The Listening Club

A recent broadcast of Nelson Price’s “Hoosier History Live” mentioned the “listening club” at the Irvington branch of the Indianapolis Public Library. I was curious about what such a club would be about, and when Ethel, Paula and I ran into Nelson during our First Friday travels, he suggested that I might be welcome at the Irvington club. Nelson’s reassurances notwithstanding, it was with no little trepidation that I approached the information station at the library. I was directed to a woman seated at a nearby table, who told me that the group meets at noon, in a room near the front of the building.
I had arrived early, hoping to get some background information about the group before Nelson delivered his Hoosier history about Frank Sinatra, but the ladies — of which there were three — of the group were all about noon. Judy, the woman who had initially directed me to the listening room, was the last to enter the narrow room. She had been preceded by Phylis and Dixie, who welcomed the stranger in their midst. “We talk a lot,” smiled Phylis, and Dixie laughed at that. As noon neared, Judy brought in a round silver portable Radio/CD player, pre-tuned to 88.7, WSIE, and plugged it in.
Judy Burkam, Phylis Bourne and Dixie Coghill have been listening at the library to “Hoosier History Live” for “five to six years,” since the program was a half-hour long (it now airs on Saturdays from noon to one). It was originally “moderated” by librarian Mike Hylton but now runs on the fuel provided by the three ladies in the little room with me. Phylis, the “senior” of the group (“she’s almost 94,”) told me that she has all of the copies of The Weekly View that have the feature “100 Years Ago this Week.” Dixie, Phylis’ daughter, said that her mom has a large collection of newspapers.
Conversation between the three ladies “stepped on” the opening of the broadcast, but Dixie had a print-out of the email newsletter the station sends to listeners, which she used as a program guide. Talking tailed away as the “History Mystery” portion of the program was announced.“Here’s where it gets tense!” Judy told me, as she prepared to call the station to answer the mystery question posed by Nelson. The three ladies had already worked out the answer, but good-naturedly griped about having their calls dropped when they called. Dixie pointed out to me that she still has two tickets to a zip line experience that she won on a previous show. Judy went into the hallway to complete her call to the station — “we get feedback if we stay in the room” — as we listened to the continuation of the program.
The listening club is indeed, as Phylis noted, a talking club, as well. The three ladies with whom I spent a delightful hour have an easy camaraderie among them, with well-defined roles. Judy drives the train, Dixie co-pilots and Phylis steadies the group. I sat in a small room with them, watching and listening as Nelson’s guest wove the tales of Frank Sinatra’s visit to Indiana during the filming in Madison, Indiana of the movie “Some Came Running,” as well as his visit to a Marion high school in an attempt to alleviate racial tension. Judy, Phylis and Dixie chipped in with commentary and memory as the program moved to its close. When I parted ways with the gracious ladies of the listening club, I did so happily looking forward to another Saturday afternoon at the Irvington library, talking, laughing and listening.