Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Rufus Hammons First Black Politician in Irvington

      Editor's Note: After a hiatus of several months, I have returned to Vintage Irvington. I hope to add many more stories and historic photographs in the coming year. 

     William and Delphia Hammons along with their six children would be among the very first residents of Irvington when they moved into a cottage near the Pennsylvania Railroad in the early 1870s. The path for the couple had not been an easy one as they had both been born into slavery in North Carolina. Less than a decade after the Civil War, they moved north to Indiana and into the new community of Irvington. Mr. Hammons found work in a variety of laboring jobs. Journalist Elizabeth Carlyle noted in an Indianapolis Star article in 1929, that he helped to build some of the structures on Butler's Irvington campus in the mid-1870s. Grace Julian Clarke, a prominent white resident and suffragist, noted in one of her columns in the Indianapolis Star in 1938 that the name of William Hammons appeared in the ledger of Shank's Store in 1877. The Hammons family would have been known by most of the earliest people to settle in the area. 

     The 1880 Federal Census and city directories indicate that William and "Delphey" Hammons lived in a small house located at 240 Good Avenue. Today, Mr. Hammons would be noted as biracial, but in 1880 the census taker noted that he was "mulatto."  His occupation was simply listed as a laborer and that he could read and write. He was 47. Others noted in the 1880 enumeration included his thirty-four-year-old wife, Delphey; his sons, Rufus, age 12; William Wade, age 1, and a daughter, Vandora, age 6. The census taker marked out the name of Judge, who was less than a year old. This action indicated that he had recently died. His homemade tombstone along with numerous other members of the family rests in the Anderson Cemetery on East 10th Street. They would later have two additional children, Elmer and Carrie.

In 1929, journalist Elizabeth Carlyle interviewed Rufus Hammons, the son of William and Hammons, for the Indianapolis Star. 

The Hammons' plots are located north of East Tenth Street in the Anderson Cemetery. The tombstones have been recently cleaned. Many of the stones were hand carved. (photo snapped on January 24, 2023)

Judge or "Judgy" died before his first birthday. Someone hand-carved his name into the tombstone.

The census taker marked out Judge's name to indicate that he was deceased. I had never encountered this before but it was a common practice used at the time. 

Carrie Hammons, the youngest child of William and Delphia Hammons, can be seen this 1896 Irvington School photograph. Top row: L to R: Bill Judkins, Levi Brock, Dady Compton, Unknown, Cora Rehm, Pansy Brock, Carrie Hammons, Tillie Whistler (Cropped from a much larger photograph belonging to the Irvington Historical Society)

     Rufus Hammons (1862-1945), the oldest son of William and Delphey Hammons, lived all but ten years of his life on Good Avenue in Irvington. At the age of 34 years old in 1896, he made history when he became the first African-American to run for political office from the neighborhood. In the mid to late 1890s, a group of Irvington men tried to purge "party politics" from the town offices. Irvington had not yet been annexed by the city of Indianapolis so the community still elected trustee, clerk, and marshal positions. Not everyone in the neighborhood went along with the plan including many in the Republican Party. Mr. Hammons won the nomination to serve as the Republican candidate for Town Marshal against Samuel Smith, who aligned with the non-party faction. In the late 1890s, the Republican party was still known as the party of Lincoln and most African-American men in the nation supported Republicans on the ballot. For Rufus Hammons it must have been an incredible milestone in his life as he had been born into slavery. 

     When the votes were counted, Samuel Smith soundly defeated Rufus Hammons 178 to 90. Even though Mr. Hammons lost the election, numerous white people in the community still voted for him. He made history on that day. He went on to remain active in organizations throughout his life. He was a leader in the Frederick Douglas Lodge No. 7 of the Knights of Pythias. The black-owned Indianapolis Recorder noted meetings and celebrations held at his Good Avenue home. On August 20, 1903, he hosted a lawn fete complete with a brass band. Admission to the event was free. He and his wife, Susie, raised their children in Irvington and attended the nearby First Baptist Church. His father and mother lived next door at 240 Good Avenue for many years. He earned his living working at the Layman & Carey Hardware Store. Some of his children went on to remain actively involved in Irvington as well. 

     In 1929 and the age of 57, Rufus Hammons told the journalist Elizabeth Carlyle, as he stood next to his bicycle, "I can turn a summersault backwards today." He had been a gifted athlete and acrobat in his younger days. He even auditioned for the P.T. Barnum Circus as a young man. When she inquired why he preferred riding his bike he told her, "I've walked, rode stage coaches, mule cars, dummies, battery storage cars, trollies and automobiles, but people are traveling too fast today to suit me."  He lived until he was 82 years and died at his home on Good Avenue in 1945. 

