“The young always have the same problem — how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.” Quentin Crisp
Phil and Dave were teenagers in the 1980s, a subculture at once similar and different from the Fifties (my teen years) as well as the present, as Steve McShane’s Spring 2016 students discovered. Fads came and went, but there were school factions roughly corresponding to the stereotypes of jocks, nerds, and burn-outs. Region sports remained big (Phil and Dave played soccer, tennis and golf) and Rock and Roll endured (in a lip-sync contest Phil appeared as James Brown and Dave as Sid Vicious). Sex and drugs seemed ever more commonplace, but appearances can be deceiving. In my Eighties Steel Shavings, subtitled “The Uncertainty of Everyday Life,” I wrote of my goal to capture slices of life during a restless, technology-driven decade when aging baby boomers grappled with adulthood. And, I could have added, their offspring, so-called Generation Nexters, bravely navigated through their teen years facing obstacles, having fun, and for the most part, managing, as the saying went, to keep on keeping on.
Jelena Djurdjevic interviewed Ursula (above) for Steve McShane's class and wrote:
Ursula’s father was in Vietnam in 1967-68 and then became a steelworker for a dozen years until laid off, which caused him to become depressed. Her mom worked at Glen Park Bakery and got a second job at Anderson Company to make ends meet. With her mother working all hurs, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of a younger siblings were part of Ursula’s teenage life. Her father eventually got a job at Anderson as an electrician, but Ursula would have to make sure to wake him and up and to get him ready for work. Vietnam was always a dark cloud over his head, which affected the family a lot.
Ursula attended Merrillville High School, which at the time had less than a dozen minority students and, of all things, a smoking section. In the summer of 1986 Ursula turned 16, got her license and started driving. She and friends would go to the roller rink, the arcade to play video games, to the beach as often as possible. She went dancing at Rumors in Lake Station on Saturdays. One weekends she and her friends often cruised Broadway and hung out at the McDonalds on Fifty-Third. Ursula often had to take along her nine year-old brother, who’d love to moon everyone, showing his butt to the world.
With her parents away so often, Ursula threw parties at her house. There were two incidents of food fights, one with watermelon and the other with spaghetti. At one party people from Merrillville, Griffith, East Chicago, and other communities showed up. She asked a neighbor to buy a second keg and gave him the money, but he never came back. The party went on longer than expected, and Ursul suggested that her parents stay at a motel for the night. Her farther did not really care since he had been drinking. They did come to pick up Ursula’s brother and the dog. The cops showed up and people were running to get away. Some climbed over a fence and losing their shoes. By the next day, everything was cleaned up like nothing ever happened.
Ursula loved her gray parachute pants and her fancy pair of cavaricci pants. Gloria Vanderbilt and Jordache were popular brand names. Boat shoes were in at that time and suspenders. Another cool thing that was adding buttons to your jackets or backpacks. Two popular hair styles were the side cuts, and really curly permed hair. Men wore polo shirts with the collar popped up. Ursula’s family had only one phone line, and she’d talk nonstop for hours on the bathroom floor. Her siblings would sometimes eavesdrop by picking up the other phone.
After Ursula graduated high school she went to college for two semesters but flunked out because of too much partying, so she joined the air force. Her sister left the house at 18 and, like her ended up in the military but never lived at home again while Ursula didn’t officially leave till he was 31.
Scot Creekbaum went to Boone Grove High School from 1985 to 1989. He told interviewer Candise Mula, an IUN student:
I loved abandoned houses. When I was a kid, there was a house on our block that burned down. We used to go explore inside that house. There were still toys in there. Most were all burnt up, but you’d find things that weren’t that bad.
In the summer of 1989 during open house time, a bunch of friends wanted to go to an old abandoned house about a mile or so from my house. I’d been there a million times and agreed to take them. We had flashlights with us as it was night, and there was no electricity. The back door was not locked, so in we went. Upstairs people had written spooky things on the walls. I was reading some of them out loud when the last people came in the room and the door slammed shut behind them. Almost everyone went running out of that house, thinking a ghost might have slammed the door.
Lauren Cox interviewed Dianna Klassen-Cade, who grew up in Dyer and graduated from Lake Central in 1981.
Dianna recalled, “The school was divided into jocks, burnouts, and goody two-shoes; I fell into the burnout category. As a female, unless your family was rich or you were super smart, you probably were not going to college, that’s just how it was. You were either getting married to a man who had a job, or worked as a secretary. People were not health conscious at all. You could drink, smoke, do drugs, lay out in the sun, and have sex, and none of it was going to kill you! Unless you were a bodybuilder, you did not go to health clubs. Lake Central even had a smoking lounge.”
Dianna started working at 15, first at a restaurant in Munster and then a McDonalds in Schererville, from 3 to closing four nights a week, which meant she didn’t get home till around midnight. “I had a lot of fun and even worked my way up to Crew Leader,” she recalled.
