Heritage Steward: George Hanlin

Written by on October 26, 2012 in Heritage Steward - 9 Comments
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NAME: George Hanlin

TITLE: Consultant FOR: FlashPoint

SINCE? 2004 (before this I was an assistant editor at the Indiana Historical Society from 1993 to 2004)

ORIGINALLY FROM? Pennville, Jay County, Indiana

YOUR JOB DUTIES INCLUDE? In my current role I write our business development proposals, edit our deliverables (reports, training handouts, presentations, etc.), and assist on some of the consulting projects. In my previous role at the Indiana Historical Society I was part of the team that produced the society’s books, documentary editions, and illustrated history magazine Traces.

YOU WORK HOW MANY HOURS WEEKLY? Working for the historical society, it was pretty much an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, Monday through Friday.

PROJECT/S YOU ARE MOST PROUD TO HAVE BEEN PART OF? The project I’m most proud of is the last one I worked on at the historical society—a book called Skirting the Issue, about Indiana’s historical women artists. It’s a lovely coffee-table book, richly illustrated. Many of the women featured were outstanding artists who are (I’m sad to say) much less recognized than their male counterparts. The authors, Judy Newton and Carol Weiss, are great researchers and storytellers, and they did a wonderful job of shedding light on these talented women.

OTHER PROJECTS WE MIGHT RECOGNIZE? While at the historical society I edited a book on Indiana stereographs (which are predecessors to View-Master reels). After I left the society I was involved in writing text and captions for a book titled Historic Photos of Indianapolis. That was a fun project, but I have to say that I wasn’t involved in the photo selection (I would have used a different mix), nor was I especially pleased with the editing. (For example, any Hoosier editor worth his or her salt knows that James Whitcomb Riley wrote “Little Orphant Annie”—with the T on “orphant”—but apparently the editors in Tennessee didn’t recognize this and took it off.) In the past couple of years the publisher of Historic Photos of Indianapolis has repackaged it into a paperback called Remembering Indianapolis. I should point out that publishers do this a lot when the hardcover doesn’t sell well—they rip off the covers, rebind the pages between cardboard, reduce the price, and hope they can finally get rid of the book.

WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT WHAT YOU DO ? I’ll answer this from the perspective of when I worked in history (since, after all, this is what your readers are presumably interested in). When I was at the historical society, I was so proud of what we did. We were a pretty small editing team, but we produced some amazing award-winning products. As a sixth-generation Indianan I was glad to tell the stories of our state—most of them positive but some of them not. I believe there’s great value in knowing who you are and where your people come from and the events that have helped shape your community’s outlook, so I felt that I was doing worthwhile work by sharing that knowledge. I love history, and I was always learning. Back in those days we always fact-checked our publications, so I spent many hours submersed in old newspapers, and I often left work feeling as though I had time-traveled to past decades. It was amazing!

WORST PART OF WHAT YOU DO? Again, looking back—the worst thing was the pay. I don’t know how I paid the bills. I drove a broken-down Geo Prizm, bought a house on the poor side of town, and somehow eked out a living.

HOW YOU DEFINE PERSONAL SUCCESS? For me personal success is filling your life with those things that make you most happy. For a while work gave me that (I really was passionate about what I was doing at the historical society, especially in the early years). Now I try to focus on activities outside of work that fill my interests. I enjoy the company of others, so personal success centers a lot around the important relationships in my life too.

ADVICE TO SOMEONE ELSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO DO WHAT YOU DO? I would advise anyone going into the field of history to do it, as long as he or she is committed to it and cares about it. One must understand that career paths can be narrow and salaries (especially starting out) can be low. On the other hand it does offer one the opportunity to be incredibly creative and expressive. The two things I did at the society—history and editing—are undergoing such transformation through technology, and today the tools one has to research, record, interpret, and tell history are amazing. So if you come to me and tell me this is what you want to do, I say recognize the risks but seize the chance to do great and innovative things!

IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH RELATING TO YOUR JOB/CAREER/ORGANIZATION, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I’d wish to be financially well off so I could take early retirement and pursue my passion for history and writing on a freelance basis.

WOULDN’T HAVE MADE IT TO WHERE YOU ARE WITHOUT? I wouldn’t have made it without so many people who sacrificed their time and energy to help me grow—most of all my parents and other family members, but also the incredible teachers I had growing up in Jay County, my professors in Bloomington, and the countless others who guided me along the way.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? My biggest motivators are the desire to make proud the people who love me and to make this world a better (and more interesting) place.

WHO WERE/ARE YOUR MENTORS AND HOW DID THEY HELP? In my career at the historical society, my greatest mentors were Kent Calder, my first boss, and Paula Corpuz, who was the senior editor. Paula spent her entire career at the historical society and trained under the legendary Gayle Thornbrough. To me she was a connection to the society’s golden years, and I admired her skills and dedication (I still do). Kent is a fiery Texan and so talented at telling stories that are meaningful to people. He taught me how to be a good editor, and just as important he showed me how to speak up for what I believe and to stand up for myself. Another role model is John Harris, who was the director of local history services when I was at the society. To me John is the quintessential Hoosier historian. He’s worked in the trenches of history and understands how to deliver it well, directly to the people. He knows the state better than almost anyone, and I have always found him to be wise beyond measure.

WHAT SPARKED YOUR INTEREST IN HISTORY? I grew up on a farm that my family has owned since 1837, and because of that I think I developed a sense of roots and of place. My grandmother was very proud of her family, the Edmundsons, who homesteaded the farm, and she had a strong interest in Indiana history. She was a member of the Indiana Historical Society so I think it all came from her.

MOST INTERESTING BIT OF INDIANAPOLIS HISTORY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED? This is not quite what you’re looking for, but I’ll put a spin on this question and focus on the most interesting history-related space I’ve encountered. A few springs ago a couple of friends and I found an unlocked door in the Indiana World War Memorial and we sneaked up the stairs to the tip of the pyramid roof. Along the way we wound our way through creepy dark corridors, stood on a high balcony overlooking the shrine, and even found an opening to the outside ledge where the statues stand watch over the city (we could have gone out on it!). The views from the top of the memorial were incredible.

YOU CAN HAVE DINNER WITH ANYONE FROM INDIANAPOLIS PAST? WHO & WHY? The people I’d most like to dine with are the couple who first lived in my house, John and Edna Smith (if you’re going to research the history of your home, good luck with a name like John Smith). I’d tell them to come on over and have a seat in their old dining room, and then I’d ask them about their lives and what it was like moving into the home (John built it himself). I’d also ask them what the neighborhood was like when they moved in and about life in the city in 1920, when they built the house.

YOUR CAREER IN AN ALTERNATE LIFE? I love art and might like to be an artist. Or an architect. Something creative for sure.

ANY INTERESTING FAMILY CONNECTIONS TO INDIANAPOLIS PAST? While we’ve always been proud of our state capital, I’m sorry to say that I can’t think of any particularly interesting connections between my family and the city’s past.

FAVORITE VIEW IN THE CITY? One of the best views was from the top of the Indiana World War Memorial (see my answer four questions up). I also get a thrill seeing the city on an early morning when I’m driving west on Washington Street toward downtown, the sun is starting to rise and casting a soft glow over the landscape, and a large golden-orange moon hovers behind the skyscrapers.

FAVORITE RESTAURANT IN INDIANAPOLIS? I love the Legend in Irvington—there’s no better comfort food in the city than the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. The Graham Central Station ice cream is terrific. I’ve gotten to the place where I go there about every week or two. And I usually go with fun people.