A Baist map shows Good Avenue north of Dewey Avenue and south of Bonna Avenue in 1908. You will note that the First Baptist Church had not yet built their new structure on the block yet. That happened in 1910. (IUPUI Digital Collections) 

Willliam and Delphia Hammons lived at 240 Good Avenue shown above. Next door, Rufus and Susie Hammons resided at 234 Good Avenue. (demolished) Other descendants also lived on the block. They attended church across the street at First Baptist. (photo Google Streetview, July 2011) 

     I wish to thank James Robinson, Anne Hardwick, and Steve Barnett for their help with this post. We would love to know more about this talented family. If you are a descendant, drop me an email at williamfranklingulde@gmail.com. 

Sources:  William Hammons--Grace Julian Clarke, "Geometrical Flower Beds of Olden Times Recalled," Indianapolis Star, November 1, 1925, 65; 1880 Federal Census; William and Rufus Hammons--Elizabeth Carlyle, "Son of Slaves, Resident Here 57 Years, Still Good Acrobat," Indianapolis Star, June 21, 1929, 72; Rufus Hammons--Election of 1896-"At Irvington," Indianapolis Journal, May 5, 1896, 8; Knights of Pythias--"Notice," Indianapolis Recorder, August 15, 1903; Obituary--"Hammons Burial Friday," Indianapolis News, January 14, 1945, 34.

Friday, September 23, 2022

IPS #77 Dedication, November 14, 1951


     Last year the Irvington Historical Society acquired a recording of the dedication of I.P.S. #77 and then had it digitally converted so that voices from 71 years ago could now be heard again. 

Indianapolis Public School #77 c1951 (courtesy of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library)

Indianapolis Public School #77 c1951 (courtesy of Indianapolis Marion County Public Library)

     On Wednesday evening, November 14, 1951, hundreds of families gathered for the dedication of School #77 at 6040 East Pleasant Run Parkway South Drive. Designed by Wilbur Shook, the beautiful mid-century building had not been open for very long. Residents assembled in the Delker Auditorium for the formal ceremony at 8:00PM.

The Delker Family

   Christian and Barbara Kuhner Delker lived for decades in a farmhouse that faced Pleasant Run Parkway South Drive (formerly known as Shelley Street) near Arlington Avenue. For years, the school children who attended the portable classrooms at School #77 could see the Delker home and the large red barn. The Delkers were kindly neighbors to the school and often gave the students refreshments and treats. They didn't mind if the children walked on their property. Eventually, they sold the land to the Indianapolis Public Schools, but they asked to live out the remainder of their lives in the old farmhouse. Mr. Delker passed away first in 1942. After Mrs. Delker's death in 1949, the house and barn were leveled to make room for a new school building. To honor the family, the school built an impressive auditorium that could also be used by the public. They named it the Delker Auditorium.

Cathryn Boggy Assumes the Role of Principal

Cathryn Kuemmick Boggy (Indianapolis Marion County Public Library)

     Northern Irvington residents grew weary of the four-classroom building located on Arlington Avenue north of Pleasant Run Parkway. Their children had to attend other nearby schools for fifth through the eighth grade. After some intense lobbying by local residents, the district agreed to build a new school to replace the small building and house children up to the eighth grade. The school was to be named for a beloved teacher, Miss Anna Pearl Hamilton, who passed away in 1948.  Construction started in 1950, but delays occurred over post-war shortages. 

     To lead the new school, the district appointed Cathryn Boggy (1907-1987). Mrs. Boggy had been a teacher for many years at I.P.S. and would serve as the principal for the School #77 for twenty years beginning in the 1947-48 school year.  

      Mrs. Boggy noted in an oral history, conducted in 1981, that the children in the older school became very interested in the construction of the new building. The superintendent of construction frequently informed the children on what would be happening daily on the site. Mrs. Boggy recalled that on the day that the old red barn was pulled down by tractors, the entire structure fell into a pile of dust. She thought that the children might cheer upon seeing the demolition but they stared in silence. She never forgot that moment. On another day, the contractor brought in one of the blond bricks used to clad the new structure. The teachers designed lessons around the events happening outside their windows. 

The red lines show where the new school was to be built. In the upper left hand corner, you can see the outline of the portable classroom building that faced Arlington Avenue. Below you can see the Delker house and outbuildings, including a large red barn. The house faced Pleasant Run Parkway and was torn down along with all of the other farm buildings to make way for the new school. (Courtesy of Indianapolis Marion County Public Library) 

A New School is Dedicated

     On September 12, 1951, Dr. Herman L. Shibler, the Superintendent for the Indianapolis Public Schools, informed Mrs. Boggy via a memo that she was to prepare the dedication program. He was very specific with his instructions in that students were to be part of the program and that the event would take place on Wednesday evening, November 14, 1951.  Thankfully, someone recorded the event.

