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Leading Lights in Indiana History Through Writing from Hawthorne Publishing: A two-part award announcement to a small Hoosier town for its laudable publishing effort!

We really believe the Winchester educational and town effort in producing nationally-achieving graduates of its high school spotlights Indiana villages and small metropolis centers at their best.

We at Hawthorne are proud to be putting out this second volume of Golden Graduates of Winchester High School: A Small Indiana Town’s Remarkable Achievement.

We’ve asked the active high school alumni association in the town in the town of about 5,000 residents in Randolph County, authors of the volumes, to talk about the book for our “Leading Lights through Writing” in Indiana series.

Here is Part I of what they write:

“Golden Graduates of Winchester High School:  A Small Indiana Town’s Remarkable Achievement” is the title of a hardback book released in 2018 by the Winchester High School Alumni Association and published by Hawthorne Publishing Company. The book contains the first 30 profiles of the “Golden Graduate” series originally published in the Winchester News-Gazette newspaper. The profiles in the book span nearly 100 years, from 1881 to 1979.

The project was spearheaded by three outstanding WHS graduates themselves: Dr. G. Daly Walker, who edited Golden Graduates, is a 1958 graduate who went on to have a distinguished career as a battalion surgeon during the Vietnam War and later established a successful surgical practice in Columbus, Indiana. Dr. Daly is now an author and teaches a fiction writer’s workshop at Dartmouth College; Patricia Knasinski, a 1961 graduate and long-time Winchester Community High School Spanish teacher turned author, who served as President of the Winchester High School Alumni Association; and, Sandra Walker Kelly, a 1957 graduate of Winchester High School, who went on to become founding editor of the Mid-American Journal of Business, (today the American Journal of Business), long-time Special Assistant to Ball State University’s former President, John Worthen, and former Executive Director of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra.

These three authors, along with submissions by other graduates, captured the stories of 30 remarkable students of Winchester High School who came from a community of less than 5,000 residents. This high school has produced an array of successful graduates who not only made significant contributions to Winchester and Indiana, but often to the nation and even internationally. This book, and its intended successor, Volume II, highlight these graduates’ accomplishments. It also attempts to explain briefly how this small community, originally established after the turn of the 19th Century by members of The Society of Friends (Quakers), Methodists, and Presbyterians, created such an environment to have produced such outstanding individuals.

Winchester High School, Winchester, Indiana. On April 24, 1898, a fire that originated in the chemistry department burned the old Winchester High School to the ground. The picture above is of the high school that replaced it in the fall of 1899, which was constructed for $15,337. The school was renamed “Lee L. Driver High School” in 1959 and remained so until 1966 when it became known as “Winchester Community High School” as a result of further consolidation of county schools. In 1967, a new high school


During the span of 75 years, from 1875 to 1950, only 1,828 students graduated from Winchester High School. Yet, among their ranks were dozens, possibly hundreds, of classmates who went on to achieve remarkable things. Just a few of these distinguished graduates include:

  • James P. Goodrich, Indiana’s 29th governor who established the Indiana state park system and the departments of conservation, banking, commerce, and highways. Known as Indiana’s “War Governor”, his one term in office, 1917 to 1921, coincided with World War I. Goodrich later became U.S. envoy to the Soviet Union, where he met Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky, among others, in a herculean effort to stem the great Soviet famine of 1921-1923. His efforts ultimately helped save the lives of millions of Russian peasants. 1881 WHS graduate.
  • James E. Watson, who served as Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives (1903-1909) and Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate (1929 to 1933). Watson was one of the most colorful figures to ever serve in Congress. He narrowly lost his bid to serve as Indiana’s governor in 1908, being defeated by Thomas Marshall, who later served two terms as Vice President of the U.S. Watson also ran for President of the United States in 1928 against Herbert Hoover. 1881 WHS graduate.

John R. Commons, a 1881 classmate of both James Goodrich and James Watson, he was one of the most influential economists of the 20th Century. His groundbreaking research at the University of Wisconsin led to the establishment of the Social Security system, Worker’s Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, and an examination of the Labor movement in America and the inner workings of the U.S. Federal Reserve Banking system. Commons served as President of the American Economic Society. Today the “John R. Commons Award” is given biannually by the International Honor Society for Economics to a top economist. In prestige within the profession, it is second only to the Nobel Prize in Economics. 1881 WHS graduate.


(More in Part II)

Posted in Book Awards, Indiana History |

PHOTOPLAY, EILEEN, DORIS DAY & the super fan who started me on my trip to fanhood and authoring.

I became a Doris Day fan after seeing the star in Calamity Jane in 1953.  I wanted to know more about her and sought out sources. Little did I realize how flipping through the monthly movie magazines at my local Murphy’s Five & Dime store would help me achieve my dream.

