Friday, October 14, 2022
The DePrez House (Charles Davis Mansion) and Dog Rescue
EDITOR’S NOTE: Today marks the beginning of fall break, and our family will be traveling with limited internet access. It seemed like a good opportunity for a special series, so I asked George Young if we could publish excerpts from his recollections of growing up in Shelbyville, titled It’s Weird Being the Same Age as Old People: Confessions of a 1950s Free-Range Child, available on Amazon. (Proceeds from the book go to The Strand Theatre.) I’m so pleased and appreciative Young obliged. Enjoy the first installment!
ABOVE: The Charles Davis Mansion on W. Mechanic St. was owned by the DePrez family when George Young was a boy, and the site of one of his childhood memories. Today, the home is available for short stays.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: George Eric Young’s family were Hoosier pioneers settling in Shelby County in 1822. He graduated from the Shelbyville High School before earning a Bachelor of Science in Economics, followed by a Master of Business Administration from Indiana University - Bloomington. Young worked in distribution and sales of high-performance plastics for almost 45 years. His family moved to the Pacific Northwest in 1985, where he, his high school sweetheart, two children and three grandchildren reside today.
by GEORGE YOUNG
When I was a kid in the 1950s, there was a very large three-story Victorian mansion on Mechanic Street located just around the corner from my early childhood home on Saint Mary Street. Yes, I said mansion. It was huge compared to my home. I walked past this mammoth house every day on the way to school. We called it the DePrez house because the owners at that time were Brigadier General D. Wray DePrez and his wife, Virginia. The house was so big it had actual live-in servants’ quarters with their own private staircase. As a kid, I didn’t know the history of the house but have since learned the DePrez family was its second owner.
The Charles Davis Mansion was built in 1898 by Charles Davis, a furniture manufacturing scion and president of the Davis-Birely Table Company. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Shelbyville’s nationally recognized historical district began to take shape. In the early 1900s, Shelbyville boasted over 20 furniture manufacturers, and the Davis-Birely Table Company became known internationally. It was recognized as the world’s largest exclusive manufacturer of library and parlor tables at the time. After Charles Davis’ untimely death in 1911, the home became the family compound in the 1920s for Brigadier General D.W. DePrez, Commanding Officer 76th Infantry Brigade of the 38th Division, Indiana National Guard in WWII.
At Christmas time, our family would drive around town at night to see how other people had decorated their houses for the season with lights and such. It was much like the movie “Christmas Story,” except no one had a leg lamp displayed in their front window. The best part of our tour was always seeing how the DePrez house had been professionally decorated that year. Interior decorators from department stores in Indianapolis were commissioned to make the season festive. They always had an elaborate tree prominently displayed in the front window. I especially remember one year the tree was covered in large blue feathers. It was so pretty we had to drive around several times with lots of “ohhs and awws” from the family.
This dog rescue story began innocently one day when a buddy, Wilton, and I were walking down Mechanic Street. We both were seven-year-old free-range kids on the way to some adventure for the day when Mrs. DePrez came out on the front porch all excited, shouting that both her dogs had gotten loose, and asked us to help round them up. I remember they had kennels out back of the house but don’t remember exactly the breed of dogs, only that they were large. Maybe boxers?
We were glad to help. Whatever adventure we had planned could wait. Immediately, we began searching the neighborhood looking in every alley and back yard. Soon, Wilton and I located both dogs. The dogs were very friendly, and we were able to get them back to their home without difficulty. Mrs. DePrez was so pleased she invited us in for some refreshments. I think it was homemade lemonade and cookies served by her maid. She also gave us some money as a reward. She was that pleased to have her dogs safely back home. I don’t remember how much money she gave us, but to Wilton and me, it was a king’s ransom. Prior to this windfall, we would collect pop bottles from wherever we could to return to the stores to buy penny candies.
Wilton and I had money burning holes in our pockets for weeks. We were able to buy candy bars every day and soda pop whenever we wanted. No more penny candies for us. It was terrific. We even went to Linne’s, the local bakery, and splurged on chocolate eclairs. Then, just as quickly as it happened, our newfound wealth was gone. We should have had a little more restraint. We were back to searching the alleys for pop bottles for spending money.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. Before our big reward we didn’t realize we were poor. Now that we had experienced the sweet life having lots of cash, stark reality became very difficult. So, we hatched a plot to revisit the scene of our great reward. We knew the odds of the dogs escaping again were very low, so we decided to liberate the dogs from their kennels and took them for a walk. After we had them gone for a while, we decided to take them back to the front door. We rang the bell and Mrs. DePrez came to the door. Armed with big smiles, we explained how we found her dogs loose again and knew she must be extremely worried. She thanked us profusely and dug into her pocketbook again for another huge reward.
