Voices of Ogden Dunes: The Early Years (performed 2013)

Script writer and narrator:  Dick Meister

Video: John Paunicka, Ken Martin and Dick Meister

Performed: August 26, 2013 at the Community Church in Ogden Dunes

Voices:  Judith Stiles, Jenifer K. Wilson, Ken Martin, John Stiles, Susan Clouser, Aurelia Costanza, and Rick Collins in order of first appearance.

We begin today’s program with two voices from the period prior to the founding of Ogden Dunes in 1925:  one is an artifact; the other a legend.

An early description of our most famous artifact:

[Judith Stiles] Perhaps boats stopped here for trading purposes.  One boat stopped, it is certain…. if the beach is just right … the top outline of the hull of an old boat can be seen.  It is not always visible; Nature has to be on your side if you are fortunate enough to be one of the few who have seen it.  I have seen it; I know it’s there, but you will have to weave your own sea-faring yarn about it, no material can be found on the subject. Nature has covered it up in the last few years, but as before she may, in one of her prankish moods, uncover it again and set us all to weaving stories anew.

Our legend is, of course, Alice Mable Gray, also known as Diana of the Dunes. Born into a struggling working class family, but with the assistance from a well-to-do uncle and her own intelligence, Alice graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago in 1903.  Like many others at the University, she was drawn into the movement to preserve the dunes. She, however, in 1915 made the decision to live in the dunes.  She wrote:

[Jenifer K. Wilson] I wanted to live my own life – a free life. The life of a salary earner in the city is slavery, a constant fight for the means of living.  Here it is so different.

Now, on this cloudy afternoon, as I sit and look over the milky green of the lake … I feel sometimes as if I could faint with the rapture of it.

Back of this dune  is a wonderful sweep of sand up to great heights …  From the top of that hill is a wide prospect – brown hills in the distance, over the tops of oak woods, and back to the lake between the dunes.  The road I take to the farms and the railroads lies that way, [a] short walk into the oak forest [down] into the valley.  How exquisite the bare sand hills stand out coming back, especially in the subdued light at sunset.”

By 1920 she had a cottage, which she named the “Wren’s Nest”, near Polliwog pond.  There she lived with Paul Wilson.  J. L. Ridinger encountered Diana in the early 20s. He attended Camp Win-Sum, an East Chicago scout camp located on Inland Steel property north of today’s Ogden Dunes pumping station.

[Ken Martin] Diana was a short chubby person, with swarthy skin from spending so much time in the sunlight.  She usually wore khaki shirts and trousers, no shoes.  Her hair was dark tan and was cut short.  Her shack was about ½ block from the beachShe and Paul Wilson would sail in a boat that he built.

During the two summers I was at camp, early, each morning, Diana would skinny dip in the Lake Michigan.  Diana’s shack was off-limits to us scouts.  If we were caught near her shack while she was skinny dipping, we were given a week’s K.P.  We were able to overcome this restriction in part, when one of the scouts brought out a pair of binoculars.

Samuel H. Reck, the leading force in the founding of Ogden Dunes, describes his interaction with Alice Gray.

[John Stiles] When we started the development … I had Alice and Paul sign a lease.  At that first interview Paul’s attitude was hostile, defiant.  Diana, however, was more the diplomat.  I assured them that we would be glad to have them… there should be a market for their fish and a good chance to earn money by taking out boating parties.

Diana was very pleasant to meet; quiet, [with a] cultivated voice and an animated countenance when speaking, and able to converse well on a great many subjects.  She has great command over her big husband, who adored her in his uncouth way.  She often went to the Gary Library where she was well known as a discriminating reader of good books and scientific works.  

In 1924 Alice and Paul took their boat and headed for Texas, but returned shortly.   During that summer Diana stayed close to their shack.  She was busily engaged in writing. The following winter was very cold.  One February night there was tapping on our bedroom window, Paul told me, ‘Diana is awful sick, Mr. Reck, I wish you would get a doctor.’  I did but by then Diana was in a coma.  About 5 a.m. she quietly passed away in Paul’s arms.

Thus, the area’s most famous personality died February 9, 1925 at the age of 43, a few months before the incorporation of Ogden Dunes.

Ogden Dunes Realty

Before and after World War I a number of groups developed plans for lake front communities (some by the desire to protect the dunes, like the Prairie Club cottages north of Chesterton, others by the desire to build restricted resort communities, Dune Acres (1923), Ogden Dunes (1923-1925) and Beverly Shores (1927-1933).

According to Harriet Mackenzie, it was her husband, Colin Mackenzie, a Gary civil engineer, who had the dream of purchasing a large tract of dune land three miles east of Miller Beach.  This undeveloped property was owned by the estate of Francis Ogden, a Wisconsin land speculator, who had died in 1914.

