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Carusone At Bat

January 31, 2007

Fill in the Blank for '08

By John Carusone

The national silly season is upon us, so I will offer my opinions on the presidential contests now occurring in both parties.

I should not use the word “silly” because the stakes are so high for the 2008 contest. The word refers more, however, to the swift boat network Fox News that couldn’t wait to begin smearing a leading Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Yep, I knew it. Barack is really a secret Muslim who was educated in a far from traditional school in Indonesia where terror training is taught along with reading, writing and ’rithmetic! It looks like the Manchurian candidate has come true. Elect Obama and his second-grade brainwashing will turn him into our first terrorist president! (Editor’s note: the second.)

When Fox was caught with its pants down, and probably off altogether, the network backtracked and guess whom it blamed? Why Hillary Clinton, of course. And now the facts show the original storyteller was an incredible rightwing blogger. Thank God we have ABC, NBC, MSNBC and CBS, which will give citizens a fair accounting of all the candidates and their positions.

My own feeling on the Democratic side is that neither Hillary Clinton nor Obama will emerge as the presidential candidate. Unfortunately, the redneck vote and anti-woman vote in this country will derail both candidates. All should note the recent Tennessee campaign for U.S. Senate where the best candidate, Harold Ford, a black man, lost to the white candidate whose winning ad showed Ford flirting with a white woman.

There are still too many red states for either to overcome the bias that has not left the American political scene. I still believe that former vice presidential candidate John Edwards has the best chance to win the general election against any of the Republican candidates. I like a ticket of Edwards-Vilsak or Edwards-Richardson. These candidates are relatively unscarred in national politics. As a sleeper, it looks as though former VP Al Gore is about to receive an Oscar for his brilliant film documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” We’ll see.

Republican frontrunners McCain and Giuliani, in my opinion, will not emerge as the Republican candidate. Our junior Republican Sen. Lieberman is clearly angling to become McCain’s VP. Did you see McCain’s latest press conference where he proclaimed that Connecticut voters support the war or they would not have “elected my good friend Joe Lieberman?” Are you kidding? Do you really believe that in 2008 the country is going to support a ticket of hawks? Giuliani’s personal and business interests will disqualify him as will his unstated liability -- his Italian heritage.

So who’s left? Mitt Romney maybe. This race is still wide open.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

January 24, 2007

Bush’s Boo-Boo the Biggest

By John Carusone

I recently had a great discussion about presidential blunders with one of my senior basketball teammates, Dr. Marc Lendler, a professor of political science at Smith College. We broke the discussion into two categories: national and foreign policy debacles. On a national scale Lincoln’s predecessor, James Buchanan, was the clear victor with his administration’s support of state’s rights, which led to the secession of seven southern states and the Civil War. A close second was Herbert Hoover for his policies that led to the Great Depression.

On an international scale, certainly Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam tragedy has already been graded by historians for the unnecessary loss of over 55,000 young soldiers. One must remember that Vietnam began with a lie. There never was an attack in the Gulf of Tonkin on American ships by North Vietnamese. The attack was contrived by McNamara and Johnson. At least today Vietnam is our friend and trading partner.

Now let’s zero in on Iraq and see if there are any historical parallels here. Remember we were talked into invading Iraq because they had WMD? We were also told they were attempting to buy uranium from Africa; we would be welcomed as liberators; a democracy would emerge; Saddam would be hated by all; oil revenues would pay for our invasion; only a minimum number of troops would be necessary; the entire Middle East region would embrace democracy; there would be no sectarian violence; etc. None of this has been proven to be true. In fact, just as the Vietnam War began with a lie, lies were told to the American public by the Bush administration.

Tony Snow, Bush’s press secretary, still tries to defend the administration by comparing Bush to Lincoln, Truman and FDR, who all had to deal with unpopular wars. Are you kidding?

Does anyone today doubt that Lincoln was correct in sacking McClellan who was angling to be the Democratic nominee for president in 1864? What if Truman had done nothing and let North Korea take over the entire peninsula? Suppose FDR had not developed a policy of unconditional surrender of the enemies? These men were all leaders in every sense of the word.

The Bush gang -- with the support of our junior Republican Sen. Joe Lieberman -- is sending more troops to be targets in the Iraqi civil war. I am completely convinced that the Bush strategy was designed in the hope that the Democratic majorities would actually cut off funding so he, Bush, would claim for his legacy that if the Democrats had not cut off funds, his troop surge would have won the day.

Not so quick, Mr. Bush. The Democrats have wisely decided not to cut off funds, but to support the troops in harm’s way. It is your war, George Bush. Over 3,000 young men and women have been slaughtered unnecessarily with more to come. If Bush wanted to save some of his tattered legacy he would have adopted the Baker-Hamilton Commission recommendations and attempted to find a political solution. Historian Michael Beschloss has already stated that this Iraq invasion should cause “Herbert Hoover to move over.” It is now clear that this Iraq adventure will be graded by historians as the worst foreign policy blunder in American history. An entire region has been destabilized for decades.

