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Greenwich's Civil Rights March

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The 1960s decade was probably the most dynamic period in terms of Civil Rights.  States such as Alabama and Mississippi refused to enforce Federal laws preventing segregation.  Freedom riders from the north began riding buses down south to protest.  Sometime between June 21 and 22, 1964, three such riders - James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael "Mickey" Schwerner - were shot to death at close range.  A subsequent trial found members of the Mississippi White Knights of the KKK, the County Sherriff and local police force guilty of the crime.  They received a slap on the wrist, and most escaped prison time.  This tragedy helped to garner support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Acts of 1965.

A lesser-known  incident was the murder of Reverend James J. Reeb of Boston on March 9, 1965. Reeb was an American Unitarian Universalist minister and a Civil Rights activist in Washington DC. He and his family lived in poor Black communities where he felt he could do the most good.  Reeb travelled to Selma, Alabama, to help with the Civil Rights movement.  After leaving a "Negro" diner that he was helping to integrate, he was beaten to death by four white men. Reeb was not immediately admitted to a hospital, and two days later he died.  Martin Luther King Jr. condemned the murder as a cowardly act.  Several days earlier, African-American Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot to death by Selma police during a racial disturbance. Although marchers attempted to go to the County Courthouse for a memorial service, they were stopped by local authorities. 

In response to the violence in Selma, the Fellowship of Greenwich Clergy organized a march from the Second Congregational Church on East Putnam Avenue to the Lutheran Church on Field Point Road on March 13, 1965.  Seven hundred residents joined Reverend Ralph G. Morris of Diamond Hill Church, Reverend John J. Hawkins of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, and Reverend C. Gordon Beale of the Second Congregational Church in a peaceful and orderly march.  Demonstrators included blacks and white alike. 

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SECOND CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH  circa 1879

COURTESY OF MS. ADALINE RUNDLE

At the end of the march, a memorial service was held at the Lutheran Church on Field Point Road for Reverend Reeb.  Attendees were urged to support civil rights legislation and work to eliminate inequality in Greenwich.  Senator Thomas Dodd sent a telegram sympathizing with the cause of the marchers.  Reverend Stivers from Old Greenwich likened the movement to a revolution rooted in the religious traditions of brotherhood.  He also condemned the violence in Selma.  Although voting wasn't an issue in Greenwich, Reverend Stivers talked of inequality in housing and employment.  Reverend Leon Burnham of Bethel A.M.E. Church urged residents to fight for adequate housing and education for all.  Rabbi Moshe Davidowitz from Temple Sholom asked the congregation to fight for legislation to end discrimination.  Although policemen were present to direct traffic, there were no incidents of violence and the activities ended peaceably.

This was not true of the march in Selma.  Sherriff James C. Clark barred 500 black and white marchers from participating in a memorial service for Reverend Reeb.  State Troopers were staged several blocks away as backup.  KKK members were also in attendance, and several got rowdy and had to be carted away. Clark claimed the marchers would disrupt voter registration at the Courthouse.  He said the marchers were offered a municipal stadium, but had turned down the offer.  Marches and memorial services were being held all over the country.  In response, prayer vigils were held in the streets of Selma.   A federal judge intervened and filed an injunction to let the marchers proceed.

It seems only natural that clergy of all faiths would be at the forefront of the fight for Civil Rights.  They led peaceful demonstrations, and called for treating all people (regardless of color) with dignity.  Blacks should have equal rights when it came to employment, housing, education and health services.  Discrimination should no longer be tolerated.  People should be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by their individual character.  These brave men were also victims of violence;  but they stayed committed to their cause.  It's because of their efforts that conditions improved.  There is still a lot to be done, and there is no doubt people like these will be at the forefront.

SOURCE

The Greenwich Time








Chickahominy

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Although it's easier to determine the origin of the names of some parts of Town (ex. Round Hill, Stanwich and Pemberwick), this is not the case with that section of town between Belle Haven and Byram known as Chickahominy.  This is the area bounded roughly by the Post Road (West Putnam Avenue) to the north, Prospect Street to the east, the railroad to the south and the Transfer Station to the west.   If you drive down Hamilton Avenue toward Byram Shore, you run right through it.  Its landmarks include Castiglione's Funeral Home, Hamilton Avenue Deli, Express Pizza, Garden Catering, the Two Door Saloon, Hamilton Avenue School, St. Roch's Church, Armstrong Court and Bimbo Bakery.  The most widely accepted explanation for the origin of the name is that veterans of the Civil War, who fought in the famous Battle of Chickahominy, returned to the area and nicknamed the community.  

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SOURCE:  NEW YORK TIMES

The Chickahominy River was a tributary to the famous James River in Virginia.  It runs 25-miles from northwest of Richmond to Cheseapeake Bay.  There's no town or area by this name.  Some believe Chickahominy refers to an Indian tribe that populated the area.  It's translation is "coarse ground corn people".  Both the Union and Confederate armies devised plans to use the river to surprise their enemy during the Civil War, but they were faced with many obstacles and several expeditions had little affect on the outcome. 

During the 1800s, Italian stonemasons, tailors, shoemakers came to Greenwich.  They helped build churches, schools, homes, worked on estates and tilled the soil.  Yet, they were ostracized for their differences.  Italians couldn't afford to live in other, more expensive parts of town, and settled in Chickahominy. They were preceded by the Germans and the Irish. By the 1900s, many more Italians immigrated to Greenwich, and worked in Cos Cob, North Mianus and Stamford.  Many people from Chickahominy also worked in the manufacturing factories in Port Chester.

