I'm always going to have a strong emotional pull to Berne, Indiana because that's where the late Elizabeth Coblentz was from. If you're new to this site and the Amish Cook column, Elizabeth - now deceased - is Lovina's mother. Lovina writes The Amish Cook column now. The Berne area is where I spent so much time building the column, watching the Eicher family expand and grow, taking the Coblentzes and Eichers to the grocery...I could go on and on....I was 18-years-old when I first met Elizabeth and I would visit there on and off for the better part of the next 15 years. There are just so many memories and "firsts" for me in the Adams County, Indiana Amish settlement..Ironically, as many deeply personal memories and attachments that I have to the Berne, Amish community I can't say that it's one of my favorites. It probably wouldn't even make my "Top 10" list. Each Amish or plain settlement gives off a certain "vibe" and I just never got the best in Berne. To me, there always seemed to be an aloofness to the Amish (certainly not all) in that settlement that made it difficult to build bonds. Anyway, enough about Berne for the moment. I just was thinking about the settlement because I found some snapshots I took probably back in the mid-90s (remember actual film and snapshots?). The first photo below is of the "church bench wagon" parked outside of Elizabeth's home. The church bench wagon moves from place to place wherever services will be held next. This church bench wagon is black, but I have seen them colored white in some Amish settlements and gray in others. The wagon contains the church benches, the songbooks, and maybe a lost and found box for those bonnets or gloves inadvertently left behind. Ha, here's a funny story: cell phones are allowed in some Amish churches, not allowed in others, and in many places they are tolerated or sort of allowed for business, but not home-use. I know of an Amish family that once held church in their home and after services and everyone had gone home they found a cell phone underneath one of the benches. Since the battery was dead, the founders couldn't determine who it belonged to. Of course no one ever came to claim it because they really weren't supposed to have cells in this particular district. .
The next photo is a closer-up shot of inside the bench wagon at a church songbook (known as the Ausbund). The songbooks are stored in heavy wooden boxes. At the time I took these photos, back in the mid-90s, they stirred a little controversy within the church, which viewed them as a bit intrusive (I had been given permission to photograph them). I think today they'd barely cause a blink. How times have changed.