April 27 show - encore presentations
Dan Patch, the first superstar racehorse, and True tall tales from Indiana: 2 classic shows
According to many sports historians, the greatest athlete of the early 1900s was a Hoosier - and he wasn't a baseball player, a bicyclist, a boxer or even a human being. Dan Patch was a racehorse who became a top national celebrity, never lost a race on the grand circuit of harness racing and was hailed as the "Epitome of Excellence in American Sports."
Other Hoosier animals, although far less famous than the renowned racehorse, nevertheless became fodder for folklore. In Howe, Ind., the town character was known as the "Skunk Woman" because she kept skunks as pets. And the talk of Goshen once was a rooster described as "over-hormoned."
In Churubusco, generations of residents have debated alleged sightings of a giant turtle. Accounts of the "Skunk Woman", the resilient rooster and the alleged turtle (often called the "Beast of 'Busco") were syndicated across the state during the 1950s.
These two topics - Dan Patch, the first superstar racehorse and True tall tales from 1950s Indiana - will be the focus of "encore" broadcasts of two popular Hoosier History Live! shows. Instead of a one-hour broadcast, you will be able to enjoy back-to-back, half-hour shows from our archives.
Dan Patch, the first superstar racehorse
For the first classic show (original air date: April 7, 2012), Nelson is joined in studio by two guests with special expertise about Dan Patch, who had gangly, crooked legs at his birth in 1896. He was foaled in a barn in Oxford, a western Indiana town that continues to celebrate an annual Dan Patch Festival in honor of the famous son; the 2013 festival is planned for Sept. 6-8.
Nelson's guests are Oxford resident Bob Glaspie, who owns a vast collection of Dan Patch memorabilia, and Gerald Waite, a lecturer emeritus at Ball State University who has written extensively about the legendary racehorse.
The superstar eventually endorsed an array of products ranging from sleds to washtubs, children's wagons, a pocket knife and a clothes ringer. Dan Patch first made headlines by stunning spectators at the Benton County Fairgrounds with an incredible win that was a sign of his unbroken streak of victories. The barn where "the Patch" was foaled and raised still stands in Oxford and is owned by the grandson of the racehorse's initial owner. The wonder horse died in 1916 in Minnesota, where his final owner lived.
Dan Patch's dominance hurt betting at racetracks because, if the undefeated champ was entered, everyone knew who would win. Other prominent owners also didn't want their racehorses "to submit to the humiliation of being beaten every time," according to an award-winning cover story written by our guest Gerald Waite for Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History magazine. So for several years, "the Patch" raced against a stopwatch, essentially competing against himself to set new world records.
Our guest Bob Glaspie, a farmer who grew up in Benton County, owns one of the historic stopwatches, as well as more than 300 other pieces of memorabilia. They include Dan Patch-endorsed billiard chalk, children’s wagons (they came in three different styles) and a straight razor.
In retirement, Dan Patch enjoyed railroad tours to meet adoring fans across the country. He traveled in a specially designed, private railcar with his portrait on the exterior.
True tall tales from 1950s Indiana
During the second classic show (original air date: April 21, 2012), the focus is on true tales, including the "Skunk Woman" (in addition to keeping skunks as pets, she seldom bathed) that were syndicated across the state during the 1950s by Al Spiers, a Michigan City-based columnist and editor. Although Al died in 1994, his columns about true tall tales have been collected in a book, Hoosier Lore (Brooks Publications), put together by his daughter, Sally Spiers.
An Indianapolis civic leader who is retired after a career in city and state governments, Sally joins Nelson in studio to explore the colorful critters, people and towns that her father described.
Sally was growing up in Michigan City during the era when her father was writing the columns, including the one about the "over-hormoned" rooster. During the 1950s, roosters routinely were injected with female hormones so they would shun hens, stop crowing, eat hearty and be tender. Despite numerous injections, a resilient rooster in Goshen named Elco resumed fraternizing with hens as well as emitting "cock-a-doodle-doos" - all in front of a stunned Jaycees event.
Some of the tales in Hoosier Lore had their origins long before the 1950s. The "Skunk Woman" (whose real name was Chrissy Hand), for example, died in LaGrange County in 1925. When Al Spiers visited 30 years later, though, he was able to interview many residents of Howe who had known the "Skunk Woman." She typically kept about half a dozen of the critters ("not de-skunked skunks, but fully equipped specimens," as Al wrote) wandering around in her house.
Al Spiers, an inductee into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, was editor of the Michigan City News-Dispatch, as well as a human interest columnist. He wrote about the "turtle tizzy" in Churubusco involving residents who claimed to have seen a giant turtle in Fulks Lake beginning in 1949.
Even though the lake had been partially drained and skin divers deployed (with no confirmations of the turtle's presence) by the time Al Spiers showed up in the mid-1950s, folklore about a massive "Beast of 'Busco" persisted. At dusk, Spiers drove to Fulks Lake, where he noticed, as he put it, a "wild and spooky section - swampy, full of tangled, dead trees and brush, silent and brooding. It looks like ... a set for a movie starring prehistoric monstrosities."
The folklore continues to this day in Churubusco, which celebrates a Turtle Days festival every summer in honor of Indiana's counterpart to the Loch Ness Monster.
There will be no History Mystery this week due to our airing of encore presentations.
Your Hoosier History Live! team,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
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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Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Visit Indy, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo & Research Services, 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. We do not receive any government funding. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.
May 4 show
'Ask Nelson' and more county name origins
The last time we turned the tables on our host, author/historian Nelson Price, and let our listeners interview him, callers wanted to know about the late jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, as well as which famous Hoosier has been Nelson's favorite interview subject.
He used to dodge that question but 'fessed up that it's Jane Pauley. Nelson grew up about two blocks from the future TV newswoman on the far eastside of Indianapolis. Following in her wake, he attended every school that she did, from Moorhead Elementary School through Warren Central High School and Indiana University.)
To give our listeners another opportunity to question Nelson, who calls himself a "garbage can of useless Hoosier trivia," Hoosier History Live! will open the phone lines. Listeners are invited to call the WICR-FM studio - the number is (317) 788-3314 - and ask questions of Nelson, who writes books about famous Hoosiers (both historic and contemporary figures) and Indianapolis city history.
As a bonus, Nelson will be joined in studio by our attorney friend and WICR colleague Charles Braun, founder and host of Legally Speaking, the longest-running legal advice show on American radio.
Charles, a fellow Hoosier history lover, has extensively researched the origins of county names in Indiana. In September 2010, he joined Nelson for a show about this intriguing topic, but they only scratched the surface of our 92 counties then. (Listeners learned that Marion County is named in honor of Francis Marion, a Revolutionary War hero. Allen County, which includes Charles' hometown of Fort Wayne, derives its name from John Allen, an early American politician, attorney and military leader who was killed in the War of 1812.)
So Charles not only will join listeners in asking Nelson questions, he also will respond to queries about our county names. A former state deputy attorney general, Charles is an instructor at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, where he helps train police officers from across Indiana. In 1983, Charles launched Legally Speaking, which airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on WICR.
After he signs off the air - and just before Hoosier History Live! signs on - Charles and Nelson typically can be found near the studio chatting about history-related topics. Nelson loves to share anecdotes and insights, particularly those derived from his expertise. His books include Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (Hawthorne Publishing) and Indianapolis Then and Now (Thunder Bay Press), a visual history about the Hoosier capital.
Listeners are encouraged to phone in with questions about famous Hoosiers, including historic figures that Nelson has researched, such as Madam Walker or contemporary notables he has interviewed, including former Indiana Pacers superstar Reggie Miller, astronaut David Wolf and artist Nancy Noel of Zionsville.
Several of the famous Hoosiers featured in Indiana Legends have been Nelson's guests on Hoosier History Live!, including Hoosiers and Rudy screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, jazz great David Baker, novelist Dan Wakefield and former Olympic figure skaters Kim and Wayne Seybold of Marion.
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