A history of the Jaycees and the parade, courtesy of the late historian Fern Eddy Schultz

 

This 1946 photo shows an Indiana State Police car passing the courthouse during the first La Porte Jaycees parade, which traveled eastward in those days. Take a look at the spectators; the mode of dress was just a bit different for parades then.

WNLP editor’s note: On May 10, 2021, the La Porte Jaycees announced that after 74 years, they are relinquishing organization of the 4th of July Parade to the City of La Porte (WNLP story: After 74 years, La Porte Jaycees cede 4th of July Parade to City of La Porte; Kiwanis to organize it this year | What’s New LaPorte? (whatsnewlaporte.com). Below is a July 2016 WNLP column by the late Fern Eddy Schultz, former La Porte County Historian, on how the Jaycees came to oversee the parade.    

By Fern Eddy Schultz, LaPorte County Historian

In the spring of 1946, the La Porte Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) made an announcement that there would be a Fourth of July parade. Included in the day’s events would be contests for children, such as a penny scramble and foot races. Wheels had begun turning in the winter of 1945 to establish a local chapter of the Jaycees and by 1946, they were chartered as an official chapter.

The late La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

Some of us were in attendance at the 1946 parade in La Porte on the Fourth of July, but we do not remember any of the particulars about that parade of 70 years ago. Reportedly, some preparations were quite similar to those for parades now, but some were very different. It was reported that the stores, downtown offices and government offices would be closed for the day. The day was a Thursday and Mayor John Martin said it was to be the first detailed celebration since 1935, the years in between being focused on the Great Depression and World War II.

Perhaps an entire column could be written about whether it should be called Independence Day. Congress approved a Declaration of independence on July 2, 1776. The official Declaration, however, was approved two days later by a committee. The first printed copies read, “In Congress, July 4, 1776.” Since that was published in cities all over the nation, the date caught on. In recent years, the title “Independence Day” has been used as often as July 4th and 4th of July. It appears that whatever the choice, it is acceptable. It was referred to in both ways in 1946.

That year, decorations in keeping with Independence Day were placed throughout the City of La Porte with flags mounted on street lights along Lincoln Way and other decorations in a number of store windows. The parade to the fairgrounds (then located where La Porte High School is now) was scheduled to start at 11 o’clock. A great deal of activity was planned to follow the parade. Among those events were a jitterbug contest, drawings for prizes, free dances in Floral Hall, motorcycle races, two shows of the Renfro Valley barn dance, and a fireworks display at night.

There was no admission charge to the fairgrounds. The barn dance and the jitterbug contest were to be held in the Civic Auditorium in the event of rain. This, however, was not a necessity in 1946 as the weather was “ideal” (the high point was 82) and the event was reported to have been “one of the largest and sanest celebrations ever conducted here” with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 in attendance. The grandstand was packed for both barn dance shows and the rails around the track were lined with people watching the motorcycle races. The Jaycees slogan, “Spending the Fourth in La Porte,” was evidently heeded.

A change made from previous parades was that the parade would run from west to east rather than east to west. A photograph published in The Herald-Argus (see above) shows an Indiana State Police car (one of the parade entries) heading in an easterly direction at the corner of Lincoln Way and Michigan Avenue. (Earlier, in 1935, the parade took a rather circuitous route — it formed at Lincoln Way and Tyler, moved east to Detroit, south to Jefferson, west to Michigan, south to Alexander, west to Indiana, and then north to Jefferson.)

Since World War II, the Jaycees have made La Porte “Indiana Capital for a Day” with the Fourth of July event—1946 to 2016—70 years and still booming!

One Response to “A history of the Jaycees and the parade, courtesy of the late historian Fern Eddy Schultz”

  1. G.Gottio

    May 11. 2021

    Great read. Thanks for sharing

    Reply to this comment

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