Monday, July 30, 2012

USS Indianapolis

     On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis (CA-34) was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Pacific and sank within 12 minutes in shark-infested waters. Of a crew that totaled 1,196, only 317 survived.
     Four days earlier the USS Indianapolis had delivered critical parts of the first atomic bomb to Tinian Island. The mission was top secret and most of the crew did not know the real identity of the cargo that was carried. After leaving Tinian Island, the heavy cruiser had orders to meet the battleship USS Idaho in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines for the invasion of Japan.
     Halfway between Guam and Leyte Gulf, after midnight on July 30, a Japanese torpedo struck and split the ship in two with a tremendous explosion. About 300 men were trapped inside the ship, while another 900 jumped or crawled overboard into the sea. Many died from drowning, shark attacks, injuries from the explosion and exhaustion. The survivors were in the water four days before help arrived.
      The United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Sixty percent of the city was destroyed and there were about 130,000 casualties. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on  August 9, 1945.
     After the rescue of the USS Indianapolis survivors, the ship's captain, Charles McVay, was court-martialed for failing to steer a zigzag course and avoid enemy submarines in the area. McVay was the only Navy commander to be court-martialed for losing a ship during WW2. After the court-martial, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz remitted Captain McVay's sentence and restored him to active duty. McVay retired in 1949. During a period of depression, he committed suicide in 1968. Surviving crew members, for the most part, believed that Captain McVay had been made a scapegoat for the tragic sinking of the ship.
     In October 2000, 55 years after the USS Indianapolis was sunk, Congress cleared Captain McVay's name. President Clinton signed the resolution. In the following year, 2001, the Secretary of the Navy ordered McVay's record cleared of all wrongdoing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Before Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez, There Was Broadway Joe

     Incentive? The achievements of the 1969 (Super Bowl III) Jets can serve as an incentive for today's New York Jets.

     View Joe Namath montage at New York Jets official website:

     View Joe Namath interviewed by Ed Sullivan in 1969 on YouTube:

     New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969. Watch the game on hulu:

     Tebow Beefcake:

     Cortland Contrarian Welcomes New York Jets

Friday, July 27, 2012

Who Am I? (Number 10)

