Note: Welcome my friend, Janis Thornton as today's guest blogger. Janis releases her new book, a true-live mystery about the sudden death in 1965 of her Tipton High School classmate. The launch is 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4 in the Tipton County Public Library, 127 E. Madison St., Tipton, Indiana. Janis is getting statewide media notice about her update to this still-unsolved mystery. She will be speaking and fielding questions on Saturday, along with signing books. Yours Truly will emcee the program. Maybe we'll see you in Tipton.
Pursuit for truth, justice unfold in 'Too Good a Girl'
by Janis Thornton
I’ve never forgotten Saturday, Oct. 16, 1965. It was supposed to be special, full of happiness and renewal of old friendships.
Tipton High School’s homecoming celebration was that weekend. My boyfriend, a year ahead of me in school, came home for the first time since moving to Bloomington to attend college. That Saturday, we went to dinner with my just-married friends, who recently had settled into their first home and were already expecting their first child. We had lots to feel joyful about.
Unfortunately, the day turned out anything but joyful. Instead, for me and the entire Tipton community, Oct. 16, 1965, became synonymous with profound tragedy and despair. It was the night Olene Emberton didn’t come home.
Olene was a quiet, well-mannered, studious, 17-year-old Tipton High School senior. That night, she dropped off a friend at his house and drove away, headed for home, a journey of only six blocks. Inexplicably, she never arrived. The next day, her car was found parked and locked at a four-way stop three blocks from her house. The day after that, her body was found discarded alongside a remote, Tipton County road.
The autopsy revealed no cause of death. The investigation by local and state police proved fruitless. The sudden, unexplained death of Olene Emberton has never been solved.
Her death was especially difficult to process because she was a member of my class. We had attended school together since fourth grade. We lived just a block-and-a-half apart. And even though we weren’t close friends, growing up in Tipton in the 1950s and ’60s provided countless shared experiences. I often look back and wonder how her life might have played out had it not ended that October night in 1965.
The notion of researching and writing about Olene’s case first occurred to me some 30 years ago, long before I had the skills to undertake such a sensitive, emotionally- riddled subject that was certain to ruffle feathers, stoke anger, and hurt feelings.
Someone needed to set the record straight. Why not me?
Fast forward to 2004. I had been a staff writer for The Times of Frankfort, Indiana, for five years. That’s when I made the decision to dive in, to honor my classmate by telling her story and preserving her memory.
So, off and on for the next 14 years, I pored over court records, combed through news articles, tracked down and interviewed law enforcement officials, sent Freedom of Information Act requests, picked the brains of forensics experts, studied criminology, attended conferences, surveyed my classmates, talked with Olene’s friends and remaining family members, and followed all the loose ends, and snapped the puzzle pieces together.
The result of my long pursuit for the truth has manifested in a book, “Too Good a Girl,” which launches Saturday, Aug. 4.
Did I solve the mystery? No, but I did weave all the strands of Olene’s complex story together so readers can make their own tapestry of truth and discover their own conclusion.
In the almost 53 years since Olene Emberton’s mysterious death, her friends and loved ones have never stopped asking, “What happened”? Unless someone steps forward soon with a sudden recollection or a confession, it’s likely we will never know. However, even without that closure, we can take satisfaction in pulling together to honor her name and her memory.
When Olene was a freshman at Tipton High School, she authored a brief autobiography. In it, she noted her plan for the future. She wrote, “I want to attend Ball State University … and after I graduate, I want to be a teacher.”
Sadly, Olene was not able to follow her dream. But I believe there is still a way she can help future graduating Tipton High School students achieve theirs.
The Tipton County Foundation has agreed to establish the Olene Emberton Memorial Scholarship. When fully funded, the scholarship will benefit college-bound, Tipton High School seniors who, like Olene, plan to pursue teaching.
Reaching the fund-raising goal of $25,000 by the end of 2018 will ensure that the fund is permanent, so an award of $1,000 can go to a deserving student in Olene’s memory every year.
