“Too Perfect To Pass Up”!

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CONCORD — Harvesting asparagus is back-breaking work. “There’s a lot of up and down, moving down the row,” says Lise Holdorf of Barrett’s Mill Farm as she and business partner Melissa Maxwell and assistant grower Rachel Klepner stoop to cut the green spears about an inch or two above the ground. Their white buckets fill with asparagus still warm from their soil cradle. They’ll repeat this early morning routine every day through mid-June until the field is picked clean.

Holdorf, 35, and Maxwell, 33, have operated Barrett’s Mill Farm for a year. Holdorf was raised here, Maxwell in Connecticut. They have a five-year lease from the Town of Concord and live in the farmhouse on the land. In order to make the finances work, they’re in the fields six long days a week and do occasional odd jobs on Sundays.

Asparagus is a perennial crop that Barrett’s Mill — and the town — is well known for. “This farm, in particular, has sandy, well-drained soil that is great for asparagus and strawberries,” says Maxwell. Local restaurant 80 Thoreau makes good use of the flavorful spears on its menus. Co-owner and general manager Ian Calhoun, who lives down the road from the farm, stops by a few mornings each week to buy asparagus for the restaurant. “It’s exciting to see a couple of younger farmers take over stewardship of the land,” he says.

“The beginning of June is when [the farm] takes off,” says Maxwell. Strawberries ripen, along with radishes, salad greens, sugar snaps, beets, and herbs. The farm’s Community Supported Agriculture starts on June 9. For the 20-week season, members can fill up a tote bag with harvested vegetables and also venture into the pick-your-own fields to rustle up some strawberries and additional veggies. The farm’s Barrett’s Bucks program, says Holdorf, “is a smaller commitment and you don’t have to come every week.” (Bucks cost $275 for an equivalent farm store credit; a CSA share is $660.)

The farm became available after former owner Patrick McGrath died in 2012. The town bought the century-old farmstead and in December 2013 requested proposals from farmers who wanted to lease the property. Included are approximately 12 tillable acres, a residence, greenhouse, farm stand, and barn. The women’s business plan was chosen by the town and in March 2014, the two moved in, Holdorf with her husband, Matt Conroy, a high school teacher, and baby daughter Cyra.

Holdorf was happy to return to the town where she grew up. “It was too perfect to pass up,” she says. Maxwell had been looking for a farm for a number of years. “It’s unique in this area to find something that could support two people, she says. The women had worked together for a half-dozen years at Appleton Farms in Ipswich.

With a full year under their belts, the duo is expanding the planted fields from 4 to 6 acres. “We started small,” says Holdorf, adding that they benefited from lots of helping hands. “The neighbors and farming community in town all supported us,” says Maxwell. In addition to the 50 or so vegetables and herbs they grew last season, this year they’ll be harvesting strawberries, garlic (scapes will be available mid-June, the bulbs in the fall), cipollini onions, red onions, and a mini broccoli variety called Happy Rich.

As women farmers, Holdorf and Maxwell are in good company. According to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, female farmers represent 32 percent of all principal operators in the state. That’s more than double the 14 percent of women principal operators nationwide, according to 2012 data. The disparity is due mostly to the abundance of small farms in the Bay State — there are over 7,700 farms, many of which are just a few acres in size — as compared to mega operations in other regions.

The Barrett’s Mill lease costs the women $1,400 per month, which includes the farm land, buildings, and residence. The duo invested their own money in used tractors and implements as well as tools and supplies to build tables for a greenhouse and farm stand. Before they moved in, the Concord Housing Foundation had raised funds for renovations to the farmhouse and to convert it into a two-family home to accommodate two farmers. “It’s in excellent condition and a good place for a family to live,” says Holdorf.

The farmers made a small profit in the first year. “We did a careful budget over the winter,” says Holdorf, which allowed them to hire one full-time grower and four part-time field and farm stand workers for spring and summer. “This year we’re hoping for long-term sustainable income for us,” she says.

