It’s Father’s Day and I’m trying to figure out why we get more nostalgic as time goes by. Is it simply a consequence of chronology – we’re spending more and more time here so we leave more and more footprints? Yet surely the majority of people think about nothing but the moment.
I raise my glass to my Facebook friends who lean toward the nostalgic, with special thanks to Mr. Hamden Plains, Ralph Santoro. Ralph is one of those guys who I didn’t spend enough time with – he was chillin’ on Church Street while my boys and I were bombin’ around on Belden Road.
Ralphie was astute enough to get interested in photography and almost always had a camera slung over his shoulder when I’d run into him at those great places we went back in the 1970s. Consequently, he snapped a few of me during a time when I wasn’t doing a heck of a lot of posing. Photos of me in my 20s are pretty darned rare.
Through the miracle of Facebook, scanners and Ralph’s diligence, I was flipping through his collection of Hamden nostalgia and readily recognized so many of my old friends. Most of them I haven’t seen in 20 to 30 years like that wild bunch of Spring Glen guys – the Lee brothers, the Boyle brothers. Some of them I see from time to time, like Brooksvale Park caretaker and good buddy Vin Lavorgna and Billy Mezzano.
A few of the guys pictured are sadly gone at much too young an age. Gary Conte, half-brother of one of my best friends Andy Vas, perished in a Long Island Sound boat mishap along with Paul Mangan, Billy Ford and Billy Collake on Memorial Day 1975. That’s nearly 40 years ago, and their faces are etched in my mind.
Another wonderful guy – Joe Gambardella, brother of Andy and Leo – passed away within the year. I spent many happy hours with the Gambardellas at their house that was demolished so Dunkin’ Donuts would have more parking spaces. Ralph remembers. So does my dear friend Sharon Davis, who married Andy G. It pains me that I haven’t heard from Sharon in about 40 years, but shift happens.
Next Saturday (June 22), Hamden will be the scene of two nostalgic shindigs. A group of guys led by Belden Road’s own Pete Sportino founded The Mighty Metropolis group of Facebook, which is now more than 1,700 members strong. We had a get-together at Glenwood (best hot dogs on Planet Earth; where Hamdenites will always find an old friend) and now we’re re-convening at Brooksvale Park (10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) where Ranger Vinny certainly will be a gracious host.
The Hamden Plains Park Reunion is scheduled to take place at Outer Space, 295 Treadwell Street, Hamden from 4 to 7 p.m. Live music will be provided by The Slides (original rock) and Broadway Hearts (piano-based rock). I’d like to hit both but sometimes life intervenes.
Back to Ralphie’s photos … . The old block on Dixwell Avenue where the Strand Theater once stood tugged at the heart strings. I remember when sister Marji used to work there and we’d take in all the hits of the day – “Deliverance” and “The Poseidon Adventure” come to mind. I can still smell that delectable combination of mildew blended with stale popcorn bathed in that exquisite drawn butter. If Yankee Candle Company had that scent, I’d have to get a few.
He’s got photos of his mother Myra and the dance studio she ran on Church Street, including the newspaper clipping about Little Ralphie making his stage debut at Oakdale when he was 5. That’s where he gets that dynamic stage presence he exhibits during his musical gigs.
The photos from the Blizzard of ’78 were classic. That’s when my Datsun got buried under a snow bank and I went without a vehicle for quite a spell.
My old buddy Vinny “Bear” Pantera made sure I got to work at the Hamden Public Works Department every day. Geez, I hope I thanked him enough. Thought I saw Vinny one day a few years back when I was covering Rock Cats baseball, but it was his twin brother Mike. That’s a mistake anybody can make.
Vinny played hockey for Hamden High during the years before Fairfield Prep made recruiting a priority. I remember the twin rinks on Sherman Avenue hosting a team from Sweden and the place being packed. Ah, the days when high school sports drew a crowd! Vinny was a burly defensemen who patrolled a section of the ice where no West Haven forward would care to tread.
I can’t continue without paying homage to the Shultz clan. Big Kirk and Little Richie, are the twins that look nothing alike. Younger brother Scott yearned for the city life. Youngest brother Bruce lives on a ranch in Montana.
Middle brother Craig settled down in Hometown on followed in father Dutch’s footprints by pouring out his heart to youth sports, primarily girls basketball. I remember when Craig took up lacrosse. I wondered what the heck he would do that for. Now, all these years later, I’ve covered my share of lacrosse and fully comprehend how he got attached to the sport.
Hey, I know I’ve missed a lot of good times and great people, particularly the great days when The Family – Ron Sambrook, Andy Vas, Johnny Coassin and Ray DeAngelis and I – were wandering Grateful Dead Heads. The Great Bus Ride to see Jerry Garcia at Waterbury’s Palace Theater, courtesy of Ken Dubin, was a classic. A longer one all the way to Norfolk, Va., courtesy of Lenny Young, was even crazier since it was something like 20 hours round trip.
Thanks for letting me spout. On this Father’s Day, I urge you to remember your families, remember your friends, remember those who have passed before us and do something nostalgic.