FLAT ROCK TRAFFIC JAM
photos by ANNA TUNGATE
Yesterday’s Spring Drive-Thru Fish Fry at the Flat Rock Volunteer Fire Department may not have been the full-fledged event of yesteryear, but volunteers were pleased with the steady line of cars throughout most of the afternoon.
“We used to have big truck pulls; this place was packed,” volunteer Flat Rock firefighter Derek Tennell said. “Covid has definitely had a negative impact on our fundraising abilities.”
The drive-thru concept yesterday, though, was as much the result of available staffing as it was health and safety.
“I think the biggest problem we face is our lack of help, just having people here to do it. We get plenty of volunteers, but it's just not a consistent group,” Tennell said. “The drive-thru fish fry, which is what we’ve been relying on, takes much less for us to operate than a full festival.”
The struggle to find staff extends to recruiting firefighters, which Tennell called a nationwide problem. “Volunteerism is just not what it used to be. All of our firemen here get up in the middle of the night and go on calls, and nobody gets paid a dime.”
The Flat Rock Citizens Committee formed the local volunteer fire department in 1948 to serve all of Washington Township and the south half of Jackson Township, including a four-mile stretch of I-65. The 26 active members respond to fire and medical calls.
Tennell, whose full-time job is a firefighter/paramedic for the Shelbyville Fire Department, has volunteered for the Flat Rock department since he was 16 years old. His great-grandfather, Will Porter, was one of the department’s founding members.
“They started out with some used fire trucks, and we actually still have the original fire truck that they bought - the first new one - around 1960,” Tennell said.
While the department has received FEMA grants to mostly cover the cost of equipment, including two trucks, the funding mechanism set up through the township doesn’t cover all expenses, such as insurance costs.
“Flat Rock (Volunteer Fire Department) has had a pretty strong core group of members that have always taken care of it. We don't have quite the staffing issues that some of our surrounding departments have, but that's an anomaly. Funding is definitely the largest problem we face,” Tennell said.
The department will hold another fish fry in August. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the fire department at email@example.com.
A Few Random Thoughts
We made it back from vacation. You would think that riding in the car for all those hours would have given me time to write an awesome column for your reading pleasure this week. You would think that, but you would be wrong.
Mile after mile, I spent the time eating boiled peanuts I had purchased at a roadside stand and daydreaming. You know, roadside boiled peanuts are known as “the caviar of the South.”
Since I didn’t write an awesome column, I’ll share a few of the random thoughts that popped in my mind during the ride home. Enjoy!
I wonder if any of my old vinyl records are worth a lot of money? When I get home, I need to learn how to sell stuff on the internet.
I keep getting a text about Russian women in my area wanting to meet me. I wonder if it has anything to do with the war. Maybe they are worried about being deported and need to talk to a lawyer.
It still seems a bit weird to me whenever I find a tag in one of my shirts that says “made in Vietnam.”
The best and biggest cans of sardines seem to only be in Mexican grocery stores. I don’t think there is actually a fish called a sardine. I think they are mostly herring. I wonder if the really big ones are caught in waters near nuclear power plants. I think I read that one time in “News of the World.”
I wonder which cause of death has the greater probability: dying because of spontaneous human combustion or being killed by a camel who escaped from a petting zoo?
I hope the boycott of all things Russian because of the war doesn’t include Russian nesting dolls. It probably does since the word “Russian” is in the name. Too bad, because I was planning on ordering some “Team Schwinn” Russian nesting dolls. I had it all planned out in my head. Each doll would have the image of one of the team Schwinn members on it, as drawn by Dee Bonner. The entire set would include me, Earl, Susie Veerkamp, Skeeter, Uncle Tony, Cousin Tommy and the Baroness von Krueger. I feel like I am missing someone. I wonder what the limit on number of dolls is. Maybe they aren’t even made in Russia. They are probably made in Vietnam.
I think the folks I talked to at the laundromat a couple of weeks ago were right. The best column I ever wrote was the time I interviewed Stanley Walton’s flattop.
I wonder if anything has changed in Shelbyville while we were gone. Maybe “The Helbing” has finally become a major tourist attraction.
Editor’s Note: I have sometimes wondered what was going on in columnist Meltzer’s mind. Turns out, it was pretty close to what I imagined.
Shelby County’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February was 2.3%, lower than the state’s average of 2.7%. All Indianapolis metro area counties except Marion and Madison were lower than the state average in February. Hamilton and Boone counties were tied with the lowest rate at 1.7%. Hendricks and Johnson counties were just behind them at 1.9%.
The Northwest Shelby County Concerned Citizens Coalition’s quarterly meeting is set for Thursday, April 7, 7 p.m., at the Fairland Fire Station. Agenda items include guest reports from an Ivy Tech department chair and concerned Marion County resident and an informal question and answer session with county recorder candidate Jessica Pile; State Rep. District 47 candidates Luke Campbell, Robb Greene, Scott Strother and John Young and other elected officials to be announced.
