A Note from the Hoosier History Live! Blogger

hhl_avatarHello, We are inviting our dedicated listeners to blog about Hoosier History Live!  You are welcome to share about our Hoosier Heritage as heard on the show with host Nelson Price. Visit www.hoosierhistorylive.info for the latest on upcoming shows and events. And don’t forget to visit Hooserati, the Indiana Humanities Council for the latest on all things Hoosier and how our shared Hoosier Heritage continues to shape the state we live in.

Tune in to Hoosier History Live! Saturday mornings with Nelson Price on 88.7 FM the Diamond, broadcasting from the University of Indianapolis Campus on Saturday mornings at 11:30.

Published in: on November 7, 2008 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Listener had this to say about our October 25th show about Nightclub and Piano Bar History in Indy

hhl_avatar1Donna S. is retired and lives in Indianapolis. She was an investigative reporter, columnist, and record reviewer for the Indianapolis Times newspaper in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. The Indianapolis Times was an evening newspaper that served the city from the late 1800s until 1965 when the paper ceased publishing.

OK Nelson & Molly–let’s not overlook all the other “bar experts”===Keys was originally conceived by 2 court house-connected sisters–1 of whom Married Well–one remained. I know before I received one of the first VIP “Keys”–numbered actually required to open front door to enter (until ruled illegal) It was indeed exclusive but also when open got overflow from just south favorite piano bar Sandy’s I think (name Bolen rings a bell) where great Flo Garvin reigned as female Bobby Short–replaced later by town favorite cocktail pianist-vocalist Andre. (Andre Amorez rings a bell even tho’ improbable but I think I do remember he took it too himself when he became grand. Sandy’s more gathering for drinks–Keys famous for its “your table isn’t ready yet will you take a bar seat?”–because more profit on booze than food 2-4 hr wait not unusual–likewise others poured out at closing who never DID eat.

We finally found the cure–a party of 8 or so, with reservations–when bar seating offered we all chimed in–“NO we will just wait here at the desk–and have our drinks at the table.” It worked. Ruse was in this era adopted by equally “in” 2 story bar and dining room==Greylynn Blue Room–much better food than Keys and in such a great location that entrepeneur Harley Horton turned a grand mansion just north of Greylynn (9th & Penn I thinik-southeast corner–maybe the Fletcher mansion?–and turned it into THE most lavish nightclub of the city LaRue’s–upstairs dance are featured greats like Jack Teagarten, Louis A—so many others. First place to feature a player baby grand piano. Harley was famous for his lavish homes and lifestyle–post war real estate millionaire with “mysterious” death of wife intriguing.

But back to N. Meridian area: Staid old Marott Hotel–housing wealthy dowagers, their dogs and staff, somehow caught fire and the early cocktail crowd dominated the BlueBird Room, lower level–(much later went through a revolving door series of upscale “new” restaurants including the 1st all lady corner-LaPetite as I remember. I have the belted velvet bar stools from the Napoleon bar which replaced LaP–(couldn’t keep bartenders who griped that if 4 women came in–all of them would want drinks had to be made in the blender–grasshopper etc.

Periodically, great short-lived bars like The Jaguuar, owned by guy who owned most of 52nd Keystone area named Jack Endsley–it was then grass and trees, golf course and miniature golf course etc. He took over a flower shop, former garage on E. Side Meridian in the commercial area just before you reach Fall Creek–turned it into a fabulous bar competing with the across-the-street Embers, created by Ball family bad boy Bill Ball. He is still alive incidentally–as is Jim Gerard–latter actually “created” aura around Embers, Marrott various venues–when he repeatedly did “Sound Of The City” short interviews around the town–these were his favorite spots, he spotlighted the likes of Kreskin–many other top performers at Embers. Likewise, Mel Torme crowded the Jaguar Room—sometimes performing hours after legal closing both singing, playing drums.

These were the “fanciest” from mid-40s thru 50s before area went to seedy. But the real jazz joints (other than Indiana Ave) where Jimmy Coe, Hugh Watts, McDaniel and the like drew the real jazz buffs were across Corners on E. 10th St–Tropics Club on one side, cant remember the one on opposite corner. Later, for a short time The Rail Club in equally seedy Mass Ave. actually drew gridlock traffic when “the Twist” took over–Rolls, Caddies, Jags overflowing out to the street.

Rail Club, like famous Stein’s on l0th and Meridian–were considered “slumming” by the affluent Smart Set–Stein’s so bad they had female Police Matrons on the dance floor to maintain –well, not decorum exactly but minimal decency. One night there were jitterbuggers undulating so suggestively they should have booked a hotel room–when the burly matron strode out, tapped one girl on the shoulder to tell her her slip was showing and to leave the floor! This was great hangout of Tuffy Mitchell, other “gang” figures 40’s 50’s–it was mid-block on E. Side Meridian around l0th–otherwise site of those huge old Meridian mansions and one all-male Glen Martin hotel (for me), which got some traffic. Likewise the Sheffield Inn–nearby 10th & Penn.

Only West side venue people flocked to was out on l6th—The Horizon Room, whose decor was tropical and whose Schtick that awed newcomers were timed periodic “rain storms” when the lighted walls flashed pseudo-lightning, thunder and actual “rain” fell. (Some other bars with gimmicks–one isolated bar The Merry Go Round out on E. New York–decorated carousel style which confused initiates because the bar area slowly rotated like a merry go round–so that you might take a table to the left of the men’s room, later get up and walk into a wall because unknowingly your table was moving!

One equally gimmicky “destination” was the Melody Inn (couple spots but last in “country” outside today’s Broad Ripple on Westfield.)  Carl Henn’s father was legendary singing bartender but like Melody on Illinois–they showed “songs” with bouncing ball and crowds sang along.

There were two feuding Irish-pubsN. Side Danny Coyle–around 46th & Keystone–jock hangout with no entertainment other than Toots Shor-type owner Danny who would insult customers to their delight. The other Danny was Danny O’Neill’s I think–on S. Illinois St.–which also had “gimmicks” but real claim to fame was nightly vocalist 2-ton Ophelia–shook like Jello knocking out double entrendre songs like “If I Can’t Sell It I’ll Keep a-Sitting On It–I Ain’t a-gonna give it away…” (No not what you think–last line revealed she was referring to a chair.” Other standard was paroldy to Love in Bloom–which, had I ever hung out in such a low class joint often, I might remember lyrics–like:


Sam Katz had a wife, a lovely wife, they wedded one day in June

And who do you think was best man–twas Rosenbloom.

Same Katz had a house, a lovely house, the air was filled with perfume

Who moved right in the spare room? Twas Ros=en-bloom

Sam Katz was a salesman, he travelled away, and you know that saying:

“While the Katz away–Mrs. Katz Will Play!”

Sam Katz hada child, a lovely child, the air was heavy with gloom

It didn’t look like Sam Katz it looked like



But bars did naughty, silly gimmicks that made regular customers flock to take “new” customer there 1st time–Danny O’s was a bar phone setup. You took a friend there for the 1st time–drank, listened to Ophelia, then arranged with the bartender to break in to page by name your unwitting friend –suddenly loudspeaker would call out “Price, Nelson PRice–telephone call at the bar…”Amazed–because you thought nobody would be paging YOU there–you walked up, bartender handed phone over and as you were saying, over noise, “Hello, Hello-who is this..” bartender squeezed the bulb hooked up to the mouthpiece–and spray of water sprayed forth!

There was a Jap Jones “in” restaurant also on S. Illinois–greatest dish planked steak with mashed potatoes–and he had equally in spot at Wawasee.

Other “seedy” jazz area everyone flocked to was on Mass Ave…Charlie Bowman’s Charleys then added Blue Note on opposite corner==just booxe and in crowd loving mixing with derelict regulars. Back to practical joking of era–Claude and a Annie Collins introd Cantonese good cooking into Mass Ave area–almost but cannot quite remember name but I have photo of me there with singer Frankie Laine–maybe I will think of it.

Regulars who sat at the bar (all male then due to WWII state law barring females from bar) had a “favorite” trick to play on unsuspecting ladies who went into the ladies room–of course, the do not touch fig over a nude male’s certain area. If they “peeked” a siren went off and many a blushing lady sat there ashamed to emerge! But the very worst I remember–because I set up a sweet country girl friend and she still remembers 50 years later==and still blushes.

It was the late 40’s when suddenly poodle skirts bloomed out fuller into actual “crinoline” petticoat stiffened Southern Belle style–the well dressed young thing would “show” multiple petticoats when she walked, danced etc–with touches of pastel net. My friend Eloise was always in style–my friend Bob Murray was always at the nearby bar–and we conspired. I signaled when we two (as girls do) made the trip to the rest room together–there was a little makeup station–and a nearby toilet–(which secretly had a 2-way walkie-talkie hookup to the jokers at the bar. The regulars could hear –well, you know–when there was a tinkle, tinkle sound and they had a series of practical joke standards–so:

Nice girls seldom “sit” in this situation–so there was Eloise, her puffy crinolines balanced high over her head, hoisted to “tinkle” but just as she did a loud Male voice came out of the bowl beneath her saying “Lady–could you hold it just a minute–we’re painting down here!” Well, her scream did not NEED a p/a–you could hear it through closed doors–and she was so mortified it took minutes of coaxing for her to leave red-faced to face the laughing crowd. Wintergarden–that was the name!

