Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Executive Director of Lake County Visitors Bureau is a man on a mission

Bob Ulas is a man on a mission.
I would have said he is a man possessed, but that conjures up too many visions that might be considered negative, and there is nothing negative about Bob. So let’s just leave it on the “mission” theme.
He is the executive director of the Lake County Visitors Bureau, and his mission (obsession?) is to have the county get as much mention as possible — anything that will draw attention to Lake County and inspire others to visit here.
And if those visitors wish to buy a meal here, stay overnight or in any other way spend a couple of bucks here, in short, to promote Lake County in any way possible, so much the better.
He’s been doing that for the last 24 years, and a measure of his success is the annual increase in visitors who come here for whatever reason appeals to them.
The reason might be to visit the home of President James A. Garfield in Mentor, tour any of the dozens of wineries in the area, stop in at the historic Kirtland Temple and learn a little bit about the Mormons and their beliefs and traditions, or anything that appeals to them.
There are, indeed, many things for a visitor to do in Lake County, and Bob’s job is to bring those things to the attention of anyone willing to listen.
He is a major player in the effort to bring outsiders to the Cleveland area next year for the Republican National Convention because — guess what? — there will be many thousands of visitors coming in for the convention, which is a really big deal, and a good many of them will be spilling over into Lake County.
It is not the politics of the deal that appeals to Bob. In fact, I don’t have any idea what his personal political views are. The only thing that appeals to him is that the huge event will draw a lot of people here, and he will move heaven and earth to get as many of them as possible to spend some time in Lake County.
If he had enough pull, I am sure he would have wished the Pope would have stopped here during his recent visit. That, of course, would be asking far too much. But it is the sort of thing that crosses his mind.
I think he plans a lot of “what if” mental games in his spare time — if he has any. You know, as in “What if the Pope stopped here?” or “What if the Browns came back to train at Lakeland?” or “What if the Cleveland Orchestra came here to play?”
Well, here’s another “guess what.” Serious efforts are underway to make that orchestra event happen — and sooner than you may think.
But that project is still in the planning stages. There is something more immediate on Bob’s mind. It is the annual meeting luncheon of the Lake County Visitors bureau on Oct. 28 at Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe.
The reason for his excitement? The guest speaker will be Mike Cardamone, co-host of WKYC’s (Ch.3) “Live on Lakeside.” That connection, of course, means a lot of plugs on television, which is a situation Bob aspires to have happen.
Mike is a Lake County resident, and he was responsible for a great deal of publicity in this year’s YMCA Dream House campaign.
Channel 3 helped support and sponsor the 2015 Dream House project, and it was a huge success, which warmed the cockles of Bob’s heart.
“We heard a lot about Lake County on Channel 3 during the Dream House event,” Bob noted, “and it wasn’t about being in the Snow Belt. It was all positive stuff.”
He added, with a glow, “It was the first time in 24 years I have seen so much positive coverage of Lake County on
TV. I was really thrilled to see it.”
The combination of the Lake County YMCA, the Visitors Bureau and the opportunity for favorable mention on a major TV channel is a trifecta Bob finds irresistible.
I share his enthusiasm. I can’t wait to hear what Mike Cardamone is going to say at Pine Ridge.
You should want to hear his message, too. But wait! You can’t go there without a ticket.
They are $25 each and lunch will be served family style at 11:30 a.m. Reservations must be made by Oct. 21, you can call 440-975-1234, and one more thing: If you know anything at all about Pine Ridge, you know that the food service is by Dino’s Restaurant. That’s all I need to know on that subject. If there is any better food in Lake County, I haven’t found it. And I have been looking two or three times a week for decades.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you this — a personal note on Bob Ulas: He has four sons, ages 33, 30, 30 and 30. How can this happen? Well, the last three are triplets.
I don’t know about you, but the only other family I know with triplets is Don Shula’s. The legendary football coach has siblings who are triplets. And that’s the local trivia lesson for today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Recent Adele Knight award winners make an impact

Picking up where we left off last week, I would like to offer some background on this year’s winners of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Awards.
