Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Memorable Moments

“Though summer turns to winter
And the present disappears
The laughter we were glad to share
Will echo through the years.”
         The Four Lads, “Moments to Remember”

A male singing group from Toronto, The Four Lads scored their biggest hit, “Moments to Remember” in 1955, on the eve of Rock and Roll’s birth.  I recall first hearing it at Phil Arnold’s house; it was part of his dad’s record collection, which also included one I still like, Guy Mitchell’s “Singing the Blues.”  Two original Four Lads members, Rudi Maugeri and John Perkins, later became part of The Crew Cuts, famous for cover versions of rhythm and blues numbers, such as “Sh-Boom” and “Earth Angel.”

Soneela Choudhry interviewed Paula Barancyk.  Of Slovakian descent, Paul grew up in an ethnic, blue collar North Hammond neighborhood. Choudhry wrote:
During her eight years at St. Casper’s she walked to school, walked back home for lunch, and then walked back to school. It was a safe neighborhood. She then attended George Rogers Clark High School. It was far from where she lived, and she had to take the city bus. There were no school buses at that time. At age 15, Paula was diagnosed with irregular heartbeat.  She was changing her medication and it put her into a complete cardiac arrest.  Someone with her at that time gave her CPR and got her to Saint Anthony’s Hospital. A helicopter transported her to the IU Medical Center. Doctors there worked on a medication regiment that proved successful.  After graduating, Paula went on to Purdue, while most of her girlfriends got work at Chicago.
After graduating with a degree in Social Studies Education, Paula first worked in Hammond for Taylor Chain and then as an accountant for a small company. Next, she worked at Lake County Juvenile Center for about two years. She described her duties as like a combination of babysitter, hall monitor, and a little bit of teaching. Some kids were as young as nine or ten, either runaways or those deemed incorrigible.  This was an emotionally and physically draining job.   Finally, Paula got a teaching job was at Sacred Heart School in Whiting, followed by one at St. Peter and Paul School in Merrillville, where she taught English. What she really wanted to teach was History, and that opportunity came in Crown Point, first at Taft middle school and finally at Crown Point High School.
In 1991 IUN hired Paula to teach a Geography course.  At the time, there was no Marram Hall and the Savannah Center was under construction. She would first teach at Crown Point and then every Tuesday and Thursday at IUN from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Paula also got married a fellow teacher that year.  They enjoyed going Mike Ditka’s Restaurant in Merrillville and an Off Track Betting place that was a hotspot for people in their 20’s and 30’s.  They went dancing, to concerts at the Star Plaza, andon excursions into Chicago.
below, Paula and parent at Vienna Airport
In the summer of 1994 Paula and her family took a trip to Eastern Europe to visit a long-lost aunt I a little Slovakian village.  Her father got to visit his sister for the first time ever.  When they met, the woman said: “What took you so long to come see me?” From there the family visited Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Poland, where they toured Auschwitz.  Paula recalled: “I wanted to see that as a History and Geography teacher. The solemnity of it was amazing. Everyone was very quiet; there was a sense that terrible things happened and like you were walking on hallowed ground. It’s something I’ll never forget.”        
 Angela Barenie and Matthew
Angela Marie Barenie was born with cerebral palsy due to neglect on the part of the attending physician: he was playing golf in another area while on call. The umbilical cord asphyxiated her and left her with poor motor coordination.  Angela got married in 1990 and had three kids within six years.  She told oldest son Matthew, a student in Steve McShane’s Indiana History course:
I really can’t remember much about the 1990s. It was just babies, and toys, and puke, and poop. It was busy, but gratifying and fun.  In 1996, we took a trip to Walt Disney World because my husband had a job training class in Florida.  We took Matthew, who was three and Jacqueline, 21 months.  We left ten-month-old Paul with my sister.  When we came back, he acted like he forgot us and didn’t want to go to me.  At Disney World we saw the movie “Honey I Shrunk the Kids.”  I thought the kids would have a good time, but they were so scared they started wailing. People were looking at us like, “Why do you have these kids in here?” But overall it was a good trip.
Mark with wife Kim in late 1990s
Kelsey Kordys interviewed her father Mark about trips to Disney World when he was young.  The first time was in the mid 1990s, when his parents were celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary.  Mark’s three brothers and their families went along, making a total of six grandchildren.  All four sons pitched in for their parents’ trip.  In 1999, the family went on a Disney cruise, again with Mark’s parents. His father had not been on a ship since being in the Navy in World War II and had to be talked into it.  Before the cruise was over, the old man was asking Mark when they were going on another one.

Alexys Corona interviewed Isabel, who grew up in Hessville.  Her parents were from Mexico City and unfamiliar with American customs.  She recalled:
I asked my parents if they would take me to the store and buy Valentine cards to give classmates.  My father said he didn’t want boys to get the idea that his daughter wanted to start dating. My mother told me to explain to the kids that in their culture Valentine’s Day isn’t celebrated.  I cried for hours and then took colored paper and made my own. My teacher pulled me to the side afterwards and told me that many kids were happy to get my special cards. I was disappointed that I couldn’t share my feelings of joy with my parents but showed them took all my cards from classmates.  They subsequently were more open to American celebrations.  The following year, they threw a Lion King theme birthday party for me at the Fun Center in Schererville.
That summer I lived with my Aunt Gloria and Uncle Miguel in Munster while my parents visited my grandparents in Mexico. I had always wanted to go to Deep River Waterpark in Hobart and talked my aunt into taking me. I worked up the nerve to go on the “Thunder Wave” slide. I got on my floatie and the lifeguard asked, “You ready kid?”  I was! I screamed as he pushed me down and held on tight. It was so great, I went on it a few more times.
Isabel in Drama Club dressing room and at prom
At Morton High School I started dating my childhood friend Jake.  I was playing volleyball, and he was on the football team.  To invite me to the Winter Formal he placed a football in my locker with hearts painted all over it and a letter that said, “Dating you is a score but going to Winter Formal with me would mean that I won the game. Will you let me win?” I wrote him a letter of acceptance in study hall and gave it to him at lunch.  The night was special.  Jake requested the DJ to play my favorite song, “Where the Party At?” by Jagged Edge. Afterwards we got a bite at The Wheel where my mom worked as a waitress.

