Monday, September 13, 2021

Town and Gown

“I occasionally daydream about winning the lottery and using the money to shore up support for international students and contribute to other worthy causes crippled by the pandemic.” Hugh McGuigan

With VU professor Liz Wuerffel and Welcome Project assistant and filmmaker Carmen Vincent videotaping, I interviewed Hugh McGuigan at his Valparaiso home. For a quarter-century McGuigan directed Valparaiso University’s Global Education program, both for VU students seeking to study overseas and international students from all over the world, including Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Bolivia, China, Mexico, and elsewhere. A large proportion enrolled in the VU’s Engineering program and, almost without exception, excelled academically.

Hugh grew up in Minnesota and after graduating from college and a stint in the army, he continued his education while working in international programs. He came to VU from Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, after meeting future wife Sandy, who worked at the university. He built up the program to such an extent that when he semi-retired (he still helps out and occasionally teaches a course), it took two full-time administrators to replace him. McGuigan was particularly proud of international programs that involved the community, including an annual celebration of diverse cultures that involved entertainment and exotic cuisine to which local schools and civic groups were welcome. Hugh often spoke to clubs such as the Rotary and Kiwanis about global education opportunities and involved local eateries such as Don Quijote in providing food for special occasions. He was particularly passionate in arguing that we all are global citizens and that cultural exchange is invaluable for promoting international understanding and civility. Afterwards we enjoyed blueberry muffins that wife Sandy had made, and they told us about a Thanksgiving dinner where they hosted 18 international faculty and their families, including young children, giving rides to those without cars, picking up dinners at Strongbow’s Restaurant, and explaining the various traditional holiday foods, such as turkey (most guests favored the dark meat) and cranberries (one guest poured gravy on his and seemed to enjoy it – I like turkey gravy on anything). Afterwards, Liz and I commiserated that the anecdote wasn’t on tape, but we plan on interviewing Sandy at a later date.

Hugh McGuigan and I both attended Saturday Evening Club (me via zoom since Alissa and Beth were visiting for the weekend). Speaking from Florida was former IUN medical school director Pat Bankston on the need for humility, civility, and reason in our present polarized age of rampant tribalism. He began with the Charles Dickens quote from “A Tale of Two Cities,” that this was the best of times (i.e., rapid development of the anti—COVID vaccine) and the worst of times (some Republicans making vaccine and mask mandates a partisan issue). Bankston quoted a former SEC member who repeatedly claimed that we were going to hell in a hand basket. He used the phrase “exhausted majority” to describe those like himself tired of the vulgar and overheated political rhetoric. The phrase reminded me of Nixon’s use of “silent majority” a half—century ago, but when it came my time to speak I noted that despite efforts by Trump and his minions to demonize anyone who disagrees with them, more unites Americans than divides us. I concluded, “Count me among the exhausted majority.”

