up your breath and
Sonia Sanchez, “Cuernavaca”
Miller Beach Arts and Creative District is kicking off National Poetry Month at the Gardner Center with a screening of “Love Jones” (1997), whose main character Nina (Nia Long) recites two of Sonia Sanchez’s compositions from “Like the Singing Coming Off the Drums: Love Poems” (1998). Born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1934, Sonia Sanchez (Wilsonia Benita Driver) grew up in Harlem, formed a writers’ workshop in Greenwich Village that included Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), and helped develop the nation’s first Black Studies program at San Francisco State University during the late 1960s (IUN launched a similar one just months later). Maya Angelou has said, “Sonia Sanchez is a lion in literature’s forest.” In 1970 Sanchez wrote “right on: white America”:
this country might have
been a pio
but. there ain’t
with a different
image of america.
but. there ain’t
no mo real/white all-American
u & me
this country might have
been a pio
neer land once.
and it still is.
gun/shells on our blk/tomorrows.
Sanchez’s books of poems include “Homegirls and Handgrenades” (1984) and “Morning Haiku” (2010). Of Japanese origin, a haiku is an unrhymed verse of three lines written in the present tense, usually invoking an aspect of nature and containing five, seven, and five syllables. Here’s one by Sanchez that follows that 17-syllable pattern:
There are things sadder
than you and I. Some people
do not even touch.
After Toni and I spent three days in Stockholm with beat poet Izzy Young, a friend of Ron Cohen, Izzy was so thankful for Toni buying him socks (imagine surviving a Sweden winter sockless), he composed a haiku in her honor and presented it to her at his Folklore Institute the morning we left for an International Oral History Association conference in Göteborg. The title of my talk: “The Professor Wore a Cowboy Hat (And Nothing Else): Ethical Issues in Handling Matters of Sex in Institutional Oral Histories: Indiana University Northwest as a Case Study.”
Peter Aglinskas treated me to a taco lunch at Cha-Cha’s on West Ridge Road in Gary, which has great Mexican meals. Peter joked that so many “Noir” films appeared during the 1940s and 1950s that he could keep his “Thursday Night Noir” series at Valparaiso University going indefinitely. Peter being an accomplished classical guitarist, I suggested that to set the mood he start programs with something from the movie soundtrack. For “Touch of Evil” on April 21, he could choose among many Henry Mancini numbers, such as “Strollin’ Blues” or “Pigeon Caged.” Mancini employs Latin jazz accents evocative of Tijuana during the 1950s. Peter is considering a “Noir” series in Europe. He already knows several foreign languages and is taking advanced French with IUN master teacher Scooter Pegram.
Michael Boos passed along a flattering email from Sherry Meyer, who attended my talk at Calumet College. Some of the insights she delineates came from audience members during Q and A. Sherry references to somebody having taped the talk for a Calumet Heritage website.
Jim Lane's talk on the steelworkers of Gary and East Chicago - along with the cadre of works he and others have published to document life in this steel region - really brought the Calumet's heritage to life last evening. Of the many aha's: IUN's Swing Shift program, Cedar Lake's WWII worker housing and shuttle service, weekend homeward migrations from the mills down 41 to the South, the country's 1st/2nd Black Studies program, LGBT work life in the mills, immigrant experiences, the urging of parents that kids get educated and escape the mills and the experience of being the first college student, changes in the workforce over the century, labor and environmental activism, women workers, women's work, absentee mill owners, government regulation, and I can't wait to see the video posted.
Eden Leon Interviewed Bari and Ron Siwy, who have been married for 47 years.
Bari Lynne Finnegan was born on June 18, 1946, in a Hammond hospital; her family lived in Robertsdale, a small, close-knit community nearby of mainly Eastern and Central European immigrants that was part of Whiting. Bari was brought home to her grandparents’ house where her mother Mari Ellyn had been born in 1908. Mari Ellyn was very religious and used to tellBari: “Some things in your life are planned, it’s fate, and no matter what you did or what you say you can’t change it because that is how your life is supposed to be.” Most white ethics have died or moved away from Robertsdale. The ones still there are referred to as the “diehards.” Most people who live there now are Hispanic.
Bari’s sister Charlene was ten years older. “It was sort of like being an only child,” Bari recalled. Bari went to St. John, a Catholic school in a Slovak parish, from first through eighth grade. Sister Superior, the head nun, disapprovingly said Bari was a Jewish boy’s name. Bari was Irish but never wore green to school, not even on St. Patrick’s Day. They didn’t own a car because there was no need for one. Everything was within walking distance. Bart’s job at Standard Oil and the bowling alley were right up the street. Bari recalled: “My dad would go bowling and we girls would go shopping every Saturday.” The family used to shop in downtown Hammond, but those store are now gone. When Char got engaged to a fellow who went into the military, his parents allowed her to use the car whenever she wanted. Char and Bari would go to Chicago a lot take longer shopping trips. Bari attended high school at Hammond Clark.