In Concord, both Macone Farm and First Root Farm are owned by women. Susan Macone, 64, has run what was her family farm since the early 1980s. “We do everything the old-fashioned way,” she says, growing award-winning tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, green beans, and other vegetables. She sells her produce at the neighboring Brigham Farm Stand.

First Root owner Laura Sackton, 29, grew up in nearby Lexington and currently manages 4-plus acres with Cheryl Nunes. They grow about 40 different vegetables, most of which are sold to 225 CSA members. Sackton, who cofounded the farm in 2009, says, “A lot of young people who didn’t grow up on farms are being drawn to farming.” For her, the satisfaction comes with “being outside and the hands-on, always changing work.” The young farmer speaks highly of Concord as a place to set down roots. “It has a supportive agricultural community and people are excited to buy local food.”

Concord also has a vivid history. Directly across the road from Barrett’s Mill Farm sits the old, brown and weathered Colonel James Barrett House, part of the Minute Man National Historical Park. The colonel (and his home) played a key role in the first battle — and first victory — of the Revolutionary War on April 19, 1775. After Paul Revere warned of the British Redcoats’ advance, the story goes that Barrett’s sons buried the Colonial militia’s weapons and munitions in the fields around the house to hide them from the British.

While the land is old, the Barrett’s Mill farmers are new and as dedicated as their forebears. With every planting (and plowing and weeding and harvest), they’re hoping the soil will be fruitful for at least another 100 years.

BARRETT’S MILL FARM

449 Barrett’s Mill Road, Concord, 978-254-5609, www.barrettsmillfarm.com

in Boston Globe,Wednesday June 3, 2015 by Lisa Zwern

The Rose F. Kennedy Greenway in Boston

In 1991, after almost a decade of planning, construction began on the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, more widely known as the “Big Dig”. The project, recognized as one of the largest, most complex, and technologically challenging in the history of the United States, would remove the elevated highway and create a tunnel system below the city.

With the elevated highway to be relocated underground, community and political leaders seized the opportunity to enhance the city by creating the Greenway, a linear series of parks and gardens that would re-connect some of Boston’s oldest, most diverse, and vibrant neighborhoods. The creation of the Greenway was a joint effort of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority (MTA), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the City of Boston, and various civic groups.

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The Greenway Carousel officially opened to the public on August 31, 2013 .The Carousel features 14 different characters native to the land, sea and sky of Massachusetts including a sea turtle, a cod, a peregrine falcon, a grasshopper, a harbor seal, a fox, a skunk, a whale, three types of butterflies, a barn owl, and a sea serpent. The characters were inspired by the drawings of Boston school children and fabricated by Newburyport, Massachusetts artist Jeff Briggs.

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There is also a set of lights in the section called “the Wharf District Parks” that can change color according to who just won games-Red for the Sox,blue for the Patriots etc. In addition Winter Lights on the Greenway is a series of lighting displays intended to bring warmth and cheer to the Greenway during the darkest part of the year.

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Right now and until October there is an incredible sculpture, As If It Were Already Here,from internationally renowned local artist, Janet Echelman.  Knitting together the urban fabric, it soars 600 feet through the air above street traffic and pedestrian park.

The form of “As If It Were Already Here” echoes the history of its location. The three voids recall the “Tri-Mountain” which was razed in the 18th-century to create land from the harbor. The colored banding is a nod to the six traffic lanes that once overwhelmed the neighborhood, before the Big Dig buried them and enabled the space to be reclaimed for urban pedestrian life.

The sculpture is made by hand-splicing rope and knotting twine into an interconnected mesh of more than a half-million nodes. When any one of its elements moves, every other element is affected. Monumental in scale and strength yet delicate as lace, it fluidly responds to ever-changing wind and weather. Its fibers are 15 times stronger than steel yet incredibly lightweight, making the sculpture able to lace directly into three skyscrapers as a soft counterpoint to hard-edged architecture.

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Mostly it was nice to see people out enjoying the beautiful day and hanging out-walking,strolling,chatting in this new, beautiful 1 1/2 mile Greenway.

