Archive for the ‘Things in General’ Category

History I Never Knew: The First Lighted Christmas Tree

November 29, 2016

According to Smithsonian magazine, strings of Christmas lights brighten up the December evenings of about 80 million homes in America. They account for six percent of the nation’s electrical load during that month.

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Edward Hibberd Johnson

Seems like there have always been Christmas tree lights, but that’s not so. For a few years, starting in 1882, there was only one lighted Christmas tree in America. It was at the home of Edward Hibberd Johnson, 136 East 36th Street, New York. This is the rest of the story.

Johnson was the president of the Edison Company for Electric Lighting. That company was founded by Thomas Edison, whose goal was to provide illumination for the streets of New York.  Johnson was a sharp guy and a go-getter – “part businessman, part engineer, part Barnum” as Smithsonian puts it. He had been manager of the Automatic Telegraph Company in the years following the Civil War.

Johnson hired the 24-year-old Edison in 1871. He quickly saw what a brilliant prodigy Edison was, and when Edison left to form his own company, Johnson followed and went to work for him. Johnson’s job was to find ways to market Edison’s inventions. The first of these was the phonograph, invented in 1877. Johnson took the machine on tour and charged people to listen to it.

The Edison Lamp Company was born in 1880 after Edison secured a patent on the light bulb. The two of them along with other investors, launched it after raising $35,000 in seed capital. It would be some years before electrical power was widely available, but Johnson and Edison were on their way.

By the time that the Edison company was founded, Christmas trees were already an established tradition, albeit a relatively new one. In 1841, Queen Victoria’s husband Albert introduced the Christmas tree to Britain – the “tannenbaum” of German origin.  In 1856, a Christmas tree appeared in the White House during the presidency of Franklin Pierce.

The practice of bringing a Christmas tree, decorated with pretty ornaments, spread rapidly. The nicest looking trees were the ones that were lighted – with candles. Real candles. Quite a fire hazard.

Then Johnson had an idea. Why not replace the candles with electric light bulbs? Bingo.

johnsonedward-firstelectrictree1882

The first lighted Christmas tree, 1882

He set up a tree in his front window and hand-wired 80 red, white, and blue light bulbs in six separate strings connected by copper bands. The connections could open and close as the tree rotated on a base that was powered by a small dynamo, also invented by Edison.

Johnson then went out and solicited coverage from the media and got a glowing, effusive article from W.C. Croffut of the Detroit Free Press, who wrote, “..it was brilliantly lighted with…eighty lights all encased in these dainty glass eggs…one can hardly imagine anything prettier.”

Crowds flocked to 36th Street to see Johnson’s tree each year. In 1884, he had 120 lights on the tree. The display wasn’t cheap – $12 for the lights alone, which would be about $350 in today’s money.  In 1894, president Grover Cleveland had the first lighted Christmas tree in the White House.   And the price of the lights rapidly came down to affordable levels. By 1914, a string of lights cost $1.75.

But it all began with that “Miracle on 36th Street.” Now you know the rest of the story.

A View from the Top of the Hill

November 22, 2016

My grandfather George V. Brown, Class of 1898, and my uncle Walter A. Brown, Class of 1923, were inducted into the Hopkinton High School Top of the Hill Class of 2016 this evening. Top of the Hill  honors graduates of the school whose careers were marked by both high achievement and contribution to society.

I had the privilege of accepting the honor in their names and of speaking in their behalf.  The following is my address to the gathering.

nov-22-2016-1In Hopkinton you have a saying. “It all starts here.” That’s true, when you’re talking about the world’s most prestigious road race.

But that’s not the entire story of Hopkinton and sports. Not at all. Hopkinton has given much more to the world of sport, both in America and abroad. Better to say “It all started here.”

It all started with two of the men that Hopkinton honors this evening for achievements and contributions to society. George V. Brown, my grandfather, and Walter A. Brown, my uncle, were two of our country’s finest sportsmen. They were founding fathers and pioneers.

So much that was good in the world of sport, over more than 60 years of the 20th century, came about because of them.

Regarding their achievements – it would take a long time to list them all. I will mention just a few. But before doing so I want to point out that these gentlemen were not sportsmen as we understand the term today. They didn’t enter their professions as wealthy men. Sports were their livelihood, not their hobby. They were very good at what they did. But more importantly, they were good people. They were men of their times, but they were men for all seasons and for all time.

George Brown went into sports coaching and administration right after Bryant and Stratton Business School. By 1899 he was working at the Boston Athletic Association, and became its Athletic Manager in 1904. The BAA was a prime source of athletes for America’s Olympic teams. George was at the 1904 St Louis Olympics and at every Olympic games until his death, as a coach or an official.

He also was hired to run the rebuilt Boston Arena in 1919. Hockey flourished at all levels in Boston. The Bruins played there. He launched Boston University’s program. He started the CanAm games. His son Walter was his right-hand man.

In 1933, the BAA’s financial leader Henry Lapham took over the Boston Madison Square Garden and made George general manager. When George died at the age of 57, in 1937, Walter succeeded him. George is enshrined in both the United States and the National Hockey League Halls of Fame.

Walter was already a leader of American ice hockey when he became the Garden’s general manager at age 32. He had coached the first American team to win the World Championship: the Massachusetts Rangers, in 1933. They defeated Canada in the championship game in Prague – the first time anyone had ever beaten Canada in international play.

