Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Playing Crocodile Club Catch Up

 meant to get all caught up with Crocodile Club last week, but I didn't. So here are the tidbits left out in the telling:

Host Ray Dunaway did a good job. He wasn't prepared to say the blessing before the meal, but the expected preacher didn't show, so Ray had to man up and do it. He figured his credentials as club president gave him "the authority" so he plunged right in. I don't think he'll be running off to theology school anytime soon, but I'd say he passed. On a side note, he told me his accordian was in rough shape, so he didn't bring it. Hope he gets it fixed in time for next year.

Ray had a bell that he said he'd ring if anyone didn't abide by the five-minute time limit on the speeches. The only time he had to use it was on the first speaker -- Bristol Mayor Art Ward -- who was just getting warmed up and hadn't even tried to be funny by the time the bell rang. The bell didn't stop the mayor from moving ahead with his remarks, though.

The picture here is one of me and Wally Barnes, and the mayor, before he got the bell.

Carolyn Norton was the only Norton at this year's dinner. She was the toast of the town and the belle of the ball. She had fun, too.

Lots of old timers were happy to see the club back, thanks to the permission of the Norton family, who owned the rights to it, the hospitality of Lake Compounce, the great food provided by Nuchies catering and the hard work of the New England Carousel Museum, which brought the event back as a fundraiser.

Tons of newcomers were excited to get to attend the club for the first time. Many of them were seated up front at the head table and they had to give speeches. There could have been some better briefing by staff, since a couple people didn't understand how the humor was supposed to be playful and remarks weren't supposed to be mean. Hopefully next time, they'll know what it is and get with the program.

The worst offender was Mark Boughton, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Republican side. He took a serious shot at Dan Malloy and the crowd definitely didn't like it. As he made his way back to his seat, I heard Malloy tell him his "joke" didn't go over "any better than when Ned Lamont told it."

Malloy and Tom Foley were both there for the first time. I'm not sure they were excited or enjoying themselves, though. When they weren't working the crowd, they sat next to each other at the head table and didn't look all that comfortable. When they spoke, they both tried to be funny. They were, but only a little bit.

Worst joke of all? Tom Marsh, the independent candidate for governor. "What's brown and sounds like a bell?" Marsh asked. "Dung."

No, I'm not kidding.

Linda McMahon surprised me with her wit. She had a few off the cuff remarks that were pretty good, including a swipe at Dunaway for noting her age when he introduced her and no one else's. Her opponent, Richard Blumenthal, joked about how un-funny he is and sure enough, wasn't especially amusing, except when he talked about being camera shy.

George Jepsen recited a short limerick, which in my book gets a few props for creativity:
"It is the year 2010
The crocodiles have assembled again
At long tables they eat
Some really odd meat.
For me, I will stick with the gin."

Classiest speaker, in my humble opinion, was Nancy Wyman, who raised a glass to the memory of Stretch Norton, recognized Carolyn Norton and just stayed in the spirit of the Crocodile. It's not hard to see why she's popular.

Not sure why the carousel museum decided to take a "break" in the middle of the program to draw a raffle number. It could have been done quickly but instead, a break was announced and a whole bunch of people, including many of the candidates on stage, beat a path to the door.

John Larson and Ann Brickley had to wait until after the break to speak, which didn't seem right to me, since much of the room had emptied by then. It is the U.S. Congress, after all.

The award for best patient goes to Betty Boukus, who is healing from total knee replacement surgery. She's getting around pretty well, she said, and is definitely following doctor's/physical therapist's orders.

Most conspicuous absence that day? Stretch Norton. Everybody missed him.

Biggest delight for me? Wally Barnes was there. My favorite moment of the whole thing was taking a spin on the park's antique carousel with him.
I discovered that, like me, he also prefers a jumper to a stander. He didn't get the brass ring, he said, but I felt like I did.
Wally hadn't expected to be in town, but when he found himself there, he "didn't want to miss it," he told me. I'm glad.

Main Street Community Foundation is 15!

