Sunday, February 28, 2021

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This might hurt a little

Dear readers, 

This week we will start with some breaking news, take a look into the sport of bull riding and wrap things up by answering the question, is The Fiddlers Three now a Dick’s Last Resort franchise?

Breaking News: Shelbyville, Ind. - Registered Nurse Ruthie Schoentrup, successfully gave Kris Meltzer his first covid-19 vaccine shot.

That’s right, I got the vaccine shot and it didn’t hurt. Well, maybe a little; similar to a regular flu shot. Not only was the shot painless but so was the process. After watching the evening news on TV, and seeing people waiting in long lines to get the shot, I thought it would take the entire afternoon. I packed a snack consisting of a sandwich, banana, and chocolate moon pie. 

My appointment at Major Hospital was for 12:20 p.m. and I arrived a few minutes early. I was greeted at the door by Mr. Lutes. After answering a few easy questions in the reception area, I was escorted to a large room, received my shot, rested the required 15 minutes and was at home before 1 p.m. Great job, MHP!

Bull Riding: I learned everything I know about bull riding from watching episode 12 “Rodeo Days” from season 4 of the tv show, “King of the Hill.” This week I learned that bull riding is a school sport just like basketball, football, and track.

Hunter Richards, a 10-year-old student at Loper Elementary School, is Shelby County’s sole competitor. Hunter and his parents, Darin and Deborah, would like to see an increase in participation among our local youth.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I’ll bet the biggest obstacle to getting more kids in this sport is that it requires riding a bull. Just watching bull riding on tv gives me the heebie jeebies. Hunter may not realize it but very few adult men have the combination of nerve, skills, and courage to ride a bull.

I think the biggest draw for the sport would be the uniforms. Western wear looks cool and never goes out of style. Cowboys and cowgirls were everywhere in the 1980s when John Travolta and Debra Winger starred in the movie, “Urban Cowboy.” Mechanical bulls became popular attractions at saloons everywhere. I was afraid to try one of mechanical ones, let alone a real bull.

Just when I thought today’s youth was spending all their time watching tv and playing video games, I learn about Hunter Richards. I’m a fan. I plan on covering one of Hunter’s bull riding contests in the future.

I’ll have an insult on the side: Team Schwinn reporter Earl Brant brought this story to my attention. Last week, Facebook featured some back-and-forth insult hurling supposedly between the new owner of The Fiddlers Three and a customer.  Earl wondered if maybe the restaurant had become a franchise of the famous restaurant Dick’s Last Resort, known for serving an insult with every entrée.  I talked to someone who dined recently at The Fiddlers Three. She reported having the salmon. She said it was excellent and an insult on the side wasn’t even offered.

New Family Ownership at Fountaintown Gas

When Lisa Bridges boxed the remaining items from her Fountaintown Gas Co. office in late December, it was the end of a lifetime run on Morristown’s central route. “I grew up on Main Street,” she said.

Bridges was born in a home next to the present J.R. Wortman Co., founded by her parents. 

“My box of Barbies was under Dad’s desk,” she recalled in an interview at the Bluebird Restaurant, on Main St., last week. “We didn’t have babysitters, they took their two kids to work.”

Her mom, Sue Wortman, served as bookkeeper at the former Home Appliance Company, founded by Robert Wortman’s father and grandfather. Mr. Wortman then obtained ownership of the gas company, which had previously served Fountaintown with a limited supply from local wells in the 1960s. Wortman believed that expanding access to reliable natural gas was critical to the survival of small towns after the new interstate had left many stranded. Morristown also had the added benefit of an active railroad.

The family of four all pitched in. Bridges started a monthly meter reading route in sixth grade while her brother, Jay, joined the manual labor crew. I asked if she was on the payroll. “It was called three meals a day and a roof over my head,” she said, laughing.

Over the next few years, the Morristown Chamber of Commerce worked with the gas company to market the town’s offerings to industry. International Packings Corporation was the first to heed the call, expanding from Shelbyville to Morristown in 1973. Detroit Steel and Nabisco followed soon after, with Du-Wel and KBI arriving in the late 70s, just before the Industrial Park was annexed.