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With Boston College-bound Hopkinton High senior Olivia Sparr, whose class co-hosted this evening’s ceremony.

Walter coached the Bronze medal winning Americans in the 1936 Olympics. The opening event of those Winter Games was hockey: the United States 1, Germany 0, played in a snowstorm before a crowd that included all the high-ranking members of the Third Reich. That was the first time the Americans would defeat and disappoint their hosts. It wouldn’t be the last. A few months later, Jesse Owens and the track team – with George V. Brown as one of the coaches – would do it again.

Walter stayed a leader of American and International hockey up until his death – including running US Hockey when we won the Gold Medal at Squaw Valley in 1960. The Walter Brown Award goes to the best American-born college player in New England.

The BAA fell on hard times in the 1930s. Walter took over as president and ran the organization from the Garden. He kept the race alive in Boston. Nowadays, the BAA is back. It’s a superb, professionally administered operation that more than pays its own way and does many great things for the community. But it wasn’t always like this.

There’s another wonderful tradition around the Marathon that I must mention. I and all of my family members are most grateful to the BAA and Hopkinton for it. Every year since 1908, except for one, a descendant of George V. Brown has fired off the gun to start the Boston Marathon. And since 2008, George, in his statue, has been right there to watch.

Walter is probably best known in Boston as the owner of the Celtics. He bought them from the Garden in 1949 for $2000. In 1950, he was responsible for breaking the color line in the NBA when he drafted Chuck Cooper of Duquesne…and he told those present, those who objected, “I don’t care if he’s striped, plaid, or polka-dot. Boston drafts Chuck Cooper.”

The Celtics, as we know, became a dynasty with Red Auerbach, Bob Cousy, Bill Russell and all the rest. But it took a while, and it took a total personal commitment from Walter. In 1952, he took out a $20,000 mortgage on his house in Newton to keep them afloat.

Like his father, Walter died much too young. He was 59 when he had a massive coronary and passed away in 1964. As the newspapers stated, “Grown men cried that day.” Walter is enshrined in the National Basketball Hall of Fame and three hockey halls of fame.

What I’ve just told you is only the beginning of their achievements and contributions to society. I hope it suffices to say here that these two sons of Hopkinton were overachievers and substantial contributors.

But I’ve just recited a list of things. I don’t think these achievements are the true measure of George and Walter Brown.  Please let me point out what some people who knew them wrote or said.

Of George V. Brown:

“No other Boston man, excepting the late George Wright and Dr. Walter Kendall, has framed so many sport scenes with his personality.  He refereed football games before Jim Thorpe came as an unknown novice on his first visit to the Harvard stadium. He made the B. A. A. Winter Games a winter mecca for indoor athletes of the country and made the Boston Marathon the criterion of the world.”

“Hopkinton’s George Brown and the citizens of Milford were among the relatively few Americans to honor native American Olympic Games winner Jim Thorpe before he was unjustly stripped of his medals…George Brown felt none of the animosity toward Native Americans which other U.S. citizens harbored in those days…As far as Brown was concerned, the measure of a man was not his nationality or race. Rather, Brown expected an athlete to do the best he could in the Olympic Games competition, nothing more, and nothing less.”

“He held his friends through life. What better epitaph.  His word was unfailing. What better wreath to lay on his tomb. He helped the young. What better memorial to hang in his halls.”

And of Walter Brown:

“If none could enter the Boston Garden except by presenting a personal account of a gift of this man’s time, talent, counsel or money to some person or some cause in need of human kindness and help, not a seat in the Garden would be empty.

“And many such there will be in every audience that ever gathers, and they will all remember. And they will pass on to their children the memory of a man who felt that every charity or worthy cause had a claim upon him.  He was the embodiment of civic responsibility in the city where there are many common virtues. He was the exemplar of civic duty in a community where it is sometimes appealed to in vain. To these public virtues were added the virtues of gentleness, kindness, thoughtfulness, humility, and love for his family.

“In a city that had only residents, he was a first citizen. In a life that was crowded with conflicting claims, he was a citizen first.

“What he was, what he did, what he said, and what he thought for the good of his fellow man, each time the lights go up in the Boston Garden down through the years, he will be freshly remembered.”

I thank you for the privilege of addressing to you on behalf of my grandfather and my uncle.  I speak in gratitude for my mother Margaret, for the rest of Walter’s siblings, and for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Tonight I can’t help but recall the words of President John F. Kennedy – “We must judge a country not only by the men it produces. But by the men it honors. By the men it remembers.”

In remembering George V. Brown and Walter A. Brown as you have, along with our other distinguished honorees Fred Harris, Michael Shepard, Kelly Grill, Sunni Beville, and Libby Bischoff, Hopkinton tells the world, “These are our beloved sons and daughters. We nurtured them. We sent them forth. By honoring them, we bring honor to ourselves and all that we stand for.”

“Those Who Do Not Learn the Lessons of History…”

October 31, 2016

October 31, 2016

A History Note — written as we approach the end of one of the most contentious, divisive, and damaging presidential election campaigns of all time.

