Is it a solid? A liquid? It’s Silly Putty!

by Shannon McKinney, Sales Associate in the Indiana Store

As a kid, one of those thrilling, childish moments came about upon my discovery of Silly Putty and its amazing properties. It’s not quite a solid, not quite a liquid, and its uses are nearly endless. For those of you who are old enough to remember when newspaper ink was petroleum-based, you probably remember experimenting with Silly Putty’s ability to lift the ink from the page, creating a perfect mirror image of the text or pictures when pressed against them. Unfortunately for this particular experiment, it is no longer likely to work, as newspaper printing has shifted to the use of non-transferable inks.

But what else can Silly Putty do?

Silly Putty Frosty! Ain't he cute!

Silly Putty Frosty! Ain’t he cute!

Let’s back up a minute and first discuss a bit about Silly Putty’s history. Did you know that it was developed during World War II? The war in the Pacific Theater, where the U.S. had been importing its rubber, created massive rubber shortages and a significant demand for an alternative thanks to rubber’s vital military uses. In the process of attempting to develop a synthetic rubber, scientists created what would come to be known as Silly Putty. At the time, no one could quite think of a practical use for the substance.

Everything changed in 1949 — four years after the war had ended — when toy store owner Ruth Fallgatter placed the bouncing putty in her toy catalog at the recommendation of an advertising executive named Peter Hodgson Sr. Hodgson soon came up with the name “Silly Putty” and, beginning in 1950, the toy became a national hit. Ever since, it has been a favorite among youth and adults alike.

Silly Putty Frosty has melted!

Silly Putty Frosty has melted!

Back to Silly Putty’s uses. The toy is both practical and fun. Astronauts on Apollo 8 took it to the moon to ensure that their tools would be secure in zero gravity. As a toy, it bounces, stretches, tears and shatters, depending on the whims of the user. And these days, you can even purchase “thinking putties” with interesting, unique properties that the original does not possess, such as magnetism and the ability to glow in the dark.

Regardless of whether you purchase the original, pale-pink putty that we carry in the Indiana Store or the newer, more expensive thinking putties, you are sure to enjoy playing with the substance and experimenting with its different uses.

A brief history of the USO of Indiana

by Robert D. Legacy, Vice President USO Indiana

In 1940, America’s military was rapidly growing in response to the increasing threat which preceded entry into World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt challenged six private organizations — the YMCA, YWCA, National Catholic Community Service, the National Jewish Welfare Board, the Traveler’s Aid Association and the Salvation Army — to handle the on-leave recreation needs for members of the Armed Forces. The six organizations pooled their resources and the United Service Organizations — which quickly became known as the USO — was incorporated in New York State on Feb. 4, 1941.

Here in Indianapolis, the first center for uniformed men opened on Wabash Street on May 22, 1941. It was called The Army, Navy, and Marine Service Club and was located in a converted freight house under the auspices of the Indianapolis Parks Board. The Works Project Administration supplied the labor to convert the building and the community donated the furnishings. By Nov. 1, 1941, an average of 2,000 men visited the Club each week.

Union Station Canteen – Indianapolis

Soon it was obvious that one center would not be enough. The Union Station Canteen opened on Dec, 22, 1941, followed by the Illinois Street Center on July 8, 1942. The facilities were incorporated into the Indianapolis Service Men’s Centers in late July 1942. Subsequent to this incorporation, the Senate Avenue Center opened. And finally, The Robert Park Center made its debut in the spring of 1943.

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For the love of Marty

by Dale Ogden, Senior Curator of Cultural History

My sisters give me a hard time about what a great job I have. Truth be told — it is a pretty sweet gig. My favorite thing about being a curator is the opportunity the job provides for me to meet some of the most compelling people who’ve ever called themselves “Hoosiers.”

In 1943, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) was created to fly non-combat military missions in the U.S., thus freeing their male counterparts for combat overseas. 1,074 women eventually became the first females to fly for the U.S. military. WASP pilots logged over 60 million miles serving as flight instructors, flying gliders that towed targets for gunnery practice, ferrying aircraft and performing other duties. Thirty-eight WASP perished during the course of their service.

WASP were considered civilians, however, so while these pioneers paved the way for today’s generation of female pilots, their contributions went largely unrecognized. The women were not afforded veteran status until 1977. The Congressional Gold Medal has been the highest honor Congress can award to a civilian since 1776. It was finally presented to surviving WASP, and to descendents of deceased WASP veterans in 2010.

Marty Wyall in 1945.

Mary Anna “Marty” Martin was born in Liberty, Indiana, and graduated from DePauw University in 1943. After taking the required 35 hours of solo flying lessons, Marty’s application to the WASP was accepted and she was assigned to Avenger Field in Texas for training. A member of the final WASP class, she graduated with her wings just days before the program was closed in December 1944.

Following deactivation, Marty flew as a ferry pilot before becoming a flight instructor near Franklin, Indiana. In 1946, she married Gene Wyall, one of her students, and moved to Fort Wayne to raise a family. Marty continued flying and competing in races like the Powder-Puff Derby, the All-Women Transcontinental Air Race and the Fair Lady Indiana Air Race. In 1957, she became a flying partner in an air taxi and commercial service, and has been the official WASP historian for many years. She is the last surviving Hoosier WASP. And, if that ain’t enough for ya, Marty Wyall circa 1945 was a stone cold fox — a cross between Betty Boop and Maryanne from Gilligan’s Island.

Marty was at the Indiana State Museum in April to help us celebrate her life by putting much of her WASP memorabilia on exhibit. I, unfortunately, was in Fort Wayne working on a new Abraham Lincoln website (Mr. Lincoln consumed my life in 2010, but that’s another story), so I missed the chance to meet this extraordinary Hoosier in person. Fortunately, she’s returning to the museum on Nov. 7 to mark the finale of the small display in her honor. I won’t pass up the opportunity a second time. And you shouldn’t miss it either!

Be sure to check out our Heroes from the Heartland photo albums on Facebook and Flickr.