Family was the most important thing in their lives, and many strived to earn enough money to buy homes. The Italian stonemasons built St. Roch's Church themselves around 1920. Each August they celebrate the Feast of St. Roch's with ethnic food, carnival rides and music. It's a great opportunity to celebrate their culture.  The Church is the center of their social life.

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SOURCE:  GREENWICH LIBRARY PHOTO COLLECTION


Chickahominy is one of many diverse neighborhoods that give Greenwich its identity.  Many of its residents have contributed much in the way of public service to the Town.  Ms. Josephine Evaristo served on the RTM for many years, and constantly advocated for her community.  Our current First Selectman, Peter Tesei, grew up in Chickahominy.

It's a proud community.  The residents helped to build this Town.  Many attended Hamilton Avenue School.  Most are members of St. Roch's Church.  There is no doubt that future generations will continue to contribute to this important neighborhood as well as the rest of Greenwich.


SOURCES


Greenwich Magazine; Moffly Publications, Greenwich CT.

Greenwich TimeTime-Warner Corp, Greenwich CT

Ye Historie of Ye Town of Greenwich: Mead, S.; Knickerbocher Press NY, 1913


Maestro Quinto Maganini

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Greenwich was home to one of the world's most brilliant composers - Quinto Maganini.  Mr. Manganini lived in town for more than 40 years.  He was a composer, conductor, teacher, editor , and music patron.

His family immigrated from Genoa, Italy, to California during the Gold Rush of 1850.  He was born on November 30, 1897, to Joseph F. and Mary Maganini in Fairfield CA.  After attending the local elementary, middle and high schools, he attended The University of California, where he studied music.  Maganini was a gifted flute and piccollo player.  In 1916 at the age of 19, while playing in John Phillip Sousa's Band in San Francisco, he was "discovered" and accepted a position as flautist with the New York Symphony.  From 1919 to 1928, he played with the San Francisco Symphony, the New York Symphonic Orchestra and the Russian Symphony Orchestra.  He was sent to Europe from 1920 to 1929 to study music.  Quinto spent 2 years at the prestigious  Conservatoire Americain in Fontainebleau .  He also studied in Italy, Germany and England. 

In 1927, Quinto Maganini received a Pulitzer Prize in muisc for his opera titled "The Argonauts".  It was about the California Gold Rush, which his ancestors experienced when they first arrived in this country.  His work covered almost every musical field including ballet, orchestral work, choral work, symphonic band scores, solo and ensemble pieces.  He even composed music for "Romeo and Juliet".  In 1928 and 1929, he received two Guggenheim Fellowships, which allowed him to continue his studies.

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Eventually, he became a guest conductor, appearing with leading orchestras in New York, Paris and San Francisco.  He also conducted the New York Sinfonietta, and founded the Maganini Chamber Symphony Orchestra.  Maganini made a nationwide tour with the latter group.  In the summer of 1938, he was alternating with two conductors in leading the New York Philharmonic in a series at Silvermine.  From 1940 to 1967, he was the conductor for the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra. 

Maganini recruited young musicians from Greenwich to play in a Youth Symphony.  He worked with such greats as Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Pearlman and Emanuel Ax.  At Columbia University in New York, he taught harmony and counterpoint in the Teacher's College.  He was also a commentator on music programs. To promote fellow composers, he played their works and published them in Edidion Musicus - a publication he founded.

One of his hobbies was the collection and restoration of paintings.  Maganini acquired a remarkable collection of old masters.  Over time he donated a number of them to museums and universities. He found some priceless Chinese murals in his 18th century Newport RI home, which he restored.   

On a personal note, Quinto married Margaretta Mason Kingsbury on May 28, 1927.  They had one child named Margaretta after the mother. According to his obituary in the Greenwich Time (3-11-1974), he had two grandchildren.  He was also president of Kingsbury, Inc. a hydroelectric machine factory.

Quinto Maganini contributed a great deal to the field of music during his lifetime.  He was not afraid to promote the work of his fellow musicians.  His willingness to work with young people was admirable.  This unselfishness shall remain his greatest legacy.


SOURCE

Greenwich Time

Celebrity Wedding

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If you look at the front page of the December 12, 1940 Greenwich Time (on microfilm), you'll see a photo of Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz. The famous couple came to Greenwich to get married!  Many celebrities took advantage of the fact that Connecticut had a shorter waiting time to get a marriage license compared to New York.

Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown NY in 1911.  Her family moved to Montana and Michigan due to his job.  Unfortunately, he died in 1915. Her mother remarried, but her stepfather had no use for children.  She was taken in by her mother's family.  At age 15, she enrolled in the New York Drama School.  Her teacher thought she was too shy and lacked ambition, so she left school.  By 1927, she had become a model, posing for a fashion designer and making commercials for Chesterfield cigarettes. 

In the 1930s, she headed to Hollywood, where she landed a job as one of the "12 Goldwyn Girls".  Lucy started landing various roles in such movies as "The Three Musketeers" and "Stage Door".  She would appear in 72 movies during her career.  It was on the set of the movie "Dance, Girl, Dance" that she first met her husband-to-be Desi Arnaz.

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LUCY AND DESI CUTTING 10TH ANNIVERSARY CAKE CIRCA 1950

 CLASSIC CINEMA PHOTOS

Desi Arnaz was born in 1917 to a wealthy family in Santiago, Cuba.  After a revolution, his family fled to Miami in 1933.  Desi worked for Xavier Cougart in New York City, then returned to Miami to start his own band.  It became so popular, that he returned to New York City.  Due to his new found celebrity, he was offered a role in the Broadway musical "Too Many Girls".  The musical was turned into a screenplay for RKO.  This is where Desi met Lucy.

