Thursday, May 11, 2017


“Just keep matriculating down the field, boys.” Kansas City Chiefs Coach Hank Stram, January 11, 1970

Though some confuse the word “matriculating” with graduating, it actually means enrolling or registering at a college or university, but Hank Stram gave it a whole new meaning while mic’d up for sound during Superbowl IV.  His players had no idea what he was talking about but apparently were motivated enough to rout the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7, led by quarterback Len Dawson, like Stram a Purdue grad.  A graduate of Gary Lew Wallace (Class of 1941), Stram lettered in four sports, including being the starting tailback or three years, despite being just five foot seven inches tall and weighing a mere 135 pounds by his senior year.  Stram matriculated on scholarship at Purdue, served in World War II, and resumed his Boilermaker football career in 1946.

Hank Stram’s Polish-born father, Henry Wilcek, arrived Chicago with his parents in 1904 at age eight.  Orphaned five years later, he survived by hawking newspapers. According to family lore, at a Ringling Brother Barnum and Bailey sideshow, a wrestler challenged all comers to get into the ring and win 50 dollars if they could beat him.  Sixteen-year-old Henry outwrestled the man and received an offer to replace his victim on condition that he change his name.  Someone suggested Stram, and it stuck.  After traveling around the country for three years, Henry worked in a packinghouse and then moved to Gary as a salesman for Nash Tailoring company while continuing to wrestle. 

Born in 1923, Hank’s earliest memories are of bouncing up and down in his seat and shouting himself hoarse, cheering for his dad, “The Wrestling Tailor,” at the Gary Armory.  Hank recalled: “Dad was a small guy, like myself.  He wrestled at 147 pounds, in the welterweight division, displayed great coordination, and could move very quickly.”  He died of a heart attack at age 41.  Hank’s mother, Nellie, subsequently opened a restaurant in Gary’s Brunswick area that became known as Ma Stram’s. 

I remember attending IUN graduation ceremonies at Lew Wallace and taking a moment to comprehend why the scoreboard had a 19 for the home team and 76 for the visitors.  Paul Kern recalls one that took place at West Side H.S.  Thursday’s graduating took place at Gary Genesis Center. Emeritus professor Ken Schoon spent several days learning how to pronounce each degree recipient’s name, a task Garret Cope used to perform with great skill.
above, Laina Heinrichs (Post-Trib photo by Michelle Quinn); below, Elizabeth Morales

The Post-Tribune carried a guest column by Chancellor Lowe touting IUN’s class of 2017, 643 strong, including Elizabeth Morales, the first member of her family to be born in the United States, the first to be literate in English, the first to attend college, and, four years later, the first to graduate (with a B.S. degree in Business).  A Whiting graduate, Morales worked in the office of Alumni Relations and served as student representative on its executive council.  Another graduate, Salman Lakhani, completed a degree in Psychology in three years while maintaining a 4.0 grade point average and participating in numerous clubs, including the Muslim Student Association. A while back, he fixed a computer problem for me.  Outgoing and personable, he has served as a Student Ambassador; I couldn’t imagine a better one.
Salman Makhani
 Krystina and Rosie Hamilton
Among the graduates was a mother-daughter duo – Krystina and Rosie Hamilton. They matriculated together and became study buddies, pretty much taking the same courses at the same time, earning Bachelor of Arts degrees in General Studies with a minor in Sociology and Anthropology.  IUN Media Communications Specialist Erica Rose wrote:
Semester-after-semester they kept each other motivated and accountable, as they counted down the credit hours to completion.  At times, it seems their roles had reversed, with Krystina, 24, tutoring her mom through math and offering words of encouragement, while Rosie, 47, trudged along, threatening to give up.  It is clear the pair mastered the nuances of balancing their roles along the way. “It’s kind of strange because when you go to school together, you have a sense of friendship, but at the same time, it’s a mother-daughter relationship,” Krystina explained. “At school she was my colleague, but at home, she’s my mom.”

Jerry Davich wrote:
   On this date in 1984, it took the Chicago White Sox 25 innings, eight hours and six minutes, over two days, to finally defeat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-6. It was the longest game (in elapsed time) in major-league history, I'm told.
Jim Spicer responded:
   I was at the game (part 2) when the Sox finally won. Tom Seaver won two games that day as he pitched the top half of the 25th as his warm up for his scheduled start and also got the win in that contest.

Eleven years earlier, White sox knuckleball pitcher also won two games, pitching 14 innings (the first five in relief) of shutout ball against the Indians.  My favorite player, Dick Allen, won the 21-inning contest with a walk-off home run.  Like Spicer, I also had the privilege of watching Tom Seaver (“Tom Terrific”) win a game with the Sox, hurling seven shutout innings.  Omar Farag, who had season tickets, offered four of them to me on an evening when rain was predicted. Phil, Dave, and TJ Coleman had a terrific time.  On the 1984 White Sox were a trio of sluggers: Harold Baines, Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk, and Gary’s own Ron Kittle.

