Friday, June 5, 2020

Last Straw


 "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Nineteenth-century clergyman Theodore Parker, made famous by Martin Luther King, Jr.

 


The phrase “last straw” comes from the Arab proverb, “It is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.” That’s what happened when the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd, whose life got snuffed out when a cop pinned his neck with his knee for 8 minutes and 43 seconds.  The entire world reacted with shock and anger. What a contrast with Barack Obama. Days later, Trump’s toadies ordered troops to assault peaceful demonstrators to make way for the President to hold up a Bible at a nearby historic church.  That was too much for decorated military leaders past and present and a few Republicans of good will, sadly a vanishing species

 


Chris Kern wrote: The rhetoric from Trump, Barr, Cotton, and the right wing media about "antifa" is more dangerous than people might realize if they don't follow any right wing media at all. Antifa does exist, but it has nothing to do with what Trump and cohort mean by the term. The right-wing world uses it to mean a vast network of Al-Qaeda like terrorist cells, funded and controlled by people like George Soros, Obama, Clinton, and other right wing boogeymen. This allows to them to label any protester as antifa no matter what they're doing. And when you have people in government calling the military to kill "antifa terrorists", what they really mean is use the military against anyone they don't agree with. Trump, as usual, is clueless and just flailing around trying to appeal to his base. But Barr is smart enough to know that this "antifa" doesn't really exist, but evil enough to understand how this can be used to increase his concept of the powerful executive branch.




From Casey King: “The black figure floating out of symmetry on the right was not intentionally placed. My intention was to create a perfectly mirrored image. I noticed it after I had shared the full artwork last night. Sometimes unplanned mistakes and imperfections are serendipitous. I believe my mistaken addition of that black figure on the right is saying something. I think the senseless and racist killing of George Floyd was a grandiose mistake: yet a spark that has ignited fires that will settle and ideally bring humanity closer to peace and understanding. I believe negativity breeds negativity. There is enough of that going around. Therefore, this is my means of caring and expressing empathy towards the matter at hand. I am also a recent Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate and I feel that responding to such a pivotal moment in our nation’s history through visual art is absolutely necessary. I cannot...not respond in such a way. I should not: not respond in such a way.”
I watched lectures by Hoosier Historians Jim Madison and Ray Boomhower online. Both discussed World War II, Madison covering the Indiana home front and Boomhower the wartime correspondence of Ernie Pyle. Though most of what they said was familiar, I enjoyed seeing them in action and envied them.  To of my spring talks were cancelled and two October conference appearances are in doubt as well as my maiden Saturday club lecture.  I might be emulating them, delivering my remarks via zoom.


Here are two other reasons I like Facebook:
Ava Meux, Chives and dillweed


Jim Spicer, dunes swallows nests


Thursday, June 4, 2020

Let America Be America Again


 "O, let America be America again –
The land that never has been yet –
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME”–

    Langston Hughes (below)

 

I had this email interchange with East Chicago graduate Denzel Smith (above), whom son Dave mentored:

     Denzel: They made me stand up every morning and pledge my allegiance to a flag that is rooted in the OPPRESION, MARGINALIZATION, DISCRIMINATION, and HATRED of my people. That’s crazy!!!

    Jim: Our country's roots, certainly flawed, as you point out, also includes valuable guarantees of liberties, fragile as they given our political situation. Please give "the system" another chance in November.

    Denzel: Jimbo, you will always be one human being that I love and respect and because of that, I have to be honest and say, I don’t think we have it in us to give it another chance. I could be wrong but I believe we need to go back to the drawing board and figure out a system that works for all people, not just some. Let’s build a new table of brotherhood.

    Jim: OK but make sure to vote and stay safe, we want to keep your voice and passion around for a long time

   Denzel : Thank you and I hope to see you guys when I come home next month. Be safe.

