Phil: So Mike, thank you for joining us this morning for this oral history. I want to welcome you to introduce yourself and to start, maybe, by talking about your childhood or your background here in Goshen.
Mike: Well, thank you. I’m Mike Puro. I grew up here in Goshen. My father was a local public accountant. My mother was a choir director, pianist, organist at the First Brethren Church here in town. I went to Parkside grade school, same place where my mother went, my two brothers and my two sons—so we have an affinity with Parkside grade school. I grew up on Garfield, which for folks is about two blocks from the millrace and Shanklin Park; I spent a lot of time there as a child. I graduated from Goshen High School in sixty-seven, went to Purdue University. I later went to IUSB, got a masters degree in business. Along the way I got married—Laurie Tweddale is my wife. We have two sons. Eric, the oldest, now lives in Finland with our granddaughter Aada, and my youngest son, Matt, lives in town with his wife Erin Floyd.
Probably the reason that you’re interviewing me today is that along the way I became the mayor of the City of Goshen.
Phil: We’ll have plenty of time to address some of the themes, both for you as a mayor and also for you as a resident and somebody that grew up and chose to stay around here in Goshen. Back to the neighborhood that you grew up in, what was that like, growing up for you here in Goshen?
Mike: Yeah, well, that was the 1950s. Things were a lot different back then. The town was a lot smaller. In the neighborhood in the summertime, we’d have breakfast, you’d get out the door as fast as you could. There were a lot of kids that lived in the neighborhood, and we played until somebody—oh, some of the parents blew a whistle; some of them just yelled out the door, that it was noon and we were supposed to come home and eat—and as soon as we ate we were right back out there and kept at it until basically it would get dark.
Back then, there weren’t a lot of boundaries. We had certain areas we had to stay within—couldn’t cross Main Street, a big street like that. I wasn’t supposed to be down at the millrace, so of course I went there all the time. But the neighbors would look out. If they saw you doing something you shouldn’t be doing, you either got disciplined by them, or they’d call your parents. There were a lot of eyes out there watching over kids, so yeah, we had a lot more freedom, fortunately, than kids do today.
Phil: Did you have any favorite activities around the neighborhood that you recall?
Mike: Yes, it was mostly boys that lived in the neighborhood, and we organized, particularly I remember the football leagues. We actually would have a football team from our neighborhood and we would play other neighborhoods in football, mostly down at the little park on Wilson Street, sometimes over at Shanklin. Wilson Street also had a baseball diamond, so there was a lot of baseball being played down there—broke a lot of windows in the neighborhood houses. It was a small field.
A lot of it was generated around sports. One of the fathers organized an olympic event one year during the olympics and we just had any number of things including a bicycle race down at Shanklin Park.
And in addition to that, one of the really fun things clear out through highschool was—Shanklin Park had a parks program during the summertime. There would always be a Goshen High School—usually a senior boy and a senior girl—that would have programs and stuff down there. And then there were also just games to play that you could play with—just pick up Monopoly or something and play other people.
Phil: And did you have any activities around the millrace itself? Did you say you were discouraged—
Mike: —Well, I was not supposed to—the millrace would run very, very fast back then. It was still being used to generate electricity, and it could. The reason that the flow is not too fast anymore is because the banks aren’t as secure as they were back then. So, that thing really flowed fast, and it was very, very deep. There’s a lot of sediment in there now, but it was—you fell in, you were going to be in trouble. So yeah, I wasn’t supposed to walk to Parkside along the millrace, and as any young boy tends to do, whatever you’re not supposed to do, that’s what you did.
Phil: Well, I’m sure we’ll talk more about the millrace as we go forward because it seems to have changed a lot in terms of its accessibility since the way it was.
Mike: Certainly. Back then Nipsco would run a car up and down and do inspections on the bank. If you tried to drive a car through there now, I think half the bank would collapse.