Treasured memories

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Geist resident Ken Gardner enjoys cars, motorcycles from his youth

By Mark Ambrogi

Ken Gardner describes himself as an “American Graffiti” type of kid.

Gardner, 65, is referring to the 1973 movie about coming of age in 1962.

“I’m kind of lost in the ‘50s and ‘60s,” said Gardner, who grew up in Bedford, Pa. “I grew up then and we all look back at our youth and things that we loved.”

So Gardner, who has lived in the Geist area for about 15 years, collects items that reminds him of that time, a juke box full of ’50s and ‘60s hits, an erector set, an old-time gasoline pump and four vintage cars, a 1934 Coupe Hot Rod, a 1937 Ford Club Cabriolet, a 1966 Corvette and 1957 Thunderbird, and two motorcycles.

Gardner plans to complete a Bucket List type feat by racing his Birmingham Small Arms motorcycle in a stock class at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah next year.

Gardner, who has worked for Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 18 years, is in charge for finding work for IMS five TV trucks when they are not needed for Indy Car.

“We do the Colts preseason games, the Pacers at home,” Gardner said. “We have a truck in L.A. that does the Lakers. We do professional bull riding and the Mecum Auto Auctions.”

Gardner, who got first class FCC license to work on TV transmitters from DeVry University, has been involved in the technical side of TV broadcasting for his entire career, working for WLFI in Lafayette for several years.

“In my career, I’ve done every major sporting event there is in the United States at least once,” Gardner said. “I’ve done everything from the Masters to the Final Four to the Super Bowl. At this point, my real focus in the automobile stuff and I enjoy that.”

Gardner said his claim to fame is he was the one who told the camera operator to focus on Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight during his chair throwing against Purdue in 1985.

“I said follow Bobby because he’s upset about something,” Gardner said. “We went to commercial break and I was the only guy that kept recording.”

Holding a charity car show

Gardner is serving as event coordinator for Cars for Kids on July 11 at Geist Chapel Church’s parking lot at 12549 Old Stone Dr. Gardner and his wife are church members.

The car show proceeds will go to the youth ministry and the Life Centers of Indiana. It costs $15 for car registration. Public can come in to see the cars for free. There will be music from the ‘50s through the ‘70s and food vendors.

Gardner and his wife are passionately pro-life supporters.

“What the Life Centers do is try to give the girls alternatives to abortion, whether it’s to raise the kid or put the kid up for adoption,” said Gardner, who has four children and three grandchildren. “It’s important for me from that standpoint.”

Registration is from 10 a.m. to noon. Judging will take place at 3 p.m., with awards at 4 p.m.

This is the first car show Gardner has run in Indianapolis. However, Gardner used to help ran car shows for Muscular Dystrophy for several years when he lived in Lafayette 20-plus years ago.

“Then we used to have proms for the adults, which was a neat thing because it raised a lot of money,” he said. “The Holiday Inn would give us the ballroom for free and we charge $50 a couple. I bought a juke box we gave away. Every year we would raise between $11,000 and $17,000. I did that in conjunction with the (former Lafayette) police chief Gene Reed.”

Meet Ken Gardner

Personal: Married Melissa Miles, his second wife, 18 years ago in Branson, Mo. Melissa, a former singer on cruise ships and in Branson, Mo., sings for a Gospel trio called Redeem the Time. Has four children, Katie, Nathan, Erin and Sarah, from his first marriage and three grandchildren. Played basketball for the late Royce Waltman at Bedford High School. Waltman later served as Indiana State head coach and IU assistant.

Favorite childhood memory: “We won a race and qualified for Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway, the big East Coast modified race. So when I was 14 or 15, I took a bus to go to Langhorne to watch (Bedford race car driver) Boyd Arnold race. I grew up a half-mile from a dirt (race) track.” Gardner had helped on Arnold’s car.

Favorite musicians: “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and Sam and Dave. I like soul music a lot. Really wasn’t caught up in Iron Butterfly and that kind of stuff.”

Favorite TV show: “Gunsmoke.”

Favorite movie: “American Graffiti.” Naturally.


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