In the Rear View Mirror (Redux)
August 27, 2016 Leave a comment
Speaking of the UChicago and such things always makes me a bit nostalgic for the Region, and I’m just going to go with it today. It seems we run this article every once in a while, and I like it. As Mary Hopkins sang long ago, “Those were the Days”.
Well, it’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it. But it’s Saturday and we’re going to forget about it for now. Remember back when we were in school, and the closest we came to paying attention was hearing that somebody’s older brother had been drafted and hoping they wouldn’t be off for the Nam? Pretty good days they were. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, yeah the part of the state called the Region, Yup, like a few other bloggers you might know of, I’m a Region Rat, and we were and are damned proud of it too.
It was called that because of our heavy industry, you wouldn’t be wrong if you read that as the steel mills. We all knew people who worked at USS, or Inland, or even at the new Bethlehem works. I can still smell it in memory and I can still see the flaring stacks lining the lakeshore, there was little like it west of Pittsburgh. Where I grew up you could watch the coal drags come in on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and if you knew where you could see the ore ships come in from the Missabe on the lake. If you didn’t know, that what the Edmund Fitzgerald was.
And that was what a lot of our folks did for a living, steel, American steel. Most of it went to Detroit, to make American cars, first by rail and finally by what were called Michigan Trains, semis (doubles and triples, mostly) that couldn’t go anywhere else other than that piece of I 94 between Gary and Detroit, because they were so heavy that they would destroy any other road. Out where I was, was a bit too far out to commute, mostly though in those days.
Most of my buddies were and are farmers, the other great Indiana industry, once clay tile had been invented and the swamps drained. Before it was dredged the Kankakee river had occasionally flooded itself 20-40 miles wide, and it made wonderful farmground in the floodplain, once it dried out enough to work.
But none of that mattered to us kids, sure most of us worked, usually for our parents at least from junior high on, but there was time for sports, girls, and fun. Given that this is Indiana, the sport was basketball, and specifically high school basketball. Texas may love high school football but, Indiana high school basketball was the closest thing to a secular religion any body was ever going to see.
My high school was a good example, we were one of the waves of township consolidations in the early 60s, when I was there, our enrollment was about 250 or so in high school, our gym seated 2300 and had never not been sold out for a home game. Of course, it helped that we were pretty good, in the first four years of that gym, we lost two home games, both in overtime, by a total of four points. And every year we were the Sectional runner-up to Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state, one year by 15 points. they won the State that year, Indiana didn’t used to do effete snobbery like classes in basketball.
If you’d like to know more about that, find the movie Hoosiers, it’s based on a true story, the 1952 Milan team, who beat South Bend Central. By the way, if you do, that fieldhouse they’re paying he final in, it’s the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University, and it was built mostly for the State finals. Once the tournament moved beyond the Sectionals, it was all held in College venues, Purdue, Indiana, and Notre Dame among them. Tickets were simply unavailable. And if that wasn’t enough, there was always Branch McCracken and the “Hurrying Hoosiers” or Purdue alum John Wooden, out at UCLA.
And after those games there was often a sock hop, and while sometimes there was a DJ, there was always a live band, and some of those DJ’s you’re going to meet here today. Why? Because Chicago was a huge music center in the 60s. You see in those days we all listened to AM radio, FM barely existed, and even 8 tracks were uncommon (and expensive). By the way did you know that for a few years you could buy a record player that mounted under your car dash-they actually worked pretty well, too.
But those AM radio stations, in Chicago there were two who did what we would call top 40 now, although then it was more just plain current rock, both 50,000-watt clear channel stations. Anybody that was around can tell you about WLS and WCFL even all these years later. They were part of our life, back and forth we went, second button on the car radio was usually LS and third CFL. Like all the early American call letters, they meant something, WLS stood (originally) for the World’s Largest Store (Sears Roebuck and Co.) and WCFL for the Chicago Federation of Labor.
The clear channel thing meant that in North America there was no other station on that frequency, 890 and 1000 Kilocycles/second (hertz) respectively. Especially at night, you could hear them from Pittsburgh to Denver, and down to the Gulf of Mexico, depending on some variables. And those bands I mentioned, I’ll be you’ve heard of some of them, here, let’s let them talk for themselves
But like Bob Sirott said there, it didn’t last all that long, when I was in college we started listening to the FM album-oriented rock stations, although like he said, Chicago came with us, that was about it, although that was a lot.
This is what it sounded like
But like all good things, one afternoon the music died, here’s Superjock, Larry Lujack himself to officiate
Good days they were