January 15th, 2008

carole lombard 02
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And on to Indianapolis

Shortly after arriving in Indianapolis on Jan. 15, 1942, Carole Lombard, her mother Elizabeth Peters and MGM publicist Otto Winkler were whisked to the Indiana state capitol, where the actress participated in a commemorative flag raising (above). Lombard made a short speech, closing by saying, "Heads up, hands up, America! Let's give a cheer that will be heard in Tokyo and Berlin!" The crowd at the ceremony cheered wildly as Lombard gave them the victory sign, then mingled with the public on a windy winter afternoon.

In the photo below, Carole is holding the first shell fired by the U.S. in World War 1. The two gentlemen standing next to her are the Hoosiers who took part in that event: Alex Arch from South Bend, who fired the shot, and Arthur Braxton, from Paoli, who placed it. Lombard used the shell as a writing board to autograph bond applications.

From there it was on to the rotunda at the state house, where Lombard did yeoman work exhorting the crowd -- many of whom had been waiting for hours -- to buy bonds and back the war effort (the photos are courtesy of Carole Sampeck and The Lombard Archive).

Everyone who bought a bond received this receipt (again from The Lombard Archive):

The hour-long event originally had a sales goal of $500,000. Carole more than quadrupled it, a tribute to her incredible charisma and personality. Here are two more Lombard Archive photos, and I love the second one for the look of pride on Elizabeth Peters' face. As it is for all mothers when their children succeed, it's her triumph too.

Lombard then went to the Claypool Hotel (shown belong from a postcard of that era), where her party was staying:

There, she raised a flag in the lobby to officially open an armed forces recruiting station, with booths for the Army, Navy and Marines. From the Archive, two hithereto unpublished photos of the event; in the first, she is presumably being greeted by armed forces personnel outside the hotel, while the second shows the actual flag-raising.

Her hotel room was filled with dozens of roses sent from husband Clark Gable -- a tradition of the couple whenever one was on a journey away from the other.

She then went to the governor's mansion for a tea and social event for women on the Indiana Defense Savings staff. She commended the ladies for "doing a magnificent job."

Asked at the event what women could do best to help win the war, she said, "I think morale work is the most important right now. That is, until a regular women's army has been organized, as we've been promised it will be."

Then, it was off to the Cadle Tabernacle for a war rally that evening. The facility, at New Jersey and Ohio streets in downtown Indianapolis, had been built in 1921 by evangelist E. Howard Cadle and seated some 10,000; another 1,500 or so could stand in the choir lofts.

It was employed not only for his ministry, but for a variety of civic and cultural events. Cadle lost rights to the facility in the late 1920s, and it was used for Ku Klux Klan rallies (Indiana was a Klan hotspot in the '20s), dance marathons and boxing matches. However, Cadle regained control in 1931, and it was restored to its former uses.

The rally featured music from bands of Indiana's two principal public colleges, Indiana University and Purdue University, and finally Lombard delivered the keynote speech. Here's a rare candid photo of Carole on the podium, from The Lombard Archive:

Carole said she and everyone else in the country knew what winning the war would cost. Then she added, "But the peace it will bring is priceless. We know what an enormous task lies ahead ... as Americans, we have the rare privilege of deciding for ourselves the direction we are to take. We have made that decision."

The audience response was strong, and she capped off the rally by leading the crowd in singing the national anthem. For Lombard, who only a few years before had been reluctant to sing on screen, it was the most impassioned singing of her life.

As a contemporary account observed, "Carole Lombard never scored a greater success on the screen than in her latest role as saleswoman for Uncle Sam."

Sadly, this role also would be her last.

As for the Cadle Tabernacle...Cadle himself died in late 1942 and while the ministry went on, by the mid-1950s it was in steep decline. The building eventually lost much of its luster, and in the mid-1960s the family sold the structure. The new owner soon razed it for parking spaces.