Thursday, February 16, 2017


“Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?” Alice Walker

Most famous for the novel “The Color Purple” (1982), Alice Walker followed that up with “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” (1983), a book of essays that included a portrait of her own mother Minnie Lou’s talent for gardening and canning fruits and vegetables.  My mother and Aunt Ida canned tomato sauce and jellies, using paraffin wax as a sealing agent.

Dave’s family arrived with food from Wing Wah and flowers to celebrate Toni’s birthday.  Since it falls on Valentine’s Day, she does not like to go out to dinner. A bouquet also arrived from Alissa. I gave her macadamia nuts the day before as an un-birthday present.  “Bouquets” can also mean “kudos,” a fitting appellation for Toni’s 73 years on planet earth.

In duplicate bridge Charlie Halberstadt and I finished second to Chuck Tomes and Tom Rea.  We played them the last three hands and had a low board, middle board, and top board.  In the first they bid 6 No-Trump and took all 13 tricks in what was a lay down, but others either didn’t bid slam or, in one case, lost a trick.  None of us could fathom why.  Then Charlie went down 2 in 2 Spades vulnerable due to opponents’ cross-roughs, but Chuck and Tom’s plus-200 wasn’t as good as a North-South pair that made five No-Trump for a plus-210. Then I played 4 Hearts and made an overtrick despite our hands having only a combined 20 points, same as our opponents.  When Charlie raised me to 3 Hearts, I said, “Oh, well, last hand of the evening, might as well try game.” We had ten of the 13 hearts, however, and Charlie had a singleton in a suit where I held the Ace.  No other East-West team even bid game.

Director Alan Yngve’s weekly lesson was on doubling, a weapon under-utilized, in his opinion, within our group.  I subsequently doubled a 5-Diamond bid, and, as we set the contract, the move gave us high board.  Against Alan and Dottie Hart, Charlie made a sacrifice bid of 5 Hearts over their 4 Spades.  We only went down one, whereas they would have gotten more points making their contract.  In fact, afterwards, after seeing how the play went, Alan grumbled that he should have bid 5 Spades, realizing he’d have only lost two tricks.
above, Lois Mollick holding senior photo; below, Olsen and Johnson

Columnist Jeff Manes wrote about 87-year-old Lois Mollick, a charter member of Portage Historical Society.  In 1945 Lois cut school to attend Frank Sinatra’s Tolerance Concert at Gary’s Memorial Auditorium during the Froebel School Strike.  Jeff had a little fun with her.  When she said that the Portage Historical Society became a not-for-profit corporation in March of 1988, he said, “Are you sure it wasn’t April of 1989?”  “Yes, I’m sure,” she replied, not skipping a beat.  Then she mentioned a former Portage mayor named Olson; Jeff asked whether the guy was related to a chap named Ole Olsen, who in the 1930s was part of a comedy team with Chic Johnson.  When she brought up her Swedish grandmother Minnie Otelia Johnson, he wondered if she was related to Chic Johnson, who, he said, “used to hang out with a chap named Ole Olsen. 

Jeff, a movie buff, told me later, I'm not the first guy to write a tongue-in-cheek aside about Olsen and Johnson. If you listen closely, Mel Brooks did it in “Blazing Saddles.” Remember how everybody in the town was named Johnson? The scene that really cracked me up was when the camera shows a brief shot of the downtown business area and the ice cream parlor is called 'Johnson's One Flavor.' Ha!  Bet it was vanilla. Leave it to Mel Brooks. 

Reading about Lois Mollick reminded me that on the Summer 2016 cover of Traces was a photo from the Calumet Regional Archives of bobbysoxers screaming during Frank Sinatra’s Memorial Auditorium appearance.  Wilma L. Moore revealed that Indiana Historical Library recently acquired a 39-page petition directed to Mayor Joseph Finerty and the school board opposing the strike. Following Moore’s article was one by Tiffany Tolbert on Gary Roosevelt.

