Stick and Stay

“You know, they kept saying to you, ‘Why are you doing it? Why are you doing it?’ But the two of you said, ‘It’s the right thing.’”

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.

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Transcript for Stick and Stay

The people in the Jewish community, a lot of the social activists, helped Mayor Richard Hatcher get elected.  They were on his campaign, they helped with his marketing.  He came into power and then lots of people decided that the changes they had been seeing in the school system was a reason for them to leave, or they were using it as an excuse.  I mean, he was mayor for what, six terms?

Yeah, he was a good mayor.  He tried very hard.  He had some problems because as things changed, problems changed.  People who backed Mayor Hatcher were one of the first to leave.  They decided to move to Munster-area.  Better schools, supposedly, I don’t know.  But we decided to stick and stay.  But basically, the white flight began.  We started to pick up some black neighbors.  We had meetings with everybody.  Actually, the black neighbors were the ones who organized the meetings because they wanted to say, ‘If you’re going to think about moving, we have people who would like to buy your house.’  

I remember the neighborhood starting to change—that families who had lived there for ten, fifteen years started to move out, and I recall the first people moving in were biracial marriages.

And all the people who moved in were hardworking people who grew up in Gary, went to Roosevelt, professionals.  But neighbors moved out.

Clearly white flight was the name that should’ve been given to it, but they would not admit to that.

No, they wouldn’t.  I can only speak about some of the Jewish people that we knew that moved.  They were getting older, and they were thinking about retiring, so they moved off to California, some to Arizona, some to Florida.  The timing was just right for many of them.  Their businesses were winding down.  Their kids did not want their businesses because they were—went off to college and took up other fields, so they didn’t want to come back.

And when these people started to move away, you still kept a relationship with them, but I always felt they were judging you and Mom, and your decision to stay here.

That’s true.  

You know, they kept saying to you, ‘Why are you doing it?  Why are you doing it?’  But the two of you said, ‘It’s the right thing.’  Not only because you enjoyed where you were living, and because of work, but you knew that to live in a world where we all wanted to get along, you need to get along in your own neighborhood first.  

And we did get along with all our neighbors.  And we made the decision to stick and stay.  It was a good choice.