52 Ancestors,
in 52 Weeks
Week 32:
In The City
Family Finds Charter Oak

In the City: Indianapolis

My father, Bob LaFara, lived most his life in the city of Indianapolis. He told many stories about his childhood, growing up in the east-side neighborhood of Irvington. I wrote about Irvington this year for the prompt “Favorite Place”. [1] My father created his own website back in the early 90’s called Bob’s Crafts, in addition to craft projects, he also shared a few of his stories. [2] This week I am sharing one of his stories about life in the city when he was a boy.

Bob’s Crafts

My father’s website is still online and we have resisted redesigning it for SEO. The stories were written with his grandson’s in mind and he refers to himself as “Grandpa”. This story is about the garbage collectors in his boyhood neighborhood during the mid-1930’s. These are my father’s original illustrations. [3]

Bob LaFara 1937


by Bob LaFara

When grandpa was a boy, there was no television. But, grandpa found other interesting things to do. One of the things that he liked to do was watch the garbage men work.

UGH!”, you say, “who wants to talk about garbage?

It isn’t about garbage but how it was collected (there weren’t any garbage disposers in our kitchens, either.) Garbage (and on a different day, trash) was picked up by horse (or mule) drawn carts. These carts were called “gondolas.” They looked something like this picture. The color was more of a dirty orange.

Garbage Gondola

They were specially built for this purpose and they were made of heavy steel. The body could be rolled sideways to dump the garbage. There were two covers that could be pulled down like window shades to cover the garbage when the gondola was full. An end view of a gondola looked something like this drawing.

Endview of Gondola

There was a seat on each end for the crew. A two horse team could be harnessed to either end of the gondola to pull it. In cold weather, a large bucket was hung from the rear end and a fire was kept going in the bucket. The crew, a driver and a helper, could warm their hands over the fire. Both men worked picking up garbage and throwing it in the gondola. While they walked along beside the gondola, the driver would shout at the horses, “Giddyup” or “Whoa” to tell the horses when to start and stop. If there was a long distance between pickups (or there were corners to turn), the men rode on the gondola and the driver controlled the horses with the reins.

The men had to drive several miles to get to our neighborhood to start picking up garbage. It was also a long way to the dump to empty the gondola. Instead of taking the full gondola to the dump every time it was filled, there were several places where the crew could drop off a full gondola and pick up an empty one. One of those places was across the street in front of our house. While crews were picking up garbage, another man would bring out three empty gondolas which he pulled with a special truck.

Gondola Train

He would unhook the truck and leave the empty gondolas there.

Now, this was the beginning of the fun part. I would sit on our front step and wait for the full gondolas to arrive. Pretty soon, two men riding on a full gondola (shades down) pulled by two horses would arrive. The driver would stop at the curb with a little distance between his horses and the end empty gondola.

Gondola hitch
Gondola hitch pin

The driver would unhitch the team from the full gondola. He did this by removing the entire tongue of the gondola which was attached to a draw bar and the horse’s harness. He then turned the horses around and backed them up to the empty gondola.

Gondola Train de-couple

In a little while, a different crew would arrive and go through the same procedure of leaving a full gondola and taking an empty one. Later, a third crew would arrive and exchange with the last empty gondola. The truck driver would come later. He would hook his truck to the first full gondola, then back it into another one so he could connect it, and finally into the third one. When they were all connected together, he would tow the whole train to the dump to empty the gondolas.

On another day of the week I could watch the whole thing again when they were picking up trash. We had to set out our garbage and trash on different days. In those days, we set out large buckets of ashes from our coal fires. The men had to be very strong to lift those heavy tubs up to dump them in a gondola.

Wooden train


I hope you enjoyed this story written by my father about life in the city of Indianapolis during the 1930’s. He would enjoy knowing I shared it. Read more of his stories, or try his craft projects, on his website, Bob’s Crafts. [4] I have previously written about my father for this year’s prompts “Air” and “Father”. [5, 6]

Bob's Stuff


While writing this, I thought of a documentary I watched a few years ago. The title is “Trash Dance” and it’s about a choreographer who persuades sanitation workers to perform a “dance” with their trucks. It’s worth a watch, 100% Rotten Tomatoes. Find it for free with ads on Vudu.


