Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Images worth saving

diane02My photo archives include some pictures taken by my first father-in-law, Phil Kroon, who was a captain in the U.S. Army in World War II.

diane03I found a roll of negatives last night that he shot around 1948 of his young daughter Diane, who later became my first wife and the mother of my sons.

diane16I think they were living in California at the time, but there are some snow scenes that probably were shot during a winter trip home to Grand Rapids, Mich., and four shots of a crashed car. I seem to remember a family story about a rollover accident involving a trailer, so this is probably the car.

diane14The film is not in good shape. It’s scratched and the emulsion is cracked and crazed from being exposed to temperature and humidity fluctuations over the past 60+ years, but I think the images are well worth preserving.

diane12I digitized the images and emailed them to Diane this morning. I’m pretty sure she’s never seen them.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cabeza de Vaca


Maria and I were vacationing in Big Sur during the summer of 2002 when we encountered these two girls stopped at a vista point along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Traveling in style in a Cadillac convertible with a cow skull hood ornament. I wish we'd shot more photos of them and their car.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Big shoes to fill


Our Internet went down sometime around 9 a.m. today and didn’t come back up until about 5:30 p.m., so several good blog ideas came and fled before I could nail them down.

I spent much of my day – after getting a crown replaced by my dentist at 9 a.m. – searching through my archives for old photos of Indianapolis or Delphi to post on a couple of Facebook groups that deal with nostalgia.

I’ve exhausted all of the obvious archival places – labeled envelopes full of old black & white and color negatives – and now I’m diving deeper into family and work photos. I was never without my Pentax Spotmatic in the late 1960s, so it was not unusual for me to end up with a spur-of-the-moment downtown scene from a lunch break in the middle of a roll of film that also contained family pictures or shots to illustrate a news story I was working on.

Mining those gems leads to happy little “Aha!” moments when I find something like this fisheye view of Lincoln’s left shoe on a statue at the south end of University Park in downtown Indianapolis. There’s nothing about it that dates it, even though I know it was from the spring of 1969, so I won’t post it in the Indianapolis nostalgia group.

But I really like it, so I’m using it here.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Old school


This, children of the digital photography age, is how it used to be done.

I built this darkroom in what was formerly a coal bin in the half of a two-story double we rented for a couple of years at 4829 N. College Ave., in Indianapolis.

Wanting to keep dust from falling onto my equipment, I put up a drywall ceiling, then painted it with gloss enamel paint to maximize the illumination from the safelights. Nobody told me what a bad idea that was. I had to discover it myself about 80 percent through the painting process when I stumbled upstairs to answer the phone and discovered I was helplessly stoned on the toluene paint fumes. I finished the job with a fan circulating the air.

The two black oval things hanging from the ceiling are speakers, so I could listen to music while I worked.

The enlarger was a Besseler 23C, fitted with a Schneider Componon lens – top of the line stuff – and I used big 11x14 trays for the developer, stop, and fixer.

I had good equipment, but I never had the patience to get really good at photographic print making with its dodging and burning.

I built another darkroom when we moved up the street to 5009 N. College and didn’t repeat my toluene mistake.

I sold my darkroom stuff to an ambitious young journalist when I moved into an apartment in Carmel. I don’t regret it and there is nothing about film photography that I miss.

As a wise man once told me, the past is always a lesser state of development. No pun intended.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Portrait of a life about to change

