Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The McCleery Children of 317 South Arlington Avenue

Wilda Lee, Chuck, and Joyce McCleery spent many years at 317 South Arlington Avenue before moving into a larger home along Beechwood Avenue.  In these candid photographs, all taken in the 1950s, the McCleery kids posed in the backyard of the family home.  These wonderful images capture a slice of life in the neighborhood.

Chuck McCleery proudly posed for this photograph showing off his new Schwinn Corvette bike in 1954.  He loved that bike and even rode it to Howe High School although sadly it was stolen when he loaned it to a friend.  Beyond the picket fence, you can see some of the newer brick homes built in the 300 block of South Webster Avenue.  

How many fathers allow their sons to build a playhouse?  Lee McCleery, the patriarch of the McCleery family of 317 South Arlington Avenue, supervised as his young son, Chuck, added on to the garage. A beautiful grape arbor can be seen below the budding carpenter. This photo was likely taken in 1953.  

Wilda Lee McCleery spent most of her childhood at the home located at 317 South Arlington Avenue.  She is shown here (c1955) with a date in the backyard. Behind her, you can see the beautiful flowers of both the McCleerys and next door at the Campbells. (319 South Arlington)

This sweet photograph shows a very young Joyce McCleery waving to the photographer in 1957.  She was standing in the backyard of 317 South Arlington Avenue.  Within a very short time, the McCleerys would move to 5949 Beechwood Avenue.  

These wonderful images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Alley Photos Reveal Area Before 1950s Housing Development

The McCleery family moved into 317 South Arlington Avenue in 1944.  The children could not only play in their backyard, but also in a large field behind the home.  In 1950, both Wilda Lee and Chuck McCleery posed with a neighbor girl in the backyard of the home of Harold and Audrey Skomp who dwelled at 315 South Arlington Avenue.  Behind them, you can see open space.  By 1955, a developer constructed dozens of small brick homes along South Webster and Catherwood Avenues.  Those brand new homes can be seen in the color photograph taken in 1955. Wilda Lee, Chuck, and their baby sister, Joyce, posed next to the family car, a 1953 Nash Ambassador Country Club, along the back alley.  Note the new homes and garages behind them.

Friends:  Wilda Lee McCleery posed with a friend in the backyard of 315 South Arlington Avenue in 1950. The Skomps dwelled in the home and owned the sedan behind the girls.  

Chuck McCleery has loved cars his entire life.  Here he is in 1950 posing in front of his neighbor's 1940 Ford Sedan.  Behind him, you can see a field that would eventually vanish for post World War II housing.  

Proud Family:  The McCleery children posed next to the family car in 1955 behind their home at 317 South Arlington Avenue.  Note the new dwellings recently built behind them along South Webster Avenue.  
 The historic images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Life Inside the McCleery Home at 317 South Arlington Avenue

The McCleery family dwelled at 317 South Arlington Avenue from 1944 to 1957.  Lee McCleery worked for decades at International Harvester Corporation and even continued to do so after losing a leg in an accident at the plant.  Jane McCleery stayed at home and raised their three children. The McCleerys were members of a non-denominational church. It was a small congregation and they met in various homes throughout Irvington.  The McCleerys frequently hosted services in their living room on Arlington and later on Beechwood.  These candid photographs, taken in the 1950s, reveal much about the lives of this interesting family.  For those of us who dwell in older homes, these images are a goldmine of information.


In the top photo, the McCleerys hosted a family reunion in the spring of 1956.  Mr. McCleery sat at the head of the table flanked by his daughter Wilda Lee and son Chuck. Behind them rested a beautiful hutch.  It would later be painted white. Many home furnishing magazines in the 1950s encouraged people to paint over those darkly stained pieces of furniture and the woodwork in the house as well.

Proud sister:  Joyce McCleery entered this world in 1955.  In this lovely photograph, her older sister Wilda Lee proudly posed with her new sibling.  Behind the girls, you can see the decorations done by Mrs. McCleery....the floral curtains, dainty lamps.  You can also see a portrait of Mr. McCleery on the table.

Breakfast in the kitchen:  Morning breakfast shows a young Chuck McCleery in 1953 having his daily cereal with his Aunt Awilda.  A geranium had been placed on the table by Mrs. McCleery.  You will note that the McCleerys had a modern refrigerator instead of an ice box. Of course, the large clunker took up much space in the modest kitchen. Mr. McCleery installed the metal cabinets.  

In the Living Room:  Joyce McCleery was frequently the subject of photographs by both her parents and her older sister.  In this image, she sat in a small chair in the living room in 1956.  Near her sat a balloon so perhaps it was a birthday celebration.  Books rested on built-shelves behind her.  