To me, this award embodies great and significant meaning, because each year the top teacher at North High in Eastlake as well as the top teacher at South High in Willoughby is selected by his or her peers to receive the prestigious award.
Along with it goes a plaque for display in the respective schools and a stipend of $500.
The program has been in existence since 2000. Last week, I listed all the previous winners but didn’t have the space to adequately list the accomplishments of this year’s winners of the award, named in honor of a beloved Latin teacher for many years at the former Willoughby Union High School. She taught in the district for a few years after that school was closed in 1958.
Long after her passing, she remains a beloved figure and icon in the school district and an inspiration to every teacher who loves the classrooms and the students they encounter every day.
The Adele Knight recipient this year at South High was Erin Dodson, who is a 1996 graduate of South.
She has been teaching at South in the social studies department for 11 years and has taught American History, Civics, Sociology and Advanced Placement Psychology.
Her colleagues call her an amazing educator who serves as an inspiration for her colleagues.
“Perhaps most notable,” says South Principal Patrick Ward, “is her ability to reach all of her students and push them to excel both in the classroom and outside the school.
“Ms. Dodson goes out of her way,” he continued, “to assure all of her students are always engaged. She sets high expectations and knows how to reach all her students.
“When you speak to her students, they describe her as intense with a soft side. There is no doubt that she has left a lasting impact on all her students.”
In addition, she is seen as a teacher-leader within the school community. Her relentless optimism, it is said, coupled with her passion for working with her students, is infectious.
During the  2014-2015 school year she led the entire school in an effort to raise more than $7,000 for United Way.
“Ms. Dodson,” Ward added, “is a master educator who captures the essence of what the Adele Knight Award is all about.”
The award recipient this year at North High, Kevin Boyd, attended Bowling Green State University and earned his bachelor’s degree in Science. He secured a license in comprehensive science while majoring in Biology, graduating in 1998.
He has been teaching at North High for 16 years, also coaching football for five years and baseball for four years.
He is currently National Honor Society advisor at North, Science Department chairman and AP Biology teacher.
While at North he completed his master’s degree at Cleveland State University and is working on his administrative license through Ashland University.
North Principal Jennifer Chauby has known Boyd since he began teaching there in 2000, and said, “Kevin strives to bring real-life experiences into his classroom.”
She added that “he exposes his students to scientific information while relating it to events that have shaped our scientific understanding.
“He also engages his students in meaningful dialog that will shape their future and he genuinely cares about the academic progress of his students.”
He has a commanding understanding of the subject matter, Chauby added, and has an innate ability to convey that knowledge to his students.
“It is an honor to work with such a fine educator,” she said.
A teaching colleague of Boyd’s, math teacher Matthew Blair, graduated from North with Boyd, and said he could not think of a more deserving recipient of the Adele Knight Award.
“Kevin is a master teacher who inspires his students and colleagues through his example,” he said. “He teaches very challenging classes and finds a way to push his students to work harder than they ever thought they could.
“His talent and work ethic are an inspiration. I am proud to have him as a colleague and a friend.”
And there you have it, my friends. This year’s winners of the Adele Knight Award. I am glad you gave me an opportunity to introduce them to you.
The committee meets only once a year, at North High for a luncheon hosted by Jen Chauby. Around the table this year in addition to our hostess were Dodson, Boyd, previous winners Robert Prince (2000) and Charles Koelling (2001), South Principal Patrick Ward, Assistant Superintendent Charles Murphy, and two committee members, Jack Platz and me.
Jack, a long-time Lake County commissioner who taught with Miss Knight before a lengthy career as a professor at Lakeland Community College, is a new addition to the committee.
As in all of his other endeavors, his input was valuable. He is a welcome addition to the group.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Jim Collins: North, South teachers presented with Adele Knight award

One of my great pleasures in life is my involvement with the Adele Knight awards.
I have told you about these prestigious awards on several previous occasions but the story is worth repeating.
