Thursday, February 23, 2006

"Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue."

Sixty-one years ago today, the flag raising at Iwo Jima perhaps one of the most famous incidents of World War II took place.

Iwo Jima is a small island 660 miles south of Tokyo. Mount Suribachi rises 550 ft. to form the southern tip of the area and dominate the area.

On the morning of February 19th the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, was ordered to capture Mount Suribachi. Facing heavy Japanese resistance it took until February 23rd to reach the top of the mountain.

That afternoon five marines and a Navy hospital corpsman using a water pipe for a flagpole, raised a large American flag on the top of Mount Suribachi. The moment, forever captured by photographer Joe Rosenthal, was actually the second flag raised at the top of Mount Suribachi. It replaced a smaller flag that had been raised earlier in the day.

Although a climatic point it did not signify the end of the battle, which would go on for several more weeks. Three of the six men, Sgt. Michael Strank, Cpl. Harlon H. Block, and Pfc. Franklin R. Sousley would give their lives before the fighting was over.

The famous USMC War Memorial was sculped by Felix W. de Weldon it depicts the famous flag raising. The monument pictured here resides in Fall River, MA and was made from one of De Weldon’s earlier molds.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Would You Like Fries With That?

Events following an early morning shooting at the McDonald's on Plymouth Ave. Continue to unfold.

The Fall River Herald News reports that the incident took place early Sunday morning (2/19/06) at the drive thru when an apparent dispute between individuals in two cars turned violent. Angel Peralta, 22 is believed to have shot and wounded three individuals a warrant has been sworn out for his arrest.

On Tuesday, the Herald News was reporting that police has arrested Antero M. Pontes, 17, and Adam C. Woods, 19. At that time they were still looking for Angel Peralta and a 16-year-old Fall River male. The police also stated that detectives have learned the juvenile and Peralta are associated with the Mafioso street gang.

As of today police continue to search for Peralta and the 16-year-old male, and an uneasy city waits for their arrest. The Herald News reports that Pontes and Wood were arraigned on multiple charges on Tuesday and both were ordered detained on $150,000 cash bail. Meanwhile the victims of this senseless violence continue to recover but one is still considered in serious condition.

It seems ridiculous that someone would shoot someone else over two cars bumping in a drive-thru line, absurd when the shooter was in the car that did the bumping! There are no excuses. The brother of Antero Pontes said his brother is no punk, and not a member of any gang. Pontes former girlfriend says he just started hanging out with the wrong crowd. He should be given credit for turning himself in, but where was his good judgment when he met up with this 'wrong crowd'? It seems that all the hard work this city has done to reduce gang related violence and to make the people of Fall River feel safe and secure in their city has been erased by the senseless act of a 22 year-old. The callers on the local AM station rant over the shortcoming of the police department, others on this is why they left Fall River. I laughed when one caller said there was never any violent crime in Fall River until about 8 years ago! Apparently the Borden murders don't qualify as violent. This same caller said she graduated from high school in 1982 and there was nothing like this back then, the fact that there were a series of murders in the city just a few years before escapes her memory.

Fall River faces the same issues with crime and violent crime as every other urban city and sadly there is no fool-proof way to stop it. However, it seems foolish to think that packing your bags and moving to another community is the answer, or that it won't eventually follow you. Instead of giving up or moving out we need to be ever more vigilant and learn what things we can do to make our of neighborhoods safer, educate our children better, and show that Fall River is our city and we are willing to fight to keep it a great place to live.

Let's Go To the Movies!

Fall River, just like hundreds of other cities once had a bustling downtown, whole areas full of retail shops, haberdasheries, dress shops, bakeries, restaurants, department stores, and movie theaters.

Today much of what made those downtowns great is gone, times changed malls and large chain grocery stores with endless seas of parking dotted the landscape. But like many other cities Fall River believes that we need to revitalize our downtowns. It's a big job and one that will not happen overnight. However several pieces are in place, the state plans on building a new courthouse on the site of South Main Place. (This mall, without the acres of parking, placed right in the middle of downtown was a 1970's failed attempt at revitalizing downtown!) The refurbished Cherry and Webb building is now home to three colleges as well as Fall River's only bookstore. The historic Fall River Public Library has undergone an extensive restoration and revitalization and should serve generations to come. Now the city has a chance to add one more piece to the puzzle.

The Capitol Theater is for sale. The theater, or at least what is left of it remains hidden behind the storefront of the Sonho do Lar furniture store. It closed in 1957 and before the furniture store the building was home to a bowling alley! It's amazing that anything from the Capitol remains but it does despite 49 years, 2 businesses, and 1976 fire the theater is apparently largely intact and a good candidate for restoration.

The fact that the Capitol has been hiding just out of sight all these decades has been known for at least the last several years but now with the building up for sale it's time to act or forever lose the chance to restore one of Fall River's few remaining theaters. Mayor Lambert has mentioned on several occasions that he would like to see the city restore the Capitol and now says the city will explore the opportunity and sees if it makes sense from a financial standpoint.
We can only hope that the city finds that capital to buy the Capitol. A restored Capitol Theater could be not only another piece in revitalizing downtown, but in encouraging the arts in Fall River. One only has too look toward New Bedford, Providence, or Worcester to see what the future of the Capitol could be.

Friday, February 17, 2006

A Little Local Flavor

Thursday mornings for me are pretty much like any other weekday morning with one difference, it's Spirit day. Oh, I'm not referring to school spirit or team spirit; I'm referring to the Fall River Spirit.

The Fall River Spirit is a free weekly paper. Its scope is community events and happenings, the so-called 'soft' news. I like to think of it as the paper that covers all the little stories that deserve to be covered but somehow get lost in the shuffle. It can be a fun read and it's editor, Rick Snizek is a great guy.

This week the Spirit's front-page article is about the Frosty Beverage Company. The Frosty Beverage Company sits in plain unassuming building at 548 Quarry St. It's a tiny building and you could easily drive past it and not realize that it houses Fall River's last independent soda bottler.

The soda is made on the premises with real cane sugar, (Something the big companies gave up years ago to save money.) comes in sterilized vintage glass bottles and is offered in more than a dozen flavors. A dozen 28oz. bottles can be had for 4 dollars plus 1 dollar for a bottle deposit. The bottles are almost a story in themselves. With too few customers returning their empties and with the cost for new bottles exceedingly expensive Frosty Beverage has turned to buying bottles from companies that have closed or the overstock from the few remaining companies. The result is a case of Frosty soda is a montage of etched logos from soda bottlers past and present and gazing at them is a little bit like looking at postcards from a time gone by.

It has been several years since I made that purposeful trip for a little bit of Nostalgia and I seem to remember thinking it was just a little to sweet. However, companies like Frosty Beverage are a dying breed. Someday it too will be a memory, part of Fall River's past, but before that happens I think I'm going to head on down to Quarry St. for a little bit of that local flavor.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Quaker Fabric loses 25 Million in 2005 seeks "significant improvement" in 2006

The Herald News reports that Quaker Fabric lost 25 million dollars in 2005.

Once the City's largest private employer Quaker Fabric has taken a beating in recent years and has even been the subject of the Mayoral election when challenger F. George Jacome stated that the city had to prepare for potential closure of companies like Quaker Fabric.

Quaker CEO Larry A. Liebenow believes that the company has made several important moves that should see a much stronger company in 2006.

"Obviously, I oppose bringing LNG into Weaver’s Cove."

The Herald News reports that while visiting Fall River to announce that PrimaCARE P.C. was receiving a grant, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey met with Mayor Lambert to discuss the latest change in the Weaver's Cover proposal.

Weaver's Cove has announced that it will use smaller tankers to travel through the Brightman St. Bridge. The move came after Rep. Jim McGovern introduced Legislation in Federal Transportation Bill that was designed to stop the old bridge from being demolished. The opening of the Brightman St. Bridge is too narrow to accommodate the width of an LNG supertanker.

Mayor Lambert is asking for the Lt. Governor's assistance in forcing Weaver's Cove to start the approval process. It is the Mayor's contention that the use of smaller tankers is such a drastic change from the original proposal that Weaver's Cove needs to start the process from square one.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

When Bigger Isn't Better

Weaver's Cover LLC has upped the ante in the ongoing battle for the liquid natural gas facility it plans to build in Fall River.

The facility which officials at Weaver's Cover claim in needed to meet the rising energy needs of this area has met with stiff resistance from Fall River officials who argue that the size and scope of the project make it unsafe for such a densely populated area.

The project seemed in jeopardy when legislation introduced by Congressman Jim McGovern passed that would, in effect, stop the Brightman St. Bridge from being torn down after its replacement is complete. The aging draw bridge has an opening of 98feet and is much too narrow for LNG supertankers to pass through. However as announced yesterday on WSAR and in a story in today's Providence Journal (Registration Required), Weaver Cover officials have notified the Army Corps. of Engineers and the Coast Guard that they will now use much smaller vessels to transverse the channel.

While the use of smaller vessels may seem to have solved the 'Brightman St. Bridge' problem for Weaver's Cover they do so at a cost. Previously Weaver's Cover had projected 50 visits per year to the proposed Fall River facility but now with the smaller tankers that number has risen to 120 visits. The additional visits will certainly mean an increase in the cost of security and operational expenses.

Mayor Lambert stated that the impact of using smaller tankers was such a drastic change that Weaver's Cover may need to start the permitting process from stage one. He also felt that even the smaller tankers were much too large for the Brightman St. Bridge and that at 82 feet wide they left a scarce 8 feet of clearance on each side of the ship.

Friday, February 10, 2006

"It is, at once, both our charm and our strength"

Mayor Edward M. Lambert delivered his State of the City Address this past Tuesday (2/7/06). His speech focused on several topics, the continued focus on education and the building of new schools, bringing new jobs to Fall River and retaining its old ones, and of course the fight against citing an LNG facility here in Fall River.

The Mayor stated that "Fall River is a family of 92,000 people; big enough to be a city, but intimate enough so that everyone knows each other once or twice removed. It is, at once, both our charm and our strength.

The transcript of Mayor Lambert's speech is available at the city's website.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Eleanor Roosevelt no stranger to Fall River

It's a wonderful thing when you realize that someone who lives in the pages of history books once inhabited the very space you inhabit, visited the streets you roam and looked upon the same sights you now look upon.

I've recently been reading Blanche Wiesen Cook's book Eleanor Roosevelt Volume 2. This is an amazing book covering the years 1933-1938. I picked it up at a discount book store for next to nothing, a real find. So now your wondering what does this have to do with Fall River? Well truthfully not much, except right there on page 221, in the first paragraph, "Happy to leave Newport, ER drove with Louis Howe from his home in Horse Neck Beach near Fall River to Cape Cod..." Well obviously I stopped and had to read it again. Here on these very pages evidence that once upon a time Eleanor Roosevelt was near Fall River. Okay, so it's not much, but it did make me curious.

Years ago, before I-195 cut through the center of Fall River going east and west and before Rt. 24 passed through going north and south, Fall River was a real hub of sorts. With rail lines taking passengers from Boston to Fall River and then on to Newport or out to New Bedford and with the famous Fall River Line carrying passengers aboard luxurious steamships out to Newport and on to New York, Fall River bustled with activity. It suddenly occurred to me that while on her way to Newport or back up to Boston, Eleanor Roosevelt might have actually stopped, shopped, ate here in Fall River.

It turns out I was even more right than I thought. Louis Howe, FDR's personal secretary, married Grace Hartley a Fall River girl. The House "in Horse Neck beach" was a summer home. Mr and Mrs Howe's other home was on Locust St. in Fall River and according to Jack Stewardson of the Standard Times, the Roosevelts visited the Locust St. home quite often. When Louis Howe passed away in 1936 the President and First Lady made the trip here to Fall River for his burial at Oak Grove cemetery.

Mrs. Roosevelt also visited Fall River in 1938 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Family Welfare Association of Fall River. She again visited Fall River on October 31, 1945 to attend a Girl Scout dinner which she then commented on in her My Day column on November 2, 1945. Perhaps Mrs. Roosevelt most lasting tie to Fall River is not with a visit but with the letter she mailed in 1958 to a Fall River optometrist trying to establish a scholarship program, Dr. Irving Fradkin. Inside the envelope Dr. Fradkin found a crisp dollar bill and a letter written by the former first lady:

"I was interested to get your letter and to learn of the effort being made in your community to make your people more aware of the opportunities and advantages of a college education. I congratulate you and am happy to send you a dollar toward the effort." - Eleanor Roosevelt
It was one of the first contributions Dr. Fradkin would receive for his scholarship fund which would go on to become the nations "largest nonprofit scholarship and educational support organization. "

Friday, February 03, 2006

One of the Filthy Five cleaning up its act?

Fall River has it's problems. Our schools are underperforming. We're fighting a planned Liquid Natural Gas Facility. We have a landfill that is much too close to our drinking water. The list goes on and on.

Somewhere near the top of that list has got to be the Brayton Point Power Plant in Somerset. For those not familiar with the geography, Somerset is directly across the Taunton River and sitting there on its peninsula, hulking on the skyline is Brayton Point.

Brayton Point is a coal-burning power plant, one of Massachusetts 'filthy five'. It is in fact the filthiest of the 'filthy five'. The problem is two fold. On the one hand Brayton Point releases sulfur, nitrogen, toxic and carcinogenic soot, and toxic metals into the air, and on the other is intakes about 900 MILLION gallons of water for cooling purposes. This water, after cooling the generators, is then pumped back into the bay at much higher temperatures. As a result fish that once thrived in the Mount Hope bay are almost non-existent. The environmental Protection Agency has been fighting a decade long battle to drastically limit the amount of water the power plant can draw from the bay. Brayton Point has challenged the EPA's authority to force this limit. But on Wednesday a court ruled in favor of the EPA.

Barring an appeal Brayton Point would have to build a closed cycle cooling system, which according to the Herald News would cost between 68 and 100 million dollars. The power plant has already started construction on a 230 million dollar project to reduce harmful gas emissions and is looking for final approval for a system that would help reduce sulfur dioxide emissions and atmospheric mercury emissions.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A View From Battleship Cove....

Battleship Cove is located in Fall River Massachusetts. It is 'the worlds largest naval ship exhibit' and along with Lizzie Borden probably the reason why people know of Fall River.

A View From Battleship Cove is, to be honest, an effort by me to experiment in blogging. The focus will be on Fall River, its past, its present and its future. I doubt this will be the only focus and from time to time I may stray into surronding towns, current events, and other interests.

So, while I try to think of where to start - I hope you enjoy a view from Battleship cove.