Title: Marina at 50
Author: Staff Writer
Publisher: The News-Dispatch
The Michigan City Port Authority has a remarkable 50-year history, and the book written by Michigan City resident Jonita Davis, "Michigan City Marinas," is a treasury of information and photographs of the early years of the marina.
Michigan City has had a port since the first boats sailed in and out of the Trail Creek harbor in the early 1800s, but it wasn't until 1959 that the city reached the point where it created a public marina that caters to private pleasure craft. In post-World War II years, as the United States vaulted ahead in its standard of living, more people could afford motorboats or sailboats. As privately owned boats got bigger, they needed a place to be docked all summer.
Today, the Port Authority figures to rent all 580 public boat slips in the Washington Park Marina, as well as some 135 upstream slips. Before cities like Hammond, East Chicago and Portage created public marinas and vastly increased the number of slips available, the Washington Park Marina had a waiting list of people who wanted to dock their boat here.
Michigan City remains the preferred marina for many people. It has not only the attraction of Lake Michigan and a modern marina, it is next to Michigan City's major lakefront park, its zoo and nearby restaurants. All together, the make Michigan City a great boating city.
The legacy of creating this marina, detailed in Davis's book, is that today Michigan City is a beloved destination for people who enjoy sailing the Lake Michigan waters. Building a public marina for the larger privately owned boats has proved to be be a huge success.
Title: Port Authority-commissioned book shows history sometimes repeats itself
Author: Laurie Wink
Publisher: The News-Dispatch
As a freelance writer, Jonita Davis knows her stuff. But when she took on the project of writing the history of the Michigan City Marinas, she didn't really know what she was getting into.
"They wanted the history and they wanted it interesting," Davis said, referring to the Michigan City Port Authority, which commissioned the project.
The result turned out to be much different from the spiral-bound document envisioned by the Port Authority to mark the 50 years since its creation in 1959. Instead, the book, "Michigan City Marinas," was published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Images of America series. The book was released March 30 and contains 180 historical photographs.
Davis said the writing project started in October 2006, when she was a student at Purdue University-North Central. The Port Authority wanted her to finish in December. Her research began with a review of the Port Authority meeting minutes, beginning from 1959. She shows the two red hard-copy, 4-inch-thick books containing typed meeting records.
"I saw these minutes and said, 'No way am I going to finish in that time,'" Davis said. She finished the draft in the spring of 2007 and, by fall, had a contract with Arcadia Publishing.
"I'd been looking at the Arcadia books as background," she said. "I submitted a proposal and they loved it."
When the publisher told her they needed a minimum of 180 photos, she only had the dozen or so photos hung in the Port Authority meeting room. To get additional photos, she did a radio interview, hung signs and put requests in the Port Authority newsletter.
She found The News-Dispatch former photographers most useful. Anthony Lambré found more than 100 images in the newspaper archives, and Bill Swedenberg had an extensive collection of his own.
"He had really good shots and stories," Davis said.
Although she doesn't always remember specific dates, Davis has become the unofficial Port Authority historian. Mayor Chuck Oberlie thought her wealth of knowledge would be useful to the Port Authority Board of Directors and appointed her to a position, beginning January 2008.
Board president Jim Jaksa said, "Jonita tells us occasionally that this happened before. In many cases it's like history repeating itself with different players."
Davis said she came across some of the same issues about empty slips, the need for government funding and having to tighten up the budget.
"With the economic situation we're in now, it's similar to what the headlines were in the 1970s," David said. "A couple of headlines have been like deja vu. Going back in the opinion pages, the comments weren't as blunt (as today) but were the same tone about keeping the small-town atmosphere."
Davis grew up on the west side of Michigan City and has her own fond memories of going to the beach with her family. Now she is a 28-year-old mother of four children who balances a busy writing career with family responsibilities.
She chuckles when talking about a comment made by her 12-year-old daughter Chloe's comment when she saw the published book.
"She said, 'Mommy now we're going to be rich,'" said Davis, who gets an 8 percent royalty on each book sold.
She admits to being excited when she saw the final product of her efforts.
"I had a little 'amateur moment,'" Davis said. "My husband saw the book at Walgreens and I had to have my photo taken there."
"Michigan City Marinas" sells for $21.99 and a postcard companion packet is $7.99. Both are available in the Michigan City area at Reader's World in Marquette Mall, the Old Lighthouse Museum, Lubeznik Center for the Arts, The Framing Station, The Antique Market, both Walgreens stores and, of course, The Port Authority, 200 Heisman Harbor Drive. The public is invited to meet Davis from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 13 at the Purdue University-North Central Bookstore.