Did You Know?
by Ken Carr
Many of you will recall the days when NCR would close the factory the first two weeks of August and all manufacturing employees were required to take their vacation at that time. It was quite a site at the 4:00 PM quitting time on Friday. Men and women would race from buildings looking for wives and husbands who already had the cars packed and ready go. The massive parking lot west of NCR World Headquarters (Building 10) was dotted with cars pulling boats and campers, while others had car top carriers crammed full. Off they would go in all four directions, each doing their own thing. I would bet that neither they nor you ever thought about going on a vacation with hundreds of other men, women and children. Well, that very thing did happen in August of 1906.
That year NCR planned an eight day company vacation at a site near Michigan City, Indiana. Each employee was charged $5.75 and each family member paid $4.00. This fee covered railroad transportation, housing, and three meals a day. Advertisement for the event was billed as being “cheaper than staying home.” Over 2500 said “yes.”
For a week before the event, 65 NCR workmen built, in a wooded area on the banks of Lake Michigan, a city of 1350 tents, a dining room seating 1000, and a cooking area large enough to feed all 2500 people in one hour. The city was laid out with a main street (National Avenue) which ran for nearly a half mile and had 54 intersecting streets (First Street to Fifth Fourth Street). Water pipes and electrical wires were connected to the Michigan City utilities. Fresh water was available on every other street corner and electric lamps provide light throughout the village.
Early the morning of Monday, July 30, four trains, at twenty minutes intervals, departed Dayton. Each family was allowed 150 pounds of luggage which was collected on the previous Friday and sent ahead. When the families arrived at 5:00 PM, they found their luggage already in the tents and as they settled into camp, dinner was being served. A post office, a telephone bank, a laundry and a medical station were available. Dr. Herman, the NCR Doctor, and two of his nurses from Dayton were on hand to handle medical emergencies.
By far the most enjoyed past time was swimming in Lake Michigan, however, there were many activities planned for both day and evening. High on the list was a site seeing trip to Chicago. Early each morning families would board an excursion steam ship and would sail across Lake Michigan to Chicago. They would spend the day in Chicago and then sail back to camp early in the evening.
There was continuous entertainment during the day at a large multipurpose stage which had been sent form Dayton and assembled at the camp. Each evening, a dance was held on the stage with as many as 500 people at one time dancing to the music of the NCR band from Dayton. The NCR baseball team from Dayton held clinics on baseball as well as supervising games. The team also entertained by playing games against local teams from Michigan City. By the way, they didn’t lose a game. Other supervised activities were available: horseshoes, Badminton, and many of the typical team games played at a large picnic. On Sunday, the stage became an outdoor church. Leading the non-denominational worship service was a guest minister from the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. Music was again provided by the NCR band.
What may have been the most popular activity with the parents was a children’s play ground complete with swings, slides, jungle gym and the largest sand pile anyone had seen. The playground was supervised by kindergarten teachers. Yes, you guessed it, they were from Dayton. Parents could leave their children there all day feeling confident they would be in good hands and well entertained.
The camp was broken on Wednesday, August 9th. After an eight days vacation, families boarded the four trains for the return trip to Dayton, arriving in late afternoon.