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Blue Ridge: The Way It Was

These notes were made by Beverly Watkins, daughter of Odell and Velma Watkins, residents at 2908 Bankers Drive in “Blue Ridge Estates” from September, 1962 until May, 1973.

My father had his eye on the grassy hill that was later to become Blue Ridge Estates as early as the late fifties. He would drive us to a spot on Dunn Road – where he would slow down so that we could gaze up at the hill and he would say “If ever they develop this property I’d like to build a house here.” There were no roads….it was still farmland…only a grassy knoll above a rolling field, spotted with cows, but there was speculation that the area might one day become a sub- division.

Later, maybe ’59 or ’60, when it was announced that Urban Developers were, indeed, developing the property, Dad was one of the first in line to purchase a lot. He picked a spot that he had walked many times before the roads were ever cut, on the north side of the hill below the crest, a location that looked out to the horizon on three sides….to Cascades Addition across the valley to the west, north as far as the eye could see, down to Griffy Lake and the heavily wooded hilly terrain that wrapped around to the east. The half-acre lot was on a corner….the street in front was to be named Ramble Road West and the street on the side was to be called Drane Drive. Later, when Bankers Growth took over the development, Ramble Road was changed to Bankers Drive and Drane Drive thankfully changed to Blue Ridge Drive. The first winter after the lot was purchased, Dad would take my best friend and me to the “hill” and we would all three go sledding down “Drane Drive”!!

For the next two years my dad spent many a late night alone at his desk, working on a floor plan that would take advantage of the tremendous vista. Harold Bender, local architect, finalized those plans and Howard Young was hired as the builder. The house was begun in the early spring of ’62. I think we drove out to inspect almost every evening and we moved in over Labor Day weekend. (Our dachshund, Heidi, formerly a “city” dog, had her first encounter with a skunk and spent her first night in the garage following a tomato juice bath. Ugh!)

Our house was, I believe, the third house completed, following Delbert and Rosemary Miller’s and Russ and Joan Ide’s (who lived just east of us). The vacant lots surrounding us were covered in high grass and weeds. (Heidi would sneak into the weeds and spend hours digging for field mice and rabbits, coming home with her mouth and front paws caked with mud, flopping down on the kitchen floor with satisfied exhaustion! There were few trees on the north side of the hill, and the wind swept freely across the open space, rattling the windows, blowing patio furniture into the wrought iron railing and occasionally blowing out the gas lamp at the end of our driveway.

I was starting seventh grade that first fall at Dyer Junior High and we learned that there was no school bus service planned for Blue Ridge. My mother would take me to school and I would ride the bus home to the edge of Matlock Heights on Dunn and walk home. In the meantime, my dad and one other neighbor battled with the school board to get them to provide bus service to our addition. One day that first winter, while attempting to walk home, it was so cold that I finally had to drop my books in the snow at the entrance to Blue Ridge and run to the nearest house (the
Johnsons’, the only house east of the Millers’) where Mrs. Johnson tried to warm my frost-bitten hands while waiting for my dad to arrive. Shortly thereafter, the school board agreed to extend the bus route through Blue Ridge!

By the summer of ’63, many more houses were going up, and, with every new rooftop, someone, including us, lost a part of their beautiful “view.” In spite of that, it was exciting to see new families, some with small children, beginning to populate the neighborhood. The Berkleys (Dean and Dottie) lived just down from us, across the street, and had two small boys and a new baby. The Rockwells (Perry and Kathy) lived on the lower drive and had a young daughter and son. Together with the Ides’ young son, these little kiddies provided ample opportunity to earn baby- sitting money and I took full advantage! There were also a few children in junior high and high school (my sister was in college at IU).

Most of the homes ran down the hill in front of our house and around the “loop,” across to Dunn and back up the hill beside us. Beyond the bottom of the “loop,” just across the road to the northwest, there was still a farm house, complete with barn and silo. The family living there later moved and their land became part of the new phase of Blue Ridge, but the silo remained for a long time.

