Wednesday, April 24, 2013


“The plain song of a nest-bound bird grows dim./  Think of places been, those to roam./  And now, far away, think of home,” “Reflections,” John Borling

In the Chesterton Tribune Kevin Nevers wrote a fantastic article about retired air force General John Borling, a Vietnam vet who was a POW for nearly seven years, most of it spent in Hoa Lo Prison, known as the Hanoi Hilton.  On his ninety-seventh mission over North Vietnam his F-4 Phanton jet was shot down.  He spoke to seventh grade students after teacher Richard Rupcich came across his book of poems, “Taps on the Walls.”  The title refers to a tap code prisoners used to communicate with one other.  Being captive for 2,500 days is inconceivable and would break most men.  Borling survived by sharing his poems with comrades in the same boat.  Nevers wrote: “For the man in the cell 10,000 miles from home, time had a funny way of outstretching into a sucking slipstream of dull dead moments.  It had a less funny way, under pang of toothache or kidney stone, of contracting to a point of intolerable hereness and newness.  Beaten by his captors for this, beaten for that, beaten for nothing at all, the man learned to live life in his head, because privation and pain made living in the body the losingest of propositions.”

Nevers quotes from Borling’s “The Journey”: “Another muddled day has eddied on/ To join the addled streams of tousled time. / Embittered languor blankets captive man;/ So armored, sally forth at dawn, consigned/ To stand alone, and parry best I can/ until appointed tourney’s end, resigned./ For time’s an old and boring enemy./ Too cruel to kill forgotten men like me.” When Borling sent “Taps on the Wall” to former POWs, some told him, “Hey, you changed a word.”  They had carried his poems with them just like he had for 40 years, all that time.

North Dakota news anchor A.J. Clemente, on his first day on the job, uttered the “F Bomb” not realizing his mike was live; the station fired him.  A couple days before, Dave “Big Papi” Ortiz uttered the dreaded word in front of thousands at Fenway Park during an event honoring victims of the Marathon Bombing, but was forgiven for his exuberance.  On the way to school I heard “Who Are You?” on WXRT, but the version didn’t include the line “Who the fuck are you?” Clemente appeared on the “Today” Show and received sympathy from Matt and the gang.

While attending IU Northwest 46 years ago, Mike Certa and buddies Darrell Pine and Ralph Mosca spent a typical Friday night watching “I Spy,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” and “Star Trek.”  Then they might play cards and listen to jazz records before playing pool at Stardust Lanes in Hammond and stopping at White Castle on Calumet Avenue for a dozen “sliders” each. is advertising Nicole Anslover’s forthcoming Harry S Truman book.  Here’s the blurb: Harry S. Truman presided over one of the most challenging times in American history—the end of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. Thrust into the presidency after Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office, Truman oversaw the transition to a new, post-war world in which the United States wielded the influence of a superpower. With his humble beginnings and straightforward manner, Truman was the personification of a typical American. As president, however, he dealt with decisions that were anything but typical. His presidency saw the decision to drop the atomic bomb, the integration of the military, and the development of an interventionist foreign policy aimed at ‘containing’ Communism, from providing aid in the Marshall Plan to entering the Korean War. In the post-Cold War era, Harry S. Truman: The Coming of the Cold War provides insight into a pivotal moment in history that laid the foundations of today’s politics and international relations.  In this concise and accessible biography, Nicole L. Anslover addresses the president’s political and personal life to explore the lasting impact that Truman had on American society and America’s role in the world. Supplemented by a diverse array of primary documents, including presidential addresses, private letters, and political cartoons, this narrative presents a key American figure to students of history and politics.”
Nicole asked if I’d talk about Richard Hatcher’s election and the Calumet Region in her Fall Sixties course.  Ron Cohen will talk about folk music and Jonathyne on world events, especially students protests in France.
At last week’s Honors Tea a student who earned several awards took the microphone and said that Anne Balay was her best teacher and then hugged her.  I’m urging her to appeal the negative tenure and promotion decision to the Board of Review on the grounds that she hadn’t received proper notification about her alleged classroom deficiencies.  In a similar case several years ago, a professor was given an extra year or two to demonstrate that her teaching had improved adequately.
Grace Kovach called to enlist me in an effort to save homes in historic Marktown. The oil giant BP wants them leveled to make way for a parking lot, despite the fact that they are a historic landmark. 
Lee Botts set up an interview Thursday for a documentary about the lakeshore.  She is particularly interested in the history of industrialization in Northwest Indiana.  It began with Standard Oil Company settling in Whiting in 1889.  Next came Inland Steel into East Chicago in 1901, followed by other heavy industry after completion of the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal six years later.  United States Steel Corporation started constructing Gary Works in 1906.  By the 1920s a dozen blast furnaces were in operation, employing over 16,000 workers.  Bethlehem and Midwest Steel mills came to Porter County during the 1960s at the expense of the Central Dunes with the creation of the Port of Indiana.  The Army Corps of Engineers linked the Little Calumet River to Lake Michigan by digging out a channel known as Burns Ditch.   NIPSCO built a coal-fired electric power plant nearby but citizen protests and lawsuits prevented the utility company from constructing a nuclear plant.
above, Port of Indiana; below, Ismael Nieves

