close

Indianapolis history is not just made up of buildings, historic homes, and age-old events. After all, it IS people who make history happen, so what better way to know Indianapolis history than to hear from life-long Indy residents? HI is featuring some of Indianapolis’ oldest residents to unlock the personal memories and nearly forgotten stories of this great city.

Meet Lillian Harrison Berry, my oldest interviewee at 98-years-old who is an open book about her long life in Indianapolis. When I spoke with Lillian, I also had the pleasure of meeting with her daughter, Diane Berry Cook, and her granddaughter, Brigette Cook Jones. Hearing three generations share memories about this dear woman’s life was a sweet experience, and it is apparent that Lillian has lived a full life, despite some incredibly tragic years she endured.

Lillian, age 18, 1933. (Courtesy of Brigette Jones).

Lillian, age 18, 1933. (Courtesy of Brigette Jones).

DSC_0075

Lillian Berry was born Lillian Harrison in 1915, the second of 10 children. Her parents, Charles and Mary Rose Harrison, had moved to Indianapolis from Kentucky when Lillian was very young. They first lived just off of New York Street so they could be within walking distance of the cotton mill downtown, where Charles worked as a loom mechanic. 

An Indiana Cotton Mill, 1908. INDIANA HISTORICAL SOCIETY.

An Indiana Cotton Mill, 1908. (Indiana Historical Society).

Lillian first attended School no. 5 Oscar McCullough, which stood near where the Indiana State Museum is today. Its facade covers an entire wall of the Museum’s lobby.

Public School no. 5, Oscar McCullough, 1925. (Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society).

Public School no. 5, Oscar McCullough, 1925. (Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society).

Lillian most remembers going to a Methodist church by their house or visiting the Star Store, located on 570 West Washington Street, in the White River State Park area.

“For some reason, my dad always bought all our clothes, not my mom,” remembered Lillian. “My dad would take us to the Star Store and get us our Easter outfits and hats, which was so much fun.”

Every year at Christmastime, all the children could come down to Tomlinson Hall and get a gift, and then they watched a Christmas performance. On special occasions, Lillian could go to the movie theatre, where she remembers having seen Rin Tin Tin, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and cowboy serials with Tom Mix – all of which are silent films.

The Star Store at 870 W. Washington Street. INDIANA HISTTOSIJSLDF

The Star Store at 570 W. Washington Street. (Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society).

Star Store interior, 1908. COUTRESYLDKRJG DOF

Star Store interior, 1908. (Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society).

Several years later, the Harrisons moved to Salem Park, which was sandwiched between two creeks. Lillian has many fond memories of playing in the creek and of watching horses run free in the evenings. There, she attended School No. 52 and then Washington High School, which is still a school today. However, Lillian’s family moved again, landing them on Oliver Street, so Lillian transferred to Ben Davis High School.

George Washington High School, 1936. Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

George Washington High School, 1936. (Bass Photo Co Collection, Indiana Historical Society).

By 1929, all states had banned children under 14 from working. Unfortunately, 1929 was the year Lillian turned 14, which meant she had to start working at the cotton mill to help her family financially. By the age of 16, Lillian had dropped out of school to work full time at the mill in order to pay rent to stay under her parents’ roof. Lillian’s father was strict and required much of his children, but Lillian is thankful for her father’s hardworking attitude. He kept his job through the Depression, never having to stand in the soup lines or ask for money. He finally bought a car, and Lillian remembered that it was quite a treat to take a drive on Sunday afternoons – that is, if they behaved and asked him nicely.

While working as a weaver at the mill, Lillian met a handsome young man named Edward Harlan Berry. Edward was a baseball player for the cotton mill’s company team, so he had to work for the mill in order to continue playing. Edward had graduated from Washington High, which made him the only one of five sons to graduate high school.

Edward H. Berry. Courtesy of Indy.gov.com.

Edward H. Berry. (Courtesy of Indy.gov).

“Edward didn’t have a car when we were dating, so we’d get on the bus and go downtown,” she said. “Once we saw Mickey Rooney in a cute little movie. We never went out to eat though. That wasn’t part of my life because we couldn’t afford to.”

When Lillian was 20, she and Edward ran off to Martinsville to get married (during the Depression, it was common for couples to leave town to get married because they couldn’t afford a fancy wedding ceremony). Lillian and Edward continued to work at the mill for several years into marriage.