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Frances Perkins

November 9, the day after Election Day, is the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht – “Night of the Broken Glass.” On November 9, 1938, all across Germany, Jewish-owned businesses were trashed and looted, 1,000 synagogues were destroyed, and some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.  The excuse for this Nazi-sponsored pogrom was the killing, in Paris, of a minor German diplomat by a Jewish youth.

This horrific event, too large and widespread to be hidden, demonstrated to the world that negotiations with Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were futile. To engage in diplomacy with such a regime is a cruel charade – always has been.

Germany’s intentions with regard to Jewish people were laid bare.  The world saw what was happening and was shocked – shocked. But only America took the step of recalling its ambassador. That was one good and worthy step by Franklin Roosevelt, but he couldn’t bring himself to speak the entire truth. He said that the news from Germany was scarcely believable in a 20th-century civilization, but still he would not use the word “Jews.”

Nor did FDR propose any additional measure for helping the hundreds of thousands of European refugees, and he caved in to fear of provoking anti-Semites in Congress by affirming existing immigration quota limits.

One of the few truly “good guys” in the American government during this horrible era was Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins (depicted), the first woman to be appointed to a Cabinet position.  She saw through Hitler right from the start and fought the good fight, often futilely, as FDR bobbed and weaved and split differences to protect his precious New Deal.

After Kristallnacht, finally, Perkins had a minor triumph when she met with FDR and persuaded him to extend indefinitely the visas of thousands of German Jews who were already in the U.S.  One of the few world leaders who endorsed FDR’s move and who took positive steps to help Jewish refugees was Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King.

Roosevelt agreed to do so over the objections of the State Department, saying that it would be inhuman to force Jews to return to Germany.  He had an opening and took it, because the laws were unclear on whether or not he had the authority. But he declined to press Congress to raise the quota for immigrants.

Two months later, a Roper poll showed that 83% of respondents opposed opening America’s doors to European refugees; only 9% supported such a bill.

Not a “Profile in Courage,” that FDR.  His heart was probably in the right place, but he would never risk any of his political capital.

Not a shining moment for America, either.

Let’s see – covering our political derriere; refusing to “speak truth to power;” ignoring the plight of people “over there”… have we learned anything at all from Kristallnacht?

Why I Do What I Do

June 30, 2016

Cover front2Charlie Sullivan, Boston College ’42, passed away a few months ago at the age of 97. He was the oldest man whom I interviewed for Tales from the Boston College Hockey Locker Room.

I’ve already posted a message in this space about how much Charlie enjoyed reading the book and recalling the old-timers who were his contemporaries from pre-World War II days.  His daughter Shauna had given it to him for a 97th birthday present. She quoted him as saying “If I had a son, I would want on just like [BC coach] Jerry York.”

That original message gave me a nice feeling – so nice that I wanted to share it with you. But it wasn’t the end of the story for me.

I recently received an email from Charlie’s daughter Shauna. She said that, during his final week when they knew the end was approaching, he admonished her, “Keep that book in the family.”

She went on to write, “… again just letting you know how much your book meant to him and how important he felt it was to keep the memories of his life with his grandchildren. Dad lived a great life and was an amazing father and grandfather. I am lucky my children were close to him and hopefully his life will influence who they become as adults…Thank you for making Dad’s humble memories immortal.”

That’s why I’m a writer. If I can change things or preserve memories in some small way that will benefit others, I’ll consider myself a success. I don’t have to write a best-seller or win a Pulitzer.  This is enough.

Professionally, I’m a disciple of William Zinsser. His book On Writing Well is as good a guide as you’ll ever find. He states, “I always write to affirm.  I choose to write about people whose values I respect; my pleasure is to bear witness to their lives.”

I realized, after getting Shauna Sullivan’s second message, that my work of bearing witness will never be complete. There’s always more to tell.

Some BC-related stories from Charlie didn’t make it into the book. One of them was about how he passed his final exams and earned his bachelor degree.  Like many member of the Greatest Generation, Charlie went off to war before completing all of his courses. He returned to campus in 1946 and met with Father Long, the priest who’d kept him in school back in 1941 by giving him a hockey scholarship.

The good father asked Charlie if he was ready to take his oral exams.  When Charlie replied in the affirmative, the priest said “Recite the Our Father in Latin.”  Charlie promptly prayed the Pater Noster. That was the final exam for all of his courses. He aced it to earn his bachelor degree.

That’s a nice little anecdote, but it’s not what I want the world to know about Charlie Sullivan. I want, instead, to be sure that everyone knows about the quietly heroic life he led after college.

I never realized, until hearing from Shauna, that Charlie’s wife had died of breast cancer at the age of 31. Charlie, then 42, was left with three daughters. They were 5, 4, and 20 months old, respectively. Charlie raised them and never remarried.

Charlie Sullivan was a true hero.  I didn’t tell his family story in the book, but I’m telling it now. I’m still bearing witness to his life. That’s my job. That’s what I do.

More History I Never Knew: The Story of Financier Haym Salomon

May 15, 2016
"Star of David" configuration on dollar bill.

“Star of David” configuration on dollar bill.

…and perhaps a little legend in the guise of history.

I’d never heard of Haym Salomon, so when I got an email from a regular correspondent about him, I investigated.

That email said that the configuration of stars (depicted) on the Great Seal of the United States is in the shape of a Star of David, arranged that way by order of George Washington. The story goes that Washington asked Salomon, a wealthy Philadelphia Jew, what he would like as a personal reward for his services to the Continental Army. Solomon said he wanted nothing for himself, but he would like something for his people. The Star of David was the result.