[Susan Clouser] In the fall of 1921 my husband went to Madison, Wisconsin and presented his ideas to the lawyers [of the Ogden Estate].  They were immediately interested and agreed to sell if and when Mackenzie came up with a plan.  Working along with Mackenzie was Joseph A. Boo, a young engineer. Enough was done by January 1923 that … Colin and his crew moved to a cottage on the Ogden property and did the topographical survey of what was to be named Ogden Dunes.  Colin and Joe were also responsible for naming all the beautiful winding streets, lanes and drives, as they were added. 

[About a year earlier] during the exciting development of all the necessary details Colin rode into Chicago on the South Shore and chanced to sit with Nelson Reck.  In the course of their conversation, Mackenzie mentioned that he and Joe Boo were looking for an older man [translate money] to join them and Nelson immediately said he thought his father might be interested.  Colin had known the Reck family while in engineering school at the University of Cincinnati.  This led to Mr. Reck joining the promotion group and eventually becoming president. 

Who is Samuel Reck?   He was born in 1867, the son of a Lutheran minister and seminary professor,   After marrying Anna Nelson, the daughter of a Rockford, Illinois garment factory owner, Samuel and his family lived in Rockford, Cincinnati and Gary.  They had four sons; Nelson, the oldest, had an engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati.  By 1920 the Reck family lived in Gary with Samuel involved in the insurance business.

The Gary Post-Tribune reported on February 22, 1923:

[Judith] Another half-million-dollar land deal in the beach and dune country, … was consummated today when a syndicate of local men, headed by Samuel H. Reck, completed a contract to purchase 513 acres of land, extending one and one-half miles along the lake front…. Control of the property was obtained last fall by Samuel H. Reck,  Colin C. Mackenzie and Joseph A. Boo all of Gary.  Other Gary parties have become interested since that time.    

Thus it was Samuel Reck, who organized the financing for the project, took the leadership role as president of the Ogden Dunes Realty Company.   His oldest son Nelson joined the realty company.   Samuel Reck built the first, year-round home in Ogden Dunes in 1924, near the southwest corner of Cedar Trail and Shore Drive. [4 Cedar Trail].

Louisa Nickerson, an early resident, describes the area

[Aurelia Costanza] Dune Park was just across Burns Ditch to the east of Ogden Dunes.  There were railroad sidings there on which excursion trains from Chicago remained for the day while people enjoyed the beach.  There was a little store near the tracks to serve people.  Horse drawn wagons took people to the beach for a price. 

Two years after the purchase, The Chesterton Tribune (August 6, 1925, p. 3) reported:

[Susan Clouser] Ogden Dunes, a deluxe subdivision on the shores of Lake Michigan … is in the commissioners court at Valparaiso, seeking to be incorporated as a town.  The promoters, Samuel H. Reck and others have filed the petition …. to incorporate 486 acres.   An attorney of The New York Central Railroad has appeared to oppose the petition. …. A census of the land owners in the territory shows a total of 44 persons. An election is asked by the petitioners to be held at Dick’s store to determine whether such incorporation should be made.

George Murray Dalby recalls Dick’s store.  His parents (Harry and Mabel), also from Gary, purchased lots in Ogden Dunes, lots just west of the Reck home, south on Shore Drive (67).

[John] When I was 12, the cottage was built by Pete Nicholson in the summer of 1925; materials were carted by a dune buggy.   About this time, one of the Reck brothers, Dickson, a University of Illinois college student, ran “Dick’s Store on the Beach”, a shack that supplied summer residents with ice, snacks and some groceries. It was just north of the Reck home.   About 1927 my older brother, Gordon, and Chuck DeLong, whose family had the cottage just east of the Glover home (3 Cedar), purchased the business from Dick Reck for $100.   

Following the court approval in August 1925, an election was held with all twenty-four residents voting in favor of incorporating the town of Ogden Dunes.  This gave the town the legal right to pursue the building of a road across the railroad for easy access.

The realty company’s brochure in 1927 showed the newly platted town as including a large harbor and yacht club at the mouth of the recently opened Burns Waterway, a golf course, and a riding club.

[Judith] “Live and Play the year round – in Nature’s Wonderland, 70 minutes from Chicago’s “Loop” – 19 high speed electric trains daily.  A definitely restricted Lake Front Incorporated Town site, between the beautiful Gary Beach Park and the new 3,000 acre Indiana Dunes State Park.  

The marvelous features of the Dunes are the presence of flora offering one great botanical garden for exploration and scientific study…  Here in a land of extreme remoteness, an hour’s drive to the second city of the nation, is a country as unique as it is strangely beautiful; … where extreme primitiveness replaces the bustle and the turmoil, the haste and energy of the mechanized outside world.  

The First Years: Mid Twenties

Mel Tracht:

[Ken] My parents built the cottage at Waverly Beach in 1920.  The dunes had attracted many associated with the University of Chicago, as was my father, especially botanists and naturalists, as well as artists and hikers – members of the Prairie Club. … Like most, ours was very primitive, but also wonderful for growing up and spending summers. 

