Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Nineties Teen Culture

“If there's not a rebellious youth culture, there's no culture at all. It's absolutely essential. It is the future. This is what we're supposed to do as a species, is advance ideas.” John Lydon

Best known as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, John Lydon (above) grew up in a poor working-class London neighborhood.  He gave band mate John Simon Ritchie the nickname Sid Vicious after his parents’ pet hamster.  His own stemmed from his rotten teeth.  “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “God Save the Queen” are punk classics.  Sid’s heroin addiction led to the breakup of the Sex Pistols.  At the end of their abbreviated final concert in San Francisco in January 1978, Lydon shouted, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”  He subsequently formed Public Image Ltd (PIL) a band I saw at the Riviera in Chicago around 1991.  Lydon still fronts PIL, which reformed in 2009.

For Steve McShane’s class Allison Boudreau wrote about her cousin Lisa meeting Mike Dirnt of Green Day and Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins:
    “What a decade, the 90s rocked!” was the first words Lisa uttered when I asked if I could interview her.  Lisa was born in 1980 and an only child. Growing up, I admired her pierced tongue and crazy colored hair.  She was super cool.  Raised in unincorporated Valparaiso, she said, felt like living in the middle of nowhere.  She attended Morgan Township from kindergarten through twelfth grade.  There were 48 in her graduating class of 1998.  She felt as if she did not fit in. She dyed her hair burgundy in tenth grade, saying: “This was a pretty big deal because I was the first person in my entire school to dye their hair an un-normal color. I started to feel much more comfortable with who I wanted to be and not care what people might think.”
      Lisa described her handful of friends as uninterested in athletics or school activities.  They drove around to such hangouts as Inman’s bowling alley/arcade and Night Owl coffee shop. It was a time before cell phones.  Lisa recalled: “If you wanted to call your crush, you had to dial the house phone. If a parent answered, you’d have to ask if you could talk to him. So awkward. I usually wouldn’t go to parties due to so many drugs being done. Living in the country with limited places to do, there were a lot of drugs. Some of my best friends did drugs, but I was just never interested.  There was no peer pressure. For them, living in the middle of nowhere, they were bored and unmotivated. Music and writing and the internet gave me my own escape.”
Lisa (left) and friends
        Regarding fads and fashions, Lisa mentioned flannels and Doc Martin boots, JNCO jeans with huge wide legs, t-shirts with clever sayings, colorful plastic jewelry, short pixie hair, chokers, and eyeliner. Then, as the 90s progressed the punk-grunge, “raver/skater” style took over. Lisa and her friends had pagers.  She recalled: “If you got paged, you better find a pay phone quick!  Sometimes, you’d get the number with 911 at the end of it. This meant CALL ME NOW!”  Close friends gave themselves code numbers, like 77 to identify themselves to friends.  Lisa was pretty tech savvy in her day with her pager and 100 hours of America Online time.  Most of her friends didn’t have access to the Internet.  They’d ask her to print out song lyrics or celebrity pictures.  When you entered a chat room, people would ask A/S/L, which meant Age/Sex/Location. Lisa even constructed her own web page, but few people knew about it.  The idea of social media didn’t exist yet.
     Lisa idolized Green Day, whom she first saw on Dave Letterman in 1994. “I was painting my nails in my bedroom and happened to have the TV on. I thought Billie Joe Armstrong was perfection. I got their CD Dookie and all their old CDs.  I read every article I came across that mentioned them. 1995 came and they were performing in Chicago. I had never been to a concert, and my Mom said 15 was too young to go with just friends. That concert ended up being taped for MTV and aired repeatedly. It was bittersweet. I should’ve been there.  Jump to 1997 and several hundred more pictures of Billie Joe and Green Day on my bedroom wall.  They were playing the Riviera in Chicago!  This time I could go. None of us had our license, so my dad drove us in his van.  It was the best night ever. After the concert, we went by the back door where about 20 people were waiting. The security guards made us stay behind the ropes, but the door was right there. Eventually, Billie’s wife came out carrying their toddler son, followed by drummer TrĂ© Cool. Finally, the door opened and it was Billie Joe.  When he got near me, I held out my camera, and he paused long enough for me to snap a photo.  After Billie got on the bus, the security guard told us bass guitar player Mike Dirnt went out another door and that’s it. We left but then spotted a guy outside that I could tell was Dirnt.  I ran down the street and shouted, ‘Mike!’  He saw me coming and started laughing.  I started laughing and just kept running towards him. He gave me a hug as I ran into him. It was freezing outside, and he told me even his underwear was freezing. We took a pic, and I said thanks and told him bye. Meeting Billie Joe was the best thing ever for me, but getting to meet Mike with no one else around was a close second.”
above, Billie Joe Armstrong; below, Mike Dirnt; photos by Lisa