Heading Out:  Joyce McCleery was clad for a cool day in a new dress. She stood at the ready for her departure.  Near her on the round table, sat a photograph of her older sister Wilda Lee.  Note the mid-century carpet on the floor.  

These historic images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery.   

Friday, July 26, 2013

The McCleery Home at 317 South Arlington Avenue

Lee and Jane McCleery put down roots at 317 South Arlington Avenue in 1944.  With one child at home and another on the way, the couple likely needed more space for their growing family.  Mr. McCleery worked for International Harvester on Brookville Road so his drive to work would be quite short from the home.  The dwelling was first built in 1917 for the Jonathan Merwin family.  The Merwins, in keeping with the times, stained the exterior clapboards a dark brown hue.  The McCleerys eventually lightened the house dramatically by whitewashing the stained wood.  They also enclosed the front porch and added rear rooms as Mr. McCleery lost a leg in a terrible industrial accident so he struggled with stairs.  These photos show the home shortly after the McCleery's purchased it in the mid-1940s and later as their children began to play outside.  The couple would eventually add a third child in 1955.

The McCleery home at 317 South Arlington Avenue c1945

Chuck McCleery on a pony by 317 South Arlington in 1946

Chuck McCleery on his bike in front of 317 South Arlington Avenue c1951

317 South Arlington Avenue c1952

Wilda and Chuck McCleery in front of 317 South Arlington c1952

317 South Arlington Avenue on July 24, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

School #85 and Arlington Avenue Photos From 1947 and c1950

Arlington Avenue used to be a narrow two-way street.  The McCleery family dwelled at 317 South Arlington throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s.  In the top photo, Wilda Lee and her brother Chuck go for a ride on the sidewalk in front of their home in 1947.  Notice how narrow the street is behind them and that a car has just gone by.  Five years after this photo was taken, Chuck was playing very close to the street and was grazed by an auto.  He had to be rushed to the doctor to receive several stitches.  His parents Lee and Jane McCleery eventually decided to move from the busy street to Beechwood Avenue.

In the second photo, a snowstorm had struck the city c1950.  School #85 looks quite beautiful amidst the trees.  These historic images are courtesy of Chuck McCleery. Many more images from this amazing collection will be posted soon.

Wilda Lee McCleery gives her little brother a ride in 1947.  The McCleerys dwelled at 317 South Arlington Avenue. You can see IPS #85 across the street.

IPS #85 (c1950) after a snowstorm

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Building Boom Along Ritter Avenue c1906

Grace Hackleman and her two daughters, Helen and Margaret, prepared to go for a walk along North Ritter Avenue most likely on a chilly day in 1906 or 1907.  Not only is the street about to be bricked, but across the street you can see the brand new home of Evington Davis at 41 North Ritter Avenue.  Mr. Davis and his family would dwell in the beautiful Dutch Colonial home for nearly twenty years. The Hacklemans lived in a recently-built American Four Square at 34 North Ritter Avenue.  The photographer, Charles Hackleman, faced north so you can also view 65 North Ritter Avenue and homes along Lowell Avenue.  This wonderful historic image is courtesy of the Larry Muncie Collection from the Irvington Historical Society.

The Hacklemans of 34 North Ritter Avenue go for a stroll c1906. The Davis home across the street at 41 North Ritter Avenue still stands today.  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Time for a Ride--c1907

These lovely middle class ladies paused sometime on a warm day most likely in 1907 along Ritter Avenue for this photograph.  Behind them, you can see 31 and 39 North Ritter Avenue.  Both homes are currently standing.  The street had been newly bricked and in one photo, the horses have christened the avenue.  Although the names of the women are not known, they are likely connected with the Hackleman family, who dwelled at 34 North Ritter Avenue.  These wonderful images are courtesy of the Larry Muncie Collection from the Irvington Historical Society.

Ladies in a carriage in front of 31 North Ritter Avenue c1907

Pausing for a photo on a lovely day in front of 39 North Ritter Avenue c 1907

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Aerial Photo Reveals Structures in Western Irvington-c1923

This stunning aerial photo, taken in the skies over Irvington around 1923, shows vast parts of the neighborhood.  The pilot from Weaver's Air Service must have used Downey Avenue Christian Church as his focus.  You will see that building towards the bottom of the photo.  This church predates the current structure on the site.  The Sunday School building south of the church is no longer standing.  Across the street, you can see the Scot Butler mansion at 124 Downey Avenue.  It was replaced in 1958 by a circular mid-century office building for the Disciples of Christ.  Most of the remaining structures in the photo still stand in 2013.  Our Lady of Lourdes Church, located in the center and left of the photo, is an earlier church structure.  Streets visible in this photo include:  Hibben Avenue, Julian Avenue, Downey Avenue, East Washington Street, North and South Irvington Avenue, Whittier Place, North Hawthorne Lane, Pleasant Run Parkway South Drive, Lowell Avenue, and Hill Street.   Many of the homes along Pleasant Run Parkway had not yet been built.
Aerial shot of western Irvington c1924 (click to make it larger)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Brief Break! Will Return Soon!!

