Eric on The Road

Journeys into the offbeat, off the beaten path, overlooked and forgotten - by Eric Model

Friday, June 30, 2006

And Still More for Canada Day....

A great site to honor Canada and things Canadian from, of all places, Time-Canada (That sets us up for a future discussion about "Canadian Content". For now, enjoy):

Here's a sample (From the Canadian Press):

Ginger ale, zippers among Canada's contributions to the world

Dene Moore
Canadian Press

Monday, June 26, 2006

VANCOUVER -- Where would the world be without green garbage bags, zippers and ginger ale?

Canadians have made some wonderful, weird and sometimes dubious contributions to humankind.

Were it not for Canadians, the world would be devoid of paint rollers, snowmobiles and five-pin bowling.

There would be no electric organ, green ink or multiplex movie theatres.

And yes, the recipe for Nanaimo bars comes from the British Columbian town of the same name.

Without Canada, time as we know it would end. Sir Sanford Fleming, a Scottish immigrant to the New World, devised the world's 24-zone standard time system.

"Canadians aren't boring in the least," says Will Ferguson, award-winning author of Canadian History for Dummies and Why I Hate Canadians.

Politically, the country has staked its claim in the "radical middle," he says, but don't let that fool you.

Canadians are diverse, eclectic and eccentric, he says. And pragmatic. Rather than wither in the winter cold, Canadians pulled the toques down over their ears and invented snowmobiles, the electric car heater and the snowblower.

Thank Canada for toboggans.

Canada comes from the native words meaning big village -- much better than Efisga, Tuponia or Colonia. Those names were proposed for the motherland during debates on Confederation.

It is arguably the most ethnically diverse country in the world.

Canada has the highest population of Icelanders outside Iceland and the most Italians outside Italy.

"It's such a culturally diverse and interesting country that has geography and history and people that come from every corner of the globe," says Heritage Minister Sheila Copps. "That's what makes it really unique."

Unique is one way to put it.

Each month in each province there is at least one report of a UFO.

Of all the road accidents that occur in Canada, 0.3 per cent involve a moose. And a Calgary tour company offers a course in igloo building.

Maybe such madness is what makes comedian Rick Mercer feel so lucky to be Canadian.

"I just always feel . . . that we won the Lotto and anyone who was born in Canada or has come to Canada, you won the Lotto," says Rick Mercer, star of CBC's hit comedies Made in Canada and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

"You know, Canadians don't take themselves that seriously, and quite often we're self-deprecating and that's a character trait I admire greatly in an individual and so I admire it in a nation," says Mercer.

Canadians may not take themselves seriously, but they do some seriously strange stuff.

Canada holds the world record for the highest stunt freefall for a 1,100 foot plunge from the CN Tower.

The world's oldest snowboarder hits the slopes in Canada. Wong Yui Hoi, of British Columbia, took up the sport at 75 according to the folks at Guiness.

Canadian Jack McKenzie, 77, is the oldest person to ski to the north pole.

Those months spent with scant daylight hiding from frostbite may go a long way to explain some other Canadian, uh, accomplishments.

Canada boasts the longest gum wrapper chain in the world - 10,387 metres- according to the Guiness book of world records, and the most push-ups in an hour - 3,416.

Canadians hold the record for pogo-stick jumping and the largest hug. They baked the world's largest cherry pie, made the world's largest block of cheese and hold the world kissing title for the most couples smooching simultaneously.

Maybe it's not cabin fever, but brain freeze. A 7-Eleven store in Winnipeg sells more Slurpees per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Canadians eat more Kraft dinner and Albertans more Jello. Details were not available on the favoured flavour.

Canadians have such an imagination they try to take credit for basketball and the telephone, says Ferguson.

"They'll claim the telephone as a Canadian invention. Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland, educated in Scotland and most of his research took place in Boston . . . but that doesn't matter because he lived in Canada," Ferguson says.

Yet Canada claims basketball because James Naismith was born in Canada, although he came up with the sport while living in the U.S.

But there's no denying that Toronto's Joe Shuster was co-creator of that greatest of American heroes, Superman.

And who else but the first nation of hockey could have invented Plexiglas, the goalie mask or the referee whistle?

Since beer is practically a sport unto itself in Canada, Vancouver's Steve Pasjack came up with those built-in, tuck-away handles for beer cases in 1957.

And women can blame Canada. Montreal's Canadelle company invented the push-up bra in 1964 and Dennis Colonello invented the abdominizer in 1984.

Our greatest achievement?

"I think Canada's greatest achievement is Canada, just the existence of this country, this wildly diverse, huge, rich, quirky, wonderful country," Ferguson says.

© Canadian Press 2006

A Canada Day Quiz

Think you know something about Canada ?

See if you are right, courtesy of the Montreal Gazette and The Dominion Institute:
go to the Montreal Gazette - Saturday Extra or

If that was too easy there's a second quiz, courtsey of

Canada at 139

What do you know about Canada ?

