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The Hoosierist: Initial Finding

Conflicting weather reports, haunted houses gone rogue, and a cafeteria conundrum. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: What does the MCL in MCL Cafeterias stand for?

Rich B., Speedway

A: Return with us now to that bygone year of 1950, when Harry Truman was president, a loaf of bread cost a nickel (or whatever), and every member of the male gender sported a Johnny Unitas–style crewcut. It was then that soon-to-be cafeteria magnates Charles O. McGaughey and George Laughner (of the famous Laughner clan that ran the late, great Laughner’s Cafeteria chain) got together to found the very first MCL. The Hoosierist supposes you can figure out the rest.

Honestly, they could have come up with something a bit more appetizing-sounding than a few initials referring to their names. But time has sanctified their choice. Just thinking about the letters M-C-L is enough to make The Hoosierist pine for cloverleaf rolls, fried chicken, and his personal favorite, a slab of Fish Almondine that’s as big as a roofing shingle. It’s basically the same lineup served at that first restaurant more than a half-century ago, a huge menu in no need of abbreviation.

Q: The other day I looked at the radars of two different TV stations. One showed light precipitation in my area, the other nothing at all. What gives?

Colleen P., Fishers

A: The Hoosierist thinks that any weather radar worthy of its name should be able to detect rain 100 percent of the time. Otherwise it shouldn’t be called “weather radar.” But apparently this rather elementary task is trickier than you’d think. According to Dave Tucek, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s office in Indianapolis, any number of technical issues can mess up a media outlet’s ability to pinpoint precipitation. “The different TV stations use radars of different strengths and sensitivity,” Tucek says. “And they use different settings to remove non-precipitation echoes. But in so doing, they also remove weak, light rain precipitation echoes.”

In other words, you should watch the weather girl you find most attractive. The technical details are a little too complex for The Hoosierist, with his liberal-arts education. Tucek also diplomatically refuses to say which local media outlet has the best system. So judge for yourself. The next time one station shows rain over your house and another doesn’t, stick your head outside and see who’s right.

Q: Is Sammy Terry available for birthday parties and bar mitzvahs? I know he must be super-old by now.

Susan K., Greenwood

A: For the uninitiated, Sammy Terry was the costumed host of Nightmare Theater, a late-Friday-night WTTV program that terrified generations of pajama-clad Hoosier gradeschoolers from the ’60s until its demise in 1989. The bad news is that the original Sammy, former WTTV employee Bob Carter, no longer wears the cape and cowl. The good news is that he has passed them on to his son, Mark, who possesses his dad’s creepy voice and is also his spitting image. Or at least The Hoosierist thinks he is. It’s hard to tell under all that green greasepaint.

Mark Carter seems to have gone “all in” with his Sammy Terry persona, creating a website, producing new Terry-themed videos (which can be seen on the WTTV website), and even selling T-shirts and other merchandise. He doesn’t do a lot of parties, but judging from the info on his site, he has no qualms about attending industry conventions in full Terry drag. Which, let’s face it, is pretty frightening.

Q: I’ve followed the debate over Indiana’s immigration laws, and to be frank, I never thought of this as the sort of place that people from other countries would flock to. Exactly how many Indiana residents are foreign-born?

Peter H., Shelbyville

A: Indiana, contrary to what certain conservative groups would have us believe, isn’t up to its neck in immigrants. We’re only up to, say, our knees. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 about 4.4 percent of our state’s population was foreign-born—far below the national average of 12.4 percent. That’s only 281,327 people, roughly the population of the bustling metropolis of Fort Wayne. About 50 percent of those newcomers hail from Latin America, 25 percent from Asia, and 16.4 percent from Europe. These relatively trivial numbers rank us 35th among the states.

When it comes to expats from particular countries, Mexico leads the way with 104,532 living in-state. Other top contributors include India (17,396), China (17,097), and Germany (8,008). But The Hoosierist is most intrigued by the small handful of nations with no expats living here. What’s the matter, Armenia, Fiji, and Yemen? The land of corn and basketball not good enough for you?

Q: Are haunted houses regulated? Last year some guy waved a chainsaw at my head, and I’d swear it was real.

Barry U., Indianapolis

A: The Hoosierist thinks you should man up. If you’re unsettled by chainsaw-wielding loons, what are you doing inside a haunted house? They’re all about chainsaw-wielding loons. However, if you really, truly think something unsafe is happening (and you aren’t just being a sissy), contact either the local authorities or the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. Believe it or not, the folks who keep terrorists at bay are also responsible for inspecting ghoul galleries.

Last year, the agency licensed 52 of them statewide. But they’re mostly looking at fire-code issues, such as clearly marked exits. The ones that pass inspection get a certificate of compliance that’s displayed prominently at the haunted house’s entrance. And those, frankly, are where the wimpy kids go.

Illustration by Adam McCauley.

This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue.