“Where Are They Now?”

Alan Barnett graduated from Greensburg Community High School (GCHS) in 1965 and is looking forward to the 50th Class Reunion in July.

He was very active in the Boy Scout program and was in Troop 77 with Dr. Childress. He was awarded his Eagle Scout badge in August 1962.

He said, “I believe that Dr. Childress had more Eagle Scouts than anyone else in Indiana.”

Alan attended grade school, starting with the third grade, at the Old West School Building. “I always thought it looked like an old castle,” he said.

“How grand it was to move into the Washington School Building for grades four and five,” Alan said. “We had both our junior and senior proms in that building in 1964 and 1965. I understand it is now a correctional facility, some of us might still belong there. Junior High was in the ‘Old High School’ or Jerman Junior High. I understand this is now ‘senior living,’ where some of us belong as well.”

Alan worked for six years at the Allen Memorial Pool, starting in the concession stand and working up to the position of head lifeguard. He remembers that his first employer was George Granholt, who later became his teacher.

“I am proud to say that today he is my friend. This was a great opportunity to stay connected with all my friends during the summer months and get paid to watch girls in swimming suits,” he said.

During high school, Alan was active in the music program, both band and choir, as well as musicals and theatrical productions and remembers the “Follies” and the “Class Plays” as always a great time.

“If I was not in the actual play or building sets, I was in the light crew,” he recalled.

Alan always had a love of trains. His grandfather was a locomotive engineer. In 1961, he became involved with the Indiana Railway Museum (IRM) located in Westport.

“In the early days, Joe Bausback and I would ride our bikes to Westport (11 miles) to work on the railroad. I was elected vice president of the IRM in 1964 when I was a junior in high school. Our president, Robert Dale Brown, was killed in a farming accident and I became president at that time,” he said.

He graduated from Purdue University in 1973 with a degree in political science and said, “I should have graduated in 1969, but spent three years in the US Army from 1968 to 1971.”

His original plan was to get a degree in civil engineering and later a law degree. “I became involved in politics at the university level. During my time at Purdue, my father, who was also fighting cancer at the same time, was elected the first full time Mayor of Greensburg. My father was a police officer for five years and his father was a fireman for 27 years in Logansport, where I was born. This gave him an advantage in being an effective Mayor,” Alan said.

After graduating from Purdue, Alan came back to Greensburg to work in the family business, Barnett Insurance Adjusting, to help out his parents George and Fredona Barnett. His father died in August of 1975 and Alan became a member of the Greensburg Police Department, following in his father’s footsteps, in November of 1975.

“I think I was the first member of the Greensburg Police Department to have a college degree. I remained with the Police Department until May of 1978, when I accepted the position of Director of Safety and Security with the French Lick Sheraton Hotel.” He had become involved with the hotel during the relocation of the IRM to French Lick.

Alan served in the US Army Military Police Corps for three years. He was stationed in Korea, Germany and Arizona. His rank was a sergeant.

He married Cindy Conwell, GCHS Class of ‘67, daughter of James and Virginia Conwell, who lived at 421 N. Franklin Street. Alan said they have been divorced for many years but remain close friends as they have two children and three grandchildren.

“Our oldest is Jennifer Shipman, who has an accounting degree and lives in French Lick with her husband and three children. Our son, Michael, is a news photographer for Channel 32 in Louisville, Kentucky.”

For as long as Alan can remember, he said his life has been involved with the IRM. “When most teenage boys were playing with cars, I was restoring and operating a steam locomotive.” The IRM operated in Westport from 1962 until 1971. He was in the service from 1968 to 1971.

In 1971, the IRM equipment was moved to Greensburg and operations began from the north edge of town to Sandusky in 1974. This continued until the IRM lost its lease from the railroad in 1977.

In 1978, the IRM found a new location in French Lick. “It had not been my intention to leave Greensburg,” he said, “but an opportunity came available and I took it. I stayed with the French Lick Sheraton Hotel for three years, and left to become the full time General Manager of the Indiana Railway Museum in 1981.”

Alan became involved with the French Lick-West Baden Chamber of Commerce soon after arriving in the area. He served as the Executive Secretary for the Chamber for over 26 years. When he did choose to retire, the Chamber established a scholarship in his name for local high school students who planned to enter into a career in public service.

In 2011, on the 50th Anniversary of the Indiana Railway Museum, Gov. Mitch Daniels awarded Alan with the “Distinguished Hoosier” title for his efforts with the IRM and for promoting tourism in Southern Indiana.

For many years Alan was involved with the efforts to bring casino gaming to Indiana. During 1993, he was employed by the owners of the French Lick Hotel to lobby the Indiana General Assembly on this issue and participated in writing the actual legislation. When the bill became law, he became vice president of the gaming company owned by the French Lick Hotel and he continued to lobby the General Assembly.

He said, “This company later sold the hotel and dissolved the gaming company. I continued to lobby the General Assembly for other owners of the Hotel, and finally in November of 2006, the Casino opened in French Lick.”

In 1982, he became involved with the Tourist Railway Association (national organization), serving as president for two terms and as a board member for 32 years.

This presented a great opportunity for him to travel the entire country attending meetings and conferences dealing with the tourist rail industry and to see how other operations functioned.

“I never dreamed that I would spend some 37 years in French Lick,” said Alan. “It has been a great place to live and to raise my family and I have developed some great friendships over the years. The IRM has continued to grow and prosper. The IRM started in Westport with less than one mile of track, one locomotive and three railroad cars. Today the IRM has 32 miles of track, over 10 locomotives and over 35 railroad cars. I have stepped down as general manager, a post I held for 35 years, and am now business manager. As my daughter says, now I just work about 30 hours per week instead of 80.”

Alan Barnett will return to his hometown to speak at the Decatur County Historical Society Annual meeting April 25. The dinner and program is $15. Reservations for the 6 p.m. dinner should be in by April 18. Reservations can be made by calling (812) 663-2764.

Contact: Pat Smith 812-663-3111 x 7011; pat.smith@greensburgdailynews.com

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