     We do not know the names of the children who participated, but their voices can be heard throughout the recording so perhaps someone listening will recognize either themselves or a loved one. Parents and community members filed into the new auditorium while students who were not in the ceremony reported to their classrooms with their teachers. They would listen to the skits and speeches over the new public address system funded by the Irvington Lions Club.

     At 8:00PM an older student can be heard welcoming the guests. Another student asked the question, "What does it mean to dedicate a building?" A third student introduced the first skit which attempted to answer the question while another pupil performed the school song on the accordion. Then, a small group sang the school song a cappella. It sounds like members of the audience also joined in. In a second skit, additional kids discussed the importance of Anna Pearl Hamilton, for whom the school was named and of the kindly Delker family. 

     In the early 1950s, the United States was fighting a war in Korea and an imaginary war against communists at home. There was also very little separation of church and state in that era. After the students wrapped up their well-rehearsed skits, another child led the community into a dedication prayer culminating with an "amen." The junior high choir sang two Christian hymns, "Holy, Holy, Holy," and "Bless This House."

     Mrs. Boggy then had the task to introduce the many dignitaries on the stage and there were many! Not all of the adult speakers were as interesting as the children. Wilbur Shook, the architect of the school, presented the key to Mrs. Louis Bruck, the school board representative for Irvington. Mrs. Bruck spoke next and she reminded Mr. Shook that this was the second school key she had received from him as she had been pivotal in lobbying for Thomas Carr Howe High School, which opened in 1938.  Dr. Herman Shibler, the school superintendent, used a sports analogy in his speech. (Lean into the ball and you will have a higher batting average.) He also spoke of moral and spiritual values and good citizenship. Mrs. Robert Platte, the local P.T.A. president, had the task of introducing members of the Delker family and of the Hamilton family along with the "Survey Committee." The tape suddenly ends during her speech. To listen to these voices from the past click on the Sound Cloud link below.

Letter from Dr. Shibler to Cathryn Boggy,  September 12, 1951 (courtesy of Indianapolis Marion County Public Library)

Dedication Program for IPS #77 (courtesy of Indianapolis Marion County Public Library)


To listen to the dedication, click on the link below.

IPS #77 Dedication

To listen to the interview with Cathryn Boggy, click on the link below.

Interview with Cathryn Boggy, 1981

Sources: Delker Family--1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 Federal Census, Find-a-Grave, Delker obituaries in Indianapolis newspapers, 1942, 1949; Cathryn Kuemmick Boggy--Oral History conducted by Rosemary Dilley with the Brown branch of the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library; "Cathryn Boggy Funeral Saturday," Indianapolis News, May 27, 1987, 46; Dedication of school--"Dedication of Three New Elementary School Buildings to Mark Education Week," Indianapolis Star, , November 11, 1951. 

Monday, August 22, 2022

Postcard Sent to the Miller Family of 312 South Downey Avenue

     Many years ago, I collected historic postcards, especially those of my childhood home of Rushville, Indiana. My middle-aged world intersected with my youth when I began reading the backs of these cards only to discover that one of these artifacts was mailed to 312 South Downey Avenue, today known as the Benton House, a glorious historic architectural gem and museum in Irvington. The note, postmarked from Rushville, sent me into numerous rabbit holes to unravel the connections between my home county and my adopted neighborhood. 

The Benton House at 312 South Downey Avenue in the summer of 2019 (photo by Bill Gulde)

Lenora A. Blacklidge Writes a Note

     On November 25, 1913, Lenora A. Blacklidge, who lived on a farm two miles northeast of Rushville, Indiana, mailed a postcard to her friend, Isabelle Aurelia Miller, of 312 South Downey Avenue in the neighborhood of Irvington in Indianapolis. 

Dear Belle Aurelia,

     It is awfully kind of you three girls to ask me again to visit you. If nothing happens & the weather isn't too bad, the children & I will spend their day & night at the Linden (a hotel at 311-317 N. Illinois St, Indianapolis) with Mary and Alfred B. (cousins to her husband--they also managed the Linden Hotel) Friday night at Southport & Saturday eve. & Sun. with you folks. Will try & phone you from Linden, but time will be short & I want to do some shopping. Please don't do extra for us. You are not able & I don't enjoy it so much as simple ways. With Love, Lenora A. Blacklidge

Lenora A. Blacklidge sent this postcard of the Masonic Temple in Rushville to Mrs. Willis K. Miller. in 1913

Lenora Blacklidge filled her note to Belle Miller with logistics

    Lenora Alexander Blacklidge (1874-1958) grew up in Rushville and graduated from Indiana University in 1897. At some point in her youth, she met Isabelle Aurelia Moore Miller, a Butler University alum. They might have been a part of the same sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. Isabelle married Willis K. Miller on June 28, 1900, and in October of that same year, the newlyweds visited Lenora Alexander in Rush County. (Rushville Republican, October 28, 1900, 4)

