Gary is located in northwest Indiana, and lies on the extreme southern shore of Lake Michigan. It is the largest city in Lake County, IN. The terrain is, shall we say, very flat. This is a direct result of Gary being situated at the southern terminus of the glacial flow which descended on the continent during the ice age. Recognition of this fact is found in the name of a major thoroughfare, Ridge Rd. (U.S. HWY. 6).
Permit me to dispel a common myth. Professor Harold Hill did not graduate from the Gary Conservatory of Music in '05. It was not possible, Folks. Gary was not founded until 1906! Prior to that the area was the homeland of the Potawatomi Indians. Native Americans from many tribes, and an occassional fur trapper or missionary, regularly traversed the "Old Sauk Trail" enroute from the Northeast to the Great Plains and back. Alas, no Potawatomi has graced the environs since the 1890's.
Second, it is important to keep in mind my frame of reference with respect to Gary is the 50's and 60's. Fortunately, this was the point-in-time when Gary was at its zenith. Sadly, the last thirty, plus (30 +) years have been downhill.
The history of Gary is such as to instill pride in it's residents. Before U.S. Steel the area was nothing more than marshes and sand. Sweat and toil were applied to the land, so that others could come, and sweat and toil for their livelihood. Today the resident struggle is to save the sand dunes which remained after U.S. Steel had its will.
The original land acquisition consisted of 9,000 acres. The cost to U.S. Steel was $7.2 Million ($800/acre). The first stake was driven into the sand at 5th & Broadway on 4/18/1906. The "Steel City" is named after Judge Elbert H. Gary, then Chairman of the Board of U.S. Steel. Interestingly, Judge Gary never lived in the city bearing his name. The real power in town was Wm. P. Gleason, Superintendent of Gary Works (for whom Gleason Park is named, and where one finds the present day home of I.U. Northwest).
The first shipment of iron ore arrived in 1908. The first blast furnace was lit, and manufacture of steel began, in 1909. The rest is history, as they say.
Over the decades Gary has acquired a number of monikers besides the "Steel City."
Other terms used to describe Gary, IN, affectionately or not, are
da' Region, City of the Century and Murder Capital of the U.S. For a time it was referred to as Satellite City, in deference to the nearby Windy City of Chicago.
January 21, 1946, marks the date I arrived on the scene. It was also the day the U.S.W.A. commenced a strike. By then Gary already had a lurid past. Al Capone was reputed to have had a hide-out in the Tolleston area. One wonders how much of a hide-out this was if it was able to be publicly discussed? A decade before I was born John Dillinger had paid the area a short visit. All of America was aware that he pulled off his infamous escape from our county jail with a wooden or soap pistol. Considered opinion, based on factual research, is that a judge accepted a bribe to furnish him with a real weapon!
Events such as these were recounted with a bit of "civic pride" by my forefathers. Myself, I can remember the McCarthy Era when communists were being ferreted out everywhere, it seems. I attended school with folks whose parents were accused. My parents knew others who were branded. Gary, with its large industrial base, was a hot bed of socialism after the war.
Through it all, one thing in Gary remained constant; the mills. Gary was, is and always will be a working town. This is not to be confused with the recent slogan adopted by Chicago of being "The City that Works." The mills were like a magnet. The open hearths attracted the multitudes, like moths to a flame.
To describe Gary, Indiana as a "melting pot" would certainly be apropos. One could not go anywhere without encountering people of Croation, Czech, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Polish, Rumanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovak or Ukranian extraction; to name but a few. Names like Costo, Eichstadt, Glibota, Gyurko, Havel, Holovachka, Jarosz, Koularos, Krejci, Mangano, Rukavina, Pavlovich, Tokarsky, Tomak, Svetanoff, and Zivic were as common on the streets of Gary as Smith and Jones in colonial America. All were "Hunkys." No, that is not a typo. Hunky, as opposed to the pejorative term 'Honky', is a generic description for people who hailed from Eastern Europe.
All had ties to the mills. Some, for as many generations as could be fit into a 20 year time span. My own family is exemplary:
John Yaros - Grandfather
Paul Yaros, John D. Yaros, Sr. and Mike Yaros - Father and UnclesJohn D. Yaros, Jr., Thomas L. Yaros and G. David Yaros - Cousin, Brother and Self
IT => [Category: Gary, Indiana - The "Steel
Created by G. David Yaros on Tuesday, 11 Feb 1997-02:10:55 Hrs.
© 1997, G. David Yaros. All rights reserved