History

Interviewed on the radio about the Michigan Road

Yesterday I got to talk about the Michigan Road on radio station WKVI in Knox, Indiana. This town of about 3,500 residents is about 40 miles southwest of South Bend. Have a listen! (If you’re seeing this in your email or in your reader, click the title to see this on my site, where a video will appear below.)

The short of the story: when the Michigan Road was surveyed in the 1830s, the desire was to route it directly from Logansport to Michigan City. But the marshes of the Kankakee River blocked the way and it was impossible to build a road through them. So the road was routed through Rochester, Plymouth, and South Bend instead before heading to Michigan City.

The marshes were drained starting in the mid-late 1800s, and by 1920 the work was complete. While it opened up a huge amount of incredibly fertile farmland, it also destroyed the habitat for a number of wildlife species.

With the advent of the automobile, Indiana was again interested in building the direct road between Logansport and Michigan City. They built it in the 1930s as highway US 35, which runs right through Knox. Were it not for the marshlands, Knox could have been a Michigan Road town!

Small world department: WKVI morning host Charlie Adams was the sports anchor on WSBT-TV in my hometown starting in the late 1980s, and I used to watch him when I’d go home to visit my family. Near the end of the clip above Charlie talks about a motivational talk he gave at my high school with the South Bend Police Chief Information Officer, who arrived in the gym on his motorcycle.

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Hinkle Hamburgers

Hinkle’s Hamburgers
Canon PowerShot S80
2009

There’s a lot to like about Madison, a small Indiana city on the Ohio River and at the beginning of the historic Michigan Road. One of those things is Hinkle’s. They make a mean hamburger — grilled crispy on the edges, with pickle and grilled onions on a soft bun.

As you can see, this sign is a little weatherworn. Fortunately, it’s been restored since I made this photograph. But in the process it changed color. When you visit Madison, look for the dark green Hinkle’s sign! It’s right on Main Street.

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Photography

single frame: Hinkle’s Hamburgers

Hinkle’s Hamburgers, a Madison, Indiana institution.

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Tri-Way sign

Tri-Way Drive-In
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2008

Not long ago I shared some photos of the Skyline Drive-In, on the Michigan Road in Shelbyville, Indiana. It’s not the only drive-in on the road, however. The Tri-Way is about 150 miles north on the road, in Plymouth. It’s been operating since 1953. It’s a four-screen outdoor theater — another screen was added since I made this photograph!

I haven’t been by here in a long time, but as I remember it, they leave the sign lit most of the time in season.

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Photography

single frame: Tri-Way Drive-In

The sign for the Tri-Way Drive-In in Plymouth, Indiana.

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Moon-Lite Motel

Moon-Lite Motel
Canon PowerShot S80
2009

You’ll find the Moon-Lite Motel in Versailles (ver-SALES), Indiana, on US 421. That’s also the Auto Trail alignment of the Michigan Road. I’ve seen other photos with the neon fully working — the MOTEL letters light up in pink.

You never know what you’re going to get when you choose to stay at an old motel like this. Thank heavens for Google and its reviews, which say that this is one of the good ones.

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Photography

single frame: Moon-Lite Motel

A neon motel sign in Versailles, IN.

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South Bend Motel

South Bend Motel
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2009

I grew up a mile or so away from this motel and its neon sign. I saw it a lot while I was growing up, and its neon was usually in disrepair. It made me happy to find it lit and fully working when I visited my hometown this day.

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Photography

single frame: South Bend Motel

The South Bend Motel sign, lit.

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Felke Florist

Felke Florist
Canon PowerShot S80
2009

If you’ve never been to Plymouth, put it on your list; it is a charming small Indiana city. I came to appreciate it on my many passes through as I explored the Michigan Road in 2008. Its intact old downtown is filled with viable local shops; well-cared-for homes dating to the mid-1800s line the Michigan Road leading in and out. Terre Haute, Muncie, Goshen – they all wish they had a main drag like Plymouth’s.

Once I drove through Plymouth at twilight and Felke Florist’s sign was lit with beautiful bright red neon. I so regretted that I didn’t have my camera with me. And then on many subsequent trips through town, the sign wasn’t lit. But then on this particular afternoon it was — inexplicably, as it was four o’clock in the afternoon. Fortunately, my camera was sitting on the passenger seat. You’d better believe I stopped for this photo!

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Photography

single frame: Felke Florist

A neon sign for a florist in Plymouth, Indiana.

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