“After we got married we overslept one morning, and we showed up at the mill about two hours late. We explained the situation to our boss, and he thought it was so funny that he didn’t chastise us or fire us. He just thought it was funny because we had just gotten married…and we overslept,” she smiled.

Lillian quit work after she started having children, and Edward worked for Allison Transmissions briefly before he was drafted for WWII. During the War, he served on the Aleutian Islands, leaving Lillian in Indianapolis to raise their two children, Charlie and Diane.

1944: Lillian with her two children, Charlie and Diane. Photo taken while Edward was away serving in World War II. (Photo courtesy of Brigette Jones).

1944: Lillian with her two children, Charlie and Diane. Photo taken while Edward was away serving in World War II. (Photo courtesy of Brigette Jones).

Post-WWII, Lillian, Edward, Charlie, and Diane moved to 3881 E. Pleasant Run Parkway at a wartime housing project, nicknamed “The Barracks.” The 26 pre-fab units, which created 104 apartments total, were built in Christian Park for returning GIs and their families. Lillian and Edward lived in “The Barracks” until they were able to afford to build their own home. They heated their small apartment with a pot-bellied stove and cooked their food on a hot plateBy the early 50s, the Christian Park barracks had already deteriorated, so the city tore them down.

Christian Park neighborhood boundaries. Google Maps 2013.

Christian Park neighborhood boundaries. (Google Maps 2013).

The barracks in Christian Park are torn down. Indianapolis News, February SOMETHING, 1955??

The barracks in Christian Park are torn down. (Indianapolis News, February 16, 1955).

Tyndall Towne was another barracks in Indianapolis, located on Holt Road and Minnesota Street beside Stout Army Air Field.  (Information and photographs of Tyndall Towne have been very difficult to track down…does anyone have memories of this place?)

“My sister Annie and her husband Max lived in Tyndall Towne, and their barracks were just like ours, but we had to heat with coal and cook with a hot plate,” said Lillian. “We had a coal bin outside our house, and someone would often steal it as soon as we got coal.”

Buildings in Tyndall Towne. (Indianapolis News, April 30, 1953).

Buildings in Tyndall Towne. (Indianapolis News, April 30, 1953).

Tyndall Towne chooses a 5-man board, Indianapolis Star, December 16, 1946.

Tyndall Towne chooses a 5-man board, Indianapolis Star, December 16, 1946.

Lillian and Edward saved up money to buy a lot of their own, and Edward built a white, concrete block house at 4748 Brookville Road in Christian Park. By this point, Lillian was working on the conveyor belt at Eli Lilly and Edward became a policeman and served on the motorcycle drill team.

“As far as I can tell he didn’t make any mistakes!” said Lillian of the beloved home she ended up living in for 50 years.

Lillian’s life took a turn for the worse in 1954 when Edward was killed in a motorcycle chase on 16th Street. Edward was chasing someone on his motorcycle and a man in a truck pulled out from Harding Street in front of him, throwing Edward 95 feet across the street. Edward passed away two days later in General Hospital. It was after his death that Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department issued that motorcycling policemen wear helmets.

Edward's motorcycle after the crash. His mother, Cora Berry, stands beside it in horror. Courtesy of Brigette Cook Jones.

Edward’s mother, Cora Berry, stands beside his wrecked motorcycle in horror. (Courtesy of Brigette Cook Jones).

The article on Edward's death. Indianapolis NEWS February 4, 1955.

The article on Edward’s death. Indianapolis News, February 4, 1954, p. 1.

Lillian and her two children in their home, 4748 Brookville Road, after the death of Edward. Indianapolis News, February 4, 1954.

Lillian and her two children in their home, 4748 Brookville Road, after the death of Edward. Indianapolis News, February 4, 1954, p. 23.

“I was so lonesome,” remembered Lillian. “On Sunday afternoons, the kids and I would sit on the front porch and watch everyone go by, no one would come to visit us.”

In an effort to subside her grief, Lillian took up several life-long dreams after Edward’s death. She bought a car and learned to drive – a turquoise and white ’55 Chevy, which Lillian’s daughter, Diane, says she wish they still had because it is quite an impressive antique car. Lillian also took up art, with taking classes at Herron School of Art. She especially loved painting portraits, and won several awards through the Indianapolis Art League, which is now the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple.