The couple dated for six months. They were separated for a month when Desi was in New York and Lucy was in Chicago.  This must have been the turning point because they suddenly decided to get married.  Greenwich was the first town over the stateline, so they headed to Connecticut.  A Connecticut Probate Judge waived the 5-day waiting period, and they enlisted the help of Judge O'Brien to marry them. Being sentimental, the Judge insisted on taking them to the Byram River Beagle Club to get married since it was more romantic than O'Brien's house.

The Beagle Club was located at 100 Riversville Road at the intesection with Pecksland Road.  It was built in the 18th century, and bought by James McEntee Bowman in 1918.  He was the president of Bowman-Biltmore Hotels.  He remodeled the site, adding horse stables and a great restaurant.  Since foxhunting was popular at the time, he had kennels built for the hounds (beagles), and horses could be housed in the stables.  Hunters very often had lunch at the club.  From 1919 to 1933, it  was a "Speakeasy", serving illegal liquor.  Cockfighting was also held on Sundays. 

The Club was very exclusive.  Only the well-to-do were invited.  Of course, this was no problem for Desi and Lucy.   The only problem turned out to be the ring.  All the jewelry stores were closed on the weekend, so they had to buy a cheap ring at Woolworth's to use in the ceremony.  It was made of copper.  Lucy later had it coated (electroplated) with platinum.  A small reception followed.  Only an agent and manager attended the wedding.  The couple would be remarried in California in 1949 with family members present.

Desi worked to develop the television series "I Love Lucy", which ran for six years from 1951 to 1957.  It never fell below third place in the ratings.  Desi was known for being a Lothario, and the couple divorced in 1960.  Both remarried. They each pursued  their own careers, and continued to be successful.  Desi died of cancer in 1986, while Lucy died in 1989. 

Historical Happenings

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Virtual Walking Tour of Byram
Monday - June 23 - 10 AM
St. Paul Lutheran Church - Delevan Avenue - Byram

Patricia Baiardi Kantorski will speak on how Byram developed from a farming area in the 1600's to the community it is today. The slide show will start at 10 am on Monday June 23rd in the Meeting Room at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Delevan Ave., Byram. Sponsored by the Byram Shubert Library.  Parking is available in the back of the church or at the library.

Greenwich Lawn Bowls Club

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If you've ever driven through Bruce Park, you've probably noticed a well-manicured grass plot surrounded by a white pickett fence.  On some afternoons, you might even see a group of people dressed in white clothes and straw hats congregating inside the fenced-in court.  These are members of the Greenwich Lawn Bowls Club, who have beeen engaged in this sport since 1940.

Lawn bowling is a sport that is closely related to the Italian game of bocce.  The Greenwich Time (5/12/2002) stated that a predecessor of the game may go back as far as 5200 BC!  It's believed to have been played in its modern form in Scotland and England in the late 1200s AD.  It was considered to be a popular distraction in Europe in the 1500s, and there's a legend that claims Sir Francis Drake was engaged in a game of lawn bowling before he sailed off to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588!  Many Kings apparently had their own private bowling greens.  It's been played in Connecticut since 1715, and 1723 in lower Manhattan - hence the name "Bowling Green".

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Bocce and Lawn Bowling are slightly different.  The object is essentially the same:  to roll a large ball as close as possible to a target ball, while keeping your opponent away.  In Lawn Bowling, this white ball is called a "jack" or "kitty". Points are awarded based on position.  Bocce is played on a dirt alley.  Spherical brass balls are used, which tend to roll straight.  In Lawn Bowling, on the other hand, level, manicured grass courts are used.  These measure 120 feet by 120 feet.   Since the balls are asymmetrical with built in weights, and have flattened tops and bottoms, the balls tend to curve.  They are about the size of grapefruit and weigh 3-pounds each. The bowls are not heavy, and require little power to roll.  "Bowls" (balls) are black in color, and are fitted to the the player's hand. I understand there are about 9 sizes.  Some players carry them in monogrammed cases.  Interestingly, the grass changes while playing, making the bowl roll differently.  Players stand on special mats to play.  A measuring tape is used to determine distances.  Lawn Bowling can be played with up to as many as 4 people.  A game lasts about 10 minutes on average, and it's customary to play 3 games to determine the winner based on total points

I learned that the Lawn Bowling court was built in Greenwich in 1940 by George Stevenson, the head of Parks and Recreation. There have been as many as 100 members and as few as 15.  The season runs from May to October or November, depending on the first frost (Frost changes how the bowl rolls on the grass.)  Over the years, the competition has changed from daily to several times a week, the weekends being regular.  The competition begins at 1 pm and usually goes until 3 pm, but it can go on into early evening.  Occassionally, there is a "Fun Day" when non-members can come and participate in a picnic and receive lessons on bowling.  Greenwich has also been home to state and national tournaments.  These include an Irvington Memorial Tournament, a Southern Connecticut Lawn Bowlers Association Triples Tournament and the Connecticut State Fours Tournament. 

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You may think such a sport couldn't generate much controversy, but this is not the case!  In 1988,  the Bayberry Mallet Club (a local croquet group) submitted a petition with 200 signatures claiming the lawn bowlers had used the court exclusively for their own sport.  They said the town favored the GLBC, and wanted the town to build more courts   Parks and Recreation Director Frank Keagan got the parties to agree to a compromise.  A strip 50-feet by 120-feet was reserved for lawn bowling, while the remaining 70-feet by 120-feet section would be used simultaneously by the croquet players.  The entire court would be reserved for croquet after 3pm, and the whole court could be used for lawn bowling tournaments.  Both groups contribute to the maintenance of the court.  The problem was solved, and the lawn bowlers and croquet players happily co-exist!

