Monday, October 28, 2013

Calumet Heritage Partnership

“A hussle here and a hussle there
New York City’s the place.”
    “Walk on the Wild Side,” Lou Reed

Rock pioneer Lou Reed died at age 71.  A former member of the Velvet Underground and protégé of Andy Warhol, he transformed himself from street smart New Yorker to glitter rocker to punk innovator.  His distinctive voice will live on.

Steve McShane drove me to Pullman, Illinois, for the Calumet Heritage Partnership conference, held in the old Pullman Clock Tower Factory Building.  The place was without heat, and the temp inside was in the 40s, so despite keeping my winter coat on, I never really warmed up.  Even so, I had fun and sat at a table with filmmaker Pat Wisniewski and former student Jack Walter.  The first speaker, Arthur Pearson, was restoring an original Pullman house and was able to learn about the original architectural design and the names and occupations of previous owners from the Pullman Archives.  Next on the agenda,  four authors, including Ken Schoon, discussed how archival resources aided their research.  The neighborhoods examined by Michael Innis-Jimenez, author of “Steel Barrio: The Great Migration to South Chicago,” were similar to the Mexican-American enclaves in Gary and Indiana Harbor during the 1920s.
above, Pullman Clock Tower; below, Hotel Florence at Pullman

Steve chaired my session, entitled “Nodes and Networks,” and he opened with the joke about where Noah kept bees on his ark (in the ark hives).  I talked about starting the Calumet Regional Archives with Ron Cohen after saving records of Gary Neighborhood House.  Panelist John Beckman mentioned salvaging a piece of furniture from the very same abandoned building.  Active 40 years ago in the Calumet Community Congress, he knew several mutual acquaintances, old radicals whom I had met at Staughton Lynd’s Labor Workshop.  Indiana Landmarks representative Tiffany Tolbert asserted that the first books she read upon moving to the Calumet Region were my “City of the Century” and Ken Schoon’s “Calumet Beginnings.”  Diane Banta of the National Park Service twice started sentences with the phrase, “I’m not the smartest person in the room but. . . .”  Did she hone that phrase, I wonder, from frequently interacting with academics?  She has been one of the mainstays in furthering the goals of the Calumet heritage Partnership.

The 20 free copies of my latest Shavings that I brought were gobbled up.  When I did something similar at the last Indiana Association of Historians conference, I had a few left over, much to my surprise.   Waiting in line for lunch (delicious Mexican food), I spotted an old poker buddy, Scottie Marshall, whom I hadn’t seen in several years.  He was at a SOAR (Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees) table passing out buttons reading “Keep It Made In America.”  We chatted about mutual friends, and I was pleased that he had picked up a copy of volume 43.

On the drive back to Indiana I thought of the road trip Steve and I took 20 years ago to Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, as consultants to folks launching a Museum of Industry and Technology.  While there we toured the Jacob Leinenkugal Brewing Company and enjoyed several 4-ounce samples of their beer products.

Dave and Tom came over for our first board game session in several weeks.  After enjoying Chinese food, we talked Alissa (down from Michigan) into a game of Acquire with us.  She had played once before with folks who really didn’t understand the rules or strategy but finished second to Tom.  I won Amun Re and Priests of Ra, both by a single point over Dave, who triumphed in St Petersburg.

Due in part to the many commercials during NFL games I finished “Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It.”  The Reagan administration’s supported the brutal and corrupt Samuel K. Doe after a bloody coup that the CIA may have abetted.   Ronnie once introduced the Liberian head of state by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, Chairman Moe (as in Moe, Larry, and Curley of the Three Stooges)) of Liberia is our visitor here today.”  By alienating most native tribes and living lavishly, Doe was forced to rig the 1985 election that kept him in power until overthrown five years later and tortured and killed.  Former ally Charles Taylor succeeded him after a bloody civil war.  Taylor is now in prison for committing crimes against humanity.

The World Series has been a comedy of errors.  St. Louis won game three due to a wild throw by Boston’s catcher Jarrod Saltamacchia and a rare obstruction call because third baseman Will Middlebrooks, sprawled on the ground, put his legs up to slow down runner Allen Craig.  I’d never seen a play like that.  Last night’s contest ended suddenly when, with St. Louis down two runs and the tying run at the plate rookie Kolten Wong got ignominiously picked off first by pitcher Koji Uehara.
Richard Baker

When the NWI Times reported that the Historian of the Senate spoke at an event sponsored by Purdue North Central, I thought it might be my buddy Don Ritchie.  It turned out to be former Senate historian Dick Baker.  Speaking on the topic “A Body in Motion: The Evolving U. S. Senate,” Baker characterized present relations among lawmakers as “awful” but added: “Relations among senators have always bordered on the frosty.  There is simply too much at stake and differences of opinion are too intense to keep intact.”

Samuel A. Love took the MLK mural prints to Culture Shock, sponsored by ARISE Gary, the final event of our two-month tour of Camilo Vergara’s posters.  The affair was supposed to be at IU Northwest, but some stupid rule prevented venders from bringing in food on campus, so it took place at the Live Arts Studio on the 4700 block of Broadway in Glen Park. 
above, 4700 block of Broadway; below, Anne Balay
Anne Balay participated in the half-marathon at Marquette Park Sunday morning and posted a photo on Facebook that daughter Emma took of her.
I took over Nicole Anslover’s while she was in DC to appear on the C-Span “First Ladies” series speaking about Bess Truman.  Steve went with me to put photos and short video clips on the screen.  I discussed Vietnam, in particular the experiences of veterans interviewed for my Shavings issue – how they got there, their experiences in country, and what lasting effects it had on them.  Because Jay Keck had sent me multiple copies of his book “Poems from the Bogeyman,” I gave them to the students and read “Vietnam Bogeyman,” which begins: “The Vietnam Bogeyman is in my head/ He’ll probably be there until I’m dead.”  Repeating Jim Tolhuizen’s caveat from when he spoke to my class, I said that soldiers’ experiences depended on when they were there, what their function was, and what part of Vietnam they were stationed.  I read to them Tolhuizen’s description of his best friend Paul’s death.  The students had scads of questions, especially about how the draft worked; several shook my hand or told me well done  when class ended.
Nicole Anslover was awesome facing the camera for 90 minutes along with host Susan Swain and historian William Seale.  The show was so seamless one would never have guessed it was live and unrehearsed.  Even with NFL, World Series, and Black Hawks games competing for my attention, I watched the entire 90 minutes without once flipping channels.

I knew when Seattle beat the Rams that I’d finished tied with two others in the football pool.  The tiebreaker was closest to total points scored in Monday’s game.  I had 38, three more than Kathleen Kuti, who is the apparent winner since only 23 points were scored.
 Frederic, Blandine, Jimbo, Jim Fowble

Frederic and Blandine sent me a photo taken when we bowled at Cressmoor Lanes and wrote: “We miss very much our friends from Gary.  It is so strange not to see you.”  It was signed, “Big kisses.”  I really miss them, too, but it nice we’re in close touch.

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