John Herron Art Institute on 16th and Pennsylvania Street. (Indiana Historical Societyyyy).

John Herron Art Institute on 16th and Pennsylvania Street. (Indiana Historical Society).

Today, the Herron Art Institute building is Herron High School. (Google Street View, 2013).

Today, the Herron Art Institute building is Herron High School. (Google Street View, 2013).

Lillian continued to work at Eli Lilly until she retired, working for them on everything from birth control to rabies vaccines. She continued to raise Charlie and Diane in the Brookville Road house. The children attended School 82 and Howe High School, and both continued on to Indiana universities. Charles went on to the Air Force and then worked as an electrical engineer for Indiana Bell. Diane went to IBM school and eventually met her husband while working at the American Red Ball transit company. She lives in Greenfield, and Lillian now lives with her.

After retiring, Lillian traveled the world, but always returned to Indianapolis, where most of her family remained. Six of her nine siblings stayed in Indianapolis their entire lives, so her extended family is spread out all over Indianapolis. Lillian figures old age runs in the family, because her father Charles lived to be 96. He was still doing adventurous things, like riding roller coasters, through his 80s! Lillian is thankful for her large family, who surround her with much love. She has three granddaughters, four great-grandchildren, three step great-grandchildren, and three step great-great-grandchildren.

“I really feel loved by my daughter and my granddaughters. When you get to be 98, you don’t want to be a burden on anyone, but they are so good to me.”

Lillian with her granddaughter Brigette Jones (left) and daughter Diane Cook??? (right).

Lillian with her granddaughter Brigette Jones (left) and daughter Diane Cook (right).

30 responses to “Flashback Fridays: Lillian Berry”

  1. Tom Davis says:

    I recognized Edward’s picture instantly, having done research on all of the police and firemen who died in the line of duty that are buried at Crown Hill (it’s approximately 28 of each.) I’m sure I’ve been by his grave several times. If I remember correctly, it is a military headstone, fitting of his WWII service. Thank you for this update on his family. Lillian sounds like quite a woman.

    (For those that don’t know, Edward’s name and the names of all Indiana police and firemen who have died in the line of duty, are engraved around the Heroes of Public Safety monument at Crown Hill. the monument is one section south of the Gothic Chapel and was one of the city’s responses to 9/11.)

  2. Rebecca Bandy says:

    This article is wonderful story of love for family and home. A beautiful lady who did the very best for her family. Her children, grandchildren, greats and siblings….must be very proud of her.

  3. David Brewer says:

    This has gotten to be my favorite part of HI. It’s the people–as much or more than the buildings–that really make up the fabric of our city’s history.

    Dad has mentioned Tyndall Towne a few times over the years.

    My parents bought their first house in Eagledale in the Fall of 1955. Dad’s coworkers warned him that everyone from Tyndall Towne would move into Eagledale and turn it into a slum. Happily, he disregarded their advice, and they lived there for 11 years.

  4. Lamont Hulse says:

    Is it possible that Edward Berry’s World War II services was in the Aleutian Islands in the Pacific Theater?

  5. Ellen Davis says:

    Yes, Lamont, he did! I made the error of thinking it was the Lucian Islands, but it was actually on the Aleutian Islands.

  6. Lamont Hulse says:

    Ellen,
    I should have mentioned first what a lovely article this is, thank you for writing it!
    My father (still thriving at 93) and my uncle also both served in the Aleutians, thus my interest.
    Lamont

  7. Barbara says:

    There are several people on Facebook (Growing up on the Indy Westside) who lived in Tyndall Towne and would love any information that could be provided. We would treasure any pictures, but can not find them anywhere.