I remember a tumultuous time growing up at that time. 1963 was a year of protest marches and violence in the South, all captured on TV. In June, Medgar Evers was gunned down. In September, four little girls were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham. For me and my friend, Nancy Hall (daughter of Wayne and Martha who had moved in across the street), the grim realities we were watching every night rocked our young world. Then on Halloween night, there was an explosion at the Coliseum in Indianapolis, during the Holiday on Ice show, killing over sixty people. And of course, the event that rocked everyone’s world occurred in November, when President Kennedy was assassinated. Nancy and I said that 1963 was the worst year ever and celebrated its end on New Year’s Eve.

However, the tragedies kept coming and hitting closer to home. In May of ’64 there was a fiery and fatal crash at the Indy 500, killing two drivers, including Eddie Sachs, Nancy’s favorite driver, in full view of Nancy and her family who attended the race every year. But the tragedy that struck next was the one that ripped away any sense of safety that Nancy and I might have had. The Masseys lived at the bottom of the “loop” and they had a son that was close to our age. We didn’t know him but had seen him riding his bike around the neighborhood. One afternoon, he and some friends rode their bikes down Dunn near the Griffy dam, where there is a short but very steep hill that makes a sharp turn at the bottom near the treatment plant, a hill that no one I knew would ever risk biking down. The Massey boy, on that day, took the risk, went airborne, and crashed. He died a few days later. Nancy and I were so distraught that her father sat us down and tried to tell us that tragedies will always be a part of life…..not a lesson we wanted to learn at thirteen.

Sadly, this was to be only the first of three tragedies involving young Blue Ridge residents during my time there. Jody Miller, University High School cheerleader and daughter of Tom and Ruthie Miller, was severely injured in a car crash near the stadium and has been in a
convalescent center ever since. And one of the young sons of the Enguidanos family, who lived down the hill from us, was walking down Dunn when he was struck by a car and killed.

Living in Blue Ridge, however, was a wonderful experience. It was a favorite place for my classmates to bring their skateboards (yes, my dad took a few turns on mine) and a great place to walk your dog. Some neighbors kept to themselves and others were, well, neighborly! The wives met for coffee, the men would visit when they were out working on their yards. And the yards were immaculately kept back then…it was a matter of personal pride! There was a Blue Ridge “picnic” every summer and holiday lights decorated the yards at Christmas-time.

My dad and his good friend and neighbor, Wayne Hall, were always playing little tricks on each other. Once, Wayne, who envied my dad’s fruit trees, planted an apple tree and kept waiting for apples to appear that first fall. My dad knew that Wayne probably wouldn’t see any apples until the second season so he took an apple and tied it onto Wayne’s bare tree. The next day Wayne came over and proudly said “look, Odie, my first apple!” My dad finally confessed. So the following summer, Wayne tied a pear on my dad’s apple tree, shocking my dad until he realized he’d been “paid back.”

I moved away from home in 1973 but my parents continued to live there until my mother’s death in 2002. My dad lived there alone until he was moved to Indianapolis in 2006, where he died in 2007. My sister and I kept and maintained the home as our little weekend getaway until we sold it in 2011.We will always miss our home in Blue Ridge!

2017 Blue Ridge Neighborhood Association (BRNA) Spring Cleanup

What: Subsidized pick up of brush and limbs.

Why: The BRNA is sponsoring this collection of plant debris to help BRNA members secure a volume discount. In addition, the collection helps property owners comply with Bloomington’s Municipal Code Title 12, Chapter 12.24.040 (2), which requires property owners to keep brush trimmed from sidewalks and streets.

When: Saturday/Sunday, April 1–2, 2017. Holding the cleanup in early spring, before plants leaf out, reduces the volume and cost.

Who: Property owners and residents who are current on their BRNA dues are eligible to participate.

