Dear Family and Friends:
During the year in which I was born, Yip Harburg, a Yiddish speaking songwriter was penning the words to, “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?” (He also wrote such standards as, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?," "April in Paris," and "It's Only a Paper Moon," as well as all of the songs in The Wizard of Oz, including "Over the Rainbow.") Glocca Morra was a mythical Irish town sung about in the musical “Finnian’s Rainbow.” I know you are ecstatic to have this tidbit of trivia.
A few weeks ago the Clark’s and Klotz’s (older generation) met for a weekend of fun (as we have several times since we became family through our children, Jeremy and Melissa). This time around we joined up in the not-so-mythical town of Metamora, Indiana. Ever heard of it? I’m not surprised. Metamora is so small (your cue to say, “How small is it?”)…Metamora is so small that it is not even shown on the Indiana road map. We found it anyway. Bill Clark made the arrangements and we met up at the century-old Metamora Inn bed and breakfast, our HQ for the weekend. That’s where we met the first of many wonderfully friendly people of the area. The Inn is owned and run by a husband and wife team. He’s G.I. and she’s Jo. Together they are known as, you guessed it, “GI Joe.” The inn was clean, comfortable, and the breakfasts Jo made for us Saturday and Sunday morning were delicious. Best thing about the inn was their large porch. We sat out there each happy hour and evening and…were happy.
At first glance we thought that the inn might be the extent of the things to see and do in this historic (read very old) town. We were wrong. That Saturday morning we ambled the five or six blocks of the town to find that Metamora had been a booming tourist attraction. Although its heyday went bust along with the economy several years back, people still came by to see and ride the well-preserved passenger train and canal boat. We learned that Metamora had been a center for trade a hundred years ago because it was built on a 110 mile canal where boats pulled by horses brought farm products and other material from central Indiana to Cincinnati. The advent of the freight train killed the canal business but Metamora lived on as an attraction to visitors looking for a taste of the past. Antique shops, an authentic grist mill (with water wheel on the canal) and several other interesting shops still open on the weekends for those interested enough to find the town.
We were in luck on our weekend in Metamora. We happened to be there for the last day of operations of the not-so-well-known Museum of Oddities. That was perhaps the most appropriate name any museum ever had. Everything in it was odd; death masks, Peruvian artifacts, an autographed photo of Charles Manson. The only not-so-odd thing was a Chanukah Menorah. Well, that wasn’t odd for us, anyway. I guess oddness is in the eye of the beholder. As we left I talked to the owner. Turns out he is a professor who traveled the world collecting the oddities himself. He’d opened the museum fifty years ago and that Saturday was to be its last day. He was selling the exhibit and moving to Florida. Isn’t that odd?
Next door we had a great lunch at the Smelly Gourmet. That’s the name and the food was great. While we ate out on the patio we saw what looked to be cowboys and cowgirls getting off of the train. Seems like we happened to be in the right place at the right time if re-enactments of bank robberies and cowboy gunfights are your cup of tea. I’m sure the cow folk on any other day of the week were farmers, accountants and lawyers. But once a month they don their spurs, Stetsons, and six-guns and become the Jessie James’s and Wyatt Earp’s of Metamora.
We spent the entire day wandering from gun fight to antique shops to art stores. We rode the train and the canal boat (pulled by two beautiful draft horses), now living museums. The people who run, repair, and explain the histories of the canal and train lines are all volunteers. Their mission is to preserve that small bit of Indiana history. They were full of stories and eager to talk. Nice people.
As more luck would have it, we heard that that night was the once-a-month bluegrass dinner over at the music barn. It was a great down home evening. The dinner was meatloaf, corn and mashed potatoes. Our Metamora Inn host, G.I. was the leader and mandolin player of the house band, and there was professional bluegrass quartet headlining the performance. Later G.I. told me that they put on a bluegrass/folk music jam session the first Sunday afternoon of the month. Guess where I’m going, banjo in hand, next Sunday.
So what we all thought was going to be a weekend of watching the grass grow turned out to be one packed with experiences none of us had ever had. Of course the icing on the cake was spending the weekend with the Clark’s. We always have a great time together.
I don’t know how things are in Glocca Morra, but at least things are still happening in Metamora. Nothing that will earn it a spot on the Indiana road map, but interesting, odd, colorful, and a bit historic, places, people, and music. We met many interesting people, heard a lot of stories, and saw a community proud of its history and dedicated to preserving it through living museums.
We found it all in Metamora (now, wouldn’t that be a great song title?).