Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Tom Wall was Dennis Wall's dad. Dennis is now the Democratic candidate for Zoning Board of Appeals. What else would he be. Dennis's grandfather James was a Democrat elected as a Selectman for several terms in the 1940s and 1950s. Gerald, better known by his nickname "Butch," was the Manager and head bartender for O'Neill's Tavern when Bill was politicking in Hartford as State Representative up until the time he was elected Lt. Governor in 1978.
And baseball, like the flowers, blooms in the spring. In the second game of 1938, on May 16th, "Don Mack opened the game on the mound for the locals and lasted until the beginning of the seventh inning, when he was yanked by Manager dick Ferrari and was relieved by Gabriel Frontel, a young left-hander who finished the game in good style," making his debut that Sunday afternoon.
Gabe, husband of Christine, who is my mother Pauline's sister, are still going strong, celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary this year.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Baseball, at least in Belltown, often became a family affair. From the 1890s through the 1950s, the summer sport would see fathers who were succeeded by sons, or brother acts, such as the Bransfield's, dominate the diamond. Harold "Hal", Paul "Jake", William "Bill" and Edward "Ed" played side by side for the Belltown Bombers, in games that usually took place on weekends. They "practiced" in the East Hampton factory league playing along side brother John, Joe and Jim. And not to be outdone, sisters Ellen, Marion and Marge were active in ladies softball. The Middlesex County League was important for the Towns pride, but several of the factories, including Bevin Brothers, Gong Bell, Summit Thread and N.N. Hills Brass had a twilight league that more than 125 men participated in. It served as training for new talent or where semi-retired players could get some activity after they left the Bombers.
In the County League, I've been told that Hal Bransfield was one of the best to play the game, yet Paul, know as "Jake" with a .410 average, received the M. J. Higgins loving cup as the leading hitter in 1937. Brother Bill hit .342 that same year (sixth best in the league).
I remember Harold or as everyone called him, "Brandy" as the Assistant Post Master, who had begun his career as a postal clerk around 1926. I met him in 1961 when by father Donald was appointed by President Kennedy to succeed retiring Post Master Forest Thatcher. I remember this wiry elder. Little did I know he was one of the greats!
Brother Joe also worked at the Post Office as a rural carrier and would stop with his wife Connie for dinner or an ice cream sundae at Thatcher Drug. Working the old soda fountain, townspeople would be greeted and served by Mary Ann (Nichols) Wall, Donna (Skinner) Mitchell, Carol (Christopher) Hart or me (at least between 1964 to 1966), the blue plate special, a hamburger or a hot fudge sundae after a hard days work.
Monday, July 25, 2011
In 1905, County Commissioner Hubert Hodge's team won the pennant in the Middlesex County League, the first time the title ever came to the Belltown. The 1906 County League Pennant was captured by the Belltown boys as well. Playing for that team were Frank Johnson, Arthur Gates, Richard Wall, Stanley Bevin (with a blistering fastball), Arthur Bride, David Moriarity, Wick Markham, Hubert Hodge, Charles Ivers and David Bride.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
That August 1st parade included Fife and Drum Corps from EH, Litchfield, Deep River, Chester, Windsor Locks and our EHHS Band. A dozen floats entered representing the Chamber of Commerce, V.F.W. Auxiliary, American Legion and Auxiliary, Belltown Garden Club, Cranmer Club, Rotary Club, Haddam Neck Grange, 46 Club - Eastern Star, Girl Scouts and Rebekah Lodge. Fire Departments from surrounding towns of East Haddam, Cromwell, Durham and Middletown joined our EH Volunteers. The State Police Color Guard led other marching units - the Middletown Police, V.F.W. and American Legion, Sons of Union Veterans and Spanish-American War Veterans, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cubs and Brownies who stepped off from the old Town Hall.
I guess what brings back the most vivid memory of that 1953 Old Home Day was trigger this past week on the passing of Richard Hitchcock. Richard, who Co-chaired the Parade Committee, and my Dad were best friends. The morning of Old Home Day, my father took me with Richard to erect an American Flag for a widow living on West High Street near the entrance to the Middle School. You see, every year, homes would be decorated with American Flags to welcome all back to our community. This past weeks event has kept up this tradition with telephone poles lining Main Street, North Main, East High, West High and others display our flag.
