|Moments to Remember|
Moments to Remember: An encompassing title, especially when applied to the 150-year evolution of a community. From the time in the 1820s when the Michigan road was planned up to the present, Michigan City has been the scene of countless memorable moments. About some, much detail is recorded. Of others, only sketchy information is available. The moments to remember chosen for this publication are some which enthused, amused, sometimes bemused, citizens of the town. Many are ones which have occurred in modern times. They may stir the memories of those who lived through, even participated in, them. And to those who may turn to these publications - either for leisure reading or for serious research - in future years, it is hoped they will provide interesting and informative insights about the way we were.The First Train
Competition with LaPorte
The war already was lost, but a battle was won when the railroad train first arrived in Michigan City 124 years ago.
By the time that historic Michigan Central locomotive chugged into town in 1852, Chicago had long since bested Michigan City and secured its place as Lake Michigan's great metropolis.
But the train's arrival - an event which ironically occurred with Chicago support - enabled Michigan City to maintain its role as LaPorte County's leading community after a short-lived coup by plotting LaPorteans.
From early in the 19th century until the economic crash of 1837, there had been many proposals for railroads and even more for canals in Indiana.
According to a history of Michigan City written 68 years ago by Rollo Oglesbee and Albert Hale, "scarcely a canal was projected which did not have Michigan City for a terminal and hardly a railroad was drawn on the map without beginning or ending at Michigan City or without aiming to establish connections.
"Canals, turnpikes and railroads headed (to Michigan City) and nature herself seemed to smile on the enterprise, but man's impetuous desire overcame his own ends and with the panic of 1837 most of these dreams vanished."
After the depression, the railroad supplanted the canal in most proposals. By that time, a race between Michigan City and Chicago and another between Michigan City and LaPorte had become open contests.
Chicago was the first winner when the Illinois Central line entered that city in 1848.
"When once the Illinois Central became a fact," the historian noted, "there remained only the gap between New Buffalo and Chicago to be filled and Chicago would lie on the main traveled road from east to west and the vast Mississippi region beyond."
Local attention from 1848 to 1852, then, turned to the competition with LaPorte to determine which would become the principal Hoosier station for the through east-west commerce.
In May 1849, the Michigan Central line reached New Buffalo. Not long after that, the Michigan Southern Railroad arrived at LaPorte by way of South Bend.
Now the question became one of whether the east would be connected with Chicago by way of New Buffalo and Michigan City - or by way of LaPorte.
"LaPorte," the history book records, "was envious of the growing importance of her neighbor and was willing to shut her eyes if, even by a process not quite within authority, a road could be built from her border direct into Chicago and without passing through Michigan City."
Such a process was employed to enable the Michigan Southern Railroad to proceed from LaPorte to Chicago without passing through Michigan City. On Feb. 20, 1852, the first train reached Chicago from Toledo via the LaPorte route.
Michigan City fought back furiously. The city council had granted the Michigan Central Railroad authority to lay tracks on certain city streets. Outcries from LaPorte that the Southern had exclusive rights to enter Chicago and that other lines must use its roadbed were ignored.
Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas and influential Chicagoans supported Michigan City and the Michigan Central.
In 1852, the first Michigan Central train arrived here from the east. That still left the problem of completing the necessary track from here to Chicago.
Someone recalled that an obscure line had received permission 20 years earlier permitting it to lay track in Northern Indiana. Its charter was dusted off and utilized for the Michigan Central to connect Michigan City with the Illinois Central line at Kensington.
On May 21, 1852, only three months after the supposed LaPorte victory, connection from Detroit and points east to Chicago via Michigan City became an established fact.
At the time of the nation's 200th birthday, 38 men have served as President. Two of them have come to Michigan City. One was en route to his final resting place. His funeral train stopped in Michigan City 17 days after his assassination. The other was on railroad tour of the countryside in the third year of his first term. He would be assassinated 23 months later. The stories of the days the Lincoln funeral train and the McKinley touring train came to Michigan City are told on the following pages.
Several men seeking their party's presidential nomination have come to Michigan City. One of them, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, also was to be felled by an assassin - in California, six weeks after he spoke before a huge weekday-afternoon throng in front of the Superior Courthouse in Michigan City in 1968. Sen. Eugene McCarthy, also a seeker of the Democratic presidential nomination in 1968, made a campaign visit to Michigan City. He also was a speaker here on another occasion. Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey (later vice-president under Lyndon B. Johnson) came to Michigan City twice, although not during his campaigns for the presidential nomination or the presidency. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie was here two times - once when he was a presidential nomination aspirant in 1972. And in 1976, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan spoke in Michigan City prior to his Indiana primary contest with President Ford. He was accompanied by film star James Stewart. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson made a campaign stop in Michigan City during his successful campaign for the Presidency.
It was raining in Michigan City on May 1, 1865. But boys, like flowers, thrive on rain. And 10-year-old Martin was no exception. He and his buddies all had been born in Germany and, with their parents, emigrated to the United States. Although in this country only a half-year, the boys had found summer jobs helping farmers plant potatoes.
This first day of May, they were puddle-jumping their way to one of the farms and were about a mile outside Michigan City when they were stopped short by the sound of cannons booming.
Boys don't always keep too well-posted on current events, least of all boys who are in a new country where they neither speak nor read the language. So, to Martin, there was only one likely explanation for the booms:
"The Confederates are attacking Michigan City!"
Like Martin, his friends were not aware the Civil War had ended. They accepted his explanation and joined him in typical boyish reaction to the "danger." They ran right for it.
To their probable chagrin, there were no grey-coated soldiers advancing along Franklin Street. Instead, there were hundreds of somber, but obviously excited, local citizens dressed in their Sunday finest. Martin and his pals followed the crowd - and found themselves at the Michigan Central railroad station.
There, to the boys puzzlement, people were patiently waiting in a long line to board a Monon train halted beneath successions of evergreen-decorated arches which had not been there the last time the boys came to the north end of town.
A curious boy is as restless as a chain smoker at a double-feature. The only solution, obviously, was to board the train and seek out the cause of the excitement. So Martin got in line. When he reached the steps of the railroad car and started to ascend them, he was rebuffed by a uniformed guard. "No kids allowed without parents," he was told.
Now, telling a 10-year-old boy to stay out of somewhere is about as effective as asking a Soviet politician to cross his heart. A few moments later an elderly couple boarded the train. The woman wore a huge hoop skirt which, unknown to her, concealed a little boy. Once on the train, Martin emerged from his hiding place and trailed closely behind the couple. To the officials they passed, he was evidently their son. Finally, after moments of suspenseful expectation, Martin came upon the source of the excitement.
He was just 10 years old and only six months in America, but Martin was immediately aware of the significant sight before him. In utter awe, he stood and stared - and held up the long line of people. Then the spell was broken effectively--Martin was grabbed by the seat of the pants and the collar, marched forcefully to the end of the train, and dumped into a sand burr patch. As the little German immigrant glared back at the soldier on the train platform, he could little guess the events his future held in store.
But years later, when Martin Theodore Krueger grew up and served six terms as mayor of Michigan City and four terms as a state legislator, it's highly likely that his thoughts often returned to that day - May 1, 1865 - when the train carrying the body of President Abraham Lincoln paused here on its 1,662 mile journey from Washington to Springfield, Illinois.
