Saturday, July 22, 2023

Studebaker Museum

The same day we toured the Indiana State capitol in Indianapolis, we continued north to visit South Bend, Indiana.  We were looking forward to seeing the University of Notre Dame and the Studebaker Museum.

Along the way we decided we couldn’t do both in the afternoon and chose to see the Studebaker Museum that day and then see Notre Dame the next morning before we left town for Lansing MI.

Once inside a museum, we paid the admission and proceeded through artifacts on display.
At the start was the orientation video, 
which provided an overview and / or basic layout of the museum.  
The museum has three stories with an upstairs and a basement, all housing different items.  We stopped near the beginning of the self guided tour trail to see the brief film.  

The video described the history of the Studebakers who migrated from Europe (Germany) in 1736 and landed in Philadelphia.  By the 1850’s the family descendants were in Southbend and worked as blacksmiths, and carriage and wagon builders.  The family was long associated with the transportation business including road building, wagon and various carriage designs.  Who knew?  

The Studebaker company was actually founded in 1852 when the Studebaker brothers built their first two wagons for business owners and for traveling throughout the country.  The American West was full of Prairie Schooners and Conestoga wagons built in the Studebaker factory in South Bend.
One of the first displays showed a summary of the Studebaker story.
The Studebaker land holdings and factories of the wagon and horse drawn carriages industry continued to expand throughout the region in the mid to late 1800s. 

At the turn of the century, the Studebaker company transitioned to the automobile and became “ the automobile with a reputation behind it".  It was a big gamble.  It was highly success company with wagon and carriages and then it looked to the future and took on a whole new challenge.

Wikipedia says, "The Studebakers had always viewed the automobile as complementary to the horse-drawn wagon, pointing out that the expense of maintaining a car might be beyond the resources of a small farmer. In 1918, the annual capacity of the seven Studebaker plants was 100,000 automobiles, 75,000 horse-drawn vehicles, and about $10,000,000 worth of automobile and vehicle spare parts ($194,557,522 in 2022 dollars). In the preceding seven years, 466,962 horse-drawn vehicles had been sold, as against 277,035 automobiles, but the trend was all too clear. The regular manufacture of horse-drawn vehicles ended when Erskine ordered the removal of the last wagon gear in 1919. To its range of cars, Studebaker would now add a truck line to replace the horse-drawn wagons. Busesfire engines, and even small rail locomotive-kits were produced using the same powerful six-cylinder engines.

 Not too far from the beginning one of the many carriage models caught our eye:  The 1857 Studebaker Phaeton.  
Fast forward to the RV industry and Tiffin Motorhomes-- the maker of the Allegro Bus motorhome which we drove around the country for 10 years.  Tiffin also made the wildly successful Phaeton model which was introduced in 2001 as the company’s industry level diesel pusher. I had never heard the name  Phaeton before we started RVing and I wonder if somehow they derived the name from the Studebakers?

Back to the museum:

In the late 1800’s, the Studebaker company continued to grow and expand and had contracts with the government to build military and related vehicles during World War I.  It, like the world wide economy, ran into tough times during the Great Depression and made its way back in part from government contracts during World War II.

The museum was a mind-boggling because of so many makes and models of wagons, carriages, and then automobiles--it was astonishing.  Read about it the list of all their makes and models through the years here.  You might be interested to know they built electric cars (battery) from 1902-1912!

Here’s a sampling of the photos of I took of the amazing cars:

Our family bought a Studebaker in the 1960’s which was some variation of the Lark model.

As we walked through the three floors of the museum I was struck by just how many models the comnpany had made over the years.  I spent six years working for Electronic Data Systems (EDS) after my Air Force career and joined just after a new CEO was hired.  The EDS was on the decline and one of the first things the new boss did was have an “all-hands” meeting and announce the company was going to downsize.  He said the company was going to shed its non-essential segments that did not contribute to its "core values".  We had so many different and completely unique divisions and business units, we had lost our identity. Our profitable was suffering because of it.  So he fixed it and a few years later the company was sold to Hewlett-Packard.

