May 19, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Focusing on Jane Fisher’s book related to the ‘500’

The month of May in Indianapolis is busy with countless events related to the annual 500-mile race at the Speedway.

Although not avid racing fans ourselves, my husband and I years ago did attend one Indianapolis 500 practice weekend at the racetrack with a visiting cousin and her family as well as one race as guests of friends.

Unfortunately, the latter race experience was when the event took three days to finish because of inclement weather. Also, sadly, that was in 1973 when serious accidents occurred, one of which took the life of driver Swede Savage.

The history of the “500” is fascinating. A couple years ago, an author-poet friend, Sara Sanderson, who lives near the Speedway, told me about a related autobiography she found in a used bookstore in Charlotte, N.C. Sara wrote about Fabulous Hoosier: A Story of American Achievement, in her “Walking Our Town” column in the June 16, 2004, issue of The Speedway Press.

Published in 1947, Fabulous Hoosier was written by Jane Fisher, who was only a teenager when she married the much older race founder, Carl Fisher. Partners in this Speedway endeavor were Jim Allison, Frank Wheeler and Arthur Newby. The racetrack opened in 1911.

Not long after Sara’s column appeared in print, I was cleaning out boxes of books in the basement and came across my own copy of Fabulous Hoosier. Only when I opened it to begin reading did I realize from whom it came. The name Frank Crabbe was inscribed inside this copy.

Frank and Leah Crabbe were very dear older neighbors in a previous neighborhood, but also friends from Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis. Paul and I and our daughters often visited with them, especially when we could sit outdoors to chat.

Once, we even rescued a dachshund that they adopted after the death of their elder dog, calling the newcomer “Buster Crabbe” in imitation of an “old-time” movie star.

Although I had forgotten about the book Leah and Frank had passed on to us, I finally enjoyed reading the history of the “500” from Jane Fisher’s very personal viewpoint.

Sara Sanderson and I have something in common besides being writers and poets who have read Fabulous Hoosier. Separately, we each loaned our book to others, but neither of us has had our respective copy returned.

I’d love to see Fabulous Hoosier again, so if anyone out there wouldn’t mind passing on a copy to me, please e-mail me at

I want to read it again, not only for Jane Fisher’s revealing approach, but also to refresh my memory about a Catholic priest who befriended Carl Fisher in his last years.

From what I recall of Fisher’s life, that priest was surely a godsend.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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