Hockey, beer, the Mounties. Some speaking French. What else ? Not much, eh ?

To too many of our friends "North of the Border" is nothing but a 51st state.

There is more. From time to time we will talk about the diversity and unique nature of Canada. But for now first things first. It is Canada's birthday.

Canada Day (French: Fête du Canada) is Canada's national holiday. It is a federal holiday celebrated on July 1, annually, by all provincial governments and most businesses across Canada.

Canada Day celebrates the creation of the dominion of Canada through the British North America Act on July 1, 1867, uniting three British territories — the Province of Canada (southern Ontario and southern Quebec), Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick — into a federation. (See Canadian Confederation.)

The holiday itself was formally established in 1879 and was originally called Dominion Day, making reference to the term "dominion," which was first used to describe a political union within the British Empire for Canada, at a time when the British government was hesitant to adopt the name proposed by the Fathers of Confederation: Kingdom of Canada.
The name was changed to Canada Day on 27 October 1982, largely harking of the adoption of the earlier Canada Act 1982.

On Dominion Day 1923, the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 went into effect. Until the act was repealed in 1947, many Chinese-Canadians referred to July 1 as "Humiliation Day" and refused to celebrate Canada's birthday.

Quebec also has Moving Day on 1 July, due to the fact that most leases there begin and end on that day, with many people changing residences. Federalist Quebec residents who oppose the popular Sovreigntist campaign for an independent Québec joke that Moving Day is scheduled to ensure Quebecers are too busy moving house to celebrate Canada Day.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 1 July is recognised as Memorial Day, and commemorates the Newfoundland Regiment's heavy losses during World War I, at Beaumont Hamel, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Canada Day is generally marked by patriotic celebrations. Most cities have organized celebrations, with entertainment usually having a Canadian theme, and often featuring fireworks. Canadian flags abound, and some individuals paint their faces in Canadian national colours (red and white).

The celebrations in Ottawa are particularly lavish. Every Canada Day, hundreds of thousands gather on Parliament Hill to celebrate Canada's birth. Official celebrations are held throughout the national capital, including in Hull, with the main show taking place on Parliament Hill. This event is normally presided over by the Governor General, though the Queen of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II has attended Canada Day ceremonies in 1990, 1992, and 1997. Prior to this the Queen had helped celebrate Canada's 100th anniversary on July 1, 1967.

So this little esson has been given as a public service. Now you can show off your knowledge of Canadiana with his llittle riddle:

"Does Canada have a Fourth of July?" (Equating the expression "Fourth of July" with "Independence Day")
The answer is, "Yes, only it comes on the First!"

From NPR: Texas Icehouses Melt Away

Texas Icehouses. Part town hall, part tavern, icehouses have been a South Texas tradition since the 1920s. Before refrigeration, icehouses stored and distributed block ice for the neighborhood iceboxes.

Over time, they diversified-- iced beer, a little food, maybe some groceries -- a cool, air-conditioned spot where neighbors and families come to sit, talk, play dominoes, turn up the juke box, maybe eat some chicken wings, dance on the slab outside. No two are alike -- Sanchez', Acapulco, Dos Hermanas, Stanley's, La Tuna, The Beer Depot, The Texan.

Once a vital part of everyday local culture -- a cornerstone of every neighborhood in San Antonio and Houston -- they are rapidly diminishing, an endangered species. At NPR News (Morning Edition, June 30), The Kitchen Sisters take a journey into this Mexican-German-Tejano-Anglo tradition.

Showtime: NBA Ball Takes Artificial Bounce

News item by news item I become more detached from pro-sports: World Series night Baseball at midnight in freezing temperatures on artificial turf; hockey teams uprooted from their traditional homes (Winnipeg, Quebec) to "more desireable" media markets such as Dallas and Phoenix. Now this (as reported by The New York Times).

"The National Basketball Association is introducing a new game ball, bringing an end to the 60-year run of the leather ball. Teams will begin using the new ball in the 2006-7 season.

The new ball, produced by Spalding, is made of a composite material that is meant to ensure a better grip. The league last altered the design of the ball 35 years ago, when it moved from one made with four panels to one with eight.

Traditionally, a fresh leather ball is too slippery to be used in a game, so teams break them in during practice to improve their grip. By comparison, the new composite ball can be used immediately.

Spalding composite balls have been used in the N.B.A. Development League and in the Women's National Basketball Association. But the N.B.A.'s new ball will be different from the ones used by its other affiliated leagues.

The N.B.A.'s shift from leather comes nearly four years after the National Collegiate Athletic Association made a similar move to a Wilson composite ball for its men's and women's tournaments. That followed decisions by most teams and conferences to abandon leather for synthetic balls during the regular season."

What's next ? I suppose a pigskin football from a cloned pig ?

