Alleys Of Hudson


I have always held a particular fascination for alleys. My grandmother’s house was on Main Street in the small farm town where I grew up, two blocks from the business district. The worn, hard-packed gravel alley, a tufted green stripe running along its center, ended at the corner of her back yard just behind the lilac bush.

When my grandmother would send me downtown for something, the alley was my preferred route. The alley offered a wealth of things a boy could explore, rough brick building backs, discarded treasures, lavender hollyhocks that grew tall and waved in the occasional breeze and light poles with black electrical wires, all running together, a vanishing point at the distant alley’s end. The Main Street side of the buildings was the image; in the alley you found reality. That was the allure.

 

 

 

One of the first things I noticed coming to Hudson many years ago was it’s abundance of alleys. I was the proverbial kid in a candy store and I’ve been exploring them ever since. The alleys here have names, there’s Strawberry and Rope, Lake, Long, Prison, Cherry, South, Deer, even Joe Alley. Technically, Partition is a street, but to my eye it’s more an alley than a street so I choose to give it that distinction.

It’s amazing what you’ll discover, barns and carriage houses, garages and a surprising number of small solitary, stand-alone structures. I once caught a cat on a windowsill standing on his tiptoes, head poked through a hole in a broken window, assessing the alley outside.

There are delightful and intriguing people to meet in the alleys of Hudson, like Al Cook pictured here in front of his garage sale. There used to be a fella named Leo I always chewed the fat with, but he’s gone now, still I find myself stopping to look for him as I pass his old haunts.

You can imagine my excitement when I learned something was being done to recognize the alleys of Hudson. Time and Space Limited at 434 Columbia Street will be showing, “The Hudson Alley Project 2002.” This exhibit opens Sunday June 2 and runs through the end of July. I decided to sit down with TSL’s Linda Mussmann.

“We hear a lot about Warren Street; so we’re kinda looking at the back of Hudson. I’ve always been fond of alleys,” she tells me. Linda grew up on a farm in northern Indiana, about 75 miles from the alleys I was attracted to. It surprised me to hear of her love of alleys, figured it must be a midwestern thing.

She would ride into Hammond, Indiana with her father to deliver eggs, “We went into town through the alleys, entered the back way, through a different route where ice and coal and milk and our eggs were delivered. It was a wonderful experience.” She laughs and reminds me of a midwestern reality I’d long forgotten, “No one used the front door, you always went in the back.”

She’s interested in the handprint of the property and structures that adorn the alleys. “The handyman’s artwork is in the back alleys and back ways of Hudson,” she explains. “The likes of all those who inhabited these alleys are evident still. There is a long history of people handling these places and things, or not. Hudson has sort of been left to age. I’m interested in authentic. It’s easy to bulldoze but you lose character. What are we gonna keep or throw away? It’s getting difficult to find authentic.”

Linda Mussmann and her partner Claudia Bruce conducted a similar project a while back focusing on Gold’s Junk Yard, a first step in documenting this moment in time. “The Hudson Alley Project 2002” exhibit is step two in that venue.

“I asked people to go out with cameras, paint brushes, microphones and video to document what we are now. Kids, artists, residents, everyday people have taken to the alleys of Hudson.” What they have discovered is truly a thing of beauty, real beauty.
Turn on the TV, watch any sit-com, commercial or infomercial and you’ll become aware of the trend to make everything about everyday life clean and climate controlled, homogenized, wrapped in plastic and disposable, a virtual world of sameness, artificial, sealed, secure; in short, perfect. But there is no such thing. To quote Neil Young, “Rust never sleeps.”

“The Hudson Alley Project 2002” exhibit is about the people, the structures, the animals and objects that are a rooted part of this community. It is about respect for the character of the past, how it brought us to the present and how it will color our future. It’s about that which is real. If you’ve never walked the alleys of Hudson you are in for a treat. This show will open your eyes and point to the beauty of this extraordinary place.

As Linda Mussmann puts it, “To document what we are now is to capture a moment in our town’s life. It will change. How much character will be lost? What will remain?”

We’ll talk next time From The Road.

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