Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our new listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!
May 22 show
Shelby County history
Next up in our rotating series about town, neighborhood and county histories is a look at the heritage of a county that includes everything from the Big Blue River (romanticized 100 years ago by Shelbyville author Charles Major) to Camp Atterbury, which was built at the start of World War II and today is a training base for the Indiana National Guard.
Shelby County also is known for destinations such as the Boggstown Cabaret, which opened in 1884 as an inn and quickly became a popular venue for piano and banjo music, as well as the Kopper Kettle in Morristown, an antique-filled, family-style restaurant that's also located in an historic building.
All of these are featured in a new visual history book written by Nelson's guest Julie Young, author of A Brief History of Shelby County (The History Press). Her book features dozens of photos and postcards of Shelbyville from the mid- and late 1800s. After a rocky start because of financial challenges, the county seat enjoyed a growth spurt from 1830 to 1850, with families who stayed put for generations.
"Shelby County is an old region where family names ... date back nearly two centuries," Julie writes.
Railroad lines through the county often helped spur growth. An exception was the Knightstown & Shelbyville Railroad in 1850, which, as Julie recounts, "folded faster than any other line in the state’s history." (Tune in to hear some of the amusing explanations.)
In addition to Charles Major, an attorney and author whose bestsellers included the adventure novel The Bears of Blue River (1901), famous folks who grew up in Shelby County include movie actress Marjorie Main (1890-1975), who always will be remembered for her performances as crusty "Ma Kettle" in a series of movies during the 1950s. As one of Hollywood's busiest character actresses, she also had roles in box office hits such as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Friendly Persuasion (1956); ironically, her father was a Shelby County minister who objected to the theater.
Shelbyville was the hometown of basketball great Bill Garrett (1929-1974), who broke the "color barrier" in the Big Ten when, after being recruited by Indiana University, he became the first African-American to play regularly. Earlier, he had been named "Mr. Indiana Basketball" as an outstanding player for Shelbyville High School in 1947.
In downtown Shelbyville, the public square is known for its diverse architecture.
The square also features a statue of Basler, the fictional hero of The Bears of Blue River, holding two bear cubs. (The desk used by Majors, the book's author, is displayed at the Grover Museum in Shelbyville. Among his other novels is When Knighthood Was in Flower, a historical romance that became a national bestseller in 1898.)
Recent developments in Shelby County, as Julie notes in her book, have included the building of the Indiana Downs race track and Indiana Live Casino, which has become the largest land-based casino in the Midwest.
Julie joined us last July for a popular show about bygone landmarks on the Eastside of Indianapolis. That's because her other books include Eastside Indianapolis: A Brief History (The History Press).
History Mystery question
The History Mystery is a carry-over from two weeks ago, when there was no correct answer. The mystery concerns one of Indiana's state parks, which became the site of the first annual Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) reunion in the country.
The park's CCC reunion began in 1953 and has continued for more than 50 years. It's the longest-running CCC reunion.
Question: Name the Indiana state park. Hint: Incorrect guesses two weeks ago included Brown County, McCormick's Creek and Spring Mill state parks.
The call-in number for the correct answer is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is a pair of tickets to Conner Prairie, courtesy of the ICVA.
Chris Gahl of the ICVA has picked the fourth annual Celebrate the Arts - Indiana Performing Arts Festival this weekend at the Indiana State Museum. The festival runs through Sunday, May 23, and will showcase interpretive programs of the museum by displaying its numerous arts forms. Included in the performances is a variety of Hoosier dance, theatre, music and storytelling.
Additionally, Indianapolis writer Rita Kohn's new play, Before the Shadows Flee, will be presented at the Indiana State Museum on Saturday, May 22, at 2 p.m. The play is about actor Edwin Booth, brother of President Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth. Edwin Booth performed in Indiana theaters from the 1850s through the 1880s and experienced a lifetime of anguish over his brother's assassination of the president.
Your friends in Hoosierdom,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, tech and web director
Garry Chilluffo, consultant
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Indiana Landmarks, The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Antique Helper, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Scott Keller Fine Art and Antiques Appraisals, Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.
May 29 show
Your house has a history
If only your walls could talk, right? This is the ideal show for folks wondering how to track down the past "lives" of their houses. Nelson will be joined in studio by two Indianapolis-based home history hunters who live in historic houses themselves - and who know firsthand the challenges involved and resources available.
With tips and advice galore, photo historian Joan Hostetler and Home History Hunter (as she calls herself!) Tiffany Benedict Berkson will offer guidance about how to get started as well as the pitfalls to avoid.
Joan, owner of Heritage Photo Services, lives and works in a home built in 1888 in the Cottage Home neighborhood by the legendary architectural firm of Vonnegut & Bohn; Tiffany’s spacious, turreted house, which was built in 1897, is in Herron-Morton Place, where she is a past president of the neighborhood association.
Both of our guests will explain how some streets in Indy were re-named (did you know a portion of East 10th Street once was known as Clifford Street?) and how many residential addresses were changed as the city grew. This also is your chance to call in and seek free advice from two professional house history "detectives."
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