Get real !
(June 28, 2006; N.B.A. Retires Leather Ball;By RICHARD SANDOMIR, New York Times

Thursday, June 29, 2006

A Hall of Fame Selection Decades Overdue

Hats off to those making this year's selection to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Four were elected to be inducted on to the Hall located in Toronto this November. The most recognizable names are those of Patrick Roy, goaltender with the Montreal Canadiens and Colorado, and the late Herb Brooks, coach made famous by the "Miracle on Ice" when he was head coach of the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team - that underdog team that won the gold medal in 1980. Also being honored is Harley Hotchkiss, part owner of the Calgary Flames and chairman of the NHL's board of governors.

But for me the most notable and satisfying selection was that of Dick Duff.

Duff, 70, retired in 1972 and has been waiting for this honor for over 30 years.

He was on four Stanley Cup winners with the Montreal Canadiens (1965, 1966, 1968, 1969) after winner the cup twice with Toronto (1962 and 1963).

To me he embodies much of what hockey used to be about in the pre-expansion, pre- Sun Belt days. He was a player that went up and down his wing, and got the job done. He was a team player, a money player, a winning player - a true professional.

He was having breakfast at a hotel in his home city of Kirkland Lake, Ont., when he got the word.

"I was almost in tears," he said during the conference call. "This means a lot to me, just like playing hockey meant a lot to me."

His 283 career regular-season goals leave him way down the list of all-time scorers, but he scored many a key goal including overtime winners. Like Roy, he was at his best when it meant the most. He scored 30 playoff goals. He was a five-foot-nine, 166-pound offensive player who would thrive in the new NHL of today.

"It was a great journey," he said of his career, which included playing witht he likes of Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Dave Keon and Frank Mahavolich.

He was not flashy, but always appreciated by the fans - whether in Toronto (where he was known as Dickie Duff), in Montreal or even in New York, where he was most remembered for having been part of a big trade that included Andy Bathgate.

Congratulations to Dick Duff for an honor long overdue.

Career info. and quote courtesy of Hockey Hall of Fame and Canadian Press

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Passings: Inventor of the Dodger Dog

From the Associated Press, June 27, 2006:

Thomas Gregory Arthur, inventor of the Dodger Dog - now a fixture at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, died on June 8 at the age of 84.

As Dodger Stadium concessionaire, Arthur created a knockoff of the footlong Nathan's Famous hot dog came up shortat 10 incheds, but nonethless became a ballpark favorite.

A former New Yorker, Arthur borrowed the idea of a footlong hot dog from Nathan's when the Dodgers moved to Dodger Stadium from the L.A. Coliseum in 1962.

"He called it the footlong, but it was actually only 10 inches", his son said."It was before truth in advertising, but he decided to call them Dodger Dogs".

Until 1991, Arthur Food Services was the concessionaire at Dodger Stadium. Along with beer, popcorn and Cracker Jacks, about 50,000 Dodger Dogs were sold each game.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Trying to Turn a Bronx Cheer into a cheer for The Bronx

The New York Times (Tuesday, June 27, Metro Section) reports about an effort being made to boost the image of the Borough of the Bronx. The marketing effort includes radio spots, newspaper ads and billboards along roads from Washington to Boston.

According to the Times article, the primary goal is not to attract tourists, though visitors certainly would not be turned away, officials said, but to change the business community's negative perception of the Bronx — a borough whose longtime unofficial slogan, "Only the strong survive," is not exactly conducive to incubating business.

The idea for the ad campaign, said the Times, was prompted by a study conducted by Fordham University graduate students that found a well of negative perceptions about the borough among business executives. Among the students' recommendations was marketing the Bronx in hopes of changing such views.

For more see:

Icon Giant Beer Bottle Comes Down

To many it was a roadside icon of Americana. To others it was an anchor - a comforting reminder of people and events of times passed. In any event it too is now gone.

The famous bottle of Newark New Jersey - described by some as perhaps the World's Largest Bottle -- 60 feet tall, with a capacity of 55,000 gallons -- has been pried loose from its 100+-foot-tall tower in Newark, New Jersey.

The bottle, in fact, was actually a water tank originally built in 1930 to promote Hoffman Pale Dry Ginger Ale.

The bottle achieved fame when the Hoffman plant was taken over by Pabst, which turned the tank into a glossy blue Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer bottle. Six men could stand on its glittering gold stopper, and the bottle was even featured in episodes of The Sopranos. But the plant closed in 1986, and in recent years the bottle, untended, has rusted to a uniform red. Now the old facility is being demolished, and the bottle is in the crosshairs.

Some residents, linking the bottle to the neighborhood's decline, said they don't want it anyway.

But to others the bottle's passing is a loss.

