Some background: I covered the 13th state Senate District race in Connecticut, aka Republican incumbent Len Suzio vs. Democratic City Councilor in Meriden Dante Bartolomeo. It was possibly the most interesting, lengthy battle in our coverage area in quite some time. There were accusations and controversies for several months before Bartolomeo won, narrowly.
But nothing stands out in that race, for me, like Great Barrington. I went to the Hub in Meriden on a Friday (a day that is not great for fact checking). Dante held a press conference talking about a brownfield site in Great Barrington (pictured above). The site had been part of New England Log Homes, a company that built kits for log homes, of which Len was the president. Her charge was that (this is the briefing, not full extent, for that click on the link) the company was responsible for the toxins and chemicals that were in the soil. The site was never properly cleaned up by the company, which went bankrupt, and therefore the town/state was forced to clean up the mess, which cost millions of dollars and the site has been a complete eyesore.
Len of course debated some of the claims, but in later interviews admitted he did all that he could to improve the property when he took over as president. A business deal fell through and with no money, he could do nothing about the cleanup. It was not exactly the case as is in Meriden with the Hub, but Dante’s group made their point. A woman from Great Barrington, who lives across the street (I confirmed), was even there.
Anywho, I wrote the initial story, but we wanted to inspect this for ourselves. Was it really that bad? What did the townspeople think? What did it look like? etc. etc.
So I trekked the 70 miles one day by myself. I think it was the following Wednesday in September that I made the drive through northwest Connecticut. I had never been up there. Now I have…enough said.
I did plenty of research about Great Barrington, Mass. before I went up there. It was voted best small town in the country by a magazine, which impressed me obviously, but I had to see it for myself to believe such a claim. I hadn’t gotten much response from town officials, which meant one of two things: they wanted nothing to do with me and CT media, or they wanted nothing to do with that property.
I think it was a little of both.
The drive in is fascinating: you go from a mostly bare area to this little bustling town in seconds. Think of it like a downtown Middletown with more trees on the sidewalks, with more of a small-town feel. And you can freely walk across the street and cars stop and even wave. I was a little surprised. But there are plenty of restaurants and small shops and it just seems like a safe, nice place people would want to be.
So I had set up a meeting with Tim Geller, who oversees the South Berkshire Community Development Corp (an organization that has developed a private-public partnership to develop this site and others. He seemed a bit skeptical, but you probably would be too if some kid started asking questions about the site out of nowhere. I think he warmed up to me though and basically confirmed everything. The Democrats had done their research.
But he didn’t criticize Suzio who had worked with them and done all he could for them. He understood the company went bankrupt. Still, I got the feeling that Geller was still frustrated by the “mess” his town had to clean up. Obviously how can you blame him?
I left Geller and took my own tour of the town for a few hours.
The Log Homes site is a little off of the main road. You turn down the street, passed a bank and the Co-Op, a few manufacturing places, a former school (get to that in a second), go over a small bridge (where I took that photo) and you get to the site, which is on the right if you’re coming from the main road. On the left are a few houses. The first picture is deceiving; it actually looks more like this one below.
That gate goes all the way around the property, but you can only see the fencing for about 20 feet or so before it becomes trees and bushes again. But something was clearly there. And there is a reason why they can’t rebuild on it.
But the plan is definitely to rebuild and construct a small shopping center with some mixed-income housing. It would significantly extend the downtown and I could see it working well for Great Barrington. Then again, they also have a downtown with decent parking that people love being in. It could be just out of the way too far, unless people are actually living there and the (busy) Co-Op is moved there, which plans say it will.
After a few hours of walking around and visiting some of the sights, I made my way back. But as a community, local newspaper, the Record-Journal usually does not send its reporters too far. I’ve been to Hartford about a dozen times, but we like to keep things close to home. But there was certainly a lot to like about Great Barrington.
I haven’t updated this thing since I took over on the Meriden City Hall beat. Wow.
There’s nobody to blame for this except myself, probably. I have sat here a few times attempting to bang out some quick blurbs, but it never worked out. I really tried shortly after Sandy Hook, but I couldn’t.
