Below are the diary entries for September 6, 2012, with the newest entries added at the bottom. Also, check out today’s photos.
Today was a day for murals. We had set apart this day to see the Thomas Hart Benton murals at Indiana University. I’d been on the phone with a lady from the art department a couple of times and we’d agreed that we would be there on September 6 at 10.00 a.m. So we made our way to the IU campus in Bloomington and were amazed at the size of it. It takes up about a quarter of the town and the art department lady said that Bloomington’s population more than doubles when the students come back to school in the fall. It’s huge.
Of course, we got to campus way before 10, so we killed some time exploring. What little we saw of it is also very beautiful, with a large park-like area with walkways and brooks and little bridges between the buildings. These are some very lucky students! We also stumbled upon a manuscript collection in the Lilly Library that focused on the War of 1812, with pamphlets and books and prints related to that era. The library also owns a Gutenberg Bible, which surprised me, and a first edition of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America,” which has so many different color plates that with the librarian changing the page once a week it takes eight and a half years to see all of them! Another thing I learned was that World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle was a native of Indiana who attended the Indiana University Bloomington. There is a memorial to him outside the Memorial Union and the building of the journalism school is named for him.
When the time finally came to see the murals, we stepped into the theater that houses them and spent a good 45 minutes looking at them in detail. Unfortunately, the most controversial part of the mural, the one that depicts the klansmen, is housed in a different building. It’s inside an auditorium that is used as a classroom and therefore not readily available. That was kind of a bummer, because the klan-panel was what sparked my interest in the first place. Oh well. We did luck into an exposition of socialist-realist art by Rockwell Kent in the art museum next door. Kent’s work often appeared in leftist publications. He even won the Lenin Peace Prize in 1967 as an honorary member of the Soviet Academy of Fine Arts, even though his style of work was by that time rather old-fashioned.
It, did however, fit in well with our second object the day, which was a visit to the Eugene V. Debs house in Terre Haute. Debs was a union organizer and one of the founders of the American Socialist Party. He ran for president on its ticket. He conducted his last campaign from his prison cell in Atlanta, where he had been sent after his conviction for sedition for publicly speaking out against America’s entry into World War I. He even used campaign buttons that said “vote for prisoner #....” with a picture of Debs in his prison uniform. Debs also published a newspaper “Appeal to Reason” and wrote a large number of pamphlets.
The Debs house itself is mainly interesting for the period furnishings and the political memorabilia. For many years it was used as a frat house, though every trace of the abuse it likely suffered in those days has been wiped out. But the most amazing part of the house comes as you walk up the stairs to the attic. There is still ugly 1970s paneling on the walls of the stairwell, but the attic is now in use as an auditorium and an art professor from Indiana State University in Terre Haute painted most of the roof with beautiful murals depicting Debs’ life and work. It’s quite an experience to come upon it unawares!
Now it was Eric’s turn to see stuff he particularly wanted to see. He’d found out that Indiana has a fairly large number of covered bridges and there are several car tours you can take to see most of them. A lot are in the area near Terre Haute, so after we finished touring the Debs house, I drove around rural Indiana with Eric directing me where to turn and where to stop and he got out and took pictures of the covered bridges. I think we saw about a third of them. They all have warning signs saying that the area may be subject to flooding, but there’s hardly any danger of that at the moment. We saw some of the saddest-looking cornfields we’ve ever come across, a testament to the drought in the Midwest. This being rural Indiana, we again saw Mourdock signs galore. Once near the end of the covered bridge tour, I thought I saw an Obama sign, but it was only a sign that encouraged people to sign up to help defeat the President. And if the political signs aren’t enough of a reminder that we were in a blood-red state, there’s also church after church, mostly Church of the Nazarene and Assemblies of God, and crosses and billboards exhorting the public to make sure they aren’t going to hell before it’s too late.
After the covered bridges tour we drove on into Illinois, where one of the items on our list was a visit to a thing that’s simply known as “The Cross.” It’s a 198-feet white cross next to I-70 in the town of Effingham. It took some doing getting there, because the exit we needed was closed due to road maintenance, but we did at last manage to make our way there. Nobody else was there, which is a hopeful sign in my book. The cross is surrounded by panels depicting the Ten Commandments. Eric wanted me to stand near the thing to get a sense of scale, but I didn’t. Why would I want to have my picture taken with a preposterously magnified instrument of torture? No thanks.
After that, we got in the car once again and drove on to Vandalia. which is the western end of the old Cumberland Road and where Eric wanted to get a picture of the Madonna of the Trail by night. So we ate dinner in our motel room first and headed into town afterward. The statue is still ugly, but at least that itch has been scratched :-)
It's already past 11, Nicoline is done with her diary entry for today but I still have to do mine. I guess I'll be keeping it relatively short today.
This morning started out in Bloomington, where Nicoline was particularly interested in seeing Thomas Hart Benton murals. Right at the parking lot we ran into a "bike repair station" with various tools to do common repairs on bicycles on-the-spot. Now that is what I call a good idea! Wonder why they didn't have these in Holland?
We did walk around campus a little bit, including visiting the Lilly Library, waiting for the theater to open at 10:00. The theater, right behind the fountain with a statue depicting the Birth of Venus, is where the murals are on display. These murals display "a social history of the state of Indiana"
From Bloomington we had to return through the Indiana countryside to the I-70, which we followed into Terre Haute. In Terre Haute we had lunch in the car and then visited the Egene V. Debs home, a union organizer and leader of the American Socialist party. I'll refer to Nicoline's description for that part.
The last thing on our list for Indiana was a series of covered bridges in Park County. We did part of a driving tour which brought us along 5 of them, out of something like 25 in that county. I started to wonder why they covered the bridges in the first place; according to the Interwebz, bridges were covered because that would better protect the structural part from the elements.
After the bridges tour we drove back to Terre Haute where we picked up I-70 again into Illinois. We continued straight through to Vandalia, with only a small detour in Effingham to see the gigantic cross that was erected next to the Interstate.
In Vandalia we got a hotel room, had dinner in the room, and then went back out after dinner because I wanted to see what would happen if I took photos of the Madonna of the Trail at night. It worked, but as a result it's now really late and time to go to bed!