Ulysses S. Grant: A Dedication to a Civil War Hero


Grant’s Tomb , Dedication, April 27, 1897











Ulysses S. Grant was celebrated as America’s greatest Civll War hero.  Read the story of  how a nation paid tribute to his life as a general and president of our country.

You will read of his human qualities that made him famous and infamous at the same time.  Vintage photographs and digital reproductions will add to the storytelling in honor of his legacy. You will view his monument and meet his family of which he deeply cared and loved.

The family of Grant had many location choices to rest his final remains, but in the end, it was narrowed down to New York City. Ulysses S. Grant’s temporary resting place was designed and constructed within ten days of his death, July 23, 1885. A seven mile funeral procession made tribute to Ulysses S. Grant  through New York to Riverside Park and his original tomb. This tomb kept his remains until a suitable monument was built in his honor.

1885, Grant’s Tomb was temporary for 12 years until 1897.

The funeral was attended by numerous dignitaries; presidents (Hayes and Arthur), the entire Congress, and nearly every living figure who had played a prominent role during the Civil War. Civil War veterans from both North and South took part; General Winfield S. Hancock and pallbearers; General William T. Sherman, General Phillip H. Sheridan, and Admiral David D. Porter, as well as former Confederates; Generals Joseph E. Johnston, and Simon B. Buckner. Grant’s remains were placed in a temporary vault in Riverside Park.

Grant’s Tomb –interior and exterior views


On April 27, 1897, the 75th Anniversary of Grant’s birth, Grant’s Tomb and final resting place was dedicated, by President William McKinley and Horace Porter; he served as lieutenant colonel in the Union Army during the Civil War, as personal secretary to General and President Grant. Both men addressed the enormous crowd.
In December of 1902, Julia Dent Grant died and was interred beside her husband in a twin sarcophagus.
The 18th President of the United States was an iconic figure of his time, and in tribute to his greatness, the people of America donated money to build Grant’s Tomb, as the largest mausoleum in North America. It reflected the honor and respect that Americans felt for their beloved General and U. S. President.

His pain and suffering ended with his death, very few understood the degree of discomfort and agony that was caused by his simply drinking a glass of milk. The cancerous tumor in his mouth was very sensitive to eating or drinking. The doctors prescribed a painkiller for his throat that provided only temporary relief from the pain. He battled the illness with the will of a warrior; knowing the financial importance of a finished volume of his written memoirs would be to his family.
He fought his battle against a disease much like he did as a soldier, aggressively, determined, and straightforward. He never surrendered to his illness until he finished his writing. At that point, he surrendered “unconditionally” to his fate. The conditions in which he resisted his illness can be viewed in the context of today’s science. He was afflicted by a one two punch of addictive diseases, briefly discussed below.

During his days, little was known about the chemical dependency and adverse effects that stemmed from alcohol and nicotine addiction. People blamed one’s addiction on religious and moral reasons. Medical science and popular opinion were void of any scientific explanation for addiction. It was believed that punishment would relieve one of the demons causing such harmful effects. In the absence of formal punishment, society used guilt and shame in an attempt to rid one oh his or her addiction.

Grant was famous and infamous at the same time; because of his conflicting character traits and alcoholic disease. On one hand,  Grant was famous for his victories; Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, The Wilderness Campaign, Spotsylvania, and the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, Va. Now on the other hand, throughout the war his drinking was infamous, President Lincoln was a defender against Grant’s critics. There were complaints; that he was a butcher, incompetent, and a drunk. Grant’s drinking was common knowledge amongst his officers. Fortunately his excessive drinking did not impede most of his military decisions.

Lincoln’s response to Grant’s critics after the victory at Vicksburg. ” I will send a barrrel of whiskey to every General in the Army.”

He was especially criticized, at the victory of Vicksburg, when he ordered the release of captured Confederates to return home in exchange for a promise– that they would never again fight for the Confederacy.

Despite the scandals that arose during his presidency, Grant was never personally involved with any of them. He was infamously resented by Southerners for his role in “Reconstruction” and the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. Grant had a disdain for politics, and he had an unwillingness to play the political game in Washington, D.C. He was an enigma of his own doing; as he was viewed by the press and others as a chameleon.

