I like to wear cufflinks. Most guys don’t wear French cuffed shirts and cufflinks these days, but it gives me a chance to snazz up my outfits at work every day and affords me an opportunity to personalize my style a bit. It’s just part of the attention to detail that my old boss Don “Q” Quenneville taught me when I worked writing press releases at the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis many years ago. Although his attention to detail was on keeping F-15 fighter jets safe and in the air protecting the Northeastern United States and mine (at least as it relates to outfit accessories) is on matching an American flag pair of cufflinks with a solid red tie, attention to detail is nonetheless an admirable quality that my friend Q taught me.
Attention to detail and the ability to personalize and snazz up outfits are two concepts I would most certainly identify with Rick and Jim Penn. As I walked into the HQ of Puritan Clothing on Main Street in Hyannis recently, a nattily-dressed Rick (of course, with cufflinks) was doing what he loves, fitting a customer for a suit. “We’re in the relationship business,” said the affable President of the family-owned company. “I’d rather make a friend than a sale. That’s in our company’s DNA,” he continued, demonstrating the community-based and relationship-based thinking that has made Puritan a mainstay on Falmouth’s Main Street for more than three decades. That philosophy was instilled in Rick and his cousin Jim by their grandfather, Abraham Penn, who began the company in 1919, and opened the first Purtian store on Cape Cod in 1925.
I have wonderful memories of shopping in Puritan in my youth, when I would proudly don khakis with blue embroidered Cape Cods on them, when the store occupied the commanding red brick edifice at the corner of Main and Walker Streets. Ed Zmuda, who ties for the moniker of my favorite Falmouth haberdasher with the legendary Nate Dondis, was a mainstay at that locale and clearly adopted the Penn family philosophy. He treated each customer as a friend. Today, Falmouth store manager Amanda Anderson-Brumfield carries on that tradition, and is an active Main Street merchant, helping out with the Falmouth Village Association, FCTV, and even remembered what shirts I like when I stopped in recently.
During my visit with the Penns, I asked them why Main Street? Why not strip malls and big boxes? They occupy Main Streets of Cape Cod in all of their locales (Mashpee Commons can effectively be considered our neighboring town’s Main Street), and are a downtown retail institution on Cape Cod. “It just feels right to us,” said VP Jim, himself sporting a pair of shiny cufflinks. I say that the converse is true as well. It just feels right to a Cape Codder – and a Falmouthite – to have a Puritan store downtown.
The Penn family philosophy is important to Falmouth because Puritan, and Falmouth village’s family-owned operations like it (Liam’s, La Cucina, Ghelfi’s, and Soft as a Grape just to name a few) are the backbone of our downtown identity. They encourage their employees to give back to the community. They call it their “civic rent,” that they pay to each of the communities in which they have stores. The Penns and their employees live, work, and spend here. They employ upwards of 50 locals who are part of the fabric of our local identity. When you go upstairs into Puritan’s corporate offices on Main Street in Hyannis, the spartanly-decorated administrative digs (they admittedly spend their money on things the customer can see and enjoy) feature photos from the company’s 90th birthday party, including many Falmouthites among them.
“Our customers are our friends and our employees are our family,” said Rick as our visit concluded. That’s not a philosophy of behemoth corporate America. That’s a hometown, Main Street philosophy that has enabled third-generation managers Rick and Jim to lead their family-owned company into the next generation. And it’s a philosophy that is fitting adjunct to Puritan’s place as a mainstay in Falmouth village.
The Falmouth Road Race is so much more than an athletic event. Yes, it is a world class running affair, attracting world-class athletes, past and present Olympic champions, and household names, all who come to Falmouth to experience the agony and delight of the undulating and at times unforgiving 7.1 mile course. Yes, this year saw nearly 13,000 individual stories of personal triumph, and dozens of celebrations of the amazing work of non-profits, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for nearly 100 non-profit organizations. And yes, this premier event, dubbed “America’s Road Race,” brings tens of thousands of visitors to our seaside hamlet each year.
But more than any of those highlights, more than any official mission and raison d’etre, the Falmouth Road Race is a community event. It’s a celebration of more than four decades of history, of family traditions, of local volunteers, and of Falmouthites running against no one but themselves – just for the pure thrill and tradition of taking part in an iconic Falmouth institution.
Even before the emotional start in Woods Hole, where a poignant and touching start by Boston Marathon inspiration Jeff Bauman put runners and fans alike in a grateful and hopeful mood, the community spirit was running high. As Donna and I walked to our perch atop heartbreak hill, where the sun was glistening off the lightly rolling waves in Vineyard Sound, we saw uber-volunteer Johnny Netto bringing supplies to the finish line – of course with his wide, ubiquitous smile. As we nestled in between a few excited spectators, medical volunteer Dan DiNardo stopped over and shared a smile and hello and his gratitude for being part of this great communal event before returning to his post.
