One of the best friends Fairfield has ever had died Sunday morning at the age of 84.
Carl Dickman will be remembered for his wavy white hair as much as for his service to his town and state. Although he was not born here, he was a Fairfielder through and through.
He served as a selectman for 16 years – first with the legendary John Sullivan, who was first selectman for 24 years, then with Jacky Durrell, who retired in 1993. All three of them are gone now. An end of an era. Some of the most interesting times were when Carl, Jacky and Democrat Eunice Postol (who also died many years ago) served on the Board of Selectmen together. Their weekly meetings were filled with humor, deep discussion and occasional disagreements. All three of them fittingly retired from the board in the same year.
Carl then was elected representative of the 132nd General Assembly District and served five terms until he was defeated by Democrat Tom Drew. Carl’s good friend Brenda Kupchick now serves in his seat after she won the November election over Tom, the incumbent.
Carl loved every minute of serving Fairfield and the state. And he loved politics and helping to get his friends (and his circle was wide) elected to public office.
He also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals in the late 1960s and on the Water Pollution Control Authority in the 1980s and ’90s. He was in the U.S. Navy for three years and later saw active duty in the Korean War, so veterans’ affairs were important to him. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and American Legion, and when he served in the state Legislature, he made veterans one of his priorities.
He was a golfer, and was one of the people instrumental in developing the H. Smith Richardson Golf Course, and later was the president and vice president of the HSR Golf Club. It was golf that prompted Carl and I to have our biggest run-in – one that caused him not to speak to me for a while. When I was the editor of the Fairfield Citizen I editorialized against the expansion of the golf course into the Grace Richardson Conservation Area. He failed to understand how I could possibly not see the need to take a portion of the open space for the revenue-generating enterprise. All was forgiven, however, as he and I eventually made amends.
Carl always seemed to be a happy-go-lucky man. He had a wonderful sense of humor and an engaging smile. He once in a while, though, could be sort of cantankerous too. I remember one time when he was selectman, and in a brief moment of irritation, he took the jacket of one of the Citizen reporters, who was attending the same meeting as he, from the back of a chair and threw it on the floor. Apparently, as I recall, Carl had stepped away from his seat but when he returned, he found the reporter had unknowingly put his belongings on Carl’s chair. When I think about that incident now, I smile – it seemed so out of character for Carl.
The Carl I will remember is the man I ran into at Stop & Shop about a month or so ago. He looked great, his smile was wide and he was cracking jokes. We talked about nothing in particular – until he got quiet for a second and looked at me long in my eyes and asked me for a favor. He wanted me to promise that when it came time for the Citizen to write a retrospective on his life, that I help the staff choose the right people to talk about him. “Make sure they pick people who knew me,” he said, with a little chuckle. I asked him if I could be one of those people. He smiled again; there was a twinkle in his eyes.
For years, Carl kept telling me that he was going to take me to breakfast so we could talk politics. Every time I saw him, he reminded me about our breakfast date. I am sorry now that I didn’t take him up on his offer.
Carl Dickman was a member of a generation of people that laid the foundation for the Fairfield we all enjoy today. Thank you, Carl.
Archive for January, 2011
One of the best friends Fairfield has ever had died Sunday morning at the age of 84.
A skunk has been camping out underneath my backyard deck.
He/she showed up Monday night around suppertime. What alerted me to it at first was the squealing coming from the back of the house. I initially thought the noise was coming from my cat, but she was curled up along the warm baseboard and was snoring away. Unbelievably, I didn’t smell the skunk’s stench until much later when I came home from the Representative Town Meeting session. Although I must admit that my jacket (which I had been in my living room – near the offensive smell – before I left) reeked of skunk once I got to the meeting. Board of Education Vice Chairman Pam Iacono chose the wrong seat when she took the chair next to me. Pam even wondered aloud a few minutes after she sat down if she indeed smelled skunk. I owned up to the fact that I thought it was my jacket.
