A Memorable Week of Cottage Pranks

Bookmark and Share

The Cottage - Davenport College YaleBefore there was The Purge (2013). Before there was The Hunger Games (2008). Before there was Rollerball (1975). Heck, even before there was the Star Trek episode “The Return of the Archons” (1967), upon which writer-director James DeManaco based his movie The Purge.

Before all these fictional dystopian fantasies, there was real-life Bladderball.

Bladderball was (notice the past tense) a massive (thousands of participants) game played at Yale from 1954 to 1982. It involved a large (6-foot diameter) leather “exercise” ball and Continue Reading “A Memorable Week of Cottage Pranks”

The Italian-American Triumvirate: #3 – Family

Bookmark and Share

We begin our third and final installment of the Italian-American Triumvirate to honor Christopher Columbus and all descendants of Italia during October as we celebrate Italian-American Month.

The third item on the list has been known by many names. In fact, for those who remember football in the 1960s, may also remember the three pillars being defined quite differently (and creatively). Italian-Americans played a prominent role in this.

On June 16, 1970, Brian Piccolo, starting running back for the Chicago Bears, died. Only seven months earlier, on November 16, 1969, Piccolo scored a touchdown on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Falcons. He then surprised his teammates by Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #3 – Family”

The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country

Bookmark and Share

As mentioned last week, October is Italian-American Heritage Month. Not only do we take a day (either the original October 12 or the second Monday) to celebrate Christopher Columbus, the Italian that most influenced America, but, like other ethnic groups, we spend the entire month honoring those who immigrated to the United States centuries after the first Italian discovered a brand new world.

This is the second in a series of columns on “the Big Three,” the three institutions that, though to some extent describe all Americans, speak especially to the cultural heritage of Italian-Americans.

Recall the meaning of “Italian-American.” It represents an acknowledgment that you are Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #2 – Country”

The Italian-American Triumvirate: #1 – God

Bookmark and Share

Each October we celebrate Italian-American Heritage Month. The month is obviously chosen in honor of the Italian that most influenced America: Christopher Columbus. Of course, Columbus’ discovery of the New World predated the creation of the United States by about three centuries, but our country long ago adopted his journey as an inspiration for the nation.

Columbus has since been joined by many Italian immigrants who would become Italian-Americans.

That’s an important distinction: “Italian-American.” It recognizes that you are, in fact, an Continue Reading “The Italian-American Triumvirate: #1 – God”

Remembering Mike Francesco: A Community Builder

Bookmark and Share

Mike-Franscesco-photoAs I sat in the pews of St. Catherine’s last Friday morning, I couldn’t help but admire the courage and clarity of Andrew Boyce and Conner Boillat as they described and honored the very full life of Mike Francesco.

Mike touched the lives of many in our little neck of the woods, even those who may have never known him. He, together with his late son Michael, Jr., conceived and built what has become the hamlet of Mendon’s community cornerstone.

For almost four decades, I was one of those who was blessed to have experienced the wonder of Mike. While I can’t pretend to offer more than his family, I can share memories – and, more importantly, the context of those memories – that affirm their stories from a non-family perspective.

I met Mike and Rose in the mid-1980s shortly after I moved back to Mendon in the house I Continue Reading “Remembering Mike Francesco: A Community Builder”

It’s An Old-Fashioned Barn Razing!

Bookmark and Share

It was a nice little shed. The kind placid suburbanites plant in the green carpet of their backyard lawns. Sort of a mini-barn. A testament to an older, quieter way of life. Back in the day when we worked the land because, well, that’s what we were born to do.

Such were the fancies of a young man about to embark upon the American life, the American Dream.

The official Town Permit was obtained on April 29, 1991. It’s signed by June L. Smith, Town Clerk. For those of you who don’t know, she was the mother of none other than Continue Reading “It’s An Old-Fashioned Barn Razing!”

Remember 9/11 Forever

Bookmark and Share

Photo by Yvonne Stepanow from FreeImagesIt was the kind of Tuesday that can’t make its mind up if it’s Summer or Fall. In that way, it was a textbook “on the cusp” day. The skies were clear and crisp that morning. If you woke up early enough, you could feel the dew, smell the moisture, and immerse yourself in a cocooning blanket of warmth.

You can’t imagine a more pleasant beginning to a practically perfect day.

In a moment, in a series of unbelievable moments, the world changed.

There are two seminal occasions in our lives that most late phase Baby Boomers finally felt accepted, recognized, and part of what this nation is all about. One was good, the other Continue Reading “Remember 9/11 Forever”

Journey Beyond The Center Of The ‘Stacks’

Bookmark and Share

Science majors got their own libraries. These contained the specialized journals of their respective fields. Much smaller than expansive University-wide libraries, they offered cozier confines, their size based on the number of students majoring in that subject.

Yale’s Astronomy Library was also probably the smallest library on campus. I was the only Astronomy & Physics major in my class. (Back in my day, the only way you could major in astronomy was to double major in physics. It was a lot of classes, with precious little room for elective courses like philosophy, literature, history, and, well, just about everything else.)

My virtually personal reference room was a treasure trove of ancient knowledge. And by ‘ancient’ I mean the actual data is centuries old. Astronomy, for the most part, collects light data from distant stars, galaxies, and nebulae. The objects responsible for these traveling photons lie lightyears distant, sometimes thousands of light years away.

While a light year represents a measure of distance, it also tells you how long ago the Continue Reading “Journey Beyond The Center Of The ‘Stacks’”

Ode To The Son Of A Bricklayer

Bookmark and Share

You, like everyone else, entered this world naked and exposed. You had nothing more than basic instincts, your very essence still tethered to your mother.

From that moment, however, upon that very solid foundation, a life was built. It blossomed into a life beyond compare, beyond the dreams of your parents, perhaps even beyond what you could imagine once you were able to imagine.

And it was all because you were the son of a bricklayer.

A man erecting the foundation for a new building recently said, “There aren’t many Continue Reading “Ode To The Son Of A Bricklayer”

Confessions of a Hamburger Historian

Bookmark and Share

Have you ever eaten something so delicious you just can’t wait to get your hands on the recipe? You know how the next question is always, “I wonder who was the first person to make this delicious dish?”

Well, if you haven’t guessed by now, I show hungry hamburger enthusiasts the answer to who sold the first hamburger in my book Hamburger Dreams. Indeed, for the past three years, every May (National Beef Month) and, in particular, every May 28th (National Hamburger Day), I’m invited to appear in media across the country to explain how I used classic crime solving techniques to crack the case of America’s greatest culinary mystery.

Do you want to know what I’m asked most often?Continue Reading “Confessions of a Hamburger Historian”