12 Things You Know If You're From Lowell, Indiana

12 Things You Know If You're From Lowell, Indiana

Hey, wanna go to the football game and then hang out at McDonald's?

The cozy northwest Indiana town of Lowell has a population just north of 9,000. In a place this small, you're bound to be tight-knit with the other occupants, even if it's just by means of similarities shared due to small town living.

Living in Lowell sets itself apart from other tiny Indiana towns by offering a host of interesting and unique activities and historical sites unlike any other, but only a true Lowell citizen will nod vigorously after reading the following most notorious facts about the town and its many amenities.

1. McDonald's is more than a fast food restaurant...it's a hangout.

Lowell doesn't have any clubs, cute coffee shops or movie theaters where we can mingle with friends and spend minimal money. So, we have to make the best out of the resources we have. McDonald's is centrally located, we can loiter, the food is cheap and most of our friends work there. It's perfect.

2. We live close to the city, but not close enough.

Allow me to clarify. Though we are about an hour, give or take, away from the beautiful windy city, we aren't nearly close enough to consider ourselves "city kids," despite the fact that we are considered the Chicagoland area. However, in case you didn't know, we aren't in the deep south. Even though we boast abundances of farmland and knowledge about tractors, we aren't exactly "in the country." This puts us in a tough situation that results in an odd salad bowl of kids who think they're country (cowboy boots, camouflage jackets, lifted trucks and Confederate flags) and kids who think they're city (think they're too good for the town, brag about their favorite artists being "underground," drown their social media accounts with pictures of Chicago and act like they live there). Transfer students are often confused.

3. We get the "The Region" geo-filter on SnapChat, but we're rarely listed as a town included in The Region.

A mass of counties in northwest Indiana are often referred to collectively as "The Region," hence the infamous geo-filter. However, if you visit multiple informational pages about The Region, the majority of them do not mention Lowell as a member of this super exclusive (that was sarcasm) group. Some of us are bitter, some of us don't care, and some of us only use the geo-filter ironically. Regardless, if you ever want to strike up a controversial conversation with a Lowellian, ask them if they think Lowell is part of The Region. Bring your popcorn and prepare for intense eye-rolling.

Also, I did not know the above t-shirt existed. Amazing.

4. We aren't entirely sure which businesses in downtown Lowell are still alive.

If you're from Lowell, you know that nowadays, downtown Lowell isn't exactly full of bustling economy and densely populated franchises. If it looks busy, that's probably just due to the shortage of parking spaces available on the road (and the fact that they're almost all parallel parking, and nobody has that kind of time on their hands). So many businesses have come and gone in downtown Lowell, it's hard to keep track of which are still in existence and which faded long ago. Except McVey's. That restaurant will never die.

5. The Lion's Den. Enough said.

If you're looking for a bright and shining beacon to tell you when you are less than 10 minutes away from Lowell, the Lion's Den adult superstore is here for you. With a building infrastructure that looks shockingly similar to a Pizza Hut, the Lion's Den is located conveniently right off the highway, which is how we know which exit to take off the interstate to get home. It is also placed strategically so that your parked car is a deer in headlights for anyone headed to the gas station or a fast food restaurant nearby. In other words, if you have a distinct looking car and any friends or family that would be ashamed of your presence at the store, you may want to think twice about where you park.

The Lion's Den also happens to be the site of every Lowellian's 18th birthday party. What I mean is, if you didn't go to the Lion's Den on your 18th birthday (you must be 18 to enter the store), you didn't have an 18th birthday.

6. If you like Mexican food, Mi Ranchito is the place for you.

Many a restaurant will advertise authentic Mexican food, but a single visit to Mi Ranchito will leave you scoffing at what other eateries claim is "authentic." There's nowhere else where you can get high quality Mexican food and the same positive, friendly atmosphere. Once you go Mi Ranchito, you never go back.

7. Football games are a social event.

Football games in Lowell aren't just for sports lovers, they're also for anyone who finds entertainment in clustering next to the concession stand to talk to your friends and plan on whether to go to Dairy Queen, McDonald's or Pizza Hut after the game (spoiler alert: no matter which you go to, it'll be packed and you'll have trouble even finding a seat). If you're from Lowell, this probably sounds like a satisfying fall Friday night for you. Also, let's not forget the unwritten rule that everyone must wear hillbilly gear to the game against Crown Point.

8. Our middle school resembles a juvenile detention center, and is often mistaken for one.

To be honest, even people who are just passing by Lowell would probably know this one. But this had to be on the list. Anyone from Lowell is used to being asked by out-of-town family and friends why there were so many cars at the prison-like building they drove past, and we have become accustomed to calmly explaining that the institution is our beloved Lowell Middle School, not a maximum security prison.

9. The honeybee killer.

One of the lesser known criminal cases, the 2010 debacle of the "honeybee killer" put Lowell on TV screens across the nation, probably for the first time. Lowellians can perfectly recall being released from school early and facing a next-day cancellation all because of a psycho in the cornfields, which is tragic, yet seems appropriate for a town like Lowell. Though rather terrifying, the catastrophe did create buzz in the small town that lasted for months (and is sometimes still referred to today).

10. We have more churches and cemeteries than schools.

Count them if you don't believe me. With 5 public schools and a cemetery and/or church on almost every corner, it's not hard to be a little disturbed when you cruise through Lowell. If you live in Lowell, you won't have too many choices for an academic institution, but if you're religiously inclined or need to plan a funeral, we've got you covered.

11. You can't go into town and expect not to see anyone you know.

Putting on makeup and decent clothes for a brief trip to Strack's or Walgreens is not uncommon. Who knows who you'll run into today? It could be a former teacher or coach, one of your mom's friends, one of your friends, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend...the possibilities are endless.

