Chicago Memories: Didn’t Shower Until I Was 13 and More

My first shower was in June of 1953 at the Southtown YMCA (the “Y”) in Chicago. I was 13. Of course, there were regular baths up to then, but no showers. By September I would be enrolled at Mt. Carmel High School and treated to showers from then on.

The memory of that first shower at the Y is just as vivid as those of other life experiences such as First Communion, the births of siblings, and the first satellite.

I was invited to the Y by some grade school (St. Bernard’s) pals to play some pickup basketball. They told me to bring a change of clothes and a towel and laughed when I asked why. “Because we’ll be taking showers after, you moron!”

Having been advised by my mother, I showed up at the Y on my bike with a change of underwear, t-shirt, socks, and another pair of shorts. The Kroger shopping bag I used to bring my clothes provided my pals with a few grins.

The basketball was fun; the shower with my skinny, naked pals was glorious. Just walk in a large room with 6 shower heads and controls, turn on the water, and adjust the heat. A far, far cry from our one bathtub at home, in which hot water was supplied by the heating system in cold weather, a separate little furnace in warm weather, or more often a huge pot of boiling water transported from the stove to the tub.

Home in June of 1953 was 342 West 61st Place, a single-family dwelling across the street from Englewood High School, then bordered on the north and south by 62nd Street and 61st Place, and on the east and west by Princeton and Stewart Streets. Our back yard was the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR); 4 elevated tracks that guided passenger and freight trains past our house at all hours of the day and night. A few city blocks to the northeast was Englewood Union Station (EUS), where the tracks of the New York Central and Rock Island Railroads crossed the PRR tracks, which meant that PRR trains, often with steam locomotives seemingly as big as our house and often stopping in our back yard to wait for the other trains to clear the tracks ahead. All manner of trains of each of the 3 railroads stopped at EUS to pick up and drop off passengers and freight.

In another article in this blog titled “Ghost Train” I wrote about German prisoners of war who were transported on the tracks in our back yard. I have also written about having to use the elevated track bed to get into and out of my neighborhood that last few years we lived there, when the gangs and the changing racial makeup of the neighborhood caused by “White Flight” made it too dangerous to walk on the sidewalks or even down the middle of the streets.

South Siders will recognize the proximity of that 61st Place address to 63rd Street, which runs all the way across Chicago, from Jackson Park to Midway Airport and beyond, and is chock full of every possible storefront endeavor, from currency exchanges to department stores, from dozens of taverns and liquor stores to clothing stores, from florists to dozens of restaurants and drug stores. There were a least two movie houses at that time: the Southtown and Stratford, featuring a newsreel, 2 or 3 cartoons, and 2 full-length movies for about a quarter ($.25), and sometimes even live performances known as “Vaudeville.” (I once saw Frank Sinatra at the State Theater, downtown, which required a trip on the “El,” the elevated commuter train that dropped into the earth to become a subway train downtown.)

The Southtown Theater, which was a short bike ride from home, featured indoor displays that included fountains, a small pond with swans and ducks, and glassed-in dioramas of famous scenes in Chicago history; e.g., the Chicago Fire and the 1893 Exposition.

Mentioning the Southtown Theater reminds me of my pals and I buying sacks full of White Castle “sliders,” the original sliders, for something like 15 cents each, and selling as we walked down the theater aisle. The aroma was irresistable, and theater-goers paid enough for them for us to make quite a profit and pay for our other adventures. Of course, the ushers and other theater employees didn’t care for our selling those little, tasty hamburgers in the theater and we’d have to dodge them. Didn’t much help our cause that we snuck into the theater by having one guy pay to get in and then open an exit door for the rest of us, the ones with the White Castle sacks.

I have often remarked that I consider having survived 17 years and 5 months in Chicago and graduating from Mt. Carmel H.S. two of my life’s greatest achievements, ranking right up there with still having a taste for those White Castle burgers.

Advertisements

Grandma Honey Bun and Mom

The affable, easygoing Irish heritage that Helen Antoinette, my mother, nee Murphy, and known to my kids as “Grandma Honey Bun,” passed on often conflicts with my father’s reserved Swedish demeanor.

Though my parents were divorced when I was 5 and I never got to know my Swedish father Einar Axel all that well (he died in 1955), my mother routinely insisted that I shared many of his traits, most notably my penchant for keeping everything in its place.

In the Irish/Swedish conflict of personality traits, I’m certain the Irish has won more of the skirmishes, mainly due to memories of Grandma Murphy (born Grace Cecilia and called “Mom” by her grandkids) and her younger daughter, my mother Helen, and their love of jokes, stories, witty rejoinders, and laughter they greeted the ups and downs of life every day.

A few examples:

Mom Murphy, a fervent Catholic, had a best friend who was a Baptist. In one of her timeless lines, when her best friend was leaving after a cup of tea and a homemade donut, she would say as her farewell: “See you in church if they keep the windows clean.”

And Helen telling me jokes I didn’t get until I was much older.

And Grandma Murphy dropping in to the neighborhood Baptist church now and then with me in tow, explaining that “the music and singing are much better than at St. Rita’s.”

And Helen telling me: “Life is bound to break an Irishman’s heart before he’s 40,” when I was in a down mood.

And Grandma Murphy wiping the kitchen table with an ever-present dish rag she kept in the hand she wasn’t using to sip her tea. She also mopped the basement floor with the soapy water from the wash machine. Only we veterans of life, sometimes called seniors, remember the washing machines that had to be emptied by hand.

And the time I watched Helen listen to a pitch by a door-to-door salesman offering life insurance with weekly premiums (now I’m really dating myself). When he left without making a sale, she remarked: “There goes a man craftier than a landlord’s agent.”

And Grace Cecelia musing about her five children: “Wouldn’t take a million for any of them but wouldn’t give a nickel for another.”

And Helen teaching my kids to play poker for nickels and dimes when they each reached the ripe old age of six: “Remember, the money has no home.”

And Grandma Murphy exiting the movie theater and taking me by the hand and saying: “Back to reality.” Many years later I took her to see the film “A Thousand Clowns.” I wanted her to see Jason Robards answering his brother’s plea to get back to reality with the words: “Back to reality? I’ll only go as a tourist.”