Because her mother had been killed in a bizarre accident during a patriotic celebration on Franklin Street months before, a teen-age Michigan City girl was an eyewitness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
And the girl, 18-year-old Harriet Sherman, was one of the official escort party which accompanied the body of President Lincoln from Michigan City to Chicago and Springfield.
Miss Sherman and her older sister, Nancy, were in their final years at Cleveland Female Seminary in 1865. The previous year, on July 4, their mother had been killed when she was struck in the heart by a sky rocket barb while standing on a balcony of a Franklin Street hotel. Harriet had been at her mother's side when that tragic incident occurred.
The girls’ father was Dr. Mason G. Sherman, a Michigan City physician (and brother of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman) who was serving as a surgeon with the 9th Regiment. Not wanting his daughters to spend their Easter vacation in Michigan City where they would be reminded of the 1864 family tragedy, he arranged for them to go to Washington for a vacation visit with their uncle and aunt - George and Rose Hartwell. The uncle was with the patent office.
Happiness prevailed in the nation's capital, where the end of the Civil War was being celebrated. The Sherman sisters found the streets decorated with bunting. They watched a parade. And their uncle took them to a President's reception, where they actually got to shake the hand of Mr. Lincoln.
One of the events scheduled for the big week was a performance of the play, Our American Cousin, at Ford's Theater - with the President and Mrs. Lincoln as honored guests. And Harriet and Nancy Sherman also were to be in the audience that night, April 14, 1865, which was to become sadly historic.
Seventy-one years later, when she was an 89-year-old widow living at the Sheridan Beach Hotel in Michigan City, Miss Sherman (now Mrs. Harriet Van Pelt), still had a clear memory of that night in Ford's Theater.
She and her sister had been excited about the play, she recalled, but even more so by the presence of the President. Her eyes seldom strayed from the flag-draped box occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln, she said. And she was looking that way when John Wilkes Booth stepped into the box.
"I thought it was some theater attendant," she said. "The box was about 25 or 30 feet away, to the right of our seats. A moment later a shot was heard. I recall nothing of Maj. Rathbone's grappling with Booth and being stabbed by the assassin, nor of Booth leaping to the stage from the front railing of the box, although these things happened. I remember only the President's head on the shoulder of Mrs. Lincoln, and hearing someone say quietly, 'Mr. Lincoln has been shot.'
"The curtain was rung down, which left the house in darkness for a moment. Everyone was confused. A sort of paralysis gripped the house. "I saw the President being carried out of the box. After he had been removed from the theater and taken across the street to a boarding house, the throngs made their way out of the theater, stunned. We took a carriage home and the next day returned to school."
On May 1, President Lincoln's funeral train stopped in Michigan City. It was toured by many grieving local citizens - among them, Harriet Sherman. She was one of an official escort party which stayed aboard the train when it left Michigan City for Chicago and its final stop Springfield, Ill.
Four years earlier, on Feb. 11, 1861, a Wabash Railroad train had carried President-elect Lincoln over the Indiana farmlands to his inauguration in Washington. The train drew into Indianapolis at sundown to the booming sounds of a 34-gun salute.
Gov. Oliver P. Morton headed the procession which led Lincoln through the streets of surging spectators. On the eve of the Civil War, Lincoln spoke these words to 20,000 Hoosiers:
"I appeal to you again to constantly bear in mind that not with politicians, not with Presidents, not with officeholders, but with you is the question: Shall the Union and shall the liberties of this country be preserved?"
His welcome in Indiana convinced Lincoln that he had the support of the people of this state in his efforts to preserve the Union.
Now, in 1865, that great task having been accomplished, another train came to Indiana -this one carrying the body of the slain President.
The railway car which carried President Lincoln's remains from Washington to Springfield was considered a triumph of the car builder's art. On the 1,662-mile funeral route, more than a million people saw and admired the handsome railway coach. Few of them were aware that it had been designed originally not as a funeral car, but as a private presidential car for Mr. Lincoln.
The idea of building a private car for the use of President Lincoln and his cabinet originated with the War Department. The 42-foot-long car contained three compartments, one of them a huge stateroom. Its appointments included a sofa 7 feet long on which the tall President might be comfortable. It also could be adjusted at night for sleeping - the forerunner of the berths later used in Pullman coaches.
Ironically, it is reported that the coach was constructed to be bullet-proof. Though informed of its readiness for use, Mr. Lincoln chose not to travel in the car. One story has it that he feared chiding by the press for pretentiousness if he made use of so elaborate a conveyance. (What would he think of Air Force One?)
After his death and his family's decision that burial should be in Springfield, the War Department ordered that the coach be converted into a suitable funeral car.
In the center of the stateroom, a catafalque was hastily constructed. At the foot of the President's casket was placed a smaller coffin, that of Willie Lincoln, the son who died in the White House in 1862. At Mrs. Lincoln's request, the father and son were to be interred in a vault in Springfield. Mrs. Lincoln was too ill to make the funeral journey.
Work on the funeral car was completed and the car was moved across the Potomac River in the early morning of April 21, to the Washington railway station, and attached to the rear of the funeral train already in waiting. On the journey, the funeral car was second from the rear - the last car for use of family and officials.
The same day, the train moved westward on its sad mission. It went to Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Jersey City, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, and Indianapolis. Indiana villages, towns and cities along the funeral route were Richmond, Centerville, Cambridge City, Dublin, Lewisville, Coffin's Station, Ogdens, Raysville, Knightstown, Charlottville, Greenfield, Cumberland, Zionsville, Whitestown, Lebanon, Thorntown, Clark's Hill, Stockwell, Lafayette, Battle Ground, Reynolds, Francisville, Medaryville, Lucerne, San Pierre, LaCrosse, Michigan City, Lake and Gibbons.
One reporter in the funeral cortege described the scene at Lafayette at 3:35 a.m. on May 1: "The houses on each side of the railroad track are illuminated and, as elsewhere, badges of mourning and draped flags are displayed; bonfires are blazing and bells tolling; Mournful strains of music are heard, and the people are assembled at all the stations to view the train."
The train arrived at Michigan City at 8:25 a.m. The Monon had brought it here; the Michigan Central would take it to Illinois.
The Indianapolis Daily Journal of May 3,1865, described the arrival in Michigan City on May 1. Rain which had been falling through the night had ceased. The reporter thought the change in weather was "in harmony with the warm hearts and fervent patriotism of the men and women of Michigan City."
Here is how the occasion was described by Rev. E. D. Daniels, in his history of LaPorte County published in 1904:
"The passing of the funeral cortege bearing the remains of Lincoln back to his old home in Springfield was a triumphal funeral march, a sad ovation. Great preparations were made at Michigan City to receive the remains. The train had to wait there for some time for the arrival of the committee sent out from Chicago to meet it. The committee stood together forming a complete tableau as the generals in charge came forward to receive the funeral cortege. The officers in charge ... were in full dress uniforms; the Chicago delegation was in black wearing heavy crepe on their arms. Arches had been erected in the streets. A pyramid composed of 36 school girls dressed in white... sang the national airs. A number of young girls had been selected to lay a cross of flowers on the casket. These girls wore long black skirts and white waists, and with uncovered heads they carried their offering to the funeral car where lay the remains of the martyred president. This cross was composed of trailing arbutus gathered from our native hills. Guards, who never moved, kept their watch over the mortal remains as the throngs of people passed along to drop a tear over the great heart which lay quiet there. Nor were the temporal needs of the people forgotten for the ladies of Michigan City served a breakfast in the New Albany and Chicago freight depot, many notable housewives devoting their time to its preparation, and using their best linen and silver. Do not such scenes bespeak a patriotism which is both profound and intense?"
