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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Archive for the ‘Linking the Past and the Present’ Category


Mike And Jayne Visit the Crazy Horse Memorial

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Crazy Horse —The Last Great Warrior of the Plains

This photo was taken from the recently constructed viewing deck near the Monument. Mike lined this shot to show the contrast between a completed model and the Memorial’s work in progress.


I met Mike and Jayne nearly 54 years ago while playing a game called  “curb ball” with a few friends. It’s a simple game that only requires a sidewalk curb or concrete step, and a few friends to play. It became popular in many cities around the country after World War II. We liked playing games like this because the only equipment needed was a tennis ball, or a pink rubber ball that we called a “pinkie”. This day, however, tragedy struck. I was the designated batter. As I threw the ball against the curb, it struck the very edge and collapsed. Unfortunately, it was the only ball we had. We thought that the game was over until Mike and Jayne, who had been watching us play offered us a solution to the problem. Mike announced that he had two brand new “pinkies” at home. If we let him be the next batter, he would run home and get one. We all agreed, so Mike ran home and brought back a brand new ball, and the game continued. We have been friends ever since.

The background in this photo was shot, by me, in 1960. It is the the parking court where we played many ball games like “curb ball”. The characters in the foreground were frequent players in all of our games. The foregound  photo was taken at our Franklin Field Project reunion in August, 2013.  Jayne was behind the camera.

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Over the years, Mike and Jayne have not lost their willingness to share with friends. Last year they vacationed in New Mexico. They returned with some great photographs of the Albuquerque Balloon Festival, and gave me permission to publish them in my February post of this year. This year they went to the Great Plains to see and experience the majesty of the Crazy Horse Memorial being carved into a 600-foot-high mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When completed, it will be 563 feet high and 641 feet long. These dimensions will make it the largest sculpture in the world. Crazy Horse’s head will be larger than all of the heads of the Presidents at Mount Rushmore.

The Black Hills are a small mountain range rising from the Great Plains in South Dakota and extending into Wyoming. These hills were so named because of their dark appearance when viewed from a distance because of their dense tree cover. The Lakota made the Black Hills their home after forcing the Cheyenne to relocate to the west in 1776.

Crazy Horse was an Oglala Sioux Native American Chief who waged a desperate battle against the removal of his people from the Black Hills to U.S. government reservations. He was born to parents of two tribes of the Lakota division of Sioux. His father was an Oglala and his mother was a Miniconjou. His birth came at a time when the Lakota people were at the height of their power. They controlled a vast swath of land from the Missouri River in the east to the Big Horn River in the west. Their contact with white settlers was minimal until the 1850s when white settlers began moving west in search of gold and a new life on the frontier. As the number of new settlers increased, they introduced diseases that began to take a serious toll on native American populations. By 1854, tensions between native Americans and the settlers boiled over with an incident known as the Grattan Massacre. In August of 1854, a group of soldiers led by Lieutenant John Grattan entered the Sioux camp of Chief Conquering Bear to arrest a man for killing a settler’s cow that wandered into the area. The Chief refused to turn the man over to the soldiers, and violence erupted. During the confrontation one of the soldiers shot and killed the Chief. The camp’s warriors fought back and killed Grattan and his 30 soldiers. This is widely believed to be the conflict that set off the first great war between the Lakota and the United States. As conflicts escalated between the United States and the Lakota, Crazy Horse was at the center of many key  battles. Because of his exceptional fighting ability Crazy Horse was named Ogale Tanka (war leader) by his tribe in 1865. He  had a seemingly mystical ability to avoid injury or death on the battlefield. It is believed that he was only wounded twice; both wounds were inflicted by members of his tribe. Crazy Horse had one motive for  fighting in most of his battles. He was determined retake the Lakota life he had known as a child, when his people had full run of the Great Plains.

The last stand and death of Crazy Horse

During the Civil War (1861-1865), the military avoided battle with the Lakota. In 1866, however, hostilities began again. In December of that year Crazy Horse led an attack on a Captain William Fetterman and a brigade of 80 soldiers, outside of Fort Laramie on the Bozeman Trail in Wyoming, just south of the Montana border. Fetterman and his entire brigade were killed. This was a huge embarrassment for the U.S military.

On June 17, 1876, Crazy Horse led 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne warriors against General George Crook and his brigade as they were on their way to confront Chief Sitting Bull at his encampment on the Little Bighorn River. The attack foiled Crook’s planned attack, preventing him from linking up with General Custer and his 7th Cavalry on Big Horn River. On June 24, 1876, Custer attacked Sitting Bull’s camp. This attack ended in disaster for the 7th Cavalry. The detachment was cut to pieces and killed to the last man. After the defeat on the Big Horn River, the Army pursued a scorched-earth policy against the Lakota. Sitting Bull led his followers to Canada to escape this wrath. Crazy Horse refused and vowed to continue fighting. During the winter of 1877, hunger and cold forced many of Crazy Horse’s warriors to abandon him. On May 6, 1877, Crazy Horse led his people into Fort Robinson to surrender. On the morning of September 5th, 1877, Crazy Horse was bayoneted in the back by a guard while being formally arrested at Fort Robinson, and died later that night.