My first introduction to the site of Ogden Dunes was in July 1925 at the age of five.  My family of four set out from Waverly Beach in a rowboat powered by a small outboard engine.  We arrived in Ogden Dunes where hiked over the dunes to a spot near today’s Hillcrest Road/Shore Drive [16].  There my aunt and uncle had constructed a partial, concrete block basement on a lot purchased from Samuel Reck.  … There were no roads to the site; the blocks were made on location!  We ate our picnic lunch then returned to our boat.   

Bill Thompson remembers:

[Ken] My folks had a cottage in Ogden Dunes from about 1925  until 1947.  St. Louis families were refugees from the oppressive summer heat/humidity, so many spent the summer on Lake Michigan.  I remember my Dad driving our 1927 Buick from Highway 12 along a very rough path through the woods…. All of the buildings were shacks and cottages near the lake.  Next door was the Cash family with sons Mitch, Webster and Art.  Later, Mitch and I were fraternity brothers at Purdue.   Web and Art became college professors and Art was in theatre productions.  His stories around the beach campfires were delivered with real drama.  Their dad, Les or A.L. Cash was a building contractor for years in Ogden Dunes. 

Not so idyllic memories include having to bury the contents of the chemical toilet countless times. 

Mitch Cash

[John] The early twenties were boom times and dad was making good money building homes.  My dad, Les Cash and my mom, Dess, bought an old shack.  I suspect mother was the influential one in this decision, as she always seemed more interested in outdoor activities than dad.   From the beach you could see the Gary steel mills to the west and on a clear day you could see the tall buildings of Chicago.

His younger brother Art Cash:

[Rick Collins] When the Cash family came, the first and only access road was called Hillcrest (today’s Cedar Trail).  The road ended at a sandy, two-rut road that is now called Shore Drive.  Along this yet unnamed road were ramshackle cottages poking out here and there from the second ridge of dunes.  In my memory there were only three real houses, I mean houses with concrete foundations, running water, and inside toilets.  The Glover [3 Cedar Trail] and Reck houses were near the T. 

The third house was just west of today’s Beach Lane, near the shack that my parents bought and the cottage of my parents’ friend, Louella Davis. Davis, one of the original buyers in Ogden Dunes, was in the Admission Office at the University of Chicago. Our shack consisted of one large room and two screened porches.  With no electricity, light was provided by oil lamps. There was an old fashioned Indiana privy on the dune behind the cottage. 

The Ogden Dunes Ski Club: 1927-1932

To stress the uniqueness and to stimulate the interest in Ogden Dunes, in 1927 Samuel Reck and Ogden Dunes Realty sold and leased land to a newly incorporated, not-for-profit, the Ogden Dunes Ski Club.  This was an organization of ski enthusiasts, primarily Norwegian-Americans from Chicago.  [Photo of plat map] In the program for the First Annual Ski Tournament held on January 22, 1928, the officers of the club wrote:

[Judith] The new steel ski slide … is probably the tallest, and undoubtedly the finest all-steel ski structure in America.  … In selecting the village of Ogden Dunes  …, the outstanding consideration was the unusual combination of a hill of sufficient height to assure a completion of a real slide, quickly reached by hundreds of thousands of people, by rail and auto, and a natural topography to permit record breaking crowds to enjoy the annual meets or tournaments in comparative comfort and at low cost. … The next move is a club house.  Then will come those who will buy and build with us and near us, to enjoy the “huge, weird, fascinating hills of golden sand – a luxurious forest of trees, ferns and flowers –the Dunes Switzerland.

On January 25, 1932, the Vidette-Messenger reported on what was to be the last annual competition:

[Susan] Ruud, a member of the Norwegian Olympic team, set a new ski jump record of 176 feet in his first run and then 195 in his second.  Four of his team mates broke the old record for the jump of 169 feet, set by Casper Olmen, who skis for the U.S. Olympic team.  10,000 spectators attended the meet.   

Art Cash vaguely remembers:

[Speaker 1] The project went broke and left an unused ski tower zooming up above the dunes.  I and my brothers climbed the tower a few times when we were ten or twelve, not going up the steps which we didn’t trust, but crawling up the track down which the skiers came.  From the small platform at the top the view was spectacular!  As soon as word got around that kids were recklessly climbing the ski jump, the town nailed up planks to close the track and passed a law prohibiting climbing.   We didn’t think it was reckless; it was just fun.  

Mel Tracht:

[Ken] One of the few times our family came to the Dunes in the winter season was to see a ski meet.  Our house was closed for the winter, so we had come only for the day.  The entire area was jammed with cars parked everywhere on the frozen ground, and a very large crowd stood outside the ski-jump landing run … just as the meet ended a long freight train started up from the Dune Park rail yard west bound, blocking the only way out of town.  We waited almost an hour for what must have been the town’s biggest traffic jam ever! 

The community in the late 1920s and early 1930s

By 1930 an increasing number of cottages had been built.  Sue Mechtersheimer, former teacher and principal in Chicago, a long-time realtor in Ogden Dunes, responsible for bringing O.D. and Tillie Frank to Ogden Dunes, and later the donor of the Frank home, ‘The Hour Glass’ to the Ogden Dunes community.

