A Place Called Kokomo

Kokomo Indiana mural
Remember the Beach Boys hit song Kokomo? “Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama, Key Largo, Montego, baby why don’t we go? Ooh, I wanna take you down to Kokomo.” With a catchy Caribbean rhythm and words that just set you dancing, you want to take right off and go find a place called Kokomo, right?

A coconut drink in hand, a beach towel, sun and waves.

Not so fast, there. The name Kokomo was woven into the song just because it matches the rhythm and sounds great. The real Kokomo will never see a beach. It’s a small city in central Indiana surrounded by flat corn fields, steeped in Midwestern history. (There are also cities named Kokomo in Arkansas, Missouri and Hawaii.)

Kokomo was founded by pioneer David Foster, and incorporated in 1865. Foster named the town for “the ornriest Injun on earth.”  He didn’t specify exactly which Indian he meant, and some say it refers to a huge man of the Miami tribe, supposedly seven feet tall, named Ma-Ko-Ko-Mo, which means black walnut. However, the Peru (Indiana) Miami Indians say the town was named for Ko-kah-mah, a signer of the Treaty at the Forks of the Wabash, whose name means the diver.

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the area around Kokomo , Indiana looks much the same, although the farming technology has changed

History of the wars of the expanding United States with Miami and Shawnee Indians in Ohio and Indiana is exciting reading for anyone with a desire for intrigue, plots and counterplots, treachery and bloodshed.

As Howard County seat, the Art Deco courthouse of Kokomo is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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America’s first pneumatic rubber tires were made in Kokomo

The city’s nickname is “City of Firsts,” which it aptly deserves. Here are some of the sixteen firsts Kokomo claims.The first internal combustion engine car was made there in 1894. Pneumatic rubber tires were first made there. Stainless steel tableward was invented there. The mechanical corn picker was created in Kokomo. Tomato juice was first canned there. Delco Radio (General Motors) developed the push-button car radio there.

The current population of Kokomo is about 46,000. I saw a small piece of the city yesterday when we ate Thanksgiving dinner at the Windmill Restaurant. The food was excellent, and not pricy. Highly recommended. Other than that, all we saw were the usual franchises which make every city so much like every other. I hate this. However, I have to say I was very happy to find an auto parts store to replace a broken windshield wiper.

What could Kokomo offer that isn’t like any other Midwest city surrounded by corn? If we’d had time, we wanted to visit the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Factory. They offer daily tours to watch the glass being made and have a gift shop.

We also were interested in the Kokomo Automotive Museum which features a hundred antique cars and other memorabilia.

Kokomo is a city with possibilities for an interesting road trip. We wished we hadn’t had to hurry home from a place called Kokomo.

Photos by the author: J.H. Young

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  1. TheBrit

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