Thursday, January 28, 2016

At the Archives

“Archives are the pay dirt of history.  Everything else is opinion,” Germaine Greer

above, Dick Meister, below, Gary Nabhan
Dick and Joan Meister visited IUN’s Calumet Regional Archives seeking information on Save the Dunes pioneers Dorothy Buell and Ed Osan for an upcoming program of the Ogden Dunes Historical Society.  At the previous meeting the topic was Diana of the Dunes.  Dick and I talked about Carson Cunningham, now coaching at Carroll College in Montana, who taught history courses both at IUN and DePaul, where Dick was Vice President of Academic Affairs.  Both of us tried to get him hired at our respective schools.  Dick and Joan told me about Gary Nabhan, a 63 year-old University of Arizona professor who grew up in Gary (his father Theodore was a city councilman) and is an expert on ethnobotany and seed saving (preserving indigenous plants).  Among Nabhan’s many books are “Cross-Pollinations: The Marriage of Science and Poetry” (2004) and “Food, Genes, and Culture: Eating Right for Your Origins” (2013).  In 1977 Nabhan wrote a poem about Diana of the Dunes for Great Lakes Review (Winter 1977) in which he refers to Diana’s home as “the Land of Sacred Reeds and Sand,” which J. Ronald Engel refers to in “Sacred Sands: The Struggle for Community in the Indiana Dunes” (1983). The poem contains these lines, imagining Diana swimming in Lake Michigan:

stroking the water
your breath pulsing    pulled on
by some aquaspheric force
too strong to be called current.
 Scott Williams
Vicki and Scott Williams visited the Archives in search of a copy of my Portage Steel Shavings.  Last November Scott was elected to the Portage city council and wants to know more about the city’s history.  Vicki and Scott were neighbors of mutual friends Peg and Corky Horvath.  Son Tom went to high school with Phil and Dave and drops in to see us whenever he’s visiting from Germany.  Vicki, whose maiden name was Wisneski, was attending IUN when I started teaching in 1970.  Interviewed by Nancy Ferro for a Shavings issue on the history of IUN (“Educating the Calumet Region,” volume 35, 2004), she recalled her hippie English Composition professor and first meeting Scott.
     Morrie Scheckman was out there on the edge.  He had shoulder-length hair and wore jeans.  After I missed an exam, he gave me his address in Chicago so I could come make it up.  After black students pressured the university into offering Black Literature, they didn’t have anybody to teach it.  I took both L101 and L102 with Scheckman, who was Jewish and very sympathetic to civil rights.  Most students in the class were white.
     I met my future husband in an evening Geography class.  I was retaking it because I flunked the first time.  I needed a map, but the bookstore had closed early for inventory.  Scott was in the hall and saw how upset I was.  He had an extra map and offered it to me.  He said, “I figured I’d screw up, so I brought an extra one.”  We enjoyed the Tuesday and Friday dances.  About three months later we were married.  We tracked down the professor, who also taught at Valparaiso, and invited him to the reception.  He said, “Well, if anything goes wrong, don’t blame me.”

On the same page as Nancy Ferro’s interview with Vicki Williams is an article Emily Schuetz wrote about T.J. Stoops, who was a freshman in 1968 and is presently IUN’s Director of Sponsored Research.  Schuetz wrote: “Her real name was Tedgena, but a young man in English class called her Tomato Juice because of her red hair.  Later he shortened it to T.J., and soon everyone started calling her that, even family members.”
Julie and Paul Kern in 2011
Paul and Julie Kern having embarked on a trip from Florida to California, he reported: “On a cold, rainy miserable day we are in the Texas Hill Country.  At least we were able to enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Guadalupe River.”  Forty years ago, Paul took our family to a cabin in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.  During the drive we played tapes of Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Band on the Run” and the Eagles’ “On the Border.”  A recent blog of mine entitled “Already Gone” that mentions Eagle Glenn Frey’s death has (for me) gone viral, with well over 200 hits, four times the normal amount and easily surpassing the previous most popular one, on the legacy of Region radio and television personality Tom Higgins.

The Archives has been a beehive of activity these past few days, in addition to the presence of our numerous volunteers.  John DeGan brought nephew Mike to see family letters in the Carl Krueger Collection, a treasure trove of correspondence by several family members that Toni discovered in a foot locker at a house within the National Lakeshore about to be demolished.  Another visitor was looking at our yearbook collection.  Student Devin Dove, interested in Gary history, was checking out my Eighties Shavings.

An East Chicago Central student needed information about IUN scholarships, so I met with Director of Admissions Dorothy Frink.  She was very pleasant and extremely helpful, even providing suggestions about matters that I didn’t think to ask about.  She hasn’t met former Admissions director Bill Lee, whom I occasionally run into at the credit union, so I might try to arrange it.

Student organizations manned tables in Savannah Center.  The Muslim group gave away cookies and had a sign reading, “Meet a Muslim.”  No sign of the History Club, defunct since popular professor Jerry Pierce left unwillingly, or the LGBT group Connectionz, whose former faculty adviser Anne Balay will be speaking at Valparaiso University next month.  She was also given the boot.
Toni and I enjoyed “Brooklyn,” about an Irish immigrant set in the early 1950s.  The scenes on board the ship that brings her to New York City, the boarding house where she rooms, and of the department store where she works are very realistic.  At Christmas Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) volunteers to serve dinner to homeless men, and a priest tells her that these people built America’s, roads, railroads and bridges.  Very moving.  As the New Republic’s Will Leitch put it, “I could have hung out with everyone in Brooklyn for hours: it’s a world you won’t want to leave.”  Near the end of the film Eilis tells a newcomer to America, You'll feel so homesick that you'll want to die, and there's nothing you can do about it apart from endure it. But you will, and it won't kill you... and one day the sun will come out and you'll realize that this is where your life is.”  Brooklyn is one of eight films nominated for best picture, and Ronan is nominated for best actress.

I wore a favorite shirt for one final time.  It has a frayed collar, and the left sleeve ripped.  I often wore it on airplane trips because of its pockets and warmth.  Archives volunteer Dave Mergl gave me a nearly identical one, but, of course, I doesn’t feel as comfortable.  When I look at old photos, I often notice what I’m wearing, so I won’t forget it.

Dick Maloney bowled despite a sore thumb (with a black nail) that was the result of catching it in a door.  I rolled two 149s and would have had a third if I’d converted a 6-10 at the end of the second game and then struck.  With five strikes in a row opponent Doris Guth bowled a 235.  Twice pins fell after she’d turned away, just before the rack came down.  I should be so lucky.  My final frame I needed a strike to win my second quarter pot (paid out every tenth strike).  I left the 6-10, spared, and as my next ball curved into the pocket, jumped up as all the pins fell.  Collecting the quarters, I told Mel Guth, “I only do that on my last ball.”  My back ached later.

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