Looking into the future of the Memorial

The painting below shows how this remarkable carving will look in the future when all of Korczak’s major goals are completed. A poem written by the sculptor will be carved behind the horse and rider in letters three feet tall.


The Creator/Sculptor

Korczak Ziolkowski, a Polish/American sculptor, was the designer of The Crazy Horse Memorial. He was born in Boston in 1908 to Polish parents. He was educated at Rindge Technical (now called Rindge Latin) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. After graduating he became apprentice to a Boston ship maker, and began carving wood at age 20. He later moved to West Hartford, Connecticut, to begin a career as a professional artist. He was one of the sculptors who helped in the carving of Mount Rushmore. His reputation as a sculptor, and his familiarity with South Dakota’s Black Hills prompted several Lakota chiefs to approach him about constructing a monument honoring Native Americans. Chief Henry Standing Bear of the Lakota Nation wrote him a letter saying, “My fellow chiefs would like the white man to know the red man has great heroes, too. In 1947, Ziolkowski moved to the Black Hills to begin planning the sculpture. The first blast was made on June 3, 1948, and the Memorial was dedicated to the Native American people. He continued his work until his death in 1982. After his death, his wife Ruth took over the project as director until her death on May 14 of this year. Their children are continuing the carving of the monument or are active in the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation. The U.S. government has offered the foundation 10 million dollars to help with the construction, but it has been turned down. The foundation charges admission to visitors to raise development funds.

Planned dimensions of the Crazy Horse Memorial




 Mount Rushmore — only 8 miles away

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If you are interested in this subject go to and type Crazy Horse into the search bar. There you will find biographies of many of the historical figures discussed here.


St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Warm Memories Of Friendships–Old and New

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

New York City celebrated the 250th anniversary of its St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year. So, why do I hold this day in my “Warm Memories” file? To answer that question I will introduce you to Virginia Lee Blunt — my mother. She was, by far, the most adventurous, determined, courageous person that I have ever known. When she decided to do something, she moved forward and did it, without reservation. In October of 1954, her long-standing application for an apartment in a recently-constructed housing development (which gave initial preference to World War Two veterans) was approved. We had recently moved from Long Island, New York, and were living with friends in one of Boston’s neighborhoods — Roxbury. The new development was only about two miles south of where we were living, so moving would be easy, and we would still be close to our friends in Roxbury. Boston, like many other large cities in the 50s and 60s, was divided into ethnic neighborhoods. Moving from one neighborhood to another often involved moving to an area populated by folks with different ethnic roots. To many of my mother’s friends this was cause for concern. My mother’s only concern, however, was how much rent she would have to pay to live there. Her response to the folks issuing these warnings was: “During the war we all lived, worked, fought, prayed together as soldiers. Now we are going to live together as war veterans, and mend our lives. There won’t be time for anything else.” Most of these “Nervous  Nellies,” as my mom called them, were well- meaning friends who eventually got the message and realized that my mother had made up her mind and that pressing their concerns was pointless. After one of these conversations, she announced to me, “Next year (1955) we are going to take the train to New York City and watch the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. We will watch the parade with people that are the same as our new neighbors.”

I figured that the parade would probably be okay, but I loved riding the train; that would be enough to keep me happy. The parade was long, and the weather was a little chilly (in the mid 40s) with a light wind blowing. But we had a great view of the marchers as we stood on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was perfect weather, according to my mom who seemed to be impervious to cold. I often wondered if she was part snow woman. During the parade, my mother’s main concern was not the chilly weather or the long wait. She was worried that the very big, slightly tipsy man standing next to me was going to lose his balance and fall in my direction. Fortunately that never happened. We had a good time watching the parade. I had a better time eating dinner on the train on the way back to Boston.

In the years that followed, we often watched the Boston Saint Patrick’s Day parade near the corner of West Broadway and D Street. That parade was always fun to watch because every year Saint Patrick’s Day is held on a holiday in Boston — Evacuation Day. So, why is that a holiday in Boston? On the days before March 17, 1776, George Washington was able to covertly place fortifications and 200 cannon on Dorchester Heights, which overlooks the city from the south. When British General Sir William Howe discovered this, he immediately realized that his stronghold in Boston was indefensible. He quickly evacuated the the city with 11,000 British troops and 1,000 loyalists, and fled to Nova Scotia. Boston is part of Suffolk County, the only county in the state that observes this day as a holiday.

