Thursday, March 23, 2017

Beloved and Abandoned

 For better or worse Gary’s my home
And I’d rather live in this left-over city
Than any suburb I know.”
         Gary Postscript 1989” John Sheehan

In preparation for a talk about my Gary research interests, I’m going to stress how poems, journals, and oral histories have enriched my attempts to capture the city’s social history.  For example, “City of the Century” (1978) cites over a hundred interviews I conducted, ranging from Johnny Kyle, Gary’ first sports star, to Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher. “Gary’s First Hundred Years” (2006) contains poems by Carl Sandburg and John Sheehan, excerpts from the diaries of pioneer Albert Anchors and Red Scare political prisoner Katherine Hyndman, and journal entries by 2003 IUN students. 
 Photos by Jim Sullivan

On his “Places That Were” site, photographer Jim Sullivan shared over a dozen shots of Horace Mann School, which opened in 1928 and closed in 2004, calling it a monument to the lost prosperity of Gary.  It was designed as a unit school with grades from kindergarten to 12 in accordance with Superintendent William A. Wirt’s work-study-play educational philosophy of learning through doing.  Sullivan wrote:
        I parked beside a crumbling brick apartment building in downtown Gary, Indiana. On a cold autumn morning, a few people were still asleep in nearby cars, a cruel irony in a city with so many abandoned homes. Across the street, a sprawling abandoned high school filled the horizon. Like the breathtaking ruins of City Methodist Church, which I had explored the previous evening, Horace Mann School was a casualty of Gary, Indiana's shrinking population.  Several middle-aged couples walked laps along the track that stretched the length of the building.
        The school was enormous, with a capacity of around two and a half thousand students. It originally consisted of three main structures that were eventually joined together. On the large plot of land in front of the school's main entrance, an existing ravine was transformed into a pond with several pedestrian bridges and a rock garden, giving it the appearance of a beautiful park. It was a popular location for picnics, fishing, and ice skating in the winter.
        The school was named after Horace Mann, one of the most important reformers of the public-school system. He believed that a free society cannot exist without equal access to education and that schools should not be aligned with any particular religious denomination. Though controversial at the time, his ideas eventually became widely accepted throughout the United States. Many schools have been named in his honor. 
        In 1929 Horace Mann School had a student body of 870. By 1937, it increased to nearly 2400 students and 80 staff members.  When enrollment grew to nearly 2600 in 1956, exceeding Horace Mann's intended capacity, the district decided to build an additional school on the southern portion of the property. John H. Vohr Elementary School opened in in 1958. Sadly, the pond was filled in to make room for a parking lot.  By 2003, Horace Mann High School had only 546 students, roughly a fifth of its capacity.  The final graduating class consisted of only 72 students.
        It seems unlikely that the building will ever be put to use again. Vandalism and the elements have taken a heavy toll. There is a great deal of water damage in the basement. The floor of the gym is so heavily warped from moisture that a large section of it has risen up and buckled.

Princess Garvis (Scott) replied to Sullivan:
        I am a graduate of Horace Mann, class of '93. I was born and raised in Gary, though I've since moved. I walked these very halls, used these lockers, watched many presentations in this auditorium, used the Science Labs, as well as classrooms. I'm heartbroken by it all, but the gym with the buckled floor brings tears to my eyes. I was a cheerleader all 4 years here. I cheered on this floor and watched MANY games.  I know the young men who are the Champions on the gymnasium wall. I had P.E. and swam in these pools.  I have yet to see Horace Mann's ruins in person.  I have to say, I don't know if I'm emotionally ready.

Horace Mann grads I’ve written about include IUN Bookstore manager Ruth Nelson, radio and TV announcer Tom Higgins, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, football star Joe DeSoto, and baseball star Dennis Cavanaugh.  Mann sports teams were nicknamed the Horsemen.

I gave the new Steel Shavings to Alan Yngve and Charlie Halberstadt at duplicate bridge and got requests from several others after Charlie showed his off.  Kris Prohl noticed a photo of the late Home Mountain Printing owner Larry Klemz, formerly her close friend.  Charlie and I did well despite two low boards.  In one hand, everyone passed; the opponents had more points than us, but every other East-West pair that bid got set.  In another hand, Charlie preempted 3 Clubs, and East doubled.  I held 8 Spades headed by the Ace, King, Queen, plus a lone Diamond and 2 Queen doubletons.  I jumped to 4 Spades and lost the first four tricks, two in Clubs and 2 in Hearts.  Other North-South pairs stopped a 3 Spades or, in one case, made 5 Diamonds (opponents must have opened with a Spade or Diamond lead). Charlie had 7 Diamonds headed by the Ace, King, the 10 and Jack of Spades, and, like me, losing doubletons in Hearts and Clubs.
 Harold Haydon
Harold Hayden, figures at beach 