From William T. Coggeshall's book, The Journey of Abraham Lincoln, published in 1865, this account of the scene in Michigan City:
"At eight o'c1ock and twenty-five minutes, the train stopped at Michigan City, under a beautiful structure 12 feet wide, and the main columns 14 feet high. From these sprang a succession of arches in the Gothic style, 35 feet from the base to the summit. From the crowning central point was a staff with a draped national flag at half-mast. The arches were trimmed with white and black, and ornamented with evergreens and choice flowers. Numerous miniature flags fringed the curved edges, and portraits of the lamented dead were encircled with crepe. At the abutments and the ends of the main arch were the mottoes: 'The purposes of the Almighty are perfect and must prevail.' 'Abraham Lincoln, the noblest martyr to freedom; sacred thy dust; hallowed thy resting place.' On each side of the arch were the words 'Abraham Lincoln,' formed with sprigs of the arbor vitae, with the mottoes, 'Our guiding star has fallen;' 'The nation mourns,' and 'Though dead he yet speaketh.' Near by this combination of arches stood 16 young ladies dressed in white waists and black skirts, with black sashes. They sang Old Hundred, concluding with The Doxologv. Many persons were affected to tears. Large military and civil escorts were attentive and mournful listeners. Thirty-six young ladies occupied a tastefully-decorated platform, in white dresses with black scarfs. They held in their hands little flags. In their midst, and almost hidden in the folds of the national flag, was a lady representing the Genius of America. Meantime, guns were fired and the sublime strains of music filled the air. Miss Colfax, a niece of the Hon. Schuyler Colfax, and 15 other ladies entered the funeral car and laid flowers upon the coffin of the dead. At Michigan City, the funeral party was joined by Schuyler Colfax, Senator L. Trumbull, and a committee of a hundred citizens of Chicago."
The Indianapolis Journal reporter referred to the decorated arches as "the handiwork of the ladies of Michigan City ... most beautiful in execution and design." He commented: "In the brief moment we have to describe this wonderful piece of beautiful mechanism, it is impossible to do it justice. We have only to say that the women of Michigan City have reared a monument to the moral worth of Abraham Lincoln more lasting and enduring, more solid and substantial, than the laurels of warriors or crowns of kings - a cross of solid flowers."
A student and chronicler of Michigan City history, Phil T. Sprague, wrote in 1962: "The choice of trailing arbutus from our dunes for the Lincoln memorial cross and white fish from Lake Michigan to serve the funeral party for breakfast, were both selections of our best products to honor the occasion. Presented by the most charming young ladies of the community, appropriately attired, they marked recognition of the visit of the Lincoln Funeral Train as an outstanding, historic, if sad, event in the early life of the patriotic and enterprising Lake Michigan city on Trail Creek."
The train bearing the body of the fallen President was here only briefly. But for 18-year-old Harriet Sherman ... for 10-year-old Martin T. Krueger ... and for the hundreds of local citizens who boarded the train, and who surveyed the scene surrounding it, those minutes of May 1, 1865, constituted community Moments to Remember.
A too-casual perusal of newspaper files could lead to the conclusion that Michigan City was incredibly blase about the only visit by a living President in the city's first 140 years. The President was William McKinley. The date of his stop in Michigan City was Oct. 17, 1899.
The casual reader could get the idea that the town was not bubbling over with anticipation if he simply looked at the newspaper published the day before the President came here. There was only one reference on the front page of the Evening Dispatch of Oct. 16 to the big event to take place in Michigan City the following day - and it wasn't exactly what you'd expect.
It was headed "A Warning," and was a message to the citizenry from William Gallas, captain of police. Its text:
"I would remind our citizens of the town before President McKinley arrives in our city to fasten your doors and windows good when there is nobody left in the house, secure your valuables and when you assemble at the foot of Franklin Street conceal your money and watches well, so that pickpockets cannot get at them. I warn you in earnest because I know robbers will come and that a number of complaints will be made. Already a gang of thieves and pickpockets arrived here, smooth and slick. To show you how slick they are I will illustrate a case which a young man from Chicago experienced, who came here a few days ago, and told with bitter feeling that he started out to see the President. Knowing that there would be a number of pickpockets, he put a big revolver in his pocket to shoot the first man that touched him. But when he got out of the crowd his $64 and a fine gold watch were gone, amounting to more than $100, but he still has the revolver to shoot burglars with in the future. So I warn everyone to be on the lookout tomorrow."
It seems belatedly significant in light of today's extraordinary security precautions and considering the fact that President McKinley himself was killed by an assassin with a revolver in 1901 - that the police captain appeared not especially concerned about the young man's gun. At any rate, that was the message to the people of Michigan City on page one of the newspaper the day before the president's arrival.
But the casual reader would err if he concluded from that one surprising note that Michigan City did not regard McKinley's visit as a momentous occasion. The local enthusiasm about the event, and the reception which the community accorded its honored guest, is best told in a succession of newspaper accounts. The first is from Oct. 13 - a front page Dispatch story headlined: "To Greet McKinley - Michigan City Will Do Itself Proud Tuesday - An Immense Crowd Will Hear and Cheer the President." The story read:
"Michigan City will give President McKinley a hearty and rousing welcome on the occasion of his visit to the city next Tuesday afternoon and the chief executive will learn that there is nothing lacking in genuine Hoosier Hospitality.
"Steps were taken at a public meeting of citizens held last night at the council chambers to perfect the arrangements for the proper reception of the President. The meeting was presided over by Mayor Krueger and about 50 representative citizens were present. C.J. Robb acted as the secretary. Mayor Krueger and (State) Sen. Culbert made brief addresses, stating the object of the meeting, and upon motion of N.W. Bartholomew the chair appointed an executive committee of five to have charge of the entire affair. Mr. Krueger appointed Sen. Culbert, J.G. Mott, A.H. Leist, L.B. Ashton and J.E. Shultz."
The story then lists members named to other committees - finance, decorations, and reception (Mayor Krueger, Sen. Culbert and Cong. E.D. Crumpacker), and continues:
"The general committee met this morning at 11 o'clock and viewed the grounds at the head of Franklin Street, where it is proposed that the reception will take place.
"The President's train will stop with the rear of the last car at the eastern line of the street, and it is proposed that a small platform be erected on the tracks in the center of the street to which the President will be conducted and from which he will address the crowd."
The story goes on to say that space nearest the platform would be reserved for children from the town's public and parochial schools, "invited to attend as a body;" that a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 was expected; that "business generally will be suspended and every able bodied person in town is expected to congregate on North Franklin Street for the occasion," and that "all the surrounding towns have been advertised by the committee, and many farmers as well as LaPorte, Westville and Otis people are expected here to swell the crowd." Franklin Street and the immediate neighborhood of the railroad depot was to be festively decorated. Three thousand flags and 500 yards of bunting were purchased.
Thus, the city prepared for an historic moment. And this is how it went, as told in an Oct. 17 story with the headline: "President Here Chief Executive Gets a Warm Welcome - Immense Crowd Gathers to Hear and See Him:"
"President McKinley arrived in Michigan City this afternoon at 5:30 o'clock via a special train on the Michigan Central and was greeted by an immense crowd of school children, G.A.R. veterans, and people generally. The north end of Franklin Street was alive with people, the crush being the greatest in the history of the town.