A recent Newark Star-Ledger editorial about the bottle elicited these remembrances:

When a big bottle meant bedtime: "When I was a toddler in the 1930s, I lived near what at the time was the Hoffman soda bottle. My parents had me look out the window every night, and when the bottle was lit up, it was time for me to go to bed -- and I obediently did for a number of years! Whenever I pass by the area now and see that bottle, those memories come to mind. I'll miss it, but hope it will be restored and re-erected." - June Gottas Bruen, Manchester, NJ

A father's story: "....Long before DVD players and handheld video games, there was a crazy landscape for kids to figure out -- a beer bottle towering above a cemetery, the cemetery cut in half by the Parkway, and signs for a place called "The Oranges".
My father said the beer bottle belonged to King Kong, who left it there on his way to fight Mighty Joe Young. The old man must have said it a thousand times, each time as if it were the first. The stories got more elaborate, and before I could appreciate them from a father's point of view, he was gone....The giant beer bottle came to symbolize him and his generation of aging laborers -- city men indifferent to trends, men who hated air conditioning and seat belts and drank whatever was on sale, men who drove big, clunky cars and never once uttered the term "business casual".....The factory hasn't been practical in some time and should be dismantled. But I will miss the bottle as a focal point, a symbol of backseat imagination, childhood summers and my father. - Brian Campbell, Cranford

For now the former bottle is five enormous pieces of steel and copper plate three-eighths of an inch thick, and its fate is far from settled.

Ted Fiore, whose company has been demolishing the 10-acre site of the former Pabst brewery for two years, told the New York Times that he planned to restore the bottle at his warehouse in Newark and then give it a new home.

So far according to the Times, Mr. Fiore said, "several alcoholic-beverage companies" have expressed interest. It might end up in Newark, he said, or perhaps along the Jersey Shore in Dover Township, where a nightclub could take it.

"It's kind of a sad day," said in the Times article Matthew Gosser, an adjunct professor of architecture at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, one of the many lilliputians who filmed and photographed the dismantling of the hulk during a grim, rain-splattered day.

Mr. Gosser told the Times that he had grown so attached to the bottle that he had climbed halfway up the side last year before the police intervened. He had wandered among several of the abandoned buildings on the complex and salvaged remains for an art show, he said.

A few weeks ago, when word got out that the bottle would finally be removed, he downed some sangria, headed for the vacant brewery on a chilly Friday night and camped on the roof.

"I thought I would spend one last quiet moment with the bottle," Mr. Gosser said in the Times article. "One night."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Harper celebrates Fete nationale, but don't ask him to call Quebec a nation


QUEBEC (CP) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to celebrate Quebec's Fete nationale.

He met with his cabinet a skip and a hop from the provincial legislature - which has officially been called the National Assembly since 1968.

The highway signs leading into town describe Quebec City as "La capitale nationale."

But the prime minister stuck to his guns Friday and refused to describe Quebec as a nation.

"If the national assembly wants to make such a declaration, that's its right," Harper said outside a cabinet retreat.

He was peppered with a half-dozen questions on the same theme: Is Quebec a nation? Sovereigntists obviously think so.

But so do the provincial Liberals, the ADQ party, a sizeable number of Quebec federalists and former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, who also endorsed the concept.

Canada recognizes Acadians as a distinct nation. It recognizes aboriginal peoples the same way, and Spain's Catalonians and Basques are among many peoples recognized worldwide as nations without being independent countries.

Still, Harper isn't budging.

"It just seems to me to be a semantic debate that doesn't serve any purpose," he said.

That's not the kind of answer that would wash with the half-dozen sovereigntists standing outside the Citadelle chanting, "Harper go home," as passing cars cheerfully honked.

The Fête nationale du Québec ("Quebec National Holiday") is an official holiday of Quebec, Canada. The festivities occur on June 23 and June 24 and are organized by the Comité organisateur de la fête nationale ("national holiday organizing committee"). Originally, June 24 was a holiday honouring the patron saint of Quebec, St. John the Baptist, and in ordinary conversation the day is still often called la Saint-Jean by Quebecers.

Although the holiday has official status only in Quebec, it is also celebrated by francophones in other Canadian provinces and in the United States as a festival of French Canadian culture. In these contexts, it is more often called Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.

Sour Cherries: A Tart, Tasty Michigan Treat (From NPR)

From NPR News (All Things Considered, June 25, 2006)

Sour cherries are one of summer's great delights. They will be ripe and ready in just a few weeks. But unless you live in Michigan, where most are grown, they can be difficult to locate.

One place you can certainly track them down is The Cherry Hut in Beulah, Mich. It opened in 1922 as a pie shack. Now it's a full-service restaurant, with plenty of tart cherries on the menu.

Off the Mall, Restored D.C. jewels re-open

From USA Today & The Washington Post:

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in the historic Old Patent Office Building are re-opening in D.C.'s Gallery Place neighborhood in July 1 after an extended period of rehabilitation and upgrade.

USA Today, June 23, "Destinations":

Washington Post, Sunday, June 25, Sunday Arts:

The Curtain Rises on Old Vermont

From The New York Times, Sunday, June 25,p.12

Over the past few years, hundreds of hand-painted theater curtains that once hung on small stages in Vermont's opera houses and in its town and Grange halls have been found and are being revived thanks to a statewide preservation effort, the Vermont Painted Theater Curtain Project.

NYT: Boom in Ethanol Reshapes Economy of Heartland

Small towns are becoming flashpoints in the ethanol bonanza that is reshaping rural America's economic base.

