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History’s lessons

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2017-04-09


In Memorium

April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. In the course of the next two years some 100 young men and women from this area died, half from disease in training camps. Many Allen Countians found their way to the Western Front and our first casualty was a young man named, ironically enough, Karl Winkelmeyer. In essence, he died fighting his cousins, so close were our ties then to ancestral homes in Germany. Our Great War hero was Lieutenant Paul Baer, another German-American. Here at home many families suffered the bad news of death at the front, but frequently it was of a relative who wore Feldgrau and a buckle that read” “Gott Mit Uns.” The war forever changed Fort Wayne from a “Most German Town” to a place where the dominant culture was subliminated and humiliated. The war for America lasted but 19 months, but changed forever the status of Fort Wayne in America and the US in the world.

Europe was shattered by war and racked by widespread revolution in 1918, tens of millions had died in the war, many millions more would die in the aftermath, and cities from France to Russia were in ruins. The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, another result of the Great War, spurred dramatic upheaval, a dozen new countries with dubious pedigree and problematic borders were formed, and a humiliated German was blamed for the war and saddled with enormous reparations that would cause resentment, economic catastrophe, and plow fertile grounds for extremists of every shade, among them the NSDAP.

America lost some 116,500 service members and civilians from 1917 to 1918, some in epic battles at Belleau Wood and Chateau Thierry, and as many in military hospital wards, but nothing compared to the millions of Germans, French and British dead. The US exited the war as the world’s pre-eminent industrial powerhouse standing nearly alone on the moral high ground, only to turn its back on Europe and the world, and to enter an isolationist period of “America First.” Pearl Harbor changed that and the relatively unscathed US exited World War Two as the undisputed leader of the Free World, the author of the Marshall Plan and the defender of Western Liberalism.

Ironically, America is returning to an isolationist stance, Europe is again under threat, and Germany, not the US, is increasingly seen now as the leader of the “Free World.”


North By Northeast

Meanwhile, back in Fort Wayne, the Clyde restoration is the latest project to take another step forward via the Legacy process, but its real shot in the arm came in the form of a generous gift from the Surack Family, owners of Sweetwater Sound and a variety of other businesses.

The Clyde, once a premier theater in a once bustling Quimby Village, hit hard times from the 60s forward, but a million dollar impetus is about to reverse that. The Clyde will become a music venue with room for clubbing, concerts, and events.

It joins a growing list of music venues in the central city that include the Embassy, C2G, the Grand Wayne, the Botanical Gardens, and the pavilions at Headwaters, to name just a few.

Mr. Surack is also a leader in the “event center” project and should it rise up between the library, where the plaza offers another music venue, and the ballpark, that notably hosted Bob Dylan, you have synergy in a collection of walkable venues.

Add in the Coliseum and the Foellinger Theater.

Pair up with the party-throwers at the DID. Get Middle Waves involved and Marshal White. Close downtown, bring in some flatbeds and put out a few beer tents. Roll in the food trucks.

Make sure Engine 765 runs a music train from Chicago each day of the festival. Paddle up to Hall’s Deck.

Get the ballet on a stage and divide the Philharmonic into quartets and chamber ensembles. “Freude schone guter Funken…”

Let the church choirs and our superb church organists pull out all the stops and you have a massive performance festival.

Call it North by Northwest with apologies to Austin. Make it the best music festival in the Midwest to drive even more local development.

And why not? Sweetwater is a mecca for musicians from around the world, and Sweetwater calls Fort Wayne home. Beside that, Fort Wayne has long enjoyed a deep and varied music culture. Transformational and synergistic. This is the promise of the Legacy.

But, first…

As long as we are spewing millions of gallons of scheisse into the rivers; as long as the sidewalks and curbs are cracked or missing; as long as the southeast of the city is given institutional short schrift; as long as rolling meth labs blow up on the streets; as long as the neighborhoods feel neglected at the expense of the downtown; as long as zoning is changed to favor the powerful over the weak; as long as sprawl is subsidized; as long as drug houses are protected by the legislature; as long as flamboyant projects are favored over the essential… there will be plenty of resentment among average citizens. Sadly, many average citizens see our friends in high places consumed by shiny new projects and forgetful of drainage and the roots of crime.

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