In the late 1950’s Photoplay Magazine ran a story inviting fans to contact them to connect with their favorite movie star’s fan club. There was an idea! I immediately sent off an inquiry. Within a month I received a notice that the ONLY official fan club for Doris Day was headquartered in London, England!  Needless to say, I immediately sent off a note of inquiry about how to join this group.  Shortly after I got their quarterly journal with the latest news about upcoming movies and/or records Doris had coming out.  On occasion, a fan would comment on seeing Doris in person. Lucky person!  One in particular was Eileen Freshwater from Canton, Ohio.  She would tell about seeing Doris at a Dodger or Laker game or in Beverly Hills when she was in the Los Angeles area.

Eileen! I should contact her! I think I grew up with a networking gene and immediately wrote to the DD Fan Club in London to inquire about how to contact this active fan.  To my surprise, they sent me her contact info! How NOT like today.

It was 1964.  Eileen was a waitress and could find work anywhere; she wanted to be able to be near her idol, so she was planning to take a trip to the West Coast. I saw an opportunity: Indianapolis would be a perfect first stop on Eileen’s four-day drive to LA.    I immediately wrote to Eileen to invite her to stay at my home on her next journey to California

My parents were nervous about my inviting a total stranger to stay overnight at our home.  My reply to their worries was, “Eileen has to be OK, she’s a Doris Day fan.” In she came, on the way to realizing her dream. Needless to say, we stayed up most of the night.  I had question after question about Doris, and Eileen was kind enough to answer every question! She was a long-time admirer and knew so much. As she left the next morning, she said she was planning to finally move to Los Angles, and if I ever wanted to visit, I could stay at her apartment.  Wow, what an invite!

On August 15, 1965, I took Eileen up on her invitation.  A friend of mine and I flew to Los Angeles, despite the Indianapolis Star headline “Planes being shot at LAX.” We were young and fearless and knew fun times were ahead and didn’t fall for the fear being promoted in media.

Eileen and her roommate Hilda, another avid fan from Wales, welcomed us. I had written to Phyllis, Doris’s secretary, asking if there was a possibility to meet Doris during my visit.  She couldn’t promise anything, but made arrangements for all of us to have a private tour of the MGM studio where Doris was filming The Glass Bottom Boat.  The tour was awesome, but no DD sighting.  Eileen, her roommate, Hilda, and I and my friend had a wonderful time just getting to know one another and sharing our love of Doris.

I returned to LA in 1966 and still no sighting, but we girls got to enjoy each others’ company and continue our love for Doris.

The old saying, ”Third time’s a charm,” was certainly true for me in 1967 when I actually got to meet my idol Doris Day, at Bailey’s Bakery in Beverly Hills on Saturday, October 21st.  Eileen had been in touch with Secretary Phyllis and it was planned for Doris to share some time with us. Doris arrived on her bike and spent nearly 3 hours with us…talk about a dream come true. She was as natural and welcoming to us humble fans as we had believed she might be.

I could never thank Eileen enough for making this possible—who would have known that browsing through Photoplay at Murphy’s would be the start of my trip to my own life as  Doris Day’s live-in secretary and a book about that life.

It is with sadness that I share the news that Eileen passed away earlier this year.  We had lots of good times together and if it weren’t for Eileen, I probably never would have met Doris and the rest is history…Thank you Eileen –RIP my friend.


Click back to purchase the new edition of Mary Anne Barothy’s Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond.

Posted in Doris Day |

Emerson Houck: A Leading Light in Indiana History Through Writing From Hawthorne Publishing

The late Emerson Houck was not born a Hoosier. He grew up near Chicago, but became a Hoosier by adoption when he married his wife Jane. They lived in Indianapolis, but Em soon got caught up in the frenzy of Indiana High School basketball—past and present. He was touched and impressed by the fervor and loyalty of citizens in small towns like Loogootee and Selma, Ossian and Daleville, for their local basketball teams, their great moments, their local boys and girls who became stars, if only for a couple of seasons. The stars and the games would live on in the memories of those towns for many years.

He and Jane traveled small-town Indiana, stopping at cafes to talk to the locals and inspecting old gyms. The spirit of unity and healthy competition and exaltation of good performance touched him and seemed to him the best of America. He began to preserve the stories, and those tales of local triumph became a book. Hawthorne put out Hoosiers All: Indiana High School Basketball with pride.

What was the theme that tied all these teams together? The mascot names identified the entire town, Em believed. In his first book, Go Huskies, Beat Felix the Cat, he had chronicled team names around the nation and showed how those mascot names reflected the area or state’s history or enthusiasms. Now we wished to center on the little town teams of his adopted state, incorporating the concept of the mascots to the team records.

