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. 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Milroy Family Moved to Irvington

      For the first twenty-five years of their marriage, Russell and Leona Harton resided in the village of Milroy in southern Rush County. They also raised their two children, James (Jim) and Marilyn there. Mr. Harton worked for the highway department. During World War II, International Harvester, a factory located on Brookville Road in Indianapolis, desperately needed workers as many young men were off fighting in the war. The plant likely paid much better than the Rush County Highway Department where Mr. Harton had been employed. While he likely started working at the factory in 1943, the family did not permanently relocate to Indianapolis until three years later. 

     On March 23, 1946, the middle-aged couple and their seventeen-year-old daughter Marilyn moved to a double at 132 Good Avenue in Irvington. Their son James was away at Indiana University, but came home and stayed with them whenever he was on break. Mr. Harton now had a very easy commute to the factory. He also lived near other neighbors who worked at International Harvester.  Ralph Law, who resided on the other side of the double at 130 Good Avenue worked at the plant as did James Lowery, who dwelled across the street in a double at 123 Good Avenue. 

     Most of the homes along the 100 block of Good Avenue were built between 1921 and 1925. By 1947, only one couple, Edwin F.  and Sarah M. Lay still remained from the 1920s. There was a housing shortage in the United States and in Indianapolis following World War II so the Hartons might have received a tip about the available double from either Ralph Law or James Lowery. It would not have been a quiet street as the Pennsylvania Rail line, a double track, was only one house away. Just across the tracks at 203 Good Avenue, the Hartons could view the Bruckman Ice and Fuel Company from their front porch. It had a coal yard. Their new life in Indianapolis would be very different from the old one in Milroy. They didn't stay in the small duplex for long however as the Hartons soon rented a nineteenth-century cottage located at 220 South Ritter Avenue in 1948. 

Ralph Law (left) chatted with his new neighbor and co-worker, Russell Harton.  Mr. Law and his wife, Mildred lived at 130 Good Avenue in 1946. Behind the men, you can see the bungalows located at 109 (far left), 115 and 117 Good Avenue. The Moorman, Green, and Agnew families resided in those homes in 1946. (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

The Harton family moved from Milroy, Indiana to 132 Good Avenue on March 23, 1946. Russell Harton worked for International Harvester. Behind him, you can see the bungalow at 117 Good Avenue (left) and part of the double located at 123-25 Good Avenue. (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

Marilyn Harton of 132 Good Avenue stood near the family automobile in 1946. The seventeen-year-old youth transferred from Milroy High School to Howe High School during her junior year and graduated from Howe in 1947. Behind her, you can see the Agnew home located 117 Good Avenue. 

James (Jim) Harton stood on the front porch of his family's new home at the double located at 130-32 Good Avenue in March of 1946. He was away at Indiana University when his parents made the decision to move from Milroy, Indiana to Irvington. (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

Shortly after the Hartons moved to Good Avenue, their cousins, the Foysts of New Castle, Indiana came for a visit in 1946. The most visible home in the photo is 117 Good Avenue. Pictured; Joe Foyst, Jim Harton, Marilyn Harton, Mary Ann Foyst, and Martha Lee Foyst (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

Marilyn Harton of 132 Good Avenue chats with Maria Keller, whose family lived at 136 Good Avenue in May of 1946. Mickey, the Harton family dog, was still getting used to his new home in Irvington as he started life in Milroy, Indiana. Behind the young women, you can see part of 117 Good Avenue and most of the double located at 123-125 Good Avenue. (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

Butch, the Harton family cat, examines his new home at 132 Good Avenue in Irvington in 1946. The Hartons of Milroy, Indiana had recently moved into the double and brought their pets with them. (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

     I wish to thank Tom Harton and Marilyn Clarkson for both the photos and stories about the Hartons. I also wish to thank Anne Hardwick. 