I invite you to visit www.tiptoncf.org and consider making a gift. In addition, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of my book will go to the fund, and every donor of $100 or more will receive a complimentary copy with my gratitude.
“Too Good a Girl” will be available for purchase at www.janis-thornton.com and Amazon beginning Aug. 4.
So it’s Wednesday, hump day. Never mind wondering where this week has gone already-- what about the whole summer so far?
One good thing --or make it three good things -- about the nice-weather months this year is that I’ve got to see my friend Gay three times since May. Since Gay lives 100 miles away, that isn’t the usual case.
In early May, Gay hosted me to speak to her sorority in Angola; then in late May, she, husband Rick, Brian and I took a long-weekend to visit Galena, Illinois. This past weekend was “bonus” time as Gay slipped down on Friday and we spent the rest of Friday and Saturday running around to visit favorite consignment shops, boutiques and a nice yard sale a mile north of the Warm Glow Candle Outlet on Centerville Road in Wayne County.
We managed to get in a movie on Friday night and I got to hear all about Gay’s recent trip to California. It was so much fun.
Today, I had the pleasure of meeting, in person, Elaine Pence, who invited me to attend a break-out book-review session about my first book, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, at the upcoming area Extension Homemakers Retreat at Lake Placid Conference Center in Hartford City.
The committee has also asked me to be their opening speaker. I’m honored and excited because three of the counties involved in the retreat represent my three “homes:” Union, Henry and Madison counties. Elaine and I discussed some details and she sent me home with the retreat’s full agenda.
I also swung by the library and picked up a memoir by Amy Dickinson, Strangers tend to tell me things. She writes the syndicated Ask Amy column. The book, subtitled “A memoir of love, loss, and coming home,” looks downright yummy.
It's hot and sunny and I can't wait until 5 when I'll enjoy some early-evening pool time while I can. Summer is moving too quickly.
Happy Wednesday, everyone!
The following is in today's New Castle Courier-Times. This Henry County kid has a passion for seeing that kids in Kenya get clean water. This year he's upping his game from his lemonade-stand roots to a fesitival-type event, coming next Saturday. All the best Jacob!
By Donna Cronk
SPICELAND — Five years ago, Jacob Specht of Knightstown raised $30 at his lemonade stand and donated it toward providing clean water in Kenya. Each year since, the funds he’s collected have increased and last year $2,047 was raised.
This summer, the lemonade-stand fundraiser is more akin to a full-blown festival than a roadside stand.
Jacob’s Clean Water for Kenya includes a car show, quilt raffle, vendor and flea market booths, music, baked goods, meals and yes, a lemonade stand.
The event is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 28 at Spiceland Friends Church, 401 W. Main St., Spiceland. The goal is to raise more money each year than the year before.
The idea for the project began with Spiceland Friends Church Vacation Bible School a few years back when Jacob learned about Kenyan children who have to drink dirty water. He wanted to help them get clean water so he did something about it. He donated proceeds from his lemonade stand to purchase water filters. As in years past, all proceeds from this year’s event go toward buying those filters.
Each water filter costs $60. Each filter serves four families. The average Kenyan family contains 4.5 members so if each family has five members, that is 680 people per filter who will have clean drinking water. The filters are made of cement and last indefinitely.
Now age 10 and going into fifth-grade at Knightstown Intermediate School, Jacob has no plans to cease hosting the annual fundraiser.
“I feel that I’m doing a really good thing for people who don’t always have the clean water that we do and I think that it really helps out,” says Jacob.
He hopes to one day visit Kenya and stay for a month to check it out thoroughly.
Says his grandfather, Gerald Darling, “I think it’s wonderful that he recognized a need. Nobody told him, 'Jacob, this is something you should do.’ It’s really special.”
His mother is Valerie Darling and grandmother is Darlene Darling.
Highlights of the day include the car show until 3 p.m. with registration 9 a.m. to noon. Cost is $10. Awards are at 2 p.m. Trophies and dash plaques will be awarded along with a 50/50 drawing.
