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RUTH MORGAN


Source: Tri-County News, Waveland, Montgomery County Indiana April 12, 1956


If Ruth MORGAN was excited that February night way back in 1932, when the Waveland Bank was being subjected to a series of dynamite explosions, it probably was a mild experience for her compared with the thrills and excitement she must have felt last night when, as Ruth Joiner, she was the honored guest on "This is Your Life" television program. Ruth's life has been checked full of excitement and suspense along with an undue amount of disappointments and heartaches. And this was all well portrayed on the popular Ralph Edward's broadcast Wednesday night from Hollywood, California. To her many friends in Waveland, Crawfordsville and other areas of the state, her presence on the program also came as a thrilling moment. To the many friends and acquaintances who necessarily had to know about the event beforehand, it was even more suspenseful because the element of complete secrecy had to be maintained at all costs. Teacher of the third grade in Mt. Zion school, Union Twp, Ruth had to be persuaded to go to Hollywood on some pretext which would not arouse her suspicion. This was done thru the Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools, John W. Ward, who told her that one teacher from the county was eligible to attend classes at UCLA for special training and that he had selected her. At first reluctant to leave her work, Ruth was finally prevailed upon to accept the honor and left Tuesday for California. The people who plan the "This is Your Life" shows had meanwhile began an intensive research into Ruth's past history, made dozens of contacts with her friends and acquaintances and arranged for some of them to come to Hollywood to appear on the program. They requested that all should maintain the strictest secrecy, saying that the program would have to be cancelled if Mrs. Joiner learned about it. So it was very natural that everyone - and that included a major portion of the population in central Western Indiana - was unduly nervous waiting the beginning of the program Wednesday night. Mr. Edwards made his appearance among the audience as the show opened and gradually worked his way towards Mrs. Joiner who was seated with Mr. and Mrs. Ward. She appeared to be completely astounded when she read her own name on the book titles, "This is Your Life." The biographical portion of the program began by showing three persons drawing straws, and Ruth related how she and two fellow workers had selected this means of determining who should make a visit to the Indian State Prison at Michigan City. Ruth won - and thereby nearly lost her life. While walking down a corridor, she and a coworker, Mrs. Georgia Cole were grabbed by three prisoners who were attempting to escape. For two hours and 20 minutes, the trio held her hostage in the doctor's office in the prison hospital while they negotiated with Warden Alfred F. Dowd in an effort to secure guns and passage from the prison. Frequently, they threatened Mrs. Joiner with death. Held prisoner with her was Leroy Hunt, a hospital worker, now of Detroit. Previously, a guard Joe Petroski had been severely wounded in an attempt to rescue Mrs. Joiner from the prisoners. Warden Dowd, stalling for time, had called in state troopers and when the prisoners' attention was diverted from Ruth for a brief moment, the troopers fired at the prisoners, wounding and recapturing them. Two ricocheting bullets wounded Mrs. Joiner. The program adopted a flash-back style to portray some of Mrs. Joiner's history, recalling her childhood days on the farm near Waveland and presenting her sister, Mrs. Lee Brookshire of Converse and brother, Robert Morgan of Crawfordsville. Her struggle to work her way thru ISTC at Terre Haute was told by a roommate, Agnes Moore, now of Evansville. The incident of the attempt to burglarize the State Bank of Waveland in 1932 was recalled for the program by Theron Banta who paid tribute to Ruth as a real heroine as she worked at her job as night operator in the Waveland telephone office despite bullets whizzing into and around the building. Ruth alerted enough of the town's vigilantes to give battle to the burglars and defeat them in their attempt to loot the bank. As a fitting climax her daughter, Mrs. Jerry Lou Garrett appeared on the program and was followed by one of Ruth's pupils, Judith Dye, from Mt. Zion school who summed up the attitude of all the pupils and a great many of Ruth's friends when she said, "We think Mrs. Joiner is just the best teacher in the whole world." Among the gifts Mrs. Joiner received was a 1956 Mercury Phaeton and she along with all the people previously mentioned who appeared on the show were guests at a party given at the Hotel Knickerbocker in Hollywood following the program. Much of the material used by Mr. Edwards in compiling data for the show had been taken from a scrapbook owned by Ruth's aunt, Mrs. Carl Smith of Waveland. A tri-County News photo of this material is shown here. Ruth is the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Morgan and spent her early years in Waveland graduating from the local high school. She expects to receive her Master's Degree from Indiana State Teachers College this summer.


Note: Ruth Morgan (Joiner Thomas) was my mother's 1st cousin. My mother, Kate Smith Bazzani was the one who wrote to Ralph Edwards on This is Your Life and did all the paper work and phone calls, and letters to get Ruth on the show. Although mom didn't get asked to be on the show much to her disappointment, she did have a huge party the night of the show (we had one of the few tvs in town) and our large living room was jammed-packed. I remember sitting on top of someone's shoulders watching the show live. Very exciting! - Karen Bazzani Zach, 16-year coordinator for Montgomery County GenWeb

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© Copyright 2013 Karen Zach

Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the submitter, for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information.

Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the copyright holder(s), for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information. © 2014 by Karen Zach, and licensed to the Indiana GenWeb (INGenWeb) Project and the USGenWeb Project. May be used in personal research with a citation.

This page created:  

12 October 2012