In closing,  Grant remained a modest man and soldier. He was calm, loyal, and intelligent.  He understood how to discipline and command his troops. His ability to lead was learned from General Zachery Taylor, his commanding officer, during the Mexican War. His calmness was acquired from training horses, he was the “horse whisper.”

1867 Chromolithograph of Ulysses Grant by Fabronius, Gurney & Son. — Image by © CORBIS

Today, he is most remembered for being the commander of the victorious Union Army.  He left us with a strong legacy of an aggressive and a determined leader. As the history of his role in the war is revisited, it is hoped that his memory will be seen –for not how he fought the war, but for how he ended the war– with respect and honor. Our nation shall never forget one of our greatest American heroes—Ulysses S. Grant.

The Little Rascals Revisited



Our Gang has a nice ring, the two words brought together the best of American boyhood and the timeless adventures of my childhood.The television and the movie series pitted scruffy, mischievous ” have not kids”  against snobbish rich kids, sissy kids, and hardened  class conscious adults  to create the premise for the series.     In my neighborhood of “have not” kids, I faced some of the same challenges to making fun. Follow along as the characters of Our Gang are revisited,  you may recollect “Your Gang” of friends.

The “Our Gang” series was most notable for being one of the first productions in cinematic history in which blacks and whites were portrayed as equals. Our Gang made a greater impact on my life, than did some of the American heroes of the day; Jackie Robinson, Otto Graham, Jackie Gleason, Walt Disney, Willie Mays ,and  Dwight Eisenhower.  Because personally,  the” Little Rascal” characters  showed me  how to get along with other kids, regardless of their size, shape, habits, language, or culture.    I had plenty of characters in my neighborhood on which to practice their lessons and adventures..
My friends mirrored the characters in the children’s series; the “freckled faced kid,” the “fat kid,” the “neighborhood bully,” the “pretty brunette girl,” and the “mischievous younger ling.  Sit back and relax, as you revisit the characters of Our Gang.

“We’re goin’ to the race, we’re gonna win first place, and you have an ugly face!”

Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas’ (1931-1980) his character evolved into a boy after Stymie left the series in 1935. Buckwheat had a speech impediment as a child, which added to the natural, real appeal to the series. Buckwheat and Stymie were starring in Hollywood roles at the height of “Jim Crow.” Hal Roach loved to show children at play, the misadventures of a bunch of little kids charmed movie audiences and helped Americans to see how the kids treated one other as equals on and off the screen.

Alfalfa: “I’m usually a lover, not a fighter, but in your case, I’m willing to make an exception! “
[punches Butch and he falls in the mud}

Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (1927-1959), his character was often called upon to sing off-key renditions of popular songs, most often those of Bing Crosby. Alfalfa sported a cowlick, his popularity surpassed George “Spanky” McFarland by the end of 1937. He was dubbed “Alfalfa” at his first audition most likely by Hal Roach. In his role, he was the enterprising “idea man” he introduced the story line to the audience.



Spanky looked up at the Master of Ceremonies and replied, “Don’t rush me big boy.”

George “Spanky” McFarland (1928-1993), he was discovered at the age of three, in 1931, he became a key member of the Our Gang children’s series and a Hollywood star. He retired from filming Our Gang short films in 1942,  Spanky was the chubby short-pants schemer and catalyst behind much of the hanky-panky in the “Our Gang” adventures.

Darla to Alfalfa: ” Have you been eating onions?”



Darla Hood (1931-1979), was best known as the leading lady in the Our Gang series from 1935-1941. She made her debut in Our Gang Follies of 1936. In her most memorable performance , she sang “I’m in the Mood for Love,”in The Pinch Singer. Hood’s final appearance was in 1941’s Wedding Worries.






Eugene “Porky” Lee (1933-2005), Hal Roach noticed how much the eighteen-month old toddler looked like Our Gang star Spanky McFarland, he hired him and gave him his nickname of “Porky.” At six years old,  Porky  grew several inches in height. Hal Roach observed that he was the same height as Spanky, then ten years old. Because of his size, Porky was replaced with one Mickey Gubitosi, better known by the stage name as Robert Blake.