The Main Street Community Foundation, which offers corporations, families and individuals a way to set up special funds and leave a legacy in their hometown for generations to come, is turning 15.
The foundation has an interesting history, which I included in a story for Wednesday's edition of The Bristol Press (http://www.bristolpress.com/). It all started because some local philanthropists and community-minded folks like Bob Merriman, Tom Barnes, John Smith, Terry Fletcher, Ed Lorenson and others decided that the area needed a community foundation.
It's great when a good idea truly takes flight and that's what happened here. Through the Main Street Community Foundation, families, companies and individuals can offer specific scholarships or grants to people and to non-profit organizations. There's nothing else just like it in the area.
The Foundation serves Bristol, Southington, Burlington, Plainville, Plymouth and Wolcott.
A gala affair, silent auction and public auction at the Aqua Turf Club in Southington on Sept. 24 marks the anniversary bash. Tickets are $125 and are available from the foundation's office at 200 Main St. or by calling them at (860) 583-6363. Black tie optional, and foundation President Susan Sadecki promises a fun evening with dancing to a Motown band, good food and a few surprises.

Happy Birthday, ESPN!

Here's a shout-out to all my friends at ESPN on the 31st anniversary of their company. They've got much to be proud of.
The man in the photo above (which was provided by ESPN from its latest Bristol groundbreaking) can take a lot of credit for the company's success. He's President George Bodenheimer, one of ESPN's earliest employees, hardest workers, smartest people and nicest guys.
You don't see him on the tube much, but he's responsible for setting the company's style, culture of giving back to the community and general good citizenship, from environmentally aware recycling and composting programs to providing employee daycare and workout facilities.
Cheers for 31 years to everyone at ESPN, and many happy returns!

Larson Loves Archives

I toured an interesting Bristol business last week with Congressman John Larson, Dupont Business Archives.
This company stores paper and electronic records, manages archival storage and delivery of wanted documents and more. They've got a snazzy climate-controlled, fireproof vault and about three stories of nothing but shelving units with boxes and boxes and boxes.
Larson, whose First District includes Bristol, was riveted.
The congressman is a former history teacher, so naturally he has an appreciation for archives, records and all that. But this went beyond an appreciation. He was truly fascinated by the materials and methods Dupont uses (double walled cardboard boxes are the key in that place) and it didn't take long before Larson had decided he wanted these professionals to take care of his own records.
As someone with a long career in public service -- I think it goes back to his local school board in East Hartford -- Larson has good reason to want to keep his records organized and available.
It's a feather in Dupont's cap if he brings them his business, and I think he will. They do work for many municipalities in Connecticut, including Bristol, East Hartford and Waterbury, to name a few. They store records for law offices, medial professionals and other businesses.
They also sell the materials for the people who want to keep their own records on site. I wrote about all of this for The Bristol Press. I think you can see the story online at http://www.bristolpress.com/.
The reason Larson toured Dupont in the first place is becuase the Bristol business, which got a city grant when it moved to town a couple years ago, also is a beneficiary of the federal stimulus program.
Dupont got a loan through Farmington Bank that was backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration using funds from the Recovery Act.
Larson told me that one of his frustrations is that a lot of Americans don't see the results of the Recovery Act. His stop at Dupont was a way to highlight the stimulus program in Bristol, but I think he was more excited by the arhive possibilities.
As my husband Steve Collins is a former history major at the Univerity of Virginia, and as someone who also loves the written word and keepsakes of all sorts myself, I totally get why the congressman felt he'd struck gold.
I'm glad he found it in Bristol.

School's In Session For Seniors, Too

This in from the Bristol Senior and Community Center:

Open Registration for 2010 Senior Fall Classes will be held on Wednesday, September 8th and Thursday, September 9th from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Beals Senior-Community Center, at 240 Stafford Ave. Bristol.

The classes are held at the Beals Senior-Community Center for Bristol Senior Center members . If you cannot register on those days, you may come in to the Main Office after those dates and register after 9 a.m. until classes are full. Classes are $10.00 and will begin on Monday, September 20th.

The Senior Center offers Senior Enrichment classes, which are sponsored by the Bristol Board of Adult Education, for 10 weeks, which include Ceramics (day and evening), Chair caning, Line dancing, Painting (Oils or Watercolor) as well as a Beginners Painting class; “One-Stroke” painting on Monday Mornings and on Wednesday evenings, Quilting (anexperienced class and a beginners class), Ladies exercise class as well as Co-ed exercise classes. This semester we have a Gentle Yoga for Seniors class as well as a Sculpt, Strength & Tone Exercise class for Seniors.

The Senior Center Community Computer Center will offer FREE Introduction to Computers Classes (2), and Introduction to Microsoft Word Classes, Introduction to the Internet classes for $5.00 as well as a Digital Camera Class for $8.00, all taught and coached by Volunteers. Call 860-584-7895 for questions. Bristol Senior Center Membership card is required at registration.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New Look for Youth Journalism International's Blog

I spent a good deal of time over the holiday doing work for Youth Journalism International, an educational non-profit organization that I run with my husband, Steve Collins.

Youth Journalism International connects teen writers, artists and photographers with peers around the globe, teaches journalism, fosters cross-cultural understanding, and promotes and defends a free youth press.

We've been at it since 1994 and have about 150 students on five continents and a long line of kids waiting to get involved.

One of the things we did over the weekend was spruce up YJI's blog a little bit. If you're interested, check it out at http://www.yjiblog.org/ and see what you think.

Working The Weekend

I was working Saturday, but not blogging. Sometimes all my time is spent getting information and writing a story and I run out of time for posting. That was one of those days.
I was too busy trying to find out what happened at Stephanie's Sports Bar in Forestville early Saturday morning.
I'm not the police reporter; I was just working that Saturday. My story about it appeared in the Sunday edition of The Herald Press and online at http://www.bristolpress.com/.
According to the police, there was a big fight at the bar, which is on Central Street next to Nuchies, and three men were apparently stabbed during the fracas. There may have been a gun brandished and shots fired, but no report of anyone shot, the cops said. One of the guys who was stabbed had surgery at Bristol Hospital. That's the last I know of anything. I don't know what happened to him or the other two as the cops didn't even release a name.
Some of my focus in writing about the incident was on Forestville Center, and the impact such a crime would have on that typically quiet little spot.
I never could reach the bar's owner, Steve Coan, whose home phone is unlisted. No one answered at the bar, either.
Dave Pasqualicchio, who owns Nuchies with his brother Mike, had plenty to say. He was furious at the mess he says is consisently left by Stephanie's and its customers. He was worried about the reputation of the village in light of the incident and also, understandably, the impact on his own business next door.
To be clear, Nuchies serves alcohol but is not a bar. It's a banquet facility and caterer and isn't even available for drop in customers as far as I know.
Anyone who knows Dave knows he runs a tight ship there and spends a good deal of time every day picking up litter all over Forestville. His own place is spotless, so off he goes with a bag and picks up trash that thoughtless people cast out of cars and drop along the roadways and in the parks, in and around the center of Forestville and beyond. He's been doing this for years without a lot of recognition, mostly because it just bugs him to see litter and he cares about the community.
He said the police didn't even call him to let him know that there had been a serious incident next door to his building, or that they'd put police tape around it and blocked off his parking lots. When he got to work Saturday morning, they wouldn't even let him enter his building at first. (Nothing happened in his building but apparently the search for evidence had a pretty big radius.)
I lived happily for many years not far from Nuchies and the Manross branch of the Bristol Public Library. That part of Bristol, Forestville, is a nice neighborhood with good businesses and decent people living there. I still like to visit there. It's clean, safe and usually quiet. Dave and the good people at the Forestville Village Association are working hard to keep it that way.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New Boy in Her Life Thrills Chamber Exec

Cindy Scoville, vice president of sales and marketing at the Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce, has good reason to beat a path to Boston these days.
There's a cute new love in her life, grandson Andrew Emerson Scoville, who lives in Beantown.
Fresh from a visit to to see him early this week, Cindy's "too new" at the grandmothering gig to tell me whether she loves it, she told me.
I know she does, though. She's headed back to Boston this weekend, and who could blame her?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Crocodile Club, One Of The Missing Pieces

I wrote two stories about the Crocodile Club for today's edition of The Bristol Press, but I guess there wasn't room for everyone's comments, so in case you're the kind of reader who wants the whole enchilada, here goes:

First-timers joined old “crocodilians” at the Crocodile Club dinner at Lake Compounce Tuesday, rubbing elbows with many of the state’s candidates and reconnecting with old friends.

“It think it’s a grand event,” said Jill Fitzgerald of Bristol, who is the Republican candidate for the state House in the 77th district and attending the dinner for the first time. “I really like it.”

Many of the people there, both candidates and non-candidates, said they enjoyed the friendly, social aspect of the dinner that left serious politics at the door.

“It’s bringing back a lot of memories,” said Bristol City Councilor Ken Cockayne, who said he used to come to the park to watch his late grandfather, Patsy Cistulli, help longtime organizer Stretch Norton with the cooking.

“So far, it’s great,” said Republican Ann Brickley, who is hoping to unseat Congressman John Larson in November and was attending her first dinner.

“This is an excellent crowd,” said state Rep. Betty Boukus, a Plainville Democrat. She said she’s happy that the carousel museum has taken over the dinner and will benefit from it.

Wallace Barnes of Bristol, whose attendance at the Crocodile Club goes back to the 1950s, said he came back early this week from an out of town trip and came to the dinner because he “didn’t want to miss it.”

Thomas Morrow, executive director of the Bristol Community Organization who has attended many Crocodile Club dinners in the past, brought his friend James Gatling of Southington.

“It’s got a rich history,” said Morrow, who said he’s glad that the Crocodile Club dinner now benefits a non-profit agency.

Gatling, who runs a similar agency in Waterbury called New Opportunities, said he didn’t know quite what to expect but was wowed by the number of people there and the fact that politicians from both parties came together in one place.

“I’m really impressed,” Gatling said.

George Sobestanovich of Bristol, who wore a Crocodile Club shirt and hat he bought at the last dinner in 2002, said it was a good afternoon.

"I'm glad they resurrected it," Sobestanovich said. "I hate to see these old traditions fade away."

John Lodovico of Bristol also said he’s glad the club is back, adding that the ballroom at Lake Compounce provided a “very comfortable setting” for the event.

State Sen. Tom Colapietro, a Bristol Democrat, said he saw a lot of friends he hadn’t seen in years. He said he was happy to support the dinner, which was a benefit for the New England Carousel Museum.

“This is non-political,” said Colapietro.

“It’s entertaining,” said Tunxis Community College President Cathryn Addy, who attended the dinner for several years before it ended with the last one in 2002. “I’m happy to see it back.”

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who had a reputation of arriving late and leaving early at the dinner each year, vowed to stay “for the duration” this time, and did.

“It’s a great tradition,” Blumenthal said. “I’m just delighted to be here again.”

Crocodile Club President and host Ray Dunaway pronounced the dinner a success.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever been at an event when Dick Blumenthal stayed till the end,” Dunaway said.

The Crocodile Club was videotaped for later broadcast on CTN.

Press Wants Your Business News

The Bristol Press is looking for briefs on business people to run on Monday in the business section. If you have any promotional items, appointments, awards or photos in jpg form, please email them to business@centralctcommunications.com.

Foley Visits Quality Coils

Tom Foley, the Republian candidate for governor, paid a visit to a Bristol manufacturer yesterday.
Foley, along with his wife Leslie Foley, state Rep. Bill Hamzy, City Councilor Ken Cockayne and state senate candidate Jason Welch, toured Quality Coils Tuesday morning.
I like these kinds of stops by candidates because I get to meet the people who run the factory and hear what things are like for them. I also get to spend a little time with the candidate and his entourage, which is helpful.
At Quality Coils, I spoke with Mike Thiem, the plant manager and company vice president who's been around since the 1970s, and Keith Gibson, one of the three brothers who took over the company, which was founded by their dad, Archibald Gibson.
Mostly I learned from them that the biggest challenge facing the company is the uncertainty of its customers. The customers aren't ordering far in advance, so when they do want to make a purchase, they want the stuff right away. That means that if they want the business, they need trained people on staff, ready to make the products, which are all custom made. But without knowing what orders might be coming in the future, it's hard to plan. They've rehired and now have a larger payroll than when the recession started, but there's still a lot of uncertainty.
I also learned that Hamzy spent a summer working at Quality Coils a number of years ago.
I wrote about the visit for The Bristol Press. The story's online now at http://www.bristolpress.com/.