It’s Sunday, July 27, 1986 and I’m on the best road I’ve ever ridden.
I spent the day before hanging out in Burbank, Calif. with my friend Doreen Tracey, one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers, and was on my way up Calif. Hwy. 1 to Monterey where I would rendezvous with Tim and Linda Balough.
The Baloughs were my mentors on this, my first really long motorcycle journey, and we had parted company Friday morning at Lake Tahoe in the Sierras. They were bound for Yosemite and I was headed down to Burbank to visit Doreen.
We had reservations at an inn in Monterey and my wife (now my ex) Diane was due to fly in from Indianapolis on Tuesday.
To say that this trip and this motorcycle – a 1981 BMW R100RS – changed my life would be an understatement. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of motorcycle travel and the challenges and self-reliance it entailed.
I’ve returned to California and Big Sur several times in the ensuing 28 years and hope to get back to my favorite road soon.
The roads we rode and places we saw are etched so indelibly in my mind that I can still reconstruct the route day-by-day:
July 19, Saturday - Indianapolis to Pontoon Beach, Ill.
July 20, Sunday - Pontoon Beach, Ill, to Russell, Kans. - 496 miles
July 21, Monday - Russell Kans., to Idaho Springs, Colo. - 396 miles
July 22, Tuesday - Idaho Springs, Colo. To Moab, Utah – 322 miles
July 23, Wednesday - Moab, Utah to Salina, Utah – 418 miles
July 24, Thursday - Salina, Utah to Fallon, Nev. - 480 miles
July 25, Friday - Fallon, Nev. To Los Banos, Calif. - 318 miles
July 26, Saturday - Los Banos, Calif. To Burbank, Calif. - 256 miles
July 27, Sunday - Burbank, Calif. To Monterey, Calif. - 311 miles
July 28, Monday – July 30, Wednesday - Monterey
July 31, Thursday – Aug. 3, Sunday – BMW MOA Rally at Laguna Seca
Aug. 3, Sunday – Laguna Seca to Mariposa, Calif. -155 miles
Aug. 4, Monday – Mariposa, Calif. To Elko, Nev. -498 miles
Aug. 5, Tuesday – Elko, Nev. To Vernal, Utah – 399 miles
Aug. 6, Wednesday – Vernal, Utah to Idaho Springs, Colo. - 296 miles
Aug. 7, Thursday – Idaho Springs, Colo. To Belleville, Kans. - 463 miles
Aug. 8, Friday – Belleville, Kans. To Jonesburg, Mo. - 386 miles
Aug. 9, Saturday – Jonesburg, Mo. To Indianapolis – 301 miles

I remember meeting Wayne Garrison at the rally. Wayne had ridden alone from Indianapolis on his R100RS and I was in awe of this bold feat. I wanted to be one of those guys who made epic rides.
I realized a few years ago that I became one of those guys. Just by doing it.

Dora’s perspective


Jack is hiding out on the porch this morning after he got zapped by the electric fence again.

Dora reacted by searching the yard for whatever it was that hurt/scared Jack and barking incessantly to warn off the source of Jack's discomfort.

Then she retired to the porch to play with Jack and me.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Not bad for primitive technology

stones wide view

Reveling in the speed my VueScan software give me with its batch scan feature, I digitized all 89 black and white images from the 1972 Indianapolis concert by the Rolling Stones last evening.

It was the first time I’ve been able to really examine some of them and there were some very pleasant surprises.

Looking at them, I’m struck by how good they are considering the relatively primitive nature of my equipment. I had two cameras with me – a Pentax Spotmatic that had a built-in light meter and a Pentax without a meter. It didn’t really matter whether I had a meter or not because it would read an average and render spotlit faces hopelessly overexposed and blown out. I used exposure settings gleaned from lots of reading about how to shoot concerts and, as you can see, it worked out pretty well.

One camera mounted my f/1.4 50mm “normal” lens, which produced images like the one above. The other was fitted with my Accura fixed-focal length (meaning non-zoom) f/3.5 200mm telephoto lens. It produced images like the one below.


Auto-focus was years in the future, so every shot had to be manually focused. I was glad to have two cameras so I didn’t have to switch lenses back and forth. Pentax cameras had screw-in lenses in those days – not the quick-change bayonet style mount pioneered by Nikon. Changing screw-in lenses in a hurry in the dark, trying to avoid cross-threading, was maddening and I cursed the Pentax designers every time I changed lenses.

