Wish Not Granted Was A Blessing

Once upon a time, the most wonderful thing happened to me. Though I didn’t know it at the time, losing a primary in a Democratic congressional race proved to be a blessing.

It was back in 1964 when I had an idea for an international cargo airport to stimulate the economy of Eastern Connecticut. U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd’s father, former U.S. Sen. Thomas Dodd, heard of the idea and liked it. He invited me to his home in North Stonington and said if we, in the Northeast, could locate that airport between Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut for international cargo, it would be the biggest generator of jobs in New England.

Then he said, “I don’t know anything about airports, Bill,” and he invited me to Washington the next week where I met with all the transportation heads. Perhaps the greatest of them was Alan Boyd, who was the first secretary of transportation under President Lyndon Johnson.

We met him in his office at the Department of Transportation. He listened to the idea and said, “If we had never built an airport and were just now going to build our first airport, we would build it the way you are presenting this one.”

The airport was going to be environmentally sound with a sound buffer of two miles of forest land, which could be used for camping by the Boy Scouts or tree farms, but it would separate the airport from the people and the unpleasant sounds of jets overhead.

Boyd said, I don’t think, in this day and age you can build a new airport because of the NIMBYS.” (That is, the group that fights anything that might be in their back yards.)

Then we visited David Thomas, who was chairman of the Federal Aviation Administration. He thought it was a beautiful airport, desperately needed to relieve JFK in New York and Logan in Boston, and said it would be the finest airport in the world because it would be environmentally sound.

The final man to come aboard was a fellow named Jim Rouse. He worked for Connecticut General and was considered one of America’s finest planners. He is the man who invented the shopping mall. He became part of the international airport planning — a city for air cargo and international trade.

But Washington said the airport idea had to start in Hartford. The United States government could build it, but Connecticut would have to ask for it. Sen. Tom Dodd said, “Bill, you have got to get a state senator to support your airport.”

I tried but failed, and Dodd said, “Then you better run for the Senate yourself and be your own man.”

Fight the Machine

In those days, the state was run by one of the greatest political bosses in American history. His name was John Bailey, and the last thing he wanted in Hartford was a Democrat named Bill Stanley. He liked to control politicians, and I might prove a loose cannon. When I announced my candidacy to the state Senate, he brought the whole state Democratic Party down on me. Bailey sent his lieutenants in from Hartford who knew how to primary.

On my team was a Democratic chairman in Norwich, Philip Shannon, who I always thought was as smart as Bailey. Against all odds, we beat the machine. The people wanted a new kind of politics, and we won with 70 percent of the primary vote.

I spent two terms in the Connecticut Senate. I was chairman of the first Clean Water Act in America. Later, every state embraced it. I brought money to Norwich for sewer lines, and a half million dollars to cover a Norwich lawsuit. We cleaned up the rivers, but I always was pushing for the big airport.

It was then, as I was preparing for my third-term election, that Congressman William St. Onge had a heart attack and died unexpectedly. Vin Sullivan, state central committeeman from Windham County, Phil Shannon, Norwich town chairman, Doc Satti and Harvey Mallove, who ran the New London political machine, all wanted me to run for Congress against another Democrat, Jack Pickett from Middletown.

In truth, I didn’t want to go to Washington. But those political forces who had been so helpful in my senatorial fights insisted I run, so I couldn’t say no.

I remember meeting with Pickett, my opponent from Middletown, and telling him that I had been in three primaries, and he should take some advice. I told him, “Jack, I will not go into Middlesex County, because if I work with your enemies, your friends will kill me in the general election.” I told Jack he would be wise not to cultivate my enemies. I said, “Jack, if you win the primary, with all of my political enemies on your side, they will leave once I am defeated, and my people will take a walk. On Election Day, you will lose all of Eastern Connecticut.”

Pickett ignored my advice, and he cultivated all of my no-airport enemies. The Democratic Convention was held at Ocean Beach. I believe there were 450 delegates. I lost the convention by three votes.

This morning’s picture is perhaps the saddest photo in the Stanley family album. On the left is Democratic town chairman of Willimantic, Al Vertefuille. He’s telling me that I just lost the convention by three votes. In the center is a very sad and depressed young man, my son, Billy, who was brokenhearted.

If only I could have carried New London’s eight delegates, I would have won by five votes. But New London had made a deal with Middletown. Peg Curtain, from New London, was running for secretary of the state, and Ted Waston promised Middletown if they would vote for Curtain, New London would vote for Pickett. So I lost New London and the convention.

I cannot remember feeling more depressed in all my life. We had a primary, and I lost by one-half of one percent. Pickett ran for Congress, and I believe he lost every town in Eastern Connecticut except Putnam — the home of former Congressman St. Onge.

That night, after the convention, I was so depressed, but looking back, it was the most wonderful thing that ever could have happened to me. I served four years as senator for the 19th District. I didn’t really want to go to Congress. I loved Hartford, not Washington. Within a few years, I had my business going strong again, and the Stanley family grew up together.

What You Wish For

This morning’s story is a departure from my usual stories I guess, but I thought the lesson I learned is sometimes, in life, not getting what you think you want is a blessing. While the airport was never built, and those who opposed me promised they had a better plan, 39 years have passed, and we are still waiting for that better plan they promised the people they had.

The second lesson I learned was how fiercely people will fight any project they don’t wholeheartedly support — none more vigorously than airports. But I am sure if that big,
international airport were located where Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island came together, the economy of Eastern Connecticut would be thriving with Federal Express, United Parcel Service and international cargo carriers.

We will never know, but let us each night thank the Lord that Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods came to be in Eastern Connecticut, for without them, we would have higher unemployment than Michigan. We were saved by the tribes and the casinos. I am so happy I lost by those three votes so long ago at a Democratic Convention at Ocean Beach.

It was a wonderful chapter in my life, but, on reflection, losing my bid for Congress was a blessing after all.

