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 12/5/16

By Ed Breen

It was, of course, 75 years ago this week – Wednesday—that the world changed forever when,  on a pleasant Sunday in the Pacific ocean  hundreds of war planes came roaring over the horizon to bomb, strafe and blow into oblivion the men and machines of the United States at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

That day, that event, loosed on the world horrors not seen before or since. Before the killing stopped four years later something like 60 million men, women and children worldwide had been annihilated. And with that came consequences that abide with us yet today.

Among them, among the collateral damages of the monstrosity of war were a couple of small boys, small boys who are now old men for whom the war has yet to end.

In the aftermath of the hottest of wars came something that we euphemistically called the Cold War, 45 years of feinting and dodging and watching and waiting: Would we still find a way to blow all of the survivors to kingdom come?

Fast forward now to last week when the two old men – Michael Meeropol, 73, and his brother Robert Meeropol, 69 — came to the White House in Washington D.C., to ask again that their mother, Ethel Rosenberg, be exonerated, be declared guiltless in the actions that led to her being strapped into an electric chair and executed, leaving her children as orphans back in 1953.

The boys, New Yorkers by birth, were the children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two politically active people of Jewish ancestry and faith who had been arrested by the government in 1950 and charged with spying for the Soviet Union, stealing American secrets to pass to what would later be called the Evil Empire, an empire that collapsed from within a quarter-century ago now.

Ethel Rosenberg’s brother,  who was working on the top-secret Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico – the mother house for nuclear weapons in America — had been arrested earlier that year. He told investigators that his brother-in-law was a Soviet agent who had recruited him to steal classified information.

A long and complicated story that came to an awful end when they were convicted and sentenced to death by electrocution, carried out in June of 1953. On that day, their sons, then 10 and 6, were told to go to a friend’s house and play baseball until dark. It was just days after the two boys had stood in the company of their grandparents and others at the White House and handed a letter to a security guard asking the president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, for clemency. The request hadn’t been granted.

The orphaned brothers were adopted by Abel Meeropol and his family and grew up embracing the Meeropol name.  They have fought for years to clear the Rosenbergs’ names. Although they admit that their father was a spy for the Soviet Union, they do not believe he passed along secrets about the atomic bomb, the crime for which he was tried and executed.  And their mother, they say, was not guilty of spying. They dismiss assertions made by some historians of their mother’s guilt as “absolutely absurd.”

“We are giving the United States government the chance to acknowledge the injustice done to our mother,” Robert Meeropol said last week. “This is a test to see if our government has the courage and commitment to true justice to acknowledge the terrible wrong it did to her and to us.”

“After 40 years of research and struggle, we are sharing with President Obama the fruits of that struggle and once again asking for presidential action,” said his brother, Michael. “This time we are not merely advocates for our family, but for our country. It is never too late to learn from the mistakes of the past.”

We shall have to wait to see if the war of Robert and Michael Meeropol shall ever end.




Publication week of 11/28/16

By Ed Breen

When famous folks die there’s usually the over -the-top business: One of a kind . . . never be another like him . . . they broke the mold; that sort of thing. Then the social media gutter snipes go to work. Not what he seemed . . . kicked puppies and kids . . . made change in the church collection plate. Or worse.

So I was waiting for the trolls to surface over the long weekend after we heard that one of the last of the great voices of WOWO radio had gone silent. Bob Chase had died at age 90. But from the naysayers came nary a word.

Bob Chase, Bob Sievers, Jack Underwood, Earl Finckle, Jay Gould, Dugan Fry, Don Chevillet. The list goes on, with special emphasis on the years of your youth.  Ron Gregory and Chris Roberts came along a little later.  And your interests. There was the music, of course, Top 40, top to bottom, and the farm reports from Jay Gould and the weather report from the world famous fire escape, courtesy of Earle Finckle, who, interestingly enough, never set foot on the fire escape or in Fort Wayne for that matter. He was broadcast from Chicago every day,  but we were supposed to believe he was right there on W. Washington Blvd.,  right beside “The Little Red Barn.”

Others were there: The sportscasters, going all the way back to the ’30 and ‘40s. Hilliard Gates started there. It’s hard to think of the glory years of Marion Giant basketball without conjuring the image of Gates interviewing Bill Green after yet another semi-state tournament.  Tom Carnegie was there from 1942 to ‘45, when he moved his residence to Indy and the Speedway.

But it’s the death of Bob Chase that brought on this little reverie.  Chase, fresh out of Northern Michigan University, came to Fort Wayne – and WOWO – in 1952. Afternoon disc jockey and, by the way, you’ll be doing play-by-play broadcasts of the new hockey team in town. They’re called the Komets – with a K – and they play at Memorial Coliseum.

Thus began a relationship — Bob Chase, Komets hockey and Fort Wayne – that endured nearly as long his marriage. He and his bride “Murph” were married in 1950, a romance that has lasted 66 years, including 63 hockey seasons.  That’s a sports broadcasting record surpassed only by Vin Scully and Dodgers baseball, a job from which Scully just stepped down after 67 seasons.

Incidentally, the “Chase” part of Bob Chase’s came from Murph, not from him. His given name, his birth name was Robert Wallenstein, the name his parents gave him when he was born in Negaunee, Mich., a name deemed by radio management to be too long to pronounce on the air. Thus did he publically assume his wife’s name.  Bob Chase was born.

And another “incidentally” here:  Chase did it all. Among other assignments was Indiana high school basketball, including “the game”: The 1954 IHSAA championship game between tiny Milan and Muncie Central, the game upon which the movie “Hoosiers” was built. Bobby Plump and all that.

But it’s at the edge of the ice where Chase made his mark, all those nights at Memorial Coliseum and all those god-awful bus trips around the league.

Our own “Doc” Emerick, the LaFontaine boy who is now the marquee voice of hockey in America, was drawn to the sport and to his craft by those nights in Wabash County listening to Chase on WOWO.