Unlike digital cameras that can shoot hundreds or thousands of images on a single memory card, I had to change film after every 36 shots. And manually advance the film after every shot – something I haven’t had to do in years.

And, of course, I had no idea how well I did until my negatives came out of the fixer in the darkroom. No LCD on the back of the camera that let me review each image immediately.

I never had the patience to get good at making photographic prints in the darkroom, so a lot of less-than-perfect images never got printed.

Now, with Photoshop, those marginal images can come to life for the first time, like the one above of Mick Jagger gazing at me over a monitor speaker.

A good scanner and image editing software allow me to reclaim thousands of previously ignored images and I’m having a great time rediscovering photos I shot as much as 48 years ago when I bought my first 35mm camera.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Scanning my brains out


When Windows 7 was released, those of us who upgraded found ourselves shifting from a 32-bit operating system to a 64-bit operating system.

Most of our software could handle the change, but some of it could not. That was the case with the driver for my Nikon Coolscan IV ED negative/transparency scanner. And Nikon, apparently trying to force Coolscan IV users to buy a new scanner, declined to write a 64-bit driver for it.

There were various workarounds, including upgrading to Windows 7 Professional which has an XP Mode which creates a virtual machine running 32-bit Windows XP. I bought it and was able to install the last version of Nikon View and had my scanner back. For awhile, anyway, until it got wonky and stopped working.

Some serious Nikon geek, not affiliated with the company, wrote a 64-bit driver for Nikon View, but I never could get it to work.

Finally, a few weeks ago I did what I should have done a long long time ago.

I went to and bought the $80 professional edition of their VueScan, which works with my scanner and about 100 other brands and models.

I absolutely love it and wonder why I was so hung up on Nikon’s software, which is really lame by comparison.

I got out my black & white negatives from the September, 1969 crash of an Allegheny Airlines DC-9 southeast of Indianapolis and decided to scan all of the images. Thanks to VueScan’s batch scanning feature, I was able to make high-res scans of 106 images in a little under 90 minutes. That would have been an all-day job with Nikon View.

VueScan will also run my Canon flatbed scanner, but I prefer to use the Canon software. For the time being, at least.

To say that I love ViewScan is a serious understatement. It’s given me back my photo archive. Like the photo above – Leonard Case and his family, owners and operators of the Cherry Hut in Beulah, Mich. I shot the photo for a travel story I wrote for The Indianapolis Star in 2001.

The electric wire is up and it’s hot


We have high hopes that our fenced back yard is now escape-proof and Dora’s tunneling out days are over.

We haven’t seen Dora get zapped, but Jack had a shocking experience last evening.

Maria was in the yard with him at the time, but wasn’t watching when he yelped and ran from the fence. Her guess is that he peed on it. To my way of thinking, that’s about the worst way to experience an electric fence.

The fence charger Charlie gave us is obviously working just fine, which eliminates the need for any further spending on the project.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Missions accomplished


Charlie and I hauled bikes up to Grass Roots BMW Motorcycles today, got them fixed and returned home about 5 p.m.

I got a diagnosis on my K75S steering head bearing issue – it will need attention in a year or two and will cost about $550 – and got fixes on my speedometer cable wonky connection and non-functioning accessory plug. Cost: $142 and change.

Deb’s GS got its electrical wiring problem sorted out.

capemeI spent a couple of hours hanging out at the dealership among a wide range of new BMW models and didn’t see anything that really lit me up. I like the technology on the new GTs, but don’t like their bulky look.

Turned out that Charlie had an electric fence charger that he no longer needs, so I rode down to his house and picked it up.

I connected it and Maria reported Jack had a shocking encounter about an hour later, so we know it works and we have the electric wire properly installed.

Multiple problems solved at minimal expense, so it was a good day.

Two steps forward, one step back


We sweated and strained most of yesterday clearing away the log barricades and filling in Dora’s escape tunnels, preliminary to installing an electric fence wire.

