Thursday, December 6, 2018
“Well now, I get low and I got high
And if I can’t either, I really try
Got the wings of heaven on my shoes
I’m a dancing man, and I just can’t lose.”
“Stayin’ Alive,” Bee Gees
While many ridicule the Bee Gees and disco music, I loved “Saturday Night Fever” and the soundtrack that includes the blazing Trammps number, “Disco Inferno.” “Stayin’ Alive” made Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest songs of all time at number 191, just ahead of Bob Dylan’s “Knock on Heaven’s Door” and behind AC/DC’s “”Back in Black.” Number one, appropriately, was Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” edging out “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones. In 1983 John Travolta again starred as Tony Manera, now an aspiring Broadway director, in the sequel “Staying Alive,” universally panned as slick and soulless.
In Jefferson Cowie’s “Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class” (2010) United Steelworkers of America district director for the Chicago-Northwest Indiana area Eddie Sadlowski (1938-2018) figures prominently. Cowie introduces “Oil can Eddie” (his nickname from when he was a machinist’s apprentice) as a rank and file leader “emerging from the ashen haze of South Chicago’s steel works” and quotes him as bragging, “There’s a fire in the steelworkers’ union, and I’m not going to piss on it.” Cowie traces his rise at age 25 to the presidency of Steel Works Local 65. In 1973 USW leaders angered the rank-and-file by entering an agreement with steel companies without consulting its 1.4 million members not to strike even after the expiration of contracts. Sadlowski defeated bureaucrat Sam Evert for district direct in 1974 by a two-to-one margin after the Labor Department nullified the previous year’s contest due to widespread fraud. That government agency refused to supervise Sadlowski’s 1977 bid to defeat Lloyd McBride for the USW presidency, however, and, in all the likelihood, the election was stolen from him. Cowie sees parallels between Steelworkers Fight Back and Miners for Democracy, whose leader Arnold Miller triumphed over the entrenched establishment after the brutal murder in 1969 of Joseph “Jock” Yablonski and his family on orders from corrupt United Mine Workers president Tony Boyle.
Jock Yablonski visiting coal mine
Former steelworker Mike Olszanki told me that Jim Balanoff, Sadlowski’s successor as district director, recruited him to join his caucus and campaign for Sadlowski in 1977.Oz and I took Eddie with us to Youngstown for a Labor Studies conference after publishing our “Steelworkers Fight Back” Shavingsissue with him and Balanoff on the cover. Although Cowie failed to cite our magazine, he consulted an impressive array of sources, including Philip W. Nyden’s “Steelworkers Rank-and-File” (1984) and such Seventies articles as Joe Klein, “Old Fashioned Hero of the Working Class” (Rolling Stone),Judith Colburn, “Ed Sadlowski Strides Toward Bethlehem” (Village Voice), and Stephen Singular, “Man of Steel” (New York Times). As Studs Terkel once said, “When you think of Chicago and labor, you think of someone like Eddie.” During the 1977 campaign Sadlowski accused the union hierarchy not so much of being corrupt as “soft, pompous, dull, a bit lazy, and distant from the membership.” He went on to say, “There’s no room in the union for bodyguards and limousines. And the staff guys, once they go from drinking beer and lugging lunch buckets to carrying briefcases, they forget where they came from.”
In theJeopardy category “Olympic City Landmarks” no contestant knew that Ebenezer Baptist Church was in Atlanta. I identified a Herman Hesse quote from “Siddartha” thanks to James. With the final category being “Names in American History,” the question asked what family won a $16 million judgement from the federal government for 30 seconds of film. Obviously it was footage of JFK’s being shot in Dallas. I would have written down Zagruder, not Zapruder. Even though misspellings are allowed, I doubt my answer would have been acceptable.
IUN’s Samantha Gauer burned a copy of Art Houle reciting Martin Luther King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail Cell” in 2010 with City Lights Orchestra for the Archives after City Lights Foundation founder Rich Daniels graciously granted permission to reproduce the “Voices of Freedom album project”on a CD. I vividly recall the profound effect King’s “Letter” had on me and the nation, enunciating a philosophy morally superior to his adversaries.