Comcast appears to be giving us Showtime channel in order, no doubt, to lure us into subscribing.  I watched an episode of “Masters of Sex,” based on the lives of sex researchers William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson.  They visit the Playboy mansion for a meeting with Hef (the actor was a dead ringer), and one can spot big-breasted topless swimmers in an aquarium. The estranged wife of Masters attends a consciousness raising rap session and, after questioning the 1969 Miss America protest where women tossed feminine products into a Freedom trash can, is persuaded to remove her brassiere.
 Atlantic City, 1969

Ray Smock posted that Trump received a military deferment for bone spurs.  Larry Maim from Ray’s hometown of Harvey, Illinois, wondered in what military branch Smock served.  Ray replied:
Larry, so you did not like my cheap shot at President's Trump's military deferments. Fine. My larger point is more important, that he is a total amateur in government and in less that 30 days has lost control of his hand-picked staff of campaign zealots who could not make the important transition to knowing how to govern. As for my military history, I have none. I had my pre-induction physical in 1959, was expecting to be called up in 30 days, was ready to serve, and never got called. I got married in 1961. I went to college. By the time the war in Vietnam heated up, I was too old for the draft. I did have college deferments for 3 years. I hated the war and protested against it while in grad school in Maryland. By 1970, however, I was teaching classes at the Pentagon to officers. In 1983 I went to work for the House of Representatives for 12 years as an appointed officer, the Historian, and I reported directly to the Speaker of the House. I worked with top officials from all three branches of government and served as a staff representative on the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, a commission appointed by President Reagan and chaired by Chief Justice Warren Burger. I was the Speaker's representative on the commission to commemorate World War II, which took me back to the Pentagon in the 1990s. Did I serve in the military? NO. Did I get college deferments in the 1960s? YES. Do I love this country? Of course I do. I love it so much that I cannot stay silent and watch Donald Trump, a rank amateur who can't even function from day to day, divide us even more than we are now. He is currently the biggest threat to national security that we have. A terrorist bomb may blow up and kill hundreds of people, and that is always a terrible tragedy. But Trump can destroy the whole government with his incompetence and his blind loyalty to Russia. This is more than you wanted to know, I am sure. But you asked a question and I answered it.  I wish you well. Always good to hear from a Harveyite. Half my friends from the old days are dyed in the wool Republicans, the other half are dyed in the wool Democrats. Funny how that happened.
Most of my high school classmates, sad to say, are Republicans, Terry Jenkins and LeeLee Minehart Devenney being exceptions.  LeeLee recently planted a tolerance sign in her winter garden in Harvey Cedars, New Jersey.
Martha Kimbrough

IUPUI grad student Martha Kimbrough was at the Archives researching African-American and Latino steelworkers for an M.A. thesis.  Both groups were hired as strikebreakers in 1919 but in time became ardent union supporters. I recommended several books, including “Maria’s Journey” and “Steelworkers Fight Back” (Steel Shavings, volume 30, 2000), in addition to the pile Steve McShane had pulled out for her perusal, and suggested that she narrow her focus and time frame. One possibility would be to concentrate on a single union, such as Local 1010 at inland Steel Company in East Chicago.

