Wingding 2017 Trip Day 1
Saturday August 26
Orville Redenbacher, King of Popcorn
63 Lafayette St., Valparaiso, IN
The statue sits beneath the gateway into Lincoln Park, on the south side of W.
Lincolnway/Hwy 130 just east of Lafayette St.
Orville Redenbacher had already made a fortune in fertilizer when he settled in
Valparaiso to build a popcorn empire. He tested thousands of hybrids before
perfecting "gourmet popping corn" -- an upscale version of a formally humble
food -- and then became a celebrity by pitching it on TV commercials. A lot of
folks didn't believe that he was real, but he was.
Orville died in 1995, in the whirlpool tub of his Colorado condo, not in the
leafy biome of a Valparaiso corn field. The city never forgot him, and in 2012
it commissioned artist Lou Cella to create a bronze, life-size Orville with his
familiar bow tie, wavy hair, toothy grin, and thick glasses. The statue was
placed at the entrance to the city's downtown park, and sits on its own bronze
bench to encourage visitors to pose for photos -- a friendly approach also used
in statues of America's other living food icon, Colonel Sanders.
Paradoxically, Orville's folksy image is owned by corporate giant ConAgra Foods,
which forbade Valparaiso from including any references to popcorn in the statue.
John Dillinger Museum
1 Courthouse Square, Crown Point, IN
In the old courthouse in the town square. Entrance on the north side of the
Tu-Su 10-5 (Call to verify)
Admission Adults $4.
In America, Bonnie
and Clyde are the alpha dogs of
the pop celebrity crime pack. But nipping at their heels is John Dillinger, and
in Indiana he will always be Public Enemy No. 1, a home-state boy gone bad.
Fry guy: Bruno Hauptmann in the electric chair.
The John Dillinger Museum is the legacy of the late Joe Pinkston, a maverick who
collected more Dillinger relics than anyone. In the 1970s he opened the museum
in his Indiana hometown, and spent the rest of his life defending it against
those who failed to appreciate his vision.
Times sure have changed. The museum is now officially sanctioned and promoted by
Indiana's tourism trendsetters. In 2015 it re-opened in an atmospheric new
setting in the basement of Lake County's old courthouse, only a block from the
"escape-proof" jail that Dillinger escaped from on March 3, 1934 -- much to
Indiana's embarrassment at the time.
"It took me 21 years to get it here," said a proud Speros Batistatos, president
of the South Shore CVA. "This is where the museum belongs, and always has
belonged. It's home."
(Speros, a maverick himself, has helped pave the way for Indiana's statues of Flick's
Lick and Orville
Replica of Dillinger's cell and bucket.
The brick-vaulted basement of the museum is an appropriately dungeon-like
setting, complete with barred windows (It was originally the city morgue). It
opens with a condemned man strapped into an electric chair -- not John
Dillinger, who never made it that far, but Bruno Hauptmann, the convicted Lindbergh
Next, it's a chronological walk along "the twisted road that led to Dillinger's
death," according to an introductory sign. Displays include his young-man's
Indiana baseball shoes, but turn a corner and you're standing face-to-face with
wax dummies of the Dillinger gang robbing an Indianapolis bank. Then you're
invited to sit in a jail cell just like the one where Dillinger spent nine years
of his short life. "The bucket was his bathroom," reads one sign (There's a
bucket on the floor as a visual aid). "Can you imagine living like this that
Fake gun carved and used by Dillinger to bust out of jail.
Joe Pinkston believed that Dillinger was in cahoots with banks he robbed, and
was sacrificed after they had collected their insurance money. The new museum
concedes in its signage that Dillinger was "generally courteous" and "had no
trouble attracting girlfriends," but has replaced Joe's conspiracy theories with
exhibits that juxtapose Good (law enforcement) vs. Evil (lawbreakers). Along the
way you can ponder artifacts such as the lucky rabbit's foot that Dillinger gave
away six months before he was killed, and a replica of the crude wooden gun that
he used to bluff his way out of the Crown Point jail down the street.
The museum ends with its best material. The Death
Alley display reveals a face-down
wax dummy Dillinger corpse at the touch of a button -- which, or course, you
push after being warned that what you're about to see may shock you. Similarly,
a twist of the "City Morgue" door handle illuminates the outlaw's bloody body on
its examination slab.
"Warning: May be too frighting" is written on the morgue door.
Dillinger's death mask is displayed (a sign notes that so many death masks were
made that Dillinger's dead face was damaged) along with his wicker corpse basket
and his original tombstone, removed from his grave after too many people had
chipped off pieces for souvenirs.
One of Joe Pinkston's most prized exhibits, Dillinger's death
pants, have their own showcase in the museum, although their visible
blood stains have faded over the years.
The final display in the museum is a big blow-up of J. Edgar Hoover's face and
this message: "Having now seen the twisted tale of John Dillinger's life, would
you agree that crime doesn't pay?"
Obsessive personal collections such as Joe Pinkston's are usually sold piecemeal
or thrown away after their owners die. Fortunately, his Dillinger Museum,
although tempered in approach, has remained essentially intact. It enlightens
new generations of True Crime fans in its now-respectable afterlife.
Giant Lady's Leg Sundial
Giant Lady's Leg Sundial
Aura Nudist Resort opened in 1933. Back then it was called Club Zoro and its
founder was Alois Knapp, a Chicago lawyer, German Nacktkulturist, editor of
Sunshine and Health magazine, and "the father of nudism in America."
eventually passed into the hands of Dale and Mary Drost. Their son, Dick,
had big ideas: he renamed the place Naked City, made it the home of the Ms.
Nude Teeny Bopper Contest and the "Erin Go Bra-less" Dance on St. Patrick's
Day, and had built the giant lady's leg sundial, 63 feet long and properly
positioned to tell time -- a useful feature for wristwatchless nudists.
closed in 1986 when Dick was run out of Indiana on child molestation
charges, but the leg remains and so does the resort, now under new
management. The circular main building with the mirror gold windows is a
who paints the leg told us that Sun Aura is a "clothing optional" camp -- in
other words, you don't have to get nude to take a picture of the big lady's
leg. But for those who do choose to get into the spirit of things, a helpful
sign on the exit road reads, "Stop. You Must Be Dressed Beyond This Point."
Giant Lady's Leg Sundial
Sun Aura Nudist Resort
3449 E. State Rd 10, Roselawn, IN
- Sun Aura Nudist Resort. East of Lake Village. I-65 exit 230,
then west on Hwy 10 for three miles. The nudist camp is on the left,
near a pale yellow mailbox and sign.