Ed Breen Moment

The Ed Breen Moment is Ed’s weekly piece on any number of topics.  He might hit a local issue head-on; he might take you on a radio journey back in time.  Either way, you can be sure he will have your full attention.  Listen for it each day, weekends too, on WBAT

Publication week of 5/23/16

By Ed Breen

Come Sunday night next, midway through the Memorial Day weekend, the folks down at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will, in theory have logged 1,650,000 miles over a century of races.

I say “in theory” because we know that not every car and driver completes  – indeed, lives through —  the 200 laps around the oval, but, in theory, there have been 33 cars each year going 500 miles; that’s 16,500 miles a year for a century of races . . . which turns out to be one-million-six-hundred-and-fifty-thousand miles. You could check with Donald Davidson on all that, but it doesn’t seem worth the effort, does it?

In any event, there has been much ado about the Indy 500 this year, mainly because it is the century edition,  the 100th race over 105 years.  (Remember: there were some war years in there when burning rubber and gasoline for sport was considered bad form.)

There was a time – about midway through that century of races – when Hoosiers of all ilk would come close to hyperventilation during the month of May, and it was a full month, begun on May 1 when the late Tom Carnegie, with all the solemnity of the pope, would declare the track open for “30 days in May.”

Time trials, filled with drama, was a two-weekend affair, newspapers published hefty special sections filled with lube and tire ads, motels as far afield as right along the Bypass here in Marion, were filled, and on race day, you could walk from house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood across Hoosierland and hear the voice of Sid Collins wafting from open windows, front porches and backyards, telling of the antics of Foyt and Bettenhausen  and Granatelli and Agabasian and Eddie Sachs  and Graham Hill and Rathman and Rutherford,  and Red Amick, who later ran the gas station on I-69 at the 22 & 35 exit.

The rest of the year Collins worked for WIBC radio in Indianapolis, but in May he told the world what was happening on the front straightway at Indy.  For 29 years, going back to the late 1940s and one radio station, up through the mid-70s  and a network of 1,200 stations around the world,  he held the microphone.

Collins, incidentally, was told in 1977 that he had Lou Gehrig’s disease and he made a decision. He confided to his friend and successor Paul Page that he was going to take his own life while he still could. And he did. Two days into May of ’77 he committed suicide. He was 54.

But Race Day was not always so in Indiana. Grilling and boating and drinking and loafing and auto racing were not what the gentlemen of the GAR – The Grand Army of the Republic – had in mind when they lobbied to set aside the last Monday in May to decorate the graves of their brethren who had fallen in the Civil War, the War of Rebellion, the War Between the States  . . . call it what you will; 750 thousand Americans had died.

Thus did Americans, with the memories still fresh in mind early in the 20th Century, hesitate at making Memorial Day – Decoration Day, they called it then – making it a merry, raucous day. They could not envision the Turn One infield “snake pit” of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Nor did they want to.

In 1914, just in time for the third running of the “greatest spectacle in racing,” the Hoosier members of the GAR took a position: “It is the duty of the Grand Army everywhere to use its influence to discourage all sports and amusements that in any way detract from the interest in Memorial Day. We should exercise great care that the old soldier is capable of sober thought and earnest acts” on that day.

An Indianapolis state Senator, Robert Moorhead, in 1923 went so far to as to author, push and pass legislation that would have legally shut down all commercialized sporting events on Memorial Day.

It took a veto that year by Gov. Warren McCray to start the engines at the Brickyard.


Publication week of 5/9/16

By Ed Breen

On Friday of this week at two o’clock in the afternoon, give or take a couple of minutes, the key will be inserted in the lock and the door will be closed for the last time on a century – 100 years – of Marion history.  And the sad part is almost no one will notice or care.

Talking here about the closing of Marion’s most venerable and dominant downtown landmark: The Marion National Bank building, a six-story structure now functioning in its last days under the banner of Regions Bank. The tallest building, it was said, between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis in its youth.

It has been Regions Bank for nearly 17 years, and before that, when banks were swallowing one another like hungry guppies,  it was American Bank and Trust for a while, then  Summcorp, then Summit, and finally NBD before the behemoth from Birmingham – Regions – rolled into town.  But it will always be Marion National Bank. It says so right there on the front of the building in raised, ornate, century-old letters about 18 inches high. It has said that on that building since the summer of 1916 when it was built.

A danger of living on the ever-shifting landscape that is America these days is that it is very easy to point fingers but much more difficult to assess real blame for these kinds of desecrations of one-vibrant business districts – downtowns – across our Midwest. The corner of Fourth and Washington streets, once the epicenter of prosperity, has come on hard times; we all know it, few deny it.