Emrick would call games into a tape recorder and review them with Chase. Emrick and Chase got to call Komets games together in 2012 and last January at the Coliseum, fulfilling a dream for both.

“He’s a wonderful human being, who’s very good to people,” Emrick said. “He was to me as a college kid just trying to break in, sitting down in the corner section there on Wednesday nights at the Coliseum when I didn’t bother anybody broadcasting a game into a tape recorder by myself. He was very patient with me because I was very anxious and excited about what I thought would be a career ahead. He kept me calm and that was not easy to do. So I’m forever beholden to him.”

Justin Cohn summed it up nicely in The Journal Gazette Sunday: “If you listen closely to an Emrick broadcast, you can hear Bob Chase.”






Publication week of  10/17/16

By Ed Breen

It’s scrawled on a paper napkin in the wad of stuff to be remembered, toted around like some sort of external pacemaker, something to jumpstart my brain. A list of names, a few more than a dozen, all of the feminine gender.   And that is the point.

They are all women. Not a guy in the lineup. And that’s the topic of our little homily today: The women who are here to bring Marion back to life. Maybe. This has nothing to do with bashing guys, but it has everything to do with the extraordinary circumstances of an extraordinary number of extraordinary women who have all come of age and place in Marion at about the same time.

I will tell that that they are all young; somewhere between 30 and let’s say 45. Old enough to have focus and young enough to maintain it like a laser in tough times.

Some are in positions of real authority right now. Consider Angela Haley, the hands down choice to become the first female chief of the Marion police department when Jess Alumbaugh went in search of new leadership nearly a year ago.  She is smart, capable, commands respect  — she has what the pundits these days like to call “gravitas.” Not a person to be trifled with. She is on the list.

So is Alicia Hazlewood, a Marion High School and Manchester University graduate who ran Congressman Dan Burton’s Marion office for several years and has now taken over the job of raising a half-million dollars for United Way in a town that has 85 percent of its school kids below poverty level.  Daunting.

And there is Ann Vermillion, another Marion native returned to the roost. Self-assured, energetic,  she is director of medical staff services and community outreach at Marion General Hospital. She is also an unabashed and announced candidate for the Indiana State Senate seat soon to be vacated by Jim Banks when he moves on to Congress.   Not incidentally, her boss is Stephanie Hilton-Siebert, the new CEO of MGH. Are you beginning to get the picture here?

Iris Brunner is sort of a force of nature. She recently departed from Via Credit Union marketing and is the new development director for Marion and Grant County Family Services Society, where she has been employed by yet another on the list: Lisa Dominisse, who moved from Nebraska to Marion and then from city hall to Family Services.

In the Grant County Courthouse is Superior Court Judge Dana Kenworthy, a quiet intellect who truly believes that children need both voice and protection. She provides both. Across the street at CSA is the   more flamboyant Katie Morgan. In her day job she runs the Community School of the Arts and also is on the Marion school board.

Kylie Jackson has breathed new life into the Marion Grant County Chamber of Commerce.  And Julie Cline, bless her heart, keeps the pulse beating at the Boys and Girls Club.

Full disclosure here: three on the list are special women with whom I have worked over the years. Linda Willk, — she was Linda Rankin in her days at the Chronicle-Tribune – is both passionate and effective in her pursuit of domestic tranquility. Tammy Pearson , who was a fine editor at the newspaper, has found a higher calling working with the young folks at Project Leadership. And Layla Price, once a radio voice, is now giving polished shape to the messages coming from City Hall.

And there are others. Rev. Shonda Gladden at Allen Temple AME Church. Kayla Johnson, new boss of Marion Street Marion. Loretta Tappan now of The News-Herald.  The list lengthens and there are, certainly, others especially in education and health care, who are laboring below the radar.

Call me sexist, chauvinistic, patronizing, whatever epithet you want to toss, I’ve got to tell you this: Guys, it is time to man up in our town, because right now it’s them, not us, who are getting the job done.







Publication week 10/3/16


Publication week of 9/26/16

By Ed Breen

A little bit of inside baseball today, but it’s also a Hoosier thing because never was there anyone who went from Indiana to the big time with more bravado and handled it with more quiet dignity than Jane Pauley.

Pauley was named Sunday morning to succeed Charles Osgood as the host and anchor of “Sunday Morning” on CBS television, and that spot is about the last bastion of dignity and civility left in commercial broadcasting.

The show, an hour and a half that examines, with style and modulated voice, all things human,  has been around for a very long time. It was built by and for Charles Kuralt back in 1979 and turned over to Charles Osgood 22 years ago. Now, at age 83, Osgood is stepping aside and turning over the care and feeding of the best of broadcast storytelling to that girl who walked into the Channel 8 newsroom in Indianapolis back in 1972.

And the most remarkable thing about that is that they were expecting her  at WISH-TV because since she was a child at Warren Central  High School they – Lee Giles and Mike Ahern – had been keeping  an eye on this young woman who, in Ahern’s recollection, “would light up the room when she walked in.”

“I suppose my most vivid first impression of Jane was at a charity luncheon we attended when she was still a high school student. Jane was youth chairperson of the event. She was bright, articulate, and literally lit up the room.”

She, of course, has been lighting up rooms ever since. First at Channel 8, then Chicago, then New York and the “Today Show,” and then a lot of other things,  including being married to “Doonesbury“  creator Gary Trudeau and mothering two sons and a daughter.  There is a story told by Lee Giles, that in those early Pauley years, every time the phone rang in the newsroom someone would yell, “another job offer for Jane.”

Now, at age 65, there she was Sunday morning, sitting there in the shadows waiting to be introduced by Osgood as his successor, Richard and Mary Pauley’s girl baby who was Indiana High School Debate champion back in ’68.

Tom Brokaw, the much revered NBC anchorman all those years, still says “wherever I go in America I encounter young women who say,  ‘All I ever wanted to be in life was Jane Pauley.’  And I always respond, you couldn’t pick a better role model. She’s the consummate pro:  bright, curious and committed to her profession.”

