present location on Schroyer Avenue, a block off US 30, the Lincoln Highway. The company has stayed with the family, usually two brothers, and is looking forward to its centennial celebration in 2012.

The original package that went to never-never land and back again was waiting for us when we arrived. There were only two people in the front office which had a small display of the variety of things that are available; Nance, who took care of things and John Long who seemed to be the person in charge. In addition to the T-shirt and hat, we bought a good-sized Lincoln Highway sign to put on the side of the trailer.

John Long, Lincoln Highway Trading Post, Canton, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane

The last place we stopped in Ohio was Lisbon. We got the grand tour when we walked from the main street to the post office. I forget how long it took, but at least half an hour, and the post office had just closed. A sign said stamps could be obtained at such and such a pharmacy back where we had started.

In need of nourishment we went into the Steel Trolley Diner. I had a piece of cheese cake while Sueko ordered a milkshake made the original way with a blender and stainless steel cup. She looked aghast at the height of the glass on its pedestal, topped with whipped cream and a cherry. But that was only the half of it: the steel cup held the rest.

Sueko does her best with monumental milkshake, Steel Troller Diner, Lisbon, Ohio
©2009 D. McLane
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter David McLane

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