I really struggled to find words for that. I still do to some degree because there are too many issues to tackle. In short, it was a reminder that anything can happen anywhere and at any time. While I am so fortunate to have my family, I can’t think of bigger tragedy for a family in just having their children senselessly killed and then never get the answers they will want. Tears came to my eyes on numerous occasions, especially about an hour after I found out. I was driving, thinking how it was possible and how I just wanted to see my son that night.
I can go on forever about that. And a lot has happened since last May-ish, or whenever I last updated. I’ll leave you with some photos and hopefully start getting back to this more regularly.
Say whatever you want to say about Chris Donovan, but the guy represented Meriden for a long time. Nobody will complain about the funding he brought to the city. I was up in Hartford on his last “real day” at the end of last year’s legislative session. He was nice enough to give me a sit-down interview. That said, his year was marred by controversy. Those details are easy to find so I won’t go in-depth. Bottom line, the scandal probably stopped him from being elected to U.S. Congress.
The murder of Ibrahim Ghazal was one that got a lot of people in Meriden nervous and concerned. It seems to have been a random act and Frankie Resto was charged with the crime. Here he is, snickering at a crying daughter of Ghazal.
The death of Deandre Felton was another terrible incident. Without going into too much detail, police have said he and a friend were aggressors in an attack. When the man they attacked had a knife, Felton was stabbed to death. The friend was stabbed, but is alive. The aftershock of this is what, in the long run, will be remembered in the community. People are hoping this sends a message to teens to stay out of trouble, but it also puts a focus on trying to get kids into positive programs and activities.
Meriden police officer Evan Cossette was indicted in November by a grand jury. A quick Google search will turn up everything you need to know about the case. Huge news in Meriden and across the state as he is the chief’s son and it brings numerous ethical questions to light.
I include the photo of Dante and Hilda because I closely followed Dante/Len Suzio’s race for nearly 12 months. I spoke with them most days to the point we joked about having to talk to each other. I would have been happy for either because they are both great people. Being at Dante’s headquarters, people were very confident, but when numbers came in it was the most exciting environment I’ve been in on in my election coverage experience. I’ll write more about this race next time.
When I started at the Record-Journal August 30, 2010 (not that anybody is keeping track), it was my first full-time job. I had spent the summer covering Southington and Plainville for our Citizen weeklies 32 hours a week. So 40 hours wasn’t exactly a stretch, but it was finally reaching a point I was really excited about.
When I was offered the job, it was for the Wallingford schools reporter position. With plenty of change going on in Wallingford, I liked the idea. Wallingford lasted for about a week for me and that doesn’t even include the time I worked. No, I got the job offered and the Friday before I started, I was reassigned to cover Meriden schools.
This is when I got excited. I would be covering my hometown, where I went to school, with a new superintendent who was the former mayor, in a place I knew quite a bit about. Over the last one year and eight, or so, months, I’ve grown to really love covering what I have covered. I’ve also built some great relationships with the people here. So moving on will be tough.
OK, ok, I’m not going anywhere. I will sit at my same desk in the same newsroom. I’ll just be covering City Hall - which means more governmental affairs, politics the City Council, zoning, taxes, the excitement just goes on. Sorry, sarcasm continues.
To be honest, I’m excited about this move. It comes at an interesting time. Right around the same time some of the biggest Meriden concerns - its Board of Education budget deficit and the high school renovation projects - were taken care of. I’m glad to see them off on the right foot for the school district and at an end point.
I got to know quite a few people in the past two years between the board members, teachers, principals, administration, etc. Everybody has been fantastic. Helpful. Always available. A journalist couldn’t ask for much more.
I’m trying to go through some of my favorite memories in my head right now as I write this. Following School Superintendent Mark Benigni for a day was near the top. He never slows down, but makes such incredibly important decisions on the fly with educated answers.
I also enjoyed the two days last year I spent interviewing the valedictorians at the three high schools. It’s always reassuring when you talk to such humble, smart kids. Of course there was Tina Dutra, as well, who placed second at Platt, but had some incredible accolades, specifically in robotics.