Note: According to the BRNA constitution: “New members shall owe no dues for the remainder of the calendar year in which they become residents of Blue Ridge.” So, if you are a new resident in 2017, you don’t have to pay any dues in order to participate.

Cost: Participants will pay $20 for the first load (4x4x8 feet). The BRNA will underwrite the remaining cost. Additional loads may be purchased for $40 each. Sign up by Tuesday March 28! Complete the online form and send your payment to BRNA President John Grigutis. You will receive distinctive tag(s) that identify your pile(s) for the contractor, Andy Fosnaugh.

How: By noon on Sunday April 2, stack the material in pile(s) (4x4x8 feet) near the street (NOT in it, please) and tie on your tag(s). The contractor will review the work on Sunday afternoon, so do not add to your pile after that time. Please do not cut brush into small pieces, as this takes longer to load or chip. Individual limbs should be less than 6 inches in diameter. No logs. And, be sure it is only organic material (no rocks, wire, dirt…). These rules allow the BRNA to offer this cleanup and will not be waived. The brush will be collected on Monday and Tuesday, April 3 and 4.

Help recycle! If you would like to have chips from the brush, let us know. The contractor can dump the chips on your driveway or other easily-reached, designated place on your property. This will help save time and cost by keeping some volume in the neighborhood.

Assistance: If you need help moving plant debris to curb, would be willing to assist our elderly or disabled neighbors, and/or can help with the management of this effort, please contact us.

Questions? Call/email John Grigutis (+1 812 369 1008 / or Debora “Ralf” Shaw (+1 812 331 1322 /

Jo Basey Thanked for Eight Years as BRNA President

Jo Basey was President of our Blue Ridge Neighborhood Association from 2007 to 2015. Milestones accomplished during her time in office include:

  • Blue Ridge annual meeting and election of officers conducted as an official meeting separate from the annual picnic
  • Blue Ridge website, which received the City of Bloomington’s 2011 Mayor’s Excellence Award
  • New landscaping and repair for the front gate
  • Spring brush pick-up
  • Smithville fiber optic cable installation

Jo’s fellow members on the Board of Directors thanked her for her service at our latest BRNA meeting. She was presented with a gift certificate from Bloomington Valley Nursery and an illustrated scroll with a limerick commemorating her contributions.


Looking for help on the Blue Ridge Neighborhood Association Board

Dear Blue Ridge Residents,

Our esteemed vice-president of the BRNA, Don Granbois, will soon be moving out of the neighborhood. This means that we are in need of a new vice-president to take his place and are looking for any potential candidates. The duties of the VP “… include performing the duties of the President in his/her absence or incapacity and performing whatever other duties as may be given him/her by the President, Board or membership.”

So if you’d like to get more involved in making your neighborhood a better place, please email

Hand in Hand Program

Do you have non-perishable food items that you’d like to clear out of your pantry? Consider donating them to area food pantries though Stone Belt’s Hand in Hand program. This program provides individual with disabilities meaningful work by helping to collect food donations in neighborhoods in Bloomington and the surrounding area.

Call +1 812 332 2168 or email for more information or to schedule a pickup.

Photos from the 2015 Annual Picnic

Photos from the Smithville Fiber launch event

2015 Neighborhood Brush Cleanup Weekend

2015 Neighborhood Brush Cleanup Weekend

When:  Saturday/Sunday April 4/5 2015.

What: Free pick up of brush and limbs.

Who: All property owners and residents of Blue Ridge who are current on their Blue Ridge dues are welcome and encouraged to participate.

How: On Sat/Sun 4/4-5 stack the material in piles by the street (NOT in it, pls). The collection will actually occur on Monday and Tuesday of the following week, but it must be in place by Sunday afternoon so we can check and verify the amounts. We need to impose limitations on volume in order to stay within budget. 

If you want to use some of the chips that are created in this process, contact us.  We can have the contractor dump a load on your property.  This will help save some resources by keeping some volume in the neighborhood.