     I was born in Homer, New York on November 7, 1832. I learned to read by age four in an unusual way.
     The colored servant who had charge of me wished to learn to read--so she slipped into the school and took me with her. 
     I clearly recall arithmetic and geography at school and at home, and playing with other children in the woods and streams and on the village green in Homer. I remember when I and other children stormed or defended snow forts or shot arrows on the village green for entertainment.
     If any old settler happened to pass during our snow-balling or shooting with bows and arrows, he was sure to look on with interest, and, at some good shot, to cry out,--Shoot Burgoyne!--thus recalling his remembrances of the sharpshooters who brought about the great surrender at Saratoga.
     In the early years of the century, my paternal grandfather was the richest man in the township. Tragically, sometime before my birth he had become one of the poorest. A fire consumed his mills, there was no life insurance, and his health gave way. This calamity took my father out of school. He met the emergency with courage and determination, and was soon known far and wide for his energy, ability, integrity and business acumen. Long before he had reached middle age, he was considered one of the leading men of business in the county.
     My mother had a more serene career....Her father prospered as a man of business, was known as Colonel and also as Squire, and represented his county in the State Legislature. He died when I was about three years old....On one account, above all others, I have looked back to him with pride. For the first public care of the settlers had been a church, and the second a school. This school had been speedily developed into Cortland Academy, which soon became famous throughout that region, and, as a boy or five or six of age, I was very proud to read on the cornerstone of the academy building my grandfather's name among those of the original founders.
     My family moved to Syracuse when I was seven years old. My father opened a new bank in Syracuse. I studied at private and public schools, and graduated from academy at age seventeen.
     My family was Episcopalian, so my father sent me to Geneva College [Hobart and Smith College] in Geneva, New York. One year later I dropped out. I pleaded with my father to send me to Yale. After a temporary estrangement between us, my father acquiesced to my request for a better school and I was soon a student at Yale.
     I attended Yale from 1849 to 1853. As a junior I won the Yale literary prize for best essay, beating seniors who usually got the award. I won the Clark prize for English disputation and the DeForest prize for public oratory. On 'Tap Day' I joined Skull and Bones, an undergraduate senior secret society at Yale.
     After graduation, along with classmate Daniel Gilman, I traveled and studied in Europe. I attended the Sorbonne, the College de France and the University of Berlin. I then served as translator for U. S. Ambassador Thomas Seymour in Russia. When I returned to the United States, I re-enrolled at Yale and obtained an M.A. in history and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 1856.
     In 1858 I joined the faculty at Michigan University as professor of history and English literature. I remained at Michigan U. until 1863, when I again traveled to Europe. The United States was engaged in a civil war and I lobbied France and England not to aid the Confederacy against the United States. I returned to Syracuse, New York for business and political interests that same year, and I was elected to the New York State Senate on the Union Party ticket. 
     In the New York State Senate I met Ezra Cornell, a farmer from Ithaca, New York, who had made a substantial fortune in the telegraph industry. Together we supported a land grant for a new university in New York State. In 1865, I introduced a bill to establish Cornell University on land owned by Senator Cornell in Ithaca. On April 27, 1865, the bill became law and Cornell University was fully endowed. I became the university's first president, also serving as professor of history.
     During my tenure at Cornell, my interests in the diplomatic field never waned. I served under President Grant on the Commission of Inquiry to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, and as Ambassador to Germany (1879-1881). I resigned as Cornell's president in 1885. Later I served as Minister to Russia (1892-1894), as president of the American delegation to the Hague Peace Conference in 1889, and again as Ambassador to Germany (1897-1902).
     I was author of History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896). At Cornell's founding, I announced that Cornell would be an asylum for science--where truth shall be sought for truth's sake, not stretched or cut exactly to fit Revealed Religion.
     I completed my autobiography in 1904, and it was published in 1904 and 1905. I donated more than $500,000 to Cornell University, and 4,000 books for the study of architecture.
     Following a long period of illness, I had a sudden stroke on October 26, 1918. I died at my home in Ithaca on November 4, 1918. My body was interred at Sage Chapel at the University of Cornell.
     My name is Andrew Dixon White.


1) Quotes, in italics, from Autobiography of Andrew Dixon White, published 1905, The Century Company. Free e-book download at Google books.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Obituary For Tax Relief

     Apparently readers of the Cortland Standard failed to notice or react to a misplaced obituary found on page 3 of the local newspaper, Saturday edition, July 21, 2012. Obituaries usually appear on page 2.
     According to Cortland County Administrator Martin Murphy, the people's fantasy called TAX RELIEF died and will be buried at the county landfill before the end of this year. There will be no calling hours. The burial will be public and open--no lid or cap on the coffin.
     TAX RELIEF has a pedigree that dates back to 1776, the year of the American Revolution. A recent Internet search of and shows that names of relatives were unavailable or non-existent from the year 1913 to the present.
     The county legislature suggests a familiar substitute for the departing fantasy called TAX RELIEF.  The legislature plans a minimum property tax increase of 3.3 percent, and an ad valorum tax, disguised as a special solid waste fee, to be assessed on all real estate in the county, including non-profit and tax exempt properties.
     The obituary did not include details about increased revenues from sales taxes and existing fees which can lower taxes. It did not explain why the concept of landfill profitability was abandoned. Also, it did not explain why the price of a shampoo and hair cut at King's Den on Tompkins Street did not increase.
     Starting next year, the county legislature will provide all the haircuts. Close shaves, or shearings, will be the specialty.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Who Am I? (Number 9)

