6/18/14

March 2001

March 1, 2001

Overcast, 26 degrees at 7:15am.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are ordering the destruction of ancient Buddhist statues. Karen Brown, the WFCR Springfield reporter, had a story this morning about all the evangelical Russian immigrants settling in the valley. Genealogist John O'Connor gives lectures on the genealogical resources available at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum. Sarah Murray from the Springfield Preservation Trust was on TV lamenting the refusal of a judge to prevent the destruction of the Donahue House by the Quadrangle. In 1984 the Friends of the Library bought the Quadrangle a Gestetner Press to print flyers and informational pamphlets. The quality of the printing was less with the new press than it had been when they sent their stuff to an outside printer.

Had chicken noodle soup and asparagus tips on toast for breakfast. I called New England Fidelity today and their tape answered saying, "Thank you for calling, New England Fidelity Insurance Company has been placed in liquidation...." It then gave an address to write to at a post office box in West Springfield. I sent Tom Moriarty, Director of the Irish Cultural Center at Elms College, a note on orange paper telling him that I, The Orangeman, will not be attending the lecture by the Sinn Fein negotiator Martin McGuinness, who was invited by Rep. Neal, but warned him that "Protestant spies may come to monitor the event." I told him I would be attending their lecture on John Boyle O'Reilly next month.

I like my new astroturf doormat, barely a grain of sand get by it. I should have bought one long ago. This morning I went over to Louis & Clark and picked up the Union-News for the latest banalities and the new Valley Advocate for some real news. There is a big liquidation sign on the front of Frank's, the gardening store next to the Big Y on Boston Road. Mr. Tux rentals has put in all new front plate glass windows and looks better than before. In behind Stop&Shop and Kids R Us, where Red Lobster was (they sold more shrimp than lobster) there is a Smokey Bones BBQ Sports Bar with a sign in front saying they are hiring.

I continued down Boston Road to Home Depot, which had a lot of cars and pick-up trucks in the parking lot. I got some wallpaper to replace the discolored area around my stove. The wallpaper in the kitchen was beautiful when we first moved onto Birchland, but when I was at college Mother had someone replace it and it was not properly glued down. From there I went to the McDonald's at the Eastfield Mall and got a chicken sandwich off the dollar menu. I stopped in at Filene's and asked if they had any free perfume samples and the lady gave me three. I next drove over to Lowe's, which didn't have as many customers as Home Depot, although Lowe's is tidier and cleaner. When I got home I saw a small black truck driven by a woman, plate 844 ZER, turning around in my driveway.

Queers do a public service by not having children and in some cases adopting them. The future is increasingly queer. The mail brought a one line thank you note from Robert Parks of the Morgan Library, but that will do. I called Aunt Maria and Shirley told me she was taking her afternoon nap. I told her about the Maxwell Parrish stamp and Shirley said she always buys commemorative stamps and matches them with her friend's personalities. I said I'd like to see what stamp she would select for me! Shirley told me that Jerry Harvey and his grandson from Boston came and stayed for two hours.

Two people from Phillip's Career Development Institute are in jail until they agree to co-operate with the Grand Jury. Eamon called and joked that skateboarders will want to do extreme workouts off the dome of the new Basketball Hall of Fame. Eamon told me that Police Chief Meara discovered her house by the Longmeadow town line "engulfed in smoke after nodding off" while cooking and dialed 911. She managed to put the fire out herself and so she called 911 again and said she didn't need them, but was told the fire trucks were "already en route." When they showed up Meara angrily asked why it had taken them so long to respond. Eamon accused Meara of "ingratitude and a lack of professionalism" for treating the fire fighters that way.

March 3, 2001

Less than an inch of snow fell overnight. 28 degrees at 7:15am.

In 1986, Governor Michael S. Dukakis signed into law a major estate tax cut sponsored by State Senator John W. Olver of Amherst. Robert L. Howarth was the State Representative for the 13th Hampden District in 1986. Mrs. Estelle Rivest was a Secretary to the Dean of Holyoke Community College in 1982. Phillip S. Campbell was Dean of the College in 1983. The Institute for International Co-operation and Development is located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The Shea Library at American International College is a good place for gathering posters. WFCR reported that Denise Gendron donated to them about 9am.

Today is the birthday of Dr. Seuss. No doubt he is a towering literary/artistic genius. Mother was one of his earliest fans, cutting out his poem When Marco Comes Late which was published in Redbook. It was about a kid who was late for school and told his teacher a fantastic tale. When the teacher asked whether all these things really happened, he replied in the poem's last line, "Not quite all, I guess, but I did see a worm." I had a remarkable full-color dream last night that I was going to write down but I have forgotten it. It had something to do with a statue of a soldier on the 6th floor of Steiger's that I wanted to buy. I wrote six gay poems this morning to enter in forthcoming poetry contests. Had the Stouffer's Fish Filet with macaroni and cheese today that I got at Stop&Shop.

On the morning news Jerry Gretzinger mispronounced the name of the Taliban. I watched a kid's show today called Tyler, it was a lot of violence justified in the name of education. Old Reminders and Union-News Extras are strewn all over the Gallagher's lawn. This morning I went to a booksale at the Goodwill in the Acres. The parking lot was full, but perhaps some people were in Burger King. The shelves were packed the last time, but today some were partially empty. I spoke to the lady and she said there was a line outside waiting when they opened at 8am and the best books quickly sold. I told her that at least that shows that they weren't offering valuable books to an audience too insensitive to buy them. I ended up buying ten cheap paperbacks. From there I went to AAA where I got four road maps but they had no calendars.

I then drove into the city to look around. I stopped at the miniature train station by the river where Picknelly sells his boat rides. I drove by the Visitor's Center, which looks like it will be ugly and too bright. The ironwork is almost done on the Basketball Hall of Fame. I parked beside Hampden Savings Bank, then spoke to Jerry the white haired manager of Pizzeria Uno. He told me Mike Hurwitz worked for Pizzeria Uno for twenty years before becoming a franchise owner. Jerry said they'll be closing downtown by the end of the month. I saw a lovely waterfall painting at Antiques on Boland Way for $600. I got a handful of woman's magazines out of a trash can outside a beauty parlor in Market Square. Just Friends is all fixed up, except for their front steps. I counted 14 people in there. WNEC still has their little office in Tower Square, but WNNZ is gone. Overall, downtown is a mess.

When I got the mail at 2pm the snow on the driveway had all melted. The mail contained a letter from Roy Scott begging for money for WGBY. TV22 had Ernest Bates Jr. on talking about insurance, which is good free advertising for him. I once called complaining about it, but nothing has changed. There was an ad on for Real to Reel with Mike Graziano telling us how Loretta Laroche will be on Sunday. She is a self-proclaimed "Humor Consultant" and appears to be in the same racket as Mr. Sobel. The Quadrangle began demolishing the Donahue House on Chestnut Street this morning. The Quad didn't want to risk anymore attempts to save the historic structure. Eamon's latest phone editorial ridicules Chief Meara for her rude response to the firemen who came to help her with a cooking fire in her house.

March 5, 2001

32 degrees at 10:15am.

Fred Laswell, who drew the Snuffy Smith cartoons since 1942, has died at 84. My parents bought the house at 37 Crest Street in July 1937 for $2,500. In 1983, the average salary for a Massachusetts public school teacher was $19,000 per year. Claude L. Shepard Jr. was a Staff Associate in the Legal Studies Program at UMass in 1983. Lowe's Home Improvement is having "How-to Clinics" in April on subjects such as gardening and lawn care. The WNEC art gallery is doing a retrospective of the art of John Phelps. R. Muhlburger runs their gallery and I suspect he is behind the Phelps show. Corriveau's color picture is hanging up once again at the back of the 16 Acres Library.

WFCR is in the midst of their spring pledge drive. They said it costs them $192,000 per month to operate. An English teacher called in to contribute and said she enjoys listening to WFCR while she corrects her student's papers. Was reading some of my recently acquired books such as Carol L. Cohen on Street Markets (1973) a kind of high hippie travel book, and I will now read a collection of Cathy cartoons. I had breakfast this morning at the McDonald's on Allen and then got a few groceries at the A&P Super Foodmart at Five Town Mall. Drove past Wesley Church and saw 8 cars in the lot. I left a big bag of magazines in Mrs. Staniski's back entrance way after stopping at Angelo's for some fruit.

When I got back I called Shirley to see how Aunt Maria is and she said "Maria is fine and up and about." Then I called Melinda McIntosh and informed her of all the upcoming tag sales. A wrong number that my phone ID identified as Leon Witter Rey called looking for Storrowtown. I am assembling photos for an album of pictures of Fernbank which I will present to the Town of Wilbraham for their historical archives. I was surprised to come across a picture of Billy Belden. Billy is presently 78 years old and in the Optimum Care Center in Westfield, which is so new I can't even find it in the phone book. His cousin Joan Jenks lives in Feeding Hills. I also found a picture of Mother riding a bicycle in the driveway of Aunt Maria's in 1940. In the background you can see the cute little cottage of Martha and Al Koch, who moved to Florida in 1959. They had no children and Al Koch worked at Kane's fixing furniture. I also found some plastic rain hats I'll give to Mrs. Staniski.

They said we might get a big snowstorm today but we only got an inch. Adam Stremko has revised his prediction to just four inches overnight. There were lots of cancellations floating across the bottom of the TV screen. What I should do sometime is call in that the Law Offices of J. Wesley Miller are closed today and get my name on there like Bulkley-Richardson and a whole slew of doctors did. I'll try it sometime. The news said Springfield has been sanding since the middle of the day but they won't plow until two inches is down. The Union-News Extra used to say "Valuable Coupons Inside" but there were never any coupons. Now it says "Valuable Savings Inside." Eamon called and was critical of the Springfield Newspapers for not doing more over the years to "expose the corruption" of Soco Catjakis. He also wondered if the reason Chief Meara didn't wake up before her stove fire got out of hand was because her fire detector didn't have a battery. If so, that is a legal housing code violation for which she should be punished with an increase in her insurance premiums.

March 7, 2001

32 degrees in the breezeway at 7:00am.

Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Department of Public Affairs, was on the Lehrer News Hour on TV57 tonight defending civilian junkets on navy boats. I should write to him and say that if servicemen and civilians are equal, then when do I get to drive a battleship? Hillary Clinton was criticized by someone on the same show for being "no Eleanor Roosevelt." There was a cartoon in the paper that showed Bill Clinton as Elvis. William Dwight of the Holyoke Transcript-Telegram and a Deerfield grad has died at age 71. Laurie Shea was Assistant Director of Admissions at UMass in 1983. Jeff Jeffords was a congressman from Vermont in 1980. Today is Town Meeting Day in Vermont. The Herald of Randolph, Vermont has been redesigned and now has color pictures. A lousy maple sugar season is predicted for this year.

I had some Bristol Creme before bed and slept wonderfully. Over nine inches of snow fell last night. My street was fully plowed. The wind is blowing the snow out of the trees. My back hedge is weighed down with snow. While I was clearing the driveway Cressotti drove by and waved. I found The Reminder in a blue plastic bag nearly buried in a snow dune by the mailbox. It has a story about Lyman Wood, who is trying to get 24 houses built on land he owns in Wilbraham. Pearsall is quoted as saying, "It will take some time before a decision is made." Lyman should give the land to the town and call it Woods Park. I found a picture today in the attic of Mother with her childhood friend Margaret Wallace taken in 1925. I also discovered a portable television set still in the box and ten electric clocks Mother had stored just in case we ever needed them. I found a Forbes & Wallace photo department envelope and a C. Rogers & Co. negative wallet. Father was a regular customer at both places. I also found picture of the photostat machine Father used to use at Monarch.

In 1982 Hobbies Magazine declined to publish my article critical of the Quadrangle, after paying me $200 for it. When I demanded $75 more for the photographs I included, Editor Fran Graham refused. Local historian Fran Gagnon is giving a talk on The Greening of Springfield at the Springfield Armory Historic Site on March 10th. I answered a wrong number today from someone with a lot of birds tweeting in the background, but when I spoke they hung up in my ear. I got a phone call from Alves Sweet, a Republican fundraiser operating out of Washington D.C. who told me that labor unions are preparing to make a lot of trouble for President Bush. I told him I am a liberal Republican who likes labor unions and mentioned Wayne Budd as the kind of local Republican I approve of. I was urged to donate $100 but I politely declined and wished him well. Lately I have heard some unusual clicking on my line.

I wonder if I should wear my bondage helmet to the Hat Parade this year? Got a note today from Mr. Cohn informing me that he has lost the book I lent him about the Middle East. I called and told him to forget about it, "The whole idea of mailing you things is is to cheer you up, not to make problems for you, and besides I have thousands of books!" But the truth is I am annoyed. He has done this before, losing a book on Judaism I lent him. I went to Louis & Clark and mailed three pictures of the Miles Morgan statue in Court Square, including one from the back in direct sunlight, to Park at the Morgan Museum. I stopped at CopyCat and made a couple of copies. The parking lot at the Breckwood Shops was packed. There are plenty of people shopping in Springfield, just not downtown.

Springfield is still without a single skateboard park. Mayor Albano was on TV40 tonight saying he has little faith in the MCAS tests, informing us that he himself "never tested well" when he was in school, but still ended up being mayor. He also admitted that he had failed tests to get into law school! Later, Eamon called and complained that recent articles in the Union-News critical of Soco Catjakis don't go far enough. He accused Catjakis, Frankie Keough, Gerald Phillips and Brian Santaniello of being career politicians who are "sucking the city dry." He said he believes that payoffs are regularly made to City Hall to receive community development money, facade grants and zone changes. Eamon hopes they will all be eventually dragged before a Grand Jury, but admitted that it probably wouldn't do much good because they would all plead the Fifth Amendment.

March 9, 2001

Overcast, 32 degrees at 7:30am.

Roy Scott was on WFCR this morning begging for money. The CityBlock concerts were originally going to be on Main Street instead of Stearns Square, but the downtown merchants complained. Esther Godek is a Chicopee artist born in 1926 and a graduate of Chicopee High School. The Pynchon Award, Springfield's highest honor, goes this year to Eric Bachrach, founder of the Community School of Music. For once the Pynchon goes to someone who might actually deserve it.

The Cohn's are going to Florida for two weeks. The news says the recent snowfall cost Massachusetts $13 million for plowing. The news also said that someone at 92 Barber Street in Pine Point made a 13 foot igloo and put lawn chairs inside. Nothing in the mail today, that I have heard nothing from Aunt Martha is suspicious. I called Mrs. Ehrenberg at the Tuesday Morning Music Club and had a nice chat with her about the Frederick Historic Piano Collection, which I was surprised she had never heard of. Andrew from Mountain View Weed and Lawn Care called, but I told him that someone from Chemlawn killed some of my pet flowers from last year and I am not interested.

Went to Louis & Clark and got the new Valley Advocate, which had nothing of interest in it. Are Vannah and Turner on vacation? Then I went and got fruit at Angelo's, bread at Arnold's and a 99 cent Big & Tasty at McDonald's on Boston Road. Afterwards, I crossed the street and bought some margarine at the Big Y supermarket, where a tabloid at the checkout claimed that Hillary Clinton will file for divorce in April. Arnold Avenue by the school bus depot has a large number of potholes, it is impossible to get down the street without hitting them. Next I went downtown to the State offices in the former post office at 438 Dwight Street to leave my complaints about Ring with the receptionist at the State Attorney General's office. Then over to the Telephone Worker's Credit Union to deposit some chickenfeed and get my statement of interest. Their March newsletter is not out yet, but I said nothing.

As I drove down Main Street and by the Federal Building/Courthouse, all the television crews were lined up, TV22, TV40 with an immense dish and WCVB in Boston. Also 93.1, which must be a radio station. They were covering Carol Bevan-Bogart's testimony in the trial of Officer John DiNapoli's accused killer. I recall that Carol was Gordon Oakes' Public Relations lady near the end of Monarch. After pausing briefly at Antiques on Boland Way, where the store manager is Juan R. Ortiz, I continued on to the City Library. Coming up Harrison there was a little snow in the air. Once I got to the library, I discovered that it doesn't open on Friday's until noon. Coming out of the Quadrangle onto Chestnut, I saw that Associated Building Wreckers were still working at pulling down the historic Donahue House. When I got home, for lunch I had a can of Campbell's Fiesta Vegetable Soup.

Henry Thomas, a supporter of the MCAS test, has been appointed to the State Board of Education. Eamon's latest telephone answering machine editorial mocks Mayor Albano for his comments on TV the other night admitting that he tested poorly as a kid and couldn't get into law school. Eamon thinks that explains a lot about why Springfield has sunk deeper into trouble under Albano: "By his own admission, Mayor Albano was a lousy student who was unable to pass tests. Apparently, that means he had to cheat and lie to obtain a social promotion diploma from Longmeadow High and two degrees from local diploma mills A.I.C. and Springfield College. His record of academic failure proves that even dummies can rise to the top, especially in politics. Albano is good at fooling the public, appearing superficially correct while presiding over a mismanaged, junk bond rated city with an inferior, last placed school system."

March 11, 2001

Snowing at 6:15am. Gas is $1.39 at Pride in the Acres.

WFCR says the Taliban have completed the destruction of the Buddhist statues which they found offensive to the Muslim religion. The WFCR fund drive ends Monday. Someone on TV was claiming that if the votes were counted properly in Palm Beach, then Gore would have won Florida over Bush. It is interesting the attention that is being paid to bullying in the schools these days. When I was in school bullying was viewed as just a part of growing up. The news says the bridges in Massachusetts are in some of the worst repair in the country. The Salvation Army on TV40 said they need clothing, household items and furniture. Karen Kapusta is the Consumer Liason for the Office of Attorney General Tom Reilly.

It looks like January, a winter wonderland in March! Went out to shovel snow at 9:30am. I saw animal footprints leading from my back door to the hedge, a rabbit perhaps? I could see Lucius' red Cadillac through his open garage door. After shoveling, I drove to the McDonald's on Allen Street and had a sausage McMuffin while I read the morning paper. It had nothing in it really, just a bunch of junk. Then I swung by Food Mart for some cabbage and orange juice. I went to the Acres Goodwill, but I found no good books, so I drove over to the Goodwill at the X and did quite well, finding several books I know I can resell to Odyssey in South Hadley at a profit.

In the attic today, I came across two tacky bowling trophies Father won in the 1950's. He also won a bowling medal, which I put in Mother's urn. One trophy says he won it while on the Monarch Interoffice League in 1953. The other has a cheesy plastic base and says simply "High Single/John Miller." I recall that Mother was always pressuring Father to give up bowling, but he kept it up for several years. I don't know what happened to make him finally stop. The Monarch teams bowled in lanes located on lower State Street up over the grocery next to Benton Park Liquor Store near STCC. I don't recall whether it was an A&P market or what, but we went there quite a lot when I was a boy. I threw both trophies away.

A wrong number called today and said, "Gary said to call for custom lobsters." I replied that all I offer are legal services at $200 per hour or any fraction thereof. Annoyingly, two minutes later she called again. When a minute later she called back a third time I declared, "Madam, that's three calls at a fraction of an hour each, so the total you now owe me is $600 and I expect to be paid." She slammed down the phone. My caller ID says her number is 413-530-6600.

Some 250 citizens marched today from the Forest Park Library to Mayor Albano's home to demand that the library be open for more hours. Ironically, Albano wasn't home when the protesters arrived because he was in Mason Square announcing a $1.2 million dollar renovation project there. He said they have plans to renovate the East Springfield branch next year and Forest Park in 2003. Albano also claimed that the total number of hours the libraries are open system wide is more now than when he was first elected in 1995. I don't see why the Mason Square Library needs renovation, as it is one of the city's most modern. This is obviously a political attempt to pander to black voters, since there is no logical reason to renovate Mason Square ahead of Forest Park, which is the most antiquated branch in the system.

March 12, 2001

Sleight breeze, 34 degrees at 8am. There are daffodil sprouts near the foundation of the house.

Harvard has a new President Lawrence Summers, according to a leak in the Harvard Crimson. Students have been protesting that there isn't enough student involvement in the selection process. Today was the last day of the WFCR fund drive and the Bank of Western Mass is giving a $50 savings bond for every first time caller who pledges $100. They keep stressing that you can donate online. WFCR had a spoof of our local news with a man going on about inane news stories and constantly mentioning an upcoming weather forecast. At the end they said "some folks want more substance, so mail in your pledge." WFCR seldom makes fun of others in the broadcast media, and no stations were mentioned, but they really nailed the problem with our local news.

The Boot Scoot Boogie Boys are Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn. In 1986 Katherine Whittemore was an Associate Editor for New England Monthly in Haydenville. Coach Bruiser Flint is out at UMass. I sort of liked Bruiser, his overall record was 86 won, 72 lost, but 15 and 15 this year. Guess he didn't win enough games and fill enough seats. That still makes him the third all time winningest coach at UMass. The Mullens Center at UMass sent me a questionnaire asking whether I prefer country music, family shows, skating shows, professional sports or Other. I checked country music, family shows and under Other I wrote symphony concerts, opera and poetry slams.

I called Melinda McIntosh today and left a message about the Foster Memorial sale on the 17th. Left the house at 9:15am and the first stop was United Co-operative Bank in the Acres. Then I made some copies at Pride, then put some mail in the box outside the Goodwill store. I went inside where the supervisor Ann was removing garments from the racks. She said clothes remain on the racks for about five weeks, then they give them away to the needy. From there I went to the Bank of Western Mass where I picked up a beer bottle off their front lawn. I gave it to a teller who joked as she threw it in her trashcan, "I hope they don't think I've been drinking!"

Next I went over to Woronoco, where en route I saw that the Smokey Bones BBQ Sports Bar is opening March 20th. Frank's gardening place is completely closed, it's sad, it was the perfect store for gardening and crafts. Ten years is about how long things last these days. Inside Woronoco Julie Cyr was very friendly and said she has been on vacation. She also said she is moving into a new home in East Longmeadow. In fact, she said a new Woronoco branch is opening in East Longmeadow today on Shaker Road, where Fleet was. I picked up a brochure "It's Showtime at the Log Cabin!" It's $36 but looks like it's a real nice sort of thing, why not get out of Springfield for a change?

I headed downtown and noticed that the Exeter Building is being demolished. It was a trim, 2 storey building with office like suites over small shops. It should have been saved for use by small businesses. After I parked I walked down Main, where the grumpy lady from the tourist office walked by and refused to make eye contact with me. I went into the Peter Pan bus station and bought a newspaper and an Omwich at Dunkin Donuts. The newspaper had an article inside about book appraising. There was no place to sit so I stood at the dead end of the ticket counter, but they said go and eat it in the waiting area. Continuing down Main, once again there was the media camped outside the DiNucci murder trial, with the addition of WBC Channel 4. All of them with their trucks and their satellites but no one to interview.

I stopped at Attorney Michael Hassett's office on the 4th floor of the Johnson's Bookstore Building at 1483 Main Street, where he shares a large suite with Frank Buendo. When I walked in the receptionist's desk was cluttered but there was no occupant. I had to call out three times before Buendo, a large man in the office closest to the door, came out and said he was busy and Hassett was not there. I asked Buendo for his card and he growled, "I'm not giving you my card, I'm not your lawyer!" I replied, "You're certainly a bit arrogant," and then wished him a good day. Obviously a man with problems. I think he and Hassett just rent together, it isn't really a firm. I recall that back in 1998 Hassett & Buendo were at 1350 Main Street.

On the way out I got a postcard from EDH Associates, a bright office in the back corner of the Bookstore Building. I paused to see if Mr. Johnson was in, but a black man Willie came to the door and said Johnson was not in. I left a request with him for the expired Mt. Tom poster on the front door. I peeked briefly into Main Music before returning to the car. I continued on to the City Library at the Quadrangle, where I did research on Thomas Grady with help from a cute little Simmons grad named Diane Scarf. She said they had only one copy of The Barrister (1799). In the rotunda they had Japanese prints on display in cases that were marked as a gift of The Friends of the Library. In the Periodicals room I read the Burlington Free Press. I wanted to make copies of a University of Vermont article but the copy machine was not working. The library appeared rather messy with unused cleaning equipment left in the corners instead of out of sight.

From the library I crossed over to the offices of Mark E. Salamone, located on the first floor. The wallpaper was of old books, how quaint! The have a reception area with Chippendale furniture and a Latino receptionist who escorted me to the same meeting room where I met with John Thompson years ago. They had copies of Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and the ABA Journal special issue on the presidential election. After a long while, a large man John J. McQuade came along and I told him all about my Ring complaints. He said that "isn't the sort of thing we would handle," and suggested I file a complaint with Elder Affairs. He reminded me that there is a three year statute of limitations so I should get on it. He was nice enough but offered only minimal assistance.

On my way home I stopped by the Shea Library at A.I.C. but there was nothing in the newest Chronicle of Education. This week their students are on Spring Break. Today the resurrection of the death penalty was defeated by a 32 vote margin in the state legislature in Boston. Rep. Paul Caron was on the TV40 news tonight saying he opposed the death penalty because "there is no greater punishment than life in prison." I agree.

March 13, 2001

Everything covered with ice, 37 degrees at 1:30pm.

Japanese stocks are in freefall, down to 1985 levels. WFCR had a segment about how "online banking hasn't really caught on." It depends on age, those 35 and under are twice as likely to use an ATM than someone over 65. People of all ages complain about the transaction fees. WFCR said they raised $127,000 dollars in their fundraising drive. TV40 said there may be a coming shortage of English teachers. Dave Williams is a former pro-baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds. He graduated from North Adams State College and is the manager of the Springfield Wolverines. The abandoned Northampton State Hospital has become a mecca for photographers and the police have started arresting them for trespassing.

The snow is up to the top of the birdbath pedestal. I stuck my aluminum yardstick in the snow on the breezeway and the measurement was 19 inches high. The Reminder was left in a snowbank by the mailbox. The Metro-west Reminder debuted March 7th. I put a new battery in my phone number identifier. I called Claudia Kopkowski, Administrative Assistant in Land Management, requesting a copy of their brochure Twelve Ways to Protect Land in Massachusetts. Then I called the Log Cabin to see about their Showtime dinners and the woman said that gratuities are not included, reservations are "absolutely required." She said the dress code is casual and urged me to "dress however you like." I said, "Madam, if you only knew who you are talking to!" I told her I wear a motorcycle jacket and she replied, "I don't like motorcycle jackets, but sure, you can wear it." I told her, "I'm a nice person and won't steal any silverware." She laughed and said, "Come however you like." I told her it sounds like a wonderful event and it sure beats the dickens outs of what they offer in downtown Springfield. Finally, I called Daryl at R&R Junk Car Removal on Rocus Street and asked if he knew of anyone who might want to restore Mother's Model T Ford. He said he will call around and see. Spoke briefly with Vince at Cat's Paw who said everything is fine.

Trinity College President Evan S. Dobelle is leaving Trinity College in Hartford for the University of Hawaii. Friendly's stock closed at 2.01, Northeast Utilities closed below 20 at $18.40, Woronoco stays firm at 14.55. The comics had "Marvin's Babies Bill of Rights." I am working on a Doll's Bill of Rights. Went out and made some copies at CopyCat, put out the mail at Louis & Clark, got fruit at Angelo's, bought some peanuts at the Marketplace/Joblot, looked at tile at Lowe's and bought the corned beef special at Stop&Shop.

I had a Swanson Baked Turkey Dinner late in the day. Barbara Anderson's Citizens for Limited Taxation wants Attorney General Tom Reilly to drop the state's anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft as bad for the state's economy. Eamon called and complained that the recent article in the Union-News about the shady dealings of Soco Catjakis would be better spent attacking Mayor Albano. He said all that Catjakis has done is take advantage of a corrupt system already in existence, he didn't create it. I told Eamon that I was surprised by his unprincipled pragmatism and pointed out that Catjakis was probably corrupt long before Albano became mayor.

March 14, 2001

Sunny and 36 degrees at 7:15am.

The manner in which William Jefferson Clinton left office was a disgrace to the Democratic Party, a disgrace to the Methodist Church and surely an embarrassment to his grabbing and excessively pragmatic wife. This morning WFCR reported that the University of Vermont is hoping to attract more students "especially from Vermont." They also played Haydn's Military Symphony 100. Found a picture today of Rocco Verrilli with Povirk in the background.

Bringing in the mail today I slipped on the ice and fell flat on my back, but I'm okay I guess. Dollars & Sense, the newsletter of the Western Mass Telephone Workers arrived in the mail and has a front page thank you from President Paul C. McDonald for Father's manuscript:

The Credit Union thanks J. Wesley Miller, Esq. of Springfield, for providing us with a history of the Monarch Credit Union, a document written by his father, John W. Miller. We are grateful to receive this valuable historical reference, and we will see that it is preserved for posterity at this Credit Union.

I called President McDonald and thanked him, to which he jovially replied, "Oh, you bet!" I wished him a Happy St. Patrick's Day and that was that. I would have liked him to have sent a letter and several copies of the newsletter, but the publication of their gratitude is sufficient.

Today I dined on a Stouffer's Chicken ala King Dinner with Rice. A woman calling from White Street School said, "Actually I was trying to call Storrowtown Restaurant. I think I got the wrong number." I replied, "Yes, Madam, you did." She hung up without apologizing. This afternoon I drove over to Mrs. Staniski's with a big bag of periodicals for her to read. She was just getting home from Stop&Shop and unloading her car as I arrived, so I brought in her things for her. When I left, she gave me some reading material from Ann and a package of Ferrero Rocher Fine Hazelnut Chocolates.

My next stop was Eamon's, who had his Mickey Mouse and shamrock flags up. There was a hose in his driveway, but no sign of Eamon or his dog. I left a bag of reading material by his back door and a note saying, "Happy St. Patrick's Day. Go to Ireland and have a good time!" While I was in the neighborhood I went to Savers, where they have signs up saying 50% off everything. All the shelves are packed, but the price of everything is actually double the usual price, so they are just getting the normal price. Then I went to the Liberty Stop&Shop and bought a Union-News, which had a nice article in it about Professor T. Moriarty. The paper also had an example of the stupidity of Friendly's, with an expensive insert devoted to their Jumbo Burger, but this is the day for corned beef and cabbage, so their advertising is falling on deaf ears.

As I was walking past Family Florist on my way out of Stop&Shop, I saw a policeman drop a white plastic bag on the ground. I was amazed, and shouted to the young Latino officer, "What about that bag you dropped?" At first he stared at me then said, "Are you questioning me?" I replied, "Yes I am! I'm Attorney J. Wesley Miller, and I want to know why you dropped that." The cop replied, "I found it lying on the ground and picked it up to see what was in it. There is nothing inside except garbage." He then walked away and got into cruiser number 129. I went over and checked the white plastic Walgreen bag myself, and it did indeed contain trash, mostly food wrappers for things like Angie's Tortellinis with meat and Kleenex Cottonelle, all brand name products. The bag may have belonged to the cop himself, as it's well known that cops buy quality, never anything cheap. In any case, the cop should not have just left it behind. A policeman is a role model, and the public would benefit from seeing a cop walking to a trashcan to throw away litter.

March 16, 2001

Lovely early spring day, 36 degrees at 7:30am.

Holyoke was founded by Irish immigrants in 1663. This year is the 50th Anniversary of Dennis the Menace comics. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 68. Gay marriage is being discussed by the Connecticut Legislature, but yesterday Vermont voted 84-58 to outlaw gay marriage. Debra J. Ridlon was Assistant to the Director of Placement and Law Alumni Relations at WNEC School of Law in 1980. F. Robert Naka is the Chair of the John Harvard Society, Class of 1951. Liam R. Jones and Robert Patruno are police officers in Springfield. Located in Agawam, Robinson Consulting provides consulting services and custom designed software for businesses.

Normally, this time of year I would be raking the flower bed, but it is still buried in snow. The snow is melting about an inch each day. C. Moynihan's hedge is a mess, branches sticking out everywhere, it looks awful. The fact is Colleen is a bitch in her own way. Went to Louis & Clark and got the wonderful new issue of the Valley Advocate attacking aide Anthony Ardolino. What was the Goodwill in the line of stores besides Louis & Clark has been empty for months since the Goodwill moved to the old A&P in the Acres. Now there is a new store in there, Wireless-4-Less. I went in and met Eugene Stoval, the friendly, young, black man presiding over the place.

From there I went to Red Brick Books in Hungry Hill. The lady working told me that Frank Faulkner has been in Ireland building a house that is almost finished. She didn't know anything about the current status of his wife. There was no issue of Hungry Hill Magazine in January, then an orange issue in February, but nothing so far for March. She also complained that there are too many bookstores around here for the local market. Went by Savers at 1277 Liberty Street, which I noted opens at 8am. They had balloons and red streamers up and the parking lot was full. Inside there were plenty of customers, but the place wasn't mobbed. Everything was marked two or three times the normal price so they could mark it down to half price when you got to the register. I looked at the books and was very picky about what I took. I got books on arson, environmental law enforcement and a little book of jokes taken from back issues of Punch, which was the most valuable thing I got. I turned down a copy of Guerrilla Marketing because someone had underlined in it and the pages were turning brown. I also got a 2000 calendar from St. George's Parish in Chicopee.

I went by the Quad where the parking lot was pretty much full, and looked at the exhibit of Russian icons. I saw a young woman there who had on Birkenstock sandals that had Dr. Seuss decorations on them. The Science Museum had Northampton Oxbow images on display. On my way home I paused at the Springfield College Library where the latest Chronicle of Education was in. Upon leaving, I found I had gotten a parking ticket for parking too long in a visitor's space, which was not very hospitable of them, I think. I went to United Cooperative Bank and cashed a Bank of Boston check for $107.40. Then to Eastfield Mall where they had free perfume samples at Filenes. In GNC they said they are a company store and told me that the one in East Longmeadow is a franchise and carries a wider range of products.

When I got home, I called Shirley H. and told her to be sure to get a copy of this week's Advocate. She said Aunt Maria is fine. The mail has been rather disappointing this week. Someone identified as T. Fioroni called asking, "Is this Storrowtown Tavern?" Barry Kriger did the local news report tonight. TV22 always uses A.G. Edwards when they do a story on the stock market and Bates for a story on insurance. Why don't they spread the publicity favors around to other firms? Chris Asselin has been fined for misuse of postal funds in his last campaign. Eamon called complaining that what good are new school buildings if the kids can't even read and write? He said "no one holds the teachers, principals and the Superintendent accountable for their record of academic failure." He promised to keep attacking the local politicians for their corruption and incompetence, so I asked him if he was ever afraid that they would retaliate against him. Eamon laughed and said, "They can't touch me, I've got the goods on everybody in Springfield!"

March 18, 2001

Beautiful day out, 40 degrees at 7am.

WFCR said that 300,000 people showed up for the 50th St. Patrick's Day Parade yesterday in Holyoke. Former Bishop Joseph F. McGuire was the Parade Marshall and looked so hale and healthy I wonder why he retired? The embarrassments of all the sex scandals may have been the reason. Baystate Medical Center was a major parade sponsor. Professor Moriarty got an award and Congressman Neal and the President of Elms both said nice things about him. The Shriners were marching, and a dragon float, thirty feet long and snorting fire, was there from West Springfield with their colleen enthroned on it. Jack O'Neil and Brenda Garton were the hosts on TV22, the coverage of which ran from noon to 3pm. They had four people marching who marched in the first parade in 1951.

Got piles of junk mail today, I've sent out mountains of letters and should have received some replies. My book The Lawyer's Alcove has sold 106 copies to date. Saturday night I had a dream I actually remembered. In my dream, I saw a lot of Dumbo dolls for sale just like mine. I was going to buy one because mine is somewhat worn out, but then became overcome with guilt for being disloyal to my beloved Dumbo. So in my dream I refused to make the purchase. I checked today and I saw that my oil tank gauge is just above one half, so I got through the winter on just a tank and a half of oil by keeping the thermostat at 50, raising it to 55 when it got really cold. For lunch, I went to the McDonald's on Allen to read the paper, which had nothing in it except an article about Teresa Regina.

The snow is melting down and the daffodils are two inches high. I weigh 205 pounds, which is too much. Went to the rummage sale put on by Fosterians at Foster Memorial Church on the corner of Wilbraham Road and Parker Street in Sixteen Acres Center. I bought a large brass sundial, a tea strainer and a few books, one of which was a copy of Durham Caldwell's novella for one dollar. From there I went to the Goodwill where Nolan was on duty. She told me she thinks the Valley Advocate is too critical sometimes, she said it seems every time they write about politics it's something negative. I told her that the story they did on the Goodwill was positive, and that every story has its positive and negative aspects to it.

Thence to Home Depot in Wilbraham where I bought some tiles. I found an organic food poster stuck on a phone booth. That's two posters I've gotten in unusual places recently, the other being at the end of a library book stack at Springfield College. I came home and tiled around the kitchen area. At the end my back hurt like hell, both from the fall the other day and from stretching to put tiles in the corner between the sink and the stove. A few tiles are a bit crooked, but everything overall looks satisfactory and I will hide the crooked ones behind the microwave. I called Shirley Huang, who said that she and Aunt Maria were watching The Three Irish Tenors on TV57. I said that was good because Aunt Maria always liked Irish music.

Eamon called and said that the Albano Administration has deep mob connections and has "a wiseguy goon squad mentality." He claimed they are not above using threats and intimidation to achieve their objectives. After Eamon hung up, I called Peter Picknelly at Peter Pan and surprisingly he picked up the phone himself. I suggested to him that he should call Albano and Ardolino into his office for a stern talking to about fiscal mismanagement. I also told him about the importance of communicating with people even if you disagree with them. I then advised him to call Eamon's number regularly and he asked for the number once and then again at the end of our conversation. In passing, I mentioned how he has banned me from Monarch Place, but did not challenge him on it or suggest that the ban be lifted. I concluded by wishing him a good day and got a somewhat curt "thank you" in reply.

March 20, 2001

Clear blue sky, 37 degrees at 6am. Gas is $1.37 at Breckwood Sunoco MiniMart.

The economy was peachy under Clinton but now that the Republicans are in charge the country is going to hell. WFCR says Social Security is supposed to run out of funds in 2037, Medicare in 2025. WFCR also said that there are 320,000 Hispanics in Connecticut and only 309,000 blacks. Pittsfield is talking about raising taxes to erase a $6 million deficit. Marjorie A. Sullivan was Assistant Dean of Admissions at WNEC School of Law in 1980. The Association for Gravestone Studies was located in Concord, New Hampshire in 1982. Reginald A. Bates, a 48 year employee of Monarch Life Insurance Company, died in 1982 at age 76. A Connecticut lawmaker is concerned about "ambient light pollution" from streetlights. I recall how in Wisconsin I used to look out my window in Witte Hall in the middle of the night and count the sources of light.

Andy Skroback is on the Bank of Western Mass board. Today I came across a picture from 1980 of Lois Hastings in front of her house with Marian Staniski, Madeline C. Hunt, Dorothy Smith, Eleanor Wilcox, Ursula Smith and Mary Harris. The photograph was taken by Mother. Nader the Hatter sent me some information about his father. I also got a postcard from Eskowitz in New Orleans and a thank you note from Dorrene for the Fernbank photos. Also got a rejection letter from Iliad Press for my poems "Queer Prayer" and "Play With Yourself" which they deemed "inappropriate."

The snow blanket is below the seat level on the picnic table. About five inches of snow still left on the lawn. Woke up today with a ringing in my left ear. I am practically deaf in that ear already! Had Total cereal and grapefruit for breakfast, for supper I had a Smart Ones Fiesta Chicken Dinner. Called Shirley who said she asked Aunt Maria about the origin of the cabin at Fernbank, but she doesn't remember where it came from. Shirley said Aunt Maria is doing fine. Citicorp called and I said stop harassing me. Tru-Green called from 593-5710 but I didn't pick up.

I drove over to the Unitarian Church on Porter Lake Drive for the Tuesday Morning Music Club concert with Meg Irvin-Brandon of Mount Holyoke College featured. She was dressed in grey with such a deep v-neck in front that you could see the red bra she was wearing! There were 78 people there and most were older than I am. It was lovely and a better place to have their concerts than AIC. The program lasted a little longer than usual. I asked Irwin-Brandon if she had any problems with the acoustics in the room and she said no. I spoke to Becky Issacson who has gotten quite fat. She said she has never heard of Ann Staniski. Mary Alice Stusick was not there. Afterwards, they had homemade refreshments including a lovely, moist cake. I checked out the second floor where there is a lounge with modern furniture and bookcases called the Lee Soven Crabtree Room and Karl Haag Memorial Library.

When I got home I found a six pack container with with five empty beer bottles in it that someone threw in my dumpster. That's 25 cents! Mrs. Penniman drove by and paused to say that Ray has gotten out of the hospital but she is putting him in a nursing for a week while she goes to Florida. Drove out again to CopyCat and made copies, Mrs. Boyle was there and we exchanged pleasantries. The guy behind the counter at CopyCat said business is always slow in the mid-afternoon. All the Valley Advocates about Anthony Ardolino are gone from Louis & Clark. Did they run out or did Albano supporters steal them to throw away? Went to Angelo's for oranges, but Arnold's discount bakery was closed. Pearle Eyeglasses on Boston Road near Sears, where Mother got her last pair of glasses, is closed with a going out of business sign in the window. It was a good place, but nothing lasts.

March 21, 2001

Overcast, calm, 38 degrees at 7am.

Do what you can, when you can. That's the name of the game.

The present cost of the Big Dig in Boston is up to $18 billion. WFCR had an interview today with Nancy Folbre, author of The Invisible Heart which is a play on Adam Smith's The Invisible Hand. The comic Marvin is by Tom Armstrong. J. William Ward was on television defending FutureWorks from angry clients protesting that they haven't found jobs. On TV Ellen Cheng talked about antique pocket watches with Richards Jewelers of Westfield. I still recall how Richard Muhlburger at the Quad refused to release photos for my article in Hobbies Magazine attacking the Quadrangle. Fortunately, I had my own photos and got the article published in two parts by the New York/Pennsylvania Collector, a major antiques tabloid. But I still cannot forgive Muhlburger's skullduggery.

The New York Daily News is passing out papers for free at transit stations. What can the Springfield Newspapers learn from this? The newsletter of the Chicopee Unitarian Church is a disgrace, full of errors and bad writing. There is a good article in the Reader's Digest by Eric Felter on honesty. Local historian Frances Gagnon will discuss the history of the woman's suffrage movement at the Quadrangle. Gagnon will also speak at the Springfield Armory Historic Site on "The Greening of Springfield Massachusetts" tracing the landscape origins of Court Square, Blunt and Benton parks and the grounds of STCC. Ate some yellow beans today, they have fiber but little else. Mother very much liked yellow beans but not green ones.

I feel better today but it still hurts on my left side to cough. I have quite a cough and my back pain is worse than before. My ear seems to be somewhat better, I was careful not to sleep on it. I stayed up late last night watching Frontline about the controversy surrounding the Scholastic Aptitude Test. I called Shirley today and reminded her that the 23rd is Aunt Maria's birthday. Shirley said Dorrene sent her a birthday card and that Maria had strawberries for breakfast this morning. I said to wish Aunt Maria a Happy Birthday for me and then I bid her adieu without making a big deal out of it. I then called and left word with Hal and Thelma Sternberg of 188 Main Street in Wilbraham, telling them how I think I recall there being a steel eye-beam in their house. I asked them to call me if they are willing to talk about it.

At 10am I took an industrial strength Tylenol and drove out to Louis & Clark for the Union-News. Lucius' garage door was open with the red Cadillac inside, and the Cohn's had an orange newspaper bag hanging on their doorknob. The front page of the paper has a picture of the completed ironwork for the new Basketball Hall of Fame with a flag planted on top of it. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a big flood that would wash away the Hall of Fame project and everything else on the riverfront? Then over to Angelo's to buy bananas and a bag of salad mix. Arnold's was closed again. I stopped at the McDonald's across from Big Y where they still have the 99 cent special on Big & Tasty Burgers. The other day I checked at the McDonald's at the Peter Pan bus station and they said the special was over. Sunday at Allen Street they told me the same thing. But on Boston Road they are still having the special.

Then across the street to the Woronoco in Big Y to withdraw $100 and then picked up my pictures at Walmart. Expensive, but still cheaper than those robbers down at the Breckwood Shops. I swung by Staples for some wite-out and file folders. I also stopped by Home Depot and thanked Butch Godbout for the good advice he gave me on tiling my kitchen. He thanked me politely. The new rib place Smokey Bones out on Boston Road behind Stop&Shop opened today. The kitchen is in back of a U-shaped bar. There are lots of tables with green shaded lights over them, lots of televisions and a couple of pool tables. The employees seemed cheerful. Unfortunately, there is a big pothole right where their driveway joins Boston Road. The Reminder was sitting on my snowbank when I got home.

The former Broska Farm was a cause of great controversy here in the Acres in the 1980's, when people tried in vain to save the farm from becoming a housing development. Mike Albano, Cheryl Rivera and Hurwitz are in Boston lobbying for a major renovation of the Springfield Civic Center. It's been passed before, but Governor Celluci vetoed it. Swift has said she will veto it again. Paul Goldberger, the architectural critic of downtown Springfield, was on TV being interviewed in Harlem about how cities have become all the same with chains such as Starbucks and Barnes&Noble being alike no matter what city you go to. Eamon's latest phone editorial attacks Dr. Negroni and Teresa Regina for refusing to admit their "legacy of failure."

March 22, 2001

43 degrees at 7:45am. Gas $1.37 at Sunoco Breckwood.

Stocks continue to slide, Friendly's at 1.70. WFCR says the snow and ice in Vermont and New Hampshire has only just begun to melt. Michael B. Elefante was a lawyer for Hemenway & Barnes in Boston in 1982. In 1983 the State Supreme Court voted to publicly censure Holyoke District Court Judge Michael J. Donohue for judicial misconduct. William R. Brandt was Business Manager for Five Colleges Incorporated in 1983. Dined on Total for breakfast and Stouffer's Chicken ala King for supper.

I am feeling better today and am glad I kept going yesterday. It is the best thing to do, and I think reading all those military books has made me less of a sissy. I am getting around much better, but still have some tenderness on the left side of my back. My left ear is also pretty much back to normal, but I believe my hearing will continue to deteriorate as time goes on so I am in a race against time to do all that I can. I called William Morton of the Mass Board of Library Commissioners today and he said, "Don't remember ever receiving any correspondence from you." I said I would send it again and he replied, "That's wonderful!" He won't think so when he gets it.

I am assembling a picture album about Fernbank, my family's land in Wilbraham, so I have been reviewing old photos. I am also making an album of Birchland Avenue photos. The pictures of the family on Crest Street and my parent's early years were long ago sent to Burlington to be stored with the family papers. I had a wonderful phone conversation today with our former Fernbank neighbor Lorraine Cabrini St. Jean. She is the daughter of Eugene Cabrini, who came over from Italy and "never looked back." She had an Irish mother Margarite Breslen. "They were the perfect pair, Father had the chutzpah and Mother had the know-how." She said her dad sold their North Wilbraham property because he was too busy to go any more. She said their moving business was founded in the 1930's and he had the cottage in Wilbraham before the business. She recalled how Mrs. Ashe, who built the house on the hill, had ferocious dogs. It was a very fruitful conversation, I only wish that Mother were here to ask some questions as well.

Nothing much in the new Valley Advocate, an off week for troublemaking. Over to Arnold's which was finally open and I bought some cinnamon raisin bread and Valentine Cherry Cordials. Angelo's used to put all their spring flowers on milk crates, but now he has very professional metal racks for the flowers to go on. He used to keep the milk crates in a shed out back, I wonder if they're still there. Next, I left a big bag of books and magazines for Mrs. Staniski but she didn't answer the door. She may have been out for a walk or just playing possum.

Eamon called and said that the School Superintendent finalists are being interviewed for the last time. He believes that the man with the doctorate from Columbia is the best candidate. Eamon was surprised that the 2000 census didn't show more of a decline for Springfield. However, he said he believes that white flight is continuing and that soon "only a dumbed down population will remain that will be incompetent to recognize the crooked politicians" and unable to vote them out of office. After Eamon hung up, I watched the news with Sweet Pea and Honey Pot. When the current situation on the stock exchange was described by Jim Vinnick as a "bear market" Honey Pot said he is glad the bears are winning. Sweet Pea accused him of being simple minded as most bears are. Honey Pot cried a bit because he is very sensitive.

March 23, 2001

Sunny, breezy and raw, 34 degrees at 8am.

The Russian spacething MIR has landed without incident. Stocks are down again. TV57 had a segment on last night about James Madison, whom they said was quiet, scholarly and had a great intellect. The Connecticut Valley Historical Society had bookplates in the 1930's that were used for the Bessie Cross Niles Collection. It included an image of my ancestor Miles Morgan and his blunderbuss rifle. Jeffrey L. Payton was Associate Counsel for The Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford in 1982.

I spoke to Shirley Whittier Huang and urged her to convey my birthday greetings to Aunt Maria and asked Shirley to have Aunt Maria identify the people in the old photographs I sent. I told her that if Aunt Maria's attitude towards me ever improves, it would be nice if the two of them came over for a visit. I told her I would treat them to lunch at Ruby Tuesday. Shirley said she's interested in attending one of the concerts at First Church, she told me she is taking Aunt Maria to hear a concert at Agawam High School tonight.

I called City Hall today and asked to speak to one of the Assessors, Mrs. Lynch or Mr. Allen. I spoke with Richard J. Allen, who asked me about my attic. I said there is a staircase going to it and that it is unfinished, filled only with Mother's clutter. He said he would send one of his three appraisers on Monday at 9am and they would be "in and out in fifteen minutes." We chatted briefly and I told him how the city once wanted to hire an Arts Commissioner, but after I applied they abolished the position. He said that the city has "a tendency to be schizophrenic like that."

Half the lawn is melted, the other half is just a couple of inches deep. The Union-News Extra was lying in the snowbank by the mailbox. I am feeling better all around, but still have a pain in my back. I went out and made copies at CopyCat and then went to Louis & Clark to send a package of reading material to Maureen Turner with a note. The parking lot was full with all the women in the FIT exercise parlor and Tan Faster by the printshop. CopyCat had a fat, illustrated book they published sitting on the counter entitled Farmers Take Flight by J.I. Granville, a history of the Gee Bee plane. They said the author is a school bus driver who goes to the donut shop across the street every morning.

I stopped at Staples, but their color copying machine wasn't working. Therefore, I went to Walmart where Donna helped me by doing all the work. I saw a bumpersticker in the Walmart parking lot that read: "Bumper to bumper, butt to butt, get off my ass, you crazy nut!" At the McDonald's opposite Big Y I had a Big & Tasty with french fries for $2.09. The city was filling the potholes on Rosemary Drive and Arnold Avenue.

Phyllis M. Nader, wife of Gary J. Nader, has died in Wilbraham at age 53. I went to the Hafey Chapels on Belmont for the wake. I signed the book "with all due respect" and didn't see anyone's name I recognized besides Nardi. Eamon's name was not there. When I left, I crossed the street to go to Boston Carpet and Flooring, located where Schermerhorn's Fish Market used to be. They had oriental carpets hanging up and some nice stone floor coverings of every sort. Next I went to the Goodwill and on the way I noticed that the Chapin Building right at the X, where a drug store used to be, there is now The Pub Bar and Grill. It's getting ridiculous, Springfield seems to have a bar on every street corner.

From there I went to the Unitarian-Universalist Church, where I left some material for Judy Spear. When I got home, I saw Lucius' Caddy in his garage and noted that one of the shutters on Mr. Turner's house is falling apart. Eamon called and said he doesn't like that the School Superintendent candidate R. Mark Harris is being called a "change agent" because that is the same trite slogan they used to promote Peter Negroni. Eamon said that using an initial for his first name was indicative of an "ostentatious and pretentious character." I was tempted to ask him if that applied to the name J. Wesley Miller.

March 25, 2001

Sunny, breezy, 51 degrees at 2:20pm.

Work well done is more readily recognized in business than in the academy.

President Bush has announced that the American Bar Association will no longer have special status in approving federal judges. Hartford Public High School has a 52 percent drop out rate. Judith Balbo worked at the Colby College Bookstore in Maine in 1986. I graduated from Colby in 1963. Dr. Mohammed Mostafavi works at Healthcare Resource Solutions in Wilbraham. Christina Dever is the Client Services Manager there.

This morning I found the dumpster blown over in the driveway but nothing was spilled. Only the garden and the side of the house is still covered with snow. There were a couple of trucks and much activity at the Coburn's, so I walked over and we had a chat. He said his place sold for $129,000 in eight days and they are moving into his parent's place in Chicopee. He said he thinks I'll find the new neighbors congenial.

I was told they sometimes have a line on weekend mornings at the Goodwill at the X, so I rushed over but there was no line at all when I got there. I bought several books including The Complete Woman Runner (1978). That's a book I can resell at a profit to Odyssey in South Hadley. Leaving the Goodwill, I noticed along Sumner Avenue the Slipcover Center before Ellsworth has a nice mural of a pastoral valley on the outside of the building facing west. From there I proceeded to check out the home of City Councilor Brian Santaniello at 1983 Parker Street. Santaniello's place is an enormous brick ranch with white trim with a long sloping lawn and a stone block wall along Parker. It is a luxury home at the foot of Hastings Hill. The directory lists Ralph W. Hastings as a Chief Engineer at Monsanto in 1958. In 1984 a Steve Hastings is listed as owner. Neither Hastings nor Santaniello are listed in the current phone book. Santaniello's house is assessed at $169,000. In Longmeadow such a house would sell for at least $300,000 and in Springfield it should be worth $200,000, so Santaniello's house is undervalued by the city for tax purposes.

Next I stopped by Staples and Caitlin made some copies for me of my parent's obituaries. Another man was there with Big John printed on the front and back of his t-shirt. I asked him what he did for a living and he said he's a welder by trade. He left in a red truck. I got a sausage biscuit and read the Sunday Republican at the Allen Street McDonald's. Nice Mr. Paul .S. McDonald of the Western Mass Telephone Workers Credit Union was in the paper today with a photo by Michael S. Gordon. I have never been invited into Paul McDonald's office, but we have cooperated on some things. Then over to Food Mart where they were having a sale on Swanson dinners. For supper tonight I had a Swanson Beef Pot Roast Dinner.

Made major headway today in assembling the photo album of Fernbank. In the afternoon I went to the classical music concert at First Church, parking by Baystate West/Tower Square. On the way downtown I stopped on State Street near Friendly's and gathered some posters. Walking past Sovereign Bank, I noticed that all their computer terminals on the desks were turned on. Don't they turn them off on the weekend? The concert did not attract a full house, there was hardly anyone in the balcony. The music was beautifully and wonderfully performed, although at times a little boring. However, at the end the audience gave a standing ovation as it was a technically flawless performance. David and Peggy Starr sat in front on the right hand side, both looking younger than their actual age. I wonder if they dye their hair? At intermission, I saw Starr talking with a bald man and a young woman.

At the end, Belle-Rita Novak came bouncing over and we had refreshments together. Belle Rita's mother was with her, a short woman wearing an old, ornate Star of David around her neck. Belle-Rita said she still intends to come to the Tuesday Morning Music Club banquet. She said she was delighted to have run into her friend Bea Fisher at the concert, a woman of about 90. I asked if she was related to Barbara Fisher Stanley, but she didn't know. As we talked, Peggy Starr walked by and exchanged cordial greetings with Belle-Rita. I hadn't realized that they are well acquainted old friends.

An 84 year old Mildred Barry of East Longmeadow was on the news tonight. Is this the Barry who used to send Mother a Christmas card every year? TV 22 news had a story about how students are painting a mural at Brightwood School with the help of students from Mt. Holyoke. I listened to an orchestra on TV57, then Roy Scott came on with glassblower Josh Simpson and they said that for a $750 donation you get an autographed book, two paperweights and a video. Eamon's latest telephone answering machine editorial says that the process of choosing a new Superintendent for the Springfield Schools is "turning into a disgusting farce!"

March 26, 2001

33 degrees at 8:30am. Gas is $1.37 in the Acres.

Money follows power, but I support only the unempowered.

Sandra Day O'Connor is 71 today. The Clinton's pets are Buddy the dog and Socks the cat. A new prison in Springfield, Vermont is to be completed sometime in 2003. Massachusetts has 11,500 people in prison. J. Gary Bernhard was the Student Administrative Services Coordinator at University Without Walls at UMass in 1983. J. William LaBelle was Assistant Headmaster at Wilbraham/Monson Academy in 1983. On WFCR Michael Kaiser of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C. said that in dealing with people you have to be "supportive, creative, kind and fair." That is a splendid list. He added, "People do their best work if they feel supported and cared for."

Edwards Books is located downtown in Tower Square. The Clapp Memorial Library in Belchertown will have their Spring Book Sale tomorrow. The Friends of the Westfield Atheneum will hold their annual book sale on April 5th. The mail brought a postcard from Dorothy Mozley showing John Knox Village where she now lives. It read, "Packages arrived but no time to go over papers. Thank you for sending them - will write later. Time passes too quickly to accomplish all I want to do! Dorothy Mozley, March 20, 2001." Same old impeccable librarian handwriting and signature, so I guess she's doing okay.

Barb Scibelli from the Assessor's Office called at 8:28am and said that Paul Sarno, 5 feet 10, muscular body build, will be coming at nine in a blue Cherokee. At 9:20 nobody had arrived, but suddenly there was a knock on the door and it was Sarno. He pulled out his identification badge and I gave it a cursory glance. We walked around the outside of the house and I complained about Colleen's overgrown hedge. I pointed out my berry patches and showed him where we have had flooding around the hatchway despite Tony Maggi's attempts to straighten it out. Sarno remarked that my eaves are rusting in some places, then noted that he came primarily to see the attic.

As we went inside, I told him that this house is much nicer than where we used to live on Crest Street, but it is not a luxury home. I said the breezeway looks nice, but is not insulated. I showed him the garage and kitchen area, and he said the kitchen cabinets look in good shape for fifty years old. From the living room we went directly upstairs and I told him to feel free to ask any questions he wants, but to keep anything he sees that is nontaxable private and he agreed to that. As Sarno looked around the attic, I explained to him that Mother grew up in poverty and it made her a hoarder. I said that I am in the process of clearing things out and donating them to the Goodwill. I explained how I have many other projects and responsibilities, so I will be a long time clearing out Mother's stuff.

Sarno wasn't long looking at the attic, and he agreed that it is not in a state that could be considered finished. Back down the stairs, I showed him my instruments including my organ and he said, "You don't see many of those." I brought him into my bedroom and showed him the Tercentenary map of the Commonwealth and my signed etching of Calvin Coolidge. I also showed him my painting of Little Red Riding Hood and my Johnson's Bookstore sign. I showed him how I keep piles of antique books in the cellar on skids in case of flooding. I told him that I have visited nearly every house in a ten mile radius and I described myself as the sort of person who takes care of things rather than wearing them out. I also discussed how I am the nation's foremost authority on legal poetry and am a non-practicing lawyer and real estate broker.

I was talking the whole time Sarno was here. He asked me to sign a card, and I noticed that among his notes he had written "heavy traffic in front of house" no doubt as a reason to lower my appraisal. At 9:35 Sarno indicated that the inspection was over and said, "I'll make my report and we'll see what they do." Then we exchanged pleasantries and he departed in a blue Cherokee jeep. After Sarno left, I drove to Pride in the Acres to make copies and there were two cruisers attending to an accident near the Pride entrance way.

The Reminder was by the mailbox when I returned and has an article on John Lovejoy, the longtime selectman in Wilbraham. Had Stouffer's Salisbury Steak and Macaroni Dinner for supper. TV40 had a special tonight on the life of acting Governor Jane Swift. Eamon called and is still expressing disgust about the process for choosing the new School Superintendent. He said that it doesn't matter who they pick because "the Union-Snooze has no intention of holding anyone accountable for the incompetency and mismanagement." He added, "Even the most talented educator in the country couldn't turn this failing school system around."

March 28, 2001

Salmon tinged cumulus clouds, 29 degrees on the breezeway at 7:45am.

New Hampshire is considering a sales tax and the merchants are screaming that it will destroy an economic advantage New Hampshire has over Massachusetts. Governor Richard Snelling of Vermont created the Governor's Conference on the Future of Vermont's Heritage in 1982. Paul V. Congdon was Academic Dean at Springfield College in 1983. Kathy Esser worked for Landmark Realtors in 1999. Laurie Ely-Bongiorni worked for Landry, Lyons, Stearns & Yerall in 1999. UMass is hosting a regional science fair focusing on the environment. There will be an Open Poetry Night at the East Longmeadow Library featuring Darlene Smith-Ash on March 26th. Thomas R. Burton, President of Hampden Savings Bank, has announced that Atty. Mary McNally of Springfield has been appointed to the Board of Corporators. Russell Norton of New Haven, Connecticut has an ad in the paper stating, "Stereo Views Always Wanted."

Someone on WFCR said that walking and moving around a lot during the day can be just as beneficial as going to a gym or health club. The news said a student at Chicopee High is in trouble for wearing a t-shirt reading, "Welcome to America - Now Speak English." The school is scheduling a demonstration supporting Hispanic students. Gail Nessel is the new Curator of Collections at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College and served an internship at Old Sturbridge Village. Someone calling from D.C. for the Republican National Committee called today asking for a donation of $100. I thanked her for calling but declined. For my $115 contribution I have received a certificate from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Finished two more pages of my history of Fernbank.

Had Total cereal for breakfast and Swanson Boneless Roast Chicken Dinner for supper. This morning I left at 8:15am. There are now maple syrup pails on trees at the Penniman's, I don't think I've seen that before. The housekeeper's car was parked at the Cohn's. I went downtown for my hearing and parked on Salem. If the reassessment of my property's values didn't go well, I resolved to contact Tom Vannah at the Valley Advocate about an investigation into the Assessor's Office. When I arrived at Courtroom 305, Margaret Lynch interrupted her conversation with Tina Babacas to cordially greet me. Then curly haired R.J. Allen came in and asked if I'd mind if he spoke with me privately in the hallway.

Allen apologized for not calling me yesterday, then said we could avoid a formal hearing if I would agree to accept a $5,000 reduction in my appraised value. That would make the assessment lower than it was the year Mother died. I agreed, we shook hands, and I thanked him for being a gentleman. A little flattery doesn't hurt, as I would like to be on good relations with Allen and Paul Sarno for future appraisals. Mother and Father never challenged City Hall on anything, and when you behave like that they walk all over you. The more of a stink you make the more they respect you, but my parents never understood that.

Five Birchland Avenue in August 2014.

I left the courthouse at 9:45am and went over to City Jake's Cafe and had egg and ham on an onion bagel. It was nice but cost a whopping $2.63. I am never downtown for breakfast and there were several people there, most of them ordering takeout. Eamon says that the place would go out of business without people ordering from the courthouse. I said thanks to the man on the grill when I left, I always say think you when leaving restaurants. I paused to grab some posters on Main Street, then returned to the car. Stopped by the AIC library on the way home and read about how Southern New England School of Law joining with UMass Dartmouth. Went to Mailboxes but found it closed, even though the sign on the door said OPEN. So I went to Pride in the Acres and made copies there. Got a Dairy Queen ice cream cone at Eastfield Mall and walked around a bit. The hat shop is out of business and the mall was pretty empty of people.

When I got home I called Karen Powell to tell her about my visit to the old courthouse. She was glad to hear about the service Lyndale Garage gave me. Karen said that on her tax appeal they cut a couple of thousand off because she compared her house with the appraised values of the houses on her street. I told her I intended to do the same, pointing out that the Devine's house around the corner on Breckwood Boulevard was appraised at only $60,700. Karen said she had never heard of anyone having to attend a hearing before. I told her that in a way it was too bad that I didn't have a hearing, because I was going to hit them with the city's fiscal mismanagement and use the recent Valley Advocate articles on Albano and Ardolino as examples of how they misuse our tax money. I would also have made my usual complaint about the lack of sound amplification. Powell said that people in the local Democrat Party Machine get special breaks on their property evaluations. I agreed, citing Councilor Santaniello's and Fran Gagnon's unusually low appraisals.

March 29, 2001

WFCR says that Timothy McVeigh has admitted to the Oklahoma bombing and feels no remorse. This is an example of the radical mind, they are not fools! They are proud of what they've done and consider themselves patriots. The authorities are fools for not realizing this. The Springfield City Assessor's Office is in Room 10 in City Hall, Matthew E. Donnellan is Collector of Taxes. William J. Fogarty is the Wilbraham Town Administrator and the Board of Selectmen are Frank Everton, James Thompson and Kevin Moriarty. Paul C. Montefusco is a sales associate at Keenan & Molta Associates in Agawam. The Hitchcock Press is located on Hanover Street in Holyoke. Evan Dobelle has accepted the position of President of the University of Hawaii, so his address to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is cancelled.

I finished the history of Fernbank manuscript, which is nine pages long and now needs to be proofread. I didn't mention my experiences at Welfleet, but I did mention Camp Norwich. I picked up the new Valley Advocate at Louis & Clark, then went to Fleet in the Acres and cashed a $40 check. Then to Mailboxes on Cooley and made copies of the Fernbank scrapbook, then to Food Mart to get plastic bags, milk, olive loaf and Swanson dinners on sale. I drove out to the Wilbraham Town Offices and had a gracious meeting with Pamela E. Beall in the Selectman's Office, where I gave her a copy of the Fernbank scrapbook and she said she would show it to the selectmen Monday. She said my information was "nicely packaged" and told me she used to work for Old Sturbridge Village so she appreciates historic things.

I made ten copies in all of the scrapbook, so I gave Beall one for her private collection, one for J. Pearsall, one for the Conservation Commission and one for the Recreation Department, which I delivered directly to the Director Thomas J. Brennan. From there I went to the Wilbraham Public Library and spoke with Director Christine F. Bergquist. I gave her a copy and said I didn't donate the original because it might get lost or stolen. She agreed that donating a copy was a good idea. Next I went to Cat's Paw collectibles and Vince looks fine. He said business is good and they are no longer thinking of selling. Vince and Claudia live in Wilbraham, so I gave them a copy of the scrapbook. In return, they gave me an Arthur Cooley perpetual calendar. Vince used to be a driver for Trailways and Claudia was once a clerk at Walden Books at the mall. For lunch I went to Burger King in Ludlow, where I was the only customer. Coming from Wilbraham I came up Dipping Hill Road and passed the Village at Eastfield condo community. It looks decent.

Ann Aykanian was on TV22 talking about vintage clothes from Better Yet clothing in Northampton. She said there is a market for nice old hats. Sonya Baghdady did the story. The Lehrer Report had a long story on Afghanistan, 7,000 children were named after Osama bin Laden last year. The newspaper said kids today are walking around with big backpacks full of books because the level of homework has increased steadily since 1980. That is bad. Homework is not teaching! Teachers should lecture and demonstrate, kids should do most of their learning in school with a minimum amount of homework.

I have so many treasures hidden in my house! But just because I'm a lawyer doesn't mean I have money coming out of my ears. I'm primarily engaged antiquarian legal research, which pays nothing, and I have been a generous donor of my time to projects beneficial to Springfield.

March 31, 2001

Overcast and rainy all day, 39 degrees at 2:30am. A few inches of snow in Greenfield.

Serbian leader Solobodan Milosevic should be wedded to the Iron Maiden. Brazil is mad about the U.S. throwing it's weight around in South America and I don't blame them. The McCain-Feingold bill is advancing through the Senate. The Shelburne Bay Senior Living Community is in Vermont and Diane M. Wray is the Executive Director. WFCR played the Franck violin Sonata this morning. Bowdoin made the SAT optional 30 years ago. Bates has dropped it and Berkeley is planning to. "Sam Dunk" is the name of the mascot for the Basketball Hall of Fame, chosen by kids in a contest. Edwina Trentham of Asnuntuck Community College and poet Linda Porter will lecture at the Wilbraham Public Library Poetry Festival on April 21st.

Mr. Harry Georgiades lives at 340 Cooley Street. John R. Fallon is Vice President for Development at AIC. I called Marcie Williams of the Atheneum Society of Wilbraham and she said they will not be open until May. I must rethink my relationship with the Atheneum Society. I called TV57 today and Roy Scott answered the phone. He said he had just hung up from talking with their financial advice lady Suzie Orman. I asked about the Simpson paperweights and he said I could have a three inch paperweight and autographed book for $250, which I paid for on my credit card. Scott said they have already raised $25,000 from their Josh Simpson promotion. He also complained that he is starting to have hearing problems, and I told him I am too. In all we had a friendly chat.

I have spent the day straightening things out around the house. The Coburn's are moving, but an Easter bunny in the window suggests they plan to be here for Easter. Went to Louis & Clark, but finding all the copies of the Union-News sold out, I bought one at Sunoco. Then to Angelo's for fruit and then got some pastries at Arnold's. I swung by Mrs. Staniski's, who was preparing corned beef and cabbage in anticipation of Ann coming this weekend. She said that Carol's son Jason, who has a job at the Hometown Buffet in West Springfield, is getting married at age 23 to a woman 34 with an eleven year old daughter. Mrs. Staniski is very unhappy about it and said the whole thing makes her sick. I suggested having her sign a pre-nup agreement and Mrs. Staniski was delighted by the idea. She said the family has tried to talk him out of it, but he thinks he knows everything. Jason went to college but dropped out after three semesters.

Drove out to the Goodwill at the X and got some books, including The History of the Auction by Brian Learmont (1985). They have a nice exhibit set up about the history of the X, to which I may contribute some Forest Park postcards. Matt Dehoma of Somers was there and said he is always looking for Hawaiian stuff, although the price of Hawaiian collectibles has tumbled in recent years. On the way back I stopped at an Open House at 340 Stony Hill Road, a nice tan Cape Cod with white trim and light blue shutters. There is a stockade fence around the yard, a garage and an unusual porch on the breezeway.

Tonight I dined on a Swanson Classic Fried Chicken Dinner. Eamon called at 9:38 and says he has no plans to go to Ireland after a friend of his just got back and then died. He said Nader the Hatter is leaving Wednesday, although Nader still has hat stuff stored in Indian Orchard. Nader told him he intends to stay in Florida for a while now. Eamon told me he didn't go to the wake or funeral of Nader's brother's wife. I told Eamon about my visit to Brian Santaniello's house and Eamon said he has always considered Santaniello to be "a phony." He said he hasn't "heard a peep" from anyone at the Valley Advocate for a long time, and hasn't started his taxes yet.

Eamon hears from his sources that Joseph Burke has been chosen as the new Superintendent of Schools. He is a former Supervisor of Math and Science in Florida and got his doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova University, which Eamon says he's never heard of. I got out my Barron's Profiles of American Colleges and Universities and looked it up for him. They describe Nova as "not competitive." Florida International, where he got his graduate degree is also not highly rated. Eamon said he called me because he knew I would have that information. Eamon is glad that R. Mark Harris didn't get the job. Eamon's sources told him that Harris visited Commerce and was rude and arrogant towards the faculty. I said I felt sorry that Teresa Regina didn't get it, but Eamon said the local contender Ann Southworth was the one who most deserved it. Eamon is concerned because he heard that Burke and Dr. Negroni have been friends for years.

Here is the final draft of my history of Fernbank, the land I have donated to the town of Wilbraham. If you catch me in slightly bad grammar and punctuation sometimes, remember the precedent of Edmond Spencer: Those who don't know the rules and break them get an "F"; but those who do know them may break them with impunity. Indeed, creativity often requires just that. Call it flow. You may notice that my sentences are often High Victorian, rambling on for dozens of words, but grammatically they work out like a Swiss watch.

Blanche and John's Fernbank
A Suburban Wilbraham Camping Experience

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be, blest. - Pope

The "environment" is THE national security issue of the early 21st century. - Robert D. Kaplan


Fernbank is significant as a bit of Wilbraham's cultural history precisely because of its insignificance, especially considering the palatial suburban residences that have since been built in town. Fernbank was the fulfillment of the fondest childhood fantasies of the son of a prominent but poor Vermont Methodist Minister. Father was John W. Miller, Jr. who put in forty-two years at Springfield's Monarch Life Insurance Company, starting out in the Supply Department headed by Jerome Artz Young, the brother of Clyde W. Young, the company President, and ended up as Chief Underwriter in the Life Underwriting Department. J.A. Young was in charge of the company's advertising and was impressed with Father's several years of college (most of the boys at Monarch in those days were High School of Commerce grads) his training in sign making and lettering, his interest in photography and his generalism. When Monarch bought a dozen of the ornate Tercentenary Map of the Commonwealth, Father received one and we have always displayed it with pride. At the cutting edge of the technology of his day, Father ran the Rectigraph machine, the predecessor of the copying machine, although there were complaints that Father called the repairman too often.

People said that Father couldn't sell a lifesaver to a drowning man. But that of course missed the point, because Father would never have dreamed of selling a drowning man a lifesaver. He would have given him the lifesaver or gone and gotten one for him. Father was no Caspar Milquetoast, but a good man who reflected a special ethos, which held that the role of civilization is to mollify rather than to cultivate street smarts. He was no intimate of Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn. Father was the minister's son, and my grandfather was also the School Superintendent, a registered pharmacist, a journalist and served four terms in the Vermont Legislature back when there were hardly any Democrats in Vermont. No bigot, Grandfather declined membership in the Freemasons and in the KKK. He provided a character reference for an Italian being tried for murder, campaigned all over Vermont for the Irishman Al Smith, but died a prohibitionist.

In college at the University of Vermont, Father first experienced the beginning of a progressive deafness which is also catching up with me. Father said the last time he remembered hearing well was sitting on the church steps listening to the scream of a sawmill down over the bank. Hearing problems made it impossible for Father to complete college. He followed my Mother to Springfield, the first big city south of Vermont, in the late 1920's. The first thing he did after he got off the train was to deposit his meager savings in the first bank he came to, The Hampden Savings Bank. My family maintained accounts there until January 2000 when President Thomas Burton closed my account because he found a letter I sent him in response to the ghastly service the bank provided "abusive, rude and offensive."

Mother was the daughter of a poor Bethel farmer and had a number of unpleasant experiences, like the death of her father Frank M. Wilson to a drunken driver as he walked home one night. Her somewhat unhappy childhood is recounted in the introduction to Aunt Jennie's Poems, which I edited and published in 1986. She was one of several women in her class to follow the Bay Path Institute recruiter to Springfield, in due course she got a job at Monarch and later got Father a job there. In 1927 she purchased for one dollar from her friend and co-worker Mae Hutchinson (whose father was a floor walker at Steiger's) a pink rabbit in hopes of having it for a daughter Mother intended to call Jenny Wren. On Thanksgiving Day 1929, Blanche and John admired a teddy bear in the Forbes & Wallace window and in due course John purchased him for $5.95, named him Ambrose, and presented him to Blanche. Thus arose our family relationship with the dolls Ambrose and Floppy, although disappointingly they had me, a son, so I got the rabbit and bear instead of the never to be born Jenny Wren. I was born ten years into my parent's marriage, which was performed by Grandfather Miller at the parsonage in Bethel, Vermont on September 3, 1931.

I am somewhat famous for my diaries, but my parents didn't keep the kind of records that I do. I have no idea how they learned of the existence of Fernbank, or Riverknoll as it was originally called, but the apartment they lived in was close to work, so before they even bought a house they owned Fernbank. Every seed, every nail, every board, every door, every window, all the garden implements, all the furniture and everything else that went into the additions to the original building were brought there by the 1935 Ford Tin Lizzy my parents owned and continued to use even after they bought another Ford in 1949. Given the Yankee shitkicker culture from which my Parents came, it is easy to understand why when Lizzie finally became undriveable they didn't send their old faithful car to the crusher anymore than you send your faithful old horse to the glue factory.

The exact date of purchase of Riverknoll lots One and Two was April 3, 1935, bought from Esther M. Barrows. Father put up a sign between oak trees reading FERNBANK in green letters in a field of white. Early photos show lots of young birch trees. My parents never researched the history of the land, but after they purchased the adjacent additional three acres from Vera Carver in 1941 we discovered that the land had once been used as a rubbish heap. Over the years we discovered many old items in the dirt, such as bottles, crockery and olive colored glass, a child's bird whistle and toy metal wagon and horse as well as an iron trivet.

In 1936 my parents parents bought for $50 an unwanted vegetable stand from someplace along the mountain side of Main Street between the Academy and Route 20 and paid an additional $25 to have it transported to Fernbank. The question of who sold my parents the vegetable stand that became the cottage is unknown. We then planted a row of little fir trees brought down from Vermont to grow up and conceal the buildings, today they are huge. We planted Japanese Iris along the drive way. During World War II my parents added a porch area and Father constructed bookcases for a small library. They also built a bare rock fireplace outside and a sheep rancher style little stove for inside. We roasted corn, baked potatoes in foil and toasted marshmallows. We were never big on hotdogs, hamburgers or steaks.

My parents entertained friends from Monarch and relatives and Mother liked to gossip with our neighbor Mr. Cabrini of the "Pines to Palms" moving company in Springfield. The Cabrini place was called "Happy Manor" and Father made them a sign. Cabrini's cottage was much nicer than ours, with a livingroom, fireplace and a small kitchen and toilet. There was a loft accessible by a ladder. Other than Cabrini there was no one close until after the war when the Ashe house went up, I recall their artesian well and her dogs. Down to the river Father built some steps although the flood of 1958 washed them away. Father also established an area for pitching horseshoes, perhaps his favorite sport. Father was interested in fishing, but Mother worried about water pollution and I was more inclined to be doing things other than standing around waiting for a fish to come along, so we did little of it. We always caught more punkinseeds than trout. Grandfather Miller prided himself on his skill at shooting, but Father had no interest in it and I have never had a gun in my hands.

During World War II my parents were settled into their new home at 37 Crest Street and trips to Wilbraham became fewer due to gas rationing. But most Saturdays and Sundays we still went out there, although my parents were somewhat distracted by their Victory Garden in Blunt Park, where several people were caught stealing the vegetables grown by others. After the war Father bought windows from the Armory Wrecking Company and I remember him installing them vividly, his electric handsaw puncturing the pastoral chorus of birds tweeting under the clear blue sky with sunlight filtering down through the leaves. Once or twice a day a car would pass along Maynard Road, which was cause for dropping everything to see who it was. In coming years, we would ride out to Fernbank on hot summer nights and play Crazy Rummy on the porch as we sipped Finast Raspberry Soda with a scoop of ice cream in it - a Methodist high. Eventually we got a television, but while we liked some programs, it never fulfilled its promise. Omnibus hosted by Alastair Cooke was pretentious and most everything else seemed to appeal to a low common denominator which has never stopped sinking. Anything really worth paying attention to is in a book. As for computer technology, it may promise to make morons of us all.

We developed a little garden, and Mother put up birdfeeders, although they were actually squirrel feeders, but she liked to watch them play. I once stole some chives and Mother had the worst time pounding it into my fat little head that young gentlemen do NOT eat onions under ANY circumstances and to make the point once made me eat an entire onion raw. Ever since then, I have loved onions perhaps more than anything else and I have to have onions on everything. Father even bought a peach tree but it didn't really work out. I had a Wilbraham sandbox to match my real one on Crest Street with a canopy over it. Father built me a little platform in a tree with a ladder going up, but it wasn't much used because Mother was afraid I would fall and get hurt. Too bad, a few falls and bumps might have made a Marine out of me!

In the Fourth grade at Homer Street with Miss Walker, who later that year became Mrs. Greenwood, we studied flowers and I made a great hit with all the flora I picked around Fernbank. In the Sixth grade with Florence I. Schweppe, who whacked unruly kids and called them "love pats," we had a vegetable contest and Mother gave me all our best vegetables. Miss Schweppe was aghast to realize that I was going to win most of the prizes. Therefore, she changed the contest into one of seeing who was the best at judging the vegetables, so a person whom I shant name but who later went on to some prominence won.

For years whenever we went out to Wilbraham we took an old fashioned Vermont cream can full of Springfield water in the back seat of Lizzy. We also relied heavily on Finast grape, raspberry and cream soda. I dug an Indian arrowhead out of the garden in 1948 while planting some radishes. There was a lot of snow in 1948. Throughout our entire association with Wilbraham there was always one route we followed to Fernbank, both when we lived on Crest and on Birchland starting in 1956. Down Wilbraham Road to Faculty (down by the home of G.B. Smith, Mother's boss in the her capacity as Registrar of the Claims Department at Monarch) left on Main, right on Route 20, left on to Maynard Road. On the way home we would sometimes go down Boston Road to Stony Hill and buy a fifty-cent bag of potato chips at State Line. We were also regular customers of the Skorepski Brother's Service Station. Once I had my hair cut at the barber shop by the railroad station, which has since been foolishly demolished.

Over the years we became experts on the development of the Wilbraham Road corridor, as I recalled in detail in my 1981 tribute to Beaumont A. Herman. 1350 Wilbraham Road was one of the first new houses to go up following the war. 2450 was another. The old rambling 16 Acres Inn at the Sixteen Acres center was replaced by the first Mobil station. Alas, no photograph of the old 16 Acres Inn is known to have survived as of this writing, although I have heard they had dance parties there on weekends and someone must have taken pictures. Where Brooklawn Road is now, a large farm with an immense barn was flattened into suburban homes. Father's Monarch friend G. Owen Flynt built a house at the corner of Colonial Road. Further out, 719 Stony Hill Road was relocated on its lot and completely modernized.

As a little boy, I always watched for the tower on Wilbraham Mountain. Does a postcard of it exist? I have many Wilbraham postcards, but I have never seen one. Hal Sternberg's big place at 188 Main was conspicuous for having an orange steel I-beam under the center of its main floor. As a family we attended the grand opening of Memorial School, we have photos of the Wilbraham Bicentennial Parade and were present for the placement of the tablet on the One True Church's old meetinghouse. We have also been up to the Glendale Church, and I have substitute taught English and Latin at Minnechaug. Father sometimes went to town meetings and took good notes on some of them. We have been discretely involved in many Wilbraham events over the years. I consider the Wilbraham Library the most beautiful small public library that I know of, both for its situation in the woods and for its architecture, but I wish they would stop easing the piece of petrified wood out of sight, it is a nice accessory.

The coming of the turnpike across the river was a nuisance that would forever shatter the pastoral tranquility of Fernbank, as did the 1958 hurricane. These events set into motion Fernbank's four decades of decline. I remember Father rushed out to see what damage had been done by the '58 storm, and found that Maynard Road was inaccessible by our end. The railroad tracks were washed out and Mother was aghast. Father, who had worked on the Central Vermont railway during his summers in college, tight-roped over the ties and checked out our camp, which was okay, and got back safe. In the following weeks we had to remove a lot of sand that had washed over the camp and relocated Naughty II, a lovely boat father constructed in the basement of Crest Street from a kit (grey sides, red bottom) to the back room of Uncle George Giroux's machine shop, where it remained for a few years until we sold it to a fat lady with a small boy. It was a sad ending for one of Father's pet projects.

As I entered my senior year in Classical High School, taking three advanced courses, writing my history of the Springfield Symphony and wining First Prize in the Massachusetts State Science Fair, I simply had no time for the camp. No longer a young man, Father was approaching late middle age. He still wanted to go to Fernbank on weekends, but Mother discouraged this, she felt the grounds of 5 Birchland Avenue offered more than ample opportunities for outdoor exercise. Besides, Father was always involved with various educational programs that would finally in 1975 enable him to graduate from the University of Vermont. Still, we sometimes went out there for basic maintenance, but no longer for picnics. Around 1982 our across the street neighbor Richard Nichols put on a new roof and Father repainted the trim. It was during this project that we took the only set of archival photos of Fernbank. Father died in April, 1985, leaving Mother and I five thousand shares of the capital stock of Monarch, then led by Gordon N. Oakes Jr. a graduate of the Stockbridge School of Agriculture.

In 1990 and 1991 a developer teased us to sell Fernbank and offered us $155,000 for it, but we didn't want to pay either the income tax or the inheritance tax or deal with such issues as what to do with Lizzy. We finally demanded $210,000 and the developer went away. For a time Mother used to send me out to Fernbank with bags of birdseed to dump in the woods, but the end came in 1993 when the whole place was vandalized. Fernbank was left looking like a scene from The Blair Witch Project. We told the electric company to turn off the juice, unscrewed the latch from the refrigerator, nailed all the doors shut and boarded up the windows.

Youths have visions, but too often their elders, hardened by experience and set into old ways, think only of imposing their narrow ways on the rising generation. The sublime duty of an excellent teacher is to facilitate the achievement of young minds in the development and realization of their special visions. Hampshire College has the right idea. And so my gift to the Town of Wilbraham of Fernbank as "permanent conservation land" is to be named Blanche and John's Fernbank, in hopes of preserving my parent's youthful vision of Fernbank as a place for celebrating natural beauty and wholesomeness in their manifold aspects. All issues, finally, are environmental issues, and the environment is the issue of our age.

John Wesley Miller III
March 2001 at Birchland Avenue




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