December 17, 2017

Archives for June 2013

Essex Savings Bank Announces Winners of Chester Office Kindle Fire Raffle

(left to right) Lisa M. Berube, AVP/Branch Manager, Essex Savings Bank; Recipient Andrew Lewis & Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO, Essex Savings Bank

(left to right) Lisa M. Berube, AVP/Branch Manager, Essex Savings Bank; Recipient Andrew Lewis & Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO, Essex Savings Bank

As part of the ongoing celebration of its newly opened Chester Branch, Essex Savings Bank held a raffle to give away two Kindle Fire HDs.   All visitors to the Chester Branch were encouraged to enter their name for a chance to win in a raffle contest that ended on April 30.  On May 1, President and CEO Greg Shook selected the two winning names from the many entries received.  Pictured are the winners along with President and CEO Greg Shook and Branch Manager Lisa Berube.

(left to right) Lisa M. Berube, AVP/Branch Manager, Essex Savings Bank; Recipient Cathie Couture & Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO, Essex Savings Bank

(left to right) Lisa M. Berube, AVP/Branch Manager, Essex Savings Bank; Recipient Cathie Couture & Gregory R. Shook, President & CEO, Essex Savings Bank

The Chester office of Essex Savings Bank opened its doors on December 14, 2012 and has been embraced by the local community.  Bank management is proud to have opened its sixth branch to continue its 162 year history of being a community bank whose goal is to build relationships in the local community.

Essex Savings Bank is a FDIC insured, state chartered, mutual savings bank established in 1851.  The Bank serves the Connecticut River Valley and Shoreline with six offices in Essex (2), Chester, Madison, Old Lyme and Old Saybrook.  Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the Bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary Essex Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC.  Investments in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and annuities are not FDIC insured, may lose value, are not a deposit, have no Bank guarantee and are not insured by any Federal Government Agency.

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Deep River First Selectman Richard Smith to Seek 13th Term in November Election

DR-Selectman-580x435DEEP RIVER— Democratic First Selectman Richard Smith has announced plans to seek a 13th term in the Nov. 5 town election, extending a tenure in office that has made him one of the longest serving municipal leaders in Connecticut.

Smith, 62, said this week he had never considered not running again this year, and had advised the Deep River Democratic Town Committee of his intentions in March. “I love what I do and there is still a lot more to do,” he said. Smith, the current president of the state council of Small Towns (COST) said he enjoys working on local issues and improvements.

Smith, who also serves as a part-time town police officer, was first elected in 1989. He was last contested for re-election by town Republicans in 2005, and was previously unopposed for new terms in 1995 and 1999. Smith’s last election challenge came in 2007, when several residents opposed to Main Street redevelopment projects supported by Smith formed an independent ticket to contest various positions. Smith defeated Deep River Independent Party candidate John Kennedy by a wide margin in the 2007 race.

Smith said his latest running mate, Angus McDonald Jr., will also seek a second term this fall. McDonald was elected to the board of selectmen in 2011, replacing Democrat Arthur Thompson, who served from 2009-2011. No Republicans have declared as candidates to challenge Smith for the top job, though Republican Selectman David Oliveira is expected to seek a third term this year.

Republican Town Clerk Amy Winchell is also seeking a third two-year term this year. Elected by a two-vote margin to the open town clerk seat in 2009, Winchell was uncontested by town Democrats for a second term in 2011. She is not expected to face a challenge this year.

The only contests on the Nov. 5 ballot could be for three seats on the board of finance, two full six-year terms and an unexpired vacancy term. Town Democrats and Republicans will nominate candidates for 2013 at party caucuses to be held between July 16-23.

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Natural Gas Service Planned for Sections of Essex Including Elementary School

ESSEX— Southern Connecticut Gas Company is planning an expansion of natural gas service from Westbrook in to the Centerbrook section in a $2.4 million project that could begin this year and would include Essex Elementary School, along with the Essex Meadows life care complex and the Lee Company on Bokum Road.

Representatives of the Orange-based company, a subsidiary of United Illuminating Co., held an informational meeting on the project Tuesday at the elementary school. About 15 residents turned out for the session, including First Selectman Norman Needleman, Selectman Joel Marzi, members of the local board of education, and Region 4 Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy. Needleman began discussions with representatives of the company about the possible expansion last year.

John Maziarz, an accounts manager for the gas company, said SCGC is ready to extend an existing natural gas main 29,300-feet north along Route 153 in to the Centerbrook section, and along Main Street to the elementary school. There would also be an extension along a section of Bokum Road to provide service to Lee Company and Essex Meadows.

The main currently ends at the intersection of Route 153 and Pettipaug Road in Westbrook. Maziarz said the company completed an expansion of service in Westbrook last year, including an extension of the main on a section of McVeigh Road to provide service to the Westbrook High School/Middle School complex. SCGC currently serves 178,000 customers in 23 towns between Bridgeport and Old Saybrook.

Maziarz said the cost of heating buildings with natural gas is currently about half the cost of heating the same structure with oil or propane. He said an analysis had determined that Essex Elementary School would save about $52,000 per year in heating costs by converting the school to natural gas.

Maziarz said the company is prepared to begin installation of the extended gas main this year if at least three “anchor customers” sign up for the service. He said the three key customers for the expansion project would be Lee Company, Essex Meadows, and the elementary school. He said Lee company has already committed to the service for its factory complex on Bokum Road. Service would be offered to all residential, commercial, and industrial customers on the expansion route if the project goes forward.

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The Uphill Battle of Convincing Boaters to Rent Boats Rather Than Own Them

It is hardly a contest. The favored way by more than a hundred fold and more, is that boaters along the eastern Connecticut shoreline prefer to own their own boats, rather than rent them.

Take for example the very modest boat rental program at the Brewer Pilots Point Marina in Westbrook. Whereas there are literally hundreds slips for boat owners keeping their own boats at this marina, there are only two boats that are available for rent at the marina.

Brewer’s Boat Rental Plans

That’s right, amidst hundreds of boat owners renting slips at the marina, Brewers offers only two boats that are for rent. They are: (1) a 24- foot Key West, center console, motor boat, and (2) a 24-foot Sea Ray Sundeck motor boat.

To rent these boats Brewers has set up a Brewer’s Boating Club, which offers boat renters a number of rental options. The top of the line of these plans are the Skippers Plans, which offer peak season boat usage, and which vary in price from $3,775 to $5,375 depending on boat usage. Next, down the line is the Captain’s Choice Plan for $6,295, which offers “Nearly Limitless membership features,” with “weekend reservation privileges… ”

Then there are the club’s Weekday Plans, including a Windward plan for $4,095 a season, and a Weekday Per Diem Membership Plan, which offers a 5-hour weekday usage for $395.

The complexity of these varying plans is challenging. However, Kit Will, Brewer’s personable, Pilots Point Sailing and Charter Director can explain it all. He can be reached at 860-575-8329, and at kwill@byy.com

One of the points that Kit Will makes is that belonging to the Brewers Boating Club is, “a good stepping stone to boat ownership.” He, himself, is a professional boat captain, who has over 25,000 miles of off-shore racing experience.

Pilots Point Marina's Kit Will aboard a 24 foot Key West center console, motor boat for rent

Pilots Point Marina’s Kit Will aboard a 24 foot Key West center console, motor boat for rent

A Simpler Boat Renting Option

Certainly, a far less complicated way to rent a motor boat along the Shoreline can be found at the Westbrook Marine Center, located at 533 Boston Post Road in Westbrook. The co-owner of the operation is the affable Tasha Cusson, who owns it with her husband. The advantage of renting a boat here, according to Tasha, “is that you just get in and go.”

The boats offered for rental at the Westbrook Marine Center are: 1) an 18 foot May-Craft Skiff, which has a five person capacity, and which is powered by a 90 horsepower outboard motor with a fuel tank of 42 gallons. 2) The second boat offered for rent at the Westbrook Marine Center is a 20 foot Hydras Sports Vector, which has a passenger capacity of six persons and is powered by a 225 horse power engine with an 85 gallon fuel capacity.

Westbrook Marine Center's 20 foot Hydra-Sport Vector motor boat for rent

Westbrook Marine Center’s 20 foot Hydra-Sport Vector motor boat for rent

The rates for boat rentals at the Marine Center are easy to understand. The 18 foot boat rents for $330 for four hours, and $495 for eight hours. The larger 20 foot boat rents for $365 for four hours, and $560 for eight hours.  Also, on occasion the boats are rented for a longer term at “a special lower rate,” according to Tasha. In addition to the rental charges, boat renters are required to fill up the fuel tanks of their rental boats before returning them.

According to Tasha, “Most people know boats, who rent from us.” As for those who are less familiar with boats, she says that a boat rental “is a fantastic opportunity to try out boating.” Before every boat rental, the renter is briefed from an extensive check list. Furthermore, Tasha says that she does not rent her boats to everyone. “I have turned people away,” she says, adding, “The personal safety of the renter is the key.”

Tasha also notes that possessing a State of Connecticut Safe Boating Certificate is not a necessary qualification for renting a boat in the state. However, her favorable judgment, as to whether or not the Marine Center wants to rent the boat to a particular person, is a necessity.

Tasha also noted that she had a number of rentals over Father’s Day weekend. The number to call for a boat rental is 860-399-8467.

Next week we shall profile three typical boat owners, who pay handsomely for their seasonal boating slips, but are grudgingly happy to do so.

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New Chester Brochure to be Available this Fall

The Chester Brochure  is being updated and printed this summer by the Chester Merchants.

The Chester Brochure is being updated and printed this summer by the Chester Merchants.

Since 2005, the Chester Merchants have published the Chester Brochure, a guide to the storefront and home-based businesses and artisans of Chester. The 4×8-inch, full-color, 32-page brochure also includes maps, directions, municipal information, and a calendar of annual Chester events.

Fifty-thousand copies of the brochure are printed and distributed in tourist outlets throughout the state, area hotels and inns, and local shops and town hall. This summer the Merchants are compiling their third edition, which will be designed by Cummings & Good and printed and distributed in the fall.

Michele Procko, of Ceramica, says, “The Chester Brochure has attracted a great deal of attention from merchants and chambers of commerce in other towns and states. They comment on its quality of the design and useful content, noting that they’d like to produce something like it themselves.”

Procko continues, “I always have the Chester Brochure in the store and people constantly pick it up as they explore the rest of the town. It helps them find what’s just around the corner or down the road.”

Leslie Strauss, of Century 21 Heritage Company, says, “Very often newcomers to the area are in need of a quick guide for professional services like doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants. We always send the Chester Brochure out with our relocation packets.”

Sosse Baker, of Chester Gallery, adds, “I use my own copy as a Chester directory – it’s my go-to resource for information of phone numbers and hours for all the other businesses.”

Ads in the brochure cost $200 or $400, depending on size. The deadline for ad submission and payment is July 15. For more information, email chestermerchants@gmail.com or call Leslie Strauss at 860-526-1200.

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Essex Zoning Approves Store Expansion with Dunkin Donuts Relocation

ESSEX— The zoning commission has approved an expansion of the convenience store that the Shell service station at 23 Main St. in the Centerbrook section that also includes a relocation and expansion of the Dunkin Donuts within the building. The commission last week amended  the 2007 special permit for the convenience store and Dunkin Donuts to allow the changes.

The panel acted after a June 17 public hearing where the change drew few objections from residents. One resident questioned the traffic situation at the intersection of Main Street and Dennison Road, which abuts the Shell station parcel. But commission members concluded that moving the main entrance to the Dunkin Donuts to the east side of the bulding would reduce any traffic issues.

The convenience store would expand in to a separate space in the commercial building now occupied by the Ashleigh’s Garden floral; shop, with the existing counter service only Dunkin Donuts to be relocated in to the former floral shop space. A second entrance to the store/Dunkin Donuts would be through the floral shop space.