[Susan] As a young teacher, I had purchased a half interest in a Prairie Club “cottage” for $250.  The building was 10 by 13’ with a fire place.  Coming back to Chicago from the Prairie Club I would stop in Ogden Dunes and ask Harry Whelpley, the real estate agent, what he was giving away today.  One day I stopped and he said he had just the lot for me.  It was near the west end south of Shore Drive. [Because of the creation of the State Park] we had to tear down our Prairie Club cottage and I had Pete Nicholson, a Portage builder of dunes homes and cottages, put the material on my new lot.   He made cement blocks on the beach and brought them to the lot with a team of horses and a flat bed wagon.

Louisa Nickerson:

[Aurelia] On April 1, 1927 I turned 18; on May 5 I graduated, and on June 4 I married.  Nick worked as a electrician for the South Shore Electric when Samuel Insull, Jr., was restoring the South Shore and adding substations, like Wycliffe.  When we came into the Dunes, everything went up over the hill by hand car.  The road only came as far as today’s 115 Ogden Road. 

We bought a Sears Roebuck package deal house for $1,500 in late 1927.  We paid $350 for the lot at 89 Ogden Road.  The road into the Dunes branched where the present Ogden Road and Cedar Trail separate.  Shore Drive extended east to the Richardson cottage (39 Shore Drive) and west to the present 95 Shore Drive.  We used to have people out from Chicago and spent a lot of time ice skating on Long Lake. 

Helen Canaday Cates:

[Jenifer]  My memories of Ogden Dunes go back to 1928 when I and my husband Oliver Canaday built a summer cottage at what is now 41 Shore Drive. 

The coming of the telephone about 1930 was a big event in our lives.  Our first phones were the wall type with a crank.  The central switchboard was located in the Whelpley home, which at that time was just south of the present firehouse.  All calls went through the switchboard operated by Anna Louise Whelpley.  Volumes could be written about her and her experiences. 

Harold and Anna Louise Whelpley were early employees of Ogden Dunes Realty.  Their home was located near the entrance and the town garage. Harold headed the on-site sales office and kept the community operating; she was the information center.

Mel Tracht :

[Ken] All the residences with phones, except for one or two direct lines, had extensions off her board…  The Whelpleys also handled all the residents’ mail, as well as acting as a clearing house for every type of emergency. 

Dess Cash, wife of the builder A. L. Cash, wrote a poem to honor Anna Louise Whelpley when she was ill in 1938:

[Aurelia]                                           “Central”

There’s something wrong with our telephone                                                                                                   It doesn’t sound at all like home,                                                                                                        Whenever I ask for a number                                                                                                                          I get a central, yes, by thunder

I used to get a voice of cheer,                                                                                                                       “Say, how are you today, my dear?                                                                                                                  I’m feeling fine, hope you’re the same”,                                                                                                          Oh dear, this central is so tame!

And so I say hope you are fine,                                                                                                                 And soon will be back on the line                                                                                                                          To make us Dune Bugs feel at home,                                                                                                      When we take the hook of the telephone.

Ed and Marian Kratz came to Ogden Dunes in 1930 with their two young daughters, Grace and Mary.  The Vidette Messenger on February 4, 1930 (p. 4) reported:

[Judith]  Contract for the construction of a new $50,000 residence overlooking Lake Michigan in Ogden Dunes was let Monday by E. M. Kratz to A. L. Cash, a Miller contractor.  The new residence will be a seventeen-room structure of English colonial type and will be constructed of brick veneer, embodying a number of unique ideas in home building. 

The Kratz’ younger daughter, Mary, who after her marriage to Bill Gasser, returned to Ogden Dunes first to Tamarack and then to Shore Drive, where she stills lives.

[Aurelia]  My parents built the first permanent home on the beach.  It was heavily landscaped and looked like an oasis in the middle of a desert.  … In the early years the town board met in our boat house.   Dad, who served as president for many years, would build a fire in the fireplace, and town business seemed to be taken care of.  In those days there was far less governing taking place and town problems were sometimes taken care of with a phone call.

The beach in front of our house was always a popular place for townspeople to gather.  For years we would have fireworks for the 4th of July with donations from the community. 

  1. D. and Tillie Frank were fascinating and a wonderful couple. He made everything in nature so interesting, you couldn’t help but listen. I’m sure he is largely responsible for my love of nature.  Tillie loved guests, and she made the best home- made tomato juice ever tasted.  Since Dad and O.D. were such good friends, O. D. Frank insisted on adding a baby tooth from my niece and nephew to his fireplace which was made using rocks from all over the world.    

Mel Tracht on O.D. Frank:

[Ken] Orlin Denton Frank – was special. The Franks built their summer cottage in 1933 on Lupine Lane.  O.D. was a naturalist and biology teacher in the Lab School at the University of Chicago, where both my brother and I had him as a teacher.  After he retired in 1942 they moved permanently to Lupine.  As a resident, as he had been as a teacher, O. D. was loved and revered for his dedication to nature and persuasive ways of imparting his wisdom of its secrets.