By Alexi BAarrionuevo; New York Times, Sunday, June 25, p.1

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Heard on the Radio: More on Interstate Highways

As heard on the radio:

June 29, 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of President Eisenhower signing into law legislation launching the interstate highway system. Here are some more interesting notes we want to share with you (Some of our thoughts about marking the 50th anniversary can be found at our entry in this blog dated June 15, 2006).

* Interstate Doesn't Mean What You Think: While the name implies that these highways cross state lines, many Interstates do not. Rather, they are funded federally with money shared between the states. There are interstate highways in Hawaii, funded in the same way as in the other states, but entirely within the populous island of Oahu. They have the designation of H-X, and connect military bases. Similarly, both Alaska and Puerto Rico have public roads that receive funding from the Interstate program, though these routes are not signed as Interstate Highways.

* From an on line feature summarizing article in the April, 2006 edition of "Concrete Monthly":

The U.S. Interstate Highway System is the largest earth moving project in the history of the world. Nearly 42 billion cubic yards of earth were moved to build the system — by contrast the Panama Canal moved a mere 362 million cubic yards.

Enough concrete was poured to construct the Interstate System to build a wall 9 feet thick and 50 feet high around the world.

These are just some of the facts unearthed by best-selling author and Interstate expert Dan McNichol in "The Roads That Built America," newly released to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Interstate Highway System in June.

The book chronicles the "Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways." Connecting borders, coasts, cities and small towns, the Interstate System is comprised of 62 highways, 54,663 bridges and 104 tunnels, and was strategically designed to reduce travel times, improve commerce and protect the nation from military aggression.

Launched in 1956, and now nearly complete, the Interstate System is the thread that binds the fabric of America. Past, present, and future, McNichol tells amazing stories of the country's vast network of 46,000-plus miles of superhighways, how they helped create the America we know today, and what progress there is still to be made.

The book highlights how the Interstates helped create suburban life and caused the proliferation of businesses like Howard Johnson, McDonalds, Holiday Inn, and UPS. Through the incorporation of brilliant photography, "The Roads That Built America" allows readers to take a different kind of road trip and to discover the amazing system of roadways that unites the country.

The Washington, D.C.-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), the national organization founded in 1902 to help make the Interstate System a reality, will be launching a national
communications campaign later this spring that will use the book to educate elected officials and the general public about the many positive effects of the Interstates on America, and highlight the transportation needs and challenges in the future.

"The Roads That Built America" can be purchased for $16, plus shipping and handling by contacting ARTBA's Karen Evans at 202-289-4434 or via e-mail at . It is also available for sale online at

McNichol is the author of The Big Dig and The Big Dig at Night, which have sold more than 75,000 copies nationwide. He has appeared frequently on national and international programs such as the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, CBS News, the Travel Channel and National Public Radio.
In 2005, he traveled with the History Channel's production crew as an on-air historian for the Modern Marvels program "Paving America."

McNichol served as a U.S. Department of Transportation appointee in the administration of President George Bush in the early 1990s. After his work in Washington, D.C., McNichol joined the staff of the project director of the Big Dig, serving as his executive assistant, deputy director of public affairs, and eventually as a spokesperson for the project.

* Interstate Trivia:

Alaska and Puerto Rico have roads designated as Interstates for funding purposes but which are neither planned for or currently built to Interstate standards. The public controlled-access highways of Puerto Rico are the Autopistas (PR-22, PR-52, and PR-53).

A widespread urban legend states that one out of every five miles of the Interstate Highway System must be built straight and flat so as to be usable by aircraft during times of war.[5] However, the Germans started using the Autobahn in World War II for just such a purpose. After the war, specific portions were custom-built and maintained throughout the Cold War. [6]


* More Trivia:

The Interstate Highway shield was designed by Richard Oliver of Texas as a black and white shield; the red, white, and blue version was approved by the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO) in 1957. It is trademarked.

Five state capitals are not served by the Interstate Highway System as of 2006: Juneau, Alaska; Dover, Delaware; Jefferson City, Missouri; Carson City, Nevada; and Pierre, South Dakota. The completion of Interstate 580 in 2009 in Nevada will connect Carson City to the system.


* For More (Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Interstates):Numbering Themes, Interstate Standards, Shortest/Longest Routes on System, Details about the Highest (Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 in Colorado) and Lowest Points (I-8 near El Centro, California) on the System, Lists of Underground Tunnels (28), Underwater Tunnels (22), Suspension Bridges (11), Cable Stay Bridges (5), Tied Arch Bridges (12), Steel Through Bridges (4), Drawbridges (9), At Grade Intersections and Traffic Signals (4), and Tolled Interstates (39), and "First Interstates".....Go To:

"Are You a Yankee or a Rebel" Quiz

From NPR News - Morning Edition, June 20, 2006:

If you say "pa-JAM-uzz" instead of "pa-JAHM-zz" or "yooz guys" instead of "ya'll," chances are, you're a Yankee. If you call a bag a sack or pronounce route as "rout" instead of "root," you're probably a rebel.