 

Boston and the Olympics

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I thought this was really funny and so true! It was in the Boston Globe today-

“Dear United States Olympic Committee:

You may think Bostonians don’t want to host the Olympics, but then you don’t know Boston.

We love to complain.

We love to hate that we complain.

We are difficult people. Just ask the British.

Out where you are in Colorado, everyone is so damn happy. You and your 300 days of sunshine. And now all that legalized marijuana makes everything oh so groovy.

Rocky Mountain High we are not. We get a kick out of knocking people down, putting everyone in their place when they get too big, too successful, too soon. If the Games were ever held here, revenge would be an Olympic sport.

At this point, you’re probably saying to yourselves: What on God’s green earth is this place they call Boston? It looks like something out of a gladiator movie. How fast can we move our five-ring circus to LA?

Seriously, your first instincts were right — an old city reborn, the world capital of life sciences, a walkable and affordable Games.

But before that, we will throw tantrums like 2-year-olds. Maybe it looks like a freak show to you. To us, it’s all normal.

Don’t be scared. We just need this moment. This is how we operate around here. When we calm down, we get down to business, but always on our terms, never yours.

If we act up again — oh, and we will — remember what sets Boston apart. Ultimately, we are a city of champions. The 21st century has only just begun, but Boston teams have already brought home four Super Bowls, three World Series, an NBA banner, and a Stanley Cup.

En garde, Paris.

It takes time for Bostonians to come around on anything. The Big Dig spanned four decades from proposal to completion. Rebuilding the Boston Garden took nearly three decades. All the while we moaned and groaned.

Today we can’t imagine our city without a depressed Central Artery that gave way to the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, the Zakim bridge, and the bustling Seaport District. The Garden put us in the big leagues to host all-star games, NCAA tournaments, mega concert acts like the Rolling Stones, and the Democratic National Convention.

Our Olympic naysaying can be heard ’round the world, but it can only make the Boston bid better. We like to put people and their ideas through the wringer. And we save the sharpest knives for outsiders swooping in and trying to tell us what to do with our city.

Welcome to Boston.

Our poll numbers on hosting the Olympics are frighteningly low — they dropped to 36 per cent in March. Blame it on PTSD after suffering through more than 100 inches of snow this winter. We couldn’t even get ourselves to work, let alone think about hosting the world. Of course, it was really wonderful. It gave us a whole new vein of complaints.

Now much of the squawking about the Summer Games comes from the lack of a solid plan from Boston 2024, the privately held group organizing the region’s bid. Stingy Bostonians also worry that taxpayers will be on the hook if costs go over budget.

The newly installed chairman of Boston 2024, Bain Capital executive and Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, wants to get it right this go-around. He promises to deliver by the end of June a plan that is fiscally responsible and leaves long-term benefits for the city.

Stick with us, USOC. I know we’re trying your patience. But it’ll all come together. It always does.

Or it won’t. And we’ll complain about that, too.”

by Shirley Leung

Quacking Up in Pittsburgh!

A great thing to do if in Pittsburgh. Operational after the Duck Boat Tours in Boston were so popular,Pittsburgh has had much success with this tour as well.

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On the tour, they first talk about the skyline of Pittsburgh. It is  the second-largest city in  Pennsylvania, and is home to 135 completed high rises, 29 of which stand at least 300 feet tall. The tallest building in Pittsburgh is the 64 story US Steel Building, which rises 841 feet and was completed in 1970. The second-tallest skyscraper in the city is BNY Mellon Center.

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One of the things they also talk about is about the flood of March 17 and 18, 1936. The city witnessed the worst flood in its history when flood levels peaked at 46 feet. This flood became known as the Great St.Patricks Day Flood.