 In his annual Christmas letter in 1960, O.D. wrote:

[John] Dear Friends:  On October 21, my little sweetheart passed on. We had discussed ’The Christmas Letter.’  The day before she died we decided to go ahead with the letter.  Please excuse all my mistakes – she was my ‘editor.’  

 … We are leaving two monuments, the Thornless Honey Locust tree on the University campus and The Friendship Fireplace.  A number of years ago I took a group of student teachers for a hike, but before we started I explained the Friendship Fireplace.  For 35 years we gathered stones from all the states.  Friends brought rocks from many different parts of the word – the North Pole, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids, Lincoln’s birthplace, … About 1,200 stones in all – numbered and cataloged.  When the group had gone I found this scrap of paper on the mantel.  … It took me ten years to find out who had written it.  Four of the girls had left it. 


[Jenifer]             “Fire and Friends”

Before this cozy fireplace                                                                                                         Your friends so much admire,                                                                                      how fine it is to gather,                                                                                                 and feel the warmth of fire.

But, there’s another comfort,                                                                                     which warmth of fire transcends,                                                                                          Tis one of earth’s rare treasures,                                                                                          To know the warmth of friends.

These stones, from here and yonder,                                                                                      which make this lovely place,                                                                                            each represents true friendship,                                                                                     and each a smiling face. 

So, when before this fireplace,                                                                                         at any time of year,                                                                                                              Behold! These very boulders                                                                                                      are smiling out good cheer.                               

How gracious are the blessings                                                                                          which warmth and cheer impart;                                                                                             we need fire for the body,  —                                                                                                 We need friends for the heart. 

The Depression Years

The Great Depression had a significant impact on the development of Ogden Dunes and those associated with it.    The Ogden Dunes Ski Club went bankrupt; the Cash family lost their home in Gary and their cottage in Ogden Dunes.  And Ogden Dunes Reality struggled to keep operating.

[Aurelia] Louisa Nickerson:  During the Depression we cut down trees and for two winters we heated our house by burning nothing but wood.  We pulled it in by sled. 

At the east end was a small lake where I used to take the kids to play.  The water was warmer than the lake and it wasn’t as worrisome as Lake Michigan. 

Mel Tracht:

[Ken] We became summer residents in 1931.  The family dismantled our cottage at Waverly Beach (State Park) and rebuilt it on the foundation of his aunt’s at 16 Hillcrest. Nelson Reck had taken over from his father the running of Ogden Dunes Realty. 

Nelson Reck struggled to keep Ogden Dunes Realty viable.  He wrote to his dad in Florida on June 18, 1936.

[John] Dear Dad:

We  have closed more deals than in any other spring for several years and we have more deals pending than we had last fall but the cash collected has not been so hot.  We just barely were able to pay our taxes and ever since that time we have had a rather serious money shortage due to the fact that all these pending cash deals are still pending.   Six weeks ago I was pretty optimistic and did a bit of road building around Ski Hill and other spots which I have since had to curtail due to the slowness of said cash deals.

A man named Atkinson is building a home on Ski Hill [24] at exactly the point where the ski slide takeoff was located.  We have paved the road past his place.  There are four homes under construction now

The Late 1930s

Louisa Nickerson:

[Aurelia] Down near the Svihla home (49 Ogden Road) was a tiny blowout, a natural amphitheater.  A number of plays were given under the direction of Art Cash.  It was ideal for this purpose.  One of the plays had to do with the Potawatomi Indians.  Mary Lou (our daughter), Marjorie and Skip Dorman, among others were in the play. 

The service station at the entrance to Ogden Dunes was owned by Homer Lee and his wife.  They had a lunch counter where they served beer and wine.  Next to it was a small grocery store operated by Homer’s daughter Dorothy and her husband Gordon Lee.

Joella Jean Mahoney, a noted artist of the southwest, was three years old when her family moved to Ogden Dunes in 1936. Her father and grandfather built their home, called, “Dune Ridge” on the northeast corner of Ski Hill and Woodland Trail (11).  In 1943 the family moved to Oregon.  In the catalogues of her paintings, she describes the influence of the dunes on her art.

[Jenifer] We moved from a Chicago suburb to the pristine sand dunes and woodlands along the shore of Lake Michigan.  When I was very young I remember awakening at dawn on an early June morning and going outside.  The night breeze from the Lake was fragrant with the scent of the shore and new green growth.  The Morning Doves were already cooing.  The sun came up and turned the whole world into luminous color.  I stood there, mute, but fully alive to the rush of beauty.  I felt connected to everything.  From that moment on making art took on an especially important function for me.  It was OK to share a spiritual, emotional, aesthetic experience with others through art.

As a small child roaming the sand dunes, the large silent dunes seemed lonely and somber.  My painting ‘Storm Light’ recalls the sudden storms coming up over Lake Michigan and later in the canyon country of the southwest.  My early childhood memories of a pristine natural environment have defined my adult responses to similar aspects of the southwest environment.  … The lurid dawns and sunsets; the presence of dunes, whether living sands or dunes petrified millions of years ago, bind my present high desert environment with the sandy woodlands that I roamed many years ago.”

