Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Left-over City

“For better or worse Gary’s my home
And I’d rather live in this left-over city
Than in any suburb I know.”
         John Sheehan
Gary crime scene; photo by Jim Karczewski

Chicago Tribune correspondant Angie Leventis Lourgos inquired about the spike in Gary homicides, 38 so far in 2015 compared to 22 this time a year ago.  In South Bend, I missed the phone call, but she reached Ron Cohen.  Referring to the lack of job opportunities and past white flight, Cohen said, “Some might say we’re a shrunken Detroit or a smaller Newark.”  A woman stated that young men wear different colored shirts to signify gang affiliation.  Sheriff John Buncich, who recently won a Lake County Fair goat-milking contest, has authorized county officers to augment Gary’s depleted force.  Gangs appear to be fighting over drug customers, many from surrounding suburbs.  Councilman Ron Brewer told reporter Lourgos: “We have a small group of people who are creating havoc.  But we have great people in this city.”  Agreed!
 Viola and George Taliaferro
A NWI Times article on Gary Roosevelt legend George Taliaferro began:
     Many say George Taliaferro was Jackie Robinson before Jackie Robinson.  Nearly two years before Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in 1947, Taliaferro was leading Indiana University’s football team to the 1945 Big Ten title and a 9-0-1 season. 

Back from army duty in 1947, Taliaferro took a “COLORED” sign down with screwdriver at a Bloomington movie theater and sat downstairs in the previously all-white section.  Nobody messed with him.  After a 1944 game between Horace Mann and Gary Roosevelt, Horseman star Carl Beiseker and ther ‚´Velt captain shook hands on the 50-yard line.  Taliaferro recalled:
     My teammates had gotten back on the bus, his teammates went to the locker room.  Here we were and I can still remember Carl saying to me, “George, it was a magnificent opportunity to play football against you, after all we heard about what kind of football player you are.  It was a pleasure.”

ISIS militants beheaded 82 year-old antiquities scholar Khaled al-Assad in the Syrian city of Palmyra after he apparently refused under interrogation to reveal where he had taken Roman-era artifacts for safekeeping. After the public execution ISIS leaders supposedly hung his body from a Roman column at Palmyra’s archaeological site.  Historian Tom Holland told The Guardian: “It comes as – to put it mildly - a shock to realize that ideologues exist who regard the curating of antiquities and the attendance of international conferences as capital offenses.”

With great music provided by Funky Mojo Daddy at IUN’s Thrill of the Grill, I had lunch with Jonathyne Briggs, taking over as chair of the Department of History, Philosophy, Political Science, and Religious Studies.  As the Fall semester approaches, he has the unenviable task of canceling low-enrollment classes.  SPEA instructor Jeff Emmons recalled being my student a quarter-century ago.  He is teaching karate plus courses on terrorism and Criminal Justice.
 Jimbo and Dave Lane with Tom Wade (2013)

In duplicate bridge Tom Wade and I finished out of the running for master points.  We had several top boards but each screwed up a hand.  I passed a one no-trump bid with eight points, and he easily garnered enough tricks for game.  Then, after twice passing, I made a desperation bid of three clubs, being void in his suit, spades.  He precipitously jumped to five clubs and I went down one, doubled.
In a sarcastic vein Bill Carey wrote:
         Steelworkers from Locals 1010 and 1011 paid a social call to the main office of the Indiana Harbor Works in East Chicago IN. Over tea and cookies, they gently reminded the management of ArcelorMittal that their labor agreement with its included no-strike cause expires at the end of the month.
drawing by Dale Fleming

