Monday, December 31, 2018

In the Shade of the Kile Oak

In the Shade of the Kile Oak

By RoseAnn O'Connor Linder

Editor's Note: I am particularly indebted to RoseAnn O'Connor Linder for her stories and photos about life along Beechwood Avenue. She has captured a snapshot in time. Neighbors along this street will be very interested to read about the folks who used to reside here. 

The O'Connors moved into 5956 Beechwood Avenue in 1946. In 1950, they posed on their front porch to mark the first communion for RoseAnn O'Connor. Pictured: (top) John and Della Wheat O'Connor; (bottom) RoseAnn and Jeanne O'Connor (photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

My name is RoseAnn O'Connor Linder and I was asked to write about growing up in Irvington in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. I was born on July 27, 1944, to John and Della Wheat O'Connor. I first went home to live at 2143 North Alabama Street with my sister Jeanne, who was four years older, and several of my aunts and uncles. 

In the spring of 1946, my parents bought a small white frame house at 5956 Beechwood Avenue across from Miss Mae Kile and her now famous oak tree. Miss Kile was an "elderly" lady by then in her 70s, the same age I am now. She was living in the house her father had built at 5939 Beechwood Avenue. Her home had no electricity, indoor plumbing, central heating, or a telephone. Her outhouse was a frequent target for teenaged boys around Halloween. She cooked with a wood or coal stove. It seemed her yard held every species of tree native to Indiana. Elementary children in the third grade at School #85 toured her yard every year to collect leaves for a school project. At the time of her death, there were only great nieces and nephews living in California. The family held an auction and my mother purchased what is known as a Martha Washington Sewing Cabinet, which I still have. The house was eventually torn down and now her property is a pocket park.

The Kile Home as it appeared in the early 1970s (photo courtesy of Chuck McCleery)
Mae Kile was not the only "eccentric" elderly lady living in the neighborhood. Miss Lucille Morehouse lived next door at 5958 Beechwood Avenue. She wrote for the Indianapolis Star. She kept a copy of every newspaper in which her column appeared--not just the column, but the entire newspaper!

On the west side of us, lived the Justice family at 5952 Beechwood Avenue. Earl and Betty Justice had two boys, Mike and Johnny. Our two houses had been built at the same time by the same builder so we shared a cinder driveway. I still have a few specks on my left knee from a nasty fall on that driveway. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, an older couple with no children, lived at 5948 Beechwood Avenue. Ruby Gray lived at 5940 Beechwood Avenue and the Ruedlingers, who had several children our age, resided at 5936 Beechwood Avenue. Across the street, the Wolven family lived at 5959 Beechwood Avenue. They had a daughter named Rosalie, who was the same age as my sister Jeanne. The older Wolven boys helped their father with his hauling business. Their grandmother lived in a little house behind the main house. Directly across from us at 5949 Beechwood was Beatrice Wilson and two other maiden ladies, all retired school teachers. This large two-story house had columns and was surrounded by a picket fence. When the last of those ladies died, the Boerger family bought it. They had two children our ages named Jeff and Joanie.

John, Della, and RoseAnn O'Connor posed after a snowstorm in 1957. Behind them, you can see the bungalows at 5952 and 5948 Beechwood Avenue. (photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Beatrice Wilson and retired school teachers lived in this large house at 5949 Beechwood Avenue in the 1940s. Later the Boergers and McCleerys resided here. In the winter of 1957, a member of the McCleery family snapped this beautiful photograph. (photo courtesy of Chuck McCleery)  

RoseAnn and Jeanne O'Connor posed after a winter storm in front of their childhood home at 5956 Beechwood Avenue in 1957 (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Jerrilyn Sherrard and RoseAnn O'Connor posed in the backyard of the Sherrard home at 388 South Arlington Avenue. The backyards of the two girls abutted so it was easy to gather to play. The photo was likely snapped in either 1950 or 1951. (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

"Trouble Looking for a Place to Happen:" The Beechwood crew gathered on the steps of the O'Connor home at 5956 Beechwood Avenue in 1947. Pictured--Top: Mike Justice, Jeanne O'Connor; Middle: Judy Orr, Bea Ruedlinger, Rose Mary Zimmerman; Bottom Row: RoseAnn O'Connor, Leonard Ruedlinger, and Joanne Zimmerman. The Zimmerman children lived on Rawles Avenue behind the Kile home. (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)
My father, John O'Connor, was an accountant for the Potter Material Services from 1951 to 1959. He left to become the chief deputy for David Finney in the Marion County Assessor's Office from 1959 through 1963. He was active with the Democratic Party as a precinct committeeman. I remember going door to door with him to register new voters.  He later worked as an auditor for the Indianapolis Housing Authority until the time of his death on January 29, 1967, at the age of 52. My mother, Della Wheat O'Connor, was housewife. She was a fantastic cook, an amazing seamstress, and she served as a Brownie and Girl Scout leader for both Jeanne and I. 

We did most of our grocery shopping at the Regal Store on South Audubon Road. The Omar man delivered bread and other baked goods to our home while a milkman from Polk's delivered dairy products. I still have the tall green iced tea glasses that the cottage cheese came in. Across the street at Miss Kile's house, the iceman delivered large chunks of ice for her icebox in a horse-drawn wagon with leather curtains and later in a motorized pick-up truck. In those days, the iceman would give the children chips of ice. We used to wait for him just as we did the ice cream man.

We did not have a car for much my pre-high school childhood so we walked or rode the bus. We ran the wheels off of our red wagon as we used it so often. One year, the Boy Scouts sold Christmas trees at School #85 just north of us, so we brought the tree home in the wagon. Downtown Irvington was thriving during my childhood. We had a bank, two drugstores, two hardware stores, a movie theater, an appliance store, Chailles Shoe Store, a bookstore where I bought my Nancy Drew books, and a bridal shop where I later paid $50 for my wedding dress. 

Jeanne and I both attended Our Lady Lourdes and Scecina High School. I remember when they tore down the old grade school in the spring of 1958 and replaced it with a modern building. I graduated from high school in 1962.

In the summer of 1957, several friends gathered on the front lawn of the O'Connor home at 5956 Beechwood Avenue. Pictured: (Top) Carol Biemer; (Middle) Carolyn Koesters, Barb Strange, Kathy McCoy; (Front) Jeanne O'Connor (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Members of the KEZ club from Scecina High School gathered in Jeanne O'Conner's living room at Christmas time in 1956. RoseAnn Linder reports that the lamp on the table near the window was a wedding gift for her parents. Mrs. Linder still possesses that lamp. Pictured: (back) Carol Biemer, Jeanne O'Connor; (middle) Carolyn Koesters, Sussanne Dufour, Janice Meyer; (front) Barb Strange (Photo courtesy of RoseAnn Linder)

Tragedy struck our family on October 21, 1957. Jeanne had gone to work at Woolworth's Store in the new Eastgate Mall. We had a car by that time and Daddy usually picked her up after work, but this was a Monday so he was at the Knights of Columbus meeting. On these occasions, Mom and I would walk up Arlington Avenue to meet her at Washington Street as she got off the bus. We met up and as we were nearing our home, a drunk driver on Arlington Avenue lost control of his car, jumped the curb, and struck us. Jeanne was dead at the scene. I was unconscious and Mom nearly out of her mind. It was two days after Jeanne's 17th birthday. She was a senior at Scecina High School and would have graduated in 1958. I was 13 at the time. 

During my junior year in high school, Mom announced that she was pregnant. My little sister, Cathy, was born on January 18, 1961. What a delight she has been in my life. She lived a very different childhood from mine. Most of the old neighbors had been replaced except for Miss Kile, who had become more reclusive. When Cathy was six, Daddy died. Mom did a fantastic job of raising her. Mom sold our house in the mid-1980s and died on November 13, 2001.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Graham Avenue in the 1920s

The first folks who moved along the 700 block of Graham Avenue must have felt like they moved into the country. Farm land still existed all around them as developers took advantage of the "roaring" economy to build homes in the area. Sometime in 1923 or 1924, Walter Jenney stood atop a hill on his property at 5702 Pleasant Run Parkway and took a photograph facing eastward. Not one home had yet been built in the 700 block of North Audubon Road. Four houses can been seen on Graham Avenue and one on Pleasant Run Parkway. At the far left in the photo, you can see the rear stuccoed bungalow at 750 North Audubon Road. Across the the street, you can see the lovely residence at 747 North Audubon Road. In the middle of the photo, you can see the front of 731 North Audubon Road and the rear of 734 North Audubon Road. At the far right, the rear of 5744 East Pleasant Run Parkway is visible. By the end of the decade, the entire area would be developed with only a few lots open for later construction. Some of the earliest families to dwell along Graham Avenue in the 1920s included the Wrights, Steinbuchs, the Flowers, and the Carsons. To see aerial photos of this part of the neighborhood click on the "aerial" tab below.

Few houses had yet been built in the 700 block of North Graham Avenue in 1923 or 1924 when this photo was snapped by Walter Jenney. In  the photo, you can see 750.747, 734, and 731 North Graham Avenue as well as the rear of 5744 East Pleasant Run Parkway. Audubon Road was a mere path behind the fence line in the middle of the photo and near a clump of trees.  (Photo courtesy of Ann Schmidt Brown)

750 North Graham Avenue in 2018: You can see the rear of this home in the historic photograph.

747 North Graham Avenue (photo taken in 2014)

734 North Graham Avenue: You can see the rear of this home in the historic photograph. (Image taken in 2014)

731 North Graham Avenue (Image taken in 2014)

5744 East Pleasant Run Parkway (Image taken in 2014)
Editor's Note: Narrowing down a date for the historic photo has been tricky. Since none of the houses along Audubon would be constructed until 1925, Mr. Jenney likely took the photo either in 1923 or 1924. The city directories offer some confusing options as some of the addresses do not match. Clearly more research will be needed to be more precise. I am particularly indebted to Todd Cloud, Ann Schmidt Brown, and Chris and Felicia Sears.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

The Jenneys Built a Dream Home On a Bluff Above Pleasant Run Stream--1922

Walter and Alice Jenney purchased several lots from developer Arthur V. Brown near what would become Pleasant Run Parkway in 1911. They paid Mr. Brown the sizable sum of $6000 for the land. At the time, the Jenneys lived at 350 North Whittier Place with a view of Ellenberger Woods. Their new plot of land was north of the Pleasant Run Stream and east of Ritter Avenue. George Kessler, the noted landscape architect, designed the new boulevard that was soon to be expanded from Ritter Avenue to Arlington Avenue. Arthur V. Brown had already donated about six acres along both sides of the stream for a public green space.

