By KEVIN NEVERS
Nothing is new under the sun.
Fifty years after the Chesterton—then the Westchester—then the Duneland—then
the Chesterton/Duneland—Chamber of Commerce was founded, its membership
still grapples with the same issues: transportation, signage, steel, all
manner of good works, healthy dollops of self-promotion, and
A Chamber time capsule:
•May 1955: In its first official act, the Chamber instructs “its secretary,
Ann Carter, to notify the Indiana Toll Road commission that it objected to
omitting the name of Chesterton on the toll road map printed in various
newspapers,” the Chesterton Tribune reports. “Chesterton is only three miles
north of the toll road interchange in Porter county, whereas Valparaiso,
which is eight miles south, is on the map besides Gary, Michigan City, and
other cities in northern Indiana.”
•July 1955: The Chamber signs an agreement with the Indiana State Prisons
for an order of 252 road signs to be installed “in the rural area of
Chesterton and Porter.” The total estimated cost of the signs and their
installation: $1,000. “While the Chamber has underwritten the project,” the
Tribune reports, “they will require the help of individuals and
organizations to raise the money.”
•September 1956: The Board of Directors decides to protest the proposed
elimination by the New York Central (NYC) railroad of the 9:15 a.m.
eastbound train, which “carries passengers, principally mill workers, to and
from Chesterton and Porter,” the Tribune reports.
•May 1958: The membership votes unanimously to change the name of the body,
from the Chesterton Chamber of Commerce to the Westchester Chamber of
Commerce, “due to the expanding nature of the chamber’s work and in order to
represent the whole area, rather than one town,” the Tribune reports.
•May 1959: The Board decides “to try to promote the building of a 25 to
50-room hotel in downtown Chesterton,” the Tribune reports. “Discussion of
the project brought out that with the coming of steel mills and subsidiary
industry, the strong possibility of a lake harbor at Burns Ditch, the
existing and to-be-enlarged state park, and the growth inherent in the St.
Lawrence seaway, Chesterton must have a modern hotel big enough to
accommodate travelers, business men and women, and tourists.”
•November 1961: Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians play before an
estimated crowd of 1,300 at the Chesterton High School gym, at a fundraiser
for the Chamber’s Park and Recreation Fund. The “red hot vocal and
instrumental of ‘When the Saints Come Marching In’ was a big crowd pleaser,”
the Tribune reports.
•January 1962: The Board forms a committee “to tackle the problem of blocked
railroad crossings in Chesterton and Porter, especially Calumet Road and
Fourth Street,” the Tribune reports.
•December 1963: One year after the Chamber initiated a stump removal and
tree replacement program—in the wake of a disastrous outbreak of Dutch elm
disease—it reports on progress to date: 174 stumps have been removed and 37
•January 1964: Chamber President Charles Cartwright protests the proposed
cancellation of all commuter service by the NYC at a public hearing convened
by the Interstate Commerce Commission.
His testimony, as reported by the Tribune: “commuter service was one of the
selling points in attracting people to move here, and without the trains the
future growth of the town would be hurt.”
A NYC hatchet man asks Cartwright whether the Chamber would be willing to
subsidize the commuter service to the tune of $350 per passenger per year.
“No answer was required to the question.” The NYC drops all regular commuter
service on March 31, 1964.
•April 1964: Chamber Executive Vice-president Fred Hyde takes transferred
employees of Bethlehem Steel Corporation on a bus tour of Westchester
•November 1965: Hyde reports that, in the previous year, the state and
national chambers of commerce had requested 11,000 copies of the Chamber’s
brochure. “And imagine his embarrassment, he said, at having nothing but our
moth-eaten old 1958 brochure to offer!” the Tribune reports. In May 1969 the
Chamber begins distributing its new Welcome to Westchester brochure: 25
pages in length with 25 black-and-white pictures and three color ones. “It
is attractively presented and well written.”
•November 1966: Hyde asks the Chesterton Town Board whether the Santa House
could be moved to the northwest corner of Thomas Centennial Park “and kept
there when not in use,” the Tribune reports. “The board said it could unless
it became an eyesore.”
•October 1977: At a luncheon guest speaker Larry Ryan of Midwest Steel gives
a presentation on “how imported steel is stealing American jobs.” So far
that year, he says, imports have increased by 20 million tons—representing
100,000 jobs—domestic plants are working at 77 percent capacity—well below
the most efficient rating of 90 percent—and profits have decreased by 55
percent despite the fact that 1977 is proving the “third biggest steel using
•July 1978: More than 10,000 people attend the Chamber’s first annual
Festival of the Dunes.
•June 1980: The Chamber celebrates its 25th anniversary. Only four charter
members remain in existence: the First State Bank of Porter, Chesterton
State Bank, the Northern Indiana Savings Association, and the Tribune. They
•February 2001: The Chamber moves to the old New York Central rail road
passenger station on Broadway.