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April 8, 2013

Selections from the virtual mailbag

By Big Chuck D'Imperio
The Daily Star

---- — Well, it’s time to open up the email bag, and it’s really full!

From my Nov. 19, 2012, column about the election, “Todd from Worcester” emailed me saying that I had “hardly masked my Democratic Party leanings in my so-called unbiased column.” Well, Todd, I went back and checked. In that column I called both Republican Karl Rove and Democrat John Kerry big election year losers for various reasons. If that is not fair and balanced criticism, well, Todd, I just can’t help you.

In my Dec. 3 column, which was “guest authored” by my daughter Frances, “Terry” wrote me that “it was fun to see that my writer’s knack had traced from Dad down to daughter.” That was nice, Terry. Frances is a talented writer for sure.

In my Jan. 14 column, which was my annual list of “unknown” celebrity deaths of the previous year, I mentioned the passing of “Blinky the Clown” who had entertained children for more than 40 years in the Denver area. I actually received three messages from folks in our region who grew up in the Denver area and were so surprised to hear about a childhood memory in my column. They agreed, “Blinky” (Russell Scott) was truly a beloved figure from their youth. Just goes to show you ... it really is a small world.

My Jan. 28 column about upstate foods brought a lot of comments. One wrote online wondering how come I didn’t mention Cooperstown cheeses? Consider them mentioned.

Without a doubt, the biggest response to any column of mine from the last six months was from the one on Feb. 11. I reminisced about Sampson Naval Training Base in Romulus, N.Y., where my Dad went to boot camp. I received more than 20 emails, letters and even phone calls from area veterans who “booted” out of Sampson. They all spoke wistfully of their time there and shared enough memories of the training base with me to fill a small book.

One particularly poignant letter came from “Marshall T. from Delhi.” He wrote, “Big Chuck, Sampson took a no nothing farm boy from Delaware County like me and turned him into a man. For that I will always be grateful.” I loved that letter, Marshall. For that I will always be grateful.  

On Feb. 25, I wrote about an 11-second home movie someone had sent to me showing downtown Oneonta in the 1920s. I had so many people stop me on the street and ask me about that video, it was amazing. The video showed Bresee’s Department Store, old cars, women’s fashions and more, all from nearly a century ago. More than 5,000 people clicked onto my Facebook page to view this precious sliver of our history. Many tried to guess who the woman with the little children was; who was the barber who owned the shop on Main Street, what were the makes of the cars seen in the video and more. Even Sam Pollak, the Daily Star editor, wrote me as to his imagined scenario for the family scene coming down the sidewalk in the video. It was fun (and you can still find it on Facebook, just search Big Chuck).

Many enjoyed one of my most recent columns, from March 11, regarding the 1961 Oneonta visit of the legendary singer Marian Anderson. It certainly must have been one of the most unforgettable evenings in Oneonta’s long history. And how lucky was I to find someone who was actually there, Marilyn Roper. Her memories of that night really enthralled my readers.

Beverly White, who reads the Daily Star online, wrote me from Chicago. “I was actually supposed to go to that concert but unfortunately my grandmother passed away and my family had to go to her funeral in New York City. I was just a teenager and during the ride to the city I tried to imagine the concert going on back home in Oneonta and what I was missing. I finally was able to relive it (a little bit) by reading your column and Miss Roper’s experience. Thanks for that!”

I also have to say that one sharp-eyed reader, “Sue from Oneonta,” wrote me a lovely, long handwritten letter taking me to task (gently) for calling Miss Anderson “an opera star.” Sue, you are correct. Anderson was a recording and concert star who performed many opera arias in her concerts. I appreciate your letter.

Please let me hear from you if there is anything that catches your attention in one of my columns. I always love your letters and emails.

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 wdosbigchuck@aol.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/bigchuck.