As I passed a sign held by an eager young man that simply implored, “Don’t Throw Up!”, I realized what a small world this race makes our Commonwealth, as I enjoyed an overdue visit and chat with visiting Bridgewater standouts Dan Buron and Mike Flaherty, who were enjoying sharing tales of their own athletic success at a place called Gasparilla with renowned South Coast barrister Ted Pietnik.
As I heard the dull roar of motorcycles and caught a warm and friendly glance from our man in blue Bob Murray, proudly perched on a Falmouth Police Harley, I knew the runners were not far behind. I had a nice chat with long-time Falmouthite and friend Steve Smith, who was eagerly awaiting his sister’s arrival along the race route. As I looked across the sea of runners at that point, I spied Falmouth Heights supporter and Innkeeper Howard Grosser, who was holding court at his Inn on the Sound, entertaining and informing guests. Lt. Barney Murphy, who proudly manages canines and deputies for our stalwart Sheriff Jim Cummings, stopped by my vantage point for a quick hello, just as perennial quick finisher Ken Gartner sped by. He was followed by the always gazelle-like Sandee Parkinson, and soon thereafter by an effortless Tom Cahir, demonstrating his proficiency in transportation of the human sort.
The crowd roared as FRR veteran and legend Bill Rodgers jogged by, and I let out a spark of enthusiastic applause of my own as my New Hampshire nephew Jack Perkins, barely breaking a sweat and appearing fit and determined well beyond his thirteen years, dashed ahead. UMASS-bound Andrew Magill offered a wave as he prepares for his collegiate adventure, followed soon thereafter by a calm and serene Tim Lineweaver.
The crowd again erupted as the inseparable and ever-determined Dad and son duo of Dick and Rick Hoyt passed by the adoring multitudes, and let out some acapella tunes as Elvis himself trotted by in his blue suede running shoes. Falmouth Recreation veteran Joe Olenick appeared to be enjoying his day off, while Enterprise guru Bill Hough was soaking in the sun and the news of a fantastic Falmouth day. Former Town Manager Bob Whritenour had things in order during his run, and Coonamessett Inn guru David Schneider looked ready to finish and head back to his Gifford Street environs for a cold one. I noted that the MA Teacher’s Association was well represented by a sprinting Ann Sullivan, right around that same time that I caught former Mashpee educator Ed Furtek again demonstrating his fortitude.
I let out a loud guffaw as a young man strode by wearing a “Running Sucks” t-shirt (I don’t think he or his 13,000 street mates really meant it), and the happy look on the face of perennial runner Don Delinks supported that theory.
The on-street crowds began to wane, but the determination continued to grow. Falmouth foodie Steve Lawrence, enjoying some time and making memories with daughter Hannah jogged by, and deft and dexterous doc Don O’Malley wore a smile as he neared the finish.
As a fitting conclusion to yet another spectacular iteration of this community event, one of the non-running highlights of the race was making some new friends. Donna and I struck up a conversation with a husband and wife team, both proudly donning “Yasso” frozen yogurt gear and cheering loudly for the five dozen or so runners similarly clad among the masses of competitors. As it turned out, George and Ronnie Harrington are the proud parents of one of the owners and founders of this successful local venture, Drew Harrington. Their donation of thousands of yummy yogurt bars made this dazzling day even more delicious.
We began the walk back to our Falmouth HQ on Nye Road, and I enjoyed a chat with old friend George Killory, just before touching base and sharing a laugh with medical team troupers Boyd DeMello and Alden Cook.
Thousands of stories of personal triumph. Thousands of smiles. Thousands of supportive fans. Yes, indeed, this is so much more than a race. It’s a true Falmouth institution.
Martin Niemoller, whose intolerance and subsequent awakening became the source of his life’s work, wrote and spoke prolifically on our obligation as human beings to recognize, confront, and work to root out intolerance and its associated dishonorable deeds in our global society.
Probably the best known work of this Protestant Pastor, who became an outspoken critic of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, and spent the last seven years of Nazi Germany in a concentration camp, was his sorrowful and reflective musing on his own shortcomings and lack of tolerance:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.”
This anthem of anguish for his own inaction – this psalm of social awareness – rings ever true today.
