one bit at a time

I got upset years ago when I read that creationists had figured the way to get their agenda taught would be to get their people on the local school boards and that is what happened.

The TP and repubs and Koch brothers realized get control of 1 state at a time and you can get your agenda without stirring up the whole country…..

Just watching House C-span as a fat Texan rep was touting a bill to stop controlling air pollution from cement factories as we couldn’t afford it; on facebook a posting how Kansas wants to stop considering domestic violence a crime because of police expense; Choice no longer available or made difficult.

Just a small but rabid percentage of our population has focused on getting their people elected and scaring the hell out of everybody else.

Scream and shout if you like, but if we are not as serious and committed as in 2008 regardless how we feel about the current status, then we are just stupid.

things were different back then.

I am going to try to just keep to the Roller Derby I grew up with in this post.

I have already related how in the 30’s we would drive to California to see the month-long stays of  the Derby in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  But this was also my first contact with Derby folk who I knew for years afterwards.  Skaters who were bigger than life to me:  Tommy and Buddy Atkinson, Superstar Wes Aronson and Kitty Nehl, Bob Satterfield, Ivy King, “Pochahantas” Mary Youpelle (still out there and active) and so many more.  They were all like uncles and aunts and I got to hang with them and on special occasions, even eat with them at the meals cooked in their quarters – they lived and slept in the buildings then.  And they couldn’t  believe that in LA the stars came to see THEM.

I kind of think of the managers then as almost carny.  Moon Mullins, Sid Cohen, and names that escape me now.  And they and Leo would be like a group that did things together:  fishing in Florida, going to night spots in the big cities, etc.  These were his gang.  Once Sid told everyone that they all had to lose weight and he heard of the sour cream diet… matter where and when you ate, you had to add huge portions or sour cream to the meal.  Of course after everyone gained about 10 pounds each, they realized it wasn’t working.

This was the heart of the depression.  The skaters hung together, did things together, and whenever possible, Leo arranged for sightseeing and other activities….they had no money, came from tough backgrounds, and this was the best time of their lives.  My dad told me that he found out afterwards that one of the participants had been a colonel in the army;  in Chicago the winner of the first Derby was a 16-year old who was scheduled to be on the fatal bus when his father withdrew his permission.  He went on to become the Commissioner of the Fire Department for the City of Chicago and organized the fire workers union.

Photo by Josep Altarriba from

Of course, there are many stories like that.  The games were the glue that held them together.  The home team (white shirts) were the good guys, the visitors (Red shirts) were the mean players from Chicago, etc or whatever city represented evil to  the home town.  I remember the red shirts like Buddy Atkinson, Silver Rich, Elmer (elbows) Anderson, Gertie Scholls, and of course later there was “Toughie Brasuhn”.  And then after the games they would eat the late meal and all hang together.

It was tough for a lot of the women.  So many people assumed that because they skated in the Roller Derby they were not to be respected, yet they probably were the nicest people I knew…..This assumption seems odd in today’s world but remember women did not compete in contact sports at that time, and were not featured in many at all.

Roller skates had wooden wheels at this time, except if you skated outside you had clamp-ons with metal wheels.  The masonite track had to be painted with a special slate paint in order for the skaters to be able to skate on it and get traction.  And often during the games the referees would have to throw additional slate powder on the surface as the wheels wore the paint off.  And the dust would go flying and since it was green, after a few games the skaters and the fans would have green on their clothes their hair, etc.  (I think that is what happened to Calvello originally and she decided to make the most of it).

Now after one time around, many of the better arenas would not let Roller Derby back in, as there was paint on the ceiling and everywhere else, so Leo would find armories or exposition buildings (fairgrounds, etc) and bring in bleachers as well as the track…..the initial setup took days, as well as the teardown.  But the fans loved the games and kept coming.

Now let’s jump ahead to 1959.  I had just taken over Roller Derby and we were skating in the San Francisco Armory at 16th and Mission 5 days a week.  One night would be Ladies’ night, one night date night, etc.  I knew that because of the television coverage, we could draw fans from a wider area.  I contacted the other arenas, but they all knew about the paint.  Lin Luedekke at the Oakland Auditorium would let us come into the Exposition building across the street (now the site of Merritt College).  Meanwhile, Oscar Seltzer of the Roller Derby Skate  Company had sent me samples of new urethane wheels he had developed.  We tried them on the track, but found they were too soft and wore down too fast.  Eventually he got the formula right, and I decided we would use them in a game and not put paint on the track.  The skaters said it slowed them down too much, but since everything is relative, it didn’t really matter.  Eventually, they forgot about it.

So we found that if we covered the track with a light plastic paint, they could go faster but more importantly, did not require any of the slate. I contacted Lin in Oakland and told him we would play the Auditorium and would not be using the slate paint.  He reluctantly agreed, and I knew that the  other facilities in San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, etc were waiting to see how it worked in Oakland.

