Friday, February 6, 2015


“The old man had his high point every Wednesday at George’s Bowling Alley, where he once bowled a historic game in which he got three consecutive strikes.”  Jean Shepherd, “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash”

Besides bowling, Jean Shepherd’s old man also liked to go fishing for croppies in Cedar Lake.  My old man, Vic, carried a 180 average and liked to go deep sea fishing for weird-looking flounder, flatfish with both eyes on one side of its head.  Several Jean Shepherd quotes appear in the Editor’s Note to my 1990s Steel Shavings, “Shards and Midden Heaps” (volume 31, 2001), including a line from “Wandy Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters.”  The Hoosier humorist called man “but a humble tenpin in the cosmic bowling game of life.”

Paul Kacczocha recently donated to IUN’s Calumet Regional Archives two boxes of materials, including four issues of Steel Sparks newsletter dating from 1994 and 1995.  The first begins with “An Open Letter to All Steelworkers” from six rank-and-file unionists:  Kaczocha of Local 6787, Mike Olszanski (1010), Bruce Bostik (1104), Jim Lange (1011), Robert Harrell (1011), and Wendell Addington (1299).  Advocating a militant “alternative voice within our Union,” they noted the decline in the steel work force from 450,000 to less than 100,000 in the past decade and the deterioration of working conditions:

  “Following the breakup of coordinated bargaining in the concession riddled 1980s, we have been picked on and apart by the companies, one at a time.  Our Union’s resources have been strained, and the gains we have made have been at the cost of becoming saddled with the diseased blanket of ‘cooperation’ with the very corporations that have been trying to destroy our union for many years. . . .

  So he question is, how can we help our Union overcome the disease of ‘labor-management cooperation,’ of compulsory overtime, of job combinations?  What can be done to organize the unorganized, especially at the growing number of minimills?  How can we make the issue of a shorter work-week with no cut in pay a top priority Union goal?  How can we counter the company’s attempts to divide our ranks through racism, sexism and other divisive tactics?

In 2000 Mike Olszanski and I published a history of Inland Steel’s Local 1010 entitled “Steelworkers Fight Back” (Steel Shavings, volume 30).   Nicknamed the “Red Local” during the 1940s, 1010 staged several wildcat strikes when the company was unresponsive to workplace grievances. Unfortunately, during the subsequent Red Scare militants were purged from leadership positions.  Oz believed that when the rank-and-file lost control of the right to ratify contracts or go on strike, it played into management’s hands.

Oil workers at BP refinery are poised to go on strike due to forced overtimes and safety issues, namely, that management is contracting out work to people not properly trained to do the job.  In both cases BP is trying to make do with the fewest number of union laborers.

I’ll be subbing for Nicole Anslover Women’s History class Monday while she has an oral surgery procedure.  She got the class talking by comparing women’s issues during the Progressive Era to the present.  I plan to ask students why they think many women “passed” as men and even married other women (before licenses were scrutinized closely).  During a time of unequal pay and professions being closed to women, there were legal and economic reasons for the subterfuge, as well as sexual ones.  Deborah Sampson fought in the American Revolution as Robert Shurtlieff.  Tammany Hall politician Murry Hall was born Mary Thompson.  Stagecoach driver Charley (Charlotte) Parkhurst voted in California in 1868.  Billy Tipton (born Dorothy Lucille Tipton) was a jazz pianist.

I’ll also solicit opinion on whether students think sexuality is an important factor to examine when it comes to leaders such as Jane Addams.  To me it seems likely that she got into settlement house work in part due to her attraction to Hull House co-founder Ellen Gates Starr and her reluctance marry a man.  Prior to Freud and sexologists, girl-girl crushes at women’s colleges and “romantic friendships” between adult women were not stigmatized as deviant. I’ll tell the students that the old way of teaching a course on American Women was to highlight individuals who were path breakers, while the recent trend is to analyze how social, cultural, economic, and political conditions intersected with race, class, and gender.  Because I’m old-fashioned, I plan to show short clips about the notorious “free love” advocate Victoria Woodhull, birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, and photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston.  
 Thyra Edwards

If time permits I will discuss Gary women who came to work in settlement houses or teach in the schools under Progressive educator William A. Wirt (including African Americans Thyra Edwards and Thelma Marshall).  While some girls adapted a Flapper lifestyle, the daughters of Eastern European immigrants led a more sheltered adolescence.

At Cressmoor the Town Drunks slaughtered the Electrical Engineers in the first two games before we eked out a ten-pin victory.  Unbelievably, four of us doubled in the final frame.  Before that, I had a strike in the eighth, converted a ten-pin in the ninth, and finished with a 176 and a 470 series.  I got my share of strikes but blew several easy spare opportunities.  Friendly opponents Ray and Joe Piunti, Jr., both bowled very well; I told their dad. JP, he should be proud of them.  Their teammate Chris Lugo’s 11 year-old grandson, Charley Jones, Jr., rolled a 635 last Saturday.  The new Wednesday bartender is named Jamie.  It reminded me of Sal Mineo telling Natalie Wood in “Rebel Without a Cause” that the James Dean character Jim Stark lets him call him Jamie.

Thursday I went to Home Mountain for a final check of Steel Shavings, volume 44.  Lori Woodruff did a brilliant job with the cover design, using a shade of orange similar to a steel mill furnace.  After doing a $200 food shopping with Toni in anticipation of a visit by Alissa and Beth, I got a haircut at Quick Cut in Portage and a teeth cleaning from Dr. John Sikora.  He grew up in Glen Park near IU Northwest.  His dad, a World War II vet who died four years ago at age 91, owned a barbershop at Fortieth and Broadway and, after he retired, often walked to the university to use the library and at lunch in the cafeteria.  A friend lamented one day that he needed a suit to wear for a wedding.  Dr. Sikora’s dad lent him one, and the man then kept it for another event but died before returning the suit.  At the wake John’s dad peered into the coffin, and there on his late friend’s body was his suit.
above, John Sikora at Daughter Anne's graduation; below, "Electric Dunes" woodcut by Corey Hagelberg

Corey Hagelberg, whose woodcut “In the Garden” graced the cover of Steel Shavings, volume 42, is a featured artist at Gordy Fine Art and Framing’s annual Print Show in Muncie.  The brochure included this biographical info:

  A life spent growing up in the Indiana Dunes State Park and his mission to restore glory to the area both culturally and environmentally provide much of the content for [Hagelberg’s] woodcuts. In addition to raising awareness about local environmental issues with his artwork, he serves as a board member for Miller Beach Arts & Creative District and co-founded the Calumet Artist Residency to enrich the community and provide resources for other working artists.

Simine Short, author of a scholarly biography about Octave Chanute, donated materials to the Archives.  Like Chanute himself she and her husband go gliding.  With them were Steve Spicer, whom I asked to be an Archives volunteer (in the fall, he promised) and Anne Koehler, who has lined up both Simine and me to speak to the Portage Historical Society next summer.

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