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June 19, 2021

Paul Page on motorsports broadcasting and some wild rides

Paul Page photo compsosite.

Not only did he recover from a harrowing helicopter crash that almost struck Speedway High School in 1977, he also had to cope earlier that year with the suicide of his mentor, Sid Collins, the original "Voice of the Indy 500" on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

Veteran motorsports broadcaster Paul Page - who was inducted into the IMS Hall of Fame last month - will be Nelson's guest to share insights from his eventful life, including his close friendship with three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, who died in May at age 87. Unser periodically had been Paul's sidekick in the broadcast booth on both radio and TV.

Book cover: Hello, I'm Paul Page; "It's Race Day in Indianapolis."Paul, 75, who semi-retired in 2016 but still can be frequently heard on the airwaves (sometimes billed as the "Voice Emeritus"), had a multi-faceted career that stretched beyond commentating about auto-racing and other sports. As a news reporter in April 1968, he was standing only a few feet from Bobby Kennedy when he made a historic speech in Indianapolis about Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.

These episodes - including his stint as a licensed paramedic (he participated in many emergency runs) - are described in Paul's new autobiography, Hello I'm Paul Page: It's Race Day in Indianapolis (Cardinal Publishing).

The book opens with the plummeting of the helicopter - a news chopper for WIBC Radio - in 1977 with Paul and two others aboard. Although all of them survived the crash of the aircraft onto the football field at Speedway High (the helicopter narrowly missed the school building), Paul suffered severe leg injuries and endured a long recovery.

After his return to broadcasting, he landed gigs with national TV and radio networks - including NBC Sports, ESPN and ABC Sports - and covered sports ranging from fencing to Sumo wrestling.

First and foremost, though, Paul always will be identified with motorsports broadcasting, particularly the Indy 500, which, he writes, has been his "obsession" since he first visited the Speedway as a 15-year-old in 1960.

The 1977 crash of a WIBC news helicopter at Speedway High School serves as the dramatic opening to Paul Page's new autiobiography.His enthusiasm has never waned, even during the 1973 race, generally considered one of the most disastrous in Indy 500 history. With massive crashes, two driver fatalities (as well as the death of a pit crew member) and weather delays that meant it took three days to complete, the 1973 race is described in Paul's new book. He also writes about his unexpected friendship that developed four decades later with the daughter of driver Swede Savage, who was among the 1973 fatalities. Paul escorted Savage's daughter, Angela, when she visited the Speedway in 2014, including to the site of her father's horrific crash.

During our show, Paul will discuss the 1973 race as well as his interviews with iconic drivers, including four-time winner A.J. Foyt, who is renowned for being, as Paul puts it, "intimidating." But he also describes episodes - including an incident that unfolded at Foyt's ranch in Texas where Paul was a houseguest - that demonstrate the driver's compassionate side.

In 1977, Paul and a colleague discovered the body of his mentor, Sid Collins, who had taken his own life. During the early 1950s, Collins had developed the concept for the IMS Radio Network and was able to convince long-time Speedway owner Tony Hulman of its merit.

In his book, Paul praises Hulman (1901-1977) for his kindness. He also celebrates the inclusive spirit of the Indy 500:

"It's a place for everyone: the wealthiest sponsors, owners and stars; the middle-class ticket holders, and the blue-collar fans in the infield."



Roadtrip: Charming downtown Huntingburg

Beautiful downtown Huntingburg offers dining and shopping in an atmosphere of meticulously restored Victorian-era buildings. Courtesy Huntington Merchants Association.

Guest Roadtripper Ron Flick of Irvington suggests a visit to Huntingburg, a city of 6,000 set amongst the rolling hills of Dubois County in southwestern Indiana.

Huntingburg has a charming, beautifully restored downtown full of unique shops, restaurants, and a new downtown park. The Huntingburg Commercial Historic District and Huntingburg Town Hall and Fire Engine House are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While you're exploring the quaint streets of Huntingburg's Victorian-era downtown, you can grab a hit of java at Kim's Coffee or sample the local craft brews at Yard Goat Artisan Ales. For more substantial food offerings, consider a meal at Fry'd & Chop'd. A delightful variety of Mom-and-Pop, small-town style shops are open for exploring.