You can figure out just how much of Southerner you are by taking an online quiz called "Are you a Yankee or a Rebel?" It asks questions about how you pronounce certain words and phrases and then calculates the amount of Dixie in your speech.

The test was co-developed by Robert Beard. He has a Ph.D. in linguistics and is president of

For example, if you pronounce the word "aunt" like "ain't," the quiz determines you're from the "deep, deep South; you should come up for air."

Beard says pronunciations are "nothing but regional dialects. It doesn't reflect intelligence or anything like that -- simply the area in which you grew up in."

To See Samples of the Quiz go to NPR at:
for more from the Glossary of Quaint Southernisms & to take the quiz go to:

Monday, June 19, 2006

In Louisiana, a Sinking Island Wars With Water and the Government

From The New York Times, June 19, 2006:

For natural and manufactured reasons, 30 square miles of Louisiana wetlands vanish verey year into the Gulf. The residents of Isle de Jean Charles are worried, partly because wetlands and barrier islands act as hurricane buffers to a vulnerable mainland.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Honoring Fathers, Freed Slaves & Lou Gehrig

As heard on the radio:

ORIGINS OF FATHER'S DAY- It is generally accepted that the driving force behind the first Father's Day in this country was Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd, born in Creston, Washington. Her father, a Civil War veteran, as a single parent raised six children in Spokane, Washington, She was inspired by Ann Jarvis' efforts to create a Mother's Day. Although she initially suggested June 5, the anniversary of her father's death, she did not provide organizers enough time to make arrangements, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.

There are some who claim that a Harry Meek, past President of Chicago's Uptown Lions Club, was the creator of the first Father's Day celebration. This story has it that Meek promoted the idea through Lions Club speeches.
According to this version, the first Chicago celebration occurred on June 19, 1910 - the third Sunday in June (Meek's birthday) and the very day of Sonora Smart Dodd's celebration in Spokane - the rescheduled day after the June 5 date was postponed.

To confuse the issue further, there is evidence that the first Father's Day Service was conducted two years earlier (1908) at a church (Central Church) in Fairmount, West Virginia (Recall that the Mother's Day Shrine is in Grafton, WV)by Dr. Robert Webb.

The holiday was officially declared by President Nixon in 1972.

The idea of a Father's Day is a universal one. In the Roman Catholic Tradition, patriarch Day is celebrated on Saint Jospeh's Day, March 19.

Countries that observe Father's Day on the Third Sunday of June include Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, France, India, Pakistan, Ireland, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey, U.K., U.S., and Venezuela.

Countries with other celebration dates include: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Denmark, etc. - See

On June 19, 1865, the Union General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston to inform the inhabitants about the end of the Civil War two months earlier. Two and a half years after Lincoln's Emancipation proclamation, Order Number 3 finally freed the last 250,000 slaves who had been unaffected by Lincoln's announcement (There was little Union presence in Texas during the Civil War). June 19th eventually was shortened to "Juneteenth".

The day has come to be known as "America's Second Independence Day".

Traditionally, observance of Juneteenth tended toward church-centered celebrations featuring food, fun and self-improvement. Although origins were in Texas (official holiday proclaimed in 1980) the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's helped spread the tradition across the country. Today two of the nation's largest events are staged in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Today some are petitioning Congress to have Juneteenth declared a national holiday.

FINALLY: June 19 is the birthdate of Lou Gehrig (born June 19, 1903). Records may be broken but the Iron Horse remains an American legend.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Full Circle: NY Times Recalls When DC Was the Victim of MLB Greed

There is an interesting feature in the Sports Section of June 16th's New York Times about the last game regular season game the New York Yankees played in Washington, DC.

It was the last day of the 1971 season and the Yanks were in town to play the Washington Senators in teh final game ever for the Senators before the team was uprooted to Texas.

The Times article described what occurred that night.

" Robert F. Kennedy Stadium was the site of a peculiar wake for 14,460 diehards: a combination of mourning for their departing team and a mass loathing for the team owner, Bob Short. Banners declared "Short Stinks" (and worse). Dolls were turned into Short effigies".

"What happened on Sept. 30, 1971, was not a riot, but it demonstrated the anger fans felt for Short, whose desire to relocate the franchise had been telegraphed for a few seasons by having the Senators play exhibition games in Arlington".

This piece ran in The Times to mark the Yanks' first regular season appearance in Washington. Ironically, they are facing the Nationals who themselves were tastelessly stripped away from their roots as the Montreal Expos.

Even as they pause to remember, how quickly they forget. Indeed, history is written by the victors.

"Yankees' Last Trip to R.F.K. Ended With Fan Rampage";
By RICHARD SANDOMIR; Published: June 16, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Noting 50 Years of the Interstate

A milestone of sorts being observed at the end of this month.
June 29 marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the federal
legislation by President Eisenhower that created the interstate highway

A 1999 survey by the Fannie Mae Foundation found that historians and
scholars ranked "the Interstate Highway System and the dominance of the
automobile in transportation" as "the number one influence" on America
cities during the last half of the twentieth century.