And Helen singing and dancing around the kitchen at 342 W 61st Place in Chicago to the song “Singing in the Rain,” and splashing us with water each time she went by the running faucet in the kitchen sink.

With all that and more, is it any wonder I love jokes, tend to see the humor in most everything, and consider myself more Murphy than Swede?

Crossed Paths

Introduction and Summary

We’ve all crossed paths with people who have influenced our lives, made us better human beings, entertained us with their artistry, and impressed us with their graciousness and willingness to donate their time and fortunes to the less fortunate.

One of Will Rogers’ more famous quotes is: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” In today’s world he’d be criticized for using “man” instead of “person,” but the sentiment of his words still rings true for most people. I’ve never met a person I didn’t like, at least not right then, right when we met. I must confess to developing a mild dislike a time or three, and even a few people I just didn’t want to spend even five minutes with in the same state.

More people than I should have bothered with my tales have heard me mention notable people I’ve met, some of whom I even managed to get to know, some I was privileged to work with, and others with whom my contact consisted of a handshake in a reception line, a political or organized social gathering, or some other circumstance where I just caught a glimpse from a distance. A few family members and friends have encouraged me to identify the notable people that have graced my life with their presence, so here goes.

Disclaimer 1 (I’ve hung out with a lot of lawyers in my time): If you are a notable and we’ve met and you are not in this paper, I apologize. The memory is not what it used to be. Never was all that great.

Disclaimer 2. Forgive me, but I decided to ignore noting whether my notables are still among the living.

Disclaimer 3: I use the title my notables were most famous for obtaining or the title they had when we crossed paths. For example, when I knew Vince Wasilewski he was a partner at the law firm of Dow, Lohnes & Albertson (bought out a few years ago by Cooley LLP). But in my judgment Vince was most well-known for having been the President of the National Association of Broadcasters.

The rest of this paper is in four sections: 1) Alphabetical list (by last name) of all the notables mentioned in the next sections, 2) Just Saw Them Up Close, 3) Exchanged a Handshake And/Or a Word Or Three, and 4) Actually Had Lunch Or a Similar Encounter Lasting An Hour Or More.

Alphabetical, By Last Name

Ballesteros, Seve, Professional Golfer (3)

Black, Eugene, Justice, Michigan Supreme Court (4)

Brosnan, Pierce, Actor (2)

Burger, Warren E., Chief Justice of the United States (4)

Carter, Linda, Actor (2)

Catton, Bruce, Author (4)

Chandler, Jeff, Actor (3)

Collins, Phil, Singer, Songwriter (3)

Conroy, Pat, Author (3)

Conyers, John, Michigan Congressman (3)

Crossfield, Scott, Test Pilot (4)

Douglas, Cathy, Lawyer and wife of William O. Douglas, U.S. Supreme Court (4)

Eastwood, Clint, Actor (3)

Felt, Mark, Assistant Director, FBI (3)

Freisen, Ernie, Director, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (4)

Hoover, J. Edgar, Director, FBI (3)

Humphrey, Hubert, Vice President of the U.S. (3)

The Institute for Court Management and Those Who Labor in the Courts (4)

Jackson, Michael, The Jackson Five (2)

Johnson, Perry, Director, Michigan Department of Corrections (4)

Judges, Michigan! (4)

Karras, Alex, NFL Player (4)

Kennedy, Robert F., U.S. Senator, New York (2)

Krushchev, Nikita, USSR First Secretary (2)

Lawyers at Dow, Lohnes & Albertson! (4)

LeCarre, John (David Cornwell), Author (3)

LeMay, Curtis, USAF General, Strategic Air Command (3)

Lendl, Ivan, Professional Tennis Player (2)

Leonard, Elmore, Author (4)

Marriott, Bill, Marriot Corporation (3)

Mt. Carmel High School, Chicago! (4)

Palmer, Arnold, Professional Golfer (3)

Plants, John R. (“Dick”), Director, Michigan State Police (4)

Presidents and Vice Presidents (2)

Savalas, Telly, Actor (“Kojak”) (2)

Seger, Bob, Singer (2)

Sheen, Fulton, Bishop (Catholic) (4)

Springsteen, Bruce, Professional Singer, Musician, Songwriter (3)

Stovall, Tom, Judge, Houston County, Texas (4)

Swainson, John, Justice, Michigan Supreme Court (4)

Trevino, Lee, Professional Golfer (3)

Voelker, John D., Justice, Michigan Supreme Court, Author (3)

Wapner, Joe, Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court (4)

Washington, Walter, First Mayor of Washington, DC (4)

Wasilewski, Vince, President, National Association of Broadcasters (4)

Webb, James E., NASA Administrator (3)

White, Byron (“Whizzer”), Justice, U.S. Supreme Court (3)

White, Ed, Astronaut (4)

Williams, G. Mennen (“Soapy”), Governor and Supreme Court Chief Justice, Michigan (4)

Just Saw Them Up Close (2)

Presidents and Vice Presidents: Kennedy, Humphrey, Reagan, G.W.H. Bush, Gore, Biden.

Met Linda Carter and Pierce Brosnan at the DC Cancer Ball. They were in a receiving line looking every bit the movie stars.

Saw a very young Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jackson Five at a Holiday Inn in Gary, Indiana, circa 1965 or so, before they became famous anywhere other than in Gary, Indiana. Little Michael stole the show.

It was June 3, 1968, Bobby Kennedy was running for President, and he was in Seattle. Pal and FBI Partner Bill Snell and I drove over to the University of Washington to hear him speak. Hundreds of his young, enthusiastic suporters heard him that day. He held up a copy of his book “To Seek a Newer World,” and advised the crowd to wait until it was in paperback because it wouldn’t cost them as much. Two days later he was assassinated in Los Angeles, just two months after Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis.

