“To develop a complete mind: study the science of art; study the art of science. Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Leonardo Da Vinci (below)
At the annual Arts and Sciences awards banquet History Department chair Jonathyne Briggs announced the winners of the Paul Louis Urcan and Rhiman Rotz memorial scholarships, Rachel Siska and Matthew Eddy. Urcan was a student a half-century ago who died in an accident; Professor Rotz was a popular medievalist and adviser both to pre-law students and the Muslim Student Association. When I was chair, an Urcan winner who had taken several courses from me expressed an interest in obtaining my Gary history, “City of the Century.” I had a spare copy, but the jacket was torn so I removed it and decided to present it to him at the awards ceremony. Sitting on the stage I noticed that my fingers were black due to mildew in my office that had adversely affected over the years.
Briggs invited me to a class on the AIDS epidemic. I demurred. Performing Arts professor Mark Baer said that when he brought up AIDS in a recent class, he teared up. As I neared retirement, I remarked, it became harder to hold in my emotions. “I guess I’m getting old,” replied Baer, my sons’ age and father of a pre-schooler.
For a class assignment Melissa Cundiff wrote about her grandmother, Betty Parker, born in 1954 and raised in Chesterton:
Betty lived in a two-bedroom house with 9 brothers and sisters. Neighbors helped out with meals, and friends from school would give Betty outgrown clothes. Betty was often in charge of her younger brothers. Betty got married at 19 and was planning a move to Chicago when she learned that she was pregnant. She stayed close to home so her parents could help take care of JoAnn (my mother). Betty eventually became a stay-at-home mother; her husband was a steelworker. When Chesterton started the Wizard of Oz Festival, she sold homemade items at a craft booth, eventually expanding to the Valparaiso Popcorn Festival and Whiting’s Pierogi Fest.
Desiree Davis’s father was born in 1970 at St. Catherine’s in East Chicago and grew up in Hammond. A born storyteller, Bill Davis told Desiree about his life:
My father, Bill Davis, Sr., was a sharp dresser whom my mother, Judy Park, couldn’t resist. They experienced early intercourse. The crazy thing is that, as a practical joke, Judy’s brother George had poked a hole in the condom with a sewing needle and that’s how I got here. My mother got kicked out of her house and quit school. After two years Bill and Judy decided to split. Judy’s second husband was abusive, and more than once we entered a shelter for battered wives to get out of harms way. To see our home be taken away just shattered my heart. My mother has since made good changes in her life and has given herself to the Lord.
My grandparents loved me to death. They were separated and lived their own lives but always had time for me. My grandfather was a jazzy type of guy, handsome, tall, and proud of his Romanian ancestry. My sister Kristie Lyll (above, with Judy and Bill) is five years younger than me, and we spent a lot of time at roller rinks, throwing frisbees, fishing, and playing hacky sac. One time I was on the phone, and she kept blowing a clarinet in my ear. When she wouldn’t stop, I flexed at her with my foot, pretending like I was going to kick her. I accidentally connected with the clarinet, and she had to get stitches in the back of the throat. My mom called me every name in the book.
Living in public housing in Hammond’s Columbia Center, I’d bounce around on my waterbed until my mother would yell for me to stop before it popped. I’d wait in line for government milk, cheese, fruit, cereal, and oatmeal. We got winter jackets through the Salvation Army. My duties around the house were to clean my bedroom, do dishes, and vacuum. My mother eventually taught me how to cook. We went camping and did a lot of fishing. I was cleaning fish at age 10. We’d go door-to-door Christmas caroling, and with that money I’d buy my mom and girlfriend presents. I’d shovel driveways for extra money. In Little League I once hit a ball that broke a window of Madvek’s Dog House. My coach paid me five bucks for a home run, and I once went home with ten bucks in my pocket, feeling like a millionaire.
At Hammond Gavit I excelled in football. Against Hammond High on September 4, 1987, I had my leg messed up so bad the doctors wanted to amputate. Multiple surgeries later experts predicted that I’d be in a wheelchair my whole life. After three years of physical therapy, I proved them wrong. Friends pushed me to school in a wheelchair or I’d wheel myself. Without a big support group I’d have lost my mind. My friends were everything to me. We were all like a big family. We played a little poker and drank some alcohol. We had good parties. My best friend, Glen Sheetz, loved the band Kiss, and we saw them live; it was the best concert I’ve ever been to.
I had my first date at 13; my dad picked me up and Tanya Huff and took us to Shakey’s, an all-you-can-eat pizza joint. They’d play old “Three Stooges” films. It was pretty cool; dad sat away from us with a pitcher of beer. Another time my friend’s mom gave us a ride on a double date to see “Footloose.” My mom had the birds and bees conversation early considering she’d had me at 16. The main rule was, if you had sex, wear a condom. I remember crying to my mom the first time I had sex. I was scared that I had gotten the girl pregnant. Although I wore a condom, her period was late. I worried that it had a hole in it because that’s how I came into this world.
After school I was a stocker, did a lot of dishwashing, worked for Stanley carpet cleaning company, and in the city of Hammond’s recycling, street, and sanitation departments before moving on to jobs with Ford Motors, first in an assembly plant and then in its Chicago Stamping plant. I met my wife at a dance. After living together for 3 years, we bought a house and got married. The birth of my children was the most beautiful experience of my life. We took them to Disney World, went camping and took vacations to Indiana Beach.
