“There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me.”
“Won’t Be Fooled Again,” The Who
On Roger Daltry’s 71st birthday WXRT’s Lin Brehmer put on “Won’t get Fooled Again” and during the long instrumental segment near the end played rantings by Donald Trump promising pie in the sky. Then came the final lines:
Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss.
Brehmer first heard “Won’t Get Fooled Again” at a July, 1971 live concert at Forest Hills tennis stadium prior to it being released and, in his words, was gobsmacked, utterly astounded at its audacity and timeliness, as there was fighting in the streets while the Vietnam fiasco continued under Tricky Dick Nixon.
In Steve McShane’s class last semester Bethany Schima wrote about her mother, Debra Ann Martin, born on July 30, 1955, the second youngest of five children. Debra’s parents, Glenn Nelson and Geraldine Young, were of Swedish, German, and French Canadian ancestry. Debra lived first in Hammond, then in Highland, and, starting at age 12, Munster. Describing her mother as an inspiration and role model, Bethany wrote:
When Debra was a little girl, she loved tap dancing. Her mom and dad were in choir, and there was a piano in the practice room. When she was in eighth grade, Geraldine took her to downtown Hammond and bought her a used Baldwin piano. Her mother never had to ask her to practice, and she took off like lightning. Within three years, she was playing classical music.
Debra was in Brownies and Girl Scouts. Of the 15 badges she earned, her favorite was for roller-skating at Twilight Skating Rink. In high school she was in choir, German Club, and Pep Club (members sat in bleachers and cheered sports teams). In addition, she operated time watches for the girls swim team. She’d be assigned a lane and time the swimmer in it.
Debra remembers going to Woodmar Shopping Center and the Shrine Circus at the Hammond Civic Center. She shopped at many beautiful Hammond stores including, Evans and Goldblatts, and took in movies at the Parthenon and Paramount Theaters, which had balconies. In 1968, she had a pen pal named Victor a soldier in Vietnam. His letters were quite desperate. In a high-risk situation he was fearful of losing his life.
In 1970, Debra was drawn to the hippie subculture and for a while called herself Rainflower. She had a love bead necklace purchased in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. Her brother hitchhiked with a friend to the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969, to California in 1970, and Florida in 1971. Debra and her friends often hitchhiked to Miller Beach and other local haunts. Looking back, she did a lot of foolish and dangerous things but not as foolish as some contemporaries.
After 30 years of marriage, Debra’s parents divorced. Even though she was 20, she was devastated but somehow made it through. A couple years later she and her boyfriend moved to Tennessee, got married, and became heavily involved in church. Three years later they moved with their small congregation to Greenville, South Carolina. She had two beautiful girls. Eventually, her husband got away from church, became abusive, started an affair with a co-worker, and began using drugs. After separating from him, she moved back to Indiana and stayed with her mother for a year. She attended IUN, living on a shoestring and raising 2 girls on her own while earning associate and bachelor degrees in Medical Records. Her husband eventually moved back to Indiana so he could see the kids. He was working and giving her child support, enabling her to obtain an apartment. After 7 years of separation and then divorce, Debra married a man she met at a Christian singles group. He subsequently became an atheist. Despite this and other issues they have been married for 16 years.
Debra’s mother passed away in 2003 at age 78. Her father, now 89, lives in Florida, and she visits him once or twice a year. Debra’s older daughter Lisa is married and has twice made her a grandparent. Looking back, Debra has seen how differently she could have handled situations or made better life choices. However, she doesn’t regret having her beautiful daughters and the joy they’ve both given her.
above, Debra with Lisa (8) and Bethany (4); below, with father (Glenn) and daughters 8 and 13
In “Lola” Truman Capote wrote about a Sicilian servant girl, Graziella, giving him a raven with its wings cruelly clipped that he named Lola and kept as a pet for 12 years. In a few sentences Capote draws a memorable portrait of the superstitious Graziella, who became engaged to a young gigolo, mending the socks and doing laundry for a handsome beau whose clients included, in all likelihood, young and old patrons of both sexes. Capote wrote:
Lola was a thief; otherwise she might never have used her wings at all. However, the sort of articles she was fond of stealing – shiny things, grapes and fountain pens, cigarettes – were situated usually in elevated areas; so, to reach a table top, she occasionally took a (quite literally) flying jump. Once she stole a set of false teeth.