The bankers sold the building for a song to the late Michael An years ago. He resold it to someone else in California not long before his death last year. Other than the bank, the last of the tenants fled long ago. The once elegant upper floors have been stripped of their finery and their essentials: the plumbing and stonework. Water leaks begin at the roof and wend their way down to the first floor ceiling.

Among the adornments at risk: The twin murals painted on the east and west walls of the lobby of the bank.  No one is quite sure whether they go back to bank founder J. Wood Wilson or to the McCulloch family or the first generation of the Bell family – John Bell Sr. and his wife Lavona. The paintings on the walls – maybe five feet high and 15 feet long — taken together tell a story under the title of “The Progress of Grant County.”  Indians, dirt farmers, elegant young ladies, factory workers, even an early auto repair shop – they are all there. And, sadly, no one seems to know who created them.

But put yourself for a minute at the top of that building, overlooking the Courthouse Square. From there you can see, at least in memory, the dome still atop the courthouse with lady justice standing at the pinnacle, some shameful moments on that courthouse lawn beneath and redemption 50 years later, the vibrancy of decades long gone when a Friday evening included a stop at Blumenthal’s or the Queen City or the Paris or Milton’s or Richard’s and the soda fountain at Hooks Drug Store on the corner and maybe a movie at the Lyric or the Luna-Lite or Paramount or Indiana and then a snack at Hill’s Snappy Service or the Grand Hamburg. All could be seen from this perch.

And inside, too, there are only the ghosts and memories of 1945: Jo and Sonny’s News Stand in the lobby, and Harry Long’s barber and billiards was there. There was a dentist, it seems, on every floor. Fred Rush and Charles Keener on third floor.  Dr. Earl Gear up in 409 and Orville Allen in 509 and Harold Tade and Peter Hazlett and Edwin Trook and Robert Babcock, all on the sixth floor. In between, a smattering of lawyers,  Phil Charles and Condo and Caine among them.  And physicians, including the doctors Braunlin, William and Robert,  and a beauty shop and a notary public and life insurance agents.

But this must cease. All are gone now. And on Friday the front door will be locked. From the outside.


Publication week of 5/2/16

By Ed Breen

There was a time, back when television was black and white and fuzzy and we Hoosiers cast knowing winks at one another when the wrestling show would come on on Thursday nights. In this corner, the ring announcer would intone . . . “Dick The Bruiser.” In that corner . . . the opposite corner . . .  always someone more showy, more bizarre.  Gorgeous George or Haystacks Calhoun, maybe.  Don’t hold me to that; the records are pretty vague and it was a long time ago.

But starting back in 1954 and continuing for 32 years, the ridiculously healthy-looking “Bruiser” pulverized opponents and pleased the patrons, those thousands of people who paid their money and took a seat to watch the show over which he presided, the WWA, the World Wrestling Association.

And part of the wink-wink-nod-nod thing here in the homeland was that we knew that The Bruiser was Bill Afflis, William Franklin Afflis , a boy born and bred over in Delphi who played some mean football for Lafayette Jeff, briefly for the Purdue Boilermakers and, for a short while, was a lineman for the Green Bay Packers – after Curly Lambeau and before Vince Lombardi, ’51 to ‘54.

Watching from the cheap seats – and wanting with all his young heart to believe what he was seeing: the bashing and bleeding, the whole show — was a young man from Lafayette named Richard Vicek, who went on to graduate from St. Joseph’s College up in Rensselaer and has now pulled it all together into the definitive new biography, “Bruiser: The World’s Most Dangerous Wrestler.”

Vicek was inspired from age 9, when his parents took him to the old International Amphitheater in Chicago.  “The first two cards I attended, Bruiser was in the main event,” Vicek recalled in an Indianapolis Star story. “Wow! There’s 9,000 people chanting ‘We want blood.’ I believed all of this.” “Recently, I asked my dad, who’s 87 years old, why you never told me this was a staged performance? He said, ‘Aw, I didn’t want to spoil the fun for you.’ ”

The story Vicek has found to tell, of course, is more the tale of a savvy businessman than a great athlete.

Football ended with the 1954 season and Afflis turned to wrestling as a job in ’55.  He started in Chicago where, among others, he met – and faced – the legendary Verne Gagne.  From there into the late 1950s, Dick the Bruiser wrestled live every Thursday on TV in the Detroit area. His typical opponent was “an up and coming young, unknown wrestler” who would be thumped by The Bruiser. His matches and interviews were so effective he became a household name in the Detroit area and he and business partner Wilbur Snyder bought the Indianapolis region franchise in 1964.

“He was smart enough to know you have to create storylines and publicity stunts to get people to show up at the arenas,” Vicek said. “In those days, wrestlers got 30 percent of the box office.  “He had to pay 10 percent of the gate to the state athletic commission, but no surprise, his was the only company granted a license throughout the 60s, 70s and into the 80s to stage wrestling matches. It was a monopoly.”