A quilt donated by the New Castle Correctional Facility will be raffled. This was Jacob’s idea.
Indoor booths will feature crafts and other items for sale. There will be a bake sale and women of the church will sell pulled pork, sloppy joes, hot dogs, donuts and beverages. Of course, there will be a lemonade stand. Music will be provided by Jeff Curtis.
For more information about the event, contact Gerald Darling at 765-524-9194.
The following feature is reprinted from Sunday's Courier-Times. Congratulations go out to Blaise on the publication of his second cookbook, Blaise the Baker Celebrates! With his talent for recipe development, enthusiasm, and charm, I think The Food Network is missing the boat in not signing him for a cooking show.
By DONNA CRONK
If you’re familiar with Chew This! Columnist Blaise Doubman’s work, you’ll know that his mother, Darla, and two grandmothers, Deloris and Barbra, serve as his muses.
So it won’t be a surprise to learn that Blaise’s earliest cooking memory is helping Grandma Barbra in the kitchen while standing on an old, wooden chair.
“I also have an early memory of helping my Mom, Darla, in the kitchen baking a heart-shaped chocolate cake,” he recalls. “I was amazed at the process.”
Amazed is a constant state of being for Blaise. His writing brims with enthusiasm and unbridled joy about baking, cooking – and all-things food. Right now, he’s as busy with the business side of his spatula as he is with developing, testing, and tasting recipes.
His second cookbook, Blaise the Baker Celebrates! is newly released. It follows his 2016 debut, Blaise the Baker Dessert First.
“I guess in the back of my mind I always knew there would be a second cookbook,” the author says. “Once the first cookbook was published it wasn’t long after that I started gathering up recipes for a second and creating a vision for that one.”
The first volume outperformed expectations. “People just seemed to go crazy over it! I remember crying about how grateful I was that people seemed to enjoy it so much. I have had people email me and tell me that they have literally made every single recipe in the book and love them all.”
RECIPES THAT WORK
Blaise thinks people gravitate toward his recipes for one simple reason: the recipes work.
“So many cookbooks seem to throw recipes together without any form of testing. You have to make sure a recipe works.”
To that end, he explains his methods. First he considers recipes that he enjoys, then family recipes followed by foods he and his family often make, and then recipes that are popular which he wants to share. “I am not big into food trends or recipes that seem to be of the moment. I am more about sharing recipes that are timeless, that have been around 50, 60, 70 years and that people still enjoy today as much as they did years ago.
While he updates them, the recipe and processes remain about the same. But he also plays around with food, measurements, tastes and flavors “and luckily sometimes a delicious new recipe joins the others.”
Desserts were the focus of the first book (although lots of other recipes were included) but the second contains “some really, really strong main dishes and side dishes ...” The new cookbook is organized as is a typical cookbook in appropriate order of food courses.
Gratitude for readers pours from Blaise. “My second cookbook is also dedicated more to my fans and followers. It is because of them that I get the opportunity to do this again. It is a celebration in all definitions of the word. I am celebrating that I get to do this again, celebrating my thankfulness and just celebrating life.”
When asked to select a favorite recipe from the new book, Blaise finds the task difficult. One he mentions, however, is a quick chicken stir fry that is fried in Miracle Whip. Another fave features his new method of oven-roasting chicken that makes clean-up a breeze.
“One of my testers said it was ‘revolutionary!’”
As for mishaps while getting the book ready, Blaise wanted to develop a recipe for a pie baked into a cake. It didn’t go so well.
A Kennard native and resident, the Henry County town is near and dear to the author. One set of grandparents lived one block away from Blaise’s family in one direction, and the other set lived a block away in the other. And, his folks, Jamie and Darla Doubman, grew up as next-door neighbors.
“I tease them that they must have had a crush on each other in kindergarten,” says Blaise. “Whatever it was, it must have worked because they just recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.”