That’s a cool tale and it may well be true. There’s no evidence for it, but it’s certainly plausible. This is the rest of the story.

The email also said that Salomon gave $25 million to support Washington’s forces during the dark days of the Revolution. Not exactly true – but there are records that show a combination of Solomon’s personal lending and fund raising resulted in $650,000 for the cause. That’s somewhat north of $16 million in today’s dollars.

For the Record

The Congressional Record of March 25, 1975 reads:

Haym Salomon

Haym Salomon

“When [Robert] Morris was appointed Superintendent of Finance, he turned to Salomon for help in raising the money needed to carry on the war and later to save the emerging nation from financial collapse. Salomon advanced direct loans to the government and also gave generously of his own resources to pay the salaries of government officials and army officers. With frequent entries of “I sent for Haym Salomon”, Morris’ diary for the years 1781–84 records some 75 transactions between the two men.”

George Washington would have good cause to be grateful to Solomon, especially for his efforts before the decisive Battle of Yorktown, where the British finally surrendered.

Financing the Final Blow

It was August 1781. The Continental Army had trapped Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, a community of the coast of Virginia. Washington and the main army and Count de Rochambeau with his French army decided to march from the Hudson Highlands to Yorktown and deliver the final blow. But Washington’s war chest was completely empty, as was that of Congress. Without food, uniforms and supplies, Washington’s troops were close to mutiny.

Washington determined that he needed at least $20,000 to finance the campaign. When Morris told him there were no funds and no credit available, Washington gave him a simple but eloquent order: “Send for Haym Salomon”. Salomon raised $20,000, through the sale of bills of exchange, and Washington conducted the Yorktown campaign, which proved to be the final battle of the Revolution.

That instrument, the bill of exchange, was Haim Salomon’s thing. It’s similar to a promissory note and is traditionally used to finance trade orders. He had come to New York from England in 1775 and set himself up as a broker for merchants engaged in overseas trade.

Fleeing Persecution and Antisemitism

He was born Chaim Salomon in 1740 to a Sephardic Jewish family. Their forebears had migrated to Poland due to the Spanish Inquisition of 1492. He traveled throughout Europe as a young man, gained expertise in finance and on several languages. He went back to Poland but left in 1772 after the Polish partition.

Salomon sided with the colonists during the revolution and joined the New York branch of the Sons of Liberty. In September of 1776, he was arrested as a spy. The British pardoned him, but only after requiring him to spend 18 months on a British boat as an interpreter for Hessian mercenaries – German soldiers siding with the British. Salomon used his position to help prisoners of the British escape and encouraged the Hessians to desert the war effort. In 1778, he was arrested again and sentenced to death. He escaped and fled to Philadelphia.

He opened up shop as a broker in Philadelphia. He also became the agent to the French consul and paymaster for the French forces in North America. In 1781, he began working extensively with Morris, the newly appointed Superintendent for Finance for the Thirteen Colonies.

Commemorative Postage Stamp, 1974-75

Commemorative Postage Stamp, 1974-75

Salomon negotiated the sale of a majority of the war aid from France and the Dutch Republic, selling bills of exchange to American merchants. Salomon also personally supported various members of the Continental Congress during their stay in Philadelphia, including James Madison and James Wilson. He requested below-market interest rates, and he never asked for repayment.  Madison once confessed that “I have for some time … been a pensioner on the favor of Haym Salomon, a Jew broker.”

Salomon was also an important mover and shaker in the Philadelphia Jewish community.  In 1782 he made the largest individual contribution towards the construction of the Congregation Mikveh Israel’s main building.

In 1783, he was one of the prominent Jews involved in the successful effort to have the Pennsylvania Council of Censors remove the religious test oath required for office-holding under the State Constitution. These test laws were originally written to disenfranchise the Quaker, who objected to taking oaths at all.

Salomon’s friend Robert Morris was the one who introduced legislation to end the test laws in Pennsylvania. In 1784, Salomon answered anti-Semitic slander in the press by stating: “I am a Jew; it is my own nation; I do not despair that we shall obtain every other privilege that we aspire to enjoy along with our fellow-citizens.”

Like Morris, Salomon spent time in prison after the war. Salomon died suddenly and in poverty on January 8, 1785 after contracting tuberculosis in prison. Due to the failure of governments and private lenders to repay the debt incurred by the war, his family was left penniless at his death at age 44.

A Grateful (?) Nation

The hundreds of thousands of dollars of Continental debt Salomon had bought with his own fortune were worth only about 10 cents on the dollar at the time of his passing. When his son petitioned Congress to recover money he claimed his father was owed by the government, various committees refused to recognize the family’s claims.

Memorial Marker in Philadelphia

Memorial Marker in Philadelphia

In 1936, Congress voted to erect a monument to Salomon in the District of Columbia, but funds for the actual construction were never appropriated. In 1974-75, the country did issue a commemorative postage stamp for him, as one of the “Contributors to the Cause.”

Next time you hear some candidate for political office bellowing about “Wall Street,” try to imagine if we’d even have a country, had we not been able to call upon people with financial acumen like Haym Salomon.

