Updated August 6, 2010 URL is /dean/intown.html
This Page Talks About Fairmount Indiana in 1997
Photo by Magdalin Leonardo
Here's what's on this one page:
Casket Selection.......Old Hunt Funeral Home Building.......A Rare Video.......Winslow Farmstead.......A Winslow Ford.......Back Creek Friends Church.......Headstone
A Bit About Fairmount Today
In August 1997, I had a brainstorm to compare the buildings Jimmy grew up around, with the way they look today.
The Old Casket Selection Room
When I stopped at the beautiful Hunt Funeral Home, site of many of our family funerals, I was lucky enough to be advised that the room where Jimmy posed in a casket is in the downtown furniture store.
Fairmount is so amazing. When I reached the furniture store, Bob Roth, showed me the old casket display room. It is now a TV repair shop, but it is the same space. Here it is:
It is hard to imagine the caskets on display here. It wasn't until after I left the store and met another woman in town that I learned that Bob Roth, owner of the store, was a pallbearer at James Dean's funeral. Update 2010: Today this store, recently a drugstore, houses an antiques business.
Bob was a good sport to pose for me. He and his family are the epitome of Fairmount hospitality. Their patience and good will are phenomenal.
A Former Hunt Funeral Home Building
Leaving downtown, I headed out past the current Hunt Funeral Home to the corner at Harrison, (taking the left fork at the park.) I stopped a woman in her yard and asked which house used to be Hunt Funeral Home. She was too young to know, but she asked another neighbor who had lived there for 43 years. I was in the right spot, and here is the way the building looks today.
Someone has begun to paint the house. It is really hard to get a ladder tall enough for these old houses. When you do get one, it's too heavy to move. Update 2010: The house is all fixed up now!
If I were an affluent Dean collector, I'd buy this house and restore it. It is an historic building. Shoot, I'd buy the High School too. Maybe the whole town! Oh, it's not for sale! I have encountered utter disbelief that this was the building in which Jimmy's casket left for the funeral;. Alas, I was not there and can't prove what I was told.
A Rare Video
The woman who verified the house (via her neighbor) for me turned out to be the widow of another of Dean's pallbearers. She does not often talk to tourists, but I was tremendously lucky in that she asked if I wanted to view a video titled FOREVER JAMES DEAN. This was a movie made for Cinemax, she thought, one that she had never been able to watch because her husband had died soon after he was in it. Of course I accepted her generous offer.
Again, the Fairmount natives think of Jimmy as a home town boy, and are appreciative but not awestruck. Rex Bright, the deceased pallbearer, remembers Jimmy as just one of the crowd, no different from the others than any of them were. They all dressed alike in jeans and tees and senior cords. Wish someone had those cords!!
No one dated. They just hung out and passed the time, Rex and Jimmy Grindle and Dean and Wayne Mitchener and Kenny Thurston and friends. A big plus in Dean's favor was that his Uncle Marcus would lend Jimmy a car when no-one else in the crowd could get his hands on one.
Mr. Bright resisted all interviews because he was not quoted correctly. He said that the reporters wrote only what they wanted to hear, not what he said. It was lucky he did agree to make this movie. Bob Roth and Bob Pulley were also in the movie, and it had photos I had not seen anywhere else. It was exciting to watch it but very sad to know that Mr. Bright is no longer with us. I bought a copy of it from the James Dean Memorial Gallery. Mrs. Bright and her family feel it is the most accurate and truthful of all the Dean movies.
The Winslow Farmhouse
Mary Lou (Mrs. Winslow) has the family farmhouse looking like a magazine cover this summer. This home where Jimmy grew up is on past Park cemetery as you head north out of town. Please respect the Winslow's privacy. Take photos but stay on the driveway, please!!
If you go to the James Dean Run at Playacres Park during the festival you might be able to see the rest of this car that Jimmy drove. It was the Winslow family car, since buffed up a bit.
Another helpful and knowledgeable Fairmount Native is Button Knight. He lives across from the Carter's old motorcycle shop. Thanks, Button, for all the help you gave me, for interrupting your own work, and for your patience.
Back Creek Friends Church
To read about a surprising change, go to the Back Creek Friends Church page.
Jimmy's tombstone is at nearby Park cemetery. People from all over the world come to visit it, leaving a cigarette, flowers or a big red lipstick kiss on the granite. The word is that 50,000 people a year visit this headstone. I have not personally met them all. Here is how the stone looked in August of 1997. There were flowers but no cigarettes or lipstick kisses. There is another page for the gravesite.
If you have any buildings you would like Otto to photograph, just send an email to email@example.com
This is upsetting to many of us, seeing what has become of the old high school. Here are a couple of shots I took. I put them last because they are sad.
People said this is the outside of the old gym part of Fairmount High School. Remember, the historical society sells bricks from this school as a fund raiser.
This is only going to get worse unless it is rescued very soon. Fairmount must have good reasons for not maintaining the building. It's no doubt hard to heat. There would be insurance and utilities.... Time marches on. Would Jimmy have bought this building to preserve it? I wonder. Maybe he would have done other things with his fortune. What do you think his charities might have been, had he lived?
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Credits: All these photos (except the water tower) are by Sandra Weinhardt and should be credited to her forever even unto the tenth generation. Even if you just think about them in your mind.... Sandra never gets enough credit. Ask VISA.
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