I wondered if the large number of makes and models was a not a major issue for the Studemaker company in the 1950’s and 1960’s?  It faced declining sales and lower market share to the point where it produced its last vehicle in 1966.
We thought the museum was very well organized and worth seeing.  We are glad we stopped by and learned a little more about one of the car companies that was once a leader in the industry.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Indiana Times

After seeing the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, OH, we found the hotel we had reserved and got settled in before going to dinner.  We found a favorite restaurant- Longhorn Steakhouse - and enjoyed a quiet evening. The next morning we left for Indianapolis and the state capital.  One of our goals is to visit all 50 state capitols.  It’s a quest we started while we were on the road full-time in the Roadrunner.

We had an uneventful two-hour drive heading east on I-70.  We found a parking garage across the street from the capitol and approached the grounds.  

When we visit a state capitol, we want to get a general sense of the “mood” of the place which sometimes depends on the time of the year we are there. This capitol seemed uplifting, organized, open, clean and beautiful.

We had good timing and joined a tour of the building that was forming up.  There was only another person on the tour was a lady, and the tour guide.  

We learned that the state has had three capital locations.  The original capitol in Corydon, IN which still stands.  It was a modest two-story limestone structure built while Indiana was still a territory in 1813.  
Indiana became a state in 1816.

In 1831, funds were approved for the construction of a larger facility which was completed in 1835.  That building was not well built and suffered from inferior limestone which deteriorated to a point the building was condemned in 1877 and razed shortly thereafter.  A new building was constructed on the same site and it was completed in 1888.

The building was constructed in the shape of a cross and made of marble, granite and limestone.   It reached 256’ high.  A large rotunda in the center connects four wings and the building is four stories high.  The dome on top can be seen for miles.

In 1988 workers began a seven-year, extensive renovations began which included all of the stonework cleaned and polished. Also the building’s woodwork was cleaned, repaired and polished. Glass that was broken or damaged in the central dome skylight was replaced.  Chandeliers were updated based on original designs.  Additionally, the building was wired for a new data network.  It all cost about $11M.  

It was worth every cent.  The building inside and out was strikingly beautiful and making it in our mind, one of the top tier most beautiful capitols in our nation.  I haven’t counted lately, but I’m guessing we have seen more than half of the country’s seats' of government.

We entered the building on the first floor before going to the tour office on the second floor.
The second floor also contains the Governor’s and related executive offices.  The third floor is where we spent most of our time:  in the House on the east side, the Senate on the west, and the Supreme Court which is located on the north end.

One thing we immediately noticed was the wide openness of each floor. And of course the main attraction is the central rotunda with the stained glass ceiling.

We made our way to the Governors office and were immediately struck by the beauty of the wood carved conference table at one end of the room.

The 16’ table was carved/built by prisoners from a state correctional facility.  Amazingly it is made from  cherry, oak, tulip poplar, black walnut, white pine, and maple.  It displays all 92 state counties and the official state seal.
Next we went over to the House of Representatives chambers.  It also is a beautiful room with lots of intricate and attractive woodworking as well as a large mural on the front wall: Spirit of Indiana
The Senate chambers were in another wing on the same floor. Though smaller, it was also very attractive.
The Supreme Court is in another wing.  
Some of the chairs in the gallery date back to the mid 1800s.
After the tour we walked a few blocks over to the War Memorial building which houses the Liberty Bell replica.  
Each state capitol was given a replica of the original Liberty Bell as part of a bond fund raising effort by the U.S. government in 1950.  Each capital has the bell on display somewhere.  It is a bit like hide-and-seek.
Some are in places of prominence, others in obscure locations. Some are inside others are outside on the capitol grounds.  Indiana has there’s on display a few blocks away in the War Memorial building.  
We tracked it down and found it!  And checked it off the list. Read more about the replica Liberty Bells here.

