I think it’s time to write about courthouses again! Monday. For now, I wanted to give an overview of the state of Ted; a real “Hiatus Update” since, obviously, my sabbatical here has pretty much been in name only.
This blog took about ninety-six different arrangements before I decided to write long-form articles about each courthouse I’d been to along with a quick addendum of bullet-pointed facts at the end. Once I settled on it I didn’t want to deviate- I had big hopes that this site could turn into a great, researched, cited, resource for someone like I was ten years ago before I went and did the whole thing myself. Back on February 23rd, though, I threw that arrangement in the dumpster when I wrote a post that deviated from my established norm. “I need to take a break here for a while. I’m toast,” I said.
I mostly ate toast when I lived with my dad during my sophomore year of high school- three slices for breakfast, smothered in peanut butter.
That’s how I felt back in February! Totally crispy, but with a major note of lethargic peanuty creaminess.
At least when I went there, Concord Community High School in suburban Elkhart had a lax internet policy. In my web design class, we’d all goof off playing flash games after we finished up in Dreamweaver and our instructor, a big Texan named Sam never tried to block Poison Games. Instead, he used his teacher software to remotely screw around with our strikers on Table Hockey Tournament or to mess with our short game on Mini-Putt with his own mouse. On the other hand, my videography teacher, a neurotic, frizzy-haired woman named Mrs. Pyle, would just shout the word “BANDWIDTH” when she caught us goofing off online. Fourteen years later, I can identify a number of things that caused my February crispiness, but it all boils down to Mrs. Pyle’s BANDWIDTH cries. I didn’t have enough of it to navigate some big changes in my life.
I’ve mentioned before how I worked in marketing for Jarden Corporation during my salad days. I mostly worked on the Ball brand of Mason jars, lids, and canning supplies that were licensed through an agreement with Jarden’s former parent Ball Corporation. Though I initially found the job boring, it became a really big deal to me as my love of history took off. The legacy of the Ball Brothers is what put my hometown of Muncie on the map! To this day, some old-timers still call Ball State University “Fruit Jar Tech.” I started to collect expensive ($400) old jars and was part of some cool projects like our Heritage Collection series of vintage-inspired Perfect Mason, Perfection, and Improved jars, along with the reintroduction of the wire-bail Sure Seal jars, which I drew concept art for. I also did gruntwork, like personally shipping the cast of Duck Dynasty the 48 cases of Ball quart jars seen during Season 4’s “Till Duck Do We Part.”
In 2015, the Jarden office moved from Daleville to Fishers. Later that year, I was laid off just before Jarden merged with Newell-Rubbermaid and the local office downsized. But Ball’s legacy looms large over the south side of Muncie in the form of its 135-foot concrete batch tower on Memorial Drive west of Macedonia Avenue. Built in 1954 as part of a huge modernization project, the 12-story tower automated the delivery of raw materials to the furnaces of their Number 2 glass plant. Unfortunately, Ball soon shut down their Muncie glassmaking enterprise after years of declining profitability, and that big investment went kaput. Today, the tower is full of idle lifts, conveyors, and machinery, connected to the rest of the remaining campus by a series of tunnels. Back in October, I got a job working at the old Ball closure plant across the street from it. I’m the quality analyst there.
The closure plant is pretty much Muncie’s last vestige of Ball manufacturing. Though lids have been made here since 1895 or so, the present factory dates to about 1946 after a huge fire destroyed what had been the packing room of Ball’s Number 1 glass plant. It was rebuilt and restored until 1962, when the packing room -and most of the Ball facilities- were idled when the glass factories shut down. Most of the surrounding campus has since been demolished.
Many associate home canning with the iconic Mason jar, but the technology’s all in the lid. Early ones were tin dust covers, supplanted by glass flats that sealed to a rubber gasket by means of an iron screw band. In the early 1900s, Lightning jars -a generic trademark named so after their quick seal via a wire bail (and what I helped reintroduce for dry storage) became prominent. In 1914, a Ball competitor invented the modern two-piece metal closure. Ball adapted, and fifty years later they filed a patent for a plastisol sealing compound to replace the latex they’d been using. The new sealant was put into production in 1968. Three years after that, the old packing room was repurposed into a lid factory, and that’s where I work. Today, the process of manufacturing a canning lid is much the same as it has been this entire time. If you think of an aluminum can being formed and add a McDonald’s ketchup dispenser for the plastisol, you’re most of the way there.
