Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you
–Bookends by Simon and Garfunkel
Boxes of family photographs for sale in flea markets and antique shops both excite and sadden me. As a collector and archivist I’m happy to rummage through and buy the discarded images, yet sad to know that they somehow slipped out of family hands. I wonder: Did the family die out with no descendants to claim the pictures? Did someone who doesn’t appreciate history rush to settle an estate? Are there grandchildren or cousins who did not have a chance to acquire them? It’s particularly sad to see shaky older handwritten captions indicating that someone lovingly took the time to share their memories with hopes that future generations will come to know them through the faded snapshots.
Recently, with the convenience of sharing digital images, a network of like-minded folks have found ways to return or share images with their families. One such “photo rescuer” is Don Johnson, a reporter for Antique Weekly. This week he attended The Indiana Album’s Historic Photograph Scan-A-Thon at the Irvington Branch Library and loaned a wonderful album found at an antique store. Typical of the mid-1930s, photo corners hold the snapshots onto black pages. Identification in old albums varies from no writing, to vague and nearly worthless captions (“Yours truly at our second house”), or if you’re lucky, detailed captions with full names, dates, and addresses. Johnson’s album is in the latter category with neat pencil-written captions giving complete details.
While we have not yet put together a complete history of the album, we believe that the photographer was a teenager named Lee Wayne Dickey who lived in a neighborhood on the southwest side of Indianapolis near Rhodius Park. He was a better-than-average snapshot photographer who took his craft seriously, sometimes noting exposure times or lighting experiments. Between 1935 and 1938 he filled over one half of the album with images of his nearby neighborhood, a few downtown views, trips to South Bend and other Indiana towns, and many of the Dickey family. At first glance the album seems to show a typical happy family, but research on ancestry.com reveals that just five years earlier Lee’s parents and his ten-year-old sister died within four days of each other and the three surviving children went to live with relatives. Lee moved in with his Uncle Marshall and Aunt Barbara, whose children were already grown.
Central to Lee’s world was the Dickey IRGA (Independent Retail Grocers’ Association) Food Market, operated by Marshall and Barbara (Werner) Dickey. The two-story wood structure, located on the southwest corner of W. Morris Street and Blaine Avenue, housed a crowded grocery store on the first level, with an apartment above rented by the Dickey’s. The Dickeys first occupied this corner in about 1914 and continued through the early 1940s. Lee’s many snapshots show the exterior and the interior of the store, as well as the adjacent shoe and mower repair shop.
Often amateur photographers took vacation and people photographs, but failed to capture their immediate surroundings. Fortunately, Lee documented many buildings on or near W. Morris Street just west of Harding Street (today this is a few blocks south of I-70). This area was a separate town first named Belmont, and renamed West Indianapolis (often abbreviated W.I.). In the late 1890s the town was annexed to Indianapolis.
The Masonic Hall, located northeast of the grocery on W. Morris St., is visible in the background of several photographs. Recently the lodge was renovated by Halstead Architects and since 2010 has been home to the Southwest Health and Dental Center.
West of the Masonic Lodge stood the Morris Street Christian Church. Today the site is a parking lot for the Health Center.
Located at 1604 W. Morris Street was a house converted into the Farley Funeral Home. Currently the house is occupied by Legacy Creamation and Funeral Services.
The IPS William Penn School #49, photographed on 2 November 1938, was located on the eastern end of Rhodius Park. A modern K-6th grade school is on the same site now and shares facilities with IndyParks.
The art deco Fire Station Number 19 stood at 1445 W. Morris Street and was replaced in 1992 by a new station on South White River Parkway.
Bixby-Shinola Factory (The Indiana Album: Loaned by Don Johnson)The large Bixby Factory in the 1400 block of W. Morris Street was best known for making Shinola Shoe Polish, but during the late 1940s the second and third floors produced RIT dyes. The industrial building survived until this month and is currently being demolished.
Lee Dickey stopped filling his album with snapshots when he turned nineteen and soon served his country in World War II. Other than working for Eli Lilly and Company for thirty-two years, his life is hard to trace from the comfort of my computer as he lived in a pre-Internet age. His obituary states that he died March 30, 2003 and does not mention a wife or children. If anyone knows his surviving family members (sister-in-law Kathryn Dickey, niece Karen Moore, or nephew Robert Stutsman), please let them know that we have great scans of their family that we would like to share. (Thanks to Don Johnson for loaning this gem of an album!)
Death date for Lee Wayne Dickey was March 30, 2003, not 1993
Thanks for your corrections, William. It is very much appreciated! I’ve made the corrections. -Joan
Not sure, but I believe that Jack Dickey’s Mom and Dad owned the Market. He graduated from George Washington High School. Shinola, Bixby, 2in1, Gold Dust, Hecker Products and Best Foods had quite a collection of names.
My dad was Jack Dickey, and it was his grandparents who owned the store, Jack graduated from Arsenal Technical High School.
Jack Dickey was my dad, and it was his paternal grandparents who owned the market. Sadly, when Lee passed away, his belongings went to another branch of the family that we lost touch with, and we have none of the photos or family geneology that Lee was so meticulous to research.
My son-in-law is Stephen Dickey, grandson of the Marshall Dickey mentioned as Lee Wayne’s uncle. So Steve’s father Elmer was a first cousin of Lee Wayne Dickey and Steve knew him well. He is very excited about the album and would love to have a copy. He knows about the family grocery store and can add more stories.
Hi, Marion…Please contact me at email@example.com and we can arrange for you to get copies of the album. I did not scan every photo, but can put you in touch with the man who owns the album.