He said in the first edition of Hoosiers All, which came out in 2009,

“Those names both in the past and in the present become a rallying point for a school, a community, or an entire area, and I have chosen to center this history of Indiana basketball around them. . .

Over the years my wife and I have traveled through the state, into every county, enjoying the Hoosier countryside and seeking team stories. We have been met with smiles and warmth everywhere and particularly in the smaller towns. . . Often we were regaled with tales of that one Sectional championship. I have included the stories of those “miracle seasons” whenever possible, but every one of them is significant in its own way and should be preserved.”

There have been many books about Indiana High School basketball, and we as publishers have put some of them out. But no other book has caught the spirit, the very heart of our towns and decent, hard-working people, whose only entertainment in past years beyond the radio was to go to the local gym and cheer their hearts out for the teams and their “royalty, birds, animals and native Americans” which mark the chapter heads of Hoosiers All. A new and expanded and corrected edition is now available. This book is unique and can never be imitated: it is a real contribution to the history of Indiana small-town life, captured when it was fresh.

Emerson, Indiana misses you, but your legacy of commemoration of the best of us. A life now gone in Indiana lives on in this book and we are proud to give you our Hawthorne Publishing Leading Lights award, posthumously.

Nancy Baxter, Senior Editor

Posted in Book Awards, Books on Indiana, Indiana High School Basketball |

Brian Spangle: Third in the Series Leading Lights in Indiana History: Our Hawthorne Authors

Here’s Brian:

In the last blog I covered the background of how I grew interested in history and how that evolved into a writing career as well as an archivist.

I write on all kinds of subjects. One of my favorite topics is famous people who visited Vincennes, be they Presidents, authors, or entertainers. Vincennes has only had two official presidential visits, Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and Lyndon Johnson in 1966, but I found that many other presidents in the first half of the 20th century made whistle stops in the city and I enjoyed highlighting those visits. Offbeat columns are also fun to write, such as a piece I did on a black bear, named Bruno, who made his home in Vincennes during the 1920s and a column about a pony names Rex who was rescued from a Bicknell coal mine in 1923 following a cave in.

I also enjoy writing about local people whose names may not be in the standard history books, but who led lives of great purpose and whose achievements made them local celebrities. One of these was Vincennes resident William “Uncle Billy” Green, who celebrated his 100th birthday on April 17, 1912, a rare feat at the time. The community came together for an enormous birthday celebration, even ringing the courthouse bell 100 times.

It probably doesn’t come as a big surprise that any column about crime is sure to resonate with readers. One only has to look at all of the crime procedurals on television today to see how popular the topic is. This was brought home to me in 2012, when I wrote a column about how local people responded to the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Titanic in April 1912. The column appeared on April 15, 2012, exactly 100 years to the day since the tragedy occurred. I thought the piece turned out well and expected some feedback from readers. In the column, I mentioned that news of the Titanic tragedy had to compete with extensive newspaper coverage of a murder trial then taking place in Knox County. The only response I got was from people who wanted to know about the murder trial. They weren’t at all interested in the Titanic.

I also like to look at the effect of national or world events on Knox County. For instance, I wrote about the technological innovation of the automobile from the perspective of the first Vincennes man to purchase a primitive car in 1901. Columns about the First World War include a piece on Harry J. Henry, the first Knox County man to die in the war and Vincennes man Hoyt Decker who was a prisoner of the Germans throughout the conflict. There are countless Knox County stories about World War II on the home front, from children collecting milkweed seed pods to make life jackets for servicemen to Vincennes’ donation of Civil War era cannon to a local scrap metal drive.

I sometimes write about historical events that are especially relevant to the present day. In 2020, I researched and wrote several columns on the effect the 1918-19 influenza pandemic had on Knox County, comparing it to the present-day coronavirus pandemic.

One aspect of 20th century Vincennes history that has always fascinated me is how the city began to capitalize on its early history and evolved into a destination for tourists, an effort that began after the publication of Maurice Thompson’s book Alice of Old Vincennes in the autumn of 1900. It was in the years after Thompson’s book was published that monuments started being erected in Vincennes, more than one house was being promoted as the home of the fictional Alice, and the Territorial Capitol and Grouseland were preserved, all culminating in the dedication of the George Rogers Clark Memorial in 1936. I have written about much of the work community leaders and local organizations undertook to turn Vincennes into a “tourist town.”

Although the majority of my columns are about Vincennes and its history, I have tried to maintain some balance by writing about the history of other Knox County communities. People who live in Bicknell, for instance, aren’t necessarily interested in reading about Vincennes every week. Bicknell itself is a fascinating community, having been a booming coal mining town in the early 1900s. I like to tell stories about that city too, such as the column I mentioned earlier on Rex the pony.