Originating with two customers - Morristown Town Clerk Harry Callahan and the Morristown Grain Elevator - the Fountaintown Gas Co. soon offered full service to Morristown. Today, the business serves over 3,200 residential customers and approximately 300 commercial businesses in small communities, including Park 100 Foods, which produces chili for the Wendy’s restaurant chain; Klosterman Bakery, which delivers fresh McDonald’s sandwich buns all over the country; a corn and flour tortilla maker; and local favorites Kopper Kettle Inn and Bluebird. Bridges, a Taylor University graduate, eventually became treasurer of the gas company.

The fifty-plus year run has featured the joys of togetherness for the founding family. Mr. Wortman routinely visited Lisa’s office for morning coffee. Jordan Andis, Bridges’ son, had an office across the hall. Ashley and Andy Longwell, Bridges’ daughter and son-in-law, also worked at the company. They attended Morristown United Methodist Church together, too. At one point, six generations of Wortmans helped fill the sanctuary on Sundays. There was also shared grief. Jay Wortman passed away in December 2014; his mother, Sue, died just six months later.

And with the ever-changing business environment, the family decided it was time to hand over the reins to the Beynon family, which owns gas companies in adjacent territories. The new owners’ 100,000-plus customer base will allow for more efficiencies moving forward, Bridges said.

“It’s like putting a baby up for adoption,” she said. “Dad did a great thing starting this and bringing it here, but we have to give it up to a bigger company that can give it the future it needs because we can’t.”

Mr. Wortman will maintain his office for the next five years. All employees will keep their jobs, as well, although Jason Wortman and Jordan Andis have decided to pursue other interests. Bridges, 62, has been asked to stay on in an advisory capacity to help administer a fund that provides financial assistance to those who can’t pay their bills, yet don’t qualify for government assistance. “Fountaintown Gas has always had churches and individuals who would bring money in at Christmas or when someone had a personal tragedy and ask to pay the bills for some of our customers,” she said. “The Beynon family goes beyond this and has a matching fund to put with such donations.”

With the transition official as of Jan. 1, Bridges is still adjusting to retired life.

“Not being with my family every day is difficult,” she said.

But, ultimately, she’s at peace with the decision and looks forward to dedicating more time to quilting, serving on the Blue River Community Foundation board and Morristown revitalization committee, and, of course, church. “I used to host a weekly Bible study and I am hoping that we will be able to get back together in person for that soon,” she said.

Although Bridges, who studied psychology and Christian education in college, hadn’t intended to spend her career at the gas company, she said it has “really worked for my life. It’s like having a family farm; you do what you need to do for your family.”

Now, she is grateful to have another family business in Morristown. “They’re going to be capable of doing so much more because of their size,” she said. “We tried to be sure it was a good fit. I’m really excited that we’ve got somebody else that’s going to have a stake in Morristown and will help reenergize us.”


  • As of yesterday, the state reported 4,601 positive coronavirus cases in Shelby County, an increase of 3 from the previous day, out of 18,253 tests, an increase of 11 from the day before. The number of deaths for Shelby County remained the same, at 90. As of yesterday, the state reported 7,045 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Shelby County, an increase of 113 from the previous day, and 4,265 have been fully vaccinated, an increase of 116 from the day before.

  • HOOSIER NEWS: Larry Clisby, the radio voice of Purdue men’s basketball for more than 40 years, died Saturday morning at his home in Florida. Clisby was 74. Clisby retired from play-by-play duties after calling 1,189 Boilermaker games after last season. Clisby has battled health problems over the last several years. Clisby started his broadcasting career in Paducah, Kentucky, before being hired by WLFI-TV in Lafayette, in 1977. He started in the area by calling high school basketball games and being the set-up man for Purdue Basketball, before moving full-time to become the Voice of the Boilermakers in 1982, while also hosting the Gene Keady Show. He called some of the biggest moments in Purdue history, ranging from Chad Austin’s game-winning shots at Indiana, Glenn Robinson’s basket vs. Michigan to help give Purdue the 1994 Big Ten Championship to Ryan Cline’s stepback 3-pointer against Tennessee in the 2019 Sweet 16. He was a part of nine Big Ten Championship seasons, one Big Ten Tournament title, 28 NCAA Tournaments and three Elite Eight appearances. In 2018, Clisby was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. (The Indianapolis Star)

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    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: 2001
    Bruce Knecht was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce as the 2000 Outstanding Citizen. Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson was the featured speaker at the Chamber’s annual awards event.

