Sep 27, 2019
(September 21, 2019) Here's another "Ask Nelson..." show, which we've featured regularly over the eleven years Hoosier History Live has been on the air. As usual, our host, author and historian Nelson Price, is joined by a co-host, this time one who is familiar to long-time TV viewers across Central Indiana. Reid Duffy, a popular personality for nearly 30 years on WRTV-Channel 6 in Indianapolis, joins Nelson; the two interview each other in between phone calls from listeners.
Reid is undoubtedly best known for his Duffy's Diner feature about Indiana restaurants, which appeared on WRTV from 1978 to 1995, as well as his humorous and human-interest pieces on a range of topics. Now retired, Reid has been inducted into the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.
Although the topics covered in the show depend on listeners' call-in questions, Nelson does have an agenda. For starters, he provides historical context about a controversial public figure who is back in the news more than 85 years after he was killed.
Bank robber John Dillinger (1903-1934) - known as "Public Enemy No. 1" during the Great Depression - has been the focus of national media attention in response to requests by some of his surviving family members to have his body exhumed. They were encouraged by The History Channel, which originally hoped to put together a documentary on the exhumation but then pulled out of the project. Some family members objected to tampering with Dillinger's burial site, located in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.
Ever since Dillinger was shot and killed by federal agents and Chicago-area police officers, rumors have circulated that the corpse was not that of the outlaw. In Nelson's book Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (Hawthorne Publishing), he describes how Dillinger took steps to alter his appearance while in hiding.
In addition to darkening his hair with black dye, Dillinger had his facial features altered at the East Chicago, Ind., home of a plastic surgeon. He also asked the surgeon to scar his fingerprints with acid in an attempt to prevent identification.
Born in the Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis, Dillinger lived as a teenager and young adult on his family's farm in Mooresville.
During our show, Nelson also shares insights about the 50th anniversary of one of the most tragic episodes in Indiana history. In September 1969, two aircraft collided near Shelbyville, resulting in the state's worst aviation disaster.
All of the 78 passengers and four crew members aboard an Allegheny Airlines flight traveling from Cincinnati to Indianapolis were killed when the DC-9 jet crashed into a soybean field. It plummeted to the ground after colliding with a much smaller plane, a single-engine Piper Cherokee; the pilot of that plane was also killed.
A memorial was dedicated on the site of the tragedy, which also is the focus of a commemorative website.
Lighter aspects of the state's heritage also are explored during our show. Reid Duffy, an avid baseball fan, discusses minor league baseball teams and their ballparks in Indiana.
They include the popular Fort Wayne TinCaps, a Class A minor league team that’s affiliated with the San Diego Padres. Reid has attended games of the TinCaps in their home stadium, Parkview Field, which opened in downtown Fort Wayne in 2009. The TinCaps name is a salute to folk hero Johnny Appleseed (real name: John Chapman), whose fictionalized depiction in a Disney cartoon featured the character wearing a cooking pot on his head. Most historians emphasize that Chapman, who died in the Fort Wayne area in 1845, did not wear a cooking pot as a hat.
Reid also describes the Gary SouthShore RailCats, a minor league team in northwest Indiana. Its name is an homage to the area's history of freight lines and the South Shore commuter train. The train is visible from the RailCats' ballpark, which is named the U.S. Steel Yard in another tip of the hat to the area's industrial heritage.
Listener calls during our show are not restricted to these topics or to history topics that have been in the news recently. Nelson and Reid welcome questions, comments and insights about any slice of our state's heritage.