Afflis died November 10, 1991, at Suncoast Hospital in Largo, Fla., near his winter home. He was 62.  His widow, Louise, said he had been weightlifting and ruptured a blood vessel in his esophagus. He is buried at Washington Park North Cemetery in Indianapolis.

And just for the record, David Letterman named his TV orchestra “the world’s most dangerous band” as a little tribute to his fellow Hoosier, “the World’s Most Dangerous Wrestler.”


Publication week of 4/25/16

By Ed Breen

Bottom line here is that no railroad, not even in the glory days, ever got rich – indeed, seldom made any money at all – hauling people around the country, even on the fine trains like the Commercial Traveler that ran through Marion back in the ’30s going to St. Louis.

The money was in hauling stuff, freight – iron ore, steel, cattle, corn, wheat, eggs, oil, coal. Still is today and passenger service, once a staple, an essential offering of any town in America, has pretty much gone the way of the whistle stop and the Snath high-speed delivery fork.

So it is with some nostalgia today that we roll back the miles and the years to the 26th of April, 1986, 30 years ago Tuesday. The 26th was on a Saturday that year. It was pre-dawn, a little after 4 a.m. that day and the place was the three-sided shelter house that had served as the Amtrak depot in Marion for a decade at 10th Street and Valley Avenue in southcentral Marion.

But let’s go to the journal entry for that morning: “It was very much like a death watch for an old, old, much loved friend,” it says in the journal. “In the dark hours before dawn they began to await the arrival of the Cardinal, Train No. 51, the last westbound Amtrak passenger train to pass through Marion on its journey from New York City to Chicago.”

“The train, which has come to Marion twice each day – one westbound, one eastbound –since Oct. 26, 1975, has been rerouted and will now run from New York to Cincinnati to Indianapolis to Chicago, bypassing Richmond, Muncie, Marion and Peru. It will leave Marion without a passenger train to anywhere. Probably forever.”

And so it has been. The train never came again, except for the return trip that night from Chicago.  About 50 Marion residents, mainly people with an inordinate affection for trains, climbed aboard that morning and soaked in all the sights and sounds and smells of the heavy old Heritage coaches hauled behind a Diesel locomotive, west through Marion, across Miller Avenue, on to Sweetser, Mier, Converse, through  Amboy and Santa Fe to Peru.  Along the long-gone C&O line to Hoovers, Twelve Mile, Fulton, North Judson and a half dozen other towns en route to Hammond, Englewood, and finally Chicago’s fine old Union Station.

Virgil Mosier was the name of the conductor on Train No. 51, and it was he who thanked the Marion delegation for its loyalty that day. “I especially want to thank my old friend Smitty,” he said, pausing at the seat of 85-year-old Elim Smith, a printer by trade and rail fan by desire.  Smith was accompanied that day by his daughter and son-in-law, Ardelia and Wilbur Williams, and a Polaroid camera.

Dick Simons, he of happy memory, had organized the excursion. David Goldsmith was there. So were John Lightle and LeRoy Imler.  And Bill Resnick and Stan and Jackie Steiner. Nancy Lutz made the trip and so did the recently-departed Don and Sonja Cole.

The concelebrants scattered across Chicago for the day, to return to Union Station at the west edge of the Loop in time for the 9 p.m. departure of Train No. 50, the eastbound run of the Cardinal headed into the Indiana night and on to New York.

But let’s return to the day’s journal:  “At 2:21 a.m. the locomotive, followed by a baggage car, lounge car and diner, one sleeping car and six coaches came to a halt at 10th Street and Valley Avenue for the last time.”

Sonja Cole, always irrepressible, provided the benediction for all aboard that final run of passenger rail service to Marion in that night hour 30 years ago.  “Oh,” she said, “I don’t want to get off.”

Publication week of 4/18/16


By Ed Breen

What Donald Trump mainly is peddling these days – and we’re in for a lot more of it here in Indiana – is loss of faith in the way in which we pick our president.  He’s not the first to do this. Bill Greider did it nearly 25 years ago in a book titled “Who Will Tell the People?,”  a wonderful insight into how we have the best government other people’s money can buy.

But listen to Trump last week:

“Our Republican system is absolutely rigged. It’s a phony deal,” he said. He pointed to Colorado, where he said the all-important convention delegate-selection system was set up by “crooked politicians” to make sure an outsider like him could never win. “These are dirty tricksters,” he said.  “They should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this kind of crap to happen. ”  Both Republicans and Democrats have set up “phony rules and regulations” that makes it “impossible for a guy that wins to win.”

“The RNC — Republican National Committee — doesn’t like this happening. They don’t like that I’m putting up my own money because it means they don’t have any control over me. The deck is stacked against me by the establishment.”