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Gary Chamber meeting

“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them,” James Baldwin I was asked to participate in a meeting at the Gary Chamber of Commerce at the Centier Bank Building, located at 504 Broadway in downtown Gary. The purpose was to suggest content for a talk local representative Ben Clement would be giving on “Black Excellence” at the annual conference of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA). Jená Bellezza, COO of the Indiana Parenting Institute, had arranged for a Gary speaker to be on the agenda, and Chamber director Chuck Hughes had organized the meeting. As a Gary historian, I was to come up with names of people who might be highlighted. Prior to the meeting, I made a list of possibilities in the categories, of officeholders (A.B. Whitlock, Richard Hatcher), clergymen active in civil rights (Julius James, L.K. Jackson), athletes (Olympian champ Lee Calhoun, gridiron star George Taliaferro), entrepreneurs (Andrew Means, Vivian Carter), educators (Roosevelt teachers Ida B. King, Anne Thompson), social workers (John Stewart, Thelma Marshall), actors (William Marshall, Avery Brooks), labor leaders (George Kimbley, Curtis String), and singers (Michael Jackson, Deniece Williams). One of Gary’s first “skyscrapers, built in the 1920s, the bank building hadn’t changed much since I last paid a visit to meet former student Jacqueline Gipson for lunch when the VU Law School graduate was working for the Legal Aid Society, only I was told to park, not in the multi-story garage evidently no longer in use, but in a lot next to the building and north of the Housing Authority headquarters that once was the grand Hotel Gary and now housed seniors. In the mid-1970s, while researching Gary’s history at the public library on Fifth Avenue, I’d often have lunch across the street at the YMCA cafeteria in a building now belonging to the Boys and Girls Club. Oldtimers would eat at a large round table; I’d join them and ask them about the Prohibition Era, when Capone mobsters cooled their heels at the Hotel Gary and the town was wide open when it came to speakeasies and brothels. A dentist named E.C. Doering had his office at what was then the Gary National Bank Building and once cleaned my teeth there. I arrived early, and Chuck Hughes explained photos lining the walls, including one of a champion Biddy Basketball team, circa 1960, containing both Hughes and Region native Gregg Popovich (the two are still close friends) and a collage of a reunion Hughes organized honoring the two all-Black teams that vied for the 1955 IHSAA championship, Indianapolis Crispus Attucks and Gary Roosevelt. Among the honorees were former foes Oscar Robertson and Dick Barnett, who both went on the star in the NBA. A group shot Hughes was particularly proud of brought together boxing legends Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali. Once the meeting began, it became obvious, given the 20 minutes allotted for the talk, there’d only be time to highlight a few people. I suggested the theme “On Their Shoulders” and that Ben Clement might mention how African Americans during the Great Migration came to Gary to work in the mills and, despite facing school segregation, many of their children and grandchildren went on to productive lives, including Vee-Jay Records cofounder Vivian Carter, the daughter of steelworkers and restauranteurs, whose success with hitmakers such as the Spaniels and Jimmy Reed inspired the Jacksons and other local performers. I also brought up Thelma Marshall, a teacher and social workers who ran the Children’s Home for orphans and whose son William, a beneficiary of the Roosevelt School auditorium curriculum, became a Shakespearean actor. Finally, I brought up the Taliaferro brothers, Claude and George, products of Gary Roosevelt, one a longtime local teacher and coach, the other a football legend at IU and the NFL, who in retirement moved back to Bloomington and was active both in campus and civic affairs. Jená recorded the meeting for Ben’s benefit, and I told him he was welcome to run his remarks by me if he so desired. Today I visited Jonathan Briggs’ freshman seminar to distribute Steel Shavings magazines (volume 49) that I will be discussing next week when I speak to the class about the history of IUN. I told students that colleague Ron Cohen and I founded the magazine almost 50 years ago in order to publish student’s family history articles, that most of our students came from steelworker families who’d emigrated to the Calumet Region within the past two generations, mostly from Europe, Mexican, and the American South. Both Ron and I believed in the validity of regional history “from the bottom up,” as the phrase went, that is, emphasizing marginalized groups such as women, Latinos, African Americans, and union workers under-represented in traditional textbooks. I noted that while the content of the magazine has fluctuated over the years, volume 49, for example, being basically my journal for 2019, it still contains student work and is committed to social history from the bottom up, in short capturing “Life in the Calumet Region” as it has changed over time.

Monday, August 30, 2021

"Legendary Lloyd" McClendon

“It was an almost out-of-body experience as a youngster to be able to do that, and now I’ve learned to appreciate it more as an adult.” Lloyd McClendon

Fifty years ago, my first summer in Gary, Lloyd McClendon led a team from the “Steel City” to the Little League finals in Williamsport, PA, against a squad of suspiciously mature players from Taiwan. Leading up to the championship game, the 12-year-old had hit two home runs against teams both from Kentucky and Madrid, Spain. In an interview the Taiwan manager claimed that his pitcher, Chin-mu Hsu would pitch to McClendon because it would be dishonorable to walk him intentionally. In the first inning Hsu walked the Basemore brothers, Ralph and Vincent; then on the first pitch McClendon hit his fifth straight round tripper. His next four at bats in what proved to be the longest game in Little League history at 9 innings, he was issued intentional walks. Hsu, who was taller than the five-foot four McClendon with a high leg kick that resembled Juan Marichal, went on to strike out 22 batters as his team notched the score in the sixth and won it going away, 12-3, in the ninth.