At bowling get well or sympathy cards often get passed around for ailing or deceased bowlers, but this week the only announcement was belated birthday wishes. I rolled a 513 series, my best of the year. After splitting the first two games, Frank Vitalone, the final bowler on Frank’s gang, needed to pick up a ten-pin for the win. Calm and cool, he did. Adjacent to us, Lonnie Cotner, carrying 1 161 average, threw seven strikes in a row. Frank’s teammate Mike reed demanded a urine test, and Frank took a plastic cup over to him. Vitalone handles a highest-game-with -average pot and, using the microphone, announced his own name, followed by “Nice game, Frank.”
The New York Times sought my help concerning an 88-year-old woman who gave birth in a Gary hospital to a daughter in 1949 when unmarried and 19 but was told she had died. Instead, the baby was put up for adoption, and just recently the two learned about one another. I was able to tell the reporter about Mercy and Methodist hospitals being in existence then and the names and addresses of the two Gary families with the 88-year-old’s maiden name. The burning question is whether the 19-year-old’s parents were in on the adoption decision or if somehow the hospital and adoption agency pulled off some sort of nefarious scheme.
Monday, December 3, 2018
“I make my living off the evening news“Dirty Laundry,” Don Henley
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry.”
Just give me something-something I can use
People love it when you lose,
They love dirty laundry.”
Dave’s “Best of 2017” CD compilation contains “Dirty Laundry” by All Time Low, rockers from Towson, Maryland. The lyrics aren’t nearly as interesting as the song of the same name by Don Henley, who once said, “We all know that crap is king, give us dirty laundry.” Dirty Laundry is also a brand of shoes, boots, and sneakers advertised as “not so dirty that mom wouldn’t want a pair for herself.” The phrase “airing your dirty laundry”means being candid, spilling your guts in confidence to a trusted friend. It also refers to deep, dark secrets people hope won’t come to light. Gary’s dirty laundry includes U.S. Steel Corporation’s desecration of the lakefront environment – air, land, water - as well as other industrial eyesores, such as the Ninth Avenue Dump waste disposal area, now a Superfund site, one of several in the Region awaiting more than cursory federal attention. It’s shameful that the polluters weren’t required to clean up the messes they made.
Years ago, while Dave lived with us, he’d accumulate more dirty laundry than Toni and I combined. Because he didn’t hardly sweat, many items weren’t soiled. It wasn’t uncommon for him to discard a pair of pants daily, plus sweats if he’d exercised or played sports that day. If I only had a half-load, I’d grab some of his clothes, sometimes folding pants as if I’d cleaned them. Toni and I moved to the condo on the condition that I’d do the laundry, so she wouldn’t have to make extra basement trips.
The night before our “Gary: A Pictorial History” book signing at Gary Public Library Ron Cohen told me there’d be a formal program, so I came prepared to thank the City of Gary (in particular Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt) and Legacy Foundation for their financial support as well as Donning Company for their expertise in preparing the new chapter. “Looking Ahead, 2004-2018” contains an introduction and 15 pages of color photos. After crediting Ron for suggesting a third edition, I emphasized that, while the book does not ignore problems facing Gary, we wished to rebut the stereotype of a virtual ghost town and emphasize, not abandoned buildings – schools, churches, hospitals, movie theaters, and the like – once central to civic life, but rather the vibrancy and diversity of its people. Subjects range from school and church activities to steelworker rallies and protests over efforts to construct an immigration detention center near Gary airport. The chapter opens with a photo of Omri Amrany’s centennial sculpture “The Fusion” and closes with Corey Hagelberg’s woodcut “We All Share the Same Roots.”
"The Fusion" (2016)
Attending were colleague James Wallace and friends Mike Olszanski, John Attinasi, and Gloria Biondi, whose Region humor is reminiscent of late husband Clark. I spotted her as she was descending the steps. “I’m leaving, it looks like it’ll be boring,”she joked. Library board member Robert Buggs, once a fixture at IUN’s labor Studies office, was pleased to see Oz. Dawn Darceneaux, a 1960 Froebel grad and former executive secretary to U.S. Steel public relations officer Tom Farrell, whom I hadn’t seen in 45 years, was delighted to discover that I had written about her in my latest Shavings, which I was giving away to those purchasing the pictorial history. She was quoted extensively in an article about Richard Hatcher’s first year in office 50 years ago.
|Magnum Jamal at 4 Brothers Market|
On the way back to IUN I stopped at Four Brothers Grocery at 1139 East 21st Avenue and gave the pictorial history to co-owner Magnum Jamal, pictured in the book. With the recent phasing out of the Frank Delaney housing project, I feared it might be closed after serving the community for over 30 years, but no need to worry yet. Then I took one to Sharon Gardner in IUN’s Bursar’s office. Sharon’s husband, Pastor Dwight Gardner, is pictured (below) celebrating the sesquicentennial anniversary of Lincoln’s Emancipation on January 2, 2013 at Trinity Baptist Church.Anne Balay’s “Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers” has alternating chapters titled “Rolling” and “Stopping” containing colorful subtitles such as “Drag and Fly” and “The Pickle Park.” In the acknowledgements Anne wrote: “Jimbo Lane inspired my first book, and when I didn’t get tenure he fought for me fiercely, paying a high price for his advocacy and earning my undying love.” She interviewed many of the 66 “narrators” at Gary truck stops and described them colorfully in an appendix. Here’s what she wrote about Marilu Fanning, whom I’ve met for lunch and when Anne made a triumphant return to IUN as a guest speaker:
Marilu is the most beautiful, hottest tranny around. She has been trucking all her life and transitioned while in the business. She is big and bold and fun as hell. She displays lots of cleavage, drinks double Stoli with a Coors Light chaser, and loves to sing karaoke, which she does in her deep voice. Nothing is sexier. We met initially in Gary, Indiana.
At Hobart Lanes the Electrical Engineers won two games and series against Pin Hungry Fire Ball, a team that included Delia’s Uncle Phil Vera, Angel Menendez, and Jaime Delgado, who always wears Gary firefighter t-shirts. My 440 series included a half-dozen splits and no doubles. Horace Mann grad Dennis Cavanaugh on the next lane has an expressive wink that can denote hello, nice shot, or tough luck.
Neither “Green Book” or “The Old Man and the Gun” with Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek has come to the Cinemark in Valpo. I was the only patron for “Front Runner,” about the destruction of Gary Hart’s campaign to win the 1988 Democratic Presidential nomination after unethical Miami Heraldreporters staked out his townhouse and discovered that he entertained a woman not his wife. The resulting press frenzy to dig up more dirty laundry about Hart’s past that made further campaigning impossible. This invasion of Hart’s privacy marked a turning point in the coverage of politicians by a press that had ignored marital infidelities of FDR, Ike (during wartime), JFK, LBJ, Ronald Reagan, and the 1988 Republican nominee George H.W. Bush, rumored to have a mistress. The talented, charismatic Colorado Senator would have had a much better chance against Bush than dour Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, the eventual Democratic nominee. Bush 41, who passed away over the weekend, was an honorable man, war hero, and patriot who deserves praise for his civility and bipartisanship. He was extremely competitive, not above employing campaign dirty tricks, and not without character flaws. In his nineties, he allegedly liked to grab nurses’ asses affectionately (?!!!) but got a pass from the media due to his age and status.
George W. Bush declared his father to have been America’s best one-term president. I disagree. Both John Adams and John Quincy Adams (our other father and son combination) were superior, as was, I believe, Jimmy Carter. He probably was our best Republican one-term president, comparing favorably to the likes of Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft, and Herbert Hoover. Here’s a tribute to the elder Bush by Ray Smock:
My tenure as Historian of the House of Representatives included the years George H.W. Bush was president. I had no personal dealings with him, but I was able to observe him on ceremonial occasions at the Capitol, during his State of the Union addresses and other times when he spoke to Congress. I met George Bush once and spoke to him briefly at an outdoor oyster bar in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1980, when he was campaigning for president for the first time. He lost in the primaries to Ronald Reagan, and then Reagan selected him as his running mate.
The extensive journal I kept during the years I served in the House is filled with numerous references to him, especially in relation to the first Gulf War.
What follows is a brief excerpt from my journal entry for June 27, 1991, when the President and Mrs. Bush had a grand time in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Today, President Bush will lie in state in that Rotunda, and I will be remembering him as I saw him there more than 27 years ago.
At 2:30 I went over to the Rotunda for the unveiling of the vice-presidential bust of George Bush. The Senate commissions busts of the vice presidents since they serve as Presidents of the Senate. The marble busts are situated in the halls around the Senate chamber. I attended the ceremony for Jerry Ford's bust a few years ago and chatted with President Ford on that occasion.
But this was the first time a sitting president was able to unveil his own bust. The Rotunda was full of spectators and the press. A military band played a medley of tunes before the ceremony started. The leaders of the House and Senate were all there on the platform, along with the 90-year-old sculptor, Walker Hancock. Senators Ted Stevens and Wendell Ford spoke, and the Architect of the Capitol, George White, was master of ceremonies.
The President and Mrs. Bush seemed to thoroughly enjoy the ceremony. They were all smiles and relaxed and cheerful. Mrs. Bush seemed to enjoy the surroundings and I noticed several times that she leaned her head back from her seat to gaze upwards, taking in the magnificent dome and the Apotheosis of Washington painting in the center of the ceiling, 180-feet above her. The President was in a jocular mood and he set the tone for the whole event. It was lighthearted and friendly. The President said the press would probably say “President Gets Busted in Capitol,” or words to that effect. Then he said this was a rare treat to be at such and unveiling “when I'm not even dead yet.”Everyone had a good time and the whole ceremony was over in a half hour.
Driving James to bowling, we discussed German-born Hermann Hesse’s “Siddartha,” set in India, which he read in advanced English. According to a recent article in the New Yorker, Hesse (1877-1962) had a difficult upbringing and rebelled against his parents’ strict pietist teachings. He took solace in Eastern religion and sought to withdraw from his country’s tumultuous politics. Most of his books, including “Steppenwolf,” “Narcissus and Goldmund,” “Siddartha,” deal with young people searching for self-knowledge and spirituality.
I finished the “Ten Strikes” labor history by Erik Loomis, which ended with a chapter on the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Justice for Janitors fight and its leader, John Sweeney, in 1995 becoming president of the AFL-CIO. I watched the first episodes of the HBO series “My Brilliant Friend” about two girls coming to maturity in postwar Italy (with subtitles, a TV rarity). The men were almost without exception insufferable, but several had the ability to keep cigarettes in their mouth while working, an impressive feat. On the other hand, I was disappointed in the Lena-Dunham-created series “Camping.” For one thing, the men are puerile and pathetic. More interesting are two teens who end up in a lesbian relationship and the 200-pound bulldagger camp manager Harry (Bridget Everett) who ends up with New Age hippie Jandice (Juliette Lewis). Earlier, Harry was watching “Body Heat” with Kathryn and Walt’s son and this exchange occurred:
Harry: Nudity is natural, it’s beautiful.
Kid: Can I see your boobs?
Harry: Not a fucking chance dot com, little man.
This surprisingly hilarious husband-and-wife exchange occurred when the main characters were high on drugs:
Kathryn (Jennifer Garner): Did you know chickens die after sex?Walt (David Tennant): The one I fucked did.
Forced to play backup QB Chase Daniel in place of Mitch Trubisky, the Bears lost to the lowly Giants. On the second play from scrimmage Daniel tossed a pass into the arms of a defensive lineman for an easy pick six. Another interception would follow. Fortunately, all other Bears’ rivals lost, including Green Bay to lowly Arizona, costing Coach Mike McCarthy his job. Thanks to Eagles QB Carson Wentz and tight end Zach Ertz, I finished the regular Fantasy season 8-5, tied for first with nephew Bobby and thus earning a bye in the playoffs.
St. Timothy vesper service by Billy Foster, top, right
After my bi-monthly haircut, I picked up an Imagine Dragons CD at Chesterton library ( Dave included “Thunder” by the Las Vegas rockers in his “Best of 2017” CD) along with Anne Tyler’s “Vinegar Girl,” subtitled “The Taming of the Shrew Retold” and set in Baltimore. I have already read it but every so often get a yen to reread one of Tyler’s novels for their deft character studies. “Vinegar Girl” begins, “Kate Battista was gardening out back when she heard the telephone ring in the kitchen.” It was her controlling father, a Johns Hopkins research professor. Here are the book’s final words:
Pyotr rose to his feet and placed an arm around Kate’s shoulders. He smiled into her eyes and said, “Kiss me, Katya.
And she did.Chesterton library had the new issue of Traces with Hoosier Hot Shots on the cover. One guy was playing a washboard. Active for almost 50 years beginning in the 1930s, the Hoosier Hot Shots performed novelty songs (i.e., “From the Indies to the Andes in His Undies,” “I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones”) and country favorites on radio shows such as “National Barn Dance” and appeared in several forgettable B-movies. Guest editor James Madison noted that Traces did not just focus on “great white men” during its 30 years in print and, citing my articles on Reverend L.K. Jackson and Women of Steel, its coverage of African-American and women’s history.
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
“Each major strike forces the state to decide whether it represents workers or employers.” Erik Loomis
West Virginia teachers strike in 2018
“A History of America in Ten Strikes” by Erik Loomis contends that labor strife has been a constant of capitalism, yet it receives scant attention (“a footnote at best”) in accounts of recent American history or public discussion. The book opens with an account of the successful February 2018 West Virginia direct action involving 34,000 teachers who were defying the law in a right-to-work state due to their dire conditions on account of actions by Republican officeholders who drastically underfunded public schools while supporting corporate tax breaks and for-profit, privately-run, nonunion charter schools. One placard read, “Will Work for Insurance,” a take-off on indigents who advertise, “Will Work for Food.” Loomis argues that both political action and union vigilance, including, if necessary, the use of strikes, are vital or order to combat employers and, too often, their governmental allies. In the chapter “Take Back Power,” he concluded that true freedom cannot come without “economic emancipation” and offers this bleak assessment of our uncertain times:
We live in what I call the New Gilded Age. Today, we are recreating the terrible income inequality and economic divides that dominated the late-nineteenth century and created the violent responses that included the Haymarket bombings and the assassin of President William McKinley. Once again, we have a society where our politicians engage in open corruption, where unregulated corporate capitalism leads to boom-and-bust economies that devastate working people, where the Supreme Court limits legislation and regulations meant to create a more equal society, and where unions are barely tolerated. Life has become more unpleasant and difficult for most Americans in our lifetime.
Oakland workers strike in 1946
I was familiar with most conflicts Loomis analyzed, including the tragic 1981 Air Traffic Controllers work stoppage but not the 1946 Oakland (CA) General Strike. The latter commenced when at Kahn’s department store clerks struck for tolerable working conditions and a living wage. After local police used strong-arm tactics against the women, over 100,000 AFL-affiliated workers walked off the job in sympathy. Several days later, with the Oakland Tribunered-baiting rank-and-file leaders, corrupt Teamster boss Dave Beck ordered members back to work. Faint-of-heart AFL International leaders accepted a compromise that did not address the retail clerks’ grievances nor gain prior approval from local leaders. The Kahn employees kept up the battle for five more months before capitulating with most demands unmet.
Loomis titles his chapter on the 1972 Lordstown wildcat strike at a G.M. Chevy Vega plant near Youngstown, Ohio, “Workers in a Rebellious Age.” The civil rights and antiwar movements had divided labor’s ranks generationally, and the primarily young automakers at Lordstown, concerned with dignity issues and hating being mere cogs on assembly lines, wanted more, according to J.D. Smith, treasurer of the UAW local, “than just a job for 30 years.” After plant managers introduced a speed-up (requiring 8 separate operations in 36 seconds) and compulsory overtime, rank-and-file workers responded with various forms of sabotage and, in defiance of union leaders, a wildcat strike that lasted 18 days. UAW honchos stepped in and eventually negotiated a settlement that contained sparse gains for those on the shop floor, and in the years ahead autoworkers would fight rear-guard actions simply to hold on to their jobs. Loomis wrote:
The Lordstown factory stayed open, but the UAW started giving back their hard-won gains in wages and benefits in contracts by the early 1980s in order to incentivize GM and other auto companies to stay in the United States. Despite this, hundreds of auto and auto-supple plants have closed in the past 40 years.