I never knew the widow's name, but after the bracket and flag was installed, she had us come to attention, salute and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and then I, with my cap gun (do you remember the rolls of red paper caps?) fired 3 rounds in honor of all who had served.
Friday, July 1, 2011
The 235th anniversary of the signing of our Declaration of Independence, this Monday July 4th, peaked my curiosity - what did our Chatham Selectmen or Town Meeting (Chatham was then the Town that composed all the land of Portland as well as East Hampton, Cobalt and Middle Haddam) do to recognize this momentous event? The answer, simply - not much - at least immediately! Today, Town cuncil meetings are posted and regularly held. Meetings then were not held at regular dates nor were there instantaneous news updates. Selectmen, elected at the annual town meeting of land holders, would attend to town business as needed and the annual meeting appointed committees to deal with specific issues of the day. For example, there was a committee to oversee hogs. You see, hogs were allowed to roam free and it was the duty of the committee to enforce control over the swine making sure owners had properly tagged their animals. But in light of those types of actions and responsibilities, at the December 9, 1776, meeting, interesting action did occur. Created and empowered was a Committee on Observation. I'm not sure if the purpose or intent was for patriotic citizens to observe their neighbors loyalty to the American Revolution, but that information may come with further research. From those minutes I was able to decipher the archaic handwriting that recorded the events and resolution adopted, which stated:
At the same meeting was voted that this town do accept and approve of the doings of the Continental Congress held at Philadelphia in September last and agree to keep and observe the same and do our utmost that the same shall be purcisely (sp) kept and observed according to the true intent of the Congress and the following persons are appointed as a Committee of Observation according to the Eleventh Article of the Association with the powers and authorities therein mentioned. Committee on Observation - Ebenezer White, Esq., John Cooper, Capt Moses Bush, Charles Goodrich, Capt John Penfield, Enoch Smith, Jeremiah Bradford, Capt George Stocking, Capt Stephen Olmsted, Capt Abijah Hall and Capt Silas Dunham.
One can surmise from the dates that July 4th, in and of itself, was not immediately significant at the time but rather the September actions which were likely printing and dissemination of the Declaration of much greater importance. Regardless, our town stood tall as a new world unfolded whose words that came forth from the Philadelphia Hall ring as true today as then - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Friday, June 17, 2011
Looking back through town records, we find a much different community residing on Lake Pocotopaug. In the early 20th century our Lake was line by numerous, but sadly, now gone, summer resorts and restaurants. Beginning at the outlet of Christophers's Pond were the Lakeview House, followed by the Hathaway Inn (now Angelico's Lake House Restaurant) in operation, including outdoor entertainment, for over 100 years. Next came the Blue Bell Café, Ivy Inn, Edgemere Resort, Oakwood Stand and Cottages, and from there north around the lake several guest cottages such as Winchester’s ending at Pocotopaug Lodge at the head of Spellman Point. In those days only a handful residential houses were built on the west side or for that matter, anywhere else around Lake Pocotopaug. The south east side of the lake had other entertainment venues such as Strong’s Pavilion, Carriers Casino, the Terramaugus House, the Hillside Restaurant (which became the Heidelberg), the Duck Pin Bowling Alleys, Clearwater Lodge and the Candlelight Inn.
Resorts and restaurants lined Lake Pocotopaug up to the mid 20th century. From the Wm. Bevin house at the corner of Sears Place, only 8 homes dotted the Lake - North Main Street to Lake Drive to Mott Hill Road – most being occupied by the owners of a resort or guest facility. Others were strictly summer cottages on Spellman Point or farms distanced from the lake on Clark or Mott Hill. Building did not begin in earnest until the 1930s, and in fact it was the owners of the Hathaway, the Paonessa family, that subdivided and developed their land creating the Barbara Road subdivision.
The Lake establishments became a significant part of the economic livelihood of East Hampton, second only to the bell manufacturing industry. Bands and raucous entertainment were encouraged to attract summer visitors. Friday afternoons witnessed a steady stream of vacationers arriving by train, walking from the Village Center to their chosen resort or lodge - there to relax, enjoy sports and lake activities, and party to live entertainment. Some facilities had outdoor pavilions and band stands. Our Town leaders encouraged and planned for a “good summer season” and actively sought and advertised – “come to East Hampton for a good time!”