Saw Nikita Krushchev walk by in the shadow of Moscow University at the US Exhibition at the World’s Fair. It was August of 1965, and I was one of about thirty high school Russian Language teachers on a National Science Foundation grant to fine-tune our abilities to teach the language. Nikita was a few hundred feet away, smiling and waving to people who were applauding him. If he had any bodyguards, I was much too stunned and focussed on him to notice.

Exchanged pleasantries while walking with Ivan Lendl from the parking lot into the stadium at the Washington, DC Tennis Tournament, circa 1983 or so. It was a surprise to notice that I was a few inches taller than he was. He looked much taller on TV.

Watched Telly Savalas tee off at Burning Tree Golf Club in Bethesda, MD. We were next on the tee. I was a guest of Vince Wasilewski, described in Section 4.

With pal Joe Mollahan and a few hundred or so others seated at long tables stretching out from the stage, I listened to Bob Seger at a bar in the Detroit area. Can’t remember the exact location, but I think it was off 8-Mile Road. Not much later his performances were attended by thousands.

Exchanged a Handshake And/Or a Word or Three (3)

Shook hands and visited briefly with Seve Ballesteros, a client of Brent Rushforth at Dow, Lohnes & Albertson, where I slaved away as the firm’s administrator.

I was leaving a ball game in San Francisco and saw actor Jeff Chandler standing by my car, a 1947 Ford Coupe with a rumble seat and two-piece windshield (it was 1958). Long story short, he said a friend was supposed to pick him up, that he hadn’t seen a taxi in twenty minutes, and wound up paying me $10 for a fifteen minute ride to his hotel. In those days $10 bought enough gas to make a couple of trips from Army Language School in Monterey up the penninsula to SF and back. $10 was also exactly one-tenth of the $50 I had paid for the car. Chandler was best known for his role as Cochise in the Oscar-nominated film “Broken Arrow” (1950).

Phil Collins was at the Westin Fitness Center in DC, circa 1985 or so. Nice guy. Shook a lot of hands and then went about his workout, never failing to stop, shake hands, and chat a minute or two with all his sweaty fans.

Attended a writing seminar at Duke in 1993. Pat Conroy, on my top five list, was one of the authors on the panel. I got to shake his hand and observe a young woman breathlessly ask him if he thought she could be a writer. “I don’t know,” he said, “do you like sentences?” And with that he was whisked away by the seminar organizers.

Since I was the only Michigan guy at the Conference of Metropolitan Courts in Phoenix one year, I was asked to pick up Congressman John Conyers at the airport and get him back to the hotel. Turned out he was a tennis player, so I invited him for some friendly doubles early the next day. What’s wrong with hitting a few right now, he asked. We changed at the hotel and proceeded to some public courts recommended by the hotel staff. While we rallied, four young African-American women started playing on the court next to ours. When we took a break the young women all came over to where we sat having a drink of water, and one of the women asked: “Are you Conyers?” He stood and introduced himself, and after a few games we packed up and left. I asked him how the women knew who he was and he said they had seen his photo in the newspaper, along with a brief article about his coming to town for the Conference. I found him to be a fine person, a gentleman whose presentation was well received by the Conference. Sad to note that I write this a day after learning that Conyers, the longest-serving member of Congress, has resigned amid allegations of sexual harrassment.

Clint Eastwood, actor, was also the Mayor of Carmel, California and owner of a restaurant there, circa 1986 or so. He showed up when a few of us on a golf trip from Michigan were having dinner at his restaurant. He made the rounds, greeting and stopping to chat a bit with his customers. I asked him if he remembered standing behind me in a Carmel ice cream shop a few years before, and that I turned around and introduced myself. He said he did because I asked him what made him stop his studies at Michigan State.

Mark Felt, who, years later, turned out to be the famous “Deep Throat” in the Washington Post expose known as Watergate, occasionally dropped by the FBI Office in DC and at Quantico as a guest speaker. I recalled seeing his name on a number of cases in the Seattle FBI Office and used that as an introduction to speak to him briefly at a training session at Quantico. He was quite gracious and didn’t fit the reputation he had as a hard man to get to know.

I shook hands with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover three times: as a new agent, as a member of an agent basketball team that won the DC recreation league, and finally when I resigned to go into court management. Each time there were handshakes, photos, a few words from Mr. Hoover, and a quick exit.

In the last meeting he said he understood I would be working as a court administrator and he told me to keep a “careful watch on those judges, they can be mighty slippery.” I told him I would be sure to follow that advice and made my quick exit.

Justice Williams, known to many as “Soapy,” ex Michigan Governor, called me to his office to meet Hubert Humphrey, former Presidential Candidate, Vice President of the U.S. (Lyndon Johnson Administration), and Minnesota Senator. A handshake, a few words about the “wonderful work Soapy tells me you’re doing” and the two were out the door. Much more on Soapy later……

Shook hands with Air Force General Curtis LeMay of Strategic Air Command fame at the home of a friend whose father was also a General and who had set me up with a blind date. Just in case this paper falls into the hands of someone who shouldn’t read it, I’ll not reveal the names of my friend and his father. The blind date was my friend’s sister, a gorgeous young woman and lovely person who happened not to be interested in a guy who was about to enter the Air Force Academy for four years and a thousand-plus miles west.

I will confess that my friend was a classmate at the Ft. Belvoir version of the West Point Preparatory School back in 1958-9.

Met author John LeCarre at Olson’s bookstore in DC, a gracious man who took time to exchange a few pleasantries with everyone who waited in line for him to sign their books with a personal inscription.

On a stormy morning in the law offices of Dow, Lohnes & Albertson I was apparently the first one to get through the traffic and turn on the lights. As I passed the elevators a gentleman I recognized stepped off. I said good morning to Bill Marriott and escorted him up to Ralph Hardy’s office. Ralph, Bishop of the DC area Mormon Church and Mr. Marriott’s lawyer, arrived just a few minutes later, as I was showing his client that his office overlooked the Marriott Hotel and Blackie’s Restaurant signs across 23rd Street.

Somehow managed to have a beer with Arnold Palmer after he had dedicated a Wake Forest College museum in Wake Forest, NC, and I have a photo to prove it. It was easy to see why he was such a popular man; easy to talk with and ready for a laugh at whatever came his way. The photo was taken and given to me by Tommy Byrne, former NY Yankee pitcher, Wake Forest Mayor, and sometime golf partner. My only regret about the photo is that I was never able to have it autographed.

