Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The judge or the horse.

Judge Isadore Himes, far right, at Harrison Street court in 1911 (Chicago History Museum).

     When is something interesting, and when is it merely trivia?
     I suppose it depends on who you are.
     Right now, I'm a guy methodically picking through the galley of his upcoming book, in the last weeks before it is pried out of his hands forever, checking every proper noun, if I can, bumping into more mistakes along the way than I'd like to be finding at this point. Though generally confirming facts and fleshing out the occasional vagueness. 
     For instance, for an entry about an arrest in 1912, a defendant appears before Judge Himes at Maxwell Street court. At the time, judges were often referred to in the newspaper by only their last names, and one task is to fill in the full name, if possible. Plus double check "Himes"—an odd name. Could it be a typo for "Hines?"
     A quick plug into Google turned up an interesting mix of hits: some about Judge Himes, the Chicago jurist, a former prosecutor. And others about Judge Himes, the thoroughbred horse that won the Kentucky Derby in 1903.
     My immediate, fleeting thought is that it was some nom de plume, a forgotten journalistic trick—maybe they called all criminal judges in newspaper stories after that horse, a kind of disguise, the way the Tribune's movie reviewer in the 1950s was called Mae Tinee.  
Judge Himes, after winning the Kentucky Derby
     But I found the full name of the human judge, Isadore H. Himes, quickly enough, and the American Classic Pedigrees web site cleared up the mystery of the connection, explaining that the judge was a friend of owner Charles R. Ellison, who named the horse after him.
    Which led to another question. What did the judge make of the horse? I checked the Tribune and the Daily News for 1903, and while there was plenty reportage about the horse, no one seems to have circled back to sound out the judge, even after his namesake won at Churchill Downs. Given the aggression of reporters at the time, you'd think someone would. Or was the dignity of judges such that nobody would bring up that topic for a story?
     Then there's the question of how the horse came to be named for the judge. Here I found a 2012 edition of Chicago Jewish History, a publication of the Chicago Jewish Historical Society that, citing a descendant of Himes saying the horse owner found himself in front of the judge, was pleased with the ruling, and named the horse after him in gratitude, which does make sense.
    Mere trivia? Well, the Kentucky Derby is running this weekend, so that makes it relevant, sort of. 
I suppose I could dig deeper, and try to flesh the story out more. But honestly, I have a book to proofread, and given the number of flubs I'm fixing, I'd better get back to it.


  1. Churchill Downs has been on my bucket list ever since I was young, but I never found anybody (or lived with anybody, or married anybody) who shared my idea of what sounded like a good time. People told me it was nothing more than an expensive and chaotic debauch, and that I'd wind up in the infleld with somebody puking on my shoes, all for the privilege of witnessing "the fastest two minutes in sports"...but it always seemed like it would be a golden opportunity to participate in one helluva big party. The hats. The drinking of the mint juleps (and the perennial jokes about.someone kissing my mint Jew lips)...

    The older I got, though, the less enthusiasm I had for the idea of actually going to Louisville, and now that I'm about to turn 75, I never will. I felt the same way about other perennial blowouts. New Year's Eve in Times Square (I nixed that idea decades ago--12 hours in the cold,,and no food, and no place to whiz? Fuhgeddaboudit.), and Mardi Gras (lost my appetite for boozing--and boozers...I can get that same experience on any given St. Patrick's Day), along with Indy.

    Indy was the closest I came to a big event...my first wife's father used to go to the 500 with his brother every year, and in '88 pr '89 I was supposed to go along for the ride, and the race. But at the last minute, my father-in-law decided to take his grandson instead, and rescinded the invitation.

    So now I'll never get to go to the Derby, or Mardi Gras, or the 500, and I now only have mild regrets about what might have been. I don't like large crowds anymore, and I'm too old to par-tay with gusto anymore. Has anybody here actually attended any of these annual bashes? Did I miss anything?

    1. I think of it as akin to the fascination some have with Victorian or at least Edwardian England. If I imagine myself with a fabulous hat and a mint julep and get transported there, I think I’d likelier wind up spending my time scrubbing dung and vomit from some lady’s or gentleman’s boots.

    2. You’re mistaken to equate Mardi Gras with St. Patrick’s Day. Think about going to New Orleans a week or two before the actual Tuesday. Most parades are attended by families, and if you watch them in the neighborhoods, as opposed to their endpoints near the French Quarter, it’s not a bacchanal. And some of those floats are really something.

    3. Hmmm... Neil doesn't believe the EGD commenting system is any different, but above is a piece of evidence. Don't quite know what I did there, but that's not what I was intending... Which was this:

      Well, Grizz, you missed being able to say you went to a Kentucky Derby, but that seems pretty obvious. ; )

      I went to 2 Derbies, saw back-to-back Triple Crown winners, and haven't been back. Back then, as with all sporting events, it didn't cost a King's Ransom just to be in the crowd. Sneaking in one's own bourbon also made it economical. But you well know what it was like -- people milling around in the infield having "fun" in proportion to how much of the bourbon they drank. In one's early 20s, relatively defensible and I certainly don't regret it. Went to a 500 at about the same time, with a similar experience. Fun to do once or twice, maybe, but I was never tempted to become a regular. These were in the days when a familiar feature of both was clusters of drunk jerks offering a collection of bills to women to "Show us your ----". I would hope that "tradition" has run its course by now, but I wouldn't bet on it.

      Of course, that activity is much more well-known at Mardi Gras, where the ever-desirable beads are the reward. Never attended that, or Times Square NYE, or the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, largely due to the rationale you express. Also, as a Midwestern guy, the Derby and 500 were more easily arrived at, of course.

      If you don't like crowds and vomit, you could visit one of those sports venues on a non-event day, for a museum-like experience. We've done that in later years at Churchill Downs, Keeneland and Daytona, and at least you get a little flavor of the locale and history, minus the obnoxiousness.

    4. Coey, I'm old enough to have been in my early thirties when Jane Byrne was in office, and those parades on the State Street mall were pretty obnoxious..boisterous young drunks vomiting into the brand-new planters she'd had installed. Once or twice was enough.

      Now I live in Cleveland,where there have been Paddy's Day crowds of up to half-a-million when the weather is good, and a lot of the sights and sounds are the same. Got tired of watching Kevin get crazy and Erin go braghless. Most years, however, March 17 is like a winter day. It's either bright and brutally cold, with a wind off Lake Erie, or else it's gray, dark, and drismal. On more than one occasion, snow has kept the crowd size down.

      I've been to New Orleans twice...once in early November, when they were still cleaning up the beads and the barf from Halloween, and once in the springtime, when it was hot and sticky. Spent too much time on Bourbon Street, and not enough time in the neighborhoods, although I did get to the zoo, and I rode on the streetcars a lot. I'd have loved to see those Mardi Gras parades, or to go to the Jazz Festival. Alas, my wife no longer seems to have any interest in going back down there. We already have a lifetime's worth of beads, and I've seen enough bared breasts. But I sure would have liked to see those floats...

    5. That “show us [the girls]” stuff is not the real MG. The krewe members on the floats are very generous with their throws, no quid pro quo required. That other stuff is drunk tourists in the French Quarter. Or maybe was; can’t say I’ve heard of it happening recently.

  2. Sort of a Sydney J. Harris “Things I learned en route to looking up other things” thing.

  3. Love the snapshots from the past.



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