     I was born in New York City on February 12, 1884. My mother was a banking heiress and my father was a New York State Assemblyman. My father had higher political ambitions and destiny would reward him in an astonishing turn of events.
     My mother died from acute kidney failure two days after I was born. My father was distraught. He placed me in care of his sister and moved to a ranch in North Dakota and travelled throughout the western United States for two years.
     I loved and admired my aunt. She was a special human being whose influence I felt my entire life.
     My father remarried in England in 1886. I was shuffled from one house to another after that.
     I suppose I was rather unpleasant as a child. I was pretty selfish and defiant from a very early age. Nobody spoiled me. I spoiled myself. I didn't do any of the nice and proper things expected of me.
     Frequent separation from my father--who was pursuing a political career--and an uneasy relationship with my step-mother, made me an independent and outspoken person. My step-mother was usually fair and she helped me obtain a broad literary education. She also had a sharp sense of humor, which she needed. She would have five children and me to manage and care for.
     I had very little formal education, which saved a lot of excitement for my later years. I'm really just inquisitive with a simian ability to catch on. My father read all the time, so I just followed his example.
     My father moved to Washington, D.C. in 1901 and took his family with him. Due to the nature of his new job, our family was hounded by the press and a curious public. I was seventeen years old, and in the mood for adventure. My father got most of the attention but I got some too. I smoked cigarettes in public, stayed out late at parties, and I was spotted placing a bet with a bookie.
     I guess I was different or trying to be different. I had a pet snake which I called Emily Spinach. It was as green as spinach and it was as thin as my aunt Emily. It was a garter snake. One day I found it dead in its box and I was suspicious and very angry. I thought someone killed it. I was upset for weeks.
     I and others in my father's political entourage had the good fortune to go on a diplomatic mission to Hawaii and Asia in 1905. I met my future husband on what would be called the Imperial Cruise. I also met the heads of state in China, Japan and Korea.
     When I returned to the United States, I was engaged to the exciting and energetic man I met on the cruise. We were married the following year. He was a congressman from Ohio and would later become Speaker of the House. After the wedding, we honeymooned in Cuba and Europe. I met the King of England, the Kaiser and other notables.
     My husband and I soon developed sharp political differences, which were made public in 1912. Our marriage began to unravel soon after he lost a bid for reelection. We stayed married, for appearances, until his death in 1931. He regained his seat in Congress after an absence of one term.
     My daughter, Paulina, was born on February 14, 1925. I wrote in my diary that her father was Senator William Borah. I had a long affair with the honorable senator. It was accepted and known in Washington, D.C. By the by, my husband wasn't an angel.
     After my husband died, I continued to reside on Embassy Row. I wrote an autobiography, Crowded Hours. Sales of the book helped me and Paulina through the Great depression. I also appeared in tobacco advertisements.
     I was active in Washington socially and politically. I attended Republican conventions. During the 1930's, I received the sobriquet "the other Washington Monument." I did not vote for FDR. I was a Republican. I voted for Hoover.
     My attitude toward politics and social justice changed in the 1960's. I voted for Nixon in 1960 but I really did like John F. Kennedy and his family. I also voted for Lyndon Johnson.
     The Kennedys were a fascinating, incredible outfit. There hadn't been anything like them since the Bonapartes. I had great fun with them, especially Jack. He loved to tease and he was very amusing. 
     When Richard Nixon came under fire for Watergate, I dropped my support for him. He was a personal friend of mine, but he quoted my father to make an excuse for his involvement in the Watergate Scandal and I abhorred that sleazy association with my father's quoted record.
     In 1965 my African-American chauffeur, Turner, was driving me to an appointment. He pulled in front of a taxi, and the taxi driver got out, came to the window of our car and said: "What do you think you're doing, you black bastard?" My driver took the insult calmly, but I got angry and shouted at the taxi driver: "He's taking me to an appointment, you white son of a bitch."
     I had a mastectomy after cancer was detected in one breast in 1955, and a second mastectomy on the other breast in 1970. Smoking did not help my health either. In 1960 I was diagnosed with emphysema. I attended the 1976 Bicentennial of the United States and met Queen Elizabeth II. We were photographed together. It was my last public appearance. I died in my home on Embassy Row on February 20, 1980. I was 96 years old.
     My name is Alice Roosevelt Longworth.


1) Quotes, in italics, from Mrs. L--Conversations with Alice Roosevelt Longworth by Michael Teague and published by Doubleday & Co.


