In the late 1980s in Costa Rica, my Spanish language teacher was trying to convey ‘juego’, or game. She gave what she thought was a huge clue. She tapped her finger on a picture taped on the wall: a man kicking a soccer ball. I had no idea. So a whisper: Maradona. Huh? She switched to English – which she never did – so she could be sure about this. Did I really not know who Diego Maradona was? I didn’t. She was speechless. But if it had been a picture of Pelé, I’d have got it right off the bat.
I thought of this while listening to an interview on CBC’s Day 6 with the makers of the film Pelé. It will be released Tuesday on Netflix. I’ve known who Pelé is since I was a kid, but I wasn’t a soccer fan. Why, I’ve wondered.
Maybe it’s because Pelé is one of the pantheon of athletes we all know. Famous names like Muhammed Ali, Mickey Mantle, Secretariat. But baseball, boxing and horse racing have long been part of North American sports popular culture. Soccer not so much. Until Pelé.
The Beautiful Game
His career was in Brazil. Pelé played for the Santos team from 1956 to 1974 and, of course, on the national team. Brazil won the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Pelé retired in 1974. Then he returned to play with the New York Cosmos in 1975. And brought soccer to the USA.
I can’t remember for sure, but maybe that’s when I first knew of Pelé. Maybe a soccer player struck a chord for me because, in school, the only time I actually looked forward to Phys Ed was when we played soccer. It was only a few brief weeks sandwiched between baseball and basketball. Those team sports were nightmarish hells. But somehow soccer was different. It was fun!
I never played soccer again and, obviously, didn’t become a fan. But, maybe due to my good experience with the game, Pelé had engrained himself in my brain. Maradona did too after my language class, and I understood why my teacher was so astonished.
I have become a World Cup soccer fan. Thanks to a friend who did a play-by-play for me during the 1998 World Cup games, every four years I pick my teams and settle in to watch and cheer and cry. So thanks, Pelé. You made the game more beautiful.
When I hear the name John Prine, I think of Rwanda in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. Yesterday, John Prine died from Covid-19. Yesterday was also the 26th anniversary of the start of that 100 days of slaughter in Rwanda.
So yesterday morning on CBC Radio, I listened to Lt.-Gen. (Ret.) Roméo Dallaire talk about Rwanda. He also talked about the threat right now of the coronavirus and its possible long term psychological effects. Later, at the end of the day, I heard that John Prine had died. A circle come around.
Both these things made me think of Radio CFRK. That was the small radio station that UN peacekeepers set up in Amahoro Stadium in Kigali. One watt, enough to be heard throughout the city. I spent time in the makeshift studio with the DJ for the Downhomer show. Each province had its time slot and its DJs. They aired the music they liked.
Big Old Goofy World – Live in Kigali!
The Downhomer’s Newfoundland DJ liked John Prine. I taped him doing a mock interview with John Prine, doing both voices himself – “Live in Kigali.” Then he sang along, off air, as he played “Big Old Goofy World.” Fitting for the place and time.
It was the first time I’d ever heard John Prine, and I liked what I heard. So when I heard Mr. Prine was ill and hospitalized, like everyone who was a fan, I felt sad for a great songwriter. And I thought of that little radio station and the soldiers who tried to keep spirits up by playing music they figured their fellow soldiers and the people of Kigali might like.
Gen. Dallaire knows first hand the trauma of conflict, of trying to provide services and broker reconciliation. He was not in Rwanda when I was there, a few months after the genocide ended. But I remember the respect with which he was mentioned by the troops who were there with him, as well as those who came later.
It’s a big old goofy world again. A different kind of goofy, different kind of danger. I’m sorry that this one took John Prine from his family and all of us. But I like to think of the solace and enjoyment that he gave at another time of danger. Thank you, Mr. Prine. Thanks also to Gen. Dallaire and to the soldiers who built and staffed CFRK in your off duty time.