And besides, we have two new winners to announce, so they will take center stage in this year’s tale.
The 2015 winners are Kevin Boyd of North High in Eastlake, where he holds several positions of importance, including being an AP biology teacher for 11 years, and Erin Dodson of South High in Willoughby, where she has taught in the social studies department for 11 years.
They are recipients of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award by virtue of having been chosen for this honor by their peers.
To be so honored by one’s fellow teachers is both meaningful and noteworthy, because so many such awards are merely popularity contests.
I don’t mean to imply that these two teachers are not popular, because they certainly are, but they also have the honor of being selected by their peers for the excellent work they do.
I will spend the remainder of today’s essay telling you how these awards came to be, and next week I will give you some background on this year’s winners and share some of the opinions offered by their principals and fellow teaches.
The awards were the brainchild of Dr. Wesley J. Pignolet, a graduate of Willoughby Union High School and great admirer of Adele Knight, who was his Latin teacher.
Wes was a general practitioner in the field of medicine who later returned to college to specialize in ophthalmology, a field in which he was to gain acclaim in Willoughby and throughout the area.
As was so often the case when he came up with a great idea, Wes invited a group of friends and fellow Union High graduates, about 15, as I recall, to lunch.
He spoke of his admiration for Miss Knight, and said it would be a worthy undertaking to establish a scholarship in her honor.
She was still living at the time, and was flattered by the offer. But several of us believed that there were plenty of scholarships available to students who had the desire and backgrounds to obtain them.
So, after much discussion, we decided to set up fund to honor the best teachers at each school. The plan was to present the winners with plaques and $500 stipends.
The plan proceeded very well, but in the early years we could afford to honor only one teacher each year —- first one at North and the next year one at South.
Thus beginning in 2000 we rotated the award between the two schools.
We also sent out hundreds, maybe thousands, of letters to former students of Miss Knight, asking for financial support.
The money began to arrive in sufficient quantity so that we were able to present single awards from 2000 through 2004.
By that time we had raised enough money so that we could hand out two awards each year, to a teacher from North and one from South, which we have continued doing to this day.
A quick look at our bank account would indicate that we will be able to continue the awards for a few more years.
That original committee of about 15 members who established the concept for the awards and has carried on with the project has dwindled to about two.
I am one of them, and I think Ann Kassing is the other, although I haven’t seen her lately. The others, including Dr. Jim McCann, Greg Johnson and so many others who learned their verb forms from Miss Knight, sadly to say, are no longer with us.
But we established a legacy worth perpetuating. And, of course, the main credit goes to Wes Pignolet, who never had an idea that he didn’t feel was worth pursuing.
Here is a list of the previous winners of the Adele Knight Excellence in Teaching Award. You may find some familiar names here:
2000 — Bob Prince, North
2001 — Chuck Koelling, South
2002 — Lorraine Gauvin, North
2003 — John Pennington, South
2004 — Patricia Norris, North
2005 — Victor St. Hillaire, North; Lydia Komocki, South
2006 — Betsy Lichtinger, North; Carol Fishwick, South
2007 — Sherry Wagner, North; Marjorie Masci, South
2008 — Sharyn Zeppo, North; Charles R. Stewart, South
2009 — Karen Donahue, North; Karin Maniche, South
2010 — Patrick L. Kwiatkowski, North; Ann Armstrong, South
2011 — Mary Slak, North; Alison Grant, South
2012 — Mary Beth Adams, North; Beth Frabotta, South
2013 — Deanna Elsing, North; Steven Nedlik, South
2014 — Paula Clark, North; Paula Lindsay, South
Next week, more about Kevin Boyd of North and Erin Dodson of South, this year’s winners.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pining for a golf event that never came to fruition

The front page headline a couple weeks ago proclaimed, “Bear sighting in NE Ohio.”
It turns out the bear in question was one Jack Nicklaus, known throughout his illustrious golf career as the Golden Bear.
He was in the news in Northeast Ohio because of his appearance at Elyria Country Club on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Jack Nicklaus Golf Benefit, which raises an enormous amount of money every year for Lorain County Community College.
It was a longtime friend of Jack’s, Judge Joseph Cirigliano, who persuaded him to lend his name to the golf outing in hopes of raising funds for the college. To say that the effort has been successful would be an understatement. Over those 25 years, more than $1 million has been raised to benefit the endowment.
I think that has been a terrific undertaking, and my fervent wish, after playing in the Elyria event two or three times, was that we could do something on the same order involving Pine Ridge Country Club and Arnold Palmer to benefit Lakeland Community College.
Joe Cocozzo and I tried hard to make that happen, but our plan met several roadblocks and it just never worked out.
The Elyria event was not cheap. I would say it is one of the more expensive golf outings I have ever heard of. But the charity was a worthy one, and nobody grumbled about the cost — least of all Joe and me.
We didn’t complain because our entry fees were paid by our legal firm, which had managed to put a couple of kids through college with its income from a libel suit or two it had defended on behalf of The News-Herald.
I am doing this from memory (I should check this out with Joe, because his memory is infallible) but as I recall, the entry fee was $400 per golfer.
And here’s an added moneymaker: The pro, in the case of the original event, Nicklaus, would play nine holes with two groups, for an additional $5,000 per golfer.
Yes, that many players were willing to kick in $5,000 each for the privilege of playing either the front side or the back side with the Golden Bear.
Joe and I never approached our legal team with a request to be included with these elite groups. Besides, the fivesomes were routinely sold out.
After Nicklaus originated the event, a different pro was invited every year (always on a Monday, the traditional day off for professional golfers) to lend his name to the event.
And by the way, the pro picked up a check for $25,000 just to appear, play 18 holes of golf and put on a clinic for the rest of the “investors.”
What the pros did with their one-day paychecks was their business. It was also a matter of interest — at least, to me it was.
Some of them, like Nicklaus, gave the money back to the college. Nice gesture. Others pocketed it, presumably because they had bills to pay.
I heard stories about which were the generous ones and which were the cheapskates, but I am reluctant to divulge the names for fear of telling tales out of school.
I remember vividly an event featuring Lee Trevino, because of an incident at breakfast. We had to get there about 7:30 a.m. before the golf got started.
As we were eating our scrambled eggs, I told Joe, who was my boss at the time, he being the N-H publisher, “I’m going to ask Trevino (who was seated at the head table) to autograph this golf visor so we can auction it off to raise money for Clothe-A-Child.”
Trevino complained bitterly about my request. “They don’t even let you finish eating around here,” he growled.
Swell guy, I thought. I was doing it not as a fan of his but for charity.
Another year when Joe and I played in the outing, the event was headed by not one but two professionals — Ken Venturi and Jan Stevenson.
Jan was one of the better looking golfers I have encountered in many years of golf watching.
Venturi left early because he had to catch a plane for California. Stevenson stuck around for our golfing edification and a ball-striking clinic.
Another year Joe attended but I wasn’t there. He said Chi Chi Rodriguez put on an amazing demonstration in which he placed two golf balls on the ground, hit them in quick succession to slice one and fade the other, with the intention of making them collide in mid-air.
“Did they?”  I asked.
“No,” said Joe. “But they came awfully close.”
Since Arnie Palmer played out of Pine Ridge in Wickliffe when he won the National Amateur, we though it would be great to put on a similar scholarship event in this area to benefit Lakeland.
Unfortunately, we were never able to make it work out.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Whatever you need to say can wait if you are behind the wheel

I have a friend who comes closer to being the perfect TO (Trained Observer) than anyone I know.
Let us call him Clark, although that is not actually his real first name. It comes close, though, and a lot of people know him by that name, so let us use it here in order to protect his identity — and to proceed with the parable.
He told a story over lunch the other day that could be equally harrowing and infuriating. I prefer infuriating.
He was driving west on Johnnycake Ridge (Route 84) and the car ahead of him veered off the right-hand side of road — twice.
Something was obviously very wrong, either with the driver or the car.
It could have been a mechanical defect in the steering. Perhaps the driver had a couple of belts — and I don’t mean seat belts. The belts I am referring to come from a bottle.
Clark maintained an assured clear distance, as the police like to say, because he didn’t want to get involved in a crash.
But he was curious to know what was taking place, because the erratic driving was endangering every other driver on the highway.
The two vehicles approached Center Street (Route 615) in Mentor, and Clark was able to pull up beside the suspect car to observe what was going on.
As it turns out, the driver was a female. I shall not give her the benefit of calling her a lady, because she was a menace and a threat to everyone in sight. A lady wouldn’t do that.
She was not particularly young or old. She could have been in her 30s or 40s. And as Clark peered into her car, he could see what was taking place.
She had an electronic device on her lap, and she was looking down and tapping furiously with both thumbs.
She was messaging.
Oblivious to everything going around her, she was sending someone a message.
That is despicable conduct, unbecoming a safe driver or anyone who has the brains that God gave geese.
I don’t need to say much about this person, except that I hope she didn’t kill anyone on the way to wherever it was she was going.
I looked in the paper the next day to see if there were any fatal accidents she might have been involved in, but I didn’t see any.
But anyone who drives while sending messages the way this person did is a candidate for instant death on the highway. She is, as they say, an accident waiting to happen. If all she does is run off the road occasionally, she is lucky. But one of these days she may veer in the other direction and crash into an unsuspecting driver head-on.
What can be done with terrorists like this? Yes, they are, in their own way, terrorists.
There have been ample warnings about this kind of conduct. We all know what can happen when you text and drive. Nothing good can happen.
When these offenders are spotted by the authorities, they should be arrested immediately and haled into court.
And if found guilty, they should be punished severely.
I would recommend horsewhipping, except I don’t think we do that in this country any longer.
In Singapore, they employ a form of punishment called “caning.” The guilty parties are taken out into the courtyard and beaten with canes, which I believe are made of bamboo. I understand this has a remarkable sobering effect.
Many years ago, I had a conversation with my close friend the late Judge Fred V. Skok, who presided over the Lake County Probate Court with an iron hand and was conversant with methods of punishment around the world.
He felt that the types of punishment employed in the Orient, or the Far East, or whatever it is now correct to call that part of the world, do have a certain impact, which he went on to explain.
Fred and I had a great many such philosophical discussions over the years. I miss him so much.
The main thing he felt was accomplished by punishment that inflicted pain was it resulted in a very low rate of recidivism. Put another way, when you got out of jail, you really didn’t want to go back. In fact, you made it your business not to go back.
I certainly do not  mean to imply that Fred would ever have condoned that sort of punishment. We simply do not do that kind of thing in this country.
And I’m not saying we should be doing that kind of stuff in this country, either. I’m just saying.

Monday, August 24, 2015

It's the start of the football season, when every team is undefeated

There’s something in the air about this time of the year.
If the truth were to be told, there are many things in the air this time of year, including an overabundance of political talk, back-to-school sales and the aroma of pumpkin pie cooking in grandma’s kitchen.
That redolence, of course, has more to do with Thanksgiving than it does with the end of summer, but I often get ahead of myself when I contemplate matters of importance as we lurch into September.
One thing that invariably creeps into my mind at this time of year is college football. As baseball season winds down and the Indians are once again out of contention for the playoffs, the topic of college football begins to seep into my consciousness.
In my mind, I separate college football from professional football for one obvious reason. I often can’t remember what that one obvious reason is.
Oh yes, I have it now. One group gets paid and the other doesn’t.
The Simon Pure group, the college bunch which doesn’t draw paychecks, is motivated purely out of school spirit, whereas the professional group, known as the NFL, gets paychecks of several million dollars per year.
Or per month, depending on the abilities of the individual players.
This season of the year also means it is time for the Football Prognosticators Association to sit down, swap stories out of the dim past about what has taken place in the days of yore and get down to the business of making our choices for the 2015 season.
I have told you before about this bunch of gentlemen. I say gentlemen because there are no ladies involved. This is not by any rule or regulation we have, and it has nothing to do with the 14th Amendment. It is just that no ladies have ever shown up for our annual draft meeting.
That is probably because we have never told anyone outside the group when and where the meeting will take place.
(A hint: It has already taken place — at the former Intorcio’s Restaurant in Willoughby, which now has a different name, on Aug. 18. But I digress.)
The roots of this organization, if you want to call them that, go back to the 1920s, when the group consisted of John F. Clair Sr., who served  many years as judge of Willoughby Municipal Court, Harry Ohm, who may have been village clerk, and townspeople like that.
The makeup of the group has, of course, changed dramatically over the years. I have been a member for only about 40 years. There are 10 of us. For all I know, I may be the senior member by now, but there is no way of making certain of that.
First, we determine the order of selection. Then the drafting begins. The first team chosen is always Mount Union.
Any college team can be taken, whether it be any division of NCAA or NAIA.
It seems that John Trebets had the first choice for years, and always picked Mount Union. This year, by the luck of the draw, John Hurley had the first pick, and he took Mount Union quicker than you can say Jackie Robinson.
Geoff Weaver had the second choice and he took Wisconsin Whitewater.
I was holding my breath. I had two favorites, and I was hoping one of them would still be available when it became my turn at No. 6.
Dale Fellows was next, and he seems to be obsessed with Colorado State at Pueblo. Next came Dave Clair, and he took Southern Oregon. So far my two choices were still available.
Rick Stenger picked next, and he took Ohio State. Rats! I wanted the Buckeyes so much I could almost taste the scent of an undefeated season in Columbus.
The good news was that I picked next, and one of my two teams was still on the board, so it took me only a nanosecond or two to shout out, “MHB.”
That would be Mary Hardin Baylor, a team out of Texas which seldom loses a game. And this season I have MHB at the top of my list. Hooray! I am looking forward to another undefeated season.
Here is the way the rest of the first round went: John Trebets took Linfield, Marty Parks chose TCU, Vince Culotta took North Dakota State and Rick Collins selected Oregon.
All 10 of us took three teams plus a bonus pick. I am happy with my three teams. In addition to MHB I have Carroll of Montana, John Carroll and, as my bonus team, Bloomsburg.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of research that goes into making these selections.
I know it is risky taking John Carroll, but I look at it this way: John Carroll and Mount Union, which play each other in the last game of the season (playoffs don’t count), could easily go into that final game with identical 9-0 records.
Mount will be favored, but I will be rooting for John Carroll to go 10-0 and knock Mount from the undefeated ranks, leaving it with a 9-1 season. I can only hope.
So we will be keeping track of 30 choices by the 10 players plus an additional 10 bonus picks.
Here’s some great news: I won’t be doing the record-keeping this year for the first time in about 40 years. The scores will be recorded this year by Dale Fellows’ son Erik. That is not merely a Hooray. It is a Hip Hip Hooray!
No more looking up 40 football scores every weekend.

Friday, August 21, 2015

An unexpected gift that continues to get better over time

When I wrote two weeks ago about the treasure trove of jazz recordings given me by Rich Jordan of Munson Township, he said that, in all fairness, I should mention the kind-hearted individual who had given the collection to him.
As an aside, he lives in Munson Township even though his mailing address is Chardon. If I had a street directory of Geauga County, I could have looked up Twin Mills Lane and discovered that it is located in Munson. However, I do not have the luxury of such reference materials at my fingertips, so I did not make that discovery until I phoned him. But I digress.
“You really should tell the people the identity of the person who gave me the records,” he said. That may not be an exact quote, but it is close enough to make my point.
That is called paraphrasing, and I do a lot of it out of necessity because I do not take notes on conversations, nor do I make recordings of them because to do so might be an infringement on somebody’s right to privacy — either his or mine. I am not sure which.
“Fine,” I said, paraphrasing once again. “Who gave them to you?”
“His name is Don Nemeth,” Rich responded.
“What?” I virtually shouted over the phone.
“Don Nemeth,” he repeated.
“No,” I said. “I didn’t mean that I didn’t hear you. I meant, how in the world do you happen to know Don Nemeth?”
Rich said he does business with him. I inquired only superficially what kind of business it is. My recollection is that one of them either makes or manufactures something, and whatever it happens to be is of value or at least some interest to the other.
I pursued the issue because I wanted to make sure we were talking about the same Don Nemeth, since Rich had said he knew him quite well.
“Is his wife’s name Sue?” I asked in pursuing the questioning, because, I reasoned, how many Don Nemeths can there be who have wives named Sue?
He assured me that her name indeed is Sue.
“I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed, necessitating the use of an exclamation point following the previous rejoinder.
“I know Don Nemeth and his wife Sue very well,”  I said. “He is a long-time member of the Willoughby Rotary Club. Not only that, he is a past-president of the club. (I believe the year was 1997).”
Don sits in the same seat every Monday at noon at the former Mounds Club, which is now the LaVera Party Center, in Willoughby Hills.
Without fail, he sits next to his buddy, Dan Ruminski, who is not only the tallest member of the club (Dan claims to be 6-6, but I think he is at least 6-8), but Dan is a man of distinction in his own right.
He is an outstanding story-teller, perhaps one of the best in the country, and two weeks ago I heard him give an hour-long presentation about the nefarious ladies of Millionaire’s Row in Cleveland back at the turn of the century — not this century, the previous century.
It was a riveting talk, presented at a picnic in the back yard of John and Dianne Vanas’ home in Mentor. Dan does a superb job, without notes of course, and the money he raises goes to the Rotary’s Club autism project, which provides I-Pads for autistic children.
That may be slightly beside the point I began with, but I thought it was worth mentioning because the project is so worthwhile and so well-received.
If you have never heard one of Dan’s fascinating, hour-long stories about Cleveland in the 1890s, or the polo farms along the Chagrin River, you should make an effort to do so.
And if you are asked to put in a couple bucks for the autism project, remember, it is well worth it.
Let’s see, where were we?
Oh, yes. Rich was given that marvelous Smithsonian collection of jazz recordings by Don Nemeth because, presumably, Don had no interest in them. And furthermore, Rich likes all kinds of music but thought he would give the collection to someone who would appreciate it even more.
Thus I was on the receiving end. All I can say is, “Wow!”
I stopped and talked with Don and Dan at Rotary the other Monday, and Don told me that it was Sue, not he, who was the jazz fan.
“So you should thank Sue, not me, for the records,” he said.
As I do, Don calls them “records” when they are actually CDs. But who cares? The big difference is that I can play CDs in the car whereas I can’t play records while I am driving.
And there is music on only one side of CDs. But that is splitting hairs. One more thing — the lady of the house also likes all kinds of music, so we can plug in anything we wish and enjoy ourselves on the open highway.
I grew up on big bands and jazz (Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and their ilk) and before long I was hooked on bebop.
One of my conversion projects was one of my best friends at Fort Hood, Texas.
His name was David Caperton Craighead, and he was the son of a Baptist minister in Waco. That is what they call Hard-Shell Baptist Country, meaning there is probably very little bebop, if any, played at church services. I once went to a Thursday evening service with Dave at his dad’s church when we were on a three-day pass.
Well, I got Dave to liking bop so much that every morning he walked into the office at Fort Hood whistling “Godchild,” which is a Miles Davis tune which you may remember.
Dave had the melody down to perfection. In fact, I taught him so much bop that he mistakenly thought the tune was written by Gerry Mulligan when in fact he only had a solo on the original recording by Miles.
Those were the days. I even had our boss, 1st Lt. Dick Fowler, whistling Charlie Parker tunes from his “Strings” album.
To bring us quickly up to date, I am deeply indebted to Sue Nemeth for those treasured jazz recordings.
If she has any more she’s trying to get rid of, I know of just the repository for them.

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