Monday, August 31, 2009

A Week in the Life of a retired Prof

Today is the first day of IU Northwest's fall semester. Two years ago, having just retired, it felt strange not to be in the classroom, but in the meantime I've found things to keep me busy, including serving on the promotion and tenure committee for History colleague Jerry Pierce. Thus, over the weekend I read articles of his dealing with Heresy in thirteenth-century Italy. I spent most of the week transcribing a three-hour interview I did with Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez for a book we're doing together.

My replacement, modern American History professor Nicole Anslover, starts today. I talked to her at a reception for new faculty last week about a course she's teaching on the 1960s and offered to give her some books I kept from when I taught the course. She's using two good books, Isserman and Kazin's "America Divided" and Bloom and Breines' "Takin' It to the Street," a reader. At the recption was A & S Dean Mark Hoyer, a fellow U. of Maryland grad, only when I was getting my PhD in 1970 he was in elementary school nearby. Both the university and his school were located near Route 1, and when students went into the street after Nixon's invasion of Cambodia, state troopers chased them with tear gas and clubs. Mark said the smell of the tear gas permeated his classroom. Rick Hug brought his daughter LeeAnn, who had my Fifties class, to the reception. During the 15-minute break I would play Rock 'n' Roll songs using a boom box.

Bowling started last Wednesday. I rolled a 515 and the Electrical Engineers (my team) won two out of three games. The league, called "Sheet and Tin," goes back more than a half-century when the teams were U.S. Steel employees. Our captain, Bill Batalis, is over 80 years old and was on the team during the 1950s. Most of the other guys, being engineers, are big Purdue fans. They tell me that back in the early 1970s they won the league championship two or three times in a row and adopted Tricky Dick Nixon's 1972 slogan "Four more years."

My wife Toni has been working on photo albums of our family trip east that included visits to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (especially loved the punk rock exhibit) and Niagara Falls (learned that the first successful person to go over the Falls was a 62 year-old woman).

Thursday Jeff Manes interviewed me for his Sunday Post-Tribune "Salts" column in connection with my forthcoming Steel Shavings issue subtitled "Out to pasture but Still Kickin': A retirement Journal, 2007-2008." yes, it's all about me. Actually it covers numerous momentous events, from the historic election and the Phillies winning the World Series to personal doings and the deaths of Studs Terkel and David Halberstam, two tireless heroes of mine who combined impeccible scholarship with a style that reached vast audiences.

Friday I talked to two of Steve McShane's "Senior College" classes on Calumet Region history. The folks were attentive and had lots of questions. They appreciated the free copies I gave them of my Postwar issue "Age of Anxiety," featuring the "Jail Diary" of Red Scare political prisoner Kathryn Hyndman, and many of them bought my "Gary's First Hundred Year's" centennial issue at the bargain price ("today only," I said) of five dollars. I did a special reading of an excerpt called "Ides of March, 2003: A day in the Life of a City and Some of its People." I had some of them read lines taken from student journals. 95 year-old Bruce Ayers, son of Miller realtor Gene Ayers, was a volunteer and did a great job. My favorite paragraph is about "B.W.," whose ambition was to become a rap star. His journal mentioned cruising around in a Pontiac 6000 listening to 50 Cent's "In Da Club." He especially liked the track "High All the Time." B.W. wrote of being at a Gary service station when a crackhead begged him for ten dollars for gas. His journal entry read: "He didn't even have a car. Then he offered to pump my gas, which pissed me off. I stopped into a barbershop and witnessed a cop jump out of a squad car and chase someone. The barbers and I hoped the manwould get away." Before bed B.W. wrote some raps in his notebook. In one class a fellow named Armando did B.W. with a Latin accent. There were just two men in that class so I asked for women volunteers with deep voices.

Went to see Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" on Saturday. Some critics panned it for not having concert footage, but I thought it was great. In part it deal with the coming out of a gay guy - almost like the follow-up to Lee's "Brokeback Mountain." There's a simulation of a LSD trip that is extraordinary. Toni wouldn't like the fact that the heavy is the main character's Jewish mother, but the actress deserves an Academy Award. Eugene Levy plays Max Yasgur, the dairy farmer where the concert was held, and Emile Hirsch, so good in "Into the Wild" and "Milk" is great as a troubled young Vietnam vet. Getting to the theater early I sat in on 15 minutes of the Quentin Tarentino "Inglourious Basterds" flick. People in a bar were playing a game where there's a card placed on their foreheads and they try to guess the famous name. The scene ended very violently.

