Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

You can listen to Hoosier History Live! live on the air each Saturday, or listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast on any computer with speakers, anywhere, or on a smartphone. We invite you to visit our website!

July 14 show

Pan Am Games of 1987 with Mark Miles, Bill Benner

The Pan Am Games opening ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 7, 1987, was a lavish production. Image courtesy Indiana Sports Corp.It's been called Indy's "coming-out party" on an international stage. More than 4,000 athletes from 38 countries in the western hemisphere descended on the Hoosier capital in August 1987 for the colorful Pan American Games, the second-largest multi-sport event in the world. Only the Olympic Games are larger.

Jumping the gun on next month's 25th anniversary of this milestone in Indy history - which also had ramifications across the sports world - two "heavy hitters" will be Nelson's guests to share insights about the Pan Am Games, which drew an astounding 36,000 Hoosiers as volunteers.

Mark Miles, president of PAX/I (Pan American Games Ten/Indianapolis), will be one of our guests. Of course, Mark went on to serve as chairman of the host committee of the 2012 Super Bowl, the only Indy event to eclipse Pan Am in magnitude.

Nelson also will be joined by sports columnist Bill Benner, who covered Pan Am's basketball competition for The Indianapolis Star. Today, Bill is a senior associate commissioner for the Horizon League, as well as a columnist for the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Pan Am Games mascot Amigo holds flags with children at baseball diamond in 1987. Image courtesy Indiana Sports Corp.The dazzling Pan Am Games featured 30 sports, ranging from boxing, field hockey and baseball to tae kwon do, archery and gymnastics. As a writer at The Indianapolis News, Nelson covered two of the marquee sports, swimming and diving. In fact, he reported the triumphs of one of Pan Am's superstars, Greg Louganis, who still is considered to have been the best diver in competitive history. (Louganis made history in Indy by becoming the first to pull off a "triple double" - that is, win both of diving's gold medals in three consecutive Pan Am Games.)

Indy was designated as the host late in the game - and only after Chile, then Ecuador, bowed out.

Countless stories unfolded after that, culminating with concerns from the American Legion, which is headquartered in Indy, about the spotlight that would fall on communist Cuba during the closing ceremonies, which were planned for American Legion Mall in the open air. Greg Louganis and Ryan White at 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis.Closing ceremonies were moved to the stadium then known as the Hoosier Dome; performers included Gloria Estefan, a Cuban exile, and the Miami Sound Machine.

Cuba, in fact, resulted in headlines every step of the way. Before the games, Mark traveled twice to Cuba to meet with dictator Fidel Castro to convince him to send his athletes to Indy. Their participation sparked tremendous interest, along with tensions. During the boxing competition, a brawl broke out between Cuban athletes and anti-Castro exiles who stomped on a Cuban flag.

Even so, the games were considered such a spectacular success that they, as the Indianapolis Star later phrased it, "cemented Indianapolis' reputation as a can-do host city and an amateur sports leader."

For 16 days at 24 venues in Indy and elsewhere across the state - the yachting competition was based in Michigan City; a horse park at Camp Atterbury hosted equestrian events - Pan Am became, as The Star put it, "a rip-roaring, heart-stopping celebration of sports and civic pride."

Mark Miles.The opening ceremonies, a sensory bombardment that featured everything from parachutes and balloons to roller skaters and fireworks, were held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and staged by Walt Disney Productions. Spectators included then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

Emotional scenes unfolded at the finals of basketball when Brazil beat the USA at Market Square Arena. Not only did Brazilian basketball star Oscar Schmidt fall to the floor in tears - photos of his reaction became some of the games' most enduring images - but the tournament also "changed the course of international hoops history," to quote our guest Bill Benner. He will elaborate during our show.

Another emotional scene came in baseball, when Cuba surged from behind to pull out a victory, also over the USA, at the former Bush Stadium.

At the IU Natatorium, Nelson reported on the triumphs of a previously unknown swimmer from Costa Rica, 16-year-old Silvia Poll, who stunned spectators by winning eight medals. In diving, Louganis gave one of his gold medals to a spectator: Ryan White, a 15-year-old with AIDS who had crusaded to attend school in Howard County.

Bill Benner.To highlight the 25th anniversary of the $34 million sports spectacle, the Indiana Sports Corp. and Indiana Humanities are launching a series of events and forums about Pan Am memories and the continual impact of the historic games. Nelson is among those who have shared reflections in the sports corporation's blog.

Some fun facts:

  • During the games, Fort Harrison served as the Athletes Village, complete with lodging, a dining hall and a nightclub.
  • In swimming, Anthony Nesty of Suriname captured gold and bronze medals, even though there was only one swimming pool in the entire country for his training.
  • The mascot of the games was Amigo, a lime-green parrot.
  • The horde of Hoosier volunteers served in capacities ranging from Spanish translators to chauffeurs.
  • Total spectators for all events exceeded 900,000.

History Mystery

Just three years after a lavish renovation, the Circle Theatre on Monument Circle in downtown Indy served as the unlikely venue for a sports competition during the Pan Am Games in 1987.

Kathy Callaghan (standing on bench) cheers as the U.S. team wins the gold medal in women’s handball at 1987’s Pan Am Games in Indianapolis.Critics expressed concerns about potential damage to the historic Circle Theatre, which was not yet known as Hilbert Circle Theatre. The theater, a former silent movie palace built in 1916, had deteriorated for decades before the $6.8 million renovation in 1984, after which it became the new concert hall for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Before the Pan Am Games began, a platform was built on the Circle Theatre's stage to protect it during the athletic competition.

