Monday, November 21, 2011

Recalling the Past

By Laurabelle Hibbets McCaffery

Veterans Day 2011

November is a time for remembering. When the first snowflakes fall, childhood memories of snowmen, snowballs, and winter fun come to mind. The beginnings of the holiday season often bring past holiday gatherings of family to mind as well. When I think of Thanksgiving, I recall my mother creating wonderful smelling and great tasting food for our Thanksgiving dinner. And the best part? We would be joining either the Meek or the Hibbets family for the day. The food was not the only attraction. Listening to the adults talk was fascinating. They talked about their youth and their own parents. The stories they told! I recall my father telling of going to see Wild Bill Hickok perform at the local fairgrounds. I also remember them talking about the cross that supposedly the KKK burnt on his lawn. I heard about the building of the city of Gary, Indiana and how a lot at 5th and Broadway went for 5 dollars! My railroad engineer uncle was telling about the horrendous accidents he had seen with horses and cars on his New York Central routes, another uncle was talking about joining the CCC. Grandmother was reading a letter from an uncle who lived in Hawaii. It was like my own private adventure. And sadly, no one wrote it down and I was too young to know that what I was hearing was real history and that I should somehow save it.

This holiday season when the family is gathered together, listen to the family stories and ask lots of questions. Ask who did what and when and where. And take good notes.

Good notes may well have been the basis for the publication of an important book of local history, HISTORY OF FORT WAYNE & ALLEN COUNTY, Indiana 1700 – 2005. Vol.1 was edited by John Beatty and volume 2 edited by Phyllis Robb. They were aided in this arduous task by Kathryn Bowen Bloom, Judge William Lee, Stan Hood and many other dedicated volunteers, contributors, and writers. It is a treasure trove of historical information about politics, immigrants, entertainment, business and industry, local history, communications, and above all--people. In the second volume there are histories of local families as written by the families themselves as well as histories of businesses and institutions in the county. You can find the Fort Wayne-Allen County Historical Society listed. Some family names listed are Snyder, Lothamer, Schmidt, Rossworm, Wolf, Dodane, Bleeke and Bloom. There are hundreds more. Perhaps you or someone you know is there. There are also photographs and illustrations so you can see your history as well as read about it. One of the best features is the extensive indexing. This makes it easy to look up people and events.

Since November is the traditional start of the holiday season, it might help you on your quest to note your own history to have a few fun facts for November. Use them for ice breakers when you want to ask about family history. And they are found in volume 1 of HISTORY OF FORT WAYNE & ALLEN COUNTY, Indiana.

In November of 1845 a meeting between Samuel Hanna, Samuel Edsall, Allen Hamilton, and Peter Baily set the stage to raise subscriptions for a plank road heading north. This road became the Lima Road and went to Sturgis, Michigan. They also provided names for at least two of our streets in Fort Wayne

November 1860 brought the presidential election and Stephen Douglas garnered more votes in Allen County than Abraham Lincoln.

In November of 1947 voters defeated a referendum to build the Anthony Wayne Parkway through downtown Fort Wayne. The downtown merchants supported it. Neighborhoods fought it with fear of loss of housing and fear of who might be the new neighbor. Another argument was that the expressway would turn the city into four sectors. I think that happened anyway.

November always brought elections. Harry Baals was elected mayor in 1934. And in November of 1950 E. Ross Adair started his long career in the House of Representatives as well as an Ambassador to Ethiopia.

WKJG-TV signed on the air on November 21, 1953 on the third floor of the Purdue building at Jefferson and Barr. Hilliard Gates did the honors and his guests included Mayor Harry Baals and movie star Marilyn Maxwell.

November 5, 1923 saw the opening of the Broadway Theater on Broadway as a premier move palace. It unfortunately morphed into a purveyor of x-rated films in the 1970s before it became a restaurant later.

November is a good time to acquire this set of books. They would be great to have with you at a family gathering this fall and winter. You can see where you are in relation to our local history and maybe find something about your own relatives. It is a great book for reading bits at a time and in whatever order you want.

The HISTORY OF FORT WAYNE AND ALLEN COUNTY, INDIANA, 1700- 2005 is available for purchase at the museum shop. It would make a great family present.

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