In 1995, there was another controversy over a sign that had been placed on the fence around the court.  It indicated that only members and guests of the GLBC could use the court.  This was to protect the grass.  Some local residents took exception, claiming the group had become an exclusive club. Opponents wanted to know why town funds were being used for maintenance that only benefited a small, tight group.  They argued the town maintained the the lawn bowling court just as much as the softball fields and tennis courts.  The croquet and lawn bowl players countered that they gave money to the town for maintenance.  The GLBC gave $250/year while the croquet club gave $500/year.  In fact, the croquet players gave $3500 for a new sprinkler system.   Members of the GLBC said they were not a closed, exclusive group, but welcomed new members and anyone who wanted to learn more about the sport.

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I couldn't find a followup to this story, but I've noticed the sign is still on the fence in Bruce Park. I'm certain the players and town just want to protect the grass.  I'm keeping my eyes open for any players that may be using the court, and if I have any time, I may even stop to watch for a while.  It's a link to the past that has survived time.  The only thing that matters is rolling the "bowl".   As several players noted, it's great exercise, you get a lot of fresh air, and you meet a lot of nice people.


SOURCES

Photos by Carl White

Greenwich Time; Times-Warner Corporation, Hearst Corporation;  Various dates from 1983 to 2007. 



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The KKK in Greenwich

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I was surprised to find several references to the Ku Klux Klan in Greenwich and Connecticut during some unrelated research I was doing for another blog.  I'd heard about the KKK in high school history, but only had a rudimentary knowledge of the group.  So I decided to look into it further. 

                                                     Emblem of the Ku Klux Klan


                                    EMBLEM OF THE KU KLUX KLAN

According to our History Reference Database, the KKK was established by a group of ex-Confederate soldiers, who were opposed to Reconstruction and wanted to maintain White Supremacy.  After the war, many local governments were weak or practically non-existent.  Whites feared a black insurrection, and hated carpetbaggers and scalawags.  In Pulaski TN in 1866, a secret group was formed to take control of the situation.  The members wore white robes, white masks, and had skulls for saddle horns.  The horses, in turn, were covered with white robes and their feet were muffled by white cloth.  This was to symbolize the Confederate dead.  They developed a mystrerious language and participoated in secret ceremonies.  At one time, the KKK members used whippings and lynchings to further their cause.  They were early terrorists whose very exsistence caused fear to spread throughout the North and South.

The head of the KKK was the Imperial Grand Wizard.  He had 10 Genii across the country report to him, and each state was considered a Realm.  One of the main goals was to keep Blacks away from the polls.  This way whites could control the government.  In the 1870s, Congress passed legislation to prevent this type of behavior.

There was a resurrgence of the (Second) KKK after World War I.  It was started by William J. Simmons, an ex-minister.  He not only discriminated against Blacks, but also Catholics and Jews. By the 1920s, membership was estimated at 4 to 5 million members.  The government started to tighten up laws, however, in the 1920s by forbidding masks and secret operations.  A brief resurrgence after World War II failed, followed by a brief resurrgence during the social activism of the 1960s, and the ascension of David Duke in the 1990s.

The Ku Klux Klan on parade down Pennsylvania A...

The Ku Klux Klan on parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, 1928 (Photo credit: The U.S. National Archives)














 

 

 

 

 

Surprisingly, I found that the KKK was very active in Connecticut and Greenwich over the years.  On June 6, 1924, a cross was burned near the residence of Coulter D. Huyler in the Round Hill section of town.  The cross burned for an hour, and since it was placed on the highest point in town, it could be seen for miles.  The cross was 25-feet in height.  A 20-foot fuse was used to light it.  It's not known if the burning was meant to coincide with a community fair that was organized to foster good will.  Two figures were seen leaving the scene.  the Police were notified, and two motorcycle officers were dispatched;  but no one was found.  An article I read mentioned three other cross burnings at Hamilton Avenue, Byram Hill and East Port Chester

Two weeks later on June 20, 1924, an article in the Greenwich News & Graphic newspaper may give the reader insight into the mindset of community in terms of racial integration.  In an article titled "Negroes Coming Thicker", it talks about how Blacks were starting to migrate North to fill factory and domestic jobs on the estates.  There seemed to be a drop off in foreign born immigrants.  It mentioned how there had been a higher death rate and lower birth rate among the Blacks.  People were definitely concerned about the influx of this low economic demographic that worked for low wages and could take jobs away.

Four years later on August 14, 1928, the Connecticut KKK planned a Field Day in Greenwich with a parade of 10,000 people from Greenwich to Port Chester.  The Imperial Wizard Dr. Hiram Wesley Evans was to attend with out-of-town Klansmen from New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.  Approximately 200 people participated.  Surprisingly, young women in white regalia were among the crowd.  Hooded Klansmen directed traffic near the Railroad Avenue Bridge.  Klan "Rangers" were brought in as a security measure. Several plain clothed policemen were distributed in the crowd.


Description: A Ku Klux Klan meeting in Gainesv...

Description: A Ku Klux Klan meeting in Gainesville, Florida, Dec. 31, 1922. Source: http://www.displaysforschools.com/history.html. Portion: Reduced from original size so it is no longer suitable for reproduction. Purpose: To illustrate the article Ku Klux Klan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
















 

 

 

 

 

 

The Board of Selectmen granted a permit to hold the Field Day in Bruce Park, and Parks Warden Joseph P. Crosby gave a permit for the parade.  Several tents were erected and there was a refreshment stand.  Two Drum Corps bands came up from Freeport NY.  Events included a ballgame between members from Rhode Island and Connecticut, a tug-o-war, band concert, and speeches.  New Klansmen were initiated and run through a drill. Several young men tried to disrupt the proceedings, but were chased away.  The festivities culminated with the burning of a 30-foot cross on a slope of a hill starting at 9 pm and ending at midnight.