People often ask me where I get my ideas for column topics. That question is a little difficult to answer. Of course, some topics are obvious, such as a biographical sketch of a prominent person or the history of a particular building or industry in the city. I even wrote a number of columns about Christmas and other holidays and how they were celebrated locally early in the century. At the library, I would often come across an idea while helping a patron with their research or while answering a written request, perhaps while simply looking through newspapers for an obituary. I began jotting ideas down and keeping notebooks filled with potential topics. I have perused these many times when I was lacking an idea and a deadline was approaching.

The best example of how library patrons inspired a column idea came many years ago when an out-of-town couple visited the library to look at Vincennes newspapers from May 1910. These patrons told me the story of Louis and Temple Abernathy, boys aged 10 and 6, who, in 1910 traveled on their cow ponies from Oklahoma to New York City to see former president Theodore Roosevelt, stopping in towns and cities along their route. On May 1, they made a stop in Vincennes. This couple was following the boys’ route and going to libraries to look for information about them in local papers. I had never heard of the Abernathy boys and their unusual adventure, but, sure enough, Vincennes reporters of the day wrote about their visit. I immediately knew that I had a unique column topic. I even used the column in my second book.

McGrady-Brockman archival building at the Knox County Public Library

Early newspapers are the principal source of my research. Newspapers are often accurately called “the first draft of history.” At the Knox County Public Library, we are fortunate to have an excellent collection of local newspapers on microfilm, with many of those now digitized and online. I am always struck by the amount of detail included in newspapers stories in the early 20th century, something definitely lacking today. I often wonder what resources historians will use to research a community’s history 100 years from now.

I believe I have become skilled at sifting through large amounts of material and learning how to tell a complete story within the confines of 700-800 words. I particularly enjoy pulling out small details that help add flavor and bring the story to life. I’m confident that the average reader has no idea how much research goes into a single piece. It is not an exaggeration to say that sometimes the contents of each paragraph can come from a different source in order to accurately construct the entire picture.

My focus has continued to be the 20th century, although I have just started to dip back into the late 19th century when there are subjects that really captivate me and that I think readers will appreciate. Examples of the latter include Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show coming to Vincennes in 1898 and Knox County’s last legal hanging, which took place in 1889.

It has been gratifying to bring to life so much local history. I am confident that I am the first person who has researched and written about the majority of these topics.

Even back in 1999, after I had published a few columns, I was thinking how nice it would be to someday compile them into a book, where they would be on library shelves and in people’s homes for years to come. Still, the years passed and with my job, writing a weekly column, and family obligations, I didn’t feel as if I had the time to do the project justice.

Finally, in 2015, due to a variety of circumstances, I had the opportunity to devote the time to publishing some of my columns in a book. Emily Bunyan, Director of the Knox County Public Library and the library board agreed to fund the project, with Hawthorne Publishing on board as publisher. Nancy Niblack Baxter deserves much credit for helping select the columns to include and shaping the individual pieces into a collection that followed the natural flow of history. The resulting book, Vincennes History You Don’t Know, was accepted as an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project and I was chosen to participate in the Indiana Historical Society’s annual Holiday Author Fair. The book sold very well, proving that there is a real interest in other aspects of Vincennes history, besides those that are most publicized and promoted.

In 2016, I made the decision to retire from the library. There were many reasons for that decision, one of them being to devote more time to my research and writing. In early 2019, I began seriously thinking about a second book. I selected 150 columns that I thought would be of special interest to readers and would make a good compilation. I then approached The History Press about publishing them, since I knew their focus was local history. I had a positive response and in just a short time was offered a publishing contract. I spent the next several months working with an editor to compile the book. The History Press editorial board chose to put the book under their “Hidden History” series, thus many of the columns I had selected were not appropriate for that series and had to be discarded. The book would also be shorter than I had envisioned, since The History Press publishes books with a maximum of 50,000 words and I could have easily submitted twice that amount. I also had to submit a minimum of 40 high quality photographs, which was a challenge given the subject matter.

The book, Hidden History of Vincennes & Knox County, was released in February 2020 and I had a successful book-signing at the library before everything locked down due to the pandemic. I couldn’t believe the long line at the signing. I signed books without a break for the entire afternoon. This too, I think, is a testament to the fact that the public is interested in other facets of Vincennes history.

People ask me all the time when I am going to write my next book. My answer is that I need to continue promoting and selling the second book before considering a third. In truth, my two books only contain a combined total of 223 columns, so there are hundreds more already written and waiting to be organized, edited and put between covers. Plus, there is a new column every week. I too, hope that there will be more books in the future that will make Vincennes’ 20th century history known and appreciated by more readers.

To order Brian’s book Vincennes History You Don’t Know click back to the website.

Posted in Welcome |