A lot of bravado, a little paranoia, a large helping of Trump.  But the alarm here is that he – both he and his socialist counterpart, Bernie Sanders, may be more right than we like to acknowledge. This is where we get into the business about the “donor class” and the “political class” and the “working class.” People like Trump and Sanders and Bill Greider years ago and a whole bunch of populists along the way have told us that the “donor class” – those who pay the bills – has bought the “political class” with money taken from the rest of us, the “working class.”

And we’re going to get to see the retail version of all this over the next couple of weeks here in Indiana; the circus is coming to town. And we will all be led to believe that we of both political faiths will actually have a hand – a vote, at least – in selecting the presidential contenders for November.

Tom Huston – Tom Charles Huston – is now a successful Indianapolis lawyer, much respected and revered. But in his youth nearly 50 years ago he was deep inside the machinery of the Nixon White House, a sort of footnote to Watergate. He was the author of the user’s guide to dirty tricks, a thing aptly called The Huston Plan. He knows something about rigging and phony deals.  You could look it up.

In his more adult years he has recanted and repented and is doing good things, like a piece he wrote last week for the unabashedly conservative Indiana Policy Review. In it, in a few hundred words, he details the absurdity, if not the duplicity, of the way the Republican Party in Indiana is selecting its delegation to send to Cleveland in July to pick a presidential candidate.

He works his way through the process of picking 57 delegates.  The state chairman, the national committeeman and woman are on the list. No voting there.  Each Congressional District party committee anoints three; that’s 27 more with nary a nod from the voters. And then the State Central Committee picks the last 27. Total of 57, every one of them selected before the primary election on Tuesday, May 3.

Huston sums up this charade this way: “Not one of these designated delegates is appointed or elected by any person or group of persons for whom Republican voters have cast ballots.”  And then he drops the hammer:  “By any measure of fairness, such a delegation should not be seated in a Republican convention.”

Mr. Trump, what say ye?

Publication week of 4/11/16


By Ed Breen

By most measurements architect Frank Lloyd Wright was not much of a human being, but was, by almost all accounts, a genius when it came to building things, to applying the aesthetics of art to spaces in which to live and work.

Wright, who died 57 years ago last week at age 91, left an unmatched legacy on the American landscape:  nearly 1,100 buildings designed or built, and, because he was from Chicago – Oak Park, Illinois, to be exact — the Midwest states, including Indiana, have more than a representative share of Wright’s vision.

Eight are in Indiana – a couple in South Bend, two in Gary, one at Ogden Dunes and,  of course, “Woodside,” our very own Frank Lloyd Wright house right here in Marion, the unusual, teepee-shaped  structure with wings tucked in the woods along Overlook Road in north suburban Marion . . . the residence built between 1953 and 1955 and  generally known among the architecture  types as the “Davis House,”  named for Dr. Dick Davis, the prominent Marion physician who had the home built.  Davis and his wife, Madelyn, moved to California in the mid-1960s and the house, now home to Matt Harris, has been on the National Register of Historic Places for almost 20 years now.

We’ll revisit Marion’s “Woodside” again sometime soon, but not today. It is yet another Wright-designed Indiana home and a legal squabble that has bubbled to the surface that we want to visit here.

Tucked away in a residential neighborhood on the north side of Fort Wayne at 3901 N. Washington Road is what is known as the “Haynes House.”  Like Marion’s Davis house, the Haynes house is no longer occupied by anyone named Haynes; hasn’t been for quite a few years.   It was built in 1950 and is in many ways a more modest version of the Marion structure. Three bedrooms, a less-grand setting and a less-spectacular profile.

It, too, is on the National Register of Historic Places; has been since 2004. And that is the heart of the dispute about to erupt in the Fort Wayne City Council and probably, eventually, in a courtroom somewhere.

The question is pretty simple: Can a building be designated as historically significant and then, in subsequent years, be removed from the honor roll simply because the owner wants to?

A fellow named Richard Herber owns the house. He has since 2004 and it was he who got it on the list in the first place. In addition to the National Register, Fort Wayne has its own registry and once a building gets the national stamp of approval, it also goes on the municipal list, making it eligible for some benefits and breaks, but also some costly maintenance obligations.

Herber  came to the city council, explaining that maintaining the house as required by the National Register, combined with some personal health issues, is just too much . . . and he wants the historic landmark to be decertified, decommissioned, or something of the sort.

He claims his neighborhood is “under siege” from commercial development and his plans to move are being hindered by the designation. He said realtors have told him that “headaches” associated with the special status will drive buyers away.

Opponents, including ARCH – Fort Wayne’s version of Marion’s S.O.S. group — argue that removing the designation will place a truly important building at risk, if not putting it eventually in the path of the bulldozers.