This is the true Bush legacy. No wonder many at Southern Methodist University (Dallas, Texas) don’t want his library there.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

January 17, 2007

Tales of Hamden to Hit Shelves

By John Carusone

Well, it’s official. I have decided on a publisher for my book, “The People and Politics of Hamden-Some Personal Remembrances.” The publisher is Xlibris of Philadelphia. Right now my daughter Laurie is typing, hopefully, the final manuscript, which will be given to the publisher in disc form. The book will be about 450 pages with photos.

It begins with my family coming to Hamden from Italy and progresses through a succession of Hamden administrations, with personal vignettes along the way of some very famous Hamdenites. I have taken author’s liberty to name a Hamden Hall of Fame, covering some 50 years of citizens involved in Hamden who I believe contributed to making the fine town we have.

They cover all walks of life: clerks, custodians, politicians, educators, athletes and so on. I have picked over 250 such individuals. I ask readers to please let me know if there are any that should be included. I’m guessing that I probably have already listed that individual. However, if I haven’t I will give consideration to your choice.

"Hall of Famer" Franz Douskey. Courtesy photo

Let me talk about some of my Hall of Famers. Let’s start with an individual who has been in Hamden for years. He is an author, poet, musician and has just been named as interim president of Impact University in Florida. He is also a noted music disc jockey teaming with WELI legend Bud Finch on WQUN with their fabulous program on swing bands of the ’30s and ’40s. I am speaking of Franz Douskey whose latest book, “The Quiet Sinatra,” will be released shortly. He has been published in more than 150 journals, including the New Yorker, Rolling Stone and Yankee. He teaches creative writing at Yale and communication and English at Gateway College.

There’s Virginia Dowd, a Hamden resident whose interest in the town purchasing the Boston-Maine abandoned railroad led to the Farmington Canal hiking and biking trail. It was Virginia who convinced me to walk the abandoned line with her and her husband. I was so impressed that when I was sworn in as mayor, I delegated my CEO Betty Smith and Town Planner Shirley Gonzalez to begin working with Virginia’s group, the Rails To Trails Organization, which eventually led to my administration’s purchase of 7 miles of the Hamden section. Business interests were already looking to buy the canal area for parking expansion, and without Dowd’s interest they might have succeeded.

Anthony Bonadies, my classmate at Southern Connecticut State University, has become a nationally recognized sculptor. His bust of Thornton Wilder is on display at the Miller Library Complex. How about school maintenance man Ralph Barbaro, who was inducted into the Connecticut Fast Pitch Hall of Fame? Or school maintenance man Jim O’Connell, who saved the school system thousands of dollars because of his superior knowledge of boiler operation? He also found time to be a hero in the World War II Battle of the Bulge.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

January 10, 2007

Ah, Yesterday’s Flicks

By John Carusone

Would you believe it? With all the turmoil in the world, the British Parliament took the time to vote on the best motion picture of all time. And what was the result? Why the 1942 blockbuster “Casablanca” starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, with a supporting cast of screen giants Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Paul Henried, Conrad Viedt and Claude Raines (“I’m shocked to find gambling going on in this place”).

I agree with the British Parliament. Movies of that era have the same characteristics. There are no special effects, the acting is superb, they are black and white, splendidly written and directed, and the storyline is always right in front of you. There are so many other films of that era that easily match some of the spectacular movies of today. Remember, during the ’40s no cursing was allowed except for in the 1939 classic “Gone With The Wind,” when Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) uttered his famous line. “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

Also married couples were never shown sleeping in the same bed until William Powell (“The Thin Man”) did so with Myrna Loy, but he had to wear pajamas.

Another Bogart great was the 1943 war story “Sahara,” which followed his tank crew through the Libyan deserts losing nearly all the crew, but defeating a total German battalion.

Do you recall the 1946 Academy Award winner for best picture of that year? Of course, that was “The Best Years of Our Lives,” starring Frederic March, Dana Andrews and Virginia Mayo. That film told the tale of returning World War II vets and their difficulty in adjusting to civilian life.

Has there ever been a better musical than 1942’s “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the story of legendary song-and-dance man George M. Cohan? James Cagney’s portrayal of Cohan still gives me goose bumps, particularly when he joins the troops in singing “Over There.” However, let’s not forget Gene Kelly’s 1952 classic, “Singing in the Rain.”

Beginning in the ’50s, the grade B western disappeared and was replaced by two classics: one in color, the 1953 “Shane” starring Alan Ladd, and the 1952 Academy Award-winning “High Noon” starring Gary Cooper.