Brought former colleague Paul Kern up to date on campus doings. Looks like the administration is forcing the History Department to combine with Political Science. Sent Paul a review I did of "Tycoon's War" and he fortunately caught two mistakes, a date (1856, not 1956) and a place (Nashville, not Memphis). Here's the review (corrected version) itself:

In order to protect his profitable Nicaraguan steamship line, Accessory Transit Company, which took passengers to and from California through Central America, as well as to exact revenge on one who double-crossed him, America’s most powerful businessman successfully plotted to thwart the grandiose plans of infamous filibuster William Walker.
Self-made magnate Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt had borrowed money from his mother at age 16 for a boat to ferry people and freight between Manhattan and Staten Island. His future adversary, a University of Nashville grad at age 14, worked as a doctor, lawyer, and newspaperman before seeking glory as an empire builder. Failing to conquer Baja California, Walker set his sights on Nicaragua. After an implausible series of political maneuvers and battlefield victories, despite his forces seeming to be hopelessly outnumbered, he became President in 1856 and foolishly allied himself with Vanderbilt rivals Charles Morgan and Cornelius Garrison.
The pro-Southern Franklin Pierce administration established diplomatic relations with Walker’s regime, and pro-slavery expansionists supported his quixotic ambitions with money and mercenaries. The “grey-eyed man of destiny,” motivated by a desire to emulate his heroes Julius Caesar and Sam Houston, kindled anti-American sentiments among Central American nationalists. In spite of his considerable leadership abilities, Walker’s efforts were doomed (one chapter, appropriately, is titled “Battles on all Fronts”). Arrayed against this “Yankee Imperialist,” in addition to the Commodore, were Great Britain, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and most Nicaraguans. A comeback attempt ended in 1860 with Walker executed by a Honduran firing squad. Penny-pinching Vanderbilt bankrolled a fledgling college in Nashville on condition that it bear his name. The donation proved the death-knell for Walker’s alma mater. Fitting revenge. As the transportation mogul once said, “What do I care about law? Ain’t I got the power?” Highly recommended.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Sixties, Wonder Years

Calumet Regional Archives volunteer Maurice Yancy came across his name and photo in my Sixties Steel Shavings (volume 25, 1996, subtitled "Social Trends and Racial Tensions"). On the inside of the front cover with the editor's note is a photo taken by Ray Smock showing me attending the 1967 March on the Pentagon with Professor Louis harlan and fellow grad students Pete Daniel and David Goldfield. I mentioned that the decade easily lends itself to stereotypes either in the form of Sixtophilia ("those were the days") or Sixtophobia ("there went standards"). As traumatic as that time was, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

Whenever I came to the Sixties in my survey American History course, I'd pass volume 25 around (among the photos in it are of IU Northwest's first graduating class and Gary Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher campaigning in 1967) and read an article former student Molly Harvey wrote that served as a prologue. She began: "Growing up, for a long time I wished I lived back in the 1960s, at least Hollywood's version of the "Age of Aquarius." My favorite TV shows were reruns of "Gidget" and "The Monkees." I wanted to be just like Gidget, and I'd fallen in love with Davey Jones. I used to turn on these shows and wish I were there in that funky, psychedelic dream world where everyone was free to do their own thing. I'd take out my mother's old high school yearbooks, reading them over and over and observing the fashions and styles. I'd listen to an oldies radio station that played soul music by the Shirelles and folk songs by Peter, Paul, and Mary. I loved the Beach Boys and Jimi Hendrix, especially his version of the National Anthem. I added such expressions as "groovy" and "far out" to my vocabulary.

Harvey continued, "After a while, I decided I wanted to be a hippie like the older sister, Karen, on "The Wonder Years." In my fantasy my name would be Sunshine, and I'd paint little peace signs on my face and go to Woodstock. Sometimes, in a more political mood, I'd put on my father's old dashiki and go around the house saying "Black Power! Black Power!" My mother would joke that God had made a mistake, that I'd been born in the wrong era.

Molly wrote, "When I started reading up on the decade, however, I discovered that real life then wasn't as carefree as I thought. There was an ugly side to it: violence, racism, generational confrontation, battles between the sexes. At one point I was so disillusioned that, to borrow a phrase from "Peanuts" creator Charles Schultz, I wondered, "Good grief, what was I thinking?" Of course through interviewing people I learned that despite its bizarre elements, some things remained normal. One thing for sure though, young people voiced their opinions as never before; and thankfully, minority groups demanded to be treated with respect. However one remembers those years, they left a unique and enduring legacy."

