Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricanes playing on my old stomping grounds

A handsomely renovated Cashell Elementary School

When the Manatee Hurricanes play Our Lady of Good Counsel Friday night, they'll do so in a part of the country that has a special place in my heart.

Olney, Md.

I spent 2.5 years in that neck of the woods, working for the Montgomery County Recreation Department from January 1975 to June 1977.

It was during my hiatus from journalism and what a wonderful time it was, indeed.

I was a rec coordinator, refereeing kids basketball and umpiring youth baseball around the Rockville area, but my base of operations was running programs for the students at Cashell Elementary School in Olney.

Flag football, T-ball, softball, baseball, summer day camp.

It was a great time in my life in a setting that still had its rural charm despite the inevitable onset of growth.

I became fast friends with many of those families, especially in the Norbeck Meadows subdivision across the street from the school.

It was so hard to leave them when I decided to return to Florida --- I'd spent 1971-74 in Homestead --- and get back into sports writing.

I'd had it with those winters!

From time to time I wonder where all those children from Cashell went, realizing they're all adults now with families of their own.

Perhaps some of their kids will be playing against Manatee Friday night.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family shoe was on other foot during Irene

What a weird feeling it was, following Hurricane Irene.

Usually, it'd be my siblings up in South Jersey calling me to find out how I was doing.

This time it was the other way around.

Late last week as Irene churned north, I called my sister Jeanne and brothers Joey and Jimmy, trying to give them encouragment and tips about being prepared.

Given what Floridians have been through the past seven years, we know a thing or two about hurricanes, right?

I also told my sibs chances were the hurricane would lose its steam by the time it arrived.

After years of hearing how our warm tropical waters are "fuel" for hurricanes' engines, I knew that wouldn't be the case when Irene chugged into the Atlantic's colder waters off the coasts of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

Hey, I'm no meteorologist, but it makes sense to me.

I also told them to be more concerned about losing power and flooding.

South Jersey had already experienced a record month for rainfall.

Anyway, they made it through Irene OK, thank goodness.

Now you and I are keeping a cautious eye on the horizon for Tropical Depression 12, which looks like it'll be Hurricane Katia before long.

The family shoe is back on the other foot.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Veteran MCSO deputy suspension excessive

Let me get this straight.

Lt. John Murrell, perhaps one of the community’s most visible deputies in the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, worked more than 52 hours of overtime over a 16-month period, but didn’t put in for it.

So he gets suspended for three weeks.


That sort of thing --- working OT and not claiming it on one’s time card --- has become part and parcel of having a steady job and wanting to hang onto it in this lousy economy.

It might even earn you a plaque from the company for dedication and devotion and all that.

Not a three-weeks suspension without pay.

What's the expression?

No good deed goes unpunished.

I realize the MCSO has to operate within certain rules and regulations, and it behooves it to avoid entanglements with federal labor officials.

But this is overkill.
Read more in Sunday's Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Canes' opener on new MHS theater big screens

Manatee Principal Bob Gagnon surveys  Davis Building Performing Arts Theater

Want to experience Manatee High’s new Davis Building Performing Arts Theater and watch coach Joe Kinnan’s Hurricanes at the same time?
Canes hunker down for Sept. 2
Manatee’s regular season opener, Sept. 2 at nationally ranked Our Lady of Good Counsel in Olney Md., will be shown on the 800-seat theater’s three big screens.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at the administration building box office.
Refreshments are available from the school’s culinary program in the new Canes’ Cafe, but no food or beverages will be allowed in the new theater.
Call 714-7300 for details.

Eddie “Bear” Clark retired after 35 years with the City of Palmetto’s public works department.

A warm Manatee County welcome to NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw.
The Steeler icon and longtime FOX NFL analyst bought adjacent homes in the Concession for a cool $1.22 million.

The honorable Ed Price
Even at 93, Ed Price is one tough son of a gun.
The former state senator, ex-B-17 pilot from World War II and beloved community pillar had both a root canal AND an extraction on Wednesday.

Dance Theatre of Bradenton hosts an open house 1 p.m. Saturday at its new location, 5657 Manatee Ave. W. Call Barb Myers at 345-7495.

American Legion Riders Kirby Stewart Post 24’s chapter meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Palmer Building at 2000 75th St. W.

Contact Phil McArthur at 224-6756 or

Read more in Friday's Vin's People on

Monday, August 22, 2011

Finding right class a first-day adventure

Nani Gomes and Joe Dhennin were just two of Manatee High School's many students walking the halls of the new and very improved Davis Building on the first day of school Monday.

