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I’LL have to confess to having had some concerns about the future of the past in Bartholomew County.
That obviously does not speak well of what I’ve been doing in my secondary role as Bartholomew County historian. For the record, I need this day job because the county historian title does not come with any kind of paycheck.
I don’t know who or what is to blame for this institutional memory blockage, but I can certainly excuse organizations like the Bartholomew County Historical Society, the Bartholomew County Public Library and the website historiccolumbusindiana.org. I’d also have to exempt people like Tami Iorio, Larry Ruble, David Sechrest and scores of others who not only know history but live and love it.
That love is going to be put on full display in the coming weeks through a series of events that will showcase Bartholomew County history in an interesting and informative manner.
Next month, Columbus’ Tami Iorio will be the guest of honor at book-signing events at the library (Sept. 16) and Viewpoint Books (Sept. 21) in connection with release of her book, “Legendary Locals of Columbus, Indiana.”
On the weekend of Sept. 13 and 14, the library will be host to an expo, “159 Years of Bartholomew County,” which will showcase scores of local historical artifacts owned by a number of private collectors. The expo, co-sponsored by the Historic Columbus organization, will be staged from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.
And in early October a book with the tells-it-all title, “Columbus Indiana’s Historic Crump Theatre,” will be available for sale. Actually the volume, which was put together by local resident David Sechrest, is a detailed history not only of the Crump but of opera houses and other theaters in the city.
Tami is a seasoned veteran in the book publishing business. A few years back she put together a volume based on postcards bearing images of dozens of buildings and scenes from Bartholomew County’s past.
“The work I did on that volume really stoked my interest in local history,” she said earlier this week. “A few years ago I came across a company (Arcadia Publishing) that issued a series of books based on the theme of Legendary Locals. I contacted them to see if they would be interested in a volume about Columbus.”
At the time the publishers were concerned whether there was a viable market in Columbus, but last year Tami went back to them and found they were receptive. She is a true believer in local history, so much so that she is donating her share of the book proceeds to the Bartholomew County Historical Society.
“This book isn’t just about the so-called movers and shakers,” she said. “There are some influential people on these pages, but there are also a number of individuals other people might not be familiar with, people like Joe Nierman, who came up with the idea for starting the skate park as a teenager, and Larry Ruble, who has a fantastic collection of artifacts relating to the history of Arvin Industries.”
Ironically, Larry is also a key element in the upcoming exhibit of local artifacts at the library.
He is one of 19 local collectors who will be showing off their historical treasures Sept. 13 and 14. Larry’s collection is a varied grouping of items manufactured by the former local company that was most noted for automobile exhaust systems. It also branched out into such everyday household items as televisions, radios and fans. In fact, many of those radios bore the stamp of Hopalong Cassidy, famed western star of movies and televisions.
David Sechrest’s book about the Crump and other entertainment venues offers some fascinating glimpses into the area’s theatrical history.
“Actually, about a quarter of the book deals with opera houses and other theaters in Columbus,” said David, who also created and manages the Historic Columbus Indiana website. “The history of some of those theaters is just as fascinating as that of the Crump.”
For instance, there were six movie theaters in downtown Columbus in 1908, according to David, which pretty much answers the question of what people did to amuse themselves before television.
Among them was a theater known as the Air Dome, which could well have been the first drive-in theater in the country.
“It was located in a vacant lot just south of Sixth and Washington streets,” David said. “It was open air and actually did not start out as a movie theater. In fact, Francis Crump, who owned the lot, would stage rat-killing contests there.”
David’s book, which also contains numerous historical photos of the Crump and other theaters, is being published by The History Press of Charleston, S.C. He is donating all of his proceeds to the Heritage Fund, the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, into a fund set up for maintenance and development of the Crump Theatre.
Maybe there are a good many people who don’t have an appreciation for or an interest in local history. I suspect that if they avail themselves of any or all of the experiences mentioned above, their minds just might change.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.
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