McClendon went on to play for Gary Roosevelt, whose coach, Benny Dorsey, named him team captain his freshman year. After an all-state career, he obtained a scholarship to Valparaiso University, where he was a league MVP. He ultimately enjoyed an eight-year career as a major league player, his most productive season being in 1989 with the Chicago Cubs, with whom he hit 12 home runs; in the NL championship against San Francisco, he went 2 for 3 as a pinch hitter. McClendon then had a long career as a coach and manager. In 2013, after Seattle named him their skipper for the upcoming season, Seattle Times reporter Geoff Baker looked back on the 1971 exploits of “Legendary Lloyd,” interviewing teammate Carl Weatherspoon, who told him that there were more than a half-dozen Little League organizations in Gary back then, including their Anderson Field league, and that steelworkers such as his and Lloyd’s dad encouraged kids to get into baseball and let them stay outside after dinner because neighborhoods were safer then. “We all played in the streets until dark,” Weatherspoon recalled. Sunday’s NWI Times front page article by David P. Funk emphasized that Gary’s 1971 squad was the first all-black team to play in the championship. McClendon told him, “You’re 12 years old. You don’t think about economics or racial factors, what it does for a city on so many fronts. You just strap it on and go out and have fun.” Prior to the game, TV announcer Tim McKay and Yankee great Micky Mantle interviewed him. McClendon said, “That’s one of my most cherished memories of everything that happened there. I was terrified. I tried to run past them. I was like, ‘My God, that’s Mickey Mantle.’” Third baseman Roy Lawson, whose father Jesse was the head coach, recalled that few balls were hit to him because opponents couldn’t catch up to Lloyd’s fastballs. After Lloyd weakened in the ninth and left the game, his father and Coach Lawson told him how proud they were of him. McClendon remembered: “What they did for me in that moment defined who I was to become, not only as a baseball player but as a human being and a man of character.”

Second baseman Marcus Hubbard, who batted clean-up behind McClendon, saw himself as a second lead-off batter because Lloyd’s drives generally cleared the bases ahead of him. One thing that impressed Hubbard is how boisterously all-white teams they’d defeated from Maine and Kentucky and their fans cheered for them. When the team returned to Gary, the city arranged a parade in their honor, and the celebrities rode on top of a firetruck down Broadway and were greeted by Mayor Hatcher and Governor Edgar Whitcomb. Said Hubbard, “We didn’t realize until on our way back how proud the city was.”

Explosions

“In an instant [on July 4, 1921], the day of fun became the most deadly and gruesome day in the Standard Oil refinery’s history.” John Hmurovic


Thirteen American servicemen, including Marine sergeant Nicole Gee, died as a result of an ISIS terrorist attack near an entrance to the Kabul airport. The explosion also killed over a hundred Afghans attempting to flee Taliban rule. President Joe Biden and other dignitaries honored the brave victims as their coffins arrived back in America. Most Republicans are feigning outrage at the “debacle” while remaining mostly silent on Trump’s policies that led directly to pulling the plug on a 20-year doomed effort.

