I check the back ribbon of my Minnie Pearl straw hat before leaving the house. I gingerly step into Kathy’s car ducking my head wondering how did women drive with these hats? (Perhaps they didn’t?) I notice we are both wearing summer cotton dresses and sandals. This is not an ordinary outing for a Sunday afternoon. No, we are headed to the Collins Schoolhouse to participate in the fifth annual Ice Cream Social.
The drive is once again beautiful as we meander over country roads. We pass the schoolhouse and have to turn around. Once Bart Collins helps us find parking, I feel we have been transported to another century. Tents are set up with tables and chairs for the social. Another long table is filled with home grown and homemade cobblers of peach and berry and rhubarb followed by a tub of ice cream. Whereas we are anxious to sit in the shade and visit with folks, we are, of course, drawn into the schoolhouse itself.
It is not my first visit. I used to bring my Hamilton students to the schoolhouse when June Collins was still on this earth and giving her glorious tours. We always came in the Autumn. I can remember June ringing the bell and my students, in awe, taking their seats. My wandering eyes followed the trees in the windows…tree leaves of ruby and scarlet and tangerine. It was enchanting. Once in a while I would be pulled out of my daydreaming state as June reprimanded one of my students.
Now the tours are given by other members of the family. On this day is it Claudia Smith who welcomes us smiling from ear to ear. We all comment on the glorious weather and step over the threshold into 1877. It is as it was. Perfect. The books are lined up on bookshelves, lunch pails ready to be taken out to sit under the old trees, cursive writing on the board (is that still June’s handwriting?) and desks waiting for students. It is magical. It is beautiful. It wasn’t always so. This school, along with most one room schoolhouses in America, fell into disrepair and neglect. The Collins School was saved by the Collins family. They had donated the land originally for the school and in 1947 June bought the property and restored it with her family and friends. It is now a non-profit 501(c)(3) which means it can accept donations for preservation.
I walk quietly amongst the past; reading the names of all the former teachers, smile at the class photos of those long gone, and pull out a McGuffy reader to check out the lessons. We thank Claudia for the tour, but I turn back and ask if she would ring the school bell for me so I can record it. She goes in to ring the bell, but I fumble too long and miss it. She comes out with a thumbs up, and I ask her nicely to do it again. She does.
We walk across the lawn and choose fresh peach cobbler with ice cream. We place our donations in the old-fashioned ice cream bucket at the end of the table. The tables are in the shade and we sit and chat with folks. I combine the old with the new as I put up a photo on Facebook inviting everyone to come out and share in this event.
Thomas Jefferson had the first ice cream social in the White House in 1802. It caught on in the late 1800’s in the mid-west as a social gathering with fund raising in mind. When I bought my house fifteen years ago this summer, the home owners, Randy and Shannon Wallace, had an ice cream social in their/my garden to welcome me to the neighborhood. It was a lovely occasion. Perhaps it is time to have another one?
Kathy and I are reluctant to leave, but there are other obligations on this beautiful day. As we walk back into the sun, into our century, I turn back. The Collins family is still smiling, serving, talking, preserving.
This beautiful school house sits in the summer sun and the snows of winter waiting for you to visit. Take the kids and the grandparents. The doors are open from 2-5 on August 13, 20, and 27. We are so fortunate to have a piece of American history just a few miles up the road.
And maybe, just maybe, Claudia will ring the bell for you.
We were looking for something to do on this overcast Sunday, so we thought we would head down to Pokagon State Park’s main beach and scope out the 40th Annual Sand Sculpture Demonstration and Contest. Yesterday the artists created their sculptures, but we were very happy the sculptures were roped off and they were all still standing for us to check them out. They ranged from a sea serpent, to a castle and all the way to Lightening McQueen from the movie Cars. After looking at all the sculptures, MaKenzy had to test out the temperature of Lake James. We walked up the stairs that brought us to the CCC Shelter and had to stop by the playground as well before getting back in the truck. Next year we will try to make it to the beach when the artists are creating their pieces of sand art. I think the girls would get a kick out of that. 😊
Make sure to check out the Steuben County Tourism page regularly for events around the area!