And like many of their schoolmates, Nani, a senior, and Joe, a junior, kept walking and walking.

None of them could find their third period class.

Nani was looking for American Government.

Joe, German.

"A lot of people are lost," said teacher Linda Boone, standing outside her Spanish III class playing traffic cop. "The building isn't configured the way it was before."

Students weren't the only ones lost.

It took some teachers awhile to get the lay of the land before Monday, as well.

"I was lost for a long time, too," said Spanish teacher Jeanne Jordan.

Monday was her turn to play traffic cop, like Boone down the hall.

Jordan could spot lost students a mile away and then wave them over.

"If their eyes are big, then they don't know where they're going," she said.

Neither Nani nor Joe had big eyes, but were lost just the same.

Each traversed the Davis Building's sunlit foyer a couple of times trying to find that elusive classroom.

So, other than that, how did Nani like the sparkling new building?

"It's nice," he said. "I just wish I could find my class."

Joe liked the big skylight overhead, but was bamboozled about that German class's location.

"I don't have a clue," he said.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A heartfelt welcome home at airport

It was raining when the private jet carrying Army Spc. 4 Patrick Lay's body taxied toward Rectrix Aviation at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport Saturday.

"The angels are crying," someone said.

Little by little a crowd had gathered at the terminal's entrance off 15th Street East to welcome home a boy most of us probably didn't know. They parked their cars across the street up and down the block and hurried across under umbrellas.

Lay, who was killed in Afghanistan Aug. 11, was one of our own and that  brought people to pay their respects to the 21-year-old Braden River High grad.

There were families with children and couples and older women with little American flags.

One family unfurled a big flag where the driveway intersects with the street.

There were also Patriot Guard Riders and the honor guard from American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24.

A high school JROTC unit, too.

Near 1:40 p.m., the somber procession bringing Lay and his family to Life Covenant Church off State Road 70 got started.

Everyone stood at attention, some covering their hearts, some saluting. Others wiped away tears.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube's black SUV led the way, its lights flashing, followed by a motorcycle escort from MCSO and the Bradenton Police Department. Then came a series of limousines with family members and the hearse, followed by family friends in two other vehicles with flags.

The Patriot Guard Riders went after them.

The procession, emergency lights winking and flashing along 15 Street East, was on its way.

Slowly, the crowd dissipated, everyone lost in thought.

The rain had stopped.   

Three most feared words: Back to School!

So, I asked the child the other evening at McKechnie Field, are you looking forward to going back to school?

She nodded happily and gave me a smile that could’ve lit up the ol’ ballpark on Ninth Street West.

Sitting behind her, mama double-pumped a fist enthusiastically.


With roughly 40,000 Manatee County public school students returning to classes Monday, I imagine there are umpteen thousand parents who share that exhiliration.

At least that many mothers anyway.

After being stuck with the kids for the last couple of months, they’ll be getting them out of their hair for several hours a day, five days a week until next May.


That's probably how my sainted mother felt about getting me out of the house and off to school at last every September.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SEHS celebrates 50 years of Seminole football

Gina Fielding, an SCF student and Marauders concession supervisor, shows off a $1,000 Florida State League Scholarship awarded her by the Bradenton ballclub. That's Kris Koch, McKechnie Field's operations coordinator, and Marty the Marauder with her.

Southeast High is celebrating the program’s 50th anniversary and will honor a different decade of Seminole teams and fans at each home game.
The schedule is:
Game 1, Fort Myers, Aug. 26 — 1960s.
Game 2, Largo, Sept. 1 — 1970s.
Game 3, Sarasota, Sept. 23 — 1980s.
Game 4, DeSoto, Oct. 7 — 1990s.
Game 5, Palmetto, Nov. 4 — 2000s.
Former Seminoles should call AD/head coach Paul Maechtle at 741-3366, ext. 2013 or 920-0713.
Or email him at:

My compliments to organist Bill Holt and harpist Cheryl Losey for their sublime performances during last Sunday’s funeral for Dr. Brian Murphy at Christ Episcopal Church.
Holt’s arrangement of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” was a moving opening for the service, while Losey’s rendition of “Danny Boy” was a poignant tribute to the gone-too-soon Irishman.

Niece Lauren Pierce sent a cellphone photo of the digital temperature gauge in the family car while vacationing in Austin, Texas.
It read 120 degrees.

Manatee Children’s Services Country Night Oct. 1 fundraiser features a new VW Jetta raffle with proceeds going toward stopping child abuse and neglect.
Only 300 tickets are available and can be purchased by calling 345-1200 or going online at:

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

THIS IS NOT A BILL ... Riiiiight!