     Lenora Alexander married Amos Blacklidge, who had attended Purdue University, and together they started a dairy farm two miles northeast of Rushville. The Millers and Blacklidges visited each other often during the early 1900s. A Rushville Republican article published on June 14, 1909, noted that Blacklidges spent the weekend in Irvington with friends and attended the baccalaureate at Butler University. The Millers visited the Blacklidge farm several times. On August 10 and 11, 1912, Willis and Isabelle Miller along with their ten-year-old son, Herschel, spent the weekend at the Blacklidge farm. Young Herschel could have played with the Blacklidge boys, William and Lawrence. (Rushville Republican, Aug. 12, 1912, 5)

Lenora Alexander Blacklidge c1910 (photo courtesy of Blacklidge descendants on Ancestry.com) 

Amos Blacklidge c1901 (courtesy of Blacklidge family descendants via Ancestry.com

August 16, 1913 at the Blacklidge Farm

     Amos Blacklidge, who had suffered from heart disease, went out to the backyard of his farmhouse to pump some water in a bucket. Lenora Blackidge was inside the house and heard her husband groan and drop to the ground. She rushed outside and then frantically called for a local doctor. She did not know it at the time, but her husband was already dead. He was only 48 years old. The Rushville Republican carried his obituary on the front page. 

    With two young sons, Lenora had to raise some cash so on September 23, 1913, she held an auction at her farm. Jersey cows, mules, a hog, and numerous implements like harnesses and incubators and other things too numerous to mention were up for bid. 

From the Daily Republican (Rushville, IN), September 23, 1913

The Millers Receive a Postcard from Lenora A. Blacklidge

     Likely worried about her friend, Isabelle, known as "Belle," wrote to Lenora Blacklidge and invited her and the boys to Irvington following the untimely death of Amos Blacklidge. She now had her answer. If nothing happens & the weather isn't too bad, the Blacklidge family would arrive on November 29 and 30, 1913. 

     Isabelle Aurelia Moore, a Butler University graduate, married fellow Butler attendee, Willis K. Miller. The couple did not immediately set up housekeeping in Irvington, but in 1907 they purchased the beautiful home at 312 South Downey Avenue from Allen R. Benton for $6000. (Indpls. Star, Aug. 10, 1907, 13) The couple would have known the house quite well as they both attended classes nearby in their younger years and they might have even been in the house when Dr. Benton was the president of Butler University. Mr. Miller immediately began to remodel the house. He added a large brick arts and crafts-era front porch and he took out a building permit for a brick garage in 1912. (Indpls. Star, Dec. 19, 1912, 17) 

     Willis K. Miller was a serial entrepreneur. His obituary noted that he sold "old-fashioned" fireplace mantels; got involved in a coffee plantation in Central America; dabbled in real estate and construction; and operated a cement and gravel company. He also bought a nearby wooded lot on what is today 290 South Downey Avenue. Isabelle Miller stayed home and raised their son, Hershel. She was an active club woman. Indianapolis newspapers frequently noted that she hosted the Irvington Tuesday Club or the Irvington Auxiliary of Public Health Nursing Association at her home on Downey Avenue. 

Herschel, Isabelle, and Willis Miller, 1915 (photo courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

The Millers added a large front porch and a driveway to the back garage. This photo was likely snapped around 1915. (photo courtesy of Irvington Historical Society)


     On the surface, Lenora Blacklidge's note to Belle Aurelia Miller is rather ordinary. It is filled with logistics, but digging deeper, we see a woman who has just lost her husband and has just held an auction to earn some money. She is alone and is raising two young boys. Her good friend, aware of her turmoil, has invited her to stay for a weekend in Indianapolis. 

     We do not know how long their friendship endured. Lenora Blacklidge eventually remarried although a horrifying tragedy still awaited. Her son, William, and her daughter-in-law, and grandchildren moved to the Philippines where William took a teaching position.  Shortly thereafter the Japanese invaded and took the entire family prisoner. Lenora's daughter-in-law and grandchildren were rescued, but her son, Captain William Blacklidge, died in Japanese custody. A grief-stricken Lenora established an oratorical scholarship in her son's name for Rushville High School students. 

     After World War II, Lenora moved to Florida and occasionally stayed with her son Lawrence, who lived in California. Her second husband, Herbert Caldwell, died in 1950. In 1958, she returned to Rushville to attend a high school class reunion. As she was walking up a sidewalk to visit an old friend, she collapsed and died. She was 83 years old. 