Thanks to the Canadian Armed Forces, regular and reservists, for your help in this crisis at home. We’re all singing along with John Prine now.
Nearly a year ago, I bruised my heel. So I thought. When it didn’t stop hurting, I went to my doctor. Plantar Fasciitis, he said. What’s that, I said.
The plantar fascia is a band of tissue on the sole of your foot, connecting your heel to your toes. If it tears or gets inflamed, you feel excruciating pain in the bottom of your heel. There is no sure-fire treatment for it.
My doctor recommended a) a Strassburg sock, b) stay off your feet and c) wait. Other treatments, he said, are custom-made insoles, cortisone shots and surgery. He didn’t think they were worth even considering. Wear the Strassburg sock while you sleep, and have patience. It can take 3 or 4 months or longer to heal.
After 4 months and no real relief, I started looking for other remedies or accommodations. Almost everyone I met said they’d had plantar fasciitis or knew someone who had. So from those people and googling, here’s my suggestions. They are in addition to my now well-worn Strassburg sock and well-worn patience.
Buy compression sleeves. They are kind of half socks that put pressure on the middle of your foot. It feels good by keeping your arch up. Before I found one, I used stretchy vet tape. Just wrapped it around my arch and heel, tight enough to feel the pressure from it. Then I bought KT tape and watched a video on how to apply it. Both worked well. Whether tape or compression sleeves, just wear under your regular socks.
Insoles and shoes – crucial to your mobility. I bought Dr Scholl’s plantar fasciitis insoles. They have arch support and a cushioned heel. I wear them in my slippers but you could also put them in your shoes. People have told me that they had orthotic arch supports custom made and they were worth every penny they cost. That’s likely my next move.
Running shoes. The big, multi-coloured type made by Nike or Reebok. I never normally wear them, but I had to have comfortable shoes. And they are! Lightweight, with arch support and cushioned soles.
Riding boots. Cowboy boots or English paddock boots. Both have good arch support and soles. Don’t buy boots designed to look like riding boots. Go to a tack shop and buy real ones. I cleaned up my Mountain Horse winter paddock boots for public wear.
A frozen water bottle gives pain relief as well as therapeutic movement of the plantar tendon. Put it on the floor, put your foot on it and roll it back and forth.
A foot massage ball works too. I don’t have one, but I do have a dog’s rough plastic squeaky ball. Same procedure as with the frozen water bottle. Just don’t press too hard or it squeaks!
Lift your foot off the ground and do the alphabet with it. Making the letters ensures a broad range of movement and muscle stretching.
4. Minimize walking
A step counter might be handy – in reverse of its usual purpose. Got to go upstairs? Wait until you have an armload to take up as well as to bring down. When you’re running errands do only as many as your foot will allow. Sit and rest your foot, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Take your frozen water bottle with you.
So how do you get around?
Getting around town or a work place all day? I don’t know. Maybe a walking stick to take pressure off your foot? A scooter or Segway that lets you move without walking?
My biggest problem was getting to the barn. No huge distance, but it feels it when your heel hurts. Once there, you’re in too much pain to do anything. And you still have to get back. So I got a bicycle. Pedalling doesn’t bother your heel because it’s the middle of your foot pushing on the pedal.
Snow makes a problem, however. Cross-country skis are too unwieldy. Snowshoes put the same pressure on your heel as walking. So I’m experimenting with snow blades – adapting the bindings for my boots or attaching the blades to the bicycle frame. And an ATV works.
I read you should use painkillers sparingly. They mask the pain, so you’ll do more than you should and therefore do more damage. Use them only at night. But if I’ve had to do more than I should and the pain is bad, an extra strength Tylenol or Advil does the trick. But remember you took the pill and don’t push yourself!
Will Plantar Fasciitis go away?
A neighbour said that, after many months, “I woke up one day and the pain was gone.” Another friend still does the foot exercises every day even after his plantar fasciitis seemed cured. Because it can come back.
