MANSFIELD — Stephen King once wrote, “You know what the Mexican’s say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory. That’s where I want to live the rest of my life. A warm place with no memory.”
“The Shawshank Redemption” is one of the most beloved classics of the early 90s. It inspired generations about redemption, hope, friendship, and above all freedom.
This film has been one of my favorites since the first time I watched it nearly 25 years ago. On my latest adventure I chose to take on The Shawshank Redemption Trail in Mansfield, OH. It is a 14 stop roadtrip with iconic scenes from the film itself. It spans from Mansfield, Ashland, and right down to Upper Sandusky.
These were actual movie scene locations where actors Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins stood for one of the best roles in their long careers.
Upon the start of our journey we visited The Ohio Reformatory. This is where they filmed many of the scenes in the film. However, the actual prison cells were unsafe for the actors, so that part was made into a set.
The Shawshank Prison as us fans know it was tragic, beautiful, and by far one of the best things I experienced on the trip.
Another favorite was the Bissman Building, which has been in the Bissman Family for seven generations now. This building was used at the Portland Daily Bugle, and the scene where Brooks is walking across the street. It was once used for wholesale items, and it would offer coffee bright and early in the morning to the community.
Amber Bissman told us the fascinating tale of what “The Shawshank Redemption” actually did to the community over two decades ago. She and her husband, Ben, were able to be extras in the film. She talked with Freeman as he stopped by the shop to get out of the heat. Ben got the honor of talking to actor James Whitmore (Brooks) as he sat in the room.
Since Bissman was good friends with Stroh who made the beer in town. He had a good deal to have the Stroh’s Bohemian Style Beer made for the scene on the rooftop. Ben had to make each period style beer bottle himself, and they used non-alcoholic beer.
Amber talked about how important it still is to her and the rest of the folks who were part of this film, and how this little community has been kept alive by The Shawshank Redemption Trail.
Many of the stops were small; such as the place Freeman gets out of the red pick-up truck to walk to Buxton, the opening scene of the film with Robbins, the spot Freeman rides the bus to Mexico, even the spot where Freeman buys the bus ticket.
However, you could feel the soul of the film on every stop and in every location. A couple other places on the trail that offered some fascinating insight into the importance of the film were in Upper Sandusky.
We visited the Wyandot County Courthouse that was used in Robbins conviction scene. A kind police officer gave us some information about the history of the building, and what the trails means to them.
Just up the road was The Shawshank Woodshop with Bill and Bob who will tell you all about the art of woodworking. This is the iconic scene where Red turns around to hear to Opera music as he is in the woodshop. We also saw the bus Robbins was riding on, and the ambulance that was used in the film.
The one regret we had on the trip was that the beautiful Oak Tree with the stone fence was destroyed a couple years ago. Now all that remains of one of the best parts of the film is a cornfield with a sign that talks about the famous tree.
This adventure was about exploring one of my favorite films, and a personal journey of hope, redemption, and what it means to truly be free.
(Jasmine Willis is a Reporter for Genesee Country Express)