Sunday, July 29, 2012

San Francisco Labor Chorus

I went with Code Pink sisters to see the Labor Chorus, directed by Labor Chorus Conductor, Pat Wynne, on 26 July 2012 at the ILWU Local 34.  Not wanting to intrude by using a flash, my photos are rough.  The singers had the Union spirit.  They should be recorded as their knowledge of old labor songs is archival.
Especially sweet and amusing was an encore number with clever lyrics sung to the tune of "YMCA."  Four singers in the front acted out the letters each time they were sung, with the double-syllable "W" replacing the "Y" and "M" of the YMCA song.  Their delightful version suggested that we "bring back... the W P A."

To quote from their description:  Come to ILWU Local 34, "next to the AT&T Park, SF.  An account in song and story of the Great Depression and the New Deal.

"The show draws musically from the Wobblies' Little Red Songbook, Woody Guthrie, Duke Ellington, Yip Harburg, and The People's Songbook.  

"The narrative highlights the contributions of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor, to the New Deal's innovations, as an inspiration to the 99th today."

Afterward, able to use flash, I got a photograph of their guitar accompanist, Bernard ("Bernie") Gilbert....

...and Code Pink sister Leslie Angeline (proud daughter of a Freedom Rider), Renay Davis, Nancy Keiler, and Martha Hubert:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Giant Lady's Leg Sundial

I told a friend that I would like to draw a map, from memory, of a town I lived in during ages around ages 8-11.  My parents owned a country grocery store there during those years.  The town, Roselawn, Indiana, was so small (population 302) that I had wandered through every foot of the town, including among many abandoned buildings as the town had once had grand hopes but had mostly fallen into ruin; it was occupied mostly by poor people, some with dirt floors, who were often carried on credit by my parents whose business depended more on farms.  The town was rich with "characters" and incidents that I have written about.  
I went on Google map, and, of course, in my virtual visit over sixty years later, I could not recognize the developed suburbs where that town used to be.  My friend Andrew Jefchak wrote a wonderful novel, OUT OF STEIGLITZ PARK, about his former hometown, Whiting, Indiana, that disappeared with an industrial explosion, yet how its absence persists in him with its own kind of presence.  As one of his characters says, "I think we are more than products of our environment or heredity or biological makeup, more even than the individual choices we make.  There is something else -- something like an ongoing geographical inner tattoo we carry forth, a constant subconscious reminder of place." 
I am realizing that with Roselawn, Indiana, it too might as well have disappeared in an industrial explosion as what I see by satellite photograph does not conform to the map in my memory.  Ironically, one thing continues -- the nudist camp.  In fact, Roselawn now has TWO nudist camps.  (Some irrational inner voice says, "It's because that county bordered on Illinois," where the borderline towns were full of bars.  One priest went to the bars to tend to his congregation.)  
As is true of my childhood in general, I experienced whatever there was to experience (the plus side of being ignored and neglected), and I have written about my visit to the nudist camp as a child, in the company of the niece of its owner, Aloyius Knapp.  That happened to be a summer when the camp was the site of a national convention of nudists and so I viewed the entire encyclopedia of naked bodies.  It is at the nudist camp owned by Aloyius Knapp that there is now a Giant Lady's Leg Sundial.  
Aloyius was one of three German-Americans who were prominent in our lives.  (I think of the evenings before electricity where we might eat dinner with them by the light of kerosene lamps, with those elaborate inlaid or carved wooden pieces brought with them from Germany, and the wind-up Victrola with opera records).  The other two brothers owned much of the farmland around Roselawn, and were among my parents'  major customers.  During World War I when one of the brothers remained in Germany and was drafted into the German Army, the other brother, in the U.S., when threatened with the draft, feared he would kill his own brother in war and so he shot off his trigger finger.  
Brother Aloysius, a Chicago lawyer, was more sophisticated and well educated, and his nudist camp drew a lot of other Chicago professionals who often came to my parents' Saturday night country dances, putting on clothes, but, to the appreciation of the men, the women's twirling skirts revealed that they did not bother with undergarments.  But there was nothing lascivious in Aloyius' dedication to nudism, and he said that sun exposure had saved his health.  He carried an elaborately carved cane that he claimed had belonged to Lincoln.  The United Nations was still not widely accepted so he named his dog UNO.  When his wife Violet died, he had the crumbling local cemetery restored, buried her there, and at her funeral had a plane fly over dropping bushes of violets.  Indiana can be that eccentric, and Roselawn, "back then," was the epitome of eccentricity, with characters and incidents that might make anyone become a writer in order to record them.  While Aloyius owned the nudist camp, you might hear a naked violinist on their little stage, or a lecture of some kind, but it was bound to decline after him -- from the Internet, 