Molly let me use a photo on her parents Dennis and Sally (he is African American, she is white) to go along with the article. She graduated before volume 25 was published, but I wasn't able to track her down to give her a copy unfortunately.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Old Salts

The Sunday Post-Tribume's Neighbors section is a treasure trove for Calumet Region historians. Until recently, Bob Burns had a column dealing with the origins of small communities. Now there's a "Behind the Name" feature that on August 23 concentrated on former U.S. Steel plant superintendent William Palmer Gleason. My "Gary's First Hundred Years" Centennial history of Gary is quoted several times, including my assessment that Gleason treated workers like cogs in his machine. Here is another quote: "Like his hero Napoleon, Lane has written, "he was overbearing, egotistical, and tyrannical. E.C. Rosenau called Gleason the 'Godfather of the Steel City.' His motto was 'It Can Be Done' and when he wanted something, he had little use for those who questioned his methods."

Also in Neighbors are columns by octogenarian Carrol Vertrees on the perils and pleasures of old age and by Jeff Manes on Region characters that he calls "Old Salts." On my advice he did one on Elvis Tribute Show producer and Vietnam Vet Omar Farag (a friend of mine and former softball teammate), and now he wants to do one on me when my retirement journal comes out next month. If I had more funds available, I'd do a special issue of Shavings featuring his "Old Salt" columns. The most recent deals with bean-spitting champ Willie Curtis. Manes always starts his column with quotes - this time it's from a Jim Croce song about pool shark Willie "Slim" McCoy.

Speaking of Salts: Coincidentally, my tenth grade girlfriend Mary Delp (Harwood) now uses an email address with “oldsalt” in it because she and her husband are Lake Michigan boaters. We still see each other every 5 or 10 years at Upper Dublin High School “Class of 1960” reunions and in between trade information on classmates and our respective families. A couple years ago, in Mary's Christmas card was a photo of the two of us on our way to a formal dance. I look about 10 years old but drove us in the family’s 1956 yellow and white Buick. I recall trying to pass a truck on a three-lane highway when suddenly a car was coming down the middle lane in the other direction. I’m lucky we weren’t killed. I don’t think Mary even realized what a close call it was. I'm also in touch with Bob Reller (Rel), Phil Arnold, Joe and Barbara Ricketts, Gaard Murphy (Logan), and Pam Tucker (Randolph). While my high school days were not without trauma and insecurities, I'd relive those "Happy Days" in a minute, especially knowing what I know now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Steel Shavings Names Index, volumes 1-40

Steve McShane is putting my Calumet Region Names Index for Steel Shavings, volumes 1-40 on my Steel Shavings site that is linked to the Calumet Regional Archives website. Since the list is so long, people can access the names according to the first letter of the last name. There are almost 200 names starting with the letter "A" alone, beginning with Carlos Aaron and ending with Miller realtor Gene Ayers. There are eight Adams (including Reyfanette in vol. 25 and Yiakesha in vol. 31), ten Allens (the most listings is for former Township Trustee Dozer T.), and 20 Andersons (including Gary windshield wiper mogul John W.). Under "S" can be found 34 Smiths, including Gary high school legends Earl (track star), Quentin (principal and Tuskegee airman), and John D. (coach). In addition there is a Smith-King, Irene, the wife of former Gary mayor Scott King. My favorite writer, Jean Shepherd, is listed as appearing in seven issues. There are 37 "Z's" - from John Zablocki to Harold Zweig with boxer Tony Zale having the most entries. Hopefully the site will be visited often.

Passing Strange

I recently reviewed a book called PASSING STRANGE by Martha Sandweiss for Magills Literary Annual about a renowned explorer named Clarence King and geologist who lived a double life for 13 years, marrying a former slave and claiming to be, despite fair skin and blue eyes, Pullman porter James Todd. It was subtitled "A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line." Here is an excerpt:

An enigma of vast contradictions, Clarence Rivers King loved aristocracy’s trappings but struggled all his life, unsuccessfully for the most part, to remain financially solvent. An idealist who despised America’s “Peculiar Institution” of slavery, he nonetheless traveled to the western frontier to escape service in the Civil War. Robust and peripatetic, yet often nagged by illness and melancholia, he valued respectability but found pleasure “slumming” in Tenderloin districts of big cities, where, like many voyeurs of his day, he delighted in the exotic and the unconventional.