I’m waiting for the day when poof, it’s gone. But until then, I have to rethink how I get from point A to B – literally. And deal with foot pain without doping myself up to the eyeballs. These tricks and products have made it much more tolerable.
On this day in 1965 Newfoundland Premier Joseph R. Smallwood proclaimed June 17th Portugal Day in the province. It was at the Confederation Building when the Portuguese Fisheries Organization presented a statue of the 15th century explorer Gaspar Corte-Real to Newfoundland. At the ceremony, Joey spoke about the bond between two peoples, two nations.
“Newfoundlanders have a deep affection and a great deal of respect for the people and country of Portugal. We intend every year to have Portugal Day. It will always be a simple ceremony.
And we hope that it will be attended always by Portuguese people and they will join with Newfoundlanders here at this monument, this statue that was given to Newfoundland by Portugal. For a few minutes once every year we will remind ourselves of the long and honourable friendship that has existed between our two maritime countries, our two fishing countries.
And remind ourselves too that whatever other industries there may come to Portugal and to Newfoundland, the fisheries continue, they go on, they continue to be important to both of us.”
National interests – multiplied
But by 1965 Newfoundland was part of Canada, something Joey had fought hard for. So it was no longer Newfoundland and Portugal talking; it was Canada and Portugal. When Portugal joined the EU in 1986, it was Canada and the whole of Europe. Diverse industries and interests, with Portugal and the Grand Bank fishery just one small part.
In 1986 Canada banned Portuguese vessels from entering Canadian ports after a dispute over illegal fishing. No more coming into St. John’s to refuel and resupply. Or play soccer on the waterfront, shop on Water Street, go to bars and restaurants. Play music. Visit friends and family.
Newfoundlanders and Portuguese
Tony Charana, a retired trawler captain from Buarcos: “For Portuguese to arrive in St. John’s is like arriving home.”
For him, that’s especially true. His wife was born and raised in St. John’s.
Irene Fleming Charana: “When I was small and went shopping with my mother downtown – the fishing clothes on and the long boots and everything like that, I was afraid of them. But I remember my mother saying she felt sorry for them because they were so far away from home. Little did she know that I’d end up marrying one!
Tony: “Now – I have my family. But I go to St. John’s like a tourist.”
Their friend Valdemar Aviero, another retired captain, felt it was a betrayal of history as well as friendship:
“At least thirty years before Columbus and John Cabot, João Corte-Real was there and named the land Land of Codfish. Terra do Bacalhau. 1463.”
Terra do Bacalhau
Vasco Garcia, a University of the Azores professor and former member of the EU Parliament:
“That instinct of being an ocean-goer five centuries ago with the feeling of possessing the sea: this is so hard for someone who has imprinted this, when they look to the fishing grounds of Newfoundland. For cod is called in Portugal the faithful friend, fiel amigo. It’s in the gastronomy. One cannot have Christmas in Portugal without bacalhau cozido – boiled cod – and bacalhau com batata – cod with potatoes. So cutting the Portuguese from these kind of roots is very painful. Not even from an economic point of view, but also from the heart – chromosomic, historical. It’s almost as if you are cutting the roots of the tree.“
A young inshore fisherman in Buarcos, José, wishing he could fish on the Grand Banks:
“It’s my life. Because it’s in my blood. My family is working on the ocean all the time, you know.”
There’s long been an ex-pat Portuguese community in Newfoundland. But it’s also like there is – or was – a big Newfoundland outport in Portugal. They are the people Joey Smallwood was talking about, I think. The Portuguese, and Newfoundlanders, who looked forward every year to the arrival in St. John’s of the fishing fleet. Newfoundlanders like Art Stoyles:
“I used to go down with me accordion waiting for them to come in. So they docked and they’d be off. They had their music, mandolins and whatever. One day, this buddy come up over the hill, ya know, with a great big accordion. I heard the music and said, where in the hell is that comin’ from! That’s beautiful. This guy had a big accordion – five rows of buttons. He was on the Gil Eannes, this guy. He was a captain, right. And boy, he had some outfit there. It had more bass on it than the poles on Water Street! Anyway, we played. He played a few tunes and I taped them off. After, I learned that Portuguese song.”
