From the Ground Up – Buying Local in Connecticut

By C. Dennis Pierce

“Everyone loves fried chicken, Don’t ever make it. Ever. Buy it from a place that makes good fried chicken.”

Nora Ephron

As it is stated, “If you don’t like the weather in New England, wait a minute”. This week has given us record highs and record lows. Local gardeners and farmers are anxiously waiting for that first hard frost. Both want to get their garlic in the ground and nestle them with a blanket of straw while gardeners are in search of the best time to plant their bulbs just hoping that their monetary investment does better than the stock market and that the evil skunks, voles, mice, squirrels, chipmunks  and other creatures don’t ravish the crop before the flowers make their spring debut. 

This month I sought out a unique venture that has sprouted in Columbia, Connecticut. Before I share my exciting find I want to shed  some light on our history of buying locally. The roots of the “Farm to Fork” initiative stretch back to the 60’s and 70’s when consumers became increasingly dissatisfied with processed foods that they found bland. One of the first farm-to-table restaurants in America was opened by Chef Alice Waters who opened her restaurant in California in 1971. Her restaurant, Chez Panisse, featured fresh, locally grown ingredients as part of a seasonal menu. Waters was inspired by the sustainable community food movement she enjoyed when she lived in France. 

I had the honor of meeting Chef Waters at a conference at Yale . In 2001 Waters became interested in the culture of food at Yale when her daughter, Fanny Singer ‘05, joined Jonathan Edwards College as an undergraduate.  A conversation between Waters and Yale President, Richard Levin sparked the idea for an ambitious University undertaking: a project encompassing a sustainable dining program, a college farm, university composting, and increased education around food and agriculture. Driven by this ambitious vision, a steering committee of students, faculty, and staff tackled the dining program first, inaugurating a pilot project in Berkeley College’s (one of Yale’s twelve residential colleges) dining hall to serve all local, seasonal, and sustainable food. A group of students joined Joshua Viertel, the first director, to write a proposal to establish a campus farm. The proposal was approved by President Levin, and in the summer of 2003, the interns broke ground at the Yale Farm at 345 Edwards Street and ran a composting pilot to recycle waste from Yale’s dining halls. The conference that I attended, “Tilling the Soil; Turning the Tables” on Yale’s campus was attended by 170 people from 19 colleges and universities. And that my friend was the beginning of the Farm to Fork movement on college and university campuses.  

But now let me get back to a true local farm to fork initiative. Sure, local farmer’s markets and  Co-ops provide a cornucopia of fresh locally grown ingredients, but nothing stands close to the efforts of, “The GOOD Farm” located at 544, Route 87 in Columbia right down the road from Heartstone Winery. Jefferson Monroe and his wife Erin met  across the Vineyard Sound on New Year’s Day. After an 8-month courtship Erin moved onto the GOOD Farm where she and Jefferson weathered the pandemic with friends, fried foods, and farming. It started in 2021 when they found the farm in Columbia and they were able to purchase it from Walt and Nancy Tabor of Heartstone Winery. Erin has continued her lifelong passion for helping people as a Nurse Practitioner in the Hartford area while Jefferson spends his days raising animals and piloting the Twin Beaks trailer around northeastern Connecticut. So, you ask, what is the Twin Beaks trailer? That dear readers is the true “farm to fork” experience. The GOOD Farm pasture raises hundreds of chickens for the main purpose of becoming the best, gluten free (yes, gluten free) fried chicken that you have ever put into your mouth. My first experience was at the Andover’s farmers market this summer where Jefferson and Caroline Bayarsaihan, one of the members of the farm’s crew, let me experience culinary nirvana. At first glance when lifting the lid of the old fashion cardboard box the fragrance tempted me to jump right in but then upon my first glance I hesitated because the chicken did not look like Kentucky Fried. Adjusting my perception, I realized that because they are using potato flour to coat the chicken, thus making it gluten free, these savory morsels took on a whole different appearance. So, without hesitation I tore right into it,  and I can honestly say (having a culinary background) this is by far the best fried chicken that I have ever experienced in my life.     

Their website says it best: “Our culinary inspiration comes from the ground up – literally! We raise our animals with an eye towards their welfare and the carrying capacity of our land. What we sell grows out of that ethos and foods we love – many of our dishes were test run at employee meals for months before getting added to the menu. In fact, the idea of frying our delicious, farm raised chicken came from not one, but two separate employees before we even gave it a try. We strive to use flavors that complement our roots – that of our farm and the land we rest lightly upon.”

The concept of raising chickens and then offering the best fried chicken comes with a wry sense of humor and that is the name of their mobile offerings. Twin Beaks Fried Chicken combines some of their favorite things – barnyard puns, the mundane oddities of life and the (occasional) supernatural event or vision. They are  mostly just trying to have fun in a little old town called Twin Beaks, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery of:  “Who killed Leghorn Palmer?”, while serving and eclectic menu to delight the appetites of all. Since opening Twin Beaks Fried Chicken in 2023, the GOOD Farm has served their chicken, pork, lamb, and eggs as ready to eat takeout from their mobile/kitchen / trailer.  While they specialize in fried chicken, they love all of their delicious menu offerings. 

I hope at this point you are intrigued, anxious and hungry. The best place to find when Twin Beaks Fried Chicken will be visiting your town is to saunter down to their website and check out their master calendar, And that’s not all. If you still have not planned out your Thanksgiving dinner The Good Farm is still taking orders for their turkeys. GOOD Farm Connecticut Turkey Order Form 2023  is on their website under, “Where We Get Our Meats. They will be distributing their turkeys the week leading up to Thanksgiving so that your family can experience a delicious, pasture raised bird for the holiday. At this point I can go on and on but a recommend that you check out the GOOD Farm’s web site, to learn more about the history of their venture, Jefferson, and their full menu at Twin Beaks. Questions? Contact them at

Summer vegetables are waning. You  will be fortunate if you can still find a tomato at the farmer’s market and if you do grab it since it will soon be a collectors item or just a memory. But to try out the following recipe be on the lookout for fall chard. This tangy relish is a nice accompaniment  for pork, 

lamb, or a firm fish like swordfish. With its vinegar-soaked raisins it can be a substitute for cranberry relish if you double or triple the recipe.

Chard Stalk Relish With Pine Nuts & Raisins


1/3 of a cup of golden raisins, currants, dried cranberries, or regular raisins

2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of water

¼ cup of pine nuts or slivered almonds

2 tablespoons of olive oil

½ cup of finely diced, red onion

A large pinch of red chili flakes or a small dried red chili, crumbled

½ teaspoon of minced garlic

Stalks from 1 large bunch of chard, preferably rainbow chard. Sliced ¼ inch thick and sauté until tender

Kosher salt


Place the raisins or dried fruit in a small bowl with the vinegar and water.

Let soak while to prepare the other ingredients

Place the nuts in a small frying pan over medium low heat. 

Toast, tossing occasionally until golden. Watch carefully as they burn easily.

Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Place 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.

Add onion and red chili flakes and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onion is tender.

Add the garlic, sliced chard stalks and cook for a few minutes.

Add a small splash of water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the stalk are tender

Add raisins (or dried fruit) with their soaking liquid and bring to a simmer

Allow the liquid to cook off slightly

Remove from heat, stir in nuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season to taste with salt

Serve immediately or at room temperature.

If you hold the relish and serve later hold back the nuts and add them just before serving.  

I hope the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday provides you with the opportunity to gather with friends and family and maybe even dine on a turkey from the GOOD farm!

If you have a suggestion for a farm or a local grower or even a recipe that would feature a local ingredient, please let me know. I will do my best to share your suggestions in a future column.  Drop me a line at So, Peas be with you. Come celebrate with me and remember, every day is a holiday, and every meal is a banquet.  I’ll save you a seat at the table! 

The Field and the Space

By Phoebe C. Godfrey

I do expect from people, outsiders, … unless they themselves come from Israel or Palestine or they have relatives there, … if you are just an outsider, don’t be intellectually lazy, don’t be emotionally lazy, don’t see just part of this terrible reality, try to see as much of the reality as you can, because the people there now, in the midst of this suffering, they are incapable of doing it, but we need outsiders to somehow keep a space for future peace, because we can’t keep that space right now.