On the front page of the NWI Times was a lengthy article by Joseph S. Pete about a 1921 explosion at a Whiting, Indiana, oil refinery that killed eight people and injured 44. Using the writings and an interview with historian and Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society mainstay John Hmurovic, who for many years has volunteered his time at IUN’s Calumet Regional Archives, the article noted that a 1955 refinery explosion is more famous and caused more property damage, wiping out the entire Stiglitz Park neighborhood, but the hundred-year-old blast took more lives. Shortly after 8:15 in the morning, as the midnight shift ended and the day shift reported for duty, an overheated battery exploded and set off a chain reaction that turned the lakefront plant into an inferno. Most of the incinerated victims were immigrants from Slovakia, Sweden, Germany, and England. One victim was firefighter Joseph Paylo, a World War I veteran, who helped get survivors to safety but inhaled so much super-heated fumes that it burned his lungs. Hnurovic noted: It was a sad scene. The refinery didn’t allow people inside. There was no social media, no telephones, no way of communication. Bodies were being carried out, and no one knew who it was or what was going on. Women were begging workers to tell them if they saw their husbands because they didn’t know if they were still alive. They could only identify the dead from watches, jewelry or clothing. The bodies were unrecognizable. A Fourth of July parade had been scheduled to begin about 45 minutes after the blast occurred. After a delay of several hours, it went ahead, followed, incredibly, by a fireworks celebration. Hmurovic offered this explanation, “Back then, people experienced hardship in a different way. People were used to having to deal with hard conditions and just rolled with the punches.” The final indignity to those foreign-born workers who had hoped, as Hmurovic put it, “to make a new life for themselves,” was that even though the tragedy was determined to have been caused by a leak, pro-business inspectors ruled that it was “an act of God” rather than the result of company negligence, a ruling, Joseph Pete wrote, that “minimized Standard Oil’s legal liability.”

Several spectacular explosions occurred at the Aetna Powder Company, built in the early 1880s in a then remote location that later became part of Gary. The nitroglycerine was first used primarily to remove famers’ tree stumps and shortly before its closure provided explosives for use in World War I. An 1888 blast killed three workers and could be heard 120 miles away in Fort Wayne. Another in 1912 killed eight people; two years later an explosion rattled windows in downtown Gary. John Hmurovic’s four-hour documentary on the “City of the Century,” based in part on my book, mentioned this miniature company town. By 1921, with the rapid expansion of the city’s population the dangerous facility’s days were numbered.

Friday, August 27, 2021

A.B. Whitlock

“Arthur Brown Whitlock became Gary’s first Black city council member who pioneered civil rights inside the city.”Korry Shepard

I was delighted to find Gary Historical Collective director Korry Shepard’s column on A.B. Whitlock in the NWI Times. Whitlock played a critical role in protesting segregationist policies that the school board adopted. Shepard notes that Whitlock was born in 1886 in Charleston, South Carolina, the son of Lucila Dickerson and white Methodist minister, harness maker, and Civil War veteran William Henry Whitlock. A.B. Whitlock and wife Almyra moved to Alabama, to attend Tuskegee Institute and then to Mississippi for further schooling at Rust University before joining his father in Gary in 1917, part of the Great Migration of southern Blacks to northern industrial cities. Whitlock found work as a motor inspector and before long took an interest in politics as a means of furthering Black advancement. Joining the Republican party, Whitlock was elected to the city council in November 1921, after his Democratic opponent withdrew due to a scandal. During the 1920s he opened a grocery at 2200 Broadway, six years later founded the Gary American, and also invested money in beachfront property near Pine Station. At a time when Blacks were forbidden to use Miller beaches, Pine Beach, which had bathhouses, fishing facilities, and concession stands, was the only place where African Americans had access to lake Michigan.

