On the road in Indiana

Sunday afternoon, August 2, 1987, found me hopping a train to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, about 170 miles east of Chicago. It was pouring rain, lightning and thundering as the train dumped me off in Ft. Wayne, a city of 170,000. Having no idea where I was going to stay, I found a phone booth inside the train station and thumbed through the hotel and motel section of the phone book. One of my rules of thumb I always tried to follow was: never make a reservation at a hotel/ motel unless I physically saw it beforehand with my own eyes. I had found many of the major hotel chains to be inconsistent and just because it had a name like Sheraton or Hilton, it didn't mean the property was up to snuff. So, I did something I thought I'd never do, I ripped out the pages in the phone book listing the various hotels/motels in Ft. Wayne. It was one of my pet peeves; coming into a town, getting a phone book to check out the different accommodations and finding out after opening the directory that some idiot had torn out the hotel/motel sections. Here I was doing the same thing! Picture this, I'm in the train station with my loaded down bike, there's no one else in the building except for the man behind the ticket counter, and I walk up to him and point to a hotel on one of the pages I had ripped out and ask him how to get there. What are the first words out of his mouth? "Did you rip that out of the phone book?", he asks. I sheepishly nodded my head. He says, "Who do you think you are coming into our town and ripping out phone books so that no one else can use them?" Boy, he sure made me feel like dirt. He continued chewing me out for several minutes and there wasn't much I could do because it was pouring, thundering and lightning outside. Finally, I said, "Look, I apologize for what I did, I don't normally do that kind of stuff and if you'll just tell me how much it costs to get a new phone book, I'll give you the money to get a new one." It looked like the rain was never going to let up so, I eventually headed out in the rain. I ended up staying downtown in the Ft. Wayne Hilton, a new hotel adjacent to the Ft. Wayne Convention Center.

Lincoln National Corporation

Lincoln National Corporation, is the 15th largest diversified financial services company in the United States (based on assets). I met with Richard Vicars, Senior Vice President. Corporate headquarters, according to Vicars, is composed of the 8-story building (which was built in 1976), and several close-by buildings, including a 300,000-square foot building located a few miles away. Total office space is 1,100,000,000 square feet. Lincoln National leases space in the 8-story structure I was in (which houses the CEO's office and boardroom). There are several other tenants in the building. Over 3400 employees work in various buildings around town. On the first floor of the building is the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum. Back in 1905, the company was granted permission to use the Lincoln name by Abraham Lincoln's eldest son, Robert Todd Lincoln. Louis A. Warren was a founding director of the company. The library houses the largest private collection of organized information on Abraham Lincoln. Out front of one of the adjacent buildings (which was built in the 1920's), is a large statue of a young Abraham Lincoln. In the back of the 8-story structure is a sculpture garden with works by Richard Stankiewicz, George Sugarman, Bill Barrett and George Rickey. Lincoln National also has a sculpture by Seward Johnson. I had been seeing Johnson's incredible life-like sculptures all over the country. This particular work was one of seven kids holding hands as if they were running around in a circle. Unless you got within fifteen feet, you wouldn't know the kids were statues. Headquarters complex and size of town reminds me of my visit to two other insurance companies; Provident Life & Accident in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Torchmark in Birmingham, Alabama. Vicars received 8 points on my 1-10 scale.

Central Soya Company

The main reception area for Central Soya Company is on the 13th floor of a 26-story office building in downtown Ft. Wayne. Central Soya, a privately held company, leases about six floors (60,000-square feet), in a plain, drab office building which was built around 1970. About 360 employees work in the building. Central Soya is one of the nation's largest processors of soybeans and related products. I met with Mack Wootten, Vice President-Administration & Corporate Secretary. I wasn't allowed to see the CEO's office or boardroom. Wootton scored 6 points on my 1-10 scale.

Ball Corporation

Heading south, I arrived in Muncie, (population 77,000), around 5:30 p.m. and found my way to the headquarters of Ball Corporation. The concrete, 4-story building had a plaque out near the front steps which said, "Ball, Corporate Offices." The building was locked but, I saw a security guard inside sitting behind a desk and after explaining to her what I was doing, she let me in to take a look at an exhibit set up in the lobby. The exhibit was one of those that shows the company "through the years." Lots of antique canning jars and containers were displayed. As I went through the exhibit, I was surprised to find out Ball does a lot of defense contracting.

On the road in Indianapolis

I was up and on the road to Indianapolis by 6:30 a.m. the next morning after deciding it wasn't worth waiting until 9:00 a.m. to visit Ball Corporation because the headquarters looked pretty functional and ordinary.