Froggy: [after Dr. Malcolm Scott hears Froggy’s voice, he walks to him, to investigate Froggy’s larnyx]
Dr. Malcolm Scott: Son, do you always sound like that?
Froggy: No sir, only when I talk.

William “Froggy” Laughlin (1932-1948), he rose to fame at the age of eight when he debut with The New Pupil (1940). He was known for his strange, guttural voice, which sounded like a frog’s croak



Allen Hoskins played Farina in the Our Gang series, later to be known as The Little Rascals. Image dated 1929. Copyright ©1929 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: CBS Photo Archive.


Allen Clayton “Farina” Hoskins (1920-1980), was most famous for portraying the character of Farina in (105) Our Gang short films from 1921-1931. He was discovered while attending the “Little Red School House” on the set of the Hal Roach Studio. Hoskins became the first black child star, and was paid $350 a week, more than any other cast member at the time. He outgrew the series in 1931. He was replaced by Matthew “Stymie” Beard.


Miss Crabtree: (suspicious) Jackie Cooper, who was the Hunchback of Notre Dame?                                                Jackie Cooper: Lon Chaney!

John Cooper Jr. (1922-2011), he joined Our Gang in the short Boxing Gloves in 1929.  His most notable Our Gang short films explored his crush on Miss Crabtree, the schoolteacher.  In 1931 he starred in Skippy for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor at the age on nine years old. Cooper went on to become one of the greatest stars in Hollywood.

“You’re darn right, it’s Butch! Now, what do you have to say before I tear you apart!” – Butch in Fishy Tales

Thomas Ross “Butch” Bond (1926-2005), Tommy was hired to work in Our Gang in 1931.  He filled the role of the Our Gang bully, the Butch character regularly competed with meek Alfalfa for the affection of his sweetheart, Darla.




Petey was well known for having a circled eye that was added on by Hollywood make-up artist Max Factor




Stymie: ” I… Stymie… Member in good standing of the He-Man Woman Haters Club… Do solemnly swear to be a he-man and hate women and not play with them or talk to them unless I have to. And especially: never fall in love, and if I do may I die slowly and painfully and suffer for hours – or until I scream bloody murder”



Stymie” Beard (1925-1981), with his trademark bowler hat and bald head, Stymie was as popular as Spanky, Alfalfa, and Darla. One of his memorable lines was: “I don’t know brother, but we’re on our way.” Beard’s paycheck was used to support his Los Angeles family, including thirteen brothers and sisters. Buckwheat replaced Stymie in 1935.



She played, schoolteacher, Miss Crabtree. She replaced Miss McGuillicuddy.

June Marlowe (1903-1984), as Miss. Crabtree was discovered one day in Los Angeles in a department store, Hal Roach hired her to be the schoolteacher in the Our Gang series. She wore a blonde wig to complement leading star, Jackie Cooper. Marlowe and Cooper were paired in three Our Gang films, Teacher’s Pet, School’s Out, and Love Business. Jackie had a crush on her and became jealous when any of the other characters sought out her affection.

An “OUR GANG” insight into Life:

My “Our Gang” years in Cleveland, Ohio, provided some slapstick humor that created a childhood filled with unforgettable characters and many hours of laughter. All was not so funny at times. The Little Rascals motivated and inspired some crazy, foolish behavior from my gang; such behavior worried the adults with visible results. Their worried minds resulted in foreheads covered with beads of perspiration and noticeable streaks of gray hair covering their heads. In short, our fun was their worry.

Looking back to my early years as a follower of the Our Gang series, I came to some understandings about the neighborhood in which I lived. First, that prejudice was a real thing, but that I had a choice about being bias, especially after seeing children of the series sharing, cooperating, and collaborating freely to have fun.  Also;  that children (self) are not born with a prejudicial bone in their body, they are taught such things by adults.  Futhermore, that the undiscovered idea that  cultural differences  could be bridged was a discovery learned by watching”The Little Rascals.”   It changed my early life choices and showed me the endless possibilities for childhood frendships.

Hal Roach with his natural approach to directing  allowed the child actors to be themselves, he was the inspiration in my childhood who illustrated and guided my inner child toward the value of being– my authentic self.    In effect, the Our Gang series served as a form of on-going parenting that healed and spiritually fed my inner child in a very wholesome and  loving way.

