Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Starting a Family on Bosart Avenue

When Leland Dickerson finally arrived home after honorably serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, he decided that he couldn't wait to get back to see his family in Irvington.  So, he began to hitchhike from Dayton, Ohio still dressed in his navy attire.  Much to his surprise, a limousine pulled over and a passenger dressed up in a suit and time called out, "Where are you going?"  "Indianapolis!" the veteran answered.  "Hop in!  I am going there too."  The passenger turned out to be the CEO of the Perfect Circle Corporation, a company that specialized in piston rings.  The young veteran told the millionaire that he could drop him off at Washington Street and Arlington Avenue and that he could walk the remainder of the way home to 818 North Arlington, but the executive would not hear of it and he ordered his chauffeur to drive eight blocks north.  Mr. and Mrs. Dickerson both happened to be outside when the giant limo pulled up and they reacted with surprise and joy upon seeing their son safely home from the war and in a limousine no less!

With so many veterans returning to Indianapolis, jobs were not easy to find.  Leland, a Butler University graduate, landed employment at East Side Chevrolet near the corner of Washington Street and Ritter Avenue.  It was not a dream job, but he did not mind being around Irvington because his buddies had reintroduced him to Anna Belle York (121 South Berry Avenue).  She lived with her parents and her young son Robert, and worked nearby at the Missions Building (222 Downey Avenue).  The couple began to date and by February of 1947 they were married.  Upon returning from their honeymoon in Washington D.C., a fellow worker at the East Side Chevrolet told Leland that Western Electric was hiring.  Sensing an opportunity, he drove out during his lunch hour for an interview and landed a job.  He would remain for the next thirty-five years eventually attaining the rank of supervisor.

Finding an adequate house after World War II, was nearly impossible for most veterans as there had been very little construction during the war. Many homeowners in Indianapolis divided their large homes and turned them into rentals.  Leland and Anna Belle spent the first months of their marriage in a "shack" in northern Warren Township. They had no indoor toilet.  Both had been raised in Irvington, so this was not a standard either really cared for although Leland reports that they were very happy.  Eventually, the couple found a lovely small home at 861 North Bosart Avenue in Emerson Heights just west of Irvington.  They also welcomed a daughter, Linda. (Jimmy would come later.) With a growing family and income, the Dickersons moved out of the small Bosart Avenue cottage and by the early 1950s they found a larger place along Ridgeview Drive.  Stay tuned as I will chronicle the Ridgeview years in the next installment!

Newlyweds:  Leland and Anna Belle York Dickerson at the York home at 121 South Berry Avenue (February, 1947)

Instant Family:  Leland and Anna Belle Dickerson and young Bobby, who also became a Dickerson standing in front of the York home at 121 South Berry Avenue in February, 1947

The Dickerson home at 861 North Bosart Avenue in 1948

Growing Family:  Anna Belle and Leland Dickerson posed with Linda and Bobby in front of 861 North Bosart Avenue in June of 1949

Birthday Party  (on January 7, 1951) inside 861 North Bosart Avenue.  Pictured: (beginning with the boy sitting closest to the photographer at the far left) Dick Abell, Linda Dickerson, Dennis Holmes, Bobby Dickerson, Sue Deering, Ronnie Holmes, Tommy Abell, and Jerry Abell
The historic images are courtesy of Leland Dickerson. You may see a contemporary image of 861 North Bosart Avenue by clicking on the Google Satellite image below.  You will note that the porch has now been enclosed and that the house is now sheathed in aluminum siding.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Family Gathering on Berry Avenue--1949

Family was very important to Mary York of 121 South Berry Avenue.  During the holidays, two of her daughters, Maryetta York Abell and Anna Belle York Dickerson, would arrive at the York home to help prepare for big meals days in advance.  The York home became the center of life for several extended family members.  Maryetta just lived a few doors down on Berry Avenue so her three sons spent much time with their grandparents.  Anna Belle lived along Bosart and later on both Ridgeview Drive and Graham Avenue so her children also found time to feast and play in the home.  In this photo, taken on Thanksgiving Day in 1949, Mrs York had set out her finest china and cutlery. T. Edgar York, the patriarch of the family was not in the photo, nor was son-in-law Leland Dickerson as he was likely the photographer.  In the photo, Anna Belle York Dickerson looked upon her daughter Linda in a high chair while her son Robert chatted with his cousins across the table.  Maryetta York Abell sipped on some coffee or tea.  Next to her and in the center of the photo sat her son Jerry Abell.  Etta York (5721 Bonna Avenue), the mother-in-law to Mary York, looked upon two generations of her family.  Next to her, Richard, also known as Dickie, leaned in while his older brother Tommy pensively looked at the photographer. They were both sons of Maryetta and Hanley Abell.  The proud matriarch, Mary York, sat at the far right of the table with her apron on because more courses were likely on the way.  Note the beautiful side cupboard that graced the dining room for decades.  Mrs. York's favorite plates sat atop a rail along all of the dining room walls.

