Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Going home? Gary, Indiana, home of the Jackson 5

While musing on the Randy Newman song "Baltimore," I ran across an account that claimed that by the time Newman's song was released, Baltimore was actually staging a comeback. Now the Baltimore of 1968 - THAT was bad. Kind of like a 300 year old version of Gary, Indiana, according to the account.

Which reminded me of the story of Gary's most famous residents - the Jackson 5. You will recall that the Jackson 5 hailed from Gary, Indiana, but left at the first opportunity. Which makes sense - one of the main reasons that Papa Joe put the band together was to keep his boys out of trouble. I'm sure it was an easy decision for the family to flee to southern California.

But the Jackson 5 were not done with Gary. As a publicity move (which resulted in a TV special and an album), they returned in 1971. The J5 Collector blog records the result. Excerpts:

It was reported with a photo spread in the March 22, 1971, issue of Soul. Check out the security guard looking directly at the camera on the far right side of the first photo, and again in the last photo on the far left side. It looks like he wasn't thrilled with the photographers.

Spec teen magazine reported on the return in their July 1971 issue, claiming it was "the happiest day of their lives!" All of the photos suggest otherwise. In fact, the J5 look about as happy as their security guard.

Someone visited Gary in 2010 with the specific intention of visiting sites crucial to the Jackson 5's development. However, the account sounds rather depressing in patches.

Michael and some of his siblings attended Garnett Elementary School. It was closed, then reopened as an adult education center called Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy. It was closed again, but appeared to be reopened as of March, 2010 as Images of Hope, Inc....

Horace Mann High School is reported to have housed the only contest in which the Jackson 5 lost. The school appears to be vacant now....

This is where Michael and his siblings were born. The building is now vacant....

Katherine, Michael's mother, worked at Sears in the late 1950s/early 1960s. The building appears to be vacant but looks exactly as it did when the story first opened.

For more pictures of abandoned buildings in Gary, see this 2006 collection and this 2011 collection. But you can expect this when a city's population declines from 178,320 in 1960 to 80,294 in 2010.

And even if ALL of the Jacksons had remained in Gary, that fact wouldn't have changed much.
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