Fourth of July in Whiting in 1925

by John Hmurovic, April 2018

This 1925 program for the Fourth of July gives a glimpse of how the holiday was celebrated in Whiting over 90 years ago.

What is a 4th of July in Whiting without a parade? In 1925, that parade started at 9:30 a.m. But one difference between that parade and current day 4th of July parades was the route. Instead of confining itself to the main commercial avenues in town (119th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard), the 1925 parade also went through a few residential neighborhoods.

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The parade assembled on White Oak Avenue, just south of 119th Street. The route went south from there down 121st Street, and then to Indianapolis Boulevard. The parade left the Boulevard at Roberts Avenue and took an almost immediate turn east onto 117th Street. Participants traveled a few blocks to Cleveland Avenue, turned south, and marched on to 119th Street. From there, the parade traveled a route familiar to today’s parade-goers, traveling east on 119th Street all the way to Whiting Park.

The rest of the 1925 celebration took place at Whiting Park, and it was a full schedule of events from morning to night. It started at 11 a.m. with a baseball game between the “Has Beens” versus the “Might Have Beens”, umpired by Mayor Schrage, with the winner getting a box of cigars to share.

The Standard Oil Company Concert Band, directed by Morgan Eastman, took the stage for a concert at noon, with the public invited to bring a basket lunch to enjoy while they listened.

At 1 p.m., the events retuned to the baseball grounds inside the park, where the Whiting Girl Scouts presented a patriotic tableau. The dictionary defines “tableau” as “a group of models or motionless figures representing a scene from a story or from history.” The 1925 program does not describe what the Girl Scouts depicted in their tableau, but did state that, “By all means do not miss it.”

A circus got underway a half-hour after the start of tableau, also at the baseball grounds. The entertainment included Lorette, the clown policeman. The performer was Billy Lorette, a well-known clown who worked in hundreds of cities in the 1910s, 20s and early 30s. Lorette “made people and kids laugh,” is how a fellow clown described him years later. “He worked as a policeman, wore a cap, and his hair hung half-way down his neck. He did a lot of pantomime, but he could also talk. Lorette was a natural clown – people would laugh just to look at him.” This colleague said he was “the greatest of all clown cops.”

The circus also included a monkey derby, where monkeys rode on the backs of ponies in what was dubbed the “Great Whiting Derby.” And, there was a bucking mule.

The circus show lasted an hour, and after it ended the baseball grounds were opened up to children for pony rides. At the same time, the Whiting City Championship Tennis Tournament was held. It was just for men, with trophies and medals awarded for men’s singles and doubles.

Once the baseball grounds were cleaned up after the circus and pony rides, it was time for more baseball. Two of the best teams in Lake County, St. Nicks and St. Cyrils, competed.

A half hour after the start of that game, the St. John’s Parish Band took the stage at the bandstand. Performing with the band was dancer Joseph Brenkus, who performed the Dance of the Cossacks. Tenor George J. Chovance sang for the crowd, performing “soft, yet well carrying sweet tunes.”

Races and novelty events followed at 4 p.m. These were for the kids. They included a 50-yard dash for girls and boys under the age of ten, a 75-yard dash for girls under 16, and a 100-yard dash for boys under 16. There was a sack race, separate three-legged races for boys and girls, a pie eating contest, and a penny scramble, where kids could keep all the pennies they could find.

A water carnival followed at 5 p.m., which included swimming and diving events. Then, after a break for dinner, the circus performance was repeated at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9 p.m. All afternoon and evening there was dancing, which lasted until midnight.