“For better or worse Gary’s my home
And I’d rather live in this left-over city
Than in any suburb I know.”
John Sheehan, “Gary Postscript 1990”
above, John Sheehan; below, back cover of Elsewhere, Indiana by Andy Biancardi
Corey Hagelberg is collecting poetry about Gary and asked Archivist Steve McShane and me for suggestions. We thought of John Sheehan, whose work appears in several of my Steel Shavings magazines. I interviewed Sheehan 20 years ago about his life as a priest, teacher, and activist and got him to recite on videotape several poems. At a Gary Public Library “Local Authors” program he wowed the crowd despite being in very poor health. Many of John’s poems deal with exploitation – of nature, Native Americans, workers, blacks, and the poor - but usually contain some cause for optimism. The title poem in Sheehan’s volume “Elsewhere, Indiana” (1990) goes:
a tenuous misshapen T
gerrymandered for planners
who live elsewhere
your streets torn up by heavy trucks
that make money for people
who live elsewhere
your “urban renewal”
twenty years old
only just begun
mostly gone elsewhere
profits gone elsewhere
ain’t nobody here to say
with enough money where their mouth is
how you can really be
a good place to live
for those who can’t very easily
go no elsewhere
except maybe somewhere even worse
than this here where
like high-rise Chicago
one thing Gary
your kids growing up
if they can dodge bullets
that enrich profiteers
can look out their windows
and walk out their doors
in spite of mammoth trucks
bisecting tri-state expressway
and abandoned buildings
they can see trees and squirrels and birds
and every manner of God-given beauty
in the trash-lined dunes and swamplands
but they can’t see the lake
unless they get out to Miller
and it’s hard to find the river too.
In an introduction to “Elsewhere, Indiana” Mike Barret compared Sheehan to goliards, vagabond poets who during the Middle Ages wrote satirical verses critical of the religious and political establishment and celebrating the small pleasures of life. Barret concluded:
A voice in the desert of the Rust Belt, Sheehan calls attention to the damage wrought by the dark side of the American Dream. He also reminds us of possibility that always pushes its way through the urban landscapes and tied faces of post-industrial America – possibly that can be realized through the work of the imagination.
Two years ago, the city of Gary received a $500,000 Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant to develop projects to revitalize University Park East, the Glen Park area south of Ridge Road between Broadway and the I-65 overpass. Community meetings have been held and Thirty-Fifth Avenue has been repaved, but skeptics like myself are still waiting to see more tangible results.
In duplicate bridge Charlie Halberstadt taught me about freebids. He opened one No-Trump, and the opponent on my right bid two Diamonds. I had five Hearts and, playing the Jacoby transfer system, had been ready to respond two Diamonds. Afterwards, Charlie said that I could have doubled, indicating the Hearts. He called that a freebid. In another hand Charlie and I were a cinch to make 4 Spades, which would have given us 620 points since we were vulnerable. Our opponents, who were not vulnerable, made a sacrifice bid of five Diamonds. Had they gone down three, we’d have gotten just 500 points, but, thanks to a cross-rough, we set them down 5 and picked up 1,000 points.
In Barbara Walczak’s bridge Newsletter Rosiette Brown mentioned that her partner Ruth Westberg, nicknamed “Ruthless” because “she takes no prisoners,” was named the Ace of Clubs winner in Unit 123 for the eighteenth consecutive year.
The latest Bucknell magazine profiled American History professor Jennifer Thomson, a Berkeley graduate with a PhD from Harvard whose specialties include the post-1945 period, the environment, medicine, and leftist politics. Describing a Radicals and Reformers course, which concentrates on the 1960s and 1970s, Thomson told Paula Franken: “I want students to draw on the history of the United States to understand what’s happening around them in the world today. I also want them to understand how marginalized groups can band together and make a difference. That’s how change happens.”
In the news: Mary Tyler Moore is dead at age 80. When we lived in Hawaii, I watched reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show at noon when home (followed by The Andy Griffith Show). In the 1970s we often watched The Mary Tyler Moore Show Saturday evenings (followed by The Bob Newhart Show). Atomic scientists have moved the Doomsday clock to just two and a half minutes to midnight, the closest it’s been since 1953, when both the US and USSR were setting off hydrogen bombs, because of the recklessness of Trump.
