Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wallbangers

"Bring It on Home, Wallbanger," Alice Clayton
Harvey Kuenn, who managed the Milwaukee Brewers in 1982 (hence the American League champs’ nickname “Harvey’s Wallbangers”), was my favorite player when he played shortstop for the Detroit Tigers and I lived in Birmingham, Michigan during the mid-1950s. I can still recall Al Kaline (RF), Ray Boone (3B), Charlie “Paw Paw” Maxwell (LF), and former Phillies first baseman Earl Torgeson.  Future Philly Jim Bunning pitched for them, as did Virgil “Fire” Trucks, and “Yankee Killer” Frank Lary, whose record against the perennial powerhouse Yankees was 27-10 between 1955 and 1961. Even though those Tigers teams finished well over .500, they never remained in pennant contention by August and September. In 1956 Kuenn led the team with a .332 batting average, while a trio of wallbangers hit over 25 home runs, led by “Paw Paw” Maxwell with 28.
Charlie Maxwell at 2010 memorial dedication in Paw Paw, Michigan
A bartender named Donato “Duke” Antone claimed to be the inventor of the Harvey Wallbanger, a mixed drink that became popular in the 1970s and combines vodka, orange juice and Galliano liqueur that he named the drink for a surfer who was a regular at his establishment.  Antone made similar claims about other mixed drinks, so many are skeptical of his story.

Wallbanger has many meanings in addition to the vodka and orange juice drink.  In CB trucker lingo it refers to a drunk driver who has drifted into another lane.  It became a nickname for Quaaludes in the 1970s and, more recently, getting high by a breathing process of deliberately passing out.  It can also refer to having furtive sex against a wall or a couple being so raucous in bed that the headboard repeatedly bangs against the wall. The description also fits hardnosed natives of Harvey, Illinois, including comedian Tom Dreeson, singer Syleena Johnson, and numerous athletes, including baseball players Lou Boudreau and Garrett Jones and basketball players Kevin Duckworth, Eddy Curry, and Solomon Hill.
patriarch T.W. Harvey and family
scene from The Blues Brothers
Located south of Chicago, the city of Harvey was the brainchild of real estate developer Turlington W. Harvey, a close associate of Moody Bible Institute founder Dwight Moody.  He hoped to create a model town blending capitalism and Christianity, but by 1895, six years after the first residents bought homes there, residents voted to allow the sale and purchase of alcoholic beverages. Harvey grew rapidly during the affluent 1950s but now suffers from high levels of poverty and unemployment.  Current population is less than 25,000.  The car chase scene in The Blues Brothers (1980) took place in Harvey’s Dixie Square Mall that had closed the year before, revived by moviemakers for two days and then boarded up again.  During its mere 13-year existence the 800,000-square foot mall had become, according to the Daily Mail’s Joshua Gardner, “a hot bed of gang activity.”   By then, Harvey’s African-American population had reached 66 percent, and the number of abandoned homes escalated, as many residents who had received HUD loans could not afford to meet mortgage payments
Harvey native and former U.S. House of Representatives historian Ray Smock (above) wrote on Facebook: “It is beginning to look like there were more people in the Russian meeting with Donald Trump, Jr at Trump Tower than attended his father's inauguration, which, you will recall, was the largest inaugural crowd in history.” Jonathan Ganz replied: “I suspect that Mr. Trump not only knew about the meeting after the fact, but knew about it before hand, and perhaps he attended.”  Smock then joked: “Trump's lawyers told him to make this meeting an "arm's-length transaction." So, President Trump always stayed at least an arm's length away from the Russians in the room. This way he can tell the TRUTH when he says: ‘I had no contact with Russians at Don Jr's meeting.’ It all depends on what the meaning of ‘contact’ is.” Ray added:
When Trump is sent to prison, he will negotiate a nice federal facility next to an adjoining golf course, or, have a prison built on one of his existing courses. This we should allow. His punishment, which he will claim is cruel and unusual, will be that he must tell the Truth about his golf score. Perhaps after 8 to 10 years of being forced to tell the Truth, it will help rehabilitate him.
On a serious note, Ray wrote: “I prefer not to denigrate Trump voters as a group but I do think the vote for such a flawed human being was a mistake that the whole nation must try to fix, preferably without finger pointing. We are all in the same boat on this one.  Several years ago, Ray Smock tried unsuccessfully to preserve historical documents relating to Harvey that were located in a musty museum by moving them to a facility similar to IUN’s Calumet Regional Archives.

IUN student interviewed Jermaine Buchanan interviewed bridge player Jim Carson, who grew up in Harvey and attended the same high school as Smock:
      Jim Carson was born in Chicago and grew up in the village of Riverdale. Jim’s dad (James, Sr.) managed a Standard gas station in Hyde Park, and during the summer Jim would help him out, riding the train to and from the station.  During this time gas stations weren’t self-serve and it was hard work. A number of Chicago White Sox players stopped for gas, including Minnie Minoso, whom Jim got to recognize.  Jim’s father eventually got a new job working for Ford as an assembly line worker.  
Jim Ard
      At Thornton Township High School in Harvey, Illinois, Jim grew to be six feet, five inches tall.  During his junior year, he played on the 1966 state championship basketball team led by future NBA star Jim Ard.  Erma, Jim’s mother, was a substitute teacher at Thornton. When kids talked nasty about her, Jim sometimes got into fights.  At Thornton Junior College (now South Suburban Community College) Jim played both basketball and golf.   He went on to pursue a college degree in Mechanical Engineering and, after a number of years, an MBA from IU Northwest. During his career he worked at Ford, Pullman, and, the last 20 years, for U.S. Steel Inland doing environmental engineering to help the mills deal with damage to the environment.
      Taught by a friend of his mother, Jim started playing bridge at age 21.  Now Jim usually plays duplicate twice a week.  Games typically involve around 20-25 hands and last about three hours.  Jim explained that duplicate bridge is very much like golf because during the play there isn’t much talking - it is a thinking game. Partners come up with systems, he said, to establish communication.  He admitted that bridge can be very frustrating and very intense for someone as competitive as himself, especially when he has realized he made a bad decision. He usually plays with his wife Marcia, and he’s learning to keep his emotions in check and stay calm even when things aren’t going well.
      In addition to duplicate bridge, Jim and Marcia have a group of friends that for 27 years have been playing once a month. On a typical night, Jim would get out the blender to prepare Pina Coladas. Jim’s friends would tease him by claiming that he’s broken all their blenders. Jim has even been to weddings where they played bridge.  The couples vacation together and have played bridge all over the world and on ski trips.  One time going to Russia on a cruise ship, Jim and Marcia bid and made a Grand Slam taking all 13 tricks – a rarity.
      Jim and his family have lived all over the Calumet Region, including Hammond, Munster, and finally Valparaiso.  Retiring at age 65, he and Marcia have two sons, both college graduates, one living in Boston and the other in California.  They are successful and took his advice not to live beyond their means.

Anthony Zaragoza, a historian at Evergreen State College in Washington originally from Northwest Indiana is looking to do research on a project titled “Neoliberalism in the Neighborhood” and wants to meet with me.  He asked: “Are there faculty members or independent scholars there that you know of who are doing any research or teach about deindustrialization, economic transformation, or neoliberalism in the region, especially connected to the steel industry, casinos, gangs, drugs, prisons or policing.”  Rather than study all of the Region, I suggested he narrow the scope to a single community, such as blue-collar Black Oak, located on the far southwest side of Gary and adjoining Griffith and unincorporated Calumet Township.  Annexed by Gary in 1976, Black Oak is the city’s only majority-white neighborhood.  Many of its residents live in mobile homes. Like other surrounding communities, Black Oak has a high degree of poverty and unemployment, as well as environmental degradation due to illegal dumping and a former toxic waste dump closed in 1975. 
I recommended that Zaragoza read Joe Klein’s “Payback: Five Marines and Vietnam” (1984).   One of them, Gary Cooper from Black Oak, was killed by police in 1981 when he suffered a flashback and thought he was back in the field.  Klein first became interested in doing the book when he saw this newspaper headline: “Viet Vet Goes Berserk over Hostage Welcome.”  The truth was much more complex than that.  According to Klein, Copper’s girlfriend - Barbara had these thoughts upon learning that Gary was dead:

At least we wouldn’t have to stand in line anymore, waiting for job applications, waiting for the telephone to ring, waiting for his unemployment to run out, thinking about getting high again, always fighting that temptation, inevitably succumbing. Maybe – and she was horrified to realize that she was thinking this – maybe he was better off.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Baldy

Mount Baldy; photo by Jim Spicer
“I’m living by Lake Michigan’s quiet shores and iron quays,
near the broken glass of its waves
. . . these waters, so indifferent to youth
and cold to the green wishes of fathers.”
         William Buckley, “In the Difference of Waves”


In “To the Northwest Acreage” IUN emeritus professor of English Bill Buckley, who hates it when I just use a snippet from one of his poems, wrote this about Lake Michigan, which can be tranquil on some days and treacherous on others, or both in a matter of minutes. [note: the word purl means knit or embroider, while sloughing can mean shedding dead tissue or skin or cleansing]:
Puritan Lake, deadly-free,
you sit so calm in the bowl of Earth,
and purl your practical wave on granite quarries –
a tough and hard level-plane for ship and death,
and soughing play for pale-face kids . . .
 Mount Baldy; Post-Tribune photo by Kyle Telechan


It’s been four years since six-year-old Nathan Woessner was nearly killed on Mount Baldy, swallowed into an 11-foot hole caused by rotting oak trees buried under the sand.  The beach area has reopened, but the dune itself is off-limits to visitors except for supervised hikes led by park rangers. During the 1970s we’d take relatives to Mount Baldy when they visited from the Philadelphia area.  We’d climb the steep dune rather than take the steps because of the poison ivy, which park officials are reluctant to eradicate because it’s considered an indigenous rather than invasive plant.

In the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which commences a new season in September, Larry David frequently complained about discrimination against bald people.  In one episode, for instance, a waitress is super friendly with Jeff while ignoring Larry, and Jeff thinks Larry is being paranoid believing that the snub is due to his lack of hair.  When a doctor, unsettled by a word he heard Larry utter, mistakenly shaves off Jeff’s hair, however, suddenly people treat him like a pariah, including that same waitress.  The shaved head look has become increasingly popular, especially among black men, since Michael Jordon adopted it.  My father had a full head of hair but died at age 50; my brother has the beginning of a bald spot but (knock on wood) not me.
 bald man blowing smoke and tattoed man at carnival by Diane Arbus

An exhibit of Diane Arbus photographs recently opened at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (MOMA).  Arbus was known for portraitures of marginalized New Yorkers: transgendered, dwarfs, nudists, drag queens, circus performers, the disabled, and everyday people considered by some freakish. Two of her most famous photos are “Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park” (1962) and “A Young Man in Curlers at Home on West 20th Street” (1966).  Suffering bouts of severe depression throughout her life, Arbus committed suicide in 1971 at age 48, leaving a note that said simply, “Last Supper.”  She’s been called the Sylvia Plath of photographers.

Richard York called from Texas requesting a copy of my “Fifties” Steel Shavings (volume 23, 1994), “Relationships between the Sexes in the Calumet Region during the Teen Years of the 1950s.”  I refer to it as my R-rated issue because it has such sections as Passion Pit, Touching the Bases, Conquests, First Time, and Shotgun Wedding. I employ quotes about girls getting a bad reputation from John Updike’s “Rabbit Run,” Alice Kates Shulman’s “The War in the Back Seat,” and this from “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious:
She could not lie still under his hands.
“Anything,” she said.  “Anything.  Anything.”
“I love this fire in you.  I love it when you have to move.”
“Don’t stop.”
“Here?  And here?  And here?”
“Yes.  Oh, yes.  Yes.”
Richard York, a 1952 Gary Lew Wallace grad, is planning on attending his sixty-fifth reunion next month.  His sixtieth lasted from four to eight p.m. with no dancing; this year’s celebration is merely a luncheon.  Sigh.   A Quill and Blade yearbook notes that York went by the name Dick in 1952 and was class co-valedictorian as well in ROTC, on the track team, and a member of the National Honor Society.  For good measure, I also sent York volume 46 with Fifties celebrity Vivian Carter, whose WWCA evening radio show he remembered, on the cover.

Dee Van Bebber and I each picked up a master point for finishing third both on Tuesday evening (four tables: .40) and Wednesday at Valparaiso’s Banta Center (six tables: .60).  A new couple, John and Karen Fieldhouse, finished fourth in Chesterton and first in Valpo.   My most frustrating hand was when I overcalled west’s 1 no-trump by bidding two Clubs, despite holding just ten points, including the King, Queen, Jack, ten, spot of Clubs plus an outside Ace. Everybody passed, and Dee’s dummy contained just had 7 points and three little Clubs.  It looked like the best I could do was pull 7 tricks and go down one, but with a squeeze play, I made a ten of Diamond good for a plus-90 points.  Lo and behold, it was a low board because two other north-south couples had scores of plus-100 for setting their opponents.
 Gary, IN in March 1913; Broadway looking north at 5th Avenue


Bridge opponent Sharon Massey recognized my name as her son Tim’s former teacher and said that she grew up in Gary’s Brunswick neighborhood.  Sharon recalled that an article by Tim Massey entitled “Free Food and Drinks” appeared in my 1986 Steel Shavings (volume 12) on “Life in the Calumet Region during the Formative Years, 1900-1920.”  Massey wrote about political rallies in frontier Gary:
In 1908, Joseph A. Boyle moved to Gary from Pittsburgh with his wife Henrietta and 1-year-old son Joseph, Jr. Their first home was above a livery stable. In 1910 Joseph quit his job at Carnegie Steel and started Boyle’s Baggage Express, a transfer and storage business primarily involved with hauling freight from trains.
A close friend of Mayor Tom Knotts, Boyle was an active political worker whose chief responsibility was organizing Democratic rallies.  Many were held in Parker’s Pool Room and in saloons whose proprietors were paid to provide free food and drinks for those lured to the rallies.
      Tori Lane


My May 19, 2017, blog, entitled “Alpha Wolf,” has received a record (for me) 351 hits.  It deals with a Wyoming High School “Alpha Wolf” character and leadership award granddaughter Tori received.  Tori is spending the summer waitressing at the beach resort of South Haven, Michigan.  The blog also contains photos of bridge Newsletter editor Barb Walczak and a gathering of Upper Dublin classmates at Giuseppe’s in Ambler, PA, to greet Wayne Wylie, who’d recently been hospitalized.
Wayne and Fran Wylie
Neighbor Gina brought over cucumbers from her garden and also gave us two jars of pickles.  She introduced me to her son Tom, a Purdue Northwest grad who majored in History and spoke highly of professors Michael Connolly and Kenny Kincaid.  He has been reading books on the Vietnam War, so I gave him my Steel Shavings (volume 39, 2008) on “Vietnam Veterans from the Calumet Region.”

O.J. Simpson was granted parole, beginning in October after serving nine years for attempting to recover sports trophies, his penance for past crimes involving the deaths of ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.  At age 70 he appeared contrite, claimed that anger management classes and finding religion had made him a new man, and pledged to be a model citizen.  Kudos to the Nevada prison system for apparently rehabilitating him. Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times wrote; “No celebrity so big had been tried for a crime so severe, and a generation later, he stands as someone who unwittingly helped shape the modern news media and popular ideas about the law, police, race relations and Los Angeles, the city he once called home.

On the Titus Andronicus CD “Lamentable Tragedy” is a song called “Come On, Siobhán,” about an Irish Catholic girl who has suffered hurt.  Here’s one verse:
I crossed an ocean for
A pair of eyes in which I could be more
Than fodder for the factory floor
Come on, come on, Siobhán