Holes. Much of the Calumet Region’s history can be found in holes. Such daubs of history, however, would be evanescent. Much of it would be whimsical.
Indiana Harbor, my home town, was laid out in lots when it was put on the market. Some of the lots were built upon early in the 20th century. Alas, heating devices at that time were somewhat less than dependable, and overheating anecdotes even less so.
The result was that many a blaze provided excitement in town, as most of the population was drawn to the fire. Ashes marked these monuments of civility. What remained was a large plat with an occasional gouge in it. It was these gouges that attracted the attention of the high spirits nearby.
The number one sport was war. Even in my day, we would gather into little armies and fling stones at each other. Surprisingly, we did not lose many eyes.
We spent most of our idle time, however, digging. We enlarged the holes and added a few accoutrements. After we advanced the trench concept to its limits, we began to accessorize.
Every day, we borrowed whatever shovels we could and dug in the sand of the empty lots. This attracted a great deal of interest. So it was not unusual to find the grandfather of Jerry Homolo out with us digging away and connecting some of the trenches with roads that we also built.
It should be remembered that this digging era followed by only a short period World War I, when trenches were all the news. Some actual trenches, in fact, lived on for years.
Our miserable offerings lasted only for months. Most of the decorations in our trenches were rocks set into bizarre patterns.
After the various wars had ended, we sank back into a culture of games. The primary game was baseball. Our ball was usually one obtained from an adult game up at Washington Park, plus yards of black tape derived from a variety of sources.
Our stadium was the empty lot behind Richard Carlson’s house and next to the house of Johnny Fox. Although it was a hard ball, we pitched it underhanded, as if it were a softball. If the ball were hit on the ground, we would set out churning our way to first base, the sand of the empty lot kicking up behind us. A ball hit on the fly all the way from Euclid Avenue across the Ivy Street alley into someone’s yard was a home run.
Centerfield homers usually involved two yards. A right field home run was what missed glass windows and landed over a back yard fence.
In the fall, we usually switched to football on Ivy Street. We called the plays in a huddle, each of these ad hoc. Thus, Joe would be sent down to the yellow car, where he would pivot to receive a hook pass. Longer plays were according to whatever cars were parked on the street.
And so it went.