Wednesday, December 18, 2013


“Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence, and determination will win.  Let not the man [or woman] be discouraged who has these.”  James Whitcomb Riley
 James Whitcomb Riley stamp, issued 1940

On the Editor’s Page of Traces Ray Boomhower discusses 1968 Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy’s unsuccessful effort to bond with Hoosiers during the Democratic primary season.  In fact, he disparaged one of Indiana’s most iconic figures, poet James Whitcomb Riley, a good friend of socialist Eugene V. Debs and most famous for children’s poems such as “Little Orphan Annie.”  Eugene McCarthy was a cold fish who team-taught an American Studies course I took at the University of Maryland.  I was excited at the prospect, but he was uncomfortable interacting with my generation and a snob.  I’ve heard that when McCarthy volunteers canvassed the Calumet Region, some voters confused him with anti-Communist demagogue Joseph McCarthy.  If people seemed to like Joe McCarthy, the volunteers allegedly were told, then don’t set them straight.

The lead Traces article by Roger Mitchell about Hoosier poet Jean Garrigue strangely contains none of her compositions.  Here’s lines from one I like, entitled “Some Nonsense for the Cats and Wolves”:

“My cat peed in the coalbin, why?
The coal will smell of whitefish when it lights
And mildest milk and small long bones
Will snatch a smoke to saunter through the skies.”

My favorite Hoosier poet is Regionite James Hazard, whose “A Girl from Connecticut Visited Whiting, Indiana,” appears in his collection “New Year’s Eve in Whiting, Indiana.”  Here’s the first and last verses.

“Appalled, she saw the whole bristling horizon across the marshes
smoking, flaming with oil refineries.  I said, “That’s Whiting.”
Later, safe in Evanston, she said, “People are so ugly
there.  She meant how they look, so many arms and legs given
away for factory wages, and lumpy Slovak faces that don’t
hide a thing shift-work has pulled on them.

Years later, when we hated each other, she said
there was something always frightening in me, something
ugly, not lovely, not nice.  She went back east.  I stayed
out here with the Slovaks to read their faces, to reach
for the tender ghost that fluttered like a pulse in love
inside the empty workshirt sleeve.”

A nice lady at Marshalls Time Shop in Chesterton put a new battery in my watch for next to nothing.  On the wall was a framed article about a man who had been a longtime jeweler in Whiting.  I bet he was the proprietor’s father or grandfather.  In addition to the plentiful mill jobs, Region cities once featured hundreds of small shops that provided opportunities for skilled craftsmen.

Patricia Adler, a popular professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is leaving her tenured position after being ordered to cease giving her lecture on prostitution in a Sexual Deviance class that typically contains 500 students.  In the past a teaching assistant played a sex industry worker and answered questions about risks, types of services, costs, and whatever else students wanted to know.  Adler received a standing ovation when she announced her decision.  A petition drive will hopefully pressure the administration into retracting its order.

Ryan Shelton, above, walked through the cafeteria while I was having lunch with Beth LaDuke, and I told him how much I enjoyed Monday’s Post-Trib article entitled, “Women’s Basketball: Ryan Shelton has built IUN program from ground up.”  He said he had hoped it would have been more about his former players, but he credited Erica Barron and Sharon Houston for the program’s success.  Seven years ago, only six players were on the team, and Ryan was ready to cancel the season when Erica talked him out of it.  The Lady Redhawks went 0-24, including a 100-point blowout, but, meanwhile, Ryan recruited players, including future NAIA All-American Sharon Houston, and won 17 games the following season.  Houston, now playing professionally in Turkey, said of Shelton: “From the very first day I met him I knew that he had a heart of gold.  He was so nice and passionate about what he was trying to do for the women’s program at IUN.”

Before Anne Balay took off for Europe, I suggested that she have students prepare papers for a spring A and S conference session entitled, “The Two Houses: Critiques of “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros and “The House You Pass on the Way” by Jacqueline Woodson.  Both are coming-of-age Young Adult novels about young teenagers searching for identity.   One is a sensitive evocation of a black girl’s first (same-sex) crush, the other a gritty tale of a Latina who is sexually assaulted and determined to escape a hostile environment.  The latter the entire campus community has been encouraged to read.  The one teacher who assigned Woodson’s novel was criticized for doing so and denied tenure.

