Sunday, January 28, 2024
Local Historian Recalled Turn-of-Century Shelbyville
Gendron Wintin attended the former Colescott school, which was demolished in 1939 to make way for the present building (Lora B. Pearson Elementary), now apartments. | David Craig photo
When Gendron Wintin and her husband, Walter, pulled into a gas station downtown Shelbyville in the mid-1950s, the local historian’s mind wandered.
“As the attendants took care of our needs, I watched the almost unbelievable stream of traffic passing by: sleek, long cars of all colors and models,” she later wrote. She had two prevailing thoughts: how the “honey” vehicle they purchased just a few years earlier was already considered a “jalopy,” and the stark contrast between her childhood in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the technological advancements of the 1950s.
She thought about the interurban, which ran every hour to Indianapolis and back. “But aside from their rumble, the only sound that broke the silence was the clop-clop of horses’ feet,” Wintin said. There were no paved roads.
It was around 1905 the first automobile appeared in Shelbyville, she said. “It was a small topless car guided by a handle on a stick. People called it ‘the coffee’ grinder’ and said that it was just a fad that wouldn’t last long.” It was owned by Lura Spiegel, wife of furniture factory owner Charles Spiegel. (Lura was one of three women who headed up construction of a small park and fountain, now greenspace, at the intersection of Broadway and Washington Ave.)
Shelbyville was then a furniture manufacturing town. “Men worked from 6 to 6, walked or rode bicycles to and from work, and most of them carried dinner pails,” Wintin wrote. “Summer afternoons the squeal and whine of the planers and saws could be heard in any part of Shelbyville.”
Gendron’s father had been a “drummer” for the local factories, meaning he carried photographs of the lines he represented to show customers. Her family lived in a small cottage east of what became Morrison Park, then known as Teal’s pasture, “a fine place to play under the huge oak trees that bordered the city ditch,” she wrote. The old Colescott school building was new then and there were few residents south of the school building. “We cut across the ‘commons’ to school in good weather, avoiding the cows tethered out to stakes.”
Her family moved over to the west part of town, and she transferred to “the Hill school.” Flora Blair was her first grade teacher. (Blair was the daughter of Circuit Court Judge Alonzo Blair Sr. and brother of Circuit Court Judge Alonzo Blair Jr. She taught 47 years, retiring in 1927.)
Mr. Allen was the janitor of the Hill school. He rang the bell each morning signaling students to form lines and march into the building. He “took out of lines any fidgeters, gum chewers or talkers, who had to visit the principal before going to class,” Wintin said. When all students had marched in, Mr. Allen followed, holding the bell by the clapper and leaving it on the marble top of a big register with iron grillwork sides in the middle of the large hall.
The big square building was in the center of the block, and the front half of the grounds was shaded and sloped to the front. “The last day of school each year we were allowed to play there. The playground was well shaded, too, and was enclosed with a criss-cross board fence with a flat board on top, a fine place to sit and munch the recess apple.”
Across the street on Miller was a small grocery store that offered tablets, pencils, large sour pickles and chocolate “men” that sometimes had a penny hidden in the stomach area. The store building had once been the toll house for the Shelbyville-Columbus Turnpike. It was later replaced with what Wintin and her childhood friends called “the flat iron building” (now the David Phares financial advisor/Edward Jones agency.)
NATIONAL NEWS: Cruise bookings in November 2023 for 2024 cruises were about 20% higher than bookings in November 2019 for 2020 cruises, an analyst told Reuters. (Morning Brew)
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This Day in Shelby County History
2014: Long John Silvers in Shelbyville closed.
2004: For the fifth consecutive year, Shelby County collected a record amount of child support, the annual Child Support Collection from the State Family and Social Services Administration report said. In 2003, the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Child Support Division collected $3.8 million for children, an increase of more than $200,000 over the previous year. Prosecutor Kent Apsley’s office had more than doubled collections, from $1.7 million, since he took office.
A divided Shelby County Council approved a resolution asking the Indiana legislature to approve the sale of pull-tabs at the state’s pari-mutuel horse racing tracks, including Indiana Downs in Shelbyville. Council member Bob Carmony, who voted in favor, noted that the money would not have to be earmarked for economic development. A dissenting councilmember, though, said he didn’t believe the revenue projections cited by the gambling industry that taxes on pull-tabs would produce $9 million for the county, with the city and schools sharing the pot.
1994: Alton and Beverly Adkins, owners of Five Points Furniture, 412 Miller Ave., opened Five Points Furniture Too across the street in the former Greasey’s Swap Shop.
Shelby County resident Jim Brown had been transferring county property records from the old plat books to a computer. Shelby County had about 40,000 parcels of land. The county got a bargain when Brown agreed to draw the county lots. The county had received proposals for about $1 million from other firms. Brown, who had taken an early retirement from General Motors Corp. after 30 years, 10 of which were spent making computerized drawings of the plant and equipment, did the work for $100,000, with about $10,000 used for equipment.
Craig Cox won the 1994 Loper School Geography Bee. The runner-up was Daniel Plew. Other winners were Eric Peters, Del Denney, Greg Turner, Josh Winkler, Brittany Davis, Lindsey Springer and Jeremy Willis. The contest was sponsored by National Geographic and Amtrak.
Local attorney J. Lee McNeely, who was president of the National Association of Wabash Men, delivered an official welcome address for the new college president. Other local Wabash alumni included Judge Jack Tandy, Morristown Town Attorney Robert Adams and Dr. James Peters.
1984: In a speech at the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Morton Marcus, an Indiana University economist, noted that only 3 percent of the total personal income generated within Shelby County came from farming while industrial jobs provided 44 percent of the in-county income. He also said that in the last decade Shelby County had lost 2,100 people.
1974: The New Life United Methodist Church complex on 400 W just north of 600 N in Moral Township was under construction. When finished, the structure would include a sanctuary, classrooms, kitchen and fellowship hall. The church was a consolidation of the Hillside United Methodist Church and Sugar Creek Methodist Church.
The first blood draw held in the county outside Shelbyville attracted over 200 volunteers from the Fairland and Triton area. A newspaper photo showed Darlene Meloy, a Triton Central Sunshine Society member, offering pastries to Odell Spivey, who had just given a pint of blood.
1964: Illinois Congressman Leslie Arends was announced principal speaker at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner at the Elks Club. Mr. and Mrs. Morris Tobian were co-chairs of the event. Lawrence Schneider was in charge of ticket sales.
1954: The Alhambra Cigar Store, owned by Robert Morris and Paul Murray, moved across the street from their previous location, on the southwest corner of Harrison and Broadway, across from the Strand.
School officials studied consolidating schools in southern Shelby County with one in northern Bartholomew County. The study included retaining elementary grades at schools in Flat Rock, Mt. Auburn and Clifford, while high school students would attend a new high school.
1944: The new owners of the Shelbyville Desk Company said the business had many back orders, but they needed 90 to 100 employees instead of the 60 on the payroll. New owner Jack Koenig said he would relocate his family here as soon as possible.
1934: A special train to Martinsville for a basketball game attracted 275, most of them high school students. The train left Shelbyville at 6 p.m., a half-hour later than scheduled, and so the game was postponed 30 minutes. The train returned at midnight.
1924: A wheel on one of the city’s fire trucks was damaged when the vehicle slid on ice en route to a fire and crashed against the curb. Fire Chief William Briggs ordered two extra tires to be sent express. The fire was at the home of Urban Ensminger, 236 West Taylor St., which was blamed on chimney soot.
1914: Dale Jordan won the annual Corn Show and Institute held in Flat Rock. Farmers’ wives also held baking competitions at the event. W.B. Douglass, a cattle breeder in the county, was the principal speaker.