Friend Charlie gave me the remains of a fence kit he had used, which involved setting plastic stakes to hold the wire. There were only 10 stakes left, so I bought enough half-inch PVC pipe at Lowe’s on Sunday to make 50 2-foot-long stakes, into which I drilled holes to hold cotter keys as a channel for the wire.

We set them out yesterday and strung wire through about five of them before we realized they were too flimsy.

So it was off to ACE Hardware where we found yellow plastic insulator clips that fasten onto the chain link fabric. We installed them all around the yard, strung the wire, hooked up the charger and ground stake and waited for a yelp.

No yelps.

But we didn’t see either dog approach the fence the rest of the day and evening.

I’m waiting for Charlie to pick me and the K75S up to go to Cape Girardeau for some service, so I got out the circuit tester to check the fence.

No current on the wire. Checking the charger, I find it isn’t working.


No time to drive to ACE and get a new charger (the one I have was bought from Amazon in January and can’t be returned more than a month after purchase) and still make our appointment at the BMW dealer in Cape.

So Dora will have to spend the day in her kennel and I’ll get on the fence problem as soon as we get home.

It’s always something.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do we need another dog?


This is Ginger, a stray dachshund who showed up at our friend Susan’s house.

Dachshunds tend to be stand-offish and skittish, but Susan’s daughter Maggie made a friend of her and now she lives with Susan and Maggie and their two big black poodles and a female pitbull.

The poodles are high energy dogs who play rough and Susan is afraid little Ginger will get injured, so the idea was floated that she might come to our house – Ginger, that is. Not Susan.

My ex and her family had a dachshund named Ginger back in the 1960s. That Ginger hated me. She was the only dog I can recall that never warmed up to me.

Over the years, I’ve come to expect little in the way of affection from dachshunds, so you can imagine my surprise when this Ginger jumped up onto the couch and, after a few nervous minutes, snuggled me and invited me to pet her.

Our vet and dog food expenses are already a bit high for my comfort, but if Ginger comes to live with us, I guess I can deal with it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Memo to snakes: If you must lie in the roadway, lie parallel with the traffic lanes–makes you a smaller target and increases your chances of being missed


This guy was sunning himself on the warm asphalt of Pine Log Road yesterday afternoon when I ran over him with my car.

I didn’t realize it was a snake until a fraction of a second before my right wheels squashed him – no time to avoid.

I hate snakes, but I can’t help feeling a little remorse over accidentally killing a non-venomous snake that does more good than harm.

Sorry, pal.

The most under-appreciated genius of the 20th century


R. Buckminster Fuller was probably the smartest man I ever saw.

Here he is at a press conference at the Indianapolis Airport on Jan. 30, 1973. He had flown to Indiana for speaking engagements at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute and at Hanover College at Hanover.

For those who are among the under-appreciators, Bucky Fuller’s message to the world was that Malthusian predictions of global overpopulation and universal famine are bullshit because science and technology are continually finding ways to do more with less.

fullerstampHe liked to use copper electrical wire as an example. There is a finite amount of copper in the world, but by 1973 it was becoming obvious that fiber optic cable – made from sand, of which there is a near infinite supply – makes communicating over copper wires about as practical as smoke signals or jungle drums.

He was a prolific inventor and his best-known creation was the geodesic dome, which is an elegant expression of doing more with less to enclose space. He also invented the Dymaxion car and the Dymaxion house.

He died in 1983 at the age of 87. He was honored with a U.S. postage stamp in 2004 on the 50th anniversary of his patent for the geodesic dome.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It was cutting edge technology in 1978. Now it’s a museum piece.

John Flora, November 1978

The Indianapolis News transitioned from typewriters to computers in the late 1970s and I found this image a couple of days ago – a photo of me at a Hendrix computer terminal shot in November, 1978.

I’ve always loved new technology, so I took to the Hendrix system quickly while some of my colleagues struggled and fought it. A few years later, I was on the transition team that trained the staff on a more sophisticated Atex computer system.

