Madison, Indiana: We’re still kickin’!

Hey, Madisonians! Do you really believe that our historic river town has gone down the drain, or is on its way down? Do you believe all the nasty, unproven claims about Madison and its current leaders that are posted (anonymously) every day on the Old Madison website? You’d have to also believe that really good and worthy towns and cities go from one century to another, and another, staying essentially the same, changing very little, with local leaders descended from their parents, who were descended from their grandparents, and so on back to the start of the town, wherever and whenever it was.

Sorry, but human existence and development seldom work that way.

REMEMBER, MADISON was established as an Ohio River town, officially, anyway, in the year 1809. In the year 1959, the city celebrated its 150th anniversary, having been a major river town in Indiana for many years; I was 14 years old then, and had a small part in one of the minor plays put on underneath the Madison-Milton Bridge — as it existed then. By the way, in case you weren’t aware of this, when that bridge was dedicated and opened in 1929, President Herbert Hoover was present here, and officiated at the historic event.

In 2009, we observed our 200th anniversary, and I had a small part in that one, too. Not that that’s anything important; just thought I’d mention it.

So, in all those years since the early 19th Century, things have changed a lot. There were once a number of tobacco warehouses in Madison, and local farmers brought their crop here and sold it, and usually made good money. Now, many years later, smoking and other uses of tobacco have declined immensely, the warehouses are gone, and our economy has changed considerably since then also, with most of the many factories which once employed hundreds of local men and were mostly located downtown, also gone.

AND THAT’S SIMILAR to what has happened, thousands of times, to many, many towns and cities across the world, over several thousands of years. Nothing stays the same forever.

So, Madison has changed over more than two centuries. But it’s still here. Our nation has changed, in many ways; our culture has; many, many things have. But our old town, Old Madison, is still here, where it has been since 1809.

Of course, there are always a few exceptions to any rule. I remember watching a very interesting video about the history, and current situation, of the nation of Austria in Europe once, years ago. At one point, the narrator was discussing the city of Salzburg. He mentioned a famous restaurant, or tavern, or something of that type, and said that the business has a long, long history in Salzburg — and that it has been owned by the same family since the year 1712! That’s the longest continuous ownership of a business that I’ve ever heard of!

AND WE’VE had a business here in Madison that was owned by six generations of the same family — The Madison Courier. And three of the six publishers had the same first and last name — Michael Garber. The first one bought the newspaper, in 1849, when it was 12 years old; the last publisher, Curt Jacobs Jr., sold it to a newspaper chain in 2019. A total of 170 years under the ownership of the same family. Few American newspapers have had one ownership for THAT long.

Few businesses of any kind have. But that doesn’t mean the cities where they were located have vanished, too.

Especially Madison, Indiana. We’re still here. We’ve taken the nickname of Indiana’s Music City due to the frequent band concerts held here, and the considerable numbers of Madisonians who have been talented and well-known musicians. Some people who know something of our history might say that this all started in 1853, when the fantastic Swedish singer Jenny Lind appeared and performed here. She was considered one of the greatest singers of the 19th Century. If, roughly 100 years later, the immortal Elvis Presley had performed here, no doubt the reactions to Jenny Lind, and Elvis, would have been very similar.

And our history as a river town has been enhanced immensely by the Madison Regatta, which emerged in the early 20th Century, and has continued to draw huge crowds ever since.

And for those who think of Madison as just another old town that is fading rapidly, here’s a suggestion from me: Go on the internet, google “youtube,” and google something having to do with Madison; the name of our city, or “Madison Regatta,” or old movies from the early 1950s showing the Madison Cubs winning the state basketball championship. Or, if you want a BIG surprise, google “Hinkle’s Sandwich Shop.”

As I said in the headline, “We’re still kickin’!”


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