As Russia prepares to welcome citizens of all colors and creeds from around this ever-shrinking globe for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, the pained and remorseful works and words of Niemoller are resonating with some – but most assuredly not all – of Russia’s citizenry. A recently passed law regulating how citizens communicate with children on the subject of sexual preference has many across the world scratching their heads and protesting the unmistakable bigotry and narrow-mindedness of this supposedly advanced and modern culture.
Protests have broken out in anticipation of Russia’s hosting of the XXII Winter Olympiad. The government of a nation purportedly free has passed a law regulating the thoughts and speech of its citizens. How chilling. Statements of disapproval and disdain are pouring in from all corners of the Earth.
Vancouver has an answer to this Neanderthal effort to suppress the free choice of its citizens to love whom they love and speak, write, and sing freely about it. They have painted crosswalks in the city in the colors of the rainbow, recognizing the international symbol of tolerance and acceptance, celebrating the diversity of our 21st Century world, and the shining beauty of each tile in the mosaic of humanity.
As regular readers of this decidedly local column squirm in their chairs wondering what this international socio-political issue has to do with Falmouth, there is a clear role for our seaside hamlet in this intercontinental conundrum. Here is the connection: Falmouth has always prided itself with being a community of firsts. Falmouth is a community that celebrates diversity and embraces its wide and unwavering acceptance of people representing all tiles in the mosaic of humanity oft-quoted in this space. Now Falmouth has the opportunity to join Vancouver by becoming the first community in the United States to adopt the same approach to sidewalk paint and open its arms wide to the global community with one (or several) wide strokes of the brush.
Today – this week – now – the Town of Falmouth can make a bold global statement with local action by agreeing to paint sidewalks in strategic locations in the same welcoming and inclusive rainbow pattern as Vancouver. Naysayers and critics will note that those colors do not meet the federal guidelines and requirements for pre-approved sidewalk colors. Phooey. Let the MA Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration say that Falmouth’s attempt to protest and thwart global discrimination should not be allowed. As runners from around the world representing tiles in that rich mosaic descend on our community for an Olympic quality event, and as visitors return each week, what better way to demonstrate to athletes and visitors from all over that Falmouth stands proudly and loudly with those who choose to celebrate diversity?
It’s easy to rationalize and ignore the actions of a dangerously intolerant government a half a world away based on the unlikely event that those policies would have any personal impact. I bet Martin Neimoller thought that way too. That is not the Falmouth way. That is not indicative of the values of our community. It’s time for rainbow paint in Falmouth.
Woods Hole is not just science and fishing boats. This hamlet in the southwest corner of Falmouth is teeming with culture, vibrancy, and a rich history that makes is one of Falmouth’s most cherished villages.
Judy Laster knows this. As someone who has called Woods Hole home (it’s not the duration of the stay, it’s where you feel at home) for most of her life, Judy has always seen Woods Hole as a place where people from around the world come together to share. They come together and share their passion for research and environmental sustainability. They come together and share their passion for arts, music, and literature, and they come together to share their passion for life. The operative notion in that viewpoint is that Woods Hole is a place where people come together.
In this technology saturated existence in which we are both blessed and perhaps cursed to live and thrive, the ability and opportunity to actually bring people together to converse, think, and socialize is both rare and special.
That was the idea – and continues to be the ethos - behind the Woods Hole Film Festival, Judy’s brain child and ongoing passion. Now firmly ensconced into the summer calendar and consciousness of Woods Hole, the Festival has grown from its nascence – a one day, one hour celebration of independent film making – to an eight day extravaganza of creativity and community.
After 22 years of empowering and enlightening indy filmmakers and film fans alike, the Festival continues to thrive. “The festival has become its own life force, drawing people together for a shared experience,” said Judy, speaking lovingly about this event which has become world-renowned for its ability to attract a wide variety of films, from full length features, to documentaries, to a plethora of short offerings. This week’s festival has featured more than 100 offerings in eight different venues, making Woods Hole a bull’s-eye of creativity, ingenuity and inspiration. The environment is open and welcoming, according to Judy, and attendees at films are encouraged to discuss and offer thoughts on the films they see, as the artistic and technical forces behind many of the films are present for the festival, and are looking for feedback and encouragement. It is a true community effort. More than fifty people, some Falmouthites who are passionate about the festival and its purpose, and others who don’t live her but are equally enthusiastic about this annual meeting of creative minds, work together on the details and logistics to make this an effort that takes place in a village and is accomplished by a village.