"The President was received with a salute of 21 guns fired from the top of Hoosier Slide and by the wild hurrahs of the immense crowd.
"The President when he appeared at the rear of the train was again applauded vigorously. He appeared to be in good health and spirit, and spoke in a clear, resounding voice.
"The President appeared on the platform and was introduced by Mayor Krueger. He made a three minute address, but people ten feet away could not hear a word he said. The President said he was glad to see the school children, who waved the flag they love and we all love and that meant so much to the people of the United States. He was also glad to see the laboring men there and to know that they were prosperous and happy. He thanked them again for their presence and closed with the introduction of two members of his cabinet Atty. Gen. Gregg and Secretary of War Long, who each bowed his thanks.
"At the conclusion of the address by Mr. McKinley the crowd cheered again and the train pulled out for Kalamazoo."
The following items appeared in the story, under the heading, "Notes - "
"There were 32 men and a half dozen ladies, including Mrs. McKinley, in the party. The President's wife appeared and was warmly received.
"The Ames Band discoursed music when the President's train approached the station and also as it departed.
"The street from Michigan north was a mass of bunting and flags and looked very pretty.
"Mayor Krueger and Sen. Culbert, who served as the reception committee, came down from Chicago on the special train, and had an interesting conversation with the President.
"The special train was the finest ever seen in this city. It consisted of six Pullman cars elaborately finished and furnished and lighted by electricity.
"The Michigan Central furnished its service to the President complimentarily, and, in fact, all railroads do. The President's swing around the circle embraces a journey of 7,000 miles and extended as far west as Fargo. John Fogarty brought the train through from Chicago and made the run in one hour and 15 minutes.
"The thousands of school children who lined the north side of the tracks protected by a strong line of G.A.R. veterans made a beautiful sight, and the rising generation were highly complimented by the members of the Presidential party.
"The Dispatch is a trifle delayed this evening in order to present a full account of this afternoon's ceremonies.
"The attendance from outside the city was not so large as anticipated, still the crowd was immense and shows what Michigan City can do when she tries.
"The factories, schools and nearly all business houses in the city were closed for the occasion.
"Hoosier hospitality manifested itself in no uncertain manner in the reception accorded the President."
The following day, Oct. 18, The Dispatch had more to say about the visit of President McKinley to Michigan City, and a report on his stop in Three Oaks. The Oct. 18 story was headlined "McKinley's Visit -Aftermath of the Big Demonstration - Reception of the President in Three Oaks." It read:
"The reception given President William McKinley last evening was the greatest demonstration of the kind that has taken place in the city in many years. People began to assemble at the depot grounds by 1:30 o'clock in the afternoon to secure themselves points of advantage and by 3 o'clock the entire space on Franklin Street from Lake Erie (railroad) office on the south side of the Monon tracks to the Michigan Central freight depot north of the main tracks of the Michigan Central was massed with people.
"Every boxcar in the vicinity was covered with humanity and scores of people were perched on the roofs of nearby buildings. When the information came that the Presidential party was delayed in Chicago, some of the crow temporarily scattered, but most of the people stood at their posts and there were others to take the places of those who had departed.
"The school children arrived early on the scene and were massed at the most desirable location - the easterly side of Franklin Street just north of the main tracks. There they waited for more than an hour.
"When the train bearing the presidential party rolled slowly into the depot ground at 5:27 o'clock the patient, expectant crowd sent up a prolonged cheer, which increased in volume when the rear of the observation car stopped at the east side of the street. Then the President, Cong. Crumpacker, Mayor Krueger and Sen. Culbert appeared on the rear platform. Fully a minute's time elapsed before order was restored sufficiently to permit the chief executive to make his address. He spoke for three minutes and his brief address was devoid of politics or any reference to current issues. At the conclusion of his address the crowd broke out into renewed applause and surged around the rear of the car.
"Someone handed the President a bouquet. At this juncture occurred an incident which Mrs. Hannah Hollenbeck of Oakwood undoubtedly regards as the proudest of her life. President McKinley inquired one of the Grand Army men standing below him for Mrs. Hollenbeck. (The 75-year-old lady had sent a note to the President in Chicago telling him she had lived next door to the McKinley family in Niles, Ohio, had been a friend of the President's mother, and had on occasion been his babysitter.)
" 'Here she is,' said one of the men who had the old lady in charge.
" 'That's all right; that's all right,' said the President as he leaned low over the railing in a vain endeavor to reach her hand. The four men with her lifted her almost to their shoulders and the President warmly shook her hand, at the same time saying:
" 'How do you do? I am glad to see you! Glad to shake hands with anyone who was a friend of my mother.'
"He then removed his button-hole bouquet and gave it to Mrs. Hollenbeck.
"The crowd continued to shout and surge about the car. McKinley disappeared and reappeared time and again before the train finally resumed its trip, waving his handkerchief to the children and bowing right and left.
"The crush became so tense that at least three women fainted and some of the school children began to cry from flight, but fortunately no one was severely injured.
"None of the spectators knew that the President was to pass this city without speaking. When he left Chicago he did not want to make an address until his arrival at Kalamazoo but Mr. Crumpacker and the committee which went from this city prevailed upon him to speak a few words, for the sake of the children if for no one else. While the crowd was subjected to great inconvenience, it felt repaid for all the trouble in hearing and seeing the chief executive of the United States."
The Oct. 18 story, too, had a section headed, "Notes." They included: "Michigan city did itself proud in its reception to the President.
"The train was held here 20 minutes while the engine took water and the cars were examined.'
"It was too bad that the train was delayed until dark, for many people on the edge of the crowd could not hear or see anything.
"The Presidential party said the Michigan City crowd was one of the largest seen on his journey, considering the size of the town. This is very flattering.
"Committees from Buchanan and Dowagiac were on the Presidential train seeking speeches at their places, but were unsuccessful, and the train only slowed up to let the committees off.
"It is no exaggeration to say that fully ten thousand people tried to see and hear the President. More than a thousand returned to their homes when they heard the train was late.
"Master Don J. Henry, son of H.W. Henry, the nurseryman, of LaPorte., personally presented Mr. McKinley during his stop in this city with a beautiful bouquet of Mrs. J.H. Long and Gen. Washington roses. He thanked them very kindly for them.
"Judge Crumpacker joined the reception committee at Chicago and came down with the special train. The congressman aided the committee materially in impressing the President with the necessity for making a speech here and to this fact are our people probably indebted for what was seen and heard of the President, for Mr. McKinley was about worn out and was anxious to rest all the way to Kalamazoo. When he saw the big crowd at the foot of the street, however, he brightened up and expressed his deep gratification upon the magnificent ovation accorded him.
"President McKinley was taken under the wing of E.K. Warren, the Three Oaks village president, when the train left Michigan City, and when the party reached Three Oaks a great crowd greeted the visitors. The President and his official family were escorted under a canopy of electric lights to the city park, where a pedestal has been constructed for the Dewey cannon and from which Mr. McKinley made a brief speech.
" 'We have had many beautiful receptions in our long journey through the great north, but I assure you that we have had none more beautiful or picturesque than the one you have given us at Three Oaks...'
