What Would You Save?

Abandoned house - St Mary Mo c 1966Running across these photos of an abandoned house in St. Mary from around 1966 got me to thinking about something.

For a long time, I carried around  a list of stories I’d like to do. Eventually, I came to realize that stories found me, I didn’t go looking for them, so I set the list aside.

Still, the idea that stayed with me the longest was something about the early settlers who headed out west in their wagon trains. When they started out, they carried everything including the kitchen sink. As the trail got steeper and food and water supplies got low, they had to lighten the load by throwing out possessions they thought were least important. What was the last “nonessential” to go out the back, I wondered?

What would you save?

Abandoned house - St Mary Mo c 1966Before I got around to asking strangers to let me to photograph them with the three things they would save from their home if it caught fire, I decided to pose the question to friends and coworkers. Turned out most folks were very predictable: family; pets, then photographs, were what would be carried out.

When it became obvious that most of the photos would look alike, I abandoned the project.

What did they take?

Abandoned house - St Mary Mo c 1966Still, when I look through this open window, I have to wonder what did the owners take from those opened drawers, and why did the random beads, buttons and juice squeezer not make the cut? (As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.)

So, what would YOU carry out of your burning house? Are you going to be like most folks and say “Family, pets and scrapbooks?”


Rendville Public School

Rendville School 04-18-2015You’re probably wondering how a town with only 36 people left in it can generate so many posts. Well, this is the last one until I visit the place again, but I think it’s one of the most interesting. Curator Jessica told me to turn right one road too early to get to Rendville proper, but we didn’t much care. Jessica is a lot like Mother: always looking for the road not taken.

Part-way up a tall hill, a huge, falling-down building came into view. We’d never have seen it in a few more weeks when the leaves are all out. There was a pickup truck with its window rolled down parked in a little turnoff leading to the building. I figured that must mean somebody was around. There were no no-trespassing signs around, so we hoofed up the path, noting fresh footprints in the soft ground.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

Marvin filled us in

Rendville School 04-18-2015Nobody answered my hail, so I went to the front of the building while Jessica prowled around back. Before long, I saw Jessica and Marvin, who said he grew up near the building, which turned out to be a school. “When it closed, it was left just like they were going to have classes the next day. There was even a bell, but someone made off with it.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Rendville had a sizable black population:  “That’s how Rendville came about,” Marvin recalled the local lore. “They ran all the colored out of Corning.”

Interestingly enough, though, both races attended the school, which dated back to the 1880s.

Convict bricks

Rendville School 04-18-2015Marvin pointed out that some of the walls were made of “Convict Bricks.” They were stamped “Convict Made; 1926; Ohio State Brick Plant; Convict Made.” They were a “hard brick,” unlike most of the older parts of the building that were “soft brick.”

Jessica, who is a bit of a brick expert, said she had never seen any like this before.

Like something from Gone With the Wind

Rendville School 04-18-2015I had the feeling I was in a movie set for General Sherman’s Atlanta urban renewal project (minus the fires).

Long hoof up the hill

Rendville School stairs 04-18-2015 Miz Jessica, a triathlete, is one of those people who runs even when nobody chases her. She volunteered to walk down this sidewalk that connected the school to the town, shooting photos along the way. I volunteered to pick her up at the bottom of the hill in my van.

Note the arched window

Rendville School 04-18-2015I asked Jessica to dig up some information about the school. The Little Cities of Black Diamonds archive has a photo of what the Rendville Public School looked like. The Corning High School had a building that looked so much like this one, I thought maybe someone had mislabeled the photos.

She squinted closer than I did and determined the window shapes and the bell tower were different.

Look for the blackboards

Rendville School 04-18-2015The easiest way to determine if an old building was a school or not is to look for the blackboards.

Disembodied voice

Rendville School 04-18-2015I was down in the boiler room when a disembodied voice said, “Hey, Ken.”

I peered around to see where the sound was coming from and said, “Holy Bleep!” when I saw Jessica and Marvin peering down from above. When I followed them, I found it was less scary than I thought. There was a good poured cement set of stairs between two convict brick walls that was perfectly solid.

Earlier Rendville stories

If you are interested in old coal towns (many which have disappeared), stories about labor and railroads, swing over to the Little Cities of Black Diamonds website for some interesting reading and pictures.







No More Store

Matthews Store in Perkins, MO 11-15-2010When I photographed Matthews Store in Randles in 2010, it looked rundown, but it was still standing and you could see some goods lingering on the shelves. After I posted the photos in 2012, Susan O’Connell commented “I wanted to let you know that this is my grandfather’s store. …. It was like the Walmart of Randles.”

You can read other Matthews Store comments here.

You wouldn’t recognize it

Matthews Store in Randles 08-13-2014When Ernie Chiles and I passed by the place on our way to the Painton airport, I hardly recognized it.

Passing of an era

Click on any photo to make it larger, then use your arrow keys to move through the gallery of the store that is no more.


Kage School Then and Now

Kage School interior, circa 1966I photographed Kage School just before it closed in 1966, after 112 years of service. Here is what it looked like then. Follow this link to read the amazing history of this progressive school.

47 years later

Kage School 10-19-2013_8712One of my readers mentioned that they had been inside the school and had been disappointed at its condition. I made a quick stop and found that it was rough, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. This shot was taken from just about the same spot at the 1966 photo. It’s funny how much bigger the room felt with kids in it.

Is it haunted?

Kage School 10-19-2013_8690

There are two questions I get asked a lot: “Is it haunted?” “Is there a tunnel leading down to the river as part of the Underground Railroad?”

I can pretty much always answer the latter as “No.” The jury is out on the first question. I don’t know about “haunts,” but I can feel some kind of spirits or vibes in some buildings. It’s probably my overactive imagination, but something triggers a reaction that I hope is reflected in some of my photos.

More often than not, I wonder about the people who passed through the buildings. Who, for example, was the last child to write addition tables on this board before the door was closed for the last time?

Every once in awhile, not often, a building will hit me stronger than I like.

Why this and not that?

Kage School 10-19-2013_8705Why would someone leave behind a roll of toilet paper or some tiny bowls?

Flash cards, books and bingo cards

Kage School 10-19-2013_8666The kids who used these items have grandkids and maybe great-grandkids today. I wonder if they are some of the ones who carved their names in the bricks in the back of the school?

Earlier Kage School stories

Kage School WS initials on wall 03-18-2020

 Kage School photo gallery

Here are photos of the interior of the school. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides to move through the gallery.