Friday, October 19, 2018

Lash Out

“I can feel it on the back of my tongue
All of the words getting trapped in my lungs
Heavy like a stone, waiting for the river to run
I wanna lash out”
         Alice Merton, “Lash Out”
In 2017 German-born Canadian Alice Merton scored an international hit with “No Roots.” I like her more recent “Lash Out” even better.  I once had a short fuse.  Now I claim to be “mellow Jimbo,” and Toni just snickers, unerringly aware of my inner thoughts. Every once in a while, I need to give vent to the frustration and lash out, often with a loud “goddammit,” as when the computer is giving me trouble right before I want to leave school.  The first two lines of “No Roots” go:
                    I like digging holes and hiding things inside them
                    When I'll grow old I hope I won't forget to find them
When we were kids, Terry Jenkins and I buried a bottle containing private thoughts in his side yard, hoping someone would come upon it years later. Three years ago, we passed by the site on a tour of our old Fort Washington haunts.  I have no idea what we might have written.
 Maria McGrath at Dickinson College in carlyle, PA, alma mater of Pres. James Buchanan
I told Terry and Gayle Jenkins about meeting food historian Maria McGrath, a professor at Bucks County Community College and daughter of Upper Dublin classmate Susan Floyd, in Montreal at the Oral History Association conference, first at her session on “Queer Voices, Queer Lives,” then at a reception with Anne Balay and her Haverford student Phil Reid. Since then Maria and I have exchanged several emails.  For example, I wrote:
  thoroughly enjoyed your excellent paper on Bloodroot Restaurant and the opportunity to talk with you at the conference diversity reception.  What an unexpected and delightful experience, especially since you got to meet Anne Balay, whom I’m so proud to have been part of her scholarly growth.  Here are two books that I recommend if you haven’t read them:Howard Markel’s recently published “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek” is absolutely fascinating (the brothers would turn over in their graves at Kelloggs now selling sugar-coated cereals).Harvey Greene’s “The Uncertainty of Everyday Life, 1915-1945” has wonderful social history material, and the chapter on the food revolution of the 1920s was the basis for an entire lecture in my Twenties course.  By the way, one of my friends in school was Eddie Piszek, whose dad founded Mrs. Paul’s frozen foods.  He’s from Port Richmond, the same Polish neighborhood in Philly my wife Toni is from and started out peddling crab cakes. They lived in a mansion off Pennsylvania Avenue between Fort Washington and East Oreland, and the Piszek chauffeur took Eddie and me to U.D. basketball games before we could drive.
She replied:   
  I'm so pleased that you were able to attend my talk and that we could hang out later that evening. Anne is a fascinating person, I certainly hope someone hires her soon. As far as I can tell, she is a real scholarly "catch."  I've read other Harvey Greene books, but not the one on Everyday Life. I will have to look that one and your other recommendation up.  Make sure you let me know when you are in Philly area. We will have to have a multi-generational reunion. Best, Maria 
Don Cornelius; below, Barry White singing "I Can't Get Enough of You, Baby"
Like Anne, Maria would be a good scholarly catch, especially after the publication of her forthcoming book “Food for Dissent: Natural Food Politics and Cultures Since the 1960s.”  During our two-hour conversation in Montreal, she mentioned learning dance moves on “Soul Train” that she still uses.  I wrote back:
  Chicagoan Don Cornelius started “Soul Train” and TV doesn’t get any better than seeing Stevie Wonder singing "Superstition" or Barry White (“the world’s sexiest fat man”) perform with “Soul Train” dancers  in the background. I would love to see you again in Philadelphia.  Terry Jenkins and I talked about going to a Phillies game with your dad last summer, but the only time the Cubs came to Philadelphia was late August, a bad time for my son Dave to come since he was already in school and coaching tennis.  Terry and Gayle were excited when I told them about meeting you.  I claimed I was a little reticent, wanting to get to know you as a history colleague and not just a friend’s daughter, but when I think about our long chat, I guess the “real Jimbo” came out, as Terry would say.
I recall describing a visit to IU’s Kinsey sex institute, lashing out at IUN’s “old boys” who cheated Anne Balay of tenure, and describing a block party in Miller that terry and Gayle attended and Dave’s band Voodoo Chili played at where an over-exuberant dancer bumped against me and her teeth drew blood from my forehead.
On the radio I heard “A Million to One” by Jimmy Charles. The summer of 1962, when I met Toni, “A Million to One” was playing on my 1956 Buick car radio the night before I was to return to Bucknell for my junior year.  We got out of the car and danced to the lament, performed in Jimmy’s distinctive crying style, which begins:
A million to one
That's what our folks think about this love of ours
A million to one
They say that our love will fade like yesterday's flowers
They're betting everything that our love won't survive
At the time Toni was Catholic and I was Lutheran, and both our mothers were leery of the romance and skeptical that we’d stay in touch. Well, we did, often long distance, fell in love, and beat the odds. Two years earlier, I had said goodbye to my summer girlfriend, said goodbye, and never looked back.
 James Dye
At the bequest of IU’s Bicentennial Committee I interviewed former IU trustee James Dye, 87, a retired builder and large university donor. Since virtually the entire Instructional Media Center staff was at a conference downstate, the camera person was late arriving and we had to halt twice because of a low battery.  It was maddening, but I didn’t lash out at the culprits who didn’t check the battery and then went to the wrong room.  Dye didn’t complain and the interruptions were a blessing in disguise, as Steve took the opportunity to inform him about the Archives and I showed him the Rev. Robert Lowery library study area that the James and Betty Dye Foundation funded.  It also offers scholarships to many IUN students. Like Bernie Konrady Jr., founder of Konrady Plastics, Dye was an imaginative entrepreneur who built his first house virtually by himself at age 20.  