    Jim: For sure. My political hero Richard Hatcher's greatest legacy was to continue to work within the political system in the late-1960s, when most black power advocates had given up on it. Hatcher's 1972 National Black Political Convention inspired young African Americans, including Barack Obama; in his seventies Hatcher tirelessly campaigned for Obama prior to the crucial 1908 Iowa primary. Hatcher's father Carleton escaped from a Georgia overseer and didn't learn to read or write until old age. Several of his offspring died as a result of the hovel they were forced to live in during the Great Depression. Carleton, understanding the importance of education, made sure others had the opportunity to attend college. Denzel, you can be a future mayor of East Chicago or anything else you set your mind to. Teacher? preacher? I see both of those traits in you. As Maryland History professor Sam Merrill told me during the 1967 March on the Pentagon, stay safe, you can be a much more important force for good as a teacher than as one of thousands in a crowd. But he was marching beside me, realizing the need to be there.

Denzel: Thank you and I hope to see you guys when I come home next month. Be safe.

Visclosky, Millsap, Mrvan
Toni and I were surprised and delighted to learn that Frank Mrvan upset Hammond mayor Tom McDermott to gain the Democratic nomination to succeed First District Congressman Peter Visclosky.  Though outspent four to one and overcoming numerous “spoiler” candidates, Mrvan received approximately 26,000 votes to former Republican McDermott’s 22,000. None of the other 11 candidates garnered as many as 8,000.  Mrvan credited endorsements by Visclosky and the United Steelworkers as key factors, as well as hard work by hundreds of volunteers, including former lake County sheriff Roy Dominguez, whose opinion helped sway us.  Let’s hope this bodes well for November and a resounding repudiation of Trump.

 
Gregg Hertzlieb referenced John Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow” album and the song “Minutes to Memories” that opens with these lyrics:
On a Greyhound thirty miles beyond Jamestown
He saw the sun set on the Tennessee line
          He looked at the young man who was riding beside him
He said I'm old kind of worn out inside
I worked my whole life in the steel mills of Gary
And my father before me I helped build this land
Now I'm seventy-seven and with God as my witness
I earned every dollar that passed through my hands
My family and friends are the best thing I've known
Through the eye of the needle I'll carry them home

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

RIP George Floyd


 "Millions have seen how you were killed by the reckless police action in Minneapolis and have protested your death throughout this country and around the world. You suffered greatly, your family suffered and untold thousands have suffered greatly. Your brother has stood up and represented you, the family, community and world well. I am touched by the Peaceful protesters and dismayed at the Anarchists. We all seek justice for your family and they are all in my prayers. May you rest in Peace, You are on the hearts of millions of people.” Gary native Bill Pelke, founder of Journey of Hope . . .From Violence to healing



 Bill Pelke

William Jackson speaks at Portage demonstration

A peaceful vigil in remembrance of George Floyd took place in Portage, Indiana. Hundreds participated.  Clergymen spoke and the Portage police cooperated, closing off a main thoroughfare and interacting with people in the crowd.  Meanwhile, our unhinged president threatened to call out the army and blamed disturbances on radical elements and overly timid local and state officials. After peaceful protestors were attacked with tear gas and rubber bullets, he strode to nearby St. John’s church and posed with a Bible in his hand.  Hoping like Richard Nixon in 1968 to benefit from the chaos, Trump proclaimed himself to be the “Law ‘n’ Order” president.  Shameful and beyond disgusting. Janet Bayer wrote: “Jesus would have been among those trampled by horses, stung by the gases released and wounded by the "rubber" bullets to make way for a false god to make his way to a Church Bible upside down and no minister to greet him.”  Reverend Mariann Budde said: 

   The President just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for. To do so, he sanctioned the use of tear gas by police officers in riot gear to clear the church yard.

    I am outraged.  The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

    The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

    We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love.  We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation.  In faithfulness to our savior who led a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest. 

We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.

The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.

The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.

The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.

The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.

The President did not pray when he came to St. John’s; nor did he acknowledge the agony and sacred worth of people of color in our nation who rightfully demand an end to 400 years of systemic racism and white supremacy in our country.

We in the Diocese of Washington follow Jesus in His Way of Love. We aspire to be people of peace and advocates of justice. In no way do we support the President’s incendiary response to a wounded, grieving nation. In faithfulness to our Savior who lived a life of non-violence and sacrificial love, we align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others through the sacred act of peaceful protest.

Jim Madison posted an episode of “Uncle Dan’s Story Hour” on an Indianapolis PBS radio station of Will Higgins interviewing Dan Wakefield.  In the novel “Going All the Way” Wakefield wrote about two veterans returning from Korea who go on a road trip and visit Region strip clubs in Calumet City – I reprinted an excerpt in Steel Shavings magazine. 

An Indianapolis Shortridge graduate born in 1932, Wakefield once worked for the Grand Rapids Press and covered the 1954 trial of the two men who murdered 14-year-old Emmet Till for The Nation.  Rosa Parks, whose refusal to sit in the back of the bus ignited the Montgomery Bus Boycott, claimed she was motivated in large part by the not guilty verdict in the Emmet Till case. In words that resonate in our own perilous time, Wakefield told Higgins, “Black people are a symbol to some who want to take out their frustrations.”  Now the tables are turned and, fairly or unfairly, police have become such a symbol to some oppressed people. Recalling his friendship with James Baldwin, he quoted words the black essayist wrote in “Notes of a Native Son”: “I want to be an honest man and a good writer.”  That’s my goal as well.

 

Chesterton Town Council member Bob Allison resigned after posting asinine statements on Facebook.  Chesterton Tribune correspondent Kevin Nevers wrote:

    The comments which Allison posted on Facebook, as protestors converged peacefully in Hammond to denounce police brutality and racism and in particular a police officer’s murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd: “Get the snowplows out!” followed by “Straight blade ‘em!”  Those comments provoked hundreds of shares and scores of outraged replies, and Allison subsequently apologized for them.  Allison texted his resignation, effective immediately, to a Chesterton Tribune reporter at 2:14 p.m. Sunday, seven minutes after Clerk-Treasurer Courtney Udvare released a statement from his colleagues on the Town Council urging him to resign.

One hopes that Bob Allison emerges from this a better person.  The following day he claimed to be praying for the family of George Floyd and his fellow citizens and for forgiveness from those hurt by his statements.  Let Allison’s subsequent actions be an opportunity for him to demonstrate his sincerity, and I, for one, will not judge his character solely by those stupid remarks.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Black Lives Matter


"We all need to learn.  We all need to listen.  We all need to be a part of the solution.  We can do it peacefully together.” Tony Dungy

 

Those who disparage the slogan “Black Lives Matter” and counter with the argument that “All Lives Matter” don’t comprehend the necessity of making dramatic the point that the toll of African-American victims of police violence - and murder even – has become totally unacceptable.  Of course, all lives matter but until these killings cease the message of “Black Lives Matter” needs to be heard loud and clear.  As veteran Post-Tribune reporter John Mutka has written, in America all citizens are supposed to be created equal, but “unfortunately some are created more equal than others, especially where civil rights are concerned.”


Denzel Smith


On Facebook son Dave performed the Buffalo Springfield protest song “For What It’s Worth,” written by Stephen Stills, and dedicated it to Denzel Smith, a thoughtful, intelligent East Chicago Central grad now attending Bethune-Cookman University who has been grievously affected by the murder in Minneapolis of “gentle giant” George Floyd.  Calling Denzel a “brother from a different mother,” Dave introduced the song with these words: “It’s time to love each other, it’s time to listen to each other.  I stand with the young people in the streets.  Denzel Smith, I love you.”  “For What It’s Worth” begins with the line, “There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.” Another couplet goes, “A thousand people in the street, singing songs and carrying signs.”  And this verse:

There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

 

Granddaughter Alissa called, conflicted about attending a peaceful rally in Grand Rapids scheduled to begin at 7 P.M.  In Valparaiso an 11 A.M. rally went peacefully, but both Toni and I counseled against being part of something at near dusk, when agitators on both the right and left were likely to foment trouble.  We called a few hours later and, finding nobody at home, left a message hoping to hear from her.  She called soon afterwards, having venture downtown with Josh and witnessed the rally from a distance. Next day, we learned that the protest had turned ugly with looting and the torching of police vehicles.  We were happy she was not caught up in it. Alissa posted this message:

    Don't be silent about the murder of George Floyd (and countless other black/brown people) and outraged at property damage. Be outraged at a justice system that has failed so many times that it makes people feel like rioting is the only choice. Be outraged at the silence from so many who should use their privilege for good.  I was proud to stand in solidarity with my city yesterday (from a social distance) and inspired to see all the protests around the country. Please everyone be safe (COVID is still here) and we need each other more than ever. Also, don't let the news coverage on the damage distract you - yesterday was a 99.9% peaceful gathering of people coming out in solidarity




After a couple days of uncertainty, authorities in Minneapolis and elsewhere are cracking down on protests, which continue to take place all over the nation. Even so, in many communities, officers have taken a knee to show solidarity with those mourning Floyd’s unnecessary death.  Locally, peaceful vigil took place in several other locations, but demonstrations that continued into the evening hours sometimes got ugly.  In Hobart stores got looted at Southlake Mall and demonstrators surged onto Route 30, stopping traffic.
Southlake Mall photo by Marc Chase

 In Hammond, Indiana, county police were on hand to prevent protestors from blocking the Frank Borman expressway (80/94). Former IUN colleague Linda Anderson reported:

Since this morning things have been other-worldly here.  From my window I have watched as police showed up to block access from Illinois into Hammond. Lots of police cruisers! Then an hour later came the big yellow road building equipment to block the road, and shortly after, they began placing large concrete barricades across the road. Then, arrived the National Guard. I could whistle and get their attention if needed, but other than assuming my sleep tonight will be punctuated with more sirens and the flashing red and blue lights through my windows, right here things seem calm, with an occasional driver honking in annoyance when they discover their route is blocked. My kids have offered I can come stay with them, but actually I feel fine being here. This morning there was rioting and looting at a shopping mall near here in Illinois so this is our city's response. Yesterday, tear gas/pepper spray was directed at a peaceful protest march in town. Very disappointing. I am hoping things cool down but not optimistic. I am in support of the protests and speaking out. Yet, as every newscast reports this is a systemic problem that must be solved I hear no real solutions and with the pandemic, unemployment sky high and a political stage that presents as a nightmare, it is going to take more effort and listening than this country has ever had to collect. Sadly, I am not sure we are up to the task. Too many politicians, religious leaders and educators unfortunately must have majored in "talk".




Hammond photos by Kyle Telechan

Trump continues to tweet incendiary comments about shooting looters and unleashing vicious dogs on citizens.  While he claimed to have talked to George Floyd’s family, a brother said the President never let them get a word in, whereas Joe Biden’s call lasted more than 30 minutes and was a true interchange. Floyd had worked as a bouncer at a conga Latin club and several people described him as a “gentle giant.”  The owner of the store where Floyd bought a pack of cigarettes with a counterfeit bill, not on the premises at the time, told reporters that Floyd was a regular customer who was unfailingly friendly and never gave anyone a hard time.  Vice President Mike Pence claims to believe in peaceful protest, drawing this retort from Ayo Edebiri: “Remember, Pence, when Colin Kaepernick peacefully protested and you stood your ass up and walked out of the stadium?”  Many have pointed out this hypocrisy and compared the NFL quarterback subsequently blackballed by NFL owners taking a knee to the Minneapolis cop killing George Floyd with his.

 
Evan Davis toured his neighborhood in the Fort Wayne area with a “Black Lives Matter” sign and reported:

  The Maplecrest walk with my Black Lives Matter sign went well. A former newspaper colleague and I walked for about half an hour and got no responses on the first half, but several on the way back, when we were facing oncoming traffic more directly. We got what we interpreted as three or four friendly beeps, plus a plea for All Lives Matter, a muttered reference to bovine feces and a long, loud beep accompanied by the middle-finger salute. If I do this again, I need to make a sturdier sign, but, otherwise, I figure at least a hundred people got to see two somewhat elderly (masked) white folks walking for racial justice in the heart of St. Joe Township. I hope we gave them something to talk about. ... Meanwhile, I think a couple of my Aboite Township friends were doing a neighborhood walk near their home. I'm looking forward to their report.

 

Brittany Schoel filed this report from Flint, Michigan:

    We weren't sure what to expect. With everything we have been seeing on the news, it wasn't clear what would happen but as we were walking, it was beautiful to see people of every race, age, demographic come together and unite.

    When we reached the police station, the officers were lined up and everyone immediately took a knee.

    The Sheriff asked one question...

    “We are mad, too! What can we do?"

     And the crowd responded, "Join us.’”

 
WLS news team, Coleman on left


 We’ve had ideal weather over the weekend, sunny, low humidity, and in the low 70s – perfect for getting out of the house and joining a Black Lives Matter demonstration.  As legendary ABC Chicago meteorologist John Coleman would say, “Today was one of the ten best weather days of the year.” During the 1970s the Channel 7 news team of Fahey Flynn, John Drury, Joel Daly, and sportscaster Bill Frink (plus my favorite Mark Giangreco) was number one, even surpassed the Channel 2 team of Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson. They had so much rapport that some accuse them with popularizing a news "happy talk" format. After playing a major role in launching the Weather Channel, Coleman was chief meteorologist on ABC’s “Good Morning America” before ending his career at a San Diego station. Coleman is credited with creating the first chroma key weather map. He died in 2018 at age 83.

 
 Walt Whitman


Ray Boomhower passed on this advice from poet Walt Whitman:

  This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Postponed Reunion



“The life of every man is a log in which he means to write one story and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” James M. Barrie, creator of “Peter Pan,” quoted in 1960 Upper Dublin yearbook

 

With vigils, demonstrations, and riots taking place in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and dozens of other cities, the Covid-19 pandemic is suddenly no longer the top news story.  Even so, yesterday Northwest Indiana reported 11 new deaths even as most area communities started reopening.  The elderly have been especially hard hit.  Although obituaries rarely mention cause of death, the number seems to have ballooned. Here’s an excerpt for World War II veteran Otto Henry Loeffler, a lifelong Valparaiso resident:


    Otto was a fine athlete, playing in the Dodgers minor league baseball system, then becoming a first-rate golfer and bowler.  He played a fine hand of blackjack.  Whether rousting his kids up to go fishing or golfing at 5:00 AM, hosting family get-togethers or spending time with Evelyn (late wife of 60 years) or grandchildren.  Otto was full of positive energy.  His last days were spent in the isolation of the 2020 pandemic, which did not sit well with someone who loved the company of his family and a dog on his lap.

R.I.P. Otto.

 

A few days ago good friend Tom Wade left for Connecticut to see his dying brother.  He posted this eulogy on Facebook along with a photo with his big brother:


    My older brother Dan passed away yesterday after fighting kidney disease for more than a decade. He was an extraordinary human being, holding a variety of academic positions and awards and ending up at Yale for the last 34 years. He, along with Carol, his loving wife of 54 years, were longtime warriors for peace and social justice. They ended their wedding in 1966 with a 10 minute plea for ending the war in Vietnam, and were in the middle of the 1968 protests for peace at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He had a wonderful internal joy about him that warmed all who knew him. He leaves behind his wife and partner in peace Carol, daughters Alyson and Malory, and grandson Luke. Thanks for being such a great example for your little brother, Dano. Love forever bro!    

 

My Upper Dublin “Class of 1960” reunion has been “rescheduled” for October 2021.  As the planning committee put it, nobody wants a solemn affair where masks are worn and old friends must keep six feet apart.  Compared to the momentous events engulfing us during this “plague year,” this is relatively unimportant.  Still, it’s a bitter pill.  I’ve attended every reunion since our twentieth.  I missed the tenth because I’d just begun teaching at Indiana University Northwest and had returned to Pennsylvania the previous week for my mother’s wedding.  The reunions always provide vivid memories and surprises.  In 1980 I smoked out with Gaard Murphy and hubby Chuck in the parking lot, and we’ve been good friends ever since.  I heard Ed Piszak ask Eleanor Smith at the registration desk if Jimmy Lane had arrived and then surprised him when he came up the steps. Still looking young for my age, I was taken aback when some folks hardly recognized me because I’d grown a good six inches since high school.  Lo and behold, I was taller than Suzi Hummel, who asked if I were in touch with Chuck Bahmueller, her next-door neighbor in East Oreland. I danced with a dozen classmates, including Faith Marvill, whom I dated in seventh grade, and Leslie Boone, looking like an absolutely gorgeous high school senior. Dick (“call me Richard”) Garretson got Bruce Allen and me to go into the adjacent bar to watch the Phillies clinch the National league pennant (they’d go on to win the World Series) and tried to persuade us to meet their plane at the Philadelphia airport.  Alas, the team still has a Sunday game.  That’s the last time I saw cool Dick Garretson.  Next day, I talked on the phone with Judy Jenkins for 40 minutes reporting on reunion highlights.

 

In 1990 I mistook Carolyn Aubel for Carolyn Ott and blurted out that I’d had a crush on her in grade school.  Beforehand, Chuck Bahmueller and I argued politics for an hour before sitting with beauties Judy Jenkins, Molly Schade, Suzi Hummel, and Susan Floyd, who asked me to dance to “Proud Mary.”  Judy said she had trouble remembering many classmates.  It helps to get out the yearbook beforehand, I said, momentarily forgetting that because she needed a summer course, Judy, along with a half-dozen others, got excluded from “The Mundockian.”  What administration bullshit!  After a post-reunion gathering (many of us being reluctant to have the night come to an end) Thelma Van Sant gave Bahmueller and me a ride back to our hotel. Just south of U.D. was the Van Sant farm (now gone), where many of us had worked summers and in whose long winding access road made out with dates, in my case once interrupted by Chief Ottinger.

 

1995 began a traditional of reunions every five years.  Seeing Kathleen Birchler, star of the U.D. field hockey team, for the first since graduation, I recalled how at Fort Washington elementary school she competed in soccer with the guys at[LJ1]  recess while most girls (and a lone guy) played house in dirt patches.  Kathleen once beat up a kid a year older than her in a fight, making his nose bleed.  She claimed to have no memory of the incident.  I got Wayne Wylie (who never dances, wife Fran warned me) to boogie with me to the Ramones’ “I Wanna be Sedated.”  He lived on a farm in Jarrettown; on summer sleepovers we’d ride a tractor out into the cornfield, pick corn and his mom would cook up four ears each for us.  Ambrosia. 

 

Favorite teacher Ed Taddei came to our fortieth reunion, along with football coach Frank Gilronan and music teacher Robert Foust.  I confessed that I had misbehaved in his class, and Mr. Foust replied, “You weren’t so bad.”  He must have witnessed worse, forced to teach some apathetic groups just once a week.  Bob Reller came to his first reunion with a comely wife.  I danced to a Motown number with Mary Dinkins, married to a preacher, who sat behind me in Latin class; once I turned around to say something clever to Mary when Miss LeVan whacked me with a ruler. The Temptations song caused Mary to close her eyes and show some soulful dance moves.  Dave Seibold and his wife wowed everyone with ballroom dance moves they must have learned at Arthur Murray studios.

 

For the first time in 2005 Toni attended a reunion. Classmates joked that they’d wondered if I’d made her up.  We were returning from the Jersey shore and had Miranda with us.  We sat at a table with John Jacobsen, who offered to give up his seat when it appeared that we were one serving short.  Still ruggedly handsome, John recalled Fort Washington school teachers Miss Worthington, Mrs. Orr, Mrs. Bytheway, and Mr. Johnson, the latter a weasel of a man with a big Adam’s apple that I’d almost forgotten about.  Sultry Miss Polsky (who could get a rise out of me when she called me Jacques), Mr. Bek (my hundred-pound football coach), and Miss Malkus attended as did two cool classmates who for some reason had changed their names, Tony Tucciarone and John Magyar, who once fought chemistry teacher John Schwering in the hallway.  Vince Curll and I would visit Tony Tucciarone on the way to the movies in Ambler and sample his mom’s delicious homemade bread. Eddie Piszek, full-headed and fit, gave overweight Magyar diet tips.