Hendrix was a wide-open system on which you could see everyone else’s files – something a new city editor failed to grasp when he created a series of memos to himself in which he ridiculed his superiors. Curiously, he wasn’t fired over it.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Get it, Dora!


My stepson Austin gave me a spectacular dog toy for Christmas - a gun that shoots tennis balls. Maria used it this evening to shoot balls 30-40 feet up, so they bounced upon landing and here's Dora going for it!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

33 years ago last month

Here's the story I wrote following the March 9, 1981, execution of Steven Judy - Indiana's first execution in almost two decades.

By John Flora
The Indianapolis News

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – Minutes after making a surprise telephone call to a former girlfriend he hadn't seen in five years, convicted murderer Steven Judy died today in Indiana's electric chair.
Judy, 24, became the first felon to die in the electric chair at the State Prison in Judynearly 20 years at 12:12 a.m.
Judy's foster father, Robert Carr, Indianapolis, and his attorney, Steven Harris, were the only two witnesses to the execution, other than Department of Correction personnel who helped carry out the sentence imposed by Hendricks Circuit Judge Jeffrey Boles.
"He called a girl in Texas that he was really serious about a few years ago," Carr said of Judy's final half-hour. "I don't know why. It just came out of the dark. He hadn't talked to her in five or six years. This was about 25 or 20 'til 12.
"They finally located her and got her on the phone... her name is Jeannie. I don't know her last name," Carr said. "He went with her a year or two back in '73 or '74.
"I think she was probably the only girl he really loved," Carr said.
Carr said Judy received about 20 telegrams on his last day on Death Row, all of them from people urging him to change his mind and ask for a stay of execution.
Judy, he said, remained adamant until the end that he would rather die in the electric chair than spend decades in prison for the April, 1979, rape and murder of Terry Lee Chasteen and the drowning deaths of her children, Misty Zollers, 5; Stephen Chasteen, 4, and Mark Chasteen, 2.
Mrs. Chasteen, a divorcee, was en route to the home of a babysitter with her children before going to her job as a supermarket checkout clerk when she had a flat tire along Interstate 465 near Weir Cook Airport. Judy happened by and changed the tire, but disabled her car and lured her into his pickup truck.
Testimony at his trial in Martinsville indicated Judy drove his victims to a secluded area along White Lick Creek southwest of Mooresville where he raped and strangled Mrs. Chasteen and drowned her children in the creek.
"I have all the sympathy in the world for the Chasteen family," Mrs. Carr said after the execution.
"But Mark Chasteen (Mrs. Chasteen's former husband) has put on a veneer as the grieving father and the grieving husband. He never showed one bit of emotion during the entire trial.
"Most men would have to be physically restrained," she said. "Through the entire thing, he sat holding hands with his lady friend and he showed no emotion whatsoever.
"And suddenly he claims to be a devout Christian. But he has made the statement that he would like to be the one to pull the switch. I didn't know that God had granted him that right," she said.
Less than an hour after the execution, Mr. and Mrs. Carr returned to the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge where they and their family have been staying in recent days and told their children Judy was dead.
"We just told them it was fast," Carr said.
"We told them it was finished and he went like a man and like he wanted to go," Mrs. Carr added.
"We told them that he sent them his love."
Carr, who left the prison visibly shaken, said he watched the execution through a glass window. He said he believed Judy was unable to see him through the glass before the mask was placed over the condemned man's eyes.
"I kind of looked for him to maybe throw a hand signal or something, but he didn't," Carr said.
"They gave him a shot at 15 'til 12. It was like a tranquilizer because all of his muscles were tightening up," Carr said, adding that it was Judy's decision to have the shot.
"He wasn't nervous at all," Carr said. "It was just that his nerves were tightening up and he was kind of hyper the last half-hour or so."
Mrs. Carr said Judy broke down and cried on at least on occasion yesterday.
