Vacationing While Ike Hits Hometown Is Nerve-wracking
We had our trip to the Northeast planned since early summer—three days in our hometown of Schenectady, N.Y. and then flying to Philadelphia for four days. The most apprehension we had about the entire sojourn was that we were flying from Albany to Philly on the 9-11 anniversary.
Little did we think a hurricane would interrupt our trip to Yankeeland, especially since Ike was supposed to either hit the Florida Panhandle or bounce southward toward the Brownsville-Corpus Christi areas.
We were scheduled to attend the 11th Annual Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame Reunion banquet to make a guest appearance and watch teammate Joe Loudis of our 1954 Little League World Championship team get inducted a second time as the second winningest high school basketball coach in northeastern New York.
Coincidentally, the basketball coach with the most wins in that region was named Sig Makofski, who happened to coach our dad at Schenectady High School just before the Great Depression. He also was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
We were scheduled to fly out of Houston at 6:50 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 8 and be at the banquet at 4:30 p.m. for the happy hour reception, so we spent Sunday night at the Sheraton Hotel near the airport. We left our car in the hotel parking lot and took a shuttle to the airport.
As we were heading to the banquet room at the reception we ran into a human traffic jam and were amazed that Miami Heat coach Pat Riley had arrived somewhat unexpected. He was inducted in 2000 and decided to attend the banquet after being inducted in the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. on Sept.5.
Apparently someone knew Riley was coming because they had a nice tribute to him before the induction ceremonies and right after all of us former Hall of Fame members were introduced to the overflow crowd of 600.
There was film of him when he was in the sixth grade, his days as a high school all-American, a college all-American at Kentucky and then his time in the NBA as both a player and coach.
Also on hand were former inductees Barry Kramer, who was an all-America basketball player at NYU and currently is a New York State probate judge, and his teammate at NYU Don Blaha, who was captain of that team and Jimmy Barbieri, who is the only player in major league history to play on a Little League World Championship team and in the World Series. He was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965 and 1966.
We went through every level of school with Loudis and played baseball either with or against him during every summer. He coached high school basketball for five decades, winning 422 games along the way and plans to continue coaching into his sixth decade.
The second of the three inductees was pro golfer Pete Famiano, who graduated from high school in 1962 and earned a scholarship to the University of Houston where he played from 1962-1966. He played on the South African PGA Tour during the winter months from 1971-1988 and was the Montclair (NJ) State University golf coach from 1979-1999.
The third person, John Grabowski, was inducted posthumously. He was a member of the New York Yankees Murderer’s Row from 1927-29 and was a teammate of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. He was the first Yankee to wear uniform No. 8 that was later made famous by catchers Bill Dickey and Yogi Berra.
Grabowski also played three seasons for the Chicago White Sox and caught the only no-hitter pitched by Vinton native Ted Lyons on Aug. 21, 1926, when he blanked the Boston Red Sox 6-0 at Fenway Park.
We visited with our sister Bobbie and her daughter (my niece) Emily from Massachusetts the following day and on Wednesday toured the area of Schenectady where my parents and grandparents spent their entire lives called The Stockade which was established by a Dutchman named Van Curler in 1661 and burned by the French and Indians on Feb. 8, 1690.
Our flight to Philadelphia on 9/11 was without incident, although the talk of Hurricane Ike hitting the upper Texas coast was the big news story. We were visiting some former DuPont SRW folks who had transferred to the Wilmington plant several years ago.
Linda Bivens met us at the airport and drove us to her and husband Don’s home in Kennett’s Square, PA. that was not too far from the homes of former Phillies’ pitcher Curt Schilling, who is now with the Boston Red Sox, and Bob Statz, who has the patent on the Surlyn covering of a golf ball when he worked in Orange.
We ate dinner with Don and Marilee Barber and Ben and Terry Smith, both of whom also lived briefly in Orange plus the Bivens.
As the hurricane was aiming its fury at the Texas coast, it appeared as though the reporters for such networks as The Weather Channel, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC just to name a few were rooting for the hurricane instead of being concerned about the inhabitants of the targeted areas.
However, we had tickets to the sold out Phillies-Milwaukee Brewers game that Saturday and took our mind off Ike for a few hours and enjoyed watching Philadelphia sweeping the visitors which helped our Astros, who still were in contention for the NL wild card.
After Ike made landfall, it became apparent that we might not get back to Houston on Monday as scheduled. The problem was that we had brought only enough daily medication through Monday, so we called our prescription provider and told of our dilemma.
Fortunately, Care Mark had recently merged with CVS Pharmacy and they called the local branch in Kennett Square, who filled it and then told us that because we were “evacuees” of Hurricane Ike, there would be no charge for the five-day supply of six prescriptions.
We took a canoe trip down the shallow but sometimes rapidly flowing Brandywine River with Linda and Don Bivens on Sunday, after getting a crash course on how to handle a canoe in rapids.
Wife Susan handled the front flawlessly while yours truly commandeered the back of the canoe. It was fun and we somehow managed to stay fairly dry.
Monday was our departure day and Continental Airlines told us our flight had not been canceled, although Houston was virtually shut down. Our flight was coming from Houston to Philadelphia and turning right around and going back to George Bush Airport.
It took three hours to round up a flight crew in Houston, but we did fly out of Philly three hours late. We picked up a copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper at the airport and the front page story about Hurricane Ike contained three paragraphs of quotes by Orange mayor Brown Claybar.
We also learned that the Sheraton Hotel lost its roof in the storm, and we began to wonder about our car parked not too far from the hotel. Daughter Denise, whose personal car was crushed by a huge fallen tree, drove by the hotel on JFK Blvd. in her rental car and assured us our car looked fine from her vantage point.
We landed in Houston and took a cab to the Sheraton and were delighted to find our car unscathed. But because of the curfew in Orange, we decided to spend Monday night in Denise’s apartment and left for home the next morning long before the sun rose.
Fortunately we had enough gasoline to reach home, because what very few stations that were open for business had lines of vehicles waiting for the precious fuel as far as the eye could see.
We were one of the few lucky folks in Orange that suffered no damage to our houses or property. And we certainly were very happy to be back!!!
KWICKIES…It was great to watch the No. 3-ranked West Orange-Stark Mustangs get back on the playing field Friday night at Dan R. Hooks Stadium as they overpowered the Brookshire Royal Falcons 33-7 to run their record for the season to 3-0. The real fun was watching the Mustangs’ offensive linemen manhandle 6-3, 330-pound nose guard Charles Lewis, who wore No 77 and looked like the original “Fat Albert”, on every play. The Mustangs would shove him five to 10 yards backwards on every snap.
Neither of the Lone Star State’s two NFL franchises is playing anywhere near what was expected of them. The Dallas Cowboys, who were picked by many to be a Super Bowl contender, seem to just play to the level of the competition. They were surprised last week by the Washington Redskins 26-24 and almost let an apparent easy victory over winless Cincinnati get away Sunday. As for the Houston Texans, it’s almost impossible to lead 27-10 with five minutes remaining and allow 21 points to be scored on them in two minutes and 10 seconds. But it happened Sunday at roofless Reliant Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts, who won 31-27 to keep the Texans winless for the season.
This Korner has to agree with Beaumont Ozen head football coach Ishan Rison who is preaching about the sanctity of a verbal commitment to play football at the next level. Apparently his star linebacker Justin Isadore made an early verbal commitment to Texas Christian University. Although it’s not a binding agreement until he signs on the dotted line Feb. 4, Coach Rison expects his players to keep their word no matter what other schools might express an interest in them. Young Isadore needs to watch a Texas Longhorn football game and notice numbers 7 (Deon Beasley) and 12 (Earl Thomas), former West Orange-Stark Mustangs, who made early commitments to become Texas Longhorns. And look at them now—they’re both starting in the defensive secondary for the undefeated and No. 5-ranked team in the nation. And Saturday all eyes will be on these two and their teammates as they take on the nation’s No. l-ranked team, the Oklahoma Sooners.
And on a sadder note, Jesse B. Gunstream, our neighbor for nearly 40 years and fellow poker player, suffered an apparent stroke at his home Friday morning and is in ICU at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Beaumont. We certainly will be thinking about Jesse and his family.
JUST BETWEEN US…It’s ironic that exactly 13 years to the day after former Heisman Trophy winner and Buffalo Bills star running back O.J. Simpson was acquitted for allegedly murdering his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, he was convicted of that stupidly botched armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel and casino. What’s even stranger is that Simpson spent those 13 years searching for the “real murderer” of his wife on various golf courses all over the country without any luck whatsoever. Maybe the reason he never found the murderer is that he forget to look in the mirror.