       Lisa attended Columbia College in Chicago to study sound engineering. She visited record stores, watched concerts and videos online, and attended concerts in Chicago. When two of her friends were home from Purdue on break, Lisa took them around Chicago. Lisa recalled: “We got lost on the way to Ed Debevics, ended up on a side street, and passed a parked black Mercedes.  The guy inside looked like Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins.  When I mentioned that to my friends, they convinced me to walk back and see.  The guy put his hand up and waved.  I said, kind of awkwardly, ‘Are you Billy Corgan?’ He said yeah and asked if we had any change for the parking meter.  I found some quarters and handed them to him. A guy he was with paid me back in dollars. He said they were headed to lunch at Houston’s and asked if we wanted to join them. Um, yes! Billy talked to the host, and we were seated right away at a corner table, away from people.  Lunch was so laid back, I almost forgot the guy was famous. We had a pretty normal conversation. He paid for our lunches and Evian water that came in big glass bottles. I saw his credit card, and it said ‘William Patrick Corgan.’ When we got up from the table to leave, people started swarming up to him, wanting to shake his hand or get an autograph. We walked back to his car and took some pictures with my disposable camera. We thanked him and said our goodbyes. Once we were a block or so away, we proceeded to scream like schoolgirls because there was no way anyone was going to believe what just happened.”
above, meeting Billy Corgan; below, Lisa in 1998
Like Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Billy Corgan is a huge Cubs fan and has sung “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch numerous times at Wrigley.  Smashing Pumpkins is best known for the 1995 album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” featuring the single “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.”

For an oral history assignment Justine Brasseur interviewed 1996 Portage graduate Jenise Johns Smith.   During her freshman year Jenise came down with a severe illness and missed school for an entire month.  Due to the lack of support and understanding from her teachers, Jenise decided to transfer to Portage Adult Education.  Her diploma is identical to what Portage High School students received.  There was no yearbook, however, no clubs, no sports teams, and most classmates were older.  Janise would hang out at pool halls in Hobart and Miller or in the Portage Kmart parking lot. Kids would bring their hopped-up cars.  From time to time police would order everyone to leave. As soon as the cops left, they’d come back!  When dance club call B and B opened, she recalled: “That was the place to be at that time. Teens came from all over. We went there every weekend, and it never got old. I even worked there in the coat check.  There were some awesome dancers and dance battles all night.  
Justine (left) and Stacy
One time, at B and B this huge guy got into a fight with a little punk k until the owner, who happened to be a Porter County police officer, broke it up by picking up the kid.  One of my best friends decided after a spat that she didn't want to be engaged anymore and threw the engagement ring at him in the dance hall, which was huge and dark. Several of us were crawling around floor searching for it. When the girl left, I didn’t know whether to go after her or keep looking for it. At the end of the night, we’d go to Shoneys for breakfast and to someone’s house (mine, more often than not) and stay the night. When B and B closed, everyone was devastated.”  There was a dance club at Camelot Bowl, but, in her words, “there were lots of fights there, and it was a much smaller area for dancing, so I didn't really go there too much.  If I did, I usually hung out right outside of the dance place, in the arcade, because it was really crazy inside.”