Eli Lilly

Corporate headquarters for Eli Lilly is on a 76-acre, campus-like setting a few blocks from downtown. Something in the air smelled like yeast and I was to later find out it was from the plant across the street manufacturing Penicillin. I met with Anita Martin, Archivist (a super lady!), in a building called the "Lilly Center." The building is sort of a museum and visitors center. Lilly Corporate Center (that's what the complex is known as) is big. How big? About forty buildings with a total square footage of 2,423,937. Over 4000 employees work on the site which has two cafeterias. One of the perks of working for Eli Lilly is "free medicine" to all employees. The Administration building which looks like it was built in the late 1950's, or early 1960's, is a 12-story structure with a penthouse atop it. Corporate art collection consists of a small collection of Indiana artists. There are 3665 parking spaces with managers on up and employees with 25 years or more of service getting reserved parking spots. Dorothy Beisenger, the receptionist in the Lilly Center, was completing her 50th year of service. On the property is a replica of Eli Lilly's original laboratory from 1876. There are no recreational facilities but, many employees walk around the beautifully landscaped premises during lunch. Most of the buildings are connected underground via a walkway. The company has four corporate aircraft and the airport is six miles away. Martin scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.

American United Life Insurance Company

American United Life Insurance Company is a mutual life insurance company with over $5 billion in revenues. Headquarters is a company-owned, 38-story structure built in 1982. The building, the tallest in Indianapolis, was designed by the well-known firm out of Chicago-Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. I met with Jim Hetherington, Vice President, Corporate Communications Department. The view from the boardroom on the 36th floor, (the top two floors house mechanical equipment) is a great one! Also located on the 36th floor is The Skyline Club, a private club. Where's the CEO's office? It's not on the 36th floor but on the third floor so he can be "close to the troops." The CEO, I was told, is 77 years old, which makes him the oldest "Big Cheese" I've come across on my travels. The CEO and president get the only reserved parking spaces. About 800 employees work in the building which has 800,000 square feet. Hetherington scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.

Indiana Farm Bureau

The Indiana Farm Bureau Cooperative Association leases space in an old, drab office building in downtown. I arrived around 4:45 p.m. and the security guard/receptionist sent me up to talk to Susan Farrell, Recruiting and Career Development Specialist, Employee Services. Over 300 employees work in the dumpy, no-frills headquarters. The company occupies floors 5-12 in the 12-story structure and have been in the building since 1978. I did get to see the CEO's office and boardroom, both of which had the 1960's look. Over 65,000 farmers belong to the Farm Bureau Co-op. Farrell scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.

Indianapolis, with a population of over 700,000, is very clean (litter-wise). I don't know if that's the norm or if it's because the Pan-Am Games were scheduled to start in Indianapolis in two days. I spent a night at the downtown Hyatt, the official headquarters hotel for the Pan-Am Games. The hotel was filled with tons of officials from foreign countries, all trying to act like they were very important. At 11:00 p.m., I found myself walking the downtown streets of Indianapolis and feeling safe. Is Indianapolis one of the few major cities where you can do that or was it because of the extra police being out because of the Pan-Am Games?

Cummins Engine Company

About 45 miles south of Indianapolis is Columbus, Indiana, home to 30,000 people and the corporate headquarters of Cummins Engine Company. The company had been listed in the book, "The 100 Best Companies to Work for in America." I was anticipating a warm reception because of its listing in the book and because I'm generally well-received in small communities. The 3-story, 3-block long, white structure is located right smack in downtown. The main reception/lobby area is manned by a security guard/receptionist. There are several interesting displays in the lobby area: a bronzed model of Cummins' largest diesel engine-the KTA50, a car entered by Cummins in the Indianapolis "500" race, and an engine whose components have been suspended in space by stainless steel cables. I met with Mary Ann McCray, Director, Community Relations. McCray showed no interest in my project and was very indifferent. In a word, she was "blah." I had to pry information out of her. The company doesn't own the building but, leases. It was built in 1984 at a cost of $52 million. The six-block site houses 700 employees, has 650 parking spaces for employees, 45 for visitors. The principal architect of the concrete and glass building was Kevin Roche. I did get to see the president's office and I specifically asked if I could see the cafeteria because it was located in the "Cerealine Building." Built in 1867, this 5-story structure used to be part of the old Cerealine grain complex. Cerealine, a dried corn product, was one of the world's first dry breakfast cereals. Anyway, the building has been restored and is connected to the headquarters complex and now houses the company's cafeteria. The company has three corporate aircraft with the airport being fifty miles away. The grounds were beautiful, with lots of trees and the grass being a lush green. McCray scored 5 points on my 1-10 scale.

I spent about an hour riding around Columbus checking out its architecture because many of the buildings and churches in this small, unassuming town were designed by well-known architectural firms such as Cesar Pelli; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; I.M. Pei & Partners; and Eliel Saarinen. My next destination was Louisville, Kentucky which was due south of Columbus but, first, I headed west about forty miles to check out Bloomington, home to 50,000 people and Indiana University. Halfway between Columbus and Bloomington is the town of Nashville, population 700. The town of Nashville is only three blocks long but there must have been 300 arts and crafts stores and galleries. It looked like someone had taken Carmel, California and plopped it into the middle of Indiana.

After leaving Bloomington, the countryside was beautiful, with rolling hills and fertile farm land. I passed dozens of roadside fruit and vegetable stands, my favorite places being the ones with cherry cider. Stopped and filled one of my water bottles up with cider at Appleacres, a roadside stand outside of Bedford. From Bedford down to Louisville is supposed to be Amish country. I didn't see any Amish except for the women selling their wares at the numerous roadside stands. The countryside is similar to what I passed through outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is also populated with the Amish.