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Michigan City Memoirs

My Childhood in Indiana

I was born and raised in Indiana, a Hoosier through and through. Many generations of my family have grown up in southern and northern Indiana creating very deep roots for me in this great state. My mother's family (Tower) first came to southern Indiana in the early 1800s from Hingham, Massachusetts (where they arrived from England in 1635) making me fifth generation Hoosier from the Tower branch. My maternal great grandmother I recently learned was Native-American, born in 1849 to parents of possibly the Shawnee, Miami or Delaware tribes. How she met and married my great grandfather in those days of government cruelty to Indians shall forever be a mystery. Thankfully her contribution to my family is no longer buried in the tomb of secrecy. My father's family (Dygert) arrived in Indiana from mid-state New York in 1838 making me fourth generation Hoosier from that branch. (The Dygerts came to America from Germany around 1682.) Other parts of my family came to America and to Indiana from England (Balding, Roberts) and from Germany (Nisonger). Due to access via the Ohio River from the east coast the Ohio River basin was settled earlier than the northern part of Indiana - perhaps the reason the Towers beat the Dygerts to Indiana by about forty years. By 1860 there were thirteen Tower families living in southern Indiana and ten Dygert families living in northern Indiana. Each of the branches of my family tree had in common strong traditions of education, farming, religion and family.

I began life in the small northern town of Angola, moving when I was ten to a farm in Whitley County. Country life was very different than small town life - more isolated and less sophisticated - but once I got the rhythm of it I felt right at home. Both my parents had been raised on farms and had soil permanently embedded beneath their nails. I remember the sweet smell of newly mown hay, the dust while baling the hay and stacking it in the barn, the joy of swinging from bale to bale on a rope tied around a high barn rafter. I milked cows, cleaned the barn of its two feet of straw and manure and helped my older brother shear and neuter sheep. I witnessed my Dad perform an emergency C-section on a ewe whose lamb was stuck in the birth canal. Dad was not a vet, but he was an inventive farmer. Reluctantly I gathered eggs among the cackling hens who threatened to peck me but never did. Most Saturdays Mother would grab a chicken and position its neck carefully across a tree stump, then chop off its head with an axe letting it hop around the barnyard until it keeled over, finally dipping it in boiling water and yanking out its feathers until it was stark naked. By the next day it had become a delicious after church dinner served up with creamy mashed potatoes, white gravy, home made yeast rolls and fruits and vegetables from our garden. A neighbor farmer planted our fields with corn and soybeans, while my parents planted a huge garden whose fruits would be canned or frozen or turned into jam. The Indiana corn, like clock-work, would be "knee high by the fourth of July ."

We learned to swim and dive and boat in a pond Dad had dug to drain the fields. I remember Dad and my Uncle Russell nailing the curved pieces on the sides of a small row boat Dad built for us. Many a hot summer day we cooled off in that muddy pond, my brother doing back flips off the diving board Dad built us and I practicing my swan dives. We gleefully galloped our panting horses around the barnyard dodging sheep and cows, chickens and dogs. An old topless jeep we fondly called "Nellie Bell" was driven around the barnyard by us kids at very young ages and at very slow speeds. On this farm I had the freedom to learn about the growth of plants and animals and to gain physical skills as I traversed its spaces.

On Saturdays the Nickles Bakery truck came to our farm to unfold its side doors to display tempting candy and baked goods. We never needed to go to the grocery store because a grocer delivered to our home. We rarely went to any store, instead finding our fun in the fields and the freedom of the farm. Mother even made our clothes until we complained of feeling different. Then we got to shop in Fort Wayne at Wolf and Desaures Department Store for clothes and Murphey's for bobby pins and curlers and mother's favorite, carmel corn. I remember feeling scared the first few times I rode the escalator in the department store expecting to disappear into the crack where the stairs fold flat as one struggles to step off.

Church was our main contact with people other than school. We belonged to Jefferson Chapel Methodist Church - a small, country church. Church was a place to practice overcoming stage fright by singing, playing piano, being in holiday plays and participating in services. The youth group I remember fondly - hay rides, pulling taffy, making ice cream to sell to the community, taking baskets of food to shut-ins at Thanksgiving and choosing spiritual readings to share with the youth group.

