Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays at noon on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

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Oct. 20 show

Landmarks and lyrics across Indiana

The Randolph County Courthouse is in eastern Indiana. Photo courtesy Indiana Landmarks.A beloved, now-vacant diner in Plainfield, a vaudeville theater in Vincennes and the historic Colgate Palmolive plant and clock near Jeffersonville are among nearly two dozen landmarks across Indiana that have become the muse for Hoosier poets.

How can you wax poetic about the Plainfield Diner, which was placed a few years ago on the "10 Most Endangered Places" list by Indiana Landmarks, the historic preservation organization? Well, four members of Brick Street Poetry, inspired by the diner and other landmarks, will share insights about the well-known sites - and a sampling of the poetry that has resulted - when they join Nelson in studio.

His guests will include Joyce Brinkman, Indiana's former poet laureate. Although she lives in Indianapolis today, Joyce grew up along the Ohio River and has chosen to write about the Colgate Palmolive plant, which opened in 1924, and its clock, which is the largest in the state and visible for miles. She is a board member of Brick Street Poetry, a statewide group based in Zionsville that publishes the Tipton Poetry Journal and hosts a monthly reading series, Poetry on Brick Street.

Also as part of "Landmark Lyrics", a partnership between Indiana Landmarks and Brick Street, award-winning poet J.L. Kato of Beech Grove has written about the Plainfield Diner on the National Road/U.S. 40. Laurel Smith.Considered a rare surviving example in the Hoosier state of the Streamline Moderne style, the Plainfield Diner opened in 1954, still has its original interior and inspired a Facebook crusade to spare it from possible demolition.

Hoosier History Live! focused on the Plainfield Diner's fate - which remains uncertain - during a "Diners Across Indiana" (click to read that show's enewsletter) show in 2010. Joyce Brinkman with Bobb, her cat.J.L. Kato, who will join Nelson and Joyce in studio, says he drew on boyhood memories of learning to drink coffee in a diner for his poem, "Coffee, High and Dry",  which uses diner and trucker lingo.

Nelson's guests also will include Laurel Smith, an English professor at Vincennes University who has written a poem about the Pantheon Theatre, which is on the current "10 Most Endangered" list. Built from 1919 through 1921, the theater hosted vaudeville shows, early performances by Vincennes native Red Skelton and touring theatrical productions. According to Indiana Landmarks, the now-vacant theater is deteriorating to such an extent its decorative interior is threatened - and the historic theater could be auctioned at a tax sale.

Laurel says her poem inspired by the Pantheon, Talking Snapshots, is intended "to suggest the spirit of a family scrapbook; in this case, the family is the whole community."

The Pantheon Theatre on the corner of 5th and Main streets in Vincennes, Ind., opened in 1921, with a capacity of 1,200. Image courtesy Indiana Landmarks.Landmark Lyrics also includes a poem about the Randolph County Courthouse in far-eastern Indiana. The historic courthouse is the subject of a poem by Ben "Kahlil" Rose, a photographer and filmmaker who grew up in Tipton County. Ben, the first African-American graduate of Tipton High School, is working on a documentary about the history of black farming settlements in Indiana. Ben says he was intrigued by Randolph County because of its early, significant African-American farming community.

Built in the 1870s, the Randolph County Courthouse in Winchester has drawn widespread attention in recent years because of a crusade to save it by local "calendar girls." Members of a bridge-playing club  (some in their 80s and 90s) who were aghast at a plan to demolish the courthouse, the women disrobed to pose for a calendar that was sold to help fund its renovation. J.L. Kato.Ben's poem about the courthouse is titled For Old Time's Sake.

Other landmarks that are the subjects of Landmark Lyrics poetry include the spectacularly restored Lerner Theatre in Elkhart;  Beck's Mill in Salem; the Frankfort Roundhouse, a vacant turn-around terminal for trains in Frankfort; the Greyhound Station, a former bus terminal in Evansville, and Lyles Station, a historic African-American settlement in Princeton.

The partnership between Brick Street Poetry and Indiana Landmarks will culminate Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. with a visual presentation and poetry reading at Indiana Landmarks Center, 1201 Central Ave. in Indianapolis. After the free program, a selection of the visuals and poetry will be published in the Tipton Poetry Journal.

The Colgate Palmolive plant, the focus of Joyce Brinkman's poem, opened in a former reformatory. The Colgate Clock in Clarksville, Ind., can be seen from downtown Louisville, across the Ohio River. It has a diameter of 40 feet and was first illuminated in 1924. Image courtesy Joyce Brinkman.According to Indiana Landmarks, a former cell block became the Laundry Soap Building for the Colgate complex, which manufactured soap and toiletries. (The former warden's house became the recreation building for the plant's workers, who numbered 1,500 at the factory's peak.)

The massive Colgate Clock originally was located atop a Colgate factory in New Jersey. The clock was moved to Jeffersonville in 1924 and faces Louisville, Ky., across the Ohio River.

In Vincennes, the Pantheon Theatre, the subject of Laurel Smith's poem, also has a rich history. In addition to Skelton, entertainers and musicians who performed in the historic theater included W.C. Fields, Duke Ellington, Sally Rand and Will Rogers.

"Like many small communities, we are constantly challenged in Vincennes to balance historical preservation with modern development to meet the needs of people who live here," Laurel notes. Of several current suggestions for re-use of the once-glorious Pantheon, Laurel has a favorite idea. Nelson will ask her to share details during the radio show.