—Yuval Noah Harari on the war in 

Israel and Gaza, Zeit online

Since the atrocities committed (and ongoing, as people are still being held hostage) by Hamas against unsuspecting and innocent Israelis on October 7, I have been thinking about what Mevlana Rumi, the Persian poet, wrote: “Beyond good and bad, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.” Additionally, I have been asking myself what it takes to reach this field, this space, proposing that it can only emerge to the extent we allow our hearts to break open, but not apart. 

Since Israel began its bombing of Gaza (part of an ongoing 50-year violent and racist occupation), violating human rights, including the Geneva Convention, which prohibits reprisals against civilians for the acts of enemy soldiers, I have been thinking about what it takes to embody the teaching of the prophet Jesus, who very clearly said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38–39). 

From both these enlightened teachings, I catch a glimmer of what it must mean to embody grace and, if there is a God/Goddess, to honor how they have called for us to emulate and embrace the complexities of perspective. When we are in our pain, in our beliefs, in our reality, it is almost impossible to see the other’s pain, the other’s beliefs, the other’s reality, but that does not mean they are not there, and that they are not equally valid from where the other is standing. This is not to say that there are no conceptions of right and wrong, that there are not international laws, human rights laws, treaties, and agreements that we can and should use to help guide us and seek justice, but rather that we must always recognize that justice is a transformative journey and requires above all else that we proceed with deep love and empathy, not just for ourselves but for others, including our enemies.

On that day, October 7, a Saturday, I informally officiated at a wedding between a young French/Swiss Orthodox Jewish man and a French/Tunisian Arab woman who fell in love against the social odds and the wishes of his family but not hers. I said to them that their love is more than our typical socially sanctioned love. It is a challenge to our segregating and tribal ways and as such it is a love that must be held and nurtured with great care and kindness, as it offers hope for the world. I told them I felt honored on that day to bring their love, their traditions, their faiths, and their stories together to help teach us that the field is there, if only we have the courage and the humility to see it.

Since that day, many around the world have been taking this journey to see and even to create the field. Among those who moved me deeply is an Israeli man, Maoz Inan, whose parents, Bilha and Yakov, were killed by Hamas but whose heartfelt words can and should teach us so much. He stated in an interview with the BBC, “I am not crying for my parents, I am crying for those who will lose their lives in this war. We must stop the war!” 

Or Youssef Ziadna, the Bedouin bus driver who saved 30 Israelis at a music festival from Hamas’s massacre, risking his own life. He said afterwards, “I knew I couldn’t give up on my mission. I will go and rescue them.” He added, “I would never wish on anyone to see what I saw… This is trauma for my whole life. When I sit alone and recollect, I can’t help the tears.”

Or members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), who have been organizing protests across the U.S., including the largest-ever pro-Palestine protests in D.C., demanding a ceasefire and that “Jewish grief must not be used as a weapon of war.” Acknowledging the increasing number of Palestinians killed, including at the time almost 3,000 children, and calling Israel’s action “a genocide,” JVP also demanded that the Israeli government: 

  1. immediately cease its bombing of Gaza.
  2. allow all life-saving humanitarian needs to enter Gaza, including water, fuel, food, and medicine.
  3. begin direct negotiations for Israeli hostages.

Or our friend, a Presbyterian pastor in Hartford, who is married to a Christian Palestinian musician whose family in Bethlehem are in lockdown. Last week she focused her sermon on inviting her congregation to connect deeply with their hearts and spirits and from there to do the hard work of grieving, advocating for justice, and bringing about healing. 

Or my own brother, who is Jewish (I am not, as we share a father but not a mother) and lives in Israel with his Israeli wife and three children, and who yesterday led a prayer ceremony “dedicated to the work with the community that is on the other side of the threshold…looking at how the living and the dead are part of the same organism that is called life,” in which work he included all the dead and all the living. On this side of the Atlantic, the ceremony was joined by my wife, Tina, and a friend of ours, who together smoked the sacred Chanunpa (pipe), a Lakota way of sending prayers, while I too sent prayers from where I happened to be outside of the state.

These are, of course, just a few of the many, many examples of those on both sides who are seeking higher spiritual ground and doing what they can, where they can, in order to try to do what Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari proposes—in short, that if you are not directly in “the pain,” “don’t beintellectually lazy [or] emotionally lazy” and “just see part of this terrible reality,” but rather “try to see as much of the reality as you can” to hold “a space for future peace.” And if you are in “the pain,” find community and healing so you too can make your way to Rumi’s field, to a future space for peace, as we will need as many people as possible there if we are to do the hard work that reconnects and redirects those lands, this world, toward justice. 

Music and Memories of Annabel Lee

By Bob Grindle

Ever so faintly in the background music is playing…a crazy tangle of flute and piano and harpsichord and guitar and voices. A patchy quilt of sounds. Not sure where it’s coming from…Herbie Mann, maybe Joni Mitchell, definitely some Leonard Cohen, Dylan and Ella Fitzgerald and not sure, Bach or Vivaldi. The music fades.

It is late in the day of September 13th, a grey and threatening day outside. Somewhere in Hartford Hospital I feel like every stored idea and memory I’d ever tucked away in long forgotten, poorly lit, cob-web covered and untidied corners of my mind has fallen off the brittle archival shelves in the prefrontal cortex and broken into a million pieces…more than seven decades of debris…shards of incomplete thoughts and random incoherent fragments of memories; plans wrapped in layers of hope and carefully shelved: “…sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground…” and even memories of fourth grade teachers reading Annabel Lee were clotted somewhere inside my brain as a slowly returning consciousness struggles to overcome the chaos of more than 6 hours of general anesthesia. Curtains of caution wafted uselessly as words bubbled up endlessly from this artesian fountain word-spill. My wife was amused for a while as I tried to make some sort of conversation during this cerebral power outage but, realizing the worst was over, she kissed me and headed home.

The spell was cast and with Lin’s kiss and departure my awareness curled back into its reverie and, gradually, tattered memories and visions of sunny hillsides or star filled night skies faded into the quiet empty canvas of sleep. After years of excellent health and good fortune in navigating life’s ever shifting currents, this recent diagnosis of esophagus cancer has become tonight’s rather heavy reality of a post-operative helplessness heralding the beginning of a long recovery. Waking the next morning to the sounds of monitors and life support ‘bots,’ I felt lucky to have an east-facing window and watched as Venus rose into the clearing dawn sky over Hartford. There are moments in all of our lives when our sense of well-being—that belief in oneself that you can cope with whatever comes along—when that confidence is put to the test. Sitting here, pretty much unable to move without help is one of those moments, but reflecting on the amazing skill, talent and dedication of the healthcare team that made this journey possible quiets my anxiety. If I ever doubted that living is not a solo undertaking, those doubts have taken wing and are long gone.  

It is midday October 22nd, some five weeks since the operation…a chill and blustery day here in the quiet corner, a day full of color and energy.  Living in eastern Connecticut it is easy to feel we are rocking in a cradle almost too gorgeous to be real…nestled between impressive urban centers of dynamism and opportunity, but hidden away under dark night skies and tucked in between forests, farms, waterways and vibrant small towns in a valley that is ancient beyond belief and lovely without taking your breath away, it is easy to pat ourselves on the back for choosing such a place to build a nest. Walking slowly uphill, past the chicken pen, over to the garden and then out to the fields, I notice that the younger sugar maples don’t seem to have lost their leaves to the anthracnose fungus in this exceedingly wet year, and the red maples along the west and north of our property are as beautiful as ever. The forests that surround us are some of the most diverse, and might I add, most beautiful mixed hardwood biomes to be found anywhere. The recently cut field invites a quick run and I smile to think…perhaps not just met. Healing is for the moment and we set off on a simple and immensely enjoyable walk as we talk about healing strategies and I recall reading that the older maples will rebound just fine next year.

By the time we finish our walk it is late afternoon and the waxing Moon is rising into a still day lit sky. The chill that has been with us all day is starting to settle in and remind us that the Sun’s heat is all about the angle of attack and tonight will be worthy of an extra blanket. Jupiter will be rising soon and by the time of the full Hunter’s Moon this weekend the planet and Moon will make for a delightful pairing. Bring on November, and with it a return to Standard Time. 