I felt safe growing up - no violence touched my life fortunately. When I was five my grandmother's farm hand tried to molest me while we were playing hide and seek in her barn, but thankfully I ran away from him. We had enough food and other basics to live comfortably. My parents splurged and bought a television when I was ten. My family of seven would gather round the television each Saturday night and laugh to the great humor of Sid Caesar, Imogene Coco and Groucho Marx. When we girls cleaned the house on Saturdays our chores were made easier by listening to the top forty popular songs on the radio. Those songs of the 50's had great melodies and wonderful words of love - "Sweet Violets" and "Shrimp Boats are A-Coming." They became a permanent and comforting part of me like a tattoo of the mind. Marking me forever a girl of the 50's.

High school basketball - I loved it! But in the l950's girls could only play half a court. "Why?" I asked. "Because breasts can be injured," my woman gym teacher replied. I never really bought that and now I resent that I was not allowed to play full court basketball against other schools' teams like the boys did. But I loved being a cheerleader in junior high and being part of the cheer block in high school where I proudly held my large cardboard letter over my head to help spell out "Go Team" and other cheers. It felt good to be part of a spirit which later would be given the dignified name "Hoosier Hysteria."

Our frequent trips to southern Indiana to visit my mother's parents were usually at holidays. The seven of us would squeeze uncomfortably like sardines into the old Packard and head south. Gradually the landscape changed from perfectly flat to more and more hilly and the roads from straight to twisty. When the twists and turns of the road made me car sick I got to sit in the front seat. Finally we came to a tall cliff with an overview of the wide and serpentine mighty Ohio River. It was enormous! Across the river we saw Kentucky and down a piece a ninety-degree turn in the river called Horse Shoe Bend. We had heard stories about this river - tragic ones and heroic ones. My love-sick Dad like a fool swam the river to impress my mother when they were courting. Tragically my mother's grandfather had drowned while guiding his freight and passenger ferry across the Ohio River between Meade County, Kentucky, and Crawford County, Indiana in 1880.

The holiday I remember most vividly in southern Indiana is Easter. Grandfather was handsomely dressed in his white suit and straw hat, a cane in one hand and his black Bible in the other. What a vivid impression this imprinted on my child's mind! As for me, I was decked out in an Easter dress which mother had made, a hat, white gloves and white leather shoes. As we headed for church we must have surely looked like we were part of an Easter parade. The church was a small, Presbyterian one with an altar in the front and long rows of wooden pews. On the front wall hung a wooden sign proudly listing the number in attendance the previous Sunday. For years my Grandfather taught Sunday School and assisted the minister. Later in that same church I would see him lie in state as a long, slow line of mourners filed by to view him in his open casket. Seeing such a vital and revered person lifeless scared me at the age of ten and made me begin to be aware that even the strong are vulnerable to death. Indelibly etched in my memory is a man speaking at the funeral about the letters of encouragement my grandfather sent him while the man was in prison and how this gave him hope during this low time in his life.

And so I grew up with deep ties to both ends of our great state, adding during my years of higher education the central cities of Bloomington and Indianapolis. As an adult I have traveled far beyond the borders of Indiana, but as if pulled by a powerful magnet I always return to this state I call home.

Submitted by: Sylvia A. Manalis

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Walking to School With Viki

Walking to and from Riley School in LaPorte, Indiana, was an adventure for Viki, my best friend, and me. We spent the years between kindergarten and fourth grade, 1956 through 1959, traversing the span between Lakeside Street and Weller Avenue. For over 200 days every year, we traveled our route and found ways to make the long trip exciting. We were inseparable.

Our first stop was a grocery store that occupied the building which today includes a laundromat on Pine Lake Avenue. The owner/cashier, a tall, spare redhead, always had a smile and, on more than one occasion, provided bandages for our ankles which were skinned and bleeding due to bicycle mishaps. Next door was Reynolds’ Upholstery. Mr. Reynolds always welcomed us into his shop, asked us about school and our recent forays into the swamp behind his store, and told us all about the furniture he was working on at the time. He would show us the materials and tools and let us try our hand at tacking the material to the wood frame.

We’d slop around through the swamplands behind the shop until we got to Soldier’s Memorial Park. The ground would ooze around our patent leather shoes and creep up our white socks. We’d stoop to smell the bog plants, and invariably one of us would slide into the water while attempting to gather water lilies. Before someone filled it all in, this park had wonderful hills for running up or sliding down. We’d roll down a few hills, gathering dirt and grass stains on the way, before getting back onto the sidewalk and heading for school.

