“When he found out we were from Aetna, he never spoke to us again.”
Produced and edited for the Welcome Project by Rebecca Werner and Brandi Casada.
Transcript for Wrong Side of the Tracks
The different areas of town, that was something that folks took a big pride in, we all did. Of course in high school, the rivalries between the different communities and the sections of Gary where you lived was huge. To describe the rivalries, it’s just something that was inbred. You knew it. You heard the stories of the generations before you. Most of us had the older brothers and sisters that carried it on to us and that same thing had happened to them.
Aetna was looked upon as the doormat. We were, for lack of better words, the kids from the other side of the track. And a lot of us, it reflected in our personalities. And I can be quite honestly tell you that a lot of us had a chip on our shoulder because of it. We weren’t as affluent or successful as the folks on the other side of the tracks in Miller. Again, we were—we shared this, Aetna, and Miller, and the Glen Ryan section, which is the eastern section, sectors of Gary. Well, the kids who grew up in Glen Ryan were kind of in the middle, and then there was us. You have to understand that back in the day, Miller was a very affluent community with a extreme amount of successful people. A lot of your Jewish merchants were Miller residents that lived in Miller and had businesses in Gary. So, for us growing up in Aetna, we always felt inferior to the people in Miller and found, at times, it was hard to fit in, as well. I mean, you can still to this day run into folks, if you’re in a restaurant in Gary or Miller where we grew up, and you know, the first thing in the back of your mind—you may not say it now, but the first thing in the back of your mind is you remember that was the guy that was from Miller, not Aetna.
And there was a special bond for us, from Aetna, because we felt like we were in a war against the rest, especially when it came to the kids we interacted with in Miller. I remember having several experiences. I had an experience once in high school that I always remember. We had had football practice, and a friend of mine had given me a ride home and one of our friends that was on the team with us that came from a pretty affluent family—lived in Miller, had a beach home, and great kid—but apparently he never knew we were from the other side of the tracks because when he found out we were from Aetna, he never spoke to us again. I remember getting dropped off in front of my house, and he was with my buddy that dropped us off, and he said, ‘Well, who lives here?’ because we just lived in average two-bedroom wood-structure homes, and nothing fancy, but we had—it was a wonderful place, and so, yeah. So, we always—being from Aetna, we always had a chip on our shoulder that we were from the wrong side of the tracks.
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