State highway departments are marking the anniversary in a celebratory
manner ("Freedom", "Safety" and "Movement").

There is another side to it however. For example, what might American
cities or America for that matter looked like had we taken a more
European approach - subsidizing mass transit and rail more
comprehensive, and not focusing so exclusively at highways and planes ? (A New York Times recently described the state of the rails as "Hoover's Railroad)
What would social and business patterns be like ? How different might be
the role of oil today (and oil prices) had there not been the
conspiratorial alliance among the auto, steel. gasoline and tire
companies that intentionally bought out trolley companies to kill them
off ?

What would we have been like with more downtowns and town centers
and less sprawl ?

Finally, how about Charles Kuralt's statement that with the
interstates,"It is now possible to travel from coast to coast without
seeing anything".

Like it or not the interstate highway system has had a profound affect
upon what we are today (as individuals and as a nation).

The 50th anniversary date provides a good time for us to pause and
contemplate just what that signing in 1956 brought to us.

At our Letter From The Road newsletter at we provide a bit more history of the origins of the interstate highway - Interestingly, did you know that Ike was inspired by what he saw in Europe (especially the ease of travel in Nazi Germany)?

In a recent review of the movie "Cars" film critic Kenneth Turan observed that among the strengths of the movie was that it made us recall a time when the idea was "Not to make great time but have a great time", and that it serves as a reminder of, "What we gave up to get to today".

As 50 years of the interstate is celebrated, we might to pause to make such a contemplation so as to help guide us into the next 50 years.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Fans They Left Behind: Hartford Whalers (now called the Carolina Hurricanes) win the Stanley Cup

Hurricanes success bittersweet for Hartford Whalers fans
June 14, 2006
Associated Press HARTFORD, Conn. -- The success of the Carolina Hurricanes is tearing at the hearts of hockey fans in the city the team abandoned nine seasons ago.

The Hartford Whalers never played for the Stanley Cup, but the Hurricanes are in their second final since owner Peter Karmanos moved the franchise to Raleigh, N.C., in 1997. Carolina holds a 3-1 lead over the Western Conference champion Edmonton Oilers and can clinch its first NHL championship with a win Wednesday night (They won the cup in a Game Seven,3-1 win).

"My heart is torn in about a million directions," said Al Victor, head of the still-active Hartford Whalers Booster Club. "The thought of having Mr. Karmonos' name on a Cup just turns my stomach."

For more see:,0,6569549.story

Historic Inn in Annapolis to turn into Starbucks

as reported by the Associated Press

Sip on this: George Washington haunt a Starbucks?
Panel OKs changes for coffee shop at historic inn in Maryland

Wednesday, June 14, 2006; Posted: 10:00 p.m. EDT (02:00 GMT)

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (AP) -- The historic Maryland Inn, a fixture of Annapolis since the 18th century when George Washington was a customer, is likely getting a 21st-century Starbucks coffee shop.

The Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to allow changes to the exterior of the inn, parts of which date to 1780.

"This is the last hoop for them to jump through," said Jean Tullier, a spokeswoman for Remington Hotels, manager of the inn, after the commission approved an architect's design to allow for wheelchair-lift access.

The proposed Starbucks is the final step in the renovation of the 44-room hotel on Church Circle.

The building, originally the King of France Tavern, was a haunt of American patriots and revolutionaries.

Parts of it still have the original brick floor, stone walls and cooking fireplace.

According to local lore, Washington once lost a horse in a game of cards there.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Stigmatized for Decades, French Has Renaissance in Maine

As reported in The New York Times

Once ridiculed and repressed, the French language and French-American culture are making a comeback in Maine:

Frederick Levesque was just a child in Old Town, Me., when teachers told him to become Fred Bishop, changing his name to its English translation to conceal that he was French-American.

Cleo Ouellette's school in Frenchville made her write ''I will not speak French'' over and over if she uttered so much as a ''oui'' or ''non'' -- and rewarded students with extra recess if they ratted out French-speaking classmates.

And Howard Paradis, a teacher in Madawaska forced to reprimand French-speaking students, made the painful decision not to teach French to his own children. ''I wasn't going to put my kids through that,'' Mr. Paradis said. ''If you wanted to get ahead you had to speak English.''

That was Maine in the 1950's and 1960's, and the stigma of being French-American reverberated for decades afterward. But now, le Français fait une rentrée -- French is making a comeback.

For more see: Sunday, June 4, 2006, Late Edition - Final, Section 1, Page 26, Column 1 or

Ultra-modern system of public transportation in Las Vegas

From PRI's "The World":

Host Lisa Mullins finds out how an Irish company is creating an ultra-modern system of public transportation for the State of Nevada.