While Joella and her siblings were being influenced by the dunes as young children the lives of older teen-agers in the dunes were also changed.   The exploits of this group are documented in the early issues of The Ogden Dunes Sandpiper (the occasional newsletter), in a column called, “The Rafters” and in their later remembrances.

The Rafters:

Mel Tracht,  

[Ken] At first summer and permanent residents simply got together on the beach and would be swimming off of a commonly used raft.  Loosely organized, we called ourselves the “Rafters”.  We would have evening beach fires, rendezvous at Jack Spratt ice cream parlor in Miller, sometimes horseback riding, and culminating in an annual treasure hunt.  

Mitch Cash writes:

[John] As the years passed more homes were built and there were other young people my age.  One year we got together and built a raft.  It was the typical boards on oil drums but provided a lot of enjoyment.   After supper we would build a bonfire.  There were always stories and song until the town marshal came along about 10:00 p.m. and told us we have to leave.

Art Cash expands:

[Rick Collins] Central to our beach life in the late thirties was our raft.  It was a beautiful raft, a ten foot square platform.   We dived from it, sat on it, sunned on it, told our secrets to each other on it.  My mom named us the “rafters”. 

I loved the Thompsons, Little Bill, who was very tall and handsome, the age of my big brother Mitch, Mary Jean, who was dark haired and dark eyed,  and Joan, a naïve, sweet tempered girl and the beauty of Ogden Dunes beach.   I was very fond of the Tracht boys, Mel, who was my age, and Vernon his older brother, who was terribly handicapped by a difficult birth.  Vernon was the most amusing man I had ever met.  He would go on to receive a Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Chicago and to specialize in the treatment of handicapped children.    

Rafter Bill Thompson remembered another event in late summer of 1938:

[Ken] A tragedy occurred on a hayride party when the driver foolishly pulled it on the highway for a short spell.  The only light was a battery-operated flood light over our group.  A beautiful college girl, Anne North, was killed when a truck, attempting to pass, hit her corner.  The impact lifted the wagon instantaneously several feet into the air, and we were thrown clear.  My sister Joan suffered a fractured ankle.  

Mitch Cash on this tragedy

[John] When I finally realized that the truck was not going to pass around us, I launched off for the ditch and the truck hit right where I had been sitting with my date and another couple!  I took the other three people into the ditch with me. 

Art Cash, who was not on the ride, wrote an elegy for Anne North that appeared in the September 22, 1938 issue of the The Sandpiper.

[Rick]       “In Memory of Anne North,”

She filled the lives of those she knew                                                                                                With richness born of earnest love;                                                                                                           And like a candle, snuffed anew                                                                                                                        By Him who watches from above                                                                                                           Leaves still a glow, so then will she,                                                                                                   Which through our lives will ever be                                                                                        Reflections of eternity.

The Woman’s Club

Another major community event in 1938 is described by Dess Cash in her history of the Woman’s Club:

[Aurelia]  In October Marge Taylor invited a number of full-time and part-time residents to her home for a luncheon to discuss forming an organization for friendly get-togethers and community benefits. The Taylors lived on Pine Street (4). Of course, at that time there was no Pine Street, no street signs.  In those days one told an expectant guest, turn right, then left, around the curve to Poison Ivy Hill, etc.  Sunset Trail ran only a short distance beyond the intersection of Pine.  Hillcrest was then known as Cedar Trail. Ogden Road was just in the making.  There were less than fifty homes and perhaps half of them were summer residents.    

In the minds and hearts of all these women was one thing in common – friendliness and love for our peaceful living among colorful dunes and our ever-changing and beautiful lake.  At the second meeting the constitution of the Woman’s Club was adopted and officers elected, president, Dess Cash; vice-president, Jane Thompson, secretary Helen Canaday; and treasurer, Louise Nickerson. 

The early days of our club, pleasures were intense and simple.  For example, we organized a ‘hikers club’ and took our sandwiches and come rain or snow or lovely fall for two years the hikers hiked.  The Book Club is another off shoot of our organization, and has been a source of inspiration for many members.  

A Departure and a Return

As this narration draws to an end, we have a leaving and a returning.

After graduating from Horace Mann High School in 1939, instead of attending Purdue, like his brother Mitch, or Chicago, like his brother Web, Art Cash opted to study acting in Chicago.   He remembers two things about his departure from the dunes.

[Rick]   On July 4th, 1939, dad took me to the highway and I caught the South Shore for Chicago.  On the train I kept thinking about that illustration in my Latin book of some magnificent fountain, under which was written, “The grandeur that was Rome.”  To me Chicago was another Rome, grand and open.  ….