And next time you hear talk of the Founding Fathers of our nation, remember Haym Salomon. This was a man who, within five years of his arrival in Philadelphia, advanced from penniless fugitive to respected businessman, philanthropist and defender of his people.

He risked his fortune, pledged his good name and credit on behalf of the Revolution, and stood up for religious liberty. A true American patriot, indeed. It’s too bad he’s not better known through the teaching of American history.

I finally know about him. And so do you. We both now know the rest of the story.

Sports Shorts

January 25, 2016

BRadyManning“Disa and data” as one old-time Boston sportswriter used to label his note columns. I forget who that was. There was also “Here and There” and “Hither and Yon” subheads for this sort of fare. Anybody remember them – and were they in the Record, the American, the Herald, the Traveler, the Morning Globe, or the Evening Globe?

Rivalries
Excellent Bob Ryan column in the January 24 Sunday Globe about the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning “rivalry.” Bob has seen it all during his sportswriting career. He is spot-on when he says that this Tom-Peyton thing just ain’t the same as long-running, head-to-head competitions like Russell-Chamberlain, Bird-Johnson, and Evert-Navratilova.

As Bob points out, Tom and Peyton chart parallel courses. They don’t play defense. Ryan calls this a “manufactured” rivalry, and to a great extent it is. It’s largely, though not entirely, a creation of the television producers.

Not long ago, a producer told me that one of his primary tasks in planning the broadcasts was figuring out the “story lines” they’d follow during the game. There are usually two or three that TV tries to play up so as to add a little extra drama to the coverage.

Examples of these hoped-for story lines might be a recently-traded player returned to town to confront his former teammates; coaches who clearly don’t like each other glaring into the cameras; the best offense runs up against the best defense; a player’s comeback from a debilitating injury, etc.

In the case of Tom and Peyton, the TV people hardly even had to work at it. They just put up all those graphics with the statistical comparisons. The only things that were more numerous on the AFC Championship show were the cell phone service ads.

Sometimes the contest evolves the way they want; sometimes it doesn’t. This time it didn’t. It wasn’t a quarterback shootout. The real story was the way the Denver defense overwhelmed the Patriots’ offensive line. Another unexpected twist was having one of the best kickers of all time blow an extra-point try.

But back to the “rivalry.” As football goes, and as Ryan also states, this is as good as it gets. Tom and Peyton are two of the best ever. They are in the twilight of their careers, and they won’t ever again get a chance to perform on the same stage with so much at stake.

And we in Boston have been lucky to have ringside seats for this and for the Larry-Magic and Russell-Chamberlain.

So our guy and our team didn’t come out on top this time. That’s okay. This is Peyton’s last shot. I hope he wins the Super Bowl. And the sun will come up tomorrow.

Coaches

It’s almost time for the Beanpot. Will we finally see a Harvard-Northeastern championship game? This could be the year.

The college hockey world has been justifiably lavish in its praise of Boston College coach Jerry York. Jerry has another very good team this year, and he just earned his 1,000th career victory.

But on a shorter horizon, let’s not overlook the fantastic job that Jim Madigan is doing at Northeastern this season. The Huskies lost three of their best players – Kevin Roy, Dalen Hedges, and Dustin Darou – during the first half. At one point, the record was 1-11-2. It was enough to make any team lose heart and to start mailing it in.

But “Mad Dog” somehow held it all together. He dipped into his reserves, shuffled his lines about constantly, and kept the team working hard. Since losing 4-3 to BC before Christmas, the Huntington Hounds have won seven games and tied one – as of this writing. Roy and Darou are back in the lineup.

Northeastern was in the Beanpot final last year against BU and lost in overtime. The two of them play in the second game of the opening round this year. The Terriers, Eagles, and Harvard are all having good seasons. The Huskies are the only one of the four teams that will enter the 2016 tournament with an overall losing record.

But it’s long past time (since 1988) for Northeastern to win another Beanpot title. If ever there was a dark horse, it’s this year’s Huskies.

History I Never Knew: The Invention of Duck Tape (Yes, it’s Duck Tape, not Duct Tape!)

November 19, 2015

It was a mother’s love, helped by the open-minded outlook of the president of the United States, that led to the invention of the most useful fastening material the world has ever seen.

stoudt

Vesta Stoudt, the tape she suggested, and the president who listened.

That mother was Vesta Stoudt. That president was Franklin Roosevelt.

After World War II broke out and Vesta’s two sons went off to serve in the Navy, she – like thousands of other women – pitched in to the war effort on the home front. She went to work in the Green River Ordnance Plant in Illinois, where she inspected and packed the cartridges that launched rifle grenades.

The cartridges were packed eleven to a box, and the boxes were taped and waxed to make them waterproof and damp-proof. The box flaps were sealed with thin paper tape. A tab of tape was left loose so that it could be pulled to release the waterproof wax coating and open the box.

But the thin paper tape wasn’t strong enough. The tabs tore off when soldiers and sailors pulled on them to open the ammo boxes. They were often under enemy fire while doing this, and their lives were put at risk as they scrambled to claw the boxes open.

Vesta Stoudt came up with a solution: seal the boxes with a strong, cloth-based waterproof tape instead of the thin paper tape. She suggested it to her supervisors and got nowhere. So Vesta went right to the top. She wrote to Roosevelt:

“I have two sons out there somewhere, one in the Pacific Island the other one with the Atlantic Fleet. You have sons in the service also. We can’t let them down by giving them a box of cartridges that takes a minute or more to open, the enemy taking their lives, that could have been saved had the box been taped with a strong cloth tape that can be opened in a split second.