"The walk from the train to the stand was lined with little girls in white waving the American flag. Three Oaks certainly did it self proud."
At least two ironic notes linked the visits of the Lincoln funeral train and the McKinley touring train in Michigan City in 1865 and 1899...
Harriet Sherman, the 18-year-old Michigan City girl who was in Ford's Theater and witnessed the assassination of President Lincoln, and who 17 days later was in the escort party which accompanied the President's body from Michigan City to Springfield, Ill., described the terrible scene she had witnessed in Washington to a schoolmate at Cleveland Female Seminary, Ida Saxton. Five and half years later, in Canton, Ohio where she worked as a cashier in her father’s bank, Miss Saxton met a young attorney in that town, the recently-elected county prosecutor, William McKinley. They were married. Ida Saxton McKinley, now the nation's First Lady, was introduced to the Michigan City crowd when the Presidential train stopped here in 1899. Less than two years later, Mrs. McKinley, to whom her young Michigan City friend had described the Lincoln assassination, herself was widowed when a gunman assassinated President McKinley.
The other ironic note: When the Lincoln funeral train came to Michigan City in 1865, 10-year-old Martin Krueger, too new to this country to fully comprehend the significance of the occasion, had sneaked aboard the train to see the body of the slain President. Thirty-four years later, as mayor of the town, Martin Krueger rode from Chicago on the McKinley train - and introduced the President of the United States to his fellow Michigan City citizens.
In the style of journalism, and intra-county competition, prevalent as the 19th Century came near its end, the Evening Dispatch carried this snippity, uppity item: "Only about a dozen LaPorte people came over to see the President. Patriotism is evidently not quoted very high among the county seat brethren."
A close reading of The Dispatch in the day or two after the McKinley visit had attracted the immense crowd indicates that the police captain's warning apparently was well heeded: No reports of homes burglarized or pockets picked. On the contrary, the only "incident" reported (other than fainting women and frightened children) was a happy one: "Carl A. Gutschow lost a pair of spectacles in the crowd and in the evening found them on the ground undisturbed. He was fortunate."
Indeed. It doesn't say whether Mr. Gutschow lost his spectacles before he had seen the President. But even if he did, it nonetheless undoubtedly was for him - as for about 10,000 other persons - an experience which rates as true Michigan City Moments to Remember.
The famous super-storm which hit Michigan City on the day after Valentine's Day in 1958 left residents in snow up to their hearts.
Saturday, Feb. 15, 1958, started out pretty much like any mid-February Saturday in Michigan City. There was nearly a foot of accumulated snow on the ground, an inch of which had fallen Friday night.
The weather forecast Saturday morning called for more of the near-zero cold which had prevailed here for a week. There was a chance, the weatherman added, of occasional snow flurries. Early Saturday morning, the snow began to f all. It was obvious that "flurries" was hardly the word to describe it. But nobody suspected in those early hours how much snow was going to fall ... and fall ... and fall.
By the time some persons who were away from their homes began to realize the severity of the storm, it already was too late for many of them to do much about it - except put down their heads and start walking.
Vehicular traffic came to an abrupt halt by late Saturday night. Cabs were forced to stop running at 10:30. Cars dead-ended in drifts.
The city's six pieces of snow equipment went into action-but they were no match for the snow being dumped on the town. Before long three were out of commission. Snow continued to pile atop snow, and the effects of the storm continued to - pardon the expression - snowball.
The Rainbow Girls' formal dance at the Masonic Temple turned into a "slumber party" for 30 stranded youngsters and their chaperones. The Spaulding Hotel rented 45 rooms Saturday night between midnight and 6 a.m. to persons who found themselves stranded downtown.
By 6 Sunday morning, the city's snowbound state was apparent to everyone, except persons who had retired Saturday night and hadn't yet had their rude awakening. Mayor Francis G. Fedder set up emergency headquarters with Central Fire Station as the control center. Seeking snow removal assistance, Mayor Fedder telephoned, and woke up, Gov. Harold Handley.
Those persons who had retired Saturday night unaware of the storm's scope were fast becoming aware. "I came into the living room and saw my Dad standing by the picture window," one recalled. 'Aren't we going to church?' I asked him. He just turned and gave me a funny look. Then I went to the window and saw why. The snow was above the window sill level. It didn't seem possible."
It soon became apparent that the Michigan City area had been the sole target of the freakish
snowstorm. When Mayor Fedder called the city controller of Gary to seek help, the initial reply was: "You've got to be kidding. The sun's shining here-we have no snow."
Assured that Fedder wasn't kidding, the Gary official headed a delegation of men and 16 pieces of emergency equipment. They got to the Pine Cutoff quickly enough-but from there were able to proceed only with the snow equipment carving the way through the mountainous drifts.
Fire Chief Clem Noveroske and City Engineer John Kelley directed digging-out operations involving more than 65 pieces of heavy equipment rushed to Michigan City by other communities in response to Mayor Fedder's SOS. Citizens joined city employees and the volunteers from elsewhere in undertaking the overwhelming task of clearing the clogged city of more than four feet of snow. Zero temperatures and winds of 30 to 35 miles an hour hampered their efforts. And the forecast wasn't exactly cheered: More snow!
Seven telephone operators from South Bend were rushed here as the snowstorm became the talk of the town. Six thousand outgoing long distance calls - five times more than normal - were recorded by the telephone office on Sunday. Local calls also reached an abnormal peak. Waits of 10 minutes for a dial tone were not uncommon.
Newspapers, magazine and television reporters from "the outside world" mushed their way into Michigan City to cover the story of the super-storm.
Monday was a day for digging, or reflecting, and even of occasional cussing. Many industries were closed. So were schools and some stores. Radio station WIMS, which had not been able to get on the air until noon Sunday, had made up for it by continuous broadcasting since that hour. A short-staffed News-Dispatch published Monday minus a women’s page or neighbor's page, but with a large (pre-scheduled) ad on page 3 suggesting that the time had come to start thinking of buying a power lawnmower.
The front page of that Feb. 17 paper carried a picture of Mayor Fedder - tired, unshaven, but showing he had (as, indeed, had most local citizens) retained his good humor. A button on his lapel read: "RELAX!"
By Tuesday, there was some basis for local "relaxation." Ninety per cent of the city's streets had been cleared for one-lane traffic.
But the crisis had moved to outlying areas. Snowdrifts - some as high as eight feet - imprisoned many rural residents in their homes.
Aid finally arrived on Thursday. Gov. Handley declared LaPorte County and part of Porter County a disaster area. The National Guard was mobilized. Helicopters - two had even been sent from Fort Riley, Kansas - rescued persons who needed medical treatment or otherwise required moving. Supplies were dropped to others. Surrounding states sent additional equipment.
Emergency operations in Michigan City finally ended at 6 p.m. Feb. 22-nearly one week to the hour from the time the snow had started. The storm had cost the city $35,000-but could have cost much more. Chicago, Hammond, Gary, South Bend, Lake County, and Berrien County, Mich., asked no pay for emergency equipment which had been dispatched here.
Things were returning to normal--well, almost normal. Sightseers came to look at the piles of snow which had been trucked to Washington Park. An estimated 10,000 cars joined in the gigantic traffic jam. Schools resumed classes on Feb. 24. Temperatures rose into the thawing 50s.
Except for the snow piles in the park, which would not disappear completely until spring, the Big Snow of 1958 was at last a memory.
