Tuesday, March 19, 2019

End of an Era

“An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.” Arthur Miller
I’ve begun to organize what to tell the Valparaiso University Urban Sociology students in Mary Kate Blake’s class next week when I distribute by 1980s Steel Shavings, “The Uncertainty of Everyday Life” in the Calumet Region. I’ll identify myself as a regional, rather than a purely local, historian and define the Calumet Region as the geographic area drained by the Grand and Little Calumet rivers in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois and part of the Great Lakes basin.   I’ll distinguish among the 4 main Lake County cities, Gary, Hammond, East Chicago, and Whiting, all of which grew rapidly as a result of industrialization and largely unrestricted immigration during the turn of the twentieth century. I’ll contrast the memoirs and oral histories that constitute most of the issue’s contents with the essay by Lance Trusty, “End of an Era: The 1980s in the Calumet,” based largely on census figures and other written sources. Finally, I’ll explain the title, “The Uncertainly of Everyday Life,” in connection with the Ronald Reagan presidency, the 1986-87 U.S. Steel lockout, and the drastic decline in mill employment due to automation.  The phrase, though true to some extent in every decade, was inspired by misfortunes that affected adolescents as well as such unexpected events as the slaying of elderly Glen Park Bible teacher Ruth Pelke, the Cline Avenue Bridge disaster, and the sudden death of 47 year-old First District Congressman Adam Benjamin, Jr.
Sandra L. Barnes
A book on Mary Kate Blake’s reading list by urban sociologist Sandra L. Barnes, “The Cost of Being Poor: A Comparative Study of Life in Poor Urban Neighborhoods in Gary, Indiana (2005), contains an interesting interview with Tamara Davis (it isn’t clear if that is her real name) who grew up in Gary, graduated from IUN, lives in a Merrillville apartment, and is a caseworker in LaPorte.  Her parents belonged to a Baptist church and stressed the value of family and education. Thirty years old when interviewed 20 years ago, Tamara told Barnes, a professor at Vanderbilt, that her dad was illiterate but worked for American Bridge Company until the Gary plant closed at the end of the 1970s.  Barnes recorded Tamara’s recollections:
 I remember when I was real little, my mother was working at the bank and my father got laid off. At first I really couldn’t tell that things had changed, but as I got older, we used to collect aluminum cans for money and recycle newspaper, so then I knew that [father’s layoff] had affected our finances.  They used to argue about the division of labor.  My mother said that if she came home from work, the dinner should be ready and that type of thing.  I do remember him cooking occasionally but only one or two things so I’m not really sure he really could cook.  I know he did not clean.  But he did do a lot of babysitting even if it was just dragging the kids around wherever he was going.
  Once I got older, I knew that we were poor. One time, these jeans came out that had like, fake leather on the front, and everybody had some.  And I was gonna lose my mind if I didn’t get any. All my friends wanted to take these picture together in school with these same jeans on. My mother didn’t have the money and I was just screaming and crying, so she borrowed the money from my aunt.  And I remember her on the phone talking to my other aunt about what my aunts puts you through to borrow money from her and I felt bad that I had put my mother through that just for a pair of jeans.

Tamara told Barnes that she would consider living in Gary but only if she could live in a good neighborhood rather than one of the poorer areas.  She added:
  Gary is my home, probably because I grew up there.  And the people I work with are from Gary.  I still have close community ties with people from Gary – and it’s the one area here that has the most Black people. 
  I try to show as much support for Gary as I can, but I try not to be stupid either. Things like groceries would be too expensive to get in Gary.  But I bank at a credit union in Gary.  If you look at young people in Gary, they’re wearing one hundred dollar gym shoes and outfits where the pants alone were one hundred dollars, so it’s how you choose to spend your money. I think there’s a lot of money to be spent in Gary, but unfortunately it’s not being spent in Gary.

  I work with White people all the time, and they always say, “You go to Gary?" – as if people are just falling down dead on every corner.  When it’s not that.  If you’re engaged in the wrong types of activities, which could happen in Valparaiso, Hammond, Portage, Merrillville or where ever, then you run the risk of, you know, murder or whatever. But unless you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – and you just never go to those places – then you are relatively safe.
In a New Yorker profile David Remnick wrote that Chicago Blues legend Buddy Guy feared he might be the last of his ilk. When a teenager Guy paid 50 cents to see Guitar Slim (1926-1959) at the Masonic Temple in Baton Rouge.  When the band started playing “The Things I Used To Do,” the headliner was nowhere in sight.  Remnick wrote:
 It was only after a while that anyone could see Slim, his hair dyed flaming red to match his suit, being carried forward through the crowd by a hulking roadie. Using a 300 foot cord to connect his guitar to his amplifier, he played a frenzied solo as his one-man caravan inched him toward the stage. And, once he joined the band, Slim pulled every stunt imaginable, playing the guitar between his legs, behind his back.  He raised it to his face and plucked the strings with his teeth.  As Guy watched Slim, he made a decision: "I want to play like B.B. King, but I want to act like Guitar Slim.”
A quarter-century ago, I saw Buddy Guy at a Star Plaza House Rockin’ Blues concert produced by Henry and Omar Farag.  He pulled off some of the same stunts he observed Guitar Slim doing that evening, including going down the aisles and up in the balcony while playing a guitar solo.

