Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Remember the Hoosier Hot Shots?

Been busy gathering material and doing a little research for a story on an old friend, Gabe Ward. Gabe was one of the three original members of that zany bunch of musicians known as the Hoosier Hot Shots. If you're my age or anything close you remember hearing them on radio. If you're a Baby Boomer you may recall them from the 20 movies they made. If you're even younger than that, look them up on Google. You'll find about 290,000 entries. Pretty good considering the last of them, Ol' Gabe, died 15 years ago.
Gabe's life was like something straight from a Horatio Alger book - the tale of a young man who worked hard, lived the clean life, married a good woman and lived happily ever after. Well, at least until he was 87. Gabe started to work in a factory when he was 13. Made $6.50 a week and gave all but $1 of it to his mother. A relative gave him an old clarinet but Gabe - whose real name was Charles Otto Ward - didn't pay much attention to it until he found that playing it could earn him a credit in school.
One day he was called out of class at Elwood (Indiana) High School because Bill Whitehurst had broken his arm that morning. Bill played clarinet in another zany group, Ezra Buzzington's Rube Band. He was the only one that played the melody, the others being too busy having fun. So young Otto, soon to become Gabe, was quickly taught the band's songs because it had an engagement to play at the Classic Theatre in Elwood a few hours later. That evening Gabe was playing the melody and even doing a few solos on stage. It was the beginning of a long career that didn't end until the day he died 69 years later. Too much happened during that time to begin to tell it here, but one of the highlights was making a number of movies starring a handsome young singer name Ken Curtis.
Never heard of Ken Curtis? Then how about Festus Hagan, that scroungy character in Gunsmoke? One and the same guy. Gabe remembers when Curtis spent his free time on the movie sets learning oddball regional dialects, something that paid off for him many years later.
The last letter we received from Gabe was written two days before he died. He wasn't expecting it, was still planning for the future. Gabe was a prolific writer of letters and over the years they included some wonderful stories and a few pretty profound remarks. Here's a couple:
"Some say death and taxes are the sure things. I'd like to add to that by saying, 'The only constant thing is change. It happens to all of us all the time and for sure.'"
"What we do is what we are and it's mostly our fault if we don't just do it."
Wise words expressed in downhome Hoosier fashion, and that was Gabe's way.
Well, I didn't really get around to saying much about the Hoosier Hot Shots. Maybe another time. For now I'll just settle for 300 records, 20 movies, hundreds of radio shows and stage appearances throughout this country and even in Europe. Not bad for three young guys from the flatlands of Indiana.

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