Without a doubt the loveliest display of the month will be in the pre-dawn sky of November 9th. After the clocks have been turned back and mornings start a bit earlier, the pre- dawn hours of Thursday morning’s east/southeastern sky will see a diamond-bright Venus nearly touching a shimmering sliver of the waning crescent Moon. A jewel of a way to start the day if ever there was one…let’s hope for clear skies. If you miss the 9th, Venus and the faint crescent Moon will be around for a couple more days. They just won’t be so closely paired. A couple of weeks later, in the eastern sky shortly after sunset on November 24th and 25th  the waxing Moon and Jupiter will repeat October’s close pairing as the Moon approaches its full Beaver phase, occasionally referred to as the Frost Moon. 

There are two, usually minor, meteor showers that extend most of the month of November, from the Taurids in early and mid-month to the Leonids that usually peak around the 18th. Due to some advantageous alignments and phases of the Moon this year, a little extra time spent looking up any time you’re out at night this November might be rewarded. The Leonids especially are known for some of the fastest shooting stars (meteors.) 

Stay well, be kind to those around you and enjoy what’s left of the colorful end of year celebration that our region treats us to every autumn. Oh yes, and be sure to enjoy the musical score that is always playing in the background of our lives.

Our Veterans Have Given the Gift of Freedom

By Bill Powers

               “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution,

               are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them

               against all attacks… It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the             

               present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be  

               wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or be cheated out of 

                            them by the artifices of false and designing men.”

                                                                                                          –  Samuel Adams 

   Over the centuries our veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices in the name of preserving the freedoms of Americans while defending their Republic from those who would denounce democracy as a way of governing. On Veterans Day, we thank and remember our veterans for their unselfish service. Here are the stories of three of our local veterans who ought not be forgotten and who have not always been given the recognition that they deserve.

  Colonel James Clark hailed from Lebanon, Adjutant-General Jesse Root was from Coventry and James Haggerty called Willimantic his home. The manner in which they supported themselves and their families was quite different. Clarke was a farmer, Root was a minister who became a lawyer, and James Haggerty was a businessman. One thing that they had in common was that they were all veterans and Patriots. Clarke and Root served during the Revolutionary War and Haggerty answered the call during the Civil War. After their military service, they all returned to their farm, village, or city with their memories of war and resumed life in the Republic they loved so much and for which they had made so many sacrifices.  


   A 19th century journalist called Colonel James Clark “the noblest of them all.” Grace Greenwood, the colonel’s great-niece and a well-known and highly respected journalist, wrote “Reminiscences of Lebanon” and various versions appeared in a popular national weekly magazine and the Hartford Daily Courant in 1869. She believed that Clark’s gallant contributions during the American Revolution had not received due recognition and that “his story was overshadowed by the fame of other notable patriots from Lebanon”, so she wrote: “Another revolutionary worthy of Lebanon was Colonel James Clark, in some respects, the ‘noblest Roman of them all’, though he never attained to great honor or high position…” 

   In 1902, Mary Clarke Huntington, another descendent of James Clark, presented a paper to the New London County Historical Society entitled “Colonel Clark of Lebanon.” She published a touching and tragic story about Clark as he returned home from a military campaign. She wrote: “As he rode into Lebanon on his white warhorse that he retained for so many years afterward, he saw a funeral procession winding into the Old Cemetery, and while he was so glad in his return, anticipating the welcome of wife and children at the old homestead, his heart went out the more readily to such townsfolk as has met with loss. It was long since he had heard from home – for the usual slow methods of communication were often interrupted in those times of war – and wondering whom death had taken, he turned his horse and rode after the procession. He heard the ‘dust to dust and ashes to ashes!’ Then as he saw that it was his wife who knelt weeping beside the grave of their little daughters. Other tragedies beset Clark and his wife during the war including the drowning in a well of their two-year old son. Yet he still fought on.” 

    He fought at the battles of Bunker Hill, Harlem Heights and White Plains. Huntington continued: “At the time of the laying of the corner stone of the Bunker Hill Monument, the year before his death, when he was ninety-five, a special escort was sent from Boston to accompany him, as one of the survivors of the battle, to the spot where he had helped to hold the British in abeyance.” He had led the 6th Company from Lebanon in the Battle of Bunker Hill. 


    Jesse Root was from Coventry and in a manner similar to Lebanon’s James Clark, “His story is overshadowed by the fame of other notable patriots”, in this case Coventry’s famous Nathan Hale. Root graduated from Princeton in 1756. He returned to Coventry to farm and preach. Later influenced by three lawyers, Jonathan Trumbull from Lebanon, and also Jedidiah Elderkin and Eliphalet Dyer from Windham, he decided to study to become a lawyer. After he began to practice law, Jesse moved with his family from Coventry to Hartford for better opportunities. In Hartford Jesse became involved in the Revolutionary movement where his law practice began to thrive and he taught law. He never gave up his farm in Coventry where he eventually returned. “The family maintained a household in Coventry while apparently renting in Hartford. They had slaves, who probably cultivated the land in Coventry.” The 1790 Federal Census records that he owned three enslaved persons.

   With respect to the Revolution, no job was too big or too small for Jesse. There was plenty to do as the British colonies in America were transformed into a new nation. Early on, as Americans protested British tyranny, Jesse won the trust and admiration of American leaders including George Washington.

    As a soldier Jesse served in 1775 with troops fighting in upper New York State.  He helped to plan and finance the Battle of Ticonderoga. After the Battle, he was assigned chairmanship of the prisoner committee overseeing British officers captured during the battle, when they were confined in Hartford. In December of 1776 Captain Jesse Root “raised and commanded a company of able-bodied men” to fight in the upper Hudson Valley. Soon after, he was named Lieutenant Colonel and second in command of a regiment. “When General Israel Putnam assumed command of the Hudson Highlands at Washington’s order, he assigned Root as Adjutant-General. In the late winter of 1778, he returned home to Hartford and Coventry.”  He then served on the Council of Safety that often met in the War Office in Lebanon. He was a member of the Second Continental Congress until the Peace of 1783, Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives, and a member of the Governor’s Foot Guard and served as its commandant from 1798 to 1802. In 1819 he served as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention. (Quotations from “The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut”, 1987, by Messier B.B. & Aronson J.S.)  


     James Haggerty was underage, only 13 when he enlisted in the Eighteenth Connecticut Volunteer Infantry to fight in the Civil War. His obituary appeared in the Willimantic Chronicle in November of 1934, along with a front- page headline that read “JAMES HAGGERTY DIES ON HIS 85TH BIRTHDAY: Last Member of Francis S. Long Post No. 30, G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic).

 “Although under age, Haggerty was desirous of serving the nation in its time of need. He ran away from home to Norwich for the purpose of enlisting but was rejected because of his youthful appearance. Hiking back home to Willimantic, he discarded the short pants he was wearing and donning a pair of long trousers belonging to a brother, returned to the same recruiting station to pass the required examination. The officer in charge failed to recognize him as the lad who appeared before him a short time previously attired in different garb.  

   “After enlisting, he was assigned to Company H of the Eighteenth Connecticut Volunteers. He had the distinction of being the youngest soldier to enlist in the state. Joining his regiment in Virginia, he took part in all of the engagements in which it figured until the Battle of New Market, near Richmond, where he was captured by the Confederates and imprisoned at Andersonville, GA. and Charlestown, S.C. In the latter place, he fell ill of yellow fever and was sent to Florence in the same state shortly before he was released. After going to Annapolis, MD. to recuperate, he rejoined his regiment until the surrender of Lee.

    “After the war, James Haggerty returned home and continued his education for a year. “The lure of the army life proved too strong and he enlisted in the regular army”, where he participated in the reconstruction of the South and then went to the western plains to fight Indians until 1869. At that point he returned to Willimantic and learned to be a blacksmith. He also worked with the Willimantic Linen Company before operating a tobacco and periodical store.  He served as a deputy sheriff and a burgess in the borough government and after the incorporation of the city government 1893, represented the third ward on the board of aldermen for six years. He also served for twelve years as a member of board of registrars. Haggerty continued to serve in the National Guard for many years. 

    Our veterans have given us the gift of freedom. All have made extraordinary sacrifices in order to serve while swearing an oath to support and defend our Constitution. Thankyou.

Bill Powers is a retired Hartford and Windham Public Schools teacher.

photo of the sign is mine and is from the Veteran’s Center in WILLIMANTIC

Escape to Freedom (maybe)

By Tom Woron

Who does not like a good, real life mystery raise your hand.  Nobody, I thought so.  While there are many good true unsolved mysteries in the world, here is one that continues to intrigue six decades after the fact.

Alcatraz.  The very name conjures up a sinister aura of mystery.  Alcatraz is an island located in San Francisco Bay off the coast of the city of San Francisco, California.  

The island became famous as it was the location of a maximum security United States federal prison that was intended to incarcerate the worst of criminals.  The idea of a prison located on an island in San Francisco Bay was to have it be escape-proof and be America’s most secure penitentiary.  The waters of the Bay are extremely cold and the currents very strong. The chances of an escaped inmate surviving to reach the mainland were believed to be extremely slim if not impossible.  The federal government states that no inmate has ever successfully escaped from the penitentiary on Alcatraz.  That is very much disputed to this day.

The Island of Alcatraz was at one time the site of a U.S. Army military prison with construction of the main prison building beginning in 1910. The United States Department of Justice acquired the military prison on Alcatraz in 1933.  After some modernization of the buildings, the following year the Federal Bureau of Prisons beefed up security and began using the island penitentiary as a Federal prison to incarcerate the nation’s most troublesome criminals.  The prison was a three story cellhouse with four main cell blocks. The individual cells which measured nine feet long, five feet wide and seven feet high were very primitive and lacked privacy.  The basic needs of the prisoners were provided for but they received little else.  In the building there was also an office for the warden, a visitation room, a library and a barber shop.  Six cells at the end of the building were called “the Hole” and it was there that prisoners with behavior issues often received brutal physical punishment.  Former inmates described overall inhumane conditions at the penitentiary. It didn’t take long for Alcatraz to gain the reputation as the toughest, most feared prison in the country.  Officials of the Federal Bureau of Prisons believed that the Alcatraz prison was truly escape-proof given its high security and its location in San Francisco Bay surrounded by very cold water with dangerous currents.  But was it really escape-proof?  

It’s been stated that with Alcatraz’s reputation for brutal conditions, once an inmate arrived at the penitentiary his first thoughts were how to get out.  The slim possibility of surviving an escape attempt did not prevent 36 inmates from trying.  In all the escape attempts, six prisoners were shot and killed during their attempt, two were known to have drowned, twenty-three were recaptured and five are missing and presumed drowned.   There was even a three day “Battle of Alcatraz” in May 1946 which claimed the lives of three prisoners and two prison guards. But did any inmates ever escape from Alcatraz and survive to live in freedom never to be found?   

Late on the night of June 11,1962 (or possibly in the early hours of June 12) three Alcatraz inmates, Frank Morris along with brothers John Anglin and Clarence Anglin carried out an escape attempt that was months in planning. The three men had created papier-mache heads that resembled themselves and placed them in their beds to make it appear that they were sleeping.  The three then slipped through ventilation ducts into an unused utility corridor and then to the outside.  Once outside the inmates left Alcatraz in a raft that they had constructed from raincoats and managed to keep concealed from the prison guards.  The three men disappeared into oblivion their fates unknown with absolute certainty to this day.    

A fourth inmate, Allen West, was supposed to go along but when he ran into difficulty he ended up staying behind.  West would subsequently cooperate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in their investigation of the escape.  

The dummy heads in the beds of the three escaped inmates fooled the guards enough so that the escape was not discovered until later on the morning of June 12.  An extensive search of San Francisco Bay and the lands surrounding Alcatraz Island failed to find the escapees.  The FBI took the position that the three inmates almost certainly perished in the frigid waters of the Bay. 

Although the FBI believes that the three escaped Alcatraz inmates did not survive their escape attempt, there is no concrete evidence to support this belief.   Allen West told the FBI that the escapees planned to steal a car upon getting to the mainland.  According to the FBI no cars were stolen in the general area around the time of the escape.  Since the escape there have been reported sightings and some tantalizing but inconclusive evidence suggesting that the men did make it to freedom.  

In 1967 a man who claimed to have gone to school with Frank Morris reported to the FBI that he encountered him in Maryland.  The man provided no details.  

In 1962 the Anglin family received a Christmas card that said “to Mother, from John, Merry Christmas.”  The mother of the Anglin brothers also received flowers from an unknown sender every Mother’s Day after the escape until her death in 1973.  Two very tall and heavily made up women, possibly men in disguise, were said to have shown up at the Anglin’s mother’s funeral.  Also when the Anglin’s father died in 1989, Robert Anglin, brother of John and Clarence, reported that two unknown bearded men came to the funeral home, viewed the body, wept and left.  

From the mid 1960s through the 70s there were several reported sightings of John and Clarence Anglin in northern Florida and Georgia.  In 1989 alleged witnesses phoned the TV show Unsolved Mysteries claiming that photos and sketches of Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris bore resemblance to men they knew of living in Florida.  

In 1993 a man named John Leroy Kelly on his deathbed told a nurse that he and a partner picked up the escaped Alcatraz inmates in a boat and took them to the Seattle, Washington area.  There, Kelly said, he and his partner killed the escapees in order to take money that the convicts’ families collected for them.  Kelly described a location where the escapees were supposedly buried but a subsequent investigation of the site did not find any human remains.

The National Geographic Channel aired a documentary on the Alcatraz escape in 2011 in which it was disclosed that a raft was indeed found on June 12, 1962 on Angel Island near Alcatraz.  Footprints led away from the raft.  Furthermore that same day, a blue 1955 Chevrolet was reported stolen in nearby Marin County on the mainland contradicting what the FBI originally said.  The stolen car claim was confirmed by articles in local newspapers from the time of the Alcatraz escape.  A motorist reported the next day that he was nearly run off the road by three men in a blue Chevrolet.  

Also in 2011 a man named Bud Morris, claiming to be Frank Morris’s cousin, claimed to have met with Frank in San Diego shortly after the escape.  Bud’s daughter who was a child at the time, remembered being present when her father met with “his friend Frank.”

In 2015 The History Channel ran a documentary in which the Anglin family presented circumstantial evidence supporting the possibility that John and Clarence made it to freedom after their escape from Alcatraz.  That evidence included Christmas cards that family members received for a few years after the escape purportedly containing the Anglin brothers’ handwriting.  In addition the family members identified a friend named Fred Brizzi, who grew up with the Clarence and John, who supposedly encountered the two brothers in Brazil in 1975.  A photograph allegedly taken of Clarence and John in Brazil in 1975 was determined by a forensic expert to very likely show the Anglin brothers.  However the men in the photo were wearing sunglasses thus making a definite identification of the two in the photo difficult. The authenticity of the photo itself is questionable.  

Before Robert Anglin died in 2010 he told other family members that he had been in contact with Clarence and John from 1963 up until about 1987.  The other Anglin family members know of no contacts with John and Clarence after 1987.  

Perhaps the most tantalizing bit of evidence supporting the survival of the escapees was a letter that the San Francisco Police Department received in 2013.  The letter’s writer claimed to be escaped Alcatraz prisoner John Anglin and stated that he was 83 years old (which John Anglin would have been in 2013) and that he needed medical treatment for cancer.  The writer stated that Frank Morris died in 2008, Clarence Anglin died in 2011, and offered to surrender himself to authorities in exchange for medical treatment. The existence of the letter was not acknowledged by the FBI until 2018 and wether or not it was really written by John Anglin was never determined.

Studies of the ocean currents of the Bay and experiments with rafts made of the same materials as the Alcatraz escapees’ makeshift raft, have revealed that it was indeed possible to escape the prison and get to the mainland.   

Did the three inmates who escaped from Alcatraz perish in the attempt in June 1962 or did any or all of them make it to freedom where they possibly lived for many years?  The FBI’s investigation ended in 1979 however, the U.S Marshals Service considers the case still open with the three escaped inmates still on their wanted list.  If alive today Frank Morris would be 97 and the Anglins in their early 90s.  Whatever happened to the escaped convicts, the mind of the average person reading about the escape wants to definitely go against the FBIs position that the three perished on June 12th or 13th, 1962 and to believe that the three outsmarted authorities, got away, and are living or lived out their lives in freedom The escape from Alcatraz in June 1962 continues to be an enduring mystery with the absolute truth ever so elusive.

                                                               Professional Firefighters

By Bill Powers

     You never know when or where a prompt to write a story will come from. In this case it unexpectedly came from a political candidate at a campaign gathering, who is a local elected public official and a candidate in the upcoming election. The conversation among a small group quickly and inevitably shifted to important issues currently confronting our town. They included safety concerns such as the maternity care desert debacle and loss of critical care services at our local hospital, the police civilian review board discussion that had somehow evaporated without a public hearing, and the need to consolidate the four fire departments in our town. With respect to the fire department consolidation issue, for the elected official it was an obvious no brainer. All of the fire departments in town should be staffed only by “PROFESSIONALS” and NOT “VOLUNTEERS”.  I was immediately curious, uneasy and a little resentful, and for good reason. I asked, “Do you need to be career, paid firefighter in order to be a “professional” firefighter?” The answer came back, “Of course.”

  The term “professional” can have many meanings for just as many folks. We want to witness professional behavior by our police officers, attorneys, business men and women, teachers, elected officials, and supreme court justices. We know it when we see it, and when don’t. We can debate the exact meaning in different situations until the cows come home. However, setting guidelines for minimum standards can be helpful. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) sets the “Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications identifying the minimum Job Performance for career and volunteer firefighters whose duties are primarily structural in nature.” The standards are the same. 

    My father was a “career firefighter” in a large city department. He had plenty of training and worked many hours each week for years until he retired. In those days all the firefighters rotated shifts on a regular basis. I now realize how disruptive that must have been considering the disruption of circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. The job was physically demanding and could be dangerous. In 1956 I vividly remember watching a live TV program with a local news crew, who was broadcasting at the scene of the large and devastating fire to the Cathedral where my family regularly worshiped. It was early in the morning during the New Year’s holiday., when I turned on the television and saw our beloved cathedral as it was being consumed by a inferno of flames. I quickly called out to my mother and sister. As we watched in horror, it was like being struck by a bolt of lightning when we heard on the TV the names of two firefighters who been injured. The ceiling collapsed on them. We heard my father’s name! He was being rushed to the hospital. To this day I vividly recall everything about that moment – how I felt and hearing my mom scream and my younger sister as she began to cry. 

    My father presented an imposing figure in his fire department dress uniform. His being a firefighter was a source of admiration not only for me, but also my friends. I remember attending a party for Jack, a team member on my school basketball team, at his home on Prospect Avenue in Hartford.  When Jack introduced me to his dad, the Governor, he said: “Dad this is Billy, he’s our other guard and his dad is a firefighter. The governor shaking my hand welcomed me and asked where my dad worked. I’m sure I beamed as I replied, “Pearl Street Fire Headquarters on Truck 1.”  The governor smiled and said: “That’s near where I work at the Capitol. Please thank him for me for doing his very important work.”

     I did my best to convince the candidate who was running for office that the minimum professional standards were no different for paid and volunteer firefighters. This too is the case for firefighters who are also certified to provide emergency medical services (EMS). Whether fighting fire in a large city or with a small town’s fire department, he or she must be prepared to save lives and protect property in numerous scenarios under a variety of difficult conditions. It is important to note that according to the NFPA two-thirds of the firefighters in the United States are volunteers.  

    In my late 30’s I made one of the best decisions of my life. I became a volunteer firefighter in Mansfield. I was able to learn new skills, serve my community and make new friends. I only wish that I had joined many years earlier. Mansfield had a hybrid system that combined both paid and volunteer firefighters. When an emergency call came in, it was possible to get the apparatus out the door to the scene right away. In my mind reducing response time is critical in order to save lives and property. 

    Fortunately, we have “professional” career and volunteer firefighters who not only meet professional qualifications, but who also have the ever-important professional attitudes about their service. We owe these men and women a great deal as they are willing to risk their lives to save ours. 

   Bill Powers resides in Windham Center where the Windham Center Fire Department has a rich volunteer tradition going all the way back to 1825 and will soon be celebrating their 200th anniversary.

Power in Interracial Friendship

By Loretta Wrobel

Learning from each other is a dynamic method of discovering how each of us is shaped by our experiences. By developing interracial connections, we can all expand our mindset by knowing individuals from different races and backgrounds. Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray, two talented authors, explored the powerful friendship between Mary Mcleod Bethune and Eleanor Roosevelt in their spectacular book, The First Ladies.

The writers focus on the intense and deep relationship between Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, and Mary Mcleod Bethune, known as the First Lady of the Struggle. These two pioneers, in pushing us towards racial equality, gained insight and profound respect for the different lives they lived, as they carved out a unique and transformative partnership/friendship with each other. They accomplished this challenging feat during a time of prohibitive Jim Crow laws that addressed interracial relationships. In the 1930s and 1940s it was forbidden for white and Black people to share a meal, attend a concert together (concert halls were segregated), or become close friends. These two activists became fast friends, disregarding the societal restrictions that our racist world demanded, and launched a multitude of significant events that moved the needle on civil rights. Eleanor was able to take advantage of her proximity to the President and his trust in her expertise and wisdom on political matters. She helped Mary secure a federal appointment, furthering the cause of equal rights, by giving people of color an access to and a forum to bring racism to the forefront. 

Eleanor Roosevelt at her core was for equal rights. However, her experience growing up white in a privileged family and having her uncle, Theodore Roosevelt, in the White House, gave her a vastly different perspective. Mary, who grew up struggling in a segregated world, knew the pain and suffering of living as an oppressed minority. This struggle did not stop her, as she became president of a college in Daytona, Florida! This happened in the early 1900s, which was no small feat for a Black female in America. In 1904 she opened Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls that later became Bethune Cookman University. What a role model she provided for young Black women growing up in the beginning of the twentieth century!

This book details the beginnings and successes of this most influential partnership between two feminist pioneers. Ms. Bethune was older and more seasoned, when she met Ms. Roosevelt, who was naïve and totally unaware of how individuals are traumatized by racism. The First Ladies chronicles the education of Eleanor that transformed a clueless woman into a staunch advocate for civil rights, based on what she heard from her dear friend and patient yet truthful teacher Mary. Coming from such opposite life situations as Mary and Eleanor, their views and opinions could have created stressful and hurtful encounters. However, these special and insightful activists together surmounted the potential for disagreements, by listening to and respecting each other and allowing their passion to work for equal treatment. In this manner they moved through any momentary anger or negativity.  These two brave warriors faced those challenging conversations, speaking their truths, even when each knew it could result in anger, hurt feelings, and confusion.

The story of their seemingly improbable relationship survived the potential misunderstandings, and resulted in both women being able to use their different skills, diverse connections, and access to power by clever and innovative means. Eleanor constantly approached her husband, encouraging him to speak up and out about racial matters. Mary used her power as the revered leader of oppressed people. I fell in love with both Amazonian women from the first words to the final words. I felt it enhanced my passion because I listened to the audio version of the book. The authors did a mighty fine job of demonstrating the change in both women as they listened, acquired knowledge, and laughed throughout their long-term relationship. They supported each other, as they suffered through disappointments, particularly around personal issues. They schemed and connived to expose the horrors of a racist society, and together they devised solutions. They refused to be denied, and continued to fight for greater minority representation in Roosevelt’s cabinet. They stood up courageously for dismantling the hierarchy of patriarchy.  

The beauty and grace of this loving interracial partnership was pure delight. I was rooting for them, and celebrating their joy and relief, when the administration acknowledged that our country would function better if all peoples were treated equally. This book about two women and their work to move our Country past the traumas and pain of segregation was, in fact, co-authored by a white woman and a Black woman. While Victoria and Marie were writing the book, they were engaged in the ongoing hard and difficult decisions regarding their own interracial relationship. The book is a primer for the importance of having interracial friendships and partnerships to truly understand the disastrous effect of oppression and discrimination on all of us. When you hear from a minority person about how racism impacts their everyday experiences, it is no longer undercover. When the white friend trusts and listens to how privileged their existence has been, she gains a profound understanding of how racism damages everyone. Racism also wastes the talents and skills and expertise of the oppressed people.

I recommend taking a smart hint from these two authors and reaching out to a person of color to develop a clearer understanding of what it is like to be Black in America. This book is as relevant now in 2023 as when our two heroines walked around the White House in the middle of the last century. I have great respect for Eleanor and Mary for taking the risk and becoming allies, which enabled them to work together on creating a more just and civil world. And kudos to Marie and Victoria for fearlessly using their interracial relationship in writing this book. By embracing this model of interracial sharing, we can work together to finally end the evils of racism. 

And did I mention that this book moved me—shedding tears, feeling rage, and laughing uproariously at the fun that Eleanor and Mary had, especially sharing their love of desserts!!!  

Root Beer Floats and a Coors in the Rockies

By Bill Powers       

             In 1972 while on a lengthy road trip to California, we discovered A&W Root Beer stands while traveling through the mid-west and western states.  We left the interstates, when it was time to fuel up the Ford Pinto and to grab a bite to eat. It was summer and it was hot! The Pinto was not equipped with air conditioning. Driving through the center of a small town in Iowa, just off Interstate 80, we spotted an A&W Root Beer stand where they served little more than the root beer at curbside. It was a day to remember, not only since It was a very hot day and we were parched, but it was the first time that we, including my wife, and our son, had ever experienced a root beer float. We had previously enjoyed drinking root beer and eating vanilla ice cream but not a mixture consisting of the two. On that sweltering day, the combination served in a frosted mug was such an incredible event that we vowed to stop at every A&W Root Beer stand that we came across for the rest of the trip for root beer floats. It was a vow that we kept, and something that we to looked forward to after long hours of driving.

           The trip was broken up by visits to a number of National Parks. On our return trip from California, we changed our route to include Rocky Mountain National Park. It was there while sitting by a roaring mountain stream and enjoying a picnic lunch that I was treated to my first ever Coors beer. It was wonderful. In those days it wasn’t available east of the Mississippi. It was unpasteurized and contained no preservatives. It was truly an unforgettable “Rocky Mountain High!” A few months later John Denver’s recording was released and to this day each time that I hear it, I visualize that beautiful mountain view, and for some reason get thirsty.  

         In the March issue of Neighbors, I wrote about the Hampton General Store. When visiting the store, I was taken back to my youth and a similar store in Glover, Vermont where, from time to time, I had vacationed with relatives in the Northeast Kingdom of the state. Whether visiting in Vermont or at the Hampton General Store, it was like stepping back into the general stores of the 1800s. Now, I often stop by the Hampton store in order to bring home one of the many delicious   ‘Take and Bake’ meals that are available and some of the home baked goodies. 

        Six months ago, when talking to Kara Hicks, who reopened and runs the Hampton General Store, one of her upcoming goals was to provide soda fountain treats for customers at the marble soda fountain counter, which she had recently located in Stamford, CT, purchased and had installed. At the time I asked her if by any chance she would be offering root beer floats and was delighted to hear her say, “Absolutely!” The soda fountain is up and running and in addition to root beer floats, there are shakes, malts and many kinds of ice cream sodas to be had. She offers many delights using ice cream and her home-made brownies and cookies for brownie Sundays, cookie specials and brownie ice cream sandwiches.  

        The Hampton Congregational Church is celebrating their 300th anniversary this year and they have scheduled special events to honor this notable achievement. On Sunday November 12, the Band of Steady Habits will appear at the church at 3P.M. and on December 3, Rick Spencer will perform at “11ish” (after Sunday services). The Band of Steady Habits, led by our previous State Historian, Walt Woodward will be providing music, singing and providing historical facts about the Congregational Church. The following month Rick Spencer, known for his historical music programs will perform a selection of Christmas songs popular at the end of the 1800s. I have heard both the Band and Rick perform several times and they are consummate musicians and proficient historians. Be sure to witness these performances that will be complete with unique historical themes. And take the opportunity to explore the Hampton General Store just across the street from Hampton Congregational Church. Check out the soda fountain and perhaps partake of a ROOT BEER FLOAT!

The photo views Hampton General Store’s Kara Hicks creating a special soda fountain treat for a customer.

 Bill Powers is a retired Hartford and Windham Public Schools teacher who writes a regularly appearing local history column for the Willimantic Chronicle.


By Tom Woron

Nineteen Seventy-Nine!  The final year of the 1970s.  It was one of the most eventful years in recent history.  A lot happened that year that was noteworthy, seemingly much more than in most other years.  There were climactic match ups in sports, great music, and much upheaval in other countries. It was a pivotal year that changed the world.  

In 1979 the President of the United States was James Earl “Jimmy” Carter.  The year began with President Carter extending diplomatic recognition to the Communist government of mainland China.  Since 1949 the U.S. only recognized the Nationalist Chinese government on the island of Taiwan as the legitimate government of all of China.  It was ultimately in the best interest of the United States to establish diplomatic relations with the Chinese Communists.  

In the 1960s and early 70s, the United States tried to prevent Communists from taking control of all of Vietnam and its neighboring country, Cambodia.  The efforts failed and Communists took full control of both countries in 1975.  Strangely enough the two Communist neighbors began to fight each other in 1977.  It escalated into full scale war in late 1978 and on January 7, 1979 Vietnamese troops drove the Khmer Rouge, the ruling Communist faction, out of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, effectively taking over the country.  The Khmer Rouge had been responsible for a genocide in Cambodia over the previous few years, however, the United States and many nations disapproved of the Vietnamese action.

On January 16, 1979 a full year of upheaval in Iran reached a climax.  The U.S. supported Shah (king) of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, left the country after many months of violent demonstrations against his rule. The revolution was inspired by the the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an Islamic religious cleric who was exiled from Iran years earlier for opposing the Shah’s rule.  For a few weeks Iran was in chaos as it was not clear who among several opposing groups was going to lead the government.  On February 1st the Ayatollah Khomeini was welcomed by thousands as he returned to Iran from exile.  Iranian Army troops that were still loyal to the Shah were quickly defeated by rebel groups opposed to him. On February 11 Khomeini effectively took over leadership of the country and soon after proclaimed an Islamic Republic.  The repercussions of the revolution are still felt by the world today.   

We all heard of the Iranian hostage crisis that began in November 1979 when the U.S. embassy in the Iranian capital of Teheran was seized by Iranians loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini and held American diplomats prisoner for over a year.  However there was an earlier, little known hostage crisis also involving the seizure of the U.S. embassy in Teheran.  During the chaos in February, armed Iranian urban guerrillas seized the American embassy and held U.S. Ambassador to Iran, William Sullivan and his staff hostage for over two hours. In what was later to become a bit of an irony, Iranian forces loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini drove the guerrillas out and rescued the American diplomats.    

In 1979 as was the case for decades, the Communist giant, the Soviet Union was the opposing superpower to and the ideological rival of the United States.  The two had struggled for years to promote their opposite ideologies to other countries and prevent the other from doing so all the while trying to avoid going to war directly with each other.  Both superpowers possessed many nuclear weapons.  In his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1979, President Carter, in what was seen as a warning to the Soviet Union, stated that just one of our Poseidon submarines, which comprised of less than 2 percent of our nuclear weapons capability, possessed enough nuclear warheads to destroy every large and medium sized city in the Soviet Union.  

The Southeast Asian picture got even more complicated in February. Communist China attacked and invaded Communist Vietnam on February 17th.  The reason was that the Chinese supported the Khmer Rouge Communists who had ruled Cambodia and they were not at all happy about the Vietnamese invasion of that country.  China and Vietnam were historic enemies despite the fact that they were allies during the Vietnam War.  Vietnam then turned to the Soviet Union for support.  China and the Soviet Union at the same time had been feuding with each other for a while.  As if giving them the go-ahead to oust the Chinese supported government of Cambodia, the Soviets signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Vietnam on November 3, 1978 effectively bonding the two countries together against the Chinese.  The Chinese attack on Vietnam was “to teach them a lesson” and was clearly in retaliation for for the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia.  It all seemed so strange because United States participation in the Vietnam war from 1961 to 1973 was to prevent the North Vietnamese Communists from taking control of South Vietnam.  Successive American administrations refrained from taking drastic action against Communist North Vietnam, that could have won the war, fearing that Communist China would enter the war on the side of the North Vietnamese.  Ironically now the two Communist countries were fighting each other.  Headlines stating that Chinese jets were attacking the Vietnamese port of Haiphong seemed odd since American jets had attacked Haiphong often in 1972 . Fighting raged in northern Vietnam for a few weeks and the world wondered if the Soviet Union would enter the war on the side of the Vietnamese. The Soviets did not and the Chinese withdrew their forces in March.  The headline on the cover of the March 5, 1979 issue of Time magazine was: COMMUNISTS AT WAR.