Those times have changed but we all want some resurgence of the Lake's vitality. Friends of the Lake and our Town Councils for many years have worked to bring the pristine water quality back. The noise factor has recently been a sensitive issue and I don’t mean to make light of what people experience. Is it possible that excessive amplification hides the talent or lack thereof of the performers? When my family and friends have patronized the outdoor garden and Tiki Hut at Angelico's Lake House, we seek to engage in conversation and dining without being drowned out by the music. Maybe the solution is in moderation and maybe, just maybe, other restaurants will locate to provide entertainment, dining experiences and economic vitality.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Our Nation is fortunate to have a resurgence of respect and patriotism remembering the sacrifices of those soldiers who serve now and who served in our past, protecting and preserving our freedom. That to some extent came about through the tragedy of 9-11.
The realization that war is much more than a glorious exercise jumped nightly into our living rooms as reporters such as Walter Cronkite brought us to the battlefields of Vietnam, displaying the brutality of combat, the horror, the fatigue, the destruction, the noise, the obscenities, and most vividly, in spectra color, the blood and the death of your soldiers. Many became disillusioned. And the respect and honor of those that served was rarely accorded.
I have had the privilege to be elected and serve as State Representative and the honor on several occasions to present the Memorial Day Address. Preparing remarks in 1987 as I returned from meetings in Washington DC with members of our Congressional Delegation, my thought centered on some of the monuments that I took a few moments to tour while there. To the crowd gathered that Memorial Day, I posed a riddle: what does 43E - 3, 44E - 24 and 20W - 99 have in common? The answer - they identify the panel and line and position recognizing names of three young men who grew up in this town - boys I went to high school with - men killed in battle in Vietnam - James Banning, Bernd Bachleda and David Swann. In the simplicity of those black marble panels, hardly visible from Constitution Avenue as one walks below street grade to view them, shall forever humble this Nation as they display the names of over 58,000 who perished in that Asian Nation.
Monday, Sgt. Aaron McLaughlin will give the Memorial Day address. Sgt. McLaughlin grew up in East Hampton and is a decorated member of the U.S. Army having served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is a recipient of the Purple Heart. On a personal note, I remember Sgt. McLaughlin as a boy in what were simpler times when he played Little League baseball, my son Greg being a member of the same team. I also know how proud his grandmother, Ann, is of Aaron and how his grandfather Bill, a veteran and now deceased, was of his grandson.
So my invitation to one and all. Come watch the parade on Memorial Day. Listen to the observances - reading the roll of deceased veterans, the Gettysburg Address, the poem "In Flanders Fields," our local school bands, the solemn prayers, and Sgt. McLaughlin. Don't we owe those who have served and sacrificed at least that?
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
Through the years, volunteers, our neighbors and friends, have served us all with little fanfare, just doing a tremendous job helping protect our community . Today I acknowledging the past, but am grateful for the dedication and abilities of those who currently serve.
Early Monday morning, my wife awoke to the smell of smoke coming from our basement. Rousting the dog (and me) from sound sleep, we evacuated the house telephoning 911. Cell phones have become a very handy and necessary tool. Within minutes, one of our fine EH Police Officers arrived followed by a score of volunteer firefighters. Lead by Chief Marty Voelker, they fully checked the house for fire and determined, as I had suspected that the boiler was the culprit. Using a portable exhaust fan, they proceeded to clear the basement and upper levels of the house of smoke, allowing us re-entry as soon as the CO had subsided to safe levels.
So I say thanks to all who serve in this noble endeavor. I also suggest that each and everyone check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Doing this twice a year when you change the clocks for daylight saving time would be wise– it could save your life and your property. Again, thanks to these wonderful gentlemen who respond so selflessly.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
In April 1955 Wallis received a $325 check that turned out to be the second installment of payment in gratitude for an act of kindness. Ten years earlier, Wallis was driving along Marlborough Street in Portland (Rt. 66) at about 2:30 in the morning when he stopped to assist a motorist with apparent mechanical difficulty. Upon alighting from his car, the deputy sheriff found an elderly couple whose vehicle had a flat tire and no spare. Further investigation found that the couple was on the way to Lynn, Mass. to visit a friend in hospital.