The York family gathers at 121 South Berry Avenue in 1949
This historic image is courtesy of Leland Dickerson. To see 121 South Berry Avenue in 2014 click on the Google link below.  A sizable addition has been placed onto the home since the Yorks lived there.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Yorks of Berry Avenue

T. Edgar and Mary York dwelled at 121 South Berry Avenue for many years.  Their home was located on one of the shortest streets in Indianapolis.  With only ten houses on the block, the Yorks possessed the largest lot.  Mr. York owned a moving business and the couple previously dwelled at 5721 Bonna Avenue where all five of their children were born.  They always referred to the Bonna home as the big house and the Berry home as the little house.  At both locations, Mr. York sheathed the dwellings with asbestos tile siding, a popular material in the mid-twentieth century because homeowners thought they would never have to paint again.  Both homes predate the York family and had been covered in wood clapboard siding.  One of the attractions of the Berry Avenue property was the sizable plot where Mr. York could park his moving wagons and trucks.  Many east side families employed the Yorks as movers and they remained a fixture of the neighborhood for decades.  Mrs. York helped to raise the couple's five children.  When they moved into their modest Dutch Colonial home on Berry Avenue, Mrs. York suddenly became self conscious about hanging her laundry out to dry because of the number of passenger trains along the Pennsylvania Railroad that passed her home everyday.  She also disliked the coal soot that fell upon her clean sheets.  However, the couple had a large garden and remained in the home until their deaths.

T. Edgar and Mary York in 1960 at 121 South Berry Avenue

T. Edgar York in front of one of his moving trucks c1945
In-laws:  Mary York posed with her daughter Anna Belle and her new sister-in-law, Esther Dickerson along with little Bobby Dickerson in 1948 at 121 South Berry Avenue.  You will note that the original porch columns were still on the house.  

Mary York loved to sit out on her porch. She could watch the freight and passenger trains as they passed by on the Pennsylvania Railroad.  (1960)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Missions Building--Going to Work 1947

Hundreds of local Irvingtonians have worked at the Missions Building at 222 Downey Avenue since the Disciples of Christ first opened the facility in 1910.  Affiliated with Butler University in the early years, employees served as teachers, ministers, missionaries, and clerical staff.   In this photo, taken in February of 1947, Anna Belle York, left work at the Missions Building to meet her fiance Leland Dickerson.  If you look closely, you can see the former Bona Thompson Library attached to the building at the far left of the photo.  Miss York stepped onto the formerly brick Downey Avenue and appeared to have been surprised by the photographer.  The couple married one year later. The Disciples of Christ pulled out of Irvington in the 1990s and the structure now houses senior citizens thanks to a committed group of neighbors who wanted to save the complex from demolition.

Anna Belle York departs the Missions Building at 222 Downey Avenue in 1947
This photo is courtesy of Leland Dickerson.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Visiting Grandma and Grandpa York on Berry Avenue

J. Edgar and Mary York dwelled at 121 South Berry Avenue near the Pennsylvania Railroad.  The couple had a wide lot which was perfect for playful grandchildren who needed a place to run and have fun.  In these photographs, a very young Robert (Bobby) Dickerson stopped by to build a snowman in January of 1948 and four years later he decided to help Grandpa York with the yard.  Behind Robert, you can see homes in the 100 block of South Arlington Avenue, and the now defunct Pennsylvania Railroad.

Giant Snowman:  Bobby Dickerson stands next to a new friend in January of 1948 at the home of his grandparents, the Yorks,  at 121 South Berry Avenue.  

Flattening the grass:  Bobby Dickerson helps his Grandpa York with the yard in 1952 at 121 South Berry Avenue.  Behind him, you can see the rear of 136 South Arlington Avenue.  
These images are courtesy of Leland Dickerson.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pleasant Run Golf Course--1938

The Pleasant Run Golf Course has provided recreation and leisure space for Indianapolis residents since 1922.  Located on land formerly owned by the Dissette family, the beautiful and rolling tract is situated along North Arlington Avenue.   A member of the Dickerson family (818 North Arlington Avenue) snapped this lovely photo of the eighth hole in 1938.  Arlington Avenue can be seen in the foreground.
Pleasant Run Golf Course in Indianapolis  (1938)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lost Irvington--Wilson's Drug Store

In 1946, two buddies, Leland Dickerson (818 North Arlington Avenue) and Curly "the Mouse" Morris (831 North Campbell Avenue), arrived home after completing their tour of duty in the U.S. Navy during World War Two, when Lee Dickerson snapped this photo of his friend Curly Morris.  It appears that Mr. Morris might have been purchasing a pack of cigarettes.  Behind him, you can see the former Wilson's Drug Store at 6128 East Washington Street.  This building is long gone and is the site of a parking lot in 2014.