 

Several first-timers made it to the fiftieth, including childhood pal Jay Bumm and homecoming queen Wendy Henry wearing, unbelievably, her tiara. I tried to ask tenth grade girlfriend Mary Delp to dance, but Skip Pollard’s wife, who’d been her neighbor in Naperville, shushed me away.  When “The Bristol Stomp” came on, Alice Ottinger and I showed off some moves and got an approving smile from Jimmy Coombs; then for good measure we slow-danced. Later cameras came out when Alice danced with old flame Jay Bumm.  Marianne Tambourino and star athlete Percy Herder, who worked at the old high school, came onto the dance floor, and later Phil Arnold organized a Stroll line.

 


In 2015 I chatted at dinner with LeeLee Minehart and her husband Bob whom she met in Afghanistan while in the Peace Corps. Among those stopping to chat at our table were Ed Dudnek and Rita Grasso, who looked stunningly beautiful.  I traded Babe Ruth baseball league memories with Eddie Piszek.  Ron Hawthorn’s dad (Mr. Haw-the-Haw) was our coach and Dave Seibold our star first baseman.  Classmate Freddie Scott played hits from 1960, including “The Twist” by Chubby Checker (I preferred the Hank Ballard original), “Go, Jimmy, Go” by Jimmy Clanton, and “Save the Last Dance for Me” by the Drifters.  Although I needed the help of nametags for a few classmates, I recognized most immediately.  Pat Zollo was bald but otherwise hadn’t changed much, holding forth with humorous stories of wilder days.  Coombs, who looked like he could hold his own in a fight, asked whether I was in touch with Penny Roberts (negative) and I countered with questions about the Fad brothers. Barbara Bitting, married to classmate Joe Ricketts, remained blond and beautiful, Connie Heard more youthful acting than in high school almost.  Susan Floyd showed me a photo circa 1969 of her, hubby Joe McGraw and Terry and Gayle Jenkins looking like hippies. In 1969 I had long hair and a beard, too. As Teenagers Susan and I hung out at Terry and Judy Jenkins’ house and shared many memories. Like so many of my classmates, Susan has aged gracefully.  Let’s hope most of us can rendezvous in 2021.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Squeeze Inn


“The hourglass has no more grains of sand 

Little red grains of sand

My watch has stopped no more turning hands

Little green neon hands”

    “Hourglass,” Squeeze

Steve Spicer posted a photo of a century-old cottage at Miller Beach known as Squeeze Inn that Chicagoans used in the summer. “When the original Squeeze Inn was cobbled together is unknown,” Spicer wrote, “but it was located somewhere between the mouth of the Grand Calumet, quite possibly where the Aquatorium is today.” When the City of Gary began developing Marquette Park, the building was ordered razed, but a sorority purchased a lot further east for 500 dollars and a New Squeeze Inn opened on July 4, 1921. Spicer found a hundred-year-old article by Edith Heilman in the Forest Park Review, written upon returning from chaperoning sorority sisters for two weeks during the final summer of the original shack’s existence.  Here is an excerpt, thanks to Miller historian Spicer:

 “Squeeze Inn,” in cold, geographical terms, is a shack-and-porch a mile from Millers Beach, Millers, Ind.

Practically speaking, it’s a little bit of heaven dropped from out the skies. Sunny days and star dotted nights and the lake breeze make it so. Sand flies and a giant species of mosquito are the rift in the lute. But let us dismiss them!

As before stated, they call this place “Squeeze Inn.” But whoever presided over the christening rites missed his guess. It should have been called “Squeeze Out!” We are heaps more out than in, and some of us bubble over even from off the porch and sleep on the sand with the stars for our canopy.

