Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!
Sept. 25 show
Day camp heritage in Indiana
Some day camps for children and teenagers have been ground-breaking - and did you know Indiana led the way? Not only has the Hoosier state long been considered a leader of the pack in children's camping, the country's first-ever day camp even was started here.
Begun in 1933, the trend-setting (or should we say pioneering?) Acorn Farm Camp in Hamilton County set a national pattern for child-centered day camps and, for 45 years, was attended by future Hoosier movers and shakers; even young Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and future biologist John Watson had connections to Acorn. The camp's founder became president of the American Camp Association, headquartered in Bradford Woods, and Acorn's heritage includes parallels with Gnaw Bone Camp in Brown County and Orchard School in Indianapolis.
To explore nooks and crannies - not to mention crevices, woods and rocks - of our camping heritage, Nelson will be joined in studio by three guests who have lived and breathed camping. They are sisters Jill Sweet Mead and Judee Sweet of Westfield, whose late parents became regional celebrities thanks to Acorn Farms and the multi-media endeavors that resulted from its success, including early local TV shows and a nationally syndicated newspaper column of "hands-on" tips for children.
The story of Acorn Farms - and Indiana's day camp heritage - is told in a new book, Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow (Hawthorne Publishing), written by Jill's daughter, Carmel resident Becky Bowles, who will join her mother and aunt in studio with Nelson.
To put together the book, Becky had a trove: hundreds of camp newsletters, photos and mementos saved by her grandparents, Acorn founder Herb Sweet (who wrote a nationally syndicated "Try It" column of tips in the 1950s) and his wife, Dee, who became the host of some of the first local TV talk shows, also in the 1950s.
Before the Sweets and their "creative fun" approach involving children and nature, organized camping across the country had focused on overnight trips for teenagers, adults or groups of families.
Why, the Sweets wondered, couldn't children as young as 5 years old during the Great Depression immerse themselves in nature - and then return to their homes at the end of the day? Seed pods, nuts, twigs, bark and feathers would be used to create toys, dolls and jewelry at Acorn Farms. The day camp sprang up in a bucolic setting between Carmel and Westfield ("sleepy villages" during the 1930s, as Becky notes in her book), with young campers traveling by bus from Indy.
A lifelong nature lover, Herb Sweet for several years in the 1930s taught at Orchard School, which became known for "progressive education" concepts that pervaded Acorn Farms. According to Mighty Oaks From Little Acorns Grow, previous camping experiences, in addition to being overnighters, "were heavy on competition and award-giving for every achievement." At Acorn Farms and Gnaw Bone, which was founded by fellow Orchard faculty member Fred Lorenz, the focus was on creating "a culture of delight" for children in the natural world and encouraging self-expression.
During the show, we will explore the pioneers of day camping who had an impact on thousands of young Hoosiers, including Vonnegut during the summer of 1939. Some fun facts:
- The first private camp (for overnight stays) began in Pennsylvania during the 1870s, according to Mighty Oaks.
- As a teenager in the 1920s, Herb Sweet oversaw Brer Rabbit Camp, an Orchard-affiliated camp on the grounds of today's Cathedral High School.
- Dee Sweet, who hosted shows on the former WFBM-TV with titles such as Sweet Time, also served on the committee that launched what is today Indiana Landmarks. She also served on the national board of Girl Scouts of America.
- By the early 1960s, Acorn Farm was attended by more than 150 campers per day. When it closed in 1977, Acorn Farm "was the oldest day camp in the United States under the same directors," according to Mighty Oaks. Today, Jill runs an antique business, Acorn Farm Country Store, on the site; Judee, a former interpreter at Conner Prairie. is known for her portrayal of a pioneer-era "woodswoman."
History Mystery question
The Trivia Mystery is a carry-over from two weeks ago, when there was no correct answer. The question focuses on one of the worst tragedies in Indiana history, the so-called Trail of Death involving the Potawatomi tribe in 1838.
A key figure in the tragedy was the leader of the Potawatomi, who were forced to leave their village in the "Twin Lakes" region of north central Indiana by soldiers under the command of Gen. John Tipton.
The soldiers led about 860 Potawatomi men, women and children on a 900-mile march to Kansas known as the Trail of Death. The Potawatomi chief, a convert to Catholicism who was known as a peacemaker, was put in a cage for the march. A statue of the chief stands today near his beloved Twin Lakes region; the tragic and courageous story of the Potawatomi is remembered every September in Fulton County with a Trail of Courage Living History Festival.
Question: Name the Potawatomi chief. Hint: He was not Little Turtle, who was incorrectly guessed by a listener two weeks ago.
To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show.The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is two tickets to the Circle City Classic on Oct. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium, and two tickets to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, all courtesy of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association.
With Chris Gahl of the ICVA out on an extended transcontinental Roadtrip, Todd Zeiger, director of the Northern Regional Office of Indiana Landmarks, will fill in for Chris and suggest that we head north to Beverly Shores along Lake Michigan to attend the Century of Progress Home Tour.
In 1935, Indiana inherited five then-modern houses from the Chicago World's Fair that were barged across Lake Michigan to Beverly Shores. All five houses will be open for public tours on October 23 and 24. You can register online for this event.
Your team on the Hoosier History Live! e-project,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Broad Ripple Historic Home Tour (this Saturday, Sept. 25!), The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil, Indiana Authors Award and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Chelsea Niccum and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.
Oct. 2 show
Indy's oldest Catholic church
Not only is St. John Catholic Church the oldest in Indianapolis, with parish origins that date clear back to the 1830s, the ornate church with twin steeples that are a distinctive part of the city's skyline has evolved into a unique role as a spiritual haven.
Rising up right near our pro football arenas - Lucas Oil Stadium and its predecessor the RCA Dome - as well as the Indiana Convention Center and downtown hotels, St. John at 126 W. Georgia Street has become the church where convention-goers, tourists, Indianapolis Colts fans and international visitors go to celebrate Mass.
The odyssey of the majestic church that has become Indy's version of tourist-oriented St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan mirrors downtown's journey from Naptown to vibrancy. Before its resurgence with a special niche, St. John's membership had declined from a peak of 3,000 parishioners in the 1880s to fewer than 300 by the early 1970s.
Nelson will be joined in studio by St. John's historian/music director Tom Nichols and two well-known civic leaders who were instrumental in the renaissance: Rev. Tom Murphy, who became a Catholic priest in mid-life after a distinguished career as an attorney and state legislator (he helped push through a bill that allowed for the Convention Center's creation in 1971), and Bill McGowan Jr., who served as president and CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association from 1984 to 2002.
Not only does our show's spotlight fall on St. John during football season, it comes amid citywide tributes to Rev. Murphy, who is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination. His ancestors were married at St. John, which was partially founded by Irish immigrants, and his civic-oriented career as a priest also included stints in Rome and as president of Serra International.
Join us as we focus on the church with a parish rectory built during the Civil War, nave windows and twin steeples that rise to a height of 194 feet.
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