Blaise is in no hurry to leave his hometown. “I love Kennard and I love that I am surrounded by those that I love, so I guess if I do leave, it will not be very far away.”
A graduate of both Knightstown High School and Indiana University East, the author has written Chew This! for almost four years. Some of his other platforms include his blog, blaisethebaker.com where he writes extensively about various aspects of food. He recently partnered with White Cloud World Teas as a brand ambassador. Also check out his online Facebook group, Tasty Recipe Box and a cookbook-sharing group, Cookbooks, etc.
And, keep looking for the author / columnist every first and third Sunday in The Courier-Times Neighbors sections.
“Even to this day I get so excited to see my column and recipe in print – that feeling has never gotten old to me!” he says. “I am still just as excited today about it (as) I was on the first printing.”
He hopes readers enjoy the same things the did with the new cookbook as they did with the first: “That the recipes work, that they love the recipes and that they also enjoy the stories and family memories that I share with each recipe,” says Blaise.
“I really hope that they will feel a part of my family and feel like they were a part in the cookbook’s creation.”
For ordering information or connecting with Blaise, contact him at email@example.com.
You know what they say about true friends; how it doesn't matter how long it's been since you've seen each other because it always feels as though it were just yesterday, and you can pick up where you left off with no awkwardness between you.
That truth applies whenever we spend time with John and Debby Williams. We had the chance to do just that Saturday. And speaking for myself, we had a blast.
We have a history. In fact, we spent the 1980s with them! Brian and John came on board as assistant principal and principal, respectively, at Fountain Central Junior-Senior High School in 1981. Debby had been a principal but took time to be home with the couple's four children. Their twins were babies when the family arrived in Fountain County and they would have two more while living in Veedersburg.
About the time their final baby was born, I was expecting our first and Debby loaned me all her maternity clothes! Ah, the 1980s! So many things happened while we lived in Fountain County. The chart topper was baby Sam's arrival, but there are so many other memories: finishing my journalism degree at Indiana State; getting my first job at the Attica newspaper where my childhood friend Sue Barnhizer (now Anderson) just happened to be the editor! Then becoming the editor.
There was joining the Newtown Community Church, making friends for life, including John and Debby, as mentioned here, Rick and Gay Kirkton and Barb Clark, and so many others we spent time with while living in Fountain County. We've got to visit again with some of these folks as part of my book journey these past few years.
We rented two country farmhouses in our years in Fountain County -- for $200 a month each and no contract unless you count (and we do) the handshake agreement that went with both. Yes, our years in Fountain County were another place and time in many ways. Many good ways.
So that's the 1980s background. John and Debby and family and Brian, Sam and I left Veedersburg in 1989 for other pastures. It was bittersweet. There was much to miss about the life we had built in Fountain County.
But we met more friends and found new opportunities and blessings in the years to come. Chart toppers: our second son, Ben and our daughter-in-law, Allison.
Brian went on to become principal at Fishers Junior High and John went on to serve as schools superintendent at Rushville. Both are officially retired, but John remains busy in consulting work and Brian drives cars for an auction house. I know they would tell you they are having fun with both and when it's no longer fun, they will retire-retire.
Debby served as a principal at Connersville. That's the backyard of where I grew up, a farm kid between there and Liberty. It's still one of those "out-of-context" experiences to discuss with John and Debby the general area where I was born and raised, and the area where I work in Henry County. They have been in southeastern Indiana for quite a few years now!
So yesterday was a fun day of travels, food, fun and conversation. We piled into John's big, black pickup and off we went to Jungle Jim's at Cincinnati.
I've heard about Jungle Jim's for years. Here you can satisfy your foodie yearnings sourced from all over the world.
The choices are amazing, including more cheeses than you can possibly imagine. Same with ethnic breads and any number of other foods as well. You can even do your everyday shopping here, too. It was busy as this is as much a tourist attraction as a shopping experience.
