A DEATH TRAP

Grenfell has been a death trap since 2015 when it was retrofitted. Death by fire inevitable. It happened this past week. The death count 17 so far. Expected to exceed 100. Some burned so badly, identification may not be possible.

Grenfell is a London high rise. The fire occurred wednesday. Rapidly spread upward. Comparable to a fire drawing up a chimney.

An outer sheet was placed over the exterior of the building at the time of renovations in 2015. A space remained between the outer sheet and the building wall. The interior of the sheet plastic.

The process is called cladding. Thought to be environmentally sound. The space between the new outer sheeting and original wall served as insulation.

A final report as to the cause of the fire not yet released. Two stick out and are sure to be included. The space described and the plastic coating. The space served as a draft for the flames to quickly shoot up enclosing the entire building. The plastic highly flammable.

An American company manufactured the covering. Reynobond. Two types. One with and one without the plastic coating. The without more expensive. Probably due to the nature of a different coating.

The difference in using the safe one over the one possible of fire 5,000 pounds.

Cladding is banned outright in Germany. In the United States, it is banned in buildings more than 40 feet high.

Warnings have been forthcoming since 1999 that cladding was not safe. Primarily because of the chimney effect if a fire occurs.

Grenfell a disaster that should not have occurred. An avoidable one. Money and an environmentally sound but dangerous material major contributing factors.

My big event yesterday was shopping at Farmers Market. Bread, tomatoes and honey purchased.

Stopped at 5 Guys. Sitting at the table next to me was the owner of Harpoon Harry’s. Both of us munching away on huge cheeseburgers.

Gotcha time. We laughed when we saw each other. Caught cheating!

Trump is wrong to change the relatively new rules re Cuba. He is acceding to a handful of Cuban immigrants who each year diminish in numbers.

Castro’s revolution was 1959. Cubans who fled left at that time. Many settled in Miami.

Sixty five more or less years ago. Time generally heals wounds no matter how great initially. We should have hated Germany and Japan following World War II. Thousands of our men and women killed. We had better sense. We made them our friends. Look at the relationships that developed.

Trump is sucking up to a handful of American-Cuban voters. Typical. He does not use his head.

I came across an article re Coney Island and its roller coaster Cyclone. Both may be closed today.

Brought back memories of me and my Uncle Gus. My mother’s oldest brother. A barber in the Bronx.

Uncle Gus took me to Coney Island every year when we visited. A ride on the Cyclone always on the agenda. I was 4-10 during those years. Scared of the roller coaster.

Uncle Gus always insisted we had to sit in the front seat. I thought I was going to die each time. Fall out. In the vernacular, I shit my pants!

Uncle Gus loved it! He would yell and scream. I eventually realized I was his excuse to ride on the Cyclone.

In 1858, Lincoln was running for the United States Senate. He lost.

On this day in 1858 at a debate, Lincoln warned that America was becoming a “house divided.” He said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Heed well my friends! A warning. Words of wisdom that apply as much today as then.

Enjoy your day!

THOMAS EDISON AND THE LITTLE WHITE HOUSE

One of the greatest inventors of modern times lived in the Little White House for six months. Thomas Edison. Around 70 at the time, the U.S. government looked to him for weapon development at the beginning of World War I.

Edison lived and worked in the same building made famous by Truman’ s many visits years later.

Edison developed 41 weapons during his six month stay.

I spent yesterday rewriting and polishing two chapters of Growing Up Italian. Will I ever finish this book? The funny part is the writing will be 3-4 books. The first is sub-titled The First Six Years.

Mel Fisher’s name is embroidered in Key West’s fabric. A name for the ages. Never to be forgotten.

Fisher struck gold and other rare jewels on July 20, 1985 after many years of searching. He sought the Atocha. He found it after roughly 15 years of searching.

Value of the gold, etc. $450 million.

On this date in 1986, Fisher presented Queen Sofia of Spain with a bronze cannon from the Spanish galleon. The presentation took place in Washington, D.C.

Trump is diminishing the image of the United States world wide. In a very short period of time. He has succeeded in pissing off most of the free nations of the world. Those autocratic, he is turning from enemies to friends.

Trump neither understands nor appreciates the need for friends world wide. Friends with values. Character. Not despots.

Tanks are effective. Especially by authoritarian regimes. Against those who protest their governments.

Two uprisings come to mind. Hungary and China.

The Hungarian Revolution occurred in 1956. Began October 23, ended November 10. The protesters using stones and molotov cocktails. The Soviets, troops and military equipment.

The soviets finally got tired of the constant street fighting. Soviet troops and a handful of tanks fighting the poorly armed rebels. Mostly students.

In one day, the troop number and tank number were increased Dramatically. The revolution was over. Force won out.

Two hundred thousand Hungarians fled Hungary immediately.

Total Soviet troops engaged 31,55o. Tank number 1,130.

I was fortunate to become friends with one of the revolutionaries. A Hungarian college student. He attended Manhattan College during my senior year. He said, we were throwing rocks and molotov cocktails. They came at us with tanks from every corner. The revolution was over.

Tiananmen Square another example of tank power.

One hundred thousand students began the protest on April 15, 1989. Their numbers enlarged daily by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants. The protest went on for seven weeks.

The Chinese government finally had enough. The tanks went in on June 4. The protest was over. Hundreds killed. Thousands arrested.

I love the comic sport poem Casey At The Bat. I have used the poem’s final line many times to express my sorrow at a Syracuse defeat.

Casey At The Bat was published this date 1888.

The line: “…..there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out.”

Enjoy your day!

PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS

Today brings to mind three recollections. One well known. The other two personal.

The first not so long ago. On this date in 2008, Barack Obama was elected America’s first African-American President.

A history making date.

The second involves refugees and the Hungarian Revolution. The Revolution occurred in 1956. Hungary was Russian dominated. People unhappy. Protesting in the streets. Nothing violent.

After ten days, things heated up. Rocks and beer bottles being thrown at Russian soldiers and tanks. Days 11 and 12, the beer bottles turned into bullets.

On this date in 1956, the Russians said no more. They sent in the tanks. Blazing away. The so called Revolution was over. Two thousand five hundred killed, 2oo,ooo Hungarians fleeing the country.

Those who fled were refugees. A problem the world knows today.

Where to go?

Some ended up in the United States. How many I do not know. Many were college students. The students were taken in by various American colleges. Every college did its fair share.

I was a senior at Manhattan college. All of a sudden in the middle of a semester, we had a dozen Hungarian students in our midst.

One became a friend. Gergo. He spoke excellent English. We talked evenings after diner. Generally at a bench on campus.

Gergo told the story of the Revolution in simplistic terms. He said no one wanted a revolution. Especially the college students. He said that after drinking beer in the evenings, they would throw rocks and beer bottles at the Russian soldiers and tanks. For fun.

After a while, the Russians no longer consider the throwings a fun activity. They started shooting back.

The students got some guns and returned the fire. At this point not yet a revolution in their minds. Merely tit for tat.

When the tanks came out big time firing, things got serious. One night only. That is all it took. The students retaliated with molotov cocktails. No competition for the tanks.

The students knew they were done and had to get out of Hungary quickly. Here it was two weeks after fleeing and Gergo and I were talking about what happened.

No one argued about taking refugees in at the time. Of course, the number of Hungarian refugees was significantly less than those that have come out of Syria in recent times.

Personal letters from Santa Claus a final recollection.

I came across on the internet an advertisement by Magical Xmas Letters. Send the company $17.94 and your child will receive a personally signed letter from Santa Claus and some North Pole information. The letter printed. The signature written.

Back in the 1960s, two Utica attorneys did the same thing at Xmas time. Pat Bernardi and Jim Zogby. Law partners. Both now long gone.

Pat and Jim were five years older than me. Young lawyers did not make much money in those days. They came up with the idea of sending Santa Claus letters out. Parents wrote. Pat and Jim’s operation returned a handwritten and signed letter from Santa Claus.

The cost was relatively cheap. The exact amount, I cannot recall. Two dollars sticks in my mind. A probable price some fifty years ago. I had the letters sent to my children.

Pat and Jim’s Xmas business took hold. Soon they had to rent space and hire a number of women to write the letters. Even Pat and Jim got into handwriting responses. Business boomed.

A tiring, but banner Xmas season for Pat and Jim. An experience that left them extremely tired came Xmas Eve.

Bocce last night. Don’s Place won 2-1. Not good enough. Needed all three games. Will remain in second place.

Syracuse/Clemson tomorrow. Clemson a top 10 team. Favored by 27 points.

Syracuse has played well the last two games. I see the game closer. Maybe an upset?????

Installment 5 of a Key West Rotary history.

The year 1925.

Nineteen twenty five was a busy year for the Rotary. Today only a partial report. The year will take 1 or 2 additional installments to complete.

Sloppy Joe’s was not Sloppy Joe’s in 1925. It was the Victoria Restaurant.

On October 15, a Cuban Boy Scout Troop visited Key West. The Rotary honored the group at a luncheon at Victoria’s. The Scoutmaster only spoke Spanish. His words were translated by Sebastian Cabrera.

Dr. J. Y. Porter, Sr. was a Key West charter Rotarian, local physician, and the first public health doctor for the State of Florida. A week after the Cuban boy scout event, Dr. Porter was 78 years old. The Rotary threw him a birthday party. Talk, singing, and birthday cake with 78 candles. Porter blew them all out!

Judge Jefferson B. Browne recalled how Dr. Porter had been instrumental in stemming the spread of yellow fever in Jacksonville.

Dr. Porter had returned to Key West after his State service to take charge of the Chamber of Commerce.

Captain Jack Maher was commander of the Key West Army Barracks. At the party, he sang When You Were Young Maggie and The Sunshine of Your Smile. The latter being Dr. Porter’s favorite tune.

The Key West Rotary was conservation minded. Late in October, the Club endorsed a proposal to ban the shooting and trapping of birds and protecting Key deer.

Time does not change some things. We are still protecting Key deer. Dr. Porter spoke in support of protecting birds. He viewed birds as eating disease carrying mosquitoes and insects.

More 1925 to follow tomorrow.

Enjoy your day!