Distant Relation

Picky garbagemen, a giant missing organ, and our sister cities. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: Does Indy have any sister cities, and what did they do to earn the honor?

Patricia W., Indianapolis

A: Mayor Ballard’s administration has racked up sister cities faster than a teenage girl friending classmates on Facebook. Before he came to office, Indy buddied up to Taipei, Taiwan, in 1978; to Cologne, Germany, in 1988; to Monza, Italy, in 1994; and to Piran, Slovenia, in 2001. Then came Ballard. According to Jane Gehlhausen, his director of international and cultural affairs, he targeted cities in economically vibrant nations with populations around 1 million and industries similar to those of Central Indiana.

A new slew of “sisters” who met those parameters was quickly corralled. We hooked up with Hangzhou, China, in ’08; Campinas, Brazil, in ’09; Northamptonshire County in the U.K. in ’09; and Hyderabad, India, in 2010. Sucking up to emerging markets in countries such as Brazil, China, and India seems like a no-brainer. But why, back in 2001, did former mayor Bart Peterson see fit to sister with Piran, Slovenia? Maybe for domestic reasons. “We actually have a lot of Slovenians here in Indianapolis,” Gehlhausen says. “A lot of people don’t know that.”

Q: Whatever happened to the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ at the long-gone Paramount Music Palace?

Jacob V., Carmel

A: The Hoosierist well remembers that bizarre establishment, where patrons noshing on so-so pizza were “serenaded” by chest-rattling, filling-loosening blasts from the Mighty Wurlitzer, a gigantic pipe organ imported from its original home in Oakland, California’s Paramount Theatre. It served as the restaurant’s extremely loud centerpiece from 1979 until its closure in 1995. Incredibly, the hulking instrument found new employment at another organ-centric eatery in Ellenton, Florida, called Roaring 20’s Pizza and Pipes. That place closed in 2010, but the Mighty Wurlitzer seems poised for another comeback. Ken Double, president and CEO of the American Theatre Organ Society, says a mysterious buyer purchased and restored the instrument for a yet-to-be-revealed purpose.

Q: While visiting Alabama, I overheard a local referring to his companion as a Hoosier. What gives?

Helen C., Fishers

A: Let’s just say that in some parts of the country, the word “Hoosier” isn’t reserved for Indiana residents—and never for Harvard grads, urban sophisticates, or Jeopardy champions. According to a learned paper on the subject by Jeffrey Graf, a reference librarian at IU’s Herman B Wells Library, long before anyone thought of using “Hoosier” to identify someone from Indiana, it was already a “term of contempt and opprobrium common in the South and used to denote a rustic, a bumpkin, a countryman, a roughneck, a hick or an awkward, uncouth or unskilled fellow.”

Adding further insult to injury, Graf posits that it derives from the Saxon word “hoo,” meaning hill, and that the “sier” part might be a corruption of “shire.” The original term “Hoo Shire” loosely translates into “hill people.” The Hoosierist takes comfort in the fact that this usage, except in some of our nation’s more-backward corners (I’m talking to you, Alabama), has faded. Today, “Hoosier” usually just means someone who hails from that refined, sophisticated state between Ohio and Illinois.

Q: Now that Hinkle Fieldhouse is getting a makeover, is there any chance the state might move the high-school basketball championship back there? Because that would be awesome.

Roy R., Indianapolis

A: “Awesome” hardly does the prospect justice. The Hoosierist goes weak in the knees just thinking about a 21st-century championship in the hallowed spot where Bobby Plump made his famous shot and the climactic scenes from Hoosiers were filmed.

Too bad it isn’t going to happen. “We have a fond place in our hearts for that facility ourselves,” says IHSAA communications director Chris Kaufman. “The problem for the boys tournament would be seating capacity. With the renovation, Hinkle actually has fewer seats than what it had before.” Which is unacceptable, given that the championship games regularly fill their current, much-larger home, Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Plus, the matchups’ early-spring date (March 24) could potentially conflict with the Butler team’s postseason activities. Although this season, those would seem to be limited.

Q: What items will the garbage guys pick up, and what items are off-limits? My neighbor set out a huge TV that’s been sitting there for weeks.

Carol K., Indianapolis

A: Your neighbor might as well put a birdfeeder on that TV and plant some flowers around it, because it’s not going anywhere. The city won’t take electronics, which by law have to be recycled. Most likely it has been adorned with an “informational tag” explaining why his trash guy took a pass.

The city keeps a long list of items it won’t handle, including trash that’s not in bags, used motor oil and paint, construction debris, large amounts of brush or sod, fill dirt, propane storage tanks, automotive parts and marine vessels, and human or animal waste (diapers and kitty litter excepted).

Of course, just because it’s heavy doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that old couch/washing machine/pool table forever. Each household can set out a maximum of two pieces of “heavy trash” a month.

But whatever you do, please do something with your refused refuse. Don’t just leave it at the curb, hoping that the Trash Fairy will make it vanish. If that ever worked, the broken, insanely heavy, 1960s washing machine languishing in The Hoosierist’s basement would have disappeared long ago.

Your neighbor might as well put a bird feeder on that TV and plant some flowers around it, because it’s not going anywhere.


>> Have a question about something Indiana-related? Send it to hoosierist@indymonthly.emmis.com.

Illustration by Shane Harrison.

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue.