Monday, November 24, 2014

Plumed Knight

"Like an armed warrior, like a plumed knight, James G. Blaine marched down the halls of the American Congress and threw his shining lance full and fair against the brazen forehead of every traitor to his country and every maligner of his fair reputation." Robert G. Ingersoll, nominating Blaine for President at the 1876 Republican National Convention
“The Plumed Knight,” Senator James G. Blaine of Maine, was the most colorful politician during America’s Gilded Age and would have made a dynamic president, in contrast to the weak Republicans who occupied the With House between 1876 and 1892.  Blaine had enemies within his party, however (the so-called Stalwarts, led by Roscoe Conkling) and was tainted by scandal regarding his business interests.  One opponent claimed that he “wallowed in spoils like a rhinoceros in an African pool.”  Twice Secretary of State during the 1880s, he favored the expansion of American economic and diplomatic interests into Latin America.  Born in western Pennsylvania, he graduated from Washington College at age 17 and worked as a teacher and newspaper editor before running successfully for Congress in 1862.
 
Dave Serynek asked me to find him a book about President Benjamin Harrison. I settled on one by Homer E. Socolofsky and Allan B. Spetter from the U. of Kansas Press American presidency series.  An Indianapolis lawyer and dour Presbyterian whose grandfather William Henry took the oath of office in 1841, exactly 48 years before he did, Benjamin Harrison was an Old Guard, high tariff Republican regular.  The authors struggle hard (and not quite successfully) to refute the common impression of Harrison as a mere cipher.  He received the Republican nomination on the eighth ballot as a compromise candidate, helped by the decision of 1884 candidate James G. Blaine not to run again.  During the Chicago convention, Blaine was in Scotland staying at Andrew Carnegie’s castle. Before final roll call the steel baron had Blaine cable party leaders that Harrison was acceptable to the two of them. 

In 1888 Harrison defeated incumbent president Grover Cleveland despite receiving 100,000 fewer votes, carrying New York by a mere 13,000 votes by persuading Irish Catholics that Cleveland was pro-British.  When Harrison thanked Providence for the victory, Pennsylvania boss Matt Quay quipped that he’d never know “how close a number of men were compelled to approach the penitentiary to make him President.”

Four years later, with labor and farmer unrest and the country lurching toward a Depression, Harrison, the last Civil War general to occupy the White House, lost his re-election bid to former president Cleveland, who carried both New York and Harrison’s home state of Indiana.  During Harrison’s final weeks in office he tried unsuccessfully to get Congress to approve the annexation of Hawaii after sugar interests abetted by American Minister John L. Stevens, illegally ousted Queen Liliuokalani (below).  
Socolofsky and Spetter wrote:
  “In a somewhat surprising move, which estranged his children, the former president married Mary Lord Dimmick, the widowed niece of the first Mrs. Harrison, early in 1896.  A daughter, Elizabeth, was born in February 1897  (the old lecher must have had some lead left in the pencil).  Four years later, after a bout of pneumonia, Harrison dies, on 13 March 1901.”

At Miller Bakery Cafe Friday Ron Cohen and Steve McShane were signing “Moonlight in Duneland” books people had ordered when they spoke in Crown Point a couple weeks ago.  We talked about university characters during the Seventies, including Sociologists Barry Johnston and Bob Lovely and IUN’s “Plumed Knight,” Economist Leslie Singer.  Ron brought up outrageous things John Dustman did in his Human Sexuality class, such as pass around a dildo and take the class to an adult bookstore and a nudist colony.  During a spring event Dustman volunteered to participate in a fundraiser where students would try to dunk him and was in and out of the water so many times he ended up suffering a mild heart attack.  Ron mentioned that another year a student entered a bouncy “Magic Castle” and got thrown from it, leaving him paralyzed when someone jumped in unexpectedly.

James slept over, and I made us pancakes and bacon before driving to bowling.  His eighth grade History class had a role-playing exercise on the 1787 Constitutional Convention, and he was New Jersey delegate Oliver Ellsworth.  A lawyer, Ellsworth had previously represented his state in the Continental Congress.  James told me that Ellsworth favored a unicameral legislature with each state having equal representation.  On the Committee of Five that wrote the first draft on the Constitution, Ellsworth proposed that the national government be designated the United States. 

Dave met us at Camelot, looking tired from having announced a basketball game the previous evening.  The IHSAA recently passed a resolution designed to prevent home announcers from being partial to their team.  He thinks he was the cause of the rule because the Munster coach had complained when his Mustangs played at East Chicago Central.

