Robert Armstrong, RIP

August 22, 2008

Most of the stories about Robert Armstrong mention that he was on the Central High School basketball team that won the state championship in 1943. They also say that he started the Snider High School athletic department and that he had been a teacher before that. What none I’ve seen so far mention is that he was a teacher at Central, where he had gone to school. I know, because he was my gym teacher. I always thought it was kind of cool that he would end up a coach and teacher where he had won the state championship. That kind of coming-full-circle would strike most people as leading a fulfilled life, but Armstrong went on to do a lot more, including getting elected mayor because he thought downtown was being neglected.

People are describing Armstrong as a gentleman, honest, all sorts of words like that. I would add, I guess, “affable.” He and Paul Benz, the other coach/gym teacher at Central, had this sort of good cop/bad cop routine going. Benz would yell at us and make us feel like insignificant little ants for not exerting as much energy as he thought we should. Then Armstrong would come along with the “there, there, it’s all right” commiseration that made us feel better. I was a mediocre gym student on my best days, so I got a lot of sympathy from Bob.

I was working in Michigan City during his term as mayor, so I have no firsthand knowledge of how well he did. But I could imagine him having to deliver bad news, then going, “there, there” to the whole city.

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3 Responses to “Robert Armstrong, RIP”

  1. Sue Says:

    Central had some of the best teachers in the city in those days. In addition to Bob armstrong there was Patty Martone, Helen Lee, the art teacher Blache Hutto–so many others. Such caring and great instructors that demanded a lot of the students. There should be more like them today, they were truly dedicated.

  2. tim zank Says:

    Bob was the A.D. at Snider when I was there ’73 to ’76. He caught me smoking in the boys room and cut me a break. I always thought he was a pretty good egg.

  3. alex Says:

    I have a set of Blanche Hutto woodcuts depicting Anthony Wayne and the Miami. These have been in my family for generations.

    My mom and her siblings went to Central in the ’40s and ’50s when it was the big powerhouse in basketball and I must say I’ve never felt loyalty to any school like they felt for that one.

    It was always a voluntarily integrated school, way ahead of its time. Such a shame they closed it in the name of achieving integration.


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