Rest assured we left with an assortment of goodies. In my bags: some interesting chef-made crackers and a basil-tomato cheese that I'll serve with a fruit platter next weekend when we have company; a delicious watermelon, beautiful, tasty peaches, some peach bubble bath (there's a theme here) and some artisan dark-brown bread Brian selected.
The most unusual offering? Brian spotted some frozen python filets.
Onward to Milan, where we checked out the Milan '54 Hoosiers Museum, a charming little place packed with memorabilia from the Milan Miracle when this small school won the state in boys' basketball and went on to inspire one of the greatest sport movies of all time: "Hoosiers."
Museum Founder / Curator Roselyn McKittrick, can't get enough! In fact, she bought the vintage barber shop next door and held court discussing her favorite town and team with our foursome. In case you are wondering, the basketball museum has had visitors from 42 countries and has 2,000 people a year stream through the place. Next up: She's opening the barber shop as a museum.
On the wall is what Milan Coach's wife Mary Lou Wood said after the team won it all, in characteristic Hoosier humility: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice."
Love it. Don't you?
We tore ourselves away from Roselyn, who, in her 80s, could have gone on the rest of the day, I'm convinced (and she is charming, by the way), we headed off to Oldenburg where we enjoyed dinner at another iconic landmark in southeast Indiana:
We wound our way back to Rushville enjoying the lush mid-summer landscape, and even more, the company of dear friends.
Let's do it again soon, guys!
My Sunday column in The Courier-Times:
by Donna Cronk
Moments ago, I cleaned out the last pending email from my work in-box. Yep, I either deleted or dealt with every email cyberspace threw at me in this latest round. For one shining moment, I stare at the clean space in front of me where emails tend to collect like dust bunnies in a vacuum-cleaner bag.
The joy I get from a cleared in-box is why I know that I am not cut out to be president.
Never mind all the other reasons – that I’m totally unqualified, not rich, nor an attorney, nor did I attend Harvard or Yale. No, it’s fine to simply stop with the in-box vetting process and go no further.
I cannot imagine how many emails Donald Trump gets, not to mention those that his staff of gatekeepers intercept first.
At least at The Courier-Times, I can on occasion empty the in-box, placing items in the newspaper of community interest and deleting those with no relevance locally such as fashion week on the East Coast or a lovely notice from some prince’s estate notifying me that he had me precisely in mind to inherit his fortune. If only I would share my bank account numbers, I'd be wealthy.
Of course the in-box fills back up at a steady pace, but at least no one is asking me for a billion dollars or summoning me to an international meeting that will affect no less than the future of the world.
But even more than my concerns over never-ending emails, I could never be president because I don’t have that kind of energy. I mean, who does?
On this issue I have to hand it to President Trump and in equal measure, to Hillary Clinton. I’ll see the President on TV at a rally one night, still going full speed in front of the crowd as I doze off to sleep. Before I can get out of bed the next morning, there he is on TV, in a blue rather than red tie maybe, at his day job back in D.C. or in a different city or country, dealing with the new day’s latest crisis or critic.
Hillary kept that kind of schedule, too, during the campaign. Then she wrote a book about it all and hit the road again explaining why she lost.
Some nights after a day at the paper, I can’t make it to the laundry room to gather dry towels, let alone fold and put them away.
I don’t mind that I lack the right stuff to be leader of the free world. I suppose that’s yet another reason why I won’t be nominated for anything by a cheering throng of supporters. And if I were, I’d have to decline. Who can think with the volume in these people's in-boxes? Besides that, too many speeches and glad-handing are required well past my bedtime.
I think no matter their qualifications, education and timing, it takes a different kind of personal drive than I could ever muster to be president. I’m made, simply put, of the wrong stuff.
But that’s OK. If only for the moment, and only a moment will it remain, you should see my clean inbox.