It began with springlike weather-temperatures in the 60s. It ended with the mercury at 16 below, the coldest February reading on record.
And in between, there was a full-fledged blizzard, an accumulation of more than 30 inches of snow, and a variety of weather-related drama that ranged from mercy errands to a panicky rush on grocery stores. It happened in 1967. The near-balmy weather was drummed out of the picture by a thunderstorm the night of Jan. 25 which was accompanied by tornado warnings.
The next morning, six inches of snow fell. Nearly all schools in LaPorte, Porter and Berrien counties were closed. Snow continued through the day and into the night--blown by 40 mile-an-hour winds into drifts higher than eight feet in places.
On Thursday, Jan. 27, schools and many factories and businesses were closed. Meetings were canceled. Basketball games were rescheduled. Funerals were postponed. The snow depth had passed 20 inches. Mayor Randall C. Miller advised citizens to stay home. Motels were filled beyond capacity with stranded travelers. Vehicles were abandoned.
A home on U.S. 12 burned to the ground because Coolspring Twp. firemen couldn't get to it. In Michigan City, the fire chief advised residents to attach a garden hose to an indoor faucet-just in case.
Public transportation was coming to a near standstill. A South Shore train due here from Chicago at 7:15 finally arrived at 11:45. Several school buses taking children home after classes had been dismissed because of the snow became stalled. A Navy surplus tow truck was used to rescue the buses, and a jeep to rescue the passengers. State prison inmates were kept in their cells. Radio station WIMS stayed on the air all night - personnel were stranded there, anyway - to broadcast weather information and emergency announcements.
News-Dispatch sports editor Bill Redfield started walking to work at 4:30 a.m. and got a ride partway in a squad car. Enough newspaper employees made it - nearly all of them by walking - to get out a reduced edition.
By Friday, policemen were having to respond on foot to many calls. Answering what proved to be a false alarm, three fire trucks got stuck and had to be dug out by firemen.
Many people were stranded, particularly in rural areas, and emphasis was placed on emergency deliveries of food, fuel and medicine. National Guard and state police helicopters, Army personnel carriers and other military and commercial heavy equipment were employed. Kankakee Twp. firemen mushed by jeep as far as they could to get food to a woman and her 11 children marooned in their home on county Road 325E-then completed the errand by toboggan. The toll road was closed, nearly all county roads were considered impassable, and even mail deliveries had been halted.
By Monday - 27 inches of snow having been measured - some movement of people and vehicles resumed. Stores did a brisk business on snow tires; repair shops got a lot of clutch, transmission and muffler work, and people rushed to the stores to replenish food supplies.
On Tuesday, forecasts of a new storm prompted Mayor Miller to suggest that residents stock up on provisions. The crowds that converged on supermarket parking lots represented a scene not unlike the beach assaults in a John Wayne war movie.
Cart-to-cart traffic developed in food stores. Supplies of eggs, bread and milk were gobbled up. One store manager said he ran out of bread, frozen bread, rolls, Bisquick and flour, and then people started buying pancake flour.
"I saw people standing around with tears in their eyes when they couldn't find any Bisquick, said one manager. At one store, an employee observed shoppers taking milk out of the carts of other shoppers. There also was heavy traffic at the meat counters, and frozen foods and ready-to-mix foods went fast. At least one store even sold out of toilet tissue.
And one woman, apparently not as worried about the storm situation as others, left the store - after a long wait in line - carrying rubber plants under each arm.
Another half-inch of snow had fallen Feb. 1, and a final four inches was added on Feb. 5. The total cost in LaPorte County of road-clearing operations was put at $272,977.
Schools were closed for 6 1/2 days by the stormy weather--a day and a half longer than they had been during the February, 1958 snows.
The siege caused some citizens to - pardon the expression - lose their cool. Mayor Miller alternated with Street Supt. Larry Wiseman in fielding more than a thousand phone calls. He said he was told by one irate citizen: "If you don't get my street open, I'll call the mayor!" A guy with a calculator and nothing better to do figured that the storms had deposited 118,536,633 tons of snow on Michigan City. It had, indeed, been a heavy scene.
The stories of the 1909 tornado and the 1958 and 1967 big snows reflect three of the more memorable weather occurrences in Michigan City history. There are many more, of course. A full book could be devoted to "weather moments to remember." A tornado which raged through the Michigan City area March 12, 1976, caused one death, seriously injured three persons, and left more than a million dollars in property damage. About three dozen homes were damaged or destroyed in LaPorte County.
Severe storms which coincided with the high level of Lake Michigan in 1929 and 1930 resulted in considerable damage to the shoreline and residences. The storm of 1929 covered the yacht basin shore with debris. The spring of 1931 found the beach and basin shore covered with seaweed, driftwood and timber. In excess of a thousand loads of debris were removed from the basin shore alone. The accompanying picture shows the Heisman dock, which had been submerged by the high water of '29 and reappeared as the water receded the following year. There also was a great storm on Lake Michigan in 1885.
The most destructive three minutes in Michigan City weather history occurred April 29, 1909, when a tornado swooped down on the city's southwest area.
It was the crowning blow, so to speak, of a bizarre day in which lightning bolts and tidal waves also made local news.
The funnel-shaped cloud made its appearance above the lake hills shortly after 7 p.m. and zeroed in on the Southwest Side. Before anyone could hard-boil an egg, something it's doubtful that anyone did, the twister had completed its destructive binge and departed.
Behind, it left thousands of dollars in damage - and a 900-foot gap in the Indiana State Prison's west wall.
As the Michigan City News summed it all up in its next-day headline: "TERRIFIC WIND STORM TORE THINGS IN GENERAL."
That it did. The tornado disrupted communications; twisted, smashed and unroofed buildings; uprooted trees, and generally rearranged the neighborhood's appearance.
Unhappily for the state, the tornado chose to alight at a point where the prison wall, 24 feet high, blocked its path.
That obstacle removed, the twister devoted several seconds to effecting various other architectural innovations at the prison. Gone with the wind were a dozen of the institution's brick smokestacks. Borrowing the tops of two boxcars as its tools, the tornado revised the foundation of the north cellhouse. One of the boxcars became a battering ram, moved 200 feet on its tracks by a twister and dashed into a newly-built east gate.
Outside the prison wall - or what had been the prison wall - the storm continued its spree. It tore into several industries, including the Ford and Johnson Co., Reliance Co. and Sterling Co., indiscriminately plucking roofs, chimneys and walls.
At St. Stanislaus Cemetery, a storehouse and casket-lowering machine owned by A.G. Ott were given 100-foot rides. A barn owned by George Hyska on Wabash Street was moved from the rear yard to the middle of the street. Charles Kintzele's barn at Greenwood and Franklin was lifted from its foundation.
A home at 2914 Franklin St. lost its rear porch. Windows were removed from Gus Erickson's grocery store and the Eagle Bakery, both on S. Franklin Street, and a corner of a roof was torn from a house at 502 Cleveland Ave. Two chimneys and a barn were knocked down at 2105 Ohio St.
A street car motorman on Franklin Street Car No. 9 reported wind hit the car so fiercely it lifted the wheels on one side from the rail. With wires down, communications were cut off and the streetcars and South Shore trains were delayed. But it was at the prison that things were really popping.