Irvington Historical Society

Sources: Good Avenue families:  Polk's Indianapolis City Directories for 1924 and 1947; Move from Milroy to Irvington--Harton family e-mails and "Milroy," Rushville Republican, March 26, 1946; The Rushville Republican documented many events in the lives of the Harton and Thomas families. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Blizzard of 1961

      Hundreds of high school basketball fans gathered in gymnasiums across the state of Indiana for sectional tournaments on Saturday night, February 25, 1961. As they started to cheer for their teams, a winter storm raged outside complete with howling wind, heavy snow, ice, and even thunder. Many of those teens and some adults had to spend the night in the gym as all highways in the state were closed. Many Hoosiers also lost power that evening. In nearby Cumberland,  passengers from New York City had to sit for over four hours in their train cars along the Pennsylvania Railroad because of downed power poles. The Indiana State Police spent hours rescuing stranded motorists. The sun came out on Sunday, but most schools, including the city schools, closed on the following Monday much to the chagrin of some parents. 

     In Irvington, several inches of snow and ice fell upon the neighborhood that night. Leona Thomas Harton, who resided at 5318 Lowell Avenue with her husband, Russell Harton, grabbed her camera and documented the morning after the blizzard. Her beautiful snapshots show ice on tree limbs and several inches of snow on the ground and on rooftops. 

Russell Harton of 5318 Lowell Avenue shoveled his sidewalk after a blizzard which struck on Saturday, February 25, 1961. He also had to clear his driveway because he still had to go to work at International Harvester on the following Monday. (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

Leona Thomas Harton of 5318 Lowell Avenue snapped this image on Sunday, February 26, 1961. A blizzard had struck the state the night before. The most visible homes in the photo are the rear of the residences located at 99, 95, and 85 North Hawthorne Lane. (photo courtesy of Tom Harton)

     I wish to thank Tom Harton for the use of his family's wonderful Irvington snapshots. I also wish to thank Anne Hardwick. 

Sources:  Paul M. Doherty, "Blizzard Paralyzes State," Indianapolis Star, February 26, 1961, 1, 20; John Akelmire, "Was it Necessary to Shut All of Those Schools on Monday?" Indianapolis News, February 28, 1961, 8. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Sounds of a Mandolin on Irvington Avenue

      Howard Caldwell, Sr. stopped by the Felt home at 64 North Irvington Avenue to serenade Elsie Felt. Both had been students at Butler University so the photograph was likely taken in 1913 or 1914. The formidable woman in the photo was most likely Elsie's Mom, Martha Felt. Howard and Elsie would later marry and have two children. They were affectionately called "Popo" and "Momo" by their adoring grandchildren. Behind the group, you can see the houses located at 77, 85, 87, and 99 North Irvington Avenue. 

Howard Caldwell, Sr. serenaded Elsie Felt and her mother, Martha Felt, at their home at 64 North Irvington Avenue c1914 (photo courtesy of Ginny Hingst) 

   Ginny Hingst recently found this photo in a family book. She is the granddaughter of Howard and Elsie Felt Caldwell. To learn more about the Caldwells or Felts, click on their names below. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Pioneering Black Suffragist Lived in Irvington

      On June 19 and 20, 1916, women from all over the state of Indiana gathered during a convention to hear the keynote speaker and the president of the National Franchise League, Carrie Chapman Catt. Dozens of state leaders and some politicians also attended the two-day event. The estimated 500 delegates rose to their feet and applauded as Mrs. Catt stood to speak. Other franchise groups attended the conference as did some politicians. Mrs. Catt was blunt in her speech. She had been disappointed by the stance of several of Indiana's elected officials who did not support suffrage for women. She noted that the United States had been "inconsistent" with regard to the freedom of half of the population. She noted that more Republicans favored women's suffrage than Democrats. Part of her speech was xenophobic as she noted that "if there are incompetents voting now, then something should be done to stop the naturalization of ignorant foreigners." She also raged against apathetic women who supported the cause but did nothing. Her speech angered some in the audience including some Democrats. 

