Thursday, March 20, 2014

Campus Craziness

“Dean Wormer: ‘Greg, what is the worst fraternity on this campus?’
Greg Marmalard: ‘Well,that would be hard to say.  They’re each outstanding in their own way.’”  
    “Animal House”

Traces magazine ran an article by David M. Hovde about the Purdue “Tank Scrap,” where freshmen and sophomores engaged in a wrestling free-for-all brawl, with participants attempting to hog-tie and drag opponents to their camp.  The winners got to paint their class year on the tank adjacent to the field of battle.  Injuries were common, and in 1913, after 30 years, the violent custom was disbanded after a student died of a broken neck.
1908 Purdue Tank Scrap
During the 1960s Bucknell fraternities staged Hell Week-ends.  Brothers put pledges through humiliating routines that, in my case at Sigma Phi Epsilon, included entering a pizza joint in skivvies.  Pledges retaliated by raiding the fraternity, engaging in mischief, and upon leaving setting off fireworks.  Unfortunately, a pledge brother lit a cherry bomb that rolled under a sofa and set the Sig Ep house on fire.  The only casualty was a dog, but Bucknell suspended the culprit for a semester.  A new house was finally ready by the time of my senior year.

I don’t recall class rivalries, but fraternities competed in sports.  Sig Ep didn’t fare as well as the jock houses but considered it important not to be at the bottom of the standings.  Fraternities lost points if they didn’t enter contestants, so for a boxing tournament freshmen got drafted, even if they were in essence sacrificial lambs.  I actually won a match but then faced a killer opponent.  When he knocked me down, I stayed on the mat rather than further risk life and limb.
Brady Wade is back from IU for Spring Break, looking collegiate.  When I phoned, Darcy answered Wade, Wade, Wade, Cat (a second feline died last year).  Sometimes, when Tom’s teaching and Brady in Bloomington, she’ll just say, “Wade, Cat.” 

I came upon a review I wrote six years ago of “The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War.”  David Halberstam conducted more than 150 interviews and found veterans often eager to tell their stories, often for the first time. He almost cancelled a meeting with former sergeant Paul McGee, who participated in the pivotal Battle of Chipyong-ni taking place in mid-February 1951, “the Gettysburg of the Korean War.”  For three days forces under the command of Colonel Paul Freeman held off a much larger Chinese army.   Colonel Freeman was wounded but refused to relinquish command until the Chinese were repulsed, their first major defeat of the war.  Colonel Freeman later confided to his wife that“all Koreans hate us” and “to ‘liberate’ South Korea we’re destroying it and its people.”

Driving through a snowstorm, Halberstam reached McGee’s home and experienced “a thrilling moment for me, nothing less than a reminder of why I do what I do.  For four hours it all poured out, what had happened in those three days at Chipyong-ni when [McGee] was a young platoon leader.  It was as if he had been waiting for me to come by for 55 years, and he remembered everything as if it had been yesterday.  He was modest, thoughtful, and had total recall.  The story of how his platoon had held out for so long came out in exceptional detail, along with the names and phone numbers of a few men who had made it out with him and could confirm all the details.”

Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested and charged with a DUI.  Not only did her fail a sobriety test, he had in his possession prescription drugs that could lead to felony charges.  Irsay checked into a treatment facility and attributed his substance abuse to chronic back pain.  A villain in Baltimore, Irsey’s dad bought the Colts and then moved them to Indy.  In 2001 Jim bought Jack Kerouac’s original “On the Road” manuscript, a 120-foot scroll of tracing paper sheets, for $2.43 million

In the interview Heather Shafter did with her, 87 year-old peace activist Libby Gisser Frank mentioned how poor the family was during the Depression.  Once a dollar fell into the coal burning stove and her mother reached her hands into the flames to pull it out.  Returning from the corner store with milk and Rice Krispies, which the grocer gave her on credit, Libby dropped the milk on the way home.  “Why couldn’t you have dropped the Rice Krispies?” her mother said. 

In my Thirties Shavings is Larry Luchene’s account of his dad driving 23 people in a 1915 Studebaker truck from Shelby in South Lake County to Lowell for township relief.  Luchene wrote: “The truck didn’t have enough power to start normally, so to get it running they had to jack up the back wheels and kick them.  Dad bought the cheapest gas possible and then put moth balls in the tank to give it some ‘zip.’”
In Prague, Leelee Devenney reciprocated for my Giuseppe’s mini-reunion photo with one of hubby Bob.  I told her that Alissa spent several weeks in Prague and loved it and that it is on my Bucket List if I ever get to Europe again.

It being Spring Break, nobody was in the Archives in the afternoon so I took a siesta on the couch for an hour, using my coat as a pillow.  I dreamt several people came in, including a campus cop, and I couldn’t get my legs operative to greet the intruders.  The library closed at 5, but the lights didn’t go out, as happened once before when I was in the men’s room.  Engineers lost all seven points despite a 624 by remarkable octogenarian Frank Shufran.  In the first game, after opening with a 7-10 split, I stayed clean for a 179.  My back started aching in game three, probably from the hard Archives couch.  Back home, I listened to Parquet Courts and Shoes CDs Dave gave me for my birthday, including songs I hadn’t heard before.
 photo by Miller Beach resident Jim Spicer

More snow on the first day on spring, but Bud Hanes spotted a bald eagle in Hobart near Lake George.  Two mourning doves visited our bird feeder, first time we’ve seen a pair.  They were common visitors to our old place within the National Lakeshore. 

In a “Steel Closets” chapter entitled “Death and Danger in and out of the Mills” Anne Balay mentioned that few steelworkers enjoy their retirement pensions for very long.   Inhaling dust contaniing carcinogens has left many with various lung diseases, including asthma and lymphoma.  All steelworkers experience stress, but this is particularly true of LGBTs, as indicated by the higher percentage of smoking, alcoholism, high blood pressure, and fatal diseases.  Many were molested as children and suffer from guilt, shame, and confusion about their reaction to those experiences and the role it played, if any, in their being gay.  Most suffer from sleep disorders resulting from years of shift work, which also interferes with social interaction with a supportive community.  Anne concluded: “Though many people I interviewed do think of their co-workers as family, they often want to carve out time to be with other gay people, making the swing shift schedule another of the extra challenges faced by GLBT steelworkers.”

I sent Vice Chancellor John Applegate a work-in-progress entitled “Justice Denied?: The Anne Balay Promotion and Tenure Case.”  All it lacked was an ending, hopefully a fair and equitable one.  President McRobbie is set to render a final decision by early next week, potentially a momentous one for both parties to the dispute.  Her attorney recently posted a link to a Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled, “Professor Prevails in Anti-Bias Lawsuit over University’s Denial of Promotion.”  One of Anne’s supporters, who herself has suffered from others devaluing her worth to the campus, attributes what happened to Anne to IUN’s “Old Boys club.”  One definitely exists – how else to explain the lockstep support of her chairman?  Anne is at Bard College and reports that her speaking tour on “Steel Closets” is going well.

Our condo president, Bernie Holicky, is moving to Chicago and had final closing on his unit.  We had him and Marcia Gaughan over for cocktails and snacks; then we all walked to Sage Restaurant for dinner.  Afterwards, Marcia served pie and ice cream at her place.  She has six indoor cats, two of which were quite curious and sociable. We’ll all miss Bernie, a truly caring person.

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