Not to say good movies aren’t made anymore. Certainly Clint Eastwood has developed into the premier film director of today. Yet a critic reviewing his current spectacular movie “Letters From Iwo Jima” -- which portrays the battle from the Japanese perspective -- made the claim that this had never been done before on the American screen. I suggest that critic watch the 1930 “All Quiet on the Western Front” starring Lew Ayers, a film which portrayed the horror of World War I trench warfare from the German perspective. Another film of the early ’50s that portrayed German aggression in Africa was “African Queen” starring Bogie and Kathryn Hepburn. The only special effect in that movie was a broken-down 35-foot boat. What made that movie great was the unbelievable acting of the stars.

Let me make a suggestion. If you have cable, turn on the Turner Classic movie channel to watch some great movies. That doesn’t mean you stop attending today’s movies. There are many great ones out there with great actors. Certainly Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DeCaprio always give topnotch performances. I was very impressed with Angelina Jolie’s performance in “The Good Shepherd.” But put in perspective, it was the actors, directors, screen writers and producers of the ’30s , ’40s and early ’50s that laid the foundation for today’s blockbusters. Give them the credit that they are due.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

January 3, 2007

Major League Old-Timers

By John Carusone

A while ago I did a column on Fred Schmidt, great uncle of my son-in-law Ed Zambrello. Fred was originally from West Hartford and made it to the major leagues with the Cardinals and Phillies. That column caught the attention of the Phillies organization, which wanted to contact Fred because he was such a popular player.

As a result, the Phillies and local pols sponsored a 90th birthday bash for Fred. Below is a picture of Fred receiving a legislative resolution from his local rep. Also pictured is an autographed picture of Fred in his Phillies uniform.

Fred was traded in 1947 to the Phillies from the Cardinals -- along with Harry “The Hat” Walker -- for Ron Northey known as “Round Ron” because of his body build. I played against Northey in the early ’50s when major leaguers barnstormed to make extra money.

(Photo missing)

A few years ago, the Phillies had an old-timers game and invited players from the ’40s and ’50s. Now let’s have some fun and see how many baseball jocks can name the pictured old-timers. The above (missing) photo shows three former players in their hotel room. Fred is in the middle. The question is, whom is he flanked by? On the left is a diminutive left-hander who shocked major league baseball by jumping to the Mexican League because it was paying more than the major league teams. He jumped for $14,000 a year in 1945. On the right is the only major league pitcher ever to pitch back-to-back no-hitters for the Cincinatti Reds in 1938.

The photo above shows four ex-players at the game. Fred is third from left. Now who is first in that line? During his career with the Philadelphia Athletics he was known as “The Flying Czech” -- the only native Czechoslovakian to ever play in the major leagues. I saw him play at Yankee Stadium in 1947.

Now, the next picture (above) shows a solitary man strolling around Veteran’s Stadium. Here’s the clue: Does “Dodger Blue” give you a hint? He managed the Dodgers for many years, his last assignment managing the U.S. Olympic baseball team.

Are you ready for the answers? OK, here they are. In picture No. 1, Fred is flanked by Max Lanier and Johnny Vandermeer. In No. 2, Elmer Valo is the player. And in No.3, it’s Tom LaSorda.

I have had a great relationship with Fred. This man is living American history. I have World Series memorabilia from the 1944 series and the 1946 series with the Cardinals against the Browns and the Red Sox. Happy birthday, Fred!

There’s no doubt I am a baseball buff. Franz Douskey, Hamden author and poet, is arranging a meeting between Babe Ruth’s granddaughter and me. WOW! Further, as a postscript to Porky Vieira’s dinner, he sent me a note thanking me for attending, with the comment: “You look like you still can hit.”

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

December 20, 2006

Porky V, Johnny C & Joe D

By John Carusone

On Dec. 8 I attended the “Porky” Vieira roast and what a show it was. It was a night for baseball jocks to sit around and reminisce about the old days. But Porky, who coached for 44 years, is just now entering his “old” days.

The guys who were there are all still active in some ways. My close friend and baseball and softball teammate, Paul “Topsy” Del Gobbo, talked well into the evening about our experiences as players, Army buddies, professional colleagues and just plain lifelong friends. With us was Southern Connecticut State University great Leon Inglese, whose daughter Cathy, BC women’s coach, nearly upset UConn a couple of years back. Leon was a great basketball player at SCSU. Waterbury’s Ron Diorio, a University of New Haven great and pro with the Phillies, and I had a great conversation about Waterbury mayors.

Nothing more to be said about that.

Shelton’s Joey Benanto, longtime Yale coach and a baseball opponent of mine, still looked like he could get back on the diamond. My old Coca Cola battery mate, Joe Yotch, was back after knee replacement and still has the same trim body he had when he was catching me. George Hanchette, Hamden Townies third baseman of the ’50s and longtime West Haven High coach, promised me if we had another old-timers game he would show up.

Back to Topsy for a bit.

We reminisced about a player who probably would have been the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time had he been able to get his personal life in order. I’m speaking of New Britain’s Steve Dalkowski. His fastball was once timed at 102 mph. By today’s standards with accurate timers he probably threw regularly in the 105 mph range. Recently, TIME magazine ran a story on him and concluded he was the hardest thrower of all time, but he was so wild. I faced him one time before he left for the Orioles camp. He threw four pitches to me -- all balls -- the last one so high I could have stood on a ladder and held the bat over my head and still not reached the ball. He and Topsy and Guilford’s Bob Palmer were teammates on that Oriole team.

Here’s a Porky story.

He formed a team called Vieira’s all-stars. We traveled around the state and were unbeaten. He wanted to play a game at Rochford Field. I got the field. He asked me to hire umpires. I hired Hamden legends Bill Gerosa and John Shanahan. We got to the field and Porky said he forgot to bring baseballs. I had a dozen Townie baseballs in my trunk so we used them. When the game ended, as only Porky could say and I will clean it up, he had no money and could I pay the umpires.

His reputation was so roasted the other evening as the man who had the deepest pockets ever. Main speaker Bobby Valentine had the crowd in stitches with his Vieira stories. Channel 12 will be showing the entire event. Don’t miss it. I’m so proud to have played against him and played with him. He is a legend.

There are no leagues today like we had as young men. The Greater New Haven League, the Shore Line League, the West Haven Twilight League were regional. The granddaddy of all the leagues was the Connecticut State League organized by New Haven Diamond Club Hall of Famer Frank Berlanger. Pictured below are Berlanger and Joe DiMaggio. I’ll never forget Berlanger presenting me with the 1959 batting champion trophy.

No matter what league you played in, there always was a crowd. TV was in its infancy so the public always showed up at our games. That’s why Porky’s night was so important to all of us. Believe me the homeruns were longer then, the fights were worse, the bean balls were more prevalent and the batting averages were higher. These men were all so special to me. I have dozens of clippings from those days. You can’t beat the memories and the camaraderie between players that still exists today. As I said in a previous column, we were Connecticut’s Boys of Summer.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

December 13, 2006

What a ’hood!

By John Carusone

What a show! On Dec 1, I attended the second annual Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame induction dinner at Foxwoods to see two of my nominees inducted: Hamden’s Nathan Mann and longtime area resident Gaspar Ortega. The crowd contained numerous boxing legends like Benny “Kid” Paret, Tony DeMarco and Hartford’s Marlin “Moochie” Starling. All of Mann’s remaining family was in attendance. It was great renewing longtime friendships with Nathan’s sister Jean and so many nieces and nephews. Nathan came from the State Street area on Olds Street. I did a column on him some time ago. DEC 05 What was interesting to me was how many talented individuals came from our State Street neighborhood.

Right down the street from Nate was Ernie Barcella, who became head of the Associated Press and regularly traveled with Richard Nixon. He was with Nixon when the president was attacked during his 1959 South American trip.

On Webb Street was Hamden High All-State QB Dom Balogh, who was recently inducted into the Hamden High School Hall of Fame. Next door to Balogh was Naval Academy grad Gene Rosadino, who later went on to own and manage the largest hotel supply company in New England.

Next door to us on Benton Street was Wallingford superintendent-to-be Frank Soldan. Across the street was Bob Scelzo, who became the principal of North Haven High School.

Local businessman Jim Manfredi began with his food market and developed the entire State-Ridge corner. He became one of the first Italian-American businessmen to get a membership in the New Haven Country Club. State Street’s Pat Hedge became Stonington’s police chief. On a much sadder note, Atlas Street produced two World War II fatalities: Angelo Travaligno and Frances Hearn. State Street had two more fatalities: Pierce Robertson and Bob Bush in Vietnam.

How about some athletes? I have already mentioned Dom “Sonny” Balogh. George Heg of State Street was an All-District and All-New England hockey defenseman and also an All-District baseball player. He was a teammate of mine on the 1957 Hamden Collegians before being signed by Cardinals scout Tim Finn. Finn also signed his son Fran, also a stellar player. Johnny Hogan, son of Democratic Selectman John Hogan Sr., went on to Holy Cross where he starred for that team. He also was my teammate with the ’57 Hamden Collegians. He was later president of the Connecticut Bar Association.

Tom Jones, my classmate and teammate, was Hamden High’s first stellar African-American athlete. Bill Walsh left Hamden Post 88 for a Milwaukee Braves tryout. I replaced Bill on that team. Webb Street’s Don Dextradeur was one of Hamden High’s great hockey players of the ’40s. On that same street were the Valalik brothers: George, a noted basketball and baseball player of the ’40s, and younger brother Fred, a solid football player in the early ’50s. Tom Sacramone of Welton Street was recently inducted into the SCSU Football Hall of Fame. His 8.2 yards per carry is still an SCSU record. Ralph Barbero and Howie and Brenda Reilly were inducted into the Connecticut fast-pitch softball Hall of Fame, with Brenda Reilly also being inducted into the national women’s athletic Hall of Fame.

In a previous column I mentioned how State Street was always looked down on by other parts of Hamden. It was always you were going “down” to State Street, but “up” to Spring Glen and Mt. Carmel.

But we had so much going for us in our neighborhood. To my recollection, there never was any crime. Very few people had locks on their doors. We had the clay pits to swim in and ice skate on. We climbed up the giant steps of East Rock. We could catch some of the largest soft shell crabs in the clean water under the train bridge. We had the Welton Street “back lot” to play sports. Although I was too young to remember, there was the Scheutzen Amusement Park, which my mother and father talked about often. It was located right where the Porcelain-Spec Rail (formerly Botwinik Bros) stood.

This was a great neighborhood to grow up in. Isn’t it amazing that today I still live within a one-mile radius from the Welton Street homestead on Daniel Road? That’s why Preservation Magazine did its May 2000 feature on our family.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

December 6, 2006

Race Matters

By John Carusone

Well, guess what? Fox News is at it again. No wonder its ratings continue to plummet. John Q. Citizen has finally seen through its masquerade of “fair and balanced.”

The latest fiasco with double murderer O.J. Simpson getting a reported $3.5 million to “make believe” he murdered Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman is an absolute outrage. This scumbag Simpson, who hasn’t paid a nickel of the $33 million to either family he owes, hoped to walk away with even more blood money. Fortunately, the public outrage forced the “fair and balanced” network to cancel the show and book.

As a sideline to this sorry tale, the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson show was extremely critical of comedian Michael Richards for his offensive racial comments and opined that Richards should apologize to everyone imaginable, probably even to his barber. The list was endless. Sharpton couldn’t stop naming people, groups, etc. Yet when asked by Carlson should Simpson apologize to the Goldman and Brown families, his unbelievable response was, “I have yet to see convincing evidence that O.J. was guilty.” Are you kidding? As offensive as Richard’s remarks were (and they were extremely offensive) he didn’t murder two people and/or try to capitalize on their deaths in such an abhorrent manner.

Now for the second Fox News “fair and balanced” reporting.

Can anyone tell me what is the ethnic background of House Speaker Dennis Hastert? I doubt it. Why did I ask this question? Well, how many times have you heard that incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the first woman to hold that post? Fair comment. But now how many times have you heard from Fox News that she represents the “gay” community of San Francisco and that she is ITALIAN. As we all know if you are ITALIAN you must be related to the Sopranos.

When Mario Cuomo came to Hamden in 1988, he told me that his being ITALIAN was a deciding factor in not running for president. Remember my first comment here. What is Dennis Hastert’s ethnic background? No one knows and no one cares. I will never forget my battle with ABC reporter Sam Donaldson who stated on national TV because Cuomo was ITALIAN he was bound to investigate to see if Cuomo had “mob ties.” He stopped that offensive tirade when then-New Haven Mayor Ben DiLieto and I protested to the president of ABC. It’s interesting to note that Republican Rudy Giuliani has yet to feel the sting of being Italian-American.  My prediction, however, is that even though Giuliani has a solid crime-fighting background and is a 9/11 hero, he will not head the Republican ticket.

Is there any local prejudice against Italians? I can recall the mall hearings of 1989 when an unsigned flyer appeared in a local neighborhood claiming that if the mall should pass, the “mafia” would be in Hamden because Carusone and Fusco (mall developer) are both Italian.  I can also recall when former Superintendent of Schools Julius D’Agostino was belittled by a School Board member for “wearing shiny black suits.”  Thankfully, that kind of citizen makes up a very small minority in Hamden.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

November 29, 2006

I’ll Name that Street

By John Carusone

I’m pleased that local veterans groups are planning to name streets for soldiers killed in combat. Most Hamdenites today have no idea where their street name came from. The real Town Hall (now abandoned) was built in 1924 as a memorial to those who served in World War I. As the years passed, names of war dead were inscribed on the walls of the rotunda. The names began with World War I fatalities. There were none etched on the walls for the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War or the Spanish-American War.

Yet there are streets in Hamden honoring war dead from the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Hamden historian Rachel Hartley listed those names in her book, “The History of Hamden, Connecticut.”

Let’s list them from the Revolutionary War: John Bassett, Joseph Benham, Elisha Booth, Moses Ford, John Gorham, Jabez and Levi Munson, Joseph Tuttle, Amos, Benjamin and Ebenezer Warner, Jarvin Woodin, Aaron Bradley, Waite Chatterton, Chauncey Dickerman, Amos Peck, Joel Todd, Joel Cooper, Alling Ives, Moses Gilbert and Samuel Woodin. From the Civil War: Charles Johnson. Another Civil War fatality whose name does not appear on a street is Wilson Wilcox, uncle of Alice Shepard after whom Shepard Avenue is named.

Many other streets in Hamden have historical roots, although not military. Dixwell Avenue of the three judges fame; Whitney Avenue for inventor Eli Whitney; Davis Street for Edward Davis who operated the Whitney Avenue Horsecar Line; Foote Street for Chauncey Foote, Hamden postmaster; Webb Street for Judge James Webb; and Selectman John Hubbard, Congressman Arthur Woodruff, Elizur Goodrich and many others.

In the 1950s when Town Engineer Pat Zullo came to Hamden, it was his idea to name streets in new developments after deceased vets and today probably the vast majority of names on the rotunda wall have had streets named after them.

I have had experience in naming school buildings. Both Ridge Hill and Shepherd Glen were my recommendations to the school board in 1969 and 1971. Ridge Hill came from Mrs. Hartley’s book describing early Ridge Road known as Ridge Hill, and Shepherd Glen came from a description of that area in Mrs. Hartley’s book, “Shepherd’s Pen,” at that time a common sheep grazing area. I did not like the word Pen as it gave the impression of confinement. I substituted the word “Glen” as the school sits at the base of a glen. Then-Superintendent Dr. Frank Yulo named West Woods School after the one-room school that closed in 1954.

For some time the Hamden Board of Education named buildings after notable citizens, such as First Selectman Michael Whalen, Superintendent M.L. Keefe and educator Alice Peck, but has discontinued that practice for some years, now using a combination of geographical or neighborhood designations such as Dunbar Hill, Bear Path, Church Street and Helen Street.

When it comes to recognizing our historical roots, Hamden is still in the forefront. The Amento Administration chose to name areas after Hamden citizens such as Chris Rendeiro, founder of the Golden Bells Festival, Val Moretti, soccer coach, and myself.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

November 22, 2006

‘They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot’

By John Carusone

Congratulations to Councilman John Flanagan for exposing the hypocrisy of the Council’s recent vote to “rededicate” the veterans’ monument site. This resolution recently passed to give vets site control is actually weaker than resolutions passed by my administration’s legislative council and planning & zoning commission in 1988 and 1990.

My resolutions specifically dedicated the former seventh hole of the Meadowbrook Golf Course for the monument site. Also included was a plot plan of the former hole. There was no confusion here. School authorities chose to completely ignore the facts and steamrolled the building, taking almost 90 percent of the land we deeded for the memorial.

The strategy of school authorities was clear from the beginning. They counted on the fact that no judge would order the building already under construction moved. The School Board’s strategy was akin to the famous battle cry, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Instead it was, “Damn the veterans, full speed ahead.”

Our resolutions gave the veterans total control of what went on the site. The town still owned the site and had to maintain it exactly as the rotunda in the original town hall. The state grant of $100,000 was specifically given to the town on the condition that the veterans would in perpetuity control the site. School authorities chose to ignore the grant stipulations in order to continue the building project, thereby thumbing their nose at the veterans. I’m surprised the state hasn’t asked the town to return the grant. If the state ever does, I trust the town will demand that the school system hierarchy pay it back.

The veterans went to court to try to block the land takeover and lost on one of the flimsiest judicial decisions in recent memory. Those kinds of decisions are called “results-oriented decisions.” The decision had no legal merit.

First, by claiming that veterans had no legal standing to sue and that the decades-old agreement of vets controlling the rotunda and the monument site was not in writing. For the historical record, I had ready to testify former mayors, town officials and representatives of every vets group of the past 40 years that the control of the rotunda and the Meadowbrook site belonged to the vets. This raises the issue of contract law. Let me quote the definition of a legal contract: “Any enforceable agreement, either written or oral, or implied by the actions or intentions of the parties.”

Veteran Ron Bergami was badgered and insulted by lawyers and school authorities. This man, a veteran of the South Pacific, was dying of cancer but that did not stop those in authority from spreading tales of how his court action was part of a hidden political agenda. Those who read this column know who you are and what you did and said.

Councilman Flanagan was right on target with his vote. If we judge school authorities by former actions, the present resolution is meaningless. As long as the educational hierarchy remains the same, if they want the land they will take it and then look again for a friendly court. Remember, that entire seventh hole was dedicated so that vets’ families could plant shrubs and install ground plaques and remembrance benches over the entire area. This would be a place of solitude and reflection. Now it’s a parking lot. What a tragedy.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

November 15, 2006

The Party’s Over, George

By John Carusone

Way back in 1952 when Hamden was getting ready to change its form of government from the Town Meeting to the RTM (Representative Town Meeting), my father, Dom, ran as a Democrat in Hamden’s first-ever district election.

He said something to me then that has resonated with me my entire political life: “In a campaign always tell people what you are for, they know what they are against.” In effect, always be positive. He won four elections in a row. I wonder what he would have said about this year’s elections, all of them loaded with downright negative dishonest ads.

First, it must be understood that pointing out a candidate’s public record is not a negative ad. If it’s truthful, it’s OK.