3) June Bingham "Before the Colors Fade: Alice Roosevelt Longworth (February 1969,


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad's Phoebe Snow

     The Phoebe Snow was a lightweight streamlined DL&W train in service between Hoboken, New Jersey and Buffalo, New York from 1949 to 1963. It was styled and finished in maroon and grey--engine, passenger coaches, parlor cars, diners, observation lounge and caboose. A ferry across the Hudson river was used to connect to New York City. The DL&W Phoebe Snow was in competition with the New York Central to Buffalo.

     A contributor of history articles to the Cortland Contrarian rode the Phoebe Snow with his family in 1955 from Hoboken to Binghamton, New York. The family switched trains at Binghamton to arrive at the Central Avenue train station at Cortland, New York. Having slept through most of the trip, our contributor, who was about five years old at the time of the excursion, recalls little of the experience. His mother told him details about the trip years later.
     The Phoebe Snow could travel between Hoboken and Buffalo in eight hours, taking longer when frequent delays were added. The train passed over two historic landmarks, the New Jersey cutoff between Port Morris, New Jersey and Slateford, Pennsylvania, and the Nicholson-Hallstead cutoff in Pennsylvania. Both magnificent viaducts were made of reinforced concrete and stood high over the surrounding countryside.

                                                  Steamtown excursion train on Nicholson Viaduct

     Watch the train in motion and listen to a song made in tribute to the Phoebe Snow by songwriter and performer John LeBaron on YouTube. Click "skip ad" when prompted.
Marconi radio experiment in 1913 at Binghamton,N.Y.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cortland-Cincinnatus Branch, Erie and Central New York Railroad

                                                             USGS map of Erie and Central New York Railroad

     In 1870 a charter was granted to the "Utica, Chenango, and Cortland Railroad Co." to construct a railroad from Cortland to Cincinnatus. Bonds totaling $259,000 were sold to the townships through which the railroad would extend. The allotted funds were exhausted due to other expenses, and for 25 years the railroad bed was idle. The Erie & Central Railway Company purchased the project in 1891 and the lying of rails was started. The first passengers were carried on an excursion train in 1897 and were greeted by a large number of McGraw residents upon arrival of the train known as the "Gee Whiz", perhaps because the last stop before Cincinnatus was Gee Brook. According to a timetable dated Oct. 12, 1897, there were four daily trains running from Cortland to Cincinnatus and four trains making the return trip to Cortland. In its heyday, which was about 1901, the Cincinnatus branch carried 29,756 fares for that year. In 1913, the branch was leased to the Lackawanna and later the Erie & Central merged into the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

Mary Kimberly, Historian,
Village of McGraw
November 14, 2005


Western New York Railroad Archive statistics:
Station                               Mile

Cortland Station                    0
Cortland Junction                 .5
McGraw                              4.2
Maybury's                           5.5
Solon                                  8.4
East Freetown                  11.7
White's Mills                     15.1
Gee Brook                        16.6
Cincinnatus                      18.6

All mileage measured from Cortland.
Passenger service was discontinued January 16, 1939.
Abandonment was authorized September 26, 1961.
Operation was discontinued December 29, 1961.

Western New York Railroad Archive, with special thanks to Richard F. Palmer who provided information to archive. Richard F. Palmer is co-author of Cortland County Traction--The Story of Cortland's Trolley System.

Photo of Delaware, Lackawanna & Western train heading to Cincinnatus--courtesy of Neil Bennett and McGraw Historical Society. Left click on photo and rear of photo to enlarge.

See photo of Cortland Junction (near the end of South Franklin Street) dated 2002. Credit due " Erie Lackawanna Email List Photo Archive."

Overheard at the station: A frustrated passenger who rips up the schedule and claims that D., L. and W. really means "Delay, Linger and Wait."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

God Particle

     God Particle is the title of a book written by Nobel laureate Leon Lederman. It became a nickname for the Higgs boson, a newly discovered particle which was predicted in 1964 by professor Peter Higgs, University of Edinburgh. He predicted that the universe does not consist of empty space but that it consists of a field of particles that permeates and shapes all the varieties of existence. 
     The discovery was made public on July 4, 2012 by CERN scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.  The announcement resulted in splashy headlines around the world including this one: God Particle May Shed Light On Dark Matter.
Some writers and movie makers suggested that the experiments at CERN using the Large Hadron Collider would blow up the Vatican and destroy the world.