I always enjoy the feature stories where people really talk. Some people can’t open up to the media. Some just don’t have the most interesting stories to tell, or so they think. Sitting down with Washington Middle School Principal Rob Montemurro was one of my favorite though. He used to work a lot, he told me. Even on Sundays. He felt he just had to go in and get stuff done. It’s something most of the U.S. deals with who have a 9-5, or something similar. We get wrapped up in our working lives. Then he was diagnosed with cancer. Work, he told me, just lost its importance for some time. Over the summer he didn’t know if he would come back. But he did. Not too often on Sunday’s though. Rob put the focus on his family, attending his son’s soccer games all over New England during the fall. Here is a guy I’ve never seen open up much at all, really tell me about his life. It’s always emotional when people are able to do that.
I’m sure I have a few other good stories. But a lot of those fun ones will no longer be my responsibility, as I shift out of schools. I will still cover these crazy high school renovation projects and, in turn, see people at the BOE - just not the schools. And I will still be covering Meriden. But it’s always nice to get in the schools and see kids from time to time in their element. There’s a certain innocence that comes back fresh every time you walk into the schools. You lose it so often when you cover politics, large amounts of money, deaths, arrests, and other things like that.
So I’ll miss it, but I move on to something new and we will see how it goes. But my beginning has finally come to an end so I walk away saying thank you to all for getting me to this point in my career, for constantly making me feel some regret for not being a teacher and for always being open to talking.
In the span of 24 hours, meriden’s school budget deficit was closed and the renovations for both schools were approved despite some significant issues with size.
The Tuesday-Wednesday ending to the legislative session was like no other in history for Meriden. Seriously. First the education reform package was passed, which ensured Meriden at least $4 million in extra funds - money they were desperate for. If they hadnt gotten it, Meriden is looking at closing schools.
Then, the $220 million proposed renovations of Maloney and Platt were approved with 77.14 percent reimbursement. I’m not mathematician, but that means Meriden is only on the hook for about $51 million. Two or three months ago there were concerns they’d owe closer to $80 million. But a waiver came through (at the last second of course) and all is well.
How does something like this happen and with so much confidence from city officials throughout? They aren’t shy to admit it. His name is Chris Donovan.
He is the Speaker of the House. Even he is quick to admit that that role gives him some political influence. He pulls people together that need to talk, they talk and solutions clearly happen.
Meriden essentially needed three waivers, the state to rework tuition reimbursement at Thomas Edison Middle School AND additional ECS funding. School Superintendent Mark Benigni remained confident they would get it all, but always knew what would happen if they didn’t.
But they did.
Now look at somewhere like Hartford, which was banking on an additional $8 million from the state to close their budget deficit. Nothing. They received nothing.
It pays to have the right influence in the right places. That’s not suggesting it’s a bad thing. Take advantage of you have while you have it. That’s what I would do and plenty others would. Hell, Meriden went YEARS getting close to nothing. Now they get money for flood control, schools, downtown redevelopment. Amazing how quickly some things turn.
Being up there in Hartford while the session was finishing out was a great experience, not only seeing things play out but just interacting with legislators.
As Donovan closed out his final session, Meriden just now hopes that they can maintain was has begun working in recent years and especially this one.
Growing up on the outskirts of the city, you build up this reputation, this stigma about downtown. Because there is not much for kids downtown, other than the Y or Boys/Girls Club, you don’t get to know it. You grow up assuming a lot. Team that up with what your parents know and remember about downtown Meriden and you want nothing to do with it. The Mills, the Diablos, crime, drugs, etc. — that’s what kids learn about downtown Meriden from their parents.
I grew up on the East side on Royal Oak Circle. It’s a quiet neighborhood with a lot of good people. When a cop drives by or an ambulance flashes its sirens down the street, it’s a shocker. The same can be said for some of the northern-most neighborhoods in the city, some of the most western off Allen Avenue, Johnson Ave, Brownstone Ride, etc. and South Meriden — it’s all the same. They truly don’t want anything to do with downtown.
I don’t want to go off topic (not having even touched it yet, really) but it’s why so few people believe and care about the downtown revitalization the city plans for. Few people go there so why should they care? That’s a topic for another day.
Back to the sitgma.
Having worked downtown at the Y and now the Record-Journal I’ve grown to like downtown Meriden. I am yet to be mugged, I haven’t bought drugs and though the people are always interesting, I haven’t been harassed. I also haven’t been murdered, seen any terrible things happen or been shot at.
