Friday, June 20, 2008
Elvin Wickline was a West Virginian transplanted to Indiana. At the time I met him in 1984 he was in his 70s. He was practicing real estate as a way to make a little money. He had a sign on a piece of property in Traders Point. It was a parcel that my wife and my brother and I would eventually purchase and subdivide for our two homes. An acre for us, an acre for my brother and 3 acres in the floodway of Eagle Creek that was 20 feet lower than the buildable lots that would become our private park. “There’s a swamp on the property,” Wickline reported when I called the number on the rusty for sale sign situated in the high weeds at the corner of Moore and Lafayette Roads. “And there are plans for a gravel mining operation east of the property,” he warned, “so you may have lakefront property in 20 or 30 years.” Elvin encouraged us to walk the property on our own and to to be careful of the briars and poison ivy. What we found was a neglected and overgrown parcel that held enormous potential. He showed us a newspaper article that quoted Phillip H. Minton, the attorney for Allied Aggregates, claiming the mineral rights to a 200 acre area east of the parcel of interest extending to Eagle Creek. We bought it anyway. As fate would have it, the mineral rights were terminated after the city persuaded the Baltimore Colts to move in March 1984. In a complicated transaction that transferred park-owned land on West 56th to the Colts for a training facility, the city’s Department of Public Works gave their aggregate-laden parcel between West 79th Street and Lafayette Road to Indy Parks for a nature preserve 1986. After negotiating with Wickline and his client, Bob and Patty Barth, for a contract sale, and years before our homes were built, we would spend our weekends at the pond. We ordered a dumpster and filled it with old bikes, broken bottles and rusty cans; junk that dated to a time when neighbors knew they could place trash there without penalty. We fought back the jungle with bow saws, weed whips and axes, and ended long days with weekend bon fires. We camped there and dreamed of one day living permanently nearby. We fished Doug Clark’s stocked lake (now Mill Pond), where you had to drive thru a red barn to get to the water, and we relocated a few bass and blue gill. Fast forward to 1990 or 91. The phone rang in our new home on the property. “I’m one of your neighbors on Moore Road. My name is Glidewell. I have lots of memories about that pit in your backyard. Mind if I share them with you?” Within minutes we were in Boz Glidewell’s driveway. Boz had lost most of his hearing, due in part to weekends spent wearing a yellow shirt at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, directing traffic and just hanging out. He was nearly blind. Within a few short years he would be gone. But his mind was sharp the day we met. We piled into the car and drove down to the pond, accessing its lane from 79th Street. “Every old road in Pike Township has gravel from this pit. The horses were hitched to wagons and they would back down this ramp,” he said, pointing to a gradual incline that led into the water. “There was always a steam shovel over there,” he said, motioning toward the southeastern corner of the pond.” Another neighbor, Kathy Burden Bewsey, grew up in the 1960’s in a house across the street, (at the northeast corner of West 79th and Moore). “One day Jack Myers put a motor boat in the pit and raced it across.” Kathy remembered her dad fishing there and bringing home dinner. She recalled riding her bike down a much steeper and gravel-covered 79th street toward the creek before it was raised like a levee and paved with asphalt. Aerial photography from the 1930s shows an active quarry The quarry expands in subsequent aerial photos taken in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. At some point in the ’60s or early ’70s the pond was exhausted and abandoned. It was allowed to fill with water. We swam in its water but don’t recommend it. A few years ago we built a dock. Adirondack chairs are nailed to the wood because we tired of fishing them out of the water after a storm. The pond is narrowly visible to West 79th Street. Most motorists drive too fast to know it’s there. That’s probably just as well.