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Pittsburgh is also a city of many different styles of architecture. There are many beautiful old churches and office buildings and then many new “shiny” buildings. The cluster known as PPG Place is a complex   consisting of six buildings(and are the shiniest!) within three city blocks and five and a half acres. Named for its anchor tenant, PPG Industries, who initiated the project for its headquarters, the buildings are all of matching glass design consisting of 19,750 pieces of glass. The complex centers on One PPG Place, a 40-story office building. Groundbreaking ceremonies occurred on January 28, 1981. The complex buildings opened between 1983 and 1984. Total cost of construction was $200 million ($488.8 million today). The buildings were sold by The Hillman Company to Highwoods Properties in 2011.

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Once you have driven through the city quaking all the way, you dip into the  Monongahela River for a tour from the water. You first see the second of two “inclines”.The Monongahela Incline, built by John Endres in 1870, is located near the Smithfield Street Bridge. It is the oldest continuously operating funicular in the US. It is also one of two surviving inclines from the original 17 passenger-carrying inclines built in Pittsburgh starting in the late 19th century. 

Pittsburgh’s expanding industrial base in 1860 created a huge demand for labor, attracting mainly German immigrants to the region. This created a serious housing shortage as industry occupied most of the flat lands adjacent to the river, leaving only the steep, surrounding hillsides of Mt. Washington or “Coal Hill” for housing. However, travel between the “hill” and other areas was hindered by a lack of good roads or public transport.The predominantly German immigrants who settled on Mt. Washington, remembering the cable cars  of their former country, proposed the construction of inclines along the face of Coal Hill. The result was the Monongahela Incline, which opened May 28, 1870.Earlier inclines were used to transport coal in the Pittsburgh area.

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You next paddle by the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers which is called Heinz Field ,and then by the beautiful Point State Park which was filled with strolling couples with small children.

 

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There are also many other ways to see Pittsburgh. Another popular one is to take an evening dinner cruise  on the Gateway River Fleet.

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Near the end of the tour the guides play a little game with you. They ask “how many bridges are there in Pitttsburgh?” Of course the answer is one that no one could even imagine….without bridges, the Pittsburgh region would be a series of fragmented valleys, hillsides, river plains, and isolated communities. A 2006 study determined that Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, and with its proximity to three major rivers and countless hills and ravines, Pittsburgh is known as “The City of Bridges”.

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Big Bird From Sesame Street

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On the way back to Cleveland where we lived at the time from New York, where I had just been to my Dad’s retirement party, I sat down on the plane next to a very nice man and his wife. They also seemed to be traveling with a gentleman a row ahead of us. The two men were exchanging all kinds of funny lines back and forth which finally led me to ask if he was a comedian. He answered very shyly “I”m Big Bird”! I didn’t really know Sesame Street that well at the time-I only had Kate who was 6 months old. In the end, he invited my family with extra tickets to bring another family(our best friends) to come to Blossom Music Center-he was going there to conduct the Cleveland Orchestra for Father’s Day. He told me all about his role as Big Bird-he had been in every major parade,been to literally almost all countries, been on Hollywood Squares repeatedly,met millions of movie stars and yet could travel like he was as a “normal” person, as he called it. That friend who we invited to go to Blossom and see him sent me this article that recently came out. Thank you, Nancy! Here is a picture of Kate,Tom Johnson and me with Big Bird in June 1984:

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from the Los Angeles Times-May 6,2015 by Patrick Kevin Day

“There aren’t many octogenarian entertainers who have managed to stay relevant in the ever-changing cultural zeitgeist, but then there haven’t been many people who have played Big Bird. Caroll Spinney helped create the big yellow bird for PBS’ “Sesame Street” in 1969, and he’s been playing the character ever since-for 45 years.

And if that isn’t impressive enough, he’s also played Oscar the Grouch for the same number of years. Although Big Bird is an international star, Spinney, 81, has mostly remained hidden behind the feathers. But an Oscar season parody of the film “Birdman” titled “Big Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Orange Pants),” which went viral, and the new documentary “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story” (opening May 15) are finally giving the veteran puppeteer his due. And as “Sesame Street” heads into its 46th season, he has no plans to retire.”