    30 YEARS AGO: 1991
    A pre-trial conference was set for a Shelbyville man accused of stealing ice cream from a Schwan’s delivery truck parked in the 300 block of South Tompkins Street.

    The Shelbyville IGA store donated its complete computerized scan system to the Blue River Vocational-Technical Center. Dick Herbert, IGA manager, had made arrangements for the $60,000 system to be donated as his store prepared to install a new scan system.

    The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld a decision by Shelby Circuit Court Judge Charles D. O’Connor regarding a murder trial that had been moved to Shelby County from Washington County.

    40 YEARS AGO: 1981
    Shelby County Pork Queen Teresa Foreman, a senior at Triton Central High School, was named Miss Congeniality in the 1981 State Pork Queen contest.

    Shelbyville native Sandy Allen was officially recognized as the world’s tallest living person due to the death of an Illinois man who was 8 feet, 2 inches tall. Sandy was 7 feet, 7 1/4 inches tall. Allen lived in Niagara Falls, N.Y., where she worked for the Guinness Book of World Records Museum. Her mother, Jackie Warner, of Shelbyville, said Allen’s contract would expire in September.

    50 YEARS AGO: 1971
    The annual Shelby County Republican Lincoln Day dinner was set for the Elks Club. Entertainment would be provided by the Triton Central Singers under the direction of Mrs. Shofner. Dinner music would be by Debbie Barger, a TCHS student, and a memorial reading to Abraham Lincoln would be presented by Morris Todd, an SHS student. J. Lee McNeely was chairman; Vivian Reeves was ticket chairman for the event; and Sylvia Barger, Robert Barger, and Harriet Arland were on the committee.

    60 YEARS AGO: 1961
    A state of emergency was declared for Shelby County after nearly 9 inches of snow fell and winds raged up to 40 miles per hour, creating huge snowdrifts, some of them eight feet deep. Four and five-foot drifts were common. It was the worst snowstorm in at least 10 years. West State Road 44 to Franklin was closed, electric and telephone outages occurred throughout the county, and numerous motorists were stranded.

    70 YEARS AGO: 1951
    Three of the four fires that the Shelbyville Fire Department responded to in the day were the result of sparks from trash burning. About 50 acres was burned in a county field owned by Dr. Caroline Milleson before firefighters regained control. Other fires occurred on Walser Road property owned by Dr. Clifton Latshaw and at an empty lot at 846 Main Street. Another alarm caused by a flue burning out occurred at the home of Joe Thieman, 136 N. Vine St.

    80 YEARS AGO: 1941
    A confectionary business was reestablished. The "Sugar Bowl, operated by Nick Rusis, reopened on S. Harrison St. in a building formerly occupied by the Knoebel Market. The store carried a complete line of homemade candies, sodas, sundaes and nuts. Rusis was a native of Greece. He had come to America in 1916 and became an American citizen in 1923.

    90 YEARS AGO: 1931
    Madame Mae arrived in town to read palms at 424 S. Pike St. “Tells past, present and future - does not ask any questions,” a newspaper ad said. “She takes away all evil influence. Don’t put this off too long. Come at your earliest convenience between hours of 9 in the morning and 9 at night.” Madame promised to “give your initials or money refunded.”

    100 YEARS AGO: 1921
    A week-long diphtheria quarantine in Morristown was lifted. School was scheduled to be reopened on Monday.

    The Strand Theatre celebrated its fifth anniversary. “The Strand came into existence under rather harsh conditions,” The Republican said. “It was an enterprise that many persons said would be a failure because of the amount of capital placed in the building. The construction of this theatre was a marvel to many persons. It is all steel and concrete.” William Meloy had contracted the building and Paul Meloy was to be the manager, but he was deployed to France for military service. After the Armistice, Paul was dispatched to Germany before returning to finally take over the Strand. “The general public owes very much to the owners of the Strand,” the paper said. “They could have constructed a much cheaper building…”

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