“Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits, and working conditions. If you are making decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.” Molly Ivins
The immense sewer project at IUN to facilitate storm water removal during heavy rains appears nearly complete. Launched in partnership with the Gary Sanitary District, the work first closed 33rd Avenue and more recently 35th. Now both are open, and bulldozers are working on a tight spot on campus between Raintree Hall and the library courtyard. Watching the daily progress, I was quite impressed with how efficient the operation proceeded.
photos by Emily Banas
As I was observing the men at work, one of them greeted me with a smile declared, “Dr. Lane!” It was Mat Murphy, who had taken a class with me 20 years ago. He now works for Gatlin Plumbing and Heating, a Griffith company founded by Ivan and Marjorie Gatlin that’s been in existence since 1938. Checking out the company website, I discovered that it is affiliated with a half dozen unions, including pipefitters, plumbers, teamsters, operators, and laborers.
Gatlin Plumbing and Heating in 1938 and today
Looking up Gatlin Plumbing and Heating on Google, I ran across several companies that made use of the Alfred Einstein quote, “If I could do it all again, I’d be a plumber.” Actually the full quote goes like this:
“If I would be a young man again and had to decide how to make my living, I would not try to become a scientist or scholar or teacher. I would rather choose to be a plumber or a peddler in the hope to find that modest degree of independence still available under present circumstances. ”
Examining the Steel Shavings master index for Mat Murphy’s name, I discovered that he had interviewed his uncle, Paul Gatlin, for my 1996 issue “Social Trends and Racial Tensions during the 1960s.” On October 8, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, running in the upcoming election against Republican Barry Goldwater, spoke at the athletic field of East Chicago Washington High School. With him were press secretary George Reedy, a native East Chicagoan, and such fellow Democrats as U.S. senators Birch Bayh and Vance Hartke, Congressman Ray J. Madden, mayors A Martin Katz (Gary), Edward Dowling (Hammond), and John Nicosia (East Chicago) and gubernatorial candidate Roger Branigin. In the crowd was Paul Gatlin, at the time a senior at Griffith High School.
Mat Murphy wrote: “Griffith had a half day of school so that students could attend President Johnson’s speech. Paul went with Mike Griffey, who made a joke about shooting the president. A couple of Secret Service agents heard Mike, handcuffed him and dragged him away. They didn’t arrest him but certainly scared him half to death.”
Four years later, Paul Gatlin was working at Lakes of of Four Seasons. Murphy wrote: “A cave-in occurred. The workers had no V in the 20-foot hole. About ten men were buried and one killed. Paul had to dig out the dead person.”
In a chapter entitled “The American Nation and the West” James Madison’s “Hoosiers” notes the 1779 victory of George Rogers Clark and his men over British commander Henry Hamilton at Fort Sackville near Vincennes, noting that to intimidate the enemy into surrendering, “Clark ordered four pro-British Indiana brought to the gates of the fort, where his men tomahawked and scalped them and threw their bodies into the Wabash River.” Madison went on to say that a hundred years ago Clark was celebrated as Indiana’s greatest hero and as late as the 1970s a state license plate appeared in his honor and the state legislature proclaimed that school children celebrate February 25 as George Rogers Clark Day. Noting Andrew R.L. Clayton 1996 book on “Frontier Indiana,” which tarnishes Clark’s “romantic hero” image, Madison concludes:
“There was still room to celebrate Clark’s achievement, but now in a broader context that allowed for multiple perspectives, to include even brutality and cold-blooded murder by whites as well as Indians.
Gone from Madison’s chapter is Frederick C. Yohn’s 1923 painting “The Capture of Fort Sackville” that appeared in “The Indiana Way.” In its place is one of Miami chief Little Turtle, who, according to the caption, “led Native American warriors to great victories over the American invaders [but] after defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1764, chose peace and accommodation and gave Indian-style for American dress.”
According to Donna Gill, the sister of Hobart football legends Rudy and Bob Kuechenberg, their parents toured the country with a small carnival before settling down. Interviewed by the Post-Trib’s Jeff Manes, Donna claimed her dad, Rudy, Sr., would get shot out of a cannon. One day his neck was hurting so bad his brother Alfred took his place. The operators didn’t adjust for the weight difference, and Alfred sailed right into the nearby Ferris wheel and busted up his face. In Indiana Donna’s father became an ironworker, but, she added: “On weekends he was a rodeo cowboy who rode bucking broncos. Eventually, he became a rodeo clown who would come out of the chute riding a Brahma bull backwards while holding on to its tail.” Donna now travels the country on a 2004 Honda Silver Wing scooter.
Lest month Lake Circuit Judge George Paras ruled that Indiana’s right-to work law was unconstitutional. Attorney General Greg Zoeller requested a postponement of the decision until the Indiana Supreme Court made a ruling, but Judge Paras denied the request, writing that to deny the United Steelworkers union the ability to collect fees from nonunion members deprives them of being paid for services federal law requires they provide for all workers in a bargaining unit. Good for him.