Former IUN colleague Ed Escobar sent this response to my piece about the Concerned Latins Organization (CLO) that referenced to our book “Forging a Community”:
 The CLO was before my time there but I certainly remember being regaled with stories from David Castro and to a lesser extent from Jesse Villalpando about its accomplishments.  Among the many joys I had while I was in Indiana was hanging out with them when we were building the Historical Society.  
 Both Gayle and I continue to be active historians.  She is having an article published by a journal affiliated with the Ninth Circuit Court on her book on the California women’s suffrage movement and gave a presentation before the L.A. History Group on her new work on women journalists in the early 20th century.  I continue to work on my second book on relations between Chicanos and the LAPD (1945-2000) which is now about 80% completed.  After totally lapsing into inactivity due to the disruption of move, I’ve joined a writing group of historians at Berkeley and am picking up steam again.  Wish me luck.

While completing unit in class on the World War II homefront, Nicole Anslover mentioned the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, one the central events in Escobar’s “Race, Police, and the Making of a Political Identity: Mexican Americans and the Los Angeles Police Department, 1900-1945.”   During a discussion about Japanese internment, justified at the time as a military necessity.  I mentioned that in Hawaii, where the threat of Japanese invasion was more plausible than on the West Coast, Japanese-Americans were not interned, except in exceptional cases.  For one thing, it would have been impractical, considering that over 40 percent of the population would have been affected.  When Nicole brought up the Tuskegee Airmen, I noted that black officers were arrested at Fort Freeman near Seymour, Indiana, for trying to desegregate an all-white officers’ club. Most military training camps were in the South, and a series of ugly attacks on servicemen by local rednecks caused essayist James Baldwin to write that many parents of black soldiers were relieved when their sons left the South to be shipped overseas into combat. 
above, arrested Tuskegee Airmen; below, Anne Balay with Stephanie and Brandie Diamond
Despite two nationally acclaimed books, on LGBT steelworkers and long-haul trucker, Anna Balay does not have a full-time position in the Fall.  What a disgusting commentary on the current state of academia and the gutless, faint-hearted professors who claim to be her supporters.  Here’s her latest post as she embarked on a trip to Oxford, Mississippi to speak about her book “Semi-Queer” and on the way reunited with trucker buddies Stephanie and Brandie Diamond:
 I'm trying to give myself permission to be angry and sad that I'm leaving academia because no school has hired me, but also hold on to the real value of my writing and activist scholarship. SO, out this morning for an early run, trying to face the future with joy, I tripped and fell full length smashing both knees, an elbow, and my face. Icing now.
 below, Ray Smock and historian Richard Rector
At a talk and book signing for “American Demagogue” In Shepherdstown, West Virginia, an audience member asked Ray Smock if Trump could be re-elected. As much as he hated to say it, Ray admitted its possibility and added these comments:
 We learned the hard way in 2016 that a blatant demagogue can win the highest office in the land. Not only did Trump beat Hillary Clinton, he first had to beat 11 other Republican nominees and five more that dropped out before the primaries got underway. This should alert us to the power to sway voters that is contained in the tactics of fear, hate, ridicule, smears, lies, bombast, racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. 
  Whoever emerges from the Democratic Party to take on Trump in 2020 will have to be a strong, self-assured individual who can stand up to Trump’s nuclear blasts of demagoguery. And the Democratic candidate cannot afford to take the low ground of demagoguery to fight Trump the Demagogue. I wonder if there are enough American voters who can set aside their own fears and anxieties long enough to see through the dark forces of Trumpism.
The Democratic candidate who can defeat Trump will have to be able to use humor rather than outright ridicule to challenge Trump. It is the rare politician that has a natural ability to use humor. Humor can be an important political tool, and it can be a hopeful, positive tactic to de-fang demagogues. Trump has no sense of humor. It takes empathy to be funny. It takes a broader understanding of human nature to use humor than it does to appeal to fear and hate.
  A Democratic challenger to Trump needs to be a good story teller who can tell stories about America and the promise of America. The Democratic challenger needs more than a slogan like “Make America Great Again,” which is nothing but a dog whistle for keeping America white. Americans love a good story, one with a moral. Trump is not a story teller. He tells stories only about himself. His concept of humor is ridiculing his enemies.
While at Inman’s watching James bowl, I read a few pages of “I Am Malala,” given to me several years ago by former student Terry Helton. Malala Yousafzai’s childhood in Mingora, Pakistan was unimaginably different from American adolescents, yet she listened to Justin Bieber and enjoyed Twilight Saga movies. Her mother was illiterate and her father the founder of a school for girls. The youngest Nobel Prize laureate, Malala at age 12 was shot in the head while on a bus by a Taliban gunman because she was an advocate for education for women.  I started paying close attention during my grandson’s third game as he flirted with a 200, needing a strike in the tenth for a double. Instead he spared and settled for a 196.
Christina Thompson’s “Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia” documents centuries-old efforts to understand a seafaring people who colonized islands stretching more than half way around the world.  As New Zealand ethnologist Elsdor Best wrote, “Could the story of Polynesian voyageurs be written in full, then it would be the wonder-story of the world.”  4,000 years ago, during the Ice Age the sea level was several hundred feet lower than at present, and a continent existed where the Southeast Asian nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, and New Guinea are today.  Beginning around 4,000 years ago and ending around 1100 A.D. Polynesian settlement spread from New Zealand north to Hawaii and southeast to Easter Island.  Contact with Europeans (and contagious diseases) decimated Oceana, threatening some native populations with extinction.
Captain James Cook
Having lived in Hawaii for 18 months, I was intrigued by the account of Captain James Cook’s death on February 14, 1779.  According to legend, the Hawaiians believed he was the god Lono and killed him when they realized he was human and ate his flesh.  Thompson explained that Cook arrived while a festival honoring Lono, the god of fertility and peace, was underway, and Cook was honored not as a deity but simply as the human embodiment of Lono.  Cook sailed away but returned several days later after a ship’s foremast broke during a sudden storm with gale force winds.  Since the festival had concluded, Cook and his men were now met with distrust.  When repairing the mast, the crew encountered hostility, and thefts began occurring, including the disappearance of a cutter vessel.  During the subsequent standoff, a Hawaiian chief was shot, causing angry natives to attack Cook’s party, killing the Captain.  The Hawaiians were not cannibals and cooked part of Cook’s body, not for food but because they believed that his power lay in his bones and this way they could be easily removed.