Donna Cronk is Neighbors Editor of The Courier-Times and edits the quarterly her magazine for women. The summer issue comes out Sunday, July 22. She welcomes reader comments and story ideas. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian and his brother Steve's mom was one of nine kids born to Ralph and Hazel McClellan of Dugger, Indiana. The McClellans were a super close family. After the kids were grown and gone, spreading out across the state and beyond, and after sending three of their sons off to World War II and getting all three home again, the grandkids of Ralph and Hazel fondly remember summers back in southern Indiana and having a blast together at their grandparents' home place.
Then the years came where everyone gathered in Kokomo, or in Shelburn, Indiana on the weekend nearest the Fourth of July. For a few years, there were no such gatherings, but the cousins decided to resume them.
And for the past eight years now, the reunions have rotated among some of the cousins on the weekend nearest Independence Day. Today was the day, this year in Carmel, Indiana, at the lovely home of Kent and Teresa Williams and sons Jimmy and Joel.
Of the nine original McClellan siblings, there were born 20 offspring. So Brian and Steve have 18 McClellan cousins. Twelve were at today's reunion. And four represented the uncles and aunts, below.
There was fried chicken, green beans, baked beans, salads, chips and guac, an assortment of cheesy potatoes and several other dishes.
And desserts, especially pie, not to mention iced tea, laughter, conversation, and love.
Here's a shout out to Indiana artist Marilyn Witt of Straughn who received the Award of Excellence and $1,000 in prize money for her painting, A Bow to Summer’s End, a 24’x18” pastel, at the 40th annual Indiana Heritage Arts Exhibition and Sale. It is a juried fine art exhibit of Indiana artists. The paintings are displayed at the Brown County Art Gallery downtown Nashville, Indiana through Saturday.
According to the materials I received, this show has grown from a small, casual exhibition into one of the best art exhibitions of its kind in the country, with prize money rivaling any national show. Judge is Stapleton Kearns, a nationally-known artist, and due to having associated and studied with many of the past best artists, a vital link to America's fine art history.
He said that although about 300 paintings were submitted, there is only enough wall space for about 100 to be hung. Since two thirds of the submitted paintings had to be juried out, this was an extremely competitive show.
"As the juror, I tried to choose those works that were technically sound, well designed, and held together as a unified whole,” said Kearns. “I looked for paintings that made a strong visual statement, were confidently executed and were individual and original, even if they showed the influence of historical artists or were of familiar subjects. I am more concerned with how it is a picture of than what it is a picture of."
Marilyn says of her inspiration, “Growing up on a farm in Indiana has given me a love of nature and the beauty of the land. This has been the inspiration for many of my oil and pastel landscapes. The balance, rhythm, color and light of the seasons find their way into my paintings. I also enjoy figurative, urban, and garden scenes and subjects inspired by my travels to the southwest, the east coast, and Europe.”
Marilyn continues. “I hope to give the viewer a heightened awareness of the beauty of the world around us. The greatest compliment is when someone sees my painting and says, ‘I feel this place.”’
Marilyn has lived most of her life in Indiana, but has traveled extensively. She attended Indiana
University East and studied art under the instruction of Professor Tom Thomas. She continued her studies with Internationally known artists, Maggie Price, Kim Lordier, Richard McKinley, Kenn Backhaus, Scott Christensen, Barbara Jaenicke, Nancy Foureman, David Slonim and others.
She has painted professionally since 1999 and her paintings have been accepted in local, regional, and national juried shows and have won many awards in both oil and pastel. Her style is impressionistic with an emphasis on color and light. Marilyn’s paintings are included in collections in Indiana, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and India.
Marilyn’s work has been featured in a local women’s magazine and on the covers of three books: two novels and one children’s book.
Her work may be seen at Brown County Art Gallery, Nashville, Indiana; Hoosier Salon, Indianapolis and locally at ERA Integrity Real Estate, and The Artistry Annex in New Castle.
She is a regional ambassador for International Plein Air Painters and her memberships include Indiana Plein Air Painters, American Impressionist Society, Great Lakes Pastel Society, Hoosier Salon, Indiana Artists, Indiana Heritage Arts, Richmond Art Museum, Art Association of Henry County, and other local art associations.