Continuing down the sidewalk on Pine Lake Avenue, we would gaze spellbound at the Haunted House. I never saw anyone at that house in all the years I walked by it. Set way back off the street, the house had an atmosphere of desolation and despair about it. There were no flowers in the yard, no chairs on the porch, no squirrels in the trees. But there were footprints in the mud and heavy drapes that occasionally appeared to sway at the window . We gawked and fled, coats flapping in the breeze.

Sometimes we’d stop at Hinton’s grocery store, but usually we’d save that experience for after lunch or after school. Eddie, the patrolman at the corner of Pine Lake Avenue and Weller Avenue, always greeted us with a smile and a hug. He’d ask us about our families and our teachers, all of whom he knew, and hold our hands as we crossed the street. Eddie was a man who called us all by name, doffed his hat at women who passed by, and sometimes danced his way across the intersection, looking like The Pied Piper with a passel of children in tow behind him. We adored him, but most importantly, we trusted him implicitly; he was our introduction to the law, and he taught us to obey the rules of the road, ensuring our safe passage to school.

The one place on our route we never missed was Sam the Shoemaker’s. His little shingled building sat at the foot of the hill at the side of Riley School. Sam was an Italian of uncertain age, though now I’d estimate he was somewhere between fifty and seventy. To Viki and me, he was ancient. The cobbler shop was dark and dusty, full of half-made shoes, leather-working tools, cast iron shoe molds bolted upside down to countertops, and the smell of leather and shoe polish. Sam would tell us to put our hands on the counter, and he’d pretend to try to hit our pudgy fingers with his hammer. We’d squeal and giggle and dodge his hammer, knowing Sam would never hurt us. He’d shake our hands as we left, act as though he wouldn’t let go, hug us, and wish us well. As a child, I adored Sam; as an adult, I wonder if Sam was a grandfather whose days were enriched by the few moments he spent each day delighting children.

Occasionally, my parents would arrange for me to eat lunch at a restaurant that was across the street from Hinton’s Grocery, where the car dealership is located today. Dad would pre-pay for a specific meal; when I arrived at lunchtime, I sat in a booth by the front window and a waitress would bring my lunch to me. I felt so grown up, so independent… sitting there at the window with my bowl of soup and grilled cheese sandwich. The restaurant staff would come by and ask about school, or my new baby brother or sister who was the reason I was eating at the restaurant that day. When it was time for me to return to Riley School, the waitress would escort me to the door where I became, once again, the charge of Eddie who escorted me across two streets.

After school, Viki and I reversed our path. We’d stop to say “goodnight” to Sam and then stop to get any messages our parents had left for us with Eddie. The most important part of the trip home was the excursion into Hinton’s. This was a small, privately-owned grocery store with only one checkout line and no power-operated door. The store was flushed with bright lights and smelled of freshly cut meat and freshly picked vegetables. A nickel was a great deal of money for a child to spend on candy in those days. We could purchase enough penny candy to fill a small bag, or we could purchase one large candy bar. Making a decision between a bag and a bar was always difficult. Since we had not yet learned to evaluate quantity versus quality, we almost always chose the penny candy over the Snickers bar.

We’d run, hop, skip, jump, and roll down the sidewalk until we came to the Haunted House. We’d stand chewing “red hot dollars,” our teeth welded together by the sticky candy, while we searched the windows for signs of life. Now and then, one of us would swear we saw a face at the window. We couldn’t decide if it was a ghost or a pirate or the Hookman the older kids gleefully told us about. A sighting always meant a wild scramble through the park and the swamp.

After visiting our other regular stops, gathering sweet-smelling flowers covered with ants and spiders as well as various other treasures, we’d arrive at our homes where our moms were waiting with cookies and milk, a hug, and a kiss.

Submitted by: Jan Kostielney, currently of Michigan City

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Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation" gave some of us WWI baby boomers pause to consider why he had come up with that description of us - as though by his hyperbolic title we had in some way been anointed. If there is any truth in his assertion, its roots lie not in us but in our parents. From the high of defeating The Kaiser to the low of the murderous post-war flu epidemic and depression to the booming excesses of the "Roaring Twenties", to the wrenching poverty and humiliation of the Great Depression, the result was a wealth of personal and collective experience and formation of values that, in most cases, were absorbed by their children. Subconsciously, our generation knew who we were, and the place that had nurtured us. Our roots enjoyed a rich soil. Despite the trials and suffering of the Depression years, there was an underlying feeling of security, of belonging, nourished by long-time neighbors, church friends, and doors left unlocked. Our generation also gives great credit to, at that time, one of the top school systems in the state and a corps of truly outstanding dedicated teachers.

