Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for February 2016

How People Remember You . . .

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rabbit. . . can be fun, I’ve found, after bumping into about a dozen 70- and 80-year-olds over the past decade who recall our high-school days at Scollard Hall, the all-boys Catholic boarding school in North Bay, Ontario: — 1947 to 1952. We had a Grade 13 in Ontario in those days to give kids an opportunity to earn a few college credits before having to leave town to attend one of the handsful of universities in the bigger Canadian cities.  I was a day hop, not a boarder, and learning by osmosis more than class subjects because there were students from far away as Venezuela, Italy, England, the U.S., and most Canadian provinces.

But back to how I was remembered.

At a group gathering during a reunion, they said i must have been the model for The Fonz in TVs “Happy Days” except “He couldn’t dance like you.”

On another occasion, the old-timer leaned on his cane and said, “Yeah, you’re the guy with the three pens.” I’d forgotten about that. I used to use three pens so I could write three lines worth of detentions – penalties or punishment given for some infraction or other – such as “I will not be late for first class after lunch” 500 times. Those three pens cut down the writing time a lot. Then he added, “And you sure could jive.”

A retired salesman who had to give up a promising professional hockey career because of a shoulder that kept  separating just flat out blared, “You were the best jiver in the ‘Bay.” Another old colleague, recalling my dance-floor days, rolled his eyes and said, “Man, you made us live!”

This patter and pattern have tumbled through my mind as I recall those dazzling days when I could jitterbug/jive/swing/whatever historians call it today. It was a shuffle and shucking done to a boogie-woogie beat and, while I can’t claim to have been the best in the ‘Bay, there was no one better.

It all  began in Jack McGinty’s living room. His home is now a rooming house abutting a McIntyre Street motel. His sister, Leona, taught me when I was 14 or 15 how to cut a rug on their living-room rug. Jack and I were close friends, along with Frank Klein (who became a well-known cop and civic leader in Sault Ste. Marie), Tom Lyons (who acquired his own firm in Peterborough and became a competitor at international curling bonspiels), Dennis Murphy (who rose to monsignor-ity in the Church) and Bernie Bucholtz (who went on to play several years of professional football in western and eastern Canada). As it turned out, we were pallbearers at Jack’s funeral after he was killed in a freak traffic accident. I was 17.

I always got a picture of him in my mind when I went into swing that gave me access to every gal in town. When the beat got down, all I had to do was point to one and she skipped out and we had a boogie ball. This is said not as a boast, although it is with pride, because we both were having fun.

That’s all I’ve ever wanted out of life – to be able to have fun. And I’ve had to deal with hundreds – probably thousands – of people who have done their utmost to deter me. So I toss the big-bands CDs into the tuner and turn up the volume  just right then bob and bounce to the beat while I picture Jack and the living room where his sister taught me to boogie a long time ago in an era far away.

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 26, 2016 at 9:44 pm

My Doctor Said . . .

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doctor_100. . . all my tests — blood glucose, abdominal ultrasound, hearing and sight, and everything else — have turned out positive with no changes or negatives and I should keep on doing what I’ve been doing all along.

So I still go out and swear and shout at all those damned drivers and bicyclists in traffic.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 20, 2016 at 11:50 am

Jim Thorpe’s Legacy Buried in Pennsylvania Coal Town

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                                           By Cecil Scaglione

Mature Life Features 

JIM THORPE, Penn. — Rolling along the country roads stitched through this northeastern pocket of the Keystone State is akin to meandering through central Italy, where every hill is crowned by  a town with its own version of history.

Jim Thorpe is like that. The all-round all-American athlete after whom this town is named was not born here, did not attend school here, and there is no evidence he ever set foot or even drove through here.

Yet this “Gateway to the Poconos,” which as been proclaimed one of the nation’s prettiest towns, owes its survival to the Oklahoma-born Olympic champion who, when the King of Sweden handed him his pentathlon and decathlon medals at the 1912 Olympic Games in Sweden and proclaimed him “the greatest athlete in the world,” said “Thanks, King.”

This struggling little coal community was known as Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk until the 1950s. A sign with that historic title still hangs from  the front of its Victorian train station. It populace had blazed through the heyday of coal and railroad expansion and was existing on those fumes of fame when Thorpe died in 1953. His widow, disappointed and disgusted when Oklahoma movers and shakers refused to establish a memorial to their renowned native son, began shopping around for a place that would welcome his remains.

The Mauch Chunk leaders heard of her efforts when she landed in Philadelphia and, desperate for new lifeblood and new business, agreed to build a memorial for her late husband and rename their town after him. They even dug up some soil from the Stockholm Olympic Stadium and used it to form a small mound at the base of his monument.

Native-American tribal and family factions in Oklahoma have battled through several courtroms to have his remains returned to the Sooner State. An appeals-court decision last year appears to have settled things by leaving matters as they lay.

Visiters who pop into this forest-girdled Carbon County community mid-way between Wilkes Barre and Allentown and wish to visit the man’s memorial head across the Lehigh River about a mile north of downtown to a small park dedicated to the football Hall of Famer who was arguably the finest all-round athlete in recorded history.

