Northwestern Notes: Views of northwestern Indiana polluted by ignorance more than Gary's industry

My father's friend once said, "Telling people you're from Gary is like dropping a bomb in the middle of a conversation." In some ways I think he's right.

Since I started at Ball State I've received a wide range of interesting commentary upon the subject. First of all, many people are surprised to hear of my origins. They tend to have preconceived notions about my hometown, especially when it comes to their ideas surrounding its inhabitants.

We're what the older generation tends to refer to as Region Rats. It amuses me to view the reactions I get when I reveal that I spawned from a place that's been deemed the "The Armpit of America."

Most of their conclusions have been based on archaic statistics and news coverage dealt from stations that would sooner step into a minefield than broach our city limits. It is this type of negative publicity that covers up some of the more attractive aspects of Gary.

When I was younger these stereotypes used to really enrage my sense of self. It would anger me to hear people describe what they envisioned my home to be, especially since most of these same individuals had never spent a substantial amount of time in any of Gary's districts. They merely listened to the news reports, and never bothered to actually come and see it for themselves.

After a year or so of feigning outrage I realized that it wasn't their fault. They weren't ignorant, it was just that they didn't know any better. So I decided that I would take a more positive view of the situation and set out to educate the public whenever possible.

We've all heard the reports of drugs, prostitution, gangland lifestyle, etc., but has anyone ever stopped to note the good aspects of the town nicknamed by the Chicago press as "The City of the Century"? Personally I grew up on 25 miles of the most beautiful beaches in America.

Edging on the crest of the National Lake Shore, Gary has some gorgeous scenery to offer anyone with an artistic eye, or an adventurous streak. Many people think that the Wright brothers flew the first plane at Kittyhawk, when in all actuality they borrowed heavily on the designs of an inventive aviator named Octavious Chanute, who in fact manned the first American flight on the shores of Miller Beach nearly a decade before the Wrights' expedition.

Amusingly enough, there also might not have been a Ball State if it wasn't for Gary. Back in the days before environmental protection the Ball brothers used Gary's sand, because it was such a pure grade, to make their glass products.

Sure Gary has its problems, but I ask you to name any major industrial city that doesn't. By overcoming stereotypes, people are able to truly live in a multicultural environment. By incorporating tradition with the problems of modern life, Gary is edging its way into this new century.

So I ask all of you to keep your minds open. Don't allow the thoughts of elder generations drive you to maintain the same level of ignorance. Come to your own conclusions. Try to start generating new notes upon our state's most northwestern of spots.

Write to Jessie at


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