Have a look at her work on her website - www.marilynwittart.com. Email her at email@example.com. Phone - 765-524-1339.
I'm so happy that when I asked Marilyn to do my covers, she said yes! She was fabulous to work with and I remain in awe of her talent as well as her class!
Selected juried exhibitions and awards include:
The day had been in the works since last summer. It happened Friday.
When friends Tom and Char Kuhn visited from northern Indiana last August, we went to Cincinnati for a Reds vs. Cubs game. The Kuhns are huge Cubs fans, but not only that. As we motored toward home on U.S. 40, Tom chatted about his beloved movie, Hoosiers.
If you grew up in Indiana, especially, chances are you've not only seen the film, but you've wiped a tear from your cheek when the Hickory Huskers "win this game for all the small schools that never had a chance to get here."
But wait. Even if you aren't from Indiana, or if you are from any other state or Great Britain, Japan or some other location around the globe, you may have swiped your own tears as well. The movie is loved throughout the world. The Brits know it as Best Shot.
So back to August. We're rolling along talking about Hoosiers. As timing would have it, just ahead is Knightstown, Indiana, site of the Hoosier Gym where all the Huskers' home games were filmed. The 1921 building is the pride and joy of the town and open most days, 9-5. In fact, if you want to rent the place, it's just $30 an hour. But tour it? Free. It's in pristine shape and yes, you can shoot some hoops off a floor so shiny you could eat off it.
Tom wonders if we can possibly see it. Of course! We're one right turn off U.S. 40 away. We pull up to 355 North Washington St., and Tom, Char, and Brian get out and walk to the gym where they stare in the front doors. It's around midnight on a residential street. I stay with the getaway car in case a cop pulls up and wants to know if we're up to no good. Not vandals; just fans.
The trio couldn't see much in the dark. Thankfully, no porch lights flipped on at the houses all around us, so we pulled away with a vow to return.
ABOVE LEFT: locker room in the gym basement. We watched the movie Hoosiers the night before our visit and this scene looks the same as in the movie where Gene Hackman, who plays the head coach, uses those steps in the hall. ABOVE RIGHT: Volunteer Mervin Kilmer loves sharing stories about and giving a tour of this jewel.
Hoosier Gym volunteer Mervin Kilmer explains how the venue was found by Hollywood. Producers of Hoosiers, filmed in 1985, wanted an early 1900s gym in a small town, preferably one still in use. They had a list of around 65 locations.
They decided on the Waveland, Indiana gym. However, they were told they'd have to hurry because the place was slated for demolition and they had signed the contract for the work. So the movie brass kept looking and a story about the search appeared in a newspaper.
Knightstown Banner Owner Peg Mayhill said, according to Kilmer, "What they're looking for is what we have." When the producers came for a look, they agreed immediately that they had found their gym
The townspeople were excited and folks from throughout the region answered the call to appear in crowd scenes on the bleachers. Says Kilmer, "Can you imagine Hollywood coming to Knightstown, Indiana?"
Oh, they imagined all right, and donned their 1950s-era clothing and got their hair styled by the movie crew on site. Racks of '50s clothing were there for the extras to choose from.
While the entire movie was filmed in Indiana, only the home gym scenes were made in Knightstown. New Richmond, Indiana, in Montgomery County, was the main location for most other scenes.
A call went out for high school and college boys under 6'2" to try out for the Hickory Huskers' team and for other basketball scenes in the movie. Eight hundred showed up in the first round. Kilmer says that ironically, the shortest teammate, Ollie in the movie, was in real life the best player and had to be taught how to play poorly.
Screenplay writer Angelo Pizzo had his doubts, says Kilmer, that "it would ever amount to anything." The first critic said it was poorly written and too long. Pizzo went back to work on the script and the second critic -- who read it after a revision -- wept over the script and said it had to be be made into a movie.
The film is about more than hoops. It's about second chances. It's about succeeding even when the odds are against you.