Knotty arguments on both sides. The city council is to vote it up or down this week.

Publication week of 4/4/16


By Ed Breen


It was always useful in a my previous life to have a source at the Fort Wayne airport who would give us a quick call, a tip,  when someone, anyone came to town in a fancy private airplane, the sort of someone who would prefer that we snoops at the newspaper not know about it.


That’s pretty much how it played out the night a decade or so ago when actor Harrison Ford’s plane was forced to land in Fort Wayne and he spent a few hours in the haunts along Columbia Street.  We found him and, as I recall it, later bought a tall orange drink for the thoughtful guy at the airport.

It worked the same way over the years when a remarkable man named Eugene Parker set up shop in his hometown and his clients, mainly football players of Hall of Fame quality, came to town seeking his advice because he was their agent, the man making the deals that made them both millionaires and household names.

The mole at the airport would call occasionally.  Deion Sanders is in town,   or Larry Fitzgerald or Emmitt Smith or maybe Devin Hester.  The list was long and impressive, if you are a football fanatic.

But more impressive was the man they had come to see, these gladiators worth their weight in gold. They had come to see Eugene E. Parker, a Concordia High School grad, class of ’74, a Fort Wayne man who had considerable success himself as an athlete, including four years as a starter for Purdue University basketball and a berth in the Indiana basketball Hall of Fame.

Parker,  a six-foot-two African American loaded with talent, was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1978 . . . and that’s where our story changes.  He chose instead to go to Valparaiso University as a graduate assistant and enter law school.

Armed with charm, smarts and  a freshly-minted law degree, Parker came home to Fort Wayne and worked in a couple of top-drawer, old-line law firms, including Barrett McNagny, before  getting into this business of sports, specifically guiding other talented young athletes through the thickets and thorns of professional  contracts in big-time venues.

That’s when the airplanes began to circle Fort Wayne. Team owners, lawyers, coaches and the athletes themselves. All making pilgrimages to Eugene Parker  and his new business,  Maximum Sports Management.  Working with another Fort Wayne and Purdue athlete who became his partner, Roosevelt Barnes, Parker and his team manufactured deals worth more than two billion dollars over the next decade.  In recent years, Parker’s firm merged with several similar operations to become Relativity Sports.

A footnote: Because Parker did things first-class, he persuaded Roanoke businessman Pete Eshelman of the need for a first-class restaurant for business lunches. That’s how the Joseph Decuis restaurant was born.

And now it has all come crashing down for Eugene Parker. Last fall he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He died Friday. He has just turned 60.

Deion Sanders, the flashy and flamboyant star of stage, screen, football and baseball, was an early Parker client. Here’s what he said Saturday:

“Eugene Parker was the best human being I’ve ever met. Almost 30 years ago I met this young aspiring African American attorney-football agent trying to secure my services out of Florida State. He had on a cheap polyester suit, wing tip shoes and he was articulate, efficient and confident. He didn’t offer me a dime or try to secure my talent with women, jewelry or payments to my mother or family members. He was honest and all he needed was a chance.”

Publication week of 3/28/16


By Ed Breen

Lest you become too comfortable, from time to time as the opportunities present themselves, we like to offer the evidence that the Apocalypse is upon us, that Armageddon is at hand. Two today; one, as you might have guessed, from the freak show that is the presidential campaign, and the other from deep inside a disturbed brain in a federal prison.

Now, let’s try to put this in the proper perspective: People are dying in Brussels at the hands of terrorists, a distinguished federal judge is waiting to be seated on the Supreme Court but can’t get a hearing, global economies are fragile at best, a mosquito-borne disease could imperil the Olympics this summer, and so on . . . the list is serious and endless.

Now, let me read you the headlines from the weekend. First, from the presidential campaign:

“Cruz accuses Trump of planting National Enquirer story alleging affairs.” That of course was United States Sen. Ted Cruz responding to this Saturday headline:  “Cruz Caught Cheating With Five Secret Mistresses!”

Easy, I suppose, to blame the headline writers. Certainly nothing this loathsome from the frontrunners themselves, right? Wrong.

Cruz was originally responding to threats made by Trump after a Facebook ad showing a photograph  of Trump’s wife posing nude, to which Trump said, “”Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of my wife.   Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

And from Cruz: “Donald, if you try to attack Heidi, you’re more of a coward than I thought.  When Donald gets scared, when he gets angry, when he gets threatened    . . .So last night Donald threatened my wife; he went directly after my wife. “

Please tell me it is legal to vote for “None of the Above”

Now on to Arizona for even larger evidence of the approach of the End Times.

