“I see a wisdom that can only come from having to fight for your right to be recognized as female, a raw strength that only comes from unabashedly asserting your right to be feminine in an inhospitable world.” Julia Serano, “Whipping Girl”
Vivacious transgender Portage senior Dakota Yorke was voted a prom queen finalist after school officials gave the OK. Jerry Davich publicized her transformation and had her on Lakeshore Radio’s “Casual Friday.” Last summer Dakota stayed with her older sister in Wisconsin for a month. Her mother Dawn told the NWI Times, “Dakota left a boy and came back a girl.” Dakota explained: “At some point I decided to be me. You only have one life to live. I want to be 100 percent who Dakota is.” At the prom, held at Porter County Expo Center, Dakota finished first runnerup to prom queen Anisa Rayner and received a tiara and the title “Prom Royalty.” She told the Post-Tribune’s Michelle L. Quinn that by the end of the evening her feet were sore from dancing. One senior said it was an honor to dance with such a beauty and one so brave. Prom queen Rayner told Jerry Davich: “I was nothing but happy for Dakota, and I wished her the very best, as she also did for me. We were friends long before being on prom court, so I was really excited for her.” (below, Anisa Rayner and Maverick Edwards)
I applaud Portage teachers, students, and administrators for supporting Dakota and validating her decision. In her excitement getting ready for the prom, Dakota had left her student I.D. at home. Chaperones didn’t make her go home for it. One said with a smile, “We know you, Dakota.”
Combine 2 tablespoons of butter with three-quarters cup of flour. Melt in pan and add two and a half cups of milk. Stir until ingredients leave bottom of pan. Add 1 egg. Let simmer for a few seconds, then add 2 teaspoons of sugar and four bitter almonds, grated, to mixture before removing from fire. Use a large jello mold, rinse with cold water. Put mixture in mold. Let stand still until cold. Unmold ands serve with vegetable soup.
Jerome Tachik with wife Susan
On the final week of bowling Mel Nelson got hot, enabling the Engineers to win game three and series. We lost game two by a single pin to We’re Here when Henrietta Irwin (whom teammates call Henry) and Steve Huffman doubled in the tenth. Nearby, Jerome Tachik rolled a 299. For the banquet I agreed to bring pickles from Jewel, a big hit at Christmas.
At an IUN Savannah Gallery reception I greeted former athletic director Linda Anderson and congratulated Ann Fritz on the large turnout despite it being an off-week between semesters. Donald Luckett snapped a shot of me with Chuck Gallmeier, and I joked that I’m always having my photo taken with someone taller. Donald suggested I stand next to a diminutive English professor, but I demurred. Next day I again ran into Gallmeier and wife Barb Schmal at Zoran and Vesna Kilibarda’s party celebrating their promotions. Zoran mentioned a March field trip to Death Valley, California, where several students experienced symptoms of heat stroke. The food roast lamb and trimmings were great. Surekha Rao asked me to put together a session for an upcoming Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences conference at Purdue North Central in Westville. I told Geosciences professor Kristen Huysken’s husband Harley about a great-uncle Harley, who was Pennsylvania Dutch.
Vesna and Zoran Kilibarda
IUN’s “Little Library” at Thirty-Fifth and Washington resembles a birdhouse. Inside was Kurt Vonnegut’s “Look At the Birdie.” Perhaps Fred McColly donated it in order to share the Indiana bard’s wit and wisdom. I added a copy of my latest Steel Shavings to the free offerings.
In California on sabbatical Neil Goodman, a faithful Shavings reader, wrote that he loved my weaving together the mundane with the memorable. Paul Kern offered these comments:
Starting with the cover [photos of Dolly Millender and Claude Taliaferro], it has a sobering number of obituaries. Your mother (I enjoyed reading about her life.), Hy Feldman, Tom Higgins, Ray Mohl, Ron Heflin. Sigh. As you brood, we're moving toward the front of the line. I remember Mohl as a tireless worker, usually coming to the office on Saturdays and Sundays. Access to the offices was blocked in those days by steel gates reaching almost to the ceiling and Ray used to scale the gate to reach his office. He had a wife and young children at home so the atmosphere there was probably not conducive to work. He and his wife divorced soon after he left IUN.
I saw a lot of Ron Heflin's Roosevelt games, usually with Leroy Gray. The most memorable one for me was the state championship game Roosevelt lost in overtime to Scott Skiles' Plymouth team. It looked like Roosevelt had it won until Skiles hit a thirty-foot buzzer beater to force OT. Heflin and Earl Smith epitomized a golden age of Gary basketball. By the way, I saw that 1971 game between West Side and E.C. Washington Louis Vasquez writes about, having driven down from Chicago to watch it. The next year, of course, West Side made it to the state finals but lost to Connersville and then got suspended for a year after some fans went berserk in the parking lot and vandalized some cars.
It was American Military History that Bill Neil sat in on. The ROTC program required it so there was a demand for the course and I was pressed into service because none of the peacenik American historians wanted to teach it. In a course where I was just barely keeping ahead of the class I was pretty tied to my notes, thus violating one of Bill's chief pedagogical principles, a shortcoming for which he gently chided me. Bill had not been able to teach the course himself because of a long-planned trip. He was a master at the tactful intervention to make a correction or interesting comment. At the end of the last day he was able to attend, the class gave him an ovation.