Question: For what sport did the Circle Theatre serve as the unlikely venue during Pan Am?

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.

This week's prize is two admissions to the Indianapolis Zoo and two tickets to the Indiana State Museum, courtesy of the ICVA.

Roadtrip: Middle Eastern Festival on Indy's eastside

Smiling young woman with platter of food at Indy's Middle Eastern Festival.Our intrepid Roadtripper, Chris Gahl of the ICVA, returns to our airwaves to suggest that we check out the Middle Eastern Fest. It's coming up the weekend of July 20-22 at St. George Orthodox Christian Church at 4020 N. Sherman Drive on Indy's eastside.

Live Middle Eastern bands and dancers will perform throughout the weekend, and tempting treats, including lamb shanks, gyros, stuffed grape leaves, and falafel, will be available.

This year’s festival will be the 17th annual, and next year the festival will move north to the new St. George church in Fishers.

Parking is free, and admission is $5 for those 12 and older. Opa!

Another show available online

Kudos for recent help for Hoosier History Live!

Thank you to Phil and Pam Brooks for underwriting the podcast of "Palm Sunday tornado outbreak of 1965," and thanks to Jed Duvall for editing the show.

If you would like special shows to be archived as audio on the website, please let us know, and we do appreciate financial support for the additional tech work involved.

Thanks also to recent individual donors Gretchen Wolfram, David Willkie, and Dana Waddell and Clay Collins.

Never-ending kudos to Richard Sullivan of Monomedia, who continues to make our enewsletter and website look so professional, and to our unflappable artist, Pam Fraizer of Fraizer Designs, who created the Hoosier History Live! "look" in 2007, including the caricature logo with our charismatic blond host, Nelson Price.

Thanks also to the staff of Indianapolis Public Library Irvington Branch, who facilitate a weekly listening group for Hoosier History Live! at the branch library by providing a place for patrons to meet, a radio, and learning materials to go along with each week's topic. All are welcome to stop by the library about 11:15 a.m. each Saturday to listen to the show in a group.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


Indiana Sports Corp.Indiana Pioneers logo.Indiana Historical Society logo.

Author Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge's book, Just Fine the Way They Are From Dirt Roads to Railroads to Interstates.Story Inn

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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Aesop's Tables | Just Fine the Way They Are, a children's book about the National Road | Indiana Historical Society | Indiana Sports Corp | Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library | Lucas Oil | The Society of Indiana Pioneers | Story Inn.

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo and Research Services, Conner Prairie, Derrick Lowhorn and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through Indiana Humanities. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.

July 21 show

History of Special Olympics, other opportunities for special-needs Hoosiers

Amid the "Olympics summer" hoopla under way, Hoosier History Live! will explore the unfolding of opportunities - in sports competition and all aspects of life - for Hoosiers with special needs. What options were available (and not available) more than 40 years ago? How has the evolution unfolded? What have been the challenges and joys along the way?

Sam McNew (left) and James Foster, both of Hamilton County in Indiana, compete at the 2011 Special Olympics Summer Games. Courtesy Special Olympics Indiana.Nelson will be joined in studio by two Hoosiers who for decades have been on the front lines of advocacy for young people with special needs. Indianapolis civic leader Georgia Buchanan not only is the author of a new memoir, 428½: My Journey Beyond the Railroad Tracks (IBJ Book Publishing), she is the mother of a special-needs son, Bryan Hadin, who will turn 49 next month.

Georgia and Nelson will be joined by Mike Furnish, who has been president/CEO of Special Olympics Indiana for 22 years. Before that, he was a manager at what today is known as Noble of Indiana, which was founded in the 1950s by parents of children with developmental disabilities. (Many of the pioneer parents were ignoring advice from doctors to institutionalize their children.)

"Doctors answered most of my questions as best they could, but there was so much that was a question mark, even to them," Georgia writes in her book, referring to Bryan's childhood in the 1960s and early '70s.

An arts advocate and journalist, Georgia, 85, is the daughter of Greek immigrants who settled in Indy during the 1920s. Her memoir's title, 428½, refers to the street address of their walk-up apartment in a near-westside neighborhood with a mix of immigrant families. (As regular listeners will recall, she was Nelson's guest three years ago for a show about Greek immigration to Indiana.)

Georgia Buchanan and son Bryan Hadin are pictured at the Dead Sea c. 2006. Image provided by John Sherman.She also is a past board president of Special Olympics Indiana. Its first Summer Games in the Hoosier state were held at Indiana State University in 1970, two years after the international games were launched by founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Fun fact: In August 1987, the same month that Indy hosted the Pan Am Games, the International Special Olympics Games were staged on Hoosier soil for the first time. The games at the University of Notre Dame were attended by celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Whitney Houston.

Georgia's son, Bryan, has competed in Special Olympics events, including the Frisbee toss, track and bowling. After receiving a diploma from North Central High School, he became a worker at the greenhouse in what was then called Noble Industries. (At Noble's annual celebration on Sept. 12, Georgia will sign copies of her memoir and share remarks about being the mother of a special-needs son. She also will sign books at 1 p.m. Aug. 18 at Black Dog Books in Zionsville.)

Our guest Mike Furnish has served as a global trainer for Special Olympics, traveling to assist programs in such countries as Russia, Hungary and South Africa. In Indiana, Special Olympics' outreach program in 22 years has expanded from 44 counties to more than 75 of our 92 counties.

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