Greensburg Daily News
Last weekend’s annual Historical Society dinner saw Greensburg’s Jeff Kuehl channel the spirit of Tree City native and Indianapolis Motor Speedway entrepreneur Carl Fisher.
And for those who attended the dinner, Kuehl’s presentation caused more than a few double takes.
“I wanted to give those present a taste of what would it be like having Carl Fisher over for dinner,” said Greensburg’s Kuehl.
Apparently, he succeeded. Kuehl’s performance of Fisher at the Decatur County Historical Society’s annual dinner Saturday evening held everyone spellbound. The program, “Carl Fisher and the 100th Anniversary of the Lincoln Highway,” found Kuehl dressed in a linen coat and cap along with wire rimmed glasses much like Fisher might have worn.
Carl Fisher was born in Greensburg and spent his first 12 years here. Kuehl said that while researching Fisher, he found that he was a man of many “firsts.”
“He created the first automobile dealership in America. He was given the first permit in US history to pump soil from the bottom of the ocean to create a landfill. He was given one of the first hot air balloon pilot licenses in the U.S. He once owned the world speed record in 1904, driving his auto two miles in 2.02 minutes.”
Last year Kuehl was asked by Jan Shupert-Arick to portray Fisher at the Athenaeum in Indianapolis. “They wanted me to recreate the speech he gave in 1912 gathering up support for a ‘coast to coast rock highway’ across America,” he said. Jan and her husband Bill gave him some resource materials to look through and they also helped find some classic clothing, appropriate for Fisher’s day.
Kuehl said there were several hundred people there to witness Fisher’s passionate plea for private funding.
“At this performance,” he said, “I met many people from all over the United States. Some of them have asked me to portray Fisher and their celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the Lincoln Memorial Highway in 2013. Since the first seedling mile on the Lincoln Highway was created just outside of Dekalb, Ill., they have invited me to come celebrate with them on May 18.”
He will again be recreating the speech this summer, on July 2, at the Athenaeum and having lunch with the Indiana Region Classic Car Club. They will be using vintage cars to recreate the Hoosier Caravan. Kuehl said. “These brave souls spent 34 days on the road in 1913 marking the path that would be the connection from the Midwest to San Francisco.”
Kuehl said that he has read a lot about Fisher and based much of his performance on information he gathered in Jerry Fisher’s book The Pacesetter. “Folks at the Lincoln Memorial Highway Association and Dennis Horvath helped gather information for me. Dennis is a historian living in Indianapolis.” He said that after Historical Society President Bryan Robbins asked him to perform Fisher at the annual dinner he spent a good couple of weeks working on the text during the evening hours.
Kuehl isn’t a novice at acting by any means. He lived in Hollywood for 10 years and had parts in several movies. He has also appeared in commercials and plays in Indianapolis since living in Indiana.
Due to his resemblance to the “real deal” Fisher, it might have made quite an addition for the Historical Society’s collection of pictures if someone had taken one of Kuehl, Greensburg’s Fred Craig and Decatur County’s Tom Barker talking about Hollywood and movies.
Craig made his first three films in Decatur County, the first when he was 15-years-old. He filmed the Centennial in 1959 when he was 16 and Empty Shoes in 1960.
After he went to California, he worked as layout artist, journeyman, animation sequence unit, director of special visual effects, key layout/workbook, scene reduction supervisor, production manager and other jobs associated with animated films including The Lion King, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Xanadu, Rock-A-Doodle, All Dogs Go to Heaven, An American Tail, The Secret of NIMH, and many other films. Tom Barker is well known in the industry for his films and photography.
Larry and Carol Pumphrey of Decatur County are helping organize the Hoosier Tour of the Lincoln Highway from Indianapolis to Brazil and the July tour across the country. Carol Pumphrey told the society members of the tour and how they can participate. Anyone interested can call Larry or Carol.
The officers and board members were introduced by Vice President Chris Harpring in the absence of President Robbins. Other officers are Diana Springmier, Marilyn Beaver and Linda Volk. Board members are Tom Barker, Jeannie Coy, Tom Hunter, Gladys Pike, John Pratt and Adrian Scripture.
Executive Director Dustin White welcomed those attending and introduced Jeff Kuehl. He suggested that those interested in the Historic St. Paul Luncheon with Gladys Pike and Adrian Scripture May 10 should sign up now since seating is limited. The Society’s Homemade Ice Cream Social is scheduled for May 25.