If you were one of those kids who made the “Little Rascals” a part of your day, leave your comments to share with “Our Gang.”

Any further words regarding the adult years of these matinee idols will remain silent for now.

A Civil War Soldier’s Diary: Seeing the Elephant of War


Brotherton Cabin, Chickamauga, Site of Longstreet’s Breakthough, September 20, 1864

A Battlefield Illusion: A Soldiers Hell

While I was at the front, most every day, I would recollect about the good old days on the farm; everything that was beautiful, peaceful, and familiar; the rolling green acres, the fresh smell of a garden, the sounds of the barnyard, and the joy of sitting down to a home cooked meal. Such thoughts brought some comfort to a mind that was fatigued and tired of war. After I was wounded, I dreamt of my childhood running over the hills and dales chasing butterflies and fireflies, hoping to catch one, and making a wish. I laid for hours on end trying to fall asleep with a panged gut feeling of being homesick. I wrote often in my diary to remember the war and my days as a soldier.

I always volunteered for dangerous duty, because I was so scared, and I didn’t want anyone to guess that I was afraid. On a night when I volunteered for sentry duty, there was a foggy mist that covered the evening ground that made it impossible to see. Suddenly out of the mist, a Johnny Reb came a crawlin’ towards me. As he got closer to me, his face drifted out from behind the fog, he was a few feet away when I saw him clearly. I shortened my bayonet and let him have the point just under his ear. He stared at me idiotically, like he had sat on a tack. His eyes dimmed and went out. It was my first kill. My heart thumped, as I turned to return to camp, then out of the darkness jumped another rebel, I had to kill him in the same way. It felt like I murdered the same man twice, it was a queer moment. I was lost for words. Did the killing of war mean the murdering of the same man over and over again? I leaned against a tree far from the sounds of battle, alone with my thoughts. Then it dawned on me, that in the end those men being killed by my bayonet turned out to be me.

From that day forward, each  face of  the slain soldiers, kept coming back into my dreams.  It was to my horror, that their faces flashed  into my face, time after time.  It a was nightmare from hell.
On the morning after such a dream, with a clear head, I realized that the joke of war was on me. What if I dropped my weapon, and the rebels did the same, we could walk together and shake hands. In my moment of insanity, I foolishly dropped my gun and walked toward the rebel lines, when suddenly an enemy bullet took me to the ground with a wound to the head. I was groggy for a short bit, then I regained my vision and consciousness. I realized, that I had been wounded, it was in an instant, when I turned into a raging bull, wanting to kill again. The men around me, felt my anger and they charged alongside of me toward the rebel line. We took no prisoners. The code of war hates a coward, but the reason(s) for war break many codes.

All I want is to return to my “home sweet home.”

The account and descriptions are fictitious, although such an experience could have taken place during the Civil War.

I wrote this piece in honor of those who have served our nation.

An Unconventional Sense of Nostalgia


Cleveland Memories 1950’s

Nostalgia is a remembrance of our treasured times , lost, silenced stories of neighbors and neighborhoods, extinct forms of technology, vanished jobs and the human emotions that we attached to those membranes are at the center of my nostalgia. Nostalgia is a valid, honorable, ancient human emotion that arises from a lost connection from our past. What stands out for me was the warmth of memories of my family, friends, and neighborhood. I was most impressed by the geographical and emotional closeness that gave me a seamless connection to my community. I lived in a neighborhood where walkability was an unheard of word. I walked, rode a bike, or grabbed a ride on the streetcar or bus to get to most anyplace of interest.
My nostalgia is not for something lost, or for something I never had to begin with, or that never existed at all. My nostalgia is rooted in a keepsake of memories that helped to create, mold, and guide my personal growth through adolescence. As I studied photographs from the past, in that moment, I am connected; it is like I placed a phone call directly into the past and heard an answering voice.
“Hello, Mrs. Moore, thank you for coming to open house. Your son, Reynolds, has a way about him. When he decides to do something, he becomes determined and gets it done,” voiced Mr. David Long, sixth grade teacher at Cleveland’s Case School. Ironically, I became a teacher, and sixteen years later during a training session, I was able to rekindle my relationship with my former teacher.
Revisiting the past through photographs brings a feeling that overcomes at times, especially if I can see a momentary restoration of beauty around a person, place, or thing. As you view these vintage photos from the 1950’s, it is my hope that as you make your phone call into the past, that you hear an answering voice.

