Thursday, December 3, 2015

Family Trees

“In every conceivable manner, family is the link to our past, bridge to our future.” Alex Haley, “Roots”
above, Addie and Crosby Lane; below, Toni's parents Tony and Blanche Trojecki

Granddaughter Becca and great-niece Addie both had genealogical assignments.  Becca chose to research Toni’s family while Addie selected me as the ancestor to interview.  Three of Toni’s grandparents were Polish immigrants while the fourth was Lithuanian.  On the phone from San Diego Addie, among other things, wanted to know the price of gasoline (25 cents a gallon) and movies (a quarter) when I was a kid. 

Calumet Regional Archives volunteer Martha Latko, whose workspace I inherited (hence the name “Martha’s Cage”) donated copies of TWIGS, the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society’s bimonthly newsletter.  The July 2015 issue contains a contribution by Gerard Dupczak, whose daughter Kim in 1994 had to do, in his words, “the ubiquitous family tree class project.”  Gerard’s Aunt Mary showed them a 1918 wedding photo of an unknown couple and pointed out Kim’s great-grandparents Tomas and Maria (Tajdus) Jakubowski who were members of the wedding party.  On Maria’s lap is a little girl: Gerard’s Aunt Mary.  All Mary knew about Maria was that she supposedly was an only child and had cried upon receiving a letter from Poland that her mother had died.  Gerard’s godfather Stanley identified the wedding couple as Josef and Aniela (Tajdus) Wesolowski, the latter being Maria’s aunt, but otherwise, according to Gerard, he “did not know a lot about his family.  Surprisingly, that is not unusual.  Immigrants were sometimes reluctant to talk about the ‘old country.’”

The November issue of TWIGs includes a contribution from Alice Smedstad about great-great-great grandfather Ebenezer Saxton. Born in Vermont in 1797, Saxton fled Canada in the wake of the 1837 Patriot War, an attempt he supported to break free from Great Britain.  In 1837 he settled in Wiggins Point (now part of Merrillville), a well-known stop for wagons on their way to Joliet, Illinois.  Saxton took over the claim of Jeremiah Wiggins the following year after his benefactor died.  In “Lake County, Indiana, from 1832 to 1872” T.H. Ball described Saxton’s trek from Canada to Wiggins Point:
  Having sold his Canadian farm on credit, he started with his family in a wagon drawn by oxen, and traveled the 400 miles to Detroit.  He at length entered Lake County and crossed Deep River at Liverpool on a ferryboat.  Eight families it appears were on board, with ox teams and loading.  The boat sunk.  The families were taken over.  The boat was relieved of some of the weight, raised, caulked, and the oxen brought over.  Ebenezer Saxton had now five dollars in gold.  Coming to Turkey Creek, the team for the first time on the route stuck fast in the mud.  He gave two dollars to a man nearby for helping them out.  He reached Wiggins’ cabin and entered, and rested, and finally located.

I told Steve McShane’s students about Richard Hatcher’s parents Carlton and Catherine, forced to live in a Michigan City slum during the Great Depression.  Born in 1933. Hatcher recalled the family being on relief and his mother working in a putrid-smelling factory stripping hair from dead pigs’ tails for use in mattresses.  Before discussing his 20 years as mayor of Gary (1968-1987), I mentioned four malicious myths Hatcher’s enemies spread – that he was dishonest, a radical, anti-white, and responsible for the city’s decline.  The most federally investigated mayor of his time (with Republicans in the White House all but five years of his tenure), he chose to operate within the existing political system with both black and white advisers during a time when rustbelt industrial cities faced insurmountable problems.  I mentioned his strategies of striving for Gary become an urban laboratory (model city) and a black mecca (Gary Genesis).  Hoping to change national priorities, he organized a Black Economic Summit and directed Jesse Jackson’s 1984 “rainbow coalition” Presidential campaign.

Students read excerpts from my oral history of the Hatcher administration in the 1980s Steel Shavings (2006) that I gave them, including statements Hatcher made (several refer to lessons his father taught him) and assessments from both allies and detractors.  Urban planner Bill Staehle, for instance, faulted Hatcher on his relationships with the business community and inter-governmental agencies but added:
  The best of leadership may not have made a whole lot of difference.  Who controlled the exodus of stores?  Who controlled the steel company?  You don’t control those things.  It made no difference who was mayor, those things would have happened anyway.
Hatcher governed during dire times, exacerbated by the lack of support from lawmakers in Indianapolis and Washington, D.C., especially while Ronald Reagan was President.   Adviser Ray Wild concluded:
  The wonder is that Gary survived at all, that it didn’t just go to hell in a hand basket.  Somehow, despite economic forces that have nothing to do with the city administration, Hatcher kept the city in a position to move forward.  Even as late as the 1980s there was the completion of some really major capital improvements downtown: the Hudson-Campbell Health and Fitness Center, Adam Benjamin Metro Transportation Center, the Genesis Center, the Broadway exit into the city from the toll way, the link-up of I-65.  There’s a good argument to be made that a less creative, less farsighted administration might have cost this city everything.
In “Gary’s First Hundred years” I wrote that Hatcher left office, like his father Carlton would have wanted, unbought, unbossed, and with head unbowed.
 John Sheehan

I concluded by mentioning good things that were happening in Gary’s public schools, now under attack by Republican governor Mike Pence, and read John Sheehan’s “Gary Postscript 1989”:
The schools I taught in were noisy but friendly
The jiving was mostly merriment
The gangs mostly clubs
The learning more than you’d think
Though six of my students were shot to death
Out of six thousand.
I’ve lived in this house for 16 years
I walk the dog down the street to the woods
Kids and their parents call me by name
For better or worse Gary’s my home
And I’d rather live in this left-over city
Than in any suburb I know.
Like my son Dave, John Sheehan taught in an oft-maligned city school and inspired many of his 6,000 students.