Manager for IU’s football and basketball teams in the early 1950s, Dye recalled a Sigma Chi fraternity party that lasted 48 hours after the Hoosiers beat Notre Dame and then Kansas for the 1953 NCAA championship. He joked that IU probably gave him an honorary degree for attending so many losing gridiron contests. His company built Mansards Apartments in Griffith where Toni and I played tennis and Dye competed with former Gary mayor George Chacharis and his driver John Diamond.  I kept silent when Dye, a fiscal conservative expressed admiration for Purdue president Mitch Daniels, who seems to care more about profits than academic freedom.  He praised IUN past IUN chancellors Dan Orescanin and Peggy Elliott and asked me about Chancellor Lowe. I lauded Lowe’s participation in community affairs, History Department functions, and IUN student functions.
 Lowe at Chancellor's forum Oct. 17, 2018; below, controlled burn in Miller; photos by Kyle Telechan 
An editor of IU’s Bicentennial magazine, “IU200,” is preparing an article about Red Scare victims, including Saul Maloff, an IUN English professor once active in an organization later deemed a communist front group.  I sent her Paul Kern and my history of IUN that includes an interview with then-director Jack Buehner, who received orders from Bloomington not to renew Maloff’s contract at a time when IU administrators basically controlled regional campuses.  Buehner told me:
  Under pressure from IU president Herman Wells and Trustee Ray Thomas, I asked Saul Maloff, a marvelous conversationalist, to tell me straight out the full story so that I’d know how to defend him. He refused to level with me.  I’m sure he had his reasons, but I was not prepared to go to bat for him on blind faith alone.  I deserved to know what I was defending.  It was a very upsetting experience.  Maloff’s wife had a nervous breakdown.  It was an infringement of academic freedom, but the only one that occurred under me.
During this time Herman Wells was taking heat for defending sex therapist Alfred Kinsey and bent on desegregating the campus, so he already had his hands full dealing with disgruntled trustees and legislators on those fronts and thus made defending accused communist sympathizers a lower priority.  
The Bicentennial magazine editor hoped I’d consider contributing an article. I’m thinking of updating one written 20 years ago entitled, “The Professor Wore a Cowboy Hat (and nothing else): Ethical Issues in handling Matters of Sex in Institutional Oral Histories: IU Northwest as a Case Study.”  It centered on four male professors accused of sexual indiscretions, two with coeds, who got off lightly, the others involving alleged gay activity were treated more severely and, in one case, with tragic consequences.  I wrote about the first two, which became cause celebresbut not the two others, which were hushed up and not public knowledge.  During the 1970s virtually all History colleagues of my generation got divorced and later married former students – albeit the women well into their 20s who almost always initiated the relationship.  Since then, with a much older faculty, I presume that less student-teacher sex takes place, but discrimination against LGBTQs remains troublesome. Gay faculty who didn’t remain in the until securing tenure were likely not retained, with Anne Balay’s case being the most glaring example.
Anne Balay in truckers parade over Mackinac Bridge
This from Jim Spicer:
  The year is 2020 and the United States has elected the first woman as well as the first Jewish president, Susan Goldstein. She calls up her mother a few weeks after Election Day and says: "So, Mom, I assume you'll be coming to my inauguration?"
"I don't think so. It's a ten hour drive, your father isn't as young as he used to be, and my arthritis is acting up again."
"Don't worry about it Mom, I'll send Air Force One to pick you up and take you home, and a limousine will pick you up at your door."
"I don't know, everybody will be so fancy-schmaltzy, what on earth would I wear?"

Susan replies, "I'll make sure you have a wonderful gown custom-made by the best designer in New York."
"Honey,"Mom complains,"you know I can't eat those rich foods you and your friends like to eat."
The President Elect says, "Don't worry Mom. The entire affair is going to be handled by the best caterer in New York; kosher all the way. Mom, I really want you to come."
So Mom reluctantly agrees and on January 20, 202 Susan Goldstein is being sworn in as President of the United States. In the front row sits the new President's mother, who leans over to a senator sitting next to her and says, "You see that woman over there with her hand on the Torah, becoming President of the United States?"The Senator whispers back, "Yes, I do."
Mom says proudly, "Her brother is a doctor."

In a position round to determine first place in my senior bowling league, the Electrical Engineers took two games and series from Just Friends, whose team includes two mid-Fifties Gary Horace Mann graduates. I had trouble picking up spares but rolled my average thanks to a two-bagger and a turkey (three strikes in a row).  In the only close game, opponent Dennis Cavanaugh struck out, Frank Shufran needed a mark for us to win.  He picked up a ten-pin (often difficult for him) for a spare and the game.  Miket Wardell had all sorts of trouble for 20 frames but rebounded with a 209.  During the first 2 games he exhibited facial and body expressions ranging from anger to bewilderment but unlike me in that situation, no profanities.  The week before, Dick Maloney, so blind teammates had to tell him which pins remained standing after his first shot, bowled well over average against the same team.

Nicked myself shaving this morning, right under my lip, something that rarely happens with anymore with modern blades. It bled like a sonuvabitch – serves me right for shaving first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

OHA Conference

“When you're strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you're strange
No one remembers your name.”
The Doors, “People Are Strange”
When I was in college, a professor used a book dealing with the theology of Charles M. Schultz’s cartoon characters.  On WXRT Lin Bremer quoted Charlie Brown from Schultz’s “Peanuts” column saying, “I love mankind . . . it’s people I can’t stand.”  Then he played the Doors number “People Are Strange” from the album “Strange Days.” Jim Morrison evidently came up with the lyrics while battling depression and viewing a sunset from Laurel Canyon with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger.  The song had only two verses repeated several times.  The final lines go:
People are strange when you're a stranger
Faces look ugly when you're alone
Women seem wicked when you're unwanted
Streets are uneven when you're down
Attending my first Oral History Conference 30 years ago, I knew virtually nobody and felt strange and out of place at the opening reception.  By the final day, I was more comfortable since people were generally friendly. Now, at ease attending such gatherings I try to talk to those who look to be feeling what I did back then.

I was delighted when Anne Balay asked me to participate in a session at the 52nd annual Oral History Association (OHA) conference in Montreal, titled “Oral History in our Challenging Times,” about motivating and guiding undergraduates doing oral history projects. My main contribution toward its planning was getting longtime friend from University of Maryland days Don Ritchie, author of “Doing Oral History,” to be its chair.  Once a regular attendee, I hadn’t gone to an OHA conference since 1999 in Anchorage: my main memories are touring a gold mining camp, going on a glacier cruise, and watching Red Sox shortstop Normar Garciaparra at a sports bar starring in a losing cause against the Yankees in the AL championship.  I had begun to switch loyalties to Labor History conferences because of the dearth of such sessions at the OHA but continued to attend IOHA meetings in such locales as Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, and Pietermaritzberg, South Africa.

Even though my nonstop flight from Chicago to Montreal on American Airlines went smoothly, getting through customs was a royal hassle both at O’Hare and Trudeau International Airport.  The Hotel Europa was only a six-block walk to the conference site, Concordia University, and had a cool bistro bar, Addie’s, where I watched an Eagles victory over the hated New York Giants. I talked with three Canadian fishermen from Nova Scotia about the disappearance of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald,which sank in Lake Superior during a 1975 storm with 29 crew members aboard. I bragged about seeing Canadian Gordon Lightfoot live on three occasions.  Addie, the owner, told me after they departed that the guy next to me owned a large fish and lobster business. The weather was cold and rainy for 4 of the 5 days, so I didn’t do much touring, not that I had planned to after learning from a travel guide that the main attractions were museums and cathedrals.

Searching for Registration, I ran into David Caruso, editor of Oral History Review (OHR), who was delighted to learn that I had received the latest issue just two days before.  It contained Alessandro Portelli’s “Living Voices” that begins with dialogue from Arthur Penn’s “Little Big Man” (1979) between an anthropologist and an old frontiersman, Mr. Crabb, supposedly the sole white survivor of Custer’s Last Stand, talking past each other. Portelli’s purpose: to demonstrate a botched inter/view.  When Mr. Crabb is told to talk about tribal lifestyles, not tall tales, this exchange ensues:
  Mr. Crabb: Tall tales?  Are you calling me a liar?
  Interviewer: No, It’s just that I’m interested  in the life of the Indian rather than shall we say – adventures.
  Mr. Crabbe: You think the Battle of Little Bighorn was an adventure?
  Interviewer: Little Bighorn was not representative of encounters between white and Indian, Mr. Crabb.

I started to tell Caruso about souring on the OHA after a folk music proposal I put together that got rejected despite having two acclaimed historians, including Ron Cohen, as speakers.  What I didn’t get to tell Caruso was that I had recruited, after much persuasion, OHA founder Martha Ross and her husband to recite from an oral history about Broadsideeditors Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen. The planning committee probable had never heard of Martha Ross.  Martha’s husband, Don Ritchie later told me, is still alive.  Phyllis Smock took a course with Martha and told me about the OHA. “You do oral history, you should join,” she urged.  That October the Queen Maryin Long Beach provided the setting for my maiden conference.
Middle Tennessee State professor Kristine McCusker, in charge of Registration, noticed I was from IU Northwest and identified herself as an IU grad who had studied under John Bodnar.  I told her how influential Bodnar’s “The Transplanted” had been on my way of viewing immigrant history.  I knew of Bodnar’s prize-winning work on American monuments but not about his recent interest in American pop culture.  “I teach about Elvis in my American survey courses because of his influence,”Kristina said.  Ron later emailed me: “Kristine is afriend of mine from the International Country Music conferences I often attend in Nashville.”

A Kanien’Keha:ka elder, accompanied by drummers and the Medicine Bear singers, delivered the opening innovation and welcome, a practice handled for years by storyteller Brother Blue.  I hugged 92-year-old Ruth Hill, Brother Blue’s widow, who still works 20 hours a week at Radcliffe College, now affiliated with Harvard.  Toni, granddaughter Alissa (then a pre-schooler), and I spent a lovely morning in Santa Fe, New Mexico touring a Native American museum with them. I chatted with Paul Thompson, who 30 years ago hosted my first overseas conference in Oxford, England.  Back then, I was feeling strange and out of place until he greeted me warmly.      
                            