At Corey Hagelberg’s invitation I sold copies of Steel Shavings, including “Gary’s First Hundred Years,” at the Miller Beach Holiday Market at Gardner Center.  I invited Anne Balay and Ken Schoon to join me with their Region books.  Most vendors had already set up when I arrived at 10:30, and crowds were steady throughout the afternoon.  The Bakery CafĂ© sold three kinds of soup and another vendor offered delicious tacos for two dollars apiece.  Anne, who really needed the money, sold about a dozen books, and I gave those buyers a free copy of volume 33, that has “Steel Closets” on the front cover and a photo of Anne on the back.

Anne brought a large plate of tasty, homemade oatmeal and cranberry cookies and offered them free of charge.  A kid in charge of a popcorn machine took one, then another for his sister, and was soon back for two more.  When he returned a fourth time, I told him to bring us popcorn in return.  He came back with two plastic cups and said, “That will be two dollars, please.”  I told him, “No it won’t,” we’re doing a trade for the cookies.  With that, he grabbed his seventh and eighth cookie and never came back.  The popcorn was pretty tasteless.
Ken Schoon recently attended his fiftieth Horace Mann high school reunion.  Peggy Elliott (above), who went on to become IUN’s chancellor, was his tenth and eleventh grade English teacher.  She had planned to come to the reunion but cancelled due to a family emergency.  Ken said that his senior year she recruited him for the school literary magazine, which was a big boost to his confidence.  She’s moving back to Indiana because she has a daughter in Indy and a son here in the Region.

Anne Karras stopped by to purchase my Gary book. When I last saw her at McGuans, she teared up when I asked about husband Ted, who has had Alzheimer’s for about nine years, because she had recently been forced to move him into an assisted living facility.  I visited them several times when researching an article about the football career of brother Alex, and Ted was still sharp when recollecting past events.  She told me Ted was thriving in his new environment, playing bingo and even singing (several people have told me he has a great voice).

Realtor Gene Ayers bought “Steel Closets” and brought several potential customers to our table.  One had recently moved from Chicago to Indian Boundary Road and wanted to know the derivation of the name.  I was hazy, but Ken Schoon, who wrote about the subject in “Calumet Beginnings,” came to the rescue. It had been the boundary line between the territories of Indiana and Michigan until 1816, and the area north to Lake Michigan belonged to the Potawatomi until ceded to the state of Indiana in 1826, in what was termed the Ten Mile Purchase.

Judy Ayers asked if the Archives might want cookbooks compiled by area church groups that had belonged to her recently deceased mother.  I encouraged her to donate them and think they might make for an interesting exhibit.  Judy and George Rogge were born on the same day in the same hospital, Gary Methodist. 
An African-American artist exhibiting his work was wearing a black Kankakee Valley H.S. hoodie with the school mascot, a Kougar, on the back.  He had no affiliation with the school but picked it up somewhere because he liked the color and design.

In a SALT column entitled “The carpenter nails it,” Jeff Manes profiled builder Pat Lee, a Miller mainstay who grew up in Lake Station when it was called East Gary, graduated from Andrean, and worked five years at U.S. Steel’s Tube Works as a draftsman before starting his own business.  Lee told Manes:

I wanted to work outside and I wanted to work with my hands. I pretty much taught myself to be a carpenter. The first phase of the growth of this company was small residential jobs, room additions, basements — stuff like that. Back in those days, when we did a room addition, we did it all. We’d go out and dig the foundation with shovels, we’d pour the concrete, lay the block.  As the jobs got bigger, we started to sub the work out. We started building big, custom-made homes. We just morphed into bigger and bigger projects. In ’73, I took my general contractor’s test here in the city of Gary and passed it. I’ve been a licensed general contractor in the city of Gary ever since. We now have licenses in all the surrounding municipalities, too. We did that for a long time. [Then] we morphed into project management and construction management.”

Pat told Manes that when he and wife Karren were dating, they’d drive to Miller and vow that they’d live there some day.  He thought the secret to why Miller is such a tight-knit, cohesive community is access to the beach.  He said:

  In the other lakefront communities, the access to the beach is restricted and you don’t have the melting pot mix we have here. I think we have this eclectic, diverse community because every north-south street in Miller is public access to the beach. Everybody can get to the beach, every block.  Consequentially, you’ve got a carpenter sitting in his lawn chair next to a real estate developer who is sitting next to a local artist with a lawyer over here and a steelworker over there and college professors interspersed.”

The Hagelbergs came over for bridge after having a Thanksgiving dinner at the Hobart Unitarian Church.  Toni was the big winner, and we had supper at Applebee’s. A 72 year-old member of Dick’s congregation suffered a stroke and fell down a flight of steps.  He had been in apparent good health.  Shortly before he died under hospice care, Dick and other church choir members sang to him and he indicated with his eyes and finger that he was alert enough to appreciate the gesture.

Now that I’ve been eliminated from the Fantasy football playoffs and relegated to the role of spoiler, I defeated nephew Bob and in fact scored more points than any of the seven others.  LeSean McCoy and T.Y. Hilton finally had big games in the Eagles and Colts victories over mediocre opponents. 

I learned that recently deceased filmmaker Mike Nichols (“The Graduate,” “Silkwood”) founded “The Midnight Special” radio show in 1953 on Chicago’s WFMT-FM station.  It opened with Leadbelly’s rendition of “The Midnight Special” and featured, in Nichols’ words, “folk music and farce, show tunes and satire, odds and ends.”  Mike Bayer loved the show and turned me on to it.   Nichols, who went through periods of depression during the 1950s, only lasted a year before the station replaced him.

Alissa landed in Ankara, Turkey, on the first leg of her business trip to Europe visiting schools that have exchange programs with Grand Valley State.  We were happy to get a Facebook photo she took as her plane was approaching the airport.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In the Classroom


“I touch the future.  I teach.” Christa McAuliffe 

Christa McAuliffe, a social studies high school teacher in New Hampshire, was selected to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space program.  She was one of seven crewmembers to die aboard the 1987 space shuttle Challenger.

I relish the several times a semester when I’m back in the classroom teaching; I have ample time to strategize about engaging the students.  Because they have little contact with books, I try to take several in with me and read from them.  When Professor David Grimsted first started out at Bucknell, he came to my initial Historiography class with about a dozen tomes by the likes of Thucidydes and Tacitus, eager to expose us to the pioneers in his field.  Five years later Grimsted had moved on to Maryland, where I was a grad student and became a leading expert on antebellum riots.

In Nicole’s class, with four books in hand, I talked about the wartime movies “Casablanca”, “Bataan,” and “The Story of G.I. Joe,” the later based on the experiences of Ernie Pyle, whose column appeared in over 300 newspapers.  Pyle was embedded with troops in North Africa, Italy, England, France (he witnessed the liberation of Paris), and the Pacific.  He died at age 45 from machine gun fire on a small island near Okinawa.  Pyle had an authentic style that did not glorify the bloody business of war.  As historian Richard Lingeman wrote in “Don’t You Know There’s a War On: The Homefront, 1941-1945”:
  “Ernie Pyle’s war was an antiheroic one perfectly in tune with the men who were fighting in it – men like those two archetypical GIs Willie and Joe, whom the cartoonist Bill Maulden had caught so well with his pen.  Pyle concentrated on details – the debris of shoes, cigarettes, writing paper left behind by the dead at Normandy, for example.  He conveyed a quick sympathy for the GIs and wrote about what the ordinary soldier saw, thought, felt.”


I also showed cartoons from Bill Maulden’s 1944 bestseller “Up Front.”  A sergeant with the 45th Division and Stars and Stripes contributor, he, like Pyle, depicted with humor and pathos soldiers’ mundane everyday routine, interrupted by sudden moments of terror.  GIs identified with the unkempt and unshaven Willie and Joe, but General George Patton unsuccessfully tried to censor Maulden’s drawings for supposedly subverting discipline. 

A student of Syrian ancestry gave a report about Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou and the fate of Greek Jews during the war.  While approximately 87 percent were Holocaust victims, the Archbishop protested their deportation to concentration camps and published a letter expressing his deep concern.  When a high Nazi official threatened to have him executing by firing squad, he responded sarcastically, “According to the traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, our prelates are hanged, not shot.  Please respect our traditions.” Papandreou also told churches to issue Christian baptism certificates to Jews, saving the lives of thousands.  I plan to tell the student that the expert on Bulgaria and the Jews, Fred Chary, is an emeritus professor and would be available to her if she wanted to do an independent study on the topic.

I saved my intended remarks about Kenneth S. Davis’ “FDR: The War President” for another day.  The book concludes with a description of a White House dinner on December 31, 1942.  With FDR were Eleanor and intimates Sam and Dorothy Rosenman, Bob and Madeline Sherwood, Henry and Elinor Morgenthau, Harry and Louise Hopkins, and Prince Olav and Princess Martha of Norway.  The President Had been carrying on a serious flirtation with Princess Martha, causing his former lover Missy LeHand to suffer a nervous breakdown from which she never recovered.  After the meal came a private screening of the soon-to-be-released film “Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.   Davis wrote of “Casablanca”:

  “A bittersweet story of love amid war, of individual lives overwhelmed by history and enabled to become good or evil only through their willed responses to it, the film was soaked through and through with the selfless idealism and spirit of personal sacrifice to a transcendent cause.  Even people who deemed themselves hardheaded realists and objected to the sentimental as a perversion of honest emotion were often deeply moved by this picture story.  Perhaps Franklin Roosevelt was moved by it to add to his customary midnight toast, ‘To the United States of America’ the words ‘And to United Nations’ victory.’”                                            

By 1944 Roosevelt’s friends were mostly elsewhere or dead.  Eleanor was either touring the country, overseas outposts or with her lesbian friends.  Ever since discovering he was unfaithful to her 25 years before, she had refused to sleep with him.  Daughter Anna arranged for him to re-connect with his recently widowed former mistress, Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd.  He took delight in arranging trysts, made relatively easy by wartime censorship.  She was with him in Warm Springs when he died. Historian Arthur E. Schlesinger, Jr., wrote that if Rutherfurd “in any way helped Franklin Roosevelt sustain the frightful burdens of leadership in the second world war, the nation has good reason to be grateful to her.”

I can understand why Alan Barr and Jean Poulard, both in their mid-70s, still teach.  Barely five feet tall, Barr jokes that he still needs a soapbox.  I could never have been an administrator, sitting through seemingly endless meetings.  After a good teaching day, I’d often say to myself, “I earned my pay today.”  It never got boring.

Ray Smock wrote a blog about the $60 million Capitol dome restoration project entitled, “Restoring the Capitol Dome?  How about Restoring Representative Democracy?” Arguing for the need for historical context and analysis by Capitol Hill reporters and more civility by lawmakers, he wrote:
“There are no sandblasters, welders, painters, engineers, and architects who can fix a dysfunctional Congress trapped in hyper-partisanship and blinding ideology.  What has happened to Congress when threats of impeachment and government shutdown follow every major disagreement with the President?  This is not governance; it is warfare, with the U.S. Constitution and the American people, not partisan officeholders, as the ultimate victims.”

Smock referred to Poet Laureate Howard Nemerov.  In 1989 Ray was House Historian and asked Nemerov to write a poem commemorating the Congressional bicentennial.  It started out, “Here at the fulcrum of us all.”  A WW II pilot, Nemerov in 1977 wrote “The War in the Air.”  Here are its first and last verses:
“For a saving grace, we didn't see our dead,
Who rarely bothered coming home to die
But simply stayed away out there
In the clean war, the war in the air.
. . . .
That was the good war, the war we won
As if there was no death, for goodness's sake.
With the help of the losers we left out there
In the air, in the empty air.”
In an email Ray wrote:

“Meeting and getting to know Howard Nemerov was a highlight of my Hill experience. His is a great story and I love all his poems and I have all his books of poems in my library. The one you picked out is a gem coming from a young pilot who flew so many missions, first for the Royal Air Force, which had an American unit training in Canada before we got into the war, and then for the Army Air Force, as they called it then. His description of death in the air reminds me of Thomas Pynchon comment about war being so ‘absentee.’
Look back to that 1989 Congressional ceremony 26 years ago and the leaders who were WW2 Veterans. Jim Wright, decorated bombardier flying in B-24s in the Pacific; Bob Michael, decorated infantryman wounded at Normandy; Bob Dole, so badly wounded in fighting in Italy that they shot him full of morphine and left him in his own blood; Robert Byrd, no military service but a welder in Baltimore and shipyards in Florida building Liberty Ships;
           It was a different generation, a different time, and a different sense of public service. In 1989 the next generation was making its move, with an Army brat who never served in uniform, Newt Gingrich, hounding Jim Wright out of office, and then giving Tip O’Neill fits. Today Congress is populated with more non-veterans of any war, than at any time in our history.  I am not making a case for warriors as the best leaders. But I am saying that a commitment to serve the country in some capacity is a good start on Congressional service. You need some qualification more than plain hatred of government itself.”

David Mergl donated to the Archives a copy of the 2001 Times picture book “Northwest Indiana Oregionality: Sand, Steel, and Soul.” In the introduction Julia Versau wrote that a visitor to the “boomerang-shaped strip of land hugging Lake Michigan” between Chicago and Michigan City would see both “a scion of steel, its factory stacks blowing smoke rings into the sky” and “a Shangri-La of sand, each dune testimony to the region’s natural inheritance.”  The visitor, Versau continued, would, in all likelihood, “marvel at the juxtaposition: millions of grains of sand moments from the massive mills, the natural serenity of the place skin to skin with the gritty, manmade commotion of factories and machine shops.”


Catching my eye in “Oregionality” were photos of an Outlaws Motorcycle Club member and pugilist Angel Manfredy with daughter Celeste at Gary’s Police Athletic Club.  Manfredy fought four title bouts, called himself “El Diablo” (the devil), and entered the ring wearing a latex Satan mask.  After a cocaine-induced suicide attempt, Manfredy converted to Apostolic Pentacostalism.  His boxing skills subsequently deteriorated.

Thad Zale’s book about his Uncle Tony, done in collaboration with Clay Moyle, will be out by Christmas.  He describes it as about a young Polish steelworker who overcame his shyness to become a world boxing champion goes behind the scenes for a closer look at how difficult his life was outside the square circle. ‘Keep the kids off the street and in the ring’ was Tony's message.”  Some photos are from the Calumet Regional Archives.  Zale, born Anthony Florian Zaleski and nicknamed “Gary’s Man of Steel,” became world middleweight champ in 1940 but couldn’t cash in on his title for four years after Pearl Harbor due to a government ban on prizefights.  He went into the navy but refused to participate in exhibitions, claiming he only knew one way to fight – with everything he had.  Best known for a trio of bouts with Rocky Graziano, he originally was play himself in the movie “Somebody Up There Likes Me, ” (1956) but knocked out Paul Newman, playing Graziano, while sparring with him beforehand. James Dean was slated to play Graziano but died before filming.

Jerry Davich photographed St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church for his forthcoming book “Lost Gary.”    Built in 1935 near Fifteenth and Johnson, the original congregation was Carpatho-Rusyn.  Candace Alicastro recalled that her Macedonian grandmother crossed herself each time she passed the church.

I woke up in the middle of the night and turned on the SCORE.  Les Grobstein announced that Chicago State had won its first game of the season against Indiana Northwest (IUN), doubling up, 102-51, on their opponent, which he termed “a real cupcake.”  

Record low temperatures forced me to wear my winter coat prematurely; at least we have not been socked by lake effect snow like in South Bend, Grand Rapids, and the Buffalo area.  Alissa and Miranda had the day off when Grand Valley State closed down.

I bowled exactly my average and the Engineers took one game from All Mixed Up.  Chris Lugo’s son-in-law Charlie Jones said he attended the Portage girls basketball game at East Chicago the night before and enjoyed hearing Dave announce the game.  Charlie’s son is about ten, bowls Saturdays (like James) at Camelot, and better than I am. In a disastrous third game, featuring a plethora of splits and ten pins. Dick Maloney and I each had 80 in the seventh frame.  I disgustedly told Robbie, “We’re in a dogfight.”  We both marked the rest of the way and ended tied with 139s.

Juan Estrada, taking an online course on oral history from San Jose State, visited the Archives, checked out our collections, and interviewed me about how I got into oral history.  I described some of my research interests – immigrants, work experiences, Blacks and Latinos, the history of IUN, environmental causes – and ended by telling him about the importance of Anne Balay’s “Steel Closets.”

Anne sent this post: My not getting tenure was about a campus culture, yes, but it was triggered specifically by me teaching a book by Jacqueline Woodson to a Children's Lit class.  That some Jacqueline Woodson just won the National Book Award.”

I bought the $5.75 turkey meal Thursday at the Redhawk cafeteria and, because I turned done the macaroni and cornbread, received a mountain of mashed potatoes and gravy. Angie and the kids were over for a steak dinner, but I was too full to do more than pick at a few cucumber slices and consume a piece of French bread.  Obama went on TV to describe his executive actions regarding undocumented immigrants, infuriating Republicans even though Reagan and Bush took similar measures.   My attention turned to IU’s victory over No. 22 ranked SMU, coached by grizzled Larry Brown.  Hoosier freshman James Blackmon, Jr., a star (like his father before him) at Marion H.S., had 26 points.