Arnie got a kick out of my telling him I was in his “Arnie’s Army” gallery at the TPC Avenel Golf Club in Potomac, Maryland when he made holes in one on the same hole two days in a row in a seniors tournament (now called the Champions Tour). He said they were both lucky and I said only the first one, that the first was lucky but the second never left the hole. “A hole in one is always lucky,” he said.

I was playing softball with a bunch of the younger lawyers from Dow, Lohnes, when one of them ran up next to me as we left the field for our turn at bat. “That’s Bruce Springsteen standing by the side of our bleachers,” he said. “Who?” I said. He just looked at me and shook his head. “Springsteen, the singer.”

Well, it was Bruce Springsteen, who was staying at the Westin Hotel next to the ballfield we were using. All the younger people made it a point to sidle up to him at one time or another during his stay, which turned out to be the rest of our victory and another half hour or so shaking hands and generally seeming to have a good time with his fans. I got to shake his hand and stand around picking up bits of information about Bruce Springsteen. In those days if NPR didn’t cover the story, I probably wouldn’t know about it. Or who Bruce Springsteen was.

Lee Trevino was terrific. Here was a guy with a great sense of humor, a great way of relating to people, and a great golf game. What’s not to like? When I heard he would be playing in the Cleveland Open – I worked in Cleveland for a time – I made it a point to get over to the golf course, watch him practice, and follow him around for much of the two days I could get out there. He talked while he swung at the ball. All the time. He talked and swung and shot under par. Somebody asked him for a putting tip. “Keep it low,” he said. He made golf fun.

John Voelker was long off the Michigan Supreme Court when I became the administrator in 1973, but I had the pleasure of meeting him when he was a guest at an appellate court conference, circa 1974. He wrote the book “Anatomy of a Murder,” which became an Oscar-winning movie starrring Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick. As was the case with all the members of the Michigan Supreme Court, he was a charming and gracious person.

Jim Webb was one of our visiting lecturers at the first session of the Institute for Court Managment in Snowmass, Colorado. In addition to enjoying his presentations, he stayed a few days and we all got to share a lunch with him. He was the second administrator of NASA, appointed by President Kennedy.

Shook hands and was treated to a brief group conversation with Justice Byron White as part of a tour of the U.S. Supreme Court organized by the Institute for Court Management.

Actually Had Lunch Or a Similar Encounter Lasting An Hour Or More (4)

Got to work with Justice Eugene Black briefly before he left the Michigan Supreme Court shortly after I became administrator. Black was considered by most to be a bit of a maverick on the Court, often spicing up his opinions with criticisms of fellow members. In one of his more famous dissenting opinions he wrote: “For the reasons stated in the majority opinion, I dissent.” On a personal level, I was directed by the Court to secure funding for a second law clerk for each justice. I managed to get the appropriation and after a few months all of the justices had hired an additional law clerk except for Justice Black. He invited me in when I knocked on his office door and asked what he could do for me. I asked him if he needed help finding his second law clerk. His answer: “I don’t have time for another law clerk.”

One of the tasks of the Michigan Supreme Court Adminstrator was to attend a lot of meetings and provide brief reports on the office to various groups of judges and court personnel; e.g., circuit court judges, county clerks, administrators groups, etc. Twice a year I attended the Conference of Chief Justices and Administrators at various locations around the country. Another organization that met twice a year was the Conference of Metropolitan Courts.

At the time I was an avid tennis player and typically joined others at those meetings for early tennis and a show before the meetings began.

One morning, at a meeting in Scotsdale, Arizona, I decided to get something at the hotel restaurant before going off to play tennis. When I entered the restaurant I noticed Chief Justice Warren Burger sitting alone at one of the tables. I was aware of his interest in court management and his role in creating the Institute for Court Management (ICM), the first session of which I had finished in 1971.

After a brief hesitation, I walked over to his table and asked if I could join him. He looked at my tennis outfit and racket and said he wasn’t up for tennis, but take a seat.

That was the first of more than a dozen times I was privileged to sit for a few early morning minutes for a hotel breakfast with the Chief Justice of the United States. We talked about what was going on in court management; e.g., computer systems and the “One Day One Trial” jury selection program. We also talked about the news of the day, our families, his work as the CJ. He had no trouble with my name, advising me that in his home state of Minnesota there were many Einars.

I left the Michigan work and moved to DC to manage a large law firm. Before long I got a call from Harvey Solomon, ICM Director, inviting me to the ICM graduation at the U.S. Supreme Court.

When the graduation ceremony adjourned for refreshments, Karen, my wife of a few months and I were filling our little plates with fruit and such when Chief Justice Burger came along, greeted me by name, and introduced himself to Karen. We chatted for a few minutes until he excused himself to mingle with the other guests. Wife Karen, a lawyer, kept her cool until he left, then asked me how in the world the CJ would know my name? I crossed my fingers, held them up, and told her the CJ and I were like this. It was a moment I still cherish…..

I was later to see the CJ a few times in the Men’s Grill at Washington Golf & Country Club, but never again to share an early breakfast.

While in Michigan I had the privilege of getting to know a large number of fine people, one of which was Judge Bill Peterson. Our first meeting was on a tennis court during a break at a Circuit Judges Conference on Mackinac Island. He became a friend and one of my “Go To” judges when I needed some feedback on ideas we had for improving court management. He called me one day to invite me to lunch in his home town of Cadillac. I asked him what was up and he said he was having lunch with the author Bruce Catton and thought I’d like to meet him. Cadillac was a bit of a drive for lunch, but I had renewed my pilot’s license and managed to get a loan on a 1957 Cessna 172, so I could get around the state more efficiently. The result was a lunch with the author of a Civil War Trilogy that still ranks up there with the best books of that history. A friend who invites me to lunch with a favorite author – a friend indeed!

