Chesterton Tribune

Local business owners were Chamber leaders during the early years

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In November 1977 the Board of Directors of the Westchester Chamber of Commerce formally opposed the Westchester Public Library Board’s request to exceed its frozen tax rate in the following year. A member of the library board immediately accused the Chamber of taking its marching orders from a cabal of executives in Bethlehem, Pa. The Chamber’s luke-warm response: “The Chamber of Commerce over the past three years has had a number of disagreements with local Bethlehem Steel Corporation officials and is in no way controlled by them.”

Perhaps the Chamber would have been better served simply by noting that the vast majority of men who had served as its president were civically minded local merchants, entrepreneurs, and professionals with the best interests of their community at heart.

The first 23 presidents of the Chamber and their affiliations at the time of their installment:

1955-56: Robert Judd of Chesterton Dairy.

1956-57: Bert Vawter of Vawter’s Supermarket.

1957-58: Kenneth Rucker of Chesterton Liquors.

1958-59: Fred Lochbihler, an agent with the Equitable Life Assurance Society.

1959-60: Chester Stemp of Stemp-Westergren & Associates. He was named Chesterton Town Engineer in 1949 and served in that position for 30 years.

1960-61: Milan Morgan of Morgan Construction Supply Company.

1961-62: David Carter of Dave Carter Insurance.

1962-63: Albert Diness of Diness Jewelers.

1963-64: Charles Cartwright of First State Bank of Porter (FSBP).

1964-66: George Lowery of Porter Hardware.

1966-68: Richard Kaufmann of FSBP.

1968-69: Ronald Reglein, self-employed fire protection engineer.

1969-70: Vernon Slisher of Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO). Slisher died in office and his term was completed by Don Urello of Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

1970-71: Don Urello.

1971-72: Joe Callahan of Joe Callahan Real Estate.

1972-73: Arthur Tonner of Tonner Brothers, owner of Chesterton Furniture.

1973-74: Ed Hewitt of NIPSCO.

1974-75: Karl Speckhard, superintendent of the Duneland School Corporation.

1975-76: Michael Anton of Anton Insurance Agency.

1976-77: Howard Graf of Anderson Company.

1977-78: George Nabhan of Midwest Steel.

1978-79: Jack Connors of Jack Connors Pontiac Buick.

1979-80: Wayne Burchfield

Meanwhile, the stalwart Fred Hyde, a U.S. Steel Corporation (USS) retiree, became the Chamber’s first executive vice-president in 1961 and served in that position for 11 years. Presidents came and went, but Hyde was a rock, manning the Chamber’s office, fielding telephone calls, and arranging special events.

In July 1961 Hyde opened the Chamber’s office in the medical building at 124 S. 11th St. (open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursdays by appointment). In April 1971 that office moved to a “neat two-room suite” on the north side of the Callahan building” at 209 S. Calumet Road, the Chesterton Tribune reported (“Executive Vice-president Fred Hyde keeps regular office hours, and the crowning touch of convenience to the public, his telephone has an answering service to take care of calls that may come in while he is out”).

In September 1971 Hyde retired and was replaced a month later by Gary Tyler, a veteran of the East Chicago Chamber of Commerce. Tyler proved to be a short-timer. He resigned in December 1973 to take a position with the Clark County, Ind., Chamber of Commerce. After a 10-month search—during which time, the Tribune reported, the Chamber “floundered” and its membership declined—William King, another USS retiree, took the job. King was running his own management consultancy at the time and during his tenure oversaw an increase in the Chamber’s membership of better than 60 percent.

King retired in February 1978 and in May 1978 Joe Galvin succeeded him. Galvin was a veteran advertising man, the developer of the Gaelic Green subdivision, and president of the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals.

Galvin brought residents back to the downtown by creating the “Festival of the Dunes,” (later renamed the “Diana of the Dunes Festival”) which pioneered the technique of blocking off the streets for a community block party. The popular event included local nonprofit food and game booths and continued for more than 20 years until finally eclipsed by the Chesterton Wizard of Oz Festival.


Posted 8/26/2005