     Also sitting in the audience that day was another Carrie although most at the event likely did not know her name. Carrie Whalon of 438 South Ritter Avenue had come to the convention in her role as the president of the First Colored Woman's Suffrage Club. She was not alone and sat next to two of her fellow neighbors, Minnie Highbaugh and Lizzie Compton. It is not known how many of the 500 delegates present were black, but there were at least three.  

     So who was Carrie Whalon? We must start with the fact that there are several unknowns about her life including the spelling of her last name. Both her will and death certificate spell her name as Whalon, but in many newspapers, including the black-owned Indianapolis Recorder, her name was spelled as "Whallon" or "Whallen" in many articles. Carrie Stofer was born in 1870 as the daughter of Jack Stofer and Minnie Berry Stofer  Grubb Williams in Mount Sterling, Kentucky. At some point, she married William Jackson and had two children, Stofer and Louvenia (possibly Lavenia). We do not know what happened to Mr. Jackson, but the 1900 Federal Census indicates that she married  Thomas Tipton, a laborer at a planning mill in Montgomery County, Kentucky. Mr. Tipton had six children of his own and with Carrie's two children made for a very large family. Gaps in her life remain, but we know that she married for the final time on August 1, 1910, to John Whallon (also spelled Whallen) in Louisville, Kentucky. There were Whalons living at the intersection at Greenfield and Ritter Avenue in Irvington so this is likely how she ended up moving north. 

     We are not sure of the exact moment that Carrie and John Whalon moved to Irvington. We do know that her children did not move up to Indianapolis right away. An Indianapolis Recorder article indicated that her son Stofer came up from Mount Sterling, Kentucky to visit his Mom, Mrs. Carrie Tipton Whalon, at 425 West St. Clair Street. Another Recorder blurb from the same year noted that Mr. and Mrs. Whalon moved into their home at 5521 Greenfield Avenue. John Whalon is listed at that address until 1915. 

      By 1916, Carrie Whalon no longer lived at the Greenfield Avenue address. She appears to have moved in with the Tarpennings, a white family at 260 South Ritter Avenue, where she "lived in the rear" of the home. She was frequently listed as a "cook" so she likely served as a domestic for various Irvington families. She did not live there long.

     In the summer of 1916, Carrie Whalon achieved a dream of buying her own home. The Indianapolis Recorder noted that Mrs. Whalon purchased a "beautiful two-story frame home at 438 South Ritter Avenue." A later ad called it a "pretty" three-bedroom cottage. Behind her would have been an open field, and farmland existed south of her along Brookville Road. She would have heard the rumble of the trains along the nearby Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and from the new Irvington Ice and Coal Company located about a half block north. Her son and later his wife and grandson moved in with her. 

      While she was busy setting up her new house, she was also very committed in 1916 as president of the First Woman's Colored League in Indianapolis. The club met weekly in various women's homes primarily on the west side of Indianapolis so Mrs. Whalon would have had the added expense of traveling from Irvington to the west side. The inaugural meeting took place on April 27, 1916, at the home of Mrs. Ida Winston at 401 West Pratt Street (later 9th Street). Mrs. Whalon spoke as the presiding officer and served tea to the new members along with two white guests, Grace Julian Clarke and Mrs. Orville O. Carvin of Irvington. Both Mrs. Clarke and Carvin had long been involved in the suffrage movement and were there to advise the ladies on their new club. Black women were seldom invited into long-standing franchise leagues, thus the need for a separate club. 

     Throughout the year, the ladies of the First Woman's Colored League continued to meet. On October 5, 1916, the women invited Mrs. Claudia Pash to speak to the club as she had already voted three times as women in certain parts of the United States had the right to vote. On October 17, 1916, Carrie Whalon hosted the group at her home in Irvington. The women asked their husbands and other men to attend since black men in Indiana did have the right to vote. All over the state, women were encouraging their husbands, brothers, and fathers to elect candidates who were in favor of women's suffrage. The First Woman's Colored League was no different. 