That’s No Pirate, It’s Katharine Hepburn

A beautiful, young Katharine Hepburn in an outtake from one of her earlier black and white movies.

A beautiful, young Katharine Hepburn in an outtake from one of her earlier black and white movies.

Once upon a time, Katharine Hepburn actually spoke to me. I will never forget it. It happened in the New London Railroad Station about 20 years ago. My daughter, Carol, was coming home from New York, and Peg and I picked her up at the station. As the train pulled out, a convertible automobile moved across the tracks headed for the pier. It was then that I spotted Hepburn sitting in the car.

Excited to see her, I said to my wife, daughter and two nephews, who were with us that day, “We have got to go and say hello to Katharine Hepburn.” My wife, as she always does, said, “Respect her privacy. Leave her alone.” But, it was, after all, Katharine Hepburn. How many times in a lifetime do you see an American icon  so close and in person?

The two nephews that were with us were from South Carolina, up for a visit. They were both five or six years old, and there is nothing cuter or more disarming than a small child with a Southern drawl.

New London’s harbor pier has two levels; the main upper level, and then a lower walkway where you can step from the pier to the boat.  As I walked along the lower level with those two kids, one on each hand, we came to a tall ship, and there was Katharine Hepburn sitting with a cool drink. There were four or five people and a barbecue grill. We stopped, and the great lady was no more than 10 feet away.

Pirate Ship

I said to the small children, loudly enough that she could hear me, “That is a pirate ship.” It looked like it might have been a pirate ship, with its tall masts, brass fittings and its wooden, ornate rail.
One of the little boys, with that Southern drawl, said, “Uncle Bill, are those people pirates?” I said, “Yes, everybody on that boat is a pirate.”

Then, to my surprise and delight, Katharine Hepburn, in that very distinctive voice of hers, said, “Are you calling me a pirate?”, which gave me the opportunity to address her through the boys. I said, “Boys, that is not a pirate, but one of the most beautiful ladies in the world.” Having done no damage, she smiled and nodded. So did I. It was an event that I will remember, because she is a great lady.

None Like Her

Some years ago, I worked as a photographer for the Norwich Summer Theater, and there was no shortage of great stars — the greatest perhaps, Charles Laughton, but also John Garfield, Buster Keaton, Burl Ives and Eddie Albert. I was, at that time, used to working with stars, but Katharine Hepburn, like few others, was more than a star. She is a piece of America. Her face, her talent, somehow symbolize more than other actresses.

Some 10 years ago, I was close to Katharine Hepburn once again. She was at Hartford Hospital, and so was I. She had an infection, and I had the most successful spinal surgery you can ever imagine at that incredible hospital. There we were again, but this time there was no way to talk to her. I noticed on the television news that all of the world was concerned for her health, and what a great tribute it was. So much concern for such a great actress. Not a queen, not a princess, not a duchess — just an exceptional woman whom everyone loves.

American Icons

Connecticut has many American icons. Katharine Hepburn lived in Old Saybrook. No too far away, another great talent, Art Carney, once lived in Westport. He was also known throughout the world. The two of them were bigger than life itself. We think of Art Carney as the clown on the Jackie Gleason show. Was it Shakespeare who wrote, “It takes no fool to play a clown”? Art Carney was a great actor and, in a very real sense, was one of the reasons Jackie Gleason looked so good.

Further down the coast lived Paul Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward. They, too, were giant. Though they may have made bad motion pictures, I can’t remember any. Now regrettably many of these great stars are gone.

Connecticut can boast of so many greats. We can be proud of our citizens, and we have had some outstanding home-grown giants. Why even the former president of the United States, George W. Bush, was born in Connecticut. I am old enough to remember and to have photographed his grandfather, Sen. Prescott Bush, who yielded his set to another great American, Tom Dodd, or was it Abe Ribicoff?

The Barnum & Bailey Circus was born in Connecticut. P.T. Barnum, who coined the expression, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and Mark Twain, the greatest of them all, lived here.

We can go on for ever and ever about the great people who have lived and do live in Connecticut. But, somehow, in that family of greats, I doubt that there are any who exceed in stature the majesty of a wonderful lady named Katharine Hepburn.

NFA Football Produced State’s Championship Team

After beating Bulkeley, NFA students rally in Norton Gym holding John Marshall (left) and Don Scott (right) high as they were the starts of the game. Photo from page 8 of Bill Stanley's 'Once a Upon a Time" Anniversary Issue

After beating Bulkeley, NFA students rally in Norton Gym holding John Marshall (left) and Don Scott (right) high as they were the starts of the game. Photo from page 8 of Bill Stanley's 'Once a Upon a Time" Anniversary Issue

Once upon a time, Norwich Free Academy would rent the Boy Scout camp in Preston about this time of year. It was back in the 1930s and early 1940s when I was a young boy and would spend much of  my summer vacation in Preston.

There was a man named Tom McDonough, who was director of New York City’s parks. Tom married my grandmother’s sister, Catherine, bought a piece of property high on a hill in Preston, and built a little retirement cabin. We used to refer to it as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

He was a very engaging man, and he lived less than a mile from Camp Quinebaug — the Boy Scout camp. The camp had tents and lean-tos, a dining hall, a wonderful pond and areas to play volleyball, baseball, and, of course, there were hiking trails. But the last two weeks of August, NFA’s football team took over the camp.
The football players, for two weeks, would train with Coach Jimmy Williams, who was a legend at NFA in my day, equal in respect to Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. There were others; Howie Dickenman, Arnold Redgrave, Lou Diamond and Bill Darrow, who worked with the team. John Thomas took over after Jimmy Williams. Later, there was Andy Popinchalk and much later, Larry Bouley.

The camp was at the bottom of a very steep hill. At the top of the hill were two dairy farms — one owned by the Butlers, the other owned by the Barneses. I don’t remember who owned the big field NFA used to practice on, but the players had to run up the steepest hill in Preston to get to that field on hot August days, with all of their equipment on. It was pure torture.