In the Post-Tribune Jeff Manes profiled 95-year-old Ruth “Babe” Poparad (above), who grew up on a dairy farm in Porter and still volunteers as a school crossing guard.  She told Manes:
              I remember when Cloverleaf Dairy out of Gary would pick up the eight-gallon cans of milk here.  My dad had 24 head of cattle and one bull. I was the only one of five girls who learned how to milk. My mother used to sew special gloves with one finger and a thumb so we could husk corn.
Dad helped build The Spa with horses pulling slip scrappers, but he wasn't allowed to go there once the job was complete because he wore bib overalls. The Spa was a ritzy place that would employ colored folks from Michigan City who would wear black bowties, white shirts and aprons.  During the Depression, we suffered with six kids. I remember eating lard and sugar sandwiches. I consider Franklin Delano Roosevelt a great president. He got us through hard times.
My father also worked for the state, but he was killed in 1936 while mowing along Highway 20. I was 13. He asked my mom that morning: ‘Edith, what if I don't come home today?’ She told him: ‘I'll live with the kid who treats me the best.’ You see, a man who was working two jobs fell asleep at the wheel and hit my father, breaking his neck. He was driving a physician's supply truck.  The state didn't pay my mother anything.

The 1990s were one of my favorite decades.  I was still playing softball and tennis and bowled a 615 series, now beyond my grasp, barring a miracle. Making teaching at IUN a special pleasure during that decade were A+ students Bob Petyko, Sara McColly, Dawn Smith, Sam Barnett, Brook Conaway, Tracy Hirsch, Mike Olszanski, Andy Wielgus, James Lining, and Walter “Pappy” White, a Vietnam vet who served, a generation later, in the Gulf War.
 Andrew Wielgus, a River Forest principal
Jeff Manes


I passed Manes on his way to speak with IUN botanist Spencer Cortwright. I told him how passionate Cortwright is about area flowering plants and that the interview should be a doozy, like Sunday’s feature on Alan Yngve.  At bridge Tuesday, someone told Yngve that he’s now a celebrity.  He liked what Manes wrote.  On the last hand of the evening my partner Dottie Hart bid put me in 4 Spades, and Alan doubled.  I had three certain losers and needed to set up either an extra Club or Heart.  By leading out all but one of my six Spades I forced Alan’s partner to choose between protecting either her winning Club or Heart.  When she discarded Hearts, my nine of proved to be good, and we garnered top board.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidents Day


“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”  George Washington

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt
 above, Allison Schuette; below, Elizabeth Wuerffel


At the Calumet Regional Archives Valparaiso University stalwarts Allison Schuette and Liz Wuerffel scanned Gary yearbooks to illustrate their Flight Paths project tracing the movement of Gary residents to the suburbs.  While the Northside schools of Horace Mann and Emerson quickly went from nearly all-white to predominantly black and Latino, the transformation of Lew Wallace in Glen Park was more gradual.  I suggested that they pay special attention to Froebel, the one desegregated school during the 1930s and 1940s.  I told them about the unsuccessful 1945 school strike by white students, mentioned in the recent Times supplement on Indiana history.  The article claims that both Frank Sinatra and Joe Louis participated in a Tolerance program at Memorial Auditorium, but the heavyweight champ couldn’t come due to other commitments.
 Jackson 5 mural; Genesis Towers in background (formerly Hotel Gary)

Knights of Columbus Building


Al Latrice wrote about plans for upcoming summer walking tours in downtown Gary for the website Curbed Chicago:
  Several of the buildings featured on the tour are currently abandoned but have become popular sites for photographers, specifically the urban explorer segment who often break into abandoned sites. Alex Koerner and Sam Salvesen, two AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers helping to spearhead the effort, say that the walking tour series will not only be a safer and legal way of seeing these buildings, but they hope that the tours will help start a dialogue about historic preservation and renew interest in Gary.
“We’re entering an age where Gary is witnessing a renaissance period. If Gary does well then the region does well,” Sam Salvesen tells us. “It’s a town that’s reflective of American history—to understand Gary is to understand urban America.”
Dr. Charles L. Seeger