When it became apparent that no spare would be available for several hours until a garage opened, Wallis loaded the couple into his car and drove them to their destination. In Lynn he found accommodations for the couple and himself, it still being early morning. Several hours later, as Sherriff Wallis prepared to return home, the old gentleman still protesting his thanks and gratitude, made an attempt to pay his benefactor for his assistance. Wallis even reluctant to discuss the affair refused any money and made an attempt to leave quickly and quietly. But the old man took 2 $10s and a $5 from his wallet and threw them on the car seat insisting to Wallis that he would not take the bills back. Wallis got into his vehicle and returned to his office in Middletown.
On April 18, 1955, a letter arrived addressed to Wallis with the check, the one mentioned above – a legacy left by the old man who couldn’t forget the stranger who helped him in a brotherly spirit at a time when he desperately needed it.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Within a matter of ten minutes the robber slowly turned and strolled out of the bank, exiting with $3,060 stuffed into his pockets. This ice man apparently had cased the bank well. At the appointed hour only three employees were on duty and one other person, Dr. J. Sheldon Davis, a local dentist making a deposit during the holdup, present. Thus the perpetrator encountered no bank officers or other customers. The robber appeared to have been on foot as several employees of Steve’s Auto Sales, Inc. located at 70 Main Street reported having seen a stranger walking north towards the bank shortly before noon. Automobiles then as now, park along the street and whether the bandit might have parked a distance from the bank was not determined.
Geoff Smith, who had reminded me of the incident, was a student whose classes were held at the American Legion Hall. We all hear about Gen X and Gen Y today but in 1955 it was Gen BB – Baby Boomers – who were multiplying by leaps and bounds. So much so that the planning for the recently built and opened Memorial School became immediately deficient for the town’s growing needs upon its opening and dedication in 1951. Stretched to the limits, the Superintendent of Schools with the Boards of Education and Selectmen scurried about securing temporary facilities for classrooms. The American Legion, Congregational Church and Library were among locations used while Memorial School was expanded with 8 additional classrooms. A second expansion that created the “blue roof” in the 1980s added more classrooms, a library and new gymnasium and the highly visible landmark – it’s “blue roof!”.
Mrs. Fillmore’s was my 1st grade teacher at Memorial School when the robbery occurred. I vaguely remember her telling us that the bank had been robbed and that until the police were sure the bandit wasn’t roaming the streets (you see, many students walked to school in those days) we would be detained at school. The all clear signal must have come shortly thereafter because I don’t recall getting home any later than usual.
One of the humorous side notes resulted from a previously held East Hampton Chamber of Commerce meeting. It seems that Chamber discussed a March $305,000 New York bank robbery. All local Chamber members agreed, including CBT branch Manager Allen Guiot that it would not be feasible or profitable to hold up the local bank. The Chamber announced another meeting scheduled for the Heidelberg Inn on Lakeview Street for April 14th, two days after the robbery, with one of the topics on the agenda “just how profitable it will be to hold up the local bank.” Apparently, the bandit was unaware the Chamber had ruled out robbery the previous week!
Friday, January 14, 2011
Our townspeople have long supported the Red Cross with that precious gift of life – our blood! These Blood Bank Drives occur locally and have been sponsored by a number of organizations such as the VFW, the Masons, and numerous churches with a typical afternoon yielding about 70 pints.
Recently I came across an article describing a Blood Drive in early 1946. Mind you, WW II had just ended and there was still a tremendous need for blood for the many operations being performed on wounded soldiers, so a major effort was still occurring throughout the nation. Here in East Hampton, we did our part. At that January Blood Bank held at EHHS (now the center School), our town – and you have to remember there were less than 3,000 citizens compared to today’s population near 13,000 – contributed 229 pints. Quite an effort!
So, if you’d like to do something really important, I would suggest that you also became a blood donor. There will need to endure a couple needles, but the good you do is immeasurable. The process is quite easy. I would strongly suggest that you don’t just show up at the door to wait in a queue. Look up the American Red Cross at www.ctredcross.org or call 860-287-3327 and schedule an appointment. See you there at my next reunion.