Born into fashionable Newport, Rhode Island, circles on January 6, 1842, King first laid eyes on his father, a China trader, at age three; the elder King died when “Clare” was six. Florence, his sickly, overprotective, financially strapped mother, was a burden to him most of his life. Until he met Ada, King reserved his love for male friends. As he reached puberty, he formed intimate bonds with adolescents Daniel Dewey and James Gardiner. In the summer of 1859 they went camping in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Three years later the lusty threesome took off on a rowing expedition into Canada with a couple of Clarence’s Yale classmates. A customs inspector detained them briefly at the border suspecting them of being draft dodgers. “Dan” was killed in battle at Irish Bend, Louisiana. “Jim” remained a lifelong friend. In a letter written while at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School, Clare wrote: “My heart is taken up with you. . . . My love for you grows always and is a most absorbing passion.”

King rose to the apex of his scientific profession by making numerous contributions to the mapping of the west. The self-promoter wrote about his adventures, sometimes with embellishment, working with the California State Geological Survey in Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada (1872). Charming and successful in obtaining funding from the frugal federal government, he was the envy of fellow geologists, including John Wesley Powell. Surveying the Fortieth Parallel was entirely his idea, and it laid the groundwork for other valuable expeditions. In 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him to be the first director of the United States Geological Survey. Eight years earlier, while in Estes Park, Colorado, he had a chance encounter with Presidential scion Henry Adams. This is how Sandweiss writes of their night together:

Riding through the park in search of his crew, King had paused for the night in a cabin with “a room and one bed for guests” when a small, frail, mustached Harvard history professor rode into camp on a mule, lost after a day of fishing. It was Henry Adams. “As with most friendships,” Adams later wrote, “it was never a matter of growth or doubt. . . . They shared the room and the bed, and talked till far towards dawn.”

“A new friend is always a miracle,” Adams recounted in the memoir The Education of Henry Adams (1907), “but at thirty-three years old, such a bird of paradise rising in the sage brush was an avatar.” The normally hard-to-please Adams believed King brilliantly combined action and intellect. He, John Hay, and their wives Clover and Clara welcomed him into a ménage called the Five of Hearts (complete with stationery and tea service), a take-off on their friend’s nickname “King of Diamonds,” obtained for exposing a fraudulent mining company stock scheme. Like many bachelors, King lived mainly in hotels, such as the Brunswick and Albert in New York City. He entertained friends (his greatest talent, biographer Harry Herbert Crosby sneered; otherwise he was the “most overrated” man of his era) at such exclusive clubs as the Metropolitan, Century Association, the Tuxedo, the Union League, the Knickerbocker, and the American Geographical Society. Frequently absent on business or pleasure, he invented plausible excuses to keep his acquaintances in the dark about his double life.

From what meager evidence exists, Ada Copeland was a determined seeker of independence and security economic security, no easy task during the nineteenth century given her race and sex. She told a census taker she was born in West Point, Georgia, a hamlet straddling the Chattahoochee River that forms the state’s western border with Alabama. She emigrated north during the 1880s, perhaps first residing briefly in a Southern city before finding work as a nursemaid in lower Manhattan. Ada married the man she believed to be James Todd in September 1888, at her Aunt Annie Purnell’s residence, the esteemed Reverend James H. Cook of the Union African Methodist Episcopal Church presiding. Ada bore Clarence five offspring in nine years (the eldest, Leroy, died at age two). In 1897 the Todds moved into an 11-room single family dwelling in the Flushing section of Queens. Long absences afforded each the freedom they needed and perhaps made their hearts grow fonder. From his letters we know that Ada excited Clare sexually all his life. She told a city directory agent that her husband was originally from the West Indies and presently employed as a clerk (in one census report his profession was listed as steelworker). Her life revolved around family, and her ambition was to achieve respectability within New York City’s African-American community. Ada had two live-in servants and three others providing day help (some African Americans preferred white foreign-born servants, but Ada hired members of her own race). Her greatest social success: a masquerade party to ring in the twentieth century that received mention in the New York Age society pages. Sandweiss speculates that King attended in costume and writes, “Perhaps it was her big house, maybe just the splendor of the party. But somehow the former nursemaid who was born a slave had arrived.”

While a man of King’s stature assuming an African-American identity was virtually unprecedented, “passing” was not uncommon during an age when one was considered “Negro” not by skin color but if a single great-grandparent were African American. When posing as James Todd, King did not have to explain his fair pigmentation, as many equally light folks were classified as “Negroes” (although Pullman porters were almost always dark-skinned). Many so-called mulattos, quadroons, and octoroons (one-eighth “Negro”) “passed” to take advantage of the opportunities that the white world afforded them. Women sometimes posed as men either for the economic opportunities or to live with female lovers. While New York, unlike some states, recognized “mixed marriages,” such a union would have jeopardized King’s social standing, threatened his professional career, and ended friendships with those who frowned on what they considered miscegenation. On the other hand, in his musings to Adams and Hay King imagined a future raceless world, but sadly he was too timid to be an open trailblazer in that regard.