Ron Cohen no longer comes to the IUN History office, so I pick up his mail.  Author Charles A. Miller sent him an article about folksinger Pete Seeger’s father entitled “Charles Seeger: Ethnomusicologist for America.”  While a New School faculty member in the mid-1930s, Charles Seeger persuaded the Rockefeller Foundation to sponsor over 200 scholars from Italy and Germany to attend “The University in Exile.”  In 1939 Eleanor Roosevelt asked Seeger to arrange a White House concert for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the first English monarchs to visit America. In Ron Cohen’s “Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934-1997” is an excerpt from a 1981 interview by Ralph Rinzler of folklorist Lomax:
       I heard about the concert when [artist] Adrian Dornbush and Charlie Seeger decided to have me because they couldn’t lay their hands on a cowboy singer. They knew I sang ballads that my father had collected, so they invited me to perform. Min the dressing room downstairs  I first met Lily Mae Ledford and her sister, who were among the Coon Creek Girls. I was anxiously trying to tune my guitar. I played my three chords, wondering where my voice was and sweating up a storm in my tuxedo. I was about 22 and felt about 15. Finally, we went on to perform. We were staggered on the stairs leading up to the East Ballroom so there would be no delay about getting us on and off the stage. I came on after Kate Smith, as I remember. She came on after the black spiritual group sang. You can imagine how terrified I was with my three chords. As I was singing, I looked at the King and Queen. They were so much better groomed and so much more perfectly turned out than all the Americans, so perfectly polished that you could really see an aura about them. Their toes were just barely touching the ground in the large American chairs. They were right up close to the edge of the stage. I don’t think I was ever more frightened in my whole life.
       Roosevelt was in the front row with his head cocked over, smiling and swinging in time to the music. Oh, yes, he loved that concert, he was having a ball. The Roosevelts towered over the King and Queen. They looked like little dolls compared to them. Even Roosevelt in his invalid’s chair was a huge man. This presence and the vitality that poured out of him made that concert, I think, one of his peak moments.


A contributor to funding a Horace Samuel Merrill seminar room and graduate student scholarship on behalf of my academic mentor, I received a letter from University of Maryland History Department chair Philip Soergel informing me that Lucien Holness is the most recent Merrill award recipient.  Soergel wrote:
  Lucien is examining debates among northern free blacks during the pre-war and war years concerning strategies for obtaining equal citizenship. Lucien is focusing in particular on the shifting place of military service in these debates; he is showing, for instance, how some free blacks enlisted in the hopes of obtaining full equality while others rejected service until they received treatment as equals. 
After Saturday bowling and chowing down at Round the Clock, Dave, James, and I learned a new dice rolling and card collecting board game, Maichi Koro.  One of its many virtues is its brevity: we finished three games in about an hour after Tom Wade explained the rules.  Here is a brief description from Pandasaurus Games:
  Welcome to the city of Machi Koro. You've just been elected Mayor. Congrats! Unfortunately, the citizens have some pretty big demands: jobs, a theme park, a couple of cheese factories and maybe even a radio tower. A tough proposition since the city currently consists of a wheat field, a bakery and a single die.  Armed only with your trusty die and a dream, you must grow Machi Koro into the largest city in the region. You will need to collect income from developments, build public works, and steal from your neighbors' coffers. Just make sure they aren't doing the same to you!

Prior to bridge at the condo, eight of us ate at Tau Chen in Chesterton.  I wisely went with one of the chef’s recommendations, Beef Satay Udon Noodle.  Also on the menu was Tsingtao beer, first time I’ve sampled the brew since my 1994 stay in Hong Kong and trip to China.  After losing a small slam when a finesse failed, I lucked out when Dick Hagelberg put us in six Spades.  We each had two losing Hearts, but thanks to a Club lead, I was able to rid my hand of the losers and took every trick.  Toni and I finished 1-2 after seven rounds of four hands, and, thanks to an early start, finished up with ice cream and chocolate cake by 9:15.