Nearby was Linda Shopes, formerly historian at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, who had persuaded me to write an article on industrial heritage museums for the prestigious Journal of American History.  After it was published, I was invited to be a consultant for a museum housing first-generation supercomputers in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.  I agreed on the condition that they also hire Steve McShane. Retired Williams College archivist Paul Anderson asked me to give Steve McShane, whom he knew from MAC (Midwest Archives Conferende), his regards.  I told him about Steve and my road trip to Chippewa Falls, where we toured Leinenkugel Brewery and sampled 3-ounce, fruit flavored shots of beer.

above, Maria; below, Sasha
Perusing Wednesday’s conference agenda, I was amazed to discover that Maria McGrath,  daughter of close high school friend Susan Floyd, was chairing and speaking at an 8:30 session titled, “Queer Stories, Queer Lives.”  I knew that Maria taught at Bucks County Community College and that she was a food historian but had no idea that she came to OHA conferences (in fact, this was her first). Her recently completed book contains a chapter on Bloodroot Restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, founded by lesbians Noel Furie and Selma Miriam, formerly married with children, almost a half-century ago as a collective and still in existence. Virtually a who’s-who of second wave feminist leaders spoke at Bloodroot’s Wednesday evening rap sessions.  Maria discussed concepts the founders tried to live by, such as “right livelihood,” “relational commerce,”and “nature idealism.”  Asked if the food was good, Maria was noncommittal, except noting that the menu is vegan. One assertion that left me intrigued was the Selma and Noel, as typical of hippies, sought downward mobility.  Maria was composed and confident.  At one point after stressing Selma’s self-image as a radical feminist, Maria said, “Let me modify that.  Selma wished to be known, above all, as a chef.”

Two of the four presenters were absent, a fortuitous development that left more time for discussion of Maria’s paper and one by Sasha Goldberg, titled “Tending the Bulldagger Archive: Identificatory Practices, Negotiations and Iterations of Lesbian Masculinities in a Post-Trans Temporality.”  Despite the obscure title, it was not bogged down in theory or jargon, and Sasha’s demeanor and delivery were self-confident and quite fetching. Just as I recognized Maria immediately due to the striking resemblance to her mother, Sasha was easily identifiable with old-fashioned butch haircut and tattooed, muscular arms.  Both gave brilliant papers and were very approachable once the session ended.  Maria was delighted to meet me (“my parents won’t believe it,”she exclaimed).  Sasha was an IU grad student whose grandparents live in Miller Beach and whose aunt, lo and behold, was IUN’s former CFO Marianne Milich, a friend and onetime star History student. Small world. During the lively Q and A I learned that “lesbian” was out of fashion compared to “queer” and a new word, terf, standing for trans exclusive radical feminists and usually intended as an insult.  Transvestites are now referred to as cds, for cross-dressers.  Cd sex workers plied the outskirts of IUN’s campus after dark until Chancellor Peggy Elliott cracked down on them. After books on LGBT steelworkers and long-haul truckers, Anne Balay’s next effort will be on sex workers.
 Nisa Remigio

At the next scheduled session, “An Empty Chair Is Not Really Empty,” only two people were in the large room, a Concordia University volunteer and Ruth Hill aka Lady Blue.  Unbeknownst to us, the program had been cancelled. As we chatted, a Concordia grad student, Nisa Remigio, wandered in and then stayed for an hour of intense conversation.  From the Azores, Nisa had come from a session where objects were on display and attendees asked to select one they could identify with and talk about it.  Nisa chose a piece of blue paper like her Portuguese grandmother used to wrap white hand-woven garments dear to her that otherwise would have turned yellow due to the island climate.  Several are still in Nisa’s possession, triggering otherwise forgotten memories.   
 Stephen High on right holding son

At a noon reception hosted by Concordia’s Center for Oral History, director Stephen High spoke passionately about his work.  Obviously popular with both students and faculty, High emphasized the Center’s collaborative projects dealing with various Montreal changing neighborhoods. University of Akron professor Greg Wilson, who teaches public history and published an oral history of the 1970 Kent State massacre, introduced himself.  He knew of former IUN chancellor Peggy Elliott’s brief unhappy tenure at Akron but had not been there then. At the “Oral History Jukebox Workshop” session one track featured a Stephen High interview showed to his students to point out how he had interrupted the narrator too much.  I did a similar self-criticism in Steve McShane’s Indiana History class with a videotaped interview with bridge player Joe Chin.
Having conversed the day before with affable Juan Coronado (above), head of Michigan State’s Oral History of Latinos Project, I attended his session dealing with Mexican-American farm workers in Michigan, Latino legislators in New Mexico, and female United Farm Worker leaders in California.  In Michigan, beginning in the nineteenth century, seasonal workers from Mexico harvested sugar beets, cherries, and blueberries. Coronado identified three stages of Latino permanent settlement, which he labeled Settling Out, Settling Down, and Settling In (joining unions, churches, and organizations such as the GI Forum).   Afterwards, Juan thanked me for asking about the current relationship between year-round residents and farm workers and describing  Abe Morales’ volunteer work with Region farm workers in teaching English and American citizenship preparation.  I promised to send Coronado a copy of “Maria’s Journey,” by Ramon and Trisha Arredondo, which I edited and obtained an Introduction by John Bodnar.
 Alphine Jefferson

The Presidential reception took place in Concordia’s Grey Nuns Building, named for a Sisters of Charity order that wore grey habits, worked at the college, and managed Montreal’s Catholic hospital. As I was talking to Alphine Jefferson of Randolph-Macon College, Anne Balay and Don Ritchie greeted me almost simultaneously.  To my disappointment there was no sign of Maria McGrath or Sasha Goldberg.  I told Stephen High how impressed I was with his student guides, and when I mentioned having chatted with grad student Nisa Remigio, he and two Concordia grad students with him agreed that she was quite remarkable.