During the Fall of 1980, there was another brief flurry of KKK activity in the state.  According to the Greenwich Time,  David Duke visited the state in January , 1980.  He was the Grand Wizard of the Knights of the KKK.  Bill Wilkinson was the Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the KKK.  They were apparently rival groups.  Duke was accused of pursuing his own self interests.  At any rate, Wilkinson came to the state to announce a brand, new Klan leader for Connecticut.  There was a plan to have a rally in Scotland CT, which is near Willimantic in the eastern part of the state.  A cross was to be burned for the first time since the 1920s.

This time the public was definitely opposed  to the organization due to their racist philosophy and covert methods.  The Klan said its purpose was to establish white people in positions of power, return free enterprise to all and protect women's rights and human rights.  Protestors cropped up all over the state.  Rep Lawrence DeNardis (R) joined with numerous religious leaders to organize an anti-Klan demonstration in New Haven.  A group called the International Committee Against Racism and Coalition Against the Klan planned a demonstration in Scotland on the night of the Klan rally.  Buses carrying 4 or 5 dozen protestors from Hartford and New Haven descended on the scene.   In response, the KKK planned on bringing armed Klansmen from Alabama and Tennessee to maintain order.  Fortunately, a Judge forbade the presence of guns at the rally, and police searched vehicles (and people) for firearms. Law Enforcement felt this was necessary since there had been 5 fatalities at a Greensboro NC rally in 1979.


Open-air Initiation of K.K.K. under the Light ...

Open-air Initiation of K.K.K. under the Light of the Fiery Cross. From The Ku Klux Klan In Prophecy 1925. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

















 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time Connecticut law enforcement was ready.  Approximately 200 armed State Troopers descended on the scene.  Eleven people were arrested and numerous weapons were confiscated from Klansmen and protestors including slingshots, night sticks, billy clubs, buck knives, swords, machetes, .45 caliber handguns, air pellet pistols and a pump-action shotgun.  Bill Wilkinson was charged with carrying a gun in a briefcase in his car trunk.  He had a permit from his home state,  but no permit from the state of Connecticut.  Despite all the efforts to stem violence, local police had difficulty controlling the crowds,  Surprisingly, the KKK members had the most injuries.  A controversy arose since the State Police had extra officers about 2 -miles away, but they were never summoned.

Three days later, there were two subsequent cross burnings.  One involved a 20-foot cross on an I-95 median strip in Rocky Hill, and the other was a 5-foot by 3-foot cross on a lawn in Windham.

Currently, there doesn't appear to be any resurgence in Klan activity.  Membership seems to be down.  There was an article in the September 5, 2013, Hartford Courant that references a meeting between the KKK and NAACP in Montana.  The KKK still seems to favor separate, white enclaves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.  NAACP officials justified the meeting as an attempt to have a discourse with their enemies.  The KKK representative actually joined the NAACP and made a small donation to the organization!  In September 2013, the Maryland KKK held an event in the Gettysburg National Military Park, and a protest group - the Adams Valley Coalition - organized a protest, but there was no violence.

There may be future flare ups for various reasons; but I don't think the KKK will gain any kind of political foothold unless it drastically changes its philosophy and policies.  Americans still seem opposed to the KKK agenda.  People are better educated and more aware of social issues.  We have a diverse, and for the most part, an accepting society.   This "rainbow" coalition of our society is what gives this country strength and makes our citizens loyal members of society.




SOURCES

     Greenwich News & Graphic

          Greenwich Time

               The Hartford Courant

    





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Roy Cohn

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When I was growing up, I remember hearing about someone named Roy Cohn.  I didn't really know anything about him. Then when I moved to Connecticut, I read something about him living in Greenwich.  Over time, I found out he was a lawyer who represented several celebrities.  This week, I decided to do some more research and write a blog on him.

Roy Marcus Cohn was born in New York City on February 2, 1927,  to Dora Marcus and Albert Cohn. Roy was an only child.  His father was a State Supreme Court Judge , and his family lived on Park Avenue.  He attended Horace Mann  and Fieldston Schools.  Cohn was a prodigy, who graduated from high school and college early, and finished Columbia University Law School at the age of 20.  He had to wait a year to be admitted to the bar at age 21!  As you can see, he was extraordinary, brilliant and articulate.  His family was able to help him pull some strings, and he was able to land a job in the United States Attorney's Office in Manhattan, specializing in subversive activities. 

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Cohn prosecuted 11 members of the American Communist Party for preaching the overthrow of the United States government.  He received much noteriety as a prosecutor in the infamous Rosenberg case. 

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were accused of being Soviet spies and receiving classified documents on the Manhattan Project, the initiative that resulted in the creation of the atomic bomb.  Cohn managed to get the death penalty for the pair in 1951, despite being accused of improper interaction with the judge. (An informant later cleared Ethel of any wrong doing.)  At age 27, Cohn was recommended to Senator Joseph McCarthy by J. Edgar Hoover to serve as General Counsel during the "Red Scare" Congressional hearings.   Robert Kennedy, who remained Cohn's greatest rival throughout his career, was passed over.  Roy Cohn was a registered Democrat, but supported mostly Republican Presidents.   He traveled around the country and the world to uncover Communists. Roy was a member of the anti-Communist John Birch Society, and offered informal advice to Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Ronald Reagan.  By this time, Cohn had established his reputation, and become a power broker in politics.