Bart’s brother and sister would come from Canada and spent the Christmas holiday. On December 26 they’d go to Marshall Fields in Chicago to see the tree in the Walnut Room. Then they’d walk to the Fair Store on State Street to see the lights. “My aunt for Canada was blind but going to the fair store was her favorite part of coming out around this time of the year,” Bari recalled. In the summer Standard Oil hosted a family picnic at Wicker Park. At Halloween the family would attend a fun house put on by the Whiting Community Center, which now is the YMCA. Bari’s family always went to the July fourth parade and then to a carnival at Whiting Park. They’d go on rides and play games until sunset and the firework show started. Her mother’s family and friends would sit on lawn chairs in a big circle and watch the kids play before the fireworks show.
In November of 1964, Bari didn’t have didn’t have a date to cousin Bonnie’s wedding, so Bonnie’s fiancé Jerry set her up with a guy in his poker club. At the last minute the guy was drafted into the military. After high school she dated a wounded Vietnam veteran. One day during a snowstorm he died in a car accident. Bari fell into a depression do to this loss. To make her feel better a friend snuck Bari into a bar where she met steelworker Ronald Siwy. Two and a half years later, on October 26, 1968, Bari and Ron got married.Bari with her dad Bart
Ron was from a large Polish family, and when Bari got pregnant in 1971 his dad wasn’t thrilled when they named the son Patrick after Bari’s grandfather, saying, “What, are you trying to make an Irishmen out of him?” At the time they were living in a third floor Whiting apartment. Their search for a house ultimately led them to Hobart. One Christmas Eve Ron stayed up all night putting together all kinds of toys. He recalled: “It was a mess! Pieces everywhere. Extra screws but not enough of other parts.” Next morning Patrick ignored the toys and played with the boxes.
One Thanksgiving people arrived unexpectedly so Ron bought a frozen turkey. Bari told him to soak it in cold water in the basement sink. He put it in the one the washer drained into. Bari recalled: “I had just started a load of dirty diapers. I went downstairs to check my load, and there is a frozen turkey floating on top of all this dirty water! I grabbed the bleach and just started scrubbing that turkey. I don’t know if it tasted good but it was the cleanest turkey we ever ate.”
Ron with Mike and Patrick
Ron is retired from Inland Steel (now ArcelorMittal), and Bari works at Hobart YMCA. Patrick and Michael (born in 1980), are both married with children. “I went from having no grandchildren to having 5 in a matter of two years,” Bari exclaimed excitedly. “We have had our up and downs, but life is like a coin, you can spend it anyway you want but you can only spend it once.”
Jeff Manes interviewed nudist Scarlett Schmitt, 50, who owns and operates Ponderosa Sun Club in Roselawn, started by her grandfather, two uncles, and her father in 1965. The name came from the TV show “Bonanza,” where the Ponderosa patriarch Ben Cartwright had three sons. Scarlett described the two-day Nudes-a-Poppin’ festival, which has been co-hosted by such celebrities as Kid Rock, Gene Simmons of Kiss, Al Lewis (Grandpa Munster, whom troglodyte Ted Cruz resembles) and Dennis Huff, owner of the Bunny Ranch in Reno:
Nudes-a-Poppin' was created by my dad in 1975 as a way of getting more people interested in this place. There is a $60 admission fee. More than 4,000 people attend. We have an outdoor arena for mud wrestling and wet T-shirt contests. That's also where we crown our king and queen. This year's Nudes-a-Poppin' will take place July 16th and 17th. It's adults only and the only time cameras are allowed.
Manes reported: “Will spend my birthday with Thomas Hendryx, Esq, the grandson of Vito Manes, and my first cousin, at U.S. Cellular Park. We will dress as though it were a Bears game. Why is it that every time I go to a game Danks is pitching for the Sox?” Even though it was snowing hard, the game took place and predictably, John Danks gave up five runs in two innings; Chicago lost 7-1.
Due to bowling I missed IUN Asia Day, which in the past has featured delicious food, a fashion show, dancing, and other cultural activities. As bad as I bowled, I should have opted to say at the university. The first place team, Fab Four, swept all three games from the Engineers.
Phil Arnold noted on his Elvis blog that outlaw country singer Merle Haggard, who died on his seventy-ninth birthday, recorded a tribute album to Presley that included “In the Ghetto” and “Don’t be Cruel.” Arnold wrote: “Goodbye Merle Haggard. You will be missed. Say hi to Elvis for us.” Haggard’s most famous ditty, “Okie from Muskogee,” about a small town where kids weren’t hippies and didn’t smoke marijuana, has been recognized as a a spoof and even recorded by the Grateful Dead.
from left, Julie Kern, Rita and Bob Smith, Paul KernPaul and Julie Kern returned from their two-month adventure in California. While there he read “The Octopus” by Frank Norris (about railroad baron Leland Stanford) and books about the Gold Rush and anti-Chinese pograms. Rita and Bob Smith, who live in Valpo most of the year, watched the Kern cat at The Villages while they were gone.
Author Beth Bailey
The sexual revolution was never a single, coherent movement. [It] was an amalgam of movements and impulses joined in the chaos of that era. They were often at odds with one another, rarely well thought out, and frequently without a clear agenda, but they shared a powerful impatience with the hypocrisy and repressiveness of the sexual status quo. In the last years of the 1960s Americans, quite correctly, saw the sexual revolution as one facet of a whole panorama of social upheavals and crises that were shaking their society to its very foundation.