My parents owned Shepherd’s Shoe Repair on W. Morris St
Are there and pics or info on the business.
What a wonderful article! Thank you for writing and sharing it. I grew up in and still live in West Indy and always enjoy seeing pictures and hearing stories of the “old” neighborhood.
The old William Penn School #49 was located on Morris Street where the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center (1920 W. Morris St.) and William Penn Commons Senior Apartments are now. In fact the gym in the Mary Rigg Center is the same gym that was in the school. The center was built on to it.
Thanks for the clarification, Kathi.
So glad to find the photo of the original School 49 and to see that someone corrected its location. I lived on Richland St between Oliver and McCarty from 1945 to 1950. When I started first grade in January 1946, I had to walk through Rhodius Park to get to school. It was on Morris as mentioned. Mrs. Zimmerman was my first grade teacher. I love these old pictures and thank everyone who has had a part in preserving them!
Sure wish someone had a photo of the old Library on the North side of Morris Street and also a picture of the Drugstore run by J.Lee Miller on the south corner of Morris Street across from the school 49
Kathi D you are correct on that. The old school #49 was on Morris St and Kappes. Mary Riggs was across the street where the Library is now at.
Hello, My mom, Margaret ( Henning) and her sisters Shirley and Martha went to school 49. They grew up in a house at 1305 Kentucky Ave. It belonged to her grandma Ida May ( Swigert) Walsh. My mom’s parents were Joseph Rosco Henning and Gertrude (Swigert) Henning. Joseph Henning worked for Indianapolis Power and Light. They later moved to a house at 1245 Kentucky Ave. My mom married Charles Reed. He was the son of Dr. Fred Smith Reed. He was a dentist and had an office in Fountain square. I was looking for old pictures of the houses on Kentucky Ave.
Did your family go to Second Friends church. Name is familar. My family were members. Name was Avery.
Yes they did.
My grandmother Margaret Huddleston-Hendrix,my mother SYBIL Ann Hendrix and my Aunt Alicia Hendrix was there as children,I would say about 1938. I visited there about 15 years ago and saw a picture of them in a group of people that they were using to identify people from that picture I believe my grandmother’s father was one of the men instrumental in building that church his name was Commons
I stumbled across this old photo of the Farley Funeral Home and my Grandfather was Floyd Farley who eventually owned the funeral home. My father James P. Farley was an embalmer and ambulance driver. . I actually lived upstairs for several years after my birth and used to ride my tricycle around the funeral home eventually moving to the Ben Davis area for few years where Grandpa helped develop the Farley Addition with his brother Manual, off West 10th Street. We then moved to Speedway around 1963.
Glad you made a connection! Let me know if you have any other photographs of the Farley Funeral Home or neighborhood…we’d love to make scans of them.
Kirk, I have lost track of you. Please, try to get ahold of me. Steven Smith, great grandson of Evert Farley, Omer’s brother.
JUST FOR THE RECORD IRWWIN PACE DIED OF HEART ATTACK SITTING IN FRONT OF FIRE STATION PICTURED A YOUG MAN WITH 3 CHILDREN
I am so glad to have discovered this website! I grew up in the Valley and was informed by nieces who still live in Indianapolis about the Valley being named neighborhood of the month. I was born in a house at 901 Arbor Avenue and lived there until my marriage in 1966. I have fond memories of walking to the Hill, to Rhodius Park to swim as a child with my older siblings. We graduated from Washington High School, so had many friends who lived ion the Hill. My parents had groceries delivered from Eaden’s Grocery and their daughter Betty graduated with me in 1963. I have now lived in Ohio for almost all of the 50 years since my marriage. We celebrated our 50th Anniversary last July 9th. I will always remember and appreciate my childhood in the Valley; walking to School #47, to church at River Avenue Baptist and the wonderful neighbors of Arbor Avenue and the many classmates from the Hill. Great to know that West Indianapolis is so alive and energized!
not sure if you know but Strother Martin lived at 918 Arbor Ave when he went to Washington High School
Would it be possible to use a couple of the photographs from the Indiana Album on my family tree? I have relatives who used to live in the city and would like to show what the town looked like back then,
I would give you proper credit of course!
Please let me know. Thanks!
Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures, I so miss Indianapolis. I was born when my mother lived on Westview Avenue, lived on Belmont, Tremont, and Sheffield. I went to school #49 from Kindergarten to fourth grade and loved every minute of it. My Grandma lived on Belmont across from Rhodius Park and my Aunt and cousins on Wilkins. Growing up we lived in the park, swimming, playing, sledding, hanging out in the rec center, Easter egg hunts. Such good memories. I also remember a movie theater across from the school on Morris street we always went to on Saturday mornings, and the wonderful library. I have lived in California since 1985 and go back home once or twice a year to see my family, and always love to go remember. I was in the neighborhood last year for my Aunts showing at Farley’s ( not the name now), but will always remember it as that as I have been there many times over the years. I wish times were as simple as they were then now. :~)
Do you research anything outside of Indy? I grew up in Jackson, Co.
No, I’m sorry, we don’t.
Does anyone remember the name of the Pump House and Bowling alley that was on W. Morris Street just east of Warman avenue back in the 60’s. My uncle Charles Samuel owned it . I am trying to locate a picture of it.
Valhala – when I was young my family used to go bowling there quite frequently. When my father was young he was a pin boy there.
My Mother lived on Wilkens and said that one year the park was under water. Possibly 1940’s. Do you have any information or photos of this?