Suffering from myriad financial, physical and mental problems no doubt exacerbated by the strains of living a double life, with all the lies and subterfuges that entailed, King finally revealed his true identity to Ada in a letter written from his deathbed in a sanitarium in Phoenix, Arizona. Dying of tuberculosis, he may finally have also confided to James Gardiner that he wanted Ada provided for after he passed away. He indicated to his wife that a trust fund would provide for her well-being. The will, however, left his meager assets to his mother, who never totally lost her grip on him. In the wake of race riots in New York King had persuaded Ada to move to Toronto, Canada (not as racially tolerant a climate as expected), and hoped she’d be content there. She moved back to New York, however, and made contact with Gardiner, who with Hay’s help provided her with $65 a month and a house rent free. In 1906 she hired the first of a half-dozen attorneys in a dogged effort to recover the money she believed her husband had left her. In retaliation, her benefactors threatened to revoke the monthly payments. As a result, Ada waited until her children reached adulthood and then resumed her legal efforts. In 1933 when the litigation culminated in a public trial, the tabloid press had a field day with the “torrid” love letters, treating the revelation as a scandal. One headline proclaimed: “Mammy Bares Life as Wife of Scientist.” Another reported: “Old Negress Suing Estate, Reveals Love.” The New York Daily News portrayed Ada as a “huge, kinky-haired, pleasant-faced colored woman of 70 years.” Defended by a Russian-born attorney named Morris Bell, she lost her case. The funds she thought came from a trust fund were actually charitable payments from Hay and his descendents. She lived another 31 years in relative obscurity (King’s first two biographers made no effort to look her up), passing away in 1964 at approximately 103 years of age. Her two daughters married white men and effectively “passed.”

A thorough researcher, Sandweiss is on solid ground speculating about many aspects pertaining to this unique couple, but she shies away from their sex life, either separately or together. Outwardly repressive, the Victorian Age resembled a glacier in sexual matters, with most delights happening below the surface and remaining hush hush. Nobody has captured the essence of this netherworld as insightfully as novelist Gore Vidal in 1876 (1976), Lincoln (1984), and Empire (1987). When secretary to the “Great Emancipator,” King’s bosom buddy Hay enjoyed passionate sex with mixed-race prostitutes in brothels located within sight of the White House and later seduced the comely wife of Congressman Henry Cabot Lodge. One can imagine the lusty King, exemplar of a western swashbuckler, “sowing his wild oats” in this manner. How, one wonders, did he satisfy his sex drive during protracted geological expeditions? Consorting with dark-skinned prostitutes? Seeking male companionship, perhaps with his handsome mulatto personal assistant? Did he pleasure himself while imagining being in the company of a Polynesian or West Indian beauty? His fantasy was to retire on the island of Dominica, located in the Lesser Antilles. King had absolutely no passion for well-bred white women. One eligible contemporary he found “shrunken [and] of sharp visage, in which were prominent two cold eyes and a positively poisonous mouth; her hair, the color of faded hay, tangled in a jungle around her head.” (65) Rejecting Hay’s efforts to pair him with a young socialite, King quipped, “To see her walk across the room, you would think someone had tilted up a coffin and propelled the corpse spasmodically forward.” His fascination was with more “natural” or “primal” females. Henry Adams wrote that “King had no faith in the American woman; he loved types more robust.” And devoted to him, like his Black childhood nursemaid, one biographer hypothesized (Sandweiss demurs from such a conclusion).

On the book’s dust jacket is a designer’s visualization of a nattily dressed gentleman (King was a dandy even out in the wild) crossing a bridge and a voluptuous, dusky African-American approaching him from the other direction. One can only imagine the rush King felt upon first spotting Ada, starting up a conversation, and arranging a future rendezvous. In the end Ada Copeland emerges as the more compelling of the two protagonists. As historian David W. Blight asserts, thanks to the author’s “remarkable detective work,” she “steals the show.” Tragically, as Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush points out, Ada’s husband “defied social conventions” but “could not face up to the potential ruin of an interracial marriage.” He went to his grave negligent toward loved ones and with too little faith in his closest friends’ capacity for compassion."