Ten Tips to Help the Teacher

What are the top ten tips to be an effective teacher? The purpose of the list to create a state of mindfulness in the teacher.  As these ideas become more mindful, the teacher will be sharing the same mindfulness with students. Wellness begins with the teacher, then learning to control their attention can come, if you can quiet yourself.  Once students feel that they can calm themselves through breathing it’s like a wow moment.  The ultimate goal is self awareness and self regulation.  The list below is far from being all inclusive, just a few tips to stimulate and calm your mind.


Two Young Boys Shared a Dream: 1964 Cleveland Browns’ Championship


Believeland:  Cleveland a City of Childhood Dreams 


As a kid from Cleveland; I recalled that cold, blustery day at the old Municipal Stadium on December 27, 1964, when the City of Cleveland rejoiced as the Browns won the N.F.L. championship against the Baltimore Colts by the score of 27-0. With the wind blowing across the lake into uncovered, wooden bleachers, I sat with 5 of my high school friends witnessing the last football championship victory of any professional team from Cleveland, Ohio.
It was there that I watched history made with my classmates from Collinwood High School. The first half of the game was a tug of war between the defenses, the only score came on a Lou Groza field goal. It was the defense that day that frustrated the Colts,it was Bernie Parrish and Walter Beach, who jammed the Baltimore Colt receivers at the line of scrimmage, and disrupted the receiver’s timing routes. . It should be noted that this tactic was the forerunner to the “bump and run “style of defense used today by many high profile defensive backs. Turnovers figured in the score, with two Baltimore fumbles and two interceptions. In retrospect, the Browns outplayed the Colts in every facet of the game and dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball; especially, in the second half of the game in winning 27-0.

In the locker room, I witnessed the presentation of the “Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy” awarded to the Champions of the N.F.L. from 1934-1969. It was presented to the Browns’ owner, Art Modell..

As I stood in the Brown’s locker room and watched with amazement  the players removed their muddy socks and gear, I turned to see camera bulbs flashing and the awarding of the trophy. My friend, Bill Russell and I were captured in the photograph with Art Modell. He photo bombed the group by peeking over the group while the back of my head appeared to the extreme right of the composition. The photo appeared on the front page of the Cleveland newspapers the next day. The photograph recorded, N.F.L. Commissioner, Pete Rozelle as he presented the trophy.

Ironically, forty years later, the city and the team held a reunion at Severance Hall in commemoration of the Browns’ championship. Just as I had cheered with my close friend, Bill Russell many years ago, we stood together and cheered the players entering the hall for the celebration. As Gary Collins, former M.V.P. and wide receiver who caught three touchdowns walked past, I stopped him with a comment he long remembered, “ Hey Gary, do you remember the kid that first told you about your winning a Corvette sports car as a result of being the most valuable player?” Oh, yeah, I do, if fact you look a lot older now,” he chuckled.
Two young boys, who morphed into two mature men forty years later, shared their dream of the Browns’ championship in a renewal of their friendship.

P.S. See the video linked.

Desperate Times: Desperate Lives

Broken glass, hearts, marriages, lives, and windows.

Broken  hearts, marriages, lives, and windows.

Living in Cleveland, Ohio during the winter of 1977 was like most years; plenty of snow, limited sunny days, many cold nights, and the daily task of driving on slippery, snow covered roads. It was soon to become clear that this day would be like no other day in my life. As I sat, in a chair backwards in the school custodian’s office, feelings of fear, anxiety, and sadness were painted on my face by a brush stemming from pure coincidence. The color of these coincidences were later expressed in puddles of  blood.  The origin of the blood came from a wounded teenager who attempted to commit auto theft and escaped from the school custodian’s office.