“I didn’t know who to write to, Mr. President, so have written you hoping for your boys, my boys, and every man that uses the rifle grenade, that this package of rifle cartridges may be taped with the correct tape.”

The letter got the attention of the right people. Because Johnson & Johnson was experienced in making surgical adhesive tapes, the War Production Board asked that company to make the tape that Stoudt had suggested.

The material was name “Duck Tape” because, as the story goes, it was 1) waterproof, like a duck and 2) it was made with cotton duck fabric. The tape soon became known as “100 Mile an Hour Tape” in the military. Because it was strong and waterproof, soldiers used it to repair just about everything.

Vesta Stoudt received a letter from President Roosevelt and earned the Chicago Tribune’s War Worker Award for her idea and her persistence.

Sometimes it’s the little things, and the little people, that make the biggest difference. Well done and thank you, Vesta Stoudt.

BC Women’s Hockey Pioneer Kelly McManus Souza: Raising Standards and Expectations Wherever She Goes

October 5, 2015

kellyIf this were a story about business, we’d say that Kelly McManus Souza is a change agent. If our subject were chemistry, then she’d be a catalyst. But this is a story about sports. Kelly McManus is an athlete. But she’s also both a catalyst and a change agent. Throughout her career, almost wherever she’s laced on a pair of skates, Kelly has transformed teams and programs, bringing them to new and higher standards of performance.

Her college hockey days began at the University of New Hampshire. She got a full scholarship to UNH, the East’s dominant women’s hockey program of the late 1990s, and was ECAC Rookie of the Year as a freshman. In her two years there, the team went 47-17-5. Kelly scored 17 goals and 37 assists for 54 points. She was on a roll.

But in the spring following her sophomore campaign, Kelly made a bold move. She left UNH and accepted a half scholarship offer from Boston College’s second-year coach Tom Babson. The Eagles wanted to build their program to national prominence. She was looking for a change and had always liked BC.

She was one of five transfers and five new recruits to arrive in the fall of 2000. But it was Kelly, more than anyone else, whose presence showed that Boston College was serious about competing at the highest level.

“I had an official visit at BC when I was in high school, but UNH was coming off a national championship at the time, and I wanted to play against the best of the best,” Kelly explains.

“Then, two years later, BC seemed committed to improving the program. I had known Coach Babson through Ben Smith and the Olympic Development program. I thought that I could be one of those players who had an impact. I had done that at Nobles, and it was nice to see that kind of development take place.”

Impact? Here’s what Babson has to say.

“You have to understand that BC Women’s Hockey was not the incredible juggernaut that it is today. We were an after-thought program with very few scholarships and no reputation to recruit upon. There were even voices at BC wondering whether women’s hockey was worth the expense.

“To have someone like Kelly McManus take a chance on us was bewildering to the stronger programs. UNH was used to winning and had made the ECAC finals 9 out of the previous 10 years. After 14 consecutive loses to UNH, we tied them in Kelly’s senior year. Then we were a program that the college hockey community began to take notice of. That season saw us also beat Cornell and Maine, both very strong programs that we hadn’t beaten in years.”

mcmanus action 2McManus, a left-hand shot, played both center and wing. Her linemates for her two BC seasons were primarily Jen Buckley, Alaina Clark, Kerri Sanders, and Thia Connolly. As Connolly puts it, “Teammate or competitor, I’ve witnessed Kelly on both ends of the spectrum. It was much more comforting to have her on your side than on the opposing bench.”

The first year McManus played, BC’s record was 6-26. She had 13 goals and nine assists for 32 points. In her senior season, she had 17-17-34, good for third in goals in the ECAC. The team’s record was 9-19-4 and it included a first-ever berth in the playoffs. Boston College women’s hockey had arrived. Kelly became BC’s first nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award.

Even though Kelly only played two BC seasons, she set several team records. As of graduation, she held the single-season mark for goals, assist and points. For her career, she was fourth all-time in points and goals, and third in assists.

Earlier in her career, Kelly had singlehandedly elevated the athletics program at Noble and Greenough School. Nobles won the Independent School League championship in her senior year and has remained at the top of that league ever since. Kelly was a high school All-America for coach Todd Stirling at Nobles. For her high school career, she scored 137 goals and had 98 assists. She also was all-ISL in lacrosse and soccer, and she captained all three sports.

“The support I got at Nobles was critical in my development in soccer and lacrosse,” she says, citing soccer coach Beth Riley and headmaster Vic Baker in addition to Stirling.

Before Nobles, Kelly played on the boys’ team at Dedham Country Day School. Hockey had been curtailed there, and she successfully petitioned for its reinstatement. She also was a member of the nationally prominent Assabet Valley Girls Hockey Team under coach Carl Gray. Assabet’s Pee Wee team dominated New England and finished second in the national championship tournament in Minnesota.

“Coach Gray was the one who really taught me how to deal with adversity, how to play under pressure,” said Kelly.
Kelly’s very first hockey coach was her father Mike. He had insisted that Kelly and her sister Krissy stick to figure skating and forgo Dedham Youth Hockey. Bored with that scene after a few years, they badgered him until he relented – but only if he could coach them.

