“If we are not our brother’s keeper, at least let us not be his executioner.” Marlin Brando
On February 27, 2014, the second anniversary of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin being gunned down by George Zimmerman, President Barack Obama started an initiative called My Brother’s Keeper to show young men of color that people care about them. The President stated: “We need to give every child, no matter what they look like, where they live, the chance to reach their full potential. Because if we do – if we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers, and well-educated, hardworking, good citizens – then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass those lessons on to their children, on to their grandchildren, will start a different cycle. And this country will be richer and stronger for it – for generations to come.” Obama has vowed to stay active in the cause as a private citizen.
Ed Ward dedicated “The History of Rock and Roll” (2016) to the Obamas, in his words, “a First Family so rock ‘n’ roll they named their dog after Bo Diddley.” Born Ellas Otha Bates, Diddley was raised by his mother’s cousin in Chicago, and, inspired by John Lee Hooker, first performed as a street-corner musician. My favorite Bo Diddley lyric is from the song “Bo Diddley”:
Bo Diddley caught a nanny goat
To make his pretty baby a Sunday coat
Bo Diddley caught a bear cat
To make his pretty baby a Sunday hat
To make his pretty baby a Sunday coat
Bo Diddley caught a bear cat
To make his pretty baby a Sunday hat
Regarding Gary entrepreneur Vivian Carter’s successful record label, Ward wrote:
Vee-Jay found Jimmy Reed, a guitarist who played harmonica in a rack and had minimum backing, but who was incredibly popular in Chicago and, soon, elsewhere; his hits in 1956 included “Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby” and “Can’t Stand to See You Go.” The label also had a visit from Detroit bluesman John Lee Hooker, who signed no contracts but laid down one of his classic tunes, “Dimples.”
After taking James bowling and to Culver’s, I watched the delightful “45 Years” (2015), starring 71-year-old Charlotte Rampling and 80-year-old Tom Cortenay as married couple Kate and Geoff Mercer. A half-century ago, Rampling was Meredith in “Georgy Girl” while Courtenay was Pasha in “Doctor Zhivago.” Roger Ebert, who in one of his final reviews gave the movie 4 stars, wrote:
Their marital contentment among the green pastures of the English countryside will soon be disrupted when an unexpected letter arrives a week before their wedding anniversary party - news [of the discovery of] the ice-encased body of Geoff’s German first love, Katya, who died more than 50 years ago after falling through a crack in a glacier as they hiked in the Swiss Alps. He becomes distracted and resumes his old smoking habits despite having had bypass surgery five years ago, the event that postponed their 40th anniversary celebration until now. She grows concerned when her husband begins to sneak off to the travel agent in town to find out about the possibility of going to Switzerland to view the body since he was designated next of kin. Matters come to a head one evening when Kate and Geoff spontaneously decide to cut a rug to the oldie “Stagger Lee,” giddily twirling about their living room as if they were courting again. Geoff suddenly gets the urge to take Kate to bed. “,” he says, indicating this is not a commonplace occurrence anymore — and they tenderly become entwined. Mid-coitus, Kate utters three words that often signal when something is amiss during movie sex: “ ” And that is the end of that.
The music Kate and Geoff select for the celebration include the Platters (“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”), the Turtles (“Happy Together”), Jackie Wilson “Higher and Higher”), and the Moody Blues (“Nights in White Satin”).
Steve McShane, Ron Cohen, and Jimbo; Archives shots by Joyce Russell
Joyce Russell’s article on the Calumet Regional Archives” finally ran prominently on the front page of the Times Lifestyle section weeks after she interviewed Ron Cohen and myself. This is how it began:
Ron Cohen and Jim Lane joined the Indiana University Northwest history faculty in 1970.
Cohen came from the West Coast and Lane from the East Coast.
Neither of them knew anything about the history of Gary or the Calumet Region.
As usual, Russell did a competent job. Ron told her that the two of us stored materials we rescued in our offices until securing space in a new library (now almost 40 years old). Russell quoted me about our research missions: “What we wanted to do, both of us, was to discover ways Gary was unique and ways it was symbolic of other cities as well.”
Levi Gildon, director Mary Edwards, and Mike McDonald; Post-Trib photo by Jim Karczewski
In the Post-Tribune Jerry Davich wrote about Brothers’ Keeper, a homeless shelter located near the IUN campus at 2120 Broadway that has been in existence for 31 years. Davich wrote:
It's housed in a beaten-down building that once sold tires. The shelter is cash-strapped, space-crunched and volunteer-starved. Its parking lot is adorned with Dumpsters, remnant furnishings and potholes. A small banner states in small print, "A Shelter for Homeless Men."
It's a bleak image. Inside, though, it offers another chance – sometimes the last chance – to homeless men clinging to a thread of hope.
There are 25 beds, spaced out only a few feet apart. No divider walls, no curtain partitions, no luxuries of personal privacy. Vanity has not found a home here. Humility, however, is a nightly lodger.
Davich interviewed shelter handyman Levi Gildon, 63, occupant of cot #1, who also hawks Post-Tribune newspapers mornings at 21st and Harrison. Davich spoke to volunteer Mike McDonald, 72, a former steelworker who grew up dirt poor in West Virginiain a home without electricity or running water. Davich wrote: “Over the past two decades, McDonald has spearheaded many fundraisers to benefit Brothers' Keeper. He has negotiated with U.S. Steel brass to help the cause. He has stood at the mill's front gate holding a bucket for donations. He has collected clothes, toiletries and unwanted furnishings from fellow millworkers.” The article ended with this pessimistic quote from Gildon: “Brothers' Keeper gives until it can't give any more. But without more help, I don't know how long it can keep going.”