     Isabelle and Willis Miller continued to reside at 312 South Downey Avenue for decades. Willis died first at the age of 87 years old in 1955. Remarkably, Isabelle Miller lived to the age of 93. She died in 1965. Fifty-two years after Lenora Blacklidge had to auction off many animals and tools from her farm, Herschel Miller, the son of Willis and Isabelle, advertised an auction of his parents' estate on September 9, 1965. 

Indianapolis Star, September 5, 1965.

      A group of Irvington residents formed Irvington Historical Landmarks and purchased the Miller home in 1966. They restored the residence to the Benton family era. (1890-1907) They removed the Miller additions like the front porch and driveways.  The Millers and Blacklidges are long gone, but a brief note into their previous worlds still exists.  Please don't do extra for us...I don't enjoy it so much as simple ways. 


Sources:  I wish to thank Steve Barnett, Paula Schmidt, and Steve Schmidt of the Irvington Historical Society for their assistance with this article. The Miller family collection may be found at the Indiana Historical Society. 



Friday, April 29, 2022

Graduation Day at Howe High School--1948

      315 seniors from Thomas Carr Howe High School gathered on the evening of May 28, 1948, for their graduation ceremony. There had been a threat of rain, but the weather cooperated so Principal Charles M. Sharp announced that the ceremony would be held outside. Family members jockeyed for seats as nervous graduates waited along the stairs for the rite to begin.

      Howe High School had been open for ten years so the evening also served as a milestone for the institution. In 1938, 435 students had been enrolled and were taught by only 13 teachers. By 1948, there were 1,350 students with 60 teachers. Principal Sharp and Vice Principal Clarence R. Clayton had been with the school since the beginning as were thirteen teachers and two custodians. Miss Alice Hankins, an English teacher, had assigned her students to write essays dedicated to the history of the school. The Men's 400 club, a parent organization, successfully raised enough money in 1948 to field and support the school's first baseball team. Mr. Wayne Mellot's journalism students had been corresponding with teens at a school in Stokes-on Trent, England. Mr. Mellot had been a GI and stationed in that area.  On May 18, 1948, James Baker, who had been selected as "Philosopher of the Tower," crowned Julia Ann Moore as the "Violet Queen." The elaborate ceremony began that evening with trumpets pealing while the queen and her court walked atop a hill. Then, the choir under the direction of Mr. Frank S. Watkins, performed. The "Philosopher" James Baker then read a history of the school. Another choir under the direction of Darrell H. Gooch then sang. The crowd paused to remember the nine former Howe students who died in World War II. Following that somber moment, P.E. teachers, Jean Westphal and Barbara May led their students out to dance. The evening concluded with Principal Sharp turning the clock forward ten years. 

     On Friday evening, May 28, 1948, Oscar and Mary King Halcomb found their seats to watch their daughter, Phyllis, accept her diploma. One of them brought a camera and snapped some candid shots of the ceremony. Before the event, Phyllis and her close friends gathered along the stairs to document the night. A chapter in their lives was about to close. It was an exciting time for all of the young women as they were on the cusp of their adult lives. 

On the evening of May 28, 1948, these best friends gathered one more time before their graduation ceremony at Howe High School. (Top Row: Diane Scott, Phyllis Halcomb, Phyllis Leffler, Carol Schneider; Middle Row: Jean Shaffer, Mary Joslin, Carol Arnholter; Bottom Row: Winona Locklear, Pat Clause, Gladys Ferguson (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Phyllis Halcomb, the daughter of Oscar and Mary King Halcomb, walked down the stairs in front of Howe High School on Mary 28, 1948, before her graduation ceremony. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

Oscar or Mary King Halcomb snapped this image of the graduation ceremony at Howe High School on the evening of May 28, 1948. There had been a prediction of rain, but the evening turned out to be beautiful. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Seniors and soon-to-be-graduates paraded into the a seating area in front of Howe High School on the evening of May 28, 1948. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Although Howe High School celebrated ten years as an institution in 1948, this was only the eighth graduating class as juniors and seniors attended other schools in 1938. (document courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Page two of the commencement pamphlet for the class of 1948, Howe High School (document courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Page three of the commencement pamphlet for the class of 1948 from Howe High School with a listing of most of the graduates (document courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Page four of the commencement pamphlet for the class of 1948 from Howe High School (document courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

Postscript: Upon graduating from Howe High School in 1948, Phyllis Halcomb took a job with L.S. Ayres Department Store both as a model and a buyer. In this image, likely snapped in 1951, Phyllis (left) lunched with her friend Ginger Harley at Monument Circle. A soldier walked up the steps behind them. If you look closely, you will notice that Phyllis is wearing a pearl necklace. She received this cherished gift from her parents upon her graduation from Howe High School in 1948. She possessed that necklace for the rest of her life. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

     I would like to thank Mary Lee Pappas for the use of her family photographs and for her stories. I would also like to thank Deedee Davis. 

