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A FISH TALE

Blog by Randi Richardson

fish

Minton’s Body Shop was established at 114 W. Grimes and was still standing in 2019.

In the 1950s, two little girls, Margie and Linda Eberle, daughters of Earl and Marjorie (Minton) Eberle, believed their grandfather, Floyd “Dick” Minton, could fix just about anything.  “He had a garage,” recalled Margie, now a grown woman with grandchildren of her own, “just west of the red brick building on the corner of South Walnut and Grimes where Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper now does business.  Chancellor Wells always took his car there for repairs.  He’d loan it out to various students, and it sometimes came back a little worse for wear.”

On the day she told this story, Margie was a bit out of sorts.  She claimed her grandfather never received the credit he was due for the repairs he made to the courthouse fish when it was blown from the dome during a late night storm on August 6, 1957.  According to the newspaper account, at first the fish was thought lost.  It wasn’t anywhere on the ground.  Then Pete Siscoe and a Star-Courier reporter borrowed a key to the clock tower, scaled the dome and discovered the iconic fish on the floor of the dome.  The only damage was a badly dented head.

According to various newspaper accounts from the vertical files at the Monroe County History Center Library, the individuals most often credited with the repair of the damaged fish were Fred and Austin Seward, both descendants of Austin Seward, the man responsible for placing the fish over Monroe County’s original courthouse.  However, at least three of the stories mention Minton’s Garage.  Then, too, there was a very large news photo in the file, nearly a quarter of a page, undated and unsourced, of Floyd Minton of Minton’s garage as he prepared to “operate” on fish blown.

Although some reports describe the courthouse fish as 3’9” in length, in a photo of Pete Siscoe standing with the damaged fish held upright, much like the catch of the day, it appears to be nearly as tall as he is.  So either Pete was very short or the fish was closer to five feet in length.

 

Regardless of its length, or the different men credited with its repair, clearly Margie and Linda’s grandfather played a part in restoration of the fish weather vane that still reigns supreme over Monroe County’s courthouse, a relic now two centuries old or close to it.  The evidence being the photo, a copy recently sent to Margie.

Sources:

Oral interview with Margie Eberle-Polley, Bloomington, Indiana, December 2018.

Rose H. McIlveen, “Vane Topic of Fish Tales,” Bloomington Herald-Telephone, October 25, 1984, p. 20.

Byron Spice, “Fish Eyes Focus on Bloomington Folks,” Indiana Daily Student, no date noted.”

“High Winds Hit City; Courthouse Fish ‘Lost,’” Bloomington Herald Telephone, August 3, 1957, p. 1

Other undated and unsourced clippings in the vertical files of the Research Library, Monroe County History Center.

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