I am WAY overdue for a reader column. Time to correct that!

Back in early December Dennis Hester wrote that he was hoping to find a history of Wayne Township’s Durbin School. His interest stems not only from the fact he was a student at the school himself (1941-1950,) but his mother, Ruth Hester, also taught there from 1941 to 1971.

While I’ve run across a ton of references to Durbin School in the old newspapers, I’m not aware of any formal history. If someone out there is, let me know and I’ll pass the information along to Dennis.

Barb Mitchell emailed that she’d lived in Fishers in the late 1930s and ‘40s, back in the days when Fishers was just a dot on the map. She remembered it being called “Mudsock”.

Barb noted that they used to have free movies on Wednesday nights during the summer. The films were shown on the window-less, door-less wall of a building next to the tavern and the grain elevator.

Mary Kingsolver Ryder of Rhode Island also lived in Fishers during the 1940s. She wrote that her father, being a fisherman, was interested in the construction of Geist Reservoir and liked to take the family out on Sunday drives to see the dam being built. 

Mary said she’d never heard of Germantown, the village now under the waters of Geist, until a few years ago, but she found it very interesting and pointed out that a great collection of old Germantown photos is available on the internet.

I think I found the website she referred to, but the URL is so long I won’t insert it here. Just search on “History of Geist Reservoir and Germantown” and you should come up with the link.

When I was researching Noblesville photographer O. A. Harnish, I recalled that Jerry Snyder had written in her Times column, “Now and Then,” that she and her “Forever Friend,” Betty Lou, had played with Harnish’s old equipment when they were growing up in the 1930s. (Elizabeth “Betty Lou” Harnish Spencer was O. A.’s granddaughter.)

According to Jerry, Harnish’s camera was still in the attic of the family barn at that time. She described it as one of those huge affairs where the photographer would stand behind the camera under a cloth and squeeze a bulb to take the photo.

The barn also held some of Harnish’s photographic props, like a settee where a lady could pose and scenic paintings to provide backgrounds. There was even a sheared beaver opera cape the girls used when playing vampires, bullfighters or Phantom of the Opera!

Pam Ferber wondered about the “Porter” in the Porter Escort Guards’ name. I’m glad she raised the subject because I didn’t have space in the previous column to supply any details about the group.

I believe the “Porter” refers to Albert G. Porter, the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 1880, the year the company was founded.

That’s just a guess on my part, though, based on the fact most of the “escort guards” mentioned in the old Indiana newspapers bear the name of some politician, e.g. the Harrison Escort Guards, the Garfield Escort Guards, etc. 

The Porter Escort Guards was a ceremonial drill team made up of African Americans which, as I wrote before, was formed to promote the Republican party at campaign rallies. Each member had a special uniform and a badge which read “Porter Escort Guards.”

Their most notable appearance came when they served as part of the reception for Frederick Douglass during his 1880 visit to Noblesville.
I could find no later references to them, so they apparently disbanded after the election.

- Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com