  8. David Mosley says:

    We lived in Tyndall Town until 1952. I had just finished second grade when we moved to the east side of Indy not far from Emerson and 21st streets. I started school when we lived in Tyndall Town. After I demonstrated that I could handle walking up and down a flight of stairs, a lady at the district offices laid her hand on my head and gave me her blessing, saying she thought it would be OK if I went to public school. She was right, because some 50 years later I retired from teaching in those same public schools. Tyndall Town was an interesting place my parents made friends that they stayed in contact with until the end of their lives. Kids could roam all over, as long as we stayed inside the fences that surrounded the military facility. There was Saturday afternoon matinee at the theater, where I could see 2 movies and a cartoon have popcorn and a drink all for a quarter. The apartments were L shaped with one bedroom, a living area, a kitchen, and bath. They were heated with a coal-burning stove, and the cooking stove burned coal or wood, and it had a water tank on the back for hot water. The whole apartment would have fit into a 24×30 space about the size of today’s 2 car garage, and that may have been generous. The walls were paper thin, and you could hear anything that was said in the next apartment. My seat at the table gave me a great view of Stout Field, and I saw several accidents. One involved two P-51 Mustangs that were taking off, and one of the pilots was killed, and he remained in the plane as it raced around the field in huge circles. There was an air show that ended with a B-36 Peace Maker making a tree top fly over low enough to make the ground rumble. There was a wooden sidewalk from the street to the front door 2×4 runners with 2×6 pieces laid across to walk on and a coal bin right in front of the window next to the sidewalk. The spaces in that sidewalk would gobble up my nickle if I dropped it as I ran to the ice cream truck in the summer time. I learned patience fishing that nickle out of that sidewalk for the next time the truck came by. There was a service station, a grocery store, and a small variety store, and I’m sure there were other services available. Tyndall Town was just that a small town complete with everything a family needed.

  9. ken Williams says:

    Great story, enjoyed it much, as my mother worked at the mill also, we also lived by the mill on Minerva st 1946 to 1959

  10. Charles Hampton says:

    I logged into this website out of curiosity, because I recognized the mention of Tyndall Town in Indianapolis. After my father was discharged from the Army in 1945, he moved my mother and me into one of the converted Army Air force barracks at Stout Field –Tyndall Town. I was 5 years old. We lived there until 1953. The school buses from Maywood school picked up children all over Tyndall town. I remember the grocery store was owned by Mr. King, and they made fresh donuts with a machine that you could watch someone flip the donuts over with a long stick. I remember the movie theater, admission was .14 cents, there was penny and nickle candy, as well as popcorn. The Saturday matinees showed a double feature and cartoons, what a bargain. Also there was a variety store, a coffee shop, a barber shop, a church, and a fire station. I still remember our address, 125A Pierce Lane. I could look out our front door and see Stout Field airport. My little friends and I would walk to the fence separating our barracks / apartments from the airfield and watch the planes take off and land. They were very loud and awesome to us kids. If anyone else lived in Tyndall Town during that time, I would love hearing from you.

  11. Tom Ely says:

    Charles, We lived at 129A Pierce Lane in Tyndall Yown. Feel free to contact me.
    Tom Ely

  12. Tom Ely says:

    Charles I have some memories and names of neighbors I would be glad to share.
    Tom Ely

  13. Hasel Huffman says:

    When my father came home from the Army he moved me and my mother into The Barracks. I was a baby, guess it was in 1945 or 46. The only thing I know about Tyndall Town is that is where we went to pay our rent. I don’t know why we paid it there, just remember riding there with my mother.

    It’s funny how fuzzy childhood memories can be. I truly don’t remember the barracks as looking that bad, and until I read this I would have said that I never lived in a housing project. I remember a lot of happy memories there, and a lot of friends some of them remained close for many years. I think we moved when I was about 7 or 8 to an apartment on Jefferson Avenue. We lived there for a short time then bought a small house on LaSalle Street in Brightwood.

    I am so glad that I found this article and those newspaper stories. I never knew that ever happened to those old barracks. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Jeanette Branscum says:

    My mom worked at the Cotton Mill, we lived on Hanson Ave. which was just off of New York Street. I also went to School # 5, but would have been in the 1950’s. Thank you

  15. Jeff Hutton says:

    I live in Tyndall town when I was 4-5 (1953-54). I remember laying on top of the coal bin watch the plane form the air field. Once my mom and couple of other mom killed a rat with a butter knife tied to a broom stick. In 54 we move to Waverly, In.

  16. Jim Beeson says:

    I have a picture of my Dad, brother and I sitting on the coal bin outside our door while living in Tyndall Towne which closed July 1, 1955. We moved to Beech Grove in 1951.