IUN’s Supervisor of Grounds Timothy Johnson came across a dead wild turkey that apparently flew into Marram Hall. IUN biologist Spencer Cortwright reported:
With warmer weather it seems as though life suddenly abounds. One of the great conservation successes in Indiana is the great increase in number of wild turkey. Wild turkey lost their footing in Indiana due to overhunting and forest decline. Once these factors were controlled, in the 1980's primarily, Indiana Department of Natural Resources began an effort to jumpstart turkey populations. Partial funding came from the optional donation line for non-game wildlife of our tax forms. DNR biologists would capture 3 grouse (which were doing better in Indiana) and give them to Missouri (not doing so well there). In exchange, Indiana DNR received 2 turkeys caught in Missouri. The population jumpstart worked! Now it is common for any of us to see turkeys in the woods, farm fields, roadsides, etc. It's worked so well, turkey are again considered game and there is a legal hunting season.
Participating in a session on “Queer Attachments” at a University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum were (from left) Kadji Amin, Durba Mi, Anne Balay, and Heather Love. Amin, a Penn postdoctoral fellow who organized the session, likes to think of himself as a visitor from a distant time. He looked the part.
After losing big to Donald Trump in the New York primary, Ted Cruz claimed: “America’s always been best when she is lying down with her back on the mat and the crowd has given the final count.” What’s really creepy is that he read the statement off a teleprompter.
Chancellor Bill Lowe, whose academic field is Irish history, came to the department’s “Meet and Greet” open house. Discussing Ireland’s World War II policy of neutrality, he mentioned that President Éamon de Valera created a political storm and drew British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s wrath when, hearing of Adolf Hitler’s death, he visited to the German ministry in Dublin to offer condolences, in accordance to diplomatic protocol.
At the twelfth annual COAS conference Chris Young chaired a session on “Digitizing he Past.” Three of his students mapped Lincoln’s funeral train (Karl Lugar), the life of William Henry Harrison ((Leanne Wieczorek) and War of 1812 battlefields ((Michael Litwiller). Yaryn Grin used Google Books N-Gram to chart the frequency of publications about the Battle of Shiloh. Interest spiked immediately after the war, upon the death of U.S. Grant coincident the release of his memoirs, at the outbreak of WWI and WWII, and in 1962, the centennial anniversary of the bloody Civil War engagement.
Michigan City dignitaries await Lincoln funeral train
According to Karl Lugar, Lincoln’s funeral train traveled 1,654 miles through 180 cities in 14 days. Folks waited 12 hours to view the casket, set bonfires, and erected ornate wreaths above the tracks. On the train were Lincoln’s eldest son Robert and the disinterred coffin of son Willie, who had died of typhoid fever in 1862. In Michigan City, due to a delay in Chicago officials arriving for the next leg of the journey, Lincoln’s casket was opened and viewed by local dignitaries. Historian E.D. Daniels wrote that young girls dressed in a long black skirts placed a floral cross prepared by Harriet Colfax onto Lincoln’s casket. According to Ken Schoon, Colfax lived in the Michigan City lighthouse and lit the tower lanterns every night for a yearly salary of $350.
11:30 COAS session highlights included Jessica Korman speaking on “Augustus Was a Religious Syncretist!” (one who merged or blended different religious beliefs into a new system), Lana Murher on “Ethnic Discord during the Umayyad Emirate of Islamic Spain” (the Umayyad dynasty dominated Spain for two centuries beginning in 756), and a recitation of the Hollis Donald poem “Dr. Martin Luther King – Was the Real Soul Thing.”
Following a 6 p.m. reception came a world premier screening of “Shifting Sands on the Path to Sustainability” with introductory remarks by director Lee Botts, Carolyn Saxton of Legacy Foundation, Superintendent Paul Labovitz of the National park Service, and James Muhammad of Lakeshore TV. The Savannah Auditorium was nearly full (As Ken Schoon, has pointed out, the correct spelling should be “savanna” since it is named for rolling grassland). At a second showing the sound went off for a few seconds. Schoon, sitting behind me, repeated the exact words. Film producer Pat Wisniewski, an IUN grad, thanked Steve McShane and the Calumet Regional Archives as well as professors she interviewed, including Schoon, Peter Avis, Mark Reshkin, and myself. Kristin Huysken, one of her favorite professors, congratulated her for a job well done.
At VU’s “Thursday Night Noir” an overflow crowd, including old friends Larry and Bobbie Galler and IUN retirees Rick Hug and Joan Wolter, watched “Touch of Evil” (1958). I thoroughly enjoyed its exposure of racism against Mexicans and sexy Marlene Dietrich delivering an existential epitaph for Hank Quinlan (Orson Wells), in her words, a great detective but a lousy, crooked cop: “He was some kind of man. What does it matter what you say about people?” Janet Leigh plays a horny newlywed kidnapped by villains who drugged and, it’s strongly hinted at, raped her. Peter Aglinskas introduced me to Asher Yates, a former Hollywood sound editor and EMMY winner for the NBC made-for-TV movie “The Executioner’s Song,” starring Tommy Lee Jones and based on Norman Mailer’s psychological examination of murderer Gary Gilmore. The last movie he worked on was the acclaimed “Last of the Mohicans” (1992).
In the news: Prince dead at age 57; the White House glowed purple in his honor. Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta pitched a no-hitter and the Black Hawks stayed alive in their series with St. Louis with a Patrick Kane wraparound goal in the second overtime well past midnight.