Sixty years after Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, President Obama released this statement: “Rosa Parks held no elective office.  She was not born into wealth or power.  Yet Rosa Parks changed America.  Her lifetime of activism and her singular moment of courage continue to inspire us today.”  Time to put Rosa Parks’ image on the ten-dollar bill.

Driving to IUN shortly before 10 o’clock classes, I noticed several people jaywalking across Broadway, including a professor who several years before had been struck by a car and seriously wounded near that same spot.  WTF?  Does he have a death wish?  Does he do that after dark, like last time?

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money and on the cover of Rolling Stone, revealed that he mostly listens to classical music – especially Beethoven – but loves Motown (Supremes and Temptations) and disco (Abba and Bee Gees).  Asked if he had anything good to say about the Republican field of candidates, Sanders mentioned Rand Paul wanting to reduce prison sentences for drug offenders, end government spying on citizens, and avoid war in the Middle East.  Then he tempered his praise by adding that Paul had compared him to Pol Pot.

In “Indiana’s 200,” edited by Linda C. Gugin and James E. St. Clair, Ray Boomhower profiled humorist George Ade (1866-1944), a major influence on “Region Rat” Jean Shepherd.  Born in Kentland, Indiana, and a Purdue graduate, Ade became a Chicago reporter and syndicated human-interest columnist who claimed that the key to his success lay in his interest “in all kinds of people and what they were doing and hoping to do.”  His “Fables In Slang”(1899), modeled after Mark Twain, was so popular that it spawned a sequel a year later, “More Fables in Slang” that included such chapters as “The Fable of How Uncle Brewster was Too Shifty for the Tempter” and “The Fable of the Lodge Fiend and the Delilah Trick Played by his Wife.”  Ade donated some royalties to his alma mater for Ross-Ade Stadium and purchased a 417-acre estate near the small town of Brook, Indiana.  He hosted grand parties whose guests included Presidential candidates William Howard Taft in 1908 and Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.  Here, complete with Ade’s strange method of capitalization, is a sample from “The Fable of the Slim Girl Who Tried To Keep a Date That Was Never Made”:
  Once upon a Time there was a slim Girl with a Forehead which was Shiny and Protuberant, like a Bartlett Pear... In all the Country around there was not a Man who came up to her Plans and Specifications for a Husband. Neither was there any Man who had any time for Her. So she led a lonely Life, dreaming of the One—the Ideal. He was a big and pensive Literary Man, wearing a Prince Albert coat, a neat Derby Hat and godlike Whiskers. When He came he would enfold Her in his Arms and whisper Emerson's Essays to her.

Next “Indiana’s 200” subject was Mary Eileen Ahern (1860-1938), a leader of the “modern library movement.”  In an era when library science was one of the meaningful career opportunities open to women, Ahern wrote:
  One of the first and most important lessons which a woman who enters the business world needs to know is the seeming paradox to forget that she is a woman and at the same time keep ever before her that she is a woman.

Last week one of my chairs disappeared.  After I told IUN custodian Cheryl Johnson, she searched the entire library and joked that she’d fill out a police report.  She finally found it in a storage closet.

Haircut prices at Quick Cut in Portage have risen to $13.50.  With no sign of Anna nor Nancy, my regular barbers, I took a chance with blond Ariel, and she did not disappoint.
sixth century mosaic of Theodora; right, Sarah Bernhardt as Theodora

I gave IUN History professor David Parnell a New York Review of Books Peter Brown’s article about Empress Theodora, consort to sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Theodora’s father was the royal Keeper of Bears, in all likelihood, used for fighting one another or mauling enemies of the state.  Though an actress and prostitute in her youth, when Justinian became enamored of her, Theodora embraced religion and is responsible for construction of Hagia Sophia, considered a Byzantine architectural wonder.  Theodora is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and successfully advocated legal reforms that expanded the property rights of women and made divorce easier.  She is credited with convincing Justinian to put down the Nika revolt rather than flee the city and be more tolerant to religious dissenters.  In The Guardian Stella Duffy wrote:
  As Empress, she worked on the paper “On Pimps,” an attempt to stop pimps making their money from prostitutes. Well aware of the impossibility of marriage and a safe life for such women, she set up a house where they could live in peace. Theodora worked for women's marriage and dowry rights, anti-rape legislation, and was supportive of the many young girls who were sold into sexual slavery for the price of a pair of sandals. Her laws banished brothel-keepers from Constantinople and from all the major cities of the empire.

I bowled two mediocre games at Hobart Lanes but then rolled a 174 to help the Engineers win the second of three games from Pin Chasers.  Dick Maloney’s 191 enabled us to capture game two.  A sub with a 141 average bowled a 555 series or we’d have swept them.  On the way home at the intersection of 149 and Ridge Road, a guy sped through a yellow light right in front of me and struck a car exiting a gas station.

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