Remembering Summers in King Park


Patric's grandmother's house in the early years 

A few months ago, as we were telling a group of Indianapolis leaders about our current art show celebrating the King Park neighborhood, a young woman in the middle of the crowd called out, “I grew up coming to this neighborhood.” As she began describing what the neighborhood looked and felt like 30 years ago, I couldn’t wait for the chance to talk to her more.  Patric McDowell’s grandmother lived at the corner of 19th and College for 40 years in a red and white house. Patric spent her “growing up” summers there, one summer helping her grandad build the white picket fence surrounding the property. “There was always great food and a house full of people.”  Her grandmother had huge portions of the best cooking . . . “Kountry Kitchen was always there, but we never ate there because we ate better than that at home.”

 “Summer days, you could always find something to do.” Patric would often walk to the park to swing or go to the zoo (located in today’s Douglas Park) with her uncle. In the 80s, the MLK Community Center opened across the street (“in the evenings you could hear people sneaking into the pool”).  She would go to Union Station or to shop with her grandmother downtown (“College Ave. was one way going North, but they let the bus go the wrong way, so you could take the bus downtown”).  Sometimes they went to the West side to see a ball game at Bush Stadium or get a treat from the still-popular Long’s doughnuts. The family planted a big garden, “with lettuce, and corn taller than I was.”  Every year the carnival came to the empty lot where the apartments are now. One summer, her grandfather made her a bike from lots of random parts.  Local kids would ride in the vacant lots, or play in the alleys. And every weekend, all the family would come for big barbecues “even if they weren’t getting along.”

The big 7-Up bottling plant was where the apartments are, now. The After Hours NightClub near there opened at 3:00 a.m, but the neighborhood’s best liquor could be found at Patric’s grandmother’s house. The house was a “bootleg house for 30 years.” Every Saturday, Patric would go shopping with her Grandmother at the Porky Lane supermarket, buying liquor for the big Sunday sale.  They’d stay home while everyone else went to church, getting things ready. “I made change for people buying on Sundays.”

noreply@cicoa.org_patric's dad

Patric's father at 19th & College


Her grandmother was the glue that held her family, and in many ways, this neighborhood together . . . sometimes there were 50-60 people in her house, inside and sitting out on the porch.  Neighbors would honk and wave as they passed, and at night, kids would take the sofa pillows out to the yard to lay in the grass and look at the stars. In some ways things have changed a lot for Patric since that time, but that sense of community remains. When I asked Patric what she thought about living in the city, now, she responded, “this city is what you make of it . . . but it’s easy to make the best of it here.”