Eureka! We had indeed revealed the goose that laid golden eggs. After being thanked by an ever-grateful Mrs. DePrez, it was off to Linne’s to treat ourselves to something special.
Wilton and I enjoyed our reward money but it wasn’t quite as sweet this time around. We even bought candy for some friends but didn’t divulge our secret benefactor. The money didn’t last as long this time since we were sharing, and soon, we found ourselves flat broke again. Plus, we sort of had this empty feeling deep in our souls.
I think it was Wilton who decided it was time to make Mrs. DePrez happy again by rescuing her beloved dogs again. I was in total agreement. Who doesn’t like making old ladies happy? We quietly sneaked into their backyard, opened the kennel gates, and took the pooches for a stroll around the block. The dogs seemed happy to see us. Helping exercise their pets was a good thing, right? We walked up to the front door with the dogs in tow and were greeted at the door by Mr. DePrez, aka the “General.” We didn’t even have to ring the doorbell. The General was waiting with his crossed arms and scowling like he was ready to court martial guilty soldiers. In a very stern voice, he informed us that he had watched us take the dogs from the kennel and knew we had fooled his wife at least once previously. I don’t remember the exact words of his lecture, but it was clear: Wilton and I had killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.
The DePrez’s fondness for children was also legendary around town. They were known for having hot cocoa and cookies ready for Christmas carolers. My wife remembers clearly how nice it was on a cold night after singing with her girl scout troop. I wonder if Mr. DePrez would have spotted my bad singing and denied me cookies?
First United Methodist Church is hiring a financial secretary. The part-time position is for Monday through Thursday mornings, and is responsible for bookkeeping and records maintenance. For a job description, application process, and more information, visit shelbyvillefirst.org/jobs.
HOOSIER NEWS: The Indiana Supreme Court has announced it will take jurisdiction over a lawsuit that put a temporary hold on the state’s near-total abortion ban. The court also denied an emergency request by the state to undo that hold, which a lower court placed on the new abortion restrictions on Sept. 22 — a week after they took effect. That means Indiana’s near total ban on abortion will continue to be paused as the court case progresses. (The Indianapolis Star)
NATIONAL NEWS: Scores on the ACT college admissions test by this year’s high school graduates hit their lowest point in more than 30 years – the latest evidence of the enormity of learning disruption during the pandemic. The class of 2022’s average ACT composite score was 19.8 out of 36, marking the first time since 1991 the average score was below 20. What’s more, an increasing number of high school students failed to meet any of the subject-area benchmarks set by the ACT – showing a decline in preparedness for college-level work. (AP)
This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.
THIS DAY IN SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY
News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.
20 YEARS AGO: 2002
Fifth Third Bank installed the first Spanish-speaking bilingual ATM in Shelbyville. Local branch manager Michelle Lee said she had received only positive feedback on the change.
30 YEARS AGO: 1992
The Shelbyville Central Schools board discussed building an advanced learning center. The board gave initial approval to look at a space at the North Ridge Industrial Park. Local resident George Bobick suggested the board investigate the availability of vacant space in the Shelbyville Middle School library and the other four high schools in Shelby County. Bobick said the library at the middle school was too big, and noted that “the bookshelves are not even full of books.”
40 YEARS AGO: 1982
The Shelbyville Electrosound Midwest Group record manufacturing plant secured a substantial contract from Arista Records due to the announced closing of the CBS Record and Tape division plant in Terre Haute. A reported 25 percent increase in business would likely translate into 25 to 30 additional jobs, company officials said. The work force was just over 100. The Shelbyville plant was primarily in the business of making and distributing 12-inch records. The plant here produced 275,000 LPs weekly.
50 YEARS AGO: 1972
Sherri Lawrence was selected as queen of the Shelbyville High School homecoming court. She was crowned by David Plew, student council president.
Kandy Koenig was crowned queen of the second Triton Central football homecoming by Butler University’s Tony Hinkle. Jim Voelker was Koenig’s escort.