At Memorial Opera House for the Mel Brooks musical “The Producers,” Toni and I were impressed but not surprised at the professionalism of the cast, headed by Darren Serhal as Max Bialystock and Michael Pals as Leo Bloom. Their scheme to profit from putting on a Broadway flop backfires when critics praise “Springtime for Hitler” as a brilliant satire after gay director Roger DeBris (Andrew Brent) stepped in at the last moment to assume the role of the Nazi führer. Stephanie Stalbaum was stunningly sexy as Ulla, the Swedish bombshell, who shakes her booty and boobies while singing “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It” and marries Leo because he won’t have sex with her until they tie the knot. Regarding the 1968 movie starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder, Roger Ebert, looking back, wrote that it “was like a bomb going off inside the audience's sense of propriety. There is such rapacity in its heroes, such gleeful fraud, such greed, such lust, such a willingness to compromise every principle, that we cave in and go along.” Darren Serhal, who played Gomez in “The Addams Family Musical,” resembles Zero Mostel’s performance, right down to the bad comb-over and smarmy mannerisms. The 15-piece orchestra, conducted by Andrew Flasch, was superb, as was the ensemble, including Andrew’s brother Zac Flasch, a junior at Valparaiso High School.
Trump’s latest pathological tweet claims President Obama personally ordered the bugging of Trump Tower. Evidently, the Donald became infuriated when Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, under pressure from Democrats, recused himself from investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign aides and seized on a spurious article in the far-right scandal-sheet Breitbart News once edited by White House strategist Steve Bannon. First he claimed: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Then came this follow-up: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” Obama spokesperson Kevin Lewis responded: "A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice. As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.”
Patti Wozniak donated materials to the Archives about St. Joseph the Worker Church in Glen Park. She came in unannounced during Steve McShane’s lunch hour; fortunately, I ran into her in the hall. Two of Patti’s sisters and brother-in-law Bob Gyurko are former students. Gyurko wrote about Anne Tuskan for my World War II Steel Shavings (volume 22, 1993). She grew up in Glen Park at 3533 Massachusetts and, 18 years old in 1941, worked as a cashier for Joe Tittle and Sons grocery at 38th and Broadway. On Pearl Harbor Day Anne was at the State Theater with her brother watching “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” The film stopped for the shocking announcement and then resumed about ten minutes later. On Christmas Eve of 1942, Gyurko wrote:
Anne and her aunt were attending Midnight Mass at Saint Joseph the Worker Church. It had been snowing and the bus did not show up, so they decided to walk home. As the approached 38th and Broadway, they noticed two marines standing on the corner who wished them Merry Christmas. Anne and her aunt invited them to their house for dinner. It was a Croatian custom at the time to have a feast after Midnight Mass. The marines had dinner and left about 4 a.m.
Anne Tuskan’s neighbor helped her get a job at the new Armor Plate Plant next to U.S. Steel. In 1944, Anne and Katie Rujevcan traveled to Pittsburgh for a bowling tournament sponsored by the Croatian Federation Union. The hotel bill was $2.75 a night. Gyurko wrote: “With everybody working long hours and making more money than ever, there was opportunity for extravagance. One day Anne, Kate, and Prudence Garzella went shopping for fur coats. Anne bought a silver fox, Kate a muskrat, and Prudence a leopard skin. When they got home, there was hell to pay.” During the war there was a shortage of nylons. Anne had to stand in long lines at Goldblatt’s, if she could get them at all. Gyurko wrote:
On August 14, 1945, a man was passing out victory hats. They were cardboard, red, white and blue striped, with a large silver V on the side. He stopped at Anne Tuskan’s house. That’s how she found out that the war was over.
In 1955 Alois Wozniak, a Clover Leaf Dairy salesman who resided at 3940 Massachusetts, represented Glen Park on the Gary city council. Initially, he opposed transferring land in South Gleason Park to Indiana University for a branch campus because, he argued, residents would lose valuable park space. Eventually, assured that most of the acreage would remain a park, Wozniak supported the land transfer when no alternative appeared palatable and IU was threatening to reconsider building an IU Center in Gary. In a history of IUN, “Educating the Calumet Region” (Steel Shavings, volume 35, 2004) Paul Kern wrote: “The opponents of the site were right about the impact on Gleason Park. As the university grew, it took up all of Gleason Park. Today there is only a university campus, a golf course, and a few tennis courts. No new park was ever developed for the people of Glen Park.”
In “Justinian’s Men” David Parnell wrote that most historians of the sixth century took little interest in the private lives of military families except when they affected public matters. Such was the case, however, with Antonina, wife of General Flavius Belisarius, who unlike most Byzantine officers’ wives, accompanied him on military campaigns. In his “Secret History” Procopius of Caesarea (500-544) wrote that Antonina had undue influence on Belisarius through the use of poisons, herbs, magic, and erotic charms, which interfered with her husband’s effectiveness in carrying out his duties. Parnell wrote: “Procopius spills the most ink on Antonina’s scandalous affair with her adopted son Theodosius, which he describes as ‘unspeakably disgusting.’” Parnell added: “Procopius’ argument that Antonina had emasculated Belisarius is a major theme of the ‘Secret History.’ Not only did the general fail to prevent or even end his wife’s affair with their adopted son, he apparently harmed or allowed harm to come to those who tried to bring the affair to his attention and, most importantly, let the affair impact his career.”