GARY │ The Gary Chamber of Commerce on Monday took a step back to 1955, particularly to the Gary Roosevelt and Indianapolis Attucks basketball teams playing in the high school state championship game.
The chamber at its monthly meeting replayed a recent TNT documentary on NBA Hall of Famers Dick Barnett and Oscar Robertson. Barnett starred on the Gary team. Robertson led the Attucks team, which won the championship 97-74 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. It was the first time two African-American high schools played for the state title.
Gary Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chuck Hughes said TNT came to Gary to interview Barnett and Robertson, who were in the city taking part in the Nov. 29-30 CN Lakeshore Classic.
“They were the forgotten Hoosiers,” Hughes said. “These people made history.”
Indiana University Northwest emeritus professor of history James Lane was the chamber’s guest speaker. He talked about life in 1955 in the United States and Gary.
The historian, who authored “City of the Century: A History of Gary, Indiana,” talked about Vivian Carter, who founded Vivian’s Record Shop on Broadway and later formed a record company that signed bands such as The Spaniels, who formed at Gary Roosevelt High School and were known for their hit "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite."
Lane said there were many businesses owned by blacks and whites that were on the same city block as Carter’s record store, including a department store, fur store, fruit market, restaurant, shoe repair and the offices of five attorneys, two dentists and three physicians.
“In 1955, available housing for African-Americans was pretty much restricted to the central district of Gary, but it had the effect of making possible the success of black entrepreneurs fortunate enough to have the resources to start a business,” Lane said. “The economic landscape has changed drastically since then, and mom-and-pop stores are largely a relic of the past. But there are still many Gary residents with the skills and the wherewithal to turn their dreams into reality, and that’s why the Chamber of Commerce is so vital to give these people a helping hand.”