Kelly and her husband Mike were married in 2006 at St. Ignatius Church. After graduation, she earned a law degree at Massachusetts School of Law while Mike was playing professional hockey. They lived in Italy for the four years he played at Cortina and have two daughters – Ella, age 8 and Ava, age 5.

Both Mike and Kelly have been coaching since returning to America in 2010. She was head hockey coach at St. Mary’s Academy Bayview in Riverside, RI and head coach for the Team Elevate Elite Lacrosse Club at Brown. Mike recently returned to his alma mater to be associate head hockey coach.

Mike and Kelly met at the rink while at UNH. Both good scorers, they would compete for the best statistics. “He’s a bigger and more physical player than me,” she says. “But I’m smarter.”

BC Soccer Hall of Famer Paul Keegan: Learning Beautiful Soccer Made Him Ireland’s First MLS Player

October 5, 2015

KeeganHeadandShouldersEarly in his freshman year at Boston College, Paul Keegan scored two goals in the first half of a soccer game at Northeastern. Coach Ed Kelly was not at all pleased.

“He was shouting at me from the sidelines, and in the locker room he was telling me that I should have passed rather than scored,” said Paul.

“I’m a striker, and strikers are greedier than other players. But Ed wanted the beautiful game. That’s how he taught me. I had to look around and not be selfish. He instilled that in me, and that’s what prepared me for MLS.”

Paul was the first Irishman to play Major League Soccer in the United States. He was the Number One pick of the New England Revolution the first MLS college draft in 1996, and he stayed with the Revs for five seasons. But his path to the big time began with Kelly’s exacting tutelage.

“When I came to Boston College I was raw. I could score goals. But I didn’t have that vision yet. Ed was a great mentor and coach,” said Paul.

The oldest of five children, Paul grew up in Dublin. His father Peter was a big fan of the Liverpool club and took his sons to England for games. Times were different back then. Irish kids who played soccer, which was considered an English game, weren’t allowed to play other school sports. Paul’s Crumlin United team won the Dublin League and Youth Cup in 1991, and Paul was Player of the Year in the Under-18 category.

Paul’s scoring touch brought him to St. Patrick’s Athletic and got him into a development course under the League of Ireland, that country’s version of Major League Soccer. It amounted to an unpaid apprenticeship for aspiring pro soccer players. Paul got hurt along the way, breaking an ankle and three toes. That turned out to be a blessing. He started to consider other options, like getting a good education.

“I got to thinking, what if this happens when you’re playing professional football. You just get laid off. You have no job, no career,” he said.

When a team from Elizabethtown, New Jersey came over for a game, Paul was duly impressed – especially by the quality of their uniforms and equipment. He decided then that he’d be interested in coming to college in America, and told his coach. The coach knew Ed Kelly and made a phone call. A year later, Paul Keegan was a Boston College freshman.

“It was hard. I was the first in my family to go away. Not just away, but thousands of miles. My dad was pushing me, telling me that America was the land of dreams,” he said.

Paul’s younger brother Wayne followed him across The Pond and ended up playing for Southern Connecticut State’s Division Two NCAA champion team. Though Paul had a lot to learn about the fine points of the game, he had an immediate impact at BC. In 1992 he was Big East Rookie of the Year and a regional All-American for the 10-8 squad.

Kelly appointed Paul captain of the team when Paul was a sophomore. Kelly brushed aside Paul’s objections about being too young and told him just to lead by example. As Paul put it, “He instilled that fighting spirit in me.”

He was captain or co-captain for three seasons and, as teammate Mike Calise stated, “Paul’s impact on the field was trumped only by his impact in the locker room and on his teammates. Paul represents the best of Boston College, our soccer family, and what it means to be an Eagle.”

Sophomore season of 1993 was rewarding, in a way, but also one of the most frustrating. The team went 12-5-1, despite having no home field for games. Shea Field was rendered unplayable for games by the football tailgaters, Paul recalls. The team did practice on Shea and “picked up a lot of chicken bones,” he says. Worse yet was the politics. The committee that selected teams for the NCAA Tournament snubbed BC.

During Paul’s four seasons the Eagles compiled a record of 42-25-6. He was a regional All-America pick all four years, national All-American twice, and three times was picked for the All-Big East first team. he was chosen Eagle of the Year for 1995-96. He holds the all-time point scoring record with 31 goals and 21 assist for 83 points in 69 games. He is second all-time in goals and third all-time in assists.

Paul’s favorite college memory came right at the end of his undergraduate days. Two years before receiving his diploma, he started for the Revolution in Foxboro and scored his first MLS goal against New York. His four brothers, his sister, and his father had all come over from Ireland to see that game and to be at graduation. His mother, tragically, had died from injuries suffered when she was stuck by an automobile a few years before.

Paul picked up a master’s degree in education while playing professionally. He also spent a tremendous amount of time as the Revolution’s ambassador to the communities in and around Boston. If there was an event involving pro athletes, he’d be there – soccer camps, charitable fund raisers, kids’ birthday parties, he’d be there. He was named Boston’s Sportsman of the Year in his last MLS season.

He returned to Ireland after that, resuming his soccer career and helping to care for his father for a year before he passed away. Paul played for a variety of teams over the next decade-plus before retiring. For the past six years he has combined his athletic background and his love of community service in working for Sports Scotland.