A feature common to all neighborhoods, the mention of which lights up the face of any depression-era kid, is the horse drawn wagons - ice, milk, and junk - that plied their neighborhood. We had them all. Sanitary Dairy and Scholl's wagons were horse drawn; Coleman's, Peters', and Palmers', who we patronized, were motorized. We had used Coleman's for a short time, but they went out of business because their milk was not pasteurized. The junkman or "sheenie Zoloff", as he was in those days innocently referred to by just about everyone, must have covered pretty well the whole city. Jean's east side neighborhood and Roger McKee's west side also benefited from the services of this kindly earlier day recycler. Pennies for the discarded iron radiator sections ceremoniously weighed out on his ancient hanging scales.

One car - or no car - homebound housewives also welcomed the semi-annual visit of the scissors grinder, whose distinctive "cling-clong" sound sent moms scurrying for their dull cutlery. Whenever he stopped to serve a customer, a circle of kids was sure to form around his converted bicycle outfit, fascinated by the treadle-powered grinding wheel and the hiss of the blade being expertly moved across its wetted whirling face.

We got most of our groceries delivered several times a week from Wellnitz Grocery, which was located at 320-22 Franklin Street, across from Carstens and the Dreamland Theater and next to the Uptown. We liked to accompany mom to Wellnitz's if only for the wonderful smells that came from their adjacent bakery or the huge wheel of sharp Longhorn cheese atop the well-worn oaken counter. We must have spread our grocery business around though. I remember at various times visiting Jake Lieber's store at 507 Franklin. He had the freshest produce, most likely delivered by the Yallowitz Fruit Company. Or, moving south, we'd stop at the Tittle Brothers meat markets next to the Warren Building for "weenies". These came all strung together in a continuous chain. Many of these wound up on a stick over a driftwood fire at the beach, often blackened, their juices sputtering and oozing through splits in the old style tough casings. Many campfire marshmallows suffered the same charring over the red hot coals of those fires, until mom taught us to keep rotating them just half an inch as soon as they started to smoke. The result, a golden brown morsel to squish between two graham crackers laced with squares of a flat Hershey bar.

If we had picked my father up at the First National Bank and stopped at one of the National Tea stores just south of Barker Avenue, dad might slip across the street to Klopsch's hardware store. The grocery clerk would dutifully fetch the various items on mom's list - often from a high shelf by means of a pair of remote controlled tongs mounted on the end of a five foot pole. While this business was going on and the clerk was writing down and adding up the bill - in duplicate on a 4x6 inch pad - the younger Vails went next door, ahead of mom, to Dingler's meat market to breathe in the distinctive rich meat market smell and scuff through the sawdust covering the floor. Just south of Klopsch's was Pezzutos big open-air produce stand. Joe always greeted mom like a member of the family. His effusiveness may have come partly from mom's penchant to head first to the "reduced" table where she would find the slightly bruised fruit or some over-the-hill bananas. Her bred-in-the-bone frugality was something we kids took as a matter of course. Everyone was watching their pennies in those days, even banker's wives. I remember her announcing with a certain pride that the whole dinner that night had cost only a dollar!

In winter, we would either carry our lunch to Elston High or buy it in the school cafeteria. This would have been prepared by the home economics classes under the tutelage of Frances Kelly. Meat dish (maybe Spanish rice), six cents; 1/2 pint of milk, four cents; apple, two cents; cookie, ditto. My Aunt Inez (Mrs. Truesdell) Vail coordinated the grade school free milk program during the Depression years so, presumably, our meals were also partly subsidized. In good weather, we walked home for lunch, doing the three mile roundtrip to Coolspring Avenue all within one hour.

The social life of the teenager in the thirties was a far cry from the unstructured uninhibited activities of youth today. The Young People's Fellowship of Trinity Church hosted two dances a year in beautiful Barker Hall. These took place regularly during Christmas and Easter vacation and, along with Junior Prom, also held there, were the penultimate social events of the teenagers' years. The YPF also booked the roller skating rink at the west end of 10th Street after ten o'clock, when the public session ended. In the winter, the Basin was the place for serious ice skating. My friend, Philroy (P.C.) Gale, made a sail out of three broomsticks and an old curtain, which served admirably to send us skimming across the vast rink.

