Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Terraced Gardens: Yesterday and Today

This is the Terraced Garden in Shadyside Park in Anderson Indiana about 1938. Actually I am certain its 1938, because there are three little girls in the passageway at the top of the hill and one of them is my mother. Of course, this is a somewhat fanciful colorization of the original B&W that my grandfather took. I only had a couples things to guide me when I colorized it: my memory, which isn't so reliable; a quite idealized 1930's hand-colored postcard; and an aunt who confidently insists that the large vases were "..Primary Blue just like a Crayola Crayon". At least I got that part right.

What an idyllic place it must have been! I have found so many pictures of my family at Shadyside Park that my Mother, using her best little girl voice, joked "Did we live there?"
I was anxious to revisit the park on my next trip home so, here's a shot from Thanksgiving week, 2006. This shot was taken from very nearly the same spot as the 1938 photo but a lot has changed. Most of the interconnected waterways and ponds are gone and so are the vases. I am almost certain that I remember those vases from my childhood in the late 1950s and 1960s. Of course the plantings are completely different: missing the cut-leaf maples and dwarf blue carpet spruces. There is certainly one consistency and that is the huge tree on top of the hill. It may be a Sycamore; I cannot be sure. And too, the gas lights are authentic though they have probably been replaced. Walkways that were covered with giant slabs of granite, even in my day, are gone now, replaced by concrete sidewalks and stairs all properly equipped with hand-rails.
Times change. The man strolling in from stage-left in the original kind of says it all. There are other pictures that show dozens of people strolling the paths and stone covered walkways at Shadyside in the 1930s, and that was certainly missing when I visited it last. It was a chilly fall day but very sunny, and we only shared the park with one other couple and, ironically, a homeless person.

The Circus in my Hometown

This is one of my favorite old photos from my own collection. It shows a train car being unloaded from a Circus Train on a siding on John Street in my home town of Anderson Indiana. The photo was taken by my grandfather in the 1930s and it is one of the first that I chose to restore.
I used to walk this street going to and from school everyday and I remember the remnants of this siding but: its all gone now. It brings back a lot of memories. The vein that carried Anderson's life-blood were the train lines; not for the circus so much, but for the small industry and General Motors factories that made this town someplace on a map. I remember the circus train unloading every year when the circus broke for winter and Anderson was its home. I remember once riding on a steam engine while it shuffled cars onto the siding, courtesy of my father who worked for the railroad at that time. That may have been the last time that I saw a steam locomotive in use, at work.
Last Thanksgiving I was driving around the old town marveling at everything that has changed and everything that hasn't, when I saw a little person, a mildy disproportionant man, walking with a hold on the hand of his young child. I hadn't thought about it for decades, I guess, but when I was growing up there were always little people around town and I never see them in the places that I've lived since then. I realize now that it is a lasting impression on a town that a circus used to call home.