Once home, the house stunk. Not much one can do about it, so I tried to ignore it, hoping the creature would leave. I have had skunks (and raccoons and possum and chipmunks and woodchucks and cats) setting up house before under the deck. The lattice work around the bottom doesn’t keep them out – although it looks nice. And even if I installed chicken wire or something similar, the wildlife would just dig a hole to get in. (I once called a wildlife containment expert in and he offered to install a barricade into the ground for $700.) And these animals are all opportunists – a hole dug by one animal is another’s entryway later on. They come and go as they please – and for the most part, they don’t stay long. The woodchuck mother and her babies lived here the longest until she carted them all away one day to a new safe haven.
What makes this new visitor different is Wednesday’s snowstorm. I think the skunk would have made its exit in a couple of days if we hadn’t been dumped on with 15 or more inches of snow. Its exits are blocked. (Fortunately, so are the entrances.) The smell has subsided some (or maybe I am just getting used to it).
I tried shoveling a pathway, but that was a futile task. So here is my question, does anyone have any ideas what I can do chase this creature out of here? At little or no cost? I also am afraid it is going to die for lack of food and water.
Any and all suggestions are welcome. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s in a name? Apparently, a lot.
The other day, Jan. 20, I posted an entry with a special memory from my childhood about a classic Hungarian sandwich made at the peak of the vegetable harvest. The blog was a teaser to the Fairfield Public Library’s “Around the Table: Food Memoirs from Fairfield,” a writing contest that is part of this year’s “One Book/One Town” event.
I used the spelling “sutni szalona,” but I was soon corrected by a longtime acquaintance (someone in the know about Hungarian food), who said the spelling actually is “szalonna.” She went to explain that not only is the Hungarian bacon spelled with two Ns, but the word for baking, frying or roasting is “sutes.” Hungarians, she went on to say, would refer to it as “szalonna sutes.”
For the record, I got my spelling from a Hungarian. I suspect there might be numerous ways to spell it. In fact, for years I thought the spelling was “zelena.” (I’m Italian, not Hungarian!)
So I defer to my friend. Szalonna sutes it is!
No matter how it is spelled, you should try it next summer. And while you are planning for that, also plan to participate in the library’s essay contest about your own food memory. For information, visit www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org.
Sutni szalona. What, you say?
If you are not Hungarian or don’t pal around with Hungarians, you have no idea what I am talking about. To me, it is a fond food memory from my childhood.
Sutni szalona came to mind as I was reading Genny Reilly’s article in the Fairfield Citizen about the Fairfield Public Library’s “Around the Table: Food Memoirs from Fairfield,” a writing contest that is part of “One Book/One Town.” This year’s book selection is Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.”
Most of my forebears are Italian (there’s a little Irish and German thrown in there too), but my family lived across the street from a widow of Hungarian descent. Every late summer when the vegetable harvest was at its peak, Mrs. Schemare made the call to our house to alert us that the time had come to have our annual sutni szalona feast.
Sutni szalona is a special Hungarian bacon. (I haven’t checked but I am sure you can get it at the Hungarian Meat Market and Delicatessen on Kings Highway East.) Although one of the tastiest treats ever consumed, “szalona” (its named shortened by those in the know) is a cholesterol killer – and here’s why: The bacon is the central focus of the sandwich.
To make it, this is what you do. You have to build a wood fire in a grill. Chunks of the bacon are skewered (we usually used sturdy sticks from the yard but you can use metal or wooden shish kabob skewers if you have them) and held over the fire. Once they start to sizzle and the fat starts to drip, you dab the grease onto slices of fresh rye bread. How much fat drippings you use is all a matter of taste – and how much your arteries can stand. Then you take slices of fresh vegetables right out of the garden and layer them on the fat-soaked bread. The layering of the tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and green peppers is your preference. Then you drizzle more bacon fat on the vegetables. Now eat.
I guarantee you will never have another sinful sandwich like this one. I also guarantee you can’t eat just one sandwich because the combination of the salty, fatty bacon drippings and the fresh, crisp vegetables is addictive.
As for the library’s contest, essays will be accepted from children 6 to 11 years old; teens from 12 to 18 years old; adults, unpublished; and adults, published. The library will accept poems up to 36 lines or 300-word essays from children and 800-word ones from teens and adults. The deadline is Jan. 31. The top three writers in each age category will read their submissions at an awards ceremony on March 1.
For more information, visit www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org.
Oh, and apparently I am not alone in my fondness for this sandwich – there is a whole Facebook page dedicated to sutni szalona. No kidding.
I promise I will find something else to blog about than the winter weather. But lately that is what is dominating the news and my environment. Wednesday’s storm was a doozy – that is the best word to describe it. I have not seen anything like it since I was a kid.
We did have one storm several years ago that dumped about a foot or more. I remember it was shortly after I bought my house and I thought home ownership was so cool. Shoveling my driveway was fun – well, it was until that particular storm. I remember trying to get through it with my trusty shovel when a commercial snow plow man was driving by and to his home after spending 24 hours on jobs. He took pity on me. Backed up the truck and asked if he could do the job for me. He was my hero.
I fortunately have a very nice neighbor who makes snow blowing my driveway just part of the routine. His name is Barry Wallace and, oh, he writes the column “Between the Lines” for the Fairfield Citizen. I don’t know what I would do without him. For his efforts, I always make specially for him my famous lasagna.
While I am on the topic of snow clearing, I want to be among the many in town to thank our Department of Public Works crews. I know there are some people who think the DPW does not work hard enough or fast enough, but I happen to believe they do the best job of any of the surrounding towns. I live on the east side of town so I can tell you that the Park City does not send the plows out until well after the storm has passed.
As for the photo accompanying this entry, that is my front yard. The yardstick measures 17 inches. Those sticks shooting up through snow in the background is my herb garden.
Spring can’t be too far away, can it?
When I was a young student growing up in Norwalk, going to the public library was a challenge. Our closest library was the South Norwalk Branch, an old building near the heart of that downtown area. The floors creaked as we walked on them and I seem to remember it always was dimly lit. We had to use the old card catalog to find what we needed from the shelves. I never did understand the Dewey Decimal System. The greatest technology at the time probably was the old microfilm machine.
But libraries now are vastly different. They are large and inviting, and places for people – young and old – to work, read, compute, meet friends, attend gatherings, listen to speakers, and view art exhibits. The Fairfield Public Library is such a place.
In the face of ever-changing technology, like being able to download books to computers, including palm-sized ones, libraries continue to enjoy an enthusiastic fan base. In fact, the main library and the branch in Fairfield reportedly are among the busiest in the state.
I admit I do not have a library card (and I have admitted before I have a book-buying obsession) and have not had one in years. But that does not mean I don’t appreciate the Fairfield Public Library. Each and every thing it does for the community is thoughtful, entertaining and enlightening.
For information and to view what the Fairfield Public Library has to offer, visit its website at http://www.fairfieldpubliclibrary.org.
The Stratfield Volunteer Fire Department, which is my neighborhood fire force, is a reliable, friendly group of firefighters. I have had to call them to my house for at least a couple of emergencies and they are professional and friendly and get the job done well.
As they are required to do when they respond to fire calls, they ask about working smoke detectors and will install new ones. Such was the case with me a year or so ago. I had new ones still in their packages, but hadn’t gotten around to putting them up. They took care of it for me.
Those in my neighborhood area of Stratfield-Brooklawn can help the volunteer department in a small way – bring them your redeemable bottles and cans.
The bottle and can drive takes place the second Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon at the firehouse at 400 Jackman Avenue, right across the street from Lincoln Park.
All proceeds from the drive go toward helping fund the fire company’s needs.
According to its website, www.rescue15.com, the Stratfield Volunteer Fire Department was founded in 1920. It has 80 social and active members. The active members work directly with the career members of Fairfield Fire-Rescue manning the truck, Rescue 15, seven days a week beginning at 6 p.m. The department members also provide first aid and other services for various townwide functions, such as the Fairfield Firefighters’ Half Marathon, and various local carnivals and fairs.