While in a sixth-floor Roman apartment, Lola was atop a balustrade when a predator cat caused the bird to fall off the balcony. Although Lola was capable of flight, instead she merely floated down onto the back of a pickup truck. Capote chased after it in vain, then told 93 year-old neighbor Signor Fioli, a former cabinetmaker who had grown attached to Lola’s antics and watched what happened in horror, that Lola thought she was a dog.
Mountain Press published “Bold Women in Indiana History” by Louise Hillery, a frequent Archives researcher. The Young Adult volume includes portraits of Region pioneer Marie Bailly, dunes preservationist Dorothy Buell, and Vee-Jay Records founder Vivian Carter. Hillery wrote:
Each of these women had her own talents and her own ideas about how to make the world a better place. What they had in common were courage and determination, enough to bring their ideas to life. These are some of the many bold women who helped make the Hoosier state what it is today.
The chapter on Vivian Carter employs quotes from Henry Farag found in a Traces article of mine cited in the Bibliography and concludes: “In a time when black and white teens were mostly kept separated, the music played at Vivian’s Record Shop in Gary, Indiana, brought them together. In the record business, this was called ‘crossover’ music, but to Vivian Carter, it was just wonderful music that was too good not to share.”
Daniel Velasco, a teacher at Gary’s 21st Century Charter School, located across from the ruins of City Methodist Church, sought help for a student project called 21st Century Citizen Vlogs (video blogs). He and Ivy Tech adjunct Melissa Culbertson visited the Archives to familiarize themselves with our Gary holdings and pick my brain. Their students will research and debate such topics as affirmative action, white flight, and gentrification. Regarding affirmative action, I suggested focusing on Valparaiso University and pointed them to VU’s Welcome Project. I recommended examining black flight to Merrillville but had no suggestions on gentrification – but later thought perhaps the Cedar Lake waterfront would be a candidate for study. I told Daniel and Melissa about VU History professor Heath Carter, whose students put together a Porter County Museum display highlighting civil rights in Northwest Indiana. One student did a paper on past efforts, the result of student demands, to promote diversity on campus.
Culbertson is from Homewood, Illinois, Velasco (whom students call Mr V, like East Chicago kids once called my favorite student of all time, Jesse Villalpando, 10 years my senior) from Chicago. Velasco explained the project on a website:
Students interested in careers with information technology, or video editing will be able to deepen their understanding of the collaboration necessary for success. Students will use the iPads to edit video clips, work in design teams, and use video editing software like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. Students will learn essential communication skills and contact local officials in an effort to create an online hub of local leaders that other students can access. In doing so, students will learn essential leadership skills that will help them succeed in college.
Student Monica Phillips hoped the project would expand, in her words, “our impact beyond our school walls and get the local government to hear our concerns about Gary. I want to show my classmates and other students that they, too, can do amazing things.”
Sam and Brenda Love are moving into a century-old house. While packing Sam found his photo in an August 27 1997, issue of the IUN student newspaper, the Phoenix. A caption identified him as the staff musician. He quipped, “I have the same haircut and an additional chin now.”
Super Tuesday results are in, Donald Trump won 11 states, Ted Cruz, 4, and establishment hope Marco Rubio, one, Minnesota. One anti-Trump ad running on Chicago TV stations mocks the frontrunner for saying, “I love the poorly educated.” After using racist code words for a half-century to lure under-educated redneck Southern voters, GOP hypocrites now are slamming Trump for being slow to disavow support from onetime Klansman David Duke. When I first heard that Duke had endorsed Trump, I suspected it was a Cruz dirty trick. Probably so did Trump. If the frontrunner, caught by surprise, took a few hours to formulate an answer, perhaps he had doubts about commencing the disavowal game. Should he next be asked to disavow supporter Trent Lott, who claimed segregationist Strom Thurman would have made a better president than Harry Truman? When Richard Hatcher ran for mayor of Gary in 1967, Lake County boss John Krupa demanded he disavow a half-dozen black militants and anti-war spokesmen, including Julian Bond of SNCC and actor Marlon Brando. Hatcher wisely refused to play that game.
“Women, Art, and the New Deal” by Katherine H. Adams and Michael L. Keene contains moving illustrations by the likes of Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott, and Elizabeth Olds. Some I’d never seen before, such as Lange’s unforgettable Mississippi Delta shot, “Negro Carrying Her Shoes Home from Church.”