The man who shot Congresswoman Gabby Giffords during a rampage five years ago is suing the woman he shot, his victim, the former Arizona representative, for emotional and psychological distress. Giffords was shot in the head and six others were killed as she was speaking at a constituent gathering in Tucson, Ariz. It took her months to regain any semblance of life and she will live out her days with serious impairments in thinking, speaking and walking.

Jared Lee Loughner is serving seven consecutive life sentences for the shooting in January 2011 that killed the six people and wounded 13 more. In the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court of Arizona last Friday, he is seeking $25 million in damages from Giffords. Loughner claims he is innocent and was “hand-picked” to be an assassin.  “My incarceration is illegal. I am actually innocent. I was framed,” the complaint says.

He is claiming the government put a chip in his head to control his mind. He says Giffords was not actually shot and that she is part of a “global plot to take away our civil liberties.”

And in a single touch of sanity in all this, a federal judge in Arizona dismissed the lawsuit, saying only that “the court received a letter from Loughner’s attorney avowing that Loughner did not file the complaint nor did he authorize the filing of such complaint.”

To which the only appropriate response would seem to be . . .“whatever.”

Publication week of 3/121/16


By Ed Breen

If you believe that thing on top of your house from which smoke curls in winter is a “chim-ley,” or if you are persuaded that you drove down the “tarvey” and crossed the “crick” to get to the “cem-e-tree,” well, then,  today you must soldier on alone because we are going someplace you might not want to go: grammar school.

A fellow named W. L. McAtee, who was born in 1884 in Pleasant Township near Jalapa made a life-long study of how we Hoosiers – more specifically, Grant County folks — talk to each other, and he pulled it all into a marvelous little book  back in 1942.  But we’ve not time for that today. We are on another language mission.  We’ll come back to Mr. McAtee another time.

The blame for this junket lies with a lady named Mignon Fogarty, a self-described “grammar girl” who holds forth at an internet web site called “quick and dirty tips.com” There are probably many such people who have set up light housekeeping in the digital universe; I mean, what self-respecting retired English teacher wouldn’t? What made me pause at Ms. Fogarty’s site was her promise to explain to me why Hoosiers insist on engaging in “copula deletion.”   Nothing salacious about it at all . . . but I got your attention didn’t I?

A copula – it’s a technical term right of the Oxford English Grammar book – a copula is the proper name for what my English teacher called a “helping verb,” some combination of short words like “to” and “be,” as in the sentence “the dog needs to be fed.” Now we come to the deletion part; remember, Ms. Fogarty is addressing the grammatical sin of “copula deletion.”

Full-blown copula deletions – and we hear them all the time here in Hoosierland – result in those quaint little Indiana snippets, such as . . . “the dog needs fed,” or “the lawn needs mowed,” or “Knight needs fired,” which, of course, we did with or without the help of the copula “to be,” as in “Knight needs to be fired,” which he didn’t, but that’s for another day.

The Grammar Girl brings science and geography to all this and uses pushpins on maps to plot what’s being said where. In this particular case – “the dog needs fed,” “the car needs washed (but in Indiana that becomes “worshed, which is a sin of a different sort).

Anyway, she put all the pins in place and found that the mother church of this – of copula deletion – is in the western Pennsylvania area, mainly around Pittsburgh, but can extend as far west as Iowa, north into Michigan, and so on. Ohio is infested with it. And we are to blame it on our Scotch-Irish ancestors, people who came a couple of hundred years ago and believed in an economy of words.

For we Hoosiers, she found, it was a band of apostate Lutherans, who were convinced that the Second Coming was imminent and settled in a Pennsylvania town they called Harmony, along the Ohio River, north of Pittsburgh. George Rapp and his followers later abandoned Pennsylvania to trek westward, where they then settled in Indiana, more specifically, in New Harmony.

Now, as to the question, is this bad English, bad grammar, a regional dialect, or what? Ms. Fogarty dances all around that and concludes that it is simply a “curious construction in our language.”  Neither good nor bad, right nor wrong.

Now we must conclude this because the radio needs fixed.

Publication week of 3/14/16


By Ed Breen

Live long enough and do what you can with the talent you were given and there’s a chance you’ll be remembered out there by someone. I’m not talking about wife and kids and close friends and fishing buddies and the bowling team.  They’re going to miss you no matter what sort of a slug you were. That’s human nature, the human condition. And there is the risk that if you live too long, if you out-live the team . . . well, they may not remember.

John Updike wrote a little ditty a few months before he died. He understood.  “Were I to die,” he wrote, “no one would say, ‘Oh, what a shame, so full of promise.’  Instead a shrug and tearless eyes will greet my overdue demise. The wide response will be, I know, ‘I though he died a while ago.’”

Thought of that last week when I read of the passing of Clyde Lovellette. He died Wednesday up in North Manchester at age 86, a great big bear of a man who eventually, finally lost his fight with cancer.

