|If you came to this page looking for John Silveira’s novels, please use the links, below, for the Kindle and print versions at Amazon.com.
If you prefer to purchase the print version(s) by check:
To order one book, be sure to indicate which book you want.
Get free shipping on the second book if you order both.
Please make the check payable to John Silveira and mail to:
|Danielle Kidnapped: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Ice Age
Click Here for the Print version. $14.95
Also, check out the Danielle: Kidnapped Facebook page.
|The Devil You Know
Click Here for the Print version. $14.95
The Ballard Institute is a school solely dedicated to the art of puppetry. It is one of a small number of institutions where aspiring puppeteers can pursue an advanced degree in puppetry. The museum and school of puppetry were founded by a world renowned master of the art of pulling strings, Frank W. Ballard. Ballard joined the University in 1956 as a theatrical set and technical director. In 1965 he founded the University’s puppet arts program, which he directed until he retired in 1989. It has been said that he and Jim Henson made puppetry a valuable tool of expression in this country. The University is one of only a few in this country offering B.F.A., M.A., and M.F.A. degrees in puppetry. Students enrolled in the program study all aspects of the art form, from the making and manipulation of puppets to playwriting, set and costume design, and music and movement. The program’s students come from all over the world and are sought after to ply their craft in film, theater, and television. Shows like Avenue Q, The Lion King, and Little Shop of Horrors were either built or performed by Ballard Institute alumni. My son, Michael, is a resident artist at Shakesperience Productions, a Connecticut-based touring troupe for arts education. Recently, Michael worked with a talented puppet designer/fabricator, Travis Lope, a graduate of Ballard, in a production of the Walt Disney classic, The Reluctant Dragon. Over the years, I have developed a deep appreciation for the talent of puppeteers.
While growing up, some of my favorite television shows featured imaginative puppet creations. My mother and I have many favorites: Bill Baird and and his famous puppetry sequence, The Lonely Goatherd, in the film version of The Sound of Music; the flexible fun puppets, Gumby and Pokey; and The Pee-Wee Herman Show with puppet cast members like Globey the Globe and Corky the Robot. My list is longer than space allows, but I must also list the favorites that are responsible for this fascination: Howdy Doody with Buffalo Bob Smith and Mr. Rogers and his puppet king, King Friday XIII.
The museum, in its present location, is small with limited but well-planned space for display. It will be moving soon to a more spacious and accessible location in the newly-developed Storrs Center in downtown Mansfield, just steps from the University campus. After the the move, I hope that the museum will be able to display many more of its reported 4,300 classic puppets.
The Knight Hospital, Dark Shadow of the Past, On The UConn, Depot Campus
To most folks, the Depot Campus is home to the well-known Ballard Institute, but this campus has less colorful past history. Pictured below is what remains of the Knight Hospital. The hospital was part of a 350-acre campus known as the Mansfield Training School. The school opened its doors in 1917, and was considered an ideal place for treating people with mental disorders. When in full operation, the campus housed 1,800 residents and contained over 50 buildings. The Training School was closed in 1993, and many of the buildings were demolished. Some of the remaining buildings, including the hospital, became part of UConn’s Depot Campus. Other parts of the Training School campus were annexed to The Bergin Correctional Center, a level-2 minimum security facility for male offenders.
In 1987, The Mansfield Training School was added to to the National Register of Historic Places. It has an interesting history that dates back to 1860. I will return to this campus and devote a separate post to this mysterious and fascinating place.