Following the McCarthy hearings in 1954, he returned to private practice.  This resulted in a successful, if not somewhat trying (pardon the pun), thirty year career.  He became a "lawyer to the stars" with the likes of Donald Trump; gangsters Tony Salerno, Carmine Galante and John Gotti; and the Catholic Diocese.  As a defensive maneuver, Cohn took a very low salary ($100,000) from his firm.  He arranged to have the corporation pay for his apartment in Manhattan, and part of his rent in Greenwich.  The business also provided a chauffeur and paid his bills at LeCirque, the 21 Club and Studio 54.  He had no bank accounts, stocks or assets.  As he was fond of stating, he wanted to die without owing anything to the IRS! 

After his mother's death in 1967, Roy Cohn moved around and lived in New York City, Washington DC and Greenwich (1982).  He lived at 8 Witherell Drive in Rock Ridge, and could be often seen water skiing on Long Island Sound.  He gave lavish parties at his estate, and was friends to the likes of Cardinal Spellman, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Bianca Jaggar, Andy Warhol, George Steinbrenner, Geraldine Ferraro and Governor Tom Kean of New Jersey.  He was known for holding bashes at Studio 54, and often traveled to Acapulco for long weekends.  His summer home in Provincetown was next to Norman Mailer.  Esquire magazine featured his picture on one of their covers, and "60 Minutes" presented a story on his life and times. 

Cohn made many enemies along the way.  As a result, he became the chief target of numerous government agencies.  The FBI went through his mail, the IRS audited his taxes for 20 years in a row, and he was accused of professional misconduct, perjury and witness tampering by the American Bar Association.  He was indicted 3 times, but acquitted 3 times.    Stories swirled about his stealing money from an escrow account, refusal to pay back a bank loan, and illegally making himself an executor of an estate to swindle a dying man.  The SEC investigated him and charged him with making false reports.  Whether it was his connection to McCarthyism or his defense of controversial figures, Cohn had become the target of the establishment. 

Roy Cohn was a lifelong bachelor.  Rumors surfaced about his sexual orientation.  In 1984, Cohn announced he had been diagnosed with cancer, but a Doctor stated he had been diagnosed with HIV.  At 58 years of age in 1986, Cohn succombed to AIDS.  The powerful, intense, energetic man with the quick wit had met his match. 

In many ways, Roy Cohn was bigger than life.  His circle of friends had included Mayor Abraham Beame, Calvin Klein, Marvin Mitchelson, Rupert Murdoch, William F. Buckley and Estee Lauder.  He managed to raise $4-million for Israel.   He refused to apologize for his role in McCarthyism because he believed in a strong America.  Cohn claimed to hold the record for having been audited by the IRS so many times (20).

He will no doubt be best remembered for his zeal in trying to uncover Communists during the McCarthy hearings.  It would bring the debate about personal freedoms to the forefront.  He will also be remembered for the controversial cases he handled.  Like him or loathe him, he is still an important figure in the history of this country.

 



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The Museum of Cartoon Art

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When I first moved to Greenwich in 1976, one of the first places I visited was the Museum of Cartoon Art on Comely Avenue, just over the state line in Rye.  The "castle" sat high on a hill and had a wonderful view of "The Valley" - the Byram River Valley in the Pemberwick section of town.  It had the world's largest and finest collection of original cartoon drawings.  This museum was established by the National Cartoonists Society, led by Mort Walker, who created the "Beetle Bailey" comic strip.  It was first located in Greenwich, then moved to Rye.  The founders eventually moved it to Boca Raton, Florida, in 1992.

Cartoon art is actually the most popular form of drawing.  Artists draw original strips, which are reproduced for newspapers and comic books.  Surprisingly, Ben Franklin and Paul Revere had dabbled in cartoons.  At first, no one consider this art very valuable.  Many of these works of art were discarded or used to protect the floor from paint splatter.  It wasn't until Mort Walker and artist Jack Tippit decided to take matters into their own hands that anyone made a serious effort to collect, exhibit and preserve these renderings in one location.  There were two small museums in Orlando and San Francisco;  but Walker wanted to create a large museum to preserve comic strips, animated films, magazine drawings, editorial cartoons and sports illustrations.  He looked in Washington, DC, New York City, Boston, Syracuse and New Haven.  Yale offered some space in a new cultural center, but it wasn't scheduled to open for 4 more years. In his travels, he approached the Hearst Corporation to explain his idea, and was rewarded with a check for $50,000.   Walker was able to rent a turn of the century mansion located at 384 Field Point Road in Belle Haven.  (He had his own studio around the corner at 51 Mayo Avenue.) It was opened in 1974.

MCA Belle545.jpg

The 24-room mansion was owned by Augustus I. Mead, and was rented for $20,000 per year.  It sat high on a knoll, and had angled walls, high ceilings and large windows.  Four of the rooms were opened to the public.  One room served as a Cartoon Hall of Fame, which was reserved for Pulitzer prize winners.  A Reuben Award was created by the National Cartoon Society and bestowed on a deserving artist.  It was named after Rube Goldberg, who's name was used to describe a foolish, complicated invention.  Greenwich artists who were honored in the museum include Mort Walker (Beetle Bailey), Bob Gustafson (Tillie the Toiler), Ranan Lurie (Lurie's People), Jerry Dumas (Sam's Strip), John Cullen Murphy (Prince Valiant) and William Brown (Mixed Singles). Other artists installed were Thomas Nast ( creator of the Elephant and Donkey political icons), Charles Gibson (Gibson Girl), Elzie Seegar (Popeye), Walt Disney and Walt Kelly (Pogo). The museum grew in popularity and size, and the founders wanted to expand the mansion to add a classroom for seminars, a theater to show films and a library to store reference material. The Society had tee-shirts, stationery and buttons made (with an image of the house as a logo) to raise funds.  Unfortunately, the Mead family became concerned with the increased traffic and limited parking in the residential area. There was also talk of some structural damage being done to the house.  As a result, the family refused to renew the lease.  The museum had to find a new home.

