chapter  VII
23 Pages

Postwar Problems, 1945-1950

Stanley Kohn arrived in Gary in 1940 to work in the advertising department at H. Gordon & Sons, one of the city's leading downtown department stores. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Kohn became interested in the public schools in 1945 when his son began attending kindergarten in the old Miller elementary school. "I would visit there and he was in the classroom in the basement of the school right next to the coal burning boiler, and kids, forty of them, were sitting on the floor, concrete floor, which was rather upsetting to me to see the condition of it," he later recalled. Kohn joined the Miller-Wirt PTA and quickly discovered that the school tax levy was frozen and there had been no school construction for some years. In order to put pressure on the school board to raise the levy and begin construction, as well as institute other improvements, the Miller parents combined with other PTAs throughout the city in early 1946 to form the City-wide Parents' Council. Kohn took a leading role in the new organization and became its second president. 1

The Council soon found itself challenged by the Gary Taxpayers Association, controlled by U.S. Steel and headed by Post-Tribune editor H. B. Snyder, and the Chamber of Commerce, which resisted higher taxes. During the depression Gary's business elite had begun actively to oppose, for the first time, increasing school and other taxes, as profit concerns definitely took priority over their civic considerations. No longer were many business leaders economically confident, or quite so socially conscientious, despite the return of prosperity during the war. The teachers had organized in the late 1930s, the students had formed the AOAs during the war, the.administrators worked together, and the business community was unified through the Gary Taxpayers Association and the Chamber of Commerce-it was time for the parents to find a collective voice. The educational harmony under Superintendent Wirt, having begun to disintegrate during his last years, was now clearly shattered. Interest-group politics predominated during the postwar years, as each group struggled to gain the advantage, bringing into sharper focus the variety of forces, personalities, and organizations that continually influenced school matters. But the factions partially came together to find a solution to the nagging problem of racial segregation. Meanwhile, the schools continued to offer a broady array of courses and programs to Gary's children.