Sources: Howe High School ten-year anniversary--"Youngest High School has Grown," Indianapolis Star, February 1, 1948, 76; Baseball team--"Howe High School to Field Baseball Team," Indianapolis Star, February 12, 1948; Journalism project--"Howe Journalists Turn Correspondents to Improve US-British Understanding," Indianapolis Star, May 10, 1948, 15; Violet Queen--"Howe Violet Queen to Reign at Pageant Tuesday Night," Indianapolis Star, May 16, 1948, 18; Interviews with Mary Lee Pappas, March 18 and 21, 2022.     

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Parties Along Both Spencer Avenue and Audubon Road in 1947

      Howe High School student, Phyllis Halcomb, cultivated many friendships during her tenure in the school from the mid to late-1940s. In fact, she remained life-long friends with most of her girlfriends. After the young women graduated from high school, one-by-one they married and started their families. They attended each other's weddings and other joyful events. Phyllis would be the last of the group to marry. They are all gone now, but Phyllis, like many teenagers of her day, kept a scrapbook of her youth. The photos chronicle a brief moment in time. World War II had just ended. Some of the young women in the photos welcomed their brothers and cousins back home. The Korean War was still three years ahead and would affect another era of their lives. 

Jean Shaffer Hosts a Slumber Party at 135 South Spencer Avenue

     Sometime in the summer of 1947, Jean Shaffer invited several of her girlfriends over to her house for a slumber party.  All of young women attended Howe High School and belonged the D.M.O sub-deb sorority. Most of the teens lived in Irvington or at least on the east side of Indianapolis. The young women posed for photos and one could imagine the laughter that could be heard all along Spencer Avenue.

     Jean Shaffer was the daughter of Lawrence and Eleene Shaffer of 135 South Spencer Avenue. Mr. Shaffer earned his living as a linotype operator for both the Indianapolis Star and Times. The Shaffers moved into the small cottage in 1928 along with their son, Lawrence and daughter Jean. They were active members of the Downey Avenue Christian Church. Jean would later marry John Eugene Edwards in the church in 1951. At Howe, Jean was chosen as queen of the Sweetheart Dance. 

     We can only speculate on the topics discussed at the party. If the gathering was in June, then the ladies might have been talking about various films playing at east side cinemas. The Irving featured "Albuquerque" with Randolph Scott, who starred in several other films that year. At the Emerson on East 10th Street they could have seen "Frontier Marshall" also starring Randolph Scott. At the Tuxedo located at 4020 East New York Street, they could watch second-run or older films like "Robin Hood" starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. Another older film, "Good Girls Go to Paris" played at the Tacoma located at 2442 East Washington Street. Perhaps they spoke of their favorite swing bands. Boys were likely a subject as were dreams of the future. Some planned to attend college. Some planned to marry right away. Some, like Phyllis Halcomb, wanted a career. 

Jean Shaffer, stood on the porch of her home at 135 South Spencer Avenue in 1947. It was a fun day as she was hosting a slumber party for her friends from Howe High School. On the top step sat Pat Clause and Marilyn Doherty. On the middle step sat Phyllis Halcomb while Mariana Fullen and Margie Joslin sat on the bottom step. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Carol Schneider posed on the front porch of the Shaffer home at 135 South Spencer Avenue in 1947. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

One by one, each of the slumber party guests posed individually in 1947 on the front porch of the Shaffer home at 135 South Spencer Avenue. In this photo, it was Gladys Ferguson's turn. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Phyllis Leffler (Howe letter sweater), Pat Clause, and Marilyn Doherty stood along the front walk of the Shaffer home at 135 South Spencer Avenue in 1947. Above the three teens, four other young women, including Phyllis Halcomb, Mariana Fullen, Margie Joslin, and Jean Shaffer awaited their turn for more photos. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Gladys Ferguson and Carol Arnholter smile for the photographer at the Shaffer home at135 South Spencer Avenue in 1947. Miss Arnholter lived one block away and was best friends with Jean Shaffer. She later served as her maid of honor in 1951. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

Nine Howe High School teens gathered at the home of Jean Shaffer at 135 South Spencer Avenue for a slumber party in 1947. Pictured: Top row--Phyllis Leffler, Margie Joslin, Mariana Fullen; Middle Row--Phyllis Halcomb, Carol Arnholter, Carol Schneider; Bottom Row--Pat Clause, Gladys Ferguson, Marilyn Doherty. Jean Shaffer must have taken the photograph! (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

135 South Spencer Avenue in the early spring of 2022

Friends Gather at Carol Arnholter's Home at 47 South Spencer Avenue

     Harold and Ethelwyne Arnholter purchased the beautiful American Four Square on the northeast corner of Spencer and Julian Avenues in 1932. Despite the Great Depression, Mr. Arnholter managed to keep his job as a salesman at the Upjohn Pharmacy Company. Both Mr. and Mrs. Arnholter were highly educated with Mrs. Arnholter eventually earning a Ph.D. in psychology from Purdue University. They raised their three children, Richard, Albert, and Carol at 47 South Spencer Avenue just one block away from the Shaffers. Young Carol frequently hosted meetings and gatherings at her home. The previous year in 1946, she helped to plan the "Truth or Consequence" dance at the Pleasant Run Golf house and called it the "Jive Hive." Reid Chapman served as the master of ceremonies while Ed Hall and his band played through the evening. The Arnoholters lived in the two-story home for over twenty years, moving out in 1954.

