Monday, March 14, 2016


Bullwinkle: I’d like to apply for a job as an usher.
Boris: What experience have you had?
Bullwinkle: I’ve been in the dark for most of my life.

My favorite cartoon program was “The Bullwinkle Show” starring Bullwinkle J. Moose and sidekick Rocky the Flying Squirrel, plus Dudley Do-Right and nemesis Snidley Whiplash as well as the Russian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale.  It aired afternoons during my time at Bucknell.  I worked on a dishwashing assembly line at Women’s Cafeteria, along with football jocks on scholarships.  When Toni visited, I’d take her o Catholic mass in Lewisburg and observe some of the hell-raisers lined up for confession.  We watched “The Bullwinkle Show” on our break between doing leftover lunch dishes and the dinner batch. I loved the outrageous puns (Bullwinkle went to Wassamatta U, Rocky to Cedar Yourpantz Flying School) and close calls, such as Bullwinkle falling off a ledge and becoming a huge spiraling snowball, only to be rescued by Rocky before going off a cliff.  Steven Speilberg said, “It was the first time that I can recall my parents watching a cartoon show over my shoulder and laughing in places I couldn’t comprehend.”

Professor Tom Spencer was in the Archives researching Gary School Superintendent William A. Wirt (1874-1938) during the 1930s.  Wirt’s reputation as a progressive educator was tarnished by attacks he made in 1934 against New Dealers.  After visiting the Washington, D.C., home of Alice Barrows, he charged that communists had infiltrated several government agencies.  Wirt claimed that several guests told him that they regarded FDR as like Alexander Kerensky prior to the Bolshevik Revolution who in time would be supplanted by a Stalin.  That led to his testifying before a House investigative committee chaired by Alfred L. Bulwinkle of North Carolina.  A lawyer and battalion commander in World War I, Bulwinkle served in Congress between 1921 and 1929 and from 1931 until his death in 1950. Bullwinkle regarded Wirt as a naïve busybody and succeeded in discrediting him.

Also in the Archives: Rhiannon Azur, a Valparaiso grad student, researching the origin of Lake County unions, nationality clubs, and other social and fraternal organizations.  She is interested in gravestone inscriptions and has visited over 60 Lake County cemeteries, including the old Swedish graveyard in Miller. She has found intriguing symbols on headstones, including some not yet identified, but none so far of the Ku Klux Klan, active in the Region during the 1920s.  I introduced her to Archives volunteer Martha Latko, a frequent contributor to Find a Grave website.
 Victoria Lane and Leah Williamson; Becca flanked by Donkey (Paige Fowler) and Shrek (Liam Blazer)
Victoria’s cheer season has ended successfully, as she won conference and district awards. Next up for her is soccer.  Sister Miranda spent Spring Break in Florida and has been accepted into Grand Valley State’s Social Work Masters program.  Alissa and her mother came in to see Becca shine as Princess Fiona in “Shrek: The Musical.”  Although James graduated from Discovery Charter School last year, he helped rearrange the set between scenes while Angie was on the team of directors.  The cast of nearly a hundred included tap dancing rats, a dwarf (William Skish), a wicked witch (Breanna Smoot), a donkey (Paige Fowler), and three storytellers (Olivia Burkhart, Abby Joeston, and Zoe Blazer) who underwent numerous costume changes.  Sadly, no Bullwinkle.  At one point Becca (with Angie’s help) had barely a minute to transform into a green-faced troll.  During curtain call the entire cast sang the 1967 Monkees hit “I’m a Believer,” which begins, “I thought love was only true in fairy tales.”

I’ve got “Humbug” by Arctic Monkeys on heavy rotation that begins with “My Propeller” (“Coax me out of my low and have a spin of my propeller”).

James has a 142 bowling average – exactly the same currently as mine –and at Inman’s I caught up on news about Chris Lugo’s granddaughter Angel, whom I’ve known since she was a toddler.  About to graduate from Ball State, Angel is taking a Criminal Justice course during Spring Break in England – something Miranda did last summer for Social Work – and, like Miranda, will start grad school in the fall.  Evan Davis came in from Fort Wayne for gaming at Tom Wade’s.  We test-played his latest version of Power Rails, and then I won a five-player Amun Re contest by a single point over Tom and Brady.  Seemingly out of contention, being 14 points down at the end of the first round but with the most money, I built three sets of pyramids plus garnered most on one side and held the power card “all on the (Nile) river or off the river.”

“Spotlight” deserved its acclaim as Best Picture of 2015.  At the end, prior to the credits, was a list of cities, in addition to Boston, where pedophile priests were unearthed - over a hundred in the U.S. alone and even more than that worldwide, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Wollongong, Australia.  Rachel McAdams played Sacha Pfeiffer, a Boston Globe investigative reporter who stopped attending mass with her grandmother upon learning the scope of the scandal.  When Sacha shows her grandmother the story, and the old lady asks for a glass of water.  For the faithful the coverup was like being hit with a ton of bricks.

VU Prof Heath Carter has co-edited a new book, “The Pew and the Picker Line: Christianity and the American Working Class,” with Christopher D. Cantwell and Janine Giordano Drake.  Illinois Press printed this blurb:
Navigating a wide spectrum of time and workspaces, racial and ethnic expressions, and blue-collar gospels, this brilliantly conceived and superbly executed volume demands that historians shift their gaze from the much examined corporate to under-scrutinized labor side of modern American Christianity and capitalism."--Darren Dochuk, author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism.

