When I was a kid my father drove me across the wooden bridge that connected the East End to Pleasure Beach–clank, clank, clank–to fish the t-shaped pier for snapper blues. A bamboo pole, line, hook, minnow and bang, nothing like hauling in a snapper when you’re a kid.
But watch it, those little bastards feature teeth so sharp you can cut your lawn with them. Skippy Rastas, with that sly Lithuanian smile, operated the Harbor Hut at the edge of the pier. He had this sign–The Pleasure Is Back–to remind immigrants such as my dad that Pleasure Beach was still an oasis to escape the stress of life on Barnum Avenue where my parents had lived.
My father arrived here in 1953, hopping a train in Messina, Sicily that fit the tracks of a ferry that transported him to Calabria on the mainland of Italy that took him to Naples. From there he was escorted across the Atlantic by the Andrea Doria to New York Harbor where he met my mother who didn’t really know him. My parents were matched. My maternal grandmother had grabbed my mother–born in Harrison, NY and raised in Bridgeport–by the hand: we’re going to Sicily to meet a nice boy. Within 10 days of meeting Emilio and Emily were engaged, within two weeks they were married. My parents did not consummate the marriage then.
It took about eight months before my father could arrive here, legally sponsored by my mother for marriage in St. Raphael’s Church in the Hollow, and then a reception at Lenny’s Wagon Wheel (Yahooy and Wondering would remember that place).
Pleasure Beach was one of the places they’d hang out in those early days of marriage. John Burgeson of the Connecticut Post wrote a nice piece on Sunday regarding what Pleasure Beach represents to folks like my parents and what it could mean to the people of the East End longing for the warm sun and cool breeze. Pleasure Beach is a safety valve for the inner city.
With any luck water taxis could transport folks to Pleasure Beach in 2010 as a result of dough initially secured by Chris Shays in his final months in Congress last year. The bridge that burned in 1996 has blocked off the peninsula from the mainland. The nearly $2 million for Pleasure Beach could also include recreational improvements for bathers, ballfields and tennis players.
When I did public relations for Donald Trump in the mid- and late-1990s he had an interest in the city. The piece of turf he raved about the most was Pleasure Beach. From the view of his helicopter it was a jewel. Maybe, after all these years, the stone will be polished.
This should be an interesting week. St. Paddy’s Day on Tuesday. I’m going to check out the parade. Watch out for the drunks! On Thursday Mayor Bill Finch will host his first fundraiser for reelection in 2011 at Testo’s Restaurant. Hey, why wait until the last minute? I’d be raising it too. The mayor and Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa seem to be working at improving their relationship.
I don’t know if I’m going to crash the mayor’s gig at Mario’s restaurant, but for sure I’m going to the Art Garfunkel concert at The Klein that night. Grab a ticket and join us.
We have a new feature–actually it’s a tag cloud–called Name Droppings located top right below the banner ads. The more a subject name is dropped in my OIB posts the larger the name appears, hence Mayor Bill Finch’s name explodes from the page. (We’re not including names of commentators, Yahooy, Bridgeport Kid, etc.) I get the feeling U.S. Senator Chris Dodd’s name in size will experience growing pains.
Former Congressman Rob Simmons announced on Sunday that he’ll challenge Dodd in 2010. The Republican represented eastern Connecticut in the U.S. House of Representatives for three terms. He had worked for the CIA. This should be fun: the CIA versus AIG and any other (paging Countrywide) financial institution that benefited Dodd by virtue of his powerful chairmanship of Banking.