Monday, May 6, 2013

Why Westerns: The Indian

I grew up in Anderson, Indiana.  Anderson was named for Chief William Anderson (Kikthawenund).  His mother was a Delaware (Lenape), and before the white man made his way east, what we now know as Anderson was a Delaware Indian village.  So, it would make sense, in the early days, that the one high school, Anderson High School (AHS), would employ an Indian as its mascot.  It wasn't until the early 1950s that two more high schools were added with the baby boom after World War II.  But now the economy has constricted, and there is only one high school again.  I didn't attend AHS.  I went to one of the other schools, Highland High School, which was consolidated and is now a middle school.

As a kid, I was surrounded by Western lore (Indiana was the West at one time), as well as Native American heritage in Madison County.  The Anderson High School gym, The Wigwam, still stands.  It's one of the largest high school arenas in the country.  But the glory of its days as the center of Hoosier Hysteria, the high school basketball capital of Indiana, has faded, too. I believe it stands empty now.   The original high school burned, and was torn down. 

And, of course, Mounds State Park, a Native American burial ground, was my back yard for many years.  If you add in all of those black and white TV Westerns I watched as a kid in the 1960s, and my local surroundings, it's pretty easy to see how the foundation for my love of Westerns was laid. 

My uncle, Robert "Bob" Byrne, was an Anderson High School mascot in the 1940s.  He was The Indian.  This picture was probably taken between 1942 and 1944, I'm not sure.  Maybe one of my cousins can tell me.

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