Gladys Ferguson, who lived at 5201 East Burgess Avenue posed on the front porch belonging to the Arnholter family at 47 South Spencer Avenue in 1947. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Jean Shaffer, who lived just a block away at 135 South Spencer Avenue stood on the front porch at 47 South Spencer Avenue in 1947. Jean was a good friend to Carol Arnholter. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

Mariana Fullen of 126 Berry Avenue posed on the front porch of the Arnholter residence at 47 South Spencer Avenue in 1947. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

47 South Spencer Avenue in the early spring of 2022

D.M.O. Sub-Deb Initiation at the home of Carol Schneider at 1003 North Audubon Road

     Eleven young women from Howe High School gathered on a chilly day in 1947 at the home of Carol Schneider. The purpose of the visit was to initiate some of the younger teens into the D.M.O., a "sub-deb" that functioned like a sorority. There were several such groups for young women and men who attended the high school although they were exclusive. The young women contracted Tower Studio in Irvington and posed for a formal photograph next to the Schneider fireplace with informal shots taken outside. 
     The brick residence was a beautiful place to hold the ceremony. Carol and her sister Ellen were the daughters of Ralph and Letha Schneider. Like Mr. Arnholter, Mr. Schneider not only kept his job during the Great Depression, but he earned enough money to buy the brand new house located at 1003 North Audubon Road. The builder situated the house to face Audubon Road but included a side porch on East Tenth Street. In 1947, there still existed a field behind the property and Audubon Road north of Tenth Street was a dirt path. That would all change soon. The Schneiders lived in the house from 1933 until 1954. 
Members of the D.M.O sub-deb group posed in front of the Schneider home at 1003 North Audubon Road in 1947. Left to right: Winnie Locklear, Gladys Ferguson, Diane Scott, Margie Joslin, Mariana Fullen, Diane Hays (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Several young women of the D.M.O sorority posed in 1947 in the side yard of 1003 North Audubon Road. Behind the young women, you can see the Schneider home as well as 5740 East 10th Street. Left to right: Diane Hays, ?, Mariana Fullen, Margie Joslin, Phyllis Halcomb, Carol Schneider, Carol Arnholter, Jean Shaffer, Diane Scott, Gladys Ferguson, Winnie Locklear; If anyone recognizes the young woman who is second teen from the left, please contact me at the e-mail listed on the page. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)
Members of the Howe High School D.M.O. sorority gathered in the Schneider living room at 1003 North Audubon Road in 1947. The photo was taken by Tower Studios who operated at 5454 East Washington Street. Standing--left to right: Carol Arnholter, Gladys Ferguson, Diane Scott, ?, Winnie Locklear; Seated--left to right: Mariana Fullen, Carol Schneider, Diane Hays, Jean Schaffer, Phyllis Halcomb, Margie Joslin. If you know the name of the young woman dressed in black (fourth from left), would you drop me a note at the e-mail listed on this page? (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 
1003 North Audubon Road on a rainy, April 6, 2022

Time Marches On: In 1998, many Howe graduates gathered for their fiftieth class reunion. Jean Shaffer Edwards Meek, who hosted those slumber parties in the 1940s once again welcomed her friends into her home. Pictured: Top row--Janet Eickhoff, Gladys Ferguson Lepper, Diane Hays Scott, Jean Shaffer Edwards Meek, Carol Arnholter Simmons, Winnie Locklear Miller, Phyllis Halcomb Pappas, Marilyn Doherty Thompson Stephens (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

      I wish to thank Mary Lee Pappas for the stories and photos from her mother's early years. I would also like to thanks Deedee Davis. 