I always get a kick out of the all-caps message in the upper right hand corner of our annual notice of proposed property taxes.

Oh, no. I won't pay now, but, boy, I know I'll pay later.

Can't wait to see what happens to my monthly mortgage payments after all this comes out of escrow.

The assessed value on my home in Ware's Creek looks like it will be going down, again, but my local taxes --- city and county, school and sheriff --- look like they'll be going up, again.

Ah, yes. I won't be paying the non-bill now, but I will be paying it soon enough.

Can I  get an Amen?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Caribbean cruise? When do we leave?

Going on a Caribbean cruise isn't something we usually talk about now, not with us getting into the height of hurricane season, y'know?

But the notion of going on a cruise is something that definitely gets the juices going, even if we must wait until after Dec. 1.

Which was the topic of dinner conversation Saturday night for my wife and me and another couple.

They'd already been on several and swear by them as being the perfect vacation.

"Eat and sleep. Eat and sleep. Eat and sleep," is how my pal put it.

I had never been on a cruise until our honeymoon 16 months ago.

I didn't know what I'd been missing all those years.

I loved it.

We only did two islands to speak of --- St. Thomas and St. Maarten --- but it was enough to whet my appetite for next time.

Sherri and I talked Sunday about planning another one soon.

Well, my in-laws beat us to it.

We just found out they're going on an 11-day cruise during which they will visit, among other idyllic locales --- St. Barts, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Maarten and Barbados --- just before Christmas.


Can you say, envious?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fallen soldier face of our community

The images on the Facebook page could belong to any of the young men we hold dearest when they’re far from home.
Especially in a combat zone.
Making faces with his sister.
Getting a kiss from his fiancée.
Showing off a wild hog he’d bagged at night.
Patrick Lay was the boy next door.
A boy who grows up before you realize it to become a man.
A man who courageously puts himself in harm’s way for his country.
His county, too.
When word of the 2008 Braden River High School graduate’s death in Afghanistan hit us Friday, it conjured up the names of our six other fallen warriors, all Manatee County high school grads, who were killed in Iraq:
Christopher Cobb.
Scott Dougherty.
John L. Hartman Jr.
Paul Mardis Jr.
Christopher North.
Justin Schmidt.
They, too, were the boys next door.
Read more Saturday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Who needs gardeners when there are moose?

Aaron Lenox has some memorable first impressions of Anchorage, Alaska.
The Bradenton Christian and Furman University grad was there on business for a medical software company and was eating breakfast in his hotel when the building started shaking.
It was only a 3.0-plus earthquake.
Later, while working at Providence Alaska Medical Center, he spotted a pair of moose prance through the parking lot and begin dining on a hospital flower bed.
Aaron is the youngest of Ed and Joanne Dick’s eight children.

Elaine Tiberini, an administrative assistant in regional chancellor Arthur Guilford’s office at USF Sarasota-Manatee, is recovering from a double knee replacement.
Her co-workers miss her, say get fit and get back.

Florida Atlantic University senior Austin Jensen had withdrawal symptoms Wednesday watching the Owls' first full contact practice.
The ex-Manatee Hurricane all-state linebacker’s football career was cut short by a head injury he suffered from a 2010 car accident in which he was a passenger.
The ex-FAU safety wanted one more shot.
“If I could’ve, I would’ve borrowed somebody’s helmet and pads, hit somebody for just one play, then given back the gear and said, thank you," Austin said.
He gets his bachelors in exercise science in December and plans to pursue a masters in it, too.

The Philadelphian, a great sandwich shop run by the Charles McCullough family, closed its doors at 6086 14th St. W., but is supposed to reopen elsewhere.
Charlie, let us know!

Last and definitely not least, Julia and Brian Schultz were getting ready to leave a Biloxi, Miss., casino when they were told their return flight was delayed.
So the Bradenton couple got comped for their trouble.
Then Brian sat down at a slot machine and — bingo! — hit the jackpot.
How much?
Put it this way. In all the excitement, they almost missed the flight, but Brian didn’t care.
He’d won enough to easily spring for a couple of plane tickets home.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Monday, August 8, 2011

Familiar tune means ice cream man cometh

The ice cream truck cruised through our subdivision Sunday afternoon about the usual time.

I couldn't tell whether any of our neighborhood kids were responding to its presence, but it always gets my attention.

Scott Joplin's wonderful piano rag, "The Entertainer," the catchy theme to "The Sting" is the ice cream truck's melody.

It reminds me of the ice cream guy we call "the Cappuccino Man" at Surf City, N.J.