Looking back in retrospect, it seemed that fate and destiny played a unique role in our chance meeting.  Our stand- off confrontation felt like the forces of good and evil were locked in a struggle for survival.  What force would prevail?  The answer was in the hands of a higher power.   In the moments that followed; there was a confrontation that created two faces of desperation in a desperate face off for self-preservation. A poker faced kid sat across the room, avoiding my glances, while he nervously rubbed the arms of his chair.  The silence in the room was deafening.

The events of that day collided and exploded into a series of actions that imprinted into my mind — a life changing event.

It all began, as I drove into the school parking lot, the entire car lot was snow- covered by a heavy snow flurry. After parking my car, the school custodian began waving and gesturing, he was pointing to a car covered with snow.  As my attention was turned to his urgency, it was noted that the car was idling with carbon dioxide venting from the tailpipe.  We met at the car in question. Mr. Evans, the custodian, opened the car door and grab a teenager by the arm.  Next, we escorted the young man to his office for temporary confinement to await the arrival of the police. The culprit was about 17 or 18 years old, light skinned, and of average height and build.  Mr. Evans accused him of taking a teacher’s purse from the lunchroom, and that he attempted to steal a teacher’s car. He was caught red handed with her purse and car keys in his possession. Once secured in his office, Mr. Evan’s called the police and reported the incident.  He quickly left the office to attend to his duties, leaving the teenager and myself alone.  Just before leaving, Mr. Evans walked out of the office while commanding the youth to stay seated in a chair and await the police.  Immediately, the stressfulness of the situation began to escalate, as the realty of the situation became understood.

The custodian’s office measured about 10×12 with a large plate glass window facing the outside, a desk, and chairs.

Initially, we ignored one another, avoiding our dilemma. The climate in the room changed quickly with the passing of each and every minute; the young man’s body language changed from a calm demeanor to one filled with high anxiety.  The change was evidenced by his emotional state; he fidgeted, squirmed, and looked around the room for an escape route. Twenty minutes passed, it seemed like an eternity awaiting the police while the face-off continued.  At first, our glances into one another’s eyes were less frequent, but with each passing minute, the glances became stares.  As my eyes looked into his, there was a sense of strength, confidence, and courage coming from my higher power. Quickly, the climax of our story came to pass. The young man stood up, then I stood up, we prepared to be attacked, we sized up our best route of escape.  Instead of a fight, he chose flight from the room.

In just seconds, to my disbelief, this kid crouched, and sprinted forward, like a track star getting out of the starting blocks.  He hurled his body toward the plate glass window, using his skull as a battering ram, shattered glass, and tumbled into the snow outside the window.  He left a puddle of blood in the snow, as he raced away with his new found freedom.  In that moment, the reality of the encounter was beyond my understanding.

My initial reaction was to peer through the broken window and see if the kid was injured or alive. His silhouette disappeared around the corner of the school. As I collected my thoughts; I was relieved for the both of us.  A physical altercation was avoided between us, and we both could go on with our lives without ties.

In the moments earlier, we were bonded by circumstances that created desperate emotions and actions.  Just as quickly as the confrontation appeared, it had disappeared into the snow.  A report was filed in the school office, and duty was served back to the classroom.

In the end, two strangers met, and escaped a relationship built out of desperation and fear.  As a post script:

In the next days, a call came from the school office that informed that the rear window of my car was broken.  Upon a closer examination of the damage, it was apparent that the window had been shot out by bullets.  Further checking located two bullets lodged into the driver’s headrest.  Was this incident the result of the earlier incident?  Did the teenager voice his feelings?  As I pondered these thoughts, it was recollected that not a word was ever exchanged between us.  Possibly the teenager had spoken and was heard loud and clear. This is just one of many stories remembered from my many years as a teacher.


Are Corporations People?


Are corporations people? Consider some differences. When a corporation is charged with a crime against society for various things like product recall; chemical dumping, oil leaks from pipelines, or drugs that cause harm, they are simply fined without anyone in the corporation having to be punished for the crime. By law,, the corporation has legal protections beyond those of any citizen, in that; the corporation’s liability for a criminal act is limited. Officers and employees of the corporation are shielded from prosecution by the articles of incorporation. It becomes very difficult to prove guilt when many hands are creating the product or service and the usual defense is to take the fifth amendment by corporate officers and deny any personal knowledge of the wrong doing. Thus it is seldom that any employees are prosecuted for acts of crime against the citizens of the United States.. Such a distinction in liability protection between corporations and people seems to be reason enough to treat corporations differently. Simply, it maybe described as “corporate buck passing.”