Ray Smock weighed in on the firing of FBI director James Comey, noting that it is too early to make comparisons with Watergate but raising awareness of the possibilities of a cover-up.  He wrote:
        Trump’s letter firing Director Comey is disturbingly Trumpian, reminding the public that on three occasions Director Comey told Trump he was not being investigated for his involvement with Russians during the campaign. In other words, Trump uses his letter to focus on his own innocence.
        Earlier, Trump fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates because she had serious reservations about the constitutionality of Trump’s Muslim ban. He should have listened to her. It was the same Sally Yates that alerted President Trump that his pick to be national security adviser, General Mike Flynn, could possibly be blackmailed by the Russian government. She was doing her job of protecting the president and the United States. Trump kept Flynn in office another 18 days before firing him. 
        Our current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, picked because he was one of the first senators to come out and campaign vigorously for Trump, has been forced to recuse himself from any direct involvement in the Russian investigation because he had contact with the Russian ambassador that he did not reveal to the Senate during confirmation hearings. 
        This murkiness in high places of government, this uneasy feeling that things are helter-skelter in the White House is causing me to experience similar levels of frustration, angst, and confusion just like a lot of us felt during the slow unfolding of the Watergate nightmare.
        The investigations into the Russian involvement in the presidential election of 2016 must go on. They cannot be scuttled until all the evidence is in, one way or another. The investigations into the Trump campaign’s involvement with Russian agents must go on. The House and Senate investigations have been a series of false starts plagued by partisan obstruction. I am concerned that they are being conducted with inadequate staff and too few hearings.
        Who is left to investigate? Long ago I called for the need to renew the office of special prosecutor and to move these investigations to an independent body of highly skilled non-partisan professionals of the highest integrity. We have such people in this country. We have the talent, we have the skills, we have the honesty and integrity in this country to do this thing right. The American people will never be able to fully trust the President and his administration until this is cleared up. Unfortunately, it might take two years or more to get to the bottom of this mess. But we should start right now.  
        But here is the rub. The special prosecutor law expired in 1999. Congress would have to pass it again; President Trump would have to sign it. Then, under provisions of the law, it would be the President on the advice of Attorney General Sessions, who would appoint the special prosecutor. Does anyone see a problem here? 

Corey Hagelberg, Walter Jones, and Samuel A. Love made are publicizing the Calumet Artist Residency project to create a collaborative, city-wide Gary poem.  IU Northwest and the Gardner Center in Miller are two of many sites where they solicited lines.
Jillian Van Volkenburgh at Parkview School, 2015
I received an email from Jillian Van Volkenburgh, who said it was nice running into me at the Gardner Center reception for the show featuring Corey’s art installations. She added: Thank you again for the wonderful presentation for my Art in Focus group earlier this year. We just wrapped up the season and when they filled out the program evaluation forms, your presentation (on Vivian Carter and Vee-Jay Records) was one of their favorites!”  I sent her my new Shavings, which mentions her several times, and, after receiving it, she replied: “Wow! What an honor! I am proud of my Region roots and now I am part of local history. Thank you for including me!”   offered to do a program in the Fall titled, “Reliving 1957: A Dance Party.”  Like a deejay, I’d mention news events, movies (“Peyton Place,” “Jailhouse Rock”), TV shows (American Bandstand” goes national), and other popular culture nuggets between spinning records, such as “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” by Jerry Lee Lewis, and “Rock and Roll Music” by Chuck Berry.  Hopefully there’d be room for folks to dance.  I’ll even invite the a capella group Stormy Weather to sing doo wop numbers such as “Come Go with Me” by the Dell Vikings and “Silhouettes” by the Rays.

Everyone at bridge indicated willingness to be interviewed by a student in Steve McShane’s Summer Indiana History class. Here’s the assignment:
 Students will interview a duplicate bridge player from Northwest Indiana who has participated in competitive games.  The interview will cover such matters as when the person’s family came to the Calumet Region, what they did for a living, how they got into card-playing, social interaction with other bridge players, and duplicate bridge anecdotes and highlights.  Photographs will be most welcome.  Student papers and, if possible, tapes of the interviews, will be deposited in the District 8, Unit 154, Northwest Indiana Bridge Collection housed in IU Northwest’s Calumet Regional Archives.  If need be, students may select the names of persons to interview from a list available at the Archives.

My bridge partner Dolores Van Bebber’s daughter Lissa Yogan is a Valparaiso University Sociology professor.  Dolores moved to Valpo from Crystal River, Florida, to be near her.  Despite never having played together, we did very well, especially on defense.  Our one miscommunication didn’t hurt much.  After Dolores opened a Diamond, I jumped to 3 Clubs, holding 15 high-card points.  She passed, thinking my bid was a preempt.  I made 4 Clubs.  Everyone else ended up in 3 No-Trump; two couples made the contract, but two others got set, so we ended with a middle board.
 Arredondo kids with Cousin Lucy, July 1941 (Camila in front, second from left)

Camila (top left) with grandmother Rita, sister Jenny, and little Juan Sanchez, 1953

Arredondo family reunion, August 1975 (Camila third from left)

I delivered copies of Steel Shavings, volume 46, to the Judge Lorenzo Arredondo Justice Center at 3711 Main Street in East Chicago.  The neighborhood looks quite depopulated compared to when the steel mills were employing thousands, but rather than coming across abandoned buildings, I noticed a nice park and other green spaces.  At the Justice Center, I met Lorenzo’s sister Camila Trevino, named after her paternal grandmother.  In the “Maria’s Journey” epilogue Ramon and Trish Arredondo wrote this brief biography of Camila:
  ´Mila never left the Region, living in the upstairs apartment of the family home for decades.  She worked in a secretarial capacity for numerous local government offices.  She achieved her dream of a beautiful wedding with her marriage to Rolando Trevino.  ´Mila has two children, Juanita and Camila.           

No comments:

Post a Comment