Among film buffs, Huntingburg is also known as the Hollywood of the Midwest. The movies A League of Their Own (1992), Hard Rain (1998), and the HBO film Soul of the Game (1996) were filmed in Huntingburg. The grandstand of the town's historic League Stadium was renovated to become part of the set for A League of Their Own.

Don't miss this fun jaunt to a delightful, off-the-beaten-path corner of the Hoosier State. 


History Mystery

Mary "Mom" Unser was beloved for the food she would serve to race drivers and others at Indianapolis Motor Speedway events. What food did she serve?

A popular food is associated with the family of three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser, who died last month, and who periodically was a broadcast partner of our guest Paul PageMary Unser - the matriarch of the racing dynasty that includes Bobby's brother and nephew, Al Unser Sr. and Jr. - became beloved among race drivers and fans for her recipe for the food.

Widely known as "Mom" Unser, she served the food for years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway events to drivers, firefighters, safety crews, mechanics and others. Long after her death in 1975, Bobby and Al Sr. kept up the tradition of serving the food, using her recipe.

Question: What is the food associated with "Mom" Unser?

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call in to the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months. You must be willing to give your first name to our engineer, you must answer the question correctly on the air and you must be willing to give your mailing address to our engineer so we can mail the prize pack to you.

The prize this week is a limited edition DVD and Blu-Ray two-disc combo pack of The Milan Miracle. The DVDs include footage of the 1954 high school basketball game between Milan and Muncie Central, and the game as depicted in the Hollywood movie Hoosiers starring Gene Hackman. The material was preserved on DVD by Indianapolis film historian Eric Grayson with a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation, using film materials from Milan High School. Don't miss seeing Bobby Plump's winning shot!


June 26, 2021 - Coming up

Leland, Mich., and Naples, Fla.: Hoosier getaways

Leland, Mich. (left) and Naples, Fla. share the distinction of being popular destinations among Hoosiers looking for a beach getaway.

A fishing village founded on the northern shores of Lake Michigan during the 19th century and a Florida resort city on the Gulf of Mexico are miles apart both geographically and culturally, but share a distinction by virtue of their Indiana connections.

Hoosiers have long flocked to both towns as seasonal destinations, with the cottages of Leland, Mich., popular during the summer, while many "snowbirds" have escaped during Indiana's winters to Naples, Fla., or nearby locales including Marco Island and Sanibel, where thousands also have moved when they retired.

Jim FadelyThe entrepreneurial Ball brothers of Muncie and their families led the Hoosier migration to Leland during the early 1900s, followed by the extended family of Indianapolis novelist Booth Tarkington. A neighborhood in the village even became known as "Indiana Woods."

Although Naples also traces its beginnings to the 19th century, the influx of Hoosiers didn't begin until the late 1960s and '70s, when real estate developers targeted central Indiana residents with sales pitches about the construction of condominiums, apartments and houses. After retiring as a pro basketball player, Larry Bird was living in Naples when the Indiana Pacers reached out in 1997 and asked him to become the team's coach. Members of the Hulman family - long associated with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - also are among Hoosiers who have owned or rented properties in the Naples area.

To explore the extensive Indiana links to Leland and Naples - both of which have neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places - Nelson will be joined by a guest who has deep connections to the two getaway destinations.

Indianapolis historian, educator and civic leader Jim Fadely plans to spend part of this summer in Leland for the 29th consecutive year. Jim, who is a former board president of Indiana Landmarks and the Society of Indiana Pioneers, is no stranger to Naples, either. The family of his wife, Sally, owned a condo there beginning in 1974; Jim and Sally Fadely inherited the residence and eventually sold it.

So many Hoosiers began spending part of the year in Naples and Marco Island during the 1970s that the former Indiana National Bank opened branches in the area. With an economy based heavily on tourism, Naples touts its "pristine white sand beaches," restaurants, historic Naples Pier and shopping opportunities.

Leland is more quaint and low key, noted for its historic cottages, cherry trees and vineyards, Jim Fadely reports. But he adds that in addition to the streams of Hoosier visitors and part-time residents, Leland has something else in common with Naples: the Lake Michigan water at Leland, which is on the Leelanau Peninsula, is aqua, just like parts of the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea.



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