In sports the 1978 National Football League season was concluding as the post season was played out in early 1979.  The powerhouse Pittsburgh Steelers obliterated the Houston Oilers 34-5 in the American Football Conference Championship game on January 7 to win the right to play in Super Bowl 13.  Later that same day in Los Angeles a powerful Dallas Cowboys team squared off against a strong Los Angeles Rams team for the National Football Conference Championship.  The Rams had great teams during the 1970s but always failed to reach the Super Bowl. They would fail again this time as the Cowboys prevailed 28-0.  That set up what was anticipated to be a really Super Super Bowl!

The cover of the January 22, 1979 issue of Newsweek magazine hailed “A Really Super Bowl.”  The cover was shared by Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson.  During the two weeks between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, Henderson caused a stir as he taunted Steelers players in the media and insulted the talent and intelligence of Bradshaw.  Henderson had taunted the Rams and correctly predicted that the Cowboys would shut them out.  The Steelers did not reply to Henderson who predicted that the Cowboys would win the Super Bowl 31-0.

Super Bowl 13 truly lived up to the hype as it turned out to be one of the best ever. Hollywood Henderson was correct in that the Cowboys scored 31 points, however…

The teams battled it out in Super Bowl 13 scoring a combined nine touchdowns.  At one point the Steelers led 35-17.  The Cowboys battled back to make the score 35-31.  That’s how it ended as time ran out on the Cowboys.  The heartbreaker for them was that a veteran receiver, Jackie Smith, dropped a certain touchdown pass in the end zone earlier in the game.  Had Smith held onto the ball it could have made the score 35-35 at the end of regulation time.  

A week later the Pro Bowl, the NFLs all star game, was played in Los Angeles.  The crowd was eerily quiet the whole game something the telecasters attributed to the Rams again failing to reach the Super Bowl. 

In March President Carter scored a triumph as he played a critical role in getting bitter enemies Israel and Egypt to conclude a peace treaty between them, the Camp David Accords.

On March 28 a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania caused radioactive gases to be released into the environment in a heavily populated area.  The accident gave a strong boost to the movement opposed to nuclear power because of the dangers it entails. 

In the field of aviation the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft was not having a good year in 1979.  On May 25 a DC-10 taking off from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport had an engine detach from its wing upon take-off resulting in the aircraft crashing.  It was the worst aviation accident in U.S. history with 273 fatalities.  Two other DC-10 crashes later in the year were not due to anything wrong with the aircraft itself but a famous image of the Chicago DC-10 missing its engine just before the crash was particularly damaging.

In May 1979 the world of hockey fans yawned as the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup for the fourth year in a row.  A second major hockey league, the World Hockey Association played out its last playoffs as the league was soon to cease operations.  The last WHA champion was the Winnipeg Jets. Four WHA teams, including the Hartford Whalers, would join the NHL.  

June 1979 saw a re-match of the previous year’s National Basketball championship finals with the Seattle Supersonics prevailing over the Washington Bullets, the opposite result of the year before.  

In the spring of 1979 Americans began to feel the repercussions of the Iranian Revolution earlier that year.  Oil production from Iran was greatly reduced and a major oil crisis resulted.  Panic buying then led to fuel shortages. Long lines formed and long waits occurred at gas stations and many states imposed odd-even gas rationing.  This meant that whatever number or letter your license plate ended with determined what days in the month you could buy gas. In the late spring of 1979 outraged Americans saw the price of a gallon of gasoline go over a dollar for the first time.

In the spring and early summer of 1979 TV news broadcasts frequently covered civil war in the Central American nation of Nicaragua.  Fierce battles raged in the streets of the cities and towns of Nicaragua as rebels called Sandinistas, named after a martyred hero, fired from behind barricades at troops of the government’s army, the National Guard.  The heavily armed National Guard was eventually defeated as town after town was taken over by the rebels who were widely supported by the general population. The government of the American supported dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, had long fallen into corrupt ways which in turn fueled the rebellion.  The final battle for the capital city of Managua led to Somoza leaving the country on July 17 and the collapse of the National Guard two days later. The new Sandinista government seemed moderate at first but it eventually became allied with Communist countries namely Cuba and the Soviet Union.  

1979 was a great year for music. Undoubtedly the anthem of 1979 was “My Sharona” by The Knack, an American band from Los Angeles.  Released in June 1979, “My Sharona” reached number one on the Billboard hot 100 singles chart and remained on top for six weeks.  “My Sharona” was also placed number one on Billboard’s Top Pop Singles year-end chart for 1979.

In 1979 Americans often said “No!” when they heard British Rock Star Rod Stewart sing the line “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” from his song titled the same.  The song, released in late 1978, was everywhere in 1979.  

In March 1979 the British Rock band Supertramp released their highly successful album Breakfast in America.  Three big hits from it, “The Logical Song,” “Goodbye Stranger,” and “Take the Long Way Home,” became very popular.

Electric Light Orchestra released an album containing the song, “Don’t Bring Me Down,” a big hit that has stood the test of time.  The Australian rock group The Little River Band released their song “Lady” In September 1978 and it was a big hit in 1979. The American group The Charlie Daniels Band had its big hit “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” in 1979.  The American rock band Styx released their number one hit “Babe” in September 1979.  English singer Robert Palmer sang “A Bad Case of Loving You” making the song written by an American songwriter a big hit in 1979.  The band Kiss had its hit “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” in 1979.  The band Foreigner released its hit song “Head Games” in late 1979.  There were, of course, many other hit songs in 1979.

In the early summer of 1979 there was a sense of suspense.  America’s first space station, Skylab, which was launched in 1973 and used by astronauts up until February 1974, couldn’t maintain its orbit around the earth. It was going to come crashing down to earth.  But where?  On July 11th Skylab disintegrated over the Indian Ocean showering debris there and onto part of Australia. 

The unmanned American space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 made close approaches to the planet Jupiter in March 1979 and July 1979 respectively.  The probes transmitted high resolution photographs of the planet and some of its moons.  Voyager 1 discovered that Jupiter has a ring around it and observed active volcanoes on Io, a moon of Jupiter.  In September another U.S. space probe, Pioneer 11, was the first probe to fly by and transmit close-up photos of Saturn, its rings and its moon Titan. The probe detected that the average temperature on Titan was minus 315 degrees Fahrenheit.  

In the late summer of 1979 a political firestorm erupted when the U.S. intelligence community revealed that there was a Soviet combat brigade stationed in Cuba.  The brigade was believed to consist of about 2,600 Soviet troops and had been in Cuba for many years.  It was the timing of the release of the information that caused the uproar.  The United States and the Soviet Union were in a period of time in the 1970s, called detente, during which tensions and threats of previous decades were easing up.  The two superpowers were at the time negotiating limiting the number of nuclear weapons between them. President Carter and a number of U.S. politicians deemed the presence of Soviet combat troops in Cuba as unacceptable.  U.S Secretary of State, Cyrus Vance, met with Soviet envoys to try to persuade them that the brigade must be removed.  The Soviets had no intention of removing the brigade and assured the Americans that its presence in Cuba was only for training purposes. Unable to force the Soviets to withdraw the troops from Cuba, President Carter, in his speech to the nation on October 1 declared that the combat brigade in Cuba posed no direct threat to the United States.  The furor calmed down and the crisis was all but forgotten.  The September 17, 1979 cover of Time magazine had in large letters: STORM OVER CUBA.  The Cuban crisis of 1979 did not involve nuclear weapons as did the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.  Unlike in 1962, it was the U.S. side that backed down from a potential confrontation with the Soviets.  Although the crisis turned out to not be as big a deal as originally thought, it did derail nuclear weapons limitation negotiations and was the beginning of the end of the period of detente.

In a little known incident, on September 22, 1979 an American Vela satellite detected a double flash, consistent with a nuclear weapon test, in the South Atlantic Ocean roughly half way between South Africa and Antarctica. Originally called the South Atlantic Flash, the cause of the double flash was never officially determined.  Although no nation ever claimed responsibility for a nuclear weapon test in the ocean (banned by international treaty) at that time, the Vela Incident is believed to have been a joint nuclear weapon test between Israel and South Africa.

On a local note the residents of Windsor and Windsor Locks, Connecticut that were alive and old enough to be aware will never forget October 3, 1979.  That was the day an unexpected tornado started in the Poquonock section of Windsor and made its way northward roughly following Route 75.  The tornado measuring F4 passed through Windsor Locks and Suffield before ending in Agawam, Massachusetts.  The twister left 3 people dead and many homes and businesses destroyed or damaged.  Many aircraft on display at the Bradley Air Museum near Bradley Airport were damaged or wrecked.  

The Major League Baseball season was different in 1979.  The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox dominated the American League East the previous few years but 1979 saw the Yankees and Red Sox down in the standings and the Baltimore Orioles on top almost from the start.  In October the Orioles met the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Series.  In a series played in much cold weather, Baltimore won three of the first four games.  However, the Pirates won the next three games and the World Series Championship. The Pirates adopted the 1979 Sister Sledge hit song “We Are Family” as their theme song.

Also in October the government of the Central American nation of El Salvador was overthrown leading to a civil war that would become a major issue for the United States in the 1980s.   

Iran was back in the news on November 4 as Iranians loyal to the Ayatollah Khomeini seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran and held 66 Americans as hostages.  The reasons for the seizure was that the deposed Shah of Iran was in the U.S. for medical treatment and the Iranians feared an American attempt at restoring the Shah to the throne in Iran.  They also demanded that the U.S. hand the Shah over to them so they could put him on trial for brutality carried out by his secret police against Iranians during his reign. The crisis escalated as newscasts showed thousands in the streets of Teheran burning American flags and engaging in anti-American demonstrations.  The images broadcast around the world of blindfolded American captives in the hands of fanatical Iranians was a national humiliation. The Iranians released some Americans but 53 remained captive as the year ended. 

With the humiliation of the hostage situation, Americans needed a lift. They got it, sort of, in the form of a song.  Some genius composed a humorous song about the hostage situation sung to the tune of “My Sharona.”  The word “Ayatollah” was used in place of “My Sharona” and there were some made up words that rhymed with “Ayatollah.”  I remember many people getting a big kick out of that song. 

If the hostage situation in Iran wasn’t bad enough, on November 21 the U.S. embassy in Pakistan was stormed and burned down by Islamic fanatics who were inspired by the Ayatollah Khomeini. A couple of Americans were killed and some were taken hostage. They were subsequently rescued by Pakistani troops. It was a very somber holiday season in the U.S. with the Pakistan incident and seemingly no resolution to the Iran hostage situation in sight.

As 1979 was winding down into its final days. the southwest Asian country of Afghanistan was suddenly front page news.  Afghanistan had been taken over by a Communist government in April 1978 with Communist General Secretary Nur Muhammad Taraki installed as its leader.  This began a chain of events that would plunge Afghanistan into seemingly endless turmoil that continues to this day.  A rebellion by Moslem Afghan tribes began fighting to overthrow the Communist government.  In September 1979 Taraki was assassinated and Afghan prime minister Hafizullah Amin took over leadership of the country.  Dissatisfied with Amin’s rule and unsure if the Communist government could hold out against the rebellion, the Soviets had Amin assassinated and sent about 85,000 troops into Afghanistan in the final week of December. 

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the end of 1979 was seen as a threat to world peace and seriously soured relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.  It began a new period of potentially dangerous tensions between the two superpowers.  

The Chinese zodiac had 1979 as the Year of the Ram.  In the 1979 NFL season the Los Angeles Rams, the franchise that had many good teams over the years but never made the Super Bowl, was not expected to accomplish much.  Their owner died in an accident over the summer and the front office had a shake-up.  The team lost its starting quarterback to injury.  The Rams had only a so-so regular season of 9 wins and 7 losses.  But it was enough to get into the playoffs.  

On December 30, 1979 the Rams got a measure of revenge against the Dallas Cowboys for their humiliating playoff defeat early in the year.  They beat the Cowboys in Texas 21-19 in a playoff game.  With that victory, the Rams were on their way to their first Super Bowl.  

How Far Have We Traveled?

By Loretta Wrobel

As I perused the paper, a headline grabbed my attention. It was a news flash from the US Open on August 28th in New York.  The opening ceremony was honoring Billie Jean King, as nearly fifty years ago, she defeated Bobby Riggs by outsmarting and outplaying the loud-mouthed Riggs who screamed that no woman was clever enough and sharp enough to beat him. Fifty years later, people still talk abut that match that was witnessed by over fifty million in the US and millions more worldwide. 

What those crowds witnessed was a shift in perspective. It became the birthplace of a societal shift that drew women not only to the tennis courts but also to the legal courts, board rooms and medical schools. Women began to see possibilities of all manner of success in fields not seen as realities for women. This life-transforming event happened in 1973. 

It was during the era when women were beginning to crack the long-time glass ceilings in all fields, as they gained strength and inspiration from not only the women’s movement, but all the mass movements of the 60’s and 70’s–civil rights, LGBTQ+ and antiwar demonstrations/protests. It was a grand time for women to dream their wildest fantasies and reach their highest goals.  

I remember those open, free, and phenomenal years, when all possibilities were on the table. When in college at UConn, the sports arena was mainly for the male species with females confined to the stands to oooh and ahhh over the feats of their favorite male players. Part of the thinking during that era was that women had a hard time running the whole length of a basketball court due to their weaknesses. No one cared to bother with the reality of most female existence. Everything they achieved and accomplished was in addition to carrying and birthing a child, nurturing that child (children), maintaining a house, plus whatever they accomplished outside the home. 

Along came Billie Jean with her star skill set and her brilliant strategies. She won the match, plus the admiration of millions of women who could now pursue their dreams. If Ms. King could do it, why couldn’t they?

This amazing tennis star already had been instrumental in forming the Women’s Tennis Association earlier in 1973. King recounts that throughout her life women have approached her, thanking her for the inspiration she provided. Just ponder that one special match proved life transforming for so many.  It opened doors. Although those doors are still today not totally ajar, much progress has been made.

In Connecticut we have seen the success and popularity of the UConn Women’s basketball team that has so many devoted followers, not just females. Young women have role models to emulate. They have opportunities to learn how to become better players when they are young. We have a successful WNBA team, The Connecticut Sun, that made the playoffs again this year. We celebrate this achievement. In my college years I never would have thought this could happen, even if 50 years had elapsed!

Billie Jean King will turn 80 in November, so she is just a bit ahead of me. She continues to be active, and is supporting the new Women’s Professional Hockey League. Barack Obama told Ms. King that he saw the famous match and it influenced how he raised his daughters. What an endorsement for being in the right place at the right moment in history.

Who would have even imagined that this Battle of the Sexes still holds interest and is remembered after half a century! Truly this was a watershed moment. This one sports/political happening had a profound influence on not only women, but everyone who witnessed this out maneuvering of a boasting man  

by a crafty, talented, and courageous woman.  

I am in awe of the lasting significance of this well publicized contest that led to such a dramatic shift of the mindset of people in recalibrating the societal expectations of what a woman can do and how competent she is. Billie Jean demonstrated that physical agility and smarts is not confined to the male sex. It reinforced the notion that women are equal to males in their abilities to accomplish what they dream. It validated the tenets that the second wave of feminism was shouting about, during those radically changing times.

I feel proud to clearly remember what a victory for all women Ms. King scored that fateful day in 1973. I am also aware that we are still working on achieving equality in so many ways, not just in the sports area. We have a long way ahead but we are moving in the right direction and must not lose our focus. Historical change crawls slowly forward and old patterns struggle to stay alive, even when they have surpassed their usefulness.

For example, in 2023, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day does not occur until        July 27th. That means that Black Women must work all those months extra in order to earn the same salary that white males earn.  I see this as a very shocking reality that must be rectified in our country.

The next issue that Ms. King is addressing is aging. As a nearly 80-year-old woman, she is expected to slow down and be quiet and not raise any sand. Forget that one, this is not your average person who accepts what her fate is. She says, “We are not done yet. I’m not done yet.” I love that response from this trailblazer, who knows that it is never too late to carve new paths. She continues to work for equality and to acknowledge loudly and clearly that her work is not done. She is busier than ever and knows there is still much to do and she is on board to do it.  What a classy woman with such ferocity and ability to stay on target. Good follow-through on any court.