     After the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, millions of women cast their vote for the first time. Although we have no record of it, it is highly likely that Carrie Whalon was one of those women. She joined the Republican Party and was very involved in a local black chapter in Irvington. An Indianapolis Recorder article noted that Mrs. Whalon served as the secretary of the club. During the Indianapolis mayoral primary in 1921, there were three candidates on the Republican ticket. In April of that year, the club met at the Knights of Pythias building at 202 1/2 South Audubon Road to endorse a local favorite, Thomas Carr Howe. He spoke to the club that night as did numerous other speakers. Although Mr. Howe did not win the nomination, Carrie Whalon and other black women in Indiana now had a political voice in state and federal politics. 

     At some point during the 1920s, Carrie Whalon became sick. Doctors diagnosed her with cancer. She continued to remain politically active. She was also very involved at the First Baptist Church at 231 Good Avenue where she helped to organize a chapter of the Mother's Aid Society. In another era, it is likely that Mrs. Whalon would have run for a political office, but there were few opportunities for black women in the 1920s as the Ku Klux Klan dominated the state of Indiana in that era  Likely knowing that the end was near, she signed her last will and testament on January 4, 1926. She left her house and her money to her children and to her mother. Her death certificate in 1927 indicated that she was buried at the Floral Park Cemetery on Holt Road although there does not appear to be headstone. 

African-American women lined up at the polling station at 904 Indiana Avenue on November 2, 1920 to vote. Carrie Whalon would have cast her first ballot at a polling site in Irvington. We do not have a photograph of her. (photo appeared in Indianapolis News, November 2, 1920, 13) 

Carrie Whalon and her son Stofer Jackson along with his wife Sarah Jackson resided at 438 South Ritter Avenue. The family lived in the cottage from 1916 until her death in 1927. Stofer Jackson worked as a driver for Dirk's Grocery in Irvington for many years. The Whalon-Jackson home was located two houses north of Greenfield Avenue. On the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map (1908), you can see it just below the "T" and "O" in the name "Tomlinson." The house was demolished in the 1970s for a warehouse. (IUPUI digital archives) 

Carrie Whalon was very active in the First Baptist Church of Irvington at 231 Good Avenue. At least two other members, Lizzie Compton and Minnie Highbaugh, were also involved in the suffrage movement. (photo taken in 2012) 

For further reading on Indiana's suffrage movement:  Anita Morgan, "We Must Be Fearless," The Woman Suffrage Movement in Indiana. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2020. 

     I wish to thank Anne Hardwick who greatly aided in the research for this post. I also wish to thank Steve Barnett and Paula Schmidt at the Irvington Historical Society. If anyone has a clarification or additional information about this interesting woman, please reach out to us. 

Irvington Historical Society

Sources: State Suffrage Convention and Carrie Chapman Catt:  "Leaders of Suffrage Leagues and National Head to Confer," Indianapolis Star, June 18, 1916, 47; "Disappointed Over Suffrage Conference," Indianapolis News, June 20, 1916, 3; Carrie Whallon, Minnie Highbaugh, and Lizzie Compton at the convention: Indianapolis Recorder, June 24, 1916, 2; Marriage to John Whallon, Kentucky Marriage Licenses on; Visit from her son: Indianapolis Recorder, May 20, 1911, 8; Move to Greenfield Avenue--Indianapolis Recorder, July 22, 1911, 4; Purchase of 438 South Ritter--Indianapolis Recorder, June 24, 1916, 8; First Woman's Franchise Club: Indianapolis Recorder, April 15, 1916, 8; Indianapolis News, April 22, 1916; Indianapolis Recorder, May 6, 1916, 2; Indianapolis Recorder, September 23, 1916, 2; Indianapolis Recorder, October 7, 1916, 2; Republican party chapter in Irvington--"Robison Best Asset of Shank Campaign," Indianapolis News, April 21, 1921; Death announcement--Indianapolis Recorder, August 31, 1927; Her will and death certificate were obtained on