A Walkerton Moment With Family Man Art Educator Ken Rohrer
Ken Rohrer, has fulfilled much of his life as an art teacher in the Indianapolis area. Most of us know him by way of Walkerton, and as a long time town history buff. He has been a founding member of our Walkerton Page internet group since it began! He has devoted much photography and time as one of our Facebook group administrator's with his knowledge and photography.
Like no other, he has been maintaining Walkerton pictures since, he began his boyhood hobby in photography. By the way, he conducted this interview with only one eye available. Since, earlier, he had his retina's repaired for optimal perfection. He said, "I have a patch over one eye from my surgery this morning." I wish him all the best with his new vision!
Ken, recently, retired as a teacher in Indianapolis but, he continues to put himself to work anyway. He explained, "I am still teaching by taking over maternity leaves."
"Two years ago I took over a maternity leave for the elementary art teacher, and last year I took over the leave for the elementary music teacher. Next year I’m doing the leave for the same art teacher from two years ago."
Debbie and Ken Rohrer with their family during a celebration.
In 1994 he innovated the worldwide web with the internet phenomenon, "The Incredible Art Department" (IAD), began, as a resource to showcase his Indianapolis art class students. Ken Rohrer said, "IAD was the second educational website in Indiana and, the first art education website in the world, that we know of."
"My district was not ready for this exposure so they told me to remove the site. Rather, than completely folding it? I decided to open it up to the world instead."
"The response was phenomenal. I received 8,555 visitors the first year. Now the site receives millions of visitors each year."
It was the result of the web design business he started in those early days of the '90's. You can glean more information on that by going to: https://www.incredibleart.org/history/history.html
Ken reminisces about how he came to Walkerton. "We moved to Walkerton from Gary in a small apartment above the "Independent News" when I was two, so, I don’t remember that time. There are a few photos of me as a toddler playing with pans in the kitchen there. We then rented a place on Shamrock Street when I was three."
"Yes, it must have been less than a year until they got the bigger house to rent. That’s when I began having memories. Shortly, after that, my Dad had our house built on Circle Drive. We moved in there the summer before I started Kindergarten. Quickly, we had wonderful neighbors move in next to us. The Mahlon Jacobs, the Hartsough’s, the McGoverns, the Morris’, and, the Freeman’s. Later, the Benson’s sold their house. And Dr. Carter’s family moved in."
"My earliest memory of Walkerton is perhaps walking into "LaFeber’s" grocery and, Mr. LaFeber handing my sister and, I, a "Yogi Bear" head display in the store." My sister wore it."
"Other fond memories are at the Paddle Wheel Restaurant."
"As a young boy I loved watching the water go over the paddle boat they had inside the entrance. I was fortunate to have neighbors who had kids about my age. That’s where I met my best friend, John Hartsough. We remained friends until he died about 5 years ago."
"The circumstances that lead us to Walkerton was the fact the town doctor was retiring and he was able to talk my Dad into starting his practice there straight out of his internship in Gary. My Dad went to school with Dr Carter and talked him into a joint practice in the building that later became the Polk-Lincoln-John School administration building. I do remember going to that office when my Dad took me there. It was way too small for all the patients they had."
Ken, with his Dad, Dr. Bryce Rohrer, and sister Kathy trimming the Turkey.
I couldn't help but, to ask Ken what his favorite memories of Walkerton are?
"The June festival where they closed some streets for a carnival downtown was neat." Times just keep changing and changing.
Ken Rohrer has maintained a passion for photography including many historic pictures from Walkerton. Here he snapped a shot in front of the old Paddle Wheel Restaurant during the 4th of July parade at Illinois & Roosevelt.
He went on, "The carnival they had at Urey during the 4th of July holiday was also much fun."
About the old "Rialto Theater" which, Ken recently wrote on, for the idea to .
"Dan Gakle got a job running the projector for the movies at the "Rialto" and, let me up there to see a few movies for free in the projector booth. I saw my first R rated movie there."
"He used pennies pushed into the film to remind him to change reels. When the pennies hit the floor he knew to get ready to queue the next spool."
Life in his Walkerton neighborhood was iconic American. But, after the 1966 Palm Sunday tornadoes the community experienced disaster.
"I rode my bike with John Hartsough and, Edwin Fenstermacher to Koontz Lake several times. After the tornado we found dead fish scattered everywhere on the roads and ground. There was an abandoned home in the lake. We loved playing in there."
"It was fun catching and eating all the fish they killed in Koontz Lake when they lowered the lake. We saw fish we never knew lived in that lake! There was a 6’ Alligator Gar, for example. We had 3 large garbage cans filled with fish. I cleaned them for eating as fast as I could."
After the "Paddle Wheel Restaurant" and, "A&P" fire, John Hartsough and, I pulled our wagon there. We asked if we could have the door that was left to the A&P? We laid it on our wagon and brought it home. We put it on our boys clubhouse in our back yard. That clubhouse was a source of joy for boys all around the neighborhood. We later built a treehouse above it and used the shell of a cloths dryer as a place to crawl up to get to the treehouse. It was nice playing outside all day without fear of being molested or kidnapped. We didn’t even lock our doors." We all know how times have changed.
Walkerton neighborhood treehouse by Ken Rohrer.
"I just thought of another memory." Another experience that inspired Ken illuminated. It was from when the new John Glenn High School was built. "Dr. Carter was President of the school board during the JGHS inauguration so John Glenn and two Senators came to visit his house next door to us. We got to shake hands with John Glenn, John Brademas, and Birch Bayh!" What a historic moment!
"The Walkerton neighborhood children. From left to right: John Morris, Steve Morris, Julie Hartsough, Susan Carter, Kathy Rohrer, Mary Ann Freeman, Lynn Carter, Joe Hartsough, Wendell Rohrer, Ken Rohrer, Mike Morris, and John Hartsough. This was taken at the entrance to our housing addition in 1971."
When asked about his High school experience at JGHS, "My freshman year was difficult. I was introverted and picked on a lot. I really was a geek. I had just been diagnosed and needed glasses. Unfortunately, I had those ugly black frame glasses that most had that made me look even geekier. I was trying to fit in."
Walkerton JGHS Homecoming parade at Van Buren & Illinois by Ken Rohrer.
"The rest of my high school was better and I matured enough to stand up for myself. I loved marching in the band. For English class they assigned animal related books, “Rascal” and “All Creatures Great and Small.” That gave me an interest in veterinary medicine." For deciding on a career choice, "It was between that and an art teacher."
"Because I felt I had a poor science education, I figured I’d struggle in a veterinary science program at Purdue so instead I chose art education at Ball State."
"As for what I’m doing now? I’m officially a retired teacher but, still doing the teaching by taking over maternity leaves. And, I’ve been designing other websites too, besides the IAD. Most interesting are for two actors. One, glamour Queen, legendary actress, Julie Adams, at: http://www.julieadams.biz
The other is about actor, "Black Lagoon creature, Ben Chapman: http//www.the-reelgillman.com
Both Hollywood stars you may remember from the classic film, "Creature From The Black Lagoon." The websites Ken has done are FANTASTIC! From the Golden Age Of Cinema! You will enjoy them when you look up what he has done on them.
Ken, continues to keep active. He said, "I also drive for Uber and Lyft some weekends in Indianapolis. I have a wife who is a nurse, Debbie, 3 stepsons and, 1 son. My son got a good construction job that allowed him to buy his first house at the age of 21. I have two grandchildren with one on the way. Ken Rohrer is a proud, family man.