Mr. Jenney held many jobs over the years as he was a salesman and an entrepreneur. His family moved to Irvington when he was young and he made headlines in 1895 when he and another Irvington child found some of the charred remains of Howard Pitezel, a victim of the serial killer H.H. Holmes. As a young man, he worked for his uncle Charles E. Jenney, who owned the Jenney Electric Company. Walter Jenney later struck out on his own as an advertising agent for the New York Store and for the Indianapolis Star  and News. After buying land from Mr. Brown in the Ellenberger Park Addition, Mr. Jenney opened a nursery where he sold peonies, lilacs, roses, and other beautiful specimens. The Irvington North Garden Historic District received its National Register name because of Mr. Jenney's beautiful nursery located near St. Clair Street and Lesley Avenue.

The land that the Jenney's purchased contained an older farmhouse, some outbuildings, and a windmill. Little is known about the original farmers who used to live in the house, but the historic residence still stands at 5665 East St. Clair Street. Mr. Jenney operated his nursery out of the house. Alice Jenney was involved in various Irvington clubs and taught Sunday School at the Irvington Methodist for 50 years. Amazingly, she would live to be 101 years old. She outlived her husband by 33 years. Her brother, Arthur J. Randall, and sister-in-law, Anna Hayes Randall, purchased land and built a home at 5660 East St. Clair Street. The siblings lived across the street from each other for decades.

Alice Randall Jenney stood on the site of her future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway (later 5701 E. St. Clair Street) in 1912. The couple would not start construction of their new residence until 1922.  (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Walter and Alice Jenney purchased land from a developer named Arthur V. Brown in 1911. They bought the farmhouse and and the adjacent bluff for a future home. Pleasant Run Parkway had not yet been constructed when this photo was snapped in 1911. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown) 

Walter Jenney snapped this beautiful photo in 1912 on the site of his future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. (Photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

The North Irvington Garden Historic District used to be a farm. In 1911, Walter Jenney snapped this image eastward from his property at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. The future 700 blocks of Audubon Road, Graham, Bolton, Campbell, and Arlington Avenues had yet to be developed. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Alice Randall Jenney stood in the nursery and near the site of her future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. Her husband, Walter Jenney, had opened the business in the farmhouse (not visible) at 5665 East St. Clair Street. His peonies won many prizes. Mr. Jenney, the photographer, faced eastward for this photograph. Note the windmill and the water tower. The photo was likely taken in 1914. (photo courtesy of Chris and Felicia Sears and Ann Schmidt Brown)

In this undated photograph, you can see that Pleasant Run Parkway is under construction. (c1912) The house that is visible in the image is the farmhouse that still stands at 5665 East St. Clair Street. (photo courtesy of Chris and Felicia Sears and Ann Schmidt Brown)

The old farmhouse at 5665 East St. Clair Street in 2018.

Walter Jenney operated a nursery out of the farmhouse at 5665 East St. Clair Street (Indianapolis Star, October 1, 1920)

It took some time, but eventually the Jenneys began construction of their dream home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway (also known as 5700) in the summer of 1922. They chose to site the home on a bluff facing southward towards Irvington. Mr. Jenney designed the home while O. E. Pike served as the general contractor. An Indianapolis Star article profiled the new home on November 12, 1922. To get to the property, one entered from Pleasant Run Parkway, crossed over a stone bridge, and then up a steep and winding drive. Once at the top of the hill, a lovely "colonial" stuccoed home awaited visitors. Mr. Jenney designed a long living room across the entire front of the home complete with a mahogany fireplace and beautiful oak floors. Mr. Pike installed an heirloom buffet into the dining room. The Jenneys could sit in a beautiful side porch and gaze across the tree tops that grew along the stream below. The stunning location must have been a beautiful place to live in all seasons. For many years, the old windmill still stood near the dining room window.

Numerous other families have called this beautiful place "home." Their stories should be told as well. I am particularly grateful to Ann Schmidt Brown, whose family lived here for much of the mid and late twentieth century. Todd Cloud and Chris and Felicia Sears have also been instrumental in providing information for this post. I wish to thank them all. At some point, Mr. Jenney gave a scrapbook full of photos to the Schmidt family. I was able to publish these photos due to the generosity of the Schmidts. More photos will be forthcoming so stay tuned!

Walter Jenney originally designed his future home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway with a veranda around the house. He later modified his design. In this photo, he superimposed his original vision on a photograph in 1922. (image courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Alice Randall Jenney sat on the front porch of her new home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway (later 5701 East St. Clair Street) in 1922. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

Walter Jenney snapped this photograph in 1922 as he faced westward. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown) 

Mr. Jenney's peonies bloomed in the spring of 1923. Behind the garden, you can see the Jenney home at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway. (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

The Jenney home and property at 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway shortly after it was built in the winter of 1922 (photo courtesy of Todd Cloud and Ann Schmidt Brown)

5701 East St. Clair Street (formerly 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway) in 2018

Indianapolis Star, September 14, 1944, 5

Editor's note: During the Schmidt-era of the home, the city changed the address of the house from 5702 East Pleasant Run Parkway to 5701 East St. Clair Street.