“It’s an active skills program, a massive program, and not just for one sport,” he explains. “It lets me reach kids, a grass-roots way to get them involved in clubs and out into their community. It’s a really enjoyable job, seeing people changing and creating new opportunities for themselves.”

BC Soccer Hall of Famer Mary Guarino: All She Needed was a Little Motivation

October 5, 2015
Mary and Alison with twins Liam and Rowan and triplets Stella, Declan, nd Reese

Mary and Alison with twins Liam and Rowan and triplets Stella, Declan, nd Reese

When high school senior Mary Guarino arrived at Storrs, Connecticut from Florida on a recruiting trip, the first thing she asked was “How far are we from Boston?”

Maybe that didn’t tip off the UConn soccer coaches that Mary had her heart set on Boston College. But it should have. Two years before, she’d visited Chestnut Hill with her father John, who’d grown up in Cambridge. Mary decided then that she wanted to go to Boston College. It was up to her to make it happen.

Mary had played soccer and many other sports – football and basketball with older brother John, track cross country and tennis in school. She was a star for the Plantation, Florida Eagles Club and had made it to the U.S. Olympic Development Player Pool. Mary also played for St. Thomas Aquinas High of Fort Lauderdale, national and state soccer champs and a renowned breeding ground for athletes.

She did make that enrollment at BC happen, although her final year of high school had many an anxious moment too. After verbally committing to Eagle coach Terez Biancardi but before signing a letter of intent, Mary blew out her right knee.

She had meniscus surgery and would need a brace for at least a year. The damaged knee could have changed everything, but Biancardi and BC didn’t flinch. Mary came north. It wasn’t an easy first year. She started in three games and didn’t score her only goal of the season until the fourteenth game. Being away from home was hard, and she’d never experienced a winter before.

“I didn’t think the game was all that different in college, except for the speed. I was the fastest player in high school. When I got to BC, I found that I wasn’t as fast as I thought. I also had to get used to playing with the brace. I also thought I’d be able to walk on top of snow,” she said.

Mary blossomed in sophomore year under new coach Alison Foley. She led the team in scoring with seven goals and one assist for 15 points. Foley pushed and challenged Mary constantly, demanding that she work harder. Mary was a fearless, aggressive striker. She also had an outstanding vertical leap and scored many headers during her career. But she needed better footwork and technical finesse for maneuvering in close quarters. Just crashing into opponents to get to the ball wasn’t enough.

“I attribute my biggest development to Alison Foley. She knew how to motivate me. I was on a full ride, life was good. But she said that ‘Mary’s got more than she’s showing us.’ She told me I wasn’t good enough, and that I’d have to do more if I was going to play here.

“That did it for me. You tell me something like that and I’m going to do everything in my power to prove you wrong. I needed help on technical things and finishing around the goal. That’s where I struggled early. Alison changed that whole aspect of my game,” said Mary.

Foley thus stepped into the role that Mary’s mother Margaret had played back in Florida. “My mother never let me settle for less, and always pushed me to do more than I thought I was capable of,” she recalls.

Mary usually played as a striker, but Foley sometimes put her at outside midfielder against better teams when BC needed a one-on-one defender. But it was in scoring that Mary Guarino made her mark. She had seven goals in both sophomore and junior years and scored 18 times as a senior. Now fourth on BC Soccer’s all-time scoring list with 33 goals and 23 assists for 87 points, she was first in that category at graduation.

In Mary’s final year the Eagles went 16-7-1 and made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985. She scored a hat trick in the first round in a 4-1 win over Fairfield. Next up was a match at Harvard, who’d crushed the Eagles 4-0 during the season. The Harvard Crimson writers scoffed at the mismatch; BC had never beaten Harvard.

“We were such total underdogs. We played 99% defense and won 1-0,” she recounts of the victory that brought BC to the Sweet 16.

Mary scored the only goal of the Harvard game on a left-footed shot. She took a pass from Meghan Moore and beat defender Gina Foster, who’d been a teammate of Mary’s back in Fort Lauderdale.

The next game was a different story altogether. UConn eliminated the Eagles 5-0 and Mary, knee blown out again, was carried off the field at the 20-minute mark.

“But I’ll take that Harvard game any day,” she says.

After graduating, Mary signed a semipro deal and took a fling with the Boston Breakers. She also launched a 12-year coaching career, first as Foley’s assistant at BC. She then was assistant at Hobart William Smith and at Westchester University. She was also head coach of the West Chester United Under-16 team.

From 2005 to 2012, Mary was head coach at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pennsylvania. Her teams had a 100% graduation rate and an overall 2.9 GPA. Then it was time to come home and take care of the kids.
Mary and partner Alison McWilliams gave been together for ten years. They are the proud parents of twins Liam and Rowan, age 3, and triplets Stella, Declan, and Reese, age 5. Mary and Alison recently announced a new venture, a BeBalanced Hormone Weight Loss Center in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.

Mary also teaches aquatic survival skills to children aged six months to six years. She is one of only five instructors in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who are certified by Infant Swim Resource to instruct the youngsters how to swim and survive in the water.

“It’s been very rewarding, giving kids a skill that could save their life. Since I started about a year ago, I’ve already had two reports of lives being saved,” she says.