We had lowered the bank on the track from 4 1/2 feet to three feet and made it portable so it could be set up in 4 hours, torn down in 2.  Gil Orozco who skated on the Bombers was in charge of construction, and knowing how much I like to color up the track and uprights (see any of our tapes on youtube) to make it more of an arena event decided he would put the plastic surface on in color.  Once it was set up he let me know and to ask Lin to come in to take a look.  Well, Gil had decided to use a green color and when Lin saw it, he almost shat.  I calmed him down and told him it would be fine and it was, and we were able to book the other arenas and eventually sold out almost every major arena in the US and Canada.

Part of the fun of Roller Derby was the noise from the track, and we lost a lot of that when the plastic wheels replace the wooden ones, although there still is sufficient noise on the banked track to be exciting.  And for our telecasts we miked under the track so the noise was always there.  And people ask me why do I love Roller Derby!

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The party’s over

Photo by Philip MacKenzie from

I think everyone pretty well  knows my politics.  I believe we are here to help everyone we can, and we should all pay our share.

The main issue now is our country is broke.

Today I heard the CIA has been secretly helping opposition in Syria since 2003 (courtesy of Wikileaks).  We still have tens of thousands of troops in Germany (war ended in 1945), tens of thousands in Japan and about 15 other countries.  And we are muddled down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We can’t be the world’s police anymore;  I thought that was why the United Nations was formed over 60 years ago.

Our people can’t get work; yet we spent almost a billion in a few days bombing Lybia; our social and educational programs are being sliced, yet we spend 1/2 billion on a fighter plane.

The threat from major nations is not the same; we have to guard against terrorists here in the US and not create more by helping unpopular governments.

Get our military home, let them spend the money in the US and help when they are needed here.

Our credit rating is about to disappear, our population has no money or employment……We need radical action now!

I am frustrated.

I found Mort Sahl again today……too many of you have no idea who he is.  In the 50s and 60s he did his best to get us to realize what was happening in America.  He would get a newspaper in the morning, make some markings, and in the evening he would perform  at the Hungry I in San Francisco and in other clubs across America.  We saw him as often as we could.  He did not do stand up:  there were no jokes, per se, but some very ironic and funny situations.  He would take you around hills and valleys and to your amazement tie everything in at some point……His “comedy” would be considered liberal and very American.  Ironically, the last time I saw him perform in a club was at Jeff Pollack’s  Old Waldorf in San Francisco.  Jeff owed me a favor and had Sascha and  Yuri open for Mort.  Mort went nuts, said he never had an opening act, but still did a great show.

Then came Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin and Robin Williams and Kevin Pollock and all the new and flashy comics and Mort kind of disappeared for me.  And then today I discovered he has started up on twitter (mortsahlsays).  Two tweets from today:  Our President hasn’t sold out, he has sold in……..When you die you get to meet your maker, but first you have to meet your banker…..  Pick up on him.

I  am discouraged about Obama.  Ever since I started voting in 1956, I only voted for a Republican once, and that was Eisenhower.  Many or most of my contemporaries who are great friends are Republicans, but I just cannot be for the policies which I consider selfish.  Even when I was making a lot of money I believed it was important to pay my fair share in taxes to keep our country strong and take care of our own.

Original version of this image by Pop Catalin (

We were very excited when Obama was voted in.  His speech was brilliant, he said all the things we wanted to hear, set an agenda which he is trying to get done, but there is something missing.  Is he so professorial and such a lawyer that he thinks giving in and compromising is the only way to achieve his goals?  To bring two combatants on the opposite side of a racial dispute to the White House and solve it by having beers in the garden?

The Republicans are united and if they lag behind, the Tea Party is right there to whip their ass.  Every where in the country they are trying to take bargaining rights away from the unions, women’s rights from women, cut pensions and health care for people making $50,000 a year who teach our children, fight fires, police the streets and more.

I have lived through about 14 Presidents so far.  And boy you knew the ones that used the Bully Pulpit of the Presidency.  Would Harry Truman sit in the Oval Office if had promised to march with the workers?  FDR knew how to squeeze his opponents in submission.  And LBJ, he would just pick up the phone and scare the bejesus out of anyone who was against what he was doing or summon them to his office.

So many of my friends have lost jobs, or are just at that level where it could turn tragic.  The economy has definitely turned positive, the private sector has more jobs, and if Obama and the Democrats allow the Republicans to make cuts which will only benefit the rich, then the country continues to suffer and the confidence to go out and buy which drives our economy does not appear.

There are so many lies:  Obama socialized GM;  goddamnit he saved it and a lot of jobs for Americans.  The Democrats control the Senate and the Presidency and are running scared.  Can’t  Obama stop being so cool and show us some real passion and anger and go after the bastards.  That’s why we voted for him after what Bush and his gang did to the country.  The Financial institutions stole our money, created much of the pension funds depletion, so the Republican Governors take it out on the middle class….no tax hikes for the rich.  And if Obama and the Dems would push for the restitution of the 2% raise in taxes for the rich, that would be equivalent to the rate they paid when Reagan was president.

Why are the Democrats such pussies?  Someone fight to save our country.  And prosecute Karl Rove, the heads of Goldman Sachs and the other companies which stole from everyone and are doing better than ever, and prohibit BP from drilling in our waters….they are the ones that pressured the Brits to release the man who murdered the 183 on the plane from Lockerbie.  Stop letting everyone get away with these horrible crimes.