Of the 300 students in her graduating class, Dianna said: “Most kids did not have their own cars, so we borrowed our parents’. I rode the bus freshman year and with my girlfriend’s sister sophomore year. Junior year, I rode with a friend who had a Buick Electric that her grandpa gave her; it was a boat on wheels and took all our lunch money to get to school and back. When it died, she got a Chevy Vega with no floorboard in the back! My first car was an ugly Gremlin! Some of my friends had awesome, old muscle cars. We would hang out at a house where parents weren’t home, in the woods or even in the corn field! Dyer was very small with a lot of vacant land. One of my friends worked at the TV station at Lake Central and she brought home a Betamax, this humongous machine for watching movies. The tapes were huge, too!”
“After Friday football games,” Dianna recalled, “we’d go for pizza. We wore bell bottom jeans - mostly Levis - and platform shoes. I pretty much went out with the same guy all through high school, and that I definitely regret. He was older and once he left for college, we were done.”
Holli Ewing interviewed Therrion, born on August 5, 1971, and one of six children growing up in a single parent household in Glen Park. Holli wrote:
Therrion’s mother worked at a flower shop in Village Shopping Center on Grant Street and did the best she could to raise her children on such a low wage. She was very loving and caring and taught him a lot about the things to expect as he got older. At age 10 Therrion had a paper route that paid $100 every Saturday. He also shoveled snow for extra money. He hustled all he could to survive. On time he and a friend were riding bikes in Hobart when two men started calling them names, throwing rocks at them, and yelling for them to leave the neighborhood. Then they got into a truck and almost ran down his friend, who jumped off his bike and ran into a ravine. He never got his bike back.
Therrion attended Lew Wallace but often skipped school in order to hang with friends. They called themselves the DHB “Down Hill Boys.” They’d shoot dice on street corners and in clubs. They smoked weed, drank alcohol, and played cards and basketball for money. Candyland at 45th and Broadway had video games and pool tables. They were loosely connected to gang called the Folks. They did not participate in much gang activity but would claim membership when they needed to for protection. They’d shoplift meat and candy from the Wise Way on 53th and Broadway. Therrion stated, “We had so much meat in our refrigerator it lasted for months.”
At 14 Therrion lost his virginity in his mother’s basement. One day he told an older cousin about never having had sex. His cousin set up a “play date” with his girlfriend. He described the situation as being somewhat awkward but enjoyable; while he “hit it from the back, the girl was giving oral to my cousin at the same time.”
Therrion went to a skating ring in Miller a lot. That was the place to pick up girls. His first girlfriend was white women. Her parents didn’t like him, but they went everywhere together, the movies, skating, parks, shopping. They didn’t get intimate until about three months into their relationship. It was at her house because her parents were gone. She had lit candles and had chips and dip waiting. They watched a movie, and then she asked if he wanted to go to her room. After kissing and light petting, they stripped off their clothes and got down to it. Not long afterwards, she told him she is pregnant. He said, “I was so dumb back then, I believed her and I ended up taking care of that baby for four years until finally getting a paternity test done. That baby was not mine.”
below, Therrion, top right, giving a gang sign
At age 16 Therrion’s stepfather Fred taught him to repair cars. Soon after getting his license Therrion purchased a used Pontiac Grand Prix. He and Fred “pimped it out.” They painted it two shades of green and put big wheels and shiny rims on it. He drove that car everywhere and got a lot of comments on it. He was in the car one night with his girlfriend outside her house on 49th and Massachusetts listening to music when men in a station wagon opened fire on them. Despite being shot three times, twice in the right arm and once in the stomach, he took off running with the girl, who was not injured. His car ended up stolen. Therrion was hospitalized for some time. He still remembers that day like it happened yesterday. He eventually found out who took his car. He did not retaliate himself but said, “Someone caught them and they’re all dead now.” The injuries caused Therrion to be on disability to this day.
Therrion was at a friend’s house just sitting in his car talking with one of his homies. Around the corner he heard two women yelling and screaming for about five minutes and then one of them drove away. An hour or so later a carload of people started shooting up the house where the other women lived. He later found out that the fight had to do with one sleeping with the other’s boyfriend and that the people in the car were from Chicago
Despite the many different obstacles he has endured, Therrion enjoys this area and plans to continue to live here until he dies.
Lyn Dravet interviewed Joyce Jagiela, who grew up in Merrillville and attended Andrean, a private Catholic school located at 5959 Broadway. In the spring of 1983, her senior year, Joyce competed on the final leg of a torch run from Gary Works to her school, along with fellow senior Roger Hruskovich. It was a featured event, the Torch Run, during Armageddon Day, where all four classes took part in games and sports activities such as powder puff football, tug of war, and dodgeball. Joyce recalled: “It was a long run so someone would run so far and then pass the torch on to the next person. I was the ran from 53rd and Broadway to Andrean. We had police escorts the whole way to make sure that no one hit us. We ran all the way around the track and then lit a fire. It was really cool.” Students no longer run along Broadway because it’s been deemed too dangerous with all the traffic.
For Steve McShane’s class Andreas Ivanovich wrote about his mother, Mara,who during the 1980s graduated high school, went to college, dated her future husband, and, in short, came of age.
In 1980 Mara was a high school junior. Two weeks before the homecoming dance, she had noticed a pretty Mexican girl sporting a neat hairstyle. She decided she wanted a hairdo just like hers, so she went to the J.C. Penney beauty shop in Southlake Mall. After explaining what she wanted, the beautician went to work and gave her unwanted Afro. Mara attempted to get the kinks out, which only made matters worse. She went to homecoming, albeit somewhat reluctantly.
Mara lived in Hebron, and her bus driver for many years was a retired farmer named Clay Sherman. Kids gave that poor man a difficult time. Whenever things got out of hand, Clay would yell into the intercom. He always put up his mouth too close, resulting in unintelligible language. One day in 1981 the bus came to a stop at the bottom of a hill. A hot rod driven by Richard Meynard came barreling over the hill, and its front bumper made contact with the bus’s rear. Clay nonchalantly said, “I think somebody hit us.” The bus was hardly damaged at all, but the vintage car’s front end was ruined.
On a Sunday night Mara was attending a Serbian church dance where traditional music was played and ethnic food and alcohol were also served. Mara didn’t go to school the next morning. When questioned by her parents, she admitted she had become inebriated the night before. Her mother gave her a spanking that left welts on Mara’s behind.
By Mara’s senior year she had accumulated all of the necessary credit hours except for government and economics. Therefore, she only had to go to school for one hour a day and fell out of touch with her peers. She missed out on prom, homecoming, and sport events. In hindsight, it was a wasted year. Upon graduation she went to Sawyer Business School in Hammond at a time when computers were emerging for use in business activities. They were the size of televisions and used floppy discs that each student took home daily. Mara’s class was one of the last to learn how to use a typewriter.
In 1982 her church paid off its mortgage. Politicians came to the banquet celebration, including Senator Dan Quayle. Mara was working as a waitress for the event and Quayle greeted her with a kiss on the cheek.
After finishing her schooling Mara became a lab clerk at St. Mary’s Hospital in Hobart. Friday nights she and friends cruised up and down Broadway between Gary and Merrillville. 1983 also saw the marriage of her sister Joanne. The day started with breakfast at the groom’s house followed by more food at the bride’s house. Following the two parties, everyone headed to the service. The reception was held at a Serbian church hall attended by hundreds of people with all of the food, alcohol, desserts, music, and dancing that one would could desire.
In the summer of 1984 Mara, sister Joanne, Joanne’s husband Jovo, and Jovo’s mother Mika went on a vacation to Graceland and Houston, Texas. Whenever Jovo saw a sign for a local university, he stopped to pick up a sweatshirt. They sometimes detoured 30 miles out of their way just to pick one up. By the time they were back in Indiana he had purchased 15 shirts. That fall Mara met a guy from Pittsburgh at a church dance and spent most of the night with him. When she got home at six a.m., the doors were locked. Her parents refused to let her in, and she slept in her car.
In 1985 Mara celebrated her 21st birthday bar-hopping in Chicago followed by dancing the night away at Lake Station bar. That year her dad suffered a heart attack. He survived but went on disability. Mara bought a Pontiac Fiero. Two weeks later the sports car was returned to the dealership with a shot transmission. Nobody had taught her how to drive a stick shift, and she destroyed the gears. Mara ended up with a Sunbird, a situation she described as going from a sports car to a mom and pop model.
In 1986 Mara met her first serious boyfriend, Vojo Duvnjak, at a wedding. Like Mara, he was the child of Yugoslav immigrants who came here after World War II and whose dad was a steelworker. After they dated for a few months, Vojo moved to California to pursue an acting career. The two attempted a long distance relationship, but things didn’t work out. Mara began dating a friend named Nicholas. In 1987 Vojo returned from California and Mara felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. She liked Nicholas and enjoyed being with him. On the other hand, she had missed Vojo and wanted possibly to renew the relationship. She broke up with Nicholas and then got back together with him but only for a few weeks. Nicholas was everything that she had been warned to avoid, the typical bad boy, while Vojo was an ideal boyfriend, nice and polite. She ultimately chose Nicholas.