Sources: About the house--"Stucco Attractive Finish for Homes," Indianapolis Star, November 12, 1922, 61; Obituary for Walter E. Jenney, Indianapolis Star, September 14, 1944, 5; Obituary for Alice Randall Jenney, Indianapolis News, February 5, 1977, 13; About Howard Pitezel--"This Reminds Me," Indianapolis Star, March 10, 1951, 31; Arthur Brown donation--"Gives City Six Acres," Indianapolis News, July 28, 1911, 16. Interview with Ann Schmidt Brown, December 2, 2018; Interview with Chris and Felicia Sears, December 8, 2018.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Randall Home in 1915 and in 2018

Arthur J. and Anna Hayes Randall moved into their beautiful new home at 5660 East St. Clair Street in 1915. They had purchased land in the summer of 1914 from Arthur V. Brown, a banker who owned many acres in the area. They paid Mr. Brown $3000 for lots 101, 107, and 110 at the northwest corner of Lesley Avenue and St. Clair Street. Mr. Randall was a successful printer. Mrs. Randall stayed home and raised the couple's three children, Ruth, Margaret, and Ralph. She was also very involved in the Expression Club, the Irvington Mothers' Study Club, and the Irvington Methodist Church. The historic photo was likely taken by her brother, Walter Jenney, who owned  land and a nursery across the street. He, too, bought plots from Arthur V. Brown and eventually built a bungalow across from his sister.

Walter Jenney sold peonies, lilacs, and other beautiful specimens from his land in the 5700 block of East St. Clair Street. He would later build a house on his property. In 1915, prior to any construction, he snapped this photograph of his brother and sister-in-law's home across the street. Arthur and Anna Randall had just moved into 5660 East St. Clair Street in 1915 when this image was taken. Note Mr. Jenney's beautiful peonies in the foreground. 

5660 East St. Clair Street in 2018

Arthur Randall, of 5660 East St. Clair Street was in the printing business for decades. This ad appeared in the Indianapolis Star on May 30, 1924. 

This photo was taken a few years before Arthur Randall's death in 1950. The family used the image for his obituary which appeared in the Indianapolis Star on November 5, 1950. 

On December 28, 1924, this photo of Arthur J. Randall appeared in the Indianapolis Star. The newspaper had published a story on his printing business. 

Anna Hayes Randall as she appeared in the Indianapolis Star on June 3, 1934: Mrs. Randall dwelled for many years with her husband and family at 5660 East St. Clair Street. 

The Randalls of 5660 East St. Clair Street had three children. In 1937, their daughter Margaret married E. Blair Harter. (Indianapolis Star, March 7, 1937)
The author wishes to thank Ann Schmidt Brown, Todd Cloud, Chris Sears and Felicia Sears for stories and information for this post. More information will be forthcoming about this area of Irvington.

Sources:  The Randall purchase of land--Indianapolis Star, July 21, 1914; Obituary of Arthur Randall, Indianapolis Star, September 5, 1950

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Layman Mansion Visible Behind Sweet Girls--1927

Another image of the Layman Mansion has surfaced from the photo collection of Nancy Ostrander. In 1927, Eva Ham and Nancy Ostrander posed for this photo just south of the Audubon Court Apartments. Behind the girls, you can see part of the north side of the Layman home at 29 South Audubon Road. The house was later bulldozed in the early 1950s to make way for the Saxony Apartments. The gorgeous home was actually built for Jacob Julian, a founder of Irvington in 1870. The Laymans moved into the residence in 1887 and still lived in the house when little Eva and Nancy sat for this picture. To learn more about the Layman or Ostrander families, click on the links below.

Eva Ham and Nancy Ostrander were cousins and grew up together in the same house at 323 North Audubon Road. In 1927, they sat for this photo near the Layman home at 29 South Audubon Road. The girls dwelled in the nearby Audubon Court Apartments before moving three blocks north. (Image courtesy of Nancy Ostrander)

The gorgeous home belonging the the Julian and Layman families was  likely designed by architect Isaac Taylor in 1870. Jacob Julian was a founder of Irvington.  The Layman family moved into the residence in 1887 and remained until the 1950s. (image courtesy of Isabelle Layman Troyer) 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dispatch from the Ruhsenberger Family--1937

Ann Hart Stewart was one of the first contributors to this blog. Her grandparents, Charles and Hattie Ruhsenberger, resided at 5930 East Washington Street. Other relatives lived nearby on Burgess Avenue. Ann's photos and stories have chronicled life near the corner of East Washington Street and Arlington Avenue. She contributed a fun story about a famous cat, who lived across street.  You may read more about her family by clicking the "Ruhsenberger" or "Stokesberry" links below. Recently, she found another historic photo of her family members snapped in 1937.

The Ruhsenbergers occasionally took breakfast picnics. Mr. and Mrs. Ruhsenberger had three children, Roger, Henrietta, and Patricia. Sometimes, the families would get up early and drive to Christian Park to enjoy the beauty of nature and each other's company.  They had to reserve a grill ahead of time for cooking. Not everyone loved the experience. A very young Ann Hart noted that she was not so keen to be up so early and away from the warmth of her kitchen at 5930 East Washington Street. The Ruhsenbergers are all now gone from Irvington and even their family home was demolished in 1957. Thankfully, folks like Ann Hart Stewart help us to remember.

Ruhsenberger Family Picnic at Christian Park in 1937: Pictured (top left to right) MaeClaire "Tottie" Whidden Ruhsenberger (1911-1981), Lt. jg. J. Roger Ruhsenberger (1900-1993), Charles  A. Ruhsenberger (1869-1959), Hattie Jones Ruhsenberger (1872-1973), Henrietta Ruhsenberger Hart (1896-1969),  Paul J. Hart (1899-1989) Bottom rows: Roger Henry Ruhsenberger (1932-2004), Ann Hart Stewart, Patricia Patricia Ruhsenberger Dillard (1910-1954) The photo was snapped by Larry J. Dillard (1930-1993)

The Ruhsenbergers resided in a beautiful Dutch Colonial Revival home at 5930 East Washington Street. The grand home was built in 1906. It was later demolished for a filling station on the northwest corner of East Washington Street and Arlington Avenue. 
Photos and stories for this post are courtesy of Ann Hart Stewart.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Miss Estella Adams Wrote a Children's Book

In 1916, Indiana celebrated one hundred years of statehood. Local residents put on pageants, plays, and festivals. Several histories also appeared that year including one by a local Irvington teacher, Estella Adams. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, a local printer, published her work, Pioneer Life for Little Children, and sold the book throughout the United States. Miss Adams taught first grade at School #57 at the time so the smaller children were her primary audience.