But we had other less-acceptable forms of recreation also. Michigan City, with "Hemp" Fedder as mayor, was "wide open", that is to say gambling and prostitution were rampant and virtually unchecked. An occasional indignant outburst in the editorial pages of the Evening Dispatch or the Michigan City News seemed to pacify the do-gooder reformers. Not that one of those editors was averse to sitting in on the semi-illicit nightly poker game on the top floor of the Spaulding Hotel.

Let me hasten to explain that our form of recreation did not involve direct indulgence in these illicit activities. But Bill Hall Jr., a stereotypical PK, son of the respected, resonant-voiced Congregational minister, was our lead-in to this seamier aspect of city life, generally foreign to us south-siders. The Nahas brothers controlled the rackets during this extraordinary era. Jack, the most notorious of the brothers, lived downstairs at 309 Pine Street, where Fifth Third Bank now stands, just east of the library. According to Harry Frey, Jack's wife Bonnie ran that particular operation, while her husband, the CEO, monitored the score of the other whorehouses in the Nahas organization. George, the financial officer, kept a relatively low profile living on South Porter Street. The other brothers "rented rooms" and operated a nightclub, Club Windsor, at 127 Franklin, where Lubeznik's Restaurant Management offices now stand.

Bill was friends with most of the Syrian/Lebanese in town, most of whom lived near their Temple of Asser el Jadeed a half block west of Franklin Street on the north side of Second. He knew how to, and taught us to, swear fluently in their native tongue. On sort of a dare, we went with him to the brothel in "The Patch". The girls greeted Bill and us warmly, but knew from his past visits that we were "just looking". We put a nickel in the jukebox, took another look at the satin-gowned girls, and with an exchange of broad smiles, left. Several nights later, the woman who thrust her head out of the upstairs window of the Hoosier Hotel was not so friendly. The third shot from our trusty Daisy air rifle had connected with the single light bulb illuminating the south side of this flagship of the Nahas fleet. The building, located at the north end of Wabash Street, had served the railroad men and sailors of an earlier era and was the last vestige of Snarltown at the foot of Hoosier Slide, historically the city's longstanding concession to sin. Actually, the bulb did not emit anything like the bright dramatic flare that a streetlight produced five seconds or so after the bee-bee had found its mark.

Bill had discovered that one of the cars he owned, a somewhat decrepit Auburn, with a wider than standard wheelbase, would ride automatically on top of any standard railroad track. Sure enough, brother Walt, driving the family's 1934 Buick (with special "Air Cushion" balloon tires) found it would do the same. We mounted the Nickle Plate tracks at Roeske Avenue and "drove" toward LaPorte, holding our collective breath as we careened across the bridge over Trail Creek, terminating our drive at Michigan Boulevard. Several weeks later, Bill got fined fourteen dollars for stopping the train he met on his way to LaPorte.

Lest any male point a disdainful finger at this miscreant for behavior unbecoming a bank president's son, let he who has never breached the bounds of propriety during his teenage years cast the first stone, "kay"?

Submitted by: John Vail

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What: The end of the school year assembly
Where: Saint Stanislaus Church Hall
When: 1943

In a stage whisper, Sister Cecilia began to count, "One, two, three...one two three." She nodded in rhythm to the opening refrains of "Over the Waves". "Girls begin," she directed.

We waltzed out onto the stage. Wearing matching blue dresses and carrying scarves made of white cheese cloth, we magically transformed ourselves into surfing waves and splashing white caps. Unfortunately, to the unimaginative in the audience, we were still girls in blue dresses waving white cheese cloths.

Across the front of the stage was a knee-high canvas prop. It was painted blue on the bottom, white on the top. When the boys behind the curtains slid it back and forth, it too magically transformed itself into surfing waves with splashing white caps. Unfortunately, to the same unimaginative ones, it looked like a piece of canvas painted blue and white.

It had the makings of a seriously executed musical number, except fate was to intervene. It began earlier in the evening as I dressed for the performance. To my horror, I discovered that the back two garters were missing from my belt. They were to hold my silk stockings in place. I didn't tell my mother, knowing she would react with her usual, "You always wait to the last minute with these things." Instead, I anchored the two front, relying only on them to keep things secure.

Tragedy occurred the first time I swung my "white cap" into the air. The right garter unhooked and with that the stocking began to slide down over my knee. I frantically grabbed at the top of the stocking, waltzed a few steps, and then released it so I could once more swing my cloth.

With each tug, the opening of the stocking became larger and slid down even further, until most of it hung evenly over my shoe. Whenever I lifted my foot, it flapped back and forth like a deflated balloon on a stick.