After that, we ate sandwiches for lunch which Pam prepared and then drove on to South Bend Indiana, home of two more places on our sight-seeing list:  the University of Notre Dame and the Studebaker museum.

Read about it in upcoming editions of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thanks for reading today.  We especially enjoy your comments - keep them coming!

Friday, July 14, 2023

Another Month, Another Trip

It’s the middle of July and we thought it would be fun to go see Marg and Bill in Tobermory, Ontario, Canada.  So that’s where we’re headed for a few days.  We’re going to see sights along the way and see some extended family and friends too.

Wednesday afternoon, we departed home and arrived in Lexington, VA.  It’s a place we’ve been to many times over the years.  Lexington is right on I-81 and we like the town a lot.  Sometimes it was in the Roadrunner and the last couple of years the town has been a stopover in our truck.  

We drove about 4 1/2 hours checked into our hotel and went to dinner.  We had lots of choices and decided on a Japanese restaurant.  I got sushi and sashimi and Pam had chicken teriyaki.  We frequent Nara Sushi in Viriginia Beach so it is the benchmark we measure all other Asian cuisine.  

Lexington VA is quite an historic town with Washington and Lee University, Virginia Military Institute, the George C. Marshall Foundation Museum, as well as the gravestone, stature and home of Stonewall Jackson.

It also is the home of a unique Hampton Inn where we stayed which is on site of Col Alto Mansion.

Thursday, our journeys took us from Lexington VA to Dayton Ohio.  After rest stops, a fuel stop, lunch (sandwiches Pam made with fixings from the cooler we carry with us), we arrived about 2 pm.  We made our way directly to the National Museum of the Air Force.  

We visited it years ago back in our RV days and wanted to see more of it again.  It was utterly fantastic.  Over the years it has been expanded and somehow is even better than it was.  It was overwhelming to try and absorb it all.  So we picked out a few things to see and enjoyed it thorughly.

The many displays are contained in four large hangers (with World War II, SouthEast Asia, Cold War and a Presidential Gallery).

F-22 Raptor 

One of the “drones” which was huge!  These are nothing less than pilotless airplanes flown by remote control.  Astounding.  Back in the early 1980’s they used to be called "Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - UAVs". 

The SR-71 - always a highlight 

We wandered over to a display of the Space Shuttle and it resolved one of the great mysteries of space travel for me-- I always wondered, “How do those astronauts go to the bathroom?”  Answer:  vacuum technology in weightlessness on a “regular” toilet seat.  Enough said on that subject.
Space Shuttle toilet

We also wanted to see the Presidential Gallery.  We walked through Harry Truman’s airplane and also the one that JFK used during his short-lived presidency. 

A twinge of nostalgia.  My dad was stationed family at Presque Isle AFB, ME and we lived there from 1955-1958. 

 It was part of the Cold War’s USAF Strategic Air Command which had the “lightening bolt/iron fist” insignia.  As a 4-5 year old I remember we’d go on and off base in our car and I remember the sticker on the corner of the windshield indicating it was register on base.  

The Air Police would see the SAC sticker, check my dad’s military ID card, he would get saluted and we’d get onto base.  There was something solemn and mesmerizing about the whole routine.

We had another trip down memory lane at the museum. Pam and I were stationed in Germany from 1980-1983 and had the chance to visit both East and West Berlin.  As you know, after WW II Berline was portioned off into what become East and West Berlin.

The Cold War Gallery had quite a lot of interesting information on the Berlin Airlift following World War II from 1948-1949.

The Soviets blockade Berlin allowing no transportation to / from the city stranding the city residents in an attempt to take full control of the city after it was portioned into four sectors (US, Britain, France and the Soviet Union).  Read more about it here

We’re off to a great start, have had good weather and are enjoying our travels.  Thanks for joining us on the continuing adventures of the Roadrunner Chronicles!