And should you need evidence, simply ask actress Meg Ryan. Ryan, interviewed by Pauley several months ago as Pauley was being road-tested for the “Sunday Morning” job,  told Pauley she went to college to become a journalist, not an actress. But life dealt her a different hand.

“What made you interested in journalism,” Pauley asked the mega-star. Without hesitation the star of “When Harry Met Sally “ and a bunch of other blockbusters, looked  straight at Jane Pauley  and  said, “You did. I used to watch you on the Today Show when I was a kid.”

Said the New York Times on Sunday,  “For Pauley, a return to the anchor role represents an unexpected late-career comeback. And by selecting her instead of a younger up-and-comer, CBS is clearly trying to ease the transition from Mr. Osgood, whose folksy delivery has been a mainstay on the show for more than two decades.”

And said CBS News President David Rhodes, “Charles Osgood is a television news legend — and so is Jane Pauley.”



Publication week of 9/19/16

By Ed Breen

We fans of the Chicago Cubs aren’t accustomed to things going well. You understand. You understand if your friends who share this demented affection for a baseball team are just a little uneasy right now. Because things aren’t right. It’s just not right that in mid-September the Chicago National League Baseball Club has a lock on playing in the post season, playing in October, maybe the World Series, for God’s sake.

And nothing weird has happened  . . . yet. Oh, there was that asteroid a couple of weeks ago that ripped right past earth, but it didn’t hit anything and the Cubs are still perilously close to winning 100 games in a season.  But that doesn’t mean much; remember last year when the dreaded Cardinals won 100 games and then lost to the Cubs in four straight, before things turned ugly at Wrigley and the dreaded Mets won four straight . . . and when we are talking about the Mets that takes us back to 1969 and the black cat, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First we have to deal with the blankety-blank goat, which is old news to long-suffering Cubs fans, but has to be explained to the youngsters.  It was 1945; I know because I was in the hospital in some sort of oxygen contraption because they thought I had polio but they left the radio on and I could hear it.

The Cubs were in the World Series – that was 71 years ago — playing the Detroit Tigers and Billy Sianis, who owned the Billy Goat Tavern down underneath Michigan Avenue, came out to Wrigley Field on October 6th and he brought his goat and they wouldn’t  let him in with the goat and he slapped  a curse on the Cubs then and there that day.  The goat was named Murphy and they said he smelled too much to sit in the bleachers and old man Sianis was so mad that he told ‘em at the gate, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.”

Which, of course, they haven’t. They haven’t been in a World Series since and the more mystical among us blame Billy Sianis. His family  — and they still own the tavern – his family claims he sent a telegram to Mr. P.K. Wrigley which read: “You are going to lose this World Series and you are never going to win another World Series again. You are never going to win a World Series again because you insulted my goat.”

And that bring us to the black cat of 1969.  Those Cubs included Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Fergie Jenkins, and Billy Williams. It was considered to be the greatest Cubs team ever assembled, but they managed to squander a seventeen-and-a-half-game lead in the last quarter season.

It was September 9, at Shea stadium in New York, in a two-game series against the Mets.  A black cat ran onto the field.  After running several circles around Ron Santo in the on-deck circle, the cat vanished beneath the stands. You could look it up; there are a dozen photographs on the Internet.

Then comes the night of October 14, 2003. But you know that sad saga, don’t you?  Eighth inning, five outs to go and the Cubs break the curse.

Mark Prior is pitching a three-hit shutout for the Cubs, who lead the game 3-0 and the series against the Marlins 3 games to 2. Luis Castillo was at bat for the Marlins with one out, and a full count. He pops a fly ball down the left field line and Cubs left fielder Moises Alou drifts over to make the catch in foul territory.

When, from out of the seats, Seat 118, Row 8, Aisle 4, comes the arm of the goofy little guy with the glasses, the headphones and the Cubs cap.

Steve Bartman. Need I say more?












Publication week of 9/12/16

By Ed Breen

One little piece at a time, it seems, a whole generation and the wonders that it wrought is slipping away from us. It’s the natural order of things, of course, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

A couple of weeks ago here we spoke of Robert McIntosh returning, finally, after 74 years, to a final resting place in Tipton. He had been lost in the fog of war since 1944.

Now it is Greta Friedman who has departed, at the age of 92. She died of  pneumonia in Frederick, Md., last week.

You have, most likely, never heard of Greta Friedman, but I guarantee, if you are of an age to know the meaning of D-Day and V-J Day you have seen her photograph, an image recorded by an owlish little observer  who was  there that day in Times Square in New York;  he, she and a million other Americans who came out on Aug.14, 1945, to celebrate the end of World War II. Only hours before the Japanese had surrendered in the Pacific and something resembling peace returned to the world.

Greta Friedman, you see, was the tiny woman clad in nurse’s white who was in the grasp of a Navy guy, an embrace during which he rocked her back on her heels and planted one very large smooch on her face.  Watching all this, not more than five or six feet away was Alfred Eisenstaedt,  the diminutive photographer from Life Magazine who had been dispatched from the  office only a few blocks away to record for all the world to see how we Americans were embracing the news.

Eisenstaedt held his 35 millimeter Leica camera to his eye, framed very carefully – he always did – and caught that decisive instant when the dark suited sailor with the round white hat that some called the Dixie Cup cap . . . when he grabbed Greta around the waist, tipped her back and kissed her in what, thanks to the picture, may be the most famous kiss in American history.

Charles Osgood, taking the long view this past Sunday morning, summed it up this way: “There were millions of kisses of joy that day, but this is the one the world remembers.”

The picture, the one Eisenstaedt took, was published as a full page in Life magazine the following week. This was back when Life, the large format weekly, was delivered to 13 million American homes; it was Fox, CNN, Facebook and Twitter all rolled into one.