I wish a Latina would write a compelling memoir about growing up in the Region.  In my Nineties Shavings I published Sandra Avila’s account of being an eighth grader at Hammond Eggers whose best friend was Amelia.   She wrote: “Our houses smelled like tortillas, our parents spoke little English, and they were both very strict.  We were not even allowed to look at a guy.”  Even so, they secretly began dating Daniel and Phil.  Amelia continued: “One time I turned off all the (telephone) ringers in my house and my dad thought there was something wrong so he called the phone company.  Another time I was at Amelia’s house when Phil came over on his scooter and her mom came out.  To avoid getting in trouble we told her he was the paperboy.  On Valentine’s Day Daniel bought me a dozen roses and some balloons.  I had to pop all the balloons and squeeze the flowers in my backpack to avoid getting in trouble.  Daniel was my first love and Phil Amelia’s first love.”

Alissa emailed me about an oral history collection at Grand Valley State about a Young Lords chapter active in the late 1960s in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.  Founder Jose “Cha-Cha” Jimenez now works in Michigan as a gang and youth counselor and must have a connection to GVSU.  My first published book, “The Enduring Ghetto,” co-edited with David Goldfield, contained an article by José Yglésias entitled “Right On with the Young Lords.”  In an introduction we wrote that it “describes the work of a revolutionary street organization in turning the destructive forces of the ghetto to constructive purposes.  In battling apathy, hostility, ridicule, and an inert New York bureaucracy, the Young Lords used tactics ranging from blustering publicity gimmicks and rhetorical education campaigns to practical lobbying techniques and breakfast programs for the young.”

Jonathyne Briggs, out east doing research, posted a photo, entitled “Hello, Mother ship.”  He’s in front of his publisher’s building.  Miranda posted a hilarious Christmas photo on Facebook, eliciting a comment from Tony Panepinto, who pitched on Phil and Dave’s Little League team.  We attended his wedding but haven’t heard from him in 20 years.  His dad Vince, a building trades union leader, was an unforgettable character.  Tony and I are now Facebook friends.  Nephew Bob wrote: “Facebook is a funny thing.  I avoided it for years thinking it was lame, but as I began using it to promote a brand, I became more involved with it.  The truth is I like it.  Connecting with people, many of whom I wasn’t all that close with, has been a real treat.”
 above, Michigan Lanes; below, John Panepinto

This year’s South Shore honorees are actress Betsy Palmer, an East Chicago native best known for her role of evil Mrs. Voorhees in the “Friday the 13th” movies.  Earlier she was a regular on NBC’s “Today” and the CBS game show “I’ve Got a Secret.”  The other honoree, La Porte native Edward A. Rumley (1882-1964), created the Rumley OIL Pull Tractor, founded the Interlaken School that emphasized learning-through-doing, and was publisher and editor of the New York Evening Mail a century ago.  He was a terrible businessman, however, and all his ventures ultimately failed.

For several years now, on orders from the administration, the library staff obtained store-bought food for their holiday celebration and stayed in the building rather than go to a restaurant.  Veterans joked about the time two people got so rowdy at Red Lobster that they were asked to leave, and when they put up a fuss, Merrillville cops were called to the scene.

I ate so much at the library holiday lunch that I only needed yogurt and an apple before bowling.  Since the library closed at 5, I went to the second floor of Hawthorn, picked up some papers at the History department office, and ate by the vending machines.  Beth LaDuke was getting off work then and joined me.   The Engineers won all three games against a team called Town Drunks.  I was disappointed their team captain, Joe Piunti, sat  out, but two of his sons bowled, as did affable Chris Lugo.  I bowled above average, Mel and Robbie were steady all evening, and John and Dick each had one good game when we needed them to come through.  A big hug from Shannon McCann made the night complete.

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