Bridge opponent Marcia Carson, who was an Education Division instructor for many years, now teaches Art History both at IUN and Valparaiso University.  I told her that during the 1970s, Toni had such a course from Harold Haydon, who had retired from the University of Chicago and was living in Northwest Indiana.  After she told me how interesting he was, I audited the class.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Reading Material

“Read absolutely everything you get your hands on because you'll never know where you'll get an idea from.” Malcolm X
A half-century ago, when I was in grad school at Maryland, books that really mattered included “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, “City of Night” by John Rechy, “Up the Down Staircase” by Bel Kaufman, and “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedan. I finally got around to starting one of the most important books of our time, I believe, “I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai – sent to me by former student Terry Helton.  Malala wrote this description of entering Khushal School, which her father Ziauddin Yousafzai founded:
  For us girls the doorway was like a magical entrance to our own special world.  As we skipped through, we cast off our headscarves like winds puffing away clouds to make way for the sun that ran helter-skelter up the steps.  At the top of the steps was an open courtyard with doors to all our classrooms.  We dumped our backpacks in our rooms then gathered for morning assembly under the sky, our backs to the mountains as we stood at attention.

At the Calumet Township Multipurpose Center at 41st and Cleveland in Gary, the turnout of duplicate bridge players was much larger than commonly attends Chesterton YMCA on Tuesday evenings.  Alan Yngve, who directs the games at both sites, introduced me to Barb Walczak, who has been putting out a weekly bridge newsletter for 12 years.  Across the street was a huge flea market where many years ago I found a container for .45 records.
 above, Heidi Pierce; below, Ce Ce McDonald and Anne Balay

I’ve begun distributing my new Steel Shavings, which is relatively noncontroversial (in my opinion), but I do report on current doings of former faculty members Jerry Pierce, a recent first-time father, and Anne Balay, who arranged for transgender victim of discrimination Ce Ce McDonald to attend a workshop at Haverford College.  Here’s a January 25, 2016, entry from my blog, reprinted in volume 46:
Student organization tables filled the Savannah Center hallway.  The Muslim group gave away cookies and had a sign reading, “Meet a Muslim.”  No sign of the History Club, defunct since popular professor Jerry Pierce left unwillingly, or the LGBT group Connectionz, whose adviser Anne Balay was also given the boot despite a sterling record.

Becca and Angie were at a choral competition in Illinois, so James and Dave spent most of the day with us at the condo.  James is reading the James Patterson novel Zoo for English class and rehearsing to play Uncle Fester in the Portage school production of “The Addams Family.”   My nephew Beamer Pickert responded to a Facebook post by replying, “Remember the combo to the vault! 2-10-11. Eyes, fingers, toes!!!”  In the afternoon, we played board games with Tom Wade and kept an eye on NCAA tournament contests, watching Wisconsin upset Villanova and Michigan surprise Louisville.  Kentucky, my pick to win it all, made it into the Sweet Sixteen.  Dave picked up carry-out from Wing Wah and had James do the driving back and forth.
 Malcolm Jones; photo by Jeff Manes

On my recommendation, Post-Trib columnist Jeff Manes interviewed 23-year-old East Chicago Central graduate Malcolm “DJMal” Jones and wrote about his promotions company “Party in Peace LLC, dedicated to providing safe concert options for teens. Jones credited teachers David Lane and Leon Kendrick for mentoring him, saying, “I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for them.”  Malcolm told Jeff:
       We threw our first hip-hop concert two years ago in February. It was at the Hammond Civic Center. The group was Rae Sremmurd. It was a success. Over 1,000 kids showed up from ages 14 to 18. These were kids from different neighborhoods and schools and there were no problems. Usually when that happens there's a confrontation. The lady in charge at the Civic Center was shocked at how well it all went down.   It's all about respect. That's something I learned from Mr. Lane and Dr. Kendrick. They always gave us the utmost respect, so they always got respect back. If you talk to either one of them, they will always say: “I have some wonderful students.”  That’s because they were wonderful.
       After that initial concert, a girl came up to me crying. Concerned, I asked her if she was OK. She explained to me that she was crying because she was so happy that she was able to see her favorite rap group within walking distance of her house. Some people in this area have doubts. There were people who doubted a great rap group like Rae Sremmurd would even show up in Hammond. The next concert we did was that May. Also at the Civic Center — more than 2,000 kids.

