“I wanted to [write] a book where people would say, ‘Oh, man, I loved that book, I want to go see where it took place…'”
Produced by Rich Elliott.
Transcript for Proud of Where You Came From
I got interested in local history as part of, as my focus I guess, in my fiction writing, because I always said that if I, if I was ever to be so fortunate and get published, I wanted to have a book where people would say, “Oh, man, I loved that book, I want to go see where it took place,” and that would happen, and the city would be revived and then we’d get all this tourism, and it would be like, OK, great.
I grew up in the Glen Park section of Gary, Indiana and was born in 1975, so I really kind of grew up, I guess, it’d be like ‘85 into the ‘90s. Where we lived was down the street from an elementary school, and it was in a neighborhood where there were a lot of kids there, so it was, if we’re talking about maybe a Saturday morning or something, my twin sister and I would have to take turns in waiting to see who would get their hair done first, because whoever got their hair done first would get to go outside first, so it was a race to that, and then it was just usually just meeting the kids in the neighborhood, ‘cuz we had a really long driveway, and it was adjacent to this abandoned house that was just like abandoned forever, but there was a stone wall alongside of it, so all the kids would kind of congregate there. If you heard the sound of your parent’s voice, that’s how far you can go, which was one end of the block to the other end of the block and never in the street.
If I’m thinking about my high school years, middle school, high school years, I remember going to Screamin’ Wheels. It was a roller rink that they had in the ‘80s. It seemed like everybody went there on Saturdays to rollerskate, and they had this thing called the Roller Coaster, and it was really just a smaller rink that had a lot of bumps and hills on it, and you just tried to see how fast you could go around that without falling. I never did that one because I didn’t roller skate all that well anyway.
Once I get into high school, I guess going to Marquette Beach. As a high schooler at night, all the kids would go out there, just kind of hang out, just doing nothing, just out there. We were kind of always all over the city because even though we lived in Glen Park, both sets of our grandparents lived in the Tolleston area. Going to Banneker, we met kids who were bussed in from all over the city, so it wasn’t like we just knew the Glen Park kids, we just knew the kids that went to the Lew Wallace High School because we went to those schools, and kids who maybe didn’t follow the program to Westside, some kids went to Roosevelt, some kids went to Wirt, some kids went to Horace Mann, so we kind of knew somebody everywhere, so it never felt like I couldn’t go somewhere and not feel at ease.
But I think it’s fascinating because the city was like this, it was like this big thing. The school system was once upon a time the best school system in the country. And to see where it is now, it’s like, well, if you’ve been there, I’ve always had the mindset of, you know, if people knew what was Gary was like before, that it was this big wonderful city, that the school system was this big wonderful school system, that maybe they would read those stories and like, I don’t know, strive to get back there because…just feeling proud of where you came from because you knew where you came from, that sort of thing.
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