In the most recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine there's mention of a Spike Lee movie called Passing Strange, but it is not about a nineteenth-century geologist but rather a white guy who wanted to fit into the Black music scene. Evidently it is based on a very successful broadway play. Wonder who came up with the title first. It is similar to someone using my Gary book title "City of the Century" for a book about Chicago. I'll have to ask Martha, whom I emailed back and forth a few times (first seeking her year of birth for the review) and who is the sister of the editor of Indiana Magazine of History.

Surfing the Internet

A package arrived in the mail recently from David Janott, who was one of my first students after I started teaching at IU Northwest in 1970. He was returning a book he borrowed almost 40 years ago, "Nixon Agonistes" by Gary Wills (the book got the author on the President's Enemies List), plus he threw in a book he thought I'd find interesting, "Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang" (I devored it and then passed it on to colleague Diana Chen-lin). What prompted Janott's gesture was that his wife typed his name on Google. Lo and behold, he was cited for being in my 1977 book about Gary, City of the Century. I had quoted from a student paper he did on the 1919 Steel Strike. He hadn't known he was in the book and ordered a copy. His package and note prompted me to send him "Gary's First Hundred Years" and a Steel Shavings magazine on the Calumet Region's Formative Years, 1900-1920 (volume 15) that, unbeknownst to him, contained his article.

That happy coincidence prompted me to Google my own name. The first entry, as expected, was the IU Northwest History Department's Home Page, where I am situated under "emeritus faculty." Next came a bunch of other James Lanes and some James Blanes, including info about a professional poker player and an escapee from Sing Sing. EBay had my and Ron Cohen's Gary Pictorial History on sale for a whopping $157.27. Amazon had a half-dozen Shavings issues on sale (including a rare out-of-print volume on United Steelworkers of America Local 1010 for 11 dollars) and five of my books, including my first, "The Enduring Ghetto," which I did with David Goldfield, and "Forging a Community," which I edited with Ed Escabar. A site called alibris had even more "James B. Lane" books, including a 1930s Shavings issue for $45 that originally sold for $2.50 and a book I edited with Steve McShane called "Skinning Cats: The Wartime Letters of Tom Kreuger."

The Oral History Review site claimed that for a 2000 issue I had reviewed Staughton Lynd's "We Are All Leaders." As much as I admire Lynd, I had never reviewed his book. Clicking onto the site, on the page in question was the last papagraph of my review of "Central Avenue Sounds," followed by the beginning of the Lynd review that someone else did (I think you have to pay to open up the whole thing). This is how I ended my review: "The impermanence of America is nowhere as apparent as in Los Angeles, and the rise and decline of this mostly black enclave is told with a bittersweet candor. The book reveals the institiutional racism and hypocrisy rampant during the mid-twentieth century in Los Angeles, but it also shows that for a time there was a beacon of tolerance in the Central Avenue jazz subculture."

Also under James B. Lane I found mention of an article I did on Ralph Ellison's "Invisible Man" in 1973 for the Negro American Literature Forum that showed up in the SSSL Bibliography. My 1974 essay on "Down These Mean Street" by Piri Thomas showed up on a site called Book Rags. The Encyclopedia Britannica reprinted a review that Andrew Hurley wrote for the Indiana Magazine of History of "Gary's First Hundred Years" (he called it breezy and engaging). The Journal of American History listed an article of mine they published on Industrial History Museums, and there's even a citation where I am mentioned in the book Nearby History.

Just when I was about to stop searching, I came across citation number 152 for my Steel Shavings website, which was set up as part of the larger Calumet Regional Archives site. Voila! Anyone who comes across that site can actually click on "James B. Lane Blog" and read this and other entries.

Friday, August 21, 2009

creating this blog

I recently finished publishing a "retirement journal" in my magazine "Steel Shavings," which deals with the social history of Northwest Indiana, and found that I suddenly had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. I saw the movie "Julie & Julia," where a young woman played by Amy Adams starts a blog having to do with cooking from Julia Child recipes and thought it a good idea. Also my old high school friend Phil Arnold has a blog about Elvis Presley that has achieved some fame. Hopefully this blog will allow my to disseminate information about the history of Northwest Indiana, including my own research. In addition to personal experiences, my retirement journal included book reviews I wrote in 2008 for "Choice" and "Magill's Literary Annual" as well as excerpts from articles of mine about women steelworkers (for TRACES magazine) and former Gary Mayor Richard G. Hatcher (for The Encyclopedia of Urban History).