Well, I discovered later that going to that parade was my mother’s way of demonstrating that people can live together and have fun together. My mother’s decision to move from Roxbury to a new home in Dorchester, and to take me to the 1955 Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York City has, as I see it, showered the Blunt family with nearly six decades of positive rewards.

Pictured below my mother is my daughter, Sarah. Often, when having a conversation with Sarah, I have to pinch myself in order to focus on the reality that I am talking to my daughter, and not my mother.

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Virginia Lee — The original

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Sarah Ann — Virginia’s granddaughter — A duplicate of the original, possessing the same determination, courage and stubbornness.

The High Cross Memorial In Hartford

 Connecticut is home to many symbols placed to inform visitors and residents of significant events in past history. One such symbol stands on Hartford’s south side. It is a replica of a Celtic High Cross. This cross was erected as a memorial to 10 Irish Republicans who died while participating in a hunger strike in 1981. The strike was led by Bobby Sands, a volunteer in the Provisional Irish Republican Army and a member of the British Parliament. The grandfather of one of my childhood friends often described these delicately carved crosses that still dot Ireland’s landscape. He was a remarkable man who constantly shared knowledge of his homeland. Every time I go past this spot, I recall his remembrances. What makes this High Cross Memorial fascinating is that it is the only reminder of this unfortunate event that took place in this country.

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The Blunt And Duffy 1963 Camping Adventure

Below is a photo of my lifelong friend Dave Duffy and me in our early twenties. We are enjoying a cup of coffee with two new-found friends that we met in northern Maine in 1963. It was a very hot day in the middle of August and we were trying to reach Baxter State Park before the sun went down, but the heat of this hot August day was taking its toll. We stopped at a small store and asked the owner if he could direct us to a reachable camping site. He told us that there were no camping sites nearby, but Great Northern Paper Company had cut a logging road into the forests to harvest trees. To make the long trip out of the logging area easier, the company built rest stops for their truckers along that road. He said the traffic on that road was slow in August, and we could possibly find a nice spot to camp and fish. After a long dusty ride along that road we found paradise — The Unknown Lakes. We spent the rest of the week camping, fishing and visiting with two new friends who were supervisors with Great Northern. They owned a small farm further north and camped in this area every weekend during the summer. I returned to this spot every summer for about 10 years. Dave and I still talk about that camping trip and the great time that we had.

img144 copyMe and my 1955 Powder Blue Pontiac. In the background is the middle Unknown Lake.

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Below is a photo of a group that bonded as friends over 55 years ago. The picture was taken last May, at a reunion of families from the Franklin Field Project in Dorchester, Massachusetts. This is a place that we still call home with pride. I am sure that this photo would bring a warm smile to my mom’s face.


The Great Hunger Museum In Haddam, Connecticut

From 1845 to 1850, Ireland was devastated by a fungus that infected its potato crop. The famine that resulted  killed over a million people from starvation, and forced two million more people to emigrate from the country. In 1997, John L. Lahey, President of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, served as Grand Marshal of the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Black 47, the worst year of the Irish famine, he made it the theme of that year’s parade. He continued this effort by making many public appearances and giving many speeches on The Great Hunger. These speeches caught the attention of the late Murray Lender, chairman of the Board of Trustees at Quinnipiac University. With the support of the Lender Family, a collection of art, research and educational materials on the Great Hunger was established at the University. This collection quickly grew in quantity and quality. The decision was made to give this marvelous collection a building of its own. In 2012, the Great Hunger Museum opened to the public. The museum art graphically illustrates a dark period in history, filled with hardship, sickness and death. But the museum is by no means a horror show. It is bright, warm and comfortable. The artwork is set up in a manner that is informative, and is softly accented by natural and artificial lighting. Below, I have included a link to the museum website where you can get detailed information on activities at the Museum and its growing art collection.

Quinnipiac University has marched in the New York City Saint Patrick’s Day parade for more than 20 years. In 1997, when John Lahey was Grand Marshal, the contingent was more than 1,000 marchers.

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 Interested children watching a video slide show

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Below is sampling of some of stunning art work featured in the museum collection.

2014-03-16 003 008 copyDerrynane by Jack B. Yeats

2014-03-27 001 002 copyThe Leave-taking by Margaret Lyster Chamberlain


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2014-03-16 002 011Newspaper accounts of the famine.

The most comprehensive accounts of the grim realities of the famine was recorded in a relatively new medium — mass produced newspapers. In this medium you can find the most comprehensive account of the famine. The museum has a room devoted to some of these accounts. The magnificent art collection and the warm friendly atmosphere of this museum has made it a top selection on my frequent visit list.

In spite of the continuing cold weather, the Connecticut and Farmington Rivers are showing signs of the annual American Shad Run. Sarah and I are planning to go shad fishing in a couple of weeks. With luck I will have photos and facts to share with you in my next post.



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