Yes, crime does happen downtown. There are some suspect residences, but whether or not people want to believe it, it’s all around the city. I would actually argue that the real crime happens more often on the outskirts of downtown, not IN downtown. Mills has an incredibly low crime rate compared to what people assume. Far more crime happens off of cook Ave, Randolph Ave, the numbered streets, up toward Liberty street, in the Grove Street area.
I’m not scared to go on any of those streets though. Or I haven’t been. It wouldn’t go so well anyway, do they really want the few dollars I have on me or my iPhone that you can’t press the lock screen because it’s stuck and the home button is shotty? That’s all of my value, really.
Anyway, two weekends ago something happened in Meriden. There were overnight incidents in which there was some strange behavior. In one incident, a Taser was used by the Meriden PD, which apparently killed the guy - autopsy pending. In the other, a man had been tasered (not a real word, but for the sake of the conversation it will be) to no avail. He was then shot, we believe twice, and killed.
It was the same day the aftermath was going on that there was a party at the Diablos clubhouse on Grove Street. It was for Jack Baltas, who has been released from jail. He went straight to the hospital, however, and died the next day.
With the first incident I referred to having happened on Grove Court, I drove by the clubhouse multiple times that Saturday. A typically dormant area was lined with motorcycles and people freely walking in the middle of the road. THIS is what people had been talking about.
The downtown and surrounding areas, having walked/driven around for about 20 minutes that day, was full of police. State, local, whatever — it was full.
Two people dying in the same night in such similar instances isn’t exactly normal or predictable. It was the first time I had ever been in downtown Meriden after something so serious. I was outside both houses where these people had died. And I was outside this clubhouse of this supposed gang that had allegedly done all of these terrible (and good, also another story) things.
For that moment, it was Meriden in the late 80s early 90s again. It felt like I was reliving what people had talked about growing up. It was the first time I sort of felt unsafe walking around the city. I’ve walked through the Mills, all of downtown, etc and never felt unsafe.
Two weeks later, looking back, I think I had the right to be. But you quickly realize the two people dying happened for a reason - something people need to realize. these people are dying, yes, but they are dying after they have brought situations onto them. That’s not saying anybody deserved to die or there was a necessity for any physical harm. I don’t know exactly what happened, but it’s pretty clear both have a history of drug use and it’s pretty clear there was reason to call police. What happens from there could be anything. But without drugs and what followed,should they have been on drugs, things would have changed.
That said, that Saturday was a flashback to what adults used to say. Now I know. But walking back down West Main Street again, I couldn’t feel much safer.
The Daffodil Festival gets more coverage than any other festival in the Record-Journal coverage area. Then again, it does have a parade, two full days of nonstop food and music, fireworks, and tens of thousands of people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. So I suppose it makes sense.
The biggest gripes were the lack of daffodils and the weather. To that I say: “you’re ridiculous.”
#1 - There were no daffodils because of the incredible February/March weather we had. You have got to take the good with the bad. There were tons of daffodils last year after a terrible winter and also after the festival was held later. So those of you asking the festival be scheduled later…it was last year, dummies.
#2 - When there is a festival being held in late April, the weather is going to be unpredictable. You will get some cold, wet days. For those who missed it, the sun was actually out both days. It was chilly and it was windy, but it was April.
I personally enjoyed both days though. I spent the first day with the family and the second day working, though not all of it was working. Alex Martin and I did have some food in what turned out to be a fantastic video from Farrah.
All-in-all, it was just another year of the Daffodil Festival. The weather and flowers weren’t perfect, but it was everything you’d want from the festival.
I’ve been busy.
That’s a typical excuse, but I’ve been busy the last month or so, which has lead to my lack of blogging. Sorry for the lack of entertainment.
Here’s a quick recap:
And the list goes on. Literally, Google “Dan Brechlin skinny jeans” and there are pages. Never thought that would happen.
Over a year ago, Julian Rodriguez, a 7-year old Meriden resident, suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. It has since been a long road to recovery for he and his family.
Julian still has not fully recovered, but the fact that he has had a chance to is nothing short of a miracle. Having a child myself, it’s every parent’s nightmare that their child would suffer from something like this. Just sitting with him a few days before Christmas last year got me choked up. I was left thinking for days about what he and his family had gone through.
