Human Interest


One day recently, at 6:30 am, I was awakened by my phone notifying me of a text. That text message came from one of the people in my life I have known the longest and included a class picture from P.S. School 68, AKA Susan Roll Leach School. She had received a picture she was told was my grade school class. She thought she found me in the picture, but she couldn’t find my classmates, Byron, Sherry, Mark, and Barbara. I recognized quickly the picture not of my class, but actually, it was my brother, Tom’s, class. He was a year behind me in school and was standing in the back row, third from the left. Standing to Tom’s left was Steve Capper, his best friend at 68, and to Steve’s left, Eric Alm, a neighbor—at least I think it was Eric. 

That text and picture got me to thinking about all the people who lived in our neighborhood back then. Our home address was 1707 N. Bancroft. My parents bought that 900 sq ft house from the Whitehurst family and moved in on March 4, 1952. I had just turned 8 years old, and transferred from school 62 at 10th and Wallace to school 68 at 21st and Riley. “Our neighborhood” was Bancroft Street from 17th St. to 20th St., or actually the three blocks with 1700, 1800, and 1900 addresses. 

In that three block area there were 42 homes. Of those 42, twenty-four were occupied by families with children. In that three-block area there were 41 kids who were close to my age and my brother’s age. It was amazing. The grade school for most of us was School 68, and after 8th grade we went to either Howe or Tech high school. The Catholic kids went to Little Flower elementary school and to Scecina high school. 

Another amazing fact was that of those 41 kids, not one, that I know of, had a run-in with the law when they lived there. Most went to college and earned degrees. Some I knew better than others, some are deceased, and a few I know nothing about. I’m fairly certain all the parents are deceased, because I’ll soon be 80 yo, and most parents would be 95-100 years or older. 

I have a lot of memories of the neighbors. I’ll share what I can remember, but I asked my brother, Tom, and a former neighbor, Eric Alm, for their recollections as well. I was unable to get permission from most of these folks to share their stories, but there’s nothing scandalous to tell. Unlike movies and television series today, to my knowledge, no one was sleeping with the neighbor’s wife or husband and everyone seemed to get along with one another. Here’s what we remember about the neighbors.

Starting at 17th street and going from south to north on the east side of Bancroft, the first house belonged to the Roberts family—Floyd, Lil, Shirley, and Barbara. Floyd worked at Schweitzer-Cummings and Lil was a stay at home mother. Shirley was much older and got married before I knew her. Barbara was younger, but 3 or 4 years older than I and very popular with the boys. The Roberts front yard was large and became the gathering place for teenagers. The groups of teens were always well-behaved, but they gathered often and in large numbers. Barbara eventually met Chuck Campbell and dated him a long time until they got married. Chuck was a fun guy who loved to play basketball with us in our back yard. He sometimes spent more time playing basketball with us than with Barbara and his in-laws. Lil lived to be 99 yo. Lil and Floyd vacationed in Florida every summer and convinced my dad to take his family to Ft. Lauderdale instead of Lake Tippecanoe. I was forever grateful for that. Floyd and my brother, Tom, rooted for rival teams, and one never let the other forget it. Floyd’s Brooklyn Dodgers always seemed to struggle with Tom’s NY Yankees. 

Next was the Gilkison house; Bob, Jean, Bill, and Tom. Dad was a buyer of radio, TV, and major appliances for L.S. Ayres, the biggest department store in Indianapolis. He died at age 55 when I was a senior year in med school. My mother lived alone for 27 years. My brother, Tom, earned a financial aid scholarship to Wabash College and earned a Bachelors degree in mathematics. Tom spent his entire career working at Naval Avionics Indianapolis. 

The house north of us had several owners over the years, but the last family was the Greenwalt’s. George was a city fireman who left for work at 6:00 am and loudly revved the engine of his truck right next to our bedrooms every day. They were Catholic and had a young son and a daughter who later became a physical therapist. 

Next to them were the Marshalls—Bob, Lucy, Rex, and Bobby. Lucy and my mom became good friends when they were both widowed years later. Lucy’s father, M. Clifford Townsend, had been Governor of Indiana from 1937-1941. Rex, their older son, was much older than I, had a cool car, and after graduation from Tech, I have no information about him. Bobby (later, Bob) went to Tech, was a starter on the varsity basketball team, and was a college clothing consultant for one of the Indianapolis department stores. He graduated from Ball State and took over his father’s building materials distributorship when Bob Sr. died. Bobby was the neighborhood “stud,” in a non-sexual manner, because he was the guy everyone followed and wanted to be like. Being two years older and going to a different high school separated us socially. Unfortunately, Bob, the son, died not long after he retired.

Next to Marshall’s was Gladys Hole, a single lady who worked at L.S. Ayres. My brother did chores for her when she was out of town. He watched her house and fed her caged bird.