  In the Fall of 1927 approximately half the white students at Emerson boycotted classes after 18 Black students seeking college preparatory classes were transferred there from Virginia Street School. Over the objection of School Superintendent William A. Wirt, who, according to Korry Shepard, believed the Ku Klux Klan was behind the strike, the school board on Mayor Floyd Williams’ recommendation voted to oust the transfer students. At Wirt’s urging, the board agreed to construct a K-12 facility equal in quality to Emerson that eventually became Gary Roosevelt. During a city council meeting Whitlock denounced the surrender to “mob rule,” claimed that “poor white trash” had fomented the trouble, and argued that the segregationist policy was a signal from the city’s white power structure that members of his race were unwelcome. As I wrote in “Gary’s First Hundred Years”: “African Americans were forced to make the best of a bad situation. They took pride in Roosevelt School, but as NAACP leader Joseph Pitts noted, it took 40 years to complete all the promised facilities. Some Blacks continued to attend Froebel, but they were put in separate classrooms, could not join the band or most clubs, and could only use the swimming pool on the day before it was cleaned. They could participate in sports but not shower with white athletes. These practices, some felt, were designed to encourage Blacks to transfer voluntarily to Roosevelt.”

Shepard mentioned that in 1929 Whitlock lost his council seat to William J. Hardaway after political opponents spread rumors that he was involved in bootlegging during an era of Prohibition. He lived a productive life, editing the Gary American for 20 years, speaking out against police brutality and segregation, before turning the reins over to his son and daughter-in-law. He died in in 1967, ten months before another civil rights pioneer, Richard Gordon Hatcher, was elected mayor.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Old Days

“The movie wasn’t so hot It didn’t have much of a plot We fell asleep, our goose is cooked Our reputation is shot” “Wake Up Little Susie,” Everly Brothers Don Everly passed away at age 84, part of a duo that profoundly affected pop music. Born into a coal mining family, Don and Phil sang with their parents before recording a string of teen melodramas during the 1950s, such as “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bird Dog” and “Cathy’s Clown” that were about falling asleep as a drive-in, worrying about a rival stealing your girl or having such a crush that you’d do anything that pleased her. Rumor was, the Everly Brothers grew to despise one another, but they made beautiful harmony and influenced countless successors, including Paul McCartney and John Lennon and Seals and Crofts. My favorite live band at Bucknell fraternity parties covered Everly Brothers songs, sometimes substituting dirty words, such as “Stick it in me, baby” for “Stick with me baby.” Toni and I saw Don and Phil live opening for the Beach Boys about 30 years ago, and they still had it. Warren Ellis, who wrote an article that I published in my 1920s Steel Shavings (volume 8, 1982) commented on a Facebook post about the magazine. I responded: “I remember you as an A+ student and the article, “Asleep at the Throttle,’ about Hungarian-born railroad worker Stepen and an accident he averted while employed at Inland Steel Co. as a locomotive fireman.” He came to America from Canada in 1922 at age 27 after his entire family had perished during World War I. An employment agency found him a job in Indiana Harbor. Initially he shared a room at the Inland Hotel but moved after a roommate stole his razor and clothes before vanishing. Before becoming an engineer, initially Stepen worked 72 hours a week as a locomotive fireman tending the engine, shoveling coal, feeding water to the engine, and making sure the engine didn’t get overheated. Ellis described an incident that occurred during the mid-1920s while Stepen was on the “graveyard” shift: The engineer had a very peculiar habit of taking little naps while driving the train. Stepen not only took care of his fireman’s duties but also kept a close eye on the signal lights. If any change occurred, he would have to wake up the engineer. On this one run they were hauling limestone, which became rather smelly and dusty after a while; there were times when you could not even see in front of you. Furthermore, the train had to enter a tunnel at a curve in the tracks at an angle because the tracks were on a hill. A very, very tricky run, as Stepen put it. Even so, the engineer fell asleep. One night, Stepen looked up, almost a second too late, and noticed the lights were signaling the train to stop. He had to put on the brakes himself because there was no time to wake up the engineer. The train jerked quickly to a standstill with a loud bang. The engineer awoke just as the train started to lean on one side. One of the cars was half hanging off the track and had been pushed into the wall of the tunnel, creating a rather large hole. The limestone had to be reloaded onto another car. For the next few hours while repairs were being made, not much limestone was hauled through the tunnel. Stepen very rarely had to watch the signal lights when working again with this engineer. He said that for some reason the man broke the habit of taking naps at the throttle. I recall my surprise when I first started teaching and a student probably in her early 50s stated that she had listened to a radio broadcast of Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 solo flight over the Atlantic Ocean. No wonder to current students, events of the 1960s and 1970s seem like ancient history. Probably most former students who remember me are of retirement age. One of them, Vickie Voller, I play duplicate bridge with. The other day, I repeated something I recall that IUN Psychology professor Herman Feldman told me a half-century ago: if you’re early to appointments, you’re compulsive, always right on time you’re obsessive, and if habitually late, passive-aggressive.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Tributes


