Many times I’ve thought about the ties I have to Indianapolis. When I travel to other cities or hear a story about someone’s experiences growing up….I might have a flashback of times gone by in my hometown.
Those kinds of connections to surroundings and pieces of real estate are difficult to explain. They just happen! Whether it’s a school, a street or a sound, everyone has their own particular feelings that are imbedded as personal history. So, I am thinking that these pieces of history belong on our Indiana Ties site. This new blog series, Our Hometown: Indianapolis, will be a place we can put those flashbacks. I’ll record not just my own experiences, but whatever I can gather from family. For instance, I know that my sisters sometimes remember happenings differently than me. And some of my memories are second-hand, from the photos taken by my mother or Uncle Bob, or a story from an aunt. Cousins’, aunts’, uncles’ stories….it all counts. Where did you work, or go to school or play? I hope to put all of these stories here.
I’m beginning my blog series with Garfield Park. This is a south side Indianapolis location overflowing with family memories! There’s the interesting conservatory and sunken gardens, the rolling hills with Pleasant Run Parkway running through, the Pagoda for large gatherings, situated high on a hill, etc., etc. I am sure that most of my family members have some events or places popping into their heads right now.
I’ll start with my favorite: Tickle Belly Hill. I recall that my mom and dad would take us for a ride through the park. When we came to the stone bridge over Pleasant Run, Dad would tell us to hold on for “tickle belly hill.” What’s funny about this memory is that I had naively thought that my parents, or maybe just our family, were the only people using that nickname. Only a few years ago I became aware that many “south-siders” who frequented Garfield Park had also called it “tickle belly hill.” Maybe this memory is faded into how I wanted it do be. Oh well, it was definitely a lot of fun and did cause that tickling in your stomach when Dad would speed up going over the hill. Although, the hill (above photo) doesn’t look nearly as steep as it felt when I was six years old.
I know that my mom and her siblings, Harry and Tillie Weber’s family, who lived just a few blocks north of the park on Singleton Street, had many enjoyable times in Garfield Park in the 1920s-40s.
Mom mentioned the fountains and sunken gardens in spring as a favorite place. I’ve included at the left a 1938 photo of Rose in the gardens, taken by her brother, Bob Weber. Then, notice how beautiful the gardens remain in my 2003 photo that I posted at the beginning of this blog.
Mom’s club friends, girls from Sacred Heart School, often had their spring gathering in Garfield Park. One of those May Breakfast photos from Mom’s photo albums from the 1930s is below also.
Another fond memory for me of Garfield Park is of swimming in the community pool. We had swimming lessons there in the 1950s. There’s an upgraded facility now for the continued enjoyment of Hoosiers on those hot summer days.
And I have to mention the great picnicking. The park seemed so huge growing up in the 1950s and 60s. My memories are of picnic tables galore, spread around the park so that you could choose your own private spot. I’ve learned the park area is 128 acres. So maybe that part of my recollections is close-to-reality.
Another reason to enjoy the park was family reunions. The Niehaus family held the first reunion at Garfield Park in 1939, the year before my parents were married. And those traditions were passed down as well. Although the family members who remember planning those early reunions tell me that the reason they were eventually moved elsewhere is that it was decided that no beer was allowed in the park. This wasn’t the best location any more.
Although I don’t get to spend much time in Garfield Park now, I can say that it is a very nice place for residents of Indianapolis to enjoy a peaceful afternoon, or maybe a more uproarious gathering. A few years ago, my sister, Linda, and I had fun with her daughter, Nikki, and son, Patrick, hanging out in the park, walking and talking and roaming through the gardens.
Passing along these pleasant family history remembrances, I’m posting my beautiful niece at the fountains. (Photo on left.)
I feel fortunate to have this hometown memory. (Here’s my sister, Linda, with two of her children, Nikki and Patrick, saying “So long” in the park. What’s your flavor of Garfield Park story? Thanks for reminiscing with me.
I’m including a few links below for further online information. Also, click on my photo album below if you would like to see more scenes from Garfield Park.