The subject of IUN colleague Xiaoqing Diana Lin’s new book “Feng Youlan and Twentieth Century China,” was the preeminent Chinese philosopher of the twentieth century.  After graduating from Peking University in 1918 at age 23, Feng Youlan (馮友蘭)  studied under John Dewey at Columbia University on the Boxer Indemnity Scholarship Program.  PhD in hand, he returned to China and wrote a two-volume “History of Chinese Philosophy” (1934), attempting, in Lin’s words, “to render traditional Chinese concepts compatible with Western metaphysical approaches to knowledge.”  His goal, Lin added, was to produce “a new value system based on the creative adaptation of Confucian and Daoist teachings synthesized with Western logic and other philosophical influences.”  Sympathetic to the Communist revolution, Youlan was relatively free to continue his academic career.  Despite persecution during the Cultural Revolution and house arrest after the death of Mao Zedong, he remained intellectually active until shortly before his death in 1990 at age 95.

At Gino’s Peter Thayer talked about U. S. Grant, whose first name was actually Hiram.  I joked that the first thing I knew about Grant was the silly question, “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”  Rich Maroc piped in that Groucho Marx would ask losing contestants on “You Bet Your Life” that question for a fifty-dollar consolation prize.  David Moore quipped that some didn’t know the answer.  I added info about First Lady Julia Dent Grant, born on an antebellum Missouri plantation.  Debra Dubovich noted that Julia rented out slaves while her husband, in a similar position, set his free.  Grant had decent intentions toward Indians, but his toleration of graft doomed his efforts.  He appointed a Native American, Donehogawa (Ely Parker) to the Commission of Indian Affairs but moved the agency to the War Department controlled by corrupt Secretary William Belknap.  The other four commissioners represented either avaricious traders or missionaries eager to eradicate Indian culture who, over Donehogawa’s vehement objections, transferred children to boarding school located far from reservations, where many succumbed to tuberculosis and other contagious diseases. 

Jerry Davich posted a column about Paragon Restaurant founder Louis Gerodemos.  The Post-Trib refused to run it four years ago because of dubious legality concerns.  Born in 1933, Louis came to America at age 18 and, like many eligible newcomers, soon got drafted.  Davich wrote:
Gerodemos served in the Army as a mess cook, what else, and earned his citizenship while stationed in Colorado Springs. His Army captain drove him to the ceremony.
              While in Colorado, Gerodemos met the owner of a bar and eatery called "George's Grill." George was Greek and took Gerodemos under his wing, treating him like his son.
When Gerodemos returned to this region in 1957, he used what he learned there to open his many restaurants here, including a snack shop in Chicago, a Tasty-Freeze shop, and a nightclub in downtown Gary called The Star Club. 
Other restaurant ventures have come and gone through the years, including a few relationships with shady businessmen, tainting his reputation. But along the way, he's sold thousands of meals, shook the hands of countless customers, and made guests feel like they're part of the family.

Renee Villarreal interviewed Simon Rodriguez, who had a rough childhood, teen setbacks, and, after questionable life choices, turned his life around.  In a paper for Steve McShane she wrote:
--> Simon Rodriguez was born in California on February 25, 1978, the second oldest of three boys. His father, Luis Rodriguez, was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Chicago, met Simon’s mother Sandra in high school, and was in the Marines stationed in California when Simon was born.  Luis and Sandra divorced three years later. Once out of the service, Luis began to drink heavily and see other women, according to Sandra, who soon remarried and had two more boys.  Simon stepfather moved them to Calumet City and then Hammond and bought a nice house that was a far cry from the roach-infested Chicago apartment of Simon’s childhood. They lived in a high crime area, however, filled with drug dealers, prostitutes, and gangs. Simon recalled seeing needles on the ground when walking to school. Prostitutes worked his street; he and his friends found a gun while playing outside.  At Eggers Elementary a majority of children were black. Simon’s mother was a Boy Scout den leader, a volunteer for the Harrison Park Historical Association, and a stay-at-home mom until a divorce forced her to seek employment, leaving Simon often unsupervised.
At the age of 15 Simon found a fast food job that paid minimum wage. Sandra wanted half his earnings. Simon refused and was kicked out of the house. He bounced around from his father’s home in Chicago, an aunt’s place in Florida, back to Chicago with a different aunt, and then in Hammond again with his mother.  The dysfunctional home life continued, and Simon found himself in and out of Lake County Juvenile Center (LCJC) for a couple of years. Simon joined a local gang and wasn’t concerned with the consequences. He dropped out of high school, lived with friends or gang members, and was happy to have money in his pocket and not worry about the future.
The good times didn’t last. As Simon left a party, he was shot from behind and the bullet went through his abdomen. By the time the paramedics reached Simon, his heart had stopped beating, and he almost died.  Surgeons removed half his intestines. His left side was paralyzed for some time due to the bullet being so close to his spine. Simon’s hospital stay only lasted two weeks because he turned 18 and his insurance ran out.  Although he could barely walk, he was asked to leave.  Friends and their mothers aided Simon in his recovery, and soon he was back to partying and gangbanging until he
--> found out he was going to be a father and enrolled in the Job Corps.  He wanted to be a better parent  than he felt Luis was to him. He left his gang, worked toward a G.E.D., and got certified in bricklaying. He worked in the bricklaying field for three years, had another child, and got into construction, mostly framing and roofing.  The most challenging aspect of adulthood, Simon found, was maintaining financial stability.  Much of his work is seasonal; continuous labor work is hard to come by unless you know someone.  When Simon his late twenties, responsible for three children, one with special needs,he attempted to join the army, but the old gunshot wound rendered him unacceptable. 
Simon and Sandra maintain a relationship, and he sees his father occasionally at family gatherings. On the other hand, Simon and his siblings are very tight and spur each other on. None is incarcerated or on drugs; everyone finished high school or obtained G.E.Ds. Considering some of Simon’s life choices, he considers himself fortunate to be alive and is on the alert for new opportunities. (below, Simon and Sandra)

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