Veterans Day, Bethlehem, 2018

You are a veteran if you spent your entire working career in the Armed Services or if the signature on your papers was barely dry.

And you are deserving of recognition today.

On November 8, 1961, 14 young Bethlehem men (including two brothers), draftees, gathered at the Salvation Army, joined three-score others from various parts of the Lehigh Valley and New Jersey, got on a bus mid-afternoon for Wilkes Barre, where they were formally inducted into the U.S. Army around 5PM, took a plane bound for Fort Jackson, South Carolina, which crashed, and by 9:30PM they were all dead.

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Albert W. Andreas, Robert S. Bedics, Barry A. Brandt, Donald F. Doyle, Thomas D. Gasda, Richard W. Jones, Joseph J. Kobli, Stephen M. Kobli, Leroy Kranch, Jr., Thomas A. Motko, Michael Placotaris. Albert J. Rice, John D. Schuler, Charles (?) Yeakel

In all 77 died. Only 2 escaped the crash. Some Bethlehem families learned of the crash and deaths when awakened by 4AM phone calls from reporters. Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. It would be 3-4 days before some bodies were identified. One Bethlehem man was identified only from a school ring.

The crash triggered a national investigation of substandard transporting of military personnel. The crash was determined to be a result of shoddy maintenance, human error, and lack of emergency procedure explanations. Many could have survived.

Bethlehem took the tragedy hard. A monument was dedicated exactly seven months later, on June 8, 1962, on what was called Triangle Park or the Hub Tract, the still open space above Perkins at 3rd and Wyandotte streets. The monument was removed for a time in 1986 because of the possible sale of the property but then returned and rededicated November 8, 1986. The monument was relatively recently removed to the Rose Garden when the property was sold to developer Jim Petrucci. The monument is located on Eighth Avenue, just a short distance from Union Boulevard.

The 14 young Bethlehem men never had a chance to wear a uniform but died for their country.

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It seems to Gadfly that it is always cold in cemeteries or at monuments for the dead.

His fingers courted frostbite at 9AM this morning just in the short time he ungloved to take a few pictures. The biting wind found ways through woolen layers to find bare skin.

There were two flower arrangements, two flags. Gadfly was able to right one of the arrangements blown over by yesterday’s even more biting wind.

There was one card, “In Loving Memory of Brother Donald Doyle,” from his older brother Richard and Richard’s wife (whose name I am sorry I couldn’t make out).

A touch of warmth that helps one forget the cold.

Gadfly plans to return to this story for the next Bethlehem Moment. Thanks to Dana Grubb.

“First day of school”

The Gadfly invites “local color” creative pieces of this sort. See other examples by clicking “local color” on the sidebar.

Monday. August 27, 2018. 7:45 a.m. Center Street. The bus driver and I locked eyes. Sharing daggers. His eyes flicked to his mirror. Cars disappearing over the hill, stacked maybe to Macada, tires impatiently pawing the asphalt. My eyes flicked to my mirror. Cars back to Dewberry, menacing, growling, like a hungry pride behind a lead lion blocking their way to a fresh Zebra carcass. The bus driver and I locked eyes again, severely slit now. Our fuses blown. The bus finally lurched forward like a carriage on a roller coaster. A split-second later, a snappily dressed boy appeared at the edge of the driveway, fully formed, like a hologram beamed directly from the back-to-school department at Target. Too late. His head corkscrewed in disbelief. No help in sight. Stranded between worlds. The boy and I locked eyes. And my anger mellowed in memories of my own fear-filled first days.

Edward J. Gallagher
Originally appeared in the Bethlehem Press, September 25, 2018.

Calling for Local Colorists!

Local color, a style of artistic expression derived from the presentation of the features and peculiarities of a particular locality and its inhabitants.

Gadfly taught American literature, and one of the movements in 19th century American literary history is called the “local color movement.” There were, for instance, a group of New England writers, a group of mid-western writers, and so forth. These writers drew on local character types, writing the kind of story that, in effect, was instantly recognizable as coming from and helping define a certain area. The kind of writing that, in effect, could not have been written anywhere else.

Gadfly would like to have local color creative contributions as a regular feature of the Gadfly.

A “fun” feature that reminds us that real life happens outside the Town Hall chambers where life is all business and sometimes heated business and even sometimes monkey business.

We are an interesting City filled with interesting stories. There’s real life out there. Bring it to us in whatever form you can.

Like the old tv show used to say,

“there are a thousand stories in the naked city, and this is just one.”

So on our “About” page I describe the local color feature this way:

Local Color: original creative work with recognizably local Bethlehem subjects or connections — art, poems, mini-essays, vignettes, photographs, songs — that help us see or think about our town and townspeople in interesting ways.

Thus far we have two photos from Vicki — one at her home, the other at work — and two Gadfly vignettes — one on Schoenersville Rd, one on Lorain Ave. — as examples.

Let’s hear from you. Tell Gadfly your ideas. Color us up!

“Wawa Music”

The Gadfly invites “local color” creative pieces of this sort. See other examples by clicking “local color” on the sidebar.

We are a divided country, they say. You wouldn’t know that if you pass through the doors of my Wawa on Eighth Avenue during the morning rush. It’s always a bit of a jam, but those narrow passageways are zones of perfect harmony filled with constant comments of gratuitous grace. If you listen you can hear shared humanity. I call it Wawa music. You first . . . After you . . . Ooops, pardon me . . . Let me get that for you . . . I’ll hold it! . . . Need help with that? . . . No rush . . . No trouble . . . No problem. What! No problem? Think of that! No problem! No problem for a me to do something for a you, for you to do something for me. All it takes is someone holding a door for you – whether with arms beefy, skinny, smooth, wrinkled, shaved, hairy, flabby, sweaty, scarred, perfumed, black, brown, white, or tattooed – to restore faith in common bonds. And it happens to me every morning right there on Eighth Avenue.

Edward J. Gallagher
Originally appeared in the Bethlehem Press, August 28, 2018

The Gadfly wrote this on the double whammy day when Paul Manafort was found guilty and Michael Cohen pleaded guilty. And we feel ever more dangerously split after this past week. God save us.

“Love on Lorain, June 2018”

The Gadfly invites “local color” creative pieces of this sort.

So there I am sitting on the porch late Sunday afternoon. (Sitting on an egg crate since I gave away the “old” porch furniture and have not yet gotten the rocking chairs that I want.)  Across the street are the backyards of the houses on Lorain Ave. There’s a guy there — Tom – who’s had girlfriends over the years, some live-in. They sit in the back yard.  All look the same. 40-ish in 30-ish disguise. Blonde. Big-breasted. Tube-topp’d. A good bit of soft sexy roll in the tummy over the tightest, slightest jean shorts. Voices a tad too loud, laughs a tad too masculine. Swigging bottled beer. Women who look good in bar lights. They are unnamed. Never introduced. Never last too long. This Sunday with Tom there was a woman who looked somewhat the same. Instead of drinking beer, they cut grass. Raked winter mess. Dug up flower beds. And then on all fours, head next to head, they planted. And whispered. And planted. And giggled. And planted. And laughed. And laughed. I sense this woman will be introduced.

Edward J. Gallagher
Originally appeared in the Bethlehem Press, August 6, 2018