Friday, February 26, 2010

Indiana History

The Indiana History magazine TRACES put Michael Jackson on the cover of its Fall 2009 issue plus contains a nice article on him and his Gary roots. Ray Boomhower’s Editors Note mentions how he played the Jackson Five hit “ABC” on his little 45 rpm record player.

Spoke to Steve McShane’s Indiana History class last evening about Gary, the importance of social history, and Steel Shavings. I told them I was tempted to do an issue on “Social Life in Hobart, Indiana” featuring school experiences, workplace experiences, sports, leisure time activities, and the like. Mentioning how history is essentially the record of change over time, I suggested someone might do a paper on bars and bowling alleys. Cressmoor Lanes, where I bowl, dates at least back to the Forties, and one fellow whom I see every Wednesday was a pinsetter a half-century ago. Another topic I told them would be fun to research was the annual Jaycee Fest held in the Strack and Van Til parking lot, where I have seen Joan Jett, the Smithereens, and Cracker perform, as well as my son’s old band Voodoo Chili. To induce some audience participation I showed the class the same photos I took to the third graders at Aspire Charter School and then had seven volunteers read excerpts from the Steel Shavings “Shards and Midden Heaps” article by Ryan Maicki called “Bad Seeds” (a hilarious account of high school high jinks). One part that got a big laugh was his mention of having S.A.F.O. meetings Fridays before school. The initials stood for “Smoke A Fat One.”

On the sobering side, Ryan wrote of his buddy Bowman dying in a car crash. As I mentioned in the Editor’s Note: “Adolescence was truly a period of danger. Young people succumbed on the highway, at unprotected crossings, from drug overdoses, at the hands of predators, and from insidious diseases such as AIDS and asthma. Ryan wrote of Bowman: “We had fun down to a science. He was my partner in crime. His family had a cabin in Michigan. We decided to take a trip there with three other party animals. We arrived in the middle of January to find that his dad had shut off all the water facilities and taken the heater home for fixing. We were hundred of miles away from home with only Tequila, cigarettes, beer, and laughter to keep us warm.”

In many ways “Shards and Midden Heaps” is my favorite Shavings, starting with the Jean Shepherd references in my Editor’s Personal Note, where I brag about bowling a 600 series and pitching my softball team to a championship. On the cover are two all-time favorite students, Sam Barnett and Sarah McColly, who contributed memoirs. In my survey classes I used to spend ten minutes a week going back in history from the present to 1990, and for each year of the Nineties I’d read excerpts from a student story, including Marshall Lines talking a friend out of committing suicide and Anne Marie Laurel being thrown in jail for underage drinking to Samantha Han’s Band camp memories and Rebecca Irwin getting her tongue pierced. Among my favorites was Sandra Avila’s account of eighth grade experiences. At Hammond Eggers, she wrote, she and her best friends would squeeze into a photo booth at Woodmar Mall to take photos (sort of like Facebook now). When she began dating Daniel, she had to keep it from her parents. When Daniel gave her a dozen roses and some balloons on Valentine’s Day, she had to pop the balloons and squeeze the flowers into her back pack to avoid getting into trouble.

Always complimentary, Steve said I was fantastic last evening and he thought it was my best appearance yet. Got a call from librarian Anne Koehler, who ran into Sam Johnson, an old teammate of mine on Porter Acres softball team. Gave her my latest Shavings for him plus others that contained photos he’s in of our championship season and from a trip a dozen of us took to the Bahamas around 1979. He and Ivan Jasper took my then-ten year-old son Dave out golfing with them and let him drive the cart. He overturned it and didn’t suffer even a scratch, but they warned him if he told Toni and me about it, they’d kill him. Dave told us the story 25 years later.

Ruth Needleman asked me to proofread an article about the 1919 Steel subtitled “An Untold Story of Solidarity Strike” that argues that in Gary African Americans supported the strike. Most accounts just talk about the bringing in of black strikebreakers, but she focused on two community leaders, Louis Caldwell and C.D. Elston, who spoke at mass meetings in favor of the union cause. Unfortunately, there isn’t much biographical material available about Caldwell and Elston.

Indiana Historical Society Press editor Teresa Baer had a couple queries about “Maria’s Journey,” which is nearing publication. She fine-tuned a chapter introduction dealing with the Red Scare and how it affected unions and had a question about information that appeared in the book I edited with Ed Escobar, “Forging a Community.” Teresa had sent both authors Ray and Trish Arredondo and myself the photo captions, which contained virtually no errors.

People say Facebook can be addicting, and it is amazing how becoming friends with one person can link you to so many others. Granddaughter Miranda has some great photos and posts, plus gets messages from my nieces Alexandria and Jacklyn, who have neat photos of their own. On one post Miranda said she “totally told Robbie off for dissing Owl City (my current favorite band whose CD I gave her dad and several others for Christmas).”

I went to see “Cop Out” with Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan despite Roger Ebert giving it a “thumbs down” review (he is getting pretty crotchety when it comes to comedies). Being a Willis fan from the “Die Hard” series and a Morgan fan from SNL and “The Office,” I thought the banter between the two cop characters quite witty. Some of the villains are quite scary, but a thief named Dave (Seann William Scott, most famous for “American Pie”) nearly steals the show, he is so hilarious. The Bruce Willis character Jimmy has a valuable 1952 baseball card of Andy Pafko stolen that he’d hoped to sell in order to pay for his daughter’s wedding. “Handy Andy” Pafko played for the Cubs before being traded to the Dodgers during the 1951 season.

1 comment:

  1. i have some interesting events from hobart high school from the late 60's and early 70's jimbo...they were SO blind to what was going on because of a "hobart was a good town, things like that don't happen here" mentality...the denial was a palpable thing...odd for a town chock full of busybodies and crybabies.