In 1988 Mara and a friend smoked marijuana. Mara described her “high” as feeling happy and liberated, like her feet didn’t touch the ground. In 1989 Mara took her niece Andy and nephew Zach to the Radisson Hotel to watch “Sesame Street Live.” After the show Nicholas was supposed to meet the trio at the hotel. At the designated arrival time came and went because of blizzard conditions, Mara left Zach and Andy in the theatre and headed down to the lobby to wait for him. After ten minutes Andy came to the lobby dragging Mara’s beaver fur coat worth in excess of a thousand dollars. Mara held her temper, and shortly afterwards Nicholas arrived.
Summers Mara helped with farm work such as driving the tractor during hay bailing. Her all-time favorite activity was going to the beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Nicholas wanted a wedding in October and Mara during the summer. To reach a decision, they wrote their preferences on sheets of paper and placed them in a hat. Mara drew September. One year later on September 1, 1990, was the big day. From that union I came into the world.
Jennifer eighth grade yearbook picture and at Christmas dance
Kira Thiele wrote about Jennifer Rodgers and best friend Linda attending at concert at Alpine Valley ski resort in 1989 dubbed the World Series of Rock:
Decked out in Madonna jelly bracelets covering the length of each arm and sky high hairdos that they had spent the whole day teasing plus adding extreme amounts of hair spray, Jennifer and Linda headed to a concert featuring some of the coolest hair bands the 80’s had to offer: Poison, Cinderella, White Lion, Winger, and Tesla. Linda’s mom drove the 13 year-olds from Portage to Alpine Valley in East Troy, Wisconsin. She let the girls off and went shopping in the area. The place was packed, and the girls got in back of a huge line.
It was chilly even with the sun out. Both girls had rolled up their jeans all the way to their knees, as was the style then, and felt goosebumps. The line moved slowly towards the entrance of the amphitheater. After what seemed like hours they showed the bouncer their tickets and walked in. They were mainly there to see Poison and hoped to hear “Nothin’ but a Good Time” and “Every Rose has its Thorn.” Their seats were next to three older men. One was wearing a Poison t-shirt and tight leather pants. The guys said hi and then went back to drinking beer and talking among themselves. Two older guys walked by and gave them glow-n-the-dark beaded necklaces.
White Lion came on first followed by Winger. Half way through Telsa’s set, the guy next to them passed out from drinking so much. Next up came Cinderella. They jumped up and down to “Somebody Save Me.” Halfway through the song the man who was snoring loudly vomited. Somebody must have alerted the paramedics because two guys in scrubs asked if he were OK. His friends nudged him until he raised his hand in a thumbs up signal and proceeded to fall back asleep.
Jennifer spent the rest of the time making sure the drunk was still breathing. A group of older girls in Poison t-shirts sat with them, making Jennifer feel better. During Poison’s last song the crowd went crazy. Someone put a cup on the drunk guy’s head and lit it on fire. Jennifer and Linda screamed as his buddies laughed and the older girls looked away in disgust. Amazingly, the guy still did not wake up. He probably would have caught on fire if one of his buddies had not finally slapped the cup off his head.
As Jennifer and Linda approached the exit, the older girls asked if they’d be okay by themselves; they were going to try to meet Poison. Linda’s mom had told them to wait in the ski resort lobby when the concert let out, but this was before cell phones so they had no way of getting ahold of her. They watched people walk in and out for about an hour. Most came from the concert sporting band t-shirts. Linda’s mom finally walked in and said, “Wow, you guys look awful, how was it?” “Great!” they replied in unison. Both girls had managed to smear off their makeup and now their blue, and purple eyeshadow was smeared all around their eyes along with the mascara. They followed Linda’s mom out to the ,parked right up front in the now almost empty parking lot. The only evidence that a concert had taken place a few hours before were crushed beer cans and other trash littering the lot.
Jennifer woke up in Linda’s bed a couple hours later and could hear her friend softly snoring as she slept on the floor below. Linda had forgotten to wash off her makeup the night before and it was now smeared all over her pillowcase. Her hair stuck out in odd angles and felt crunchy from all the hairspray left in it the night before.
On a typical weekend Jennifer would go to the local roller rink, RWAY, and meet friends. Things were not official with a couple until they were seen holding hands and roller skating together. Jennifer and her eighth grade boyfriend met up there a lot. After a while they all owned skates and did not have to spend money renting a pair. Everyone was too cool to wear a helmet and elbow pads, and Jennifer’s hair couldn’t fit into a helmet anyway. People put stickers on their skates that ended up falling off halfway through the first song. They sometimes got caught on kids’ skates, causing spills, so the fad ended pretty quickly.
At the mall Jennifer and Linda patronized Victoria’s Secret, where they’d get fruity lotions and body sprays. They also bought charm bracelets and decorated them with cheap plastic charms. Jennifer had tons of them, including an eyeball, a bat, and even a toilet. At the food court they’d buy slices of Little Caesar’s pizza and sit in the Burger King section because it was bigger than the other restaurant areas.