Anne Balay and Haverford student Phil Reid had joined me for Juan Coronado’s session, and while Anne went off to a lunch meeting, Phil and I found a Chinese joint at a food court in the tunnel connecting the J.W. McConnell and John Molson buildings.  Phil’s independent study project involved interviewing passersby in a Philadelphia neighborhood containing numerous graffiti works of art.  He’d heard I’d helped Anne get into oral interviewing of gay and lesbian steelworkers.  I frequently teared up describing how her department chair held that against her. He had wanted her to stick to producing largely unread children’s lit articles.  I urged her to go slow, but, as Anne says, that’s not how her genes are programmed.  Because of my staunch defense of her, IUN’s A and S Dean informed me that the university was disassociation itself from the magazine that I had edited for over 40 years. Comforting me when I teared up, he said, “You’re the conscience of the university.”  As Anne would say, WTF?
Jimbo and Maria McGrath; photo by Anne Balay
At Friday’s Diversity reception I introduced Anne and Phil to Alphine Jefferson, who like Anne had studied at the University of Chicago and roomed in the same building. He was with a woman who headed up a Puerto Rican studies program. U.S. Steel’s Gary Works recruited Puerto Ricans beginning in 1948 and initially housed them in Pullman Palace cars.  I told her I bowled with daughter-in-law Delia’s Puerto Rican uncles Phil Vera, Larry Ramirez, Eddie Lopez, and Pete Caudio.  To my surprise, Maria McGrath joined us. We all got along famously and, after Alphine left, continued the conversation for another 90 minutes, well after the reception ended.  Maria and Anne were both meeting people later at the same function, what Anne called a lesbian dinner.  “I didn’t know that,” Maria said, adding that she wasn’t gay (22-year-old Phil went, too). Dick Clark’s name came up, and I bragged about attending a Willow Grove Amusement Park record hop featuring the “American Bandstand” host and dancing with 50s “one hit wonder” (“Love Could Be Like This”) Mary Swan until someone cut in on me 20 seconds later.   I mentioned the huge 1974 parade in Philadelphia after the Flyers won their first Stanley Cup.  “I was at it with my dad,” Maria declared. Hope to get to know her better.
Fred Burrill
Stephen High’s Saturday session on deindustrialization featured community organizer Fred Burrill speaking about violent protests over the rapid gentrifying of Montreal’s St.-Henri neighborhood, whose new high rise condos blocked the sun and overpriced shops and restaurants held little appeal for longtime residents. Bearded Burrill referred to workers bouncing from job to job with no security nor benefits as “global benchwarmers.”  Presenter Lachlan MacKinnon castigated short-sighted Chamber of Commerce types on the Cape Breton Island city of Sydney in Nova Scotia for quashing efforts to convert an abandoned steel plant into an industrial heritage museum.  The “Solid Citizens” (as Sinclair Lewis labeled those types a century before) deemed it too distant from the tourist area, opting instead for a lame display and commemorative rock labeled “good-bye to all of that.”  MacKinnon characterized the decision as “working-class erasure.”  Maddening.  I told a representative from the impressive Lehigh Valley Industrial Museum that Anne Balay has brought Haverford students there with a retired steelworker conducting the tour.
 Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson’s talk on “Oral History in its World Context” noted the expansion of oral history’s parameters since a half-century ago and reiterated that its central purpose should be to unearth hidden voices, in other words, record the unrepresented.  The planners should have made the distinguished Thompson a plenary speaker rather than put him with an otherwise undistinguished panel. Thompson held up the first and recently published seventh edition of his classic oral history anthology “The Voice of the Past,” which dwarfed the original. It brought to mind that volume 1 of Steel Shavingswas just 40 pages, compared to volume 47’s 320. I introduced myself to Daniel Garcia, a scholar from Georgia who studied under recently deceased labor historian Cliff Kuhn and promised to send him my latest Shavings,which eulogizes Kuhn. Garcia’s business card identified him as “the alternative history”but listed no university affiliation – ominous and tragic if the job market is that tight. 
PNW Dean Elaine Carey
The plenary session on “Remembering 1968: The Year that Shook the World” was disappointing save for Purdue Northwest Dean Elaine Carey’s talk, titled ‘Plaza of Sacrifices” (the title of her 2005 book) on the Mexico City student riots that broke out around the time of the Olympic games.  Unlike Carey’s paper, the others – on Vietnam Vets, the Black Panthers, and the Poor People’s Campaign – gave no evidence of benefitting from oral testimony. I told her she did Northwest Indiana proud.  She knew about me from PNW colleague Kenny Kincaid and vowed to visit the Archives. I told she should meet Heather Augustyn, a lecturer at her school who has written several books about Jamaican ska music, including “SKA: An Oral History.”
Last stop Saturday: an IOHA reception at McKibben’s Irish pub whose sumptuous buffet included fried calamari, corned beef sandwiches, yummy guacamole, and free lager on draft.  We found seats at a small table inhabited by a Texas middle school teacher who used Don Ritchie’s “Doing Oral History.” I told Anne and Phil, an English major, about favorite novelist Richard Russo’s best friend’s decision to undergo a sex transference into a woman.  Russo initially thought it selfish, as the person had a wife and children and buddies who liked to hang with him.  The operation almost proved fatal due to infection, but Russo and the wife remained by his side.

