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!

Aug. 4 show

Pan Am Games of 1987, Part II

Weren't the details riveting that Mark Miles shared during our July 14 show about dealing with Fidel Castro?

The U.S. trap shooting team won gold medals at the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indianapolis.Mark, chairman of the organizing committee for the Pan American Games of 1987 in Indianapolis, also shared a fascinating anecdote about a red "hotline" telephone that was placed at his seat during the closing ceremonies of the historic games.

And our other guest on the show, sports columnist Bill Benner, shared insights about how Pan Am's basketball final (which was won unexpectedly by Brazil) dramatically changed international hoops competition.

The insights about Castro - who laid down conditions before agreeing to send a Cuban delegation to Indy - and other anecdotes were compelling. But the insights from our two "heavy hitter" guests meant that much turf was left uncovered about the Pan Am Games, the world's second-largest multi-sport event. Only the Olympics are larger.

We did not get a chance to explore stories involving the astounding 36,000 Hoosiers who served as volunteers in August 1987. So they will be the focus of our "Part II" show, along with other aspects of the historic games that served as Indy's "coming-out party" on an international stage.

As we advance toward the 25th anniversary of Pan Am - the Indiana Sports Corp plans a celebration Aug. 23 in downtown Indy - Nelson's guests will be two Hoosiers who immersed themselves in the games as volunteers:

  • Margaret Drew of Indianapolis was among those who donned a lime-green costume to portray Amigo, the parrot that was the mascot for the games. At the time, she was an administrative law judge for the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Suzy Henschen of Indianapolis headed up the massive aides-de-camp program. Of the more than 900 international VIPs who attended the games, about 130 were assigned a local aide-de-camp, who became a sort of "personal assistant" on call 24/7.

"It changed my life," Suzy recalls.

Pan Am Games 1987 logo.Consider: Because of her experience with Pan Am, Suzy was hired in Honduras by organizers of the Central American Games. They asked her to train their aides-de-camp for those games in 1990 and even hailed her arrival in their country with a front-page newspaper article about the "expert" from Indianapolis.

Next up: Organizers in El Salvador hired Suzy to train aides-de-camp for the Pan Am Games of 1994, which were held in that Central American country.

You are invited to phone in at (317) 788-3314 and share your Pan Am anecdotes and insights. And Nelson, our host, plans to share details about his media duties covering the history-making diving and swimming competitions. We ran out of time for those in our first show.

Nor was there time then to explore the Athletes Village, which was housed at Fort Harrison, then still an active military facility.

Suzy Henschen.More than 4,000 athletes from 38 countries competed in 30 sports, ranging from baseball, boxing and gymnastics to tae kwon do and volleyball.

Equestrian events, which were held at Camp Atterbury's horse park in Johnson County, had a crew of volunteers that included Margaret Drew, our guest, who was not in her Amigo outfit for that duty. Eight years earlier, she had moved to Indy from Wisconsin.

"I never intended to stay here at all, but the Pan Am Games were a wonderful experience and made me feel very connected to this place," Margaret says.

Suzy Henschen, our other guest, grew up in Speedway and, for Pan Am, trained primarily college students to serve as more the more than 130 aides-de-camp to the VIPs. During our show, Suzy will describe how a student from Stanford University - who traveled from California at her own expense and arranged for local housing so she could be an aide-de-camp - was devastated when her VIP never showed up. The incident began as a crisis but eventually paid unexpected dividends for Suzy.

Olympic diver Greg Louganis gave one of his Pan Am Games gold medals to 15-year-old Ryan White.The aides-de-camp, like hundreds of Hoosiers, immersed themselves in conversational Spanish and in foreign cultures for the Pan Am Games, in which countries across the western hemisphere are represented by their national teams. Participating nations ranged from Cuba, Canada, Mexico and Jamaica to tiny Suriname, a nation with only one swimming pool then.

Even so, Suriname swimmer Anthony Nesty won gold and bronze medals at Pan Am. He went on to capture a gold medal the next year at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, meaning his Pan Am success served as a predictor of his Olympic accomplishments, as it did for other athletes. They included diving superstar Greg Louganis, who swept his sport's gold medals both in Indy and in Seoul.

According to subsequent estimates, the Pan Am Games drew more than 150,000 visitors to Indy. (The total spectators at all events was estimated at 900,000.) Easily the largest sporting event ever staged in Indy at that point, the Pan Am Games secured the city's reputation as an amateur athletics capital and as a host city.

History Mystery

Conner Prairie’s big balloon floats high above the crowd during a Symphony on the Prairie evening. Image courtesy Conner Prairie.In August 1987, the same month Indianapolis hosted the Pan American Games, another international sports event was held in the Hoosier state. The other event was in northern Indiana, the only time it has been held on Hoosier soil. Like the Pan Am Games, this other event was attended by then-Vice President George H.W. Bush and involved multiple sports.

Question: What was the international event? Hint: It was discussed during a recent Hoosier History Live! show.

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 a pair of tickets to Conner Prairie and the 1859 Balloon Voyage, courtesy of Conner Prairie, as well as a pair of tickets to Symphony on the Prairie at Conner Prairie, courtesy of  the ICVA. Now, doing all that in one day, especially a day in the 80s weather-wise, would be wonderful!     

Roadtrip: IndyFringe is coming up fast!

Rob Johansen is featured in After Paul McCartney during the 2012 IndyFringe festival. Image courtesy IndyFringe.Roadtripper Chris Gahl of the ICVA tells us that Massachusetts Avenue in Indy will explode again for the eighth time in August for the annual IndyFringe Festival.

A free opening-night party for the theater festival kicks off on Thursday, and the festival itself runs from Aug. 16 to 29.

Among this year's internationally flavored offerings are SimpliCity, by Colombian playwright Carlos Monte, and Do Re Me Fa So Latino, a comedic Hispanic re-imagination of American pop culture, presented by the Yes Theatre Co. of Indianapolis. See you on the avenue!

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 Pioneers logo.Indiana Historical Society logo.

Story Inn

Aesop's Tables logo.Lucas Oil

Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Aesop's Tables | Indiana Historical Society | 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.

Aug. 11 show

Tiny towns that refuse to die

In tiny Bryant, Ind., you will find the scenic Loblolly Nature Preserve. Courtesy Indiana State Museum.Even though only about 200 to 400 people live in some Indiana towns - and their head count 100 years ago numbered in that range as well - some of these tiny places on the state map are chugging along. To explore four towns that refuse to die, Nelson will be joined in studio by well-known author and editor Nancy Niblack Baxter, whose father grew up in the early 1900s in one of these Hoosier burgs.

His hometown was Wheatland (pop.: about 200), a Knox County town east of Vincennes that's been revitalized thanks to an annual festival known as Wheatfest; the opening last month of a new branch of the Knox County Public Library, a bustling gathering spot called the Crossroads Café and other factors.

As described by Nancy's late father in his newly re-released memoir, The Life and Times of a Hoosier Judge: John Niblack, Second, Wheatland Edition (Hawthorne Publishing), the town in 1900 had "two main dusty roads," one of which had been created from an old buffalo trace - a path carved out by buffalo in their migrations, then the route often was used by Native Americans, followed by the earliest white settlers.

Merom Conference Center attic stairs. Photo by John Bower.In addition to Wheatland, Nancy will share insights about Merom, a southwestern Indiana town on the Wabash River in Sullivan County.

With a current population of about 300, Merom has resurrected its historic Chautauqua, a festival featuring speakers and music. During the early 1900s, a Chautauqua circuit flourished across the country, with towns serving as hosts for visiting performers, speakers and musicians.

At the other end of the Hoosier state, the town of Bryant (pop. 252) is the home of Bearcreek Farms, a 200-acre complex with a dinner theater. Located about three miles south of Geneva in Jay County, Bryant also is the site of Loblolly Nature Preserve and hosts an annual Loblolly Days festival. Apparently a Loblolly Queen is chosen based on how much hay she can bale in one minute.

Loblolly Marsh was a setting for A Girl of the Limberlost, a bestselling novel in 1909 by Gene Stratton-Porter, the famous Hoosier naturalist and photographer.

Kudos to our regular listener, Terri Gorney of Fort Wayne, for suggesting Bryant to feature in this "tiny towns" show.

We also plan to explore Monterey, a town in Pulaski County that almost withered in the 1950s. With just 250 people then, Monterey was in danger of losing its post office (it had been condemned) and folding up.

Instead, residents decided the town could survive if a doctor and dentist were lured to the community, a story that's recounted in Hoosier Lore (Brooks Publishing), a new collection of human-interest columns written by the late Al Spiers. (His daughter, Sally Spiers, was Nelson's guest in April for a "True Tall Tales" show on Hoosier History Live!) In Monterey, the Lion's Club, then the smallest in the state, took up the cause to keep the town alive with a "civic miracle."

© 2012 Hoosier History Live! All rights reserved.

Hoosier History Live!
c/o WICR at University of Indianapolis
1400 E. Hanna Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46227
(317) 927-9101