The occasion was a banquet for the 7th Squadron, the 1960 Air Force Academy (AFA) Honor Squadron. The gigantic ballroom was filled with round tables for twelve, each table seating six cadets and six guests. As a lowly fourth classman (freshman), I figured the guests I sat with were not likely to be among the evening’s most distinguished, but they were both very friendly and asked a lot of questions about the Academy’s military and educational programs. In addition to describing Academy programs, I blabbed on about having earned a private pilot’s license at Beacon Field, Ft. Belvoir, VA, while in the preparatory school before coming to the Academy. I had seen an announcement on the company bulletin board about taking ground school and earning a license, and took advantage of the opportunity. I also described what I considered to be a couple of adventures after I soloed. To my eternal embarrassment, when the evening’s program began and all of the guests were introduced, along with descriptions of their careers, it turned out I was sitting between Major Ed White, one of the first seven astronauts, and Scott Crossfield, a test pilot on the X-15 – the early space exploration aircraft that launched from where it hung on the bottom of a B-52 – with North American Aviation. The X-15 is still the fastest aircraft ever, reaching speeds in excess of six times the speed of sound (Mach 6). One of the other X-15 pilots was Neil Armstrong. When I apologized about boring them with my aviation adventures, they both told me they enjoyed the stories and that I had nothing to apologize for. For the rest of the evening I kept quiet, except for my flurry of questions about astronauts and test pilots.

Cathy Hefferman Douglas, was a classmate at American University. The class was Survey of Judicial Systems, taught by David Saari, and became the starting point for my work in court and legal administration. Not that anyone in the class got to know the young, attractive wife of the famous Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, except to say hello before class and be impressed with her participation in the class discussions. I had become restive if not downright bored with the security work in the Washington Field Office of the FBI. To my surprise, I enjoyed the criminal work in Seattle much more than the dreary suveillance and other work trying to keep the KGB from stealing our secrets. I know that work sounds fascinating, and I did get to use my Russian language skills now and then, and it was the security work that caused me to become an FBI agent in the first place, but the judicial systems class became a jumping off point for a change of careers, leading eventually to stints as State Court Administrator in Michigan and Law Firm Administrator back in DC.

Ernie Friesen was the Director and architect of the Institute for Court Management (ICM). Later headquartered at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, VA, the first several sessions were held at Snowmass, Colorado, and a final session in Denver. Graduates were presented their certificates by Chief Justice Burger at the U.S. Supreme Court in DC. ICM was the brainchild of Chief Justice Warren Burger and others, and created to train court managers. It was described as a “Court Executive Development Program.” The judicial systems class mentioned above propelled me to meet Ernie at his DC office on Connecticut Avenue. After a thirty minute walk he told me he’d accept me in the first ICM class. I jumped at the chance. Ernie, the former Director of the Administative Office of the Courts (Federal), in addition to teaching many of the subjects covered at ICM, also assembled a faculty of other prominent instructors, e.g., James Webb, former NASA Administrator. All of us got to know and respect Ernie Friesen during our time together in Colorado.

The Institute for Court Managment (ICM) and subsequent work in the courts in Cleveland and Michigan provided me with many good friends I will always cherish. A partial list: John Mayer, Larry Polansky, Harvey and Maureen Solomon, Doris Jarrel, Don Riggs, Delores O’Brien, Judy Bartell, Ed McConnell, John V. Corrigan, Peter Roper, H. Chapman Rose, Herb Levitt, Don Sherburne, Art Chettle, Bruce White, Jack Crandall, Ralph Kleps, John Lavelle, Norm Paelke, and several dozen more whose names my memory is no longer capable of retrieving. Thank you for being you……

For me, Perry Johnson was a sterling example of a great public servant. There was never a doubt about who ran the Michigan Department of Corrections. He managed with skill and an even temperament, never forgetting that the lives of a few thousand staff and prisoners were at stake; a fine manager and a fine human being.

Elsewhere in this paper are mentioned individual judges I was privileged to know and respect. To be sure, there were some less than fresh apples in that barrel, but the vast majority were fine and decent people. For the most part I have found that people who have not had the privilege of working with judges and court staff underestimate the amount of work they do and do well. For example, each time I met with the Supreme Court in their collective chamber room in Lansing, there were piles of boxes behind each justice’s chair. The boxes contained offical records connected with cases under consideration by the court – filings, depositions, recommended dispositions, sentencing information, etc.

To name just a few of the appellate and trial court judges I came to admire and respect more than most: Thomas M. Kavanagh. G. Mennen (“Soapy”) Williams, John Swainson, John Fitzgerald, Charles Levin, James Ryan, Joe Sullivan, Bob Danhof, Bill Peterson, Bill Agar, John Murphy, Blair Moody, Tom Brennan, Mike Cavanagh, Al Horrigan, Joe Swallow, T. John Lesinski, and a few hundred others this creaky memory won’t produce at the moment.

Sat next to Alex Karras on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles. He was long-retired from the Detroit Lions and on his way to Movieland. He was the guy who bashed the horse in “Blazing Saddles,” but I don’t recall whether I saw that movie before or after chatting with him on the way to LA. I also played some basketball against Alex’s brother – can’t remember his name – and recall doing everything I could to stay out of his way. Alex and I chatted for about thirty minutes before he fell asleep. He woke up on final to LAX.

In September of 1981 I went from Lansing back to DC to be the firm administator for Dow, Lohnes & Albertson. Managing a law firm was for me easier than managing the Michigan courts. On the plus side, fewer people to worry about. On the minus side, the senior partners were a few steps away and often popped into my office. I tried to minimize that by popping into their offices regularly, but when they had a concern about how things were running they didn’t hesitate to let me know. In person. I took the job with the understanding that the senior partners managed the practice and I managed the firm. That distinction was blurred about every hour and a half, but I kept at it for ten years and three managing partners. When the distinction between managing the practice and managing the firm all but disappeared, I moved on. Here are but a few of the lawyers and staff I am more than pleased to call my friends while I was doing my best to manage the administrative functions of the law firm: Bill Sims, Dick Braunstein, Mike Hines, Bernie Long, Lenny Baxt, Dan Toohey, Bill Perry, John Byrnes, Linda Fritts, Joyce Gwadz, Judy Busch, Barbara DiCicco, Elli Mulquin, Jeri Rhodes, David Tobey, Eric Dahlgren, Bill Schreiber, and more. Once again I plead aging memory.