Q-“Watching “I Am Big Bird” is a very emotional experience for someone who is just a fan. How was it for you to watch?”

A-“It was something else, because I don’t like to make it a big deal that I’m on TV. I just have a wonderful job. I’m used to seeing characters I play on movies and things but not to see myself. [My wife] Debra and I didn’t realize it was going to be a romantic movie about our love affair. Well, it’s not an affair — we’ve been together for 42 years come June. It’s a joyous 42 years, let me tell you, the way we get along. If everyone in the world got along the way we get along, divorce would be almost unknown.”

Q-“The film makes extensive use of your home movies. Are you constantly shooting them?”

A-“That’s probably only 1% of everything we have. It took them 4 and a half years to go through everything to put [the documentary] together. We gave them boxes and boxes of stuff. We had 8mm films and even some 16mm. I used to be an animator, and they used some of that here and there in the show. They came in three separate cars to our house, and their back seats and trunks were completely filled with boxes of films and videotapes and photographs. They put it all on DVD for us, which is great, even though I keep a VHS player in the house so we can put in a videotape now and then.”

A-“Yes, definitely. It was the second time I was in the White House performing for a bunch of U.N. children from different countries in the costumes of their land. I’m trying to walk out of the scene — we were performing in the East Wing — and I stepped on one child’s lap. I heard this sound, and I thought it was a squeaky toy it was so small. I didn’t hurt the child, thankfully. I can’t see down, and there’s no way to see out. The only connection to the outer world is through the little, tiny TV set I’m wearing on my chest.”

A-“It was a joke I told when we first worked together three years before we went to China. In 1976, I was invited to be on “The Bob Hope Special.” They wanted Kermit the Frog, but Jim [Henson] was too busy, so he said, “You can have the bird.” One of the writers said they could make some jokes for the bird, but when I got there, they were all Col. Sanders fried chicken jokes. I thought he could do better.”

So I was in the bird [suit] when he walked onto the stage in front of 300 people. It was the warmup period before they start the tape. Big Bird looks at him — he was known for his swoopy nose — and says, [Big Bird voice] “Boy, I thought I had a funny-looking beak.” Here he is, one of the greatest comedians in the world and he laughed so hard he almost hit the floor. He laughed so hard, he had to put his hand down to catch himself. That was satisfying. It won him over, and it got me all the way to China.”

Q-“Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are two of the most popular “Sesame Street” characters, but since you do both, are they never able to meet?”

A-“I was asked to be on “The Colbert Report” last year as Big Bird and Oscar. But when we got there, we discovered they wanted both characters on at the same time. Stephen Colbert didn’t know one man plays them both. We called Joey Mazzarino, our head writer, who’s a very good puppeteer as well. He agreed to zip over and do Oscar. I pre-recorded Oscar’s words, so it sounded right.”

Q-“You’ve gotten to meet and work with so many people through Big Bird. Your wife, Debra, says in the documentary that you still haven’t met Paul McCartney. Has that changed?”

A-“Not yet, but I’m determined. One time, we heard when he was a guest on some show, he said he would love to do a children’s show that had rock ‘n’ roll in it. I said, “I want to be with him on that special.” I told our cameraman, Dave Driscoll, who’s also a cameraman for him when he plays big arenas, to mention it to him. He comes back from tour and I say, “Did you see him? Did you tell him?”

He says, “Yeah, I said, ‘Paul, Big Bird wants to do something with you.'” Paul says, “Doesn’t he know I’m married?” That’s not what I’m talking about! I’m a happily married dude!”

 

Verona-Another City of Love in Italy

 

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Straddling the Adige river in Veneto, northern Italy, you will find Verona  which has approximately 265,000 inhabitants. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of northeast Italy. It is one of the main tourist destinations in northern Italy, owing to its artistic heritage, several annual fairs, shows, and operas, such as the lyrical season in the Arena, the ancient amphitheater built by the Romans.

Three of Shakespeare’s plays are set in Verona: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew.