The Exceptional Puppet Master—Dick Meyers
Born on May 21, 1921, in Flint, Michigan, Dick Myers attended a marionette production of an English folk tale, Dick Whittington and His Cat. This performance set the stage for his successful career in puppetry. At age seventeen he joined Stevens Marionettes, a Midwestern leader in American Puppet revival, and trained with them for a short time. He left this company to study aeronautical engineering, acting, art, and dance. He returned to Stevens Marionettes at the end of the Second World War and applied his sophisticated technical knowledge to building custom sound equipment, designed to be used in contemporary puppet theater productions. During this period he continued working with his mentors at Stevens Marionettes as well as Rufus and Margo Rose, the folks who first entertained him with Dick Whittington and His Cat when he was in grade school. By 1950 he had enough confidence to create his first production, a hand puppet show titled Magic Potion. It was so well received at the American National Puppetry Festival that he continued to perform Magic Potion for the rest of the year. Despite the positive feedback that he received for his shows, and the appreciation that other puppeteers had for his skill and technical ability, Myers continued to feel uncertain about his work. He once again left puppetry to pursue other interests. He returned to puppetry briefly in 1956 and began to develop his own style of rod puppetry. By 1966 he was ready launch his own show. His production, The Story of Dick Whittington’s Cat, premiered at the 1966 National Puppetry Festival in San Diego. It was so well-received that an encore performance was requested. From there, Dick Myers went on to perform other rod puppet gems like Cinderella and Simple Simon. In 1983, Dick performed his last full-length show. He died on May 19, 2005. Classic examples of his dynamic puppets are currently on display at the Puppet Museum. For more information about Dick Myers and his creations, visit the web site at DickMyersProject.com.
To identify a Dick Myers puppet, look into the eyes.
Simple Simon and The Pie-Man
My favorite–The Baby William Band
The museum features the works of many other artists. The photos below are just a sampling these works.
The story of the “Old Leatherman” is very complex and burdened with a unique mix of fable, myth and reality. For this post I have decided to limit my dialogue to some basic details of Old Leather’s 30 years of walking his planned route through Connecticut and New York State. I have also included photographs of the Leatherman, one of his shelters (that is only 10 miles from my house), and his final resting place in Sparta Cemetery in New York State. To help with some of the questions you may have after reading my comments and viewing the photos, I have included a link to an entertaining and informative You Tube video that was aired on Connecticut Public Television several years ago.
One misty, misty morning
When cloudy was the weather
I chanced to meet an old man
Clothed all in leather.
He began to complement,
And I began to Grin
How do you do?
And How do you do?
And how do you do again?
This little rhyme became a popular jingle during the 1870s when a mysterious, forlorn man dressed all in leather clothing, of his own making, became a common sight wandering the country roads and railroad tracks of Connecticut and New York State. His curious garments were made of soft-tanned leather cut from discarded boot tops, and stitched together with leather lacing. A domed cap with a leather visor and leather shoes fitted with hand carved, wooden soles completed his unique outfit. Some have pinpointed his first appearance in Connecticut to be around 1856 in Harwinton; a town west of Hartford. He had a passion for silence, so his real identity has remained a mystery. Folks simply identified him as “The Old Leatherman”. He died in 1889, but his legend is still very much alive throughout New England, New York State and parts of Canada.
From the day of his first appearance in 1856, he traveled between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers, and possibly made trips to the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and as far north as Canada in his early years. In 1883 he began walking a regular 360-mile circuit. He entered Connecticut from New York near Danbury walking east to southeast, eventually turning south to the Shoreline and west to New Haven. He completed this 360-mile journey in about 34 days. The Leatherman was reported to be very regular in these trips. A record of his trips past a railroad station in Milford, Connecticut was kept for 6 years, from 1883 to 1889. In 1884/1885 he made nineteen consecutive trips, passing this point every 34 days. In March of 1888 a monster blizzard dumped 50 inches of snow in parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, leaving snow drifts as high as 50 feet in places. The storm paralyzed the East Coast from Chesapeake Bay to Maine, bringing most types of transportation to a halt for days. However, the storm’s most noticeable effect on the Leatherman was to increase his 34 day circuit to 39 days. Old Leather was a tough man. He knew how take care of himself by employing an incredible ability to adapt to his ever-changing environment. But the “Blizzard,” along with a quickly-spreading cancerous growth on his lower lip, really took a toll on him. On March 24, 1889, he was found dead in one of his cave/rock shelters in Mount Pleasant, New York. He was buried in an unmarked grave in Sparta Cemetery, located in Ossining, New York.
