Wednesday, March 8, 2017


“Gabby Hayes: It’s half past.
Wild Bill Elliott: Half past what?
Gabby Hayes: I dunno – the little hand broke off.”
         Bordertown Gun Fighter” (1943)

The most famous sidekick in Hollywood Westerns, for Hopalong Cassidy (with the nickname “Windy”), John Wayne, and Roy Rogers, among others, George “Gabby” Hayes (1885-1969) uttered such memorable movie lines as “Yer Darn Tootin’,” “Yessiree Bob” and “Young whippersnapper.”  In the brilliant Mel Brooks satire “Blazing Saddles” a character appears named Gabby Johnson whose gibberish dialogue is a tribute to Hayes.  Hayes was a circus performer and vaudevillian before embarking on a movie career after losing most of his money during the 1929 stock market crash.  Supposedly, he didn’t learn to ride a horse until age 50.

Gab, originally a Celtic word meaning mouth, can connote the ability to speak persuasively, such as having the gift of gab. Such a description fits Gabrielle “Gabby” Frigo, a Lake Central grad and IUN sophomore whom I met at the university’s annual Woman’s and Gender Studies conference.  On Instagram Gabby, an English major with aspirations to study library science in grad school, describes herself as a human female, bad (as in badass?) feminist, and future guardian of free information.
 Gabrielle Frigo and Kathryn Clark, Lake Central, 2015

Gabby Instagram photo

In the opening poetry session sponsored by English professor William Allegrezza Gabby Frigo was outgoing and self-confident introducing herself prior to reciting a half-dozen compositions, including her impressions of attending the Women’s March in Chicago, as well as more introspective poems, including a riotous one dealing with embarrassing consequences of living with chronic Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  I wish I could have had a written copy in front of me so I could have better appreciated the words.  When the session ended early, I asked the participants if they were influenced by any particular writer.  The others had trouble coming up with anyone, but Gabrielle bought up French author Violette Leduc (1907-1972), the illegitimate daughter of a maid servant.  Violette became friends (and lovers, Gabby told me later) with Simone de Beauvoir.  Albert Camus in 1946 published her first novel, “L’Asphyxie” (“In the Prison of her Skin”).  Her 1966 novella “Thèrése et Isabelle” explores a lesbian relationship; in 2015 the Feminist Press published an English translation.
 Violette Leduc

Eliza Haywood

In an afternoon session chaired by faculty sponsor Cara Lewis, Gabby Frigo presented a paper entitled “Fantomina and Feminist Themes.” “Fantomina,” a novel by Eliza Haywood published in 1725, is subtitled “Love in a Maze, Being a Secret History of an Amour Between Two Persons of Condition.”  The main character uses various disguises to turn the tables on a man who raped her, mistaking her for a prostitute. Critic Margaret Chase Croskery wrote that Haywood refuses to define female sexual virtue in terms of chastity or a victimized sexual objecthood.  Instead, she defines virtuous love in terms of sincerity and constancy.”   Tanice Foltz announced that Gabby will be taking part in an upcoming Women’s and Gender Studies Conference at IU Southeast.  When Anne Balay was at IUN, she’d commonly take a van full of students to that system-wide conference.
Inland Steel Blast Furnace Department, 1920; Calumet Regional Archives photo
NWI Times correspondent Joseph Pete quoted me extensively in an article entitled “Steel workforce aging, getting more educated.”  He wrote:
     In the early days, the steel mills that ring Lake Michigan’s southern shore pulled in immigrants from all over the world.
     That’s the way the bosses liked it.
     “U.S. Steel recruited immigrants from Eastern Europe, particularly central and southern Europe, because it was working employees seven days a week, 12 hours a day,” said James Lane, Indiana University Northwest professor of history emeritus. “Few Americans wanted to work in those conditions.”
     Steel mills can’t be shut down because blast furnaces blaze around the clock and can't be easily switched on and off. Judge Elbert Gary, the first to run U.S. Steel, believed in manning the mill during all hours by having two 84-hour per week shifts – making for a daily 12-hour work shift for every worker – until he was persuaded to add a third, making working hours more manageable, said Lane, author of “City of the Century” and other books about Region history.
     U.S. Steel and other steelmakers recruited heavily from Poland, Serbia, Croatia, Russia, Italy and Slovakia. The steelmaker liked to mix antagonistic groups like Serbs and Croats to forestall unionization, reasoning they wouldn’t cooperate and work together, Lane said.
     “We had relatively open immigration prior to World War I,” he said. “Fares to America were cheap and often underwritten by the steel mills.”
Later in the article Pete wrote:
     Over the years, steelworkers’ kids and grandkids went on to work at the mill. As recently as the 1970s, steel mill jobs were plentiful and people could get them right out of high school.
     “A lot of people who went to college even worked summers at the mill,” Lane said. “It was referred to as mill scholarships because they could make enough in the summer to pay for their tuition.”
     The pay was so good at the mills it was sometimes referred to as the “golden handcuffs” because it made it hard to leave, Lane said.
     “It provided a generation with basically the income they needed to have a middle-class lifestyle,” he said. “The wife didn’t have to work. You could send your kids off to college and afford home ownership. When I came in 1970, it was a very blue collar area. Virtually all my students had a father or some relative who was a steelworker.”

