The Saratoga

The Saratoga
Kodak EasyShare Z730

Not long ago I showed this sign in my lit-neon single frame series. I found this photo from my 2009 tour of the National Road (US 40) in western Indiana that shows the sign in its context. It’s a pleasing scene from downtown Terre Haute.

Terre Haute is a blue-collar town of about 60,000 people. That’s big enough that you can’t know everybody, but small enough that after you live there for a few years the locals are largely familiar to you.

When I lived there, I used to stop by a little diner downtown for breakfast. Most days the county sheriff ate at the stool next to me. We’d nod and smile as he sat down. I worked with a fellow then who went on to be Terre Haute’s mayor now. This is how life goes in a city of this size, and I miss it.

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13 responses to “single frame: The Saratoga”

  1. Clare Hennessey Avatar
    Clare Hennessey

    Lovely photograph Jim as always. This is documentary photography at it’s best.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      What a lovely compliment! Thank you.

  2. brandib1977 Avatar

    That’s a rather large town where I come from but it does sound like a good size. We have about 13,000 people in my entire county so everyone knows everyone else’s business! Lol.

    Your photo is a wonderful capture of a time and place!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ooh, that’s a liiiiiiitle too small for me. I grew up in a city of a bit more than 100,000 people and then moved to Terre Haute with about 60,000. Now I live in metropolitan Indianapolis with more than a million and that’s a little too big. Probably always will be, to me.

      1. brandib1977 Avatar

        Sometimes I fantasize about living in or near a bigger town. I’m in the country and my closest town, our county seat, is only about 1,700 people. You can’t do anything or go anywhere without causing tongues to wag!

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Even in a city the size of Terre Haute I could be largely anonymous if I wanted to be.

          1. brandib1977 Avatar

            That sounds divine.

  3. J P Avatar

    I can’t get enough of this sign.

    I have never really lived in a city the size of Terre Haute. I lived in Muncie during college, but that really isn’t the same thing, as a student lives in a kind of parallel universe.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I liked the small-city life. I’m sure I’m romanticizing it now, but I miss it.

  4. Roger Meade Avatar
    Roger Meade

    I love that shot and I would love to sit down at one of those tables and order a burger and a good beer. One of the few upsides to the pandemic is cities and business owners in this northern area opening up to the idea of outside dinning or drinking. We have a short summer season here, so up until now there has been little incentive to make the extra effort to make an outside area available.We have a favorite brewpub here that now has a big white open sided tent in the alley next to their entrance for alfresco beer enjoyment. In the past they have only done that for the occasional festival.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Our comfortable months for outdoor dining are May-June and Sept-Oct — Jul-Aug are just too darned hot! But we’re dining outside anyway because it beats risking COVID inside.

  5. Khürt Williams Avatar


    As always you’ve provided a slice of “life in Indiana”. I’m learning documentary photography from reading your blog post. Thank you.

    As an immigrant to the United States (circa 1986) and despite being a native speaker of English, it took a while for me to understand the meaning of certain uniquely American words. Words like blue-collar and white-collar were words that had no meaning to me especially in reference to neighbourhoods.

    Dad worked in banking and Mom worked in government. But in the West Indies, because of the heat, nearly everyone wore short-sleeve shirts and it could be of any colour and the homes of the “well-to-do” were built right next to the homes of the less well off.

    One note on restaurants. At the time when I lived in the islands (1966-1986), most locals dined-in. The restaurants were mostly occupied by Canadian and European tourists and most (if not all) offered al-fresco dining.

    I often wish that I was back in the islands, documenting the changes that have occured over the last 34 years.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Khürt, that’s a nice compliment. Thank you.

      Our culture has always allowed socioeconomic segregation. Because there’s so much land here, the wealthy have always been able to afford to find the nicest patches of land and build there, away from everyone else.

      The blue and white collar thing is a reflection of a time that doesn’t exist anymore. Office workers wore dress shirts with white collars; factory and service workers wore uniform shirts with blue collars. Once upon a time, anyway.

      Do you ever get back to the islands?

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