Monday, September 30, 2013

A Trip to the Place Where Cool Was Born

Last Saturday was the perfect day to jump in the car and speed south along the highway. My destination? Fairmount, Indiana, the place where Cool (James Dean) was Born.

However, James Dean was actually born in Marion, Indiana, although he was raised by an aunt and uncle, the Winslows, in Fairmount from the time he was nine until he graduated high school. He was also brought back to Fairmount to be buried in Park Cemetery, not far from the Winslow farm. Every year on the last full weekend of September Fairmount hosts the James Dean Festival, and that was where I was meeting my friends Erin and Phil.

 Erin and I have fond memories of coming for the "World Famous" Lookalike contest, as well as a random visit on a random day when there was no crowd of festival goers. It's an odd little town. I don't know why, exactly, but I always have to agree with the old lady whom we spoke with that day who ran the record store. We mentioned we had been in Fairmount before and complimented on it's being such a nice little town. Her response was "Yes, it is. If you like weirdos." And I do think there is this underlying strangeness, whether it's just some of the characters in town or what, I'm not sure. We were pretty sure we saw Sara Palmer at the lookalike contest.

Sorry for all of the iPhone photos.
The drive was perfect. Turning off of 69 onto Highway 26 it was all farmland and blue sky.

The James Dean Gallery at 425 N. Main Street is housed in one of the many rather grand old homes built along Fairmount's main thoroughfare. The town itself was founded in 1850 by Quakers from North Carolina who had settled in the area in the 1830's. It was formally incorporated in 1870, and natural gas deposits were discovered in 1887, bringing a real boom of prosperity to the town.

Inside the gallery is an awesome vintage shop. It was once in the basement garage, but has since moved to more spacious quarters in the house itself.

And I do mean awesome!!!

Strolling towards the street fair, there are several other rather grand old homes along North Main Street. This one always sticks with me the way it sort of retreats behind it's hedges.

It really was perfect weather!

James Dean once walked down this street. No it's what all of the, uh, cool people do.We did get some downright delicious fried veggies at that Hot Wisconsin Cheese stand.

The old Fairmount High School where James Dean graduated in 1949 now stands abandoned and a bit eerie. Over the summer a huge portion of the roof caved in, and hopes to preserve the structure, which last acted as a school in 1986, have floundered.

It was here that James Byron Dean performed in the school plays that fueled his desire to be an actor. The actual stage was removed years ago by the Fairmount Lions Club in hopes to one day restore and use it again.

The record store looks as though it hasn't been touched in decades.

So awesome!

And the best bit (at least to Erin and I) is the little display of photos from when Morrissey was in town filming the video for Suedehead. We always pretend like we are looking for Moz at the Festival. I mean, why wouldn't he secretly attend? You can see more of Fairmount, the High School, and the Winslow Farm in the video.

At last it was time for the lookalike contest. The crowd seemed pretty thin, but filled in before the contest actually began.

However, the competition sucked. The one we thought should have won wasn't even a finalist. And there really weren't even any good contestants! And the rather awful song that goes "James Dean...James Dean...James Dean..." basically over and over didn't even play until the winner was announced. None of it seemed like we remembered.
Oh well, maybe next year it will be better. I am definitely going back! And taking a shopping bag, as the antique shops (aside from the great stuff at the Gallery) are really rather awesome. Most importantly, however, was having a fun evening with friends I don't see often enough.