Meagan Flynn of the Washington Post wrote about the conviction of six people from Beatrice, Nebraska, some of whom were tricked by a police psychologist into confessing to the 1985 rape and murder of an elderly woman based on a theory of “memory repression.” Several were involved in the porn industry, which brought them to the attention of authorities.  Police would tell suspects details of the crime and suggest that the truth would be revealed to them in their dreams. DNA tests eventually exonerated the so-called Beatrice Six (above), and recently the Supreme Court upheld a 28.1 million dollar judgment for wrongful conviction.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Remarkable Hoosier

“I had the good fortune to be able to right an injustice that I thought was being heaped on young people by lowering the voting age, where you had young people that were old enough to die in Vietnam but not old enough to vote for their members of Congress that sent them there.” Birch Bayh
Former Senator Birch Bayh passed away at age 91. Moving to Indiana in 1970, I was proud that he was in Congress representing the Hoosier state.  During a remarkable 3-term career beginning in 1962 at age 34 with an upset win against Sen. Homer Capehart, he championed civil rights legislation, helped make the 25th and 26th amendments a reality regarding presidential succession and lowering the voting age to 18, and sponsored Title IX, which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded educational and sports programs.  The father of 13 year-old Dianne Murphy (below) from Valparaiso, a national wrestling champion in a competition that included boys, credited Birch Bayh for making possible sports opportunities for females of all ages. 
   Sen. Bayh in 1968 on Coast Guard cutter investigating alewives infestation of Lake Michigan with mayors Frank Harongody (Whiting), John Nicosia (East Chicago), Richard Hatcher (Gary), and Joseph Klen (Hammond)

In 1964 Bayh was traveling with Senator Ted Kennedy in a small plane that crashed near Springfield, Massachusetts.  Kennedy suffered a broken back, and Bayh helped pull him out of danger. In 1972 Bayh called off plans to run for the Democratic Presidential nomination when his wife Marvella was diagnosed with cancer.  Bayh successfully led the opposition to  confirming Nixon’s racist Supreme Court nominees Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell, paving the way for Justice Henry Blackmun’s elevation, and unsuccessfully supported ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and abolition of the electoral college.  

I first met Bayh in 1974 when he was in a tough re-election battle against Indianapolis mayor Dick Lugar.  In the morning he addressed the IU Northwest Young Democrats.  Shaking hands with him afterwards, I noticed Bayh’s intense blue eyes, how comfortable he was interacting with everyone in the room, and that he seemed to give each well-wisher his total attention.  From the Terre Haute area, he was down to earth without phony folksiness.  That evening at a house party in Miller, after campaigning all day in Gary, he still looked energetic and spoke passionately about the need for Congress to stand up against executive overreach.  When he shook my hand, Bayh said, “Hi, Jim, good to see you again.”  I was impressed. 

On Facebook Connie Mack-Ward wrote: “I campaigned for him when I was in college. It broke my heart when he was swept out during the horrible Reagan election. His fundamental decency as a human being was reflected in his political service. He was arguably the best federal elected official Indiana has ever had.”  Local Democrats Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, George Van Til, Charlie Brown, and Roy Dominguez effusively praised him, as did Republican Governor Eric Holcomb and Sen. Todd Young.  Congressman Pete Visclosky noted: “He lived a life dedicated to serving others.”Tennis great Billie Jean King called him “one of the most important Americans of the twentieth century.”
The Remarkable Book Store on Taft Street in Merrillville is closing on the fortieth anniversary of its birth.  Pretty much a one-man operation through the years, Ken VanderLugt started out in 1979 stocking both new and used books, but during the time I’ve known him, the concentration, with a few exceptions, has been on the latter.  He sold dozens of Ron and my “Gary: A Pictorial History,” however, and always was willing to take 5 or 10 copies of new Steel Shavingsissues.  When I’d stop in, I’d pick up science fiction novels for Toni and a history book or two for myself.  Lately VanderLugt  saw just a handful of customers a day, but after Jerry Davich wrote a laudatory column, old customers began returning, nostalgic and saddened by the looming closure of such a welcoming place.
“This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women” (2007), edited by NPR producers Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, contains contributions by both the famous (novelist John Updike, feminist Gloria Steinem) and relative unknowns– a part-time hospital clerk, for example, and a member of a state parole board.  In 1951 distinguished journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted a five-minute series by that name on CBS radio with appearances by such scholars as anthropologist Margaret Mead and scientist Charles Galton Darwin, grandson of the famous naturalist. Allison and Gediman revived “This I Believe” a half-century later.  These words of praise come from a Publisher’s Weeklyreview
  “Your personal credo”is what Allison calls it in the book’s introduction, noting that today’s program is distinguished from the 1950s version in soliciting submissions from ordinary Americans from all walks of life. These make up some of the book’s most powerful and memorable moments, from the surgeon whose illiterate mother changed his early life with faith and a library card to the English professor whose poetry helped him process a traumatic childhood event. And in one of the book’s most unusual essays, a Burmese immigrant confides that he believes in feeding monkeys on his birthday because a Buddhist monk once prophesied that if he followed this ritual, his family would prosper. This feast of ruminations is a treat for any reader.
High school teachers often assign some form of “This I Believe” essays, and questions in a similar vein often show up on college applications.

