Chesterton Tribune

Historical Society remembers Chesterton and Porter before WWII

Back to Front Page




Sylven Cook went to St. Patrick School in downtown Chesterton and to high school on the second floor of the Chesterton School for a 2-year business course.

Tom Wagner went to Porter Grade School and then to the “new” Chesterton High School on Morgan Ave. He recalled all of his grade school teachers including Miss Mary Bradt who kept order in her classroom in spite of being born without arms.

These are just some of the contrasts brought out when the two men discussed growing up in Chesterton and Porter at the Duneland Historical Society meeting at the Library Service Center on September 19.

Cook was too young for World War I and too old for World War II. Wagner served overseas in the Eighth Air Force during World War II.

Cook was born in a house his family rented on Wabash Street in Chesterton and in 1909, after a couple of other moves, moved to their house in Morgan Park built by Joseph Ameling. Wagner’s birthplace was a house next to the Porter School (now the site of Hageman Library). His family later lived in a house on U.S. 12.

Both men shared memories of prohibition, the depression and the war years. Wagner told of a summer job during the depression at a filling station at Wagner Road and U.S. 12 when gas sold for 13 cents a gallon. Cook said his father raised chickens and two hogs along with a garden to feed the family.

Wagner said his father worked for the brickyards and he told of clay being dug out on the property where Yost School is now located. One of his very early memories is of the firemen pushing a 2-wheeled cart to answer a fire call. This was in the 20s.

Cook’s father worked for the railroad and he was called out the night of the big train wreck at the Porter diamond in 1921. Cook’s mother stayed up all night cooking and then sent teenaged Sylven with a wagon to deliver the food to the workers. He walked from Morgan Park to the wreck site in Porter.

Both men had F. M. Goldsborough as a teacher and shared warm memories of the beloved teacher and principal.

When asked about activities as they were growing up, Cook told of playing baseball with the Chesterton Athletic Club and for two years with a semi-pro team here. Wagner told of Boy Scout activities which included staying in a big shed with a fireplace in the state park.

Both men worked for U.S. Steel. Wagner went to Indiana University and became an industrial engineer. Cook continued his interest in business with courses at St. Joseph College.

Marilyn Cook presented questions to guide the discussion. Eva Hopkins and Nancy Hokanson were also members of the committee which arranged the program.

The Duneland Historical Society’s fall dinner will be Thursday, October 17 at the Library Service Center. Members and their guests are invited to the 6:30 p.m. dinner and the public in invited to the program at 7:30. Warren Canright, publisher of the Chesterton Tribune, will present “History of Newspapers in Porter County.”


Posted 9/20/2002