Maurice P. Avery: Memoirs
Stories of Ogden Dunes
Published in “The Hour Glass” Newsletter, August 2014
As I recently turned 104, I thought that this might good time to reminisce about my 44 years of living in Ogden Dunes. My first exposure to Ogden Dunes was in the fall of 1925 when I was a junior in high school. Our Sunday school class of City Methodist Church in Gary had a hotdog cookout at what I later came to know as Kratz’s beach. Seven of us were passengers in a Grant automobile that refused to make the steep grade on Cedar Trail; six of us got out and pushed until the car crested the hill. Little did I realize in 1925 that I would live atop the dune above Cedar Trail and negotiate a similar climb in all types of weather for 44 years. Hot dogs must have been smaller in those days as I recall eating 8, losing out to a close friend who consumed 11. No doubt our appetites were greater than usual from playing touch football, which got a bit rough as our teacher suffered a broken nose.
The Move to Ogden Dunes
In 1935, when I was 25, I married Katharine Kuss of Gary. We lived in a couple of apartments in Gary, where I worked as a dentist. Since the apartments lacked air conditioning, we spent many nights at Marquette Park beach. Having spent so much time at the beach, we thought about moving to either Ogden Dunes or Dune Acres. Our son Rick was born in March, 1940. After considering the pluses and minuses of living in Ogden Dunes or Dune Acres, we purchased the Ogden Dunes property in the spring of 1940 mainly because there were more young families and children in Ogden Dunes. We began to build our home at 25 Cedar Court in November, 1940, and moved in on May 31, 1941.
World War II
More homes were built in 1941 as people with young children were attracted to the area. Our son Ricky was 15 months old at the time. Children his age were David Anderson, Elizabeth Funkey, and Charles Maris. The start of WW II quieted the building fever, and began the several years of all out effort for victory with heart-breaking losses for some and rationing of supplies for all. Our son, John was born on June 8th, 1942. Dentists were in a special draft category during the war as regards to services; at one time I was exempt because I had more children than some others below me on the list. The last notice ordered me “frozen” to practice in Gary because of steel’s importance to the defense effort. Having only a B ration sticker for gasoline, I used the South Shore to get back and forth to the office working 6.5 days and five evenings a week for the duration of the war. After the War, David arrived safely on May, 1946, thanks to Katharine being one of the first civilian recipients of penicillin during a close call with pneumonia in the seventh month of her pregnancy.
Anna Whelpley was the telephone switchboard operator in her home near where the firehouse now stands. Her husband was Harold Whelpley, the on-site salesperson and manager for Ogden Dunes Realty. Our phones were the “crank type” which called her to the switchboard. The private lines had the low numbers. The Kratz house was #1; ours was #4. When our son John was about 4 years old, he was “exploring” Ogden Dunes on his own and ended up at a dinner party about a quarter of a mile away. Frantic calls from our home came through Mrs. Whelpley as did calls from the neighbor who had this very young uninvited guest who was helping himself to the food at the party. Mrs. Whelpley put two and two together, and we were reunited with our son.
Early Ogden Dunes consisted of many summer cottages, but gradually year -round residents put down their stakes. In 1941, we were about the 113thdwelling and the 43rd permanent residence. Among those families who came before us were Nelson and Helen Reck, O.D. and Tillie Frank, Ed and Marion Kratz, Ogden and Louise Nickerson, Arthur C. and Dorothy Zimmermam, Ed and Lois Kidwell, Andersons, Neva and Walt Tittle, Charles and Helen Funkey. Among those who came after us in the 1940s, were Bill and Edna Sykes, Bob and Katharine Swan, Bill and Bette Funkey, Charles and Doty Graves, Jim and Lois Edwards, Frank and Betty Mullin, Joe and Dorothy Thomas, Bud and Dot Roby, Leonard and Anne Whelpley, Gordon and Rowena Kyle, and Tony Wrann. Joining us later on Cedar Court were Ken Dysart, Robert Heck, Bill and Fern Sinclair, Bill and Mae Woodward, Tom Woodward, Dorothy and Hal Buell, Jim and Lois Edwards, Ross and Kay Bain, Bob and Barbara Gasser, Cal and Laura Gent, and the Youngmans.