Despite a 661 series from opponent George Leach, the Engineers took 5 of 7 points from Pin Chasers to overtake them in the standings.  All of us exceeded our average. I finished with a 479 and picked up a 6-9-10 split. Above us on TV Trump was holding a 77-minute press conference.  Mercifully, the set was on mute. I learned later that the President disparaged black reporter April Ryan, who asked if he planned to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus, and lied about Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings pulling out of a planned meeting because he thought it would be bad for him politically.
Reading William J. Mann’s “The Wars of the Roosevelts,” I was shocked at how ruthless Theodore Roosevelt behaved toward younger brother Elliot, a playboy prone to binge drinking.  Throughout their lives the sibling rivalry had been fierce, and TR must have felt pangs of jealously at Elliot’s natural athleticism and popularity with the ladies.  Fearing a scandal that might torpedo his political ambitions upon learning that Elliot had impregnated a chambermaid, TR self-righteously insisted that his brother be committed to a sanitarium and have no direct contact with his family, including daughter Eleanor, permanently scarred by the separation.  Mann wrote:
  For all his desire to be a force for good and for change in the world, the ironic dichotomy of Theodore Roosevelt would be his often-brutal control of his family and his inability to countenance different worldviews, such as the one his brother had held.  Theodore never accepted any responsibility for the trajectory of his brother’s last years.  To his mind Elliot had brought everything on himself.
Here’s how historian Edmund Morris describes TR’s reaction to the “hideous revelation” that Elliot had gotten a servant pregnant:
  “Of course he was insane when he did it,” [Roosevelt wrote his sister Bamie].  Infidelity was a crime pure and simple; it could neither be forgiven nor understood, save as an act of madness.  It was an offense against order, decency, against civilization; it was a desecration of the holy marriage-bed.  By reducing himself to the level of “flagrant man-swine,” Elliot had forfeited all claim to his wife and children.  For Anna to continue to live with him would be “little short of criminal,” he told Bamie. “She ought not to have any more children, and those she has should be brought up away from him.”  

Elliott managed to avoid being permanently institutionalized and eventually moved back to New York City, where he lived with a devoted mistress.   Eleanor wrote him and saw him a half-dozen times, each one a joyous reunion.  At age 34, by now an alcoholic, Elliott jumped out a window in a suicide attempt and died a few days later after suffering an epileptic seizure.  Kept mostly in the dark about her father’s deteriorating physical and mental condition and other imperfections, Eleanor could retain an ideal image of the one person in her life who loved her unconditionally.

The NWI Times put out a 24-page supplement titled “How much do you know about Indiana?”  Among the 16 famous Hoosier entertainers were Michael Jackson and Crystal Taliefero (“From playing the Zanzibar Lounge on Fifth Ave, in Gary to the first ever concert at Yankee Stadium, and now being part of Grammy Award-winner Billy Joel’s performances, Crystal Taliefero’s career has been one impressive feat after another”).  Conspicuously absent from the list were actor Karl Malden and popstar Janet Jackson.  Vivian Carter made a list of Hoosier entrepreneurs. All 17 famous Hoosier athletes cited (none of them women) hailed from Northwest Indiana, including Alex Karras, Tony Zale, Ron Kittle, Charlie O. Finley, Gregg Popovich, and both Glenn Robinson and Glenn Robinson III.  I learned there’s a community in Brown County named Gnaw Bone (the origin a matter of contention among local historians) and that a century ago the Hammond Distillery was the largest in the country, producing 50,000 gallons of whisky a day.
 Denise and friends on bus to Purdue

Mr. Fenters

For Steve McShane’s class Victoria Northcott interviewed Denise R. Blakely about her high school experiences at Lake Central during the 1980s.  Her history teacher Mr. Fenters reminded students of an actor who was in a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. Denise recalled: “We would sit in class and say real low, ‘Time to make the doughnuts,’ and he would get mad and yell ‘who said that?’, and everyone would burst out laughing.  He never could tell who the culprits were.”  Many of Denise’s friends were in choir.  During a performance at Purdue University Renee was so nervous that she ran off stage and threw up. Denise went roller skating several times a week at The Rink in Merrillville, where she met her first boyfriend and had her first romantic kiss.  Denise told Victoria: “We used to cram 8 people in a car to go to the Y and W Drive-in in Merrillville because you paid per carload back then.  It was pretty funny because we had all these kids crawling out the car once we got in. This is where many a make-out session took place.  No parents, just a bunch of teens enjoying being a teen.” Denise told Victoria: “I lost my virginity when I was 17.  It was prom night.  Scott and I decided not to go to prom so we could save money.  We instead made plans to hang out with our friends Kari and Brian. They decided to make it their first time, so we decided to too.”

Tom Eaton shared a photo of museum visitors consulting their phones, thus paying no attention to Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch.”  To be fair, I’ve been to art openings where attendees were chatting among themselves rather than perusing the pieces on display.  When I saw Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” at the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam, a group of American tourists seemed less interested in listening to the docent than finding the gift shop.

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