The notion that people actually gather together to converse, discuss, and listen, as old and venerable a concept as it is, is becoming an unfortunate rarity today. The Festival seeks to do its part to change that – one film and one discussion at a time. “People are looking for reasons to get together in positive ways,” noted the affable and engaging materfamilias of motivation. Judy’s commitment to improvement of the human condition through positive human contact is a laudable example of what’s right with Woods Hole, what’s right with Falmouth – and what’s right in the world today.
The Woods Hole Film Festival began as Judy, a newly minted law school graduate armed with an interest from film classes during college, made a short film in the mid-1980’s. Using a golf course as a backdrop, she filmed a ‘spaghetti western’, and her love of independent film making was born. In those days, the options for indy filmmakers were limited, but the aforementioned onset of the internet and digital technology changed that environment for the better. Now, the indy film industry provides year-round jobs and economic development and a potential sustainable component of Falmouth’s varied economy. That benefit, making Woods Hole so much more than a scientific community, is part of Judy’s vision for the future of the festival. The opportunity to make Woods Hole a place where people can come to create content and spur innovative development for the film industry is more than just Judy’s dream – it is becoming the Festival’s – and Falmouth’s reality.
This creative and uniting festival, which began as a cool thing to do for a few like-minded film enthusiasts, has become, a generation later and as Judy indicated, a positive life force well beyond the village of Woods Hole. Yes, indeed it is Judy, with thanks to you for being a positive life force as well.
The Cranberry Wars. Affordable Housing in Woods Hole. Wind Turbines. All too often, legitimate and meaningful public policy debates become muddled by the perceptions of the personalities involved. The issues become about people and not policy. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that there aren’t thoughtful and reasonable positions on either (or both) sides of a debate, just that the polarization (and sometimes demonization) of the people involved can obfuscate a meaningful dialogue.
Warren Dalton is determined to not let that happen on the debate surrounding the former Nimrod Restaurant. “I want to celebrate our history and integrate it,” said the long-time local. I took the time to chat with Warren about his plans for the Nimrod, and realized after a brief stretch that he not only understands the rich history of this site, and of Falmouth, he respects it. He celebrates it. And he wants to help preserve it.
Warren Dalton is not a nameless, faceless developer from some capitalist hinterland looking to cash in and leave town. He is a family man who has lived in Falmouth for a generation, raised a family with his wife Deb, and is committed to the community he calls home. In fact, he has a track record of honoring historic preservation. As an employee and contractor who preserved and upgraded one of Falmouth’s oldest and most respected businesses, Wood Lumber, he respected the rich history of the site, while working to modernize and upgrade it. Neighbors and customers alike praised his attention to detail and respect for the site and its environs. That’s good stewardship of our history. That’s a contractor who gets it.
His love for Falmouth, like so many others who served their nation nearby on what is now Joint Base Cape Cod, then adopted this community, began during his service in the Coast Guard, where he served on a search and rescue air crew. He then built a home and a family here and is steadily building a future – and a reputation – as a contractor who cares about Falmouth.
He listened at the Historical Commission and has expressed a willingness to save the oldest and most venerable portion of the site – the original 17th century structure that was hit with a cannonball by the British frigate Nimrod during the War of 1812. He is working with citizen representative Barbara Weyand on pursuing that compromise. He presented a plan and invited additional suggestions and input. During our discussion, he even noted that he is seeking photos and other memorabilia related to the site that can be put on display for the public to continue to understand and share in Falmouth’s brief but memorable role in our famed skirmish with the British. Short of some angelic benefactor taking the whole complex and relocating it, that’s a compromise that is both worth consideration and worthy of praise.
I’ve been involved with several projects where the developer put a hand in the air (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally) at the notion of public input. This developer wants it. This developer invites it.
Local government legend George Hampson weighed in during the Historical Commission meeting with a pithy observation that demonstrates both his wisdom and insight. “It’s best to negotiate, because you only get hurt when you fight it and it just goes on and on,” said the sage veteran of decades of issues, conflicts, and Town Meetings. Right on, George. As usual, your thoughtful approach sets a positive and productive direction. Just because someone takes a position that some disagree with doesn’t make that person disagreeable. So let’s agree that Warren Dalton is a committed Falmouthite who is willing – and trying – to do the right thing.
I sat in the bleachers at Fuller Field recently, the scorching heat of the day having just relented to a gentle and welcome mid-summer night’s breeze. As I glanced over my shoulder at the families settled in together to catch the latest example of a pure and perfect American summer known locally as a baseball game featuring our Falmouth Commodores, I swore I saw the ghost of Normal Rockwell seated comfortably on the still-baking aluminum seats, his eyes surveying the beautiful painting developing in front of him. He winked at me as a wide and knowing smile emerged on his nearly translucent visage. He opened his arms wide and pointed toward the Arnie Allen Diamond, presenting the landscape before him to me, his gift of a summer snapshot like no other.