We loved our Cedar Court home. The view was more impressive than now because of fewer and shorter trees. When I was growing up, my parents made me take care of our large lot in Glen Park, so we chose a small lot in Ogden Dunes. The steep road was difficult to navigate when it snowed; we had to leave our car at the bottom of the hill about 6 times in the 44 years we lived there. One time my mother and father had a really hard time getting up the hill on a very snowy Christmas morning. My very religious father lamented, “Jesus should have been born on the Fourth of July!”
Building Our Home
We had a lot of anxiety about building a house because of the cost. Having little money, we accepted the lowest bid, which was a mistake. Harry Borg dug the basement with a horse and bucket. The contractor failed to pay Harry the $100 for digging the basement so I paid for the job twice and fired the contractor. Harry was the brother of Ted Borg, Ogden Dunes Town Marshall in those days, and I didn’t want to move into the area on the wrong side of the Marshall. I took over the supervision of the subcontractors. Clifford Warriner, a Gary Architect, whose total fee was $80, was of great help to me. I subcontracted the plumbing for the whole house for $125. The paint job, two coats on the outside and the trim on the inside, cost $125. I bartered for the furnace in exchange for a set of false teeth. The final total cost of house was $9,650. The mortgage payments were $43.04 per month; we paid off the mortgage in 1948.
It was a bit of a challenge getting water to such a high dune, the second highest in Ogden Dunes. The first well was 135 feet deep, from the house to the groundwater; the water pump was in the corner of the garage. The water was a little discolored, but drinkable. I added a 350- gallon water tank in the basement, which helped with the discoloration. About 6 or 7 years later, the second well was started at a small pump house on Ogden Road and was 40 feet deep; the water pump also provided pressure to pump the water the extra 95 feet. This pump house is still present on Ogden Road. The water pressure became low and a few years later we had to put in a third water pump to do the job. This system worked well until in 1962 when the Gary-Hobart Water brought the water franchise for Ogden Dunes.
Jesus tells us that it is “the foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Matthew 7) I was and am religious, but did not take this Biblical quotation literally– you could tell the solid sand from the shifting sand. Nonetheless, there was some loose sand on the south side of our house. In the early days we built retaining walls to hold the sand with used railroad ties at 5 cents a tie. Al Anderson on Stagecoach Road was the “tie man”, and he built four levels of terraces around the south and west of our house. As the years went by, they rotted, and my son John and I, rebuilt four terraces on that side of the hill with over 3000 concrete blocks. I also planted seedlings of Chinese elm, Black locust and Scotch pine to help retain the sand. The pine didn’t survive because of the summer heat, but on my last visit in 2007, vegetation had taken over, one of the oddities of sand dunes.
After WWII with rationing past history, home construction boomed and the steel industry retuned to peacetime production. Al Cash, a local contractor built many of the homes at that time. The loss of the Willard Dorman residence by fire sparked the creation of a volunteer fire department, and the firehouse was built. The Ogden Dunes Town Board which met for some years in the Kratz Boathouse moved its meeting to the new firehouse, which also served as a community center for the expanding population. Indian Guides, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts were formed. Many successful fund-raisers were organized, such as dinners in our homes where tickets were sold and amateur acts by Ogden Dunes residents at Crisman School.
We bought our first car in 1946, a used 1945 Ford Coupe, for $275. Some of the early residents, such as Ogden Nickerson, donated their time to maintain the roads of Ogden Dunes. There was a restaurant, Stugas, on Stagecoach Road near the Ewen farms; it was the kind of place that you would take your grandmother to.