“Jean Shepherd gets compared to Mark Twain a lot.  He was an American icon and a philosopher in many ways who realized the best medicine is humor.” Nick Mantis”

 

Hammond native Nick Mantis donated items to the Hammond library’s Local History room in tribute to Jean Shepherd, including a plaque the Hoosier bard received in 1981 from the city of Hammond and the academic gown Shep wore when awarded an honorary IU degree in 1995 from Indiana University Northwest. Mantis repeated this famous quote by Shepherd to NWI Times correspondent Joseph S. Pete: “Can you imagine 4,000 years passing, and you’re not even a memory?  Think about it, friends.  It’s not just a possibility.  It is a certainty.”  Then Mantis added, “In his mind, he didn’t want to be forgotten . . . in the city where he came from. He’s going to be remembered in Hammond.”

 

I used to make fun of Readers Digest volumes containing multiple condensed books. I recall my Bucknell professor, William Harbaugh, admitting that his truncated biography of Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t bad but that he hoped it would encourage readers to peruse the original.  At the Banta Center library I found a volume of “World’s Greatest Biographies” that contained “select editions” by A. Scott Berg on Charles Lindbergh, Stefan Zweig on Marie Antoinette, and “The Autobiography of Mark Twain,” edited by Charles Neider.  I’m glad I found it because Twain’s memoirs are humorous and incisive and I’d never read the original. Twain’s paternal ancestors allegedly included a pirate and a Member of Parliament who helped sentence Charles I to death. His father hired slaves from neighboring farmers ($25 a year for a female house servant, $75 yearly for an able-bodied man).  His mother championed abused people and animals; at one time, Twain claimed, “We had 19 cats.” Twain was a practical jokester and put garter snakes in his Aunt Patsy’s work basket: “When she took the basket in her lap and they began to climb out of it, it disordered her mind; she never could seem to get used to them.”

 

Time magazine published a list claiming to be the hundred best Young Adult books of all-time in the order in which they were published.  The first seven – “Little Women,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Catcher in the Rye,” “Lord of the Flies,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” - were classics enjoyed by readers of all ages. Almost all of the others, save for “The House on Mango Street” and “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” so far as I could tell (only a handful were familiar to me) seemed to be specifically aimed at young readers, often minority, disabled, and queer groups. Shockingly absent were “The Hobbit” and any Harry Potter books.

 

 Toni and I hosted our monthly bridge group after enjoying an excellent experience at Abbiocco Italian restaurant in Chesterton. We had planned to meet there at 2 but received a call Saturday morning that, due to insufficient staff (a common phenomenon at eateries), they weren’t opening until 3.  I called the other couples and got their OK.  None had been there before, and both the entrees and service were great.  I had a wedge salad with skirt steak added on (plus several pieces of homemade bread) and Toni the lobster tortelloni with lemon cream, roasted tomatoes, and Stracciatella.  In fact, Chuck and Marcy Tomes decided we’d go there again next month at 3 even if we could probably get in earlier. For the second time in three months Toni emerged the winner.