It took a long time to get used to the plant’s schedule of twelve hour days that changes weekly, but I’ve finally mastered it. As a person with bipolar disorder, I need to establish a routine to thrive, which is hard for me! But I’m making money and I’m working in a historic building with tunnels so I’m good.
That said, even as late as February when I went haywire my new position completely upended my sleep/wake cycle and really impacted my ability to keep a routine. I did realize that one I’d kept up successfully was posting here weekly, and I wanted to keep doing it. But writing about the courthouses of Ohio isn’t just parroting facts from resources I’d already vetted: It’s a lot more research-intensive, and I’d hit a rock wall. Though I meant to abandon blogging here entirely, it hardly took any time at all before I started prattling on about Showbiz Pizza robots, schoolhouses, abandoned Marsh supermarkets, my favorite vacation spot, fast food statues, and whatever else I wanted to discuss.
In that spirit, here are some more updates: As far as Showbiz Pizza robots are concerned, I have two. First off, my Billy Bob robot from a skating rink in Waukegan is mostly cosmetically restored, waiting on some final gluing of fur and a red-and-yellow striped pair of trousers. I’ve replaced all of his pneumatic cylinders and he moves as he should when connected to air. New servos and a controller to interface with my laptop are forthcoming; who knows when I’ll see those next.
The second Pizza Robot update is that I completed a big art commission for MafiaCon in Mississippi a few months ago. It was a super-involved, MAD-Magazine-style parody poster in the style of Jack Rickard. I can’t post it here since I’ve deeded it to the organizer, but let me just tell you that it was hilarious and that my art plate is clean for now. Thank heavens!
I talked about my Abandoned Marsh project a few weeks ago. I’d recently redone some of the pieces to reflect their current status. I’ve been kicking around a “REALLY-Abandoned-Marsh” project that depicts stores from the chain’s Foodliner era that still stand but have long since been supplanted by other nearby stores, typically ones like Family Dollar, Save-A-Lot, or whatever other discounter goes in a couple of streets down. Or other Marsh stores, many of which have been repurposed in a similar manner.
Via invitation from an extremely talented photographer, I’m still working on adapting text from this blog to an Indiana courthouse book that aims to be an update of The Magnificent 92. Part of the reason I updated some older posts here was to be able to better edit them down into caption form for the book. I’ll be excited to finish that one up! And I’ve just finished serving as a consultant for a project at the local high school where students have created several historical tours around the area. THAT will be a good one to finish up as well.
Some of those students have been focusing on local schoolhouses. Good news- I’ve been in love with Delaware County’s schoolhouses for two decades! Five years ago I located many of them and took pictures, but my collection was incomplete and I idiotically deleted my database full of research before I subscribed to iCloud. I’ve built it back up over the past few weeks, armed with a new camera, and I’ve been to 52 old schoolhouses here. I’m pretty sure that’s all of them, and though I’m still mired in the research phase, I intend to write and publish a book.
Finally, my household welcomed a cat. Meet Disco! My brother and his girlfriend got her from a barn when they moved in together about a year ago, but the relationship was short-lived. She took custody of the cat and he took over his old room in my house. Recently, Nichole’s desire to move back to her home state landed sweet Disconaut here, which is where she’ll stay F O R E V E R. If you’ve seen my Facebook profile you’ll already know that I just can’t get enough of her. My sister, a latter-day dog owner, sent us a robotic fish that flops around while I’ve supplied her with a catnip-infused toy stick of dynamite and some cozy window perched. I love my Disco Biscuit!
Oh, and I just got my second Moderna dose yesterday. I took it at the Hartford City Elks Lodge, thinking I could parlay the jab into a pitcher of Miller Lite or something. That didn’t work, but on the way home I got three more photos of schoolhouses so it all evened out.
Things are looking good here and I’m excited to start writing about courthouses next week.