Born: March 6, 1931
Where was the first prefabricated house erected in Indiana? What is Indiana’s deepest river? What is the oldest church in Indiana?
Have a question about some Indiana trivial fact? Fred D. Cavinder has the answer. He has written seven books on Indiana topics since 1985 and was formerly a reporter, editor and feature writer for the Indianapolis Star, including 16 years as editor of the paper’s Sunday magazine.
“He was always interested in trivia and facts, firsts and historical events,” said his wife, Wanda, to whom he has been married for 36 years.
Cavinder is now 84 and receiving health care at Greenwoods Meadows. It’s frustrating to him that he can’t read or write at this time. But he has a legacy of writings that readers will enjoy for generations.
Born in Lowell to a farming family, Cavinder graduated from Indiana University, becoming the first college graduate in his family. He worked his way through college, where he was on the staff of the Indiana Daily Student. After graduation, he quickly landed a job at the Terre Haute Star and later its sister paper, the Terre Haute Tribune, and covered courts and the draft board.
He was drafted to the U.S. Army himself in 1954, the year after he graduated college. After two years, he returned to work at the Tribune until an opportunity to join the staff of The Indianapolis Star arose. He went to work there in 1956 and spent time in every significant job in the newsroom. He became head of the copy desk and also the news editor and rewrite man. While he was in the rewrite position, Cavinder became a correspondent for the London Daily Mail newspaper and a string of other publications.
He found passion in writing features for the Sunday Star, which also allowed him to take pictures. Cavinder won numerous awards for feature writing and photographs. In 1969, he became editor of the Sunday Star Magazine.
In 1985, his first book was published. “The Indiana Book of Records, Firsts and Fascinating Facts,” was followed by his next book, “Indiana’s Believe It or Not.” When Ripley’s threatened to sue because the title was too close to their Believe It or Not“branding, the title of Cavinder’s books was changed to “Amazing Tales from Indiana.”
In this book were answers to the questions raised above. The deepest river is Lost River in Washington County, Indiana. The first prefabricated house was built in the 1880s in Orleans, Indiana, the Shindler Mansion. And Little Cedar Grove Baptist Church was built in 1812 near Brookville.
“More Amazing Tales from Indiana” followed. Then came “Historic Indianapolis Crimes,” a compilation of tales about Indianapolis’ murderous underbelly.
Other books included “Forgotten Hoosiers.” a collection of biographical sketches charting the lives of noteworthy Hoosiers who have been overlooked, and “The Indiana Book of Quotes,” which is historic quotes of Hoosiers.
Cavinder also wrote and published the “Indiana Book of Trivia.” His publishers included Indiana University Press, the Indiana Historical Society and History Press in Charleston, S.C.
A column he wrote weekly for The Star, Main Street, took him statewide to write about Hoosiers and communities.
Cavinder retired in 1991 at age 62, but retirement did not mean he would no longer write. He took on a job writing for The Star’s South edition and later wrote a column for the Spotlight, a Southside newspaper that was eventually bought by The Star and closed. He also wrote for other publications, including Senior Life.
Two additional books, “Hoosier Book of Humor” and “Toilets, Tubs and Tomfoolery,” were to be published in March 2009 but problems with publishing stopped that from happening.
When the Southsider Voice started publication Cavinder wrote for that publication, spinning yarns about people and places statewide. He wrote until 2014, when he was 83.
“He has been a man who loved information and wanted to preserve history,” said Wanda. “He knew every nook and cranny in Indiana and he was always looking for a story. He’s done it because he loved it. He just never looked at this as work.”