     This has not happened, thank God.
     Following the initial announcement, several follow-up reports from unidentified staff members at CERN are capturing the public interest. Catholic clergymen at the Vatican are especially interested. Sensitive CERN magnetic resonance amplifiers have detected images of God on the tiny Higgs bosons within the collider. But that's not all. These reports show that the God Particle image has relatives--angels, prophets and a virgin mother. There may be other images. The Vatican and the Church of England have requested a full scientific report. 
     Despite the excitement generated around the world, an Italian newspaper reported that CERN management was unimpressed with the conduct of its employees. The newspaper alleged that boson bath salts were discovered outside the "clean area" of the collider. The newspaper also claimed that CERN management ordered psychiatric and drug examinations for all staff involved in the unauthorized follow-up reports. CERN is also preparing an official apology to the Vatican and Church of England, according to the same newspaper.
     Additional information about this potentially embarrassing situation and the Higgs boson may or may not be found at:
     For a short commentary on Higgs boson, read V.V. Raman's A Few Thoughts on the God Particle:|newswell|text|Home|s

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cortland's Dog Days

     How hot is it in Cortland County? This is what our neighbors say:
     1) Robins are pulling cooked worms from the ground; some robins are using potholders.
     2) Trees and fire hydrants are whistling for dogs to pee on them.
     3) Chickens are laying hard-boiled eggs.
     4) When corn in Truxton started popping on stalks and flying up in the air, cows thought it was snowing and they froze to death.
     5) Some cows are producing powered milk, others are producing evaporated milk; the rest of the cows are sun-cooked and ready for barbecue sauce.
     6) Squirrels are fanning their nuts. Both sexes.
     7) The sun is looking for shade.
     8) Nothing in this list is original. It's hot air warmed over.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Richard F. Palmer--Crooked Lake Review

     The Cortland Contrarian recommends the multi-dimensional, colorful Upstate New York history sketches by Richard F. Palmer, which are found in the Crooked Lake Review. After clicking on the URL, click on his name for an abbreviated bio of the author. Save the homepage URL to favorites if you are a local history buff. You can spend many hours enriching your knowledge of regional history on this blog.
     Try a sample of the writings of other authors while visiting the Crooked Lake Review.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Pay Raise For State Legislators?

     Read Albany Times Union editorial dated July 8, 2012-- Call Them On This Raise--
     The Times Union suggests a pay cut for all state legislators. The Cortland Contrarian agrees. Pay raises should be based on performance. The state legislature has under-performed. The TU editorial reminds voters of the actual state of affairs in Albany and it is a good counterweight to the political dopamine mailed and emailed by State Senator James Seward, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and other state legislators who are not in jail. The state legislature's contempt for common sense and public opinion is exceeded only by the outright criminal behavior of members who were convicted of felony offenses and sent to jail. See prior post Hall of Shame dated February 20, 2012.
     Another timely news article reports that NY legislators spent $2.5 million on travel expenses during the last session in Albany:
     Signs of silence on legislative pay, Albany Times Union, July 24, 2012:
     Poll clear on pay raises, Albany Times Union, July 26, 2012:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Follow The Money

Cortland County is losing up to $1 million per year operating its county landfill.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Support Cortland Repertory Theatre

     We encourage our local and not-too-distant readers to patronize the Cortland Repertory Theatre. Following the last performance of Grease on Saturday, Alladin and Cats will be performed through the end of July 2012. The complete season schedule, ticket purchases and information are available at
     Tickets may be purchased also at the new downtown location on Port Watson Street, or at the Pavilion in Little York, New York.
     Cortland Repertory Theatre is also on Facebook:
     For players and staff, and for the promotion of family entertainment at the Pavilion on Little York Lake, please support Cortland Repertory Theatre.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

