Chesterton Tribune

Memorial marker commemorates 'Bloody 20' State Police Post number 1

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The former Indiana State Police Dunes Park Post 1, which served as headquarters to the officers who patrolled U.S. 20—“Bloody 20”—has been memorialized.

The state placed a historical marker about a year ago. The design for the marker was made with assistance from retired ISP trooper Tim McCarthy, who currently resides in Jackson Township.

Interest in a historical marker on the now leveled site, located close to where Ind. 49 and U.S. 20 meet, has been high since former photographer for the Gary Post-Tribune Dick Wylie floated the idea to Marty Talbert, a past president of the Pioneers of the Indiana State Police.

Wylie, who has since retired and now lives in Florida, wished to honor the troopers of Post 1 and their many services to the public. Talbert liked the idea and the two worked together to get the memorial placed.

A short while later at a Pioneers of Indiana State Police meeting in Indianapolis, Talbert approached ISP Superintendent Paul E. Whitesell with the idea. Whitesell met the matter with enthusiasm and immediately arranged for the design, construction and placement of the marker on U.S. 20.

McCarthy, who had some experience working as public information officer during his 26 years at Post 1 until its closing in 1977, was asked by Talbert to give a hand in acquiring a photo of the former headquarters and providing background information. McCarthy contacted the Westchester Township History Museum which was able to locate a photo.

The Post 1 District headquarters was always the busiest in the state regarding both crimes and traffic, McCarthy told the Chesterton Tribune.

Before the construction of the Indiana Toll Road in 1956, U.S. 20 was the primary artery travelers used to get from Chicago to Michigan. The four-lane 28-mile stretch of road was said at that time to be the deadliest in the country. Accidents happened almost on a daily basis and many of them were either serious or fatal.

Wylie’s book, Life and Death, Thru the Lens, contains a chapter he wrote specifically on his experiences riding with state troopers photographing those who investigated the mangled vehicles in gruesome accidents. He called them “the most dedicated law enforcement officers I ever covered.”

The intense depictions and stories of patrolling “Bloody 20” by those who were involved, McCarthy said, are not exaggerations.

“On weekends, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic,” he said.

Arrests commonly made were on charges of drunk driving but the Post also saw a heavy load of armed robberies along the roadway.

The troopers worked long schedules, 10-hour patrol shifts in an eight-day-week duty schedule without any compensation for overtime.

“Nobody grumbled about it. Being understaffed, we were too busy to. It was all considered as part of the job,” McCarthy said.

As for the Post 1 building itself, the two-story brick facility with a finished basement was constructed in 1937 with funds from the federal WPA (Works Progress Administration) initiative started by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

The main floor contained the public entryway and communications room connecting frequencies with other state police posts, county sheriff and town police departments. Communication offices deciphered text and teletype messages that were sent and received similar to Morse code. A “squad room” on the main floor was where officers wrote their reports. There was also an attached garage used for Post meetings periodically.

The upper floor consisted of detective offices and one for the post commander, who also got a bedroom because he had to stay nights. More often than not, a communications operator would wake up the post commander for any necessary questions or assignment decisions.

The basement level included space for laboratory equipment, a lockup holding cell and an underground one-stall firing range.

The Post closed in August 1977 when it was combined with the Schererville Post into the current Lowell District headquarters.

During its 40 years, the Post 1 district served a total of nine counties -- Porter, Lake, Newton, Jasper, LaPorte, Starke, Pulaski, St. Joseph and Marshall.

One of the few “Bloody 20” patrollers still living, McCarthy said he was glad to see the memorial marker placed but would have preferred if there would have been a ceremony for the commemoration.

According to ISP Spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas of the Lowell District, the Indiana Department of Transportation currently owns the land where the Dunes Park Post was located.

 

Posted 5/18/2012