The warden, a man named Reid, was quite perceptive, according to the News' account. After studying the 900-foot opening in his wall, he "at once realized the seriousness of the situation
and knew it would be useless to take the prisoners from their cells with nothing on the west to meet their gaze but a stretch of open country..."
At midnight, the warden finally got through to Gov. Marshall. The governor immediately called out a national guard company from South Bend to stand guard at the king-size security crack. A Plymouth unit later arrived.
The tornado highlighted - but did not monopolize - the area's freakish weather that day.
The day had begun with electrical storms and heavy rains. A lightning bolt shot down the chimney of a farm home two miles south of Waterford and killed a man and wife. In Michigan City, a bolt similarly entered a house at 402 Cloud St., missing a baby and its mother by inches.
Some of the more illuminating observations made by the Michigan City Evening News in its coverage of the city's April 29, 1909, tornado:
"A barn belonging to Ernest Newman at 1802 W. 10th St. was torn to pieces by the storm. Two setting hens that were on duty had the scare of their lives. One sustained a broken leg and the other one is still setting on 12 guaranteed eggs.
"Warden Reid is very thankful that King Storm picked out the hour that he did for his work. Many others (prison guards included) are also rejoicing with the warden that the blow did not occur while the prisoners were in the factories. It's dollars to doughnuts that there would have been as merry a time in the vicinity of the prison as one would care to witness.
"All things considered, the prisoners took the affair very cooly. With the roof shaking over their heads and the walls trembling at their sides they were certainly in a pretty tight place for a few seconds. They were no doubt frightened too badly for utterance and when they became calm it was of no use to let out an outburst.
"The courthouse fared well and all concerned are thankful that it wasn't in the tornado zone.
"Residents of the tornado zone had the scare of their lives during the storm. Many a house seemed to be on its last pegs. The danger was soon over, but not all spent a restful night."
But perhaps the best comment of all was a classified ad that insurance agent William Ohming was running at the time in the News:
"The wise will avail themselves of protection against loss by tornado or windstorm insurance."
Hardly had the tornado faded from sight when a Lake Michigan tidal wave hit Michigan City and New Buffalo.
Effects of the wave were evident the entire length of the Michigan City channel. The excursion steamer Theodore Roosevelt, wintered at the foot of Seventh Street, shot upward and threatened to break from its moorings. The water level receded, though, almost as quickly as it had risen.
At New Buffalo, where the level ascended an estimated eight feet, a boathouse caretaker had a nerve-shattering experience. The tidal wave hit just as he was undressing for bed, lifted the house from its foundation, rolled it over several times and carried it about four blocks. The semi-conscious caretaker was found later, unhurt but bewildered.
A cottage was moved two blocks by the Wave, a highway crossing bridge about four blocks from the mouth of the river was washed out, and a bathhouse on the New Buffalo beach was - according to a newspaper article - "carried around a hill and into the marsh country."
The weirdsville weather presented a violent break in what was a fairly peaceful time in Michigan City near the end of the first decade of the 20th Century.
Chief issue in town was whether the city would vote wet or dry in an upcoming local option election. Wet won. Men's suits sold for $10 to $25. At the Reliance Clothing Store, 809 Franklin St., a sale featured boys' suits "up to $3.50" on sale for $1.95. Ladies' spring suits (Paris copies) were marked down from $30 to $19.48.
The Monarch Cigar Co. of St. Louis was looking for a Michigan City representative - at $10 a week and expenses.
The Vaudette Theatre, "Michigan City's Five Cent Showcase of Quality," was offering The Lost Sheep -"Picturing a young girl's infatuation for a wealthy rogue, her sad awakening and return to the fold."
A hypnotism act, The Flints, was playing at the Grand Opera House, which advertised "ladies free on Monday nights under usual conditions."
A "C" Street resident was selling Montana mining shares ... Teddy Roosevelt was chasing lions in British East Africa ... trains were running regularly from Michigan City to LaPorte, Rolling Prairie, Hudson Lake, South Bend and "all intermediate stations," with streetcars departing every 7 1/2 minutes for Mishawaka ... the Monon had two passenger trains leaving daily, one for Indianapolis, Louisville and Cincinnati, and the other for Monon.
On the sports scene, the Cubs and Tigers were leading the major league pennant races and the Michigan City Grays were preparing to open their season against New Carlisle.
Woodson and Willits' Drug Store urged its customers to buy some "root juice," and advertised a testimonial by an anonymous woman who revealed that a few doses of the stuff had cured her "back pains kidney trouble, poor eyesight, dizzy spells, cold feet, poor circulation, tired and rundown feeling, upset stomach, side pains, frequent headaches, unsightly complexion and rings under the eyes.'
An aftermath to the day's big storm occurred when several South Side residents complained to City Judge W. H. Kenefick that a Wabash Street woman was permitting her cows to run at large. Seeking shelter from the storm, the complaints charged, the animals, had trampled flower gardens on Greenwood Avenue.
Such was Michigan City on April 29, 1909, the date April showers brought a tornado and a tidal wave.
A collective sigh of relief on the part of city citizens undoubtedly followed the tornado's departure, "Surely," the drenched residents mumbled to themselves, "we've had our quota of rain for awhile." They were right. The next day, April 30, it snowed.
The seven-story Spaulding Hotel, a downtown landmark and hub of Michigan City's social life for more than 40 years, closed on April 18, 1966. Paradoxically, the hotel - which survived the depression years of the 1930s - closed at a time when Michigan City's economy was at its highest peak in history.
The closing displaced some permanent residents, businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, and local service clubs, which had been meeting in the hotel for many years. Sixty hotel employees lost their jobs.
The Spaulding, tallest building in Michigan City and a facility supported by the subscriptions of local residents, was the scene of much community history and tradition. It was headquarters for the Miss Indiana Pageant and social and civic events. Leading state and national political leaders and other dignitaries made the Spaulding their homes when visiting here.
When gambling flourished in Michigan City during the late 1930s, the hotel basement was a busy casino. Back in 1921, a campaign was organized to build the hotel. More than $300,000 was subscribed. The hotel flourished. Investors got back their money and dividends.
Ownership of the hotel changed hands many times in its more than four decades of operation. Since its closing in 1966, there have been several proposals to reopen the building, but none has proved tangible.
If there has been a happier, prouder, more memorable community-unifying moment in Michigan City history, it went unrecorded.
The moment came the night of March 19, 1966, when the final buzzer sounded at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and the scoreboard read:
MICHIGAN CITY - 63
INDIANAPOLIS TECH - 52
Coach Doug Adams' Elston High School Red Devils had become the state basketball champions!
The victory in the big game was the 20th straight for the 1965-66 Red Devil team. The Devils, who had been rated fourth and fifth in the state wire service polls before the tournament began, finished with a 26-3 record. As assistant coach Al Whitlow so eloquently summarized the Devils' season: "How sweet it is!
The crowd at the Butler University gym had totaled just under 15,000. And almost that many fans were on hand to greet the triumphant Red Devils when they returned home Sunday. The coaches, players and cheerleaders rode on fire trucks in a parade to Ames Field, where a joyous celebration took place.
Players on the championship team included Rob McFarland, Jim Cadwell, Larry Gipson, O'Neil Simmons, Terry Morse, Dennis Krueger, Stan Farmer, Sam Garrett, Mike Adams, Harold Kennedy, Fred LaBorn and Cal George. Cadwell, who led Devil scoring in the title game with 21 points, also was named recipient of the coveted Trester Award.