Former Portage math teacher Chuck Tomes provided Barb Walczak with this question for her bridge newsletter: what are the odds of being dealt a hand with no card higher than a nine?  Answer: 1827 to 1. One person guessed one every 48 hands. Walczak quipped, “Sometimes it feels that way.”  At duplicate bridge, I told Tomes that I loved studying probability in high school under a master teacher named Ed Taddei. In addition to coaching basketball and refereeing, often in tandem with a twin brother, Taddei started a high school golf team that I played on.  When he died a decade ago, Rich Fad, one of his top athletes, wrote about the man affectionately nicknamed “Taddei Laddy”: “Ed Taddei taught us all to be good in Math and stay between your man and the basket. That is all we really needed to know to survive out there in the real world.” 
 Ed Taddei 

A note in Barb Walczak’s latest newsletter honoring Chuck and Marcy Tomes for scoring 71.11% at a game in Valparaiso contained this quote:  
When we started playing two years ago in the ACBL club games, we would get a bad result whenever we played experienced players on boards with competitive part-score bidding. We have improved the worst part of our game by being more aggressive and by learning when to push our opponents and when not to push. Chuck has been studying “To Bid or Not To Bid — The Law of Total Tricks” by Larry Cohen. The law is mathematically fascinatingand helpful. We have learned that youobviously improve by playing morebridge. Retirement is great for the bridge game – and vice versa.

At Dunelands YMCA I played with Helen Boothe because Charlie Halberstadt and Dottie Hart’s regular partners were both back from vacationing in warmer climes. We did quite well despite being unfamiliar with how each other bid.  We got top board on a hand where I opened 1 Heart, Helen jumped to game (4 Hearts), and an opponent doubled with five little Hearts and an outside Ace. After I won the opening trick with a free Spade finesse, I played 5 rounds of Hearts and then 4 more winning Spade tricks, plus two of the final three tricks.  Being vulnerable and with two overtricks we garnered 1190 points. On the down side, in another hand, after Helen opened a Heart, an opponent pre-empted 2 Spades. I had 5 Diamonds and 3 Hearts to the Queen and bid 3 Diamonds.  Helen jumped to 5 Diamonds, and I won all but one trick for 620 points.  Two other players played the hand in Hearts and made 5 for 650 points.  I told Helen afterwards that I should have put her in 5 Hearts.
 Al Koch; photo by Jeff Manes

Jeff Manes interviewed Al Koch, 76, who taught special education students at Thornton Fractional North and then Lake Central High School.  Koch told Manes:
  At T.F. North eighty percent of the kids I had in behavioral disorder class couldn't read past the third-grade level. They were 17 or 18 years of age.
I had one young man walk up to me and ask, “Where's your rules, man?”  I said, “What are you talkin’ about?” He says, “The school I was at last year had 18 rules written on the chalkboard and I broke every one of them.”
I says, “Well, I'm gonna save you a lot of work. I don't have any rules. But I have one suggestion. You do whatever you think is best and I'll do whatever I think is best.” Those kids called me The White Tornado. We spent the whole day together in that room. I took 'em to the washroom and ate with 'em because they were too unruly to eat in the cafeteria. They went home in cabs every day because they were too aggressive to ride the school bus.
These were sharp kids, but one of their disabilities was their language. Everything was “F” this and “F” that. I told them, “Look, there's over a million words in the English language. If you guys as a class can go one week without using the ‘F’ word, I'll buy you as many White Castles as you can eat.” I told them that the first week of school in August. I did not buy White Castles until the third week of May. But I got there. I spent $125 on sliders and fries for those 11 kids. I got there.
I can think of no greater teaching and learning moment than that.  Imagine – rewarding good behavior!

Ray and Phyllis Smock unveiled a photo wearing hats Phyllis knitted along with the comment, “We must keep the Arc of Justice bending toward freedom.”  The so-called “Pussyhats” were popular during the Women’s March, referencing crude remarks Trump made in 2005 about groping women.  Ray commented: “I didn’t think ALL PINK was for me, so she accommodated my desire to have a black one with the appropriate ears.  There are so many ways to make a fashion statement these days.”

Bucknell, my alma mater, defeated Lehigh, Terry Jenkins’ alma mater 81-65  in the Patriot league basketball finals to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. In 2005 the Bisons upset number-3 seed Kansas, 64-63, a game I saw on TV while in California visiting my mother.

Corey Hagelberg and Samuel A. Love put together a 16-page booklet of poetry about Gary in connection with the Calumet Artist Residency.  Board member Divina Stewart’s "Where I’m From" captures “the beauty and tenacity of everyday people,” as she so eloquently puts it.  Here are two of its five parts:
Where I’m from
unemployment rates brow beat
drugs, poverty and violent crime
into a steady stream of headlines
and the beauty and tenacity
of everyday people is rarely mentioned
and credited with holding the tenuous strings
of this crossroads city together.
Black men over 60 can still be seen
mowing lawn
pushing grocery carts up and down aisles
catching up with neighbors on the latest news
in a routine as old as the setting of the sun
they and their wives’ relationship short-hand
crafted and perfected over the20, 30, 40 year unions
make you long for companionship and long life
with gnarled pecan hands
caressing charcoal laugh lines for eternity.

Calumet Artist Residency workshops

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