Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas 1945

It seems hard to believe that WW II ended 65 years ago. The surrender of Japan in August 1945, however, didn’t mean the immediate return to normalcy. With millions in the armed forces, the logistics to de-militarize and bring the troops home were as challenging as preparing for battle.
But around Christmas 1945, many, many families were rejoicing as husbands, sons, neighbors and certainly some daughters were discharged from active duty. It was such a marvelous Christmas present both to the soldiers who in many instances hadn't seen their families and friends since Pearl Harbor.
Discharged during that 1945 Christmas week were Cpl. Tech. James Russell Nichols, Jarvis Stewart Barton MoMM3-C, Byron Mitchell Clark MM2-C, Cpl. Tech. Frederick Houghton Galvin, P.F.C. Alfred Henry Royce and St. Sgt. Warren Lee Hedrick which brought the total to 119 – not quite half of our local men and women from East Hampton who had been in active service in the armed forces.

Returning Vet's - Christmas 1945

This was also a bittersweet time for several families whose sons paid the ultimate sacrifice in combat. East Hampton was not immune and had seen directly the loss of 6 young men and a score of others with relatives here, and all were mourned with a solemn respect for their sacrifice and for the battle waged against tyranny, dictators and atrocities against mankind.

As American’s we are blessed in so many ways. Often taking for granted our liberty and lifestyles, we remain the envy of oppressed and downtrodden throughout the world - the best hope for freedom and peace! A blessing yes, but also a curse, as American’s sons and daughters still rise to defend those freedoms so many others long for. So please, let us not forget those many on active duty in far off places like Afghanistan, Iraq, or South Korea as we gather with family and friends at this time of year.

From me and my family, I truly wish you and your families and people everywhere the best in this Holiday Season. May joy, good health, happiness and prosperity reign, and, may peace prevail.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Season in East Hampton

Nightly, television newscasters and live eye reporters show the hustle and bustle of shoppers at each of the malls or other locations around Connecticut, all speculating how well retailers will fare during the Holiday gift buying season.

It reminds me of a time before malls and all the discount retailers when holiday shopping meant going to the G. Fox & Co. department store in downtown Hartford or to main street Middletown. More likely however, many from our community did their gift buying locally at establishments such as Clark’s Corner Store, Muller’s Jewelers, Ravis’ Home Supply or Thatcher’s Drug Store.

The Christmas season was special. It didn’t start before Halloween which seems to be an annoying trend of late. It was after Thanksgiving when the air filled with excitement. Working behind the soda fountain at Thatcher’s, people always seemed much more pleasant, outgoing and engaging in that season. The drug store or what was the community gathering place, always took on a different appearance as well. Raymond “Deke” Thatcher meticulously placed his Christmas Rexall order in the late summer. He would wait with anticipation to receive box after box loaded with all kinds of odds and ends, some arriving in late October. We’d probably call most of the items stocking stuffers today.

The unending orders and boxes contained a full array of cosmetics, compacts, lipstick tubes, knickknacks of all sorts, pipes, cigars, special tobacco blends such as Amphora, and item after item that would tax the store’s shelving capacity. Special displays were positioned at the head of each isle as it captured the patrons who parked along West High Street or on the side of the building at the corner of Main Street. Back then, the store seemed gigantic. I can remember as a young boy Eaton Smith telling me as I picked up or Sunday newspapers that it was going to be the biggest drug store east of the Mississippi! Today, in retrospect, it is hardly one quarter the size of CVS or Rite Aid. But it had something all these locations now compete for – a buzz of customers eager to buy the latest the store had to offer.

And what was even better? You could sit on a counter stool, have a hot cup of coffee, hot chocolate or a milk shake and take a few minutes to unwind.

No, not a bad place to be. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Why East Hampton is a Great Place to Live.

Our Town has lately been shaken to its core over actions of the Town Manager, the Chief of Police, the Town Council and strident outbursts at numerous citizens at public meetings. None of these actions has portrayed us in a particularly positive light. The media feeds on infighting and negative actions. Quite frankly it sells, as it always has, newspapers which drives advertising. Just business as usual.

I believe it is time to change the direction of our Town with our citizens working together, getting past what are often petty differences. Leaders have done this in our past. As a first step, I've compiled a list of 50 things that make East Hampton a great community inwhich to reside. There is nothing magical about this and I'm positive others could think of many other things and reasons that make this a wonderful place to live.

But here are my thoughts................

1. A vibrant, activist community, strong and opinionated, whose energy could be channeled to make this an even better place in which to reside.
2. A modern Library and Community Center
3. Lake Pocotopaug
4. Sears Park
5. A modern grocery store – Stop & Shop
6. Home of William Barton, founder of the bell industry
7. American Distilling & Manufacturing Co. – successor of the Dickinson Witch Hazel Company – largest producer in the world - article publicizing company in Yankee Magazine
8. EH Little League – lighted fields – among the best in Connecticut
9. The Airline Trail
10. Bevin Bros. Mfg. Co. – last remaining bell maker – articles in Yankee Magazine ( 1975 & 2010 )
11. Comstock Covered Bridge – one of 3 remaining in State
12. Old Home Day Annual Celebration
13. The Chatham Historical Society
14. Friends of Lake Pocotopaug – privately raising funds to support maintain health of the lake

15. Active Rotary Club
16. Active Lions Club and Village Lions Club
17. Food Bank staffed by numerous volunteers with strong community support
18. Citizen fundraising to support the creation of a high school football team jointly with Vinal Tech of Middletown
19. The Joseph N. Goff House
20. Volunteer Ambulance Corp
21. Volunteer Fire Department – 2 companies EH & Cobalt and 3 firehouses
22. Active Masonic Lodge
23. An owner source of water for a town wide water system
24. Home of Former Governor William A. O’Neill
25. Pumpkin Town – annual Fall attraction
26. Christmas Tree Farm and Farmer of the year – Peter Bergan
27. School System
28. Village Center
29. Rich History of the Town including Legend of the Princess
30. Laurel Ridge – an active Adult 55+ community of talented, experienced, successful people who specifically moved to EH and want to contribute to its culture and activities
31. A town dump and recycling center
32. An active VFW – Veteran of Foreign Wars Post
33. 2 camp grounds promoting family values and entertainment – Nelson’s and Markham Meadows
34. A Veterans Group raising money for a World War II Memorial
35. Numerous churches with an ecumenical council of pastors and priests
36. Numerous Day Care Providers
37. Salmon River State Park, Meshamosic State Forest, Hurd State Park
38. Epic Arts Programs
39. EH Art Association
40. Active Seniors / Senior Center
41. An attractive gateway into the community East High St. – West High Street
42. A public sewer system
43. 2 Elderly Housing Complexes – Bellwood Court & O’Neill Drive
44. Participants in the Regional Health District
45. Even after the Probate Court Reorganization and Consolidation, we maintain the smallest (and thus most personal) probate district
46. Active Girl and Boy Scout Troops
47. Numerous Park and Recreation programs
48. The Belltown Antique Auto Club and its annual car show
49. Convenience to major cities for work & health care
50. Half way between New York and Boston

May this holiday season bring peace to all and new beginnings for our Community