WFYI's 'Indy in the 60s' 

click to enlarge Bobby Kennedy speaks to an Indianapolis crowd on the night of Dr. King's assassination. - COURTESY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR
  • Bobby Kennedy speaks to an Indianapolis crowd on the night of Dr. King's assassination.
  • Courtesy of the Indianapolis Star

8 p.m. Monday, WFYI (Channel 20)

Jim Simmons hoped to make the documentary Indy in the ‘60s as complete as possible. But summing up a decade in 90 minutes – even a 10-year span in a sleepy place called Naptown – proved to be a challenge.

So Simmons did what he could. He and five other producers put together an overview of the serious (Vietnam, civil rights, Bobby Kennedy’s visit to Indianapolis the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination, the fairgrounds coliseum explosion, the moon landing) and the entertaining (the Beatles at the State Fair, the Pacers, the Indianapolis 500 and other sports events, TV kids’ shows and more).

“We did our best,” Simmons said, referring to himself and Marguerite Thomas, Ted Green, Gary Quigg, Gary Weir and Kevin Finch, “but we realized we couldn’t do it all. My joke was that it was like when they give you that can of peanuts and you’d open it and the snake would fly out and you’d have to put the snake back in. I can’t get the snake back in because every time I turn around, somebody’s got a new story.”

Some of those stories are familiar even to people who didn’t grow up here, but Indy in the ‘60s is full of surprises. We hear from Vietnam vets about their experiences and celebrities, such as Jane Pauley and astronaut David Wolf, about theirs. Gov. Mitch Daniels doesn’t just talk about being a fry cook at the Riviera Club; he demonstrates his skills.

A member of the Indianapolis Capitols — the team that won the 1969 Continental Football League championship — shares an incredible story about team owners trying to disguise the number of black players on the team. And we get to recall the construction of the City-County Building, which a New York Times architecture critic called an example of Indianapolis’ “consummate dullness.”

Simmons said some of the historical footage in the documentary was easy to find — the material on The Beatles came largely from an old WISH (Channel 8) special called Our Fair Beatles. Some took some digging to uncover. One of the producers, Ted Green, finally found footage of the first Indiana Pacers game in the WFBM collection at the Indiana Historical Society, but no one could find clips from the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star Game where George McGinnis scored 53 points and pulled down 31 rebounds.

For Simmons, 58, who grew up in Indianapolis — he went to Brebeuf — overseeing this 10-month project gave him an opportunity to relive his teenage years. “Because of doing this show, it’s like it happened just the other day,” he said. “It’s been an odd experience like that.”

Indy in the ‘60s is a WFYI pledge special — a sequel, if you will, to Indy in the ‘50s, which WFYI produced about 15 years ago and which still airs from time to time during pledge drives.

“My joke,” Simmons said, “is that if Indy in the ‘60s isn’t airing in 2026, I’ve failed.”

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