Scheduled for Sunday at 9 a.m., our session, “Talking to Strangers: Teaching Ethical Oral History Methods to Undergraduates,” drew a standing room only crowd of over 50, much to our surprise.  Nisa Remigio positioned herself in the first row, notebook in hand. The night before, inspired by Sasha Goldberg’s candor, I spruced up my prepared remarks with ribald anecdotes about bowling banquets and steelworker tales, drawing laughs.  So did this paragraph:
  In Jyväskylä, Finland, for the 2018 IOHA conference, I was conversing with scholars from Australia, Ireland, and South Africa who had interviewed victims of molestation and Rwandan genocide survivors.  “What are you working on?” one asked.  Senior bowlers and duplicate bridge players, I replied with just a hint of hesitation.   In my defense, there is considerable scholarly interest in the decline since World War II of volunteer associations as well as in the contemporary lifestyle of aging Baby Boomers. Students learned that romances, not surprisingly, have blossomed at the lane and card tables, both straight and gay, platonic and sexual (although students didn’t want to hear details about the latter). Virtually no college students play bridge nowadays, but since many subjects were retired teachers and gave lessons to their interviewers.  On my advice, students visited bridge games, where they were warmly welcomed.  Several lasting inter-generational friendships resulted. 
One motive for having my students meet active seniors is to counteract misconceptions and stereotypes about the elderly. Afterwards, an audience member applauded that goal, adding that young people often know just one or two seniors and generalize based on that small sample.

The other panelists, in addition to Anne Balay and Phil Reid, were Amanda Littauer and Christina Abreu from Northern Illinois University.  Christina’s parents live in Highland.  All of us, I thought, did well and stuck to our allotted time.  Phil announced he’d be reading his remarks since he was nervous and delivered them with breakneck speed but got a big round of applause.  Amanda and Christina examined privacy issues and worried about students coping with traumatic testimony by LGBT narrators and undocumented workers.  Christina noted that, despite advice against it due to poor quality, students often opt to use iPhones as recording devices. Don Ritchie was the consummate chair, as I knew he’d be, introducing me as a longtime friend, archives do-director, and Steel Shavingseditor, and handling the 30-minute audience participation flawlessly. My only regret was blowing an opportunity to draw the session to a close by repeating the translated title of Don Ritchie’s primer and saying, “Everybody should do oral history.” Bidding farewell to Nisa, I told her to keep a daily journal and she gave me a hug.

Homeward bound.  When I complimented American Eagle flight attendant on her ability to add ice cubes to drinks she’d poured, she smiled appreciatively and said that diet pop comes out half foam if she places the ice in the cup first.  Recalling the long lines passing through customs returning to O’Hare from Finland, I was delighted to find myself directed to baggage claim and then free to exit the terminal.  Limo driver Ron had me home within the hour.  He’d had experience as a record producer, so I told him and Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay Records.  As he pulled into our condo court, he said he’d be googling Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay as soon as he got home. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Tree of Life

“All theory is gray, gut the golden tree of life springs ever green,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  Nanai people Tree drawing 


Mentioned in Genesis, the tree of life has come to symbolize the sustaining and enhancement of humanity.  Virtually all cultures have a tree of life myth growing from the center of creation, with branches sometimes containing magical fruit representative of layers of existence and understanding. The 2011 Terence Malick film “The Tree of Life,” starring Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, and Sean Penn and taking place in a Fifties Texas town, dealt with such universal themes as evolution, spirituality, and generational conflict.
 Bianca and Alex, 2017

Toni and I attended the wedding ceremony of Herb and Evelyn Passo’s son Alex to Bianca Angarola at Temple Israel in Miller in front of a stain glass window depicting the Tree of Life.  The invitation contained its image and the words, “Share love.  Spread light.”Our boys attended pre-school at the Temple; one day, after meeting the Rabbi, Dave thought he’d seen God.  We’ve known Alex, now an attorney, since he was a kid.  He took my survey American History course, performing brilliantly but often appearing to be lost in thought.   Rabbi Stanley Halpern, who had presided over Alex’s Bar Mitzvah, returned from Zionsville, Indiana, to perform the service.  Many friends were in the overflow audience. Cantorial soloist Sean Egan, a Hammond charter school principal and co-cost with Robin Rich of Temple Trivia Night, sang a haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during the Processional.  The theme being renewal and continuity, Alex’s cousin Hayden Adam was flower girl, a task her mother Michelle performed 36 years ago at Herb and Evelyn’s nuptials. 

The reception was at Allure on the Lake, minutes from our condo.  We sat next to Judy and Steve Tallackson, who left early because early next morning Steve was taking Calumet College History students to Tippecanoe River State Park.  They will observe a replica of a Shawnee village, interact with Voyageur re-enactors, and visit the 1812 battlefield site of the massacre that propelled William Henry Harrison (“Old Tippecanoe”) to the Presidency.  Robin Rich told me that she and Rebecca Hanscom interviewed Fred Chary for the Temple Israel Newsletter and that he is home again after rehabbing after an operation at Rush Memorial Hospital.  Here are some answers Fred provided:
  I moved here in 1966 to take a job at Indiana University Northwest. Prior to that I worked on my degrees at the University of Pennsylvania and at the University of Pittsburgh. I’ve been a member of Temple Israel since 1967. I was very attracted by the diverse community. 
  [My Jewish identity] led me to Bulgaria. My uncle was in the military during WW2, when Bulgaria was an ally of the Germans, but Bulgaria protected their Jewish population. In 1939, before Bulgaria joined the Axis, there were 44,000 Jews in Bulgaria; after WW2 there were 50,000. The Jewish population actually increased. [During my frequent visits] I found no discrimination against Jews in Bulgaria. I never had any difficulties there. The most significant fight in Bulgaria was a religious battle: the Greek Orthodox vs the Bulgarian Orthodox. 
  I’ve traveled extensively, of course in Bulgaria, but also Germany, Poland, the former Soviet Union, Great Britain, and Israel.  I’d love to visit Central Asia and Africa.  I collect stamps and like old movies—especially from the 1940s. I am working on a historical novel about 17th century Russia. I look forward to research, reading and writing—those are my favorite things to do.
Fred is a huge Philadelphia sports fan.  Last time I visited him, he invited me over to watch the Eagles as soon as he got home.  Confirming that he was home, I rang him up. He sounded great and repeated the offer.
 at Konrady Plastics table