She likely wrote the book while living in her beautiful new home at 440 North Irvington Avenue. She resided there with her mother, Margaret, and her brother, George. City records indicate that Miss Adams took out a building permit in 1911 for the property. It is unknown how she was able to afford such a grand home, but the Indianapolis News in 1905 published that she had invested $200 in the Citizens Gas Company so perhaps she had earned a comfortable living with some shrewd investments.

Miss Estella Adams, a teacher at School #57, took out a building permit for 440 North Irvington Avenue in 1911. She lived here with her brother and mother. They sold the home to the Rush Family in 1920. (Photo taken in the summer of 2018)

The Rush family dwelled at 440 North Irvington Avenue throughout most of the 1920s. They put the house on the market in the summer of 1928 as Mr. Rush took a job in the East. (image courtesy of Indianapolis Star, July 15, 1928)

Pioneer Life was illustrated by Harrison Fisher and Marie Stewart. In the first third of the book, Miss Adams wrote about the lives of the Indians who lived in the Midwest. The illustrations in this part of the book are realistic and somewhat romanticized. Her treatment of the native peoples is much more respectful than many narratives of her day. The illustrator of this section chose to draw images of the Plains Indians and not those who actually dwelled in Indiana. In the second third of the work, Miss Adams described life for the white people who moved into the area. Like most children's histories, this section is sanitized. The Indians, according to the author, moved away because the deer and the bison were no longer as plentiful. How does one tell first graders that their ancestors actually forced the native peoples from their land and on to reservations? The illustrations in this section are more like etchings. She does challenge the children to think about the lives of the two groups.

Indian girls carry wood for the fire.
They string red and yellow beads.
They make pretty baskets.
The baskets are made of sweet grasses.
The girls make bowls of clay.
They paint the bowls after they are dry.
They carry water in these bowls.
Can you make a clay bowl?

Pioneer Life for Little Children appeared in print on August 6, 1916, and was used throughout the state of Indiana.

Two different illustrators contributed to the book Pioneer Life for Little Children. In this romanticized image, a young Indian girl, who has Caucasian features, looks hopefully off to the side. Miss Adams portrayal of the native peoples, although not accurate, was more sympathetic than many authors from the time period. 

Estella Adams, who taught at School #57, dedicated the book to the neighborhood children. 

Miss Adams dedicated the book to the children of Irvington. She and her family continued to dwell in their Irvington Avenue home until 1919. For unknown reasons, she took a leave of absence from the Indianapolis Public Schools and eventually moved to California. The Rush family purchased her house.

Miss Adams frequently experimented in her first-grade classroom at School #57 as she was a proponent of both the Montessori Method and the Fresh Air Movement. In the winter of 1916, she placed muslin over the screens in her classroom and did not put in the glass windows. Her room remained warm enough for the children and she noted improved results. (image courtesy of Indianapolis News, February 16, 1916)

Sources:  "Recent Publications," Indianapolis Star, August 6, 1916, 6; "Written Book on Pioneer Life," Indianapolis News, December 7, 1916, 13; Obituary for Margaret Adams, Indianapolis Star, July 8, 1933, 10.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

An Irvington Childhood in the 'Forties

Editor's Note: Today's post was written by Lucia Walton Robinson, who resided at both Audubon Court and at 5840 Oak Avenue. Ms. Robinson's account spans the time period from 1937 to 1950. Her father worked as the sports director for WISH Radio and TV until 1955. He later formed the Luke Walton Advertising Agency. Ms. Robinson provides a wonderful snapshot of growing up in Irvington in the 1940s. You may read her biography at the end of the post. I have placed addresses of the families mentioned next to their names as many current residents will likely enjoy hearing stories about the people who once lived in their homes. 

An Irvington Childhood in the 'Forties
By Lucia Walton Robinson

The Walton family moved into 5840 Oak Avenue in 1946 and remained until 1950. Pictured: (Top) Charlotte Walton, Adelaide Reeves Walton; (Bottom) Lucia Walton, and Luke Walton in 1944 (image courtesy of Nancy Ostrander) 

When I was born at the end of 1937, my parents, Luke and Adelaide Reeves Walton, were renting a house on Johnson Avenue near the Irvington Presbyterian Church while he worked as an announcer for radio station WIRE and finished the last class he needed for his B.A. degree at Butler, which he’d left in 1931. I was six months old when he left WIRE and returned to WBOW in Terre Haute, where he’d accidentally begun his career in broadcasting, I think in 1932, the year my sister Charlotte was born. Then in 1940 he signed on to WISH in Indianapolis and moved us to what is now known as “Historic Audubon Court,” where Mother’s cousins Scott and June Ham were living and I found a playmate in their youngest daughter Priscilla. Their older daughters, Winifred and Guinevere, served often as our sitters, as did Nancy Ostrander and Eva Ruth Ham, daughter and niece of our Great-aunt Guinevere Ostrander (323 N. Audubon Rd.) After retiring from the State Department, The Honorable Nancy Ostrander returned to the wonderful house on North Audubon Road, the “mother house” of our extended family.