Also see:

Interesting Article in NY Times: On Route of Chevrolet Impala, Signposts to Detroit's Decline

Interesting article from The New York Times, Saturday, June 3, 2006 - Frontpage:

To understand why Detroit is having so much trouble competing against Asian car companies, look no further than the Chevrolet Impala.
In the 1960's, the Impala was king of the road. General Motors sold more than a million of them in 1965. Now the Impala is still the best-selling American car, but it is selling less than a third of that total.

For the full article, go to or access:

Passings: Original Mister Softee, Source of Ice Cream truck Music, Is Silenced at Age 78

As reported by The New York Times:

May 31, 2006, Wednesday
By MARGALIT FOX (NYT); Business/Financial Desk
Late Edition - Final, Section B, Page 9

James Conway Sr., an entrepreneur whose company has been delighting the taste buds, if not always the ears, at this season for the past half-century, died on Sunday at his home in Ocean City, N.J. Mr. Conway, a founder of the Mister Softee ice cream company, was 78. The cause was cancer, said his son, James Jr., vice president of the company, now based in Runnemede, N.J.

With his brother William, Mr. Conway began the business in Philadelphia in 1956, developing it into a multimillion-dollar concern. Mister Softee is currently among the largest franchisers of ice cream trucks in the country, with more than 600 trucks in 15 states.

Even more memorable than the company's soft ice cream is its jingle, played on a music box and broadcast through a loudspeaker atop each truck.Once heard, the song is not soon forgotten. For some listeners, it heralds summer. For others, it recalls childhood. For still others, it constitutes a form of torture.

Written in E-flat major in jaunty 6/8 time, the jingle was created by an advertising agency in 1960 for the company's early radio campaigns. Though the trucks play only an instrumental version, the tune does have words:

The CREAM-i-est DREAM-i-est SOFT ice CREAM

you GET from MIS-ter SOF-tee.

FOR a re-FRESH-ing de-LIGHT su-PREME

LOOK for MIS-ter SOF-tee.

James Francis Conway was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 30, 1927. In 1949, he earned an undergraduate degree in business from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and afterward served in the Navy during the Korean War.

With his brother William, Mr. Conway later went to work for the Sweden Freezer company, which manufactured ice cream machines. On St. Patrick's Day 1956, the brothers put one of the machines into a truck and drove it through Philadelphia, giving away green ice cream. And so they went into business, at first as the Dairy Van. Mr. Conway, the company's vice president, retired in 1998. William Conway, the president, died in 2004. The company is now run by the two men's sons.

In 2004, as part of a proposal to strengthen New York City's noise code, city officials tried to still the voices of ice cream trucks throughout the five boroughs. Outcry ensued.

Last year, the city and Mister Softee reached an agreement, which covers all ice cream vendors, under which the trucks may play music only when they are in motion.

Passings: DC Dollhouse Museum Founder & Curator

As reported by The New York Times:

Flora Gill Jacobs, an internationally recognized authority on dollhouses who spent her adult life blissfully awash in minutiae, including tiny, lavishly appointed mansions and an ornate Mexican villa that came with its own chapel (very small priest included), died on May 31 in Washington. She was 87 and lived in Chevy Chase, Md.

For many years, Ms. Jacobs presided over the Washington Dolls' House and Toy Museum, which she founded in 1975 and ran for nearly three decades, usually at a loss. Her work there, and her writings, were credited with creating interest in dollhouse collecting in the United States in the second half of the 20th century.
While there are many museums of dolls in this country, Ms. Jacobs's, a result of six decades of ardent collecting, was believed to be the first here devoted primarily to dolls' homes. In its heyday, it attracted more than 20,000 visitors annually, most of them adults.

Six days a week, Ms. Jacobs went to the museum to fuss, dust and instruct. As she told The Washington Post in 1988, "I hardly ever go out into the life-size world."
She closed the museum in 2004, citing rising costs and advancing age.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Passings: Ralph Epperson: Beloved Voice of the Blue Ridge at Age 85

From NPR News (All Things Considered, June 1):

Radio station owner Ralph Epperson kept the twangy sound of live bluegrass, old-time gospel and mountain music cruising over the airwaves from his North Carolina radio station WPAQ long after other broadcasters had stopped.

Epperson died Wednesday at age 85. He had fallen in his driveway and suffered a brain injury on May 12.

He was on the air with his regular Saturday program, Blue Ridge Spotlight, less than a week before.

Ralph Epperson built his station in Mt. Airy, N.C., using bricks and locally hewn beams.

When the station went on the air in 1948, Epperson pledged to feature local talent and to preserve local music. He never broke that pledge.

Today, WPAQ continues broadcasting the traditional music of its community and local news.

NPR newscaster and reporter Paul Brown worked for Epperson and WPAQ in the early and mid-1980s. He shares an appreciation of Epperson, a man he describes as "one of those people with incredible, obsessive focus, someone who believed in service, and believed very deeply in the community of people around him."

Hear the Paul Brown NPR Report and a 1998 Morning Edition feature about Epperson & WPAQ at: