Sunday, March 4, 2018

Who Lived Here? The Polen-Rennoe Families (1905-1944)

Luther Polen began life in log cabin near Azalia, Indiana in Bartholomew County. By the time of his death, he had managed to provide a comfortable life for his family in a fashionable house in Irvington. On October 3, 1894, he married Margaret Goble, who came from a family of printers in Greenfield. He worked at Union Station in downtown Indianapolis at the time and eventually became the stationmaster in 1900.

By 1905, the couple moved into the large American Four Square at 34 North Layman Avenue. Mr. Polen officially left his job with the railroad and became a real estate agent in 1908. His earliest sales seem to have not come from Indiana, but rather from Oklahoma. He led groups of potential investors, mainly from Greenfield, down to Oklahoma so that they could purchase farmland. Several Hancock County families moved to that state. The Daily Reporter and the Hancock Democrat noted that Mr. Polen shepherded at least two separate groups of people to Oklahoma in both 1909 and 1910. One has to wonder what became of these folks and their descendants when the Dust Bowl decimated that state in the 1930s.  Soon, the local Indianapolis newspapers carried ads for Luther Polen for land and real estate closer to home. In fact, Polen sold many houses in the Irvington area.

When he wasn't selling real estate, Mr. Polen also sold used cars. He did not have car lot so he would offer one automobile at a time. For instance, in October of 1918, he attempted to sell a used Ford. In 1919, an ad noted that Mr. Polen had a used newly-painted Oakland for sale complete with a new dome light. In subsequent years, he sold an Auburn and a Pathway. He also sold cocker spaniel puppies at the expensive price of $10 to $15 each. He saw a potential investment even in his own large home on Layman Avenue. In 1924, he turned the house into a double.

Margaret Polen was an accomplished business woman.  She served as the bookkeeper for her family's printing business in Greenfield for many years. Eventually, she managed to convince her husband to join the family operation in 1928. She was an active club woman and newspaper articles from the 1910s and 1920s noted her attendance. On July 29, 1924, she hosted a bridge party along with her daughter, Gertrude, for the Delta Delta Delta Sorority. Women played cards at five separate tables set up in the living and dining rooms.

Neighbors along Layman Avenue must have noted the preparations for a big wedding in the home on October 22, 1919, as Gertrude Polen, the only child of the couple, married Lieutenant Henry Elberg. Flowers filled the residence as the young couple stated their vows. It was not a marriage made in paradise, however, as the couple later divorced. Gertrude remarried her forever partner, Edgar Rennoe, in 1926.

Shock and sadness overwhelmed the family on May 2, 1930. Luther Polen was driving along Emerson Avenue towards Brookville Road. Mrs. Polen sat in the passenger seat while Mrs. S.O, Wiggins, a family friend,  who dwelled in the Maplewood Apartments (#5) on Johnson Avenue, sat in the backseat. Unbeknownst to the group, Henry Sayre, who resided in a hotel, was speeding towards them. Unable to stop in time, Mr. Polen slammed into Sayre's car. Everyone in the Polen car was injured. While Mrs. Polen and Mrs. Wiggins survived, Mr. Polen eventually succumbed from his injuries on June 18, 1930.  Henry Sayre was charged with reckless driving, speeding, and assault and battery.

Although it must have been difficult, Mrs. Polen carried on and worked at the printing business. Her daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren also resided with her at 34 North Layman Avenue. The Rennoes, who deserve a separate chapter in this story, dwelled at the home until 1944. Mr. Rennoe worked for Standard Oil.  They eventually moved to 801 North Bolton Avenue. Mrs. Polen passed away in 1946.

Luther Polen submitted this photo in 1926 to Fellow Citizens of Indianapolis.

Gertrude Polen married a World War One veteran, Lieutenant Henry Elberg, in 1919. They later divorced. The Indianapolis Star published this photo of the nineteen-year-old bride.  

Gertrude's second marriage to Edgar Rennoe was covered in the Indianapolis News in 1926. The couple eventually moved into 34 North Layman Avenue and remained there until 1944.  

Gertude Polen Rennoe, the daughter of Luther and Margaret Polen, was very active in numerous clubs. She was President of the School #57 PTA in 1935. Edgar and Gertrude had two children, Edgar, Jr. (Jack) and Margaret Rennoe.  

Mr. Polen frequently sold cars through ads in the Indianapolis newspapers. In 1920, he sold an older Auburn.  (photo credit: 

Luther and Margaret Polen moved into 34 North Layman Avenue in 1905. Their daughter, Gertude, and son-in-law, Edgar Rennoe, later resided in the home until 1944. Mr. Polen converted the home into a double in 1924.  

Sources:  "3 Injured in Car Crash," Indianapolis Star, May 3, 1930, 20; Mr Polen's obituary appeared in the Indianapolis Star, June 19, 1930; Oklahoma references: "Bright Side of Oklahoma," Daily Reporter (Greenfield), January 12, 1910, 1; Daily Reporter, October 16, 1909, 2; "Bridge Party for Delta Delta Delta," Indianapolis Star, July 29, 1924, 4.

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