The Nichoald’s family lived in the next house. Dorothy, a single mom, worked at Eli Lilly. Her mother and brother lived with her along with her son, David. Dave and I were the same age and vied for starting center on the Howe high school basketball team. Dave was taller, more aggressive, and generally a better player, so he started and I played a little. Dave went on to earn a basketball scholarship to Newberry College in Newberry, South Carolina. After college he returned to Indy, and from 1967 to 1970 shared an apartment with my brother. Since then we have lost track of one another.

Next to the Nichoald’s was the Sammis family. They had two daughters, Marjorie and Roberta, who were our age but we didn’t really know that well. They were both excellent students, however. The folks in the next house had no children.

Then came John and Georgia Buck and their son, Byron. John worked at RCA and was an expert at television service. He had an amazing shop in his basement where he repaired TVs in his free time. Byron and I were good friends through school. He was a big guy, and played center on the Howe football team. After high school graduation, Byron earned a scholarship to Rose Polytechnic College (now Rose-Hulman), got married at age 20, and moved to West Virginia after college. Later, he invented a device that made him very wealthy. He died of heart disease in his 50’s. 

Next was the Elkin family—Armey, Mrs. Elkin, Vicky, and Jennie. Armey drove a flashy controvertible, dressed wildly, and played golf at Hillcrest Country Club. Their family invited friends and neighbors to swim at Hillcrest, but for unknown reasons I was not one they invited. That always bothered me. Mrs. Elkin died of breast cancer, and very unfortunately, both daughters also had breast cancer as adults and succumbed to the disease. College and career experiences for the Elkin girls are not known.

There were no more kids on the east side of Bancroft. Going to the west side of the street, starting from the south end, the first house belonged to the Jacob’s family, Bob, Betty and Donna. Mr. Jacobs was a pharmacist at Delbo Drugs at 16th and Emerson. The Jacob’s daughter, Donna, was a few years younger so we didn’t know her. The Jacob’s had a huge, mean, loud-barking German shepherd, Buster, who spent his life chained to the ground in their back yard, barking incessantly. Buster scared me to death! If you got anywhere near him, he would charge at you and bark angrily. He got loose several times and made a bee line for the nearest person he could bite. He was a terrifying dog, and I still remember him 65 years later.

The Bruney’s house was next. It seemed Bob, Katie, Mike, and Susie had more financial means than most because they took two-week vacation trips every summer. Mike was my age and graduated from IU and IU Law School, moved to San Diego, California and practiced law there. Bob, who worked at the Indianapolis Naval Weapons-producing facility, died suddenly. Prior to him dying, he had a very unusual occurrence. He must have had an undiagnosed sleep disorder because one night at 3:00 am he went to his garage, got in the car and tried to back out with the garage door closed. Chaos and splintering of the garage door ensued when he awoke dumbfounded at what happened. Katie was THE NURSE who ran the medical department at the local Ford plant, and thus, most employees knew her. Susie was 2 or 3 years younger, and I never knew her. When Mike moved to California, we lost contact. 

Next to Bruneys were Jack and “Mike” Hendricks. “Mike” was the mother, but I don’t recall her real name. They were Catholic so their daughter and son, Jackie and John, went to Little Flower and Scecina. I don’t know about the Hendricks kids because we didn’t know them well. Jack, the father contracted tuberculosis and spent a year in a sanitarium, but later returned home and experienced good health thereafter. 

The next house north was owned by the Deusser family—Bob, Frieda, Bobby, Roger, and Richard. Bob, the father, was killed in an auto accident leaving Frieda widowed with three young sons. She never recovered from the tragedy and was angry all the time. Roger was mentally disabled and because of alcohol, had behavioral issues. They were a Catholic family so we didn’t know them very well, either. I don’t know anything about their accomplishments, but after getting married, Bobby was arrested for some reason.

In the next house lived the Schorling’s. They had a daughter, Jean Ann, who we did not know.

The family in the next house had no children. Next were the Patton’s. Their boys, Don and Stevie, took tap dancing lessons. Don fell and fractured his skull. He made a full recovery. The Patton’s moved away and were not heard from after. But my brother learned that Don became a successful high school wrestling coach in Muncie and won a few state championships. 

After the Patton’s was the Meek family, Don, Lorraine, Gary, Danny, and Joe. Gary and my brother were best friends at school 68. Don’s business did well, so they moved on up. Joe, or another son born later, became a dentist. The others I don’t know about. Their family expanded after they moved. Many years later, Don and Lorraine moved into the Greenwood subdivision where Sandy I built our first house. Mrs. Meek died from breast cancer. 

From Meeks to 19th St., a distance of one half block, “Greg” was the lone child. I knew him, but my only memory was that he was tall and thin.