  1. Blog post, Family Finds: Favorite Place; https://barblafara.com/favorite-place/
  2. Webpage, Bob’s Crafts: Stories; https://bobscrafts.com/bobstuff/stories.htm
  3. Webpage, Bob’s Crafts: The Garbage Truck Ballet; https://bobscrafts.com/bobstuff/garbage.htm
  4. Website, Bob’s Crafts; https://bobscrafts.com/bobstuff/index.htm
  5. Blog post, Family Finds: Air; https://barblafara.com/air/
  6. Blog post, Family Finds: Father; https://barblafara.com/father/


  1. Cheryl Schulte

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post on your father’s experience with garbage collectors. My little great-nephew just loves garbage trucks and if he was a bit older I could share this with him. Interestingly I just bought him a couple books on garbage collectors and then I see your post.

    • Barb LaFara

      Thanks Cheryl! My father enjoyed writing these stories and I plan to share others in the future.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Remember Me and I Will Live

Frank Takeo Flucawa

Born Takeo Furukawa on 15 March 1883 in Tottori-Ken, Tokyo, Japan, little is documented of his early childhood. Family oral history stories say that the young Takeo experienced hunger, poverty and the loss of his family. Additionally, the stories tell of friendship, spiritual learning and scholarship.

David L. Osborne: His Indianapolis Homes

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne, lived at over 20 addresses around Indianapolis between 1876 and 1942. I thought it would be interesting to see all the old buildings and homes where he lived in my hometown of Indianapolis.

The Marriage of David and Jennie Osborne

My great grandfather, David Louis Osborne (1848-1942), was a widower with two young sons in 1886 when he married Jennie Warbington (1857-1918) in Minneapolis on the 27th of May. I decided it was time to put sources to the story.

Do You See A Resemblance?

While working on a family photo project I decided it would be fun to compare side-by-side my father and his parents, at similar ages, to try and discover a family resemblance.

Probate of Jesse King 1868

Jesse King was born in Ohio (probably in the vicinity of Chillicothe) in 1805, he was a son of Philip King and Mary Leah Wright, both of Pennsylvania. Philip King was a farmer, he married Leah Wright in 1801 in Somerset, PA, they had six children, of whom Jesse was the third.

Letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary

A handwritten letter from Sarah Tucker Lafary to the then president of the United States, Grover Cleveland. It was her last appeal for a War of 1812 pension, sadly the pension was denied. The letter gives a glimpse of a woman who had no formal education, a poor farmers wife, then widow, mother of nine, she probably just wanted some independence through an income of her own.

Sarah Smith: Challenge

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 2: Challenge
So much about genealogy research is a challenge, perhaps the most common challenge is the ‘brick wall,’ meet Sarah Smith. 18?? – 1846

Laferre to LaFara: Unusual Name

The surnames in my tree are typical of common western European names. However, the name that is unusual among these names is MY surname: LaFara.

Luella Pressell: Surprise!

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 6: Surprise!
Just when you think you know everything about an ancestor, surprise! I thought I knew most everything about my paternal great grandfather David L. Osborne, 1848-1942.

Rumple Family Photo 1895

For all of us who are procrastinating about labeling photos I have one thing to say, “Be considerate of the genealogist of the future!” My maternal grandmother was very good about labeling old family photos, and there is one, in particular, I found very informative.

Conrad Rumple: Bachelor Uncle

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 10: Bachelor Uncle
My uncles are the marrying kind, sometimes more than once!
I had to go back four generations for a bachelor uncle, my great-great-great uncle Conrad Rumple, 1833-1911.
Conrad was an older brother to my great-great grandfather on my matrilineal line, William Rumple, 1839-1912.

George Lafary and Catherine Landon: Large Family

My great-great grandparents, George Lafary and Catherine Landon, had a relatively small family, three of their six children survived to adulthood. However, they both came from large families of nine siblings and nearly all survived to marry and have children.

In The Paper

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 13: In The Paper
It’s fun to find articles in the paper mentioning one of my relatives. Mostly they are birth, marriage, divorce and death events. But, it’s the oddball articles in the papers I like the most.

Genealogy Brick Walls

52 Ancestors, in 52 Weeks – Week 14: Brick Wall
We all have a brick wall, that one ancestor who defies all research. I decided I would work at my brick walls by generation, I broke through the last of my 3rd great grandparent brick walls, now I am working on 4th great grandparents.

Catherine Landon: Out of Place

I realized I did not have a date of death for my great, great grandmother, Catherine Landon Lafary. A fresh search uncovered the date and much more. Out of place, but once discovered, everything fell into place.