Thanks to Anne Koehler’s invitation, I talked to Portage Historical Society members at the Woodland Park Community Center about the vanished community of Edgewater (our old neighborhood), incorporated into the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as a result of a 1976 Park Expansion Bill.  Daughter-in-law Angie used a laptop to show 20 illustrations on a screen, mostly drawings by Dale Fleming done in conjunction with John Laue’s oral history of Edgewater.  When I mentioned apartments located near the beach on what residents nicknamed Hillbilly Hill, a woman in the audience said that a close high school friend lived there.  I teased octogenarian Lois Mollick about ditching school with a girlfriend to see Frank Sinatra perform at Memorial Auditorium during the 1945 Froebel School Strike.  Interviewed by Susan Miller for my “Postwar” Steel Shavings, Lois recalled roller-skating in Crisman School gym, a senior class trip to Washington, D.C., and attending dances at the new American Legion hut on Mulberry Street.  Miller wrote:
            Someone would collect money and stamp hands.  Kids jitterbugged and slow-danced to songs such as “Chattanooga Cho Cho” and “Sentimental Journey.” Public dinners and bingo helped pay off the building costs.
            In the fall of 1947 Lois got married.  Housing being difficult to find, she at first lived with her in-laws over a garage.  Then they rented a house until their landlord sold them the lot next to them.
Lois Mollick in Glee Club and at reunion (fourth from left)
George Jarrard wrote about grandparents George and Marie Jarrard, Hammond natives married in May of 1946.
    My grandfather was the younger of two children, born in 1922.  At Hammond Tech he trained in motor repair.  Evenings, Saturdays, and summers he worked at a secondhand furniture store, Scott's, on State Street in Hammond for 15 cents an hour.  Marie, a year younger, had 4 older brothers and played forward on Hammond High's basketball team. They were state champions in her sophomore and senior years. She also excelled at track and field and was a standout swimmer.
  Grandpa George’s father became a ranch hand after his mother died at childbirth in 1876, and his father abandoned him when he was 14. He eventually worked as a maintenance man for the railroad and became a fireman on locomotives, transitioning eventually to repairing and maintaining steam boilers at Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO). In 1916 he proposed to my great grandmother, Mary Ellen Wixon, via telephone from a saloon in Hammond where, as he put it, he was bolstering his courage. Mary Ellen was a devout Christian who was also an active member of the Lake County Ku Klux Klan. Though Mary Ellen was of Norwegian ancestry, she didn’t like foreigners and could not abide Catholics. You can imagine the reception Marie got when Grandpa George brought her home to meet the family.  Marie was of German and Czechoslovakian linage and a practicing Catholic to boot. Until her death in 1958 my great grandmother was cold and indifferent toward my grandmother. Even when Mary Ellen became an invalid and moved in with them, the animosity toward Marie never wavered.  My grandmother had received nurses training at St Margaret's Hospital. The care she gave my great grandmother despite nary a word of thanks included dietary requirements, medications, injections, bathing and exercise.
Grandpa George passed away in 2014, at the age of 92. A few years ago, I interviewed him about working for Illinois Bell after serving in World War II.  He told me:
When I went to work for the telephone company, they asked, “Do you drive? You're expected to drive a truck.”  I just nodded and said, “Oh, yeah.” And so with my first paycheck, which was $40 for two weeks, I bought a '31 Chevy for $40. It wasn't bad but had a rumble seat.  I got a beginner's permit and was supposed to wait 90 days before I got my license.  About a week later I told a clerk it'd been 90 days (there was no date on it) and got my license. I was put in training with a guy who used to drink his lunch. By the end of the day he was worried he couldn't drive – I was doing the work. The old trucks had the ladders on the side, and I'd have to crawl over him to get to the driver's seat and drive from job to job. That's how I got some fast training on installation – practically by myself. This fellow had been a catcher for Pullman Standard's baseball team in Hammond. The telephone company had a really fast pitcher and had trouble getting a catcher that could keep up with him, and they'd seen this guy catch, so they hired him.
  The 1968 telephone strike had been underway some weeks when Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley began asking the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) locals for cooperation for phone service at McCormack Place during the Democratic National Convention. Hundreds of phones needed installation, and mobile PBX switching centers were required to link each phone. It would be a major undertaking, and time was running out. Daley’s pitch was “give me telephones for my convention and I’ll put the weight of the Chicago Machine behind the unions.”  It worked.  My Grandfather, along with scores of the best, handpicked technicians from all around the Chicagoland area went to work in 12-hour shifts, around the clock. It was a monumental effort but had no effect on the outcome of the strike. The next Illinois Bell contract offer was the same as five months earlier. It seemed economic power trumped political power. Three year later the IBEW struck Illinois Bell again. The Strike was over in two weeks. The Telephone Company settled in the Union’s favor this time.
  During Christmas season, my grandparents organized an annual pilgrimage to see the Inland Steel  display.  After dinner the family would pile into my grandfather's ‘57 Fairlane and head up Cline Avenue toward East Chicago and Watling Street.  The first stop was always the Inland Steel office building Christmas display. If the crowd were small, they would get out of the car. Usually they sat inside with the windows down to hear the music.  The telephone company had more or less assigned my grandfather to Inland as part of his regular work responsibility. He had made services calls everywhere in the mill and made friends with supervisors and hourly workers. On cloudy nights the sky would light up with a bright orange glow from the blast furnaces. Often interrupting the Christmas display music was the rumble of railroad cars or the squeal of iron wheels as locomotives shuttled cars in the yards a stones throw away. The entire scene seemed surreal. Going home by a circuitous route, my grandfather would stop at residential areas with particularly nice Christmas displays. Working daily in and around north Hammond, Whiting, and East Chicago, he would know exactly where to go.  Without fail the trip would include Standard Forge, where you could catch glimpses of the smiths through the open louvered windows and see and hear the drop forges operating. My grandfather referred to the smiths as “gremlins.” It was a wonderful Christmas tradition.