And starting with that August day the debate began: Who were the people in the picture? Eisenstaedt, in his exuberance, had failed to get the names of the guy and the gal.

Over the years there were multiple claims to being the sailor. At least 11 men have so argued. But the gal: that’s another matter.  Three women – including Greta Friedman – have laid claim.

Ms. Friedman said that she did not see the photo until the 1960s, when she came upon a photo book and found the moment immortalized on the page. She wrote to Life magazine and was told that another person had been identified as the woman in the photo.

“I didn’t believe that because I knew it happened to me,” she said in 2005. “It’s exactly my figure, and what I wore, and my hairdo especially.”

And there is this important footnote: Greta Friedman was born in Austria,  one of four daughters of a Jewish clothing store owner.  As conditions worsened for Jews in Nazi-occupied Austria, her parents sent the children out of the country. She and two of her sisters came to the United States in 1939. The parents failed to flee and were killed in the Holocaust.

None, you see, of that generation escaped the ravages of the war.



Publication week of 9/5/16

By Ed Breen

Come January it will be have been 25 years – a quarter of a century —  since Grant County had a voice in the Senate of the State of Indiana who actually lived and worked in  Grant County. That last Senator was Tony Maidenberg and he departed in 1992.

Most recently our voice down there, such as it is, has been Jim Banks, a Republican of the conservative bent who lives 50 miles away in Columbia City and works in Fort Wayne and who has had only a nodding acquaintance with the voters and issues in the largest city in his district: Marion.

Now, for the first time in all those years we here at home might have a reasonable shot at reclaiming a voice down there. We talked before here about the idea that Grant County in recent years has been carved up in a jigsaw puzzle  of seven – count ‘em : seven – House and Senate districts. It would take you all day to drive from town to town and visit the people who allegedly speak for us, all the way from Cicero to Columbia City with stops in Kokomo and Harford City.

This, of course, is the result of redistricting – or gerrymandering – to create safe districts for incumbents – did I mention all seven of them are Republicans and that is not likely to change.

What is happening right now is a nifty bit of parliamentary tap dancing brought about by Sen. Banks’ expected election to the Congress  – Congressman from the Third District, which is Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana — when he succeeds Marlin Stutzman, who rolled big and came up empty when he ran for retiring Sen. Dan Coats  seat back in the May primary and lost to Todd Young.

Here’s how this is expected to play out:

Banks will be elected on Nov.  8 and pack his bags for Washington. D.C. But before leaving town he will resign his District 17 seat in the Indiana Senate. Sometime in the month after there will be a gathering — a caucus — of the Republican precinct committeemen in District 17. That’ all of Wabash County, along with chunks of Huntington, Whitley and Grant counties – mainly the city of Marion in Grant County.

That caucus, which will include something like 30 committeemen from the Marion area, will take a look at all those who have said they want the job. That’s about four right now, with probably more to come. They will vote and the lucky winner gets sent off to Indianapolis in January to make the laws.

And who might this person be? Possibly Darren Reese, a former key aide to former Mayor Wayne Seybold and now president of an environmental engineering firm.  He reportedly has the blessing of Grant County Republican Chairman Jerry Shull, a huge boost because it is Shull who anoints the Grant County delegates who will do the voting.

Then there’s Anne Vermillion, the high-energy Marion General Hospital Administrative Director of Medical Staff Services and Community Outreach.  She apparently has been encouraged by several state level Republicans after impressive appearances at the Statehouse to talk about curbs on drugs.  And she is ambitious.

David Glickfield, a Marion lawyer who lost his county commissioner job to John Lawson four years, has also apparently expressed some low-key  interest.  There are others, including at least one in Huntington  County candidate who has Tea Party support.

But the issue comes down to this: Will the Grant County want-to-bes put aside personal ambition in the interest of retrieving a Grant County voice in the State Senate? If not,  a two- or three-way squabble here  all but assures an alien voice will speak for us down there . . . again.




Publication week of 8/29/16

By Ed Breen

We generally  do as our parents  suggested here and avoid discussion of all things religious, or at least pertaining to religion. Politics, yes. Being offensive there is an admirable quality. But religion: No, leave it alone.  Except for today.

Today we shall throw caution to the wind because how could anyone, even the most secular among us, argue with saying nice things about Mother Teresa? She is a saint, you know, or is only hours away from it. The tiny nun who ministered to the poorest of the poor on the teeming streets of Calcutta will be canonized – officially elevated to sainthood – by the Catholic Church, by Pope Francis himself, on Sunday.

She died, of course, back in 1997. She was 87 years old when she died on that September day just one day shy of 19 years prior to her elevation to sainthood.

At the time of her death, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, which she had formed back in 1950,   had over 4,000 sisters operating 610 missions in 123 countries. These included hospices and homes for people with AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children’s and family counselling programs, personal helpers, orphanages and schools. The Missionaries of Charity were also aided by more than one million co-workers in the 1990s.

And did I mention that this tiny woman – she was just shy of five feet tall  — that she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House by President Reagan in 1985?

She was in so many ways a citizen of the world. Born in Macedonia, she was reared in a middle class family in Albania, entered the religious life in Ireland and,  at various times, depending on world conditions, was a citizen of the  Ottoman empire, then Serbian and Bulgarian and Yugoslavian and finally a citizen of India, the place to which she had come to do her work and live 67 years of her life.

What you might not recall about her – soon to be the third Saint Teresa in the Catholic Church, joining Teresa of Avila and Theresa of Lisieux – what you might have forgotten is the day she spent here in Indiana, in Fort Wayne as a guest of the now-departed Crosier Fathers, who maintained a seminary on the northwest side of Fort Wayne for many years.

It was Sunday, June 6, 1982, and as she had done for many years, more of necessity than desire, she had come to town to raise money to pay the bill for caring for her “poorest of the poor.”  During that afternoon she addressed a crowd of 3,000 who had assembled at Bishop Dwenger High School, where, incidentally, she charged not one cent for a speaking fee.  Give if you will; I shall not ask.