Above, Elizabeth Olds, "Mrs. Manchester's Program for Homeless Men"; below, Bowery, 1935 by Berenice Abbott
I have started preparing for an April 5 talk on “Steel makers in Gary and East Chicago” at Calumet College in Whiting at a monthly forum called Calumet Revisited and may start with a joke. Here’s an early draft:
In 1970, after I was hired to teach at IU Northwest, a neighbor in my WASP suburban neighborhood of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, asked if I knew what Gary was famous for. “Steel?” I said, then “A black mayor?” “Hookers,” he replied. But that’s a subject for another day. Actually, as many of you know hookers worked in billet mills where semi-finished billets are rolled from ingots in that phase of the steel-making process.
Moving to the Calumet Region, I couldn’t get over its blue-collar flavor. Virtually everyone either worked in a steel mill or had a relative who did. Some of my students were steelworkers, or had been.
During the early 1970s labor historian Staughton Lynd, a Quaker blacklisted from academia for traveling to North Vietnam, convened a labor History Workshop at a Glen Park storefront just blocks from IUN. Guest speakers, including an eyewitness to the 1937 Memorial Day Massacre and a rank-and-file activist purged of union office during the post WW II Red Scare. The common message from the participants was that unions had been weakened by bureaucratization, top-down decision-making, and tactics of thuggery employed against dissidents.
Researching Gary’s history, I learned about early, nonunion-era working conditions in the steel mills for those who labored in unsafe conditions – 12 hours a day, seven days a week, producing what John Fitch called “Old Age at 40.” I read about famous native sons like boxer Tony Zale (whose strength came in part from being a steelworker) and actor Karl Malden (born Mladen Sekulovich, whose brief experience inside Gary Works was enough for him to resolve never to return). Wishing to write a social history from the bottom up, I interviewed numerous steelworkers, including Mexican-American Paulino Monterrubio. Arriving at Monterrubio’s house, I was most interested in probing into ways he was discriminated against, both in the mill – assigned to the coke plant, for instance – and outside of work. While this was certainly part of his life, Monterrubio did not wish to be defined as a victim and proudly showed me his union card, citizenship papers, his WW II warden’s hat, and family photos. When I subsequently interviewed Jesse Villallpando and Pete “Chico” Fernandez, two students of mine, I further realized the pride steelworkers had in what they did and how their work did not define their total essence.
In the mid-1970s IU folklorist Richard Dorson began researching the folklore of steel, gathering tales embellished at steelworker watering holes. Among the categories delineated in Dorson’s book “Land of the Millrats” were the “old days,” deaths and accidents, mill thefts, goofing off, vandalism, rats, characters, and nicknames. My students collected similar tales, with the addition of the additional categories, sex and sexual harassment. As a result of the 1974 Consent Decree women in significant numbers hired in and became subject to humiliations that led to the formation of Women’s Caucuses. Having met one of the Caucus leaders, millwright Valerie Denney, when both of us were members of the anti-nuke Bailly Alliance, I published the transcript of our interview in a Steel Shavings magazine titled “Calumet Region Steelworkers Tales.” (1990). By that time unfortunately most women had lost their jobs during the layoffs of the 1980s (being the last hired, due to the seniority police, they were the first laid off). That project led to a collaboration with Mike Olszanski, on Local 1010’s environmental and safety committee during the Bailly fight and later President of Local 1010. We co-edited a Steel Shavings issue on rank-and-file insurgency in the Calumet Region based largely on oral histories and titled “Steelworkers Fight back: Inland’s Local Union 1010 and the Sadlowski/Balanoff Campaigns.” In addition several of my students interviewed steelworkers affected by the 1986-1987 lockout, the longest work stoppage in the history of Gary Works.
For several years I was oral history consultant for projects initiated by Sandy Appleby of the Tri-City Mental Health Center in East Chicago. One dealt with the psychological effects on steelworkers being laid-off. I found that most didn’t miss the mills, just the money they earned there. Some were subsequently rehired and several became students of mine, taking advantage of a Labor Studies program called Swingshift College. Working on a second project on ethnicity, entitled “Pass the Culture, Please,” I interviewed members of the Arredondo family, whose patriarch Miguel was a union organizer and his son Jesse later a union president. That led ultimately in my collaborating in the book “Maria’s Journey.”
Five years ago I suggested to colleague Anne Balay that she research LGBT steelworkers after we realized that virtually nothing had been written on the subject. Her award-winning “Steel Closets,” based on interviews with 40 LGBT steelworkers, forced the USW bureaucracy to recognize that there was a problem and to take a stand against discrimination. Ironically, that major contribution to labor history and her queer persona may have cost Anne her job at IUN.