The Leatherman, photographed on June 9, 1885.
The Leatherman, photographed in 1888. This photo was used as the basis for the near life-size portrait, painted by A. V. Durant in 1892.
Durant’s portrait now hangs in the Derby Public Library in Derby, Connecticut. Thanks to the cooperation of the library director, Cathy Williams, and her staff I was able set up my equipment and take this photograph.
Harwinton House and Tory Den
Old Leather established shelters all along his travel route; some were cave/rock (slabs of overhanging rock), others were simple lean-tos made from fallen trees, branches and twigs. He was never known to eat, rest, or sleep under a man-made roof.
Tory Den is one of his cave/rock shelters that is a short distance from my home. It was discovered by the grandson of Steven Graves on Thanksgiving Day, 1838. Graves was a Harwinton, Connecticut resident and the owner of property where the Den is located. Graves was also a Loyalist or Tory. Tories were the folks that remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. In 1778 Graves built a log cabin on this property. The cabin became a meeting place for Tory leaders from the surrounding area. After the war he built a spacious house on this site. It would later come to be known as Harwinton House. In 1931 the house was moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, where it remains today.
In this part of Connecticut, Tories were relentlessly hunted by a group of Patriots called the Sons of Liberty. Any Tory captured by this group would face punishment, ranging from a severe beating to being hung. Whenever the Sons of Liberty were spotted in the area, a horn (conch shell) would echo through the trees, and Tories in the area would head for the Den to hide in safety. The Sons of Liberty relentlessly searched the area throughout the War, but failed to find the Den.
There is no verifiable information that indicates how the Leatherman discovered this and other cave/rock shelters scattered along his circuit. It is my feeling that he had extensive knowledge of Native American lore and was familiar with the entire area that he traveled. I also believe that he knew where he was at all times, and planned his route with precision. All of his shelters provided for him what he needed to stay alive: food, water, and protection from the elements. Most of the trees that blanket much of Connecticut today were not there during the Leatherman’s time. Early settlers cleared most forests to make room for farming. If you were new to the area today, locating the Den would be more difficult than it was for the Leatherman, because its location is masked by thick tree growth.
Harwinton House on its original site in Harwinton, Connecticut
A map showing the location of Tory Den in relation to Harwinton House.
Armed with the map, shown above, my trusty compass and a pedometer, I set out on the Blue Dot trail to find the original site of Harwinton House and the Tory Den. The Den is located on the border of Burlington and Harwinton in a rocky section of forest called the Mile of Ledges. Following the section of trail, shown below, for about a mile into the woods led me to the Den. However, my attempt to follow the trail southeast to Harwinton House led me along what I figure is the most treacherous part of the trail. So I abandoned the effort and drove around Bristol Water Department property and entered the woods from another entrance to the Blue Dot. This section of the trail looked less hazardous.
Trail to the Den
This is the south entrance to the Den. It was a warm sunny morning, so I spent a couple of hours exploring the area. The south entrance is high enough for me to enter by stooping only a little. It is also wide enough to accommodate several people, my size, sitting on both sides. The dirt floor was clean and free of the usual junk that accumulates in historic sites like this. This is a real tribute to hikers of the Blue Dot Trail.
Trail to the Harwinton House
My maps indicated that I could get to the original Harwinton House site entering the trail from a different location. This part of the trail led me to a collapsed bridge abutment that I am sure was originally built as a crossing for horse-drawn carriages. In order to get across, I would have to make my way down a steep 20-foot rocky embankment and then up a similar bank on the other side. Carrying a heavy and expensive camera and tripod, this was more of a risk than I was willing to take. I can repair a broken arm, leg, or rib with less effort and expense than it would take to replace my equipment. So I turned back vowing to resume the search another day. When I return, I will post photos of the site.
