Friday, May 11, 2012

Time Capsule

“Tired of lying in the sunshine
Staying home to watch the rain.”
    “Time,” Pink Floyd

On a day commemorating the demise of IU Northwest’s first building, Tamarack Hall (formerly Gary Mani), Chancellor Bill Lowe and wife Pamela hosted a lunch in Gallery Northwest for former acting chancellor Jack Buhner and others who taught at IU Northwest during the 1960s, including Angie Komenich, F.C. Richardson, and Jack Gruenenfelder.  Buhner, a WW II vet who came to the “IU Extension” in 1948, had vivid memories of the battle to get the campus moved from Seaman Hall in downtown Gary to Glen Park.  I sat next to Trustee Philip Eskew, a former hospital administrator, Medical School professor, and vice president of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.  When I mentioned my fall course, he told me he’s kept a diary since age 15.  He recommended Bob Greene’s “Be True to your School: A Diary of 1964” based on a journal the author kept when he was 17.  The title is from the Beach Boys song.

At a reception preceding the “Time Capsule Opening” program were fellow department members Chris Young, Jonathyne Briggs, and Gianluca Di Muzio, who would later take part in commencement, and emeritus faculty Fred Chary, Ron Cohen, Lloyd Rowe, Rick Hug, John Kroepfl, Mark Reshkin, and Keith Lorentsyn.   I was disappointed that Herman Feldman and George Roberts stayed home.  Among the speakers were Ken Schoon, who was a student in the Sixties and former staff member Ruriko “May” Walker, who recalled the little worms that would infest the building each spring.   Angie Komenich thanked Paul Kern and me for our history of the campus, which she used as a source.  mentioned taking classes from Boll Neil, George Thoma, and Leslie Singer.  After graduating, she taught at Lew Wallace and taught here part-time until she received her advanced degrees. When hired full-time, Buhner told her she’d improve the looks of the place.  Not only was she gorgeous, but he was referring to the previous all-male “gang.”  Gruenenfelder mentioned how the one building contained everything from a cafeteria to the library and, mercifully, only one conference meeting room and plentiful windows in both faculty offices and classrooms.  Buhner once got a call that his son was on the roof of the building making faces at students in a classroom.

Ellen Szarleta introduced SPEA students Kelly Clemens and Missy Grish, who spent a semester developing a plan to turn the land where Tamarack once stood into a green space.  They envisaged a dry creek useful in diverting rain water to prevent flooding, as well as a Native American garden and a pavilion built in a way resistant to flood damage.

Chancellor Lowe, Steve McShane, and Buhner opened a copper box that had been soldered shut and put in the cornerstone in September 1958.  Contents included newspaper clippings, minutes from IU’s Board of Trustees, a university handbook, and, surprisingly, a personal note from longtime employee Ruth Nelson, who started working for Gary College and was still volunteering as a library assistant at age 90.  A video presentation produced by Aaron Pigors entitled “The Spirit of Tamarack” included excerpts of interviews Chris Sheid did of Garrett Cope, Lori Montalbano and myself.  He used remarks I made about seeing Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson speak in the theater in 1976 and 1984 while campaigning for the 1976 Democratic nomination.  Lori first visited the theater as a 14 year-old while attending Hammond Morton.  Garrett was quite emotional about the demise of the theater as a result of the 2008 flood, but said the “spirit of Tamarack” would live on in people’s hearts.  One photo shows Jack Buhner at the 1959 cornerstone ceremony with Gary mayor George Chacharis to his right.

Before James went for his summer haircut, we looked through a book about the Guinness Book of records.  Several came from foreign game shows, such as fastest time running the 100-meter hurdles wearing flippers.  We both enjoyed the longest fingernails category, held by Christine “The Duchess” Walton from Las Vegas, whose nails are about ten feet long.

The ash tree in front our condo appears doomed due to the ash borer infestation.  Several branches are bare, and the prevailing wisdom is that once infected it is too late to save the victims.

Bulls lost their playoff serious to eighth-seeded Philadelphia.  Backup point guard C.J. Watson, in for the injured MVP Derrick Rose, inexplicably passed Omer Asik with ten seconds left.  Fowled hard going to the basket, Asik missed twice at the foul line and 76er Andre Iguodala drove the length of the court and got fouled with two seconds.  He drained both free throws and the 76ers won by a point.

Steve McShane and I met Jack Buhner for breakfast at the Radisson.  I opted for eggs and potatoes in a skillet.  We talked about oldtimers Bill Neil, George Roberts, Les Singer, and Gary Moran.  Buhner and his wife held open houses for faculty and students at their residence on Adams near the Forty-Third Avenue Presbyterian Church.  At the Archives Steve showed him photos of the 2008 flood.  Buhner recalled the Silver Anniversary events the city of Gary and U.S. Steel held in 1956, including the Jubilee parade down Broadway.  I promised to send him a copy of “Gary’s First Hundred Years,” which includes sections on Ruth Nelson, Martin Zelt, and Chancellor Peggy Elliott, who started out as a part-time English teacher.  “I knew she’d go far,” Jack said.  With a still sharp mind, he handled being 92 very well, using a cane, a magnifying glass to read, and a hearing aid that sometimes popped out of place.

Ann Bottorff passed on a posting on George Takei’s website that poked fun at blowhard Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that by supporting same-sex unions President Obama was leading a war on traditional marriage by adding: “His first, second, third, and fourth wives could not be reached for comment.”

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