Jeff Manes’s Sunday column didn’t appear in Chesterton editions of the P-T, and his Wednesday column about Puerto Rican-American mural artist Ismael Muhammad Nieves was chopped in half.  Nieves will be participating in June’s Pop Up Art event, featuring an outdoor graffiti exhibition.  The Muhammad is from when he was active in Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam.  Jeff wrote: “Where but in this great melting pot can you flip through the phone book and spot a Luigi O’Hara, Yoko Goldstein or Francois Grabowski.”  Nieves told Jeff he should have been in East Chicago Roosevelt’s last graduating class but had trouble senior year and was part of East Chicago Central’s first graduating class. About his Puerto Rican heritage, Nieves told Jeff: I have family that are blonde-haired and blue-eyed and some that are purple-black. When I lived in Puerto Rico, everybody was simply Puerto Rican. I didn’t know what a white or black person was until I came to Northwest Indiana. Here, you have Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Polish, the Greek, the black... I was like, ‘Wow.’”  Manes also reported that Nieves was “about to surpass David Lane as the all-time ‘like-getter’ in Saltdom history.”
Ed Asner made a triumphant return to Gary, performing his one-man FDR show at the old Wirt High School auditorium.  Despite stifling heat the 85 year-old went on for nearly two hours.  For me the best moments were when he told off a reactionary New York Daily News editor and when he told Bill Bullitt he hoped he’d roast in hell for spreading the story that State Department rival Sumner Welles had propositioned two Pullman porters when drunk.  Beforehand we took Wing Wah carryout to the Hagelbergs and rode with them.

A NWI Times headline read: “Burns Harbor Mill Hit By Safety Dispute.”  Reporter Keith Benman interviewed USW Local 6787 Grievance Committee Chairman John Moloney, who explained that the safety issue involved the casting operation of the basic oxygen furnace and concerns that, in his words, “certain parts of the process could go wrong and cause an explosion.”  Oz emailed: “No steel yesterday.  No steel today.  Blast furnace down.  BOF/Caster down.  Ten brave steelworkers who had enough!  Solidarity!”
I congratulated custodian Hollis Donald, recipient of IUN’s Outstanding Staff Pride Award.  A hard worker with a ready smile, Donald was a worthy recipient. 

Dean Mark Hoyert, recognized for his 25 years of service, said he enjoyed my Shavings references to Historian Gordon Prange in connection with his Pearl Harbor book “Tora! Tora! Tora!.”  Prange was one of Hoyert’s favorite professors at Maryland; and when the professor fell critically ill during Spring Semester of 1980 his grad students finished the course for him.  In fact, over the next decade Donald Goldstein and Katherine Dillon completed six books that perfectionist Prange started, including “At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor.”  One admirer wrote of Prange’s WW I and WW II lectures: “Students flock to his class and sit enraptured as he animates the pages of history through his goosesteps, ‘Sieg Heils,’ ‘Achtungs,’ machine gun retorts, and frantic gestures.”  He’d bring a stein of beer perhaps spiked with whisky to class; and as the hour progressed his showmanship increased.  He loved to throw out German phrases and sometimes recited Hitler’s famous Reichstag speech in the Fuhrer’s native tongue.  In Europe to study medieval German during the 1930s, Prange attended numerous speeches of Hitler and then reported their content to the U.S. government.  A naval officer during WW II, he spent five years in Japan starting in 1946 as a member of General Douglas MacArthur’s historical staff. 

I passed along volume 42 to Clark Metz and Ron Cohen and learned from neighbor Dave Elliott, who dropped in to listen to Steve Earle’s latest CD, that his Shavings copy has several pages upside down.  I think it is a unique anomaly because ever since I discovered one with 32 extra pages I have been flipping through copies before handing them out.  Neil Goodman bought a copy of Steve McShane and Gary Wilk’s “Steel Giants” that had a bunch of pages upside down and no others with the same defect surfaced.  Cubs and Sox afternoon games were on TV at the same time, with the former losing 1-0 (spoiling another good outing by Jeff Samardzija) and the latter holding on for a 3-2 victory.  Looks like a long, dismal season for Chicago fans.

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