“There were a lot of strong community events that really kind of glued people together, and then of course, they dissipated over time.”
Produced by Rebecca Werner with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org
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Transcript for We’ve Got Flight, Period
One of the big things—I mean, you had the major steel mills: you had U.S. Steel, you had Inland Steel, you had Midwest Steel, you had Bethlehem Steel. Inland Steel threw a major Christmas party. It was incredible. I mean, if you’re familiar with Chicago—Bozo’s Circus. Well, a lot of the acts that were on Bozo’s Circus were at this Christmas party, and Inland Steel would give the employees—the steel workers, the laborers—these tickets for your kids and their age groups, and you would go, and you would see all of these circus acts, and then you would take your ticket and get a toy for your age group. And you would run into a lot of people because a lot of dads worked at the steel mills, worked at the same steel mills, and so, you knew a lot of people there. But there were a lot of strong community events that really kind of glued people together, and then of course, they dissipated over time.
Downtown Gary used to be packed. Well, the entrance to U.S. Steel—they built this metropolis, if you will. That’s where a lot of people from the community—that’s where you met. You usually met people at big stores like Goldblatt’s, or at the movie theaters, strolling down Broadway. But the changes—when we look at businesses leaving the city, we saw those in our high school years. When that mall got built, a whole lot of businesses—an awful lot of businesses left. And I really think that that, on top of the steel mills, and them outsourcing—see, they began outsourcing and automating back in the ’70s. They started laying off people in the mills: laborers. You got to remember, Gary was sort of founded on labor, so the steel mill itself relied on the demographic that was here as a labor pool, and when they started automating, and, really, foreign interest took over, that’s when we really started having problems, and then, Gary lost a ton of business, and, of course, people.
That’s indicative of what we’re dealing with here. You’ve got a lot of, not only, I wouldn’t even call it white flight. We’ve got flight, period, where people are looking for better economic opportunities outside of Gary, and the more people need that, the emptier the city’s going to be.