My uncle’s cabin overlooked the field. I was a young boy of 8 or 10 years and would go down and watch NFA football players work out. It is no wonder that we had great football teams, though I am sure the teams today are just as good — maybe better.

Unfortunately, I am not part of NFA now and am, regrettably, out of touch. But the football schedule, years ago, was so different. NFA played all the big cities — Bridgeport, Hartford and even Worcester.

Rough Game

Perhaps the most unforgettable game I ever saw was against Stamford at Stamford. My memory is a bit foggy on how many trains left for Stamford. It may have been two or three, but it was the roughest, toughest game I ever remember. It seemed to me half of Norwich was at Stamford that day. After the game, there was fistfighting in the streets.

When everybody got back to Norwich, there was a big football rally in Norton Gym, similar to the one pictured here. This picture, taken in Norton Gym in 1951, was after a victory against Bulkeley in New London. The stars of that game were John Marshall and Donny Scott. They are being held high by the crowd. There are so many familiar faces in this picture, so many now gone: Charlie Witt, Beanie Bujanowski, Phil McNamara, Custer George, Dick Michonski and Ray McManus standing to the left of my brother Jim, whose face is blocked by his applauding hands.

Behind Jim is my first sweetheart, Patty Lavellee, and I though it was pretty serious. But then, after graduation, I joined the Marine Corps, and she joined the Army. I found my lifelong sweetheart, Peggy, and she found a future husband in San Antonio. We haven’t seen each other now in more than 60 years. As I remember her, she is still only 16 years old, but, in truth, I am 80 and she must be 75. Looking at this picture, many may find other faces. They are all familiar. I just can’t put names with them.

Train Travel

As Fran typed this story, she asked, “Did the people go by train, not bus, to Stamford?” Yes. In those days, Norwich’s railroad station was very active, and I do believe it was three railroad trains that carried people from Norwich to Stamford. That was the year, 1946, when Norwich was state champion.

As I grew up and graduated from Broadway School, I went to NFA and was a photographer for The Norwich Bulletin. I would travel to and from the games with the principal, George Shattuck, and Dr. Lewis Sears, in his car. They attended all football games. I was granted that privilege so I could get my pictures to The Norwich Bulletin and give the sports editor, Bill Cruickshank, plenty of time to organize NFA’s story with pictures.

Best at NFA

There are so many memories that I have of NFA football of the past. In my time, the big stars were John Morosky and Joe Iacoi. Joe Iacoi went to work after high school, but I always thought if ever Norwich produced a professional football player, it was Joe Iacoi. Had he gone to college, I am sure he would have been recognized.

Joe could do everything. He was a good passer, the best receiver and he could run like the wind. He was the perfect football player. One day, I will do a column on Joe with some of the great pictures I have of him.

That 1946 team included Bob Madio, Murph Butova, Tom Dorsey, Frank Leonard, Ray Lukasiewicz, Red Killeen, Done Leone, Zip Spellman and so many others whose names, unfortunately, slip my memory. This past week, Tom LaFreniere, who was part of that team, reminded me that they wore leather helmets and no nose guards. That’s how Tom, and many others, suffered broken noses.

There was another game that I remember so clearly. I believe it was in 1946 when overconfidence defeated NFA. They had been voted by the Associated Press the best team in Connecticut. They had beaten everybody, including New London-Bulkeley. Then in the final game of the year, they went against Windham High, who stood very low in the rankings.

At the kickoff, I believe John Morosky received the ball. He handed it off to Joe Iacoi, who then ran for a touchdown. NFA scored the point-after-touchdown, and within one minute, the game was 7-0 in favor of NFA. The final score, unbelievably, was 37-7, and Windham won. I always believed making that first touchdown so simple must have instilled overconfidence in the NFA team.  Windham scored 37 points,  their highest score of the year, against the state champions, NFA.

I guess it is true that often in life, when things seem to be inevitable, the unexpected happens, and it certainly happened that year. But my memories of NFA are so wonderful, and being a photographer, knowing the players and traveling with the team made it all the more exciting.

Hospice Provides Wonderful Care For Living

This could be the most important column I have ever written

Once upon a time, I thought Hospice was only for those who were near death. Maybe many of you think of Hospice that way — that when a loved one is a few weeks from death, Hospice comes in for the final hours. To my surprise, I learned, and many of you should pay attention, Hospice is much more. They take care of living, sometimes for years.

My cousin, Ann Marie Carignan, who, like her mother, was a nurse for years at The William W. Backus Hospital, now spends hundreds of hours volunteering in so many ways. It was Ann Marie, my first cousin, who told me for my wife, Peg, we should have Hospice and what a wonderful suggestion it was.

Peggy has two visits each week from registered nurses. Once each week she gets a massage by a professional masseuse, and twice each week Hospice sends volunteers so we can go shopping or at least get a break from caring for Peggy, who is so far advanced with Alzheimer’s. Now Peggy is perfectly healthy, except for her mind.

Then the people of Hospice suggested I, too, might use their services. I have a bad pulmonary condition and have trouble walking. I spend much of my time in a wheelchair or struggling with a cane, so I, too, have a nurse visit me twice each week, and I have the same wonderful massage that makes my legs feel so much better.

I benefit from the volunteers who come in twice each week, but I do even better. Because I can’t breathe, and my legs are unsteady, it is impossible for me to take a shower. So, there is a wonderful fellow who is at my door at 9:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings and he gives me a shower, a shave and helps me get dressed. I cannot imagine Peggy’s and my life without Hospice.

There are so many wonderful things they do. We have arranged for living wills, which I always wanted, but never got around to doing. They provide medication for Peggy, and would you believe for all of this service, there is absolutely no charge to us? They are covered by Medicare and most insurance programs. Of course, they have fundraising events, as contributions from the public amount to 12 percent of Hospice’s budget.

For the Living

This may be the most important column I ever write for people who are older than 65, or struggling at home, or whose partner is ill, and conditions in your home may be very difficult. Call Hospice. See if you qualify, because the services are beyond belief, and it is so professional. Hospice even assists the grieving.

For example, they have a bereavement support group for children, and also for adults. You may be misinformed, as I was before Ann Marie Carignan told me to call, thinking Hospice is only for the dying. I can assure you, from my personal experience, that Hospice is very much for the living, with nurses, with volunteers, medication and those wonderful massages I so look forward to each week.

Your doctor will have to recommend you, but I assure you, it doesn’t cost anything to call and find out. Being an old guy with a very sick wife, and with difficulty walking and breathing, Hospice is nothing short of a miracle.

Selfless People

I always am amazed at the good some people do for others. I thought this morning I would tell you about Hospice. For example, Ann Marie Carignan and her husband, Lou, spend most of their free time working with Hospice and other humanitarian organizations.

I think so often of how Monsignor Baldwin once accumulated so much land the parishioners used to jokingly call him “The Farmer.” Some years ago, a supermarket wanted to buy the land for $3 million, but the parishioners voted it down, saying that Monsignor Baldwin didn’t buy all that land for a supermarket.

Several years ago, Father Philip Pusateri and the parishioners of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, who had turned down $3 million, gave that valuable land, free of charge, for the headquarters of Hospice here in Norwich. I am sure Monsignor Baldwin would have agreed with this gift.

Hospice in Norwich serves all of New London County, from the Rhode Island border to Old Lyme, Lebanon and Colchester.

I was reluctant to call Hospice, and you may be too. But if ever I have given advice that older people should take, I beg you to call Hospice, because if you are over 65, or even if you are younger, they have so many wonderful programs that make life so much more livable.

A Long Way

Sometimes in old age, we don’t need a lot, but an occasional volunteer, weekly visits by nurses, counseling, and in my case, a man to give me a shower three times each week, which would be impossible, are wonderful services.

I feel Hospice has done such a good job with the dying that too many of us came to think that is its only mission, and how wrong we are.

You can reach Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut, which includes all of New London County, by telephone at (860) 848-5699. That is a Montville number, but it is connected to the Norwich headquarters of Hospice. Hospice didn’t want to change the number, because so many of us were used to it.

So, give Hospice a call tomorrow to find out how you fit in the program. For my wife, Peggy, and me, Hospice is a godsend, and I want you all out there to enjoy the same loving, tender care that Hospice gives to the living — sometimes for years.

Small Neighborhood Schools Worked Well

graduating class of Broadway school 1901

A 100 year photo of the graduating class of Broadway school 1901. Photo from page 263 of Bill Stanley's 'Once upon a Time' Anniversary Issue

Once upon a time, we didn’t know what a school bus was. In a few days, caravans of buses all across America will be picking up children for school, and later, bringing them home.

Those buses have changed the whole education system. We used to have neighborhood schools. They seemed to work so well. We went to school for first, second, third and fourth grades. Then you moved to a bigger school for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

The system was so practical, and the school was part of the neighborhood. But, society often feels change is better, no matter if the change produces fewer results. Think of the money spent that has nothing to do with education. The cost of buses, their insurance, drivers, their gasoline, repair and storage.

We Knew Each Other

In our neighborhood schools, we had relationships, and those wonderful teachers knew the neighborhood. They were all women, unmarried, because teachers were not allowed to be married. They gave their whole life to education, as nuns give their whole lives to the church.

With no unions, teachers were overworked and underpaid, but so dedicated.

I think my favorite teacher in the whole world was a beautiful, young teacher named Margaret Coleman. I was part of the first class she ever taught. She kept me back in third grade, and it hurt terribly. In those days, a teacher taught two classes at once (such as third and fourth grades), so when I wasn’t promoted, all of my classmates got up and moved to the other side of the room. I was left alone, friendless and defeated.

She explained why she did it. My family had moved to Cliff Street to be closer to the post office, where my dad worked. I had gone to Laurel Hill School in a class of 40, then transferred to Hobart Avenue with a class of seven children. They were far more advanced then I was. Miss Coleman came to our house the night before and explained to my mother and father why I would have to repeat third grade. That is how neighborhood schools worked.

Effective Pair

Then another great teacher, Mimi O’Neill, came into my life when I moved up to the big Broadway School. The classes at Broadway were so big, two teachers taught a single class.
Miss O’Neill was a pretty, young thing, working with an older Miss McNamara; a true study in contrast. Miss O’Neill knew the new teaching methods, yet she was so patient and nice to the older teacher, and, yes, she was very nice to me. I remember, because I was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but Miss O’Neill was always patient with me. I never liked school, but loved many of my teachers.

Several years ago, Yankee Magazine ran an article about how I defended the Norwich-born Benedict Arnold. To my surprise, I got a letter from that wonderful sixth-grade teacher. We became pen pals.

Personal Touch Lost

This morning, I am reminiscing, because youngsters will soon be going back to school. I think, sadly, the big schools destroyed the very personal teacher-student relationships. Some big schools can be nightmarish for teachers and intimidating for students. Maybe I am old fashioned, but the old neighborhood schools seemed to work so well. When mothers could walk the youngest children to school, when moving up to the fifth grade was an adventure, when graduating high school would be the ultimate level of education for most. Before World War II, very few of us went to college.

In grammar school, we had an hour-and-a-half for lunch, and most children went home to eat.

There were no calculators or computers. There were no knapsacks. We strapped a leather belt around our books and swung them by our side or carried them under our arms. In the school yard, there was the boys’ side and the girls’ side. The teacher was always right. Heaven help you if the teacher sent a note home. There was corporal punishment. They could slap your hand with a ruler or your backside with a hickory stick. Then when you get home, you got a double dose.

In the past, I have been asked to speak in schools. Today, thankfully, teachers are adequately paid. Most are married with children. Teachers also have strong unions. Occasionally, when I would give talks students would ask, “How was it when you went to school?” When I tell them, they find it hard to believe things have changed so much. I hope it is all for the better, but knowing what we had when we were young, I wish there were no school buses and that we had small neighborhood schools again.

But, we can’t turn back the clock. We can just think, as they start a new school year, what it used to be like. All things considered, what they taught us got us through the Depression, a world war and brought us to where we are today. Those teachers of yesteryear did very good work. I hope the children today work out as well as our great generation did.

Labor Day About Workers, Not Summer

Once upon a time, Labor Day had special meaning. It was a day to recognize and salute the labor movement which liberated so many from the tortures of overwork and underpayment. Today, we forget the monumental strides made by the labor movement.

When I was a boy, there was a man with silver hair and big, bushy eyebrows who fought for the coal miners. John L. Lewis rose to fame in the 1930s, fighting for fair labor laws and the United Mine Workers. Of course, then, the primary fuel in America was coal. We heated our homes, powered our steam railroad locomotives and made our electricity from mountains of coal.

In Norwich, Chappell Coal had a big derrick that stood like the Eiffel Tower and was a symbol of Norwich. It wasn’t as pretty or as tall as the Eiffel Tower, but it was much nosier. Huge coal barges would come up the coast and pass up the Thames River. Those barges would be unloaded night and day until they were empty, and the racket the steampowered derrick made could be heard all over town. On hot summer nights, when the windows would be open (for there was no air conditioning), folks in Greeneville could hear the chug-chug of the coal derrick.

Great Leaders

The labor movement had other great leaders who literally engaged in combat. In the streets of Detroit, auto workers fought armed troops with baseball bats. Strike breakers at U.S. Steel used molten steel as a weapon.

When I was young, all the school teachers were unmarried, and in many cities, if they got married, they were fired. They were expected to dedicate their entire lives to the school system. They were great teachers, but overworked and underpaid. Today, the teachers union is one of the strongest, wealthiest unions in the country. Labor unions have done so much to improve the plight of the worker, but we seem to forget how things were before organization labor made its muscle felt.

There was a time when, in the history of Eastern Connecticut, many children didn’t go to school because they worked in the mills. Farmers had big families, and their children worked in the fields. The labor movement certainly has its faults and excesses, but, on balance, American labor is better off today.

There have been so many labor strikes in Eastern Connecticut over the years: Electric Boat, the telephone workers, the textile mills and even city employees, hospitals and convalescent homes
Movement founder

The American labor movement was created by Samuel Gompers, a cigarmaker in New York, when he founded the American Federation of Labor (AFL). That was back in 1886, and it grew and finally merged with the CIO in 1955.

When I served as state senator for the 19th District. I was considered the most conservative Democrat ever to sit in the Senate. Yet, I had a perfect labor record, though I did occasionaly vote against a bad labor bill.

In 1968, when the labor unions tried to pass a bill that was over the edge, I was one of only seven legislators who supported it. A distinguished Republican senator rose after that bill and said, “Senator Stanley would vote for any labor bill. If it were proposed that all state employees receive $1,000 a week, never go to work, and their checks be delivered weekly by State Police, the Senator would vote for it.”

In response, I said, “That sounds to me like a good bill, senator, but the Connecticut State Police are state employees.” He threw up his arms, and I said, “No matter what labor asks for, you, senator, would vote against it. All I do in the Connecticut Senate is cancel out your vote, and the rest of the Senate makes the decision.

Legislation Overload

There are times in life when we are so blind to reality that we judge labor by their extreme legislation and overlook their good.

Tomorrow we celebrate Labor Day. Or do we, rather, celebrate the end of summer or another day off? Labor Day, like so many holidays, has lost its meaning. The labor movement throughout America, and here in Connecticut, has done so much for the working man. Like freedom, good labor laws had to be fought for.

Today, many of the industries that serve us are represented by organized labor: our mailmen, policemen, firemen, school teachers, state and federal employees and the building trades; plumbers, electricians and carpenters. Many of today’s labor unions have overdone it and might be considered anit-labor by their unreasonable demands.

Labor Day is the day to celebrate the independence of the worker. Today, in world competition, labor is under attack again, competing with lower wages. Once upon a time, slave wages were paid also in America, but not today, thanks to organized labor.

9/11 Should Give Us Courage To Fight

Once upon a time, back in 1941, when I was 12 years old, I remember so clearly the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We couldn’t see Pearl Harbor until later because they embargoed the pictures from public view.

I was passing a football with my good friend Dick Reed when his father shouted from the Reeds’ front porch, “Bill, tell your dad the Japanese just bombed Pearl Harbor.”

As I headed for my home across the street, my dad came out the front door. I remember him addressing Jim Reed with a statement. “This means war, you know.”

For two young boys who had just been passing a football, we had no idea what war really meant.

I guess it is true that there are certain moments in history that we all remember exactly what we were doing when we heard the news. The bombing of Pearl Harbor is one, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, now known as 9/11, when America suffered the worst terrorist attack in history on our shores.

As we clearly remember those events, it is possible, at the moment, to know what the event means for the future.

As a young boy, I didn’t know what war meant when I heard my father say the word. Young people, I am sure today, have no idea of what this war is all about. In fact, many older folks don’t know either.

It was eight years ago this past Friday that those hijacked commercial airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania.

That attack, like Pearl Harbor, was a sneak attack, but it was different and more cowardly.

Terrorists killed civilian passengers on the planes and killed nearly 3,000 people who were doing nothing more than working for a living.

Pearl Harbor was a military base. We had been feuding with the Japanese and expected an attack somewhere in the Pacific, but when the bombs fell, it was on battleships and military installations. They didn’t bomb Honolulu to kill civilians.

Maybe because I lived through World War II and remember the sacrifice, I am surprised at the almost passive attitude by so many today.

War protesters say we must get out and bring the troops home. If we pull our troops out, the cancer that is infecting the whole world will not go away. It will grow bigger and more ruthless, and we will have to fight them in America one day.

We must finish the job.

Hitler and Japan

In World War II, we were slow to react to Adolf Hitler. Winston Churchill, who proclaimed Hitler a “mad man” and predicted World War II, was laughed at — criticized — and so 50 million people died needlessly.

Imagine, 50 million people died in World War II — 35,000 killed for every day of the war.

Today, this war is quite different, as the enemy is invisible, but certainly as ruthless as Hitler.

The Japanese were successful at bombing Pearl Harbor because it was a sneak attack, but it did little more than wake a sleeping giant and turn our big country, our mighty country, into a neighborhood where everybody worked for the same purpose.

This war is so different. Even on the home front it seems our troops are being undermined by our lack of unity.

Eight years ago on Sept. 11, I sat and watched television as the second plane hit the tower.

The Twin Towers were an important part of life when I was a stockbroker. Like President George W. Bush, when he heard the news of the attack, I, too, was paralyzed, as were many in America.

When those planes crashed into the buildings, we were trying to evaluate what it meant.
To me, it was a bit more personal, as I had friends on the 109th floor of the South Tower, or so I thought.

For many years, as a broker with Smith Barney, I managed money and had many large accounts that I would occasionally fly by helicopter to Wall Street.

We would fly along the Connecticut “gold coast” so clients could see the mansions on the shores of Stamford and Greenwich.

Then, across upper Manhattan to the Hudson River, the helicopter would fly along the Hudson River’s great piers, and clients could view the skyline of Manhattan.

We would circle the Statue of Liberty, where my guests could look Lady Liberty in the eye. We would fly to the height of the World Trade Center and back to land at the Battery Park Heliport.

A limousine to the World Trade Center and changing elevators three times would get us to the 109th floor. From there, you could look down on the Empire State Building and view all of New York Harbor. They said on a clear day you could see four states: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

I always was amused and pleased that clients got such a thrill out of being on top of the World Trade Center. Though many were very wealthy people, a helicopter ride from Eastern Connecticut to Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and the towers was a great experience.

The men and women who managed our clients’ money were on the 109th floor, all of them dear friends and associates. On that morning, as I saw the second plane hit, it was the building I knew so well, and in it, I thought, were a dozen or more personal friends.

As fate would have it, they had recently sold their lease and moved to Trade Center Building No. 7.

I learned two days later they were all safe, but those who had taken the lease were all lost.

National Symbols

The terrorists hit the trade center because those were symbols of our independence and financial strength.

I cannot believe how quickly 3,000 deaths have almost been forgotten by some.

America came together for a year or so, but now we seem to be coming apart again, bickering over unimportant matters and losing sight of the fact that we are at war with a savage enemy that has no flag, no uniforms. They only want to see us dead and we cannot, we must not loose sight of the fact that we are as a nation very much at war for survival.

If this a war, and indeed it is, there are only two alternatives: We either win it and annihilate our enemy or we surrender and let them rule the world. There is no halfway with war.

It is regrettable that more than 4,000 men and women having been killed in Iraq, but more than 3,000 were killed in New York City, and that should give us the spine to fight the enemy everywhere.

We will always remember December 7th — those of us who are old enough — and we will remember the day Kennedy was shot.

But in all American history, there is no day more tragic than 9/11.

Eight years ago yesterday, World War III started in New York City.

Big Bands Ruled The Music Scene

Glenn Miller Band

Glenn Miller Band

Once upon a time, the big bands played at Ocean Beach. They played music for dancing, but hundreds would stand and just listen. Today’s music is so different than the music of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw and Count Basie.

This morning’s picture was taken of Glenn Miller’s Band at Ocean Beach in the late 1940s. Tex Beneke led the post-war band, whose music haunts the memories of older generations. The sound of a solitary clarinet buried in the saxophone section produces the Miller sound.

In today’s photo, you note, the band also had violins. Today’s senior citizens remember, as teenagers, traveling to New London and to Hartford’s State Theater for the sounds of the big bands. The drive to Hartford took us over the notorious 10 curves.

The State Theater had four shows on Saturdays and Sundays, and that huge theater would be packed with lines waiting as long as two hours for the next show. The screams of the girls and the wild applause were more well-behaved than today’s rock concerts. The music then, to me, seemed more civilized with lyrics more romantic and meaningful.

Swing and Jazz Greats

It was mostly in the 1930s and 1940s, when there were not so many automobiles, and young people would double date — sometimes six or eight people to a car. There would be exciting shows with the likes of Louie Prima and Keeley Smith. Today, when I hear a Louie Prima record, it brings me back to the State Theater and high school double dates.

In the 1920s, the jazz age had the likes of Fats Waller, Louie Armstrong and Jackie Teagarden, but in the 1930s and 1940s, great big band made its entrance: Count Basie, Les Brown, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller. They played a music that reflected the era. Their music was often called swing, and jitterbugging was the dance that went with the swing bands. There were great jazz bands: Lionel Hampton, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Ted Heath from England. There were also smaller groups: Coleman Hawkins, The King Cole Trio, and soloists like George Schering, Dave Brubeck, Les Paul and Mary Ford.

It was a fun time. Though the 1930s were the hard suffering years of the depression, and the 1940s witnessed the horrible war in Europe and the Pacific, the music was great. There were war songs that could tear your heart out, but the big bands also went to war, and troops would march instead of dance to the music of Glenn Miller.

Beyond the myriad of the big bands were commercial bands like Johnny Long, whose entire band would sing the lyrics together; the most famous singers all started singing with big bands.

Benny Goodman brought swing to Carnegie Hall in 1938, and many from this area traveled to that concert. Goodman not only had a big band, but he had a sextet made up of Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Red Norvo, Slam Stewart, and I can’t remember the sixth member. Can you? The Goodman Trio was himself, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa. What music they made.

Dating was so much fun. It gave couples privacy if they could get the family car and double date. It took less than a dollar’s worth of gas to get to Hartford. When I got my first license, gas, on sale, would be seven gallons for a dollar, and heating oil, for that matter, was nine cents a gallon.

Finding Music at Home

Al and Winfred Gaffney and Arnold Baker had record stores that were a gathering place after school. Records were called disks, and they were supposedly made of wax. They sold for 78 cents apiece, and there were two sides to every release. Many of us played our records on windup Victrolas, and we used cactus needles so we wouldn’t wear out the record.

The jukebox was the big feature in every soda shop, and selections cost 5 cents a piece; six for a quarter. Throughout Norwich and New London — and, for that matter, Jewett City —  there were so many soda shops where kids would gather around a booth, listen to music, and enjoy a vanilla Coke for a dime. It was a time when the high schools had fraternities and sororities, and in the summer, we would pick up our dates at the sorority beach cottages and drive to Hartford or to Ocean Beach.

In days gone by, when were young, we laughed at the old people who enjoyed Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, Tommy Tucker and Sammy Kaye. Now we are old timers, and the kids laugh at us we enjoy the music of Glenn Miller, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett. We old fogies think our music was the best, and as I listen to the new songs, with guitars and drums and screaming kids, I wonder what sentimental songs today’s generation will have to remember when they, too, will be old and living on their memories.

Hurricane Of 1938 Devastated Region

1938 Hurricane Aftermath Photo By Bill Stanley

1938 Hurricane Aftermath Photo By Bill Stanley

Once upon a time, in late September, when the children were back in school and they were closing down Ocean Beach for the season, the hurricane of 1938 came sweeping up the coast.

People had suffered for a decade in the Great Depression that created such hardships. The last thing Eastern Connecticut needed was the storm of the century, which blew in on Sept. 21, 1938.

I was a boy of 9 and remember so distinctly the windows in our school started to pop out, and some big trees had fallen. The wind was howling, and word came to send the children home. There were no school buses. Wind gusts reached 185 miles an hour at the height of the storm, and the children were in the streets.

It had been raining for days. The rivers were swollen, and many dams upstream were in danger of breaking. In Putnam, the French River cut the city in half. People at the mill on the side of the river couldn’t get to their homes on the other side. The Baltic Dam broke and sent a wall of water down the Shetucket. At about the same time, the tidal wave hit the coast, and the storm surge came up the Thames. Downtown Norwich was under water, as were the little towns built on river banks, because the mills needed the water power.

What happened in Norwich paled compared to New London, where, in addition to the wind and flooding, a fire raged downtown, burning out of control in the whipping wind.

The wind hit Ocean Beach and toppled those little, badly constructed houses. Ocean Beach was never built to last. The 1938 hurricane blew it down, and the high water washed it away.

From Putnam to New London, martial law was imposed. All power lines were down, so there were no telephones. The high winds had destroyed homes, knocked down church steeples, and tore the slate roof off of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

In Norwich, school children who went to Broadway School or Norwich Free Academy and lived on the West Side could not get home. The river cut the city in three parts. Parents had no idea if their children were safe. As darkness fell, the calamity worsened. There was water and destruction everywhere.

A War Zone

In Groton, Groton Long Point was wrecked, but not as badly as Westerly and Atlantic Beach. Like a war zone, the body count started right after the storm in Westerly. Headlines reported 89 dead and another 100 missing. Westerly High School became a makeshift morgue. Dozens of bodies were picked up along the beaches and laid out in the gymnasium to be identified.

Anyone who lived through that storm remembers everything they did that day. I was only 9 and remember how the winds howled. It rained sideways. The windows in our house blew out. It was strange. The windows didn’t break in; the broke out, like an explosion. Then the wind stopped, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. We all went into the streets to view the damage. It was over.

But it wasn’t over. What we saw was the eye of the hurricane. It was only half over. In moments, the skies darkened again, the winds churned up from the opposite direction, and the rain came down in torrents. The sound was like that of a locomotive. Families watched all of their possessions destroyed.

When the second blast finally passed to the north, the sun did come out. There was a beautiful sunset, but then, everything went totally black. Houses were lighted with candles. Some people went to bed that night not knowing where their children were.

Cleaning up after the hurricane was made difficult in so many ways. There was no communication, no electricity. City agencies didn’t know where their help was most needed. Families were fighting to reunite all of their members. Those along the beach, in many cases, were identifying the bodies of dead family members. In the Westerly newspaper, it was almost like reporting a war. They ran columns of the dead, just like reporting  those killed in combat during the war.

Roads Blocked

Atlantic Beach, now Misquamicut, was totally washed away. Watch Hill and, farther down the coast, all the little beaches suffered massive destruction. The railroad tracks were uprooted from New Haven to Providence. Providence was completely under water, but as they started to pick up the pieces in Groton, New London and Norwich, they found trees had torn down the power lines had fallen across the roads. Every avenue to hospitals and fire departments was blocked.

It was 1938, and there were no power saws. Every tree would be cut by hand. One small but important item, the hardware stores didn’t have the thousands of axes and saws that were needed.

The hurricane of 1938 was a disaster, as one might say, “The Perfect Storm.” It came without warning at all and traveled directly through southeastern Connecticut, spent itself to the north in Vermont and finally died in Montreal.

It destroyed so many lives and changed so many others. Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island would never look the same. That hurricane changed everything, but from the massive destruction in New London, Ocean Beach would be reborn and opened just prior to another hardship. As people put their lives back together, the entire world would change again as the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and ushered in America’s time in World War II.

Arnold’s Legacy Tarnished By Treason

Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold

Once upon a time, a man born and raised in Norwich commanded the most important victory in the history of America.

Some 232 years ago this week, he lay badly wounded in the back of a wagon as he was taken to an Albany, N.Y., hospital. He had been wounded the day before on the battlefield. His left leg, from about his knee to his hip, was shattered. They would save the leg, but there was no way to repair the bone. So, this general, Benedict Arnold, would be held down as they cut his leg and sawed the bone, removing about three inches of it. There was no anesthesia and no pain killers for the long recovery.

I wonder if we Americans fully realize the price that was paid for our freedom. Today, Benedict Arnold is known universally as a traitor, yet there are many historians who agree that, without Benedict Arnold on our side, we would have lost the American Revolution.

Arnold was Washington’s best field general and one of America’s greatest patriots. Before he betrayed America, he was betrayed often and by many, such as Gen. Horatio Gates, who was officially in command of the Battle of Saratoga. He had a quarrel with Arnold several days before and ordered Arnold confined to quarters. On Oct. 7, 1777, British Gen. Johnny Burgoyne, with thousands of British and Hessian troops, came onto the battlefield of Saratoga.

The battle was going badly under Gates. It was then that Benedict Arnold disobeyed the order and proclaimed, as his secretary recorded, “None but God Almighty will keep me from battle this day. If I have no command, I will fight in the ranks with the men.” As he rode with his big, white horse onto the field of battle, cheers went up from the men.

It was then that he met another general whose name is very famous in Norwich, Gen. Ebenezer Learned, whose family, under the management of Ralph Learned, has operated B.P. Learned Insurance. General Learned commanded the Connecticut brigade which included the men from New London and Norwich. Arnold requested General Learned to let him command his troops, and Learned granted permission.

The reports from the battlefield said that Arnold turned like a madman, high in the saddle, aboard his horse, and charged into the British troops at Braymann’s Redoubt. A man possessed, he killed many of the enemy, and his determination frightened many more.

The Hessians were first to surrender. As darkness was falling, the British finally withdrew from the battlefield, leaving the dead and wounded behind. It was on Oct. 8, during the night, that Burgoyne ordered a full retreat and began moving his troops north. The darkness saved the British from disaster but complete defeat was won by Arnold.

Arnold’s Victory

On Oct. 17, 1777, Burgoyne was forced to formally surrender to Gates, who allowed the British to lay down their arms and return to England. However, Congress canceled Gate’s order, and the British troops were captured and imprisoned.

The effect of the American victory at Saratoga was enormous.

Gates, who was a cowardly, incompetent general, became the hero of Saratoga when the victory belonged to Benedict Arnold. In fact, as Burgoyne surrendered and presented his sword to Gates, he proclaimed, “The victory belongs to Benedict Arnold.”

Gates reported to George Washington that he (Gates) had commanded the victory, and he said Benedict Arnold was nothing more than a nuisance when, in fact, under Gates, the battle would have been lost.

Arnold’s serious leg wound healed somewhat that winter of 1777. Arnold lived in Albany, at the home of Philip Schuyler, general and governor of New York.

The life of Benedict Arnold seems an embarrassment to Norwich, though elsewhere in the country, for example in Maine and New York, his valor on the battlefield is celebrated. I thought on this anniversary of Saratoga, it would be appropriate to tell you some of the things he did beyond treason, as his treason did little to hurt America.

Arnold formed the first uniformed and fully armed organization in American history, the Second Company Connecticut Foot Guard, which still proclaims with pride that Arnold is its founder. The Foot Guard comes to Norwich every July to salute and present a symbolic presidential wreath at the tomb of Samuel Huntington.

Into Canada

Arnold was the first to command a victory for America at Ticonderoga with Ethan Allen. Arnold then captured several ships on Lake George and, with his men, became the first to invade a foreign country, capturing Fort St. John in Canada. He then asked Congress and George Washington to consider that Canada be accepted as our 14th state.

Arnold led an expedition along the Kennebec River in Maine into Quebec City in Canada. He was wounded and later ordered to retreat. Back in America, Arnold was then ordered to build a fleet to engage the British, who were invading from Canada. America’s first naval battle,  known was the Battle of Valcour Island, was fought on Oct. 11, 1776. The fleet and the men were commanded by Benedict Arnold. While he did not win the battle, he did delay the British troops for one year, thus saving George Washington and his small army at Valley Forge.

The New York Times claimed, in their millennium issue, that Saratoga was the most important battle of the last 1,000 years. It convinced the French to join in the Revolution and guaranteed our victory. Without question, Norwich’s Benedict Arnold won that most important battle in America’s history.

Being crippled, because of his wounded leg, he was commanded to manage the city of Philadelphia, where he met and married a beautiful 18-year-old named Peggy Shippen.

When Arnold returned his loyalty to England with Peggy, King George III awarded Peggy Shippen a royal pension for life “for her service in the Colonies for the benefit of the Crown.” He married the most highly-paid spy in the American Revolution, and I believe it was her coaxing that convinced Benedict Arnold that he was unappreciated and wrongly charged with many crimes and that he should return his loyalty to England.

So, there we have it. The man whose valor saved the nation, and whose treason did little to hurt America but did instill hatred throughout America.

Arnold did burn New London. It should be pointed out that none of the citizens of New London were killed, and every house with a woman without a man was protected by Arnold’s troops. Every man who fought in Arnold’s army that day had, like Arnold himself, first fought for America and freedom but had returned their loyalties to England. New London was attacked by men, born and raised in America, under the command of Arnold.

While Arnold was in charge of the entire New London-Groton operation, the British troops were under command of Lt. Col. Edmund Eyre, a veteran British army officer. Though Arnold was in command of the entire attack, he tried desperately to call off the attack on Groton’s Fort Griswold.

Despite the obvious treason, Norwich’s Benedict Arnold did win for America the most important battle in all of U.S. history, and, by so doing, won the American Revolution by bringing the French into the battle.