For better or worse Gary’s my home
And I’d rather live in this left-over city
Than any suburb I know.”
Gary Postscript 1989” John Sheehan
In preparation for a talk about my Gary research interests, I’m going to stress how poems, journals, and oral histories have enriched my attempts to capture the city’s social history. For example, “City of the Century” (1978) cites over a hundred interviews I conducted, ranging from Johnny Kyle, Gary’ first sports star, to Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher. “Gary’s First Hundred Years” (2006) contains poems by Carl Sandburg and John Sheehan, excerpts from the diaries of pioneer Albert Anchors and Red Scare political prisoner Katherine Hyndman, and journal entries by 2003 IUN students.
Photos by Jim Sullivan
On his “Places That Were” site, photographer Jim Sullivan shared over a dozen shots of Horace Mann School, which opened in 1928 and closed in 2004, calling it a monument to the lost prosperity of Gary. It was designed as a unit school with grades from kindergarten to 12 in accordance with Superintendent William A. Wirt’s work-study-play educational philosophy of learning through doing. Sullivan wrote:
I parked beside a crumbling brick apartment building in downtown Gary, Indiana. On a cold autumn morning, a few people were still asleep in nearby cars, a cruel irony in a city with so many abandoned homes. Across the street, a sprawling abandoned high school filled the horizon. Like the breathtaking ruins of City Methodist Church, which I had explored the previous evening, Horace Mann School was a casualty of Gary, Indiana's shrinking population. Several middle-aged couples walked laps along the track that stretched the length of the building.
The school was enormous, with a capacity of around two and a half thousand students. It originally consisted of three main structures that were eventually joined together. On the large plot of land in front of the school's main entrance, an existing ravine was transformed into a pond with several pedestrian bridges and a rock garden, giving it the appearance of a beautiful park. It was a popular location for picnics, fishing, and ice skating in the winter.
The school was named after Horace Mann, one of the most important reformers of the public-school system. He believed that a free society cannot exist without equal access to education and that schools should not be aligned with any particular religious denomination. Though controversial at the time, his ideas eventually became widely accepted throughout the United States. Many schools have been named in his honor.
In 1929 Horace Mann School had a student body of 870. By 1937, it increased to nearly 2400 students and 80 staff members. When enrollment grew to nearly 2600 in 1956, exceeding Horace Mann's intended capacity, the district decided to build an additional school on the southern portion of the property. John H. Vohr Elementary School opened in in 1958. Sadly, the pond was filled in to make room for a parking lot. By 2003, Horace Mann High School had only 546 students, roughly a fifth of its capacity. The final graduating class consisted of only 72 students.
It seems unlikely that the building will ever be put to use again. Vandalism and the elements have taken a heavy toll. There is a great deal of water damage in the basement. The floor of the gym is so heavily warped from moisture that a large section of it has risen up and buckled.
Princess Garvis (Scott) replied to Sullivan:
I am a graduate of Horace Mann, class of '93. I was born and raised in Gary, though I've since moved. I walked these very halls, used these lockers, watched many presentations in this auditorium, used the Science Labs, as well as classrooms. I'm heartbroken by it all, but the gym with the buckled floor brings tears to my eyes. I was a cheerleader all 4 years here. I cheered on this floor and watched MANY games. I know the young men who are the Champions on the gymnasium wall. I had P.E. and swam in these pools. I have yet to see Horace Mann's ruins in person. I have to say, I don't know if I'm emotionally ready.
Horace Mann grads I’ve written about include IUN Bookstore manager Ruth Nelson, radio and TV announcer Tom Higgins, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, football star Joe DeSoto, and baseball star Dennis Cavanaugh. Mann sports teams were nicknamed the Horsemen.
I gave the new Steel Shavings to Alan Yngve and Charlie Halberstadt at duplicate bridge and got requests from several others after Charlie showed his off. Kris Prohl noticed a photo of the late Home Mountain Printing owner Larry Klemz, formerly her close friend. Charlie and I did well despite two low boards. In one hand, everyone passed; the opponents had more points than us, but every other East-West pair that bid got set. In another hand, Charlie preempted 3 Clubs, and East doubled. I held 8 Spades headed by the Ace, King, Queen, plus a lone Diamond and 2 Queen doubletons. I jumped to 4 Spades and lost the first four tricks, two in Clubs and 2 in Hearts. Other North-South pairs stopped a 3 Spades or, in one case, made 5 Diamonds (opponents must have opened with a Spade or Diamond lead). Charlie had 7 Diamonds headed by the Ace, King, the 10 and Jack of Spades, and, like me, losing doubletons in Hearts and Clubs.
Harold Hayden, figures at beach
Bridge opponent Marcia Carson, who was an Education Division instructor for many years, now teaches Art History both at IUN and Valparaiso University. I told her that during the 1970s, Toni had such a course from Harold Haydon, who had retired from the University of Chicago and was living in Northwest Indiana. After she told me how interesting he was, I audited the class.