Monday, August 1, 2011

South Bend, Indiana

Here’s an interesting time twist – driving to Indiana we decided to make our first stop in Michigan City, yes in Indiana and we went back one hour in time ” Doctor Who”!  There’s a little strip about 10 miles wide along the southeast shore of Lake Michigan that keeps time with Chicago (Midwest time) while the rest of Indiana is on Eastern time. I wonder who worked that one out. Must have been very controversial to say the least. We discovered this because we decided to go the movies, thinking it was 8.30pm and had only one choice of movie we discovered it was only 7.30pm and we had at least 4 movie choices. We were one of the many millions who went to the Harry Potter movie.

The weather here in the Midwest is still hot and humid; this year has in fact been record breaking the month of July being the second hottest on record. On our way back from the movies there was a great lightning storm. We are getting used to lightning storms in these northern states which can move in quite suddenly, accompanied by inches of rain and at times tornado warnings. The suggestion is to run to the basement - we wonder where we should go?
We played our Indiana golf as soon as we could at Michigan City Municipal Golf Course. A very well kept, challenging course whose pesky trees kept getting in our way. Once again we rode a cart because of the heat and humidity. We have now learned where the old golf carts go when the luxury resorts and golf courses are finished with them they are sold to RV parks. For $70 a day (that’s the price folks) one can hire a cart, so that no one will have to walk to the pool or bathroom or wherever. The majority of people have them.  If we get rid of cars we will all be buzzing around in golf carts. Not a bad idea.

On our drive to South Bend we travelled through another lightning storm and heavy rain – like being in a car wash!  We had a list of things we wanted to see and do in South Bend.  Having parked and set up our RV, being Irish, we headed straight to Notre Dame and walked around the campus.  It is a beautifully laid out campus with spacious grounds.  The buildings are all in brick or stone and have all the same hue. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart which has been restored to its original splendor is magnificent. Keeping things in-house Jacob Ackermann, Professor of Art, received the commission to do all the necessary wall murals, Stations of the Cross, and other liturgical art. The stained glass windows were designed by Carmelite nuns in Italy, made into windows in Italy then shipped to Notre Dame and slid into their respective spaces. Napoléon the third presented a magnificent Lady Altar and a 4 feet high pure gold crucifix. All of the original decoration was undertaken, under direction from Professor Ackermann and painstakingly restored the ceiling is head lifting stuff, the colors and dimensions in the frescos are exquisite.  The Basilica is a wonderful House of God.
We found our way to the very large book store and bought T shirts “The fighting Irish” for our 3 grandsons and ourselves.   The book store is a wonder in itself, every form of memento one could possibly want, whether an alumnus or not -chairs, cloths, souvenirs and books.  It is a beautiful campus to explore. Of course, Tom wanted to have a visit to the football stadium which can hold almost 81,000 and has enjoyed sell-out crowds consistently since the early 1960’s, unfortunately it was closed. Afterwards, we had our dinner on campus just across the car park from the stadium in “The Legend” restaurant, where the history of Notre Dame athletic achievements adorns the walls.

Truth to tell, we had forgotten to take our cameras and returned on Monday, this time via the Main Gate; from which there’s a beautiful avenue of trees leading up to the famed Golden Dome, which is the Main Building of the University, right beside the Basilica. 
We were tight on time and particularly wanted to take some snaps of the Basilica. While we were there a Docent was conducting a tour; she walked over to Tom and said “I bet you’re a graduate of Notre Dame and Irish” to which Tom responded “I wish, and I am”. That was it for the tour party. Ann the Docent gave us a personal tour, including some behind the scenes areas. She also told us the story of how Notre Dame got the name “Fighting Irish”. In the late 1800’s the football team comprised mainly of Irish Catholic’s from the major cities in the Midwest; after one particularly tough game in which Notre Dame came from behind to win, the major Chicago newspaper had as its page one banner headline “The Fighting Irish do it again!” And…the legend lives on!  

Monday morning we drove to the Center for History on Washington St in South Bend to visit the historic “Copshaholm” former home of the Oliver family. Designed by Charles Alonzo Rich this beautiful home, I will not call it a house was built in 1895 and remained in the Oliver family into the 1970’s when it was gifted, in its entirety furniture, clothing, personal effects even the family silver to the History Center.

James Oliver emigrated with his family when he was 11 to the US from Newcastleton (Copshawholm in Scotch Gaelic) Scotland and later, after the death of his father worked for an iron foundry, at age 31 he bought an interest in the company. Two years later he received the first of 45 patents for improvements in plow design. This led to the formation of the Oliver Chilled Plow company. James’ son Joseph Doty Oliver who joined the company in 1868 commissioned the building of Copshaholm. Three generations of Oliver’s lived in Copshaholm before being presented to the History Center. We were greeted as VIPs by Jim in the foyer – he knew we were arriving and taken by Ken (a man who obviously loves his job) through the home. Copshaholm is on a corner of Washington Street it is built of local granite, with a wraparound porch on two sides, the outside is simply beautiful. As the furniture was included in the Oliver gift each room has some magnificent pieces.  The woodwork inside is evidently craftsmen at their best. Doors are big; the hall ceiling goes up three floors, as does the floating stairs. I was waiting for Scarlet O’Hara to glide down the stairs. Copshaholm had its own star in Gertrude Oliver on the day she married Charles Cunningham in 1916 in her home.

The History Center also houses the Studebaker Museum so we took a quick tour and saw the transition from horse drawn cart and carriages to luxury cars. Some of the early interior designs reminded me of “Driving Miss Daisy” one seat in front and a bench seat in the back but really no room behind the driver. Most of the early cars cost $1000 or more. While there we met an older gentleman who had worked for Studebaker, he recounted many fond memories of working there.

From there we went to meet a friend Nancy and her brother Bill, natives of Indiana in a Pub called “Between the Buns”. Nancy stayed with us in Ireland when she was a student at Trinity College and knew our children when they were young.  We have keep in touch over the years through respective Christmas letters. We had hamburgers, fries and beer that took more than 3 hours to finish – the talking interfered. We caught up on each other’s news and discovered that Nancy who had been a Joycean Professor had just retired and was extremely happy to do so.  It was lovely to see Nancy and Bill again.

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