Piazza Delle Erbe(above) is a good place to start a visit to Verona. Originally the Roman Forum, the rectangular piazza is in the heart of the historic center and is surrounded by beautiful medieval buildings and towers. In the middle is a 14th century fountain with a Roman statue.
This is Verona’s market square- where vendors come to slice and sell whatever’s in season. People have gathered here since Roman times, when this was a forum. The whale’s rib, hanging from an archway for 500 years, was a souvenir brought home from the Orient by spice traders. Today Piazza Erbe is for the locals, who start their evening with anaperitivo here. It’s a trendy scene, as young Veronans fill the bars to enjoy their refreshing spritzdrinks, olives, and chips.

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Verona’s Roman Arena is the third largest in Italy (after the Roman Colosseum and the arena in Capua). Built in the 1st century and still retaining most of the original stone, the arena holds up to 25,000 spectators. Since 1913 it has been the venue for a prestigious opera festival and a top setting for other theatrical performances. Although part of the seating is in bright orange and red chairs, it’s easy to imagine the original look of the amphitheater.

 

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Ancient Romans considered Verona an ideal resting spot before crossing the Alps so the city has a wealth of Roman ruins. Corso Porta Borsari was the main drag of Roman Verona. A stroll here makes for a fun, ancient scavenger hunt. Remnants of the town’s illustrious past — chips of Roman columns, medieval reliefs, fine old facades, and fossils in marble — are scattered among modern-day fancy shop windows.

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Verona’s most popular site is the balcony said to be Juliet’s in Romeo and Juliet. The house said to be Juliet’s house is in a courtyard off Via Capello. You can see the balcony and the bronze statue of Juliet for free .The 13th century house is a good example of Gothic architecture and inside is a museum with period furniture. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet made Verona a household word. Locals marvel that each year, about 1,600 Japanese tour groups break their Venice-to-Milan ride for an hour-long stop in Verona just to stand in a courtyard. The House of Juliet, where the real-life Cappello family once lived, is a crass and throbbing mob scene. The tiny, admittedly romantic courtyard is a spectacle in itself, with visitors from all over the world posing on the almost believable balcony and taking snapshots of each other rubbing Juliet’s bronze breast, hoping to get lucky in love.(this is supposed to happen within 7 years!)

Olympic Stadium in Berlin

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I really wanted to go see the Olympic Stadium where “The Boys in the Boat” rowed to their victory and Louie Zamperini(Unbroken) ran in the Olympics in 1936. If you haven’t read both of these books you should-very inspirational stories. I loved them both. The history that they both cover about this particular Olympics and it being in Berlin is fascinating. Arriving in Berlin, during the summer of 1936, Olympic athletes like Zamperini saw swastikas flying everywhere.  The “Juden Verboten” signs – forbidding entry to Jewish people – were temporarily out of sight.

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The stadium has been all revamped since then, of course, and they use it mostly for their soccer team and games.

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I found the plaque for Jesse Owens’ wins. Pleased with the performance of German athletes, and with the games in general, Hitler was nonetheless distressed by the numerous victories of Owens, a talented African-American who dominated his events.  Winning four medals, Owens did not win-over a prejudiced Hitler who – according to Albert Speer – was upset about Owens’ accomplishments:

Each of the German victories, and there were a surprising number of these, made [Adolf Hitler] happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens.  (Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich.)

Louie Zamperini did not compete against Jesse Owens.  Instead, he ran the 5,000 meters – a long race that was not his forte – against a group of Finns who’d been winning the race for years.

Biding his time, he initially misjudged how fast his competitors would run.  When he realized he needed to move more quickly, he kicked into high gear, finishing in 14:46.8 – the fastest 5,000-meter time for an American in 1936.  He finished his last lap in 56 seconds.

Later, when he met Hitler, Louie was surprised that the German leader remembered him.  “Ah,” he said.  “You’re the boy with the fast finish.”

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This is the plaque for “the boys in the boat”-” achter” is  the eight man boat. Out of the depths of the Depression this is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

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