WFYI's 'Indy in the 60s'

 

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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