In my last couple of years of life in the dunes, I was especially bothered that Ogden Dunes admitted no Jews.  A lot of my friends at Horace Mann were Jews.  Ernie Leiser, the smartest kid in the school, who went on to become a TV correspondent for CBS, was the best friend of brother Web.  The sign at the entrance to Ogden Dunes read, “Restricted building sites on Lake Michigan.”  Ernie’s folks could not buy a house or a lot in Ogden Dunes.  Web and I, who had grown close to a neighbor and family friend whom we admired, Aunt Mayme Logsdon, asked her about it.  She lived on Cedar and was first woman mathematician to be tenured by the University of Chicago.  “I know it’s wrong,” she said, “but it works well in practice.” Works well for whom?  Web and I asked each other. 

About the time that Art Cash was departing, Dorothy Richardson Buell and her husband, James, an electrical engineer, were making the decision to return to the dunes and become year-round residents.   They bought a lot and arranged for the building of a new home at 17 Cedar Court.

The story of Dorothy’s impact on our history will be told at another time.  However she was not new to the dunes.  She and her two sisters, Elizabeth and Olive Richardson, both teachers, had a family cottage at 39 Shore Drive in the 1920s.   Phyllis Greinwald, who later owned the cottage from 1967 until 1987, described it:

[Jenifer]   The original house was a simple structure with a large living room, a fire place decorated with beach stones from the shore of Lake Michigan; two bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom with running water.  More importantly, however, the living room had an unimpeded view of Lake Michigan with its wide sandy beach.  After Dorothy Richardson’s marriage to James Buell in 1918, the Buells lived in Wisconsin, Texas and Illinois.  But they would return to spend some time in the summers at the Richardson cottage.

We hope you have enjoyed this afternoon’s program.  We touched on only a few voices and events in Ogden Dunes’ early history.   Other families whose roots trace back to this period include the Tittles, the Andersons, the Cassidys, the extended Dorman/Blodgett/Bailey/Sykes/Stinson families, and the Burroughs/Funkeys.

The Historical Society would welcome additional information, especially photographs and remembrances, of our community.

In closing, I will paraphrase Dess Cash,

History, whether it be the history of a country, an organization or a community, is a record of individuals – a composite picture of their contributions to living and culture.  So it is with this community.   It was founded on high ideals of friendship and friendly service.  It will continue to do so. 


Sources and biographical information on the voices: (in order of appearance)

Ship Wreck: Source: “Portage Township History”, Compiled by the History Class, Crisman High School , published in the Porter County Centennial Edition of the Vidette-Messenger,  August 16 to 21, 1936, pp. 16.

Gray, Alice (Diana of the Dunes): (born, 1881 – died February 9, 1925), University of Chicago (Mathematics) 1903, to the dunes in 1915, lived in the “Wren’s Nest”, near Polliwog Pond, 1920-1925.  Sources: Janet Zenke Edwards, Diana of the Dunes, quotes from Alice Gray’s diary, published in the Chicago Herald & Examiner.

Ridinger, Jacob L. (born 1905 in Ohio – died February 1983); moved to East Chicago, 1914; attended Camp Win-Sum 1920 and 1921; office worker, steel mills; lived at 59 Cedar Trail, Ogden Dunes, 1956-1983.  Source: Letter written to Joseph Thomas; parts quoted Joseph Thomas’ edited History of Ogden Dunes (1975) 

Reck, Samuel H. (born January 1867 – died September 1951), married Anna Nelson (1871-1941) in 1892; lived in Rockford, Illinois, Cincinnati, Gary, Ogden Dunes (1924–31); 4 sons, Nelson (1893–1980), Frank (1897–1965), Samuel (1902-1975),Dickson (1904 – 1955).  Source: Notes of Alice Gray, printed in Thomas, History of Ogden Dunes.

Mackenzie, Harriet:  (1896-1983); married Colin Mackenzie (1892 in Scotland – 1931 Miller, IN); four children, youngest, Colin, resident Ogden Dunes, 1958-2002.   [Source: hand written notes about 1976, reprinted The Hour Glass, Winter, 1996]

Gary Post-Tribune (2/22/1923)  on the purchase

Nickerson, Louisa: (April 1, 1909 – June 15, 1993); married Ogden Nickerson  (1904-1987) in 1927; resident of Ogden Dunes (1928-1970); two children, Mary Louise (1928), Ogden (1934).  Source: interview with George Svihla in 1992 with excerpts from the interview published in The Hour Glass in May 2000.]

Chesterton Tribune (8/6/25)  on the application for incorporation

Dalby, George Murray: (6/4/1913 – 6/28/1999); son of  Harry and Mabel Gordon Dalby; two siblings, Gordon (1909) and Neysa (a Rafter); married Margaret Ridgely; five sons, two daughters; cottage at 67 Shore Drive, built in 1925, demolished c. 2007. Source: Svihla’s interview 1997.

Ogden Dunes Realty Sales Brochure (c. 1927)

Tracht, Melvin: (February 13, 1920 – May 24, 2000); University of Chicago, 1941; military service 11/14/42 – 11/2/45; vice president/treasurer, IIT; married Mildred (Millie) Janousek 1946, summer resident, 1931 – 1946, resident, 1946 – 2000,Town Board, 1959, President, 1964. Sources: Hour Glass, series of 5 articles, “Reflections and Impressions” Vol 2, Nos. 1-2, Vol. 3, Nos. 1-2, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1994-Winter 1996, written March 1992.

Thompson, Bill: (1920 – c. 2005); summer resident, 1925 – 1947; Purdue University, aeronautical engineering, 37-39, 46-47;  Army Air Corps, 1941- 1945; parents, William and Helen Thompson, sisters, Mary Jeanne, Joan, and Susan. Source: letter written 2/4/94 to Don Kurtz reprinted, The Hour Glass, Sept. 2003.

Cash, Mitchell: (August 19, 1918 – April 10, 2011); summer resident, 1925 – 1937; resident 1937-1941; 1945 – 1950; United States Navy, 1941-1961; NASA 1961-1983.  Source: Memoirs, 2005, excerpts reprinted, The Hour Glass (May 2013).

Cash, Arthur:  (February 4, 1922), lives in New York; part-time resident, Ogden Dunes, 1925 -1937, full-time, 1937 -1939; Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at New Paltz.  Sources: “Ogden Dunes: A Memoir”, The Hour Glass, April 2013; “In Memory of Anne North, The Ogden Dunes Sandpiper, 9/22/38.

First Annual Ski Tournament (Program, January 22, 1928)

Mechtersheimer, Sue:  (1905 in Chicago – September 18, 1993); teacher/administrator, Chicago Public Schools; realtor, Ogden Dunes, part-time and full-time resident (late 20s to 1993); donated “Hour Glass” to the Ogden Dunes community.   Source: Interview with George Svihla, 11/19/92, printed, The Hour Glass, Arpil 1996.

Canaday (Cates), Helen: (1906 – unk); married Oliver B. Canaday (1887-1947) in 1927; married Daniel Cates in 1951; part-time resident of Ogden Dunes, 1928 – 1935, full-time (1935 – 1977);  1st secretary, Woman’s Club;  Home: 41 Shore Drive.  Source: Helen Cates, “A History – The Woman’s Club of Ogden Dunes (1972), reprinted Thomas , 5-6).

Whelpley Family:  Harold M. (1893 – 1959) and Anna Louise (1895 – 1962); children, Lucille (1917 – 2011), Leonard (1918 – 2004), Harold (Murph) (1924 – 1975), Donald (1934 – 1996).

Cash, Dess Mitchell: (October 21, 1887 in Marion, IL – April 1983 in Florida); married Arthur Lester Cash (1886 – 1966) in 1917; part-time resident of Ogden Dunes, 1925 – 1937; full-time, 1937 – 1966; three sons, Mitchell, Webster (1920 -1999), Art. Sources: “The Woman’s Club of Ogden Dunes, 1938 to 1951” reprinted  The Hour Glass,  Nov. 1998; Poem to Louise Whelpley on her hospitalization, Ogden Dunes Sandpiper, Arpil 6, 1940.

Gasser, Mary Kratz: resident of Ogden Dunes, 1930 to the present; married W. W. (Bill)  Gasser; daughter of Ed (1891 – 1981) and Marian (1896 – 1988) Kratz; father, a chemist and an executive in a number of companies; town board from 1935 to 1957, 20 years as president.  Source:  “Memories of a Dune Bug” The Hour Glass, April 1999.

Frank, Orlin Denton: (born 9/24/1879-6/193), married Tillie (Martha) Gano (1878-1960) in 1907.  Taught at U.C. Lab High School; part-time resident Ogden Dunes, 1933-1942, full-time, 1942-1963; home,  The Hour Glass (8 Lupine Lane)

Reck, Nelson:  (born March 28, 1893 in Massachusetts – died March 23, 1980 in California); married Helen Archibald (1899- 1986) in 1927; mechanical engineering (University of Cincinnati) and real estate; president of Ogden Dunes Realty (1931 – 1971).  Helen taught in the Gary schools and edited The Ogden Dunes SandpiperSource: Letter to Samuel Reck, June 18, 1936, reprinted in The Hour Glass, September 2011.

Mahoney, Joella:  (born 1933 in Chicago);  lives in Sedona, Arizona; resident of Ogden Dunes, 1936 – 1943; professor of art, the University of LaVerne,(CA).  Sources: Catalogue of Paintings, 1965-1985; Paintings, 1965-2002; Joan Meister, “Joella Jean Mahoney: Daughter of the Dunes”, The Hour Glass.

Cash, Art: An Elegy, “In Memory of Ann North”.  Anne North:  (1917 – 1938) a Rafter, summer resident, with sister Margaret North Kornfeld (Ski Hill Road), from St. Louis, died in Hayride Accident.  Source:  The Ogden Dunes Sandpiper (Sept. 22, 1938).

Greinwald, Phyllis: (1923 -2004), resident, 1967 -1987, 39 Shore Drive (the Richardson/ Buell Cottage); guidance counselor, Gary Public Schools.  Source: “The Richardson Cottage” Hour Glass, August, 1997)