That’s all we could remember about the families in the 1700 and 1800 blocks of North Bancroft. There were 28 kids in those two blocks, and most of us were within two to three years of one another in age. The highest concentration was in the 1700 block, but in the 1900 block there was another concentration of 13 kids of the same ilk. Part 2 will reflect our memories of that group of kids who were just as memorable as the others.


The northern one-third of our neighborhood was the 1900 block of N. Bancroft. The adult residents of that block were just like those south of 19th Street. As were the kids. North of 19th street, on the west side of Bancroft, there were ten houses, and families with kids lived in six of them; five of them were in a row. That was quite a concentration of kids; 12 to be exact. First was the Mayo family, Boone, Millie, and son, Jan. Jan was my lifelong friend. He was an only child whose parents both worked—Boone at Chevrolet, Millie as a fashion model at L.S. Ayres. Boone had the coolest car in the neighborhood, a red and white ‘57 Chevy. We rode in that car any time we could. Jan was alone at home all day long so he had no problem finding mischief. And his friends, like me, and others, never tried to keep him honest. While his parents were at work, among other things, we smoked his dad’s pipe tobacco in their garage. We climbed onto the roof of the garage just to say we did it, then we jumped to the ground. Jan hurt his ankle in the process. Jan loved football, but was just too small to avoid injury. He loved high jumping so we practiced that in his back yard. We played croquet there, too. Jan made it through Howe and graduated from Ball State after a few attempts. He was a dental supply salesman for over 30 years. He died at age 67 of liver disease. When we were kids, there were many times we spent all day together. He was a groomsman in our wedding, and one of my best friends, even though he lived a good part of his life in a suburb of San Francisco. While visiting San Francisco to attend the AAFP Scientific Assembly, Jan and I got together and ran across the Golden Gate Bridge, both directions, a distance of three miles. He was a great guy!

A couple doors north were the Alm’s. Eric was my brother’s age. He had a younger brother, Nick, who became a real estate manager for Kroger. Eric went to Tech, was in the Army, and went to Purdue, in that order. He was an Industrial Engineer at RCA and Methodist Hospital. Eric currently lives about half a mile from his old 1938 N. Bancroft house.  

Next to Alm’s were the McCallie’s; Diane and Steve. Steve, Jan Mayo and I were good friends and ran around together every summer. He went to Tech and Purdue and earned a degree in Forestry. Steve then became a forest ranger in the western U.S., and missed his college graduation when he was called out to fight a fire.  

Next to McCallie’s were the Bostics. Bobby, Jimmy, and their little sister. Bobby and Jimmy went to Tech. Tom and Jimmy were good friends, and Jimmy played basketball with us in our backyard nearly every day. As far as education and career, I have no additional information. I am told, by Eric Alm, Bobby is still living, but Jimmy died recently. 

Just north of Bostics were the Hoppings, Phill (note two L’s) and his older sister, Cynthia. Phill was a loner and rarely had any interaction with other kids. The good thing was the Hoppings shared a big back yard with the Leane’s, the neighbors to the north, and didn’t mind if we played football there. The Leane’s, Kathryn and John were long time close friends of my parents. They had two sons, Steve who was at least 5 years older than his brother Johnny. Steve was a varsity basketball player for Howe HS and was appointed to the Coast Guard Academy after graduation and had a long career in the Coast Guard. Johnny was a year younger than me, but was skipped ahead a year and was in my class all through school. We were lifelong friends until his death from cancer in 2016. He was QB on our football team and was an excellent wrestler. He went to the University of Cincinnati on a wrestling scholarship. In 1978, John, his wife, Nancy, and their four children moved to Grand Junction where he was a commodities broker. He was a city councilman and in later years managed referees and officials for sporting events. The deaths of John Leane and Jan Mayo took away two great life long friends who are missed very much.

We played tackle football without pads or helmets in Leane’s and Hopping’s back yards every weekend for years. The only serious injury was skinny Jan Mayo’s fractured collar bone. I can still see that bent and broken bone sticking up and the look on Jan’s face right after it happened.

The Leane’s had a scrawny, ugly, black terrier named Terry who roamed the neighborhood and only came home to be fed. You might see Terry anywhere in the neighborhood at any time, day or night. One day Terry disappeared never to be seen again. 

So, in the three blocks I call our neighborhood there were 40 amazing kids, very similar in age. I know for certain, 25 of them graduated from college. Two were awarded athletic scholarships, one a Wabash College financial aid scholarship, one graduated from the Coast Guard Academy, one earned a law degree, one became a dentist, and one a physician. One invented a device that made him independently wealthy, at least one owned his own business, and one coached a state champion wrestling team. There were probably several others with success stories I don’t know about, but I haven’t kept in touch with them to know.

