Eric on The Road

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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Passings: President Ford, Frank Stanton & James Brown

Many of words have been written and spoken about the deaths of three very different American giants. We need not say much because we're not going to add much to what has already been said. We nonethless did not want to let their passings go unreognized.

From the unelected President who offered much needed stability to prevent the country from running adrift (wouldn't that be nice these days), to the steady understudy at CBS to the glittering but troubled R&B entertainer, it is clear that Gerald Ford, Frank Stanton and James Brown were very different, but all part of what made for the strength of the 20th century American spirit.

Their likes are in all too short supply today.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Covert, Michigan: A History in Black & White (NPR)

From NPR News, All Things Considered, December 24, 2006:

Shortly after the Civil War, blacks and whites came together in Covert, Mich., building a town that defied conventional race relations. Historian Anna-Lisa Cox and descendants of the town's pioneers help tell its story.

The Story of White Christmas (CBS News)

December 24, 2006:

(CBS) "White Christmas" is a holiday tradition beloved by millions.

It's also the most popular song, ever.

The classic was written by Irving Berlin, one of the most prolific American composers in history.

He penned more than 400 hits, among them, "Easter Parade," "No Business Like Show Business," and "God Bless America."

But, says CBS News Sunday Morning anchor Charles Osgood, "White Christmas" is his most enduring legacy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Season's Greetings

No matter how you celebrate. Be it Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza. And no matter where - whether in the U.S., Canada or elsewhere. We wish you and yours well. May it be a season of joy, hope and peace. And may this spirit carry on into your daily lives in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Passings: Animator of Fred Flintstone, Yogi Bear/Writer for Rocky & His Friends

Those growing up in the 1950's and 60's lost some "friends" they never met.

Joseph Barbera was one of the founders of Hanna-Barbera Productions, a name that became synonymous with the likes of The Flinstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. Those characters werte his creation along with hus partner William Hanna. Mr. Barbera died on December 18 at his home in Los Angeles. He was age 95.

Chris Hayward was a TV writer and creator of "The Munsters". He was also a writer for "Rocky & His Friends" and "The Bullwinkle Show". He died November 20 at the age of 81. A New York Times obitury describes how Mr. Haywards work was banned in Canada in the form of "Mountie Dudley Do-Right".

The complete obituaries for both can be found at:

Podcast: The Boston Tea Part: Now & Then

At our comopanion podacst site:

Pollution in Boston Harbor is not a new thing. American history was made in 1773 when tea was dumped into the harbor by those protesting British taxation of the commodity. Although the harbor has recently been cleaned up, the dumping of tea continues each December to re-call this act of protest over two hundred years earlier. In this “Conversation on The Road”, we speak with Michelle LeBlanc of the historic Old South Meeting House in Boston. It is there that locals met to debate the issue before deciding to dump the tea two centuries, and it is the Old South that spearheads modern day events recalling those earlier times. Michelle speaks with us about tea dumpings then and now.


U.S. Highway 2: A 4 Lane Road to a New Montana ? (NY Times)

Under the headline "Hoping a Wider Highway Can Save Their Livelihoods", The New York Times reports of hopes by some in Montana that a new Senator will advance a proposal to widen US Highway 2 which crosses northern portion of the state. Advocates for the plan say that it is the last hoe to save the region. Others are not so sure. You can found the interesting story at:

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Passing: Montreal landmark Ben’s Delicatessen closes for good (Montreal Gazette)

by Alan Hustak and Mike King, Montreal Gazette
Published: Friday, December 15, 2006

Ben’s hasn’t been Ben’s for a while, but it’s still hard to get used to the idea that the downtown delicatessen is gone for good.

Jean Kravitz, the restaurant’s 83-year old owner announced Friday she was closing the deli, a Montreal institution for 98 years, because, “we have come to the conclusion a single outlet deli can not thrive in the economic environment of a unionized payroll.”

Customers will, however, still be able to order Ben’s smoked meat.

“The sit-down restaurant is closing, not the Ben’s name,” said Bernard Voyer, one of the founder’s grandsons who said Ben’s products, produced under license off site, will still be available through retail outlets.

The restaurant’s 22 unionized employees – including waiters, bus boys and short-order cooks – went on strike July 20 to back demands for improved working conditions say the announcement doesn’t make any sense.

Charles Mendoza, the union local president, said the announced closing is nothing more than a ploy to break the union.

“We work for the minimum wage before there was a union, and after,” said Mendoza. “This isn’t about wages. All we are asking for was a 40-cent an-hour increase.

Ben’s has been a Montreal landmark since Ben Kravitz opened his first delicatessen on St. Lawrence Blvd. in 1908. It has been at its current location, at the corner of Metcalfe St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., since 1950.

After Jean’s husband, Irving Kravitz died in 1992, the staff steadily declined from 75 to 25, and although the restaurant remained a popular tourist attraction, and many former customers say it was coasting on its reputation.

In its hey day it was part of Montreal’s theatre district, an after hours nightspot behind the Mount Royal Hotel that attracted actors, sports celebrities, movie stars, politicians, and weirdos. Its walls were plastered with photographs of legitimate film stars, like Richard Chamberlin, and others, who had their 15-minutes of fame and were then forgotten, like Wayland Flowers.

For more in the complete article, see:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Passings: "Young Frankenstein", Singer from the Big Band Era, and the tragedy of the Gainey family

We've been away "on the road" without access to computers and newspapers. Now that we're back and trying to catch up, we wanted to share with you some thoughts about those who have left us since I left you.

Peter Boyle, 71: Best known to most as Frank Barone, the father in "Everybody Loves Raymond", I best remember him in the 1974 Mel Brooks movie "Young Frankenstein". A New York Times obituary described the role as a "bumbling monster brought to life by Dr. Frankenstein's addled grandson (Gene Wilder). At one point, Mr. Boyle's monster, decked out in white tie and tails a la Fred Astaire, performed a nifty soft-shoe routine with Mr. Wilder while bellowing out the lyrics of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' On the Ritz".

Martha Tilton, "Sweetheart of Swing", 91: A singer for Benny Goodman, she appeared in 80 of his recordings, including the 1939 rendition "And the Angels Swing". A star in her own right, she hosted her own radio show in the early-1940's, and came to be known as "Liltin' Martha Tilton".

Laura Gainey, 25: Daughter of Bob Gainey, former Montreal Canadien great and now General Manger of the Canadiens. Lost at sea when overcome by a wave during a storm 475 miles of the coast of Cape Cod. Ms. Gainey was a crew member on the tall ship Pictou Castle. The tragedy is compounded by what both father and daughter overcame and the grace in which they had done so. For two exceptional columns see Selena Roberts in The New York Times (December 14) and Red Fisher in The Montreal Gazette (December 10). We add our condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the Gainey family.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A Place for All Things Canadien

If you look throughout he archives of this blog, you'll see that one of my passions is the Montreal Canadiens.

I have been a fan for some four decades stretching back to the days of Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Jean Guy Talbot, Claude Provost and their coach Toe Blake. I grew up listening to the Sunday night hockey broadcast of Danny Gallivan on CBC Radio on clear nights. On nights where the signal could not be heard I would try to understand the call in French on CBF Radio in French by Rene Lecavalier. It would be years before I finally could understand what was being said in French, but it was still a thrill to hear my heroes.

Through those years I was always a fan from far away. On occasion, my Dad would buy tickets at the old Madison Square Garden on 50th Street in New York ($2.25 obstructed view seats three rows away from the ice). Then in 1967 I finally got to Montreal and the famous Forum (that we'll save for future postings). In all the years that Canadiens won Stanley Cups, I celebrated alone. Afterall, where did you find Montreal fans in New Jersey ?

The age of the Internet has changed so much. These days I can hear all Canadiens games over the internet - either in English or in French. There is all-sports radio from Montreal (I don't listen much to that). I can read about the games on the website of the Montreal Gazette (in the old days I could only get a Montreal paper if I traveled into NYC to the "Out of Town" newspaper stand in Times Square.

And now there is a great website. IT is called and comes from the Montreal Gazette, and it touts itself as offering "Absolutely Everything about the Montreal Canadiens".

That is quite a boast. But it is a boast that the Gazette staff successfully fulfills. There are blogs, audio podcasts, Red Fisher, and my favorite called a "Blast from the Past" which is described as "an occasional series of photos culled from the file cabinets of The Gazette" (Also from the old Montreal Star and other sources of Canadiens hockey history over the years). Want to see a goal from the 1950's against the Rangers, the old-old Forum scoreboard draped with cigarette ads or a shot in which Gump Worsley is celebrating a post game drink of "coffee" with teammates after a 1960's win.

It's all there, and unlike so much today it strikes all the right tones - comprehensive, knowledgeable, professional, thorough without sounding shrill or like hype. What a pleasure!

Gotta go - I think there's a new posting at - makes me feel like a kid rooting for the Canadiens of old. If I could only get to hear Danny Gallivan with Dick Irvin again.

Political Theatre in Canada

A new leader for the Liberal Party was selected this past weekend.In a process refreshingly different from what we're used to on this side of the border there was actually some drama involved as Stephane Dion, a former environment minister, was chosen leader after storming from behind to defeat front-runner Michael Ignatieff in a four-ballot convention that wrapped up in Montreal late Saturday.

Folks across Canada are heavy in discussion about what happened, why and what it means. To get a handle on the process, you might go to and its special section covering the Liberal Partyleadershipp selection. For some good analysis and a feel for a sample the national mood (at least among English speaking Canada), go to CBC Radio's "Cross-Country Checkup", which can also be found at

For a French analysis, you might start at or

World War One Museum Opens in Kansas City

"World War I was a cataclysm that destroyed the old world order, killed at least 9 million combatants, and vaulted the United States into world prominence. But the conflict, with its trench warfare and devastating new weapons, has been largely overshadowed by World War II. The hard lessons of the "Great War" are on display at the National World War I Museum in Kansas City, Mo., which opened this weekend...."

For more see:

Folk Alley Top 10 Picks for 2006 (, an Internet folk-music service produced by Public Radio Station WKSU in Kent, Ohio, specializes in a blend of contemporary and traditional singer/songwriters, Americana, roots, Celtic, bluegrass, world music and more. They have made their picks the best albums of 2006, as chosen by program director Linda Fahey, production director Chris Boros and hosts Elena See, Jim Blum, Barb Heller and Jeff St. Clair.

Go to or

Saturday, December 02, 2006

100 Top TV Phrases (TV Land)

The TV Land network has named its picks for the 100 greatest television catch-phrases.


NPR's Scott Simon took up this issue too:

Tony Bennett & "I Left My Hear in San Francisco" - 44 Years Later (NPR)

From National Public Radio:

by John McDonough
All Things Considered, December 1, 2006 · On his new CD, Duets: An American Classic, Tony Bennett performs with a procession of younger performers, including the Dixie Chicks, Diana Krall, Stevie Wonder, Sting and George Michael.

But one track that he sings solo is "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," his signature tune.

Bennett, who turned 80 this year, originally recorded the song in 1962. He has sung it at every performance since then.

In the new version, Bennett and record producer Phil Ramone pted for old-fashioned simplicity: just Bennett and pianist Bill Charlap in a softly lit studio in Englewood, N.J.


This month's "Letter from the Road" Newsletter at

This month at our original website; (going on 10 years old):

* A visit to near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina where a
group gathers annually to proclaim that "Man Will Never Fly". Their
get-together happens to occur the night before the anniversary of man's first
flight by the Wright Brothers.

* A stop in southwestern Michigan
where Christmas time means a Christmas Pickle Festival.

* The Boston Tea Party Re-enactment.

* A place named "Santa Claus".

* A recipe

* A book review - A Jane & Michael Stern book

* Some words about "Speaking American".

* And finally, the 50th anniversary of the first
television broadcast of the quiz "To Tell the

All this month at the "Letter from the Road" newsletter at

Friday, December 01, 2006

Passing: "CD" Triangle - Civil Defense Logo (NY Times)

It was an icon of an era. Feared by some, ridiculed by others. But recognized by all. But now it is gone.

The insignia of civil defense - a C and D forming a red circle in white triangle on a blue disk has been replaced.

According to an article in the New York Times, the insignia was born in 1939. Its father was Charles T. Coiner, the art director of the N.W. Ayer advertising agency. Coiner also designed the National recovery Administration's blue eagle.

The old logo was praised in the Times by Richard Greffe, executive director of the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

"The old mark fits in the same category of smilicity and impact occupied by the Lodon Underground map", he said.

A new logo, an EM symbol (Emergency Management) has been developed by Morrie Goodman, an emergency communications specialist and managing director at AGG International, a marketing firm.

The old and new logos as well as comments about both can be found at:

Heard on the Radio: Chester Greenwood Day

The boys at Left Jab (XM Public Radio, Channel 133) brought me on this week, and I brought on Michael Blanchet from Farmington, Maine. Farmington is the home town of Chester Greenwood and each year they celebrate Chester and his great invention.

Who is Chester Greenwood ? In all he had some 130 patents to his name, including the spring steel rake, wide bottom whistling kettle and the mechanical mousetrap. He has been acknowledged by the Smithsonian Institution as one of America's 15 Outstanding Inventors. But he is best remembered for inventing earmuffs. We spoke to Mike about Chester, earmuffs, and how Farmington honors both at its community celebration Chester Greenwood Day.

If you missed the interview on XM, you can catch it at the website of We also did our own shorter podcast interview that can be found at our companion site ""

By the way, for more about Chester Greenwood Day, Maine Public Television did a great feature you can catch at their website.