Hello again and welcome to our adventures. We're winding down our little side road trip while our "new to us" used American Eagle motorhome is almost ready to take delivery. On this day we explored the towns of East Chicago and Gary in northwest Indiana. East Chicago is my fathers hometown and we'll pay a visit to his childhood home. And over in Gary was the childhood home of a world famous celebrity. So join us as we grab some geocaches and take a look around at what remains of this town...
Our first geocache of the day was in South Bend, Indiana for Saint Joseph County. A virtual geocache (GCA525) was located at the LaSalle Landing Park. Unlike a traditional geocache, a virtual geocache doesn't have a container with a log sheet to sign. You typically have to gather some answers at the location and email them to the creator of the virtual cache to get credit for finding it. The coordinates bring you to this stone monument with the depiction of the French explorer LaSalle, the first white man to visit this region, passing from the St Joseph River to the Kankakee River in the late 1600's.
Next door in the now Riverview and Highland Cemeteries is another historical marker recognizing the Council Oak. It was here that three years after his first crossing, LaSalle met with the Miami and Illinois Indians to enter into a treaty to resist the aggressions of the Iroquois. After surviving two lightning strikes, the centuries old oak tree was eventually taken down by a tornado in 1990.
Also located within the cemetery was a famous resident well known in the sports world. Knute Rockne (GC276Q6) emigrated with his parents from Norway to Chicago at the age of five. After graduating high school, he worked at the post office for four years to save enough money to enroll at the University of Notre Dame. He earned All American Honors playing football for Notre Dame in 1913. After a few years playing professionally, he ended up back at Notre Dame. During his 13 years as head coach of the Fighting Irish, he achieved an astounding record of 105 victories, 12 losses, and 5 ties, as well as 3 National Championships. Rockne died in a plane crash in 1931 at the age of 43.
Driving over into Lake County, we arrived in Gary, IN. The first thing I see that I remember hearing about was the U.S. Steel plant. It was where my grandfather worked. Gary Indiana was named after Elbert Gary, a co-founder and longtime chairman of U.S. Steel. When U.S. Steel bought the land to build the factory, they also created the Gary Land Company to design and build a town for their workers. At its peak, the Gary plant was the highest producing steel plant in the world.
Near the entrance to the plant is the EJ&E 765 locomotive (GC1VPVD). The Elgin, Joliet & Eastern train engine was built in 1929 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. When the EJ&E railroad switched its fleet to diesel engines, U.S. Steel saved it from being scrapped. It sent it to northern Minnesota's Iron Range, where it moved iron ore and taconite bound for Gary Works and other steel mills. Retired and restored it now sits at a roadside park for all to enjoy.
Turning south down Broadway, we passed some of the abandoned buildings around town. With the 1970's came a declining steel market and massive layoffs. U.S. Steel has laid off nearly 30,000 employees. The population of Gary has gone from 175,000 in 1970 down to 69,000 in 2020. It's turning into a modern day ghost town with an estimated 13,000 abandoned structures around town.
One of those buildings was the Palace Theater. Built in 1925, it featured vaudeville acts, live stage shows, and motion pictures bringing in more than 2000 patrons every weekend. From the very beginning it was one of Gary's most popular entertainment venues. But as the city began to decline so did ticket sales. The final live show was performed on January 3, 1972.
I'm switching the next two stops in order for the story to flow better. Over in East Chicago, Indiana, my father grew up in this house on Vernon Ave. This 3-bedroom, 1-bath, 877 square foot house was built in 1930. My father was born in 1932. Along with his parent, I believe he lived here with his four siblings until he joined the Air Force.
He once told me, after returning from his 50th high school reunion, about this girl that once lived down at the end of the street. Her name was Katherine and she walked with a limp. Going to the same schools, they sometimes were in the same class. When she was 19, she married Joseph Jackson and they moved to this house Gary. Joseph became a crane operator at the steel plant where my grandfather also worked.
Joseph and Katherine had 10 children over the next 16 years. This house built in 1949 was just a 2-bdr, 1-bath, at 867sf would be a bit crowded for this large family. One of those children was international pop superstar Michael Jackson. After the family's "Jackson 5" musical group signed their Motown contract in 1969, Joseph moved the family away from Gary to California.
Again, it wasn't until 50 years after graduation at his high school reunion, while sitting around a table reminiscing with classmates about whatever happened to this person and that person, he learned about the girl who lived down the street.
While sitting at a stoplight in East Chicago, Indiana, this building at the opposite corner caught my attention. The Calumet Trust and Savings Bank was constructed in 1916. From what I could gather on the internet, it was abandoned at one time with a partially collapsed roof and water in the basement. But the outer walls and columns are still intact. If only I could have it lifted and moved somewhere else.
OK, back to heading out of town and picking up more geocaching counties. Taking I-65 south into Newton County, I stopped in the Roselawn Cemetery (GC2BE8R) for our next geocache. I didn't take the time to look around cause I wanted to keep moving.
In Jasper County, the next geocache took us to this old abandoned school house (GC8P79B). It was hard to get a decent photo with all the trees surrounding it. But from what my research has found is that it was called the "Newton Township School" and was built in 1923. It was closed in the early 1960's with the rural school consolidations. I couldn't find the geocache here for the school. But I did find another at a nearby stop sign for the county.
Still moving south on I-65, I was able to find a quick geocache (GC8QDK6) in Benton County as we barely passed through the corner of that county. A mile to the east and we're in White County and finding another quick roadside geocache (GC8QDK3).
We continued eastbound on US-24 into Carroll County. I stopped at Yeoman Cemetery (GC1FV19) for another geocache. There are just over 1000 internments dating back to 1844.
Our last geocache for the day was at the Davis Cemetery in Cass County (GC3KB5K). The Davis Cemetery has over 3000 internments dating back to 1836. From the Find-A-Grave website: "William was a soldier in the Revolutionary War serving a total of 70 months. He married Lydia Busson in NC, about 1781 and parents of 10 children. They began housekeeping in VA just over the NC line. When the war was over they moved to Warren County, GA, now Columbia County, and lived there 21 or 22 years. The family moved to Preble County, Ohio in 1805 and lived there until 1835 when they moved to White County, IN then to Cass County, IN. Children: Arron, Joseph, Mary, Newberry, William, Jeptha, Mahala, Diadama, Clementine, and Clarrisa."
That's it for today. We still have nearly two hours of driving to get back to Decatur. Thanks for joining us.
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