The Blue Trail entrance leading to the Harwinton House site
To spite of his popularity, the Leatherman was buried in a grave marked only by an iron pipe driven into the ground. Finally, in 1953, a grave stone inscribed with the fictitious name “Jules Bourglay” was placed on the grave. On May 23, 2011 his remains were exhumed with the hope of subjecting them to DNA testing. All that was found was a few coffin nails in the dirt. I think that Old Leather’s wish to remain anonymous has been realized.
On May 27, 2011, whatever was unearthed from his original grave was reburied in a new grave inside the cemetery and memorialized by a new grave marker. Take note of the gifts on the grave marker, left by his still loyal adherers.
Meet the Kelley’s from Alaska. Mr. Kelley grew up in Ossining, and as a kid made frequent visits to the cemetery to see and show his friends a grave stone that was damaged by cannon fire during the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, the grave stone was no longer there. There was, however, a brief description of the incident inscribed on a plaque outside of the cemetery.
Click on the link below, sit back and enjoy a video that is informative and loaded with interesting Old Leatherman information.
The Road Between Heaven And Hell
This 40-foot replica of an Easter Island Moai is visible to travelers heading east or west on Interstate 84 as they travel along the elevated section of highway that runs over the downtown section of Waterbury, Connecticut. It stands next to an old, brass mill manufacturing building that I thought was closed and abandoned. Unable to make a connection between an Easter Island “Moai” and an old non-functioning brass mill, we were convinced to exit the highway and take a closer look at this unusual pair. I discovered that the building has been transformed into a museum of clock and watch history by the Timex Corporation, headquartered in Middlebury, Connecticut, a few miles west. Clock museums are not usually on my “must visit” list. However, my curiosity over the connection between Easter Island and Timex watches made this Timexpo Museum visit a “must.”
The Ingersoll Watch Company was started by two brothers, Robert and Henry Ingersoll, in 1822. Their earliest watches were supplied by the Waterbury Watch Company, located in Waterbury, Ct. Ingersoll went bankrupt in 1921 during the recession that followed the First World War. It was purchased by Waterbury Watch Company in 1922. In 1944 the company was renamed United States Time Corporation. Today it is called Timex Group, with main offices in Middlebury, Ct. During the First World War, the company sold the military small pocket watches, modified to be worn on the wrist, that were worn by artillery gunners to read time while working their guns. Inside the museum are three floors of exhibits, most of which depict the history and development of Timex clocks and watches over the years. On one floor the museum takes an odd turn that explains the Easter Island connection. I will explain that as we move on.
John Cameron Swayze was a popular news commentator and game show panelist during the 1950s. He did a series of commercials for Timex in which he subjected Timex watches to various torture tests. As the watch emerged from the test in working condition, Swayze would utter his now-famous catch phrase, “It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.” The museum features a video presentation of a commercial demonstrating a Timex watch being strapped to the propeller of an outboard boat motor and surviving after the motor is powered for a few minutes. He performed in Timex commercials for over two decades. He also did commercials for other consumer products. Some of my favorite commercials were those he did for Studebaker cars and trucks in the 1960s.
The Dollar Watch
In 1896, Ingersoll introduced the “Yankee” watch. It was mass produced from stamped parts and had no jewels in the mechanism. These watches were packed in flimsy cardboard boxes and sold for only $ 1.00. By 1899, Ingersoll’s supplier, Waterbury Clock, was manufacturing 8,000 of these watches a day, and by 1910, they were producing 3,500,000 watches per year. While hunting in Africa, Theodore Roosevelt was referred to as “the man from the country where Ingersolls are produced.”
