The official Bicentennial photographic history book will share stories that have made Hamilton County what it is today — stories of triumph, devastation, progress and barriers to progress. This submission by Julie Davis has us singing the praises of Mildred Bishop, who influenced the lives of young people for decades throughout Cicero, Arcadia and Atlanta.
For the children of the Tri Town area, music education was not limited to what they received in school, thanks to Arcadia resident Mildred Bishop. “Mid” was an amazing woman who dedicated her life to the young people of the community. According to Lois Costomiris, local historian and writer, the choir began in 1936 when six young girls, fighting with some of their playmates, confided in Mid and were soothed as she gathered them around her piano and led them as they sang some familiar songs.
The members of Mid Bishop’s Choir increased in number throughout the years. Children and teens formed the Tri Town Choir, and a Cherub Choir was made up of children ages 2 to 8. “If a tot could sit on a chair, Mid can take him,” Costomiris said. Various break-out groups formed, with trios, quartets, and sextets, and with the advent of the folk music era in the 1960s, the Jackson Folksingers became Mid’s chief performance group. There was no cost for participation in any of Mid’s choirs.
The annual spring concert was held on the stage of the Jackson Township School, and included numbers by the full choirs, as well as ensembles, solos, dance numbers, and skits. A crowd favorite was the singing of “In the Good Old Summertime,” while two lucky choir members were pushed on flowered swings that Mid’s husband Shelton had somehow mounted to the stage ceiling. The choirs found themselves onstage again during the Christmas season, with a living nativity, shepherds, wise men, and angels with coat hangers and paper wings raising their voices in “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” A free will offering was collected at both concerts, with funds donated to a family in need or a scholarship offered to a worthy choir member.
Mid Bishop made certain that her choir had opportunities for exposure. She registered her singers — soloists, ensembles, and trios — in the Indiana District Music Contest at Ball State University every year. After weeks of preparation, rarely did a choir student receive anything other than a first-place medal. Members of Mid’s choirs and singing groups also found themselves performing for local events, such as the 1964 Hootenanny hosted in the high school gym. The Jackson Folksingers, in their red and white striped shirts, were featured at Indiana Beach and on several local TV programs. They received a first-place rating at the state contest with Mozart’s “Ave Verum” but were just as comfortable singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
No one who was a member of Mid’s choir will ever forget her or the wonderful experiences she gave them. Just as her choir began by bringing together young girls with disagreements, perhaps Mid Bishop did more to unite the children of Atlanta, Arcadia, and Cicero than may ever be realized.
The Hamilton County Bicentennial is proudly supported by Duke Energy, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners, Hamilton County Tourism Inc., and Hamilton County Historical Society.