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
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.