At a press conference she was peppered with questions: What about nuclear war? What about the inflexible position of the Catholic Church on birth control, especially in overpopulated places like India? What about international economics?

And to each she responded in the only way she knew how, politely explaining that she was not interested in international politics or domestic politics. She was, she said, interested in only one thing:  Easing the burden of the very poor.

And then came this:  A reporter asked “why did you take the name of Teresa? After the name of Saint Teresa the Little Flower, the  16th Century saint?

“Yes”, she said, Teresa the Little Flower “because I did not think myself strong enough to carry a big flower.”



Publication week of 8/22/16

By Ed Breen

Millions of dollars – no, make that hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe more – are going to be spent in the next few weeks trying to persuade us, trying to make us believe that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton ought to be President of the United States.

Fact is, we know better, don’t we?   We – you and I, men and women, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives — know that our choice this year is a Hobson’ choice:  Take it or leave it.  Like it or lump it.  And, by the looks of things right now, there’s going to be a whole lot of lumpin’ going on this fall.

And that is a tragedy. What we have in American politics right now — and the prospects ahead don’t seem much brighter – we have a bunch of people who want to be President of the United States.  Not the best, not the brightest. But rather the most avaricious, the most ambitious, egos the size of Mount Rushmore, but not worthy of being there  . . .  not the White House and certainly not Mount Rushmore.

Newton Minow, a very bright man who, as chair of the Federal Communications Commission a good many  years ago, was among the first to identify  the television landscape as  “a vast wasteland” . . . Newt Minow once worked for Adlai Stevenson, the smartest man we never elected President.

Anyway,  Minow  once said , coincidentally in a conversation with our own Mitch Daniels,  that Stevenson  had told him   . . .  well, let Minow tell the story:  “I learned from my boss, Governor Stevenson, that the best people of both parties ought to run for President,   not the worst people.”

Minow retold that story a few years ago in a C-Span television series called The Contenders,  14 discussions of 14 people who ran unsuccessfully for President  but who, by their very presence in the arena, raised ideas and changed America without sleeping one single night in the White House.

Some for the better, some for the worse – George Wallace, for instance – and some who have been pretty much lost in the dust heap of time and politics.  Charles Evan Hughes and Henry Clay come to mind.

But George McGovern is there. So is Barry Goldwater and Hubert Humphrey – we called him “the happy warrior” back in ‘68 – and two Hoosiers:  Wendell Willke from Elwood and Terre Haute’s  Eugene V.  Debs, the booming voice of the downtrodden and oppressed,  a  Socialist  who was sent to prison for speaking his mind, and  drew one million votes for President  in 1920 when he was in federal prison and was known as “Convict Number 9653.”

This gaunt man from Indiana  was Bernie Sanders long before there was a Bernie Sanders. In 1918 he made a speech over in Canton, Ohio, in which he urged resistance to the military draft for World War I. He was arrested, charged, tried and convicted on 10 charges of “sedition.”

At his sentencing – he was sent to prison for 10 years – at that hearing he said thus:  “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

Wouldn’t  it be nice this election season to have,  as we had in 1952, two candidates,  Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson, who genuinely did not want to be President,  but reluctantly  agreed to serve if called upon.



Publication week of 8/8/16

By Ed Breen

In no particular order today,  a couple of postcards from the road, notes scribbled on the back of gasoline receipts, shoved into pockets and left unattended  after a couple of lengthy  drives around the country this summer.

Start with the fellow down in South Carolina, a novice at a Catholic abbey near Moncks Corner north of Charleston.  He was strolling among the live oaks that line the grounds, those uniquely southern  trees that always seem to have born the burden  of all things Southern for all time.  The moss hangs from their outstretched limbs, trying, it seems, to weight them to the ground.

I interrupted this contemplative’s reverie for a little conversation: Why are you here? Where are you from? What’s your name? And it was then – at the name part – where he took on the appearance of man about to confess to great sin, right here at the monastery.

“Well,” he said, “my name is Pence, Joseph Pence – but I’m not related to the one from Indiana. I suppose I’m going to have to apologize for a while for having that name.”  I assured him that I was from Indiana, which seemed to trigger even more anxiety, and I assured him no apologies were necessary.  We Hoosiers understand his pain.

And up in northern Michigan, almost within sight of that other border with another country, a fellow told me he had been talking with a friend on the other side.   The friend – the Canadian – tweaked his American buddy thusly:  “He told me he heard that Trump intends to build another wall, a wall between Canada and the U.S., too, and that the purpose is to keep us from leaving for Canada.”

And along the thousand miles between these stops these days it is impossible to avoid the evidence of Pokémon Go,  the high-tech smart phone pursuit of unattractive little creatures  who seem to have overrun the earth from Lake Superior to the Outer Banks on the Atlantic Ocean and all nooks in between.  Our grandparents spent a summer swallowing goldfish, our parents stuffed themselves by the dozen into Volkswagens.  I suppose chasing digital gremlins is no worse.  Although I do like the response at the Marion Public Library. A sign on the entry doors assures patrons that the building has been swept and that there are no Pokémon creatures on the premises.

If you rely on your credit card on the road, and if you have been issued one of the new models that proudly proclaim the presence of a “chip” that insures security, prepare yourself for irritation this summer: The card readers, through which you used to swipe your plastic, now require insertion and interminable waits – and that’s only if the thing is working at all. Better things for better living through plastic.

And if you think it’s been warm here for a few weeks, try the surf, sand, sun and sauna of what they like to call the “low country” of the Carolinas. Add that to the vinegar-laced  barbecue of which Carolinians seem to be so proud and it makes you appreciate Memphis or Kansas City at any time of the year.

And one final snarky political comment from those folks who lost the Civil War. Drive north from Charleston to Columbia, South Carolina along Interstate 26 and you will pass several  big billboards – large,  big-bucks billboards, not signs stacked to fence posts – put up by a realtor in that neighborhood.  Each includes pictures of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and these few words: “Moving to Canada? We can help you sell your house.”


