Post-Tribune May 21, 2006
By Janis Moore
As Gary celebrates its centennial this year, many people are recalling the city and its history in their own ways.
Although many Gary natives have left the city, and Northwest Indiana, it does not mean they have forgotten their roots.
One case in point is Connecticut resident Ken Svengalis. Like many Garyites, his story begins at the end of the 19th century in Eastern Europe.
His grandparents, Agatha Baukus and Jacob Zvingilas, lived only 3 kilometers apart in Suvalkai province, in western Lithuania. Jacob left his home at the turn of the 20th century and traveled to Glasgow, Scotland. Two years later, Agatha arrived in Glasgow, where her brother, Paul, lived. Agatha and Jacob met for the first time when he took a room at the boarding house where Agatha was staying.
They were married in 1903 in Glasgow. A daughter, Ann, was born in February 1905 just before the family left for New York City on May 23, 1905. They arrived via the Caledonia at Ellis Island and were processed on May 29. The cost on the ship for each adult was $28.75, infants free.
Son Frank Zvingilas, Kenís father, was born in 1906.
Paul Baukus had moved to a small town in Indiana called Gary, so, on Oct. 4, 1908, Agatha and brother-in-law Jacob also settled there.
Frank and Alvida Linnea Matheus were married June 23, 1934. Frank changed the spelling of their last name to Svengalis.
On May 16, 1947, son Kendall was born. He attended Aetna Elementary when its doors opened in 1956 and graduated from Emerson in 1965.
Svengalis read a lot and began his lifelong interest in history. He graduated from Purdue University in West Lafayette in January 1970 with a major in English literature and a minor in history and political science.
"I knew growing up the notoriety of Gary schools," Svengalis said. "William Wirt developed the work-study-play system. I delved into the history of our schools."
This subject became the thesis for his masterís degree, also earned at Purdue.
Svengalis was admitted to Brown University in Providence, R.I., for his Ph.D.
He transferred to the University of Rhode Island in Kingston and, in 1975, earned his masterís of library science degree. He was hired as an assistant state law librarian at the Rhode Island State Law Library in Providence. In 1982, after the retirement of his predecessor, he became the state law librarian.
One of my chief interests was the state of the legal publishing industry and its practices, Svengalis said. I was concerned about the high cost of legal information, including law books. I started writing articles about the high cost and cost-effective acquisitions.
In 1996, he published the Legal Information Buyers Guide and Reference Manual. At that time, he said, his book was the only consumer guide to legal information in America.
Through his own self-publishing company, RI Law Press, he updates the book each year.
In 1998, he received the Joseph Andrews Bibliographical Award from the American Association of Law Librarians.
After his retirement in 2003, Svengalis began to write his family history.
In April 2005, thinking about Garyís 100 years ... propelled me to write Gary, Indiana, A Centennial Celebration, he said.
The 455-page book with 650 pictures is being self-published under Duneland Press.
There was nothing but sand dunes here, except for Tolleston and Miller, when Gary was the largest company town ever built in the United States, Svengalis said. Gary was a great place to grow up; it deserves to come back.