"Even though the public has never seen Steve Judy cry, I guarantee he cries frequently," she said, still speaking of her foster son in the present tense 90 minutes after his execution.
When Mrs. Carr left Judy's cell for the last time she said, "We hugged. We do what you do when you tell people good-bye for the very last time. I'm certain there are very few people who have ever experienced that.
"I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me and was sorry he had put us through so much," she said, adding she and Judy were both crying at the time.
One of Judy's last acts was to give his wrist watch to fellow Death Row inmate James Lowery with whom he had developed a friendship while at the prison.
Earlier, Carr said, Judy had joked about wearing his watch to the execution to "charge it up."
About 60 reporters and cameramen covering the execution were passed through two checkpoints about 11 p.m. and gathered in a small conference room on the second floor of the prison administration building.
As the clock on the conference room wall edged past midnight, the room became noticeably quieter, but there was no dimming of the lights or other indication of the exact moment the initial switch was thrown and the first charge of 2,300 volts passed through Judy's body.
The first official announcement came at 12:20 a.m. when Tom Hanlon, administrative assistant with the Department of Correction, stepped to the podium and, voice trembling, said, "The execution of Steven T. Judy, 24, as ordered by the Morgan County Superior Court, was carried out this morning at the Indiana State Prison, Michigan City, Indiana. The official pronouncement of death was made by the doctors in attendance at 12:12 a.m. CST."
At 2:30 p.m. yesterday, Hanlon said, Judy showered, received new institutional clothing and was prepared for the execution. At 3:31 p.m., he was moved from his cell on Death Row to a holding cell in the execution room.
"He ordered and received supper which consisted of prime rib, lobster, baked potatoes, salad and dinner rolls. He ate at 8:04 CST," Hanlon said, noting Judy's request for beer with his last meal was denied.
"At 12:05 a.m. CST, DOC personnel entered Judy's cell and asked if he had any comments or requests.
"He said, 'I don't hold no grudges. This is my doing. I'm, sorry it happened,'" Hanlon said.
"He was then escorted from the holding cell to the execution room and placed in the electric chair.
The sentence was then carried out. Steve Judy's body was released to the LaPorte County deputy coroner.
Funeral and burial arrangements will be made by the foster family," he said.
After the initial 10-second high-voltage charge, Hanlon said, Judy received a 20-second charge of 500 volts.
Carr said later he was convinced Judy felt nothing after "three or four seconds" and was satisfied the execution was carried out as painlessly as possible.
Asked who actually threw the switch to execute Judy, Hanlon said, "I can only refer you to the Indiana statute which says, 'either the warden or his assistant,'" adding it will never be announced which person carried out the sentence.
At the close of the press conference, Hanlon distributed copies of a statement by Gov. Robert Orr which said, in part, "Now that this difficult ordeal is over, I am at peace with myself because I know I have met my responsibilities under the law and because I believe justice has prevailed."
Henry Schwartzchild, who represented the American Civil Liberties Union in a fruitless attempt to foil Judy's wish to die, told about 200 protesters outside the prison gates before the execution, "The governor, the attorney general, the clemency commission, the judges and the prosecutors involved all have the invisible mark of Cain upon their foreheads.
"Judy's consent to his own execution cannot wipe that stain away, for who would think that our political and legal leaders should follow the wishes of a sick and destructive killer? Like Adolf Eichmann, they say they merely did their duty and like Pilate they say, 'The law took its course and the blood is not on our hands.' It has been a contemptible spectacle."
"The State of Indiana tonight is winning a very sorry victory over us," he said.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



The world if full of things that seem perfectly normal to some people, but strike me as hopelessly bizarre.

I was reminded of that this afternoon while scanning images from the 1972 Flora (Ind.) Centennial Celebration Parade.

floraparade11Specifically, I’m bemused by these photos of a bunch of guys from the Kokomo Shrine Club in their tiny antique cars. I’ve seen Shriners in tiny Corvettes, too, but these things are particularly quaint.