When Malcolm noted that his company is putting on a concert at East Chicago Central High School featuring two Grammy-winning artists, Manes quipped, “The Doobie Brothers?” Malcolm replied: Two Christian artists. Israel Houghton is a five-time Grammy winner and Tye Tribbett is a three-time Grammy winner.”  Manes asked whether he was named for Malcolm X.  Jones replied, “Yeah. When my mom was pregnant, she went to see the movie (starring) Denzel Washington.”  After Manes said, “You make me feel old,” Malcolm commented: “It’s funny, my best friend is named Denzel.”

Dead at age 90 is Rock and Roll pioneer Chuck Berry.  “Johnny B. Goode” (1958) was my favorite song as a teenager, both to dance to with Judy Jenkins and hear on the radio.  I still know the words by heart, beginning with this verse:
          Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans,
          Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
          There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,
          Where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode
          Who never ever learned to read or write so well,
          But he could play a guitar just like a ringing a bell.
When Berry first sang “Johnny B. Goode,” the lyrics identified the guitar player as a “colored boy,” but Leonard Chess of Chicago’s Chess Records had him change it to “country boy.” Berry had already scored crossover hits with “Maybelline” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), and “Rock and Roll Music” (1957).  In 1958, he performed “Sweet Little Sixteen” at the Newport Jazz Festival.  That year he also recorded “Carol,” whose chorus goes, “Oh Carol, don’t let him steal your heart away/ I’m gonna learn to dance if it takes me all night and day.”  Berry’s upbeat fusion of Blues and Country music defined Rock and Roll during its formative years.
In the NWI Times Doug Ross wrote about a 70-member Slovak Boys Band from Immaculate Conception Church in Whiting under the direction of Father Lach touring Europe in 1937.  David Kaplan, probably the last surviving member and one of three Jewish band members on the tour, recalled that stops in Germany were cancelled over concerns for them.  European audiences especially liked “Stars and Stripes Forever.”  Kaplan noted: “A lot of times we had to play it twice [because] they kept pounding and applauding.” A welcome home concert at Wicker Park attracted over 2,000 people.
 Anna and Charles Halberstadt

The Indiana legislature unanimously passed a resolution honoring Chesterton High School’s radio station WDSO on its fortieth anniversary.  Charles Halberstadt posted:
WDSO had such a profound impact on my life. It's where this shy kid came out of his shell and made some of the best memories of my life. For someone who didn't quite fit in, the radio station was an escape. Where I could fit in. I met all my closest friends there and while I didn't meet Anna there I did meet her because of the friendships I made there. It's great to see be honored.

I attended IUN Chancellor Lowe’s “Coffee and Conversation” hour in Savannah Gallery.  I had hoped the Neil Goodman sculpture exhibit would still be up, but instead it was the annual student show.  Across from where Lowe was seated were lush nude photos.  He gave no hint of noticing.
During season 2 of the Showtime series “The Tudors” Thomas More replaces Cardinal Wolsey as Lord Chancellor, is succeeded by Thomas Cranmer, and beheaded for refusing to accept the King Henry VIII’s break from the Catholic Church.  Meanwhile, Anne Boleyn becomes Henry’s second wife but ultimately suffers the same fate as More after failing to produce a male heir and coming under suspicion of infidelity.  At Bucknell 50-plus years ago, I was assigned G.R. Elton’s “England under the Tudors” (1955) for a European History course and learned more about the administrative changes carried out by Machiavellian chief minister Thomas Cromwell than I cared to know.
Rolling Stone “National Affairs” correspondent Janet Reitman wrote a scathing article about Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ “Holy War” to dismantle public schools and inject Christian values in those that remain.  Reitman describes Grand Rapids, where son Phil works at the PBS station WGVU and DeVos attended Calvin College after graduating from Holland Christian High School, as “home to dozens of Reformed and Christian Reformed churches, five Christian publishing houses, a slew of religion-infused radio stations, [and] three seminaries.”  While Grand Rapids, unlike the surrounding area, is a Democratic stronghold, Reitman points out that the center of power is not “in its politics but in the relationships forged between wealthy benefactors and those they support.”  Reitman added:

  Virtually every public park or event space is named for one of the city’s prominent Christian families.  So are its university buildings, hotels, and parking lots.  There is the DeVos Place Convention Center, the DeVos Performance Hall, and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.  The student center at Grand Valley State University is named for Richard M. DeVos.  At Calvin College, there is a DeVos Communication Center.  I stayed at the Amway Grand Hotel, where portraits of Rich DeVos Sr. and his business partner, Jay Van Andel, hang on the wood-paneled walls.