I winked back, returned his gift of a smile, and mouthed a heartfelt “thank you,” a grateful validation of both the visit from one of America’s legendary image-makers, and the uniquely Falmouth image he presented to me. As a fitting denouement to that magical episode, I strode out to home plate and sang our National Anthem, a uniquely Falmouth honor from our local team that still has me overflowing with pride. As our Commodores, our team, our nine local representatives of Americana carried themselves and their collective banner of good will and homegrown flavor out to the field, it was as if they, too, had seen the friendly ghost, and began their game mindful of their hand in the meaningful images in this uniquely Falmouth painting.
My visit to see our Commodores was the cap on a mosaic of local memories – several remarkable pictures that cobbled together created my colorful, unforgettable – and uniquely Falmouth - weekend.
The images began to take shape on Saturday, as faces of Falmouth past and the recollections and remembrances that they molded came alive in Marina Park as the Casino-by-the-Sea “Reunion of Summers Past” unfolded before a wet but wonderful crowd of more than 1,000 nostalgic revelers. Organizers Tim Smith and Donnie Cross, with the help and inspiration of Mike Giery and Dutch Drollette, delivered on their promise of a reunion to remember. The entrance tent to the band shell was transformed into a time machine, as the names and faces that defined summer for decades shed their numerical age and returned to their youth for a night of music and memories. The ageless and animated Steve Smith and the Nakeds filled the night air with a bold and brassy melody of summer themes, and the crowd went wild - clapping, swaying, dancing and celebrating as one. They were celebrating their memories of the Casino, celebrating long-lost friends newly discovered, and celebrating a reunion that could only happen here. They were all celebrating what is uniquely Falmouth.
On Sunday, Donna and I made good on a long-standing promise to Corner Cycle mainstay Ted Rowan, and rented a couple of bikes for an afternoon trek. We walk everywhere on the weekends, taking in the sights of Falmouth Heights, Woods Hole, and our scenic downtown village, but few things stimulate the senses like the splendor and rapidity of the imagery as you traverse the Shining Sea Bikeway on two wheels. The images brought to us thanks to Ted’s encouragement burst forth in rapid succession and piled atop each other, creating a colorful movie than can be replayed on demand of the unparalleled natural beauty of the community and the bike path, this gift we gave to ourselves – this gift that is uniquely Falmouth.
After a brief recovery from the bike ride, and the realization that 18 miles on a bike uses entirely different muscles than a ten mile walk, we cleaned up and headed to catch our Cape League locals. Commodores Coach Jeff Trundy, a veteran of nearly a generation of Falmouth memories as skipper of our local nine, said it best as we shared a brief moment before my crooning commenced and his game management began. “This place is special,” he simply observed, his own indelible smile inking a tile on this weekend’s mosaic of memories.
Yes, Coach, it is. This place is special. Uniquely special. Uniquely Falmouth.
Communication. That one, powerful and meaningful word, encompasses a vast – and almost endless array – of meanings, connotations, and implications. We live, some say, in the “communication age,” but at the same time, many lament the lack of communication today.
We look to our leaders, both elected and appointed, to communicate with us, but our information comes from (and in) so many sources and types, that that can get muddled as well. In his book “Citizenville,” California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom discusses this modern-day conundrum and the role of technology in the necessary dialogue – the two-way communication – between government and the people it serves.
Newsom tells us that his treatise on communication is an attempt to embrace technology and enhance government’s ability to listen and not just talk. “Citizenville is the story of how ordinary citizens can use new digital tools to dissolve political gridlock and transform American democracy. As social networking and smart phones have changed the way we communicate with one another, these technologies are also changing our relationship with government,” he notes. That’s a good start. Many would assert that our relationship with government – at all levels – certainly needs to change.
So at the local level, what is our opportunity – our responsibility – to more effectively communicate our thoughts? Recently, the Board of Selectmen has discussed the efficacy of inviting public input at each meeting. This seeming attempt at a more open and engaging local government was met with skepticism by some, raising concerns that the public’s ability to communicate directly and instantly with their elected officials would somehow run afoul of open government. The notion that input from the public would be contrary to an open meeting is nonsense. Many communities in the Commonwealth invite public comment during every Selectmen’s meeting, recognizing the critical and necessary nature of feedback from those on whose behalf the government is run.
Falmouth Chamber of Commerce President Jay Zavala lives in the world of public input. As the CEO of our local business advocacy and promotional organization, Jay is responsible for keeping information flowing – and receiving feedback – from more than 650 member business and organizations, and the general public from downtown Falmouth, MA to Falmouth, Cornwall, UK. He also serves his community as an elected Town Meeting Member. Public input is critical to a successful Chamber and a successful community, according to Jay. During a recent discussion, we chatted about that concept, and he offered some pretty pithy observations. He believes that public input on the decisions of our leaders is at the cornerstone of a good working government – up to and including who those leaders should be. He raised an interesting question during our chat. If the Board of Selectmen, and specifically its Chair, are advocating for public input, should not the very question of who that Chairman is be subjected to the same public input?
“The Board chairman is a demanding, complex and a responsible position. The chair plays a key role as a leader, facilitator, and team builder; is often the principal architect of board actions; is the board’s prime advisor to the Town Managers; and, is the chief spokesperson in representing the group before the public. Should that individual have the power to prescribe how the board will meet and when? Should he/she set the agenda or first deliberate with the others? Or, is the job simply to preside or prescribe,” queried the bright and engaging leader of the Chamber.
He continued with a clear advocacy for increased input from the public on this most important decision of our chief elected officials. “Every year, when the BOS reorganizes and elects its chairman, I’m struck by what appears to be a lack of deliberation – a lack of process. Although an election occurs, it appears that a loose tradition of choosing the “next guy at bat” is employed instead of electing the individual who has demonstrated the best skills at group leadership. Or, more importantly, electing someone who is an outstanding individual who has made major contributions and has advanced a cogent argument for how he or she will lead others. There are significant implications in being chairperson.”
Having been through twelve selections of a Chair, I know that to be correct. The sage observer of our local government continued, “The Charter is quite clear about the qualifications of a town manager and “able and willing” appointees, but there is nothing on qualifications of board, commission, or committee leadership. A chair is a leader—an individual who inspires colleagues and keeps them focused on the necessary efforts before them. Chairs direct the deliberations, organize the drafting and revising of reports, and represent the committee and its work to the public. What should be the qualifications of a chairperson? Since the candidates for chair never state why they want the important post or what their objectives/priorities will be, we’re left to wonder and hope. The public is left out of the process. This is a community that wants to be engaged, and this opportunity is being neglected. I believe there should be expectations, thoughtful limitations and restrictions, and public participation. I think we should be invited to weigh in. How’s that for democracy?”
Yes, indeed, Jay. That’s pretty darn good. Democracy only survives with the participation of the governed. You said it better than even Gavin Newsom did. Our local democracy prides itself on being more participatory than most. Somehow, this opportunity for the public to weigh in on the Board’s choice for its own leader has been left off the list of things to do. It’s time to put it on the list.
So, as the Board continues their debate on participation at their meetings, and hopefully reaches the conclusion that input from the public is an obvious and welcome change, a notation or two from the public on the performance of the Chair – and their thoughts on who is best qualified to lead rather than simply whose turn it is next – would also be in order.
Thanks, Jay, for elevating the dialogue – and for caring enough to encourage it.
The heyday of Falmouth Heights was a legendary time in our local history. Each generation has their own catalog of stories, pictures, and memories to share.
At the epicenter of those chapters of Falmouth’s past, at the core of the identity of the prime of the Heights was the Casino-By-the-Sea and its charismatic owner, Bill Sweeney. One of Falmouth’s iconic personalities, Bill was the primary author of those chapters and touched countless families and lives while he made a living and made us smile.
One of my favorite memories was a Monday night vignette that repeated itself for a couple of years in the early to mid-90’s, just as the legendary Casino/Wharf was winding down its storied history. Still very much full of life and passion for the Heights, Bill would attend a meeting of the Board of Selectmen for his seasonal license renewal. The meeting would also be attended by an equally committed Heights mainstay, Grafton Inn owner Rudy Cvitan. Bill and Rudy would trade barbs and thoughts on how the previous season went; then Rudy would caution the licensing authority and suggest some restrictions on the license. Bill would invite Rudy to dinner to discuss how things could be improved, and another season would be launched. Two committed business people worked things out. The government did not need to intervene – it was local people being people and helping other local people succeed. Bill and Rudy are no longer with us, but their contributions to the Heights – and to our community – will live on forever.
That’s really what the Casino was all about – community. At its height of activity, the Wharf Restaurant and Casino nightclub employed nearly 200 people. At the center of all of that activity and employment for the final decade or so in that storied history, was Mike Giery. As the chef, General Manager, stalwart employee, and senior advisor for Bill’s enterprise from 1982-1991, Mike oversaw what became the “good old days” for scores of young people who now look fondly back at the money and memories they made during their college summers.
Now living in St. Thomas as a successful corporate attorney, but missing Falmouth very much, Mike is in contact with many of those former employees. The Facebook page for the Casino, started a few years ago for former employees has grown from just a handful to more than 200 members in recent weeks– indicative of the scope of its impact on many lives. He is frequently asked to organize a reunion, but his occasional visits back to Falmouth simply don’t afford him the time to take on such a task. Enter locals Donny Cross, Tim Smith, and Dutch Drolette. None of this trio of Falmouthites worked at the Casino, but they all spent some time there, and have been the driving forces, working tirelessly, behind a planned reunion and community concert. Billed the “Reunion of Summers Past,” many past patrons and employees will descend on the band shell on Falmouth Harbor next Saturday, as timeless performers John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, as well as the ageless and enduring Steve Smith and the Nakeds, will delight attendees, play some memorable tunes from the heyday, and most certainly invoke some vivid memories. Also expected to attend is Mike “Nard” Nardella from Nard’s rock and roll to spin, a mainstay of the heyday.
In keeping with the Casino’s community-centric theme, though, this event is not simply a summer concert. The ticket sales and net proceeds will benefit the Police Athletic League of Cape Cod. The event is family oriented, according to Mike, and designed to bring those “good old days” back for one more unforgettable afternoon. Tickets will be available at the event and more information is available on the Casino-by-the-Sea Facebook page.
Like I often say – it takes a name to make a town, but people to make a community. Our community is richer and its history more full because of the legendary heyday of Falmouth Heights, the presence and passion of people like Bill Sweeney and Mike Giery, and the treasured Casino.
Stop by next weekend and be part of one last extraordinary day.
Otis Porter loves Falmouth. As a teacher of history and social studies in the Falmouth Public Schools for three decades, a dedicated Police Department employee for more than 48 years, and an elected member of the Library Trustees dating back to 1970, his credentials as a dedicated and knowledgeable Falmouthite are nearly unparalleled.
As a 27-year old bibliophile during a year when the first Earth Day was celebrated and Apollo 13 launched its fated mission toward the moon, Otis sought – and won – election to the Board of Library Trustees, a position he held continuously and honorably for 25 years. After hanging up his library cleats in 1995 and relaxing for a few years, he then opted for a repeat, and was once again elected as a leader of our local library in 2008. He continues to serve today. He also serves as the Chairman of the Scholarship Association of Falmouth, which helps dozens of Falmouth youth better afford higher education every year, and has also served stints as a volunteer with the Woods Hole Historical Collection and the Falmouth Historical Society.
Simply put, Otis knows Falmouth. He knows our people and our community. He certainly knows the Falmouth Public Library.
Jerry Fanger’s affection for books got its nascence in a bit of a different fashion, but his life story and love for public libraries also led him to eventual election on the Board of Trustees. As we sipped coffee and I enjoyed a Portuguese omelet overlooking our verdant and vibrant library lawn from the Country Fare Restaurant this week, Jerry recounted a story for me about his early commitment to public repositories of information and publication. As a young Army enlistee at Fort Benning in 1955, Jerry was struck by the irony and injustice of driving by the majestic public library in Columbus, GA to arrive at his destination, the much less impressive “colored only” library, where his Army buddy, who possessed a Master’s degree in English from Columbia University, was forced to go. The angst and passion still present in his voice, Jerry recounted how that event shaped him, and his commitment to public libraries has never wavered since then. Since 1994, Jerry has made his home in Falmouth, and for the last five years, has brought his business and legal acumen as a retired securities and trust attorney to the Board of Trustees.
Armed with similar passion and experience, The Cape Cod Foundation, an exemplary example of a community foundation, has been raising and distributing funds to charitable, civic, and arts organizations on Cape Cod – and in Falmouth – for nearly a quarter century. Their list of directors and advisors is loaded with notable locals whose legendary volunteer work and career success rival Otis and Jerry.
With all of this civic and community commitment, the trustees and the foundation are nonetheless and regrettably the center of an ongoing acrimonious (and very public) dustup. What gives?
At the center of this donnybrook is a substantial amount of money, approaching $600,000, left over from the library’s successful renovation a few years back. The trustees, in cooperation with their non-profit arm, the Falmouth Public Library Foundation, raised more than 1.8 million dollars to help furnish the expanded and renovated Main Branch on Main Street. The largesse and support of donors large and small, raised money to furnish this public jewel, and to keep it shining for years to come. At the conclusion of this extraordinary achievement, the excess funds were deposited with the Cape Cod Foundation as a vessel to hold and distribute the assets.
At some point thereafter, the acrimony began. Around the time that hostilities unfolded, the Trustees were the fortunate recipients of another unrelated gift – a reported $200,000 from a deceased Falmouth benefactor. Those funds were entrusted to an organization other than the Cape Cod Foundation. And so it began.
Jerry reports that there is in place a designated fund agreement for the Library Foundation funds, which is a pretty standard legal document for community foundations. The Foundation says the agreement, which was validated by the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth, is ambiguous. It may be, but what’s clear to me is that the loser in this battle of charities is the jewel of our Main Street. As the attorneys pile up the billable hours, the funds, donated by generous Falmouthites, are not being put to their intended use, and the antagonism and unfriendliness between two stellar organizations festers and grows. Instead of using their experience and expertise to better the library, Otis and Jerry, a couple of really great guys, are expending energy on fighting some other great folks. It just doesn’t make sense.
The website for the Cape Cod Foundation states that it “is a community foundation whose mission is to build permanent charitable resources for community betterment through informed grantmaking and civic leadership.” The community betterment and civic leadership in this case would be to solve the problem. Without the courts. Without acrimony. Without further public nastiness.
The money at the center of this was donated by locals for a local cause. That’s indisputable. In this complex, litigious, and sometimes just generally grumpy society of ours, wouldn’t it be wonderful if that fact overrode the legalese and turf battle preventing the library access to its own funds?
At the center of every conflict – including this local one - are human beings, human egos, and human feelings. I suggest these human beings put their human egos and human feelings aside and just work things out – for the benefit of the rest of us humans on this sand bar of ours.
When I first encountered the word “sharrow,” I immediately pictured a meaningful term from a heartfelt Shakespearean sonnet, something like,
“I dutifully searched the sharrows of my heart,
to find the gratitude to repay,
the kindness shown to me in part,
by her love on our wedding day.”
…or something like that. That, of course, was not a portion of a Shakespearean sonnet, it was something I made up as I was penning this column, and it was most certainly not a proper use of the word sharrow, although it sounded nice.
Thanks to a lifelong teacher and ever-committed Falmouthite, I have learned the true meaning of a sharrow. After teaching young Falmouth students about science and theory for decades, Edward “Ted” Rowan has turned his focus to teaching of a different sort. He now educates residents and visitors alike on all facets of bicycling and bicycle safety in his retirement job at Corner Cycle on Queen’s Byway. A fixture at that long-standing locale for two-wheeled transportation, Ted is now a tireless champion for sharing information – and increasing awareness on cycling as a means of transportation.
The signature block in his emails contains a catchy phrase that encapsulates Ted’s commitment to his avocation turned new vocation: “Everyone must believe in something, I believe I'll go biking,” it says at the bottom of every email. Well, I believe in Ted Rowan. For a generation, he brought enthusiasm and benevolence to helping shape young minds at Falmouth High School. He was my freshman biology teacher, and showed extraordinary kindness to me during that difficult year, which was the year following the death of my father. From Ted, I not only learned about mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum, I learned how one teacher showing a little compassion and a commitment to your life’s work can help shape a young life.
So, back to Ted’s sharrows. His life’s work is now fostering the alertness and safety of the bicycling public. Working with Town Engineer Peter McConarty, and the Falmouth Bikeways Committee, Ted has been part of an effort to place sharrows, or bicycle markings with chevrons, in some streets downtown, clearly marking a bike route, and reminding motorists that it’s the law to share the road with bicycles. Shared Lane Arrows combine a bicycle and a chevron to alert automobile drivers that bicycles are also driven on these roads.
Compliance with these newly placed markings is not optional. According to a news release on behalf of the Friends of Falmouth Bikeways (FFB), “Bicycles are classified as vehicles in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As such they have the right to the whole travel lane. The whole lane may be necessary for the safety of the cyclist or a pedestrian approaching the cyclist. Most often cyclist should ride to the right as they tend to be the slower moving vehicles.” Ted and the FFB hope that these markings, which delineate clear routes along Katherine Lee Bates Road and Shore Street, will remind motorists that many Falmouthites use bicycles for far more than weekend sightseeing. This every-burgeoning mode of transportation is actually the method of communicating for many in our community.
So, as you travel throughout town and encounter a sharrow here and there, you can credit the members of the Falmouth Bikeways Committee, the Friends of Falmouth Bikeways, and yes, of course, Ted, for their commitment to safe cycling in Falmouth.
You can also thank them for something even more important – for caring enough to give back and for taking the time to make Falmouth a better place, one bicycle, one sharrow at a time.