I still think about Julian. For a while he couldn’t walk. It was apparent his brain was not functioning well. But within a month or two, there was significant improvement. He even received a visit from Jets fan Fireman Ed.
I ran into Julian’s uncle a week or two ago, Carlos Pina. He works as part of the family-school liaison team.
Carlos told me Julian is doing much better. That, of course, was after Julian had to go down to New York City to undergo further surgery. Carlos told me doctors were flown in from all over the country to stabilize at least one other aneurysm.
Scary. Beyond scary, really.
Carlos said the next few months will be telling. But if the last year has told anybody anything, it’s that Julian has been a fighter and a survivor. He has done nothing but overcome the odds. So I’m glad to see he has done nothing but improve.
Hopefully he has enough fight to overcome this next hurdle because it will likely be another big challenge. But as his mother, Carla Rodriguez put it last year, Julian wants to keep getting better:
“He takes his steps confidently. He always wants to do more than he can or take one extra step.”
Give the photo credit to RJ photographer Sarah Nathan on this one. Can’t find it right now, but there was another great picture of the two sharing a hug.
Last week was the third time in three months that somebody was killed by an Amtrak train near the Meriden-Wallingford line. All three were sadly ruled as suicides.
The circumstances surrounding all three were interesting. Two were virtually the same location and all three nearly at the same exact time. Arrival times obviously factor in, but the train passes through at least three times a week.
As many have pointed out, anybody looking to take their own life will probably be able to if they are really trying. Even an officer at the scene said there’s not much they can do. The city has no say in whether or not fencing can be put up. Amtrak officials said two miles of fencing would cost $3 million. So is it worth installing $3 million worth of fencing when people can just choose a different location on the tracks? Probably not.
The latest, Robert Levack, had an obit in the paper on Saturday. In there, it included:
He was being treated for many years for major depression and was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.
While it is odd for something like that to appear in an obit, that probably connected some dots for those wondering why he would commit suicide or what led to it. Sad.
More odd, however, is probably the three in three months. For the residents at the nearby trailer park off of Gypsy Lane/Old Colony Road, they were incredibly disappointed to basically watch this happen all over again. It was the worst kind of deja vu.
For the police, it was the third time and third time too many. Same for the news reporters. We just responded to do our job and ask how something like this could have happened. Right away all signs pointed to suicide, though. We never want to publicize suicides, but these were public. They tied up Amtrak for three hours, the police, investigation teams, the passengers, for hours.
It’s a sad, unfortunate trend that cannot be stopped, but let’s hope it does. I’m sure it’s not a reason the people of Meriden and Wallingford want to be in the news. It’s essentially three people effecting thousands over the act of taking their own lives publicly.
So let’s hope for change.
There are a few things I like about being a reporter. Two of the big ones go hand-in-hand.
Oftentimes when you pick up the phone, all you see is a phone number. If you don’t recognize the number, (not to go all Phonebooth on you) you pick up not knowing who is on the other end. Could be anybody, but chances are they are looking for you. It may be good, may be bad. But secretly, or not secretly in some cases, every journalist hates the little red light on their phone when they walk into work the day after they write a story.
I’ve been pretty good lately in that category. No hate mail, no praise. No news is typically good news, though.
Back what I was getting at, though ——
On any given day you can talk to anybody. Chances are, I’m not crossing paths with the president and rarely to I come across big-name stars. Even when the governor comes to town it’s a pretty big story.
And that leads me to my story. It will come out on Sunday, but today I did speak with the governor. Not at a press conference or event or visit, but on the phone.
Typically when we call the governor’s people for a story, we just get a statement back. It’s his stance on a given topic. It’s the same thing he would give to any other media outlet.
I had a pretty specific story today though with some people Malloy knows. And so rather than issue a statement, he actually gave me a call. I’m not one to sit here and put the governor or anybody on a pedestal. But getting the attention of somebody with the most individual governmental power in the state is reassuring. It makes you feel good. I got an interview with somebody who spends his day moving from place to place.
Of course, Malloy is no Brian Cashman. No offense. Talking with Brian Cashman was probably the highlight of my career so far. and briefly talking with Peter Gammons. Those are guys I’ve known about longer than Malloy and looked up to in the past. I both wanted to be on baseball tonight and a Yankee GM at different points. Still wouldnt mind it.