  17. MaryJane White-pluimer says:

    We lived in Tyndall Town too. I have a few pictures. We were a family of 7, dont know how we did that. I was born there & we moved in 1954 when they were closing the place. My Dad ran the only auto garage store. We were poor, but sure didn’t know it. White was our last name.

  18. Jan Coghill Shirrell says:

    David mentioned the ice cream man and I had to post that I think his name was Jimmy. My little brother who was 21 months old at the time was ran over by the ice cream truck. Since my brother and sister were so much older than I, and my little brother and I were very close I’ve always wondered about how my life would have been had he lived.

  19. Anonymous says:

    4.5

  20. Dennis Soliday says:

    My Dad was aboard the U.S.S Baltimore. He was attending a school at Butler University for the Navy when he met my mother. They were married in 1942 and he was gone for the duration of the war. I remember living at Tyndall Town and Christian park in the military housing. My parents bought a home in Irvington and that was the only home they ever owned. My Father worked for the railroad at the round house until he started working at the Chrysler electrical plant. He worked there for thirty two years. My mother worked at various plants until she retired.

    I went grade school at 52. It now is an apartment building I believe. I attended Junior high at school 57 and Graduated from Thomas Carr Howe in 1966. I went into the Navy and was stationed at Pearl Harbor Hawaii for four years. I met my wife, now of 51 years, in Hawaii. I currently live in New Palestine.

  21. CHARLES HAMPTON says:

    I read your accounts and memories of Tyndall Town with great interest because you described the living quarters and life quite well. I was 5 years old when my father moved my family to Tyndall Town after the war in 1945, he was just discharged from the Army and jobs were scarce, but the rent in T.T. was very affordable, about $20 per month I think. we moved from T.T. to the South side of Indy in 1952.

  22. CHARLES HAMPTON says:

    Tom we apparently were neighbors, we probably played together when we were kids.

  23. CHARLES HAMPTON says:

    Tom I am on Facebook as Charles-Sonny Hampton, would enjoy being friends on there.

  24. CHARLES HAMPTON says:

    Jan I remember your little brother Mark, we called him Marky, the sweetest little kid. Mrs. Gates (Mildred) babysat me and my little brother and your little brother Mark. I remember when he was killed, tragic.

  25. Tom Ely says:

    Charles, Sorry i am not on Facebook. My email is tomely8001@gmail.com.
    I have some names of people that lived on Pierce Lane. I also have a few pictures
    I would be glad to make copies for you.
    Feel free to contact me.
    Tom Ely

  26. Tom Ely says:

    Charles “Sonny”, I do remember some names on Pierce Lane. I have a picture of some kids, including me, in front of the coal bin at our house on 129 A Pierce Lane. We ordered coal 1/4 ton at a time. That’s all we could afford. My Dad was at Great Lakes Navel Hospital recovering from war injuries. He later joined us. He became a motorcycle policeman and parked hid Indian in front of our apartment.
    If interested, I have other information about us and our neighbors if you are interested.
    Tom Ely

  27. Charlotte says:

    My family also lived in Tyndsll Town. Our address was 175D Forrester St. I remember the White family. The picture posted I think shows where we lived if the large building was the VFW. After it burned down, we used it as a place to roller skate. I remember your Dad had an auto garage. I think your Mother’s name was Mary.

  28. Charlotte says:

    Our last name is Leaser.
    I remember the White family. Our families went to a park together. I believe Garfield.
    I believe the mother of the White family was named Mary. I think they lived in the barracks across from ours. We lived by the VFW which burned down, then we skated on the cement floor of that building. I fell skating and broke my arm. Our address was 175D Forrester St.

  29. Bill Albers says:

    My name is bill Albers we lived I think the second door east of the church. Does anyone remember the sheriff office? Had a neighbor named Stephanie. German. Son named Robert My mother was a warbride from Belgium Albers1114@icloud.com

  30. Doris says:

    I was born while we lived in Tyndall town, My God parents also lived there. My surname is Reed and my God Parents were the Oyler’s. She was Francis who my family called Frank, and his name was Ray, we called him Bus. One of their sons went on to play baseball in the major leagues. He was called Little Bus. He played for the Tigers and the Pilots. We also had neighbors with the name of Clark. I do not recall anything about Tyndall Town, only stories from my family.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *