Calumet Roots

Just a walk around "the Harbor" provided plenty of excitement

2013-11-24T00:00:00Z Just a walk around "the Harbor" provided plenty of excitementBy Archibald McKinlay Times Columnist
November 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Some young adults seem to have difficulty getting their days started. One effect has people kicking and lurching their way out of bed.

This was not a problem in my day. All one had to do to shake off the cobwebs was to get up and walk around town. What follows is just a slice of what was going on.

First, one negotiated his way past Chester DeCola’s house. Chester was an accordionist and was learning other musical instruments until he knew the entire band assortment. There were often people at his house for lessons and related matters.

Once past Chester’s, there was the public library, the place where we stopped every day to read the newspapers. It was practically our headquarters, in that we could meet outside and then go in where it was warm.

Across the street and south a block was Benson’s Food Mart, our ammunition dump. When fruit and vegetables began to go stale, they were moved to a back yard, from which we would draw our nightly ammunition.

Benson’s refuse fertilized many an Indiana Harbor back yard without the owners knowing it, but confident in the potency of their soil.

The next stop, apart from picking up friends, was the high school. East Chicago Washington was built around a concrete court where most students gathered before the bell rang. The court was on the side of an academic building that harbored algebraic formula that few people understood, mainly a study hall.

A piece of the court connected with the “new building” (opened in 1930), which featured technical specialties like band, print shop, electric shop, metal shop, mechanical drawing, etc. The court also connected with the school auditorium, gymnasium, and two swimming pools. But more about the school another time.

Beyond the school was Washington Park, its main entrance a double row of poplars that led to the fountain. Beyond the park was Block Stadium, opened in 1940. Just east of Washington Park was St. Catherine Hospital, which has since been expanded and serves all of Indiana Harbor and nearby communities.

Nearby is Sunnyside, a community that appeared all at once as a subdivision for Inland Steel bosses down to foremen.

A couple of blocks away is Main Street, one of two commercial arteries. In the beginning, chain grocery stores were decentralized through the town. In 1940, developers built a main A&P store that was the forerunner of today’s supermarkets.

In addition to all this, there were five movie theaters.

Church congregations also provided entertainment, and some provided additional schooling on Saturday mornings and other unoccupied time.

If during this hike you did not encounter some excitement, you couldn’t have been trying very hard.

Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

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