Embarrassed, befuddled, I waltzed left while the others moved right. I tossed my white cap up, while the others swung theirs down. People in the audience began to snicker, then chuckle, then laugh out loud.

From the second row, I could hear my mother frantically chanting, "Gloria, get off the stage! Gloria, get off the stage!"

The last note of music was hardly audible. The laughter drowned out Sister Michael at the piano.

I wanted to die on the spot, but "Death Wish I" never occurred. Instead, I had to walk out to the parking lot and meet my parents.

My mother, who never even had one year of pre-med, knew how to cure most ills. Without referring to the dance incident, she said, "Let's go to Scholl's Dairy and get a nut cup."

At first, I was hesitant knowing there would be others from the performance sitting at the tables, but the thought of three scoops of vanilla ice cream, strawberries floating in a sugary syrup, a handful of nuts, and a big glob of whipped cream completely blocked out any thoughts of further humiliation.

Yes, they were there at Scholl's and a few whispered and giggled as I came in. But as the sensational ice cream slid down my throat, the pain lessened with each spoonful.

As I finished my treat, somewhat soothed, I paraphrased the words of Scarlett O'Hara: "Tomorrow is another day. I'll think about my garter belt then."

Submitted by: Gloria Bolduc, currently of Chesterton, Indiana

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Memories from Hammond, Indiana

I lived in Hammond from age 7 to age 24, 1930 - 1947; these were the Depression years. I was an only child and I spent every waking moment at the Hammond Public Library - a mile's walk from our apartment. My folks never owned a car or house. The rent at that time was $20 a month - heat and light furnished for a three-room apartment. We walked everywhere. I think I read every book in the children's section on the second floor where, as a teenager, I learned to read and loved biographies, history, and autobiographies. I was even on a "Zane Grey" kick - reading his western cowboy novels.

Every Saturday and Sunday was spent either at the Parthenon or Paramount Theatre. My dad gave me 15¢ each day - a princely sum then - and it cost a dime to enter the theatre. The nickel was always spent on a bag of peanuts. I always stayed for two complete shows. On the stage, I saw Jack Benny, Milton Berle, and many fine orchestras. For a few hours, I always lived in a "make-believe" world.

During the week, I would go with my mom in the evening to the show. "Dish Night" was held once a week and from each purchase of an adult ticket, she could select a particular dish or cup. It probably took six months or longer to complete a set. I thought we were kind of ritzy having a full set of matched dishes. Our drinking glasses were usually from the jelly and jam jars we had purchased.

Once a summer, we would take two street-car rides to South Chicago to "White City", an amusement park. I think the rides were 10¢ each.

I didn't know I was poor then. We always had enough to eat - no pop, no junk food, no potato chips - everyone was thin then.

Once a year, in the summer, my mom made homemade root beer. The extract and yeast were mixed together, and then we had a lid topper to seal each bottle. The bottles were put behind a door in a dark closet to ferment. Every so often, we'd hear a POP - SQUISH, as a bottle had exploded and hit the ceiling.

I never had a present at Christmas, as my dad only worked two or three days a week at the Omaizo Refinery in Whiting.

To me - these were THE GOOD OLD DAYS!

Submitted by: Marie Odle of Michigan City

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Few people remember the amusement park that used to reside across from the zoo. Cotton candy was as abundant then as the salmon is now. The miniature train proudly escorted adults as well as children from one end of the park to the other. Families gathered to picnic and to, as we probably say now, "hang out".

I can today stand at the edge of the water and feel the electricity behind me. The soothing music of the merry-go-round somehow is still in the air. It didn't matter whether we really saw Chicago from the beach - you just had to say you did. I sure would like one of those frozen Snickers from the ice cream cart - you know, the one's with sand in them...

Submitted by: James H. Kohn

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"Memories - Memories - days of long ago" are a few of the words we listened to and sang in the 1930's. Further words were, "Childhood days - boyhood days, days of long ago."

These words ring loud and clear as I gaze into my reflective imagination upon life from the beginning in Michigan City.

Although I hold no memory of my father, who died when I was three in 1921, I am forever conscious of the footprints remaining from his labors in the late 1890's and early 1900's. For twenty-five years, six days a week, he pushed an iron-wheeled wheelbarrow, moving sand from Hoosier Slide onto gondola carts headed for the manufacturing of canning jars.