I noticed you and Dave had a nice meal at Casa Blanca. Julie and I used to go there often. We also liked Taco Real in Hammond and Jalapena's in Schererville. None of the Mexican restaurants around here are as good as the ones in the Region. You mourn the passing of some old landmark restaurants. The economic history of Lake County can be traced by restaurant closings. When I came for my interview at IUN, Bill took me to lunch at a restaurant in downtown Gary. Several years later when I began to join his group at lunch occasionally, that placed was closed and they were eating at a diner at Broadway and Ridge Road in Glen Park. After that place closed, they moved to a couple of restaurants on Broadway in Merrillville. By the time Jack and I were the only ones left standing, we had to go all the way out to Round the Clock on Highway 30.
Becca stayed overnight after attending a Discovery Charter School Hawaii-themed dance. She in a band and her favorite group is Panic at the Disco. The Las Vegas band’s new song is “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time.” This summer they’re touring with Weezer. I’ve got Weezer on heavy CD rotation along with Titus Andronicus, Hüsker Dü, Cracker, and the BoDeans. Alissa and Beth arrived to be with Toni on Mothers Day. Toni made delicious omelets. Alissa is off for Tanzania in three days.
Pegg Sangerman with Eric Brant
The production of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” at Memorial Opera House really picked up with the appearance of Pegg Sangerman and Anne SharpTree as hot British divorcees Gwendolyn and Cecily Pigeon. Oscar (the slovenly roommate) had arranged for a double date, but Felix (a finicky neatness freak) began blubbering about his kids and wife who threw him out. He wins the Pigeon sisters’ sympathy and moves in with them. Pegg Sangerman’s daughter Samantha, a childhood friend of Alissa, is pursuing a theatrical career in New York.
Merrillville history book club member Lee Christakis reported on William L. Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” (1960). My main contribution was summarizing criticisms from historians regarding the author’s assertion that Nazi totalitarianism was a logical phase in Germany’s authoritarian national development – that there was, in effect, a continuum (known as the Sonderweg interpretation) from Martin Luther to Adolf Hitler. Shirer was obsessed with the sexual behavior of high Nazi officials and has been taken to task for equating homosexuality with perversion.
At Gino’s was Paul Giogi, whose father was a pioneer physician in Gary. My guest Chris Young will speak on Andrew Jackson in July. When I announced that Chris will be teaching a Fall seminar on Abraham Lincoln, several folks inquired about auditing it. In September Roy Dominguez will be reporting on a book by Austin Craig on Filipino nationalist José Rizal, executed by a Spanish firing squad in 1896. Roy has indicated a desire to teach a SPEA course and I suggested one on Cold Cases both innocent victims wrongly convicted and, with the help of DNA advancements, solving crimes committed in years past. While Dominquez was Lake County sheriff, his staff solved several cases.
West Point is investigating whether 16 African-American graduates violated a regulation forbidding the making of political statements while in uniform. While they were merely celebrating their accomplishment, killjoys claimed their gesture indicated support for Black Lives Matter.
Sharon Eng's parents George and Gwenneth Lousheff
Breanna Eng interviewed her mother, 59 year-old Sharon Eng, born to Gwenneth and George Lousheff. Gwenneth’s parents were English immigrants, and she grew up in Gary, attending Emerson School. George’s parents were Macedonians, and he attended Gary Horace Mann. George and Gwenneth lived in Tolleston. Gwenneth worked for Bell Telephone and could walk to work. George was a carpenter with local union 599. He and Gwen bowled. He played in a dart league, competed roller derby, and was in a group called the “Unpredictables” that would dress up as women and put on hilarious skits. Son Gregory was born in 1955 and Sharon a year later. The family moved to Hobart when Sharon was four. George had a brush with death when he fell 25 feet through scaffolding, breaking both legs, his nose and wrist, and suffering memory loss. Breanna Eng wrote:
Sharon attended Mundell School and Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Her family moved to Merrillville when Sharon was in fifth grade after her dad and uncle built a house from the ground up. The family went camping in an RV every summer. They played a half-dozen card games and a dice game called 10,000. At 15 Sharon worked at Breslers Ice Cream shop in Merrillville with four friends. They had a blast. Workers next door at Broadway Cinema on 61st traded movie passes for ice cream until the bosses caught on. Sharon got into a fight with a girl who spit on her. Sharon retaliated by singeing her hair with a match. Sharon’s lost her best friend over a boy, and they did not speak for over 30 years. Shortly after Sharon’s brother Gregory graduated high school in 1953, he was riding a bicycle with his best friend on the way to their senior camping trip when a drunk driver killed him. Sharon misses her brother every day.
Sharon and David Eng bonded at a Luther League retreat. David was a grade ahead of her. They started dating in Sharon’s junior year. David moved to Georgia for a year but then came back. Sometimes on weekends they’d drive up and down Broadway munching on pizza and drag racing in souped-up cars borrowed from David J.’s older brother, who owned an auto shop. After graduation Sharon worked at Summerfield Truck Company, at Gariup Construction, and then at Gary National Bank. After a long engagement Sharon married David on August 9, 1978. They moved to Portage and bowled and played softball together. After taking several years off to be with her kids, Sharon worked for a subsidiary of U.S. Steel. Sharon and David had their fights and almost divorced but eventually worked through their problems.
Sharon (fifth from right), with children, husband and mother
Breanna Eng, top right, with family