Let’s talk about former Connecticut Congresswoman Nancy Johnson. Her ad claiming Democratic challenger Chris Murphy voted “27” times to raise taxes is probably true and not negative. But her two unbelievably negative ads, I believe, led to her loss. The ad depicting Murphy as hesitating to tape a terrorist’s phone call from Pakistan to New York was just plain dishonest. The FISA court gives the government 72 hours to visit a judge after the call has been monitored.

Another Johnson ad had Murphy hugging a drug dealer. That was way off base. In Tennessee the racist ad depicting Ford, a black man, attending a Playboy party and courting a white woman was a clear attempt to pander to the Tennessee rednecks -- and it worked. Shades of Willie Horton in the 1988 presidential campaign.

Commentator Rush Limbaugh hit a new low -- if that was possible. His mimicking of actor Michael J. Fox was revolting. Limbaugh, the Viagra king (hmm, caught with 27 Viagra pills and four men), should be ashamed of himself, but people of his kind very rarely are. Did Fox have an impact? Apparently, yes. He campaigned in five districts and all won.

And did you see Lynn Cheney, the VP’s wife, on the CNN Wolf Blitzer show railing into Blitzer for asking her about her book “Sisters,” which has explicit lesbian sex scenes?  And she had lambasted Webb about the sex scenes in his book. And what was her response? “There are no sexual relationships or encounters in my book.” Are you kidding? Actual passages from her book were read publicly. She just plain lied. She apparently learned from her hubby that it’s OK to fudge the truth.


And have you noticed that every Republican commentator or strategist is calling for bipartisanship now that Dems are in control? It’s amazing that their memories are so short. In 1994 when the Republicans took control, they began a series of “investigations” on everything Clinton ever did. Over $250 million were spent, which eventually led to the impeachment hearings concerning a consensual sexual affair with an adult woman.

Was that bipartisan?

The Republican majority adopted a scorched earth policy that led to two government shutdowns.

I hope the Dems start with hearings on the war profiteering that has been going on. Where is the $12 billion that’s been lost? Who did lie about WMD in Iraq? Who actually had their phone calls monitored? Were Dems on that list? Did Condoleeza Rice know about the impending terrorist attacks on 9/11 and do nothing? This looks to be a two-year period where finally the American people are going to find out what really happened, and I do not believe it’s going to be pretty.

All the political kudos possible should go to Ned Lamont for crystallizing and nationalizing the Iraqi debate. And a big groan could be heard when Republican Sen. Joe Lieberman said he was going to “stay the course.” Let me make a prediction here: Lieberman will shortly be in the minority when he and the Bush rightwing Republicans in Senate take the same position. There will be a majority of moderate Republicans and Democrats who will begin extricating our nation from this colossal foreign policy blunder.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

November 8, 2006

Baseball Recap

By John Carusone

Now that the major league baseball season is over, allow me to add my two cents to the postseason commentaries. All of the key commentators are currently eating a large dose of crow.

Let’s start with Mike and the Mad Dog. Remember, “The Yankees will cream the Tigers. No way can they beat the Yankees.” What we now know that smart baseball men knew before the series is that strong young arms will most often throw the ball past free-swinging batters like A-Rod. Where was Mattingly, the Yankees hitting coach? Why didn’t he shorten up A-Rod’s swing like Matsui so he could just make contact with the ball and put it in play? The Tigers young pitching just overwhelmed the Yankees.

And how about the Mets? Did Willie Randolph goof by not allowing Glavine to bunt and move the runners to second and third? The Mets still ended up with the bases loaded, but Carlos Beltran violated one of the most fundamental rules of baseball I learned in 1948 from Matt Barberi, my physical education teacher in Hamden who started the elementary baseball program. He taught us never to keep the bat on your shoulder with two strikes on you. Anything close -- swing!

Now to the eventual winners: the St. Louis Cardinals. At the beginning of the playoffs the “experts”-- all of them -- picked the Cardinals to be knocked out in the first round. Peter Gammons, Tim McCarver, Dusty Baker, etc., all failed to mention -- or pay attention to --the fact that for most of the season Scott Rolen, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and David Eckstien were injured. When those four came back for the playoffs, St. Louis was a vastly different team and a better team. The Cardinals pitching led by Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter was able to easily match up with Detroit’s hitters who feasted on the Yankees’ older arms.

Let’s not fail to mention Cardinal manager, Tony LaRussa, now the third manager to win the series in both leagues. In total wins he ranks only behind John McGraw and Connie Mack. I saw Connie Mack in 1947 at Yankee Stadium when his Philadelphia Athletics played the Yankees. He is the last manager to wear a suit and trademark straw hat in the dugout.

Now about La Russa. He is a master of small ball. No one plays it better than he does. Just look at David Eckstein in the series, the MVP. Every one of his AB’s was small ball: bunt, hit and run, hit away, hit behind the runner. All of those decisions came from LaRussa.

