My sister, Kathy, and I attended Riley and Edgewood schools from first through sixth grades.
A little over six years ago The Southsider Voice’s Kelly Sawyers and Denise Summers invited me to try my hand at writing a newspaper article. I was sort of thinking that it would be a one-and-done deal. Below is the first column I wrote for them; it was published July 20, 2011. Ironically, it was about Edgewood School and the neighborhood.
OK, here’s the deal. My name is Fred Shonk, and I grew up in Perry Township. I attended Edgewood Grade School and Southport High and lived along Madison Avenue in the house that is now the Longacre Bar & Grill.
My father opened a Sunoco service station on Madison when I was 14. Working there allowed me to meet many of the great people who lived and worked in the township. I am still good friends with a lot of them.
Our station was close to my grade school, which had – if memory serves me correctly – 11 outside basketball courts, making it the roundball capital of the Southside.
On nice weekends you might wait an hour to find a court that needed a player – but even then you had to be invited. Some of the games featured such talented players that I was relegated to only tossing the ball into play.
Big-name high school players from Manual and Washington often played with Southport’s top guns. I remember Louie Dampier, Jess Blackwell, Joe Simpson, twins Tom and Dick VanArsdale, Steve Downing, George McGinnis, Morris Epler, Leland Richards and others playing for hours.
On weekends I would fill my pocket with the proceeds from my Indianapolis News route and ride my bike to the courts. In between games we would go to Roehl’s Drug Store or Kauskey’s Grocery for something to eat and drink.
Some of the players discovered that the pop machine at my dad’s station was the closest one to the courts. The drinks cost 10 cents, and there was supposed to be a 2 cents deposit charged if the bottles were taken off the premises; however, that rule never applied to the players.
About twice daily someone from our station climbed into our service truck and drove over to the courts, where there would always be two or three empty piles of bottles. Seldom did we come up short on empties when the delivery guy came to restock.
Looking back, I took pride in my ability to toss the ball in ... it was a wonderful experience.
I still reminisce about those days whenever driving past the location on Epler 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.