Gary Mayor A. Martin Katz; below, Fifth Ave. near Madison: Calumet Regional Archives photos
The fiftieth anniversary of the blizzard of 1967 is at hand. The Post-Trib’s Nancy Webster wrote: “Gary Mayor A. Martin Katz used a snowmobile to get around and inspect the city, then declared a state of emergency. Gov. Roger Branigin mobilized the Indiana National Guard on Friday. But the guardsmen had the same problem as everyone else. ‘They couldn't get out of their homes or travel on the streets,’ the Post-Tribune reported.” Webster interviewed several folks who still remember vividly what they were doing, including Virginia “Gigi” Creel.” Webster wrote:
On Saturday morning, Jan. 28, in Crown Point, Gigi Creel was home with her two young children, Ginger and JM. The house was clean and ready for her new baby to arrive any time. She was low on heating oil and was using the fireplace to warm the house.
In the back yard, the snow had drifted so high against her 6-foot redwood fence, her kids could walk across the yard and sit on the top rail.
She knew she was going to have her baby that day, but was putting off calling her mother, because she didn't want her to worry. The original plan was to deliver the baby at St. Margaret's Hospital in Hammond. But travel to Hammond from Crown Point wasn't possible. Her husband, Michael, had tried to get home, but the roads were so bad, he only got as far as his mother-in-law's house in Merrillville.
"At noon, I knew I had to call them and tell them," Creel said.
"My mom was horrified and she said, 'Can't they send a helicopter or something?'" recalled Creel. Instead, she called her doctor, Robert Wroe King. On Saturday, the county roads between Crown Point and Cedar Lake were drivable. It was decided he would come.
"It took him an hour from Cedar Lake" said Creel. "And it took Mike three hours to get to our subdivision from Innsbrook."
Patrick Todd Palmer was born at home that day and weighed 8 pounds. 4 ounces.
"It took a week before I went out to take Todd to Cedar Lake for his first checkup," said Creel. The snow was piled so high on either side of the road that "it was like driving through a bobsled tube."
I ran into former neighbor Mike Halpin at the Chesterton library. I was inquiring about a Titus Andronicus CD, and he thought I was referring to the Shakespeare play or the 1999 movie starring Anthony Hopkins.
At bowling the Electrical Engineers, with a little luck and clutch play from our anchor Frank Shufran, took two close games from Loose Flyers despite Carol Sperry bowling well above her average. Gene Clifford, interviewed recently by Jeff Manes, asked how I knew him. I mentioned that Manes wrote a column about me and that I was co-director of the Calumet Regional Archives. Clifford has written articles for Midwest Outdoors magazine and shared one with me about wild turkeys titled “A Well-Respected Bird.” Wild turkeys almost disappeared in Indiana a century ago, but restocking efforts have been so successful that a limited hunting season exists for three weeks in the spring and 11 days in the fall for shotguns and two months for bows. The limit in each case is one bird. Here’s an excerpt from “A Well-Respected Bird”:
If you lived in Indiana in the 1800’s, you might have left your cabin with your rifle on your shoulder and stalked through the woods searching for a wild turkey for your family’s dinner.
Native to the eastern part of the United States, the wild turkey was so respected and admired by Benjamin Franklin that he proposed it as the national symbol. Calling the turkey “a much more respectable bird and a true original native of America.” Franklin opposed the adoption of the Bald Eagle as the national symbol calling it “a fish-eating scavenger.”
Both birds were nearly wiped out in this country—the Bald Eagle being a victim of DDT and the wild turkey the victim of the gun, the ax and the plow. The birds were over- hunted and sold for as little as 6 cents or traded for a bag of salt. Dense woods and open fields, the natural habitat of the wild turkey, fell first to farming and then to development.
Wild turkeys are shy, wary birds. They are opportunistic feeders, foraging for acorns and other nuts, berries, and insects in the woods and gleaning the corn and other grain fields for weed seeds too. The hens eat snails in the spring for the calcium and minerals to help strengthen their own egg shells.
The males gather a harem of a dozen or so of females in the early spring starting about April 1st. Prior to this date you’ll see larger groups of mixed Toms and hens surviving the winter together. The females choose the nest site, which quite often is alongside a large fallen tree. The nest is made of a gathering of loose leaves and protected by dense forest undergrowth. The dozen or more eggs are vulnerable to snakes, raccoons, possums, skunks, crows, foxes, great horned owls, red-tailed hawks, eagles, bobcats, free-roaming dogs and coyotes. The poults are very vulnerable the first six weeks after hatching, until they can fly up into the lower branches of trees to escape predators.
Often the birds prefer to run to escape danger, even though they can fly at 55 miles per hour as adults. Unlike songbirds, wild turkeys—like their cousins the chickens, quail, grouse and pheasants—leave the nest two or three days after hatching, following their mother to hunt insects.