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

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Sept. 20 show

History of TV in Indy

WISH marquee at 1440 N. Meridian St. in Indianapolis, 1954. Image courtesy David Smith.With the headlines about a major switch in network affiliations of TV stations in Indy, what better opportunity to spotlight the history of TV in the Hoosier capital?

As Hoosier History Live will explore with two broadcast veterans in Indiana as Nelson's guests, the shuffling of network affiliations has happened previously, although not often.

As of Jan. 1, CBS will end its affiliation of 58 years with Channel 8/WISH and switch its programming to Channel 4/WTTV.

David L. Smith, who began his TV career in 1951 (with WTTV) during the dawn of television in the Hoosier state, will join Nelson in studio. His long list of credits include working in management for 20 years at WISH and hosting a popular series, When Movies Were Movies, that aired for 10 years beginning in 1971.

Lee Giles.His books include Indianapolis Television (Arcadia Publishing, 2012), which explores the evolution of TV in the Hoosier capital and highlights a parade of personalities whose careers were linked to various TV stations in Indy.

They include David Letterman (a weatherman during the 1970s), the troubled former Hollywood actress Frances Farmer (who was the host of an afternoon movie show during the 1960s) and Channel 4 children's TV personalities Janie Hodge and Cowboy Bob.

David Smith on the set of "When Movies Were Movies," 1987. Image courtesy David Smith.Another well-known name who got her start in Indy TV was hired by a former Channel 8 news director who will join Nelson and David Smith on the show. Jane Pauley was hired in 1972 by Lee Giles, whose long, award-winning career as a news director at WISH was preceded by on-air posts in the news department, including anchor and Statehouse reporter.

Both of our guests were working in the Indy TV market during the late 1970s when two stations switched network affiliations. Channel 13/WTHR-TV (formerly WLWI) had been affiliated with ABC-TV; Channel 6/WRTV had been an NBC affiliate. The two stations switched networks as part of a power play.

The maneuvering so enraged the then-general manager of Channel 13 that he resorted to a late-night, on-air act of frustration that Dave Smith will describe during our show.

He also recounts the incident in his Indianapolis Television book, which traces the beginnings of experimentation with the medium in the Hoosier capital during the late 1930s. (A ham radio operator who was studying electrical engineering at Purdue may have been the first to broadcast a TV image in Indiana, the book reports.)

Cowboy Bob appears on stage in the early 1970s with other WTTV Channel 4 personalities, both human and canine.  From left are Cowboy Bob, his dog Tumbleweed, Sally Jo (Fridle) of “Sally Jo and Friends,” her dog Tootsie, and Janie (Hodge) of “Popeye and Janie.”  Some history facts:

  • On Memorial Day weekend in 1949, a TV station in Indianapolis went on the air for the first time. The inaugural-day programs on Channel 6, then WFBM-TV, included a live broadcast of the Indianapolis 500.
  • Some accounts indicate 2,000 television sets were tuned in to that 500-Mile Race.
  • Channel 4/WTTV founder Sarkes Tarzian, who had immigrated from a Turkish region of Armenia, was based in Bloomington, where he had become an engineer for RCA. According to Indianapolis Television, the result during the early years of TV meant that for a while, "Bloomington had the distinction of being the smallest city in the world with its own television station."

Several of the initial staff members at Channel 4 were Indiana University students, according to our guest Dave Smith's book Indianapolis Television. After being hired at the TV station in 1951, he did on-air work and also produced, directed, edited film and served as a cameraman.

In addition to Dave's later, long stint at Channel 8, which included serving as program and production manager, he was a telecommunications professor at Ball State University. His other books include Hoosiers in Hollywood (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006) and a biography of movie star Clifton Webb, an Indianapolis native.

Indianapolis’s own Jane Pauley with Tom Brokaw on the Today Show, 1977.  Pauley went from Indianapolis to Chicago to New York City. Image courtesy Wikipedia.Both of our guests, Dave Smith and Lee Giles, have been presidents of the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers and have been inducted into its hall of fame. Lee Giles also has been inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame; his 40-year career at WISH-TV included 35 years as news director, a remarkably long tenure in a post that typically turns over every few years.

WISH-TV was not always a CBS affiliate. During the 1950s, it had carried NBC programming before switching to CBS. The upcoming switch of CBS to WTTV, which has been an independent station, means that Channel 4 will begin carrying the network's popular programs - as well as many Indianapolis Colts games - in 2015.

By the way, several well-known news anchors and personalities in the Indy TV market have been studio guests on Hoosier History Live! since our debut in January 2008. They include retired Channel 8 news anchor Mike Ahern (he was a guest on show in October 2009 about the legendary House of Blue Lights) and Barbara Boyd, who, at Channel 6, became the first African-American woman in Indiana to anchor a news broadcast. Dave Smith's book mentions the attention she drew as a consumer reporter when Barbara reported about her own mastectomy from her hospital bed.

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Roadtrip: Decatur Sculpture Walk

"Gene's Friend," on the Decatur (Ind.) Sculpture Tour, was sculpted of walnut and was inspired by longtime Adams County naturalist and author Gene Stratton-Porter. Image courtesy Terri Gorney.Guest Roadtripper Terri Gorney of Fort Wayne, who also volunteers at several conservation organizations, including ACRES, DNR and Limberlost, suggests that we visit the small Adams County town of Decatur in northeast Indiana for its third annual Sculpture Walk.

Decatur is the birthplace and boyhood home of David Smith, one of the most well-known sculptors of the 20th century. You can also see the work of artist Greg Mendez, also a native of Decatur and inspired by David Smith. Here's a town that is proud of its artists!

This year there are 17 outdoor sculptures and six in downtown businesses, as well as permanent private sculptures.

While in Decatur, you can visit Storybook Park, established in 2013 next to the Adams Public Library. It was designed by another Decatur native, landscape designer Nick Girod. There is also a beautiful Peace Memorial on the courthouse lawn. Enjoy an ice cream at the Ice Cream Depot or lunch or dinner at Marko's on Second Street, Back 40 Junction, or the Galley.

History Mystery

One of the longest-serving weathercasters in Indianapolis TV history was a viewer favorite on WISH-TV/Channel 8 from the late 1950s (when he was hired as an announcer) until his retirement in 1991.

During the brutal Blizzard of 1978, he was a nearly round-the-clock presence on Channel 8 as he provided Central Indiana residents with constant updates about the historic winter storm. His trademarks included horn-rimmed eyeglasses and a weather van with his name emblazoned on it. In the 1950s, before joining WISH-TV, he was an announcer and host on Channel 4/WTTV.

Question:Who was the longtime Channel 8 weatherman?

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call in to the show until Nelson has posed the question on the air, and please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR program during the last two months.

The prize pack is a gift certificate to the Tin Roof, a live music joint in downtown Indianapolis, and two passes to the Eiteljorg Museum, courtesy of Visit Indy, and four passes to the Indiana Experience at the Indiana History Center, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society.

Bonus! Listen to Hoosier History Live "Blizzard of 1978" radio show

You can listen to excerpts from "Survival tales from the Blizzard of January 1978," aired on the storm's 30th anniversary, Jan. 16, 2008.

Craig Widener, former chief operating officer of the Indianapolis chapter of the American Red Cross, shares how the city opened its Red Cross Shelter to stranded Greyhound passengers:
Listen Here
(Clip length 6:27)

Caller talks about being stranded at O'Malia's grocery store in Carmel:
Listen Here
(Clip length 4:01)

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

Joan Hostetler, Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, Dana Waddell, advisors


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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgments to Monomedia, 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 and individual contributions. We do not receive any government funding. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially. Also, see our Twitter feed and our Facebook page for regular updates.

Sept. 27 show

World War I and Indiana

The 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I is prompting analysis and reflection about the "war to end all wars."

During the horrific conflict that broke out in 1914 (although the United States did not enter the war until 1917), about 1,420 Hoosiers were killed in combat, according to some accounts. Thousands more were injured, suffered from shell shock or had their lives significantly altered in other ways.

A massive replica of France’s celebrated Arc de Triomphe was constructed on the south side of the Circle in downtown Indianapolis after World War I. This May 7, 1919 celebration shows returning troops parading south on Meridian Street while thousands cheer. Indiana Historical Society, Bass Photo Collection.Knox County Superior Court Judge Jim Osborne of Vincennes will join Nelson in studio to share insights about the war that often is depicted with scenes involving foxholes, gas masks and doughboys.

Judge Osborne, a former high school history teacher, is the founder and curator of the Indiana Military Museumin Vincennes, which has had special events commemorating World War I's centennial. In June, volunteers in Vincennes dug trenches on the museum's property so young Hoosiers could see how the war was fought; re-enactors portrayed Allied and German soldiers. The museum also has exhibited a restored French Renault hospital field truck from 1914.

The war's end in November 1918 was celebrated for months afterward. To welcome home Indiana's returning soldiers, thousands of people flocked to downtown Indy on May 7, 1919 for a celebration that featured a massive replica of the Arc de Triomphe (victory arch) in Paris.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the victory arch spanned the width of the Meridian Street entrance to Monument Circle.

Our guest Judge Osborne is an avid military collector and historian. He established the non-profit Indiana Military Museum in 1982 as a way to enhance education of U.S. military history and preserve significant artifacts.

None of the 4.7 million U.S. veterans of World War I remain alive. The U.S. death toll was more than 116,500.

Even before the United States entered the war, America suffered casualties. In 1915, the British ocean liner Lusitania was attacked by Germany; its sinking killed nearly 1,200 passengers, including 128 Americans.

Hoosiers who served in World War I included future Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie, a native of Elwood. Willkie was in the U.S. Army in France as the war wound down. Indiana-born composer Cole Porter claimed to have served in the French Foreign Legion, but his biographers have disputed that. Tony Hulman, the future owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was a teenager who served with the ambulance corps of the American Red Cross during the war.

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