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Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website, newsletter, and social media. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET. It’s over the air in Central Indiana at WICR 88.7 fm, or you can stream at the WICR HD1 app on your phone.

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August 05, 2023

WW II letters from small-town Hoosiers

Even though a couple from the town of Auburn in far-northeastern Indiana married after World War II, their letters included in a new book, "Army Guy, Red Cross Gal", are not love letters. Because they weren't even dating each other before they went overseas, their descriptive letters were not written to each other.

Instead, the "Army guy", who became a military police lieutenant with Gen. George Patton's Third Army, wrote to his Indiana family members about his wartime experiences, including becoming ensnared in the historic Battle of the Bulge and witnessing the horrors at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Meanwhile, the "Red Cross gal", wrote to her family about her experiences, which involved being stationed in Italy and working at a sprawling sports complex that Fascist dictator Mussolini had built.

To discuss the lives and letters of the couple, another resident of Auburn, the co-author of "Army Guy, Red Cross Gal", will be Nelson's guest. Barbara Olenyik Morrow is the author of seven books, most focusing on Indiana history. In "Army Guy, Red Cross Gal", she inserts narrative passages between the letters that illuminate a range of episodes during World War II. She notes that nearly 12,000 people from Indiana were killed during the war, including nearly 100 from DeKalb County, where Auburn is the county seat.

Bill Husselman, an attorney in Auburn, and Mary Brandon, who had been working as a music teacher at the town's four public schools before the war, both survived. So did their letters, which one of their daughters, Ellen England, read with fascination following her parents' deaths decades after the war. She is Barb Morrow's co-author on the new book that features the letters.

"I am rather lonesome, as all my buddies have gone", Bill Husselman wrote to his parents at one point. But, as Barb Morrow plans to note during our show, not all of the letters are poignant or grim; some are even humorous or provide insights about pop culture during the war.

As a Red Cross staff worker, Mary Brandon was not a nurse. "Unlike in World War I, when the Red Cross maintained its own nursing corps abroad," Barb Morrow writes, "the military had decided by World War II that it would take responsibility for all medical care of troops on foreign soil". So the Red Cross workers were tasked with boosting troop morale overseas, operating recreation clubs and rest centers.

For research, our guest Barb Morrow traveled to Europe to visit many of the sites described in the letters by Bill Husselman and Mary Brandon as well as to places in the United States where they received training. She also researched Hoosiers who are referenced in the letters, including a soldier from Flora, Ind., who died of sunstroke while receiving training with Bill's unit during 100-degree heat in Mississippi.

In a letter Bill wrote after his battalion with the Third Army reached Buchenwald, where more than 56,000 prisoners had died of disease, beatings and execution (there were about 21,000 survivors on the premises when his battalion arrived), Bill told his parents: "What I saw left me physically and mentally sick."

Although Bill and Mary never crossed paths in Europe, they began dating in Auburn when they returned to their hometown after the war. They married in 1946; their stashes of letters were kept in storage for decades.

"I want to encourage people not to automatically consign to the dumpster any old letters they may come across when cleaning out their parents and grandparents' homes," Barb Morrow says. "Rich history may be embedded in the letters.”

Barb Morrow has been a Hoosier History Live guest in connection with one of her previous books, Hardwood Glory: A Life of John Wooden. She was a guest on a show in 2014 about the life of Wooden, who grew up in Martinsville and was a star basketball player at Purdue University before becoming one of history's greatest college basketball coaches at UCLA.



"Both Nelson Price and Molly Head do the public a great service with the creation of independent media project Hoosier History Live. The program adds considerably to the public IQ, at a time when intelligence is much needed."

- Tom Cochrun, former news anchor, WTHR-TV Channel 13 Indianapolis

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Roadtrip: Laconia General Store in Harrison County

Guest Roadtripper Wayne Hastings, a Bloomington, Indiana native and a graduate student of library sciences at Indiana University, suggests that we visit the Laconia General Store in southern Indiana. The restored 1900s general store is located 15 miles north of Corydon in Harrison County in southern Indiana. Its restoration was made possible by the late Bill Cook and his wife Gayle Cook, and is a valued relic of small town America.

Wayne tells us architect George Ridgway embarked on restoring the building in 1999. To the joy of those who frequented the store, the architect was able to maintain the historic integrity of the store by keeping its original hardwood floors and signage. And covering the historic walls are photographs of tractors leading parades, impressive fishing trophies, and happy families throughout the generations.

Laconia has a population of about fifty people, so the store has helped to protect the town's sense of community. Wayne encourages us to stop by and visit this landmark nestled in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. And while there, you can even grab a bite to eat!


It takes a village to make Hoosier History Live!

Yes, fans and readers, it takes many people working hard behind the scenes to bring you the Hoosier History Live enewsletter, podcasts, website updates, and social media. And with updates each and every week! You may just see and hear the finished product. But pictured here is the hard working team! L to R, Cheryl Lamb, Ryan DeRome, Corene Nickel, Molly Head, and Nelson Price.

We all do a little bit of everything, and it is a tremendous effort!

We ARE an independent production group, and we DO need money in order to survive as such. Everything we do costs money. For example, we used to pay our editors to publish our show podcasts each and every week. But now we cut costs by publishing our podcasts in batches. In the same way that, say, print newspapers continue to cut their costs, or simply don't exist any more.

Executive producer and project creator Molly Head says, "Good journalism is good journalism regardless of whether it is published for print or for online. Or chiseled on cave walls, for that matter! Smart people put their efforts into publishing online. And I don't think that Hoosier History Live does a good enough job of projecting the fact that we DO need money. Or, I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about how we operate.

I operate Hoosier History Live as a small business. For me, it's a more effective form of management."

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We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • Joseph B. Young III
  • Tom Cochrun
  • Norma Erickson
  • Marion Wolen
  • Jane Ammeson
  • Kathleen Angelone
  • Bruce and Julie Buchanan
  • Mark Ruschman
  • Robin Winston
  • Phil and Pam Brooks
  • Rachel Berenson Perry
  • Kevin Murray
  • Susan Bielawski in memory of Jane Bielawski
  • Jill Lough Chambers
  • Sandra Hurt

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Nelson Price, host and historian
Corene Nickel, web designer and tech manager

Richard Sullivan and Ryan DeRome, tech consultants
Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer


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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgements to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Monomedia, Henri Pensis, Maddie Fisher, Austin Cook, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution, either online at our yellow button on our newsletter or website, or by U.S. mail. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in our podcasts and in our show, please contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.

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