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.  


  1. Great article, RoseAnn!
    The Boergers were very good friends of ours from Trinity Lutheran Church and School. Joan was our Cub Scout Den Mother. Many, many greet memories there!!

  2. Thank you, RoseAnn, for writing this article; it brought back so many memories. I remember going and playing at your house, especially the swing set in your backyard. Then there was the time the sky turned orange and it was oddly quiet outside. My mother gathered us quickly and took us to your house, where we waited out the tornado in your basement. Lots and lots of memories....

  3. Hello P and J...a note from RoseAnn...She says "hello" and would love know more about you. Who are you? Thanks for replying and sharing your memories!!