A Championship Unexpected

Our team was whooping and hollering as our voices echoed from the tiled walls in the locker room at old Navy Park Field H2008 01 29_6234ouse in Cleveland, Ohio.  The source of the noise came from the joy of winning  a city championship with a bunch of close, high school buddies.  It came as a surprise, it was unexpected, and its affect would be everlasting. It all began in homeroom at Collinwood High School with Eddie Moses, a good friend.  We were recollecting the many Saturday mornings, and early mornings before school that our intramural basketball teams had won game after game without missing a beat.   Now, as high school juniors we were looking for a challenge outside of our school and neighborhood.  Every summer, we played pickup games, we played as a neighborhood team against the other surrounding neighborhoods, winning time and time again.  Eddie mentioned an adult friend who would be the catalyst to help finance and to help transport our newly formed team.  He  was a man named Marik.  He was always known by his last name.  He drove a Chevy II, convertible in 1963.  He had coached baseball in the area and was interested in helping to organize our efforts.  At the time, I lived in a small two bedroom apartment with my grandmother, father, brother, and sister.  My source of income came from earnings as a newspaper boy with the Cleveland Press.  We couldn’t afford basketball uniforms, let alone new Converse, Chuck Taylor style, basketball shoes.   Marik found a solution, he found uniforms at a sporting goods store, that were ordered but never used.  When he brought the uniforms for Gary and I to our apartment to model, they were too large for us.  My dear grandmother stepped up and volunteered to alter them to fit us.  Wow!  I had given Marik $7 to buy a new pair of sneakers, I took one look at them and was dazzled by the Converse Star on the side.  The plan to play was in motion.  We had recruited our friends and were ready, willing, and able to play ball.


Practicing and playing basketball to prepare for our season commenced.  Personally, I would shoot around just about anywhere, from the neighborhood playgroud to the Y.M.C.A.  We traveled from the east to the west side of Cleveland playing at the various high school gyms. It was a very competitive league, we played  above average most nights, losing occasionally to larger, more physical teams.  I recall playing against one, Emanuel Leaks at 6’8″, who eventually played in the N.B.A. Finally, the weekend of the tournament had arrived.  Our team was seeded #1, we were surprised at the seeding but paid little attention to it.  On Friday night, we played a very talented team of African-Americans, they could run and fastbreak.  Our strategy was to play a slower, more deliberate game, taking unconstested shots at the basket.  The game went down to the last seconds, we won it at the foul line, as we went perfect there.  On Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of playing against a team called the Knights of Columbus, they were from my old neightborhood.  I knew and respected their abilities for I had played with them on Saturday mornings as a younger kid.  Once again, the game was nip and tuck, we hung with them, and slowly took the lead into the last few minutes.  With a small lead, we decided to stall the ball, hold it by passing and dribbling, thus forcing them to foul us.  Good fortune was with me, as I was fouled at least three times in the last minute, I proceeded to make all of my free throw attempts to cinch the win.


On Sunday, we played at Navy Park Fieldhouse for the championship, against Quad Realty of Parma.  This team had defeated Manny Leaks and his mates to get to the finals.  They were very tall and athletic, we knew our best game had to be played.  The first half was a disaster, they blitzed us, scoring and rebounding against us with a flair.  The had doubled our score in the first half, it was a game in which we had to play our game and hope for the best in the second half.  I had just one basket in that first half.  In a deliberate, calm state of mind, our team began its climb out of oblivion into the light of a contender.  Our team made each possesion important, painstakingly passing the ball and making them play defense until one of us had a clear look at the basket.  Then the improbable happened, the crowd jumped to its feet with a roar, as I sank a 15 foot jumper to put us ahead by one point with less than a minute to play.  In the second half, I was perfect from the field, scoring on each shot attempt.  Quad Realty on its next possession made two foul shots to go ahead with less than 30 seconds on the clock.  As Eddie dribbled down the court, I was ready for the last shot, I sensed their defense was over playing , so I returned Eddie’s pass quickly, as the ball was passed around the floor to Billy Russell to George Chimielewski in the opposite corner.  George put a move on his defender, then dribbled around him while driving to the hoop and sinking his shot. He was fouled with one shot coming.  We were up by one, George missed his one shot, but time expired and the city championship was ours  Our starting five; Eddie Moses, Billy Russell, Al Cernigoj, George Chimeilewski, and myself had created a dream and made it come true.  We could not have made it without our bench; Gary Moore, Eddie Miklavcic, Tommy Kramer, Tony Rutti, & John Lewis.


