Another American icon was from Indiana, too


Guess what other famous love of mine is from Indiana?

At the Fairmount Historical Musuem I browsed a mind blowing display of James Dean's personal belongings, which included school report cards, clothing, letters, and art work, along with awards, contracts and other memorabilia.

I talked to people who knew his family. They told me great stories about Dean's high school past times, interests and personality. He was never really a rebel, like Hollywood made him out to be. In fact, Dean was an only child who lost his mother to breast cancer when he was nine. He was raised for the most part by relatives. He grew up a sensitive, artistic soul, who would visit Fairmount from Hollywood and act no different toward friends and family than before.

He was killed in a car crash at the age of 24.

Here's a letter Dean wrote to cousin Marcus Winslow, who is 12 years his junior. Dean was in his early twenties at the time and was working in New York. The letter was regarding some drawings Winslow had sent him and reflects Dean's Quaker beliefs.

Clicking on the photo will open it in a separate window, where it should be large enough to read.


It's interesting there is so much more left of James Dean's life in Fairmount than there is in Lafayette of either Shannon Hoon or Axl Rose, though they were born much later.

Fairmont, population 3,000, is still a small town.


"Around here you IMG_3407 walk up and down the street and people say hello to you and you answer them back," says museum volunteer Phil Zeigler (right), a U.S. Navy veteran.

IMG_3394 "'Happy days' are gone, but it is still very Americana," fellow volunteer and Army veteran Mike Davis (left), 67, who attended high school with Marcus Winslow, concurs. "People are still happy and friendly."

Continuing on my personal trail of ‘heroes’

Axl Rose and Shannon Hoon are both my musical loves. Rose sings for Guns N Roses, and Hoon, who died at age 28 of a drug overdose, sang for Blind Melon. Both are from Lafayette, Indiana. They knew each other, too, though Rose was older.

The lyrics from a song he wrote called "Change" are carved into Hoon's tomb stone in nearby Dayton, Ohio.


At the grocery store in Lafayette, I met one of Hoon's old friends, who told me "If things were getting boring, Shannon would liven them up real quick."
He says after the drugs started, Hoon changed from the fun-loving, sweet athletic guy he'd partied with and served in high school detentions with to someone distant and unkempt he barely recognized.
Today, Hoon is definitely more loved than Rose is in his hometown. Perhaps because he never dissed it, like Rose, did. (Though Rose dissed everything at one time or another, so I don't know why that's significant.)
Not much is left of either of their stomping grounds.
Rose reportedly spent a lot of time playing music in his grandmother's garage, which was located behind this frozen custard shop on the outskirts of a large park.


Indiana is all mine…

About half a dozen people along my route told me I may as well skip Indiana.
"There's nothing there."
"Just a bunch of corn fields."
"Nothing important to see."
By the time I made it over the Kentucky border, I was burnt out.
My lap top battery had officially died; I'd weathered my share of mechanical and technical problems, battled bugs and heat and humidity, tossed multiple notebooks full of interviews and been on the road roughing it long enough to qualify as a gypsy.
So when I drove into that blessed mid-70 degree state, I thought, "I don't care if there is nothing here. Indiana will be my vacation. Indiana belongs to me."
The change from the south to the Midwest is oddly instantaneous. Not just in the weather, but the culture, too.
In the small city of Scottsburg, several dozen ball-tossing, corn-fed-looking high school boys converged in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Friday night and and held a raucous outdoor party, complete with fast cars, rap music and two or three flirtatious girls.
I spent an hour or so in Indianapolis and a neighborhood a few miles north called Broad Ripple, which is pleasantly artistic and diverse.
Even just a few miles past the border, people have way different accents than those in Kentucky do. For whatever reason, they were a lot less reactive to my bright turquoise hair.
And for the record, the corn fields are beautiful.
I've got plenty of sunsets, old buildings and scenic panoramas preserved in my mind.
You guys will have to imagine.