My memories of those first few years in Irvington are scant. I recall playing with Priscilla and a boy my age called Jerry Pickard who lived across the court (we made snowmen and played Superman with dishtowels attached for capes), tagging after my sister and the older cousins, sometimes spilling over into the alley between the court and the imposing Second Empire Layman house next door—the name Eleanor Layman sticks in my memory, though not the person attached. Guinnie had a pet worm that she kept in a tiny matchbox and held a funeral when it succumbed, most likely to absence of soil. Another occasional playmate was Cousin Fritz (Fred) Gable (5924 Lowell Ave), who lived near Aunt Guin with his parents Jane Hall and George Gable; we were born within six weeks of each other. I think we both attended the Hibben School, a pleasant preschool run by two kind sisters—but I remember only a pond and ducks. Father at that time had a sports program, possibly news, and the sort of man-on-the-street program he’d had in Terre Haute. He was likely also doing play-by-play of some sports events; I was too young to notice, though I’ve often said that the first time I ever sat up was on a bleacher.

Three weeks before my fourth birthday the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t revealed for a few months that a beloved first cousin of my mother’s, Marine Lieutenant George Ham Cannon of Detroit, died heroically in the concomitant bombing of Midway Island on December 7, 1941. Cousin “Hammy” was the first Marine awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II—posthumously. His mother, Aunt Guinevere’s sister Estelle Ham Cannon, traveled to receive it, and later to christen a small Navy ship named for him. Then, I think all the men in the family tried to enlist, but they were mostly too old and all except Father were 4-F. He was sworn into the United States Navy on his six o’clock program—his first act of public relations for the Navy—and departed for three months of officers’ training at Dartmouth College in snowy New Hampshire, where he spent his 35th birthday. Although most “ninety-day wonders” were posted to merchant ships (which German U-boats regularly sank), Father was sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Station where he soon became athletic public relations officer, working with the famed Bluejackets sports teams. Some old friends from Butler were there, including Tony Hinkle who coached the football team that famously beat Notre Dame, Bob Nipper (later athletic director at Shortridge High School), and attorney Harry Ice and his wife Betty. A young Irvingtonian sailor he’d inspired, who introduced himself one day, was Howard Caldwell, Jr. (81 N. Hawthorne Lane), son of a friend of Aunt Guinevere.

Mother sublet the Audubon Court apartment and we were quartered first in the Somerset Hotel in Chicago, then at a house in Lake Bluff where I was allowed into first grade at the wonderful village school, and then a large old house on the base itself. Those were good years for us children. Father was in contact with many famous athletes while being denied the sea duty he so yearned for. Finally, he received orders to go to Pearl Harbor; Japan surrendered almost immediately, and Mother returned with Charlotte and me to Audubon Court, where Charli entered high school at Howe and I third grade at school 57.

Father returned to us in November 1945 with shell necklaces, leis, a minuscule grass skirt for me, and a coconut whose shell no implement would crack—not a hammer, axe, nor hatchet. Finally, it was dropped from a third-floor window, whereupon the sidewalk beneath was cracked but not, alas, the coconut. He returned to work at WISH and in the summer bought the house at 5840 Oak Avenue in south Irvington. It has been changed a great deal but was then a charming Dutch colonial with a screened porch looking out on the side yard with its birdbath surrounded by phlox and back-corner fish pond, which had a lovely brick back wall with copper insert and a number of large gold and speckled fish, one at least a foot long. A doghouse joined them when we retrieved our Cocker spaniel Tony (named for Hinkle) from my grandmother’s, where he stayed while we were in Audubon Court. Father was greatly annoyed every day-after-Halloween when he had to search the neighborhood for the roof of the doghouse. Behind 5840 was a paved area fronting a large brick wall with fireplace where my friends and I roasted marshmallows and hotdogs on occasion and I was tasked to burn the trash--never my favorite chore.

5840 Oak Avenue in the winter of 1946 (photo courtesy of Lucia Walton Robinson)

We’d had extended family close by in Audubon Court, and other connections followed. On my first excursion forth a woman on a nearby porch called to me, asked if I were my mother’s child, and brought out a photograph of my mother at about age three with a little red chair we still had. She was Mildred Rose, a friend of Aunt Guinevere, who lived with her mother Mrs. Emma Kuhn (5808 Oak Avenue) a few houses away. I found other children farther up the block and later met Mrs. George Gill (5908 University Ave.), living with her husband, sons, and Boston bulldog in an arts-and-crafts house next to a small wood on the opposite corner of Oak and University Avenue. Urith Dailey Gill, later an important figure in the Disciples of Christ, was a girlhood friend of Aunt Guinevere. I often had cambric tea with her and the dog and never told her how her younger son George, a few years older than I, tormented me on the way to and from school 85. (George eventually became editor and then publisher of the Louisville Courier Journal and asked the question to which President Nixon famously answered, “I’m not a crook.”) Every Christmas Mr. Gill would bring us a Yule log from his wood, we “Oak Avenue Acorns” would go a-caroling, and Father would take me with him to Clifton Wheeler’s (5317 Lowell Ave.) house to choose a lovely landscape for Mother. A little farther up University Avenue lived the maternal grandmother and great-aunt of my cousin Fritz 
Gable, now accompanied by younger brother Bruce, with an enormous cat that was said to be 21 years old and possessed of false teeth. When the boys visited, we played outside, as Mrs. Caroline Hall (5850 University Ave.) and “Aunt TT” (Temple Tompkins) were rather formidable and averse to noise and activity.