Toni and I were Bernie Konrady, Jr.’s guests for One Region’s annual luncheon at Avalon Manor Banquet Center in Merrillville.  His daughter Leah is its President and introduced dynamic guest speaker Tom Murphy, formerly mayor of Pittsburgh (1994-2005) and presently with the Urban Land Institute, planners of city revitalization.  At the Konrady Plastics table, a company Bernie and wife Sue founded now located in Portage but originally on Arthur Street in Gary, I introduced them and cousin John Konrady, an IUN Business and Economics major who studied under Leslie Singer, to IUN Chancellor Lowe, a former chairman of the One Region council. Seated to my right were Bernie’s sisters Dee Gee, a Delta Airlines stewardess (now called flight attendants) for 30 years, and Ronnie, who had former IUN chancellor Peggy Elliott as a teacher at Horace Mann and recalled her coming to class with a bandaged hand from burning it getting something out of the oven.

At the Archives two documentarians from IU interviewed me about Vee-Jay Records co-founder Vivian Carter.  I stressed Vivian’s Gary background, segregated but with opportunities for talented and ambitious African Americans during the 1920s and postwar years. I emphasized how influential Vee-Jay hits such as “Goodnite, Sweetheart” and “For Your Precious Love” were on 1950s teenagers like myself and credited Vivian, with her gospel background, for helping give birth to the emergent soul music. Henry Farag, whose musical “The Signal” deals with Vee-Jay doo wop groups, arrived next. We both encouraged producer Adam Carroll to videotape the next live presentation of “The Signal.”

I spoke to Kenny Kincaid’s Purdue Northwest history class on Latinos about Ramon and Trisha Arredondo’s “Maria’s Journey,” which they’re reading, and talked about editing it and helping them find an appropriate publisher (i.e., Indiana Historical Society Press).  I brought up oral histories I had conducted with Mexican-Americans Jesse Villalpando, Louis Vasquez, Abe Morales, and Paulino Monterrubio.  Since in addition to “Maria’s Journey,” students were also assigned articles by John Fraire and Dan Simon, I noted that John’s mother was a star baseball player on an Indiana Harbor team (the Chicks) and that Dan was a retired Business professor with a lifelong interest in history. I gave Kincaid the current copy of Tracescontaining an article about a family of agricultural workers who settled in Southern Indiana.

Kenny and his students are angry over the Purdue Board of Trustees intending to change graduates’ diplomas to read Purdue University Northwest rather than simply Purdue (IUN sheepskins say Indiana University without designating the campus).  The change was triggered because students and faculty on Purdue’s Lafayette campus were upset upon learning that online graduates attending former Kaplan University, now labeled Purdue Global, would receive diplomas identical to theirs. During the break I chatted with a bright student named Frank Rodriguez, a Munster resident who had located my blog on-line.  His dad was a union elevator repair worker.
I found the HBO documentary on Jane Fonda fascinating.  She once again apologized to Vietnam War veterans still upset over her misguided actions while visiting POWs and an anti-aircraft battery in Hanoi while under the influence of second husband Tom Hayden, who succeeded French film director Roger Vadim and preceded billionaire TV network founder Ted Turner.  Currently active in feminist causes, Fonda co-stars with Lily Tomlin in the comedy TV series “Grace and Frankie.” The 80-year-old was looking forward to an upcoming bedroom scene with Sam Elliott.

Novelist Sinclair Lewis’ creation George F. Babbitt regarded himself as a Solid Citizen and Regular Fellow and addressed Zenith Athletic Club lunch companions by such jocular epithets as “old Bolshevik” and “old horse thief.”  While talking to grandson James about best friend Paul Reisling, whom Babbitt often called Paulski or Paulibus, I brought up Paul Turk, who befriended me after my family moved to Birmingham, Michigan at Barnum Junior High (now a park with only the entranceway remaining) after entering eighth grade undersized and knowing nobody.  We played wiffleball and football; his mom was a great cook and his dad took us to an Indians-Tigers game. After my family moved back to Fort Washington we corresponded throughout high school and college.  His envelopes often employed clever take-offs on my middle name Buchanan (Buckmeister and Buckmillian were two of the shorter ones). In January 1965, Paul drove through a snowstorm from Ohio to attend our wedding. We still exchange occasional phone calls, usually after a sports event, but unlike me he does not like to reminisce.
Sports Illustrated writer Tim Layden’s “Fists of Fury” profiled Cahn Carlos and Tommie Smith 50 years after their clenched fist protest on the victory stand at the Mexico City Olympics.  Most photos only show winner Smith and Bronze Medalist Carlos from the waist up, which misses elements of their symbolic statement.  Layden explains:
    Their appearance on the stand remains riveting to this day.  Single shoes and bare feet covered only in black socks, signfying poverty at home. Carlos’s beads, recalling the lunching of black men.  Smith’s black scarf, highlighting a deep identity with his race.  The gloves, the fists shoved upward for the world to see, suggesting defiance and unity.
    The form of the protest came together only after the 200-meter race, in the well of the stadium.  “In the dungeon,”says Smith.  Smith’s wife Denise had brought a pair of black gloves. Carlos’s wife Kim had brought beads with her from the U.S. 
                                              