The huge cod stock that gave the name Land of Codfish to the island of Newfoundland has been overfished to near extinction. Still, salt cod remains “the roots of the tree” for both Portuguese and Newfoundlanders. And the relationship between the two peoples goes on too. So here is Art’s “Portuguese Waltzes” on this, Newfoundland’s 54th Portugal Day. Let’s celebrate this “long and honourable friendship”.
Richard Simas wrote a book about how The Portuguese Waltzes became part of Newfoundland’s music. It’s illustrated by Caroline Clarke. (2019, tap image for Amazon). Also see his article in the Summer 2019 Newfoundland Quarterly.
The quotes in this post come from CBC archives for Premier Smallwood, and from interviews I recorded in 1995 for a radio documentary.
Today, the 88th day of the year, is Piano Day. So CBC Radio q told me. One or another piano has kept me company almost all my life. And one very battered music book.
My sister bought Boogie-Woogie Land when she took piano lessons. So her playing was my introduction to boogie-woogie. That, and the book. There was a lot in it. The notes themselves – you could hear the music just by looking at them. Photos of glamorous people in Cafe Society nightclubs in New York City. And a short history of boogie-woogie and explanation of its techniques.
Many years later, on Holger Petersen’s Saturday Night Blues, I heard Meade Lux Lewis play Pine Top’s Boogie-Woogie. Wow. Lifted me right out of my music book. I didn’t know you could do that with ten fingers and 88 keys.
Sammy Price dedicated his music book “to all those who feel a tingle up and down their spines when the strains of boogie-woogie are to be heard.” Here’s some of its story that he told.
The Birth of Boogie-Woogie
On many occasions I have been referred to as one of the third generation boogie-woogie pianists… The first song that I ever learned to play on the piano was a blues. Even before that I recall a strange melody… Its title was “The Livery Stable Blues.”…
Perhaps the reader is wondering why I have mentioned the blues. Let me explain that this is the basic foundation of boogie-woogie… The same chord structure used in playing blues may be used in boogie-woogie fashion by utilizing a repeated bass movement in the left hand and playing the melodic strain of a composition with the basic chords of the blues as a guide…
I believe it was originated by a piano player named Clarence Smith, who was perhaps better known as Pine-top Smith… He knew that when he took a strain of the blues and played this repeated bass, a new effect would be achieved. This he called boogie-woogie.
I have talked to a man named J. Mayo Williams, who is particularly familiar with Pine-top’s recordings. Williams met Pine-top in the middle Twenties and soon realized that here was something new and important in the field of blues and jazz. A series of conferences were held and in 1928 the first records were waxed in Chicago. On this historic day Pine-top talked continuously during the recordings to a mythical character in a red dress…
Barney Josephson then opened Cafe Society Downtown in New York City and with his customary foresight he engaged Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis and others who were top-notch at both the blues and boogie-woogie. Then came an event that thrilled some and shocked others; the first jazz concert at Carnegie Hall. Despite the fact that many of the critics were completely without understanding of this new music form, the recital was a success and boogie-woogie at last became respectable…
Here, thanks to YouTube, is that 1928 recording of Clarence Smith playing his Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie and telling the woman in the red dress to “shake that thing”. Oh yes, this is your grandma’s piano.
On the road to St. Martins in southern New Brunswick you see a sign in a clearing on a corner. Willow Grove Black Settlement Burial Ground, it says. Behind it is a large cross and a tiny church. You stop to take a look.
This small meadow marks the memory of a once vibrant community, the Willow Grove Black Settlement. Its significance goes beyond local history, to the War of 1812 between Canada and the United States as well as slavery in the US.