60 YEARS AGO: 1962
Triton Junior High School won the county baseball championship. Players were Larry Helms, Terry Curry, Arthur Shelton, Steve Crafton, Russell Bowers, Sam Holmes, Don Crafton, Damon Hill, Steve Abel, Tim Decker, Virgil Adkins and Dave Frey. Donald Mendenhall was coach.
Shelbyville Industrial Developers developed a 50-acre tract of land just east of the Shelby Electric plant on East 421 in hopes of attracting new industry.
70 YEARS AGO: 1952
Forty-three members of the Shelbyville High School band, under direction of Fritz Chesser, participated in the third annual Indiana High School Day at Indiana University. Participants were Kay and Marilyn Mohler, Carl Cawood, Susie Sarringhaus, Peggy Graham, Amelia Stuart, Janice Sherritt, John Reece, Sandra and Marilyn Kleinschmidt, Joe Cutsinger, Phil Breedlove, Ann Brown, Jerry and Charles Moore, Edna Cobb, Mary Chambers, Carol McColley, Mary K. Bausback, Willie Wilson, Phil Fisher, Michael Silbert, Floyd Wiley, George Barger, Ray Ewick, David Eads, John Lewis, Bill Amos, Juanita Read, Tom Robins, Richard Anderson, Jim Phillips, William Brown, Jim Barlow, Jack Talkington, Dwain Mann, James Wolfe, Floyd Thurston, Marilyn Cooper, Ronnie Barber, Jerry Porter, Marlin Trimnell and Hal O’Dell.
80 YEARS AGO: 1942
Russell Branson was named Citizen of the Month at the Shelbyville Kiwanis Club meeting. Branson was manager of the Strand and Alhambra theaters, and was known for his war bond sales. Club President Emerson Bass appointed George Young, Capt. Paul Branum and Clyde Kennedy as members of the October Citizen committee. The previous nominating committee had been composed of John Wetnight, Clyde Yater and George VanPelt.
90 YEARS AGO: 1932
Neighbors of A.W. Bone and family, of Norristown, harvested his pumpkins and corn due to Mr. Bone’s declining eyesight. Those helping out were L.M. Isley, Burt Caudell, Jesse Scott, Lon Buckler, Mr. Alen, George Starks, Ira Gregory, Otis Skinner, George Gundrum, Lester Waggoner, Warren Hendrickson, Charles Pettit, David Deiwert, J.C. Coleman, Homer Starks, Russell and Alvin Miller, Billy Stover, James Parker and Abe and Richard Thompson.
100 YEARS AGO: 1922
The local Nationals baseball team announced that their lease was up on the National park, and that the owner, L.J. Hord, had said he would rent the field to the American Legion for their football games.
Thefts were reported in the 4000 block of E 350 N, Shelbyville, and the 11300 block of S. Washington St., Flat Rock.
JAIL BOOK-INS: Breeann N. Baer, 23, failure to appear; Bryon N. Davenport, 52, invasion of privacy; Shannon M. Spiker, 37, failure to report; Ryan S. Wright, 37, probation violation.
Wilma J. Hunt, 83, of New Castle, went home to be with the Lord on Tuesday, October 11, 2022, at Waldron Health Care. Born March 13, 1939, in Connersville, she was the daughter of Raymond Dance and Pauline (Rowlett) Dance. She married Paul Hunt in 1956 and he preceded her. Survivors include children, Sherry Tucker of New Castle, Tim Hunt of Phoenix, AZ, Paula Hill of Geneva, Tony Hunt (Tok) of Missouri, Kenny Hunt (Patty) of Shelbyville, Ted Hunt of Shelbyville; two sisters, Edna Cox of Centerville, Rose Dance Lee of New Castle; brother Joe Dance (Coty) of Cincinnati; eight grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, spouse, daughter Barbara Hunt, brother Raymond Floyd Dance and grandson Jason Hill.
Mrs. Hunt lived most of her lifetime in this area and attended Milton High School. She had been a professional cook for several restaurants including Holiday Inn, Lucky 7 Cafe, and the Chapparel Cafe. Wilma was a member of Southside Church of Christ, and after moving from New Castle she was a foster grandparent for several years. Wilma enjoyed being a foster grandparent, attending garage sales, and playing Bingo.
Graveside services will be 11 a.m., Saturday, October 22, 2022 at South Mound Cemetery West Lawn in New Castle with Pastor Pat McDaniel officiating. Online condolences may be shared at glennegeorgeandson.com.