Stay tuned for more great shots of historic Irvington this summer.  I am taking a very brief break and will resume posting soon.  Drop me a note at if you or anyone you know has great vintage shots of this wonderful neighborhood.  Sincerely, Bill

The Earl Family of 5631 University Avenue c1880

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Coryas Plan a Trip--1960

Richard and Martha Corya dwelled at 329 Burgess Avenue in 1960.  Sitting in their parlor and surveying maps for their route down the Natchez Trail in the South, the Coryas were photographed by a society reporter for the Indianapolis News.  Behind the couple, you can see the beautiful Victorian fireplace with tiles and what appears to be a coat of arms.  Someone has painted the mantel, but who didn't after World War II?  Magazines at the time told housewives to remove vestiges of the Victorian era by painting over the woodwork with a nice glossy white enamel.  Today's Irvingtonians have spent many hours removing that trend and going back to the natural wood stain.

Richard and Martha Corya sit in their parlor at 329 Burgess Avenue in 1960

329 Burgess Avenue on June 29, 2013

This photo is courtesy of the descendants of the Corya Family via

Monday, July 1, 2013

Block Party: The Flanagans of South Butler Avenue

History correspondent, Paula Schmidt, has been documenting photos and stories of southwestern Irvington for several months.  In this post, she has managed to track down the Flanagan family, who had several connections to this part of the neighborhood.  I am indebted to Ms. Schmidt for her excellent detective work and also for finding these wonderful historic images. WFG

Block Party: The Flanagans of South Butler Avenue
By Paula Schmidt

One of the amazing Irvington realities, to a suburban girl like me, was the number of extended families living in this neighborhood. I began writing about our home at 50 South Butler Avenue and the initial story was about the Schnorr family who built the home in 1920. As I filled in more recent history, I realized that there was another family story to be told, and it was one that spread through several generations and multiple homes on Butler and Julian.  It is why "fond memories" for Irvington were mentioned by both the Schnorrs (see link below) and the Flanagans who revisited the home later in their lives. 

When John P. (Jack) and Mary (Hittle) Flanagan purchased 50 South Butler Avenue in 1968, they knew the house because Mary Flanagan grew up next door at 44 South Butler Avenue. Her parents, George and Ellen Hittle, resided downstairs and her brothers lived upstairs.  I was told that when Mary was growing up, Butler Avenue was a two-way street with curbside parking and her father was instrumental in converting it to a one-way street.    From 1948 to 1968, John P. and Mary Flanagan owned a double at 40-42 South Butler Avenue, to the north of the Hittle's. They raised their family: John Jr., Jim, and Theresa, on one side of the double, and their Aunt Rosemary (Flanagan) Boswell lived in the other half. Between attending Our Lady of Lourdes School and managing paper routes for the Star and News, it seemed that the Hittles and Flanagans either, knew everyone in the extended neighborhood or they were related to many people in some way.  Can you image the fun of having cousins next door as well as your grandparents?!

In 1968, there was a great deal of moving but the tradition of living next to family continued.  When the Flanagan family purchased 50 South Butler Avenue, John Jr. purchased his grandparents' home and George Hittle moved just 50 yards away to 5251 East Julian Avenue. The entire family moved all of the furniture (including the piano) two houses south. It must have been quite an experience.  

James and Theresa Flanagan play in front of 44 South Butler Avenue in 1954

Easter Sunday in front of 44 South Butler Avenue in 1963.  Pictured:  Theresa, James, and Mary Hittle Flanagan

44 South Butler Avenue in 2013 (photo by Paula Schmidt)

Winter Fun:  James, John Jr., and Theresa Flanagan play in front of 44 South Butler Avenue.  Behind the kids you can see the Thormyer Home at 93 South Butler Avenue.

First Communion:  Theresa Flanagan stands with her father, Jack Flanagan, in front of 40-42 South Butler Avenue in 1960.  The Flanagans could easily walk to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

40-42 South Butler Avenue in 2013 (photo by Paula Schmidt)

5251 East Julian Avenue in 2013 (photo by Paula Schmidt)

50 South Butler Avenue in 2013 (photo by Paula Schmidt)