And another little epiphany here: Live long enough, do enough and you will be recalled and remembered in different ways by those who you touched at different times  in your time.  The folks over at the Terre Haute Tribune Star recalled Lovellete as a graduate of Garfield High School and the University of Kansas, a former Vigo County Sheriff and a lifelong friend of Terry Dischinger.

They recalled that Lovellette was “born in Petersburg as the youngest of a railroad engineer’s eight children. The family moved to Terre Haute when Clyde was 3. By his freshman year at Garfield, Lovellette grew to 6-foot-4. His mother urged him to jump rope to overcome his lack of coordination. “He jumped that rope, and he jumped that rope, and he got pretty coordinated,” said Bobby Leonard, a childhood friend who later played with Lovellette in the National Basketball Association and joined Clyde as a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame.

At the Wabash Plain Dealer, another Lovellette dimension: “Surrounded by prestigious accolades and a noteworthy athletic career, he is remembered by one local organization as ‘a man who loved people and kids.’ ”

“Following the conclusion of his athletic career, he later made his way locally to White’s Residential and Family Services near LaFontaine in 1979, where he both taught and coached. He spent 15 years at White’s, where he served as the director of White’s vocational and educational program for students and helped coach the boys’ basketball team.

“He was a man who chose to take his talents and give back by making a difference in people’s lives,” according to a White’s spokesman. “Clyde was special, not because of his career, but because of the way he lived his life every day.”

It was left to The Washington Post to tell the more public story:

Publication week of 3/7/16


By Ed Breen

We’re going to get around to Delmer Berg here in a minute, a man with whom you are probably not familiar, but a man worth remembering. But a couple of other things we need to attend to first.

One of the pundits – they’re all hyperventilating these days, but this was precious; he described the Trump campaign as . . . his words . . . . “a hateful romp through American politics.” It probably is, but more interesting by far to we Hoosiers was another piece of punditry, this from Michael Gerson, the St. Louis boy and Wheaton College grad who was chief speechwriter for George Bush – Bush the Elder – when he was in the White House.

Gerson now writes an editorial page column, published occasionally here in the Chronicle-Tribune, and in a piece last week he controlled his hyperventilation long enough  to come up with some alternatives to mass suicide for millions of distraught Republicans.

“The GOP is not facing a debate over policy,” Gerson wrote, “but rather a hostile takeover by a pernicious force.” And he went on to discuss what he considered a series of “deeply flawed options”:  Rally round the guy in second place; that would be Rubio or Cruz.  Option two in the Gerson Plan was   to “deny him a majority of the delegates at the convention in Cleveland this summer. Stop him there.”  Him, of course, being Donald Trump.  Not very clever and not very likely.

But it was Option Three that got our attention. Gerson proposed “support of a center-right third party candidate who would represent Republicanism and hold the core message of the party in trust for better days.”  Sort of a feel-good government in exile until such time as the nation is released from the loony bin and prolonged therapy.

But even more interesting was Gerson’s lineup of potential keepers of the flame.  Former Secretary of State Condoleezza, he argued, “would stand for everything Trump does not:  Gravity, dignity, character, and serious moral purpose.”

And then he came to Our Man Mitch . . . . Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., the smartest Hoosier Republican since Abe Lincoln, former everything in Indiana and now president of Purdue University  . . .  a man who, but for his desire to save his marriage, might well have been the standard-bearer four years ago. Think about it: Mitt Romney? Mitch Daniels?

In the Gerson Plan, Condoleezza or Mitch takes one for the team. “It would be a heroic act of self-sacrifice for the sake of the party,” Gerson wrote, “And this candidate would probably have no political future, since he or she might tip a close election toward Clinton.”  An argument Mitch might want to take home and road test on Cheri and the girls. Just a thought.

But back to Delmer Berg.  Delmer Berg, was a tall, rakish beret-wearing young man who left a dishwashing job in California to join the mostly-foreign forces fighting Gen. Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, a bloody and ultimately futile struggle.  He  died Feb. 28. He was 100.

He was the very last of the 2,800 young Americans who stepped up in defense of liberty under the banner of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. “As the last living veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, I feel a little isolated, but I cannot worry about that,” Berg said at 99. “I get a lot of letters from all over the country. Younger people write me — they want to know what happened. ‘Can you tell me,’ they ask? ‘You were there. All the rest of them are dead now.’ ”


Publication week of 2/29/16


By Ed Breen

One of those power struggles being played out in which each of us has a dog in the fight, whether we like it or not.

The facts of the matter are really pretty simple. The government has a telephone — a smart phone, a cell phone —  that belonged to a terrorist who gunned down a roomful of innocents in California a couple of months ago.  It – the government, the FBI — wants to take a listen inside that phone and find out with whom the guy spoke in the minutes or hours before he started killing.  Connect the dots; one thing might lead to another. The kind of thing cops are paid to do.