Tonight we went to Sunset Slush in Angola, to celebrate Mak’s 2nd birthday as a family. Sunset Slush is an Italian ice shop. Italian ice is like ice cream, but without dairy. We are frequent customers here and we each have our favorite flavors. Emi always requests Zombie, which is a fruity mix of flavors, Mak enjoys chocolate, I love Peppermint Patty or Cafe Mocha and Bryan is also a Peppermint Patty lover. He branched out this evening for the birthday celebration and had Rootbeer Float! Emi started eating her Sunset Slush Italian Ice a little too fast and got a “Slush Rush!”
also offers gelato (gelato is dairy based and lower in fat than regular ice cream, but higher in sugar.) To complicate choices further, they are expanding now with floats and shakes! In case you were wondering, a float has some type of soda in it and a shake is just the dairy product with maybe a few flavorings!
Sunset Slush recently moved into their new building which is just a hop, skip and a jump from their old building! The big difference is they now have a drive up window (which is great when we don’t want to get the kids out of their car seats.) When we do decide to go inside we love seeing the same friendly faces.
Once again we all enjoyed our Italian ice and sitting outside at their picnic tables was a great way to end the evening and to put a close to Mak’s birthday festivities.
Today was absolutely beautiful so we drove to Barton Lake in Fremont and went to the water park/splash zone at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. Every time we go this place blows me away. There are two splash zones- one geared toward smaller children and another that adults and children alike can play on. There are also three pools, larger water slides and a Tiki hut to get some snacks. Emi and Mak started on the smaller slides, then once they got comfortable they ventured away from those to see what the larger splash zone had to offer. By the end of the day, Emi was running circles through the large splash zone, going down all the slides and not caring that the big bucket was going to dump at any moment! We were all worn out by the end of the day, but we had a great time and will definitely be back!
I remember every year when I was little my dad would take my sister and I to the Orland Vermont Settlement Festival and this year, my dad and I took the girls for some fun! The first thing we went through was the settlement where the girls got to see animal skins, a stuffed beaver, an old time wagon and people cooking their lunches over the fire. The girls were even given homemade soap by one of the settlement men. Next we had to visit the free kid zone bounce houses! They had so much fun I had a hard time getting them out of there. We ate lunch at the park, got some homemade ice cream and Emi even got her face painted. We weren’t able to stay for the talent show or the other fun activities because it was almost nap time but we all had a great time and had lots of fun at the Orland Vermont Settlement Festival, held at the Orland Town Park.
This event is held the last full weekend in July and recognizes Orland as the birthplace of Steuben County. The event is put on by the Orland Chamber of Commerce. You can always find more information at lakes101.org or by calling 800-LAKE-101.
Eight years ago a wonderful event came to Steuben County called Angola Balloons Aloft. It has grown to a fantastic family-friendly event with everything from hot air balloons to large inflatable bounce houses, hero characters, classic car show, concessions and a petting zoo. This year we started Balloons Aloft by seeing the colorful balloons fly over our home Saturday morning. We then went to the event at Angola High School. The girls even got to see Paw Patrol characters Chase and Marshal and see animals up close and personal at the petting zoo and aviary display. Later that evening we went back to see the illumination of all of the balloons. Not only did the girls enjoy this event, the entire family did.
Today I took the girls to the 4-H Fair at the Steuben County Park on Crooked Lake. It was the first day of the fair and all of the 4-Her’s were signing in their animals and decorating their stalls. Our first stop was for lunch at the Eat’n Haus. The girls enjoyed their hot dogs, chips, cookies and Sprite. We also grabbed a pork burger and of course had to stop by and get some ice cream… not once but twice! The girls’ daycare provider has kids in 4-H so the girls were able to get up close and personal with a steer, a pig and a calf. We got to walk through all of the barns and check out all of the animals. We got there around 10:30 a.m. and by 1:45 p.m. the girls were ready for a nap so we headed home. We will be stopping by a couple more times this week as they have special events for kids like a petting zoo and pet parade. Of course, we will have to get some more of that ice cream!
The 4H Fair is held annually in mid-July and is sponsored by the Purdue Extension.
