Rough Times Introduction
The city of Marion and surrounding Grant County, Indiana is located in the east central area of the Hoosier State. In the 17th and 18th centuries the Miami Indians claimed the area between the Mississinewa and Salamonie Rivers as their home. In 1812, the new republic of the United States would assert its control over the area at the Battle of the Mississinewa. The first permanent white settlement began in the 1830’s and the first permanent African American settlement began shortly thereafter. The economic life of the county was to change radically with the discovery of natural gas in 1883. This was to set the area on a path of boom and bust that was to last well into the 20th century.
This work focuses on the lives of the men and women who lived in this area during the l930’s and 40’s. During this period, the city would see the Great Depression wrack its economic life and the World War take away its young men and women and leave others to keep up the effort at home. Segregation and racial terrorism would scar the community for years. Through all these events area residents would work, raise families, and lead lives of purpose and dignity.
This collection of oral histories began as a joint project of an Advanced Placement US History class and Advanced Placement English classes at Marion High School, Marion Indiana. For their second semester project, English teacher Terry Lakes and US History teacher Bill Munn assigned to students the task of locating area residents who lived in the Marion-Grant County, Indiana area during the l930’s and 40’s. Students then collected the stories of these people on audio or videotape. They then prepared typewritten transcripts of these interviews. Complete transcripts and tapes of all interviews were placed on file at Marion Public Library and are available for public inspection in the Indiana Room.
The material in this publication represents selections from this collection. Sue Bratton, formerly with the Marion Public Library, rendered valuable assistance in the preparation of the manuscript both in editing and in organization. The interviews have been gently edited primarily to eliminate repetition and material beyond the scope of this project. Care was taken to preserve the original content, story line, and voice of the subject. It is our hope that the reader will come to see this work as a conversation with a group of old friends.
The editors note that the inspiration for this project came from Marion High School teacher, Miss Cora Straughan. Working in 1921, Miss Straughan and her students published an oral history, Lest We Forget which preserved the memories of Grant County’s remaining pioneers. This remarkable work has become a standard source for researching our county’s past and has set a high standard for future student projects of this nature. In her introduction to this work, Straughan, with great charm points out,
We do not claim that all contained in this little book is authentic. Old age forgets... legend is not always truth....
The editors wish to thank the following individuals for their support and encouragement of this effort: Ken and Sue Israel, Barbara Love and the staff of the Marion Public Library; Marion Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Charles Coleman; Marion High School Principal, Kevin Kocher; Dr. John Beineke and the parents of Advanced Placement American Studies students 1997-1998.
This work has been made possible by the Community History Project, a joint effort of the Marion Public Library, the Marion Community Schools, and the Community Foundation of Grant County. The Community History Project seeks to engage cross-generational populations in the creation, development, replication, and dissemination of projects based upon local history. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are courtesy of the Marion Public Library. These organizations disclaim responsibility for statements whether fact or opinion made by contributors to this publication.
William F. Munn