Reading about America, Remembering America
Your September 9 issue, “What We Love about America,” sat unread on my nightstand for several weeks. I was expecting writers delivering their political views on America, so nothing new. But what a great surprise when I started reading through all of the personal, thoughtful articles by your many and various contributors. Such unusual perspectives on football, baseball, the middle class, men, westerns, Irving Berlin, and on it goes. This particular issue is mine for keeps!
Thank you for coming up with such a great idea for presenting a sweet, unadorned “America.”
Pebble Beach, Calif.
Charles C. W. Cooke’s story about dive bars (“Dive Bars,” September 9) reminded me of my own.
About 45 years ago I went to visit friends from school in Beaver Falls, Pa. I thought that if I didn’t also visit the relatives, I’d never hear the end of it. I went to Uncle George in Coraopolis. (All these towns are near Pittsburgh. George showed me the sights. If you can, go to the New Economy Village in Ambridge.) The next day, Uncle took me to the club in the Bottoms in McKees Rocks. (His and everyone’s childhood home.) The neighborhood was company housing for Pressed Steel Car Company. The club was down the street. It was a real saloon. Sawdust on the floor, no cushion on the bar, cigarette smoke so thick on the walls that the original color was uncertain — “Can you speak Ukrainian?” The bartender knew to serve us boilermakers. At the time, I thought to take what was offered and not complain. After more than one, we staggered out impaired.
More recently my sister gave me books about how our ancestors came to America (Thomas Bell’s Out of This Furnace and Nicholas Karas’s Hunky). I learned why the United Steel Workers and the United Mine Workers are fiercely jealous of what they have today. I also learned that after twelve hours in front of the blast furnace, the tradition among steel workers is to have a shot and a beer at the club. Now I realize that Uncle George was letting me in on the lore of the trade.
“Baseball on the Radio” (Richard Lowry, September 9) brought back fond memories of listening to Brooklyn Dodger broadcasts with my grandfather in the mid 1940s. At that time, broadcasts of away games were based in the Brooklyn studio, via teletype communication with the actual game site. The legendary Red Barber (and his colleague Connie Desmond in the pre–Vin Scully era) would take a bare-bones teletype (e.g., “fly ball out to left field”) and create a lyrical description out of it (e.g., “The batter swings and lifts a towering fly ball to left. [Name of left fielder] races to the warning track, where he makes a leaping acrobatic catch to rob [name] of an extra base hit and end the inning”). The reason I was aware of this was my grandfather’s many years of employment with Western Union and its predecessors, where he learned the intricacies of the teletype. That experience solidified for me Red Barber’s place in the pantheon of baseball broadcasters for all time! Thanks for the memories!
Thomas J. Craig