When it gets really hot, sometimes you just want to go swimming and that’s exactly what we all did! Luckily, we can choose from several places to swim here in Steuben County but on this particular day, we chose Potawatomi Inn beach at Pokagon State Park. We packed a picnic lunch and went to enjoy the water. Emi and Mak are both little fish and even though they can’t swim on their own quite yet, they both love the water. They had a great time building sand castles and splashing in the water on this hot day.
Hamilton 4th of July parade and Angola’s festivities
Every year, our family looks forward to 4th of July festivities in the various towns and cities in Steuben County. The first celebration we went to was Hamilton’s parade, which was actually the Saturday before Independence Day.
We also went to the Angola’s parade and festivities on the Fourth.
The girls and I were lucky enough to be with AMC Marine Sales & Service in both parades and it’s amazing how many cool floats there are and how many people attend! You constantly hear people in the crowd scream your name, but you just can’t see them because there are SO MANY PEOPLE! At Commons Park they have events immediately following the parade. Hot dog giveaways, sky divers, games and bounce houses are just a few of the fun things they had at the park. Later in the evening they have bands playing and then to round out the night they had a spectacular fireworks display. It was a long 4th of July, but it was full of fun and memories that we all will cherish.
The note came in the middle of January. At first I thought it was a scam email offering me a million dollars if I were to send out my social security number and my bank routing information. The subject line was in large print: MEREDITH.
Curiosity does funny things, and while I secretly wish the Duke of Any Country would find me a great recipient and care taker of money, I know better. But, one never knows. I open the email.
I blink and read it twice before I realize the weight of the note, the importance of the note and how it was worth more than the million dollars offered to me by the Duke.
Meredith writes that she and her mother, both from the Phoenix area, are descendants of the Hendry family and they would like to know more about them. She came across my writings of Louisa Gale Hendry through KPC. I actually sat quietly for a few moments letting this story sink in for me.
It is no secret that I love my town and the history behind it. During the Angola Carnegie Library Centennial Celebration I portrayed Louisa Gale Hendry at the library. I loved researching her and learning all I could with the help of Peg Dilbone, our county historian.
I wrote back immediately. We chatted through a few more emails until I got the note that she and her mother Yvonne and sister Claudia would come here to Angola to see their family history with their own eyes.
I took my note up to the library and found Peg, as usual, working away. We sat knee to knee talking about this event. Peg had already made a list of all the places we should go. Even Peg’s list made my head swim a little.
“We can’t possibly do all of that in two days!” I remarked to her.
But Peg has an uncanny way of raising her eyebrows to adversity. I just had to smile.
A few more emails, a few more months and the day has come. I want the day to be beautiful with blue skies, wispy clouds, and a cool breeze coming off of our 101 lakes.
It is not to be so. It is gray and rainy with a high humidity, but nothing could daunt away the excitement I feel in meeting the Hendrys. There is so much to show them and so many stories to tell them.
Peg and I meet them at the Potawatami Inn, they are staying at Pokagon, for breakfast. When I arrive there are two large gifts bags at the table of three women. Who needs the sunshine where there are three smiling Hendry women? We become instant friends talking a mile a minute, all of us.
Peg tells stories. I tell stories. They tell stories. They put a photo of Yvonne’s mother on the table as a mascot. She is beautiful. We sit for two hours talking over coffee. They buy our breakfasts and give us the gifts from their home in Phoenix.
Finally we make a plan. We will do a drive through of Angola. They arrived late in the evening and have not even seen the town yet. I am bursting with excitement as if it were Christmas morning with packages strewn across the living room. I want to shout to our server, “The Hendrys are here! The Hendrys are here.” But I know she wouldn’t know what I was even talking about.
We begin our drive through, starting with Trine University and weaving through the town. We stop in front of the court house and Peg and I tell stories of the circle and share stories about our monument. I feel as if I can’t talk fast enough to get all the stories in.
We leave the square and head over to Hendry Park School. I take their photo in front of the school. I must confess that a pang of jealousy hits my heart as I wish my family had a school named after us. We go by the old Hendry site and house, the Hendry flats, the location of the old Hendry Hotel and talk about the fire. We head over to the fire station for photos.
I am dropped off before they meet Amy Oberlin for a story as they head to the cemetery.
Yes, the Hendrys are here. I can’t stop thinking about them, and yes, I am in love all over again with my town’s history.