The tiny church is a scaled-down replica of one that stood there a hundred years ago. Looking in the windows, you see photographs of what that church looked like, and the community around it. Also notices and papers pertaining to the settlers and land grants of 200 years ago.
The cemetery is beside the church but there are no longer any individual grave markers. Two large granite markers tell you the history of the site and the settlement.
The settlers at Willow Grove were African-Americans who escaped the United States during the War of 1812. Royal Navy Commander Alexander Cochrane invited them: “…they will have their choice of either entering into His Majesty’s Sea or Land Forces, or of being sent as FREE settlers to the British Possessions in North America or the West Indies…”
A Proclamation, 2 April 1814
So slaves took him up on this offer. Some joined the British armed forces, in a newly formed Corps of Colonial Marines. About 4000 people left the Chesapeake Bay area in 1815 on British vessels. Many went to Nova Scotia, others to Trinidad. But nearly 400 came to Saint John in New Brunswick on HMS Regulus.
The new settlers received grants of land east of Saint John. Each grant was about half the size of those given to white settlers who also came. The land was less arable and farther away from the desirable Saint John River Valley. Still, they made a community here at Willow Grove. They farmed, ran businesses and raised families. They built a school and the church.
Over the following century, the community dispersed. The church burned down in 1931, grave markers in the cemetery disappeared. Only the cleared field where they stood remained.
But in the 1980s, descendants of the Willow Grove settlement brought back their history. They built the tiny church, using photos of the original. The sign and cross tell passersby what this place was, invite you to stop. Invite you to feel the lives lived there.
Our landline was not working. So my husband calls BellAliant. Customer service representatives are all busy, would you like a call back? Thank you very much, he thought, and pressed the number for yes. Bell called back, a technician will come next day.
The technician came and fixed the line outside. He explained the problem clearly and said if it happens again, call. Ok, and thanks. Great service.
Then a call from BellAliant, a recorded customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who placed the call, the recorded voice asked. I pressed the number for no. We will call back, the voice responded. Recorded voice did call back and my husband answered its questions. That’s the end of it, we thought.
The phone bill arrived. A charge for a “Call Trace” – $5. No date, no number, nothing explaining what this was. So a call to BellAliant to ask. It means a call back, the customer service representative said. You used the menu option to receive a call back from someone you called.
Undisclosed service fee
The only call back we had asked for was our call to BellAliant. To fix the phone service that they provide us. An option in their phone menu, but with no warning that a charge will apply for using it.
Then it is listed on the bill with no details of when or to whom the “Call Trace” was made. They must know – they’re the phone company! And, in this case, it was made to them, to report a problem with their service.
The day after making that call to BellAliant, the phone rings. It’s the recorded voice from BellAliant, a customer satisfaction survey. Are you the person who made the call, it asked me. I hadn’t been, but I said I was. I now know it’s the only way to make them stop calling.
It was a short survey. The service representative did her job well, the wait to get through wasn’t long. So BellAliant can tick the box for a happy customer experience. However, there was no opportunity to give the reason for the call in the first place.
They tape the calls they receive. So they can tell on the spot if a customer is satisfied or not. I’d like to call them again, and talk to a real human, to tell them why we called in the first place. A problem with the service we pay them to provide. But it would only generate another automated customer satisfaction survey call from them!
Ernestine the telephone operator would be proud. Ma Bell is still Ma Bell.
Swiss Chalet in Saint John, two 20-something women with a toddler each and one infant. Four full meals. One child picks at his food, the other has eaten all he wants. One woman eats her meal, the other appears to be done. All the plates are still full. Side dishes, most still full, been pushed away.
One toddler goes exploring, over to the next table. He reaches as high as he can and pulls napkins and cutlery off. The woman sitting there smiles and talks to him. The child’s mother doesn’t notice what is happening two feet away. Her head is down, over her cell phone. She is reading and texting. The other woman doesn’t notice either. She is chewing french fries and talking on her phone.
