Friday, November 4, 2011

Hometown: Yesterday and Today

I’ve said many times, growing up in my “Industrial Mayberry” home town of Whiting, Indiana was the best thing that could happen to a kid. Coupled with the Robertsdale neighborhoods, it was a marvelous full-service community that allowed for youthful hopes, wishes and dreams to come true. Equipped with quality churches, public and parish schools, businesses, theaters, parks and social gathering places, townspeople thrived and families enjoyed amenities that enriched and enhanced each day. This is about those places of the heart.

As a school kid in the forties and fifties, I was amazed that a city the size and population of Whiting had such variety and diversity of establishments: Seven major supermarkets: A&P, National, Kroger, IGA, Park View, Jewel and Wieners. In addition, several dozen corner grocery stores served residents in both Whiting and Robertsdale. Various civic organizations and neighborhood taverns offered places to meet and enjoy libations. Banquet facilities provided venues for weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations. Long-time residents remember St. Mary’s Hall and Slovak Dome. Countless activities were held at the Panel Room, Rose Room, Knights of Columbus, Whiting Moose Lodge, Elk’s Lodge, Eagles, Sokol Club, V.F.W. and American Legion. The Community Center had facilities for a variety of social and athletic activities. Six Catholic Churches each had a parish school except Sts. Peter and Paul: Sacred Heart, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Adalberts, Immaculate Conception, and Saint Mary’s. Whiting also had various denominations of Protestant Churches: Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist. There was also a Jewish Synagogue, The Masonic Temple and places of worship for ethnic nationalities. Each helped fill the spiritual needs of community residents. To serve families in time of bereavement, Whiting had five funeral homes: Owens, Baran, Schlater, Kosier, and Spanburg.

There were a number of banks and dry-cleaning/laundry businesses. Several jewelry stores, shoe repair, men’s and women’s clothiers, furniture and dime stores ,newspaper and stationery store, shoe stores, barber shops and beauty salons, restaurants, poultry and dairy stores, bowling alleys, diners , doctor’s and dentist offices, flower shops, drugstores, pharmacy’s, taverns, automobile dealers: Schlatter/France Ford, Hansen Buick, Ciesar’s Chrysler/Plymouth, Swarthout Chevrolet, and Lake County Motors. Two movie theaters: Hoosier and Capital. Standard Oil brand service stations dominated Indianapolis Boulevard and Calumet Avenue. Others like Sunoco, Sinclair and Shell made sure resident’s automobile fuel tanks were topped off. Lumber yards, general merchandise, utility company, insurance agencies, and a sundry of specialized entrepreneurs provided goods and services: everything from A to Z.

Municipal buildings placed throughout Whiting and Robertsdale like gems in a custom setting served community, consumers, residents, and visitors alike: The Whiting Fire Department, Police Department, The Whiting Community Center, Standard Hotel, Central States Bank , Whiting City Schools, Post Office, Whiting Park’s lakefront and beach, Standard Diamonds, Whiting’s Carnegie Library, City Hall, Robertsdale’s Forsythe Park and Bobby Beach. Safety and security were Hallmarks of Whiting-Robertsdale neighborhoods and families thrived in an environment knowing playgrounds, parks, neighborhoods, and recreation areas enhanced well-being. Complimenting these locations were numerous empty lots that served as playing fields, neighborhood gardens, and places where kids could dig up a supply of worms on their way to fish at Wolf Lake.

It is understandable why this Little City by The Lake engenders such heartfelt emotions and allegiance in residents. This mile and a half square municipality has it all. This Industrial “Mayberry” is the complete package. Its geography combines Currier & Ives with Norman Rockwell’s paintings into a living portrait. Throughout the community, residents and business people showcase municipal quality and character through well-kept neighborhoods and business district that reflects pride of stewardship. Whiting was (and still is) the Capital of the Calumet Region.

Today, Whiting is in the midst of a Renaissance. Thanks to the City’s elected officials, astute organization, effective management, financial intelligence, insightful planning and high standards of performance by those in position of responsibility, coupled with the support of residents, Whiting is moving forward. Along with Pierogi Fest, an internationally famous food extravaganza, new Infrastructure, architecturally sensitive renovation, environment friendly landscape, well-planned remodeling, and new construction reflect commitment to families, businesspeople, visitors, and community neighbors that the core values upon which Whiting was founded are being reaffirmed. Each generation captures and keeps personal memories of experiences derived from growing up and living in their Hometown. Those times fill countless pages of one’s life scrapbook with delicious images and recollections. I’ve always been grateful to the people who helped me along the way, for family and friends who shared these times, and, for the home town that made a positive, constructive difference in my life.

1 comment:

Pete said...

I've read (part of) your book and heard you live at least twice. You turned the Historical Society meetings into the Hysterical Society! May God bless you,and thereby us,with many more good years!

Where's Al going to be next???

Check back soon for his next appearance at a location near you!