I really think these successes can in some ways be attributed to the times: many of us were born during, or after, WWII, and our parents, who reared us did their very best to provide a better life for us than they had. There were no deadbeats, alcoholics, philanderers, or felons. All marriages, as much as I can recall, were stable, and harmony and fidelity were prevalent. We didn’t live Hollywood’s skewed portrayal of a normal neighborhood. Several fathers had served in the military—Mr. McCallie was a Marine, Mr. Bostic was an Army infantryman who still displayed his M1 Carbine in his basement, and Mr. Alm was an Air Force navigator who flew “missions to 70 different countries.” I’m sure others had similar distinctions. These men’s life experiences strengthened their sense of discipline and the value of family relationships.

Because of the death of Bob Deusser, leaving three young sons for a depressed, unstable widow to raise, there was often turmoil across the street at the Deusser home. Mrs. Deusser resisted any attempts we offered to help, and it got to the point everyone avoided her. As adults, Bobby got into some legal trouble, and Roger had alcohol problems, but otherwise, peace and harmony prevailed. That was UNTIL BUSTER GOT LOOSE!!

I know I can’t claim our neighborhood is unique, but you have to admit in a three-block area it’s remarkable there were so many success stories and so little problem. Of course we grew up before the opioid epidemic, mass shootings, and spiritual and moral bankruptcy so we were all innocent, naive, nerds who thought it was worthwhile to make the most of the opportunities we were given. Well, we did and the evidence is everywhere.  

Acknowledgements: I had significant help remembering details about our neighbors. My brother, Tom Gilkison, (pictured in back row, 3rd from left) and Eric Alm (back row 5th from left) provided details I had forgotten. Mr. Alm lived at 1938 N. Bancroft.

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  1. Well done!
    Bancroft St in the 50s was about as good as it could get! I still live nearby, and most homes on Bancroft are kept up well. Your old home was rehabbed just a few years ago. It looks very nice and sold quickly for a good price!

  2. Dear Bill,
    I enjoyed the history very much, a much scholarly effort,

    Gerry Smith and Karen from Greenwood

    Hi!! to your beautiful wife.

  3. I must say that this was so interesting and fun to read. The neighborhood that you wrote about is very familiar to me. I went to School 54 on 10th and Dearborn till 6th grade. Then we moved to 917 N. Butler Ave. I then went to School 62. Your research and memories are so interesting. I remember Delco Drugstore. Also, I think Walt’s grocery was on Emerson and 16th. Maybe I am mistaken since I have not lived in Indianapolis for many years. I do remember Mike Bruney. I have a hazy memory that Mike bought fancy hubcaps for his dad’s car for a father’s day present. Of course we all thought that was hysterical. Mike loved those hubcaps. Anyway, Bill, thank you for this trip down memory lane. We had such similar childhood experiences in an easier time (1950’s and 60’s).

    1. You’re right; Walt’s was on the SE corner of 16th and Emerson and Delbo’s was just south of it. Mr. Delbo’s son, Richard, was in my/our class at Howe for awhile, I think. But he graduated from another school. Bruney’s seemed to be more affluent than the other neighbors, as I mentioned. Mike and I were going to be roommates in the dorm (Teter) at IU our freshman year, but ended up living in the fraternity houses we pledged and not together. He pledged Phi Delta Theta. I pledged Delta Tau Delta.

  4. WOW !! I did not know that you went to school 62 for a while. I was there through 8th grade and I don’t remember you. Sorry Bill

    1. I was there for first and second grades and first semester of 3rd. I was a mid-year student so we kept by ourselves.

  5. Hard to believe, but my brother and I went to PS 69(Joyce Kilmer). Our address was Hillside and 38th street. Moved to Milan in 53-54. Lots of kids, and our experience was very similar to yours
    Great times.
    Gary Creed

  6. Thank you for these stories about our old neighborhood, even though I was a bit south of you. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of Parts 1 and 2.

  7. Another thought – did your family belong to the Miramar Club, which was located on the south side of Washington, east of Post Road?

    Seems to me that practically everyone in the 1900 block was a member.

    They even had their own little free bus that stopped at 16th and Emerson several times a day. We usually tried to get someone’s parents to drive us there, but if no luck, we took the bus. I remember going with Jan Mayo and Johnny Leane to the Miramar many times.

    I went there practically every day. Sometimes after we had been out there all day, and when my dad got home from work, he’d say “let’s all go to the Miramar” so we’d all go out again and spend the evening there too. As kids, we loved the snack bar there too. And dad was buying!

    Great fun!

    1. We did belong to the Miramar. I loved that place. Jan Mayo, Dave Nichoalds, and I got cocky one evening and challenged Olympic swimmer, Mike Troy, who was a lifeguard there, to race across the pool. We each swam across one length each in a relay (if we had a 4th guy I don’t recall who it was), but Troy swam the lengths himself. He beat us by the width of the pool. It was no contest.

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