For several years, I have been a member of the Perry Township/Southport Historical Society. I am also a member of the board of directors and we plan the bi-monthly presentations.
In January of this year, Jay Danner was our presenter. His family owned the Danner 5 & 10 cent stores and the 3D Discount department stores in central Indiana. There was a Danner store in Greenwood and also one in Fountain Square. Jay is a Southport High School graduate and the 2020 Alumnus of the year.
We have bi-monthly programs and we sometimes tour historic houses or businesses. We visited the Hannah House on Madison Avenue, the Hayes house on Derbyshire Road and the Cooney House in Southport.
Ten years ago, we presented a wonderful program about the history of the Longacre Pool and Park. David Dodrill, who is the son of the man who owned Longacre in the 50s and 60s was our main speaker for the program and shared many pictures in his presentation. About 300 guests attended that program.
A few years later, we offered a program titled, Perry Township’s Contribution to the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. The longtime historian of the Speedway, Donald Davidson was our main speaker.
Two families that lived on Madison Avenue had very strong connections with the Indy 500. Members of the Wilcox family were one of these families. Howdy Wilcox finished second in the 1932 Indy 500. He was killed while flagging a dirt track race a few years later. His three daughters attended our program. I have been friends with Donna, Nancy and Sandy for many years. It was wonderful to see them.
Indy 500 Chief mechanic, Joe Langley and his family lived a few blocks south of Epler Avenue. He worked on his race cars in a small building behind their house. Joe’s daughters attended and spoke at the presentation. Both of these programs were very exciting and interesting.
Our next program will be March 28. Nancy VanArendonk, president of the Franklin Township Historical Society, will give a presentation on two pioneer families in the area, tracing their impact on our community from the 1820s to the present. This should be a very interesting program. Visitors are welcome and you can become a member for a $10 fee.
Our May 23rd program will be an evening about the Kautskys, both the family grocery store business and the Indianapolis Kautskys professional basketball team. Members of the Kautsky family and former employees will be present.
Just before the pandemic took over, the historical society started a basketball Hall of Fame. It is based on two blocks of Epler Avenue, from the Edgewood Grade School to Madison Avenue.
Edgewood Grade School produced some very talented basketball players that went on to become a professional player, a coach or an official. The property also had several outdoor basketball courts that hundreds of guys would travel to play 3-on-3 games.
At Madison and Epler was the Kautsky grocery store. Frank Kautsky started and owned the very first professional basketball team based in Indiana. Players and coaches from that team qualify for this Hall of Fame also.
We made our first presentation in 2019. The pandemic halted it until this year. We plan to induct a few more players this year. I was talking to one of my classmates, Judy Tout-Snyder. We were talking about the Basketball Hall of fame. I had explained that both of the Van Arsdale brothers were on the list. They often played on the outside courts at Edgewood Grade School. I also explained that a longtime teacher and coach at Southport High School, Everett Swank had been a member of the Kautsky Basketball team.
Judy explained that she had lived in Greenwood before her family moved to Perry Township during her high School years. She said the VanArsdale family and Everett Swank lived about four houses apart on the same block in Greenwood. That is amazing to have three professional basketball players living on the same block in Greenwood, Indiana.
Come and join The Perry Township/Historical Society at 7 p.m. March 28 at 6548 Orinoco Avenue.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School, a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis) and a retired bus driver from Beech Grove Schools. He can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.