A banquet was held in our honor at a downtown hotel, The Pick Carter, at the end of the season when trophies were awarded.  To my surprise, I  was named the most valuable player in the tournament.  I accepted the award with a quiet resign, knowing it was a team effort, and my buddies would always be remembered for their individual contributions.  This success helped to motivate and stimulate my life going forward by attending college and finding success in life.

In closing, learning the value of a team effort was and will  forever be imprinted on my heart and mind, as I recall that memorable moment in my life.




Salty Apple Pie: Pre-World War II


Aunt Jeanette's HouseAs I stood on the banks of the Allegheny River watching the waterfowl swimming and flying over and around the docked pontoon boats across the way; I recollected a childhood story told to me by my grandmother.  It was a story about my father and uncle growing up in the small town of Kittanning, Pennsylvania.  Here I stand in 2012, I had made a road trip with my wife, Susan, to revisit my father’s birthplace, retelling her the story of “Salty Apple Pie.”    It was about 1939, a warm summer’s day, when young boys would swim in the river while cooling down from the hot days sun.  On such a day, my father, Reynolds, dressed and headed down the steep, ridged Johnston Avenue going home.  On his way he would pass the house of Aunt Jeanette, who was known for her great apple pie.  As he walked by her house on Wilson Avenue, just across from the Fourth Ward School, he smelled the aroma of freshly baked apple pie.  It was unmistakable!  The warm summer breeze was blowing the scent of the pie through the neighborhood.  Reynolds caught the scent and began to run towards her house, as he had done each day after school to catch  a chance at a delicious treat.  He would always knock first before entering the unlocked screen door.  “Aunt Jeanette, its me.”  The aroma of cinnamon and apples created images in his mind of a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over slice of  warm pie. Aunt Jeanette answered the door,  “Rennie, where’s your brother?”  I left him at the river, he’ll be along sooner or later.”  She apologized, ” I’m sorry about the apple pie, but there’s been a small misstep on my part, I mixed in salt thinking it was sugar.”  Disheartened, he replied, “Sucks, I really was looking forward to a piece of your special pie.”  She ordered, ” Rennie, you better throw out the pie, excuse for a minute, I have to run an errand.”  There was a moment of silence, as she left slamming the screen door.  Rennie’s thoughts began to entertain the idea of playing a practical joke on his brother,Jack, who was 4 years his senior.

Rennie ran out of the house, down the steps, and across the street to the school yard, looking for Jack.  “Hey Jackie, Aunt Jeanette made us some apple pie.”  Jack’s eyes opened wider with each thought, he turned without a word and raced across the street and into Aunt Jeanette’s house. Jack found no one home, so he decided to help himself to a piece of pie by pouring some cold milk over a slice.  There were few comforts living in a small mining town, but eating homemade pie was at the top of the list.  Jack’s expectations of pleasure turned into a mouth full of disgust, as he spat out the pie into the sink.  He was duped, he was mad, and he was going to get even with his younger brother.

Later that same afternoon, Jack returned home in a crabby mood and with a  surly mouth. He had been fooled by his younger brother and was humiliated.  As Jack walked in the door, he could hear his brother telling their mom about the tomfoolery.

As I finished telling the story to Susan, we decided to visit the schoolyard and Aunt Jeanette’s house on Wilson Avenue, laughing about a tale of two brothers that has been handed down over the generations. All parties to the story have left this earth, but their spirit lives on in the hearts and minds of those who loved them.  To this day, I love apple pie.