Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fourth Family

A glorious day in the Commonwealth of Chelmsford, and if it's the Fourth of July, you know what that means?  Time for the extended circle of family and friends to join with about 10,000 other runners for a two-mile jaunt through town that has begun to rival even the vaunted Boston Marathon in its glory and spectacle.
Speaking of spectacles, there was this
Yes, the motif of the parade, while always red, white and blue, this year was definitely paying homage to the First Avenger himself, Captain America.
As you can see, the team represented #TeamCap well.
#TeamIronMan was elsewhere, stealing the spotlight from Spider-Man
The Nicholson Brothers, Before
Packed crowd for the start on Parkhurst Road
Mamma would be pleased as punch to see her six grandchildren lined up and ready to run together
And they're off!
Johnny and Heather took an early lead.
Heather, in a flashback to this year's Boston Marathon, could only cast a glimpse over her shoulder at her old man trailing behind
Andrew makes a point of always knowing where the camera is
Ben wanted to make sure everyone knew who the hard-core runner in the family was.  We didn't have the heart to tell Zachary the race was only beginning, he wasn't crossing the finish line for another two miles.
Hanging with one of the biggest Captain America fans I ever met, John Greenwood.  I thought I was sweating until I saw the gear he had to wear for the parade to follow. 
So yeah, a T-Rex, Captain America, and Chewbacca were out there cheering us on
As always, Ann Piekos and Ann Marie Borges were at their Official Carson Road Race Photography Pitstop at Mile One, snapping away.
Seriously, I've been doing this race for at least 25 years, and you can always count on their mid-course pics.  That is, of course, if they get the obligatory Universal Call Sign to let them know you're coming.  (And if you have to ask, you don't know us at all.  I'll give you a hint - he's in their first pic)
Zachary keeps his head held high, heading in to the finish 
And finally, the After shot of the Nicholson brothers.
Heather couldn't be in the pic, she was too busy hunting freeze-pops. 
Great job to all the runners.  The event has really become a staple of quality family and friend time.  No one cares about their finish times, no one cares about their pace, no one cares about how garish their socks are, it's just a fabulous opportunity for everyone to get together to not just celebrate our nation's birthday, but to celebrate the bonds that keep our families and friendships strong all year long.
And with that, it's off to chow down at the day's many cookouts.
Happy Fourth, all!

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Real Tallent Show

As of this writing, I've seen Bruce Springsteen in concert 63 times since 1980 and I expect (and hope) there'll still be a bevy of Boss shows still to come.

For approximately 55 of those gigs, standing to Bruce's left, usually receded into the background near Professor Roy Bittan's pianos, has stood one of the most reliable bass players the music industry has ever witnessed (with apologies to bassist extraordinaire John Entwistle).
Mr. Garry W. Tallent isn't know as the most flamboyant or scene-stealing member of Springsteen's E Street band, but he has always been a steadfast, reliable, and concrete pillar of quality bass in your face, thunder from down under musician whose role in the E Street Band goes back to Bruce's earliest music days more than four decades ago.  In fact, Garry has been with Bruce longer than any other member of his heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, love-making, earth-quaking, Viagra-taking, justifying, death-defying, legendary E Street Band.
So recently, when we heard that this original E Streeter was bringing a solo tour to Somerville to the Rockwell. a small group of E Streeters - myself, Andrew, my brother Jimmy, and uber fan Ken Gordon - decided to check out the show to see what the Tennessee Terror would be like as the frontman flying solo, in town to promote his first album Break Time.
Tallent was born in Detroit, and grew up on the Jersey Shore (first playing the tuba, a skill that would make its triumphant return in Wild Billy's Circus Story), but Garry Tallent is closely identified with his southern style of rockabilly music.  He first started playing with Bruce 46 years ago, in 1971.
He's done with work with Marshall Crenshaw, and is close friends with Southside Johnny, whose influence - and songs - were obvious in Tallent's Somerville performance.
As the blog's headline previews, it was the proverbial Tallent show.  Garry has a great voice to carry the tunes, and easily stepped into the role of bandleader with his capable backup band flanking him on stage.  He was high energy, engaged, and clearly, having an absolute blast playing music.
A side note - the Rockwell was an amazing venue to catch this kind of performance.  Tallent has played in front of 70,000+ with the rest of the E Street Band, but his energy and connection to the audience in a crowd of just more than 100 was electric, palpable, and an unforgettable intimate connection to the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Afterwards, we were all able to meet Garry, where he posed for pictures, signed autographs, and chatted music history with anyone who wanted to spend the time with him.
Garry, if you're reading this blog (with its reach deep into E Street nation), thank you from a longtime fan, and now, a lifelong believer in the sheer Tallent that has played such a remarkable and indelible role in this E Streeter's rock and roll run through history.