What motivates a guy to spend time and money to join and participate in a sub-group like this? They obviously enjoy it and think it’s a worthwhile activity.

Maybe they think there’s something extraordinarily wacky about wanting to ride a motorcycle across the country. Seems normal to me, but it could be completely inconceivable to them.

I hasten to add that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing a fez white shirt and tie and stuffing oneself into a tiny car and driving down the street with a dozen or so like-minded buddies. I’m glad there are such people and things in the world. It makes life interesting.

Just don’t ask me to do it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

More random scans


The dog who hung out under the liar’s bench in front of the Needham Post Office. Needham was a small village northeast of Franklin in Johnson County, Indiana.


An audience gathered in anticipation of the obligatory up-the-skirt blast of compressed air at the Indiana State Fair Midway Fun House.


WTTV’s Janie, from the “Popeye and Janie Show,” in the 1973 Flora, Indiana, Centennial Parade.


Me, looking for something to photograph around 1967.


A self-portrait shot in the autumn of 1966 when I lived in a mobile home and worked at the Tipton Tribune. This was among the first photos I shot with my first-ever 35mm camera – a Minolta Hi-Matic 7.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Awkward moment


I got this text message this morning from a number I didn’t recognize.

I quickly texted Maria to see if she sent it. She didn’t.

I supposed it was someone telling me to mow my home lawn and wondered which of my neighbors would be so presumptuous.

So I responded, asking who sent it.

Turns out it’s from one of the tenants of our downtown office building. I noticed the grass was getting woolly there when I rode past on Saturday morning. I supposed that our geriatric lawn boy would get to it over the weekend, but he obviously didn’t.

I called him and he assured me he will get on it ASAP.

Sorry, blog, I’ve neglected you…

I just realized I haven’t posted here for a few days.
I’ve been having fun going through my image archives now that my scanner is functional and I found my lightbox and bought a cool Mamiya 3x 6x7 loupe from longtime Indianapolis News friend Rich Miller. (It’s the perfect complement to my Mamiya 5x loupe.)
I still haven’t found the missing Janis Joplin negs, but plenty of other long-lost images have surfaced and they’re getting rave reviews from folks on Facebook.
It’s amazing how a throwaway shot, like this 1967 photo of Christmas shoppers at Glendale Shopping Center in Indianapolis – that’s when Glendale was an open-air mall – evokes such powerful nostalgia in so many people.
Being a Cancerian, I have a strong attachment to the past and an inclination to never throw anything away and my refusal to part with old slides and negatives is paying off now.
Like this photo from a 1988 Labor Day Weekend ride Rich Nathan and I took to the Ozarks.
lindner dairy
Or this photo Mark Wadleigh shot of me and Michael Lindberg buying milk and Tab at the Lindner’s Dairy Store at 49th and College in Indianapolis. Michael was a great guy whose life ended much too soon. A few years after this 1977 photo, he blew his brains out with a .357 magnum pistol on a park bench in Seattle. I still have a coffee table he made as a high school shop project in his hometown of Thief River Falls, Minn. It’s on loan to Morgan at present.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My first car


I was 21 when I bought my first car – a Fontana gray 1965 Volkswagen beetle.

I bought it on Aug. 1, 1966 at University Motors in West Lafayette, Ind. I remember the date because the sound system at the dealership was carrying the radio news reports of Charles Whitman shooting people from the top of the University of Texas Tower.

I drove it well past the 100,000-mile mark and sold it sometime in the mid-1970s after parts of the floor rusted out letting the road show through.

vw dash

Here’s the view from the driver’s seat. What can we see?

There were 42,918 miles on the odometer, the gas gauge shows a full tank, and it had the stock AM radio. I added the under-dash parcel tray after seeing one in the VW Steve Power’s mom drove. The hood (actually it was a trunk since the engine was in the back) release that I had to pull whenever I gassed up. It was a year or two later that VW added an external gas filler. There are two packs of Viceroy cigarettes, one unopened, and a box of Kodak Ektachrome 35mm film.