Emma Kuhn and her daughter, Mildred Rose, lived at 5808 Oak Avenue in 1946

Mrs. Kuhn and her sister were featured on their birthday in the Indianapolis Star in 1948. (Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star, May 24, 1948)

Urith Gill participated in an oral history project for the Brown Library in Irvington in 1982.  The Gill family resided at 5908 University Avenue for many decades. One of the Gill sons, George, went on to become the editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal. (Image courtesy of the Indiana Memory via the Indiana State Library)

Charlotte Walton sat upon a large boulder in front of 5840 Oak Avenue c1946. The boulder sits in the same exact spot in 2018. (image courtesy of Lucia Walton Robinson)

The author, Lucia Walton, with her Louisville Slugger in the side yard at 5840 Oak Avenue c1947. You will note that the home used to have an open side porch. It was later enclosed. (image courtesy of Lucia Walton Robinson) 

Our block was populated mostly by boys; thus, sports played a big part in my life outside school, and not only at home. Fortunately, there was always a girl near my age in the house that had the large side yard where we all played baseball after supper in good weather, and Jane Vogt ( 5733 Oak Ave.) lived with her brother Charles across the street; about once a month the three of us would board a bus for downtown to hear the children’s symphony at Cadle Tabernacle, scowled into silence by Maestro Fabian Sevitzky. Should anyone make a noise, the music would instantly stop and a terrifying frown search out the culprit. Afterward, we had to cross the street to catch the bus home and would visit the fascinating City Market, where I always bought a bunch of sweet peas and a bag of caramels. Next to the Vogts lived the Edward Heckers (5729 Oak Ave.). Eddie was a few years older and David I think a year younger than I; I heard years later that Eddie was with NASA but have no corroboration. Mr. Hecker was a printer, a kind man who wept at the funeral of their elderly cat. He himself died suddenly shortly before we left the neighborhood, as had the father of John Wright (5718 Oak Ave.), by several years the youngest of four who lived on our side of the street across from the Eberts (5715 Oak Ave.). Having four sons within a range of eight years or so, the Eberts gave over their back yard entirely to youthful pursuits; we even rode bikes there, pretending to be 500 drivers. I can still hear Mrs. Ebert calling “Bobby Dicky Billy DAAAveee!” Billy was the one my age. Young Davy was allowed in our confirmation class at Irvington Presbyterian Church because it was the last for Dr. John Ferguson, who had confirmed his older brothers. I remember Dr. Ferguson coming into the sanctuary when we were rehearsing, I looking up and up and up into the benevolent face of a very large man whom Dr. Ferguson introduced as his successor Dr. Howard Stone, telling us we would like him. It was not so much a remark as a command, but we found the order had been unnecessary.

The Vogt Family resided at 5733 Oak Avenue. In this photo, Jane and Chuck Vogt posed next to a new bike in 1948. (image courtesy of Chuck and Joyce Vogt) 

The Wright family lived at 5718 Oak Avenue. 

The Ebert family lived at 5715 Oak Avenue.

Luke Walton frequently participated and narrated a Christmas service for the Irvington Presbyterian Church. Mr. Walton was well-known in the city of Indianapolis as an announcer for both the Indianapolis Indians and for the Indianapolis 500. (image courtesy of Lucia Walton Robinson)
I was taken to the 500-mile race at age eight, to the first race after the war, and would continue to attend through my college years, so I could tell the other children whatever I could learn from a pretty low vantage point. The race took all day in those years; Father would have to get downtown  quickly afterward to make his six o’clock sports program, so he’d follow the police car that was transporting the movie star brought in to kiss the winner. I can remember watching him across the track eating box lunch with Loretta Young, her large white pumps parked on the wall of the pit area, and wondering what my mother was thinking beside me in the paddock. In the late ‘40s Father conceived the idea of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network; he shared it with Wilbur Shaw, Wilbur talked Tony Hulman into it, and the 500 went on the air, with announcers stationed at various points around the track and a coordinator in the Pagoda. The broadcast went only to military bases overseas and other places at a distance because Mr. Hulman feared local coverage would lessen attendance, as he did for a long while with television. When I was at Duke in 1960 I drove halfway to Raleigh to be able to hear the race.

Father’s chosen spot for the 500 was at the start and in the front pit, and in opening the first broadcast he christened it the “greatest spectacle in racing,” a phrase reporters are still using. After Shaw was killed in 1954, Tony Hulman, a shy man, had to be persuaded to open the race, and he did so on condition that Father would rehearse him and be with him at the start. Every year they rehearsed “Gentlemen (later, “Lady and Gentlemen”), start your engines,” and after Anton Hulman died Mrs. Hulman rehearsed with Father and held his hand for support while she started the race. Father kept the start and the front pit until at some point in his late 70s he almost didn’t get over the wall in time when a car came rolling in and his colleagues insisted he give it up.