Publication week of 7/18/16


By Ed Breen

A couple of things can safely be said of Dean Young — that’s the Honorable Dean A. Young, judge of Circuit Court of Blackford County over in Hartford City.  First is that he does not suffer fools gladly, and second is that he intends to maintain judicial decorum in his jurisdiction. Translation: If you get called for jury duty in his court, you darn well better show up. And it’s a good idea to wear socks when you do.

Young, the 61-year-old lawyer, judge and former Republican State Rep. from House District 31, has always been a man of conviction. He walked away from an absolutely safe legislative seat because he didn’t much like the way business was being done down at the Statehouse in Indianapolis.

I’m resisting the temptation to describe him, even at 61, as “boyish-looking,” because, well, that’s not very judicial and might get me a summons for contempt of court. But truth is the ultimate defense, so “boyish looking” he shall be.

All this comes up because a few weeks ago, in the latest in a growing string of episodes, he again enforced his will in the interest of maintaining the dignity of the court. Only a year or so ago, as he prepared to sit in judgement in a double homicide case in Hartford City, he slapped a gag order on everyone involved in the case almost before the bodies had cooled. He was not about to allow the circus to come to town, as it might well have in that case. Bottom line, said the judge, no one will say anything about anything; do you understand?

Anyway, most recently, as a jury was being assembled from a pool of about 50 candidates, the judge was informed that several – four, to be exact – of those summoned as prospective jurors had failed to show up at the appointed day and time.  Now, there are good reasons for people to be excused from jury duty . . . work, illness, parental responsibility, conflict of interest, all those sorts of things . . .but the point is you come to court and tell the judge; you don’t just blow it off. Which is what these folks had done.

No reason to get into the who, what, when and why business here. The judge had explained from the bench when he took the job over six years ago that he expected jurors to be there when called. Thus, he ordered his bailiff or the court clerk – I’m not sure which – to find the scofflaws and bring them to court.

The judge spoke of responsibility. “It’s unfair to those who do show up,” he said, “those who give up their time to show up only to be sent home or maybe even to serve.”

He also took the long view: “There are people on the other side of this planet – 18, 19, 20 years of age – who are dying for the very right that U.S. citizens have to a trial by jury.”

“The least we can do is show respect for their commitment by honoring our own. It’s just one of those things; I don’t think it happens very often, but I will continue to do so when people flaunt their obligation.”

Now, about the socks. Judge Young also believes that people – particularly lawyers – ought to come to court properly dressed – and that includes socks on the feet . . . inside shoes. Two years ago – back in September of 2014, Marion lawyer Todd Glickfield appeared in Blackford Circuit Court sans socks.

In his order, Young told Glickfield “to never again appear for a legal proceeding in the Blackford Circuit Court unless he is entirely clad in ‘appropriate business attire’ which includes socks upon his feet. The court also observes that on occasions Mr. Glickfield has appeared in past proceedings without wearing a tie and while wearing an open-collared shirt.”

Also inadmissible. Thus sayeth the judge.


Publication week of 7/11/16

By Ed Breen

When, at the end of our Hoosier Bicentennial year, we’re taking stock of the contributions, large and small, that were made to mark the occasion, we may find that among the most enduring and certainly the most useful, will be a slim, unpretentious volume titled simply “Road Trip,” by Andrea Neal.

It took a while to get started, but much is now being done in advance of the December 11 anniversary of Indiana’s entry into the union, statehood day for those of us in the 19th state.  The Bicentennial Commission, a moderately dysfunctional creature of state government, published a lovely if disjointed album of photographs of we Hoosiers. And the Indiana Historical Society has done several major projects, including a suburb book for young Hoosiers co-authored by Jim Madison and Lee Ann Sandweiss, with dollars from the Lilly Endowment – Indiana’s Daddy Warbucks —   to make sure it gets into every classroom that asks for it.

The gem, the one that will be remembered by those maybe as distant as the tricentennial, is a massive and weighty beauty titled “Mapping Indiana,” 322 oversize pages of maps of all places and purposes . A caution: Do not attempt to read this in bed; you will be crushed if it falls on you.

Full disclosure here: I have been involved with the Indiana Historical Society since Shep was a pup and hold a shameless fondness for the books that it produces.

That said,  I have to tell you a little about Andrea Neal and her “Road Trip.”  Ms. Neal was a successful Indiana journalist – she ran the editorial page of the Indianapolis Star – who had the courage to walk away and become a high school history teacher because she thought that might be more valuable and more fun. Probably correct on both counts.

Anyway, she began poking into the nooks and crannies of the state, found at least 100 good stories to tell, and with some support from Craig Ladwig and the Indiana Policy Review folks, wrote a series of newspaper articles, all now assembled in one place: the 247 compact pages of “Road Trip,”  published by the aforementioned Indiana Historical Society and intended not so much to be on the coffee table at home, but rather in the glove compartment of the family jalopy as we head out in search of who we are.

She begins, logically enough, with the Ice Age and that took her to Shades State Park over in the Crawfordsville neighborhood, where evidence of the ancient ice can be found in every crevice of the exposed stone. She moves on through 98 other Hoosier tales until she ends up at the Meltzer Woods, a 48-acre preserve of old growth Indiana forest, which, she points out, was there long before we began this statehood experiment that has endured for 200 years now.

One of the delights of Neal’s work is that she concludes each story with very specific information on how you and I can share the experience. Names, addresses, hours, phone numbers. If you’d like to see Meltzer Woods, for example, she tells us it is just north of the intersection of Indiana 244 and County Road 600 East in Shelby County.  Even the most geographically challenged can find that.

