Patterns All Over the Country

“If you have a city that’s like a one-trick pony… if those industries go down, then you’re in trouble.”

This is part 1 of a 3-part series.
Part 2: An Equalizer
Part 3: Interval to Cure Cancer

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Transcript for Patterns All Over the Country

When Gary was a great city, there weren’t any much activities in the suburbs. There wasn’t a suburbia. You have people who live way out in any city who drive hours to get into town to work and then they go back out. So, it’s just part of a general thing that happened all over the country.

When I was a kid, it was a big, bustling city, active, with many department stores downtown. You know, I think the times changed, the mill went down. People started to move out including the businesses. The mall was built out in Merrillville, and so a lot of the businesses left downtown and went to Merrillville, and so did the customers.

The mill – the US Steel – was the largest mill steel producing plant in the world at that time. Now it’s maybe a quarter of what it was. Much like Detroit’s story. You know, I think that if you have a city that’s like a one-trick pony, like we were all based on the activity in the mill and Detroit with the cars, well, if those industries go down, then you’re in trouble. Gary’s not the only place where that’s happened. The inner cities have been really torn apart in a lot of the country. It’s not a story unto itself; it’s patterns all over the country, I think.

One thing happened during the ‘60s was that the city opened up to African Americans where you could buy a house. Anyway, there was a lot of redlining going on at the time. A lot of people were scared out of their homes. You know, one thing that I never understood was why people would flee, because, if you don’t flee, nobody can move in.

When I grew up, African Americans were relegated to one part of the city or another. Things started to expand. There were a number of people fighting for civil rights in the area. Glen Park was basically all white, and then you had the Central District where black people were basically crammed. I remember when I was a kid – there’s a park there called Gleason Park, and the park was basically divided in half. We used one side of the park and they – the whites used the other side of the park. The funny thing that I remember about that, the African American side of the park had this great big swimming pool that we used to use. And the other side of the park had a small wading pool, so none of us were dissatisfied with that from my side of the city.

A lot of undercover things that we suffer, that nobody ever knows about. Like when I was going to Froebel, which was a predominantly black school (it had some whites and Latin Americans in the school), but we would get the books from the white schools, after they had used them. You know, things like that. Subtle kinds of things that nobody hears about. There’s all kinds of ways to have racism that don’t have to be blatant.

Part 2: An Equalizer
Part 3: Interval to Cure Cancer