Video Special: Culver Indiana and Vonnegut: a documentary

Posted: September 21, 2015 in Kurt Vonnegut
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“Culver Indiana and Vonnegut: a documentary”



“Culver Indiana and Vonnegut: a documentary”

This video explores the rich history of Culver, Indiana  (and Lake Maxinkuckee) and its special relationship with renown author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.. Join us as we explore the crossroads of culture and personal identity.



Lake Maxinkuckee (Panorama)

“That will always be an enchanted body of water to me, my Agean Sea, perfect in every dimension. When I was twelve or so, I swam its width, as had my father and my brother and my cousin Richard – – and I became a man.”  -Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. on Lake Maxinkuckee.

Ryan’s Notes:

vonnegut-cottage-814-east-shore-dr-summer-1889 (2)

Historical photo of 814 East Shore Dr.

Kurt Vonnegut spent his early summers vacationing along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Maxinkuckee in the town of Culver, Indiana. Located along this scenic, high-bluff of prime real estate were a number of cottages owned by Vonnegut family members. The entire clan traveled to this idyllic location set halfway between Chicago and Indianapolis (Kurt’s hometown). Vacationing here wasn’t simply a chance for the young author to get away from the city, it was also an opportunity to reconnect with extended members of the family and reaffirm the rugged individualism that was a part of the Vonnegut spirit.



Clemens Vonnegut, Jr. House

Some time ago, NDIOS set out to do an episode on Kurt Vonnegut’s seminal classic “Slaughterhouse-Five“. We had a unique opportunity to record this episode at the Clemens Vonnegut, Jr, House. This  frame-cottage was formerly owned by Kurt’s great-uncle. We thought it might be fun to bring some gear out to this historical house and record our podcast review there.



Ryan, Rick and Jeff Kenney

In preparing for the remote recording, Rick pointed Ryan toward an article written by Jeff Kenney (Editor of the Culver Citizen newspaper, Curator of the Culver Academies Museum and a Local Historian) for the Culver-Union Township Library website (The Vonnegut Families of Lake Maxinkuckee). This article gave some details on the Vonnegut connection to the lake including some historical photos. We reached out to Jeff and asked if he’d sit down for an interview on the subject. He agreed.

To prepare, Ryan and Rick did some research checking out stuff written by Jeff and reading two books:

We Never Danced Cheek to Cheek

Majie’s book

“We Never Danced Cheek to Cheek: The Young Kurt Vonnegut in Indianapolis and Beyond” written by Majie Alford Failey. Majie who was a childhood friend of Kurt who kept in contact with the author, and had a unique inside perspective into the author’s personal life. She also spoke on Kurt’s connection with Indiana and the various locales he and his family were associated with.

Renovating Vonnegut

Sarah’s book

“Renovating Vonnegut: How a Black Sheep Opened the Side Door to High Society for a Band of Modern Misfits” by Sarah Handyside. Sarah was part of the team who helped to renovate the Clemens Vonnegut, Jr. House. The house was purchased by Old East Shore, LLC, updated with a care towards its vintage heritage and turned into a vacation rental property. During her time at the property, Sarah, researched the history of the town and the Vonneguts. Her book tells two parallel tales: the story of the town and some of its more well-known inhabitants, and the story of the renovation itself while she stayed there.

The more we looked into things the more it seemed that this place did have an interesting story, and the more it became apparent that this renown author was touched by his experiences there. So, we enlisted the many talents of long-time NDIOS ally Dole, for videography and musicology (and any other tricks he could pull out of his multi-talented repertoire).


Toad near the Old Vonnegut Orchards

What follows is an interview  with Jeff (roughly an hour long), pieced together with musical elements, video footage of the locale, and historical photos. The story that emerges is the dual tale of a town and the familial history of the Vonneguts as it related to that place. Certain places touch people though out their life, and through our research it became apparent that this was one of those places for Kurt. Even after his various and numerous family members sold their property there, Kurt returned to this place at various points in his life, and also mentioned it in an interview and personal letter to a relative.

We hope you will enjoy our little documentary that focuses on a small, but important part of the author’s life. Join us as we explore the crossroads of culture and personal identity.

Thanks to everyone involved who helped us put this thing together!  -Ryan

Rick’s Notes:

Rick getting ready to cruise the lake

Our first NDIOS video production. It wouldn’t have been possible without all the talents and determination of John Doyle–audio video/editing, Jeff Kenney–historical perspective, and Ryan O’Reilly–creation and editing. Jeff did a great job providing great historical content about Culver. Dole was a true professional especially since his wife gave birth to their first child, Matilda, just a few days before the recording. I felt the show was good. My experience was exhausting not because I did any heavy lifting, but I had a temp of 101* (F.) and my throat felt like it had a few shards of glass in it. For those of you who believe sickness isn’t much of an excuse or don’t like to hear them, join the Marines.  -Rick

Dole’s Notes:


Rick, Jeff Kenney, and Dole

Making the Vonnegut Film… This project has been a difficult one for all I think. That said, Ryan stayed the course through and through and I feel, as a result, he really helped to elevate the entire thing to another level that even I never thought we would reach when I first agreed to help out with production. After an exchange of numerous text messages, emails, phone calls, pdf files, and warped thoughts over the span of a good 4 months, the project has finally seen fruition and I have to say I am proud to have been a part of it. We all learned a lot from the experience and hope that people that watch it will too.  – Dole



UPDATE: Closed Captioning in English is available on the YouTube version of this video (located above and on our YouTube channel). Select the “CC” option in the lower right corner of the screen while watching the video.


* DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that the views and opinions of the hosts and guests of NDIOS are completely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of the other hosts and guests or that of NDIOS.

  1. Reblogged this on Ryan Sean O'Reilly and commented:


  2. Just thought I’d mention on this page that The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis, Indiana just launched a kickstarter to help move to a permanent home.

    You’ll remember that we covered Kurt Vonnegut’s classic work “Slaughterhouse-Five” a while back and we also did a video special about the author “Culver Indiana and Vonnegut: a documentary” when we stayed at the former Clemens Vonnegut, Jr. house (The Vonnegut House) located on the shores of Lake Maxinkuckee.

    As fans of this great author we ask that you consider helping out the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in this cause.


    Link to the Kickstarter campaign:

  3. […] wrote and composed the theme music for the podcast, helped on our video special (Video Special: Culver Indiana and Vonnegut: a documentary), and has joined us on other past episodes including: “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell […]

  4. […] For more information on “The Vonneguts of Lake Maxinkuckee,” check out this article penned by Jeff Kenney for the Culver-Union Township Public Library: As part of this episode, we filmed a special video companion piece interviewing Jeff Kenney (Editor of the Culver Citizen) about the local the history of Culver and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr’s relationship to this unique town. The video is available on our YouTube Channel and this webpage: “Culver Indiana and Vonnegut: a documentary.” […]

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