Right Smack-Dab Out of Date

Live from the Onondaga Country War Memorial Auditorium… (If I have to call it “Oncenter,” I want to spell it all out: Onondaga County Convention Center and War Memorial Auditorium…)

There are few places like this left in the league. Heck, there are few places like left this anywhere. A mid-’50s barn — a little short, though not as bad as Binghamton — it’s a neat place to visit.

It’s a neat old place, a true auditorium; the south end of the building is a stage. There are seats semi-permanently installed on it, but they’d roll up if necessary; there are more seats in front of it, but those could roll up as well. At the other end, banners hang celebrating the Crunch’s 2001-02 Central Division championship (remember when they, Hartford and Bridgeport were down to the last day for first overall?), the Syracuse Stars’ Calder Cup title in the league’s inaugural 1936-37 season; and the Syracuse Nats’ 1954-55 NBA championship. (There’s also the lone retired number: the 14 worn by John Badduke — not bad for 114 games’ work.)

The art-deco style abounds, in the friezes on the outside honoring past battles, in the carved-block-lettered “IN MEMORY OF OUR SERVICE VETERANS” above the stage, in the high-school-corridor feel to the concourse. There’s also a beautiful array of relics and artifacts and maps and newspaper reproductions, including mannequins dressed in period uniforms, from wars dating back to the Revolution. Memorial Hall features plaques with the names of about 1,200 Onondaga County dead from World War II, another 500 or so from World War I, another 150 from Vietnam and about 100 from Korea. There’s a painting on one side featuring John McCrae’s In Flanders Fields, and a painting on the other side (covered up for some reason today) with part of Alfred Noyes’ Princeton, May, 1917.

Walk through those doors on either side of the exhibit, and you’re at ice level. The lower set of seats are above you; walk up those rickety wooden ramps and get sittin’. As a public building, it’s open during the day, even during the skates; great place for autograph hounds. There were a few hanging around, waiting for the stragglers after the morning skate. Sean Bergenheim and Bruno Gervais got held up just long enough to miss the bus back to the hotel.

(Apropos of nothing, I happened to drive past the Marx Hotel a few minutes later; an interesting construction, a tall, cylindrical building, standing out on its own as an easy landmark. And I hear it’s a very nice place.)

And then there’s the press box. Hanging out over the stands (don’t drop your drink), up against the arched roof (watch yer head), it’s a nice perch, but getting there requires a climb up the stairs, around the corner, up the stairs, up a ladder-like staircase, then down through the dark into the back, and along (duck, I said!) till you find your seat. Fun stuff!

It’ll be a little different tomorrow night at Wachovia Center. I didn’t say better, just different.

Meanwhile, check out this deal, which sends former Sound Tiger Ray Schultz, Pascal Rheaume and Steven Spencer to Phoenix and Brad Ference to the Devils…

Ramblin’ round today, saw a billboard for the local oldies station, WSEN-FM 92.1. Easy to find: It’s the first preset in my car already. (Try it at home if you dare, but be prepared for a time warp – and I don’t mean the songs.) Not quite a paint-by-numbers oldies station; sounded like there were actual local DJs, and I heard a couple of semi-rarities. But the best part: In the first hour and a half I was listening, they played two of my six favorite songs. “I Fought the Law,” first of all, on which I’ve pontificated before. They also played the Reflections’ “Just Like Romeo and Juliet,” a great little Detroit tune. Hadda love it.

I was thinking of going to the movies, but all the theaters are in malls. And on Black Friday, that wasn’t gonna happen.

I did go to one of my favorite on-the-road restaurants, Joey’s, near Carrier Circle. My folks and I stayed in Syracuse on the way to and from Toronto in 2000, and a couple of fellow hotel patrons pointed us there one night. Nice Italian food. They have a fancy place, a casual place (Pronto Joey’s) and a pizza place (Pronto Pizza) all right next to each other on Thompson Road. I went to Pronto Joey’s as usual and had a nice meal as usual.

Had time to read the Post Standard and USA Today, which included a neat story on covered bridges and their engineering champion — though, from a strictly writing-style perspective, that quote from the guy in New Hampshire was jarring. But an interesting piece anyway. Once they finish building the new Sikorsky Bridge, it’ll be about time to replace it, so how about a covered bridge over the Housatonic? (I kid; it looks like they’re getting ready to finish up, doesn’t it? I might be the only one, but I kinda miss the steel grid, at least when it’s not icy. It was easy to drive on: Hit it at 55 and stay there. Speed up or slow down, and you shimmy with the grid. Stay there, you glode right over. Oh well, it’s over now.)

And now just reading online: RIP, Pat Morita

More tonight.

Michael Fornabaio