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Deep River Rotary Announces “2013 Citizen of the Year”

Deep River Citizen of the Year Joanne Hourigan (left) with Kevin Brewer and Phyllis Haut.

Deep River Roraty Club Citizen of the Year Joanne Hourigan (left) with Kevin Brewer and Phyllis Haut.

The Deep River Rotary Club presented its annual “Citizen of the Year” Award to Joanne Hourigan at its annual year-end gathering June 23 at Griswold Point in Old Lyme. The award was presented by outgoing club president Kevin Brewer. Phyllis Haut, club secretary, read the announcement as follows:

Joanne Hourigan has been a gift to the town of Deep River for many years. In addition to being a wife and mother of two sons, she has served as the Executive Director of the Deep River Housing Authority and manager of Kirtland Commons Senior Housing for 20 years. At Kirtland Commons she is responsible for 31 elderly and disabled residents of the town. For Joanne, they are more than just clients and tenants; they are family.

She labors to make it a community, where residents gather for occasional meals in the dining room and share in activities in the large living room. Joanne has arranged exercise classes, art lessons, trips to concerts and movies, and birthday parties for her people. In addition, she has volunteered to serve as conservator for a number of men and women in the community, not only representing them in legal matters, but helping them to maneuver the complexities of medical appointments, maintaining housing, shopping for clothes, visiting friends, and creating a quality of life for her family of people born out of deep concern and love.

She is also the owner and creative inspiration behind her women’s shop, called Chaos, on Main St. in Deep River. She says that the shop is her therapy, and maybe those who come there to delight over the selection of clothes, jewelry, and accessories might find their therapy there, too. Even this for-profit endeavor is a part of Joanne’s love for the community and its people. She says, “Chaos Believes in give, give, giving, as much as we can to those in need and to help local organizations in their fundraising efforts, because that is what it is all about.” She has said that she named the shop “Chaos” because “that is my life.”

We are grateful for the chaos and the concern that represents the heart and soul of Joanne Hourigan, who represents so well the motto of Rotary International: Service Above Self. For that the Deep River Rotary Club presents the 2013 “Citizen of the Year Award” to Joanne Hourigan.

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Aggie’s Restaurant Property in Ivoryton Sold for $380,000

Aggie's Restaurant - Photo by Jerome Wilson

Aggie’s Restaurant – Photo by Jerome Wilson

ESSEX— The property that housed the long-running Aggie’s Restaurant in Ivoryton has been sold to a limited liability partnership for $380,000. In a sale filed with the town clerk’s office Thursday, local residents Agnes and William Waterman sold the 107 Main St. commercial property to Big River Properties LLC, which used a local post office box for its current mailing address in recording the sale.

The Watermans had owned the property on the corner of Main and Summit streets since 1996, with Agnes “Aggie” Waterman operating a breakfast and lunch restaurant on the lower floor. The second floor, which was once a pharmacy, has housed an antiques-gifts shop in recent years. The property was assessed at $321,900 on the current grand list. The restaurant closed on June 12. Big River Properties LLC is affiliated with a couple from North Carolina. The new owners have not announced plans for the building.

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Treasured Items Abound at Estuary Council’s “Thrift Shop,” and They Cost So Little

A large collection of ladies' blouses and slacks

A large collection of ladies’ blouses and slacks

Betsy Cote’ may be slight of build, but she has large responsibilities at the busy Thrift Shop of the Estuary Council in Old Saybrook. The Council’s building is located at 210 Main Street, way in the back of the shopping plaza. The Thrift Shop is on the first floor of the Council building.

Working under Cote’ at the Thrift Shop are 70 volunteers, who work in shifts at the check-out counter and around the store helping others. There are always at least three of the volunteer staff members on the floor, when the shop is open.  By far most of the volunteers are women, although there is a sprinkle of males.

Donations, which come into the Thrift Shop, are first sorted by item. The shop accepts donations of house wear, plates, cups and saucers, silver wear and clothing. When Cote’ was asked to give her definition of house wear, she said, “Anything in the house.”

No Electrical Items Accepted

However, if you have to plug in your donation, be advised the Thrift Shop does not accept electrical items. The most popular item at the Thrift Shop, according to Cote’, is puzzles.  At the shop the puzzles for sale range in size from 1,000 pieces down to 300 pieces. Most popular are 500 piece puzzles, and like the rest, “they go fast,” says Cote’.

The "Dollar rack" is always popular

The “Dollar rack” is always popular

Also, balls of yarn are a popular item among Thrift Shop shoppers, as is the sewing area, which offers a plethora of buttons in jars, and even a collection of zippers.  On hand as well are place mats, napkins, washcloths and towels. There are sheets as well of various sizes.

The motto of the Thrift Shop is, “If you would not buy it, we would not sell it,” Cote’ says. She, herself, is the only paid employee at the Thrift Shop, at a modest salary.

“Everything is really going great here,” Cote’ says. As for the Thrift Shop, “It is very successful.”

One thing that Thrift Shop customers should realize is that, the Thrift Shop does not wash or dry clean any of the items that come in as donations and are for sale.  Cleaning is left up to the customer, who purchased the item.

"But will the fit?" that is the question

“But will the fit?” that is the question

Wacky Wednesdays” for Super Bargains

One thing that brings in lots of customers is “Wacky Wednesday” specials. Kept a secret until the day of the event, on a recent Wednesday all articles of clothing were half price.

The Estuary Council’s Thrift Shop is open on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and Saturdays it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. The shop is closed on Sundays.

Volunteers at the shop on weekdays work in two shifts, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.  All are volunteers.

Cote’ tells the story that once someone donated, literally, a truck load of sheets, and the Thrift Shop sold them all. Customers made table cloths out of the sheets, lining for draperies, and some even made skirts out of the sheets.

Cote’ stressed that that they try to keep the Thrift Shop “neat and clean.” She also says that it is “a fun place to work,” and that “you meet great people.”

As for shop-lifting at the Thrift Shop, it may happen in very rare cases. As for the volunteers at the checkout counter, Coty’ says that she never once doubted their honesty.

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The Eyesore of Lovely Essex; Can’t Something Be Done About It?

63 North Main Street in Essex. What a mess!

63 North Main Street in Essex. What a mess!

Downtown Essex has one of the nation’s classic, small town centers. There is the charming “round about,” where Main Street converges with North Main Street. There is the historic Griswold Inn just down the way on Main Street, and further still the striving Connecticut River Museum, and the waters of the Connecticut River.

As for North Main Street from the “round about” outward along the river, there is a veritable parade of marvelous residences, the restored Dickenson Mansion among them.

However, among the marvelous homes of Essex, there is one exception, and that is the abandoned, burned out structure located at the southwest corner of North Main Street and New City Street.

This is the Town of Essex’s poster child of urban blight.

The Essex "slum house" has considerable fire damage.

The Essex “slum house” has considerable fire damage.

Why can’t something be done to restore or eliminate, this boarded up, fire-singed property? Could it be torn down and replaced by a mini-park?  Or perhaps a new house could be built on the property, one that is worthy of its grand neighbors!

Present House Called an “Eye Sore”

“It’s an eye store,” says nearby Essex resident Marianne Flores, who was walking by the house on a recent afternoon. She lives nearby, and walks by the town’s “five star” slum almost every day. “I can’t believe that the town has not done something about it,” she says.

Furthermore, in Ms Flores’ view, “The property is beyond fixing up,” and the present house should be simply torn down. Another neighbor of the slum house, who just came by, nodded her head in agreement.

First Selectman Says He’s Trying  

Essex’s First Selectman Norman Needleman issued a long statement as to what he was doing to address the Town of Essex’s number one slum property. He said,

“Regarding 63 North Main Street property, we have been actively engaged with the bank, the insurance company, and the neighbors in trying to resolve the very difficult situation presented by this property.

It recently went into foreclosure, and my hope is that the bank will move forward in trying to sell the property soon.

“Options such as organizing a group of interested neighbors to purchase the mortgage on the property have been presented, but no response has been received from the bank. I have been told that they are under strict confidentiality guidelines. I regularly speak to the neighbors and keep them abreast of the situation.

“This issue is high on the list of property issues that needed to be resolved, since before I was elected nearly two years ago. I am happy to say that several of the other issues, like the Mazda dealership and the Sunoco station are, or are being resolved. In addition, the property across from the Sunoco station is in the process of a lengthy and costly cleanup.”

 Selectman Joel Marzi Expresses Concern

Essex’s Selectman Joel Marzi also expressed his concern about the eyesore on North Main Street. “It is absolutely a shame that it had to happen,” Marzi said, regarding the present degraded condition of the house on North Main Street. Marzi also said that he and the other selectmen were determined to address the issue.

Essex’s other Selectman, Stacia Libby, said, “We are all in this together,” referring to herself and the other two Selectmen. “It is an unfortunate situation, and we have about exhausted all our efforts.”

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Valley Regional High School Graduates 158 Seniors in the Class of 2013

DEEP RIVER— The 158 seniors in the Class of 2013 received their diplomas Thursday in the sixty-second annual commencement ceremony at Valley Regional High School. A large crowd of hundreds of friends and family of the graduates gathered amid picture-perfect sunny skies and comfortable temperatures for the ceremony.
High school principal Kristina Martineau said members of the Class of 2013 had pursued their studies while also serving the Region 4 community of Chester, Deep River, and Essex as mentors for younger students and as emergency responders with the town volunteer fire departments and ambulance service. “Achieving and living this balance, the pursuit of personal success and service to others, is what it means to be a Valley Regional High School Warrior,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy urged the graduates, which she described as “the next generation of our workforce,” to be open to change and learning new skills, adding “one skill of great importance is to love what you choose to do in your life’s work.”
Honors Essayist Anna D’Agostino of Chester noted a four-year high school career is comprised of 720 days. “Here, over 720 days, we grew from curious freshmen to confident young adults,” she said, adding the school’s faculty had “taught us about ourselves and about living and from them we learned the values of hard work and the rewards that come with diligence.” Salutatorian Christopher Meyers of Essex noted that while Valley Regional High School is a small school, its faculty had provided the class with “a remarkable range of opportunity.”
Valedictorian Rachael Aikens of Essex noted that effort and a willingness to try can be as important as winning and success. “What is important now, especially on this graduation day and every day forward, is that you get back up and keep trying,” she said.
The school recognized two past graduates as the newest members of the Valley Regional High School Hall of Fame. Patricia Widlitz, Class of 1963, is a ten-term Democratic State  Representative for her current hometown of Guilford. Scott Wisner, Class of 1984, is a former resident state trooper for Essex who is currently a detective with the Connecticut State Police, Wisner was shot and wounded in the shoulder during an April 8 vehicle crash and shoot out with fleeing robbery suspects on Route 153 in Westbrook.

The Class of 2013

Rachael Caelie Aikens
Jerry Aksonelam
Henry Alberto
Ethan Robert Aresta
Jenna Caroline Avery
Gino V. Badalamenti
Devon Cartier Bakoledis
David C. Ballantyne
Kelly Bango
Christian Joseph Bartolotta
Marykelly Beaudoin
Julia Rose Beaulieu
Alex Elliot Belval
Lena Agnes Mae Bisaccia
Will Grayson Bogaert
Alyssa Bogan
Ashley Ann Bongiorni
Molly Jean Bosco
Sarah Joy Bowen
Briley Allen Branden
Olivia Cadley Branden
Jenna Taylor Brophy
Hannah Brown
Michael Edward Bruce Jr.
Lauren E. Budney
Megan Lynn Budney
Luc Townsend Burns
Sarah Hailey Burzin
Christian Caceres
Margaret E. Calamari
Kaitlin Susan Carini
Grace B. Carver
Roger Howard Clapp
Allyson Eleanor Clark
Ian S. Colby
Christopher J. Connor
Alyssa Anne Cornwall
Katherine Cullina
Sean Michael Cunningham
Anna Katherine D’Agostino
Rachel Kathryn Daley
Trevor John Dinwoodie
Jeremy Matthew Doran
Aliza Dubé
Amelia Rose Eppard
Courtney Ernst
Britney Elizabeth Evarts
Megan Elizabeth Farley
Nicholas Mathew Faulkingham
Andrew James Ferrucci
Dylan Christopher Ficke
Karla Janine Figueroa
Gabriella Sophie Clara Fishkind
Emily Antonia Frese
Alistair Stuart Garden
Kylie Nicole Gates
Charles Henry Godwin
Dylan Matthew Grzybowski
Sarah Margaret Hammond
Shelby Lynn Hardgrove
Sierra Beth Harger
Halie Michelle Harris
Mattie Jane Harris
Aryanah Marie Haydu
Morgan Emily Hines
Nicole Elizabeth Hines
Megan Rachel Anne Hunt
Anthony M. Hunter
Danielle Leigh Hunter
Claire Anna Hurwitt
Kathryn Nicole Ierna
Nikole Ann Indermaur
Russell Kenneth Jacobson
Jocelyn Jade Jaillet
Anna Catherine Javor
Ian Gregory Johnston
Shane Thomas Joy
Elsbeth Louise Kane
Helen Renate Kilby
Mason J. King
Samuel Carter Kneeland
Samuel Jackson Krempel
Jordan Nichole LaCasse
Garrett Edward LaMountain Jr.
Tazer Edward Landow
Jonathan Tyler LaPlace
Micaela Rae Leal
Timothy Alan Leffingwell
Andrew Wynn Lewis
Scout Macy Lohrs
Brandon Nicholas Longo
Jonathan David Luster
Christine Ellis Lyons
David John MacDonald
Derek Raymond Manierre
Sean Michael Manierre
Christopher Thomas Marconi
Jaclyn Ann Marino
Brooke A. McConnell
Sarah Elizabeth McDonald
Allison Marie McDougall
Sara Helen McIngvale
Randy Max Menard
Scott Michael Miezejeski
Maya Anne Camera Moen
Justin Joseph Andreas Morano
Carlin Patrick Morris
Christine Marie Morse
Emily Ellen Mosca
Clinton Charles Mosher
Randall Charles Sanford Mudge
Christopher William Myers II
Paul Arthur Myers
Natalie Nelson
Jacob Thomas Joseph Norton
Julia Marie Nucolo
Matthew Lawrence O’Brien
Nile Kohler Otte
Seamus Palm-Baker
Oskar Dakota Partyka
Kelsey Lauren Pearse
Kevin Robert Penkala
Kyle David Peterson
Christopher Joseph Polo
Ryan Michael Pomroy
Amanda Kelsey Preble
Tatumn Daniele Ramcke
Taylor Riggio-McGrath
Mallory Elizabeth Rioux
Marisa Lynn Romano
Haley Rosel Samuelson
Megan Florence Sasena
Katherine Marie Schroeder
Erin Cynthia Scionti
Isaac Joseph Siegel
Zachariah Taylor Skalandunas
Elizabeth Smith
Patrick Andrew Smith
Norma Lucille Louise Socci
Sten Philip Spinella
James Bailey Steele
Brittany Paige Sullivan
Daniel Joseph Thayer
Abigail Wyeth Tibbetts
Nicolas Marivo Tiezzi
Curtis A. Turner
Rebecka Lee Tyrseck
Nicholas George Van Wyngaarden
Charlotte Ann Vigue
Geoffrey Charles Vincelette
Parker Bevan Wallis
Robert Cory Welsh
Timothy R. Westerman
Hailey Nicole Whitworth
zackerie Alan Whitworth
Julia Rochelle Wlochowski
Cheyenne Mya Wohlstrom
Joan Langley Wyeth
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Historical Society Request for Exemption to Meeting House Use Fees Rejected

CHESTER— The board of selectmen Tuesday declined to approve an exemption to the use fee for the Chester Meeting House that had been requested earlier this month by members of the Chester Historical Society.

Skip Hubbard, society president, and other members attended the board’s June 4 meeting to request an exemption from a $200 fee the town requires for local non-profit organizations that use the meeting house on Liberty Street for public events, such as fundraisers, that include an admission fee. The fee was part of a package of fees for rental of the meeting house that were adopted by the board of selectmen a year ago and became effective on July 1, 2012.

The board maintained a policy of no charge for events that are sponsored by non-profit organizations and are open to the public with no admission charge. But the board imposed a $200 fee for events sponsored by local non-profit organizations that have an admission charge. The use fee is $350 for events sponsored by private for-profit groups and organizations. The fees are intended to help reimburse the town for expenses related to maintaining the historic meeting house, including utility costs.

Hubbard had contended at the June 4 meeting the historical society should receive an exemption from the fee for it’s fundraisers because the organization and its members were actively involved in the effort to restore the meeting house for active public use during the 1980s and 1990s.

First Selectman Edmund Meehan said he “appreciates what the historical society does and has done for the town,” but believes it is “better public policy to treat everybody equally,” on the use fee for the meeting house. “We need to be uniform and fair across the board,” he said.

Selectmen Larry Sypher and Tom Englert agreed, with Englert saying he does not view the $200 fee as “burdensome” for public events in a building that seats 160 people and has a stage and balcony. Englert said allowing an exemption for the historical society would be unfair to other local non-profit organizations that rent the meeting house for public events.

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Republican Selectman Joel Marzi to Run for Open Essex Town Clerk Seat

Republican Selectman Joel Marzi

Republican Selectman Joel Marzi

ESSEX— Republican Selectman Joel Marzi announced Monday that he will run for town clerk in the Nov. 5 municipal election, stepping down from the board of selectman after two terms. Marzi said he will seek the Republican nomination for town clerk at the party nominating caucus in mid-July.

The town clerk job will be open this year with the recent announcement from Town Clerk Frances Nolin that she is retiring from the position at the end of the current term. Nolin was first elected in 1999 on the Republican line, and was re-elected to subsequent terms with support from both political parties.

“There is a big hole to be filled in town hall operations with Fran retiring,” Marzi said, adding that he hopes to continue the record of service established by Nolin with a focus on preserving and maintaining the town’s historical records. “I am a firm believer in hard copy records keeping,” he said.

Marzi was the Republican nominee for first selectman in 2009, losing to Democratic First Selectman Phil Miller while winning election to the minority seat on the three-member board. He was re-elected in 2011. Marzi said before learning of Nolin’s retirement decision that he had been “leaning against” seeking another term on the board of selectmen in favor of “giving other people a chance to serve.”

Marzi, a 35-year town resident, had served previously on the zoning commission and board of finance. He also served on the building committee for the Essex Elementary School renovation and expansion project that was completed in 2008. Marzi said he would serve as a full-time town clerk if elected, scaling back the picture framing business he operates from his home in the Centerbrook section.

No other candidates have declared for the town clerk position. Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman has announced that he will seek a second term in the fall election with incumbent Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby as his running-mate. No Republicans have declared as candidates for first selectman or board of selectmen. Party nominating sessions for the Nov. 5 election must be held between July 16-23.

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Five Sailboats of the U.S. Naval Academy Pay a Visit to Little Essex, Connecticut

The Daring, a 44 foot sailboat coming into Essex

The Daring, a 44 foot sailboat coming into Essex

Five, forty-four foot sailboats belonging to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis paid a call on the little shoreline town of Essex on June 14. They stayed the weekend of June 15 and 16, and then set sail back to Annapolis by eight in morning of June 17.

The five “Navy 44” sailboats arrived at the Essex town docks at around 3:00 p.m. on Friday, June 14, and they were greeted by Essex Yacht Club’s Rear Commodore Wes Bray. (The club’s Commodore and Vice Commodore were sailing elsewhere.) Rear Commodore Bray said in his welcoming remarks that it was “fantastic” that the Naval Academy had selected Essex for a visit of its sailboats, and that the town was “honored” by their presence.

An Essex dock worker catches the sailboat's line

An Essex dock worker catches the sailboat’s line

And pulls the sailboat to the dock

And pulls the sailboat to the dock

Also, Terry Stewart, the Commodore of the next door, Essex Corinthian Yacht Club, came over to greet the crews of the Naval Academy that had come to Essex.  It was a nice touch, and showed that at least one local Yacht Club Commodore had come out to greet them.

Each Naval Academy Sailboat Costs over $1 Million

As for the Naval Academy’s custom made sailboats, reportedly, it costs $1.09 million to build each boat, with every penny paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Presently the sailboats are three years old.

Lt. Commander Joe Slaughter, the ranking officer of the five-boat cruise to Essex, was asked why did the Navy need to have sailboats, when it has nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers and a fleet of high tech, battleships. Were these sailboats really necessary to the Navy’s mission?

Commander Slaughter sprang to the defense of the Naval Academy’s policy of having sailboats at the Academy. Learning to sail, he said, teaches those at the Academy “the rules of the road” at sea, which “everybody has to learn.” These rules include, knowing the meanings of the lights, buoys and markers that are found in harbors and along coastlines.

Even more important, in the Commander’s view, learning to sail, was extremely important in learning the challenges of leadership in the Navy. This leadership training was crucial in his view to the positions of command that these midshipmen will hold in the future. These words were delivered by the Commander with almost an evangelical fervor.

Rough and Stormy Seas Sailing to Essex

The voyage from Annapolis to Essex was a very difficult sail. At times waves were as high as ten feet, and there were steady downpours of rain and high winds as well. Also, off the long New Jersey coast, one of the boats, the Daring, had an engine problem, and it had to be towed into Atlantic City by the U.S. Coast Guard for repairs.

One midshipman, John Kameen, who serves as the Starboard Watch Officer on the Daring, told the story that  at one point deep in the night in the stormiest of seas, the Daring boat found itself lagging further and further behind the other sailboats. This was happening, even though the engine of the Daring was running, and the sails were full.

Finally, as the boat slipped even further behind the others, the discovery was made that the boat‘s engine was not in gear. “Everyone was really tired,” the Starboard Watch Officer said, not really believing that this was a valid excuse.

Not a Lot of Room On Board for a Crew of Ten

Each of the 44 foot sailboats that came up to Essex had crews of ten. However, the number of sleeping bunks for these ten crew members was five.

A midshipman takes out a bumper to protect the boat's hull

A midshipman takes out a bumper to protect the boat’s hull

The boat’s five sleeping bunks are divided up as follows. There is one single bunk aft for the use of both the boat’s Skipper and the Executive Officer. This double use of a single bunk is called a “Hot Rack,” we were told.

For the other eight members of the crew, there are four bunks, which run along the along the sides of the main cabin. This means that while four crew members are sleeping in these bunks, the other four are either up on deck, or doing something useful below.

The Daring's Skipper (center) with seven of his crew

The Daring’s Skipper (center) with seven of his crew

In addition to this bunking arrangement there, is a single head (bathroom) located in the forward area of the boat. For delicacy’s stake the boat’s toilet area can be enlarged somewhat into a small dressing room. But again, there is only one bathroom for a crew of ten.

The Sexual Balance on the Sailboat

As for the sexes of the members of crew, the Skipper of the sailboat Daring was a male civilian, and the Executive Officer was a female Navy lieutenant. As for the rest of the crew, there were five males and three females.  This meant that in total the Daring had a crew of six males and four females. Considering the all male officers corps of the U.S. Navy not too many years ago, this ratio is quite impressive.

In the view of Starboard Watch Officer Kameen, and he seemed sincere, “The Navy has done a great job in making the integration of men and women seamless,” adding, “It’s been great.”

However, he did say that in a very few cases of lifting heavy objects, it is only the men that have the strength to lift them.

As for flirtations between the sexes on board, the Midshipman said, “They keep you so busy; there is no time to think about it.” Also, it should be noted that when the weather permits there are vigorous exercises programs top sides, which involves in some cases doing as many as 200 pushups.

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Zigging and Zagging My Way Home to Deep River

Veteran cross-country traveler John Guy LaPlante gives another update on his extraordinary journey by minivan from California to Deep River, Conn.

All alone on the road, for miles and miles, along a parched and empty land.  Ever experience that?  It can be the case on the High Plains of Texas.  Good thing I enjoy my own company.

I’m moving along happily, always ready to  jump off the Interstate  to go see something interesting.

As I write this, I have entered green and beautiful Missouri.  So refreshing to see real green!  It’s making me homesick for Deep River.

I have driven 2,285 miles to date. It’s surprising how little has gone wrong.

My adventure is continuing as well as I could expect.  As you know, I’m not doing this just to get home.  I’m crossing the USA  to enjoy the ride and have fun.

I keep a journal every day.  Just raw notes, hand-written.  I have done this for every significant trip and, in fact, many significant undertaking in my life for many years.  Our memory plays tricks on us.  Important to write down the facts.

The journal-keeping is a job in itself.  I’ve just finished my last entry for today at a Burger-King.  It’s 10:35 p.m. and it will close at 11.  I’m the only customer left in here.

I’ve been here for more than two hours–my typical evening routine.  A clerk—a nice young gal—is now giving me dirty looks.  Twenty minutes ago I went up and ordered one more thing.  An ice cream cone.  Mostly to keep her smiling.

I still have to find my way a few miles up the road to a Super Walmart—meaning one that never closes and sells just about everything, including full food and groceries.  Even gasoline at some, and always cheaper.  You may not know it, but it takes 600 employees—excuse  me, associates–to do the job in a store this big.

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My road atlas tells me the Walmart is there.  That’s where I’ll sleep tonight.  I’ll be lucky to slip into my bunk by midnight.  In the morning, I’ll go in, use the bathroom, and buy a few things.  This trip would be impossible without Walmart.  I mean it.

My trip is fun, but there’s a heap of work (notice the Western expression?) to a trip like this.  Yes,  work.  I’m busy from morning until night.  I do take a nap every afternoon.  As some of you know, I nodded off on a highway some years ago.  In mid-afternoon.  Doing 65.  For just three seconds, maybe five.  Awful!  I ran of f the highway and bounced off the rear left corner of a parked car.  It had a flat or something.  The three in the car were standing off at the side.

My airbag exploded.  I smashed the windshield.  Police, ambulance, the works.  No injuries but I totaled my beautiful Buick.  Damage aplenty to the parked car.  I was not penalized in any way.  Talk about good luck!

If I had hit that car square, I’d be dead.  Once like that is more than enough.  I’m not embarrassed to tell you I take a mid-afternoon nap.

As I look over my journal, I see far more in my many entries than I can tell you about without exhausting myself typing it up.

So, this report is not complete.  The reason is that I’ll be sending you  reports soon about three big experiences I’ve had.  One is my cruising Historic Road 66 for hundreds of miles–the Mother Road, our first modern highway across a vast stretch of the U.S.A.

The second is about my four days in Bentonville, Ark.  It’s the small, very ordinary little town where Sam Walton started Walmart and where he continued to live all his life, although he got to be worth multi-billions and could afford to live in a palace in the glitziest spot that suited him in the world.

And how small  Bentonville is now the world capital of Walmart and Sam’s Club, which he also started.  And how Bentonville has been vastly and beautifully transformed because of all the Walton and Walmart money.  And what a good time I had exploring Bentonville and soaking up all I could about Sam.  Four days was too short …

The third was my visit of several days in Independence, Mo.  Another small and indifferent city.  And how that has been transformed by another remarkable man, Harry Truman.

President Truman was a poor farm boy who never went to college.  Getting into politics and rising steadily, he was chosen to run with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in FDR’s fourth and final presidential election.

How Roosevelt spoke to him only once after the election.  And how after only 82 days as VP, Harry Truman suddenly found himself President of the United States of America.

Everybody thought Harry was in deep, deep water.  I think he thought so himself.  But he startled everybody with a dramatically effective tenure of seven years.  A tenure with truly historic moments that brought great changes.

How he retired to little Independence, which he considered the center of the universe.  How to his dying breath he remained deeply in love with his wife Bess.  And how he steadfastly refused to make a dime off his service as President, contrary to numerous other Presidents.

And how today he is regarded as one of our truly great Presidents.

Well, Harry transformed Independence just as Sam Walton transformed Bentonville.

My time in Independence was too short, too.

But now, let me tell you some highlights of my trip as I mosey along from California across America home to Connecticut.  I hope these highlights will give you a good idea of the good time I’m having.

My first time in a pawn shop in 60 years!

Dumas in the Texas Panhandle is a nice, very neat little city of 15,000.  On Main Street, I spotted $EZPawn.  That’s how it spells its sign. I hadn’t been in a pawn shop since I was 20.  I stopped in.  Small but very clean and well laid out.  I was surprised.  Hundreds of items.  Only one clerk, Sonia, about 28.  Taking inventory.  I said hello and she smiled back.

I was amazed by the wide variety of stuff—electronics, tools of all kinds, musical instruments, household appliances, tools, cameras and binoculars and jewelry, auto stuff—just about anything of value.  But no clothing or shoes.

DSCN1234

You’ll understand in a minute why I felt I had to stop in. Many pawn shops out here. None close to Deep River. We could use one.

I told her this was only my second time in, yes, more than 60 years, and she was amazed.  “So many people use pawn shops …”

$EZPawn is a regional chain, she said.  This store has been in business 40 years.  The only one in the area.  Solid reputation, she said.

“We do two things.  We lend people money on stuff they bring in, and we buy things from them.  Mostly we pawn.  Lend them money depending on the value of the item.

“And yes, prices can be discussed.  It’s a fact.  We try to work with people.  We hear lots of hard luck stories.  That’s expected in this business.”  I pointed to a nice electric drill, only $16.  And a small digital camera.  Only $8.  “Such low prices.  Are these things guaranteed?”

“We test everything.  Make sure it works.  And we give people 24 hours.  They can return anything.  After that, sorry!”

“What’s the usual pawn deal?”

“The stuff they pawn is the collateral.  We give people 30 days to pay back the money we lend them.  And two days of grace.  We charge interest, of course, but the rates are controlled by the state.  If they come in late to reclaim something, even one day late, sorry!”

“When you buy something, how do you set the price?”

“We look at it.  If we’re interested, we get a model number or a good description of it.  We go online.  To Google or Bing or others.  We check going prices.

“That’s our starting point.  Then we go up or down, depending on the  condition.  We try to be fair.  It’s the only way to stay in business.

“If something doesn’t move, we mark it down.”

“Do you yourself buy stuff here?”

“Of course!”

“An example, please.”

“An i-pad.  Excellent condition.  $199.”

“Wow!”

“Yeah.  The price was good to start with.  And I got my employee discount.  But you said you used a pawn service years ago!”

“Yes, I did. I was 20.  I was crazy in love with Pauline.  A big college prom was coming up.  Had to take her.  She was counting on it.  I was short of money.

“My Uncle Jack had just come back from World War II.  He was a grunt in the Infantry, fighting through France and Germany.  Like every GI, he came back with souvenirs he scooped up.  Gave me a pair of German Army binoculars—Carl Zeiss.  World-famous name.

“Well, I pawned them.  Got enough money for the prom.  Pauline was radiant.  She was chosen prom queen.  I had 30 days to get those fine binoculars out of hock, as you explained.  Never came up with the money.  Lost the binocular!”

She laughed.  I laughed, too, but not as much as she did.  The memory still hurts.  I’m glad my Uncle Jack never heard about it.  It would have killed him.

“You learned a lesson!”

“And how …  I swore I’d never pawn anything again.  I never have.  But I’d buy a few things here. But I think I’d try not to think of how bad people must feel when they come in to pawn something.  They’re desperate, I’m sure.”

“Yes.  For sure.  But we do offer a good service.  Lots of people come in.  May sound strange but we have some regulars.”

Ever see a Sonic Drive-In?  I hadn’t.

I’m still in Dumas.  Cruising main street.  I noticed a Sonic Drive-In.  Its sign was so tall and the Sonic was so busy that I couldn’t miss it.  It was at least the umpteenth Sonic I’ve seen on this trip.  I pulled in.

A classic drive-in.  We don’t have them back home.  You nose into a parking spot facing the restaurant, park, and stay right there in your car.  Each parking slot has its own big bright menu offering a thousand choices.  Select what you want.  Pay with a plastic card right from your front seat.  Relax.  A clerk in a nifty Sonic outfit brings you your order.  Pay him with cash if you prefer.

You can enjoy the food right there in your car.  Or drive away with it as take-out.  Rain or snow won’t be a bother.  Not much of either of those here, anyway.  No need to worry about whether you’re dressed sloppily or anything like that.  Plenty of advantages to choosing Sonic.

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Sonic has become the classic American drive-in. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands. Seem as popular as McDonald’s. For folks of all ages. Why not some Sonics in Connecticut?

But you can also go inside to order and eat, or eat on the covered patio.  My server was Ruben.  I saw his name on his badge.

Just out of his teens, I guessed.  I liked him right away.

“Ruben,” I said.  “Know what?  This is the very first Sonic I ever come in!”

“Honest?”

“Yep.  We don’t have them where I come from.”  I explained a bit.

“Well, welcome, Sir!  We have an awful lot of Sonics out here.  Folks love Sonic.  All kinds of people come in.  Especially in the evening.  Our floats are half price …  We keep hopping!”

“This is nice service you give.  Do people tip you?”

He paused.  “Some do.”  But I could tell right away that tips are rare.

A huge list on the menu, as I said.  Ice cream items are big.  Soft drinks, too.  But burgers of all kinds, too, fries, corn dogs, salads, on and on.  Breakfast all day.

I told him I wanted to take a picture for my family and friends.  Sonic would be interesting to most to them.  Would he pose for me?

He didn’t like the idea but agreed.  A nice young fellow.  And I took a shot of him by the big menu.  He was smiling, which was great.  I showed him the picture and I saw he was tickled.  Then off he went back to work.

In a minute he came back with a big, jolly man in a Sonic shirt.  The manager.  Again I explained this was my first Sonic ever, and he could see I’ve been around a long, long time.  Nice guy.  He dug into his pocket and gave me a fat plastic coin.  Red and white, with the Sonic logo.

“This will give you a free Sonic soft drink,” he told me, and smiled.  “ We have a thousand combos of flavors.  You tell me your pleasure.”

I don’t drink such things, but I didn’t say that. “I’d love one. Got a dietetic one?”

“Sure.  What’s your favorite?”  He pointed to the long list on the menu.

“You choose.  Give me your most popular flavor!”

“Ruben will bring it right out.”  He shook hands (Ouch!), gave me another smile, and went back inside.  Ruben tailed him in.

A couple of minutes and Ruben was back.  He had my drink.  Cherry something, he told me.  I took a sip and licked my lips.  “Great, Ruben!  Thank you!”

Big smile.  He was pleased.  I was pleased.  Glad I stopped in to check out the Sonic.  I don’t think I’ll ever cash in that plastic coin.  I’m going to hold on to it as a souvenir.

~ ~ ~

Too often folks don’t appreciate their home town.  I think it’s so sad.

I’m still in Dumas. It’s a small town and I’ve taken a good look around.  I like it.

In town after town I’ve said to folks, “I’m just passing through. What should I see here?” Including here in Dumas.

They think and think.  They’re hard put to think of something good to tell me.

Twice here somebody has said.  “Go see our history museum!”  I’ve done that and I enjoyed it.   I’ll tell you about it in a minute.

It’s curious they can’t think of something worthwhile.  I believe it’s because they haven’t seen many places.  Don’t have much to compare their town to.  They’re blind to the nice things they have.

Here, for instance.  If they had gotten around more, they’d realize that for a place its size, Dumas is impressive.

It has a busy shopping center with just about everything that’s needed.  Fairly prosperous, I think.  One reason is that Valero—Valero Gasoline—has a very big plant nearby.

Two people told me another big reason.  Next door in small Cactus –that’s the town’s name–is one of the biggest meat-packing plants in the world.

Another is tourism.  It’s all-important here for sure.  All the hotels and motels and restaurants and shops of all kinds on the main street tell me that loud and clear.

I noticed that it has a hospital and nice schools and a branch of a community college and banks and a library, and even that nice museum and art center.  I’ll tell you about them in a minute.

Dumas is carefully laid out and the streets are in good repair and the houses are well kept on street after street that I’ve looked at.  Nothing ritzy, but nice, neat working-people homes.

On my way here for more than 100 miles I went through only three itsy-bitsy little towns.  Just three!  Not a big grocery store in any of them.  Not even a McDonald’s or Burger King or Subway.  How about that?  I was so happy finally to ride into a community that, small as it is by our standards, offers so much.  Dumas here, I mean.

True, I wasn’t asking these folks if they liked Dumas or not.  I was asking them what I should make sure and see.  If I asked if they liked it here, they might have quickly said, “Yes, sir, Dumas is a nice place.”  But maybe not.

Somebody should be doing more hometown PR for folks here.  But I believe that’s true in community after community.

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I had no idea how hugely important the chuck wagon and the windmill were in making life better out here. How far we’ve come!

About that gem of a museum that few people bother to go see.

You never know when you’ll find a gem.  That small history museum which two people told me about was a gem.

This is a small city so I expected a small museum.  This was a big museum, in its own building, with a big parking lot.  Right on the main drag.  Right across the street from the impressive Visitor Center.  It stood out clearly from all directions.

The museum was the centerpiece of a huge outdoor exhibit with all kinds of big and interesting things.  Most related to farming, which is big here, and oil.

It was 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning when I pulled in.  Only one solitary car in the lot.  The museum is closed, I thought.  But it was indeed open.

A cheery woman greeted me.  “Come in, sir!  Come in and cool off!”  She had good reason to say that.  It was already in the 90’s.  “Enjoy our museum!”

One glance around and I knew I would.  The exhibits went on and on.  All truly beautiful.  This was not an amateur volunteer operation.

I allowed myself an hour.  But everything was so interesting that I went on for an hour and a half, then two.  I paused at this exhibit, then at that one.  So much to learn here.

I did skip some, just to make time.  An exhibit on women’s clothes over the years here on the High Plains.  Another on kitchen stuff.  Another on native wildlife, as well done as it was.

Some exhibits riveted me.  One on barbed wire.  We don’t think much of barbed wire but that was a key invention in the settlement of the West.  Finally a rancher could fence in his livestock.   Didn’t have to go riding all over the place on his horse to find them …

Amazing how many kinds of barbed wire got invented.  Hundreds.  Maybe thousands.  Each slightly different, but different enough to get patented.  The museum had tray after tray of samples.  A huge job to put this exhibit together.  It deserved to be in the Smithsonian!

Another on hand and power tools.  Tools that I never imagined.   The ingenuity behind all this! Another on farm tractors—they had a collection of hundreds of perfect toy models.  Again the ingenuity …  Another on windmills, another huge invention.  They harnessed the wind to suck water out of this parched land day and night.   The only labor involved was minor upkeep.

A ranch chuck wagon.  That sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it was another enormous invention.  It carried the cook’s whole supply of equipment and food on those long cattle drives over sometimes hundreds of miles.

The cook finally had a real kitchen on wheels, even a prep table.  And besides the food, the wagon carried the cowboys’ bedding and sparse extra clothes.  Fantastic.

The museum went on and on.  I could have spent twice as much time there, all of it exciting.  But I had to leave.  In all that time, I was the only tourist.

I was about to depart when that nice lady said, “Sir, you must go look at our Art Center!  You’ll see what talented artists we have here.”

I was pressed but I said okay.  The Art Center was very nice.  But it didn’t hold a candle to the museum itself.

I stopped by to thank that nice lady and express my terrific satisfaction.  She was the director.  I said, “How many people stop in?”

Without hesitation, and proudly, she told me, “Five thousand a year!”

I was appalled.  That was only 100 a week.  Aghast!

“You should have  50 thousand!”

She looked as me as if I were nuts.

“You’ve got so much going for you.  This is a four-star museum!  The town is so lucky to have it. A perfect location. You have such talent as curator and exhibitor.  The place has great visibility.  Wonderful easy parking.  Right across from the Visitor Center.  Close to all the big hotels.”

I couldn’t help myself. Started making suggestions of things the museum might do. Hey, for many years I was a PR consultant. Used to get paid to sound off like this. Many of my suggestions didn’t require a ton of money.

“So, so interesting!” she told me.  “I’ll mention them at our next board meeting.  Thank you so much!”

“This really is a gem.  All that’s needed is promotion.”

She smiled.  I smiled.  I walked out.  Somehow I got the feeling not much would change.  Hope I’m wrong.

~ ~ ~

About that meat-packing plant I didn’t want to go see.

A waitress was the first to mention it to me.  She said it was in the next town, Cactus.  That’s really the town’s name.  It’s a huge plant, she said.  A Swift plant, she believed.  Swift is a giant in meat-packing, of course.

I asked whether they did cattle, or hogs, or sheep.  Cattle, she said, but maybe the others critters, too.  Wasn’t sure.

I said, “Could I tell what they do there if I rode out to take a look?”

“No.  It’s just a great big factory, sort of.  Lots of semis, though—you know, big trailer trucks.  Bringing in animals.  Taking meat away.”

“Does it smell?” I asked.  I still remember when I visited Battle Creek, Michigan, long ago.  It’s famous for Kellogg and Post and other big cereal smakers.  The minute I got close I noticed a strange smell.  But I liked that smell a bit

Of cereal cooking, of course.  Being converted into corn flakes and bran flakes and oat flakes and rice flakes and all the others.  We never get to smell that.  In Battle Creek it’s part of life day and night.  The ovens are going all the time.

A big meat-slaughtering plant must give off a smell, I thought.  She smiled sheepishly. “Yes, it does.”

Maybe a good smell, but the way she hesitated, I didn’t think so.  Believe me, I have no interest in driving over there.  I don’t even want to think about what they do there.  I feel good that I’ve stopped eating animals.

~ ~ ~

 I’m so glad I didn’t skip the PPHM!

I’m in Canyon, Texas now.  It’s up there in the incredibly flat and treeless Texas Panhandle.  So sparse.  The High Plains, it’s called.  Look at a map of Texas and you’ll see why this is called the Panhandle.  Elevation more than 5,000 feet.  A strong wind all the time, it seems.  That wind must be razor-sharp come winter.

The wonderful museum I’m talking about is the Panhandle and Plains Historical Museum (PPHM) here.

This small town, by the way, is like my hometown in Connecticut, Deep River.

It is named Deep River because it is located on the Deep River, a small stream but it provided all the power for our big piano factory to do its work a century ago.  That factory was the high-tech center of the piano industry back then when every middle-class family had to have a piano in its living room.

The factory is a nice condo now, and I’m happy to live there.  Quiet corner unit.  High ceilings.  Great big windows.  I look down on the dam and sluice that drove the huge turbines in the factory.  Lots of sunshine.  Nice neighbors.  Well, 97 percent of them.  But that’s a higher percentage than average, I suspect..

Well, this town is named Canyon because there’s a huge canyon here.  It’s the Palo Duro Canyon at the nearby state park by that name.  The Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in North America.  I was surprised to hear that.  And I nearly skipped it …

This little town is about 20 miles south of Amarillo in the Panhandle.

I went out of my way to come here because of  the PPHM Museum.  That’s what the locals call it.   It impressed me in the AAA handbook about Texas.

The PPHM is a separate great big building on the campus of West Texas State University, which has a  campus more impressive than I expected.

It turns out that the PPHM is the biggest history museum in all Texas.  And Texas is the biggest of our 48, as we know.  And by far.  With huge cities, and many history museums.

Through no fault of mine, I got to the museum at 3:45 p.m.  And it closed at 5 …  Should I bother, I wondered?  Then I realized it would be closed tomorrow, Sunday.  So I went in.

The ticket seller saw my problem.  “Come in, sir!  Be our guest.  But you’ll have to rush.  There’s an awful lot here!”

He was so right.  What hit me right off was the scale of everything in here.  No teeney little exhibits about this and that.  All the exhibits were big.

Right off I beheld a real, full-size derrick to drill oil, moved here from its last big drilling job in Texas.  It was 87-feet high.   Wow!  A special wing had to be built for it.  Massive timbers.  Huge pulleys and gears—bigger than on the biggest steam locomotive.  Ropes and cables as big as a strong man’s bicep.  A mighty machine capable of punching a hole 3,000 feet into the Texas rock—a hole big enough to drop a cantaloupe down it.

I just had to stand back and stare at the cleverness and the huge size of it.  This at a time when the petroleum industry was just getting started here.  As we know, oil and gas were big in this huge state.  And still are.

That derrick exhibit set the pace for all the exhibits in the museum’s many halls.

Then a wonderful exhibit about windmills.  They still mark many parts of the parched West, using the force of the wind to draw water up from the bowels of the earth.  How they made life possible.  Some were incredibly huge.

It took skilled mechanics to keep them running smoothly.  Windmillers, they were called.  Look in phone books here and you’ll still see windmillers offering their services.

Here’s a fact that will surprise you folks back in Connecticut.   The windmill that opened the West to settlement was the invention of a Connecticut man, Michael Halladay, in 1869.  He took his idea West to where it was needed most, and it took off.

Then I went onto the remarkable geology of this part of the country, and its incredible Ogallala Aquifer.  That’s the water that the windmill made it  possible to suck up.

That aquifer is the huge and broad unseen reservoir of water that lays deep under this enormous state and its neighboring states, too.  But a reservoir that we are slowly and steadily draining to meet our increasing demands for water.  And I had never heard of it

The message is clear.  If we don’t get smarter about using water, we’ll run dry.  Guaranteed!

Then a super-size exhibit about the nearby canyon, the Palo Duro.  Another about the amazing weather that makes this area so difficult to live in—the dearth of rain, the frequency of violent tornadoes.  Texas gets a lot of tornadoes, which are often deadly.  And hail storms, too—hail as big as ping pong balls and even tennis balls.  So destructive.

Then the museum has a  super-size exhibit on the native people who migrated here and managed to survive by sheer wit and tenacity.  Another on its natural history and prehistoric animal life, so varied.

The museum was enormous.  I rushed and rushed, and was sorry when I had to quit.  I was the last person out.  I thanked the young clerk at the door, who was counting the money in the till.  “So, so glad you told me to come in,” I told him.

He smiled. “We’re very proud of it here in Canyon!”

On the way out, I felt it was so appropriate the PPHM adjoins the university.  As a student, you could easily get the equal of a bachelor’s in a lot of these subjects.  All you’d have to do is come in and soak up all this knowledge.  It would be a lot more fun than leafing through a dry textbook.

One result of my vist it that I made another trip out of my way the next morning.  I drove on the big flat empty land to look at the Palo Duro Canyon.  So glad I did.

~ ~ ~

Texas has its own Grand Canyon!

The Palo Duro Canyon outside small Canyon here is greatly touted, as I’ve mentioned.  Shoud I go?  After all, I have been to the Grand Canyon–the biggest in North and South America–twice.   To both North and South Rims.  Why go out of my way to see another hole in the ground?

I went.  Amazing.  I was on a vast, boring flat table land.  Nothing around.  Nothing.  Suddenly, this huge hole.  Really huge.  So impressive.  Why this hole?  How come?  It’s another of so many mysteries.

I entered the park, paid my admission, but still had misgivings.  Was I wrong?  I realized that the minute I reached the first overlook and stood on the edge of the 600-foot drop.  That’s a lot deeper than it sounds.

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Sorry, folks. I wanted to take a photo that would show you how awesome this canyon is. This photo doesn’t do it. So use your imagination!

Gosh, much more vegetation down there than up top where I was.  Even great big trees.  I made out a paved road threading its way way down there.  Sun reflected off tiny cars down there …

The sun was perfect to study the canyon.  On its enormous walls I could make out the many different layers of geology…like a huge multi-layer cake.  Many different earth colors, especially a brilliant rust, but whites and grays, too.

To my surprise the road I was on led me way down there.  A sign said, “Go down in low gear!”  Glad I listened.  The road snaked down, going close to some frightening drops.  Here and there chunks of rock had tumbled down.  Imagine being hit by one of those boulders!

At the bottom I found buildings–all park buildings–and many hiking rails going off this way and that.  I saw some young people starting on them.  Not very smart.  They should have been wearing hats and sleeves.  And carrying water.  That Ol’ Man Sun was sizzling.

I knew there was a river down here.  That’s why the vegetation was so thick and green.  But I never got to see it.  Where was it hiding?

Other cars were down there.  People were picnicking and lounging and playing ball.  At the end of the road I pulled into a nice small campgrounds.  RVs and tenters there.  I parked under a tree–what a blessing!  Great big hickory trees, with wide branches thick with leaves beyond number.  So cool and refreshing.

Enjoyed a nice picnic lunch in my van, with the windows and big side door open.  So pleasant.  I even stretched out on my bunk.  Just 20 minutes.  But I got up a new man.  I love my van.

Then, slowly I turned course and drove up and out, gawking all the way.  The park seemed so much busier suddenly.  The ranger had told me 25,000 people a month come in.  Even more in the summer.

The reason hit me!  Nearly all those visitors live on that vast, flat, hot mesa up top.  No trees.  So little up there of interest.  They come down here for the beautiful trees and verdant growth and the refreshing breeze and the many shady spots.  I’d do the same if I had to live here.

On the way out I finally found out what Palo Duro means.  Hard wood!

And there’s a fascinating historical tidbit about the Palo Duro Canyon.  When the pioneers came here and discovered it, a very smart young guy rushed and claimed a chunk of it for himself.  At the very bottom, where, because of that river that I never got to see, it was green and lush.

He raised thousands of cattle down there where they grew big faster and brought prime prices.   He loved living in this hole.  He was the envy of the other ranchers who weren’t as far-seeing as he was.

The State of Texas took possession of the canyon  many years ago.  By eminent domain, I suppose.  A wise move, I think.  Now everybody can enjoy it.  Even somebody like me from Connecticut.

Hey, if we didn’t have the wonderful Grand Canyon in Arizona, all the huge crowds there would he here, enjoying the Palo Duro instead.  Gosh,you can’t drive to the bottom of the Grand Canyon!

It sure would have been dumb of me to skip Palo Duro.

~ ~ ~

I see a lot of big trucks here we never get to see where I come from.

Out here in the High Plains, you see the livestock trailer trucks coming and going.  What they are is giant steel cages on wheels.

Coming, they’re full of animals.  Cattle, or swine,or sheep—I believe the different kinds get delivered to different slaughter houses but I’m not sure.  Going, the trucks are empty–on their way to get another load.

Even more of these trucks at night.  Maybe it’s easier on the animals.  Maybe the lighter traffic is a factor.

When you see a loaded truck go by, you know the four-legged passengers are running out of time fast.

At these plants, they’ll be quickly shoved off to run a gauntlet of steel-helmeted men in white coats and pants, with heavy boots, and armed. Armed with stun guns and big saws of a kind you’ve never seen.

In minutes these animals will be dead.  With their heads and legs sawed off and their bellies ripped open to spill the blood and guts and excrement.  I’ve never seen it.  Never want to.  But I’ve read about it.  That’s enough.

Soon they will be meat.  Quickly loaded on big reefers kept chilled to a precise coolness for delivery to meat lovers all over the country and abroad.

I spotted such a truck in a rest stop.  Empty.  The driver was standing by the cab, relaxing with a cigarette butt.  I walked to him.  And smiled.  He looked me over.  Friendly enough.

“We never see trucks like this where I come from.  I’m from Connecticut.”

“Where?” he said.

I could see he knew scant English.  “Connecticut.  Con-nec-ticut.”  And I pointed to the East.  “Way over there. On the other side.”

He shook his head and threw up his hands.  It was clear he didn’t know where Connecticut is.

He told me he delivered 45 head of cattle in his truck.  Big ones.  Then he held his right hand down by his knee.  “120 little ones.”

A good job but not easy.  Had to load them on fast and safe. Didn’t want them to break a leg or something.  Had to take care not to brake hard.  Had to get them all to the plant in good shape.  Didn’t want to have one dragged onto the killing floor.

I noticed his soiled boots.  And his jeans.  Some of  the work involved was messy.  But it was a living.

He finished his butt, then stomped on it with his boot.  He started his truck, gave me a curt wave, and pulled out.  To get a rest at home and pick up another load, I’m sure.

~ ~ ~

It’s okay to slaughter cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, turkeys.  But not horses, some think.

Back in New Mexico a few days ago, I spotted an unusual story in a big newspaper.  A long-time meat man was preparing to open a slaughterhouse to process horses.  Not for pet food.  And not for sale in the U.S.  For foreign markets.  He saw a good market for horse meat.  And it would help the local economy, of course.

Readers were angry.  Everybody thought the idea was horrible.  The paper wrote an editorial. “We will not tolerate killing horses for human food!”

Well, it’s a fact that many people in the world enjoy eating horsemeat.  In lots of countries considered highly civilized.

In World War 11, I remember horsemeat markets in the U.S.  I remember my Aunt Bernadette serving a big thick horse steak.  My Uncle Jack loved it.  I pretended I liked it.  Already I was building up my aversion to meat.

In France, “equine markets” are not an extraordinary sight.  I’m not speaking of years years ago.  I mean right now.

In my opinion, if you’re a meat eater, you should be open to eating any kind of meat.  Of course you can prefer this kind or that cut, but you should not be offended by some people enjoying all kinds of flesh.  I mean, from any animal.

It’s not that long ago that Americans ate buffalo.  You know what their favorite part of the buffalo was?  The tongue.  Who eats the tongue of anything now?

Not long ago that Americans relished all kinds of game.  Including rabbits and squirrels and crows and eel and anything else they managed to shoot or hook or trap.  And glad to have it for dinner.

To me, from what I have seen, it’s the Chinese who are the most rational about it.  They will eat anything with legs or fins or that crawl or slither.  And any parts of them.  Not just the white breast or a drumstick or a nice filet.

Visit a Chinese meat market and you’ll see ducks and turtle and gulls and octopus and squid and snakes.  And dogs and cats and bunnies.  Some of these things will be slaughtered on the spot for you to take home.  That way you’re guaranteed it’s nice and fresh.

~ ~ ~

 Eat Steak Tartare? Not me!

This isn’t completely relevant, but I’m reminded of a personal experience years ago.  On our first or second trip to France.  We were celebrating with dinner at a nice restaurant in Paris.

We studied the large menu.  Most of the items had little meaning for me.  I found it a guessing game.  I was a meat eater then.  But queasy.  I spotted Steak Tartar.  Sounds good, I thought.  Ordered it with a glass of red wine.  The others chose other things.

In due time the natty waiter appeared with my dinner and with a graceful swirl of his hand placed it in front of me on the gorgeous tablecloth.

“Bon appetit, Monsieur!” he said, and started back for the kitchen.

I was shocked.  Absolutely shocked.  What I was looking at was a neat mound of raw hamburg, crowned with a raw egg yolk!  Red, fresh hamburg!  With a sprig or two of parsley.

“Garcon!” I said to him.  “Wait! Wait!”  And he came rushing back.

“Please!” I said, throwing up my hands in disgust.  “Please take it back.  I did not understand.  I am an American tourist.  Cook it!  Fry it!  Please!”

Now he was shocked. “Monsieur! This is a classic dish. Delectable! Merveilleux!” And he kissed his fingertips—the Frenchman’s supreme gesture for delicious!

And couldn’t resist adding, “This is the very finest beef, Monsieur! Thevery finest!”

But reluctantly he went off with my plate, shaking his head in disbelief.  I hate to imagine what he said about me when he got to the chef.

My companions were totally sympathetic, by the way.  They were so glad they had not chosen Steak Tartar.

Well, he brought my dish back.  Fried.  I ate it. But somehow the evening was spoiled.

People at other tables had seen it all, of course.  I don’t think I helped the cause of Franco-American friendship at that fine restaurant.

For sure the Chinese would have been shocked by my behavior, too.

~ ~ ~

Well, I’m doing fine so far.

I’ve made it all the way through California, New Mexico, and Texas and Arizona in fairly good shape.  You’ll be hearing more about this the next time, as I told you up top about my traveling for long stretches on Route 66.

I’ve had plenty of small problems.  How can you get through an adventure like this without problems?  If I wrote a list, it would run right off the page.  The good news so far is that all have been small.

One small one persists.  I believe there should be a place for everything and everything in its place.  At home.  At work.  Everywhere.  I’ll bet you agree.

It’s vitally important on a ship, even more so on a little boat.  I know.  I’ve had small sailboats. It’s also vital in this nice van of mine.

The minute I started packing it for my trip, I found a perfect place for every single thing.  But a day or two later, I would find a better place for something and would make the shift.  And would do it again a day or two later.  And I’m still doing it, many days into the trip.

One result is that now I go reach for something and then find I put it in another place.  Oh, the frustration of it!

But I’ve become neurotic about it.  Can’t help myself.  I’m always finding a better place for the salt or my socks or my stash of extra cash.  Some mornings when I go searching for something, I feel I’m going nuts.

While I’m at it, let me tell you about my problem with GPS.  Mike Malvey, the nice guy who sold me the van, bought me a new Gamin immediately when I told him the bad news that the navigation system in the van wasn’t working.

I’ve experimented with the Gamin and I’ve given up on it.

“You what!” I can hear some of you yelling that right now.  “John, what’s the matter with you!”

It’s a long story.  Let me just say I have a big hearing problem.  Let’s leave it at that.

One result is that I’m continually searching for somebody that I can ask directions of.  Very hard.  For the simple reason that it’s rare to find someone on a sidewalk any  more.  Who ever goes for a walk on a sidewalk?  Do you?

But I persist.  Have to.  Otherwise I’d never get anywhere, despite those huge accordion-fold maps that AAA still hands out but hopes you’ll never ask for because they cost.  I have 14 of them, for every state I’ll transit, I also have my big road atlas, and my smaller road atlas, and all the AAA guide books I have for all the states.

But something dawned on me.  If I used the Gamin GPS, one consequence for sure is that I would get to speak to far fewer people.  I might cross an entire city or even an entire state without talking to anybody, except a gas station attendant or a clerk in a store.  That would be awful.  I’ve told  you that I count on Serendipity to get me into interesting situations.  Well, Serendipity would have much less opportunity.

I’m keeping my Gamin in the glove compartment for the duration.

~ ~ ~

 A wild idea I got.

My happy bottom line is that I’m still glad I’ve undertaken this trip.  I’m still having fun.  And I’m learning so much.  Including a thing or two about myself.  Yes, at my age.  That’s really exciting.

Just a few miles into Arkansas, my odometer rolled over to 2,000 miles.  That’s an interesting number.  Because the shortest mileage from Newport Beach, CA—which was my departure point—and my home in Deep River via Interstates is 3,050 miles, give a mile or two.

Well, my odometer will reach 3,050 miles long before I get home.  As you know, I’m zigging and zagging quite crazily.  How long before is the big question.

Maybe I should start a lottery exclusively for you, my friends.  Let you pick my total mileage getting home to Deep River.  The one of you with the closest number to my total mileage would win $500 cash.  Tickets only $20, three for $55.  (That would help pay for the humongous gas bill I’m running up.)

Sorry, I would not answer any queries about where I plan to go and what I hope to see before I turn off the key in Chateau for the final time.  Truth is, I’m tempted to change my route every time I look at the map!

All ticket buyers would be invited by email to a wine-and-cheese party at which I’d announce the owner of the winning number.  Perhaps you!  And let you all look over my beautiful and comfy Chateau!  I’d let you behold the luxurious accommodations she has provided me for my sleeping and eating and recreational comfort and pleasure these many miles.

And, oh, one more thing.  Even the emergency toilet which I invented!  Still haven’t had to use it, by the way.

And I won’t try to impress you by cleaning  up Chateau in any way or organizing things in her better.  I’ll let you see her the way she really is.  But I’m really not a bad housekeeper.  Chateau is truly my happy little home on four wheels.

I’m just joking about the lottery.  But gosh, it’s such a good idea that I may re-consider …

Adios!

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Deep River Advertises for New Full-Time Police Officer

DEEP RIVER— The town is seeking applications for a new full-time police officer position that could be filled by this fall. The closing date for applications is June 28.

First Selectman Richard Smith said this week that he is “think long term,” in posting the new position, even though no members of the town’s current force of one full-time and two part-time officers have immediate plans to retire. Smith serves as one of the two part-time officers, along with Peter Lewis, who also works as superintendent of the town’s waste water treatment plan. The full time officer is local resident Raymond Sypher.

Smith said anticipated savings for the resident trooper position was one factor in the decision to seek applications for a new full-time officer. The current resident state trooper, Dawn Taylor, holds a lower rank in the state police than the former trooper, allowing for some savings in the town’s salary payment to the state for the position. Taylor has served as the town’s resident state trooper since the end of March.

Smith said hiring a second full-time officer would allow for an undetermined reduction in hours for the two part-time positions, while also providing an increase in on-duty coverage hours for the town. Smith also noted he, Lewis, and Sypher have held the police jobs for many years, and could be approaching retirement decisions.

The town is seeking applicants who are P.O.S. T. (Police Officer Standards and Training Council) certified, meaning the applicant has already worked as a police officer and would not require the full initial months-long training at the Connecticut Police Academy in Meriden. The advertisement for the position refers to “recently retired officers or troopers.” The salary for the 32 hours per week position would be in the range of $44,000. Smith said the new officer could be hired this fall.

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Norman Needleman to Seek Second Term – Town Clerk Frances Nolin to Retire

Essex First Selectman, Norman Needleman

Essex First Selectman, Norman Needleman

ESSEX-— Democratic First Selectman Norman Needleman has confirmed plans to seek a second term in the Nov. 5 town election, while four-term Town Clerk Frances Nolin has announced she will retire from the position at the end of this year.

Needleman, a local businessman who served four terms on the board of selectmen before winning the top job in 2011, said last week he will seek a second term this year with Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby as his running-mate. “I am enjoying the job and I feel like there is more to accomplish,” he said.

Needleman defeated Republican candidate Bruce MacMillian on a 1,415-993 vote in 2011. Libby, a former Republican, changed parties to become Needleman’s Democratic running-mate in 2011. No Republicans have announced as potential challengers to Needleman in the Nov. 5 election. Republican Selectman Joel Marzi, who has served on the three-member board since 2009, has not announced his plans for the fall election.

Town Clerk Frances Nolin has announced plans to retire from the position she has held since 1999. Nolin began working as an assistant town clerk under long-time former Town Clerk Betty Guadenzi in 1998, and was elected to the position when Guadenzi retired in 1999. Initially elected as a Republican, Nolin was supported by both parties for re-election to new terms in 2001, 2005, and 2009. “It’s a great job but there comes a time in your life when you want to have some time for yourself,” Nolin said Wednesday. No candidates have announced for the open town clerk position.

The part-time town treasurer position is also open this year, with Republican Town Treasurer Bob Dixon also planning to retire this year. Dixon was appointed to fill a vacancy in the position in 2002, and has been supported for new terms by both parties in subsequent elections.

Contests are expected this fall for two seats on the board of finance, and one seat on the Region 4 Board of Education. Incumbent Region 4 board member Mary Beth Harrigan, a Republican, is not seeking re-election. Town Democrats and Republicans will nominate candidates for the Nov. 5 municipal election at party caucuses and endorsement meetings to be held between July 16-23.

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New York City Developer Puts Iconic Windmill Property on Foxboro Point Up For Sale

Want to buy a windmill for almost $2 million?

Want to buy a windmill for almost $2 million?

With a price tag of $1,925,000, New York City developer, Frank J. Sciame, Jr., is offering to sell a notable Essex landmark, the windmill at Foxboro Point. Listing materials assert that the sale is, “Once in the lifetime chance to own the windmill.”

They continue, “This unique waterfront [property] is one of the most recognized features on the Connecticut River. It is comprised of multiple floors of living area including, a living room, wet bar bedroom, full bath and more.” (Unexplained is what is meant by a “wet bar bedroom.”)

The listing materials also state that the property has on the third floor a master bedroom with a full bath, a second floor kitchen, and a first floor dining room. There is also a full, unfinished basement with hatchway. Real property taxes are listed in the materials as $15,441.

Windmill Not an Historic Building

Although many locals on the shoreline think that the windmill is a historic structure, it was actually built in 1967. As for further details about the property, it has shingles siding, a basement water heater and is connected to public water. It also has baseboard heating and electric sewer and septic.

The listing agent of the property is Colette Harron of William Pitt, which has an office in Essex.

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“Meals On Wheels” Is Signature Program of O.S. Estuary Council of Seniors

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Chef of Estuary Council, Stuart Tedesco, cooking “Meals on Wheels”

It is difficult to get your hands around the many helpful services that the Estuary Council of Seniors provides to senior residents of its nine member towns in eastern Connecticut. These fortunate nine towns, served by the Council, are Old Saybrook, Westbrook, Clinton, Killingworth, Old Lyme, Lyme, Essex, Deep River, and Chester.

One undertaking that is certainly in the forefront of the Estuary Council’s services to seniors is the delivery of prepared “hot” and frozen meals to those in need. These meal deliveries are made to needy seniors in the Council’s nine member towns, as well as to seniors in Madison.  If you happen to live in one of these towns, the number to call to enroll in “Meals on Wheels” lunch and dinner programs is 860-388-1611.

However, meal deliveries are strictly limited to persons who are, 1) over 60 years of age, and 2) no longer able to prepare a meal for themselves, or can no longer shop for food.   However, a recipient is not required to have a doctor’s prescription to establish that she or he is eligible for an at home meal delivery.

Donation Requested of $3.00 a Meal

A donation of $3.00 a meal, payable at the end of each month, is requested under the program.  Noon meals on weekdays are delivered “hot,” and a typical “hot” lunch might consist of meat loaf, potatoes and beets, accompanied by coffee, milk and a fresh apple or pudding for desert.

Evening meals delivered for weekdays, and noon and evening meals delivered for weekends, are frozen and must be heated by recipients.

Summing up the service, the Estuary Council’s Nutrition Coordinator, Peggy Barrett, says, “We serve two meals a day, seven days a week, for every person who is a part of this program.”

Hundreds of “Meals on Wheels” Are Delivered

All of the meals delivered under this program are prepared at the Estuary Council’s well equipped kitchen in Old Saybrook. Supervising the entire food preparation operation is Stuart Tedesco, Food Service Manager/Chef of the Estuary Council of Seniors.

Tedesco says that the “Meals on Wheels” service is, “the best kept secret in the area.” “We still serve good tasting quality food for $3.00,” she says.

The totals of the number of “Meals on Wheels” delivered by the Estuary Council are impressive. On a single weekday, according to Nutrition Coordinator Barrett, one hundred and forty-one “hot” noon meals will be delivered by Council volunteers to needy seniors. These “hot” lunches are served to the previously noted member towns of Old Saybrook, Essex, Deep River, Chester, Killingworth, Westbrook, Clinton, Old Lyme, Lyme, as well to seniors in the non-member town of Madison.

Early morning packers of "Meals on Wheels, Ted Pigeon and Scotty Pepe

Early morning packers of “Meals on Wheels, Ted Pigeon and Scotty Pepe

In addition to the delivery of “hot” meals at noon on weekdays, the Estuary Council also delivers to entitled seniors weekday evening meals, and noon and evening meals on the two days of the weekend. However, these meals are frozen and must be defrosted by the recipient.

The meals to be distributed are first put together each weekday morning from a pool of 20 volunteer packers. Then, from a pool of 70 volunteer drivers, the meals are personally delivered to the homes of the seniors who are a part of the program.

"Meals on Wheels" volunteer, Katharina Youll making a delivery

“Meals on Wheels” volunteer, Katharina Youll making a delivery

Other Programs for Seniors at Estuary Council

In addition to the “Meals on Wheels” program, there are a host of other programs, offered by the Estuary Council of Seniors, which deserve mention. Among them are the Café lunches which are offered every weekday in the Estuary Counsel’s main dining room.  One special feature of the Café lunches is that before the meal those attending stand and recite the Pledge Allegiance to the Flag. (The words are listed below.)

Also, there is a thriving thrift shop on the lower floor of the Estuary Council’s main building, which has racks of women and men’s apparel as well exquisite place settings and literally racks of sportswear.

The Estuary Council also has a Medical Transportation service that takes seniors to their medical appointments, either at doctors’ or dentists’ offices, or to medical facilities, such as Hartford Hospital and Yale/ New Haven Hospital. Round trips for medical appointments taking less than five hours have a suggest donation of $35. For trips over five hours the suggested donation is $70.

There are also a staggering number of special programs, which take at the Council’s Old Saybrook headquarters. They range from free health check-ups to senior physical fitness classes, and from Yoga classes to the meetings of the Quilt Club.

Meals delivered (left to right) Katharina Youll and recipients Ann and Thomas Perrone

Meals delivered (left to right) Katharina Youll and recipients Ann and Thomas Perrone

And, now all together, the Pledge Allegiance:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

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Essex to Install Cameras at Town Hall Parking Lot and Solid Waste Transfer Site

ESSEX— The town will soon install video surveillance cameras at the parking lot for town hall and at the solid waste transfer station site. First Selectman Norman Needleman, who initiated the security enhancement, said Friday there would be two cameras at the transfer station site, and one or two cameras for the town hall parking lot. The solid waste transfer station site is located on Dump Road, off Route 154, behind the town highway department garage and the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority regional transfer station.

Needleman said the cameras would cost about $3,100. He said the video equipment would operate continuously, though no one would be asked to review the video coverage “unless something happened and there was a reason to look at it.” The video images would be preserved for two weeks.

Needleman said there have been cases of vandalism and theft of scrap metals at the transfer station site, while the town’s insurance carrier has been recommending video cameras for the town hall parking lot as a protection against possible unjustified slip and fall lawsuits. The cameras will be installed and put in operation this summer.

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Essex Selectmen Move Toward Single Monthly Meeting-New Animal Control Officer

ESSEX— The board of selectmen Wednesday moved toward a change to a single monthly meeting, while also appointing Ivoryton resident Belden Libby as the town’s new animal control officer. Libby, a lifelong resident who is the husband of Democratic Selectwoman Stacia Libby, replaces Joseph Heller in the part-time position.

First Selectman Norman Needleman said Libby began working as animal control officer last week. Heller, who has served in the position since December 1994, announced his plans to retire earlier this spring. Libby was selected from five applicants for the position. Three applicants were interviewed by a panel that included Todd Curry, a state Department of Agriculture official who supervises municipal animal control officers around the state.

Needleman said the duties of the position include maintaining the town’s dog pound, and responding to calls for issues involving dogs or other animals. Libby will receive an annual stipend of $13,000, and use of a town vehicle while responding to calls for service.

While holding off a formal vote, the selectmen moved further toward changing the board’s meeting schedule to a single monthly meeting, rather the schedule of twice-monthly meetings that has been followed for decades. The board began discussing a possible change to the meeting schedule last month, with Needleman suggesting the schedule could be changed to a single monthly meeting with special meetings when necessary.The board currently meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 5 p.m. and on the third Wednesday at 7 p.m.

With no residents objecting to the proposed change at Wednesday’s meeting, the selectmen agreed to vote on the change at it’s July 3 afternoon meeting The plan is to retain the 7 p.m. meeting on the third Wednesday of each month and eliminate the afternoon meeting on the first Wednesday. The board also agreed to cancel the meeting scheduled for July 17. The once-a-month meeting schedule would begin in August with a meeting on Wednesday Aug. 21.

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Powerboat Instruction a Popular Feature at Pettipaug Yacht Club This Summer

Pettipaug Waterfront Director Paul Risseeuw with his class

Pettipaug Waterfront Director Paul Risseeuw with his class

The Pettipaug Yacht Club’s Waterfront Director, Paul Risseeuw, is conducting Powerboat courses at his club this summer. The Pettipaug club is located in Essex, directly on the Connecticut River. The tuition for the one day, nine and a half hour powerboat course is $180, although there are circumstances when it can cost less. There will be a total of twelve of these courses during the boating season.

The Powerboat course includes an extensive “on shore” briefings of how to safely operate a powerboat, and it also includes considerable time on the water as well, where students operate powerboats themselves on boats owned by the yacht club.

The course on the first of June was attended by nine students. The “on the land” part of the course was held in the meeting room of the Pettipaug clubhouse, which was barely cooled by a single fan. However, the students attending, mostly teenagers, appeared eager to learn from the course.

Risseeuw began the course by saying, “We are going to have to correct some of your bad habits,” that they may have learned from previous motor boating on their own.

Risseeuw then patiently asked each student to share their own powerboating experience. Interestingly, many of the students had experiences in sailboats, but very few knew much about operating a powerboat.

There then ensued an hour plus, introductory lecture by Risseeuw on virtually every aspect on how to operate, safely, a powerboat. He spoke extensively on the basic right of way rules on the water, as well as the important principles involved in starting, stopping and maintaining an outboard engine.

Then, it was down to the docks of the Pettipaug club for some “on the water” instruction on operating a powerboat. The students were divided up in crews of two persons to each boat, and before they climbed on board their boats, Risseeuw spoke at length on how to start an outboard engine, by properly using the choke and the throttle.

He also spoke about the proper maintenance of the fuel and fuel tanks of outboard motors, and the importance of using gas that is less than three months old.

There was also instruction on how properly to get into and out of a powerboat. Risseeuw advocated a “three points of contact” rule. Under this rule, when getting in and out an open motor boat, an operators hands and feet should be touching something solid in three places.

Also, Risseeuw stressed again and again that the students should be wearing properly fitting lifejackets at all times, when they are in, or even around a boat. “I wear my life jacket all the time” he said.

The classroom moves to the docks on the Connecticut River

The classroom moves to the docks on the Connecticut River

The On-the-Water Part of the Course

Then it was time for the students to climb, two by two, into their assigned powerboats, and to motor out into the waters of the Connecticut River. Although one of the boat crews had a bit of trouble getting their engine started, requiring Risseeuw’s personal oversight, soon all of the boats were off and running over the water.

One powerboat crew had trouble starting the engine

One powerboat crew had trouble starting the engine

Risseeuw and his assistants had set up a number of in-line buoys on the water, through which the students were required to wend their way. Another exercise was to have the students circle their powerboats between two stakes, which were very close to each other.  Some of the students found this not an easy task.

But soon enough all the boats are off and running

But soon enough all the boats are off and running

After an extensive period of operating the powerboats on the water, it was time for a brief lunch, and then, soon after, more tutoring in the club house.

The topics included a lengthy discussion about the meaning of various navigation buoys, and how they are numbered, colored and designed.  Risseeuw also discussed the basic “Red-Right-Returning” rule, which means, simply, that when a boat is coming in from Long Island Sound and proceeding up the Connecticut River, it should keep the red buoys on their right.

Also, during the afternoon session of the course there was a long review of the right away rules on the water. These were introduced with a caveat by Risseeuw that, unfortunately, many powerboaters have no idea about proper “right of way” rules.  When this becomes evident, he said, the best recourse for a knowledgeable boater is to just to get out of the way.

Under proper “right of way” rules, the vessel that is required to get out of the way is called the “burdened” vessel, and it should give way to an  oncoming vessel.

Boating Can Be Dangerous!

Also, Risseeuw stressed again and again at the sessions that boating can be dangerous. He cited one accident on the Connecticut River last year where a driver in a boating accident had his head severed off by running his jet-ski into a fixed dock. Risseeuw noted in passing that jet-skis, officially known as Personal Watercraft, can travel over the water at over 50 miles an hour.

Risseeuw said in was his opinion, “Many of the persons who ride on Personal Watercraft are idiots and are reckless.”

He also told the students that most boating accidents happen late in the afternoon. This is when a boater is tired with too much sun, and perhaps too much alcohol. In Risseeuw’s view, “There is nothing positive about alcohol while boating. Drinking on a boat can lower reaction times and is never a good idea.”

Also discussed was what to do when a boat capsizes. Risseeuw’s cardinal rule is, “Always stay with the boat.”

“Hypothermia” was also discussed. It means a dangerous lowering of the body’s temperature, which can be life threatening. It can occur when a person spends too much time in cold water. The dangers of having gas fumes on boats were also discussed.

Answering a 60 Question Test to Pass the Course

Risseeuw said that to pass the course the students had to get 80 percent correct of a 60 question test. If they do pass the course, students receive two new boating licenses, 1) A U.S. Sailing certification, and 2) a Connecticut State Personal Watercraft/Safe Boating license.

As for how the students liked the course, Powerboat Student Bryan Byrnes-Jacobsen of Niantic, who appeared to be restless at times, excused himself by saying, “I don’t sit well.” He then went on to say, enthusiastically, that he had learned “a lot from the hands-on experience” of the course.

Bryan will be the Head Sailing Instructor at the Thames Yacht Club in New London this summer.

Powerboat Student Megan Ryan from Ivoryton, said that she thought the course was “really good,” and she was pleased that she could, “really go out on the water.”  She admitted that before the course, she “did not know how to drive a motor boat,” and that the course was her “first time” to do so.

Megan will be a Junior Instructor at the Pettipaug Yacht Club this summer.

For more information on the Powerboat course, which is open to all, go to www.pettipaug.com.

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Rep. Miller Ends Haddam Land Swap Saga

State Rep. Phil Miller

State Rep. Phil Miller

State Representative Philip Miller (D- Haddam, Chester, Deep River, Essex) voted in favor of H.B. No. 6672, an act concerning the conveyance of certain parcels of state land.  The bill included the formal repeal of the open-ended Haddam Land Swap dead brokered in 2011.

“I worked with the staff attorney and the members of the Government Elections and Administration Committee to formally close the land swap,” remarked Rep Miller. “Preventing this deal will ensure state-owned lands are not developed, keeping our air, water and land clean.”

The deal originally fell through due to a great discretion in the values of the two parcels to be swapped between the State of Connecticut (specifically the Department of Environmental and Energy Protection (DEEP)) and Riverhouse Properties.

‘The land swap did not represent the best interests of the people of Haddam. Conservation is incredibly important to maintaining the beauty of the region,” said Rep. Miller. “While I agree that in general economic development is essential, we must find better ways to balance the conflicting desires of seeing more investment in our communities while investing in all that we already have.”

The bill passed the House VOTE COUNT. The Senate passed the bill VOTE COUNT. The bill will now be sent to the Governor to be signed into law.

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The Black Seal Has “Appetite for Life”

Essex, CT — The Black Seal Restaurant has joined other local restaurants throughout Middlesex County for the fourth year of a special dining program during the month of June – Appetite for Life – to benefit the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center. The Cancer Center offers a complete range of services to meet the needs of cancer patients and their families that includes preventive, diagnostic, treatment, support, survivorship and end-of-life Hospice and palliative care services. Its team approach to care and treatment is carefully coordinated for patients throughout their cancer journey.

On Wednesday, June 12, The Black Seal will be donating 10 percent of its proceeds from lunch and dinner to the Middlesex Hospital Cancer Center to support its many services, as part of the Appetite for Life program.

For the complete listing of restaurants participating in the Appetite for Life program during June, to go www.middlesexhospital.org\AFL.

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Essex Zoning Commission Sets Hearing on Proposed Dunkin Donut Expansion

ESSEX— The zoning commission has scheduled a June 17 public hearing on a plan to expand the Dunkin Donuts-convenience store operation in the Shell service station at 23 Main Street in the Centerbrook section. The public hearing convenes at 7 p.m. in town hall.

Standard Petroleum/23 Main St. LLC of Bridgeport is seeking to amend the April 2007 special permit approval for the Dunkin Donuts and convenience store to allow an expansion in to adjoining space on the east side of the same building that is currently leased to the Ashleigh’s Garden florist shop. The plans call for 2,700 square-feet for the gasoline station and convenience store operation, and 500 square-feet for the Dunkin Donuts that would remain carry out service only.

The plans show 24 parking spaces, with provision for five additional; “reserve spaces.” Zoning regulations call for 29 spaces for the convenience store-carry out for service use. The hours of operation would be daily from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.  There would be a new entrance through the current florist shop space to the area of the relocated Dunkin Donuts.

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Valley Regional High School Receives Travel Grant in Memory of Chris Belfoure

Robin Chapin, Chris' Mother presenting grant from Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at Community Foundation of Middlesex County

Robin Chapin, Chris’ Mother presenting grant from Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at Community Foundation of Middlesex County

A $2,000 grant for the bus transportation has been given to the Valley Regional High School World Language Department to help offset the cost of each trip to France and Costa Rica this year. The grant was presented to the students at each of their fundraising events. Chris’s dreams of expanding his horizons were being fulfilled.

Christopher Belfoure was a 2005 Valley Regional High School Graduate. In his junior year he went on the foreign language department’s trip to Italy. This experience opened his eyes to a new and vastly different view of the world. It inspired him to further discover what lay beyond the horizon and explore the possibilities. This was the beginning of his journey to learn about other people and their cultures. He went on to study Chinese at West Virginia University, and this afforded him the opportunity to study abroad in China. This is where he developed a passion for the Chinese people and their language. It ultimately led to employment at EMC Shanghai, China (a computer technology company) where he trained the Chinese employees in learning English, other cultures and customer service.

The Chris Belfoure Memorial Fund at the Community Foundation of Middlesex County was established a year ago, after a tragic and fatal accident in July of 2011.

The fund will serve as a catalyst toward integrating multicultural experiences and a broader understanding of people around the world.

The 2nd Annual Run for Chris will also be held on Sat. June 22, 2013, at 8 a.m. in honor of Chris.  All are welcome to participate  including runners and walkers. Click here for more details of the run.

Family and Friends of Christopher thank you for your support.

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A Wonderful Premiere Hits the Shoreline

Swans And Balanchine

Two of the graceful starring Swans of Ballerina Swan,  Emily Kramm of Old Lyme and Sarah Marsoobian of Guilford celebrate the success of Eastern Connecticut Ballet’s World Premiere Ballet with NYC Ballet acclaimed ballerina and author of Ballerina Swan, Allegra Kent and Gloria Govrin, choreographer and Artistic Director of Eastern Connecticut Ballet and former NYC Ballet soloist.

More than 1,000 guests laughed and cheered for Sophie the Swan throughout the Premiere, enjoyed the delicious Rita’s of New London Ices and delighted in meeting the author and cast!  Photo credit: G.Mazzola

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