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Thursday, May 5, 2016

History lesson has turned into popular evening

Friday, October 12, 2012

History class was never quite like this.

Resurrecting old memories and clarifying questions, a group of around 30 Linton residents provide a singularly energetic trek down memory lane every month at the Carnegie Heritage and Arts Center.

Led by Linton City Councilman Fred Markle, a local history buff, the two-month old effort's drawn a strong response already, with sessions typically running two hours or longer.

While Markle, 60, leads the discussion, he's hardly the sole speaker, instead urging attendees -- mostly senior citizens -- to recollect Linton's past with illuminating detail.

From those memories, he draws a clearer picture of Linton's past.

"What stories has everybody got?" Markle asked the crowd Thursday evening during a wide-ranging discussion that illuminated everything from how the streets were named in the city during a community meeting Nov. 28, 1859 to a mostly-forgotten local hero, jazz musician Isodore "Izzy" Friedman.

Noted for his skills on the saxophone and clarinet, the big band leader served stints in Terre Haute's vaudeville theatres as well as jazz clubs in Chicago and New York before ending his career as a lauded Hollywood composer.

Friedman, whose home was once located in what's now a vacant lot near Linton-Stockton High School, is little known locally these days.

However, in his time -- and even now -- he was among the most esteemed jazz musicians, performing with Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey -- whose band gave Frank Sinatra his start -- as well as Bix Biederbecke and Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong.

He even played for a spell with Linton's better known jazz musician, comedian and actor, Phil Harris.

Friedman's past is convoluted, even to the jazz historians. Even the scholars aren't sure whether he was born in Linton in 1903, or in Russia in 1898 -- or some combination thereof.

Where they agree, however, is that Friedman, in his time, contributed some lasting musical standards which can still be heard on re-runs of classic films and television shows from TV's Golden Age.

Friedman worked for MGM and Republic Pictures, scoring around 30 films before transitioning into television, where he scored the themes to classic shows like "Dennis the Menace," "Captain Midnight," and "Father Knows Best."

Markle, who owns Markle's Music, said since he began researching Friedman's rich musical history, he's started receiving e-mails and correspondence from several European jazz fans inquiring about Friedman.

"They ask me if I'm from Linton, and they think it's just the greatest thing," Markle said.

Inquiring into Friedman's past has led to fascinating discoveries, such as his stint at Dreamland, a local theatre, where he backed silent movies with homegrown music.

Friedman also performed in Humphreys Park, in a gazebo on the west side where the miniature golf course now sits.

Noting Friedman played in a combo called "The All-White Band" Markle admitted he was initially concerned the band's name might have racist overtones.

Not so, he discovered.

"It wasn't because of that at all," he explained. "It was because everything they wore -- every article of clothing -- was white."

History books, too, provided their share of insights into how Linton came to be. "The Bound Boy" revealed the streets of the city emulate those in Washington D.C., with a central Main Street running north and south and Vincennes Street -- named for the state's oldest city -- running east and west.

North-south streets were then numbered, while east-west streets were assigned letters during a community meeting held Nov. 28, 1859.

More recent memories also fueled talk, from Kelly Fogelsong recollecting good times at the Red and Blue Restaurant, a property he later purchased, and Markle remembering a striking Halloween event at the former Cine Theatre.

One evening, he explained, when he was a teenager employed by the movie house, a classmate, Wally Langford, made a memorable entrance dressed as Dracula.

Mounting the stage where theatre owner Frank Miller was distributing candy to schoolchildren dressed in costumes, Langford proved so convincing a Dracula that Markle didn't even recognize him.

"It was so cool. He was so good at it, that I didn't know it was even him," Markle recollected. Only after Langford had bounded off the stage, then driven off in his Honda -- a ride so memorable that his classmates recognized him.

"We knew that car," Markle explained.

Discussions at future sessions of the group will be equally free-ranging, Markle said, with some of the talk guided by what members bring in terms of stories and recollections. From that talk, the local historian hopes a fuller picture of the city's history will emerge for everyone.

"I don't really like to talk," Markle explained. "I like to listen. That's how I learn everything I do."

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North-south streets were then numbered, while east-west streets were assigned letters during a community meeting held Nov. 28, 1859. ~ interesting they thought if this that far back .

Neat story

-- Posted by Orion's Belt on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 5:02 AM

"Even the scholars aren't sure whether he was born in Linton in 1903, or in Russia in 1898 -- or some combination thereof." - LOL!! I am pretty certain that his birth could not have taken place in a combination of both Linton and Russia! That would require a VERY lengthy delivery for his mother. LOL!! Great Article though! I hope to be able to attend the next one and listen. I like local history and the knowledge that our local community possess.

-- Posted by MBM on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 11:09 AM
Response by Mark Stalcup:
What's meant by "some combination thereof" is jazz scholars dispute what his year of birth was - 1898 or 1903 - and his place of birth - either Linton or Russia - meaning he could have been born in Linton in 1898 or 1903 or he could have been born in Russia in 1898 or 1903. That's where the "some combination thereof" stems from.

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