Cymitra’s journal deals with attempts to curb her husband’s flirtations with women on Facebook.
     I woke up to the tune of Babyface singing on my iPhone about a relationship going bad and being lonely, and my eyes filled with tears. At this time in my life I feel as if everything is going wrong and I am losing control.  I have a grown child who goes to sleep when everyone else in the house is about to wake up. My second oldest is a teenager who can’t get to class on time and thinks education is a joke. My youngest three, 11, 9 and 7, act as if I am required to do everything for them.  My husband is the father of my youngest three. I married him twice, and this morning was his turn to get our children dressed and off to school.  For hours it’s just the two of us in the house and nothing is said.  I have the house to myself when he goes off to work at an oil changing facility.
    For three days we argued every time we were together.  While he was at work, I texted him to ask about other women in his life. As weird as it may seem, communicating with him in this manner actually worked. Questions were answered with no offense taken by what the other said.  Our texting went on for hours. I realized my I loved my husband, and staying with him isn’t the worst thing in the world even though I can’t trust him when he claims he has never physically cheated on me.
    It’s a Friday night and I made plans to go out with a cousin who knows I am having marital problems. I met her at a restaurant in Lansing called Tilley’s. We ordered our food and drinks and at about nine o’clock the place became crowded because it is karaoke night.  I got home about 11:30.  Over the last month I have gone from being a social drinker to a daily drinker. I don’t know how else to cope. I love my husband but don’t know how to get past his being overly flirtatious with other women.  This is a cycle that he has been putting me through for 12 years. I try not to think about it; I just live for the moment. I am seriously contemplating a divorce. It wouldn’t be a smart choice since the only income I have right now is my student loans. My husband pays all the household bills, and our last divorce traumatized all five children.
    For the last month my husband and I have slept in separate rooms. Occasionally he catches me heavily intoxicated, and we have the best intercourse we have ever had. I am unsure but wonder if it is because he thinks it will be the last time. Today out of nowhere my 7 year-old daughter begs us not to break up our family. My husband is standing behind her as she pours her heart out to me. At that moment I log onto Facebook and ask a church elder to pray for us. I explain our situation, and he guides me to people at church who can help us. When I mention counseling to my husband, he is all for it, except he wants me to make the arrangements. Later in the evening we sat in his truck and actually had a decent conversation, I listened to him vent about everything that has happened between us and realize that he is hurting too.  My husband tells me that he knows I have put up with so much of his crap that he just wants to make it right.  I am scared of believing in him and repeating the same hurt in case nothing has changed.
    I am feeling more energetic than I have in over a month. Things are starting to go right. With my life in such disarray I haven’t cleaned in a while, so rearranged my room after taking my eight-year-old to summer school. My oldest son interviewed with a growing auto company and got the job. He starts immediately and will be working 40 hours a week. He is no longer playing video games nonstop. I do not mind him running the streets because he’s very cautious about the company he keeps. He often hangs out with his cousin, who works at a family-owned funeral home in Gary. His parents have kept him busy working and on bowling leagues. My son has even begun to take up bowling.
    As a little girl I always wanted to have a big fifty-year anniversary celebration. I never thought about what all couples have endured to get to that milestone. Today I woke up in more than one way. It is time for me to work harder than ever before on making my marriage work.  Although it has been a rough seven weeks and my husband and I are still not seeing eye to eye, we both want this marriage to work but feel like the other just wants to sweep problems under the rug. I will continue to pray and ask that God’s will be done. That and taking one day at a time is all I can do.

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