Happy Birthday to Cameron Oliver.
Cam chased an attractive American girl named Susan from his native Scotland to Oneonta 18 years ago. They were married at St. James' Episcopal Church following a bachelor party at that quintessential American gathering spot, the 6th Ward Athletic Club. They now have two sons and have lived here ever since.
I remember the first time I met him. I had no clue what he was saying. His Scottish brogue was so thick, he might just as well have been speaking Chinese. Still, I persevered through long discussions with him about life, dreams for the future and both of our homelands.
Cam is a son of the Borders, that fluid area that has given map makers fits over the last 10 centuries. Literally, it's the border between Scotland and England. Cameron's town, Hawick, is one of the largest towns in the region. Ten years ago, I went to Hawick with my new friend for a visit to the auld sod.
Hawick was a mill town, known throughout the world for its fine woolen products. Kind of like an Oneonta. With wool instead of a railroad. Now it is a shadow of its former industrious self, and most Hawickies work in the big cities, like Edinburgh, located 60 miles up the old Waverly Line.
My visit to the Borders ended with a three-day weekend in Edinburgh. Cameron was an excellent host to this Yankee so far from home. He clearly has a deep love for the history of his homeland, and we crawled all over this glorious city.
From booming Mons Meg high atop the city's castle mount, to the back alley no-name pubs where poets and anarchists hatched their story lines, it was an unforgettable trip.
I have seen my friend get teary-eyed at the sound of a bagpipe and get apoplectic at the mention of Margaret Thatcher. And we've discussed it all in our monthly "boys night out."
This "MIE" (named after a particularly comfortable pub in Hawick) has to be one of the longest-standing traditions around. Do the math. Cameron and I have met in a pub once a month for 12 years. Without fail. We only missed it once, and that was the day my father died. And in hindsight, I think my dear old Dad would have whispered to me: "Don't let me keep you from your tradition, Chuck. Go out with your buddy and have one for me." But miss it I did. So our streak stands at 143 Fridays out of a possible 144. Not bad.
Cam works at SUNY Oneonta in its computer department. I've watched him become "Americanized" in his ways and habits, but still he has a lot of the Flower of Scotland growing in him.
For example, he bleeds soccer. He has no clue about baseball. None. To him, a Dodger is a kid who picks pockets. A Royal is Prince Philip. A Met is a museum in New York City. The Reds were the Cold War bad guys. The Colorado Rockies could only be a mountain range. And a Mariner is an old salt who sails out of the Water of Leith each morning.
During one long conversation, I asked Cameron to name a striking difference between our two countries. His answer has stuck with me.
"America is still so young. Even though it is a couple hundred years old, it still feels fresh and exciting. Remember, there are park benches in Edinburgh that are as old as your country," he said with a laugh.
"But what really struck me when I arrived here was the display of pride in your country. It is everywhere. People fly flags over here all the time. It's what they do. At work, in front of public buildings, in the middle of fields and in front of almost every home in Oneonta. The American flag is everywhere, and I think it is a wonderful tribute to this great country that has been so good to me."
Just before I attended a birthday barbecue in Cameron's honor a week ago, I found myself climbing up and placing my own American flag in its holder off our porch. It was Memorial Day weekend. I looked around and saw Old Glory flapping in the breeze from almost every house within my sight.
It was then that the words my friend from the Borders said to me so long ago really registered with me.
It is what we do.
Now, if I can only get him to a baseball game.
I'll catch you in two ...
"Big Chuck" D'Imperio can be heard on weekdays beginning at 6 a.m. on WDOS-AM 730 in Oneonta, and also on Thursday nights from 7-9 p.m. on WSRK-FM 103.9 for his "Oldies Jukebox Show." You can find "Big Chuck" on Facebook under Upstate New York Books. He invites you to contact him at email@example.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.
Happy Birthday to Cameron Oliver.
- Big Chuck
There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|
Winter weather is here. And so are outdoor winter activities.
Vroman's Nose hike is no walk in the park
I haven't gone on a hike since 1961 when President Kennedy asked all Americans to take a 50-mile hike for physical fitness. I did it then. With a large group of my schoolmates and friends. We walked from Sidney to Oneonta and back.
Being a grandpa will be better than just OK
I am going to be a grandfather.
Some hits from the soundtrack of my life
As most people know, I wear two hats at my radio station.
Some book picks from an avid reader
I came to reading begrudgingly. I was an impatient student easily bored with books. Finally an eighth-grade English teacher in Sidney, Kay Jester, figured out my problem. She told me that I had an inquisitive mind and had an affinity for storytelling. She also told me I was reading the wrong books.
- Monday, September 23, 2013
Swapping stories with a sweet centenarian
Marge Mathews is one very special lady.
- Monday, September 9, 2013
Farm honor system can grow on you
What a difference the flip of a calendar makes. I love September and the produce stands!
- Monday, August 26, 2013
My brush with a future president
President Obama came to town!
- Monday, August 12, 2013
Colonoscopy isn't much of a pain in the ...
When a professional looks you in the eye and says, "Sit down, I have something I want to talk to you about," your normal reaction is a flexing of the gluteus maximus and the appearance of sweat drops on the palms of your hands.
- Monday, July 29, 2013
An easy way â€¨to be a hero
It is not much to ask. Plus they give you a cookie and a glass of juice!
- Monday, July 15, 2013
Digging up memories, one box at a time
My Dad kept everything.
- Monday, July 1, 2013
Moms, girlfriends and wives of TV history
I recently saw on TV a birthday salute to actress Betty White. It included many archival videos, celebrity interviews and reminisces from her early days on television. There is no doubt that Betty has found the magic pill. Into her nineties she is still starring in a hit sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland!"
- Monday, June 17, 2013
Upstate theme parks offered affordable thrills
I saw in the news last week that Disney theme parks are raising admission prices to almost $100 a person. Children (who Uncle Walt considers 10 and under) are now $86 a day.
- Monday, June 3, 2013
Getting creative with gifts for grads
Well, it is graduation time again. So much pressure, so many decisions, so many things to take into consideration.
- Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Safety Patrol D.C. visits never get old
I asked Cam Morris, head of Eastern Travel/Oneonta Bus Lines, how many years her company has been handling the Safety Patrol trip to Washington, D.C.
- Monday, May 6, 2013
My pal Brucie, savior of Sidney's hospital
Ask any hospital administrators if they've ever heard of a closed hospital in New York state that has ever been re-opened. They will say, "Impossible." In a half century of going through records you can't find any.
- Monday, April 22, 2013
Catching a whiff of 'Vermont Vapor'
We just came back from a weekend in Manchester, Vt., and my wife insists that something "magical" happens when you pass the state sign. "I think they spray 'Vermont Vapor' out of the sign or something," she opined, "something that actually changes us."
- Monday, April 8, 2013
Selections from the virtual mailbag
Well, it's time to open up the email bag, and it's really full!
- Monday, March 25, 2013
Recalling days of 'Doughnut King'
In 1969, I was "The Doughnut King" in Sidney.
- Monday, March 11, 2013
Opera great's visit still a thrilling memory
Opera singer Marian Anderson (1897-1993) has been called the "most distinctive American voice of the 20th century."
- There's no tough sledding when you're a youngster|