Friday, June 2, 2017

It Was 30 Years Ago Today....

My God, were we young.  And apparently wearing clothing that fit us when we were even younger.
There we were, my best friend Mike Cassidy and I, setting off to see the world - or at least the United States portion of it, in a deep red Renault Encore packed to the absolute gills with everything two 22-year-old mavericks could fit into it.
It was June 1, 1987 - 30 years ago - and less than 24 hours after graduating from the then-University of Lowell, Mike and I were on our way.  (I distinctly remember within the first hour of the trip, driving Route 3 southbound in Billerica, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came on WBCN - it had literally been 20 years earlier that day the album was released.)

By the end of the trip criss-crossing the U.S. of A., we logged 10,000 miles on the Renault, broke its sway bar somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, followed our beloved Boston Celtics from Elvis' homestead to the heart of Laker Nation - a near-death experience - as the Boston Green sought another NBA championship, and strengthened a Blood Brothers bond born years earlier over comic books and baseball at St. Margaret's School.  I kept a journal of most of the trip in a reporter's notebook.  Pre-blogging journal.

Mind you, 1987, for many of the readers of this blog who WEREN'T EVEN BORN YET - (heavy sigh) was in the days before these wacky inventions called cell phones or the internet or anything resembling social media.

This meant an occasional phone call back home to home base to let my mother know that no, Mike and I hadn't been arrested and committed to a chain gang somewhere in the deep south (a true fear of hers), and that yes, not only were we still alive, we were breathing deep the aroma of this great country of ours.  I remember on one Sunday morning, calling home to tell my mother I was in the Painted Desert in Arizona, at a pay phone in a rest stop at the foot of a gorgeous butte.  (He said gorgeous butte.)  I think it took me 10 minutes to help her understand just where and what that actually meant.

In hindsight, the trip remains one of the single greatest decisions of my misbegotten youth.  I somehow managed to finagle four straight weeks of vacation from my working gig as a reporter for the Lowell Sun newspaper.  The trip would would run Monday June 1 through Sunday June 28.

Sadly, my greatest regret of the entire experience (not counting Des Moines, more on that later) was the plight of our photographic record of the trip.  In all, we lost three full rolls of film that documented the experience for us - one froze inside the 35 mm camera when we awoke to heavy snowfall while camping at Yellowstone National Park.  Another was lost by Osco, who did a deplorable job in developing our film.  And a third roll was in the camera, when on the night of my 23rd birthday in Des Moines Iowa while we danced up a storm at a nightclub, our car was broken into while it was parked RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE DES MOINES POLICE STATION!  They shattered a back window and stole one thing only - the camera and the tripod upon which it was still attached.

The remaining four days of the trip, which included a memorable stop in Chicago, we had the back window covered with a trashbag.  That's right - the car was untouched by crime in Chicago, with nothing but a black trashbag covering a window, yet in Des Moines, a city that was henceforth forever damned by Mike and I, we fell victim to the only crime on the 28 days.  Maybe they need chain gangs in Iowa, mom.

For the Kerouac fans among us - I'm looking at you Paul Marion - I used this opportunity to read his magnum opus, On The Road during the trip as one of my reads. Needless to say, the trip for Mike and I was pretty much NOTHING WHATSOEVER like the Beat Generation's guiding light experienced.  (Other than the eerie coincidence that my wingman's name was Cassidy, albeit spelled differently than the Neal of Kerouac lore.)
Mike and I took the southern route, driving ad nauseam the first day to get as far south as we could reach.  We made it to the Great Smoky Mountains.  From there were rolled on over to Graceland, and unlike Bruce Springsteen and Little Steven, didn't climb the gates, we went the conventional route and took a tour.

We headed down to Texas where we visited with Scott's college roommate Chuck Berry, and then made a holy pilgrimage to Amarillo Texas, where in the middle of a field we came upon the legendary Cadillac Ranch. 
Little did we know all of the cars were tagged with endless graffiti.  We MAY have added an E Streeters touch to one of the carcasses.  (Statute of limitations has expired over 30 years, yes?)

The trip continued on, through the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and finally to California, where we spent the better part of almost two weeks, from San Diego, with a disgusting detour to Tijuana, up through Los Angeles and then San Francisco. (Nice Spider-Man shirt, bro!)
A Celtics sidebar - we watched their progress across the country - witnessing Magic Johnson's still infuriating game-winning hookshot on a massive screen at Caesar's Palace.  The night that follows still remains one of the sickest nights I recall of my life.  Let's chalk it up to dehydration and leave it at that.  Bought my at-the-time most expensive sunglasses of my life in Vegas, only to have them melt on the dashboard of the Renault.

Back to the Irish - game 6, Mike and I scored tix to actually watch the game at the L.A. Forum.  We were both adorned proudly in our Celtics garb.  And let's just say Mike was that obnoxious Boston sports fan for the entire first half when the C's were winning.  Sadly, they choked it up in the second half and ended up losing both the game and the series.  Everyone we pissed off with our Boston zeal then turned the tables.  We literally had to run for our lives.  I still recall Mike hanging out the window of my car taunting the L.A. celebrants.  In hindsight, a near-death experience.

We had dozens of hand-made sandwiches stocked with sandwich meats in our portable cooler, which MAY have had a few beverages in there as well.  Most of our trip, we stayed at KOA campgrounds, though every few days, we'd snag a hotel just to freshen things up.  Only twice did we sleep in the car itself, with seats, mind you, that didn't even recline.
Coming back via the northern half of the U.S., we hit Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and a few other assorted national landmarks - not to mention a pass through Canada - before calling it a day, rolling back into Lowell on a Sunday afternoon.  (Had to work the following morning.  What the hell was I thinking?)
I didn't actually begin running until three years later.  I wish I had been running at this time, as it would have provided for some historic runs for us.
You may have noticed, there's quite a few details omitted from the trip's details.  Let's just leave that up to your imagination.  As we're both now proud parents, there are some stories better left untold, or at least better left not reduced to a written document.

By trip's end, we two E Streeters had hit three countries and 26 of the 50 United States.

It remains one of the single greatest trips of my entire life.  Mike and I have been friends since 1973 - 44 years now - and this road trip remains a pinnacle in that relationship.
The porn-staches, short shorts, form-fitting sweats, and knee-high basketball socks and other questionable fashion choices have fallen to the passing of time.
Thankfully, our friendship has not.
Mike, here's to you:

I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives
- Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Monday, May 29, 2017

Help Me Find the Hockmeyer Veterans

Dedicating this Memorial Day blog, as I have done in some years past, to my uncle Gerald F. Cook, who died in World War II at the age of 19 in Germany on September 17, 1944.  Think of that.  Both of my children have already outlived my uncle, who died in battle, defending his country.
Gerald survived the D Day invasion of Normandy, only to perish months later, while serving as a radio man in the Army infantry.

In recent months, I've been able to unearth a number of original Lowell Sun newspaper articles that reported on his death and the services at St. Peter's parish that were held upon his return here to Lowell.  Fascinating stuff to read.

Longtime readers of this blog may also remember the story about the Hockmeyer Veterans.  I'm using today as another opportunity to try to track down some of the families of these veterans, in hopes I can provide them with a piece of history of their loved one's life.

The Hockmeyer corduroy mill, which closed more than half a century ago, used to be in the Waterhead Mills on Lawrence Street, current home to Ramalho's West End Gym alongside the Concord River.
I learned about Hockmeyer after a Lowell PD worker found a book covered in purple-blue corduroy, entitled Our Hockmeyer veterans.  And inside the book was a dedication to my uncle, Gerald, who apparently worked at the mill before being shipped overseas.  The book was also dedicated to two other Hockmeyer employees who died in WWII, John Calhoun Hunt and Edward Peter Michael.

The book details the biographies of all three soldiers, plus another 85 Lowell men who served in World War II and worked at Hockmeyer.  The book was printed by the Murray Printing Company of Cambridge.
Some other facts I learned about my uncle via this book: he worked in the "finishing" section of Hockmeyer.  He was in the Army Infantry, 26th Infantry Division, Company C, with a rank of corporal.  He enlisted on May 20, 1943, and was killed in action sixteen months later, on September 17, 1944.  He was awarded ribbons for European Theater of Operations, Good Conduct.  He received a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.  He trained at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

According to his bio in the book:  "Gerald trained at Fort McClellan for five months, then was shipped overseas and landed in England in November, 1943.  There he underwent further training.  He took active part in D Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.  He was in active combat against the enemy in the push across France and into Germany.  On September 17, 1944, Gerald was killed in action in Germany.  Gerald was the captain's radio man."

The book contains a preface written by Victor F. Hockmeyer, company president, Clive E. Hockmeyer, vice-president, and Lincoln Clark, treasurer.  In the preface, the executives wrote "it is with mingled pride and sorrow that we present this memorial - pride in the record of achievement in a just cause by those of our organization who served in our armed forces and those who supplied the needs of those forces; sorrow that we must report the supreme sacrifice made in this service by three of our former employees who failed to return from the conflict."

The preface continues: "Our organization was privileged to take an active part in this great effort and we are proud of our performance.  Many of our employees entered the armed services and we believe it is fitting that the record of the Hockmeyer veterans should be published so that their roles in contributing to the ultimate victory will not soon be forgotten.  May we strive for a just and lasting peace that their sacrifice shall not have been made in vain."

In the introduction, the authors state "There is no need for the Hockmeyer organization to boast of our participation in the war effort.  The facts speak for themselves.  All our planning, all our work, all our machines were directed toward production for victory."

"Millions of service men have enjoyed the clothing comfort given by the use of our products," the executives continue.  "Those who wore the jackets issued to forces in the Southern Pacific were using some of the jungle cloth that we produced in quantity exceeding over two hundred thousand yards.  Navy men who warmed their hands by plunging them into corduroy-lined pockets were enjoying part of our special product of which our plant turned out more than one million yards for the Navy.  Those unfortunate enough to be hospitalized luxuriated in maroon bathrobes for which we turned out over one-half million yards of corduroy for the Medical Corps."

In all, the book offers profiles on 88 Lowell men who worked for the company and served in the military.  Most, but not all of them have pictures to accompany their bios.  Other bits of information included on their bio pages includes their job function at the mill, their branch of service, their ranks, assignments, and award, and for many a quote from them as well as some anectodal information about their tour of duty.

So here's where I need some help.  I'm trying to locate some of the other veterans listed in the book.

Other names listed among the veterans include: Joseph A. Boisvert, Kenneth Buchanan, Arthur Burke, Henry J. Canas, Lawrence K. Carney, Antonio J. Ciaravolo, Warren J. Coleman, Frederick Courtemarche, Roland F. Cutter, Stephen DeMallie, Joseph E. Evicci, William P. Feehan, John C. Ferreira, Lionel G. Gaulin, Roland G. Gelineau, Gerard Gignac, Roger G. Girard, Francis J. Glynn, Thaddeus Gorski, Gilbert Grugan, George Hansen, James Healy, Langdon Hockmeyer, Vincent Hockmeyer, Robert Houde, George Hubert, William F. Ireson, Bronislaw Jaracz, Joseph W. Jezak, Herman Johnson, Stathis Kareores, William Kasilowski, Arthur J. Lachance, John Lake, Victor F. Lebeau, Leo Lemire, Carl J. Lowe, Harry G. Lowe, Philip Maguire Jr., Arman H. Marcouillier, Herache F. Markarian, Earl Marshall, Maurice Masson, Henry McGrath, William J. McNeill, David Muldoon, Francis Muldoon, Frank P. O'Brien Jr., Joseph O'Donnell, Julian J. Olejarz, William Oliveria, Raymond Ouellette, Edward Paglieroni, George Paleologos, Peter Panagiotareas, Alfred Pearson, Joseph Pearson Jr., Theodore J. Fereira, William Pestana, Gerald Proulx, Mortimer Pulsifer, Daniel E. Rallis, Paul N. Robarge, Everett W. Rolfe, Michael Rutina, John P. Ryan, Joseph Sasnauskas, Charles Shacka, Joseph A. Soulard, Alexander J. Stanulonis, Leopold E. Stec, C. Roger Stott, Raymond Stowell, Fred Swiderski, Walter S. Urbowicz, Joseph Versiackas, Walter Viera, George C. Walter, Joseph Whitworth, Paul E. Wilmot, Henry S. Wojkowski, G. Kenneth Wright, George Xiggores, Joseph Yates, and Paul Zannoni.

Anyone who thinks they might be related to or know somebody on that list can contact me, either through the comment section on this blog, or via email at patrickecook@yahoo.com

My uncle Gerald. who was my father Jimmy's hero,  had been raised on Auburn Street in the Flats neighborhood.  Before he left to serve his country, he married Theresa Yates, with whom he is buried. He also left behind four siblings, all of whom have also since passed away.   A Lowell Sun newspaper account of Gerald's death at the time described him as "a well and favorably known young Lowell man."  More than twenty years ago, the square at the intersection of D and School Streets was dedicated to my uncle.

This Memorial Day, for Gerald F. Cook, as well as all of the other veterans profiled in this book, a grateful country - and in this particular case, a grateful nephew - thanks you.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Spring in Their Steps for Sue

This weekend saw the third annual charity walk for Susan (Scanlon) Bradley, who passed away far too early from a brain tumor.
Her family has been staging a charity walk in her honor every year to help raise money for a scholarship and keep her legacy alive.
On Sunday, more than 200 people turned out to walk in what was arguably the nicest weather the event has seen in its three years.
Mucho mileage was logged around the track at Notre Dame Academy in Tyngsboro by the hearty and healthy walkers.
Sue's brother, Barry, opened things up with a thank you to all who contributed to the scholarship fund
And then Sue's husband Tim led his children out for the first lap of many around the track!
Sue passed away from a Glioblastoma, a type of malignant brain tumor.  The third annual walk was organized as a way to remember and honor all the wonderful things she did for so many, while also allowing her family to give back to the community.
Susan was a big advocate of education her entire life.  She worked in the school systems for 25 years and was also very involved in the schools her children attended.  The funds raised at the walk will be applied toward the Susan Bradley Scholarship set up at the Academy of Notre Dame so that even in her absence, she will continue to give back to others.
Over the span of the three years of the walk, her family has raised more than $25,000!!!
Here, Barry and Scott recreate their performance on the power lines stretch of the Merrimack River trail race
The ladies in Barry's life
One incredible aspect of the walk is that every year, it draws in people who also attended St. Joseph's Regional High School (Sue's alma mater) back in the day.
Always great to reunite with friends from nearly FOUR DECADES AGO!
This year saw a record number of dogs taking part in the walk.  Though truth be told, from what I saw, most of them ended up being carried, or just calling it a day and laying down on the field.
Selfies abounded this day.  This one, along with several other pics on this post, comes courtesy of Marcia Cassidy
The Brothers Scanlon, counting down the minutes to the prize raffle, always an exciting event!  Especially for Sean and Jill's children
My Number One Walking Buddy.  Any day, every day.
Best buds coming up on 45 YEARS!
Looks like the walk itself may be winding down.  John, of course, always knows where the camera is.  Andrew must be slipping.
Yeah, I think it's time to declare this puppy over.
A group pic of E Streeter Nation (absent a couple of participants who were busy taking care of clean-up details at the event)
As regular readers of the blog know, we're always honored to support charity causes, whether it be through road races, or special events.
But when it directly impacts one of our own as in this case, it always serves to remind us just how lucky we are to all still have one another and be able to get together like this to honor a loved one's life, and to celebrate the fact that we're all still together.
Friends and family.  Don't take either of them for granted.