I grew up in small town, though technically called a city, in northwest Indiana called Rensselaer. What comes to you mind when you think of Indiana in general? Corn? Soy beans? Farms? Hillbillys? You would be correct in that assumption, but we do have some big cities too! My town was the embodiment of all of those assumptions and more. I mean, we had a drive your tractor to school day. Kids would actually get up early to drive their slow moving tractors to school. Rensselaer is located just off the interstate and could be described as the half way mark between Indianapolis and Chicago. There is a lot to this town though, there is a Walmart. It is a very small Walmart, some of the grocery stores in Indianapolis are two times bigger, but there is one. There are a couple of different options for grocery stores and several different options for pizza places. We also have several fast food places and recently a new Taco Bell was added by the interstate! There is also place that sells Chinese, though some of the old locals will still tell you they use cat meat instead of chicken. Finally, we have an actual college in our town! St. Joseph is a private and very small college but still a college!
My hometown is the seat of the county, meaning it is comparable to the capital of that county. There is a large courthouse that sits in the middle of downtown and the streets are lined with different shops, including a bakery and pub. There are a total of five stoplights, there used to be six but one broke and instead of paying to fix it they put in a four-way stop. There are two elementary schools you could attend but everyone ends up going to the same middle school no matter what. I went to Saint Augustine, a private catholic school, and it was jarring when I entered middle school. I didn’t even know there were more than 10 other kids in our town and I actually had to pick out my own outfits instead of wearing uniforms. Once everyone is clumped into middle school, you are stuck with them all the way through high school, which are conveniently located across the street from each other.
Farming is how the majority of the population make a living in Rensselaer. I mean, the town is quite literally surrounded by farms and fields. My dad (he is my stepdad but I call him dad) is a farmer (and also a county commissioner and realtor). He has acreage located all over the country surrounding the town. Mostly the crops are corn and soybean, but there are several wheat fields and someone out by our farm grew mint in a huge field for awhile. Farm animals are also abundant. My dad had cattle for a long time before and for awhile after he married my mom. Sheep, cows, and pigs were really big in our area. I had my own herd of goats growing up!
High school sports, especially football, are a huge event in our town. Friday nights the place seems deserted but just drive to the high school and you will find everyone sitting in the stands cheering on the Bombers. When I was growing up, the thing to do on the weekends when there were no sports was to cruise. If you are not familiar with the term is literally means just getting in the car with your friends and cruising around town. There used to be a very distinct path you would go on night after night, passing your friends, blaring your music and trying to look as cool as possible. Thanks to new construction, cruising is out and just standing in random parking lots is in, or was the last time I checked.
I’m sure I will do more post about good ole Rensselaer, this was just to give you a sense of what it was like growing up in small “city” in Northern Indiana.