Not long after the war Father began broadcasting the Indianapolis Indians’ baseball games, and baseball became a big part of our lives from spring training until late fall. Being small, I was far from a champ in the neighborhood, usually relegated to boring left field, so Father taught me to pitch a curve ball, which I did with sufficient skill to become a real part of neighborhood games. Still, I spent many evenings and Sunday afternoons in the press box at the old Victory Field, learning to score and fetching the hot dogs that tasted better than any before or since. I remember Donie Bush and Al Lopez and a time when Johnny Mize and Billy Martin, who’d been sent down from the Yankees to beef up—was it Kansas City?--for a short time were in town; they had been on the Great Lakes team (I have a baseball Mize hit a home run with there); they all visited in Mr. Bush’s office after the games, and we drove them to Union Station when they left. Mother and I enjoyed going to Florida for spring training, when Father would tape interviews with the players.

 Luke Walton at Luke Walton Appreciation Night at Victory Field in 1952 (image courtesy of Lucia Walton Robinson)

WISH radio station men gathered c1949. Pictured (left to right) Unidentified, Al Lopez, the manager of the Indianapolis Indians; Frank McKinney, the owner of WISH; and Luke Walton, sports commentator (image courtesy of Lucia Walton Robinson)

Irvington Presbyterian church, where Aunt Guin was a “lady elder” and which my parents joined when Charlotte wanted to be confirmed, began to play a significant part in our lives—mostly mine at first, as my parents were pretty much Christmas and Easter Christians then, while I attended Sunday school, church, vacation Bible school, and later Westminster Fellowship. At some point Father was drafted to narrate the Christmas Eve services, which he continued to do for decades; Mother was a star of the Irvington Dramatic Club, which met at the church. Father’s first baseball sponsor was Sterling Beer, and Dr. Ferguson went to see him about it. “Luke, you don’t drink alcohol, do you?” Father didn’t. Dr. Ferguson pointed out that large numbers of boys and young men were listening to those baseball broadcasts and asked him if beer was really what he wanted to be pitching to them. Father hadn’t thought about that; he spoke with the station managers, and subsequently his sponsor became Stokely-Van Camp, so a lot of “tall cans of corn” were hit and balls batted into “Stokely’s pea patch.”

In 1949, professional basketball came to Indianapolis in the form of the Indianapolis Olympians, with a nucleus of former Kentucky Wildcats whose exciting fast-break basketball lured me to sit behind Father as he broadcast their games in the Butler Fieldhouse. Most of them had nice wives who sat next to us, and I thought I might marry the lone bachelor when I grew up. Father wrote a book about them, Basketball’s Fabulous Five, but sadly some dishonest actions on the part of two of the players while in college came to light after a few years; Father withdrew the book, and the remarkable team was no more. I went on to Shortridge and cheered the Blue Devils in the high school tournaments with friends, no longer sitting with Father.

A few years ago my daughter and I visited our Irvington cousins at Halloween, and I was delighted to see that the old celebration, which in my childhood comprised painting pictures on storefront windows and an evening parade, has not only continued but grown to a full-scale festival. I remembered parading with John Wright as Tom Sawyer (me) and Aunt Polly (John, augmented with pillows and a wig), and reflected that that was far from the only time John wore skirts, as he was spirited away to St. Meinrad’s Seminary after eighth grade, eventually to become a Catholic priest. Finding his obituary online, I learned that he served as a Navy chaplain for thirty years and retired in San Diego with “Monsignor” before his name. Years ago I heard that three of the Ebert boys had also become ministers, another reflection of the influence of John Ferguson and Howard Stone.

Shortly before my friend John left for seminary, our family left Irvington for the north side, where Father was closer to his golf club and Charlotte to Butler, and I found lifelong friends at school 70 and Shortridge High School. I began my journey into Episcopalianism at that time though Dr. Stone persuaded Father to teach the high school class at Irvington Presbyterian, where he became a deacon and then an elder of the church and where all our family weddings, baptisms, and funerals have been held as well as Luke and Addie’s 50th wedding anniversary party. Of the extended family, Cousins Nancy Ostrander and Bruce and Carol Gable remain in Irvington, and Cousin Fred has returned. Much has changed in the nearly seventy years since we left Oak Avenue, but it is good to see that many of Irvington’s unique qualities and landmarks survive.

The Walton family lived at 5840 Oak Avenue from 1946 until 1950. Five years after their departure, the home appeared in the Indianapolis Star as for sale. Note the lovely stone walkway, the boulder, and the shady lot. (Image courtesy of the Indianapolis Star, July 3, 1955)

One change I was sad to see in Irvington was the absence of the Hilton U. Brown house (5087 East Washington St.) on what used to be Brown’s Hill. Among the first books I ever read was my sister’s copy of his daughter Jean Brown Wagoner’s Louisa May Alcott: Girl of Old Boston in Bobbs-Merrill’s Childhood of Famous Americans series, followed by her Jane Addams. When we returned to Irvington after the war, Mrs. Wagoner, another friend of Aunt Guinevere, had her Martha Washington in galleys and asked if I’d read it, see how I liked it and whether it lagged anywhere. That was my introduction to publishing. Father wrote Basketball’s Fabulous Five about the Indianapolis Olympians later, and I proofread that. I edited the literary magazine and a few professors’ books in college, decided on a career in publishing, and had my first job with Bobbs-Merrill’s incipient college division. My inscribed copies of Mrs. Wagoner’s books are now with the Irvington Historical Society.

Biographical note: Holding degrees from Butler and Duke Universities, Lucia Walton Robinson has edited books in Indianapolis and Manhattan, raised two highly literate people, and taught literature and writing in a Gulf Coast college. Now retired near the Carolina coast and her daughter, also an editor and poet, she has returned to writing and editing. Her work has appeared in The Penwood Review, The Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Kakalak, Split Rock Review, Indiana Voice Journal, Spirit Fire Review, and other publications.