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Today’s Elkhart and summer of ’69 share similarities

Back in the summer of ’69, Elkhart was focused on improving traffic patterns, debating whether the city should have one or two high schools, taking a hard pass on annexation, and getting more and more people to come downtown.

And, with all those, local historian Paul Thomas of the Time Was Museum doesn’t hesitate to point out that the more things change …

“There’s been three really great eras in Elkhart. In the 1920s, the Lerner and the Bucklen (entertainment houses) were built and so much was happening. In the ’60s, we had the extensions of Waterfall and Prairie, we built the John Weaver Parkway, downtown was vibrant with all the businesses,” says Thomas. “And now, 2018 and ’19, these have been big building years, exciting times with all that’s happening.”

In 1969, the school debate to split Elkhart High School was a hot topic. Today, the schools are preparing to come back together.

Thomas says the city itself could have been tremendously larger, but leaders did not want to take on annexing areas like Simonton Lake, C.R. 17 and growing suburbs in Cleveland Township. In the last five years, annexation to the south was fought by homeowners who did not want to become city residents.

And traffic, of course, is always traffic.

When asked what people should learn for the future from local history, the 95-year-old Thomas jokes (maybe), “Aw, they’ll learn what they always learn … NOTHING!”