The Red Devils began their trail to the state title by winning their 15th straight sectional tourney crown Feb. 26 at the Elston gym. In sectional competition, they defeated St. Mary's, 97-50; LaPorte, 72-51, and South Central, 88-49.
The following week, the Devils finally ended a jinx-winning their first regional tournament in 31 years. They did it at Elkhart, where they whipped the Elkhart Blue Blazers (one of the three teams that had beaten the Devils during the season), 74-43, and South Bend Central (rated No. 1 in the state by United Press International), 79-72.
The Devil coaches and players got a heroes' reception when they returned home that night. An elderly woman stood outside her home on U.S. 35 as the team buses passed, waving a handmade congratulatory sign and blinking a flashlight on and off. Others along the route waved, or otherwise signaled, their appreciation-and when the contingent reached the Elston auditorium at 11:30, they found 3,000 persons had ignored a snowstorm to attend an impromptu pep rally.
The state of ecstasy which prevailed then approached delirium by the next Saturday-when the Devils moved from Sweet 16 to Final Four status. At the Fort Wayne semistate, they defeated Kokomo, 74-66, rebounding from a 10-point deficit, and then added another trophy by besting Anderson (the Associated Press selection to win the state), 90-81.
The team didn't get back to town that time until almost 1:30 a.m. - but there were more than 5,000 fans happily celebrating at the gym.
The cry in Michigan City became, "Hey! Hey! All the Way!" Those words were used to separate stories in the newspaper. They turned up on all kinds of signs - homemade and commercially printed. Messages projecting the same sentiment were in evidence everywhere - in public and parochial schools, business places, marquees, on autos, and in windows of houses. A sign in front of St. John's United Church of Christ read: "Contrary to our normal policy, we too are backing the Devils."
Doug Adams, who was to become the Indiana and national high school coach of the year, led his talent-laden team to Indianapolis for the climactic day of play.
In the afternoon game, the Devils socked it to East Chicago Washington, 81-64. That set the stage for the nighttime showdown with Indianapolis Tech, which had eliminated pesky Cloverdale, 58-51.
Tech led at the first quarter break, 17-15. At halftime, it was 30-30. Fingernails were getting shorter in the Michigan City cheering section at Hinkle, and back home where thousands of fans followed the game by radio or TV.
Adams said he told the Devils they would have to get aggressive on the backboards in the second half. They got his message. In the third period, Elston out rebounded Indianapolis, 20-7, and gained a 48-38 lead. Tech's famed press gave the Devils some problems for a brief time in the final period - but nothing the determined, title bound Elston team couldn't handle.
When the buzzer made it official, Doug Adams got a happy kiss from his wife, Betty, and Devil players and boosters at Hinkle and at home were jubilant.
In Michigan City, whistles, sirens, car horns, firecrackers and other noisemakers began sounding after the end of the championship game. People who had been watching the game on television or listening on radio left their homes and either headed downtown - where a traffic jam soon developed - or shouted to their neighbors. Children waved sparklers, porch lights flicked on and off, and in dozens of other ways the stay-at-home Devil supporters made their enthusiasm evident.
There was a day off school Monday, of course. There were speeches and proclamations. Cong. John Brademas recognized the Devils' achievement on the floor of Congress. Fans re-played the game, savoring its outcome, again and again. When the Devils took the floor for the first game of the next season, they received an ovation from not only their fans, but from the fans in the visitors' section and members of the opposing team.
As Whitlow had said, "How sweet it is! " Memories fade, even of sweet moments, but a high school basketball championship is something super-special in Indiana. A decade later, fans in the Elston gym glance at the west wall, at the life-size replicas of the 1965-66 Devil team, and they remember very well.
Loren Tate, the sports editor of the Hammond Times, had written after the '66 title game: "If you were going to build a perfect high school basketball team, what is there about Michigan City that you would change?"
Looking at those replicas, recalling that exciting team - which averaged nearly 19 points a game - the local fans would answer Tate's question: "Nothing ... absolutely nothing."
The super statistics:
Michigan City: All-American City
The year 1966 saw Michigan City gain double recognition of major note. Already the toast of Indiana, thanks to the basketball prowess of the Elston Red Devils, the town became an All-America City on April 8. Michigan City, cited by Look Magazine and the National Municipal League for the quality of its community life - particularly as evidenced by citizen action programs - was one of 13 All-America Cities chosen from an original field of 142 entries.
President Lyndon B. Johnson wired his congratulations and lauded the city for its "excellent example of citizen effort and interest in municipal affairs." Michigan Gov. George Romney, speaker at a May 13 banquet at which formal presentation of the award was made, added his praise.
The Fourth of July, 1976, the milestone 200th year of America's independence, comes 30 years after the community's return to peacetime conditions following five fateful war years. What follows are brief samples of how it was in the community on Independence Day in the World War II years.
War was five months and three days away on the Fourth of July, 1941. But military preparedness was under way - a newspaper story reported that 238 local youths who had turned 21 since Oct. 16 had been registered under the Selective Service Act. An ad promoting the USO (local headquarters for which was the Spaulding Hotel) asked: "Where will your boy spend his leave?" The price of milk went up a penny - to 13 cents for a quart.
On the eve of the Fourth of July in 1942, the Indiana State Prison conducted a 10-minute test blackout, and local air raid wardens were making plans for a community-wide blackout. Michigan City residents observed their first wartime Fourth of July since 1918, as a page one News-Dispatch story said, "with the determination that they shall preserve the independence which our forefathers won for us 166 years ago." Tires were rationed and a 40-mile-an-hour speed limit was in effect.
Independence Day in 1943 found rationing of meat, butter, fats, cheese and coffee. Headlines told of a new U.S. offensive in the Pacific. Pullman-Standard sought workers at its railroad car plant here, promising "at least a 45-hour week." Groceries featured bread for a dime a loaf and 10 pounds of potatoes for 55 cents. The OPA office warned that motorists would face arrest if they attempted long trips on gasoline rations. In the three-day holiday, 65,000 cars were counted at Washington Park. Lake Michigan was at its highest level since 1929.
The Fourth of July weekend in 1944 found Art Kassel's band at the Oasis Ballroom, with special rates for servicemen. All available rooms at the Spaulding, Warren, Milner and Sheridan Beach hotels were taken. News from the war fronts was encouraging, and the Municipal Band's concert selections included There's Something About a Soldier.
The end of the war was near when Michigan City celebrated the Fourth in 1945. A Lions Club musical show, Flying High, was presented twice at the Tivoli Theater and sold $384,000 in war bonds. Washington Park had a busy weekend, and South Shore passenger traffic from Chicago to Dunes State Park was the heaviest ever.
The first peacetime Fourth of July in five years, in 1946, found car dealers asking the public to be patient and not to sell their used cars on the black market. The local zoo board took a shakedown cruise on the new Ludwig fish tug, the Thomas C. Mullen. A new feature was introduced in The News-Dispatch, called Anvil Chorus. In one of the first letters, a reader expressed disgust about women having the bad taste to wear shorts downtown. An editorial stressed the importance of safe holiday driving. Not a word about war. That experience, those years, that great victory, were history.
Moments to Remember was written by Bob Kaser. Information used in the articles came from files of The News-Dispatch and from historical material compiled by Edna Kitchell, Michigan City Historian.