His employer was William Manny, and my father was so proud working for this man that when I arrived, it was destined I would carry that name. To this day I make no apology for such a name. Additional pride is knowing there is only one William Manny Dieckilman in the whole world.

Views from the memory machine are of climbing the hill that remained when he was gone.

I was born at 317 Pine Street on January 14, 1918, next door to the Welnitz family, who owned the grocery store. History books and pictures record that week was one of the worst Michigan City ever withstood. Many were forced to crawl out of their windows, as the snow was so deep they could not open the doors.

We soon moved to 217 Washington Street. The area from shore line to Fourth Street, Wabash to Pine, became my domain.

My first tricycle afforded the breathtaking freedom to explore the unknown "world". Riding up Washington Street to 11th Street and down Franklin headed me for "wherever".

Fascination was always high while watching buildings being erected piece by piece, street cars clanging as they passed, and my stopping to speak and become acquainted with the merchants made my day!

The alleys in our block resounded with the noise of all the kids - Walter Bates, Lloyd Brown, Kenneth Pfefferle, Devon and Vernon Lewis, the Dittmer boys, and many more were part of the fun. Hide-go-seek was an EVERY evening happening.

Clear is the day the World War Mothers stood hand-in-hand in the Park dedicating their Dough Boy Memorial. Entombed at the base is a box that contains the name of each boy from town who served his country.

Many days I happily traversed Washington Park and crawled through the piers of huge beams.

Riding Rudy Heisman's boat to the breakwater will never be forgotten. And, too, Labordy's Stand and Mrs. Brown's root beers (my, what a nickel bought).

Jake Hahn smoking his cigar, walking through the rides and midway are planted deep in the mind's archives. Peeking into the vastness of the Oasis gave me the optimistic feeling that I would grown up big so I could dance there.

Memories -- These are but a few! Thanks Michigan City!

Submitted by: W. Manny Dieckilman, currently of Huntington Beach, California

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My Great Grandfather, William Gangwer, made his dollar and moved to Florida, as he loved to fish. My Grandfather, Irvin Gangwer, made his dollar and purchased a home near his father. My Dad, Raymond Gangwer, stayed in LaPorte, Indiana to assume the helm of the family's "I.D. Gangwer Machine Shop."

In October 1933, Dad, Mom, and I took a trip to Florida to visit the family. We headed south in our 1931 Buick, with a great big wheel house in tow. Some of the roads were smooth, some rough, and some were wagon trails. Periodically, Dad found it necessary to yell out the window, "Hey, cow! Get off the road!" The trip was long, requiring plenty of food, water, and gas. Since towns and farms were so wide spread, most of the water we carried was reserved for the car's radiator.

Grandfather Irvin had established himself along the coast of the resort town, Daytona. The house rested approximately 150 feet from the ocean. According to Dad, when it got too hot on the beach, Mom would cool me off with a cold washcloth. The visit was filled with lazy days in the sun and long family walks along the wet sand under the stars.

1931 Buick, with a great big wheel house in tow              The house rested approximately 150 feet from the ocean

The trip home promised to be every bit as long and tedious, however something took place none of us could have expected. A truck suddenly crossed the center line, crashing into the driver's side of our vehicle. The gearshift jagged from the floorboard into Dad's thigh, and Mom's head was thrust into the windshield.

My Dad always maintained that had it not been for me folded in Mom's lap, she might have been thrown onto the hood of the car. We all survived our journey and the Buick was repaired, with wheelhouse in tact. Today, as I recollect this story, you should know that I clung to every word my Dad told me of this venture, because frankly, I didn't remember anything that happened.

As it happened...seven days later on November 7, 1943...I was born.

Submitted by: Dave Gangwer, currently of LaPorte, Indiana

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A few of my favorite memories from Michigan City:

  • Eating breakfast at Brownies Restaurant, filled with people who had been at Sunday services
  • Mike Pytynia dressed as Santa in Santa's house on the corner of 7th and Franklin
  • Catting the drag from Azar's to Washington Park
  • Chinese fire drills
  • The view from Mount Baldy
  • Franklin Street filled with honking cars after the 1966 state championship
  • Watching the men make railroad cars at Pullman
  • Getting up at 4AM to go perch fishing on the pier
  • Getting a baker's dozen of rolls at the back door of the bakery to take to the pier
  • Eating peanut butter pizza with Dick Biondi at an Armory Sock Hop
  • Demolay pancake breakfasts
  • Standing on our bicycles on the right field wall at Ames Field to watch the White Caps
  • Smelt fishing on the beach at night
  • Summer concerts at the old band shell
  • Summer concerts at the new band shell
  • Sitting at the fountain in Scholl's Dairy waiting for a chocolate coke
  • Haunted houses in the country and Beverly Shores
  • Playing football on the sandbars in Lake Michigan
  • Waiting in the cold at the first McDonald's
  • Paying less than $1 for two burgers, fries, and a coke
  • Jumping the hill on Montana Street
  • Rafting down the Monon Creek
  • The Spaulding Hotel
  • Jake's Deli behind The Spaulding Hotel with the world's greatest corned beef
  • The old South Shore station with skeeball
  • Mr. Bebee giving you a big break on a new mitt if you played on a team
  • The B&K root beer stand by the bridge
  • Franklin Street decorations at Christmas
  • Miss Indiana contestants riding in convertibles in the parade
  • Venetian Nights on Lake Michigan
  • The balcony in the Tivoli Theater
  • The smell from the Smith Brothers cough drop factory
  • Three feet of snow in 1958
  • The 212 outdoor theater
  • Climbing to the top of the observation tower
  • Monkey Island at Washington Park Zoo
  • We liked people from Illinois
  • Dances at the old YMCA
  • Starting school after Labor Day
  • The lighthouse on a foggy night
  • Riding to Chicago in the old South Shore cars
  • Bumper cars in Washington Park
  • Sunrises and sunsets on Lake Michigan
  • People helping just to be nice

Submitted by: George Branch, currently of LaPorte, Indiana

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The Hoosier Slide
(Mouse-over photo for descriptions)

The Hoosier Slide sand dune was Indiana’s most famous natural landmark, The huge, barren dune stood where the NIPSCO generating station is now. The sand dune had disappeared by 1920, and NIPSCO bought the land in 1925.

In the mid 1800s, the dune had trees and berries, cows even grazed there. As the trees were cut and used, the dune became bare, probably by 1870. Commercial sand mining began about 1890, when the Monon Railroad built a switching track along the south side of the dune, to serve the lumber docks along the wet side of the harbor. The sand was loaded in wheel barrows and pushed across planks to the gondola cars-this being done mostly by the 100 or so dock wallopers, and their families. These dock workers’ main job was to unload lumber, corn and salt from the incoming ships. The sand mining was done in between ships.

Around 1890, natural gas was discovered in central Indiana, and glass factories started in the Muncie area. Large users of Hoosier Slide sand were the Ball Brothers in Muncie, Pittsburg Plate Glass in Kokomo, and the nearby Hemingway Glass Co., which made insulators for telephone poles. As cars and mechanized farm equipment became more popular, core sand for foundries became another use for our sand. Core sand was shipped as far away as Mexico.

The two sand companies, Pinkston and the Hoosier Slide Sand Co., became more competitive, and the use of cranes and electrical conveyor belts escalated. The sand removal was especially heavy during WWI. Over 30 years, approximately 30 railroad carloads were shipped daily-a total of 13.5 million tons.

H656 c1900 hoosier slide view from harbor H597c85 snarltown red lite dist s of hs H655 c1900 hoosier slide with canoes H654 1908 east from top of hoosier slide RP SN
H651 hoos slide mining c15 400 H651b back H596 hs c1890 H650 train derailment poss hoosier slide c05
H648 rr yard hoos slide  3 men c06 H647 c06 rr,hoos slide,no bldg H646 pmk 8-06 oval rr,hoos slide,bldg,winter,RP H645 c05 sandmining hs
H644 hs, cab card,lkg w c1895 H643 c11 hoos slide lkg s acme H642a 8-30-14 same shot color linda williams coll H642 c10 hoos slide lkg s, people RP CRC
H641 lkg e from top, prob wed party 1908 H640 c06 hoos slide,initials H639 c06 hoos slide H638 c06 hoos slide,boxcars
H637 c05 hoos slide sand office RP H636 c05 hoos slide,hopkins H635 1909 hoos slide, RP SN H634 c11 hoos slide lkg w,RP AES
H633 c10 hoos slide RP AES H632 c09 hs a mile to the top, RP SN H631 c05 hoos slide,indianapolis,tug RP H635a back of card
H653 sliding down hoosier slide 1906 RP ECC

H649a hoosier slide spoon closeup patent 1892

H649b hoosier slide spoon entirepatent 1892

H649c hoosier slide spoon patent 1892mark

   

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