 

Paul Studebaker died, fellow Saturday Evening Club member Jim Wise informed me.  Last year Paul and his son Ben gave an inspiring presentation on the consequences of global warming.  Before they began, Paul said they would not deal with those who deny this is a man-made problem because the facts are incontrovertible.  Here’s what Jim Wise wrote his dear friend: 

    I am saddened to tell everyone that Paul Studebaker passed away Saturday
evening at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. As I was reading the
lyrics of the Doc Watson song "Your Long Journey," Betty Ann texted Michele
to tell her that Paul had died.  Paul and I were friends since 1978 (maybe
1979) when he was recruited from IU Champaign - Urbana for IG Technologies
by Mel Bohlmann. I was on the recruiting trip and thought it was a great
idea. Later in the 1980's, we were colleagues energized by the rapid developments we were experiencing in our work with magnets. We had become good friends quickly outside of work as we were solo acts while
Michele did her internship in Indianapolis. He surprised me in the kitchen
one night dropping a large peanut butter jar intentionally. I had not yet
noticed that the jars were plastic. He was a great fishing buddy - I was
never bitten by a mosquito when Paul was in the boat. One of my great
memories is our foursome white water rafting on the Arkansas River. It was
July 3 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. We were in front of the raft. No two guys from the Midwest were ever colder.  I wrote cowboy poetry for him to celebrate an important birthday. There was no one better to share work or discuss ideas - or, occasionally to remind you that there might be a more sensible way to do things. I will miss him greatly. 

Here are the lyrics to “Your Long Journey” by Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson (1923-2012), mentioned by Jim Wise.  Blind since a young age, Watson performed folk, country, blues, and gospel music:

God's given us years of happiness here
Now we must part
And as the angels come and call for you
The pangs of grief tug at my heart

Oh my darling my darling
My heart breaks as you take
Your lone journey

Oh the days will be empty the nights so long
Without you my love
And as God calls for you I'm left alone
But we will meet in heaven above

Fond memories I'll keep of the happy days
That on earth we trod
And when I come we will walk hand in hand
As one in heaven in the family of God

 

I just received a booklet titled “A Celebration of IU Northwest Faculty Research and Creative Activity, 2019-2020,” published as part of the IU Bicentennial.  The 15 faculty honored spoke at a program that I attended which took place right before the campus shut down due to the pandemic. Especially stimulating were the 7-minute talks by poet William Allegrezza, theater actor, director, and producer Mark Baer, and Criminal Justice professor Monica Solinas-Saunders, who focuses, she wrote, “on issues associated with incarceration and re-entry.  I am also interested in interpersonal violence and the consequences of abuse among youth and young adults.” In a photo of Steve McShane speaking at a ceremony unveiling a historic marker for Tamarack Hall I am in the audience.  Paul Kern and my history of IUN, “Educating the Calumet Region,” is cited in a section highlighting the role of research at IUN.

 

In the Forum section of the Sunday NWI Times was a column by Korry Shepard, founder of the Gary Historical Collective, titled “A redlining tragedy: Gary’s vacant lots a legacy of 80 years of elite segregation.” The nefarious practice by banks and government agencies graded areas where blacks lived to be at risk of decline, making it practically impossible for African American to obtain home loans or have mortgages insured. Another insidious practice by mortgage lenders leading to the proliferation of abandoned homes is a “bank walkway” or “stalled foreclosure,” where a decision is made not to foreclose on a defaulted mortgage when the property is deemed to have little value – “leaving the structure,” wrote Shepard, “to the elements.”  Shepard concludes:

    Redlining, so-called “white flight,” bank walking, panic peddling, arson, and block busting all took a toll on the City of Gary and elsewhere in the nation.  Sadly, financial institutions are just as much at fault for Gary’s demise as the politicians and criminals who make the papers every day. Apparently, the Region [alite] spent the better part of 50 years dismantling Gary, moving its pieces to other towns, then turning around to wag their fingers when they finished.

Merrillville is presently celebrating its Golden anniversary as an incorporated town with nary a mention of the racist motives or maneuvers that allowed such a thing to happen.