MCA Comly546.jpg

In 1978, the museum found a new home in the Ward Castle on Comely Avenue in Rye.  The mansion had been built in 1876 by nuts and bolts manufacturer William I. Ward.  It was a Victorian structure which sat on a hilltop.  Many called it "Ward's Folly".  There were over 6-acres of land surrounding the mansion.  The turreted, 4-story building had massive carved mahogany doors, exotic wood paneling, brass fittings, marble fireplaces, and crystal chandeliers.  At one time, the Wards had offered it to the Town of Rye as a Town Hall. Ward left the castle to his two daughters, who were heirs to the Piels Beer fortune.  By 1978, it had been vacant for several years.  The Society purchased the structure for $70,000.  Renovations to the building cost $50,000.  They received a $30,000 grant from the National Parks Service, and sold a large portion of the land for residential development.   Since the Society was a non-profit organization and not subject to tax, the Town liked the idea of getting tax revenue for the new homes.  Walker and company moved 50,000 items from Belle Haven to Ward's Castle.

 

This was the only museum of its kind.  What was once considered lesser art, subject to mutilation and destruction, was now recognized for its historical value. The exhibits were a great way for the young to learn about history.  Cartoons presented a record of slang, fashion, thought, etc. It was a mirror of society and culture. 

 

Classes in cartooning and monthly lectures were presented.  The building was an ideal venue for this enterprise.  It was one of the first buildings constructed with reinforced concrete.  There were chandeliers, sliding wooden doors, onyx and marble newel posts.  Several fireplaces were restored, door panels contained engraved glass panels and mirrors were installed throughout the building.  A videotape room was built to view filmstrips. Over time, a carpet emblazoned with superheroes (Flash Gordon, Popeye and Barney Google) was added, and a stained glass skylight with such cartoon characters as Donald Duck and Prince Valiant was installed.

The Cartoon Museum was open Tuesday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm.  On Sunday it was open from 1 to 5 pm.  Admission was $1 for adults and 50-cents for children.  The museum had 200 films totaling 50 hours of videotape.  On Sundays, the film looped continuously.  A guest cartoonist would give a presentation on Sundays, and there was an exhibit on how a comic strip was put together.  One of the more popular exhibits was a "tongue-in-cheek" environmental sculpture of a cartoonist at work.  Shoved in an open broom closet, it showed a harried cartoonist in short pants, red socks, big yellow sneakers, surrounded by discarded, crumpled paper.

It wasn't long before the Museum began to outgrow its facilities.  Once again, parking and traffic became a problem.  Mort Walker began to search up and down the East Coast for another site.  He received a proposal from Boca Raton in 1992 to build a new, larger museum on a piece of land known as Mizner Park.  They were trying to establish a number of cultural attractions in Palm Beach County.   A 52,000 square foot museum could be built easily on the land.  Fifteen million dollars was needed to build the new museum.  Six million dollars was raised from donations, pledges and loans.  The rest would have to come from revenue from admissions and programming.  The Museum moved its collection of 200,000 pieces to Boca Raton in 1992, and its name was changed to The National Cartoon Museum.  The new facility was opened in 1996, at which time it became The International Museum of Cartoon Art.

The Museum experienced 6 years of successful operation until 2002. Although it was predicted 500,000 people a year would visit the museum, only 70,000 came.  This may have been due to the fact that it was a winter resort.  There was also conjecture that comic art was still not being accepted as legitimate art. Then several major donors were unable to fullfill their pledges.  Marvel Comics, which had given $100,000 originally, filed for Chapter11 and couldn't continue support.  A company that had offered the Museum $1-million for the right to use Beetle Bailey characters on candy wrappers, also went bankrupt.  Walker tried to sell some of the art to pay some of the debt, but he still fell short.  The result was a $5-million shortfall.  The bank foreclosed on the mortgage, and the museum was forced to close.

Then in 2008, Ohio State University entered the picture.  They had a Cartoon Research Library, which contained 250,000 original cartoon drawings, 34,500 books, 51,000 serial titles, 2800 linear feet of manuscripts and 2.5 million comic strip clips. One of the faculty members had been a member of the Board of Directors of the Cartoon Museum, and came up with an idea.  He proposed that the two collections be merged.  OSU offered to provide new, state-of-the-art gallery space for the 200,000 items amassed by Walker's museum. It would be named after him as a tribute.  The collection now included comic strips, comic books, animation, editorial drawings, advertising, sport drawings, caricatures, greeting cards, graphic novels, illustrations, display figures, toys, and collectibles.  It became the largest collection of cartoon art in the world!

 

Hopefully, this will be the permanent home of the museum's cartoon art for centuries to come.  Visitors, especially young students, will be able to learn about American history from the many drawings.  They will learn about period fashion, slang, historic events, culture and customs. 

 

Cartoons reflect the ideas and attitudes of a Society.  It's a great vehicle for communication.  The artwork is impressive and high quality.  The old adage remains true:  "A picture is worth a thousand words".  This art form should be considered legitimate art, and be recognized as a national treasure.