Robert (Curly the Mouse) Morris leaves the Wilson Drug Store at 6128 East Washington Street in 1946

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sailors Reunite Along Lowell Avenue in 1943

Three childhood friends, Harry Perkins, Leland Dickerson, and Robert Morris, joyfully gathered in February of 1943 at the home of the Perkins family.  All three had joined the U.S. Navy after the start of World War II.  Harry and Leland both attained the status of Second Class Aviation Machinist Mate although they had been separated by thousands of miles during the war.  Harry patrolled the Caribbean Sea looking for enemy subs while Leland patrolled the Pacific coast near Astoria, Oregon.  Leland (or Lee) once called out that he saw an enemy sub, but was quickly informed by his crew that the sub was, in fact, a whale.  Robert Morris also known as Curly the Mouse Morris,  (No one knows how he obtained either nickname.) was classified as Seaman First Class.  He spent time on an aircraft carrier in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

In February of 1943, they gathered along Lowell Avenue with snow melting at their feet. One can only imagine the stories they had to tell.  All three returned to their posts shortly after these photos were snapped.  Harry was later informed that his division was being taken over by the marine corp.  He then went through extensive training for a possible invasion of Japan.  Leland applied to get on the U.S.S. Indianapolis as he longed to be on a heavy cruiser.  There were no openings and as fate would have it, that ship met a terrible end after being torpedoed and sinking into shark-infested waters.  Curly the Mouse sailed through the Panama Canal and spent time in many interesting ports.

Thankfully, all three returned home at the end of the war.  Harry finished his degree at Purdue University.  He married and moved to Decatur, Illinois where he helped to build a nuclear power plant.  Leland came home to Indianapolis and married an Irvington girl, Anna Belle York (121 South Berry Avenue).  He graduated from Butler University and worked for Western Electric for decades.  Curly the Mouse Morris married and lived on a plot of land near Mooresville, Indiana.  He worked for the U.S. Post Office delivering special packages.  Both Harry and Curly have since passed away.

The Images:

Harry Perkins, Leland Dickerson, and Robert Morris gathered for a photo in mid-February 1943 in the 5800 block of Lowell Avenue.

Best friends:  Harry Perkins and Leland Dickerson home on leave gathered in early February  1943 in the 5800 block of Lowell Avenue.
Curly Morris, Harry Perkins, and Leland Dickerson posed for this photo in February of 1943. Behind them, you can see the home at 5850 Lowell Avenue.  
The images and stories for this post are courtesy of Leland Dickerson.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Life at the Dickerson Home

J. Earl and Esther Dickerson built their dream home at 818 North Arlington Avenue atop a hill overlooking the Pleasant Run Golf Course in 1937.  Their four kids certainly enjoyed the new home. Leland Dickerson, the second child of the couple, became an expert golfer and caddied for many local Irvingtonians.  Mr. Dickerson enjoyed working in his yard.  He planted an amazing garden in the sunny backyard.  The following images span three decades of life at the home and mostly involve  the Dickerson brothers. The historic images are courtesy of Leland Dickerson.

Leland Dickerson posed in 1938 in front of his home at 818 North Arlington Avenue.  Note the beautiful rounded door behind him.  

Robert Dickerson, a bookish young boy, posed for this photo in 1938.  He is standing near the rear of his home at 818 North Arlington Avenue.  Sadly, he would be killed at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.

Calvin Blue Coates (6045 East St. Joseph Street) and Curly Morris (831 N. Campbell Avenue) posed for this photo at 818 N. Arlington in 1938.  Both young men would serve in the US Navy during WWII.  Sadly, Calvin Coates was killed in action.   

Snowy Day:  The Dickersons at 818 North Arlington Avenue used this photo for their Christmas card in 1948.

Halloween in 1964 at 818 North Arlington Avenue.  Mr. Dickerson planted many native species along the hillside.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Dickerson Family Move into Their Dream Home--1937

J. Earl and Esther Dickerson had lived in Indianapolis since 1928.  Both natives of Oregon, they had rented homes on Beechwood and University Avenues.  Mr. Dickerson had a steady job inspecting fruit and vegetables for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Through the Great Depression, the couple was able to save enough money to build their dream home at 818 North Arlington Avenue.  The Dickersons chose a lot at the top of a hill, which they named, "Quality Hill," to build their brick Tudor-Revival house, a popular style in the 1930s.  The home overlooked the eighth hole of the Pleasant Run Golf Course.

