[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/08/palace.gary.art.jpg caption="(Getty Images) The marquee at the decaying Palace Theater advertises the Jackson Five July 7, 2009 in Gary, Indiana."]
By Stephen Samaniego – Producer, CNN's American Morning
After spending a few days in Gary, Indiana one thing is clear: this is not the same town Michael Jackson grew up in. When Michael was born back in 1958, Gary was a thriving steel town with a population of almost 180,000 people.
When I was speaking with Gladys Johnson, the former principal of Garnett Elementary School where Michael attended, she spoke of a place where new schools were being constructed, people were buying land and building new homes, and people had good paying jobs that afforded them a decent life.
Today, things are different. Jackson’s elementary school has been torn down, most of the houses built are now crumbling and the unemployment rate is in the double digits.
Driving through the streets of Gary, I could see the shell of what it once was. Gordon Keith, the former owner of Steeltown Records, told me about the exploding music scene that Gary hosted. While driving around with Gordon, he would point out an abandoned building, a pile of rubble or even an empty lot that used to be a music club or watering hole that would showcase local talent.
I stopped by Mr. Lucky's, the bar where the Jackson Five performed when they first formed. It was shuttered and appeared to have bullet holes through the front door and part of the roof had collapsed into the front of the former bar.
It is clear that Gary, Indiana has seen better days but the people that remember its glory days are still there and remember what it used to be.