No history of Anderson would be complete without mention of Ike Duffey.
Ike first surfaced as owner of the Chief Anderson Packing Co. on West Eighth Street. But Duffey was a man of many interests, and the advent of pro basketball piqued his interest. He invested in a franchise that would be an important part of the formation of the National Basketball Association, the Anderson Packers. For several years in the 1940s, the Packers drew sizable crowds in the old Anderson Wigwam, playing against teams from both large and small cities, including the Minneapolis Lakers, as dominant then as they are now in Los Angeles.
Anderson, however, was one of the smaller cities in the NBA, and eventually the financial pressures resulted in the team’s demise.
Meanwhile, Emge Packing Co., headquartered in Fort Branch, bought out Anderson’s Chief Anderson meat packing plant, keeping the Chief Anderson name on some of its products. For many years Emge was one of Anderson’s largest industries.
Eventually, competition in the meat packing industry put financial pressure on the Emge family, and the business was sold. It is now a subsidiary of Excel and still delivers meat products to area stores. But as the business was scaled back, the Anderson plant was closed and operations consolidated in Fort Branch. The old Emge plant in Anderson is now used by the city of Anderson.
And what of Ike Duffey? He became a railroad tycoon of sorts. He was named president of one of the last of the short line railroads, the Central Indiana Railway, taking a salary of $1 a year.
According to local historian Roger Hensley, the Central Indiana Railway, originally opened in the 1870s, at its peak stretched from Muncie to Brazil, and its advent was in part responsible for the existence of the town of Lapel. In 1943, however, with the line using mostly outdated equipment and struggling to survive, most of the line’s track was abandoned, leaving only 43.95 miles from Anderson to Lebanon.
Duffey was determined to make the Central Indiana Railway profitable, signing on in 1951. A hands-on executive, he gave the railroad a degree of maintenance it had never known before. The tiny railroad continued making regular runs until it was sold in 1986 and became the Central Indiana & Western.
Duffey owned two private passenger cars, and he used them in the 1950s to further his love of sports. He would schedule regular excursions to major league baseball games in Cincinnati and Chicago.
Duffey died of cancer in the late 1960s, at which time Paul Perdiue assumed duties as head of the Central Indiana Railway. The evolution of the railroad picture in the 1960s, however, portended a limited future for one of the country’s smallest rail companies.
Certainly Anderson’s past was made more colorful with the contributions of Ike Duffey.
Jim Bailey’s reflections on Anderson’s past appear on Sunday. His regular column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey @earthlink.net.