In between are Lewis and Clark in Indiana; indeed, the two explorers met for the first time on soil that would become Indiana down on the Ohio River. There’s Little Turtle and William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh and the Massacre at Fall Creek and the Civil War. Indeed, everything that has coalesced and congealed over 200 years to make us what, who and where we are today. A fascinating road trip over time and place.  “Road Trip” is a worthwhile journey.


Publication week of 7/4/16

By Ed Breen

Nothing makes comedy quite like American politics. I suppose if we didn’t get a few laughs from presidential campaigns we’d die of despair. Bad jokes, crude jokes, caricature of all sorts have forever been a part of the way we select our leaders.

Among the best – or worst, depending on perspective – was the donnybrook of 1884: Grover Cleveland, the Democrat, vs. Republican James G. Blaine. Chanted Mr. Cleveland of his opponent: “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine.” Right up there with Lyin’ Ted, huh?

To keep the thing right down there in  the gutter, the Blaine people, playing off a widely-circulated – and believed —  rumor that Mr. Cleveland had sired a child outside of holy matrimony, responded with this little ditty: “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha.”

There was the chant of the Nixon supporters in pursuit of Lyndon Johnson: “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” And Harry Truman carrying on about fellow Democrat Adlai Stevenson was a little harsh: “He’s no better than a regular sissy,” said the president of the man who would succeed him as Democrat standard-bearer.

And that brings us back to Silent Cal, Calvin Coolidge, who, while President of the United States and presiding at a White House dinner, was approached by a woman who said to the President, “My husband bet me that I couldn’t get you to say three words.” Silent Cal smiled slyly and replied, “You lose.”…more

Cartoonists forever made fun of LBJ’s ears, Reagan’s hair and Nixon’s nose, but for long-term laughs, it’s tough to beat Donald Trump’s hair, that carefully quaffed assemblage of whatever it is above his forehead. The Washington Post combed the archive to put together the 100 best – by which they mean most offensive — published descriptions of The Donald’s hair, going back to his youth before anyone ever imagined what we have today.

Sayeth the Post, “Over three decades, describing the headstuff has been elevated to an art form. Is it swirled or swooped? Animal or vegetable? Or mineral? Burnt sienna or orange Creamsicle?  Here, in the most comprehensive and highly scientific endeavor of its kind, are the best descriptors of the Trump mane:

“It appears to be a comb-over, but, incredibly, it doesn’t arrive from any direction. You cannot stare at The Donald’s hair very long. It’s like staring into the sun,” wrote an early analyst.

“A decomposing ear of corn,” wrote another, and in the same vein, “A corn husk doll cursed by a witch,” or “An ambitious corn dog that escaped from the concession stand at a rural Alabama fairground, stole an unattended wig, hopped a freight train to Atlantic City and never looked back.”

“It is the furrowed wake that a speedboat would leave on a lake of orange sherbet”

Some are brief and brusque: “The male equivalent of a push-up bra,”  “A mullet that died in some horrible accident.” Or these: “An aggressive cowlick gone rogue,” “an unruly shrub,” “an unfortunate situation,” or “a hairpiece that came to life.”

Animal metaphors abound: A dead skunk. A radioactive skunk. Dead squirrel. A mutant squirrel. A beaver’s tail.  A very well-behaved guinea pig. And finally this: An actual, live woodchuck.


Publication week of 6/27/16

By Ed Breen

As you might expect from the man in whose head lives all of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, he’s a little vague about when he intends to go home, to stop telling us about ”the town that time forgot and that the decades cannot improve.”

It’s supposed to be this weekend that Garrison Keillor tries, once again, to retire, to walk away from the mythical world that he imagined and populated 40 years ago; after all, he is 73 years old now. But it’s a little hard to tell if his final presentation of “A Prairie Home Companion” will be broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio Saturday evening, as it has been since the mid-1970s. All we really know is that this weekend is supposed to be the end of the season and his successor – who we are certain we will not like – takes over in October and remakes the show into something completely different.

Funny thing is, people either like Garrison Keillor . . . or they don’t. No middle ground. They either understand life at the Sidetrack Tap and Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery and the Chatterbox Café and Father Emil at  Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Catholic Church, or Pastor Ingqvist over to the Lutheran Church . . . or they don’t. No middle ground. Those of us who admire – even revere – the goofy-looking and gangly guy with the red socks and baritone voice liken him sometimes to Mark Twain – the conscience of American humor – although Keillor will quickly but quietly point out that Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn . . .  and he didn’t.

There is, of course, the radio program: Two hours of live radio, brought to you by Powdermilk Biscuits and Bertha’s Kitty Boutique or the Ketchup Advisory Council . . .  and usually broadcast from the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul, a vintage palace preserved by Keillor that was originally the World Theater and renamed by Keillor to honor that other Minnesotan, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

There’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where it has invariably been “a quiet week, out there on the edge of the prairie,” And there’s Guy Noir, private eye, laboring up there in the Acme Building, and the Lives of the Cowboys, both Dusty and Lefty, struggling across the west. All punctuated by music heard nowhere else: Greg Brown and Iris DeMent and Rich Dworsky and Robin and Linda Williams and Peter Ostroushko. It goes on and on as it has for 40 years, back before Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris were even famous.

But there are the books, more than a dozen of them – “Lake Wobegon Days,” “Leaving Home,” “We are Still Married,” “Life Among the Lutherans,” and that most precious meditation on the Fourth of July weekend in Lake Wobegon, “Liberty.”  And the newspaper columns and “The Writer’s Almanac” five days a week on National Public Radio,  and the stories for The New Yorker magazine. An endless procession of the talent God gave this boy from Anoka, Minnesota.

There are those who argue, showing a declining audience for the show from a weekly peak of four million Saturday evening listeners a decade ago, that Keillor should have retired the first time he retired. Or maybe the second. This time, if it happens, will be the third. But the man is untidy; just look at the rumpled white suit around the body that seems assembled from spare parts. Why should departure be orderly?