Giant Lady's Leg Sundial
Field review by the editors.
Roselawn, Indiana
The Sun Aura Nudist Resort opened in 1933. Back then it was called Club Zoro and its founder was Alois Knapp, a Chicago lawyer, German Nacktkulturist, editor of Sunshine and Health magazine, and "the father of nudism in America."
The club eventually passed into the hands of Dale and Mary Drost. Their son, Dick, had big ideas: he renamed the place Naked City, made it the home of the Ms. Nude Teeny Bopper Contest and the "Erin Go Bra-less" Dance on St. Patrick's Day, and had built the giant lady's leg sundial, 63 feet long and properly positioned to tell time -- a useful feature for wristwatchless nudists.
Naked City closed in 1986 when Dick was run out of Indiana on child molestation charges, but the leg remains and so does the resort, now under new management. The circular main building with the mirror gold windows is a combination office-sauna-restaurant.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Obama Comes to Oakland, 23 July 2012

President Barack Obama dropped into Oakland today.  His first stop after the airport happened to be in my neighborhood, at the Scottish Rite Temple that shows its broad back to me while it faces Lake Merritt.
     Some of us in the neighborhood drifted over there to the police barriers at the corner nearest to the back entrance of the Temple where Obama was bound to enter, but we were tricked, after an hour's wait,  when he arrived the wrong way on that One Way Street.  
     Obama is still loved in Oakland, and some parents brought their children, hoping the chldren would catch a glimpse of their President.  There seemed a tongue-in-cheek awareness in the adults that we were acting like subjects hoping for a glimpse of the royals, but we enjoyed it like a quiet game, a meditation on how democracy used to feel when we were children and thought America lived by simple, decent values.  
        And there was an old-fashioned feeling of democracy there -- or, true to Oakland's mores, was it common courtesy, the custom of hospitality?  How often does the President of the country come to your neighborhood?  Meanwhile, as we waited, we had the game of watching the police on the top of the Temple scanning the territory, and we had the game of each person debating from which direction the President would arrive.  

      And it was a chance for neighbors to meet and talk with each other.  One child who seemed, with his father, to be Middle Eastern origin, was frightened by the barred barriers the police set up, taller than the little boy, and he had to be persuaded that he was not being placed in a jail.  He showed such unshakable suspicion that you had to conjecture that his fear was rooted in experience.  

      People chatted about having no interest in going later to demonstrate outside the restored Fox  when President Obama spoke there that night, and they expressed their dislike for those who called themselves Occupy Oakland.  "That isn't Oakland.  Those people aren't from Oakland.  Spoiled kids getting money from their parents."  "
       "It used to be mostly people from Oakland, all kinds," I said, "in the beginning."  
        For this group, it was the sense of neighborhood that they were enjoying; some were familiar to others as they walked up and joined the group.  
        It was understood that you don't fail to come out to greet the President if he comes to your neighborhood.  We knew it was just a ritual, and that we were not likely to catch a glimpse of the President even if he passed through this intersection where people had gathered on all four corners.  Basic hospitality.  We "sir" and "m'am" in Oakland. 

       Was it rumor that he would enter from the other end of the block in spite or that being a One Way Street.   Some began to believe that way and look down the long street to the other end.
      "It's a One Way Street." 
     "The President," someone said, "can go the wrong way on a One Way Street."  
     "Yes," another person said.  "They're not delivering mail on these streets -- at least not until later."

     The rumor was true, and we all gathered behind the police barricade and watched in the distance as the end of the street lit up with the lights for official vehicles.  Many dark government cars, and many white vans, turned mid-block into the lot behind the Temple, and when that was filled, they lined the street before us.

        His father led away the little boy whose face was still looking back with fear and worry.  Perhaps he equates public events with violence.

     A Job Corps instructor I had talked to during our wait told me where he lives, and it is in the building next to me.  He teaches on Treasure Island, and he is a member of the American Federation of Teachers Union, which prompted me to tell him how, during the San Francisco State Strike at the end of the 1960s, we met with and persuaded George Johns, head of the Labor Council, to give us the protection of our own little maverick union of clerical workers, teachers' assistants, and any others who did not fit in the AFT teacher's union -- We were AFT 1928.  He told me that all these decades later, it was still the same great lawyer who helps AFT win its battles.  This Job Corp Instructor was named Nathan:

     Meanwhile in Oscar Grant Park in front of City Hall,  

worthy warriors were hoping that Obama could stop federal agents who are fiercely intent on destroying access to marijuana, contrary to California State law.  

It has been a hot, quiet day, nothing like Aurora, Colorado.  On the next day -- Click on image to enlarge:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Frances Loring and Florence Wyle

Visiting Toronto several years ago I went to a little park made possible by their friend Karl Jaffary, and took these photographs.  Not his only generously involvement in culture, perhaps Karl, beloved husband of a beloved friend, will want to add a comment to this entry.

I encourage you to look for more information on these two women whose "personal and professional relationship spanned more than five decades":  Google their names and you will find many entries, for example, at