The key is in the ignition with my U.S. Air Force dogtag dangling on a short chain. And the ashtray is open.

Notice that the odometer only goes up to 99,999. That was when anything over about 60,000 miles was high mileage.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Something was in the air


It was the spring before the Summer of Love and I drove down to Bloomington with some friends to check out a “Be In” at Dunn Meadow on the Indiana University campus.

Sure enough, the place was full of tail-end beatniks and proto-hippies all trying to look arty and cool, yet profound.

It felt a bit forced and self-consciously artificial, but it was the Midwest, so we all had a lot to learn about what it meant to be 20-something in 1967.

I don’t recall smelling any pot smoke or seeing anything suggestive of drug use, just a lot of young people checking each other out.


Wednesday, April 09, 2014

How I used to spend my summers

msf course

I was an instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s beginning rider course for 10 years from the mid-1980s to the mid-‘90s and taught more than 1,000 students the basics of motorcycling.

I taught under the auspices of ABATE of Indiana in a mobile home converted into a classroom and plunked down on whatever parking lot we could find.

This is the view from the podium during a class in the summer of 1989.

I loved teaching people who were motivated and wanted to learn. I would have made teaching my profession if I could have been guaranteed motivated students, but the big difference between teaching motorcycle safety and any other subject in a public school is having to deal with kids who aren’t interested in what you have to give them. That pretty much never happened in the MSF course. It happens every day in public schools.

The course has since been revised several times and instructors are now called “coaches.” But it remains an extremely powerful learning experience that combines classroom lectures and videos with hands-on riding exercises on entry-level motorcycles.

Anyone who wants to ride a motorcycle owes it to himself and everyone he shares the road with to take the course. I can’t count the number of times the knowledge and skills I gained in the course have saved my life.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Jean Dixon in Flora, Ind.?


The town of Flora, Ind. marked the centennial of its naming in 1975 and, since it was named for some of my ancestors, I got to cover the festivities for The Indianapolis News.

I haven’t looked at the negatives I shot for decades, but when I was going through my archives last week in search of some Janis Joplin photos – which continue to elude me – I found them.

And I was startled to be reminded that the famous astrologer, psychic and syndicated newspaper columnist Jean Dixon was the parade marshal.

How in hell the folks in Flora chose and got her to appear is a baffling mystery. To me, anyway.

Dixon supposedly predicted the 1963 assassination of John Kennedy in the May 13, 1956 issue of Parade magazine. She later advised Richard Nixon and Nancy Reagan.

She died in 1997.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Niagara Falls. Really.


Here’s a view of Niagara Falls I’ll bet you’ve never seen.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers diverted the Niagara River, “dewatering” the American Falls on June 12, 1969.

The point of the exercise, which kept the falls mostly dry until November, 1969, was to determine the rate of erosion and to try to stabilize the falls from deterioration.

That first day, the bodies of a man, a woman and a deer were found at the foot of the falls. The woman’s body was badly decomposed, but she wore a gold wedding band engraved with “Forget me not.” The man is believed to have committed suicide by wading into the river at the edge of the falls the day before the water was diverted.

This is how the American Falls looked on June 13, 1969.

The water was restored to the falls on Nov. 24.

Here are your wedding photos, Lieutenant. Sorry they’re 69 years late.

My late father-in-law, Capt. Phil Kroon, ended the war in Austria and was billeted at the Hotel Bilroth in St. Gilgen.

He shot a lot of photos during the war, but the only surviving negatives were after V-E Day. They include these photos of a newlywed lieutenant and nurse, possibly at the Bilroth.

I can't tell what unit the lieutenant is with but his boots are bloused, which could mean he was airborne - perhaps 101st Airborne, since they ended the war in the same area.







I have no idea whether Capt. Kroon ever had prints made from these 35mm negatives, so this very well could be the first time these nearly 69-year-old images have been seen.