Picture if you can a shack 18 by 10 feet with a complement of a porch 18 by 18 feet; porch bigger than the house, you will note. The house proper holds cooking utensils and clothing and at present is so crammed with both that a human being hasn’t room to more than wiggle into and out of her bathing suit.

The cooking is done out of doors on an improvised stove, and I want to say right here that if you are finicky or “set” in your ways, stay away from the “Squeeze Inn!” Sand and charcoal is the basis of most of the menus, but what cares youth for such trifles?

And the girls themselves! Tall, short, black heads and blond – with a charming red head thrown in for spice! And when they all line up in their gayly colored bathing suits they’re a sight for sore eyes.

Fifty weeks out of the year they are stenographers, bookkeepers and general office girls. Out here for two carefree weeks that are Dryads of the Woods and Belles of the Beach!




Spicer discovered that the origin of the unofficial sorority Tau Omega Tau Sigma (TOTS) was an organization the young women joined during World War I, the Girls Patriotic Service League and that Edith Heilman had been their sponsor. The TOTS girls, as they called themselves, and their families used the second Squeeze Inn until the 1950s.
 

Growing up in a Philadelphia suburb, the main places to vacation were the Jersey shore and the Poconos. My parents preferred the Poconos; and after two bad experiences using a tent began renting a cabin at Lake Minneola along with the Jenkins family. It wasn’t a shack, but it was not very luxurious either. What I recall most vividly was the open porch where we’d play cards and flypaper hanging up to which were attached its victims. Most of our excursions to the shore were day trips, but after my freshman year at Bucknell, my fraternity rented a place for a week that became as crowded as Squeeze Inn. I recall sleeping on a couch with a coed I had met earlier in the day. We were both pretty drunk and didn’t do any heavy petting. I saw her once after that but otherwise we went our separate ways.

 

In “Rabbit at Rest” Harry drove by his childhood neighborhood (something Terry Jenkins and I did the last time we were together) and recalled his bedroom, with tinker toys, rubber soldiers, lead airplanes, and stuffed teddy bears lined up on a shelf. I shared a bedroom with my younger brother and recall that on one shelf were adventure books on cowboys and the wild west by someone with the strange name of Holling C. Holling. We also had numerous board games, including Parcheesi and Chutes and Ladders, and sometimes we’d combine them so you’d have to have your tokens go onto the second one after completing the route on the first.  Updike wrote:

 On the radio Harry hears that Mike Schmidt, who exactly two years ago, on April 18, 1987, slugged his five hundredth home rum against the Pittsburgh Pirates, is closing in on Richie Ashburn’s total of 2,217 hits to become the hittingest Phillie ever. Rabbit remembers Ashburn.  One of the 1950 Whiz Kids who beat the Dodgers the fall Rabbit became a high school senior.  Curt Simmons, Del Ennis, Dick Sisler, Andy Seminick behind the plate.  Beat the Dodgers the last game of the season, then lost to the Yankees four straight.

I was in third grade when the Phillies played the Yankees in the 1950 World Series. The games took place in the afternoon, and Miss Worthington let us listen to them on the radio.  My dad had tickets for game 5, which never took place because the Yankees swept all four games.  I watched the final one on a Saturday at the Jenkins house; we didn’t have a TV until a year later.



 

Final Jeopardy in one of the college tournament semi-final rounds was impossibly hard.  The category was Presidential geography and the clue was, birth place of a nineteenth-century president named for another president.  All three contestants wrote Lincoln, Nebraska, but the answer was Cleveland, where James Garfield is buried.  The two leading players bet almost everything, enabling someone far behind them to win.  An IU student also made the finals.

 

Chancellor Bill Lowe announced that there would be no annual “Years of Service” luncheon due to the university being closed due to Covid-19.  Even though my name was not on the list of honorees, I emailed that I had planned to attend since I’d been associated with IUN for 50 years (having been hired, along with Ron Cohen in 1970) and that I had hoped to congratulate my friends Kathy Malone, Suzanne Green, and Tim Johnson, on their 40 years of service. Bill emailed back, congratulating me on 50 years of service and lamenting all the campus events that faculty and students are missing.