Arlene (Ahlgrim) Lighthall: radio shows, cemeteries and her favorite place in La Porte


WNLP editor’s note: Here is another chapter from the memoirs of La Porte native Arlene (Ahlgrim) Lighthall. Arlene, who now lives in Del Mar, Calif., grew up in La Porte. WNLP readers’ many responses to her memoirs have added more sweet stories of our hometown.Arlene graduated from La Porte High School in 1949 and earned degrees from Ball State and Indiana universities; she also studied in various European countries. Look forward to more of her memoirs soon on WNLP. 

In the summer, our back yard became a showplace. My father’s flowers were famous in northern Indiana and southern Michigan. His dahlias were larger than human heads and of every variety he could order or propagate. All kinds of strangers showed up on Sunday afternoons to admire the rewards of his hobby. 

Arlene (Ahlgrim) Lighthall

A bit more than a month earlier, his roses and peonies and irises were in full bloom. He harvested choice flowers to store in pails of water on our back screened porch for Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) at the end of May. Starting after breakfast, we would pile into the car, covered in flowers, to go to Patton Cemetery, where the Ahlgrim and Kadow ancestors are buried. Then back home for more flowers and a trip to the Lutheran cemetery to visit the graves of Millers and Popkas. Once that was done, we returned home for the rest of the flowers to be taken to Pine Lake Cemetery. I don’t recall who was there, but I do recall that we spent the whole morning with the  deceased.

Gyms were not activities for farmers and hard-working townspeople. In fact, they were unheard of. Anyway, people would never have time for such useless pastimes. Some folks sought recreation in a bowling alley in the basement of the Civic Auditorium or on one of two golf courses.  

When cold weather and snow came I don’t know what adults did to amuse themselves,  but we kids had homework. We couldn’t isolate ourselves from the family with addiction to a cell phone. What was that? Yet to come were the Internet, Microsoft, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Apple, a multitude of sports programs, and on and on. The only thing that  streamed was a stream. But we did have WMAQ, WGN, WBBM, WLS, WIND, and other radio stations. They brought us the adventures of Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy; the Green Hornet and Kato; The Lone Ranger; Lux Radio Theater; Mr. First Nighter; the  Metropolitan Opera; Saturday’s Hit Parade winners, and finally, Jack Benny on Sunday nights in front of the living room console. My dad couldn’t miss  Gabriel Heater, who introduced his evening program by telling listeners that the news was bad again that night. 

Being at home and in bed never was bad because I could listen to Stella Dallas and her daughter, Lolly Baby. Helen Trent followed at 11:30 a.m. Any young girl could be enthralled by a program that asked: “Can a girl from a little mining town in the West find happiness as the wife of one of England’s richest and most handsome lords, Lord Henry Brinthrop?” Once recovered from mumps or chickenpox or measles or scarlet fever and returning to school, I’d want my mother to listen to all the programs and tell me what happened next. 

Growing up in LaPorte, I often went to my favorite place in town, the area around Stone Lake. At the home of one of my aunts, I could park my bike and walk down the road to the lake. Left of the small boat piers and the “Old Beach” began the woods with its path all around the lake and over to the “New Beach.” Usually I took a friend with me, and we strolled into the enchantment of trees and silence. Somewhere we ate our lunches or roasted hot dogs at the old ice house, obsolete due to the arrival of electric refrigerators. One day beneath a special tree we buried a jar, a time capsule, in which we predicted our futures, or our hopes. We planned to return in some 20 or 25 years to dig it up. Alas! 

3 Responses to “Arlene (Ahlgrim) Lighthall: radio shows, cemeteries and her favorite place in La Porte”

  1. Kevin

    Apr 30. 2021

    Arlene is my Aunt so I asked her if she ever went back for the jar, here is her response.

    The last part of my memoir was cut off, probably due to not enough space. Here it is:

    One day beneath a special tree we buried a jar, a time capsule, in which we predicted our futures, or our hopes. We planned to return in some 20 or 25 years to dig it up. Alas! Years later, while I was away, our path became a paved road. I was crestfallen and recalled Tom Wolfe’s words,“You can never go home again.”

    Reply to this comment
    • Heidi KN

      Apr 30. 2021

      Thank you for the rest of the story, Kevin. I’ve enjoyed reading these excerpts. For the last 9 years, La Porte is my new hometown. I grew up in Peoria and Pekin, Illinois so getting a glimpse of years past is exciting to me.

      Reply to this comment
    • Sam

      Apr 30. 2021

      Oh to go back in time!! Love your stories. Please keep
      them coming. Thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your magical past.

      Reply to this comment

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