Post-Tribune columnist Jeff opened a splendid piece on my Tuesday Chesterton bridge director Alan Yngve with a quote by actor and bridge master Omar Sharif that could apply to Manes and Yngve alike: “I want to live every moment totally and intensely even when I’m giving an interview or talking to people, that’s all I’m thinking about.”  Yngve facilitates twice weekly duplicate bridge games at Calumet Township Multipurpose Center at Forty-First and Cleveland in Gary, where the interview took place.  Alan stated, “We have significant ethnic and economic diversity here.  Everybody’s welcome.  That’s my mantra.”  He stressed that bridge relies on communication.  Yngve lived in Tokyo, Japan, during his senior year at IU and Beirut, Lebanon, with wife Katherine, for four years.  He’s played bridge in many different situations, anecdotes Manes wished there’d been space to include.  As Jeff told me, the interview was a “doozy.”  Yngve was zeroed in.  Growing up in Chicago, he discussed how he ended up in Chesterton, where his mother still lives:
My parents built a house in Chesterton as a retirement house. I was there every summer and weekends. When I came back here to Northwest Indiana, it was extremely valuable to have lived here before because the people of Northwest Indiana have extremely high levels of hospitality. But there is a resistance to newcomers until they can connect somehow. The fact that I was familiar with the Dunes from childhood meant that I could fit in faster than if I was just some Joe Blow off the street.
Former Lake Central star Glenn Robinson III (above) won the NBA slam dunk contest.  According to the Associated Press, on his final attempt he jumped over the Pacers’ mascot, a cheerleader, and teammate Paul George before completing a reverse dunk for a perfect 50 points.
David Parnell, below
Historian David Parnell’s new book, “Justinian’s Men: Careers and Relationships of Byzantine Army Officers, 518-610,” contains this tribute to IU Northwest, which, in his words, “supported me with summer research funding several years in a row.  Without the dedication of the administrators and faculty to the teacher-scholar ideal, this book would have taken much longer to write.”  Well put. His IUN predecessors Rhiman Rotz and Jerry Pierce would be proud.  Both were teacher-scholars par excellence.
 above, Benjamin Harrison; below, Kennedys with Mayor Chacharis (from Calumet Regional Archives)


For Presidents Day, Post-Tribune reporter Nancy Coltun Webster wrote about Region visits by a dozen chief executives. During his presidency, Grover Cleveland hunted waterfowl in the Kankakee Marsh.  On a Kankakee River houseboat Hoosier Benjamin Harrison shot ducks. The article quoted me about both Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson campaigning in Gary in 1912, when the “Magic City” was barely six years old.  Museum curators Serena Sutliff and Meg Telligman told Webster that Wilson also made stops in Woodville Junction in Porter County and Pennsylvania Station in Valparaiso.  Candidates came most often during spring primaries, but two exceptions were Harry S. Truman in 1948 and Barack Obama in 2008.  When Jack Kennedy toured U.S. Steel in the spring of 1960, Gary mayor George Chacharis ordered that bottled water be served at a banquet in JFK’s honor because he was in the midst of a feud with Gary-Hobart Water Company. I witnessed was Jimmy Carter’s 1976 appearance at IU Northwest.  According to Roy Dominguez, who was a campus cop at the time, Carter came backstage after his speech so he could thank those who provided security and shake their hands.
 Barack Obama at Gary Roosevelt, April 2008


After elected Sheriff of Lake County, Roy Dominguez was one of 30,000 people at Wicker Park on Halloween, 2008, as his officers helped provide security for an appearance by Barack Obama. The Democratic Presidential candidate had visited the Region in April, speaking at Gary Roosevelt High School and stopping at Schoop’s in Portage. Dominguez and Senator Evan Bayh were in the Wicker Park clubhouse when Obama came in.  In his autobiography “Valor” Dominguez wrote:
    Obama was very genuine, engaging, and easygoing, as he thanked me for helping provide security.  After he posed for pictures with Senator Bayh and me, I asked him if he would autograph two rally tickets I had for the event.
    I said, “I have two of them because I have two daughters.”
    “Say no more,” he replied.  “I understand.  You can’t go home with just one.”
    As he started signing, he said, “What is your first daughter’s name?”
    “Veronica,” I told him.
    After he signed, “To Veronica. Best wishes, Barack Obama,” he repeated the process for Maria.