I’ve been listening to the Dandy Warhols, a Nineties alternative band from Portland.  One of their tracks, “Get Off,” refers to escaping everyday burdens and feeling a rush akin to sexual climax, not literally being on top of someone, like now-confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh allegedly hoisted himself onto Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at a high school party. In his day (and mine) dry-humping was considered within bounds – but not if met with resistance.  The Dandy’s most famous song, “Bohemian Like You.” Features this exchange between a customer and a waiter
So, what do you do?
Oh yeah, I wait tables too.
No, I haven't heard your band,
'Cause you guys are pretty new.
But if you dig on vegan food
Well come over to my work
I'll have them cook you
Years ago, Doc Lukas helped me lay out an issue of Steel Shavings,I gave him a Dandy Warhols CD after hearing that the band had a big gay following.  Turned out Terry was into electronic music. My bad.  Even more embarrassing was when I noted that he was wearing his “trademark pink shirt.”He shot me a hurt look. One time, seated across the gym floor at an amateur Mr. Bodybuilding contest at IUN, I waved and he waved back.  In 2013 Atlanta began hosting a world transgender bodybuilding competition. What I wouldn’t give to attend next year’s competition with Terry and Anne Balay.

Ray Smock wrote the latest example of Trump’s “ceremonial arrogance of power”:
  Donald Trump could not accept victory quietly, or gracefully. He had to rub it in. Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in immediately after his confirmation. He went to work at the Supreme Court. But this was not enough for our president. There were some scores to settle and some salt to pour into wounds. He needed to do this on national television.
  In an unusual nationally televised ceremonial swearing-in at the White House the President took the opportunity to gloat and campaign for next month’s elections. Trump said the occasion was historic. There was nothing historic about it, except for the minor fact that this was the first time a former Justice of the Supreme Court, was able to swear in one of his former law clerks.
  It was retired Justice Anthony M. Kennedy who conducted the oath ceremony. Kavanaugh had clerked for him twenty-five years ago. I have no idea why Justice Kennedy was and is so outwardly friendly with Trump. Maybe it was because Kennedy’s son, Justin, had dealings with the Trump Organization as an official of Deutsche Bank. Kennedy said he was retiring to spend more time with his family, a standard Washington cliché. It gave Trump the opportunity to appoint his second Supreme Court justice.
  This event was the only time I ever heard Trump apologize for anything. And when he did, it was all wrong, it was ugly, and uncalled for. The president said that on behalf of the nation he apologized for the way that Brett Kavanaugh was treated during the hearings. Trump had no business declaring Justice Kavanaugh to be innocent of all the charges against him or to say that he was vindicated and proven innocent. He never once thought of apologizing to Dr. Ford, who has been humiliated by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the president.

  Early in the Kavanaugh hearings President Trump called Dr. Ford a credible witness and described her as a nice person. As the hearings heated up he mocked her shamelessly at campaign rallies and now calls her whole testimony, her personal anguish at coming forward, to be nothing but a hoax orchestrated by Democrats. Dear Dr. Ford, I humbly apologize to you for the way you were treated in your testimony and the way you have been so unfairly maligned by the President of the United States.
I’ve completed an essay John Cain requested for a South Shore Arts exhibit catalogue to go with “Urban Legend: Haunts,” opening in Munster.  Because I have included a paragraph on acclaimed photographer Camilo Vergara, who for a quarter-century has been documenting Gary ruins and am hoping he will include photos I’ve sent him of the Blackstone Hotel taken in 1993 titled “Survivor in a tough city” and City Methodist Church at dawn taken in 2004, titled “Rise of a City.”  My final paragraph rebuts the “Gary as abandoned city” stereotype:
  Outsiders sometimes mistake Gary for a ghost town.  To the contrary.  Often regarded downstate as a Hoosier stepchild and by suburbanites as a place to avoid at all costs, Gary has numerous viable neighborhoods.  True, signs of declension abound, but residents have demonstrated grit and resiliency. While the recent edition of “Gary: A Pictorial History,” covering the years 2004-2018,  includes photos of demolition efforts on the 800 black of Virginia St., most pages exemplify Gary’s ongoing spirit, diversity, and cultural life and are filled with signs of activity – church celebrations, sporting events, school activities, urban gardens, steelworker rallies, protests against locating an immigrant detention center adjacent to Gary Airport, crowds assembling at Michael Jackson’s family home, Calumet Artist Residency poetry workshops, Gary Air Show beach onlookers, and the IU Northwest campus, my intellectual home for 48 years.  Though Gary has lost much of its tangible heritage and remains a tough environment, especially for those  struggling to find work and raise families, potential exists for a brighter future not only in the development of the lakefront, airport, and academic corridor along Thirty-Fifth Avenue but even in downtown revitalization, with Gary’s alluring ruins hopefully surviving. Meanwhile, remarkable activities continue to occur in schools, churches, and community centers, some literally in the shadows of haunts that reflect its former glory.