HOOSIER NEWS: With warmer weather approaching and spring home improvement projects beginning, Gov. Holcomb recently proclaimed April as Indiana Safe Digging Month. The proclamation serves as a reminder for Indiana professional excavators and homeowners to contact Indiana 811, the statewide “811 Before You Dig” center, at least two full working days before starting any outdoor digging projects. According to a recent survey by the Common Ground Alliance - the national association dedicated to protecting underground utility lines, people who dig near them and their communities - nearly six-in-ten U.S. homeowners (58%) reported experiencing a utility service interruption during the last 12 months. In addition, nearly 34.9 million U.S. homeowners who plan to dig this year will put themselves and their communities at risk by digging without contacting 811 beforehand to learn the approximate location of underground utilities. (Indiana 811)
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
Gov. Frank O’Bannon signed Kelly’s Law into effect, which guaranteed victim’s families the right to have their “day in court.” The legislation had followed the abduction and murder of Shelby County native and Franklin College student Kelly Eckart. Michael Dean Overstreet was convicted of the murder and given the death penalty. After being forced to remain mute during the trial and conviction, Eckart’s mother, Connie Sutton, and her husband, Dale, began an impassioned campaign for Kelly’s Law by writing and emailing every state legislator. Sutton testified before state lawmakers asking them to change the law to give victims’ families the right to speak during capital murder cases. Although Overstreet’s family had testified about how they would miss him if he was sentenced to death, Eckart’s family never had a chance to speak and express the impact of their traumatic loss. (Overstreet was later deemed mentally incompetent for his sentence to be administered. He remains incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City.)
30 YEARS AGO: 1992
WISH-TV meterologist Randy Ollis taught a free class at city hall about tornado preparation. The program was organized by Shelby County Emergency Management Director Jack Boyce.
40 YEARS AGO: 1982
The Shelbyville High School Show Group returned from performing over Spring Break in Florida. The 38 members of the group had performed at Sea World and spent a day at Disney World.
50 YEARS AGO: 1972
Mayor Jerry Higgins and City Engineer John Soller recommended that the city end its use of the landfill along the Old Franklin Road. A state inspection had cited possible health hazards given the landfill’s proximity to Big Blue River. County officials had recently used 140 truckloads of dirt to provide more cover material at the site. Higgins and Soller asked local contractors to start taking materials to the Caldwell landfill in Morristown.
60 YEARS AGO: 1962
Dr. Perry Odom, a chiropractor from North Carolina, opened an office in Room 201 of the Methodist Building. His hours were 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 7 p.m. during the week and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. He was closed Thursdays and Sundays.
70 YEARS AGO: 1952
City officials reported that City Cemetery needed updates. More than 25 stone markers had tumbled from their bases. Trash had been dumped on the grounds along Pennsylvania Street, and a newspaper photo showed beer cans sitting on some markers. The paper also noted that discarded Christmas trees had been strategically placed around the grounds for kids to play hide-and-seek.
80 YEARS AGO: 1942
Melvin Jeffries, operator of the St. Joseph gymnasium bowling alley, reported the “third or fourth” theft over the previous few weeks had occurred, this one regarding $5 taken from a cash drawer.
The state director for Selective Service in Indiana told the Shelbyville Lions Club at the Strand Alcazar that no exemptions from service to the country would be granted. “Under present conditions, every man within the draft age limitations will one day be inducted into the service, regardless of his classification. Individual hardships are not taken into account,” he said. He said farmers could receive a six-month deferrment, but would assuredly still be called for service. Members of the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs also attended the session.
90 YEARS AGO: 1932
Two well-dressed men held up the filling station on the northwest corner of Mechanic and Harrison Street, which was operated by Charles McGaughey. One of the men pointed a small automatic gun at McGaughey and ordered him to open the safe. They also took McGaughey’s watch and a pocket knife. It was the third time the station had been held up over the previous two years.
100 YEARS AGO: 1922
A Mr. Thurston caught a two-pound fish on West Mechanic Street, near the intersection with Conrey Street, following a hard downpour. The story was verified by several neighbors and city mail carrier Julius Cheuden. The fish was believed to have made its way to the street through a storm sewer line, jumping from the manhole into the water, which at the time covered the street. Several residents near city park (now Morrison Park) were stranded in their homes for several hours due to flooding of most area yards.
Local school officials announced Blue Ridge school would close on Friday, the first in the county to take summer recess.
Ortis Headlee and Frank Toner announced they would open a new confectionary, cafeteria and deli in the soon-to-be-vacated Farmers National Bank building on Public Square.