The Herald-Argus, LaPorte's newspaper, began putting local and national news into print in 1836. The Door Prairie Barn, a bizarre, nine-sided barn house built in 1878, still stands today and is the last of its kind in the country. Maple trees planted over one-hundred-and-fifty years ago still line Michigan and Indiana Avenues and dazzle with color in the fall. But it's the LaPorte County Courthouse, which has stood for more than one hundred years, that is the city's most prized architectural achievement. Designed by Chicago's famous city planner, David Burnham, the monumental Courthouse stands proudly, with its stained-glass windows and striking stone gargoyles still intact.
A sampling of the Herald-Argus archives gives a glimpse into everyday life in LaPorte during the 1950s and 60s. A reservoir of both the exceptional and mundane, the various stories reflect changes in the national landscape and how LaPorteans dealt with these changes in their daily lives:
ROCKET LANDS ON GOLF COURSE -September 23, 1954
A guided rocket, coming from an unknown source, slammed into a golf course in nearby Hamlet. The operator of the golf course, Clem Hall, hid the rocket for almost a week before the authorities learned of the situation. According to Lieutenant Colonel Oscar Stegall, commander of the KOP, it was "not a part of any army missile and it [was] not a research object."
ODD DISAPPEARANCE - March 6, 1956
Police are looking for Erma Musgrave, 39, who disappeared from her home after withdrawing $500 from a local bank. Neighbors saw her boarding a South Bend-bound train at 11am yesterday. Some relatives theorized that Mrs. Musgrave might be traveling to Winamac, since she'd recently spoken of her two children buried there.
LOAN COMPANY HEIST - July 11, 1957
A lone bandit robbed the Local Finance corporation at gunpoint, forced two female employees into a back room, and escaped with an estimated $200.
STOLEN CHANGE - January 14, 1959
John Jonas, 20, was arrested at his home last night in connection with the Sunday night theft of approximately $10 in change from two game machines at the Automatic Laundry.
LITTLE MISS VALENTINE - January 27, 1959
Debby Quinn from LaPorte has been elected America's Valentine girl for 1959. Debbie, whose seven-hour heart operation and subsequent recovery was recorded in a hour-and-half film broadcast nationally on the CBS "Conquest" series, will reign over the 1959 Heart Fund campaign. On Tuesday, February 3, Debbie will appear in a White House ceremony where Mrs. Eisenhower will officially crown her.
PILLS SURVIVOR - November 28, 1960
Clarence Erich Kress, 47, survived a two-day "nap" induced by an overdose of sleeping pills. Kress snoozed peacefully on his back for nearly 23 hours in a field and was discovered by a hunter.
SOCIETY MURDER - January 14, 1961
Fannie Sommerfield, a prominent citizen in LaPorte society, was found murdered in her home. The 92-year-old woman was severely beaten with a wine bottle, though no money or items were taken from the home. The primary suspect in the case never served time, due to a number of unfortunate circumstances.
HOLY VENTRILOQUIST - November 13, 1961
Reverend Lawrence J. MacAllen served the community of LaPorte for more than twenty-five years with the help of 'Gospel Pete,' a ventriloquist dummy, during his services.
BURNING HOUSE - December 31, 1962
The Salvation Army and private citizens teamed up today to help the nine person John B. Miller family who lost their home in a fire. All the furniture and the clothing were lost in the sudden blaze with completely gutted the inside of the house. The LaPorte community rallied to help the family rebuild their lives.
FISH LAKE DROWNING - July 6, 1964
What should have been an entertaining holiday weekend for five boys from a Catholic parish in Chicago came to a tragic halt late Saturday afternoon when one of them, Leonard Stasi, 14, lost his life drowning in lower Fish lake.
AUTO THRILL SHOW - July 1, 1964
The Johnny King Daredevils, an auto thrill team, displayed seemingly impossible skills at speeds that push both men and machine to the limits of endurance. Cars careened off rampways and travelled hundreds of feet balanced precariously on two wheels at speeds most would consider unsafe on all four tires.
RUNAWAY BROTHERS - July 8, 1964
Two 15-year-old brothers were reported in fair condition at a Columbus, IN, hospital following an accident just outside the city. The two youths were the subject of a state-wide police search after they locked their mother in the basement, stole her purse and took the family car without her permission.
MODEL T TRIP - July 16, 1964
Two young LaPorte adventurers made a trip to San Francisco for the GOP national convention driving a 1923 Model T Ford. The 2000-mile journey took eleven days for the truck that topped out at thirty miles per hour. Upon reaching the convention, the boys helped out doing odd jobs for the Barry Goldwater campaign committee.
EXPERIMENTAL BALLOON CAPTURED - July 31, 1964
A balloon carrying 'several thousand dollars' worth of instruments and a possibly deadly charge of explosives was lassoed on a farm near LaPorte. The blimp-shaped experimental balloon, about 50 feet long and 15 feet in diameter, was one of three that broke looks from mooring at Fort Wayne where they were being used for air pollution control experiments.
BOY WINS FLOWER ARRANGING CONTEST - August 21, 1964
Flower arranging, long considered a feminine talent, is beginning to attract boys, as a ten-year-old lad walked off with the 4-H championship in the miscellaneous arrangements division. Hamilton shrugged off the applause and said he "just stuck some weeds in a container."
WOMEN WRESTLERS - August 15, 1964
Rita Crawford, a 155-pound wrestler, was awarded the Midwest championship women's wrestling trophy at the 1964 LaPorte County fair. Miss Crawford tangled with 242 pound Fifi LaRue in the final bout out the elimination tournament, though the real climax of events came in the "battle royal" featuring five of the women who'd wrestled throughout the week.
PLANE CRASH DEATHS - July 2, 1966
A prominent young LaPorte businessman and his teenage companion were killed when their light plane crashed and burned in a hayfield near the LaPorte municipal airport. An airport employee said the plane made one pass over the runway at an altitude of about 20 feet. The aircraft then went into a forty to fifty degree climb, when the engine apparently stalled. The plane burst into flames as it hit the ground.
THREE WOMEN DISAPPEAR - July 6, 1966
Three young Chicago-area women went missing at a local beach. When last seen, the girls were climbing into a motorboat with three unknown men. The women had left their homes early Saturday and expected to be back late that day. There were no reports of three men being missing.
WHIRLPOOL FACTORY STRIKE ENDS - July 11, 1966
LaPorte's industrial giant, Whirlpool, went back into production after an eighty-one day strike. "We have had a long shutdown and we are all happy to get back to work," the plant's general manager reported. Mayor Thomas E. Boyd and Police Chief Richard McIntyre acted as mediators in the negotiations.
FIRST BLACK POLICE OFFICER HIRED - December 5, 1967
The board of public words and safety today hired the first Negro police officer in LaPorte's history...
LOCAL BOY WOUNDED IN VIETNAM - December 6, 1967
Thanksgiving started off as a special day for the Barden family as they heard a Thanksgiving message from their son in Vietnam broadcast on a local radio station. So they found it hardly believable that night when they received word that their son had been wounded in the war, requiring the amputation of his left leg.
BOBBY KENNEDY COMES TO TOWN - May 6, 1968
"I do not support, and have never supported, the idea that we should withdraw unilaterally, but I ask, why should a boy from LaPorte be drafted to fight in Vietnam?" Police estimate that 2000 to 2500 people packed the LaPorte courthouse square for the campaigning senator, who arrived with press buses and all the action of a Kennedy-style campaign.