If they park in the lot beside the train station that debouched passengers into the heart of the commercial zone, they’re more likely to see Molly Maguires Pub and Steakhouse, a benign reminder that this is where four members of the infamous group involved in a bloody mining war were found guilty of murder and hanged in the mid-1870s.

Comfortable memories of the community’s salad days are housed in the Asa Packer Mansion straddling a hill overlooking the town. Packer started out as an apprentice carpenter who opened a store in Mauch Chunk while operating a boat yard that made vessels for transporting coal along the Lehigh Canal. This led him into the mining industry and, eventually, railroading. His first link was built to Easton, Penn., and his Lehigh Valley Railroad eventually reached out to the Jersey shore. When he died in 1879, his estate was valued at $54 million.

The comfort of his life as an industrialist, congressman, candidate for governor, presidential nominee, and judge are on view for tours of the Victorian building that peers over the town to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church perched on a hill on the other side of the village. Packer was, of course, instrumental in having this Gothic landmark built. Among its eye-catching features are two vibrant Tiffany windows. Today, the church has just a little more than 30 members.

— 30 —



Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 16, 2016 at 7:52 am

We Were Crawling Through a White-Out . . .

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imagesD40MGR1V. . . between Detroit and Chicago on our way to our new home in San Diego when we heard about the massive Sylmar earthquake 45 years ago.

We’d been on the road a couple of hours so it was about 9 a.m. Tuesday when the first tidbits about the temblor interrupted the car-radio reports on the weather and traffic conditions. Our search for the next highway rest-stop became more intense because we wanted to wait out the snowstorm and discuss whether we really wanted to continue.

After all, we had stumbled into several hurdles since we tried to rip out our Canadian roots and transplant ourselves on the Left Coast. The earthquake might have meant to be our final warning.

This was after we had torn out the transmission of the family flivver four days earlier. We had planned to haul a trailer with our goods across country but our two-door hardtop decided against it just as we were approaching the Ambassador Bridge linking Canada and United States at the southern edge of Windsor and Detroit. Fortunately, it happened on the Canadian side and the garage we used over the years back in Windsor, Ontario, knew us, recognized our problem when we made a quick panic phone call, hauled everything to his locale and worked over the weekend to get us road-worthy again.

He even towed the loaded U-Haul trailer to our neighbor’s, who also came to our rescue and let us – three adults (my brother drove his VW bug down with us) and three kids — camp with them for the weekend. In between partying and panic attacks, we unpacked our belongings, returned the trailer, acquired several boxes and repacked our stuff, and arranged for a moving company to pick it up and deliver it to the address we would give them as soon as we settled. (It got here a bit more than a month after we arrived.)

The hiatus did give me the opportunity to drop back into The Detroit News to pick up my farewell check instead of having them mail it to me.

We finally pulled into a roadside diner stop a few miles short of Chicago. We couldn’t see it from the road but the kids saw a parking lot packed with vehicles, so we pulled in. Over some cups of coffee and assorted eats, we crowded around the TV set with the horde of other travelers to catch the latest on the California quake. And we wondered if our move to the West Coast was meant to be.

But the kids – in their tweens — were upbeat and undeterred about taking up a new life in the environs of Hollywood and Disneyland and surfers so we waited until the snowstorm subsided, topped off the gas tank and were back on the road before noon.

We got shafted that night by a motel owner in Lee’s Summit just outside St. Louis. He recognized us as refugees fleeing the frigid north for southern comfort and fleeced us for our rooms. It taught us to just walk away from the desk when given a price. That brought an immediate discount and, after a bit more haggling, the cost would to fit our budget. After all, this was February and most of these digs were empty.

The problems and perils we’d tumbled over moved quickly into the backs of or minds as we slipped into the adventure of sliding along route 66. The Golden State was still here when we arrived so I bought a short-sleeved shirt to wear when I walked into my new job at the San Diego Union on President’s Day.

– 30 –




Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 11, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Getting Trapped in an Elevator . . .

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. . . is pretty low on the list of things most people would like to do. It’s high on the list of nightmares for anyone with phobias related to loss of control and tight places.

But that’s what happened to 10 people in a Minneapolis hotel this past week. The crunch lasted a bit more than an hour when their rising elevator stopped, plummeted a few feet, and braked to a stop between the second and third floors. And the doors would not open. Maintenance workers were unable to improve matters so the fire department was called. They lowered a ladder from the hotel roof down the elevator shaft and the sweating hotel guests clambered out to take the stairs down to their respective floors.

As the climbed out, the last of the locked-in said they had left their luggage. Most just shrugged and said they’d get it later. So the gent still in the cage – an American Airlines co-pilot still in uniform — hauled the bags up and out for them. It could be considered a mixture of personal courtesy and professional customer service. Knowing the flyer, we’d say it’s a bit of both. You see, he’s our son-in-law.


Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 7, 2016 at 10:44 am

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