Though he has never admitted it, Herb Levitt, a dear friend, Regional Administrator, confidante, and source of many great stories; i.e., jokes, was instrumental in my having the privilege of a lunch with Elmore Leonard, the author of many westerns and mysteries, several of which were made into great movies (“Hombre,” “Get Shorty,” “Jackie Brown,” “Stick,” to name a few…..). We talked about writing, his westerns, his other books, my urge to write. He suggested I take a writing class or two and much later I did so at Berkeley and Duke.

A few years later Elmore was signing books at Olsen’s in DC, and when it was my turn he looked up and asked me how Herb was doing. A more impressive memory I have yet to experience…..

A while ago I saw a video of Elmore speaking to a small group of writing students. My favorite quote: “Take out the stuff people don’t want to read.”

Mt. Carmel H.S., a Catholic boys’ school in South Chicago, saved me from jail and an early death. Really. The Carmelite priests and brothers were on my case from the first day I set foot in the school. If not for them, I doubt I would have amounted to anything more than a lost soul scrambling to make a living driving a delivery truck or some such. Or worse. As it was, with the draft still in effect, they insprired me to enlist in the Air Force, choosing jet mechanics or aircraft avionics as my first two choices for training, figuring there would always be a need for those skills. How I was instead bound for Army Language School and the Air Force Academy are stories for another time. Meanwhile, here are the Carmelite priests and brothers and a few lay men who put me on a track I never would have been on without there influence and help: Fr. David Murphy, Brother Harry, Mr. Matt Smith, Mr. James Gawne, Mr. Iosue, Fr. Leadner Troy, Fr. Finan Glynn, Fr. Sylvan, Fr. Canisius, and a few dozen others. Father David, Principal, failed to make me a Carmelite priest, but not for lack of trying. Fathers Canisius and Sylvan convinced me to learn how to box, a skill that came in handy in South Chicago and a few times later. Mr. Gawne provided early encouragement for my writing. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Dick Plants, Michigan State Police Director, and I had a few things in common. I had been in law enforcement; he still was. I had some experience with computers; he wanted me to put the judicial branch programs on the state police computer. When I pointed out that putting court-related information on the state police system was not going to happen, there followed a years-long period of helpful but wary cooperation between our offices. Dick taught me about how information systems management worked in Michigan, and I hope I taught him a little bit about why the courts and the state police couldn’t use the same computer system. We had a good time and I count Dick Plants among the finest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Only we older types remember the Monday night television show consisting of a spell-binding Catholic Archbishop of Rochester, NY, explaining what Catholicism was all about. In the fall of 1969, I had the privilege of attending a retreat moderated by Bishop Fulton Sheen, he of the Monday night television program. In my Catholic grade school, 7th and 8th grades, on Tuesday mornings we were questioned about Bishop Sheen’s program. My family didn’t yet own a television set, so I had to try and mooch from a neighbor; especially difficult because the Bishop’s program was opposite “I Love Lucy,” which my neighbors much preferred, and there was no such thing as a DVR in those days. I did get to watch the program now and then, but having the Bishop to ourselves at a retreat, with a group of about thirty FBI agents from the DC office, was one of the highlights of my life. He had knack for explaining the most difficult life questions and framing those explanations in ways that made us glad to be Catholics. He also made it a point to spend a few minutes alone with each of us. Someone taped the sessions, called meditations, and I bought a copy but lost it somewhere in the midst of my many relocations. I’d pay a lot to have that tape today. And something to play it on……

Houston Texan Judge Tom Stovall served on a national committee called Project SEARCH along with a few dozen others, including myself. The purpose of the committee was to develop privacy standards for computerized court information systems. I also got to know Tom through our mutual involvement in the Conference of Metropolitan Courts. Tom was a gracious and fun-loving person and still the only man I’ve ever known who had a school named after him while he was still living, Stovall Middle School in Houston. Tom got me once when he stood up to address the group and had someone hand him a note. After he read it he said: “Einar, you left your briefcase at the front desk. And it’s leaking.”

My favorite Tom Stovall story is the one he told about sitting around one afternoon with a few lawyers who were reminiscing about the important and complicated matters they had to clear up before answering their country’s call to go off to join the military in WWII. After listening to all the puffed-up talk about pending cases and appeals, Tom went last. He said: “Me, I just kicked the dog, pissed on the fire, and caught the train.” A Texan through and through.

Former WWII hero and Michigan Governor John Swainson became a Supreme Court Justice. He lost both legs in the war and walked on prosthetics. For the brief times I was with the Court in monthly administrative conferences, I pulled up a secretarial chair and sat between John and the Chief Justice. John loved stories, especially jokes. He also loved trying, and often succeeding, in making me try hard not to even smile at inappropriate times. Sometimes he’d whisper and sometimes he’d write something on his notepad and hold it for me to see. His office was in the Law Library at the University of Michigan, and when I stopped by to go over something with him he always wanted to meet for lunch and never let me pay. He had a big heart and a first-class mind. John Swainson will always be one of my favorite people.

As mentioned elsewhere in this paper, I was one of several tennis players who got up early for a few sets before the meetings began at various conferences around the country. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joe Wapner was another tennis player. Two observations about Joe. First, he always showed up for tennis wearing a variety of braces; e.g., wrist, knee, elbow, etc. We kidded him about how the skateboarding went earlier in the day and what did he do with his helmet. One morning I borrowed a bunch of braces from the others, including a neck brace and a helmet, and showed with all of them hanging off me. It got lots of laughts from Joe, our other players, and a few strangers on the other courts. If you watched “The People’s Court” on television back in the day, the judge was Joe Wapner. Today it’s “Judge Judy,” but Joe Wapner was the first. Great guy; so-so tennis player……

I was at the wheel of an FBI sedan in an afternoon rainstorm near American University. I can’t remember the case we were working on. As we rounded Ward Circle we noticed Walter Washington, the first Mayor of Washington, DC, waiting by the side of the road. I pulled over and he got in. He told us he thought we were Metropolitan PD and that his driver was going to get a tongue-lashing for being late. As he exited at the city office building we asked him to keep our taxi service quiet because we weren’t supposed to be a taxi service. He said he would and thanked us for not letting him get more wet than he already was……

Vince Wasilewski came to Dow, Lohnes as a partner after retiring as President of the National Broadcasters Association. Wonderful person, chock- full of wise and humorous stories and advice. Vince was one of the golfers at the firm, along with Bill Sims, John Rafter, Alan Campbell, Kevin Reed, John Feore, and myself. We played together and shared rides to many golf courses, including Burning Tree, Congressional, Avenel, and Moselem Springs (Pennsylvania). And Vince made me a hero to my golfing pals from Michigan by getting us on at Congressional Country Club.

Words will not be sufficient to describe my mentor and friend G. Mennen (“Soapy”) Williams, Michigan Governor and Chief Justice. The nickname “Soapy” came from his college days when his friends discovered his grandfather had started the Mennen Company, makers of shaving cream, deodorants, after shave products, and other men’s notions.

My first contact with Soapy was a telephone message slip left on my desk asking that I return a call to Justice Williams. I was working a short stint as director of the Cleveland Court Mangement Project, and my office was in the Cleveland Bar Association (CBA), a sponsor of the project. As I picked up the message slip, Peter Roper, the CBA Director, told me that Justice Williams was the former governor and now a Michigan Supreme Court Justice (MSC). I vaguely remembered his name; he was on the cover of TIME Magazine in 1952, when I was a year shy of graduating from grade school.

When I called him back he told me the MSC Chief Justice had asked him to head up a task force to study and implement computer technology in the Michigan courts. He said he had been travelling around the country investigating various court-related computerization projects and had heard good things about me from Larry Polansky, Administrator of the Philadelphia trial court. He then asked if I could come to Detroit to meet with some of the local business leaders and himself to discuss what we were doing in Cleveland. I agreed to drive over to Detroit the following week for a breakfast meeting with Justice Williams and some of the “local business leaders,” who turned out to be the CEO’s and chief information system managers from Ford, Chrysler and General Motors – just a few local business leaders indeed.

Feeling more than a little overwhelmed, I managed to describe our project in Cleveland and answer questions. The local business leaders chimed in with some suggestions and offers of help, and we went our separate ways.

Having heard about some ongoing work in the Detroit courts, I had made appointments to meet the Recorder’s Court Clerk of Detroit’s felony court and Pat Jacobs, an ICM classmate who was the Wayne County Circuit Court Administrator. Right before lunch one of the Recorder’s Court staff came into the clerk’s office and told me Justice Williams was on the phone and wanted to talk to me. Soapy told me how I’d made a good impression at breakfast and he wanted me to come back to discuss with the Chief Justice and him about coming to Michigan to head up the Supreme Court’s System Department –

which wouldn’t exist until I or someone agreed to come to Detroit to get it all going.

I did go back, started the Systems Department, obtained federal grants to begin three computer projects (Basic Court System, Traffic System, and State Court Statistics System), and got it all going.

Just less than two years later Bill Hart, the State Court Administrator, was forced to take a medical disability retirement and the Court offered me the job in Lansing. I accepted and worked at the job for ten years.

All during my time with the Michigan courts, Soapy Williams was always there with encouragement, support, and great advice. My favorite story about him was the time he wanted me to brief him for a presentation on our computerization projects to the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees of the Michigan Legislature. We spent two hours in his Detroit office going over all the basics. I started to panic a little after an hour or so, judging by the content of his questions, that maybe all the technical stuff I was explaining was just too esoteric for an older guy like Soapy, who had never been exposed to any computer technology. I’m writing this in 2017, when even three year-olds are using computers, and cell phones have more computing power than 1975 computers, but at that time computers were only used and understood by a tiny percentage of the world’s population. I was nervous about his presentation of the material I had covered to the Legislature. But, to my everlasting surprise and admiration, when he stood up to make his presentation, he explained the stuff better than I ever did and in about one-fifth of the time.

Another time I had convinced him to come to the Conference of Metropolitan Courts in Philadelphia to talk about our Michigan programs. I knew a master communicator when I saw one, and I thought he would do a much better job and be listened to more than I would. I jumped in my rental car and drove out to the airport to bring him back to the hotel. When we entered the lobby a few dozen people were waiting and applauded him. He smiled and waved to them and got through the registration process. As I helped carry his baggage I said I had become accustomed to people in Michigan recognizing him and coming up to him to tell him when and where they had seen him, but Philadelphia? He just smiled and said he had campaigned quite a bit in Pennsylvania for Jack Kennedy and people probably remembered him from those days. Later I found out the word had somehow gotten around that I had left to pick him up, and people began to congregate in the lobby to get a glimpse of him.

I once mentioned to him that it must be difficult to go from being Governor, when he could just gather information and make decisions, to being a member of a seven-person appellate court, where he had to have three more votes to have his way. He told me a story about his days as President Kennedy’s Ambassador to the Emerging Nations of Africa. He said he was riding in a gilded, horse-drawn carriage with Ethiopia’s Emporer Haile Selassie. As the carriage went by, people dropped to their knees on the roadside. Soapy said as this was happening Selassie was complaining about the landed class opposing some of his programs. Soapy said the message he got was that no matter how powerful you are, no matter how many people drop to their knees when you go by, you will still have people you will have to convince to be on your side.

I never learned more from anyone about how to communicate and comport myself in high-level company than I did from G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams.

Read It All!

An old friend, really old friend, sent me the list of the 2017 Darwin Awards. Made me think about when I taught high school about a hundred years ago. At the beginning of each year I handed out copies of a 1-page list of instructions to see just how many of my daily 140 or so math and Russian language students would read the entire page.

The first instruction was: “Read the entire page before you begin.”

The second instruction: “Write your name on the blank space above the line in the upper right-hand corner of this paper.”  Most of them got that right, but there was almost always one Darwin Award candidate in each class who wrote: “Your Name.”  Most of the them tried to convince me they did that on purpose; as a joke.  I only believed some of them……

The third instruction: “Read all of these instructions before you do anything else.”

The last instruction, number 20: “Disregard all of the above instructions except for instructions 1-3.”

Instructions 4-19: a collection of unexpected and somewhat silly things such as: “Stand up, turn around, and sit back down at your desk.” “Shake hands with the person on your right.” “Stand, walk around your desk, and sit back down at your desk.” “Raise both hands and wiggle your fingers for 5 seconds.”

You get the idea.

In every class, every year, about half the kids read to the end and sat watching the other half of their classmates do all the silly things in 4-19. Everybody got a good laugh out of it, although the kids who were standing up, wiggling their fingers, etc., laughed a bit nervously, not sure of what was going on. Within a few minutes everyone had caught on.

After a few words imploring them to make sure they read all that was to be read, we moved on.

To my eternal gratitude, many of “my kids” later told me that was one of the most valuable lessons they ever learned: namely, when someone puts something to read in front of you, read it all. Read everything carefully and thoroughly before taking any action.

I was convinced that high school teachers should toss in a life lesson now and then.....

Are You Famous?

When the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) opened in Williamsburg, Virginia, back in the early 70’s, a huge celebration marked the event. President Nixon and Chief Justice of the United States Warren Burger, in a horse-drawn carriage, led a parade of state appellate judges and administrators from all 50 states as it wound through Colonial Williamsburg to the new NCSC building.

I was one of the administrators in the Michigan delegation. About half way through the parade, I felt a gentle tug on the sleeve of my suitcoat and looked down to see a girl about the age of my younger daughter (maybe 5). She asked me “Are you famous?” and I told her the famous people were up front in the carriage.

Her mother apologized for the interruption, and I told her no apology was necessary. Pointing to the others in our group, I said we were all parents and loved it when the little ones surprised us.

(The National Center for State Courts is a non-profit organization charged with improving judicial administration in the United States and around the world.)

The White Castle Caper(s)

Warning: unless you have wolfed down at 6 sliders, aka “Whitey One-Bites,” at a sitting at least 12 times, you probably shouldn’t read this – it might be catching.

A few years ago – OK – over 60 years ago, some pals and I would buy 3 or 4 sacks of sliders for about 10 cents each, roughly 12 sliders, a sack, and sneak into the Southtown theater (63rd St., near Halstead, South Chicago). We’d set out sentries to watch for ushers, then when the coast was clear we’d escort the sacks, with the irresistable White Castle slider scent emanating from same, down the aisle until somebody asked “How much?”

We’d done it so often we had repeat customers.

We’d make about 15 cents a slider and use the money for popcorn, Pepsi, Charleston Chew candy bars, and more sliders when the show let out.

Today, happiness is finding a box of 6 White Castle sliders in the frozen food section at Aldi, then racing home to microwave and eat them while watching football and the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament.

Aside from concluding the women’s doubles championship was much more artistic and interesting than the men’s singles (blast the ball back and forth until somebody misses a shot), it was great.

Caution: you have to add your own dill pickle slice.

10 Weeks a Russian – Addendum 1

A few messages have arrived telling me the photos didn’t come through well or didn’t come through at all. I’ll try to fix that, but if I can’t get the job done on WordPress and you’d still like to see the photos, send me an email (ejb240@gmail.com) and I’ll send them to you.

Some have asked for a few more interesting things that happened on the trip and about whether my family and friends had a lot of questions.

For a few weeks I was invited to make presentations to a few service clubs (Rotary, Optimist, Kiwanis); my 15 minutes of fame. As for family, they seemed happy that I’d managed to return home. My Lew Wallace H.S. Russian language students in Gary, Indiana, were very energetic with their questions and interest in the souveniers I brought home.

One of the best in my souvenier collection was a set of copies of a book titled “Kartinny Slovar,” Cartoon Dictionary, which contained what the title suggests: lots of drawings of different situations with captions in Russian. For example, a drawing of a youngster asking a policeman for directions. In that example, the caption contained a brief conversation between the two. Seeing “lessons” in a form that was almost a comic book was no small attraction for high school students.

As for other interesting things, imagine seeing former Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev walking by the displays from the World Fair held in Moscow when Nixon was President. He was by himself, without any entourage, smiling and waving to everybody; just another Muscovite out for a stroll on a pleasant August afternoon.

And the books; everywhere books. Book stores, book kiosks, sellers pushing carts loaded with books; everywhere books, and everywhere people reading books. All in Russian, of course, and all remarkably inexpensive. At a time when a hard cover book in the US was priced around ten dollars, a similar book in the USSR was two or three dollars.

And the omnipresent “babushkas,” middle aged to elderly Soviet women, who admonished anyone who threw away anything any place other than in a proper trash container and gave other directions and motherly advice without hesitation; for example, telling me it was too chilly to be without a sweater one morning.

And the streetcars, buses, and subways, where one got on board and placed the correct amount of money in the proper container without any involvement or supervision from the drivers and other staff. The Soviet public transportation Honor System. And if you didn’t have the money, no one said a word, not even the babushkas.

And the vending machines on the sidewalks dispensing “gazirovnaya voda,” the Soviet equivalent of a carbonated soft drink. There was one glass. You turned the glass upside down over a shelf in the front, pressed a button, and a spray of water rinsed the glass. You turned the glass over, inserted the coin, and a drink was dispensed. You drank it, repeated the rinsing, and replaced the glass for the next person. The waste water ran down the sidewalk to the street. It truly was 1965.

And when we checked out of a hotel and boarded our bus, the bus didn’t move until someone from the hotel appeared and gave the driver approval to depart. Our supervising professor from Indiana University (IU) told us the bus didn’t leave until the rooms were checked to make sure we didn’t take anything we shouldn’t have taken. Fortunately our IU advisors had also warned us about taking hotel souveniers and our bus always got the go-ahead sign.

If I remember any more, I’ll peck out another addendum…..