Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day

“No doubt they rose up early to observe the rite of May; and, hearing our intent, came here in grace of our solemnity.” William Shakespeare, “Misdsummer Night’s Dream”


May 1, the halfway point between the spring and summer solstice, is celebrated in Hawaii (where Toni and I started our marriage) as Lei Day, with the emphasis on native island culture.  In France, the custom is to give loved ones a lily of the valley, a tradition dating from 1561 when King Charles IX received the sweet-smelling flower as a good luck charm.  In “To Hell with Loyalty Day: I Have My Own Reason to Celebrate” Ray Smock ridiculed a recent proclamation by Trump to celebrate May 1 as Loyalty Day, with patriotic ceremonies in schools and flags flown on all government buildings.  Smock wrote:
Trump didn't invent this idea that May 1 should be Loyalty Day, another day to fly flags and puff our chests in pride for being Americans. This silly attempt at a holiday has its origins in the Red Scare of 1919-21, when the government was rounding up and deporting radicals in an attempt to purify the nation of socialist thinking. Eisenhower dusted it off in 1958 when we were still hysterical about communism.
I am a loyal American who needs no reminders of what loyalty means from a president who is loyal only to himself, his family, and his billionaire friends. Oh, I almost forgot. He claims to be loyal to his base, which is about 40% of the country. I guess the rest of us can go to hell. How about a UNITY DAY for all Americans?
May Day has deeper and more colorful roots that Donald Trump could ever imagine. May Day was when virgins danced around the Maypole, that giant phallus and wonderful symbol of the fecundity of Spring for all animals including humans.  Puritans tore down a Maypole in 1628 because the festivities resembled a drunken orgy.
The modern International May Day that I am sure Trump wants nothing to do with since he is not a globalist, at least on some days, began with an incident on May 4, 1886, when a demonstration in Chicago's Haymarket Square got nasty after someone threw a bomb into the crowd, killing seven policemen. The Soviet Union used to have big parades on May Day, and Joseph Stalin once referred to May 1 as that wonderful made-in-America holiday.
I have my own reasons to celebrate May Day every year. May 1 is my wife's birthday! I celebrate it with great joy every year. HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHYLLIS! I love you dearly and always will. May is the most beautiful month, and you start it off with a bang!


I enjoyed Kendall Svengalisillustrated talk at the Carter Woodson library in Miller about his new novel, “The Great Emerson Art Heist.” A 1965 Gary Emerson grad who has been researching his alma mater for over a decade, he discussed numerous noteworthy graduates, including Harry Warnke (class of 1939), who joined the navy and in 1942 died when his plane crashed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu; Hank Gordon (class of 1943), drum major and future test pilot and astronaut; and football star Frank Roman (class of 1943), who was a forward scout for tank destroyers during World War II and whose daughter Meg was in the audience. 1931 Emerson grad Karl Malden visited the school in September 1962, Svengalis’ sophomore year.
 1965 Emerson yearbook photos

Emerson grads enjoyed the photos and anecdotal references to longtime teachers such as Melba Cromer (who liked boogie woogie music), football coach Art Rolfe (who whacked helmeted players on the head with his clipboard), and Gladys Pierce (who had been friends with Hoagy Carmicael at IU in Bloomington), who taught from 1926 until 1969, the longest tenure in school history.  Physical Education teacher Gertrude Reynolds often had a pet terrier by her side.  Math teacher Miss Talbot was nicknamed “Whispering Minnie” because she deliberately lowered her voice to get students’ attention.  Svengalis mentioned an Emerson auditorium appearance by Dale Messico (below), creator of the Brenda Starr comic strip and a Hobart High School grad.  Born Dalia Messick, she used a pseudonym due to the bias in the newspaper business against women. 
Messick’s father taught drawing at Emerson for five years after the school first opened in 1909.  Other local celebrities Svengalis brought up included Froebel track star Marce Gonzalez, City Methodist organist Dwight Davis (who taught music at IUN), and band director Ken Resur (first at Froebel, then at Horace Mann).  Svengalis showed a great photo, circa 1950, of waitresses dressed as majorettes who worked at Ted’s Drive-In on Route 12 near Aetna, where Svengalis grew up. 

In the Woodson Library stacks I discovered an almost a complete run of Steel Shavings magazines, many in protective binding.  I mailed the present issue to librarian Brenda Davis and offered to donate any missing ones still in print. The copies I had with me went to Svengalis and history buff Steve Spicer, who appears three times in it. I told Svengalis that his Gary “Centennial Celebration” book can be found not only at the Calumet Regional Archives but in the Toyota Service waiting room and that I enjoyed references in “The Great Emerson Art Heist” to old Gary landmarks such as the Armory (where young Kendall enjoyed wrestling matches) and the fashionable Ambassador Apartments (where I interviewed Rabbi Garry J. August and protagonist Ellen Anderson meets Mildred Wirt, widow of Gary’s first school superintendent).

 “The Great Emerson Art Heist” contains a glossary of over a thousand SAT vocabulary words that appear in bold type, including several of my favorites (apoplectic, convoluted, ebullient) and a couple unfamiliar ones, including encomium (eulogy) and etymology (the origin and history of words). There’s also a “Noteworthy References” section.  One learns, for example, that Gertrude Palmer produced dozens of plays while teaching dramatics and Auditorium at Emerson between 1937 and 1967 and that the Palace Theater, seating nearly 3,000, opened in1925 at 791 Broadway and closed in 1972, “a victim of Gary’s downtown economic collapse.”
 Chainsmokers at Huntley High prom

Miranda and Sean stayed at the condo Friday night before boarding the South Shore to see the band Chainsmokers at Chicago’s Allstate Arena.  Before the show, the duo of Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall slipped onstage unannounced at a prom in progress at Rosemont’s Hyatt Regency Hotel and performed their hit “Closer” during a ten-minute set.  Huntley High principal Scott Rowe tweeted: “That’ll teach you not to come to prom!”  At the concert Miranda and Sean each received a free copy of the Chainsmokers CD “Memories . . . Do Not Open.” After I picked them up at the South Shore station Miranda gave me her copy.  It contains a song they did with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, “Something Just Like This.”

Meanwhile, in Northwest Indiana, cops are on the lookout for suspicious prom goers.  NWI Times reporter Jonathan Miano wrote:
            Five people were arrested Saturday night at the Kankakee Valley High School prom held at the Porter County Expo Center.
According to a Porter County Sheriff's department report, police were called by a Jasper County deputy sheriff who was working the prom. He reported several students and non-students had been consuming alcohol.
A search of a car also turned up two bottles of vodka, a baggie of marijuana and smoking pipes.
As Pink Floyd put it in “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Leave them kids alone.”
Dean and Joanell Bottorff in South Dakota (2016)


In an honest-to-goodness letter delivered by “snail mail,”Joanell Bottorff informed us that she and Dean sold the Roosevelt Inn, located in Keystone, South Dakota, near Mount Rushmore, and have bought a van to travel around the country. She declared: “It’s going to be great to be foot-loose and fancy-free for the first time in over 2 decades.”  We’ll see. Their last retirement didn’t last long.  They lived next door to us in the 1970s and then bought a place outside of Valpo with enough acreage to raise goats and tend honeybee hives. After they moved to Hong Kong, I stayed with them in 1994 for over a week; they took me on a hike where I saw a waterfall and monkeys who stole cameras from careless tourists.  Dean complained that the two things he couldn’t buy in Hong Kong were Dockers jeans and extra-large condoms.  When they first “retired” to South Dakota, Toni and I visited with Alissa and Jim and Kate Migoski.

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