But when I say it makes you feel good about Malloy, I mean I am a 23 year old reporter with a smaller newspaper. Not the smallest by any means, but we aren’t the Courant and we arent his hometown Stamford Advocate. The reason Chris Donovan is so responsive to us, especially, is because we are his hometown. But he is pretty good with everybody, anyway.
But it would have been easy for Malloy to blow me off and my story would have survived. Maybe it’s a testament to the story the person/topic was on. Who knows. But he did take the time out of his day, which I appreciate.
I think the age thing adds to it. I dont think my friends have talked to Malloy. Hell, they wouldnt approach the mayor. We do put people in power on pedestals. As the media, we cannot and should not. That’s why I use first names when talking with most sources. The second you give them that added title, they get a leg up.
Now I’m just rambling.
Point is, dont ever doubt who you are going to talk to on any given day. I am in a position that it is likely I could talk to the mayor (gasp) or any other person with a nice title. At the end of the day, we are all human - some with more power than others, but that shouldn’t intimidate you.
Sitting here, Friday night, after a full work week, writing is one of the last things I want to do. I never got around to finishing my Meriden Problems series. So I will make it short and sweet. I won’t copy and paste everything - just allude to some of what has been said.
There are a lot of “problems” that are exaggerated. There are some that are funny. I enjoy reading them, so keep them coming. I will continue to read the Meriden feed on twitter as well, because people prove all of these problems, unintentionally.
I wouldn’t be a journalist if I couldn’t prove a few things wrong or answer a few questions. So here are a few tweets or RTs that appeared in Meriden Problems Twitter feed that I can address.
South Meriden vs. Meriden?
It’s true, South Meriden is disconnected from the rest of the city. We have discussed this plenty of times in the newsroom. From an Eastsider’s perspective, South Meriden is not part of the rest of the city. From platt’s perspective, it is part of the city. I agree that if South Meriden had highway access, a high school and a grocery store they would never leave. But they need the rest of Meriden just as much as we need them…or something like that. It’s its own community, but admit it, you’ve probably wanted to live there.
Ted’s or K. Lamay’s?
Not a problem. More of a luxury.
Pratt and Center streets
Already wrote about this so no need to discuss.
Few things about the mall: it has ALWAYS been a daycare for tweens. I think somebody else pointed it out, but the Meriden Mall used to be downtown. This is the Meriden Square turned Westfield Shopping Mall. It is one reason why there is no longer a Meriden Mall.
Good question…what happened to downtown Meriden? A few things. Flooding took out a large handful of businesses including the Meriden Mall on the Hub, followed by Canberra. People began leaving downtown and the income level went down meaning businesses could not be supported. Here’s an explanation. It is pretty awful that the downtown is as dead as it is and the traffic patterns don’t help. But the actual downtown is fairly nice for those not regularly down there. It’s not bad to walk through and far less dangerous than people think. I’ve also been at the Mills plenty of times. Not the best place in the world, but I’ve never had problems.
A 4-year old with pot
Not Meriden’s finest moment. Then again the real issue wasn’t the kid, a special needs student, it’s his mom. She was eventually arrested after the kid told police he grabbed the bags as snacks, not knowing what they were. If you are possibly dealing out of your own house with a 4-year old…well thats awful.
The largest municipal park n the country. One of the nicest, too. It’s tough for any criticism of the park. You can hike or hang out. How much can you ask for from a park? Enough space to play sports or do basically anything. you either love or hate the Daffodil Festival, but people come from all over to go. And throughout the year there are plenty of events there, just open you eyes.
The high school projects
Areas of the schools will be finished at different times. You will get a ton of renovation annoyance during it, but also get to be in parts of the newly finished school throughout. Win-lose situation. It will suck, but I had water running through my high school’s ceiling for weeks. Maloney will be finished a year before Platt, btw.
The ice rink
A lot of people would be surprised, but when frozen, the ice rink was pretty popular. every day somebody was using it. Is it the best location? A lot of people liked the idea of having it at Hubbard Park or skating on the ice there. police dont like dealing with that though. And as as I said before, it’s really not that bad. You’ve got two banks right there, an underused train station and a few businesses. It’s not like you’re in the middle of nowhere.
This may blow your mind, but the schools are performing much better than a few years ago. Gov. Malloy wasnt necessarily impressed by this, but by the strides the district is making and the changes that are happening. Nothing will happen overnight as far as progress goes, but in a few years, scores will pick up more. Meriden schools are improving at a faster rate than most districts in the state. Take some pride.
Up next: The ones I really like and agree with…
Last Wednesday somebody, maybe one day I’ll find out who, created a twitter feed - @MeridenProblems.
The feed is a play on other “problem” pages that have come up in the past - @whitegirlproblems @90sboyproblems etc etc.
Like the others, it complains about the problems that Meriden and people in Meriden have, but also makes fun of itself. People between the ages of, oh i dont know…16-25 (heavy twitter users) seems to love it and are submitting their own, which get an RT.
Yours truly was the first to follow, mostly because I keep the Meriden twitter feed open all day. I knew the second it was created, if done properly it could be a hit…and it has.
I applaud whoever is running it because they are identifying most of the problems pretty well that most people complain of and have a pretty good knowledge of the basic issues of the city. I would say it’s a younger, little more pessimistic version of the “You know you’re from Meriden…” Facebook page.
Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to post some of the top ones, so I uploaded them into a Storify, so hopefully the embedding works.
I’ll be taking a few more looks at the page. I think my next post might be clarifying or disproving some of the MeridenProblems. Another post might look at identifying some of these posts and what Meriden has to do about them. The fact that younger people are easily identifying some of the city’s biggest issues is important. You’ll see what I mean later…
One of the best parts of working for a newspaper and specifically the Record-Journal is the history there. The newspaper dates back to the Civil War.
When I need to find newspaper clippings from the 1950s, there isn’t much of an issue. Well, maybe if they are filed incorrectly or by a very vague term. But even then, that’s when you find the good, interesting stuff.
So often you read a history book in school and can’t relate. When I go read these stories on the same newspaper from almost 100 years ago and about my hometown, I feel closer.
On my journey down into our basement Friday, Jesse Buchanan and I found some old yearbooks from Meriden High School. The first few entries I’ll put up are from the 1923 graduating class. Let’s just say the entries are a little different these days:
You have got to love whoever wrote this describing Gertrude’s hair and being somewhat mischievious.
Emmillio is a pest and sometimes a God-send. Could you imagine if that appeared in today’s yearbooks. This is how kids are remembered. As being a pest.
So I went to try some quick research and found this:
“Gertrude H. Griswold of Tuttle Road, Durham, formerly of Old Saybrook and the Yalesville section of Wallingford, died Friday, November 3, at Wadsworth Glen Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Middletown. She was 97.”\
I couldn’t find anything for Emmilio the pest, however.
Poor James Donovan. I sure hope he made something of himself. Seems like they knew nothing about him and he wasn’t extraordinary. Again, could you imagine if this happened today?
Unfortunately, too many James Donovan’s have existed in the state in a quick Google search.
You’ve got the first being described as the envy of most girls and known for her beauty and the next as a baby vamp because she was a little seductive. Nice.
I did find the class’s graduation seminar in the newspaper on a search - June 15, 1923.
Of course I had to check out some elected officials back then, so I found Walt Shamock, a city councilor who graduated in the late 1940s. Here is his:
Sounds like Walt hasn’t changed much. Popular with the ladies and a swell personality.
I accidentally came across the following: Sammy Carabetta, who with his brother built the Carabetta “empire” in Meriden. It made the two the highest tax payers in the city. The last line will make you laugh.
And last but not least, Matty Dominello, the Deputy Mayor. Known as “Dom” at the time, he graduated from Wilcox in the late 40s, as well.
Not shocked he was on the student council and well-liked. I haven’t seen him bust out any dance moves, but love that Dom loves the ladies and the ladies love Dom.
Anyway, such classic material in these entries. We made a rule that for any obits that we have to write, we have to check these out because they are too interesting not to and get an idea what they were like as kids.
I thought this picture was interesting. I snapped it after Gov. Malloy addressed the press and Meriden administrators Thursday. Often, people never get the full view of a room when interviews are going on. I just thought it was funny how about 10 different media interviews were going on for about an hour after Malloy left and most news teams manage to not get the other politician or administrator in the background.