Loomis links Lordstown to democracy movements that erupted in the steelworkers and mineworkers unions that enjoyed temporary but not long-lasting success. He mentions Eddie Sadlowski’s unsuccessful 1977 bid to become President of the United Steelworkers of America and frequently cites Jefferson Cowie’s “Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class” (2010).
NWI Times photos of 2015 steelworkers rally by John J. Watkins
“Getting into the streets to stand up for our rights,”Loomis wrote,“must play a central role in labor struggles.”In the third edition of “Gary: A Pictorial History” a page is devoted to a 2015 steelworkers rally outside city hall, when some 3,000 ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel union members and their supporters, many carrying signs reading “FAIR CONTRACT NOW,” were opposing proposed cutbacks to their health insurance. Addressing the crowd were Mayors Karen Freeman-Wilson, James Snyder (Portage), and Brian Snedecor (Hobert). After prolonged negotiations, a new contract was approved that included no pay raises nor coverage of health cost increases, especially hard-hit were retirees. Local 1010 President Tom Hargrove commented: “We were bargaining in some real bad times for steel.”
Thanksgiving photos by Miranda and Angie
Our Thanksgiving dinner at the condo took place on Friday with 20 people in attendance, including good friends Charlie Halberstadt and Naomi Goodman. Pregnant Tamiya Towns, Dave’s former student, who calls me Poppa Lane, told them that she planned on naming her baby Charley should it be a girl or Charles (after the father) if a boy. Phil, Dave, Josh, and I had several lively euchre games; the evening was devoted to Werewolf, which an unlimited number can play. By days end there was hardly any turkey left but enough ham for a few lunches. I’m glad the downstairs fridge was stocked with Yuengling lager.
Over the long weekend I watched numerous NFL games. The Bears won despite missing starting QB Mitch Trubisky, and the Eagles barely beat the lowly Giants. Without injured QB Alex Smith Washington bowed to the hated Dallas Cowboys, whose wide receiver Amari Cooper nonetheless earned me 30 Fantasy points thanks to a 90-yard TD reception, enough to knock Dave out of the playoffs. Near the end zone Cooper nearly went out of bounds. During the review I was hoping the TD counted. Thanks to spectacular late games by running backs Dalvin Cook and Lamar Miller, I had the most points of all 8 teams - and that was with Todd Gurley on a bye week. The evening news covered recreational marijuana now being available in additional states, emphasizing the long lines that ensued. Evidently, juiced up gummy bears are an extremely popular item. Hard to believe the penalties once imposed for pot possession. Some are still paying the price.
abandoned Masonic Temple in Hammond by Kyle Telechan
Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club members
Some 297 emails awaited me at IUN. Most were unimportant, but John Attinasi reported that horn player Art Hoyle, 89, enjoyed our interview and had additional anecdotes about performing in the segregated South. Times columnist Joseph Pete sought to speak with me about a proposed book about Hammond “Haunts.” I advised visiting the Archives. If so, I’ll show him Lance Trusty’s pictorial history and other sources, including the “Urban Legends” exhibit booklet that contains a photo by Larry Mickow of the abandoned Masonic Temple. VU History prof Heath Carter wants to have lunch with Ron Cohen and me in December. He was recently in the news for protesting the use of Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club members as Salvation Army bell ringers because some wore “Aryan” patches. In response to the furor, the charitable organization deemed that the Hell’s Angels violated their dress code and would no longer be soliciting donations although I don’t doubt they were effective at it.
Barb Walczak’s bridge Newsletterwelcomed two newcomers, VA doc Ram Prasad and retired William and Mary prof Dick Flood. The feature is a reminder that our ranks are being replenished as more Baby Boomers become seniors.