The phone is an i-phone, one made by the folks at Apple computer company, one of those things so well put together made that it really can’t be destroyed, one armed with the stuff we’re willing to pay extra for these days: Security that prevents anyone who might steal — or have possession of it, as does the FBI – prevents prying inside, looking at numbers and dates and times and locations and, yes, text messages.  All the stuff that we now carry in our phones, good or bad, legal or illegal,  But, indeed, try to recall what it was like to simply forget a password when you couldn’t answer your phone.

Even with the brainiacs  in the FBI and throughout government, the bigger brains, the smarter guys are over at Apple,  carrying on the legacy of Steve Jobs and working for a man named Tim Cook, a man, it turns out, of considerable intestinal strength.

“No,” he has said to the government; no, we at Apple will not create the software, we shall not provide the code that will allow you to snoop, not even for so worthy a cause as tracking down the bad guys — ISIS or ISIL or AL Qaida, or any of those who wish us dead.

It has to do with the larger and more important protection of our civil liberties as Americans, rights for which we have fought both tyrants and terrorists for two centuries.

But let Tim Cook explain it himself, in his words: “This,“ he says, “is about much more than  a single phone or a single investigation. At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties.

James Comey, director of the FBI, provides the counterpoint:  Maybe, he says, “maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists.  Maybe it doesn’t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.”

And another voice worth hearing is that of Michael Hayden, a man in the middle. He was director of the National Security Agency, that sprawling business of spies and snoops, but is now retired and a private citizen just like the rest of us; probably a guy with a smart phone in his pocket.

Says he: “The FBI would like a back door available to American law enforcement in all devices globally. And, frankly, I think on balance that actually harms American safety and security.”

Sometime last summer or early fall some Indiana legislators of the Republican persuasion got together to try to find a way out of a mess pretty much of their own making that had brought the state derision, ridicule and more than a few bad jokes on late night television.

It had to do, of course, with the fallout from the squabble over religious freedom and gay rights and civil rights: Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the LGBT constituency – and that is the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered – and all of the attendant groups, organizations, congregations, associations, and pressure groups, each wanting a voice and a place at the table.

At some point, Travis Holdman, the elegant looking, nattily dressed and gentlemanly State Senator from District 19 – and that includes some of us and a good many people in adjacent counties – stepped to the front and volunteered to do the heavy lifting, to carry the water on something call Senate Bill 344, an attempt – a failed attempt, as it turned out – to bring peace to the fractured Hoosier family on these most contentious of issues.

Holdman, the Indiana poster child for conservative politics, was willing, apparently, to throw himself on the altar: No two ways about it; it would put him in the spotlight, play a role that made him appear far too close to being a liberal. He is, you will recall, one of those folks who believe we need a Constitutional Convention to fix Washington, an idea that make even rock-ribbed conservatives  just a little squeamish.

But he did it. He carried the legislation, spoke passionately about finding a way out of the thicket and then, last week, had to stand at the front of the class and admit failure.  “No matter what I do, no matter what I propose, I cannot move these walls that are on the right and left hand because nobody wants to give,” said the banker-turned-lawyer-turned-businessman from Markle, a town of 1,000 people divided down the middle by the Huntington-Wells county line.

This did not give him pleasure. Indeed, a week earlier speaking on the IWU campus in Marion, Holdman appeared both frustrated and resigned. An active, professed Christian, Holdman had asked in front of both God and the TV cameras, “What would Jesus do?” An answer was not forthcoming that day.

Niki Kelley, who covers the legislature for The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, wrote an insightful look at Holdman in Sunday’s newspaper: “Sen. Travis Holdman is either a hero, an idiot or a coward. Those are just a few of the colorful descriptions cast his way in recent months as he tried to bridge the gap between religious liberty and gay rights,” she wrote.

“That effort failed last week, and Holdman doubts he will be back for round two in 2017. But he doesn’t regret inserting himself into the clash – an evangelical Christian who met his wife at church camp and attended seminary before choosing missionary work instead.

‘Don’t dance, don’t chew. Don’t go with women who do,’ Holdman said of his conservative southwest Missouri upbringing and Christian commitment at age 11. So how did this faithful man find himself pushing civil rights protections for gay, lesbian and transgender Hoosiers? After last year’s religious freedom bill blew up into a debate on discrimination, he and his wife talked about his carrying the bill this year. ‘As people of faith, we thought it was the right thing to do,’ Holdman said. ‘We are called to live at peace with people. We are never going to be a force in their life unless we are tolerant. My wife says I’m not doing it again. She can’t stand seeing the bad things online,’ he said. ‘I told her I was sorry for bringing it on us, and she said it was the right thing to do.’ ”