Wednesday, October 26, 2016


“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu
above, Pat Colander; below, Jillian Van Volkenburgh

I journeyed to the Center for Visual and Performing Arts in Munster for an Art in Focus presentation by Pat Colander, author of “Hugh Hefner’s First Funeral and Other True Tales of Love and Death in Chicago.”  I’ll be speaking to the same group in three weeks and wanted to check out the facilities.  Unfortunately, the building had lost power and the talk was moved to a dining room with only a podium for the speaker.  Rather than explore Hugh Hefner, to my disappointment she read a chapter about the 1982 Tylenol murders, when seven Chicago area residents died after swallowing Tylenol capsules laced with potassium cyanide. The crime remains unsolved, but Colander talked about two main suspects who, she speculates, may have acted together.  When Colander first wrote about the case, it inspired a spate of copycat cases of product tampering.  South Shore Arts Director of Education Jillian Van Volkenburgh plugged my upcoming talk and assured me there’d be equipment on hand for me to show photos and YouTube clips and play Vee-Jay hit records hit such as “Goodnight, Sweetheart” and “Duke of Earl.”
above, Maria and Arredondo siblings; below, Kenny Kincaid

I discussed “Maria’s Journey” in Purdue Northwest historian Ken Kincaid’s class on Hispanics in America. Authors Ray and Trish Arredondo were unable to attend.  Published by Indiana Historical Society Press, the book is required reading in numerous college courses, including Kincaid’s. Several years ago, Kincaid invited the three of us on a panel about the Latino experience in Northwest Indiana.  His wife is Peruvian and Ken next semester will be taking students to Cuba over spring break.  He seemed to have excellent rapport with his students.

Some 35 years ago I was oral history consultant for a Tri-City Community Mental Health Center project on ethnicity called “Pass the Culture, Please,” funded by the Indiana Committee on the Humanities. I conducted several interviews with the Spanish-speaking matriarch with son Ray as translator and taped a group session with her ten children during a Sunday gathering featuring plenty of Mexican food.  The transcript, which I published in a Steel Shavings issue (volume 13, 1987) contained Lorenzo Arredondo’s assertion that Hispanics prefer the phrase “spicy seasoning” to “melting pot” and this anecdote by brother Ramon (Ray):
  My teacher used to say, “Now don’t forget, this is America.  You go home and tell your parents you have to speak English.” I’d come home and I’d be speaking in English to my mom and she’d say, “What did you say?”  I’d tell her what my teacher said.  She said, “Well, you tell the teacher to come over here and make you eat.” 
Lorenzo added: “She had to sacrifice herself, not learning the [English] language to insure that we would carry on the [Spanish] language.”

Years later, Ray and Trish completed book-length manuscript and asked my opinion of it.  Finding it charming right up my alley as a social historian, I agreed to edit it and furnish chapter introductions.  I wrote the Foreword and IU professor John Bodnar, author of “The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America” (1987) did an insightful Introduction.  Bodnar wrote:
  Not unlike many immigrants from around the world at various times, Maria lived a life of hardship and turmoil. At key moments in her life decisions were forced on her.  As a child she had to follow relatives to Texas, living the life of a migrant in a boxcar.  Her mother coerced her into marrying at age 14 a man from a higher social station in the vague hope she could improve the family’s fortunes.  Throughout her adult life her spouse, Miguel, was generally insensitive to her needs and insisted she remain confined to her domestic duties. But Maria did not always let others shape the course of her life.  In the early years of the Great Depression, when the United States sought to return Mexicans to their homeland so that they would not compete with native jobs, Maria – scarred by her early years of deprivation in Mexico – refused to leave.  She only returned to Mexico with her children to care for her mother when the elder woman was deported.  Soon she brought her family back to America, despite her husband’s objections that he could not afford to support them.  Faced with countless forces that tried to run her life, Maria retained the ability to fight back and to seek what she thought was best for her children – traits that earned her their everlasting love.  When a Catholic priest once asked her to confess her sins, she retorted that with all the cooking, washing, and caring she did for a husband and ten children, “do you really think I’ve got time to sin?”