Our kids would roam over the natural beauty of Ogden Dunes with their friends. The environment was safe; we never locked the doors to our home. As our kids, Ricky, John, and David, were growing up we used to have a family bowling night on Friday nights, with the Sykes (Sally and Susan), the Thomases (Jay, Cynthia, and Nancy), and the Tittles (Tom, Bill, and Dan). In addition our children had the opportunity to enjoy the friendships of many other Ogden Dunes families as well, the Matthews (Richard and Bill), David Larsen, Midnights (Frank), Svihlas (George and Ladd), Edwards (Jim, Johnny, Jane and Jeff), Corsons (Mike), Messersmiths (Robert and Ron), Manns (Berent and Maggie), Morrisons (Kathleen, Mary Lou, Ruth, Doug, Harry, and Anne), D’Arcy (Marshall and Anita), Bains (Judy, Tom), Graves (Robbie, and Margie), Robys (Barb and Beth), Demmons (Cheryl, Greg, and Cindy), Simpsons (Mike), Hoags (Dick), Bakers (Bruce, Lisa, and Betsy), Chaddocks (Bob, Steve) Irelands (Dick and Grant), Geromettas (Bob and Kathy), Rulises (Lee and Dean), Bjorks (Lynn, Jim, and Robin), Uzelaks (Bob), McGuires (Teri), and Dellingers (Peggy).
In June, 1953, our son Ricky died in a tragic accident. I remember Ricky as a loving compassionate, and generous son, even at a very young age. When he was about 5 years old, I came home from a fishing trip to find Katharine sick with the flu; Rick had prepared tea and was serving her. We were told by a neighbor that on the day before his death, at age 13, he was watching over John and David at the beach very carefully, as a parent would. As he was an excellent student and athlete showing much promise, we thought it fitting that a scholarship be established at Portage High School in his memory. In the years since, it has helped many deserving graduates further their education.
Katharine and I helped to start Indian Guides and Cub Scouts. I was the treasurer of the Boy Scouts in the early days. In 1954, I succeeded Ed Kidwell on the Portage Township Advisory Board. I eventually was on the School Board from 1954 to 1966. It was a privilege to serve on the Board during a period during which we built many new buildings just to keep up with the increasing numbers of students. A great deal of credit should be given to the late Wallace Aylesworth, the superintendent who guided us during the period of exhaustive growth.
During my forty-five years of dental practice in the Gary area, I belonged to a number of organizations. Among them were: Junior Chamber of Commerce; Gary Rotary Club, the University Club and the YMCA. As President of the YMCA, I was in charge of a 3 million dollar building project.
Gary Crime Commission
The politicians in power in Gary, Indiana were very corrupt. From 1950 to 1953, I was part of a citizen’s group trying to address the crime problem, the Gary Crime Commission, and later, the Northwest Indiana Crime Commission. As President of the Crime Commission, I wanted to be proactive. I contacted my cousin who was the Chief Judge in the New York State Appellate Court, and he suggested that I hire some investigators with expertise in eavesdropping. These investigators dropped a microphone in a chandelier (this was legal in 1950) in the office of the Chief Deputy County Prosecutor. The tapes revealed the multiple suspected bribes were real; the prosecutor was later disbarred and had to leave the state. The Crime Commission went on to publish “The Microphone Speaks” which enumerated the illegal activity in Gary. Later, a politician opposing the machine was speaking to a group at a bar and quoted “The Microphone Speaks” and pointed to one of the hoodlums in the bar and said, “Sharkey, here, had to give a kickback of $600. Sharkey, slightly intoxicated, yelled back “That’s not true. It was $800! “ In 1951, I had had a meeting with the Indiana State Assistant Attorney General about the content of the tapes and about my planned testimony. That evening, I was driving home from Gary. On an isolated part of US 12, a car pulled up along side my car and tried to run me off the road; I gunned my car to up to about 95 mph. I had to make a sharp left turn into Ogden Dunes. The screech of the tires attracted the attention of Willie Bluck at the old Sinclair gas station. It was tough for that car to follow me in the winding roads of Ogden Dunes, and I lost them. In retrospect, it was a little foolish of me to get involved in the Crime Commission when I had three young children at home.
I was also involved in the activities of City Methodist Church and when we were forced to close that facility, Katharine and I joined the Ogden Dunes Community Church. In 1985, we decided to move and spend our summers in Montana and our winters in Arizona. My family and I have very fond memories of our time in Ogden Dunes. My sons frequently express their gratitude for our decision on moving to Ogden Dunes.