Daniel Hartman interviewed his uncle Kevin Mikalouski about his first car, a 1990 Chrysler LeBaron. Kevin told him:
      I was 17 and drove that car like it was invincible. Any ramp or incline I saw, I would hit going at least 40. Once with my girlfriend Becky in the car I came upon an inclined set of railroad tracks.  I hit that hump and I swear all 4 wheels were off the ground for at least a couple of seconds.  At first all seemed well, but I soon realized I had screwed up.  My two back tires are pointing left, and I could feel the car pulling to the left.  I had broken the frame.  I was working security part time for a loading company, and this welder who barely knew English told me to put it on a lift and he’d fix it. I have no idea how he did it but he fixed the frame. That weld held for 5 more years until I sold the car.
Kevin and Becky
Kevin recalled getting into an accident driving his mother’s car.
      I was in Griffith on my way to Becky’s, taking the shortcut behind Kmart.  One moment I’m driving and the next I’m face first up against a pole. The car was smoking, my glasses are gone, and someone pulled me out of the car.  There was a movie theater near the parking lot, so I went inside and they let me use their phone. I called my sister, who thought I was joking at first because of she had been in an accident just days before. After that I wasn’t even allowed to look at a car for months.

Jessica Fox wrote about her paternal grandmother Eulalie Barmen, born on October 12, 1924. The interview took place at Eulalie’s bachelorette pad in Lowell.  Eulalie loves bridge, basket weaving, ceramics, watching the Cubs, cooking huge meals, and spoiling her numerous grandchildren.  Twice married, she had seven children with a first husband, who was diabetic and died of a weak heart, and seven more with a second.  Eulalie was a registered nurse for 44 years at Saint Mary’s in Kankakee, Saint Anthony’s in Crown., and an ear, nose, and throat clinic in Hammond. She worked briefly in a shock therapy clinic treating patients with schizophrenia and other serious mental conditions; her job included putting the electrodes on patients’ heads.  Sometimes they had seizures, but when they woke up, she claimed they didn’t remember anything and felt no pain.  Eulalie’s one regret was her second marriage to, in her words, an unpleasant and abusive man.  Asked why she put up with it, she said: “I had to stay strong for the children, and I started fighting back.”
Sasha Tinajero began an article about her grandmother, Josefina Bracamontes (above), with this sad statement: “From the time she could remember, her life has always been dictated by one person or another.” Sasha continued:
          Mi abuelita Josefina was the eldest of three children born to Rosalio and Aurelia Velasco, on January 1, 1941 in Zapotlanejo Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of four she learned that someone had murdered Rosalio. At six her father’s parents, who hadn’t consented to the marriage, took Josefina and her siblings to Texas for a weekend. That weekend turned into four long years of forced child labor and physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. Every day she prayed for the day that her mother would come rescue them and recalled: “We had to do chores and were not allowed to attend school, play with other children, or have fun together.”  The three siblings were finally reunited with their mother when she was almost 11.  Four years later, Josefina fell for a 25-year-old, blue-eyed Colorado native, Manuel “Brock” Bracamontes.  He would be the first and last man in her life from that moment on.  Before he left, she was with child. When she notified him, he could not promise her anything, he said, because he was constantly relocating from place to place and not ready to be tied down. He did, however, return to give his son a last name.  In the following six years Josefina gave birth to four more of Manuel’s children.
above, Manuel; below, Josefina with child
         Manuel moved to Gary and found a job as a steelworker at Inland Steel.  In 1967 he brought Josefina and the children to a Fifth Avenue, two-bedroom apartment where his parents and two step-sisters also lived. A year later, they moved to a house on Homerlee Avenue in East Chicago.  On the block were two other Mexican families, the Montemayors and Garcias.  Most neighbors were from Poland.  Soon after the move, Josefina’s mother-in-law, Virginia Alamillo, moved in and, in Josefina’s words, “dictated my cooking, children, and house.  There was no arguing with that stubborn woman.”  Manuel bowed to his mother’s wishes and had a mean streak when anyone challenged his authority. Josefina was conditioned to know her place and not question him. During her 60 years of marriage, she put up with what she had to in order to keep family together, including his fondness for drink and a succession of mistresses.  As she put it: “A man is glorified and admired for the countless of women he can woo, and after they are done wooing their object of affection, a wife is supposed to continue on as if nothing has happened. What do you do when you have never learned to ride a bike, drive a car, or even roller skate?  You stand by your man and keep your family together.”
proud grandparents
Sasha concluded: I am one of Josefina’s 14 grandchildren.  She has been to every important event in my life. Her guidance and encouragement have had a major influence on the woman I am today.  I remember my grandfather coming down the block on one of his mid-day strolls and frequently handing me a couple strawberry and chocolate coconut candies that I truly loved. To me, he was more mush that brute, but only a few of us that knew that side of him.  Now in her mid-70s, Josefina acknowledges that she was victim to a male code in which the husband made all the decisions over wife and children.  She continues to wait hand and foot on my disabled grandfather.  Josefina Bracamontes knew her life would never be the same when she discovered she was with child.  She watched the world change from her television set, her living room window, and the Sunday paper.  Though she wants me to be independent, she is still living by the motto “stand by your man.” Te Quiero Mucho Ma, “I love you grandma.”

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