So Nelson, if you REALLY want local bar memories–ask the one who’s been there. But seriously Jim Gerard who documented most of those clubs in the 50s would be great–he almost lived at the Embers. Keys, Jag room, Bluebird Room, the other area hot spots–well, I doubt if there are very many who still remember all of them–present company excluded! AND–SOME NAMES ON THIS CC LIST PERHAPS BY ERAS!

Published in: on November 4, 2008 at 3:01 pm  Comments (1)  

Hoosier Cabinet History Heard on Hoosier History Live!

How can people get in such a tizzy about Hoosier cabinets? After I heard Nancy Hiller, author of  The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History (IU Press) and a Bloomington cabinetmaker, talk about their social history with Nelson Price on Hoosier History Live! radio show this week, I called my friend Glynis, who has a “Sellers” in her 1920’s era kitchen. Her kitchen is so crammed with stuff that you can hardly realize that there is a valuable antique in there. Glynis had listened to the show sticking her radio out the back window; she lives in country about 50 miles from WICR’s radio tower. (Modern humans can hear the show online anywhere as it airs, but Glynis is no-tech.)

Later I proceeded to get into an email war with a former “girl reporter” (that’s what women reporters were called in the ‘40s) of the long defunct newspaper Indianapolis Times, who had sent me some cockamamie story about Hoagie Carmichael’s grandfather having “invented” the first built-in Hoosier cabinet. My grandparents home had a “built in” cabinet in their 1920’s bungalow home in Decatur, Illinois.

As I learned on the show, these marvelous inventions were marketed in the early part of the 20th century as “a boon to women.” And they sold like hot cakes. They had spice racks, storage bins, a built-in flour sifter, a pull-out counter. And you could sit down in front of them to do your work. They centralized the food storage and preparation area, saving many steps. More than 2 million Hoosier cabinets had been sold by 1920, meaning that they could be found in one in ten American homes. (photo from Wiki) One old ad showed that “Lincoln had freed the slaves, and now the Hoosier has freed the housewife from unnecessary drudgery!” Yes, I did see that ad somewhere on the internet, but now I can’t find it now! Maybe it is in Nancy’s book.

Now, I reflect that, for the last fifteen years or so, designer kitchens, food prep, gardening, kitchen gadgets, and haute cuisine seem to be absolutely the yuppie, upscale thing. Having all the right stuff in your kitchen tells people that you have “arrived.” (Where, exactly, I’m not quite sure.) Friends of mine continually get kidded about their solid cherry designer kitchen cabinets and granite counter tops, which set them back about 50K. Their cherry cabinets were ruined by flood, but those granite counter tops remained intact, by God, and will eventually be moved to their new retirement home!

Me? I am barely a cook, and I lasted about 48 hours after my microwave pooped out, after which I went to Goodwill to get a replacement. I mean, I’m not s’posed to live like a frigging pioneer, am I? The thing I don’t get about the new trendy kitchens is that they all have this single, huge, “farmhouse” kitchen sink, always in copper or burnished brass or something appropriately foo foo What is that about, really? I mean, even I can admit that a stainless steel double sink, where one can use one sink for rinsing and one for washing, with one side having a disposal, is actually a pretty practical thing. So, isn’t the huge single sink a step back?

Well, Hoosier History Live! does make me think about a lot of things, and I felt almost lazy when I heard about many of the Hoosier pioneers arriving on foot. It was often their kitchen gear and valuables in their wagons, not them. It’s really not that long ago! And back to my grandmother actually having her own “built in” Hoosier kitchen in her house in Decatur, Illinois in the 1920’s . . . what an absolute boon that was to her! In her own house, along with the sink, stove, dining room, living room, three bedrooms, detached garage, and a bathroom indoors! She had grown up on a dairy farm in Michigan, one of nine children, and when they washed dishes they did not use soap because the dishwater scraps were fed to the pigs, and the pigs would not eat food with soap on it.

Now, that’s a flash back in time, and to my own sense of what’s important.

Thanks Nancy and Nelson. I guess people can get in a tizzy about Hoosier cabinets.

Published in: on June 12, 2009 at 3:18 pm  Leave a Comment