Today, between 60,000 and 70,000 visit the Hoosier Gym each year. That includes teams and fans from all over the world, including basketball greats such as Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.
And it includes great basketball fans such as Tom Kuhn who visited yesterday and has been busy rubbing away those goosebumps.
Before we visited the Hoosier Gym, we lunched at Hoosiers Home Court Cafe, 12 E. Main St. in Knightstown. I can recommend the chili burger, made by owner Kevin Richey. But Char had the classic Hoosier tenderloin. When in Rome ...
The morning started in New Castle at "The World's Largest and Finest" high school gym, New Castle Fieldhouse. Our thanks to the high school administration for allowing access. Of all the day's venues, Tom says the Fieldhouse is his favorite.
The Fieldhouse has hosted Hoosier hoops and the Trojans since 1959 and it is as beautiful as ever. As someone who has worked in and written about this area of the state for 29 years, I can tell you that basketball is as much a part of the air here as is oxygen.
Then it was on to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, within sight of the Fieldhouse. We all agree that the Hall is done beautifully, and there is so much to see and enjoy.
It was a day to remember; a special day in Henry County. And in our friendship.
Note: This feature appears today in the New Castle Courier-Times. I wanted to share it here because it is a tale of taking something old and seemingly beyond its prime and use -- an old school -- and out of it comes something new and wonderful! Affordable housing in a small Henry County town. A look inside the talents and imagination of George King.
Story and photos by Donna Cronk
KENNARD — Patsy Adkins graduated from the last class to use the old Kennard High School building in 1957. She loves the town and is excited to see Kennard Senior Living open. She appreciates the vision of co-owner George W. King of Greensboro.
King told her, "I want people to live here not because they have to but because they want to."
And he's working hard to create plenty of reasons that they would want to.
The complex, at 232 N. Vine St., is now open for tenants. The newly refurbished and re-envisioned complex is in the 40-year-old building known as Kennard Elementary School, which closed in 2015.
"You see so many schools that just fall in on themselves and I didn't want to see that happen," says King, who partnered with Eric Allen of Greenfield to purchase and re-do the property. The two men have done projects together for more than 30 years.
King, 70, radiates enthusiasm and energy for the project. "This came up," he said. "This is where my kids went to school. I thought: well, let's try it."
He says the building has good bones with construction designed to withstand an F-4 tornado, a new roof and heating and air systems in 2012. The new owners took possession in early 2016 and sought to create 18 units of living space: nine one-bedroom and nine efficiency apartments.
Each has a full kitchen, all-new appliances and ADA-approved shower. The units are all on the first floor with inside hallways and secured doors at the entrances.
There is a community room in what used to be the library, furnished with some exercise equipment, card and puzzle tables, billiards table and comfortable seating; onsite laundry room, picnic tables and grill, private family room with kitchenette (the former teachers' lounge) which can be reserved by residents to host family events, clubs or other gatherings. Each room is wired for service by Nine Star for internet and cable. There is well water and city sewer. There is an on-site manager there 24/7.
King, who is big on security of various kinds, says he spent more on a state-of-the-art fire alarm system for the building than for cost of the building.
"People could move in right now," says King.
While he's still finishing up work on the building, 11 units are ready to go right now. King says two former teachers in the building have expressed interest. He said one, who taught in the building for decades, hopes to live there and move into her former classroom, now an apartment.
More plans call for on-site storage units, at additional fees, as well as a barber shop. There's plenty of parking and if there is a demand for covered parking, he'll get it. Plans are in the works for opening The Old-School Cafe, which would be open to the public.
Housing is open to those age 55 or older but exceptions may be granted in special circumstances. The monthly rent is income-based, Section 8 housing. Or, for those who want to pay outright without the program, King quotes $650 a month as the rent.
Owners recently hosted an open house at the complex. King says he enjoys what he does.
"I think it's going to be very positive," he says of the venture.
For more about Kennard Senior Living, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-458-5757.