City of Cortland 2012 Quarterly Finance Report

     Our review of the City of Cortland's Quarterly Finance Report ( dated April 12, 2012, and newspaper articles to date, makes us question some modifications made to the adopted 2012 budget and the financial health of the city.
     The adopted police department budget for 2012 was $3,856,141. The quarterly report shows this number was modified to $3,895,921.
     The adopted fire department budget for 2012 was $2,661,093. The quarterly report shows this number was modified to $2,897,213.
     The adopted finance and administration budget for 2012 was $310,633. The quarterly report shows this number was modified to $326,984.
     The adopted legislature budget for 2012 was $31,150. The quarterly report shows this number was modified to $39,081.
     Most or all of these modifications require approval by common council. From what source did the extra money for modifications come? IT budget? Contingency fund? Reserve funds? Why is contingency and capital fund status unavailable to the public at the city's web page?
     Will these modifications of about $100,000 roll over to next year's budget? Will property taxes/fees accelerate again?
     A recent agreement to purchase new software for the city at a cost not to exceed $60,000 per year for five years (with additional costs beyond the five year contract) was not included in the quarterly report because it was an expense incurred after the quarterly report was made public.
     The new sales tax agreement with the county will reduce city sales tax revenue projections beginning January 2013. In addition, the quarterly report notes that utility taxes and court fines are lagging.
     We believe that common council members ought to recall the lessons of earlier administrations, especially blind faith in a Director of Finance and Administration. It was a mistake when elected officials allowed former Director of Administration and Finance Andy Damiano to dictate the budget unchallenged.
     The City of Cortland does not need to adopt the Greyhound theory of government. Participation and vigilance is what we expect of our elected officials. Director of Administration and Finance Mack Cook, an experienced and capable budget officer who is relatively new to Cortland, needs to be challenged  more often by elected officials. Decision-making must be shared, not rubber-stamped by elected officials.
     Readers are encouraged to leave responsible comments on the substance of this post.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thomas Jefferson Memoirs--Declaration of Independence

     In 1821, at age 77, Thomas Jefferson wrote his memoirs. He detailed the events leading up to the resolution by Congress on July 2, 1776 and the ensuing arguments, adoption and signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Delegations from twelve colonies signed the document on that day. New York was the only holdout for procedural reasons. Receiving updated instructions, the New York delegation finally signed on July 9, 1776.
     Jefferson's words are in italics below:

     Congress proceeded the same day to consider the Declaration of Independence, which had been reported and laid on the table the Friday preceding, and on Monday referred to a committee of the whole. The pusillanimous idea that we had friends in England worth keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. For this reason, those passages which conveyed censures on the people of England were struck out, lest they should give them offence. The clause too, reprobating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain the importation of slaves, and who, on the contrary, still wished to continue it. Our northern brethen also, I believe, felt a little tender under those censures; for though their people had very few slaves themselves, yet they had been pretty considerable carriers of them to others.
     The debates having taken up the greater parts of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th days of July, were, on the evening of the last, closed; the Declaration was reported by the committee, agreed to by the House, and signed by every member present, except Mr. Dickerson. 
     As the sentiments of men are known, not only by what they receive, but what they reject also, I will state the form of the Declaration as originally reported. The parts struck out by Congress shall be distinguisehed by a black line drawn under them; and those inserted by them shall be placed in the margin, or in a concurrent column.

     Jefferson then reproduces the original document with edit notations. He concludes:

     The declaration, thus signed on the 4th, on paper, was engrossed on parchment, and signed again on the 2nd of August....
     Some erroneous statements of the proceedings on the Declaration of Independence having got before the public in latter times, Mr. Samuel A. Wells asked explanations of me, which are given in my letter to him of May 12, 1819....

     Jefferson, himself an owner of slaves, was trapped in hypocrisy by his own economic circumstances--ownership of slaves and real property through marriage--and Virginia's laws against manumission.

     Read Jefferson's letter to Mr. Sam A. Wells:
     Read Jefferson's original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence:
     Visit State Capitol 4th of July Exhibit: