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.
Or listen live from anywhere on WICR Online!
Our call-in number during the show: (317) 788-3314

Nov. 26, 2016 show

Modern political history in Indiana with Jim Shella

Jim Shella reports from the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 for WISH-TV. Image courtesy Steve Sweitzer.For 34 years - beginning when Robert Orr was governor of Indiana and Bill Hudnut was mayor of Indianapolis - he has been part of the political press corps.

After covering the election earlier this month, Jim Shella of WISH-TV/Channel 8 retired. But Jim, who also served for 25 years as the host of Indiana Week in Review on WFYI-TV/Channel 20, will return to the airwaves as our guest.

The widely acclaimed broadcasting veteran will join Nelson in studio to share insights, highlights and challenges from his long career, which was based at the Indiana Statehouse - but that stretched to all corners of the Hoosier state as he covered rallies, press conferences and other events involving political figures and those who aspired to be. He reports the most difficult event to cover was the 1992 Republican National Convention.

Jim Shella."We had no access to Dan Quayle," Jim says, referring to the then-vice president, a native Hoosier.

Jim Shella is a native of Minnesota. But he has been an Indiana fixture ever since December 1982, when he began at WISH by reporting about a special session of the General Assembly.

"I keep records of all the stories that I've done," Jim told Indiana Week in Review panelist John Ketzenberger for a recent story in the Indianapolis Business Journal. "In the days before computers, I would keep all the scripts."

So we will explore that trove with Jim. Asked by Nelson to identify the Indiana political figure who has been the most difficult to interview, Jim responded: "Dan Burton. I had a couple of serious run-ins with him."

Burton, a Republican, served as a U.S. congressman for 30 years, from 1983 to 2013

Host Jim Shella, center, is flanked by Indiana Week In Review panelists Mike McDaniel, Jon Schwantes, John Ketzenberger and Ann DeLaney. Image courtesy WFYI.Jim Shella has had an even longer career in the spotlight. During his 34 years covering Indiana politics, he has won a stack of awards and honors; they include being named a Sagamore of the Wabash by three Indiana governors.

He has covered six governors and 14 national political conventions during his run on the air in Indiana, where he has reported about the state's politics longer than any other TV journalist in the state.

Jim is credited with breaking the news about the decision by then-U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar to run for president in 1996 (the campaign was short-lived); the selection of Mitch Daniels as Purdue University's president, and other major stories involving Hoosier political figures.

During our show, Nelson will ask Jim for his insights about why Vigo County has chalked up an astonishing national record as a historic bellwether in presidential politics. The county in far-western Indiana has voted for the winning presidential candidate in 16 consecutive elections, dating to 1956. In fact, the county, which includes Terre Haute, has picked the winning candidate in all but two presidential elections since 1888.

Asked by Nelson to describe the biggest misconception about politics in Indiana, Jim responded: "I think there is a belief that most politicians are in it for their own good, (but) many really are public servants who do it for the right reasons."

Additional research courtesy Michael Armbruster.

History Mystery

A three-term U.S. Congressman represented a district in north central Indiana beginning in 1986. A Democrat known for his advocacy of environmental issues, he represented a district that included Kokomo and Logansport. Question marks printed on paper.In 1992, he was defeated in his crusade for a fourth term on Capitol Hill; two years later, he lost a statewide race for the U.S. Senate against popular incumbent Richard Lugar.

The former congressman, an IU graduate, early in his career had served five terms as a state representative, then a term in the Indiana Senate. After his final defeat for public office, he moved to Oregon. He died from colon cancer in 2007 at age 55.

Question: Who was the former U.S. congressman from northern Indiana?

The call-in number is (317) 788-3314. Please do not call in to 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. You must be willing to give your name and address to our engineer and be willing to be placed on the air. 

The prize is a pair of tickets to Handel's Messiah, courtesy of Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra. You have your choice of either the Dec. 11 regular performance at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church, or the Messiah Sing-Along on Dec. 12 at Indiana Landmarks Center. The Sing-Along is certainly not to be missed if you are a singer!

Roadtrip: 'Hub of the Universe' in Boswell

The water tower in Boswell makes a lofty claim for the northwestern Indiana burg. Image shows water tower with words Boswell, hub of the universe.

Guest Roadtripper and film historian Eric Grayson wants to take us is to some isolated areas in Northwest Indiana, up U.S. 41. This is a route Hoosiers took to Chicago before the interstates came in.   

"Our first stop," says Eric, "is in Boswell in Benton County, which has one of my favorite sites: their water tower has a sign on it proclaiming Boswell to be the HUB OF THE UNIVERSE! But it's out in the middle of nowhere!

It turns out that Boswell was once a hub for the railroads, and the name stuck. Near the water tower is a beautiful restored 1910 Carnegie library.  

Mealtime is a little way north on U.S. 41 in the town of Highland, Indiana, at the historic Blue Top Drive-In. Just recently restored, the Blue Top has a full complement of car hops, with typical 1950s-style food. The food is great, and the sandwiches are huge.

The Blue Top is notable for offering a free Thanksgiving dinner. And in the springtime, Highland has a nesting site where blue herons return every year.

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, media+development director


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Dec. 3, 2016 show - encore presentation

Shopping center history in Indy

Retail frenzy is at its peak, ideal for an exploration of the dawn of shopping centers in the Hoosier capital.

So during this encore show (its original air date was Dec. 19, 2015), Hoosier History Live time-travels to the 1950s, which included the openings of what originally were known as Eastgate Shopping Center and Glendale Center.

Eastgate, the first shopping center in Indiana, opened in the late 1950s at Washington Street (U.S. 40) and Shadeland Avenue on the east side of Indianapolis. It revolutionized shopping in the city, and it was anchored by J.C. Penney and H.P. Wasson stores. Image courtesy Bill Gulde.According to our guest Jeff Kamm, Eastgate became "the first large-scale suburban shopping center in Indianapolis" when it opened in 1957 at East Washington Street and Shadeland Avenue on the far eastside

With our guide Jeff, who has researched and written about the early shopping-center scene for Historic Indianapolis, we will explore Southern Plaza, Eagledale, The Meadows and other shopping centers, including some that are bygone and others that have evolved substantially since their debut.

When Glendale opened in 1958 at East 62nd Street and Keystone Avenue with the first "suburban" store of beloved L.S. Ayres, it was an open-air mall. In 1969, a roof was added, a blessing for shivering shoppers during the cold months in Indy. In 2008, Glendale returned to its origins as an open-air center. Today it is known as Glendale Town Center.

Jeff Kamm.Glendale also had Ayres' rival retailer, a Block's department store, "in its original lineup," as Jeff puts it.

Eastgate, which featured a Sears and J.C. Penney when it opened, flourished for nearly 20 years. As Jeff notes in his Historic Indianapolis article, Eastgate early on also was the site of a Sam's Subway, a popular eatery with several Indy locations.

But by 2004, when Eastgate closed, it had been in a long, steady decline that included an era as a consumer mall.

On the Southside, Southern Plaza Shopping Center opened in 1961, with Block's and Penney as the anchors.

Eagledale on the westside and The Meadows on the near-northside both date to the 1950s.

"These were more neighborhood-oriented and featured discounters such as Zayre's at Eagledale and Danner's at The Meadows," our guest Jeff Kamm notes. "Both featured large supermarkets."

Jeff, a history lover with a background in the hospitality industry, is the operations manager of the International Center. In May 2015, he was a studio guest for a show about the history of another of his passions: bygone roadside motels.

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