FAVORITE CITY BESIDES INDIANAPOLIS? In Indiana it’s Bloomington for sure. I also like Madison, New Harmony, and Richmond, as well as Fort Wayne since I grew up around there and have fond memories of it. I used to admire Terre Haute, for quirky reasons, but then I got so angry when they tore down the Terre Haute House and replaced it with a piece of crap that I never want to set foot in that town again. Outside of Indiana I’m crazy for New York and San Francisco.

FAVORITE HISTORY RELATED BOOK OR MOVIE? If we’re talking local history, it’s The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington. It’s a great reflection of the city in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the themes of change are just as relevant today. (The Orson Welles movie version is fine, by the way, but do not—do not!—watch the made-for-TV movie that came out several years ago on A&E. It was pure garbage.)

ULTIMATE BEVERAGE? To quench my thirst nothing beats water—followed by a big glass of Sun King Cream Ale.

COLLECT ANYTHING? Yes. I collect old postcards, both Indiana scenes and holiday cards. Also, whenever I travel I buy a book either written about the place or set in the place I’m visiting.

FAVORITE QUOTE? Here are a couple that I have on my Facebook page: “Jealousy is the tribute mediocrity pays to genius.”—Fulton Sheen; and, “Ideals are like stars; you will not succeed in touching them with your hands. But like the seafaring man on the desert of waters, you choose them as your guides, and following them you will reach your destiny.”—Carl Schurz

IF YOUR LIFE HAD A THEME SONG, IT’D BE? Well, I definitely have some ideas come to mind, but I’m not at all comfortable saying because I feel they would be embarrassing. And I think by now I’ve already done a good enough job denigrating myself with many of my answers on this questionnaire. . . .

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Tiffany Benedict Browne is the founder and driving force behind HistoricIndianapolis.com. She loves learning, sharing and inspiring Indy's stories.

9 Comments on "Heritage Steward: George Hanlin"

  1. Virginia Swift Singer October 26, 2012 at 8:07 am · Reply

    You drive west on Washington to downtown? Hmmm. I grew up on the near eastside. It was the poor part of town then. Lived on ArsenalSt and Oriental St.

  2. George Hanlin October 26, 2012 at 10:07 am · Reply

    Hi, Virginia. Yes, I’m on the near eastside, around Tenth and Emerson, not quite in Irvington. While I joke about it being the poor side of town, I do enjoy living there.

    By the way, I apologize to all you readers for using the word “amazing” so much. I must have been overly amazed when I filled this out.

    • Virginia Swift Singer October 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm · Reply

      Okay, where you live is an area we thought the rich kids lived. We were in a pretty bad area. I had to learn to fight because I was a skinny thing and an easy target.

      • basil berchekas jr October 26, 2012 at 9:23 pm · Reply

        i grew up in the 2000 block of North Emerson (before that, in the 1400 block); used to walk down to Shi Kay’s and Dream Weavers, as well as Si Green’s for a beer or two when we’d visit my Mother at 2006 North Emerson; went to School 68 and Howe; my sister went to School 68 and Tech; served as Tech’s Principal from 2002 to about 2006 or 2007 before retiring from IPS (the “state”, actually) Just trivia here!

        • Virginia Swift Singer October 26, 2012 at 10:31 pm · Reply

          I went to schools 9,14, 3, and 101. Went to Howe for one semester then to Lebaon for two years. Grauated from Arlinginton. My mother worked at Howe as matron. (Lady janitor) She also worked at 57.

          • basil berchekas jr October 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm ·

            Interesting! My mother was an assistant principal at 101 from about 1965 or 1966 to sometime in the 1970s; her name was Velma Berchekas; she then finished her career at school 43 before it closed. Mispelled “Howe” earlier!

  3. basil berchekas jr October 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm · Reply

    Do wish to follow this! Another historic preservation hero!

  4. Virginia Swift Singer October 27, 2012 at 5:16 pm · Reply

    I missed your mother. I was at 101 in 1962. Before that the JR. high kids from school 14 wennt to Tech.

    • basil berchekas jr October 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm · Reply

      OK!

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