12. Legends about the old middle school will never die.

You didn't think I'd forget this one, did you? Anyone who has lived in Lowell for more than a few years knows that the ancient Lowell Middle School (the one that was demolished in 2011) housed countless urban legends, many of which revolved around a (potentially fictitious) story that a girl drowned in the basement pool (that the school allegedly had back in the good ol' days). Aside from the ridiculous stories that circulated during its lifetime, who could forget the fact that the school had dividers instead of walls, and lockers the width of bean poles? And if you remembered that, then your heart broke, at least a little, when the building was torn down five years ago.

Cover Image Credit: Apostolics of Lowell, Indiana

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There's A Giant Trash Pile In The Ocean That Might Kill Us And That's Your Fault

Do the right thing and clean up after yourself!

With Earth Day right around the corner, it’s time we start cleaning up our act, literally. As a Floridian, I have seen the litter that accumulates on the Sunshine State’s shores. Beach clean-ups were a common way for many at my high school to earn service hours.

That shouldn’t be the case.

All the trash we see on the side of the road or overflowing from garbage cans has to go somewhere – the ocean. Waste is either illegally and intentionally dumped by businesses, or it is carried by the wind into the water. The plastic then travels further out into the ocean dragged by the Gulf Stream current which curves right around the east side of Florida. This gyre, as scientists call it, pulls all of the litter into one giant mass in the Sargasso Sea, creating a very visible, very toxic marine dump.

The Sargasso Sea is located in the Atlantic Ocean and is so named because of the yellowish-brown algae, Sargassum, that floats within it. This seaweed-looking vegetation often washes ashore on Hollywood or Miami beaches. As a child, I would collect bunches and shake it into a bucket filled with saltwater. Shrimp and crabs, sometimes even fish, would fall out. The Sargassum mats are an important nursery for juvenile species. Hundreds of animals rely on the seaweed to hide from predators, including endangered sea turtles.

The Sargasso Sea is the only sea without a land border, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t affected by those that live on land. A study that spanned over two decades recorded 580,000 pieces of plastic litter per square kilometer in the Sargasso Sea. This trash pile stretches for miles and is polluting the ocean so many animals call their home. Plastic bags, trapped among the seaweed, look like jellyfish to sea turtles. The already endangered reptile will die after ingesting the pollutant. Hazardous chemicals from the BPA filled plastics seep into the water after melting in the constant heat of the sun.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to clean up the floating garbage pile, because the currents change every day. The undertows keep it confined to the Sargasso Sea, but the winds and currents vary with the weather, spreading the trash farther. It lies within international waters, so most governments deem it a “not-my-problem” situation. Conservationists are struggling to find a way to remove the litter without also removing the animals that have attached themselves to it or live within the trash.

Also, it is nearly impossible to separate the seaweed from floating plastic without bycatching the hatchlings with nets. Non-profit organizations are working to come up with a solution for the Sargasso Sea trash pile, but it grows each day.

So, what can we, as humans, do? The number one thing is this: Throw away your trash! Simply putting your empty bottle or gum wrapper into the garbage can save a life. Use reusable bags when grocery shopping and if you do take Walmart’s plastic bags, secure them tightly in your trash can so they don’t float away into the ocean. Recycle your plastic when on campus. The blue bins are conveniently located next to trash cans for a reason. Do the right thing and clean up after yourself.

Cover Image Credit: Scott Van Hoy

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To My Liberal Peers, From A Conservative, In A Conservative State

We don't always agree, but that doesn't mean one of us doesn't belong here.

I identify as a conservative.

Most of my values align with right-side beliefs. I'm partial to tradition and I am religious - these aspects of my values have created some, for lack of a better word, awkward interactions, but they are the core of my values and morals. Some may call them "old fashioned" or "anti-progressive." And whether said affectionately or begrudgingly (the latter is far more common these days), there's no denying that there is some truth to both.

Even so, my values have always been my values.

The state I live in - Montana, Big Sky Country, the Treasure State - is a mostly conservative state, and I've always believed that that's one of the reasons I love the state as much as I do.

I connect with it on a relatively deep level.

It's an agriculture-heavy, Ariat and Carhartt-infatuated expanse of land, its men and women brandishing tough hands, hearts, and lifestyle steeped in tradition. The way of life found throughout its mountains, valleys, and plains interest me and are more aesthetic to me than the opposite lifestyle within a concrete jungle.

My college town is heavily liberal, naturally so. A city of learning, progressing, and advocating, it's a hub in the middle of a conservative landscape.

It tends to act as a kind of "safe zone" for those who tend to have more left-leaning beliefs and values. And when I'm with my more conservative friends, the topic of my college town and how liberal it is often comes up, and the fact that it's sometimes an uncomfortable place for us to be and live.

That being said, I have something to say to my liberal counterparts;

I am happy you have a place here.

This state and which we live, yes, supports a massive amount of conservative lifestyle and heritage. But it is a massive state, and there is so much to be found and done and experienced here.

Despite my own right-side leanings and the right-side leanings of this state, I'm happy that this college town has given you your safe haven, your home base, and your place of progression and advocation.

Yes, some of my own fellow conservatives display immature and, quite frankly, awful behavior towards you with their bumper stickers and their apparel and the words that come out of their mouths. And I wish that I could apologize for them and have it mean anything to all of you. But I know your skin is tough and that you all are keeping your heads high.

I am so thankful that you have found a place here in such a beautiful environment, where you can experience some of the country's most special landscapes, history, and peace. I may not agree with you on much, but I am glad to live here alongside you and hear your story. I hope you stay here for a long time.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Picard

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