Kincaid’s students peppered me with questions and talked about their local history projects, some involving oral history.  Asked if, looking back, I’d do anything different, I wished I’d interviewed Maria’s children one-on-one and asked more intimate questions, about sexual behavior, for instance.  I talked about daughter Jenny, who the family wouldn’t talk to for two years after she defied their wishes and joined her boyfriend in California and then married.  Asked what my favorite parts were, I cited the chapter where Maria defied husband Miguel and journeyed from Mexico to Indiana Harbor with eight kids and another (Ramon) on the way.  I also brought up when Maria burned Miguel’s leftwing literature during the Red Scare, fearing that they might be deported as radio coverage of HUAC hearings taking place in Gary investigating the suspected communist sympathies of union leaders.   When I mentioned Ray’s statement that whenever he left town, he’d kneel before Maria or her mother Rita while she was alive and seek their blessing for a safe trip, two Latinas gave smiles of recognition and said it was the same in their families.  After student named Emily, noting my Rainbow Connectionz ribbon, told me the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgendered, Straight Alliance (LGBTSA) hosts a campus event where participants could dress and wear make-up as persons they’d like to become.  

I learned from Bucknell magazine that Socialist Party presidential candidate Norman Thomas (1884-1968) attended my alma mater for a year while his father was pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Lewisburg.  Thomas then transferred to Princeton after a wealthy relative paid his tuition, graduating in 1905 summa cum laude.  Thomas sometimes preached summers in his father’s church.

Granddaughter Alissa works with Grand Valley State University’s overseas program and recently hosted counterparts from other countries such as Ghana and China.  For several years, since meeting Isaac Kofi Spellino, he has expressed a desire to visit Ghana. A trip to Shanghai may also be in the works.

I knew all the Jeopardy answers in the Veep category, including Nelson Rockefeller, whom Gerald Ford appointed after taking over for Nixon, and Harry Truman’s running mate, Kentuckian Alben W. Barkley.  I’d also have cleaned up in the Etiquette category; my mother would have been proud.
The Cubs won game two of the World Series and this weekend will be hosting a Fall Classic game for the first time in 71 years. Ray Smock recalled childhood hero Lou Boudreau, who went on to become a Cubs broadcaster (nicknamed “Good kid”) for many years. Smock wrote:
Phyllis and I will be watching the World Series from West Virginia. Being old Sox fans from Harvey, Illinois, 18 miles south of Chicago’s Loop, will not diminish our desire to see the Cubs victorious. Ironically, the first World Series that is etched in my mind occurred 68 years ago, in 1948, when the Cleveland Indians won the World Series. Cleveland's manager/player that year was Lou Boudreau, who was from Harvey. The city had a big celebration parade for Lou that year and I was there, as a seven-year-old kid. As Lou rode past me in that parade down Harvey’s 154th Street, riding on the top of the backseat of a convertible, he waved right at ME!  For many years I kept a button from that celebration in my room.
Our neighborhood, while heavily Sox fans, contained quite a few Cubs fans too, including the family I hung out with the most, the Rowleys. Norm Rowley was a tough steel worker with a heart with a knife through it tattooed on his forearm. He was in the Seabees during WW2. His son Butch was my best childhood friend. We would watch Cubs games on WGN with Jack Brickhouse as the announcer. Another Cubs fan in our neighborhood was Sy Hayes, whose son Dinky was a good ball player. Sy was the local announcer at our Little League field. He would occasionally load his station wagon with neighborhood kids, and we would go to Wrigley Field.  So I have fond memories of both teams.
Lou Boudreau inspired and helped to build a Little League field I played in. The Boudreaus lived on 150th Street just a few blocks from the field. I grew up on 149th Street, on the other side of the B&O and Grand Trunk tracks. It was a working class neighborhood, and my house was just yards from a foundry where welder’s sparks flew.  I went to sleep every night to the rhythms of industrial noises, which were like music to me as a kid. Phyllis and I went to school with Lou Boudreau’s kids. A part of us will be rooting for the Indians because of this hometown connection, long ago and far away.
 Doge Enrico Dandelo

The objective of the Fourth Crusade, according to Pope Innocent III, was to liberate Jerusalem but instead climaxed with the pillaging of Constantinople, Byzantine capital.  David Parnell enunciated two theories to explain the chain of events.  The first claimed it was a conspiracy motivated by greed and hatched by Venetian doge Enrico Dandelo (reputedly 90 years old and nearly blind) to wrest control of trade and commerce from an economic rival.  While there is no contemporary written corroboration, the conspirators would have kept their plans secret.  In contrast, the so-called accident theory, what happened was the result of a string of unanticipated events. The academic dispute, I told Parnell after class, reminded me of conflicting interpretations of the Vietnam War.  Economic determinists regarded American participation as the logical culmination of American expansionism and that Wall Street turned against it when business leaders realized it was unwinnable.  On the other hand, the so-called quagmire theory views well-intentioned but ignorant American policymakers getting in deeper and deeper into what was in essence a war of national liberation until stuck there.

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