There are a few other vendors who come to the beach near our rental on 25th Street, ring some sort of bells and draw a couple of customers.

Not the Cappuccino Man.

A burly 60ish guy who's a roofer the rest of the year, when he walks onto the beach he rings a big ol' firetruck's bell:


It sets off a cavalry charge of people running up the hot sand.

Adults included.

Like me.

It's a funny scene that plays out every day, a slice of summer vacation yearly.

A pleasant memory, for sure, once that returns every Sunday afternoon when I hear "The Sting" playing over and over in our subdivision.

I may have to check it out next time.

Get my wife some ice cream, too.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Cadillac SUV for SCF? Bad idea

Say I’m the president of the State College of Florida.

Enrollment is down.

Tuition is going up.

Ditto for fees and school expenses.

Beyond the campus, the local economy isn’t doing so well, either, what with 11 percent unemployment in the community the school is supposed to be serving.

Know something?

I’m thinking that including the school’s request for a new 2011 Cadillac Escalade SUV for executive use in the same budget that also contains the tuition hike is not a very good idea.

In fact, it is a very bad idea.

Maybe hanging onto the 2008 Lexus 400H with 73,000 miles would be the smart thing to do.

Show the community we’re being prudent with their tax dollars.

Evidently, that quaint notion never dawned on SCF president Lars Hafner or any of his minions within the administration who were aware of this outrageous proposal.

Read more Sunday in Mannix About Manatee on

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wrestling coaches honor departed Hurricane

Mike Kelly
The late, great Mike Kelly, who poured his heart and soul into Manatee Hurricane football and wrestling for 20 years, will be inducted Saturday into the Florida chapter of the National Association of Wrestling Coaches and honored with a “Lifetime Service to Wrestling” award at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort.
Kelly passed in June 2006. He was 56.
If you’d like join widow Belinda Kelly, son John and the folks going to Orlando for the ceremony, call MHS wrestling coach Andy Gugliemini at 720-0309.

Ashley Bower
Big ups to Ashley Bower, a Lakewood Ranch alum and 2009 USF secondary education grad who is bound for Columbia University where she’ll work toward a masters as a reading specialist.
Proud parents Debra and Vince will miss her.

Katie Hillman’s Southeast High Nolettes strutted their stuff at Univeral Dance Association camp at USF.
Led by UDA All-Americans Michelle Donato and Haley Parker, both co-captains, and Meg Rivera and Margaret Sanchez-Joynt, Nolettes Taylor Chesley, Cat Cropsey, Kenyetta McDonald, Neha Pathak and Nuri Salahuddin won superior trophies for home routine and routine evaluations, finished third overall and qualified for UDA nationals in February.

Bradenton’s Chris Perez, an American League All-Star reliever is on the cover of  this week’s USA Today Sports Weekly, featuring the Cleveland Indians young bullpen. Perez converted 22 of his first 24 save opportunities this season and saved 32 of his last 34 going back to last season.

Read more Friday in Vin's People on

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer heat, humidity transplant's penance

How are you holding up in this heat? a friend's email began.

Fine, I wrote back.

After 40 years living in Florida I've gotten used to our summer heat and humidity for the most  part.

Doesn't mean I like it, but I am used to it.

You won't find me out in it very long, is all.

The only time that happens nowadays is when yours truly is doing yardwork.

Wore a broad-brimmed hat, a long sleeve shirt and drank plenty of water late last Sunday morning edging and trimming for a couple of hours before jumping into the pool.

Then I cut the grass Wednesday evening after dinner, took a long shower and I'm still sweating.

It's worth it, getting that chore out of the way, humidity or no.

Which reminds me of something a former colleague, a fellow Yankee transplant, once said about dealing with Florida summers in the proper frame of mind:

"This is our penance for not having to shovel snow."

Amen, brother. Amen.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Waiting, watching hurricane websites

The waiting and watching has begun.

The hurricane watch, that is.

A tropical system begins stirring out yonder in the Atlantic Ocean and yours truly dials up the National Hurricane Center website and every other website I can find.

Every five minutes.

It started in earnest last Saturday and hasn't let up.

I can't help it.

What gets me is every time I've gone to the NHC website, the system is still a red circle without the proverbial "Cone of Death."

That includes Monday with the red circle creeping closer into the eastern Caribbean.

Having honeymooned down there 16 months ago, I think about those beautiful islands and their people whenever the words "Leeward Islands," are used in the tropical weather conversation.

Finally saw some "spaghetti models" that look like an octopus tentacles reaching out for the Florida peninsula.

The waiting and watching continues.