News Column

A fun-filled history of Indiana Beach

April 27, 2014

By Howard Dukes, South Bend Tribune, Ind.



April 27--Writing a book about Indiana Beach had long been on author W.C. Madden's to do list.

Madden and his wife retired to Monticello, the site of the amusement park for seven years.

"We decided to build a house here in Monticello, and it was kind of on my list of things to write."

Madden's curiosity came naturally.

"My wife had been going to Indiana Beach since she was a kid, but I didn't come here until the late '80s," Madden says.

"We had a cottage between here and Delphi, and so we came up every summer to the cottage once or twice."

"We would wonder over to Indiana Beach and enjoy some of the things, so my interest in Indiana Beach started at least 25 or 30 years ago."

Madden also had an interest in writing historical books, and he has been writing them since 1994. He has written three books for Charleston, S.C., publisher History Press.

However, his latest book, "Indiana Beach: A Fun Filled History," did not start out as a History Press project, Madden says.

"I had started researching (Indiana Beach), and suddenly the History Press called me and asked if I would write the book for them, and I said 'yes,'" he recalls. "I had written three other books for History Press and I was kind of an established writer for them so their timing was perfect."

"Indiana Beach: A Fun-Filled History" is a quick read at 143 pages. It is filled with details how the park evolved from a place where people came to boat and swim in the years before the Great Depression to the amusement park that advertises on television under the motto of "There's More Than Corn in Indiana."

The Spackman family is the constant in the book from the time Earl W. Spackman founded it as Idea Beach in 1926 until the family sold the amusement park in 2008.

How the venue came to be named Idea Beach is one of the details that Madden reveals in his book.

"Earl Spackman at the time was working for Idea Furnace Co. out of Detroit, and had a franchise in Indianapolis," Madden says. "He wanted to get some funding from Idea Furnace for his (plan to) start a beach with some canoes."

The firm agreed to make the donation if Spackman named the beach after the company. That name stuck until the early 1950s when Earl Spackman's son and successor Tom Spackman, changed the name to

Indiana Beach.

Madden says Earl and Tom Spackman made sure that the park stayed ahead of trends.

Earl Spackman transformed Idea Beach from a sleepy swimming pool into a resort that featured a

hotel and dance hall that attracted bands from the big-band era through the rock era.

Spackman built the dance hall during the height of the Depression and he overcame plenty of challenges. For example, fire destroyed the first dance hall a few weeks before the start of the summer season.

However, he constructed a new facility that became a draw in spite of the economic downturn, Madden says.

"He didn't bring in big named bands until the economy started to get better," Madden says. "He was a real smart business man in seeing that the economy wasn't very good, so he kept prices down so that he would be successful."

Bands and dances remained a major draw until the end of the 1960s, Madden says.

Tom Spackman, sensing that the park would not be able to compete for major rock and R&B at the dawning of the arena rock era,

continued the move to turn Indiana Beach into a midsized regional amusement park.

Spackman purchased the park's first roller coaster in the early 1970s, Madden says.

"Then in the 1990s they added a water park," he says. "They really kind of always evolved with the times."

___

(c)2014 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)

Visit the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.) at www.southbendtribune.com

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Source: South Bend Tribune (IN)


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