The fictional cowboy hero, Hopalong Cassidy, was created by author Clarence Mulford in 1904. In the beginning, Mulford portrayed Hoppy as a dangerous roughneck with a somewhat rude disposition. In 1935, William Boyd began playing the character in a series of films. Boyd transformed the character into a clean-cut screen hero. The new character became so popular that Mulford revised and republished his early works to reflect the character’s new on-screen image. Boyd also changed the long-standing western film stereotype that only villains wore black. Boyd’s character was always dressed in clean, striking black clothes, including a black hat. He traveled with two companions, played by a variety of actors. My favorites in these roles were George (Superman) Reeves and George (Gabby) Hayes. Boyd eventually bought the rights to his early films and contracted with the NBC television network to begin a series of broadcasts. On June 24, 1949, Hopalong Cassidy became the first network western television series. The success of this series inspired other programs featuring western heroes such as: The Range Rider, starring Jock Mahoney; Annie Oakley, starring Gail Davis; The Gene Autry Show, starring Gene Autry; and The Roy Rogers Show, starring Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, and the world’s most famous Palomino, “Trigger.”
All of these westerns were popular in my neighborhood, but Hopalong Cassidy was our favorite. My friends and I would often walk to nearby Franklin Park (one of Fredrick Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace jewels) with our toy rifles and six-shooters to act out our own Hoppy adventures.
My First and Only Watch
The watch strapped to the 1953 Harley Davidson Hydra Glide hard-tail was a present from my mother on my tenth birthday. The motorcycle is a replica of my first bike purchased twelve years later. I sold the bike in 1970, but kept the watch.
Indiglo is a brand name for a company owned by Timex. The company produces an electrical phenomenon called electroluminescence that is used in Timex watches to make the dials glow in the dark. Watches with this feature were first introduced in their Ironman watch line, and first sold in Kmart stores in 1992. A walk through the Indiglo chamber at the museum explains and demonstrates the process.
The museum also features a number of interactive exhibits. Below is the Clock Shop where, on certain days, visitors can view repairs being made on clocks and watches. In this photo the Museum Director is sharing her extensive knowledge of the exhibits.
Another interactive display invites visitors to design their own Timex watch by using these stamps to punch the design on a card presented at the desk. I had a lot of fun with this display.
Thor Heyerdahl and a five-man crew traveled to Peru in 1947. There they built a raft of balsa logs and other local materials. On April 28, 1947, they set sail in this raft for 101 days and traveled 4,300 miles across the Pacific Ocean to the Polynesian Islands. Heyerdahl was close friends with the Olsen Family, who own Timex. They helped to fund his exploits on the Kon-Tiki. When the Timexpo Museum was built, the decision was made to include a display chronicling Heyerdahl’s work and his adventures on Easter Island.
This museum is located at 175 Union Street in the Brass Mill Commons. (Exit 22 off of Interstate 84.) It is open 10 to 5 Tuesday thru Saturday. Look for the giant Moai as you approach Waterbury on 8, from East or West.
There are some birds at the Rogue estuary that are called terns. At first glance, I thought they were seagulls, but they’re not. My friend, Christine Mack, says that when they’re in flight they look like a cross between a seagull and a hummingbird. There are several species and, in this case, the species I’m seeing most of are what are called “Least Terns.”
I’m still learning about them, but I believe most species of terns are migratory and are only here for a few weeks in the spring when they’re on their way further north to nest in Canada and Alaska. Then they’re back for few weeks in the fall when they’re flying south to South America, or wherever. But there are thousands of them in the port, here in Gold Beach, now.
The ones I’ve been photographing, called Least Terns, are not very large birds. They maybe have an eight or ten inch wingspan.
They fly out over the Rogue estuary, darting back and forth and making turns that are so abrupt they look more like billiard balls bouncing off the rail of a pool table than a bird changing direction. They’re looking for small fish that are swimming near the surface. When they see one they think they can catch, they zoom to the water like a dart and splash in. And if they catch something, they emerge with a two- to four-inch-long fish that looks like a sardine.
I’ve been trying to get some good photos of them actually catching something but, so far, I haven’t gotten any decent photos of them catching anything.
I’ll be posting more photos, soon.