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  • 7/19/2018 Since I featured cats in a column last month, it only seems fair to devote one to dogs, too.

    If you’re around my age, you may recall Sparky, the Noblesville Fire Department’s Dalmatian. For me, he was one of the highlights of the 1960s Christmas parades, riding on the fire engine with a big, beautiful bow tied around his neck.

    Well, Sparky wasn’t the department’s first dog-in-residence. (In fact, he wasn’t even the first Sparky).

    The earliest reference I found to a canine mascot at the Noblesville Fire Department was a dog named McKinley. McKinley popped up in the July 4, 1902, Hamilton County Ledger because the department hadn’t paid his dog tax.
  • 7/5/2018 Every once in a while I stumble across an article that’s just too good to ignore — like the July 2, 1926 Noblesville Daily Ledger story about Sheridan’s marshal, H. E. (Harmon Elemander) Newman, foiling “one of the best established chicken stealing gangs in Indiana.”

    Keep in mind, chickens were kind of a big deal then. If the ads I’ve seen are any indication, local restaurants of the 1920s were judged, above all else, by the quality of their chicken dinners.

    In the spring of 1926, the farmers around Sheridan were losing chickens right and left. Even though they banded together to patrol the area roads at night, the bandits continued to elude capture.

    Finally, around Easter Marshal Newman arrested a teenager for stealing a car. For some reason, he believed the boy also had knowledge of the chicken thefts and he decided to let the teen sweat in jail for a while “to think it over.”
  • 6/28/2018 These days Noblesville holds quite a celebration each Fourth of July, but that hasn’t always been the case. If you’ve moved to this area recently, you might be surprised to learn the city’s Fourth of July Parade and the accompanying Fireworks Festival only date back to 1997.

    Throughout most of Noblesville’s history there was no city-wide observance of Independence Day. Residents generally celebrated the holiday doing things like picnicking, fishing, attending baseball games, and setting off their own fireworks.

    I’m not sure why the city rarely sponsored activities in the 19th century, but during the first half of the 20th century, one reason could have been the fact there was sometimes a pretty big celebration just four miles up the road at Riverwood.

    In 1922 the construction of a dam at Clare created a three-mile long “lake” in White River. That area quickly became a popular recreation spot, which led to the founding of the resort community of Riverwood the following year.
  • 6/21/2018 A couple of weeks ago, when I wrote about the kiddie rides the Crask family and others operated at Forest Park, I didn’t get into any of the park’s other attractions during the 1950s and ‘60s, mainly because my memories are a little fuzzy.

    Never fear! Former Westfield resident Larry Cloud remembers them well and he sent enough details to fill this column.

    The first thing Larry mentioned was the L-shaped arcade building which held booths with open fronts like you’d see at a carnival. I wasn’t able to track down when the arcade opened, but I did find that Jim Sinders bought that concession from Raymond “Red” Meredith in 1958, the same year the Crasks took over the kiddie rides.

    In the right leg of the “L” was a booth with Skee-Ball machines, where you rolled balls up an incline and tried to get them to fall into holes with various point values. Next to that was a shooting gallery where you could shoot at targets with .22 rifles.
  • 6/14/2018 We often think of past eras as being more innocent than the times in which we live, but that’s just not true. Times change; basic human nature doesn’t.

    For example, 123 years ago this week the small village of Fisher’s Switch (Yes, SMALL— Fishers had fewer than 200 residents then!) made news around the country when the local postmaster, A. W. (Albert) Trittipo, nearly became the victim of an “infernal machine.”

    (The term, “infernal machine,” came into common use during the late 1800s to describe bombs and other death-dealing devices used for political assassinations and general terrorism).

    On June 13, 1895 Trittipo received a package through the mail marked “These are samples.” Since he operated a general store in addition to his postal duties, he naturally assumed some company had sent him samples of their product for advertisement purposes.

    Paying no heed to the other message on the package which indicated one particular end was to be opened, he absently tore into the box at the wrong end. That likely saved his life.
  • 6/7/2018 Noblesville’s Forest Park has been a source of happy memories for people all over this part of the state ever since it opened in 1926. Chances are, if you’re a Baby Boomer, some of those happy memories involve the kiddie rides which were once located near the Forest Park Inn.

    When the rides first appeared in 1951, they were run by a Mr. and Mrs. Cole of Peru, Indiana. 

    It was a heck of a commute for the Coles, let alone for the ponies of their pony ride, so each night when the park closed, they would load up the ponies and take them to a field they rented on a farm owned by Orval and Jean Crask.

    After seven years, the Coles decided they’d had enough and they sold the kiddie ride concession, lock stock, and barrel, to the Crasks, who operated the rides from 1958 to around 1970.
  • 5/31/2018 I love all animals, but I have a special spot in my heart for cats. That’s why I want to point out that June is Adopt a Shelter Cat Month.

    If you’ve been thinking of acquiring a new furry friend, now is a great time to do it. This is the height of kitten season, which means shelters and rescue organizations everywhere are overrun with cats and kittens needing good homes.

    For anyone sitting on the fence about adopting a new furry companion, let me toss out a few possible perks of living with a cat that you might not have considered, little fringe benefits my new kittens, Oliver and Beau, have taught me.

    First, you might not need an alarm clock anymore.
  • 5/24/2018 Having spent my entire life in the Indianapolis area, I was aware race car driver Wilbur Shaw was a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 (1937, ’39 and ’40, to be specific). 

    I didn’t realize until recently, however, that he’d been a Hamilton County resident. Nor had I fully appreciated just how important he was to the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Without Shaw, there might never have been another Indianapolis 500 after World War II.

    During the war, the race was suspended and the track abandoned.

    Shaw was hired by Firestone then to help develop a new synthetic rubber tire. When he came to Indianapolis in late 1944 to test the tire, he was appalled to discover the track had become a weed-choked jungle.
  • 5/18/2018 Time to clear out the old “mailbag” again!

    I’m happy to note that Sid Davis, who grew up in the Hazel Dell area, agreed with me on the location of Brompton. He even added a few details.

    According to Sid, Brompton was located on the northwest corner of the intersection of Hazel Dell Road and the Midland Railroad, and Brompton’s store sat right beside the railroad, facing east.

    Remember Larry Roach’s quest to find out more about the “medallion” that commemorated American National Bank’s 50th anniversary?

    Dottie (Zeiss) Young said it was really a key chain. She has one herself from the 50th anniversary, as well as one from the bank’s 75th anniversary.

    That makes a lot of sense because Larry had mentioned that the medallion was numbered, had a loop for a chain and was marked “postage guaranteed” on the back. My understanding is, you could register the number of your key chain with the bank and if you ever lost your keys, they’d see to it they were returned to you. (Talk about service).
  • 5/10/2018 A few weeks ago, former Westfield resident Larry Cloud brought up something called “Hat Day,” which he said used to take place each spring in the 1950s. 

    This was new to me, so I did some digging and discovered that technically it was known as “Straw Hat Day.” It was the day men were supposed to put aside the warm felt hats they’d worn during the cold winter months and start wearing straw hats instead.

    The day was observed all over the country during the last half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, although the exact date varied with the location and sometimes changed slightly over the years.

    Around here, Straw Hat Day seems to have always taken place on May 15. There was an unwritten rule that straw hats shouldn’t be worn before that date, although occasionally when the weather turned warm a little early, a few brave souls would defy tradition.
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Friday, July 20, 2018

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