More about our four poet guests:

  • Ben Rose.Laurel Smith currently is serving as the chair of the English department at Vincennes University. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including the book And Know this Place: Poetry of Indiana (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2011). She also is the co-author of Early Works by Modern Women Writers: Woolf, Bowen, Mansfield, Cauther and Stein (Mellen, 2006).
  • Joyce Brinkman is well-known for creating collaborative poetry projects with visual artists and various organizations and businesses. Her poetry is featured on a 25-foot-high stained glass window by British glass artist Martin Donlin at the Indianapolis International Airport; in lighted glass at the Indianapolis Public Library's Central Library and on an artists' wall in El Salvador. Her published works include two chapbooks, Tiempo Espanol and Nine Poems in Form Nine.
  • A native of Japan, J.L. Kato has spent most of his life in Indiana. He describes his immigrant experience in Shadows Set in Concrete, which won the 2011 Best Book of Indiana Award for poetry.
  • In addition to poetry, photography and filmmaking, Ben "Kahlil" Rose has been active in theater and is the father of four children. His multi-media work can be viewed at theidentitycomplex.com

History Mystery

The two dozen or so historic structures that are the focus of the "Landmarks Lyrics" collaboration between Brick Street Poetry and Indiana Landmarks include Bush Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Indians until the opening of the $20 million Victory Field in 1996.

Art Deco relief for “Perry Stadium” on the structure now known as Bush Stadium.The baseball team had played its first game in Bush, then known as Perry Stadium, in 1931. The sports facility on West 16th Street was renamed Bush Stadium in 1967 in honor of Owen Bush, a former manager of the team.

However, in between the Perry and Bush eras and beginning during World War II, the stadium was known by another name.

Question: What was it?

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, courtesy of Conner Prairie, and a gift certificate to Iron Skillet Restaurant on West 30th Street in Indianapolis, courtesy of Visit Indy.

Roadtrip: Indianapolis Pop-Up Modern Tour

Move over, Columbus, Indiana. Roadtripper Chris Gahl of Visit Indy tells us that downtown Indy will show off its modern architectural marvels with a free tour this Saturday, Oct. 20, from 2 to 5 p.m. The Pop Up Mod Tour begins on the southeast quadrant of Monument Circle, starting with a discussion of the c. 1970 landscape installation on the Circle.

Barton Tower in downtown Indianapolis is an example of the Brutalist style of architecture. Photo by Vess Ruhtenberg.You'll also see the 1970 American Fletcher National Bank (now Chase), the 1962 City-County Building, which replaced the historic county courthouse and came to symbolize the unification of city and county governments, and the 1975 Minton-Capehart Federal Building, complete with a recently restored Milton Glaser mural.

Also on the tour is the James Whitcomb Riley Center (a residential complex now known as Riley Towers, completed in 1963), which was designed by the well-known Chicago firm of Perkins + Will.

Your last stop is Massachusetts Avenue to learn about Barton Tower; it was designed by Evans Woollen and Associates and was completed in 1968.

You also can take the tour in any order; just look for a vested docent outside each location. And you can download a tour map here. This Roadtrip was recommended by modern enthusiast (and two-time Hoosier History Live! guest) Connie Zeigler.

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


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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.

Oct. 27 show

Cafeterias across Indiana

Ann’s Cafeteria is an old-style cafeteria in Jeffersonville, Ind., serving food that “tastes like grandma made it.”As we enter the season known at least in part for its focus on food, Hoosier History Live! will chow down. Rather than feast on Halloween candy or Thanksgiving turkey, though, we will dig in to our state's cafeteria culture.

Unaware that Indiana was famous for its cafeterias?

Well, think how many have flourished for generations of hungry Hoosiers. Gray Brothers Cafeteria in Mooresville has received national acclaim for its fresh-made rolls, fried chicken and old-fashioned pies. Indiana-based MCL Cafeterias is described in Tray Chic: Celebrating Indiana's Cafeteria Culture (Emmis Books, 2004) as "arguably the largest family-owned cafeteria chain in the nation." Poe's Cafeteria in Martinsville is cherished by devotees of its persimmon pudding, gooseberry pie and other scrumptious fare.

And Shapiro's Delicatessen has been a landmark in downtown Indy for more than 100 years, although fourth-generation owner Brian Shapiro has been quoted as saying he dislikes the term "cafeteria."

Daina Chamness holds a package of her wine cake mix.  Even so, all of those beloved cafeterias (and a platter of others) are featured in Tray Chic, and its author will be among Nelson's in-studio guests. He is Indianapolis-based writer Sam Stall, who also pens a question-and-answer column in Indianapolis Monthly magazine called "The Hoosierist". A native of Goshen, Sam is the author or co-author of about 20 books, many focusing on aspects of pop culture.

In addition to Sam, Nelson will be joined on our exploration of cafeteria culture by a culinary queen who is well-known among Hoosier foodies. Daina Chamness of Greenwood has carved out a long career thanks to her work both in broadcasting as well as in the kitchen. Now known for her wine cake mixes, Daina formerly specialized in single-serving pies of all varieties.

Speaking of pies: As part of our cafeteria conversation, Nelson and his guests will discuss sugar cream pie, which was the focus of our show (with ever-delightful Daina as a guest) four years ago. At that point, legislators were debating whether to anoint sugar cream pie as Indiana's "official state pie". Not only did the lawmakers end up doing so by a vote of 99-to-1 (Nelson will share details), sugar cream pie also has been the official pie of the Indianapolis Colts.

Sugar cream pie is relevant to our topic because Jonathan Byrd's in Greenwood and other cafeterias are among the few eateries that regularly serve it. (Sugar cream pie also was the focus of a "Hoosierist" column by Sam awhile back.) In Tray Chic, Sam describes the sprawling Jonathan Byrd's as the cafeteria version of an "epic, Cecil B. De Mille-style scale" production.

Noting that Hoosier cafeterias long have been hailed for their comfort food, Sam writes: "Some would say that the long view down the tray line is what heaven looks like."

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