And how about the Yankees and the Red Sox next year? In my opinion, the Red Sox will go nowhere and probably finish behind Toronto. The Yankees should unload A-Rod and hunt for some of the strong young arms that could be available. Phil Hughes is coming up and the Yanks are in the hunt for the No.1 pitcher in the Japanese leagues. A-Rod has become a major distraction and although his numbers are impressive, his clutch performances are sadly lacking. He will do better in a different market where the pressure will not be as great.

Let’s remember when the Yankees won their World Series under Torre, their third basemen were Charlie Hayes, Aaron Boone, Scott Brocious and Wade Boggs. Only Boggs made the Hall of Fame. The others will go into the Hall as just visitors. A-Rod has never vaulted any team into the World Series. So as not to be completely negative with the Yankees, I like to watch my grandchildren play in their respective little leagues. And who is the player I always tell them to watch whether he is hitting, on base or in the outfield? That’s Hideki Matsui, the player with the most fundamentally sound game on the Yankees. He has no apparent flaws in his game, whether offensive or defensive. The Japanese stress fundamentals. Maybe more American stars could do the same.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)

November 1, 2006

Where There Was War, There Was a Hamden Hero

By John Carusone

“Hamden’s history is America’s history. The country did not pass us by as we grew up, rather we grew together.” Those words were the closing lines in my 1976 film, “The History of Hamden, Connecticut.” The meaning, of course, is that Hamden men and women have taken part in every major national and international event.

Those words came to life the other evening as I viewed Clint Eastwood’s World War II masterpiece, “Flags of our Fathers,” the story of the famous Second World War battle for Iwo Jima. Four famous Hamdenites came to mind immediately and a fifth has a Hamden street named for him, as he never came back from that battle.

Hamden Mayor Bill Adams served with the Marines on Iwo Jima and survived the entire battle unscathed. Certain characteristics of Bill Adams have always stayed with me. If you see the movie you will certainly hear the Marines using every known expletive -- and even inventing some. I knew Bill Adams for over 20 years and his favorite “expletive” was “Good gawd.” He never swore.

Moon astronaut Alan Shepard and Mayor Bill Adams (right) being interviewed at the dedication of Ridge Hill School. Courtesy photo

A second famous Hamdenite was North Haven’s longtime First Selectman Walter Garwych. He was a graduate of Hamden High School. Walter was a close buddy of Guadalcanal hero John Basilone, who won the Medal of Honor on that famous island, but was killed on the first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima. Former Mayor Dick Harris flew dozens of combat sorties in the South Pacific flying the legendary fighter plane, the F4U-Chance-Vought gull-winged corsair, recently adopted as Connecticut’s own plane since it was built here during World War II. One of the most famous political photos of Hamden’s modern history showed Harris next to his fighter plane. That photo helped Harris defeat Republican Lucien DiMeo in the 1979 election. The plane is highlighted in the Eastwood film.

Former Councilman and mayoral candidate Floyd Atchley landed with the second wave of Marines at 0800 with the 5th Service Battalion. I interviewed Atchley for my book on Hamden history and he provided info that was just plain mind-boggling.

He was pinned down in the water due to increasingly accurate enemy fire. He eventually was able to move inland when the battleship North Carolina fired point blank into enemy positions on the island. He was at the base of Mt. Surabachi when the flag raising took place. The first flag raising was with his buddy B.C. Cleveland of the 28th Marines and with Ira Hayes, his Native-American friend who later took part in the second flag raising photographed by AP photographer Joe Rosenthal. Those two along with 11 others charged up Mt. Surabachi and reached the top. Cleveland had been hit 17 times, yet once the flag had been hoisted walked down to the beach and onto a hospital LST where he was treated and survived. He died at age 75 in Alabama.

Actor Tony Curtis played Hayes in the first movie and Adam Beach portrayed Hayes in Eastwood’s film. Atchley was a buddy of Basilone and described him as, “He believed in a life of immunity. He took unnecessary chances. He had a fearless attitude to the point of stupidity.”

On a lighter note, after the battle Atchley and many of his buddies hijacked 30,000 cases of beer bound for Japan and a lot of Marines found relief from wartime tension. And I believe that Fallon Drive is named after former Hamden Chronicle editor Bud O’Connor’s high school classmate who left school early to join the Marines and was killed on Iwo.

I trust that my opening statement is now much clearer, so let me repeat the meaning. Every major world event since our incorporation in 1786 has seen Hamdenites taking part in those events. And don’t miss Eastwood’s film. It is spectacular and just as powerful as “Saving Private Ryan.” Remember, Hamdenite Ray Calandrella was in the real 506th parachute regiment as was the fictional Private Ryan.

John Carusone was mayor of Hamden from 1987-1991, assistant school super from '69-'82 and a legislative councilor from '65-'69. The Hamden native is now retired but stays active in town affairs -- and has a lot to say about them. (Note: The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Hamden Daily News.)


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