Finally the child’s mother looks up to see where he is. “Come back here Randy” she says and apologizes to the couple. They say it’s ok, they have a grandchild the same age. Randy sits in his chair. Mom goes back to texting.
The other mother goes to the washroom, baby carrier in one hand and phone held against her ear with the other. She returns, still talking on her phone. Both women continue texting and talking to people who are not in the restaurant.
Randy climbs down from his chair and goes to yet another table to pull things down and hang off restaurant patrons’ legs. Occasionally, his mother looks up from her screen to see where he is. Sometimes she gets up to retrieve him. He screeches when she demands he sit still. She goes back to her texting and reading.
Waiters head over, bearing birthday cake with a sparkler. They surround the table, clap and sing to the other little boy, who has stayed quietly in his chair. His mother continues talking on the phone, glancing up as they finish to say thank you. Then she returns to her call. The other woman texts throughout the entire thing. Birthday kid eats his cake and looks confused. The waiters are gone and everyone at his table is back to ignoring him. Randy screeches, baby sleeps, moms talk and text on their phones.
Randy’s mom looks up long enough to realize he is tired and is not going to shut up. “Ok, I’m taking you outside” she says. She puts her phone in her purse, gathers both boys up and leaves. Randy screeches all the way. The other mother puts her phone down and gets the baby ready to go. She asks for boxes for some of the food. Thank heavens, there is enough left to feed them all for another day. While she waits for the bill, she talks to her baby and to the couple sitting beside her, apologizing for her nephew bothering them. “It’s ok,” they too say, “we have grandchildren that age.”
Thankfully, Randy hadn’t made it to our table. While the child’s behaviour was understandable, if not desirable, that of the mothers was not. Talking neither to each other nor their children, engaged solely with people somewhere else. We were fascinated by it and repulsed. Happy birthday, little boy. You deserve better than what you got.
Five years later
I wrote this the day after it happened five years ago because I needed to cleanse my mind of this hideous family outing. I didn’t post it then though. Maybe it was just a “when I was young” old fogey complaint. Everyone had a cell phone, and always seemed to be on it doing something. Part of life. But others still talk about the omnipresence of phones, even little kids. The kid who wrote this widely-shared essay would be about the same age as the two little boys in Swiss Chalet.
A big chestnut colt won the Belmont Stakes on Saturday. Five weeks ago, Justify won the Kentucky Derby. Three weeks ago, he won the Preakness. So he won the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred horse racing. It’s the second Triple Crown in three years, also second Triple Crown in forty years.
The jockey of another big chestnut colt was there watching Justify do it. Ron Turcotte could see the blue and white pole at the side of the track. It is 31 lengths from the finish line, marking the distance by which he and Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont, and the Triple Crown. No horse ever has matched that margin (76 metres) or Secretariat’s track record time.
But Justify won the extraordinarily long race, at 1 1/2 miles, wire to wire. He was first out of the gate, and he kept his lead. For what felt like a long, long time, all the other horses were keeping up with him, just back a bit. Keeping up but not increasing their speed. Still, I was terrified. Someone was going to go into overdrive somewhere in that last half- or quarter-mile. “Pull him back, Mike, he’s got to save something for the stretch.”
Justify 1st, Gronkowski last to 2nd
Mike Smith knows more about riding horses than I do. Justify did have something left. He pulled ahead a bit right near the end, finishing 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Gronkowski. That order of finish was a total surprise. Gronkowski was a long shot who wasn’t even near the pack for much of the race. And then he flew past horses to the front, almost. If you’d bet that unlikely combination, you’d have made some real money.
Justify is the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown in its 99 year history. His name and silks join theirs in the small field at Belmont Park honouring the winners. The silks of red with yellow stars belong to the China Horse Club, co-owners of Justify. In the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, he wore the colours of WinStar Farms, the other owners in the partnership.
With luck, we’ll see Justify run again this year. Maybe the Travers Stakes at Saratoga in August and the Breeders’ Cup in November at Churchill Downs. In 2015 American Pharoah won the Breeders’ Cup but finished behind Keen Ice in the Travers.
Justify is the son of Scat Daddy and Stage Magic. He has a lot of Northern Dancer in him, through both parents. 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew is his mother’s great-great-grandsire. A generation back from there on his dad’s side, there’s Big Red, Secretariat. Another few generations back and you’ll see the original Big Red, the big chestnut champion Man o’ War.
Known best as “the girl in the car”, Mary Jo Kopechne had a promising career as a political worker in Washington. She was idealistic and enthusiastic – the sort of person you want to see in public service. Then she died at Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts on July 18, 1969. The car she was in, driven by Sen. Edward Kennedy, went off a bridge. He survived. The next week, she would have celebrated her 29th birthday.
Mary Jo was born July 26, 1940 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Joseph and Gwen (Jennings) Kopechne. Her grandfathers were coal miners. Her family had been in the Wyoming Valley of north-eastern Pennsylvania for 250 years.
Soon after she was born, her parents moved to New Jersey. She graduated from that state’s Caldwell College for Women in 1962 with a business and education degree.
After graduation, Mary Jo moved to Alabama. There she taught school at the City of St. Jude, a Roman Catholic mission in Montgomery. From its establishment in 1938, it served both black and white community members.
St. Jude was put in the spotlight in March 1965 when it opened its grounds and doors for the march from Selma to Montgomery. Harry Belafonte organized and paid for a concert there that last night of the march. The “Stars for Freedom” rally included Mahalia Jackson, Odetta, Joan Baez, Sammy Davis Jr., and many more.
White parents didn’t like the attention this gave the school so they pulled their kids out. Just as it had become de facto integrated, St. Jude became de facto segregated.
Mary Jo had left Montgomery by then. She moved to Washington where she worked as a secretary for Florida Democratic Senator George Smathers. A year or so later, she began work for Sen. Robert Kennedy.
During Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, she was one of six aides called the Boiler Room Girls. They compiled and analyzed data and intelligence on primary delegate voting probabilities.
After Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Mary Jo left Washington. She was devastated by the loss of the man who represented the ideals of social justice in which she so strongly believed. But she didn’t leave politics. She moved to Colorado to work as the campaign strategist for the former Governor’s Senate campaign. Then she returned to Washington. She worked for a political consulting company, one of the first, organizing campaigns at all levels of office.
She kept in touch with friends from Robert Kennedy’s office. The party in Chappaquiddick was a reunion of the Boiler Room Girls. Ted Kennedy was the host, and he left the party with Ms. Kopechne.
One week after her death, Kennedy appeared in court. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily injury. The judge suspended the mandatory jail time, saying Kennedy “has already been, and will continue to be punished far beyond anything this court can impose.”
“A man does what he must…”
Later that night on television, Ted Kennedy quoted from his brother John F. Kennedy’s book Profiles in Courage. He said, in part:
A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressure… Each man must decide for himself the course he will follow… For this, each man must look into his own soul. [NY Daily News July 27, 1969]
An odd – even audacious – choice in light of the circumstances. Legal charges, an ongoing investigation and controversy about his actions the night of the accident. However, his words somehow close the circle of the Kennedy decade.
The youngest, and only surviving, son quoting the elder brother who ushered in the 1960s. Such hope, dashed by assassination. Then his brother Robert assassinated, another loss of hope. The decade ended with this third tragedy, the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. An accident, but a messy and mysterious one. She was not a Kennedy, but her life was entwined with theirs in terms of her beliefs and work. Her death also.
Ted, his wife Joan and Robert Kennedy’s widow Ethel attended Mary Jo’s funeral in Pennsylvania. Joan, who was pregnant at the time, later miscarried. Joseph and Gwen Kopechne moved back to Pennsylvania. They received a settlement of $141,000 from Kennedy’s insurance. Joseph died in 2003 and Gwen in 2007.
The movie Chappaquiddick is now, or soon will be, in a theatre near you.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.