Their children, Vivian, Leland, Robert, and Beverly, had an entirely new playground and acquired a new set of friends.  The Dickersons had a basketball court in their backyard so the home became a popular hangout for local teens.  Mr. Dickerson, a master gardener, planted the entire front hill in a variety of native species and flowers.

Tragedy struck the family during the winter of 1944 upon receiving a telegram from the War Department announcing that their beloved son Robert had been killed at the Battle of the Bulge.  His brother Leland also serving in the war was home on leave when the telegram arrived.  He reported that his brother had been trained as an engineer, but that the U.S. military was so desperate not to loose that battle that they placed nearly everyone they could find onto the front lines to stop the advancing Germans.  While U.S. troops were able to stop the Axis attack, it came at a heavy cost.  Robert's body was buried in Belgium although later the family brought his remains home to Indianapolis. Several important dignitaries attended his local funeral.

Mr. and Mrs. Dickerson remained in the home for the rest of their lives.  In an attempt to deal with her grief, Mrs. Dickerson joined the Gold Star Mothers Club, an organization to help women deal with the loss of their sons during a time of war.

Little has changed in the appearance of the home atop Quality Hill.  In the summertime, you can hear the whack of a golf ball just as you could over 75 years ago.

The Dickerson Home at 818 North Arlington Avenue in 1938 sat atop "Quality Hill."

Jesse Earl and Esther Dickerson (c1940) at 818 North Arlington Avenue

J. Earl Dickerson inspected fruits and vegetables for the US Department of Agriculture.  He is near Purdue University in this photo taken c1938

Leland Dickerson, Eagle Scout, 1938

Robert Dickerson, Eagle Scout, 1940; four years later the young man died at the Battle of the Bulge.  
818 North Arlington Avenue on January 1, 2014
 The historic images and stories for this post are courtesy of Leland Dickerson.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Scenes From a Bungalow on University Avenue--1930s

Jesse Earl and Esther Dickerson moved into 5946 University along with their four kids in 1933.  They remained until 1937.  Leland Dickerson, who dwelled in the house, reports that these were happy years for the family. Mr. Dickerson set up a chicken coup in the backyard and the kids were responsible for taking care of the birds.  They received ten cents for a dozen eggs, which they sold to neighbors.  On summer nights, the children slept on the front porch.  Mr. Dickerson purchased a large chunk of ice from the Irvington Ice and Coal Company and placed it in a tub.  He then set up an electrical fan to blow over the ice and on to the crew as they slept.

On school mornings, the Dickersons merely had to walk out the backdoor and cut across the yard to School #85.  Leland Dickerson enjoyed his time at the school although he reports that it was here he learned to fight.  Some of the young people from the Marion County Children's Guardian Home (5751 University Avenue) attended the school and they came from rougher backgrounds, so young Leland toughened up.  He recalled many of his teachers whom he loved and one that he did not.  "Old Lady" Gratz seemed to love the girls, but treated the boys harshly.  Of course, in fairness, it is very possible that Ms. Gratz had a difficult crew that year!

In the top image, Robert and Leland Dickerson stand on the front porch at 5946 University Avenue with their guitars in 1933.  Neither made a career out of music, but clearly their parents thought it was an important for them to be exposed to the arts.  In the second photo, Esther Dickerson posed with her daughter, Beverly, and dog Cindy in 1933.  In classic form, someone did not aim the camera correctly and they cut off the top of Mrs. Dickerson's head.  Cindy the dog was the star in another photo taken around 1935 and white king pigeons jumped out of the coup and up on top of the garage in 1933 in the final historic image.  Hopefully, someone managed to corral the birds back into their pen before an Irvington cat made a meal of them.

Robert and Leland Dickerson on the front porch of 5946 University Avenue in the summer of 1933

Esther and Beverly Dickerson with Cindy in the backyard of 5946 University Avenue in 1933

Beloved Cindy in the backyard of 5946 University Avenue in 1935

White King Pigeons on the garage of 5946 University Avenue in 1933

5946 University Avenue in 2014
The historic images and stories are courtesy of Leland Dickerson.

Sliding into a New Year

In the winter of 1933, Leland (standing) and Robert Dickerson had fun in their backyard following a big snowstorm.  The Dickersons had just moved from 5823 Beechwood Avenue to 5946 University Avenue. Jesse Earl and Esther Dickerson decided to move from one bungalow to another because the University house was closer to School #85 (pictured) and the kids could cut through the backyard and never have to go near a busy street.  If you look closely, you can see that Leland is holding the family dog, Cindy.  The Dickersons would dwell at this address until finally building a new home on North Arlington Avenue in 1937.

Leland and Robert Dickerson in the backyard of 5946 University Avenue in 1933. (Note School #85 behind them.)