I’m not very adventuristic when it comes to taking care of my body or automobiles. In my 49 years living in Northwest Indiana, I have had just two head mechanics (Frank Renner and Tom Klaubo, head of Lake Shore Toyota service), two barbers, two regular doctors, and four dentists (including one who committed suicide and another who I nicknamed “the gouger”)  I’ve been a patient of dentist John Sikora’s for probably 30 years.  He grew up in Glen Park, is an IU grad and big Hoosier sports fan, loves the White Sox, and plays music to my liking when cleaning teeth and fixing cavities.  

While replacing a filling and waiting for the area to get numbed up, Dr. Sikora asked what I thought of the college admissions scandal that involved rich folks paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their kids into elite universities.  The scheme included bribing coaches and administrators and having  ringers take the applicants’ SAT or ACT exams.  I hope they throw the book at both the parents and the fixers behind the racket and told Dr. Sikora that under-achieving teens would be better off at institutions such as IUN.  Undergraduate diplomas at elite schools, in my opinion, are overrated compared to graduate degrees, especially if a student makes mediocre grades.
 Don Coffin

Over 50 people have been charged with federal crimes, and some ringleaders have pleaded guilty and are looking to plea bargain.  Coaches have been fired, and adversely affected students are bringing class-action suits. Former IUN professor of Economics Don Coffinoffered this perspective on what he termed “the bribing-your-kids-way-into-college thing”:
It all feels like morbid and unwelcome confirmation of my oft-repeated line that community colleges struggle because they’re trying to create a middle class for a country that no longer wants one.  The wildly wealthy live in their own world; what Christopher Lasch called “the secession of the successful”has so desiccated our sense of community that colleges for whom community is their middle name are left aside.

Electrical Engineers moved into first place by one point by taking two games and series from Just Do It Again while Duke Cominsky’s Pin Heads swept Pin Chasers to move within 6 points of us.  When I thanked Duke for helping the Engineers get into first, he said,” Not for long.”  I rolled a 440 series, just a point from my average, while Joe Piunti got hot and ended 90 pins over his.  After I picked up a 1-3-5-6 spare, opponent Wanda Fox commented, “Show off.” In the very next frame Wanda converted the exact same pins.  Of course, I said, “Show off”as she left the alley. Marge Yetsko, carrying a 137 average, threw a good ball but so slowly she rarely got a strike and more often a split. She picked up four straight 10-pins, a feat befuddling some 200 bowlers.  Husband George’s ball has good velocity but goes straight and inconsistent, befitting his 125 average.  Just Do It Again is one of the few teams the Engineers spot pins.

Jim Spicer’s weekly witticism:
  A teacher asked her 6th grade class: “Who can tell me, which human organ becomes 10 times bigger when it’s stimulated?”
  Maria stood up, bright red and angry, and said “How can you ask such a question? I’m telling my parents and they’re going to get you fired!”
  The teacher was shocked by the outburst, but decided to ignore it. She asked the class again, “Who can tell me, which human organ becomes 10 times bigger when it’s stimulated?”
  This time Thomas responded, “The answer is the iris in the human eye.”
  “Very good, Thomas. Thank you,”
replied the teacher who then turned her gaze on Maria.
 “Maria, I need to tell you three things. First, you obviously have not done your homework. Second, you have a dirty mind. And third, I fear that one day you will be very, very disappointed.”
Chilling News: An Australian gunman mowed down 49 Muslims worshipping in two nearby mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the most peaceful nations in the world.  Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern (above) vowed to change her country’s gun laws.  Were such progress possible in the U.S.?  The assassin, a Trump admirer, claimed he chose new Zealand to show that Muslims weren’t safe anywhere in the world.
Marianne Brush got me four tickets to see Dave Davies and his band on April 19 at the Art Theater in Hobart, of all places. Voted one of the hundred best guitarists of all time by Rolling Stone, Davies and brother Ray founded the Kinks, and Dave was responsible for the distorted power chord on the Kinks’ first hit, “You Really Got Me,” by slitting his speaker with a razor blade.  The two brothers had a stormy relationship. Toni, Phil, Dave, and I saw the Kinks at the Star Plaza 30 some years ago.  “Lola” (1970), about a young man and a transvestite, became a classic. When we saw them, they teased the audience by starting the first chord and then morphing into another song before finally performing it as an encore.
Barbara Walczak’s bridge Newslettercongratulated Barbara Larson and Carol Miller for their remarkable 76.39 % at a recent Dunelands Bridge Club event.  Barb stared the article by stating: “This is not a typographical error.”  Both are very friendly people.

