The Hoosierist: Lustron For Life

Illustration by Ryan Johnson

Q: Indianapolis seems to have a lot of those post–World War II metal houses. Why so many? A: Perhaps because they were made by a firm called the Lustron Corporation in nearby Columbus, Ohio. It’s easy to spot the 150 or so Indiana abodes, because they’re all fairly small, and all made not with bricks or timber, but with porcelain-covered steel squares placed over a steel frame. From 1948 to 1951, Lustron churned out around 2,500 of the prefab structures, several of which can still be seen in (among other places) the Broad Ripple area. Offered in unique colors ranging from “surf blue” to “maize yellow,” the one-story bungalows contain more metal than a P-51 Mustang fighter—
so much that pictures have to be hung not with nails, but magnets. If you ever get a chance to visit one, look around for a factory-installed Automagic washing machine, which could clean both clothes and dishes. Hopefully, not at the same time.

Q: Is there a chance we’ll see electric cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway someday? A: Over the decades, the IMS has hosted everything from balloons to motorcycles. So it’s no surprise that electric cars are sneaking in. For years, Purdue University has sponsored an electric go-kart race at the track during May. And the IMS might one day host a stop on the Formula E circuit, which features electric racecars as fast as the internal combustion kind. One major difference is that the Formula E cars are quieter. Pretty much the only noise comes from the transmission, the tires on asphalt, and the wind flowing over the cars. What worries The Hoosierist is that Purdue is also experimenting with driverless racecars at the IMS. With much less noise, no life-or-death thrills, and no drivers to root for, why would anyone attend? It sounds as stimulating as watching your kids play Mario Kart.

Q: People are up in arms about pro sports teams with controversial names. Are there any problematic Hoosier high school mascots?
A: Most of Indiana’s 410 high schools tout pretty standard mascots, from scary animals (Bulldogs, Bears, Eels) to Spartans, Trojans, and Knights. But about a dozen decided, back in the days when men were men and cultural sensitivity wasn’t yet a “thing,” to call their sports teams Indians or Braves. And a few went even further into problematic territory by choosing Redskins. Knox Community High School, for example, seems to lean into its nickname. A generic Native American is plastered on school signage, and the street in front of the school is called Respect and Reconciliation Way. Just kidding! It’s called Redskin Trail.