In honor of me having achieved my goal of visiting all 50 US States, every other day or so, I will post a picture of somewhere I have visited in each state and write a paragraph or two about my experience. There is so much to see in every one of them, so I am just selecting one of my best memories. 

It was named the “land of Indians” land set aside for the native indigenous people to live peaceably until the end of time* the asterisk means the end of time or until white settlers need the land whichever comes first. This was the first of the “you can have this land, No, this time we’re serious. We wouldn’t lie to you 53 times in a row,  would we?” treaty the U.S. would sign with the Native Americans. We will run into a lot of these as we go further west. Eventually through a series of wars, “treaties” and outright theft. The native population was cleared out and forcibly moved to lands west of the Mississippi River. But the name of “Indiana” stuck.

Today Indiana is Hoosier Country, a state that loves basketball. The state boasts several prominent colleges, is the birthplace of the “King of Pop,” the “Rebel without a cause” and is the home state of our current Vice President  (which may or may not be a selling point, depending on who you ask). Oh, and they have some sort of racing thing in Indianapolis that’s supposed to be a big deal. Indiana offers a lot of variety.

Northern Indiana

You can divide Indiana is three parts, North, Central, and South with the capital city of Indianapolis being in the center part. While the state has several mid-size cities, the only urbanized larger areas are Indianapolis and the Northwest corner which is a spillover area from Chicago. Gary, Indiana is a suburb of Chicago and is the birthplace of Michael and Janet Jackson (as well as most of their siblings)

Gary, Indiana may have a population of over 70,000, but it is still a ghost town. Over one-third of all the buildings are abandoned. Crime is up, and employment is down. But it wasn’t always like this. From the 1930s to the 1960’s Gary was booming. It is here in January 1950 that Joseph Jackson and his wife Katherine bought a small house at 2300 Jackson Street. (called merely 23rd Street at the time

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The home is private and doesn’t allow visitors, you are also not allowed in the yard. I was never able to get an answer on who owns the house now, but several people said they think the Jackson family or someone associated with them has ownership. Several members of the family have made appearances here, most recently Janet.

At the time they purchased their home, Catherine was already pregnant with their first child, Rebbie. Nine more children would follow while they were living here. (Rebbie, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, LaToya, Marlon, Brandon, Michael, Randy, and Janet all between 1950-1966) Brandon was a twin brother of Marlon but was stillborn.

Having 11 people in a two-bedroom home led to a lot of stress and financial hardship. Joseph worked at two different steel mills, and Katherine worked parttime at Sears as well as caring for the children. Joseph was determined to find a way out. He had a band called The Falcons that toured local clubs, but it disbanded after the lead singer decided to go it alone. Joseph noticed that his son Tito had taken to playing guitar and formed a band called the Jackson brothers featuring Tito, Jermaine, and Jackie. He later added brothers Marlon and Michael and named the group The Jackson Five.

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A mural of the Jackson  at Gary Indiana

In 1967 the brothers had earned a spot on Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and won easily. This led to a record deal at a local label called Steeltown Records. Their first single was called “Big Boy” and was a hit in Gary and the neighboring Chicago area. (The song is available on Youtube. It’s obvious this is a small label because of the production values, but the talent is obvious) The success of the record got the attention of Diana Ross who saw them perform and set up an audition for the boys at Motown, Within months the family vacated the house and moved to California. While everyone knows just how phenomenal careers the Jackson 5, Michael and Janet have had, it’s worth noting Jermaine, Rebbie and LaToya have also had gold records as solo artists as well.

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Finding the house is pretty straightforward. Located just off of Interstate 80 and well marked. This is still a residential area, and the neighboring homes are mostly occupied, so please be respectful. Sadly, Gary has an elevated crime rate, but if you just stop and take a few pictures and go about your day, you should be fine. DO NOT VISIT AT NIGHT. (But that is true about a lot of places in the USA, so just use caution) I feel like it’s worth visiting because I can really appreciate just how far they came with hard work and a whole lot of talent.

Also on the Northend of the state are the shores of Lake Michigan. Near Gary is the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The Park includes beaches, marshes, and sand dunes and offers respite from the urban landscape of neighboring Chicago. Lake Michigan produces gales that create a tide very similar to the Ocean. It is easy to think you are on the Atlantic. That is until you see the Chicago skyline on the horizon.

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Looking almost like a jagged ship on the Lake, Chicago stands definitely in the distance.

Fairmont Indiana

Fairmont looks no different from many towns in east central Indiana. But the city has a unique qualifier in that the small town has two famous citizens. Well, actually two real and one fictional. Fairmont is the hometown of screen legend James Dean and Jim Davis, the creator of “Garfield the cat.”

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Garfield wearing his James Dean outfit from “Rebel without a Cause.”

Garfield and pictures of James Dean can be found everywhere in Fairmont and every summer the city hosts “James Dean Days” featuring classic cars from the 1950s and fans from all over the world.

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The James Dean museum in Fairmont is run by a loyal fan and has much of the star’s personal effects during his time growing up in Fairmont and some select items during his short tenure in Hollywood.
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The letter has letters from Dean and copies of contracts and various memorabilia. His impact on film lasted much longer than the four years he was active. He is the only actor to have two posthumous Oscar nominations.
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James Dean has a simple grave right outside of Fairmont in the city cemetery. His grave is easy to find as it is near the road and has several markers pointing to its way. The headstone is often covered with items fans have left as a gift. The more unique things are gathered and displayed at the museum.

University of Notre Dame, South Bend

If you are anywhere near South Bend, you must make an effort to visit the campus of the University of Notre Dame. This is one of the nation’s most photogenic campus grounds. The grounds, the halls of learning and the basilica are a feast for the eyes.

 

 Indianapolis

The Motor Speedway City, the state capital, is most known for the “Indianapolis 500” an annual racing event held every Memorial Day (Late May). The event draws almost 300,000 people and outrageously popular. The stadium offers tours during the offseason and has a museum that has many of the cars that have participated in the race’s 110-year history.

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You can trace the progression of many of the winning racing cars and get a look at the lives of those who courageously drove them.

 

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Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd President of the United States, is also buried in Indianapolis. You can also tour his boyhood home.

Near downtown Indianapolis is the White River State Park. The Park has a couple of excellent museums, A botanical Garden, the NCAA Hall of Champions and the city Zoo. One of the museums is the Eiteljorg Museum of Native American and Western Art. The Eiteljorg contains some of the finest collections of indigenous art to be found anywhere.

 

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The museum covers art and artifacts from almost all the major tribes of the continental United States.

White River Park is a beautiful urban park that creates an oasis of green. The park has many biking and pedestrian trails. Also, I couldn’t talk about Indianapolis without mentioning the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial as it is one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

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The Indianapolis Skyline stands in the background as seen from White River Park.

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The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial is a popular meeting point in Indianapolis

If you are looking for variety Indiana is your place. The state offers much in the way of history, recreation and fun. 

 

 

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