I finished “Unexampled Courage,” about a recently discharged soldier beaten so badly by a South Carolina sheriff in 1946 that he was permanently blinded. Author Richard Gergel concluded: 
 In the midst of what seemed to be an unsolvable crisis in American government and character, courageous citizens, recognizing the demands of the times, stepped forward to challenge the racial status quo.  Most had little to gain and much to lose.  Although to the modern observer the collapse of the Jim Crow world may be viewed as the inevitable consequence of a growing and prosperous postwar nation, the truth is that in 1946 America’s racial future was uncertain.  This band of diverse, courageous citizens, some prominent, others from humble backgrounds, altered the course of American history, displaying what Judge J. Waties ascribed to the Briggs plaintiffs, “unexampled courage.”
Briggs v. Elliottbegan in 1947 as a challenge to the school segregation laws in South Carolina. It ultimately became combined with other cases as part of brown v. Board of Education.  Plaintiffs Harry and Eliza Briggs, a service station attendant and a maid, both lost their jobs and moved away from South Carolina.  Reverend James De Laine, who led the fight in Clarendon County, was fired from his teaching job, had is church burned to the ground, and survived an assassination attempt before leaving the Palmetto State.

The flags at IUN are at half-staff.  At first I thought it might be for the Muslims slain in new Zealand but then remembered that the Governor had ordered it in honor of Birch Bayh’s death.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Jim Crow

“Three-fourths of the 900,000 African-American veterans who served during World War II were coming home to communities in the old Confederacy.  This was the world of Jim Crow, where black citizens were relegated to the margins of American democracy and expected to be the bootblacks and mudsills of the nation’s economy.” Richard Gergel, “Unexampled Courage”
A recent Washington Post Sunday magazine carried a lengthy article adapted from Steve Luxenberg’s “Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation” titled” The North, the South, and the Origins of Jim Crow.”  During the 1830s numerous white entertainers donned black face and sang in a parody of what they claimed was black dialect.  The most famous, Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice, dressed in mismatched shoes and threadbare gold pants and billed himself as the “Original Jim Crow.”  “Daddy” Rice performed a ludicrous off-balance jig during a ditty called “Jump Jim Crow” that contained the lines,“Weel about and turn about and do jis so/Eb’ry time I wheel about I jump Jim Crow.” By the end of the decade “jumping Jim Crow” became a synonym for compromising one’s principles and Jim Crow a synonym for separate accommodations in public facilities, such as locomotives.  Historian Luxenberg found an October 12, 1838 notice in the Salem Gazettereferring to the “Jim Crow car at the end of the train.”  Even after the Civil War, in the North as well as Dixie, African Americans were often segregated on trains and steamships; as Luxenberg wrote, “the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson ruling [was] written by a New England-born justice for a 7-1 majority dominated by Northerners.”
Prudence Crandall
In 1832 Canterbury, Connecticut schoolteacher Prudence Crandall, the wife of a minister, admitted 17 year-old African-American Sarah Harris to her private school for girls.  When white parents withdrew their daughters, Crandall, with the support of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, turned her institution into exclusively a boarding school for young women of color until retaliatory actions by townspeople, including nuisance lawsuits and the poisoning of the school’s well, forced the Crandalls to leave town.

Growing up in Fort Washington, PA, I was aware of a small cluster of homes three blocks from us inhabited by black folks who took in foster children from Philadelphia. Some went to my elementary school, and I’d see them wearing clothes my brother and I had outgrown that Midge had given to our cleaning lady Ada Jenkins. In fifth grade my safety patrol corner was a block from where they lived, and I knew many by name.  Bernard Johnson was a playmate. My first encounter with racism, I believe, was when the principal left Charlie Gaskins, the best player in our class, off the softball team.  In seventh grade at Upper Dublin were classmates from the black community of North Hills, and I became friends with Percy Herder and Bernell Nash and had fantasies about five-foot-ten, full-breasted Beatrice Addie Green (even the names seemed exotic, given my white bread suburban upbringing). In the gym locker room I gaped upon spying Percy’s silk, yellow briefs with tiger stripes.  My first epiphany regarding Jim Crow realities was a year later when the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.  A neighbor from Alabama blamed outside agitators, but scenes on TV exposed that as a lie.
 C. Vann Woodward

In grad school at Maryland, C. Vann Woodward’s “The Strange Career of Jim Crow” (1955), based on lectures delivered at the University of Virginia, was must reading and led many of us to Woodward’s more substantial “Origins of the New South, 1877-1913” (1951). In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education(1954) Woodward traced the history of Jim Crow laws, which until the 1890s were more common in the North than in the South, where racial separation in public places was custom rather than law.  Then when Populists began looking to bring African Americans into their movement, conservative “Bourbon” Democrats passed legislation to create, in Woodward’s words, “legally prescribed, rigidly enforced, state-wide Jim Crowism.”
Photographer of urban ruins Cindy C. “Cupcake” Bean, whose shot of a Lake Michigan sunset with steel mills in the background appears in “Gary: A Pictorial History,” wrote: Crouching in the darkness of an abandoned house, I sat in the middle of a room filled with toys. The sun was sinking casting ominous shadows in the room. I sat next to the horse on springs and looked at it…it sadly stared into nothingness as I photographed it. I felt lost…lost in a room full of toys.”  At first glance the horse on springs appears quite lifelike.
abandoned Glen Park church; photo by Cindy Cupcake
In the Jeopardy category “the 1870s,” I knew four of five answers, including Boss William Marcy Tweed and cartoonist Thomas Nest as the first to  draw images of a donkey for Democrats, but fanned on one about a botanist who developed the russet potato, so-named due to its reddish-brown color.  It was Luther Burbank, but I guessed George Washington Carver.  Known as the “Peanut Man,” Carver also did research on sweet potatoes at Tuskegee Institute but not russet potatoes.  One contestant guessed “Russet.”  Along with Boston Massacre victim Crispus Attucks and educator Booker T. Washington, Carver was extolledduring the Jim Crow era as a nonthreatening Negro, but that should not detract from his remarkable discoveries.