Sources: Interviews with Mary Lee Pappas March 18 and 21, 2022; The 1930 and 1940 Federal Census for all three families featured; Shaffer family--"Jean Shaffer, Queen of Howe Hi-Y Dance," Indianapolis Star, February 23, 1947, 18; Shaffer wedding--"Rites to be Feb. 9," Indianapolis Star, January 7, 1951, 65; Obituaries for Mr. and Mrs. Shaffer-- Indianapolis News, January 10, 1986, 26;  Indianapolis News, January 29, 1988, 2; Arnholter family--"Jive Journal," Indianapolis Star, , January 20, 1946, 68; "Jive Hive Will Have Dance," Indianapolis News, May 31, 1946, 26; Obituaries--"Harold H. Arnholter Active in Theater," Indianapolis News, December 28, 1968, 11; Ethelwyne Arnholter--Indianapolis News, March 7, 1986, 29; Schneider family--William Gulde, The Schneider Cottage: The Story of 1003 North Audubon Road, Unpublished, September 7, 2013. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

From the Scrapbook of a T.C. Howe High School Student

          Phyllis Halcomb, the daughter of Oscar and Mary King Halcomb, was very involved at Thomas Carr Howe High School before graduating in 1948. Photos in her scrapbook and stories from her daughter, Mary Lee Pappas, reveal that she was an active teenager who had several friends. In fact, many of the young women that she met at the school remained her friends for life.  

     Phyllis was the fifth child out of seven for the Halcombs. Her dad sold shoes for the Marrott and Patterson Shoe Companies. Like many Americans, the Halcombs struggled during the Great Depression and had to watch every penny, but they eventually recovered. Phyllis spent most of her youth living in a double at 3723 East Michigan Street. Her mother was a homemaker who managed the seven children and the household. 

     Phyllis was known as a stylish dresser. Her mom helped to sew many of the outfits that she donned at school and at various social events. Her life centered around the D.M.O. sorority. "Sub-debs" and "Squires" were tolerated at high schools in the mid-twentieth century but not sanctioned. The D.M.O. admitted only ten girls. Phyllis served as the president of the club during her senior year.

     In the fall of 1947, three young women vied to be the Homecoming Queen for Howe High School. In that era the football team chose who would serve as the queen and they chose Phyllis Halcomb with Ellen Barnes and Virginia Eubanks as the runner-up. During half-time in the game between Howe and Warren Central High School, Principal C.M. Sharp crowned Phyllis in front of a cheering crowd. 

     Hayrides in Brown County, trips to Lake Manitou and Freeman, slumber parties with friends were all documented in her scrapbook. One of those fun parties took place in the spring of 1946 at the home of Gladys Ferguson, who lived at 5201 East Burgess Avenue. Snapshots from that fun day reveal that bobby socks ruled the day.


Pat Clause, Marilyn Doherty, and Phyllis Halcomb gathered on the steps next to Howe High School in the Fall of 1947 (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Phyllis Leffler and Mariana Fullen held on to Phyllis Halcomb next to Howe High School in the fall of 1947. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Pat Clause, Phyllis Halcomb, Phyllis Leffler, Mariana Fullen, and Carol Schneider posed near Howe High School in the fall of 1947. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

In the fall of 1947 Phyllis Halcomb was named the Homecoming Queen for Howe High School. She graduated from the school in 1948. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Winnie Locklear and Gladys Ferguson stood near the Ferguson home at 5201 East Burgess Avenue in 1946. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

Jean Shaffer and Mariana Fullen gathered near the Ferguson home at 5201 East Burgess Avenue in 1946. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Jean Shaffer, the daughter of Lawrence and Eleene Shaffer of 135 South Spencer Avenue, stood along a back sidewalk at the Ferguson home at 5201 East Burgess Avenue in 1946. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

In 1946, Gladys Ferguson, the daughter of Clarence and Verna Ferguson, hosted a party for her girlfriends at her home at 5201 East Burgess Avenue. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Mariana Fullen, the daughter of Harman and Merlene Fullen of 126 Berry Avenue, posed along the back sidewalk of the Ferguson home at 5201 East Burgess Avenue. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Winnie Locklear, the daughter of Harper and Esther Locklear of 336 Grand Avenue, sat along the back sidewalk of the Ferguson home at 5201 East Burgess Avenue in 1946. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas)

Gladys Ferguson (left) hosted her friends, Phyllis Halcomb, Winnie Locklear, Carol Schneider, and Jean Shaffer at her home located at 5201 East Burgess Avenue. The garage behind the young women is no longer standing, but you can see the rear of the bungalows located on Burgess Avenue and the side of 359 Grand Avenue. (photo courtesy of Mary Lee Pappas) 

    I wish to thank Mary Lee Pappas for the use of her family photos and for the stories of her mother. I also wish to thank Deedee Davis. 

Sources: Interview with Mary Lee Pappas, March 18 and 21, 2022: D.M.O. events--Bobby Manners, "Sub-debs and Squires," Indianapolis Star, January 27, March 17, April 7, 1946; D.M.O. president--Bobby Manners, "Sub-Debs and Squires," Indianapolis Star, December 28, 1947; Homecoming queen--"Howe to Crown Football Queen," Indianapolis News, October 22, 1947, 31.