Your Favorite July 4th Weekend? Here’s Mine–A Dick’s Life With Gypsies, Tramps, Thieves

May be an image of 15 people and people smiling

Life after deadline, circa 1980, meant Sol’s Cafe. Your host is front left, looking like he just bonged with Cheech and Chong. This crew entertained you with your morning news.

For several years I spent my July 4th weekend at Sol’s Cafe on Fairfield Avenue, now part of the Bijou Square development Downtown. Sol’s was next to an X-rated movie house. It was tempting to take a peek, even during work hours. It seemed like everyone inside was a fat white guy with gold nip.

Forty years ago I scribed for The Telegram, the morning predecessor of the Connecticut Post, covering the guys and dolls of the gritty city. It was a short walk from 410 State Street newsroom to Sol’s. John Mandanici, a sweet-and-sour Democrat, was mayor. The cunning Joseph A. Walsh was police chief. His initials matched up as JAWs. The federals made Bridgeport a second home.

The shift I initially worked was 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. then segued to 4 to midnight. As working journalists we had a pretty good scam going with the genial owner of Sol’s Cafe, Solomon Roth. Weeknights, although the bars were supposed to be shut down at 1 a.m., he kept the Downtown joint open for us cash-paying liquor-law violators. I mean if anyone called the cops who was gonna write about it? Back then some of the industry giants such as Carpenter Steel still hummed. Every Thursday night Sol had an arrangement with the steel workers. They came to the bar with pay checks, he cashed them. In exchange he’d keep the change reflected on the check. Sol had tens of thousands of dollars on hand Thursday nights. Many stayed and drank heartily. He packed a revolver, just in case.

Sol’s was an inspirational place for stories featuring a diverse group of gypsies, tramps, thieves, demagogues and assassins. The place was dark, red and gossipy. Pull up to the bar and people yapped about all kinds of stuff. I persuaded my editors it was better to be in the thick of the jungle than waste away in the din of keystrokes.

As a police and fire reporter, I perched myself at Sol’s bar. If I saw or heard a fire truck, I chased it. Yes, I was an ambulance-chasing reporter. As a Yankee baseball fan, the place had added value, a black and white television behind the bar.

From Sol’s pay phone I’d call good ol’ Lieutenant Ed Casey who manned the detective bureau phone at night. “Detective Division, Lieutenant Casey!” Casey barked into the phone like a racehorse announcer.

“What’s up, Casey?”

“Ah, just a bunch of Mickey Mouse burglaries.”

If Casey had something I walked up a few blocks and was at the station.

Casey was old Irish, a cop’s cop, that meant protecting cops. One night I’m chatting with Casey in the cop house, a couple walks in whose house had been burgled. Casey searches around for a detective to take a statement. Dagnabbit, no one around. Casey directs the couple to take a seat in another room. Casey looks at me.

“Pull out your notepad. Go in there and take their statement like you’re a cop.”

“Casey, I’m not a cop.”

“Well, you are now!” he commanded.

Casey kept score. He fed me lots of stories. I pulled out my notepad and sat down with the couple. I was 21 years old. I asked them questions as I would anyone else. I never said I was a cop. I simply said Lieutenant Casey asked me to take your statement.

The couple leaves and Casey says, here’s an incident report, go type it up. I’ll get one of the other guys to sign it when they return. Today you’d be locked up for something like that but to Casey’s way of thinking, “Those two would have sat here all night until a dick was available to take that statement.” That’s what detectives were called then … dicks.

So for one night, I was a dick. Of course, I’ve been called plenty of other synonymous things.



  1. You’re still a duck as far as I’m concerned, or at least an honorary one.
    Now get to work and sell some ticket to the Hartford Health Care Armpit Theater. You’ve only got one sellout and your commission is based on sellouts; of which I can claim you as an hororary one of then to.

  2. There was still some “life” in Bridgeport in those days, such as it were… Today it must be a truly bittersweet experience for you to venture back there to mingle among the ghosts that gave this place some authenticity and visitor draw-power… Hearst, in their callous, elitist arrogance, sucked a big piece of the scant, remaining life out of this place when they plowed under the last remaining traces of the venerable parent of the Connecticut Post and relocated the HQ of the latter to Norwalk… No longer subscribe to the Post…

  3. Below is the website information concerning the Connecticut Post copied today — 7/3/21…. If the Hearst organization is going to dominate the e-news business, they should at least post accurate information on their website concerning their publications… E.g., since the Connecticut Post is no longer a Bridgeport newspaper, shouldn’t that be reflected in the information on that publication’s website… (Isn’t accurate, up-to-date information one of the hallmarks of a quality NEWS organization?…) (See, below…)

    Connecticut Post
    Daily Newspaper
    Connecticut Post
    The Connecticut Post is a daily newspaper located in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It serves Fairfield County and the Lower Naugatuck Valley. Municipalities in the Post’s circulation area include Ansonia, Bridgeport, Darien, Derby, Easton, Fairfield, Milford, Monroe, …
    Wikipedia icon
    Official site icon
    Official site
    Facebook icon
    Founded: 1883
    Headquarters: Bridgeport, CT
    Owners: Hearst Corporation · MediaNews Group
    Editor: Helen Bennett Harvey
    Data from: Wikipedia · Freebase
    Wikipedia text under CC-BY-SA license
    Suggest an edit

  4. Frederick Douglass on 4th of July is as relevant today as it was in 1852.

    What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

  5. Don, it’s amazing how much of America’s past history is comng out now like America’s national anthem’s by composer Francis Scott Key. “All Men are Created Equal” and “The Land of the Free”—both those mottoes sprang from the pens of men with quite narrow views of equality and freedom.

    By Christopher Wilson
    JULY 1, 2016

    On September 13, 1814, British warships commenced an attack on Fort McHenry, which protected the city’s harbor. For 25 hours bombs and rockets rained down on the fort, while Americans, still wondering whether their newfound freedom would really be so short-lived, awaited news of Baltimore’s fate.

    Key, stuck aboard a British ship where he had been negotiating a prisoner release and barred by the officers of the HMS Tonnant from leaving because he knew too much about their position, could only watch the battle and hope for the best.

    By the “dawn’s early light” of the next day, Key saw the huge garrison flag, now on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, waving above Fort McHenry and he realized that the Americans had survived the battle and stopped the enemy advance.

    The poem he wrote celebrated that Star-Spangled Banner as a symbol of the resilience and triumph of the United States.

    Ironically, while Key was composing the line “O’er the land of the free,” it is likely that black slaves were trying to reach British ships in Baltimore Harbor. They knew that they were far more likely to find freedom and liberty under the Union Jack than they were under the “Star-Spangled Banner.”


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