At Chesterton library Steve Luxenberg’s “Separate” was in the New Books section, but I opted for Richard Gergel’s “Unexampled Courage: The Blinding of Sergeant Isaak Woodard and the Awakening of President Harry S Truman and Judge J. Waties Waring.”  On February 12, 1946 (“The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln’s birthday), Sergeant Isaak Woodard, wearing his army uniform, was returning on a Greyhound bus to his home in Augusta, Georgia upon receiving an honorable discharge after three years of military service as a longshoreman in the Pacific and came under intense fire in New Guinea.  Sitting with a white G.I., passing a bottle back and forth, and talking too loudly to suit a passenger nearby, he was removed by the driver and arrested by Batesburg, South Carolina police chief Lynwood Shull.  While having him in custody, Shull and other police beat Woodard severely with nightsticks, and later Shull jabbed him in the eyes with a billy club for answering “Yes” rather than “Yes sir.” The beating permanently blinded Woodard.    
Isaac Woodard after beating; below, Julian Bond
The outrage mobilized black veterans and led to President Truman desegregating the military by executive order.  After an all-white jury acquitted Shull, conscience-stricken Federal Judge Waring began issuing landmark decisions that challenged Jim Crow laws.  His dissent in a 1951 case pertaining to segregated schools became the model for the unanimousBrown v. Board of EducationSupreme Court judgment overturning the Plessy “separate but equal” precedent  and ordering the Topeka, Kansas school board to desegregate its schools.  The role of the NAACP was crucial in publicizing and litigating the Woodard case.  In “We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal team That Dismantled Jim Crow” (2018) Margaret Edds highlights the role of two NAACP attorneys who developed a legal strategy that found a receptive audience in federal judges in key civil rights cases.

Similar atrocities against returning World War I veterans occurred without such dramatic repercussions.  Woodard’s blinding was not an isolated incident.  In a chapter titled “Reign of Terror” Gergel documents horrendous occurrences in Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee. In the course of his research Gergel came across a statement by Julian Bond that the Isaac Woodard incident triggered the modern civil rights movement. Interviewing the civil rights icon and University of Virginia History professor, Gergel wrote:
 Bond recalled from memory the story of Woodard’s blinding and described a photograph he remembered from his childhood. As Bond described the image, he began to weep openly.  Composing himself, he apologized for the tears but stated that after all the years, “I still weep for this blinded soldier.”
A decade later, a photo of Emmett Till’s mutilated body would shame the nation and provide propaganda for the Soviet Union.

Gergel’s use of the word mudsills, meaning those at the lowest social level, led me to this quotation by Abraham Lincoln, whose background was not far removed from those whom he described:
 By the 'mud-sill' theory it is assumed that labor and education are incompatible; and any practical combination of them impossible. According to that theory, a blind horse upon a tread-mill, is a perfect illustration of what a laborer should be -- all the better for being blind, that he could not tread out of place, or kick understandingly. According to that theory, the education of laborers, is not only useless, but pernicious, and dangerous. In fact, it is, in some sort, deemed a misfortune that laborers should have heads at all.
Before being inducted into the army Woodard had laid railroad tracks, delivered milk, took construction jobs for two dollars a day, and got hired at a sawmill, Doolittle’s Lumber.  Gergel wrote: "He worked as a 'log turner,' a backbreaking and dangerous job that earned him but $10 a week.  Because they faced such dismal employment options, it is not surprising that despite the perils of service in the armed forces, Woodard and many other African Americans residing in the rural South viewed military service as a promising alternative."
Bill Hudnut
In the Winter 2019 Traces Editor’s Note, Ray Boomhower described his 28-year association with the magazine, including playing a role in soliciting reader opinion on what to call it, finally settling on a name similar to Steel Shavings.  Pictured are numerous past covers, almost half of which contain articles of mine, including my one cover story on Gary pugilist Tony Zale.  My most recent pays tribute to Gary civil rights pioneer Reverend L.K. Jackson, the self-styled “Hell-raiser from the East,” “Servant of the Lord’s Servant,” and “Old Prophet.”  A current article describes the civil rights contributions of Republican Bill Hudnut, who served as mayor of Indianapolis for 16 years, beginning in 1976. At a time when most downstate politicians shunned Gary mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher Hudnut embraced him as a valuable ally and in 1980 supported Hatcher’s successful bid to become president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Several African Americans compete in Unit 154 duplicate bridge events, though not commonly in Chesterton, including Richard Hatcher’s wife Ruthellyn, and the Gary game has far more tables than ours.  In 1932 blacks formed the American Bridge Association (ABA) due to being barred from American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) events, especially in the South. In 1967 the ABCL included in its by-laws a rule stating that nobody could be denied membership on the basis of race, color or creed.  The ABA still exists and holds biannual tournaments.

At Chesterton YMCA I played duplicate for the first time in over a month, partnering with Charlie Halberstadt.  Director Alan Yngve said, “Welcome back,”and sassy Dottie Hart quipped, “Where have you been?”  When I commented on Sally Will’s green outfit being early for St. Patrick’s Day, she said she decided to wear green all week and pointed to her earrings shaped like leprechauns.  In the hand I wish I could play over, Dottie Hart opened a Heart, Charlie overcalled to 2 Clubs, and Terry Bauer and I passed.  Dottie bid 2 Hearts, and both Charlie and Terry passed.  I held 8 high card points, Queen, spot, spot of Clubs, and King, Jack, spot, spot of Spades.  Aware that Charlie sometimes overcalls light, I took Terry’s pass as a sign that my partner either had a strong Club suit or opening count and figured that even going down one would produce a better score than if Dottie made 2 Hearts.  I bid 3 Clubs and Charlie went down three. Result: low board.
photos by George Sladic, above, and Paul Kaczocha
George Sladic and Paul Kaczocha posted photos of the Lake Michigan lakefront, reminding me that visitors still don’t have free access to Mount Baldy due to possible sinkholes and that this is a dangerous season for intrepid or na├»ve visitors wandering onto ice formations that often break off from the shoreline.  In fact Paul’s dog had to swim to shore when trapped that way.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Hostilities

“The nicest veterans, the kindest and funniest ones, the ones who hated war the most, were the ones who’d really fought.” Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five”
 Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove
Even though I already knew the doomsday ending of “Cat’s Cradle” (1963) by Kurt Vonnegut, it still moved me deeply.  As one who personally witnessed the horrors of war, the author brought out the absurdity of the Cold War arms race in ways that hadn’t moved me so deeply since the black comedy “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964).  During a Memorial Day ceremony Vonnegut has Ambassador Horlick Minton deliver this devastating critique of glorifying warfare:
 Perhaps when we remember wars, we should take off all our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go down on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs.  That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.
Battle of Missionary Ridge, chromolithograph by Kurtz and Allison
Minton then recited these lines from “Spoon River Anthology” by Edgar Lee Masters, written in 1915 on the eve of American entry into the Great War: 
 I was the first fruits of the battle of Missionary Ridge
When I felt the bullet enter my heart
I wished I had stayed at home . . .
Instead of running away and joining the army.
The 1863 Battle of Missionary Ridge near Chattanooga was a Union victory at a cost to General U.S. Grant’s army of 6,000 casualties.

I’m listening to a greatest hits CD by Jackson Browne, whom I saw twice at the Star Plaza, that includes “Lives in the Balance,” about “men in the shadows” selling us everything from our President to our wars. “Lives in the Balance” was released when Reagan was flirting with intervening to overthrow the socialist regime in Nicaragua.  When I spoke at a history conference in Rio about women steelworkers, I played a video of Browne performing it at a 1990 concert in Santiago, Chile.  The final lines go:
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

Our bridge group dined at Captain’s House and then played at the Hagelbergs, who had purchased a delicious carrot cake from the Miller eatery.  I had a mediocre score but helped Toni edge out Brian Barnes to finish first.  Going into the final round, she trailed him by about 500 points.  After two hands he and Connie were up a game, but then we made two game bids to overtake them; first Toni made 4 Spades and on the final hand I bid three No-Trump and then took every trick thanks to two successful finesses and a 2-2 split with the four Diamonds in opponents’ hands. Like me, Brian and Connie had loved “Green Book.”  Noting that pianist Don Shirley should have known better than to flash a wad in a bar, Brian said that when working in Chicago for Sears, he always carried a wad.  Then if mugged, he could easily hand it over and hopefully then be left unhurt with his wallet.
I watched IU, led by Jawun Morgan (above), defeat Rutgers on Senior Day to clinch a bye in the upcoming Big Ten tournament.  Then, after running out for a cold cut Subway on an Italian roll, I enjoyed a 76ers win over Indianapolis thanks to 33 points by MVP candidate Joel Embiid.  Phil called to report on attending a week-end Comedy Fest with Delia, Alissa, Tori, and Anthony.  They had fun although unable to get tickets to 87 year-old Ed Asner’s one-man show, “A Man and His Prostate.”  In April Asner is coming to Memorial Opera House in Valpo.  I told Phil about being at Marquette Pavilion for Asner’s one-man show about FDR when he collapsed on stage and had to be removed on a stretcher.  A couple months later, he returned to Miller and fulfilled his vow to put on the show.
Former IUN professor Mike Certa returned from a cruise that included a stay in Hong Kong and just started “A Jazz Age Murder in Lake County” by Jane Simon Ammeson and noticed my name in the acknowledgment section as well as Ron Cohen’s and Steve McShane’s.  He emailed:
  So far, the first chapter is full of local references that I recognize in East Chicago, Indiana Harbor, and Gary.  The fatally injured woman in the book was taken to Mercy Hospital on Polk Street that I passed every school day for four years while attending Holy Angels Elementary School (fourth to eighth grades).  There are also references to St. Catherine’s Hospital in East Chicago where I was born.
  This seems to be my month for running across places from my youth.  At a recent political gathering in Crown Point I met an elderly gentleman named Frank, who lived in a house on Magoon Avenue in East Chicago (near the Four Corners) just across the street from Dr. Benchik’s office.  Dr. Benchik delivered me and my six siblings.  My mother insisted on him being our family doctor for years even though it meant trundling over to East Chicago from Gary.  His waiting room had the hardest wooden benches and the scratchiest horse-hair covered chairs I’ve ever endured.  However, we all liked him.  We went to him until he finally retired.  Frank knew the doctor and shared our high opinion of him.
After I told him about spending a month in Hong Kong a quarter-century ago, Certa replied:
  We were only in Hong Kong a couple of days at the end of our trip.  We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kowloon.  They have a really good dim sum restaurant in the hotel.  The day we had lunch there, we were the only non-Asians in the place, which we took to be a good sign.  The walnut encrusted mud fish balls were very good. Oddly enough, the people at the hotel didn’t seem to speak much English, and the concierges they didn’t seem to know much about attractions in the area.  We had much better luck on the street and in the subway stations.  There always seemed to be someone who noticed us and asked if they could be of assistance.  I’m thinking particularly of the day we took the subway, and a local bus to find the Walled City Park in Kowloon.  It was an English fort, then it became a slum containing about 15,000 people.  The city razed the slum and created a lovely park that houses some of the more historic buildings. We wandered around the park for 90 minutes or so.
While lecturing in Hong Kong at Chinese University, I visited that park by subway.  Numerous groups of well-behaved youngsters were walking in step behind an adults holding different colored flags.  I told Mikethat I may be attending a history conference in Singapore and asked how he like it, eliciting this response:
  Because I was still trying to shake the effects of bronchitis, I stayed in the hotel while Mary went with our tour group on the Singapore city tour.  They all came back raving about the phenomenal botanical gardens that line the river.  They talked about the amazing orchids they saw.  Evidently being 1 degree (85 miles) above the equator is a good climate for orchids. 
  As I was feeling better that evening, I booked what was called the “Night Safari” at the Singapore Zoo.  We were bused to the Zoo where we started with a very nice buffet. By the time we finished dinner it was dark.  You can do the tour two ways:  ride the tram or walk the trails at your own pace.  We took the tram.  Animals that tend to be nocturnal are in enclosures fairly close to the road bathed in a low intensity blue light.  They show up amazingly well.  The enclosures are quite big, and sometimes the animals had wandered off to the far corners.  I’d say we saw about 85% of the animals on the tour.  Near the end of the tram ride, we discovered a third option:  you can get off the tram and walk along the trail on your own.  We did this in an area where there were smaller animals.  We got to see the very rare pangolin (an Asian armadillo-like animal).  I thought it was an interesting experience.
 Kirk Muskrat and Winston Choi triptech
Maestro Kirk Maestro brought guest pianist Winston Choi with him to the Munster Center for his “Art in Focus” talk on “The Keys to France,” the title of the upcoming Northwest Indiana Symphony Orchestra performance.  Personable and entertaining as always, Muspratt wore a Number 88 Jonathan Kane Chicago Blackhawks sweater, as he was attending an ice hockey game at the United Center that evening as a symphony fundraiser. He spoke about French composers Camille Saint-Seans (1835-1921), whose specialty was organ music, and Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), best known for Bolero, a ballet that opens with a seductive 16-minute flamenco piece.  While dimming the lights for a clip showing the inside of Ravel’s home, Kirk briefly put a hand on my shoulder, either recognizing me from his 2018 presentation, thankful for asking him about Ravel’s private life (a bachelor, he lived alone except for a housekeeper), or perhaps  familiar with my blog.
Camille Saint-Seans and Maurice Ravel
Someone asked Muspratt about the Chicago musicians’ strike in progress, and expressed sympathy after mentioning that starting salaries were around $150,000.  The main disagreement involved cuts to the pension program. Another woman referenced the universally panned movie Bolero (1984) starring Bo Derek as a wealthy virgin looking to be de-flowered who becomes a matador after her lover gets gored.  Pointing out the steamy nude sex scenes, movie critic Roger Ebert wrote: “There are two Good Parts, not counting her naked ride on horseback, which was the only scene that had me wondering how she did it.” I checked out those Good Parts on YouTube and was amazed “Bolero” did not get an X rating.  Derek definitely deserved the 10 in the 1979 film of that name.

Young virtuoso Winston Choi, who teaches at Roosevelt University and, like Kirk, is a Canadian native, played bits of several Saint-Seans numbers and ended with a rousing crescendo by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). In the front row near the Baldwin piano, I noticed that instead of sheet music, Choi made use of a computer and a floor device that changed pages upon his command.  According to Muspratt, Prokofiev had the misfortune of living in the age of Joseph Stalin.  In 1948 the Politburo denounced him for the crime of “formalism” and banned most of his compositions.  His wife was found guilty of espionage and sentenced to 20 hears of hard labor in a Soviet gulag. Prokofiev died on the same day as Stalin.  Afterwards, I asked Choi the spelling of Saint-Seans, which he had pronounced like Sasson.  Rather than view it as a dumb question, he was very solicitous, even showing it written down.
Kirsten and Ed Petras; Night Ranger
Kirsten Bayer emailed: It’s gonna be a great day when you park at work the moment Sister Christian comes on the radio. Hold please work while I enjoy.  I responded: I love Night Ranger and wore out my “Midnight Madness” album in the 80s. Had a similar car moment when "The Beat Goes On/Switchin' to Glide" by the Kings came on.”  “Sister Christian” lyrics include these lines 
Sister Christian . . .
You know those boys 
Don't want to play no more with you 
It's true
You're motoring 
What's your price for flight
When Phil and Dave were in high school, we showed up at a Jack Bloom end-of-the-semester party with “Midnight Madness,” which opens with “You Can Still Rock in America,” and had the back room hopping and people up dancing.  A YouTube video of “Sister Christian” that has received almost 18 million hits opens with girls receiving diplomas and concludes with scenes of them commingling with the long-haired San Francisco band.