The Crown Series – Bronze Statues of Children
As you go up the Crown, just past the Bane family mausoleum, a bench monument off the road to the right will likely catch your eye. It features a bronze statue titled, “Contemplating the Acorn,” depicting a young boy on a bench, staring at a large acorn cradled in his hands. The sculpture reflects “the circle of life.” The bench itself reads, “Home Sweet Home,” and as you get closer, you see that this is not just a motto, for this is the monument for Herb and Dee Sweet, founders of America’s first day camp, “Acorn Farm Camp,” in 1933.
As you continue up the hill, you will see a similar bronze statue titled, “Riley Child-Rhymes,” of a little girl reading the poem, “Little Orphant Annie” (included below), on poet James Whitcomb Riley’s memorial at the top. Both statues were sculpted and donated by Mic Mead, a businessman and artist residing in Westfield, and the son-in-law of Herb and Dee Sweet.
Mead was born in Indianapolis in 1933 and graduated with a Forestry degree from Purdue University. He spent two years in the Navy and eight years in the reserves before starting a career that included building houses, beginning a carving company and selling backpacking equipment while living in San Diego for 40 years. Mead learned to sculpt from artists such as Herron’s David Rubins, the sculptor of the “Peace Angel” at Eli Lilly’s monument in Crown Hill.
In her book, Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow, Becky Bowles, the Sweets’ granddaughter and sculptor’s daughter, tells the story behind the two bronze statues, the Sweet’s monument, and their locations: “Herb loved the idea of being buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, with its long history and where he had collected leaves as a boy and had recorded the first sighting in decades of a mockingbird in Indiana. The family was able to secure a lot on Crown Hill beneath James Whitcomb Riley’s dignified tomb, and both Herb and Dee are buried there. Herb admired Riley and valued the nostalgic, country-oriented themes of his poetry. He even used some of the Hoosier poet’s verses in camp promotional materials in the early 1950s. Nearness to Riley may well be fitting, but it is also true that one can see to Hamilton County from Crown Hill, which was also important to Herb. Mic [Mead] used his skill as a sculptor to design fitting bronze tributes to both of these lovers of innocent childhood.
The Riley Association accepted his gift of a life-size figure of an 8-year-old girl reading “Little Orphant Annie,” which now sits with its back resting against the pillar on the poet’s tomb. For Herb and Dee’s memorial, their son-in-law created a figure of a boy perched on a bench fashioned from blocks of limestone Herb salvaged from an old house near his childhood home. The motto, “Home Sweet Home,” just as it appears on the mantle in the old camp office, is carved into the sides of the bench. The boy contemplates a polished acorn, much as a camper might have while being read to under a giant beech tree. On the back of his 1951 camp t-shirt is the Acorn Camp’s Slogan, “Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow,” and, in his hip pocket, a crawdad.” “Acorn Farm Camp” is noted on the front of his shirt.
In 1933, Herb and Dee Sweet, just out of Butler University, started Little Acorn Camp. In 1935, they acquired 40 acres of property along Cool Creek, two miles north of what was then the small farm town of Carmel, and two miles south of another small town, Westfield. The Sweets ran a private day camp there every summer through 1977. In 45 summers, over 15,000 young folks, mostly from Indianapolis’ north side, attended camp there. Campers enjoyed swimming, riding ponies, taking nature hikes, making crafts, cooking in the outdoors, playing baseball and capture the flag, and crawdad fishing.
Herb and Dee also operated Acorn Farm Antiques there from around 1961 until early 1995. After the Sweets retired, Jill Mead, their daughter, and her husband Mic, purchased the old campgrounds and reopened the shop as Acorn Farm Country Store, located at 15466 Oak Road in Carmel, featuring 13 rooms furnished with antiques and complementary accessories.
Herbert Sweet (November 17, 1908 – July 20, 2000)
Deloris “Dee” McDaniel Sweet (June 3, 1913 – October 21, 2006)
Location: The Crown, Section 61, Lot 18; GPS (39.8194210, -86.1768024)
“Little Orphant Annie”
by James Whitcomb Riley
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Onc’t they was a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,—
So when he went to bed at night, away up stairs,
His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,
An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wasn’t there at all!
An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,
An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’wheres, I guess;
But all they ever found was thist his pants an’ roundabout–
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,
An’ make fun of ever’one, an’ all her blood an’ kin;
An’ onc’t, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks was there,
She mocked ‘em an’ shocked ‘em, an’ said she didn’t care!
An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,
They was two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,
An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!
An’ the Gobble-uns’ll git you
An’ little Orphant Annie says when the blaze is blue,
An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!
An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,
An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–
You better mind yer parents, an’ yer teachers fond an’ dear,
An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,
An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,
Er the Gobble-uns’ll git you