Now he’s even opened a bookstore in St. Paul – a city, he points out – not to be confused with neighboring Minneapolis.  But he reserves the right to not finish reading every book he begins these days. “When you pass 70,” he says, “you are no longer obligated to finish what you’ve started, not a book, not a meal, not even a sentence.”

But what, we ask with more dread than hope, what about retirement?




Publication week of 6/20/16

By Ed Breen
Much – probably too much – has already been written and said about what happened and didn’t happen at the night club  in Orlando, Fla., a few days ago. In a way that borders on the offensive, score cards have been recorded and posted. Privacy has been breached, lives have been destroyed. Politicians of all stripes have spent energy at new decibel levels.

But tucked away for a couple of days in some obscure corner of Facebook on the internet was an experience and some thoughts worth pondering and repeating.  It has since gone “viral,” as they say in that world, but it is still worth considering. It is the one little bit from the Orlando carnage and coverage that seems to make sense.

Paired with a few words on the computer screen is a simple photograph, a snapshot, probably taken on a phone camera, of a pair of shoes, the kind of shoes young professionals wear these days, some sort of hybrid of athletic shoes and work shoes, designed for endurance and comfort. Air Jordans; Nikes or New Balance or something of the sort. What makes them unusual is the blood stains, somewhere between red and brown, spattered, splattered on the fabric and the laces and the soles. It is inescapable.

The shoes belong to Dr. Joshua Corsa, a physician, a senior resident surgeon at the Orlando Regional Medical Center, where the Orlando shooting victims were brought and where people like Dr. Corsa applied the art and science of life saving in heroic proportions.

“These are my work shoes from Saturday night,” he wrote below the photograph. “They are brand new, not even a week old. I came to work this morning and saw these in the corner my call room, next to the pile of dirty scrubs.

“I had forgotten about them until now. On these shoes, soaked between its fibers, is the blood of 54 innocent human beings.

“I don’t know which were straight, which were gay, which were black, or which were Hispanic. What I do know is that they came to us in wave upon wave of suffering, screaming, and death.

“And somehow, in that chaos, doctors, nurses, technicians, police, paramedics, and others, performed super human feats of compassion and care.
”This blood, which poured out of those patients and soaked through my scrubs and shoes, will stain me forever. In these Rorschach patterns of red I will forever see their faces and the faces of those that gave everything they had in those dark hours.

”There is still an enormous amount of work to be done. Some of that work will never end. And while I work I will continue to wear these shoes. And when the last patient leaves our hospital, I will take them off, and I will keep them in my office.

“I want to see them in front of me every time I go to work. For on June 12, after the worst of humanity reared its evil head, I saw the best of humanity come fighting right back.

“I never want to forget that night.”

Thank you, Dr. Corsa. Absolutely no more need be said.






Publication week of 5/30/16


By Ed Breen


More by accident than on purpose, but I ended up roaming the hills and hollers of Southern Indiana a couple of weeks ago for two days and came away with a do-it-yourself tour of the far reaches of our shared state . . . at least it’s the far reaches from where we sit. Down there they think that’s what the rest of the state is like.

Also paused to take in one of our Gee-Whiz-Somethin’-Kinda-Special Hoosier welcome centers, and we’ll give you a sort of I-step grade on that, too, in a minute here.

But back to the tour. Scoot straight south on Ind. 37, around Indianapolis, past Bloomington, and pretty soon you have gone beyond where the glaciers went a couple of million years ago, which means the hills and valleys are still there; up here, the ice sheet shoved all the hills into the valleys and thus between here and Indianapolis there’s nary a rise in the road. An early train rider across northern Indiana described it thus: “One may ride upon the railroad for hours without seeing a greater elevation than a haystack.”

First there’s Bedford, with its perfect sheets of limestone to be urged from the earth and carved and cut and chiseled into everything from the front steps of my childhood home to the soaring walls of the Empire State Building in New York City. Magnificent stone and it’s still there in abundance waiting to be quarried. Not far south is the other-worldly town of Paoli. It’s worth the drive just to tool around the courthouse square in this county seat of Orange County.

But before you get there, you might want to pull off in Mitchell, a dozen miles to the north and visit the birthplace of our very own first Hoosier Astronaut, Gus Grissom.

Take a right out of Paoli on highway 150, and its over to Larry Bird country: French Lick, West Baden . . . and whatever you do, do not miss stopping at the West Baden Springs Hotel, a renovated and restored eighth wonder of the world from a century ago.

And it truly is spectacular by any age and any measurement: A dome six stories high, spanning a lobby the size of a football field. The dome is larger, if less ornate, than the one in the Vatican in Rome. You can lunch affordably in the lobby, and if you want simply make it a day trip, then turn around now and come home. It’s worth the drive.

But for overnighters, it’s on down to Patoka Lake, across I-64, and on down to Tell City, where you can stand on the bank of the grand Ohio River and stare across at Kentucky. For a little solitude, up to St. Meinrad, a Catholic monastery that you would swear to God is in Europe, or at least not in Indiana.

Take the kids along and introduce them to the Abraham Lincoln boyhood home in Spencer County, and, if you must, pause at both Santa Claus, Indiana – yes, it’s real – and the Holiday World amusement park.   Then on over to New Harmony, the lovingly preserved artifact from the 19th century. If you don’t depart from there with a curiosity about history, well then, there something wrong with you.

Up to Vincennes, the oldest place in Indiana, which also has a lot of old world charm along with the elegant memorial to Revolutionary War hero George Rogers Clark. Without him we might be Brits today and what a shame that would be.

Then it’s back to reality: U.S. 41 up to Terre Haute, where one ought not stop, pick up Interstate 70 and head back to Indianapolis. But right along there is the state welcome center, putting on our best Hoosier face for the whole world passing through, our first – and maybe only – chance to dazzle the outlanders and get them to spend money here and now.

And I must report, just as it was a couple of years ago, it is about as dismal, dour and drab as you would expect of a state that spent money for the travel moniker of “Honest to Goodness.”


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.’ ”