Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
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Nov. 30 show

Interviewing tips for family, church and neighborhood histories

Nelson Price interviews Joe Kennedy II, eldest son of the late Bobby Kennedy, at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, circa 1994. The park, near 17th and Broadway streets in Indianapolis, was the site in April 1968 of Bobby Kennedy’s famous impromptu speech during which he broke the news to the crowd that Dr. King had been assassinated. The speech is credited with helping keep Indy free of the rioting that broke out elsewhere. Image courtesy Rich Miller.Family gatherings during the holiday season are, obviously, ideal opportunities to do oral interviewing of grandparents and other relatives for a family histories.

And folks who want to put together histories of their churches, neighborhoods or civic groups also will benefit from tips for getting people to "open up" and share memories, including those that touch on sensitive or painful topics.

To provide techniques and tips for the broad range of our listeners, Hoosier History Live! will turn to three veteran interviewers.

They will include our host, Nelson, who frequently teaches classes (sometimes called "Making People Talk") for the general public based on his years of interviewing everyone from acrobats to zoo veterinarians - as well as folks in their 80s and 90s who have lived through dozens of historic events.

Nelson, a former feature writer/columnist for The Indianapolis Star, will be joined in studio by:

  • Ray Boomhower of the Indiana Historical Society. An author/historian like Nelson, Ray has interviewed countless history-makers for his various books and in his capacity as editor of the society's magazine, Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Ray currently is working on a biography of John Bartlow Martin (1915-1987), a Hoosier journalist known for his interviewing techniques as well as for his coverage of national stories such as John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign.
  • Allen Safianow.Allen Safianow, a professor emeritus of history at Indiana University-Kokomo who has overseen oral interview projects in Howard County. He has interviewed people on sensitive topics such as the statewide stranglehold that the Ku Klux Klan had in the 1920s (he was a guest for a Hoosier History Live! show on that topic in April 2010) and the controversy surrounding the crusade of AIDS victim Ryan White to attend school in the 1980s.

Nelson and his guests will share tips about their favorite interview questions (and ones that are the least effective in getting people to open up); how to extract decades-old details from interview subjects, and ideal settings for interviews.

In addition, Nelson plans to explain the importance of asking about sensitive issues (such as a parent's alcoholism or a family tragedy) when doing a family history interview. He will share non-threatening ways to ask questions about painful episodes.

Allen will share suggestions about phrasing questions so they are posed in neutral ways that don't influence interview subjects. When he has trained Howard County residents for oral history projects, Allen has used this example of a leading question:
"Don't you feel that management was antagonistic toward the workers?"

Instead, he recommends: "How would you describe management's attitude toward the workers?"

Ray Boomhower was a Hoosier History Live! guest in April 2008, talking about his book Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society.For in-depth interviews, both Allen and Nelson strongly recommend one-on-one sessions, without observers such as spouses, managers and friends - even if the third parties promise to stay silent. (In fact, Nelson is convinced that silent onlookers pose special problems. He will explain why during our show.)

For his various biographies, our guest Ray Boomhower has interviewed Hoosiers ranging from a World War II-era flying ace from northwest Indiana (Alex Vraciu was the focus of his book, Fighter Pilot, which was published in 2010 by the Indiana Historical Society Press) to political leaders such as the late U.S. Congressman Jim Jontz, the subject of The People's Choice (IHS Press, 2012).

With more than 70 other authors with Indiana connections, Ray and Nelson will sign copies of the books about famous Hoosiers from noon to 4 p.m. on Dec. 7 during the annual Holiday Author Fair at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center.

But both of our guests, like Nelson, have interviewed countless Hoosiers who never made headlines.

Even so, who doesn’t have at least some captivating stories to tell? Tune in for practical advice that will help anyone interested in capturing vivid memories that will add depth and details to histories of families, neighborhoods, churches and civic groups.

Here are some advice books recommended by Nelson, who has taught interviewing classes for the Indiana Writers Center and Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis:

Roadtrip: Eight holiday open houses across Indiana

The Pepin Mansion is an 1851 Italianate villa on Mansion Row in New Albany, Ind. Photo by Greg Sekula courtesy Indiana Landmarks.Guest Roadtripper Chris DellaRocco of Indiana Landmarks suggests we add some historic flare to this year's holiday season by visiting some of the spectacular Holiday Open Houses around the state.

Eight historic homes will be dressed up for the holidays, and admittance is free for Indiana Landmarks members and their guests. Chris tells us that this is a chance to see some excellent examples of preservation and restoration inside homes not that are not normally open to the public.

Many of the homes are ones have been saved from the Top Ten Endangered List, and others have long held a great significance to their community.

Here is a line-up for this year's Holiday Open Houses.

Chris tells us that Indiana Landmarks has been working to save meaningful places for more than 53 years.

History Mystery

Kokomo, where our guest Allen Safianow has been a history professor and has overseen oral interviewing projects, has a claim to fame in taxidermy. The largest preserved example in the world of a certain kind of animal is displayed in Kokomo.

The animal lived during the early 1900s and set a record for his size that still stands today. The stuffed, mounted figure of the animal stands in a pavilion in Highland Park. The park in Kokomo also is the home of the world's largest Sycamore tree stump.

Barbara Boyd was the on-air guest of host Nelson Price in a 2008 Hoosier History Live show about pioneering African-American newscasters in Indiana. Hoosier History Live photo.Question: The world's largest example of what kind of animal is displayed in Kokomo?

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call into the show until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any other prize on WICR during the last two months.

The prize is a gift certificate to Iozzo's Garden of Italy, courtesy of Visit Indy, and admission for four to the Indiana Experience at the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.

Last live show's answer. By request, we are publishing the answer to the last live History Mystery, in case you didn't catch it on the air.

The Nov. 16 show answer: BARBARA BOYD. The well-known TV news personality had been the office manager of Head Start in Indianapolis before being hired as a consumer reporter at Channel 6 in 1969. From 1981 to 1984, Barbara Boyd anchored the noon news, becoming the first African-American woman to anchor a TV news broadcast in Indianapolis.

Still highly visible as a civic leader since retiring from TV news in 1994, Barbara Boyd joined Nelson in February 2008 for a Hoosier History Live! show about her trail-blazing career in local television.

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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Dec. 7 show - encore presentation

Old Northside neighborhood in Indy history

Construction of I-65 occurs just south of the Morris-Butler House at 1204 N. Park Ave., circa 1970. Photo courtesy Heritage Photo & Research Services.Thanks to spacious Italianate and Queen Anne-style houses built in the late 1800s, the Old Northside in Indianapolis became the city's posh neighborhood through the World War I era.

By the 1970s, when urban pioneers Paul Smith, Rick Patton and their wives moved into two of the historic homes, the neighborhood had become, as Rick diplomatically puts it, "blighted." Paul says his house even was occupied by a drug dealer.

During the 30 years since then, many of the grand homes have been restored to their former glory in the neighborhood, which has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and now is known as the Old Northside Historic District.

Join us for an encore broadcast of a show about the colorful heritage of the neighborhood that's roughly bounded by East 11th, Pennsylvania, East 16th and Carrollton streets. Paul Smith and Rick Patton are Nelson's guests on the show, which was originally broadcast on Jan. 7, 2012.

Indy’s downtown Old Northside neighborhood is pictured in the early 1900s. The house at 1508 Broadway was home to the family of Albert Metzger, pictured here in front of their first car, a 1907 Premier, which was manufactured in Indianapolis. Photo courtesy Rick Patton.During the decades that the Old Northside struggled, many of the once-fashionable homes (Rick estimates more than 100) were demolished. Others, including his, were converted into apartments.

By the way, Rick's home was built in 1876 by the son-in-law of civic leader Ovid Butler, a founder of the university that now bears his name. In fact, the Old Northside was the initial site of Butler University, then known as North Western Christian University.

Paul Smith, whose house was built in 1892, is a past president of the Old Northside Neighborhood Association and a past board member of Indiana Landmarks, the statewide historic preservation organization. (In 2011, Landmarks itself became an Old Northside "resident" by moving its headquarters into the former Central Avenue University Methodist Church, later known as Old Centrum.)

Preservation advocates from across the country - including architects, civic leaders, attorneys, historians and federal officials - toured the Old Northside during last month's conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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