Limits: 1 pickup-size load. This is a pile about 4ftx4ftx8ft or the amount a crew can pick up in 20mins or so. Please do not cut into small pieces to reduce volume, this takes longer to load or chip. Cut only into a managable size to be able to get to curb. Individual limbs should be less that 6inch in diameter. No logs.  If you have more than this limit, contact us we may be able to arrange some extra volume for a reasonable price.   And, be sure it is only organic material (limbs, brush).

We will verify the size limits, count and tag the piles before dark on sunday. Please do not add anything after that as it will not get picked up.  The pickup will take place the following Monday-Tuesday.

Why:  The Blue Ridge Neighborhood Association (BRNA) is sponsoring this collection of plant debris to help neighbors out with the discount of volume.   In addition, it is to help folks achieve  compliance with Bloomington’s Municipal Code Title 12, Chapter 12.24.040 (2) , that requires property owners to keep brush trimmed from sidewalks and streets.

Help: If you need assistance with moving plant debris to curb or conversely would be willing to assist our elderly or disabled neighbors, and/or help with the management of this effort, please contact us.

Questions? Call/email Rex Tayloe at 337-9525/, call Don Granbois at 332-5781,  or email the BRNA board (

Watch for additional details near the cleanup day.

Nextdoor: a New Neighborhood Website/Social Network

Greetings fellow Blue Ridgers:

The Bloomington Police Department has partnered with a new neighborhood web service (Nextdoor) and from what I’ve seen, I am very impressed. If everyone signs up, this could become our main communication tool for the neighborhood. The press release follows, but here is the essential info:

Blue Ridge is currently a pilot neighborhood. To become permanent, we would need to have 10 verified members within 21 days. That means we would need at least 8 more people to sign up and verify their addresses by October 22nd. We should be able to do that easily. Our friends to the south in Matlock Heights already have over 50 members.

Signing up is free, easy, and only take a couple of minutes. Use this invitation link:

If you have any questions or concerns, just let me know or take a look at Nextdoor’s help section.

October 1, 2014

For more information, please contact:

Sergeant Pam Gladish
Bloomington Police Department

Captain Joe Qualters
Bloomington Police Department


Bloomington Police Department Adopts Nextdoor; A Private Social Network for Neighborhoods


Partnership Will Enable Police Department to Communicate with Residents and Facilitate Virtual Neighborhood Watch


Bloomington, Indiana – October 1, 2014 – The Bloomington Police Department announced today a partnership with Nextdoor (, the private social network for neighborhoods, to build stronger, safer communities with the help of residents.

This integration with Nextdoor will enable the Bloomington Police Department to communicate online with Bloomington neighborhoods. Residents and police will be able to work together to improve safety and strengthen neighborhood watch efforts.

With Nextdoor, Bloomington residents can join private neighborhood websites to share information, including neighborhood public safety issues, community events and activities, local services, and even lost pets. The Bloomington Police Department will be able to post information, such as safety tips and crime alerts, to Nextdoor websites within the city.

Nextdoor is free for residents and the Police Department. Each Bloomington neighborhood has its own private Nextdoor neighborhood website accessible only to residents who verify that they live in the neighborhood. Neighborhoods establish and self-manage their own Nextdoor websites and the Police Department will not be able to access residents’ websites, contact information, or content. Information shared on Nextdoor is password protected and cannot be accessed by search engines.

“We continue to take advantage of innovative ways to increase safety for our residents. With Nextdoor, we can help empower neighbors to keep their communities safe and connected and give them the ability to collaborate on virtual neighborhood watch efforts,” said Bloomington Police Captain Joe Qualters. “We see this as another way to promote communication and the exchange of information between the Department and Bloomington neighborhoods.”

Those interested in joining their neighborhood’s Nextdoor website can visit and enter their address. If residents have questions about their Nextdoor website, please visit


Photos from the 2014 Annual Picnic