My Visit to the Amish Country

A visit to Shipshewana Indiana takes me back to my early days in Studio City

Back in the '50s, Studio City was a much simpler place. I remember the endless orange orchards that punctuated the San Fernando Valley, those slower moving cars, the milkman who delivered fresh dairy items and those wonderful baked goods from the Helms Bakery.

The sweet smell of that bread takes me back to those times when things were easily explained, We weren’t hooked on technology, and actually had time to take in the slow staccato walk of a pigeon crossing the sidewalk, or watch the sun burn its way into the horizon.

On a recent trip to Michigan and Indiana, I was thrown back into a time warp when we decided to take a day trip to Shipshewana, a small town in Indiana, where many Amish people have congregated.

I’ve always been curious about these people, who live their lives in a simple fashion, avoiding the vanities that often plague most of us in LA, where a mirror is our best friend, and ad campaigns remind us of our shortcomings.

Shipshewana showed me a different side of human nature, a way of living that has been bypassed by our fast cars, Monsanto-engineered crops, and densely packed livestock where animals clamor for a sip of oxygen, and some freedom to move around.

We took an Amish carriage ride around town for a half hour, and learned quite a bit from our driver. As we trotted past the bleached-white farms, I asked many questions. He didn’t seem to mind my ignorance.

For those of you not familiar with the Amish, here are a few things you might find interesting.

Did you know that there are Amish living in 21 states in the USA? The largest populations, about 70% of the total, are in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana. They live a simple life, and it seems to work for them.

The men usually wear wide-brimmed hats, black pants with suspenders instead of belts. Zippers are not allowed. The Amish women wear dark simple long-sleeved dresses with white aprons and capes. Their bonnets are worn over their ears.

You’re not allowed to get married until you’re 18, but once a man is married, he begins to grow his beard.  Beards aren’t trimmed, and there are no moustaches.  It’s no surprise that birth control is not allowed

As a photographer, I was anxious to take some photos of the Amish, but they don’t like having their photos taken for religious regions. Don’t ask them to pose for a shot.

In general, there is a high value is placed upon humility and submission. Leaving the Amish community is highly discouraged and the result is shunning.  Individualism, competitiveness, and materialism are discouraged.

Owning a car is not allowed because it is believed it would cause a schism within the community and result in bragging. However, an Amish individual will accept a ride in a car when business proceedings or family emergencies require speed or a great distance.

The Amish also practice conscientious objection to military service and turn the other cheek in the face of personal attacks and confrontations.

This was a wonderful excursion. Seeing the Amish in their simplicity makes me miss those early days in Studio City, where we walked or rode our bikes to school, and burned off so many calories playing that it really didn’t matter what we ate. 

When I was growing up, people actually visited one another instead of scrolling and texting for conversation and entertainment.

Maybe there’s something to be learned from those who live the simple life.



Mary McGrath September 15, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I think it would be interesting to live among the Amish for a few days, but I don't think this sort of thing is allowed. Still, very fascinating to be there for a few hours.
Judy Price September 15, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Great story. Indeed, a visit to "Amish country" is like stepping back in time. I'm from a small town east of Shipshewana and know the Amish customs well. Shipshe (as the locals call it) is a destination for many tourists who come by the bus load, especially for the monthly flea market. The Amish also don't have electricity or indoor plumbing (imagine: no phones, computers or television, electric lights, air conditioning or furnace heating, kitchen stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, showers or toilets!). They use horse and plow to tend their many acres of fields as they don't use tractors or any type of powered equipment. They grow, make and bake all of their own food, as well as hand sew their clothes, or use the old treadle sewing machines. They sell many of their homegrown/baked items at roadside stands, fortunately, not hindered by the L.A. County health department. Their handmade Amish quilts are highly prized and sell for thousands of dollars. They are religious but do not have churches. Sunday worship is an all day affair held at differenct farms each week. Most children attend Amish schools but do not stay in school past the legal age to drop out as they are needed to work on the farm or to work in the factories to supplement the household income. Although, the Amish are friendly, they do not socialize with non-Amish.
Mary McGrath September 15, 2012 at 11:25 PM
Hi Judy-thanks for expanding upon this story. I've heard there's some sort of reality show on right now about the young Amish who leave for three years to explore other styles of living. I'd love to see that. Thanks for your input!
Richard Niederberg September 17, 2012 at 03:23 PM
There was a 'Cold Case' episode that dealt with the Amish 'live away' period. Thank You, Mary, for yet another interesting and informative article.
Mary McGrath September 17, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Thanks so much Richard for your interest and feedback. Always appreciated...I'd love to see that episode...


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