SOURCES

Electronic

 

Gardner, Alan: "International Museum of Cartoon Art Moves to OSU Cartoon Research Library; 14 May 2008; The Daily Cartoonist, 12 April 2014

http://dailycartoonist.com/index.php/2008/05/14/international-museum-of-cartoon-art-moves-to-osu-cartoon-research-library/


Ohio State University: Billy Ireland's Cartoon Museum Library and Museum; 2013: International Museum of Cartoon Art; 12 April 2014

http://cartoons.osu.edu/news/2013/10/07/international-museum-of-cartoon-art/
 
 

Pollak, Michael: "A Cartoon Museum's Tortuous Round Trip"; 21 April 2002, New York Times, 12 April 2014.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/21/nyregion/a-cartoon-museum-s-tortuous-round-trip.html?src=pm&pagewanted=2



Print

Bologna, S. : "Serious About Doing Things For Laughs"; Sunday News (Pg 21), October 20, 1974

 

Martin, N.: "Greenwich Cartoonists and Their Creations", The Nutmegger (Pg. 31), October 1974.

Moore, M.; "The Fabulous Funnies", Travel and Leisure (Pg E82/6), August 1981.


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Since March is Women's History Month, I wanted to write about a woman who was important to the history of Greenwich.  I decided to research Ms. Ruth Sims, who I call the "First Lady of Greenwich". 

Ms. Sims was a First Lady for several reasons:

 1.  She was the top political figure in Town government as First Selectman,

 2.  She was the first woman in 72 years to actually hold the position, and

 3.  She was the first full-time First Selectman

You could also say she holds another distinction:  Sims was a Democrat who was elected in a prominently Republican town!


Ruth Sims was elected in 1977 after two recounts and a second general election.  In the first election, she led by 6 votes.  A recount gave Mr. Vernon a 1 vote advantage. After challenging the recount due to discrepancies in the count of absentee ballots, a new election was held. Sims defeated Republican incumbent Rupert Vernon by a wide margin of 13,962 to 9,361 votes.  In 1979, she defeated Albert F. Varner, Jr. by fewer than 200 votes.

Ms. Sims was born Ruth Bodman Leiserson in Rochester on March 4, 1920, in Rochester NY.   She was the fourth of seven children.  Ruth attended Oberlin College in Ohio, where she studied English.  After graduating, she worked for Senator Harold H. Burton in Washington DC. Sims worked in the Division of Defense Housing, a part of the Federal Works Agency.  In 1941, she married Albert G. Sims.  Ruth joined the League of Women Voters in 1953, and even became a local and state president.  Later she became a member of the National League of Women Voters.  In 1954, she and her husband moved to Riverside, and she worked as a director of the Southern New England Telephone Company

Active in community affairs, she served on the Riverside, Eastern Junior High School and Greenwich High School PTA.  Ms. Sims also served on the Community Council and Community Chest.  From 1975 to 1976, she served as the Vice Chairman of the United Way.  She was the chairman of the Commision on Compensation of Elected State Officials and Judges, served on the Committee to Reorganize State Government, and the Regional Planning Association and the 1983/1984 Charter Commission.  Nationally, Ms. Sims  served on the United States-South African leadership Exchange Program. 

ruth sims535.jpg

COURTEOUSY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES


Ms. Sims developed an interest in politics when she was a national director of the League of Women Voters.  She served 2 terms on the Board.  Having served on the national and state level, she eventually decided she wanted to serve on the local level.   Ms. Sims decided to run for the First Selectman position in 1977 to effect real change.  The first hurdle was securing the Democratic nomination by winning a primary.  She was opposed by favorite William Morris and Sheila Arnaboldi.  This brought much needed attention to her campaign in the Republican stronghold.  In this first election, she challenged Rupert Vernon.  Initially, it was reported that she had won by six votes.  Then there were subsequent recounts, and the results gave the election to the Republicans.  While the voting machines showed no evidence of tampering, there were some discrepancies with the absentee ballots, which were easily accessible.  After a two-week hearing with a judge, a tie was declared, setting the way for a new election.  In the followup election on Decmber 29th - three days before the new person was to start as First Selectman - she won by about 3500 votes.

As a peace offering, Ms. Sims asked Republican Everett Fisher, Chairman of the Board of Estimate and Taxation, to swear her in.  He agreed, but cooperation between the two parties was still strained.  She decided to make her inauguartion a public affair by having it on the Town Hall front stairs.  To improve communications, she established weekly meetings of department heads to share information.  Ms. Sims had a new centralized phone system installed to reduce costs, and centralized all office functions ( word processing, duplicating, microfilming) under an Administrative Services department.   A Labor Relations Officer was added to handle grievances in a timely manner.

Her most noteworthy accomplishments as First Selectman include converting the Cos Cob Power Plant from coal to oil to reduce pollution, establishing subsidized housing for the elderly, initiating traffic calming, and preserving the residential nature of the community.   Perhaps the most important accomplishment was demonstrating that a full-time Selectman was more efficient and productive than a part-time Selectman.   Ms. Sims also made a case for women being able to perform the same work as men, and doing that work efficiently and professionally. 

She would not be the last woman to serve as First Selectman.   Ms. Rebecca Breed followed Ms. Sims from 1981 to 1983, and  Lolly Prince served from 1999 to 2001.  Still, others served on the Board, although not as First Selectman.  These included Lin Lavery (2007-2009), Penny Monahan (2001-2007), Stephanie Sanchez (1997-1999) and Cindy Rubicam (1985-1987).  Hopefully, these won't be the last women to serve on the Board of Selectmen.  There are many talented women also serving on the many commissions and Boards of the town, as well as the Representative Town Meeting.   Greenwich is indeed fortunate to have such dedicated women (and men) willing to serve the community. 


SOURCE

Ruth Sims at Town HallAn Oral History Interview; Oral History Project, Friends of the Greenwich Library, 1984.



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