Cabin John Ice-Cream Truck War

IMG_6070I had not been to Cabin John Regional Park since I read about a rash of car break-ins in the parking lot. But today we decided to go with a mission in mind. My son needed a hiking stick. His school’s theme for the month of August is camping and this month his take home project is to create and decorate a hiking stick. Of all the local parks, Cabin John, nestled in the woods, seemed to be the perfect place to play and find that perfect hiking stick. Within seconds we found one.

While I held the hiking stick, my son climbed and played. We heard the ice cream truck come and go. My son had never been to an ice cream truck so he does not yet associate that recognizable musical chime with ice cream even though we hear it every time we are at Cabin John Park.

Awhile later we were on the lower half of the playground, close to where the truck stops, when I heard that familiar sound. The children near my son were excited for ice cream. He looked at me quizzically. I took his hand, asked if he wanted ice-cream (yes), and then we rushed to get in line as there was only one family left in line by the time we decided to join.

My son looked at the pictures on the side of the truck and chose the blue shaved ice. As the ice cream driver went to prepare the shaved ice, a man in a maroon shirt seemingly came out of nowhere and whacked the side of the ice cream truck with a long iron rod. He hit it with such force I was taken aback and stepped back as I was worried about my son and just thankful that he wasn’t hit in the process. I’m not even sure if this man saw us or not, but he was only inches away. He started yelling something about having a permit for his ice cream truck and our driver apparently did not. Both men shouted at each other and both men called the police.

IMG_6073By now a crowd had gathered. Parents were curious about the police presence and children stood staring as many of them wanted ice cream, but sweets were no longer being served; just verbal jabs.

My ice-cream driver told me that I was a witness and he wanted me to talk to the police when they arrived and I agreed. It’s hard to say how long it took for the police to arrive, maybe 5-10 minutes, maybe less. But they arrived in force. There were multiple police cars and at least three officers.

They handcuffed the driver of the permitted truck for assault. One officer talked to him and took his statement while another officer took a statement from the other driver. At this point my son was tugging at me and wanted to leave. I didn’t blame him. I didn’t expect to get a serving of police officers the first time he ordered from an ice cream truck. I went up to one of the officers, said I was a witness and that the driver wanted me to give a statement, but my son wanted to leave. He took my statement. I described what happened, gave my driver’s license for identification purposes, and then my son decided he wanted to stay. So we continued to eat the shaved ice and play while parents asked me what happened and if I tweeted it out so they could retweet. I confessed to being somewhat illiterate when it came to social media. This is the best I could do.

At the end of the day, neither driver was arrested. The driver with the permit was allowed to leave and eventually the driver without the permit was also allowed to drive away. The police officer I spoke with said that many of the ice cream trucks don’t have permits. I for one had no idea a simple summer pleasure could become so complicated.

IMG_6074I feel for the driver with the permit, but at the same time do not condone that kind of violent outburst in an environment full of children. He made it very clear that trucks without permits are taking away his business. I’m not sure what the solution to this problem is? More enforcement? No more ice cream trucks? I for one don’t plan on buying ice-cream at Cabin John again anytime soon. As for my son, he apparently wasn’t traumatized because when we left he asked for more ice-cream.

 

The Lusitania – Fenwick Connection

Millicent and her mother

Millicent and her mother

To historians and trivia lovers May 7, 1915 is the day a German U-Boat torpedoed the Lusitania, a British luxury liner. To Millicent Fenwick it was the day she lost her mother. Mary Hammond was among the nearly 1,200 passengers and crew killed, including 128 Americans. While the sinking of the Lusitania had worldwide reverberations it altered the life of 5-year-old Millicent. To learn more, come join me this Saturday, June 20, 2015 at the Parsippany Library at 10 a.m. or the Warren Library at 2 p.m. to hear me speak about the “Lusitania: 100th Anniversary & its ties to a famous New Jersey Congresswoman”

If you plan to attend, please register as space is limited.
 
 
 
Saturday, June 20, 2015 – 10 AM
Parsippany Library
449 Halsey Rd,
Parsippany, NJ 07054
(973) 887-5150
Registration Recommended
http://www.libraryinsight.net/eventdetails.asp?jx=j3p&lmx=459811&v=3

 
 

Saturday, June 20, 2015 – 2 PM

Warren Township Library
42 Mountain Blvd.
Warren, NJ 07059
Phone: (908) 754-5554.
Registration Required (call or cut and paste this link to register)
http://somerset.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails.aspx?EventId=22301&libhttp://somerset.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails.aspx?EventId=22301&lib=1007=1007

2015 BIO Conference

Bio-Logo_Black2-500x193Yesterday, the Biographers International Organization (BIO) got off to a great start with pre-conference activities including information sessions at the Library of Congress, a docent-led tour of the Library of Congress by yours truly, and a lovely welcome reception at the home Kitty Kelley. Other biographers in attendance included BIO President Brian Jay Jones, Vice-President Cathy Curtis, Barbara Burkhardt and Robin Rausch (conference co-shairs), Douglas Brinkley, Evan Thomas, Nigel Hamilton, Mike Lennon, and more.

At the reception, Thomas Mann received the Biblio Award, which is given annually to an archivist, or librarian, who has gone above and beyond in assisting biographers with their research — providing essential assistance as we endeavor to tell the stories of people’s lives. Although Tom retired in January after 33 years at the Library of Congress he can be found in the main reading room on Saturdays, where he still assists researchers, just in a volunteer capacity. He is one of the many treasures at the Library and many attending last night’s reception could attest first-hand to his helpfulness, myself included.  Oxford University Press recently published the fourth edition of his book Oxford Guide to Library Research. It’s a great resource for writers.

Today the BIO Conference gets underway at the National Press Club with Evan Thomas and Douglas Brinkley discussing the Art and Craft of Biography. Taylor Branch will deliver the luncheon keynote address. He is the recipient of this year’s BIO Award.

And in between there are a host of workshops including the one below. It’s my first speaking engagement about my biography of Nicholas Katzenbach. It’s not done yet, but getting closer. If you have not registered for the conference, it’s not too late as they are accepting on-site registration. For more info click the BIO tab in the blog header. Hope to see you later!

Writing About Someone You Know 

11:00AM–12:15PM LOCATION: BLOOMBERG

Writing a biography is never easy, but does it make a difference if you know your subject? Perhaps you’re writing about a family member, a neighbor, or a former boss. Maybe you’ve met your subject in the course of researching and writing. Does a personal connection help smooth your path when it comes to approaching sources and gaining insights? Or does familiarity create its own pitfalls? How can you take advantage of your privileged position while still holding onto your artistic independence?

Moderator 

Barbara Burkhardt ’s William Maxwell: A Literary Life (University of Illinois Press, 2005; paperback, 2008), a biography of the longtime New Yorker editor and novelist, received praise in The New York Times, TLS, The Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, among other periodicals. She subsequently edited Conversations with William Maxwell (University Press of Mississippi, 2012). Burkhardt is associate professor emerita of American literature at the University of Illinois Springfield, where she was named University Scholar in 2007. A founding member of BIO, she has served on the BIO board for three years as its secretary. She is at work on a biography of Garrison Keillor under contract to St. Martin’s Press.

 

Panelists 

Beverly Gray , who once developed 170 low-budget features for B-movie maven Roger Corman, is the author of the best-selling Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Biography of the Godfather of Indie Filmmaking. Tastefully retitled Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers, it is now available (as both e-book and paperback) in an updated and unexpurgated third edition. Gray has also published Ron Howard: From Mayberry to the Moon . . . and Beyond. She teaches online screenwriting workshops for UCLA Extension’s renowned Writers’ Program. Her blog, Beverly in Movieland, covers movies, moviemaking, and growing up Hollywood-adjacent.

Michael Lennon is president of the Norman Mailer Society. He teaches in the Wilkes University low-residency M.F.A. program and is the author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life (Simon & Schuster, 2013). Most recently, he edited Selected Letters of Norman Mailer (Random House, 2014). He also wrote the introduction to the new illustrated Taschen edition, JFK: Mailer’s “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” His work has appeared in the Paris Review, The New Yorker, New York Review of Books, Provincetown Arts,  Creative Nonfiction, New York, and Playboy, among others.

Amy Schapiro is the author of Millicent Fenwick: Her Way, a biography of the New Jersey congresswoman best remembered as the pipe-smoking grandmother who served as the model for Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury character Lacey Davenport and whom Walter Cronkite dubbed the “Conscience of Congress”. Schapiro is currently working on her next book, Leading Justice: The Life of Nicholas deBelleville Katzenbach. She has appeared on C-Span/BookTV, NPR, WOR, and WABC.

Remembering the Lusitania: A Century Later

Remembering the Lusitania

Remembering the Lusitania

May 7, 2015: A good story never gets old, even a century later. It was 100 years ago today that the RMS Lusitania sailed on its final voyage with more than 1,900 passengers on board. The British luxury liner departed New York City’s Pier 54 on Saturday, May 1, 1915. Throngs of well-wishers lined the pier to watch this floating palace embark on its 101st round-trip Trans-Atlantic passage. Passengers were on edge as the crossing was being made during wartime. World War I was well underway and Germany’s submarine fleet was becoming more brazen where its targets were concerned.

The first six days of the Lusitania’s journey were pleasant and uneventful. But all that changed on the seventh day. The passengers on board included Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, the heir to the Vanderbilt fortune; Charles Frohman, acclaimed Broadway Manager and Producer; and Mary Picton Stevens and her husband, Ogden Haggerty Hammond, a state legislator and businessman.

On Friday, May 7, the Hammond’s were enjoying afternoon tea in the first class lounge. The morning fog had lifted and the sun was shining as the ship approached the Irish coast eleven miles away. All seemed mundane until they felt a strong vibration. Ogden went on deck, inquired about what happened, and was told everything was fine. However, the passengers on the other side knew better. For they saw a white streak barreling through the water. Everyone’s greatest fear was now realized in an instant.

The Lusitania had been targeted, and torpedoed, by the Germans. At first all was calm before folks realized what had happened and clamored for lifeboats and life vests. Ogden wanted to return to his cabin and get life vests, but Mary was adamantly opposed to the idea. Instead they went to the stern side of the ship and climbed into a lifeboat. They thought they had been spared, but they were not. As the boat was lowered, one of the crewmen lost his grip. Ogden grabbed for the rope to help ease the plunge, but to no avail. His hands were torn in shreds and the boat, and passengers, were tumbled into the frigid waters.

“I went down and down, with thirty people on top of me,” recalled Ogden. “I thought I never could come back and must have been partly unconscious, for I can only remember getting almost to the surface, sinking back again, and doing this three or four times. Then I was hauled in some boat, but no one else from the boat that fell was ever seen again.”

His beloved Mary was among the nearly 1,200 passengers to perish including 128 Americans. The irony is that it was Mary who was insistent on making the voyage on the Lusitania despite warnings from the German Ambassador and pleas from her husband not to leave. But Mary was determined to cross the ocean to help victims of WWI. Her devoted husband would not let her make the journey alone so he joined her leaving their three young children home – Mary, 7-years-old, Millicent, 5-years-old, and Ogden, Jr., 3-years-old.

The Stevens, like the Vanderbilts, were another wealthy family. On the day the Lusitania set sail, Mary Picton Stevens signed a will worth more than a million dollars. In the will she created trusts for her three young children. Little did she know she would never see her husband or her children again. Nor would she see her middle child, Millicent, be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

With many great tragedies, there are many good reads. One of the earlier books was published was in 1956 by Adolph and Mary Hoehling entitled, The Last Voyage of the Lusitania. Next on my reading list was The Lusitania written by Colin Simpson in 1972. And three decades later was Lusitania: Epic Tragedy by Diana Preston. The latter was so well done and well-researched that I thought it would be the last of the Lusitania books. But earlier this year, best-selling author Erik Larson came out with Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. Like his predecessors, he has written another captivating account of the tragedy. However, if you are interested in learning more about Ogden Hammond’s experience and survival Millicent Fenwick: Her Way is still the only book that provides his gripping account leading up to the voyage, the trip itself, and the aftermath.

For those of you who would like to hear more about Ogden’s heart-wrenching story, I will be speaking in New Jersey on Saturday, June 20, 2015. Hope to see you there!

Lusitania: 100th Anniversary & its ties to a famous NJ Congresswoman

Saturday, June 20 – 10 a.m.

Parsippany Library

449 Halsey Road

Parsippany, NJ

Saturday, June 20 – 2 p.m.

Warren Library

42 Mountain Blvd.

Warren, NJ

Millicent Fenwick’s Birthday

Millicent Fenwick

February 25, 2015 – Today would have been Millicent Fenwick’s 115th birthday. And despite passing away more than twenty years ago she continues to live on. In the past few weeks, I’ve received three Fenwick related requests. The first was for permission to use a photo in the book of a young Millicent with her sister, Mary, and mother, Mary Picton Stevens Hammond, the latter of whom died on the Lusitania. The photo will be used in an exhibit opening this fall about New Jersey during the decade from 1910-1920. The exhibit will highlight the sinking of the Lusitania by the Germans in 1915 and the photo will represent a New Jersey life lost in that tragedy.

The second inquiry came last week and it was about Fenwick’s self-pity quote, one of many memorable quotes attributed to Fenwick. And the third request was about giving a Lusitania related talk to commemorate the centennial of the Germans torpedoing the Lusitania which resulted in nearly 1,200 deaths, including Mary Hammond and 127 other Americans as well as passengers from more than 20 countries. For someone who has been deceased a long time both Millicent Fenwick and her mother are still getting a lot of traction.

For more about the Lusitania, see my blog post from May 7, 2013

https://sixdegreesofmillicent.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/the-lusitania/

Selma

UnknownBelieve it or not, I didn’t think about my new year resolutions until a few days after the ball dropped in Times Square. Once again, “the year of the book” tops my list. Here’s hoping that 2015 is the year I finally finish writing the Katzenbach biography. It’s particularly frustrating to sit on the sidelines as debate rages over the new movie Selma and the ensuing controversy of LBJ and his support, or lack thereof, for voting rights. Katzenbach and I talked about Selma and he made it very clear that Voting Rights was a priority for the Johnson Administration with or without Selma.

Like many, I’m anxious to see the movie and glad that today’s generation will have an opportunity to bear witness to the violence that was unleashed on Bloody Sunday – March 7, 1965 – in Selma, AL. There is no controversy about whether the movie portrayed what happened that day accurately, and the two subsequent marches on March 9 and March 21; the latter of which fulfilled the original goal to march from Selma to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery.

One thing is clear, this movie has gotten people talking about history and facts, what biographer doesn’t love that!

The Honorable Marge Roukema

imagesAnother day, another passing. Today New Jersey lost former Congresswoman Marge Roukema who was 85 years-old. She was a Republican elected in 1980; the same year Ronald Reagan won the presidency. Her first term in office would be Millicent Fenwick’s last term in Congress, but neither women knew that at the time.

As a freshman, Roukema sought Fenwick’s sage advice. Back then Fenwick was known for the uncanny amount of time she spent on the House floor. What most didn’t realize was that her time was more calculated than her peers gave her credit for. That became clear to me when I interviewed Roukema. She relayed how Fenwick told her “You need to sit on the floor to get to know your colleagues. Get to know them, not only in committee, but on the floor when debates are going on. It is then you can learn to judge whose opinions you can trust, and whose opinions you must be skeptical of. Be able to evaluate them.”

“That was wonderful advice,” said Roukema. “The first year or so I spent a lot of time on the floor listening to debates . . . and got a sense of things. Not only the issues but a sense of the evaluation of the people that were presenting things and who was being superficial and political and who was being substantive and incisive. It was excellent advice. Of course, she [Fenwick] was always there. Third row on the aisle.”[i]

What I did not know until today was that Roukema was the longest serving woman in the House of Representatives, serving eleven terms from 1981 – 2003. Since 2003 New Jersey has not sent a woman to Congress, but all that has just changed. Last week, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, a Democrat, was elected to the House. When she takes office in January she will be the first woman elected to Congress from New Jersey since Roukema retired more than a decade ago. It’s about time.

[i] Amy Schapiro, Millicent Fenwick: Her Way (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 153.

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