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Blog: Stories of Interest
Friday, September 25th, 2015

The West Imagined: The Life of DeWitt Clinton, 1769-1828
By Dulcy Brightman

“The overflowing blessings from the fountain of public good and national abundance will be as extensive as our own country and as durable as time.”
~ DeWitt Clinton , Sixth Governor of New York, 1817-1823

DeWitt ClintonIn the early part of the Nineteenth Century (1789), born to James Clinton and Mary DeWitt, was my ancestor (maternal side), DeWitt Clinton. He was educated at what was then named, Kings College, and is known today as Columbia University, after he transferred from Princeton University.

On February 13, 1796, DeWitt Clinton married Maria Franklin, daughter of a prominent New York Quaker merchant, Walter Franklin, and descendant of John Bowne and Elizabeth Fones; they had ten children. His second marriage was to Catharine Jones, daughter of a New York Physician, Thomas Jones. There was one child born of that marriage.

DeWitt Clinton is best known as the Sixth Governor of New York (1817-1823), as an early American Politician who also held many offices including in the New York State Legislature, and as a United States Senator. Prior to those years, he was Mayor of New York City for ten terms (1803-1815). This was before laws were enacted to lessen the term of office.

He is also known as the “Father of the Erie Canal,” and as the New York Canal Commissioner (1810-1824), was largely responsible for its construction. He successfully advocated, and won the support of our young American nation for his dream of connecting the Hudson River to Lake Erie; creating the golden path to the west.

His vision was strongly disputed by his political opponents, who launched a vicious attack, labeling the Erie Canal project as “Clinton’s Folly.” Clinton pressed forward through the mire of dispute to build the 363 miles of the Erie Canal, creating a new way to access passage to the west. When completed in 1825, the canal was both practical and economical for successfully moving freight and passengers westward before the advent of the railroad.

“Clinton’s Ditch” was a whopping Seven Million Dollars; a staggering amount considering the cost of living in those days. The Erie Canal, if constructed today, would cost millions (if not a billions) more. A year later, the Erie Canal not only proved to be economical, but turned a profit from tolls within the first year of operation. The Erie Canal Tolls were abolished in 1883; this was not the case in later canals. In addition, The Erie Canal survived the railroad expansion westward.

In 1812, while in the middle of battling it out for endorsement of the Erie Canal, DeWitt Clinton ran for the Office of President of the United States against James Madison and lost by only a small margin. Then, after great public support, enhanced by the positive press for the building of the canal, he was elected Mayor of New York City. Can you even imagine that these days? Remember, he was raising ten children too! As a child, during breakfast, my mother would continually tell stories about this man and his accomplishments.

The Erie Canal essentially opened passage to the west; however, it was opposed at every turn. “Clinton’s Ditch” or “Clinton’s Folly” was opposed because legislators believed that upstate New York‘s massive morass of forest, swamps, and underbrush was completely inaccessible to overland travel. In fact, most of the western part of New York State was considered unreachable. This is why the proposed 363 mile Erie Canal was considered an impossible project in early Nineteenth Century.

In spite of the opposition, this project proved to widen the scope of American lives through its people, ideas, and goods, serving as a model for most subsequent canals. This famous canal is an outstanding accomplishment, and testament to what is now our modern west. In short, this was really how the west was won.

DeWitt Clinton, a Freemason, was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York in 1806. They recognized his outstanding community service by non-Masonic organizations or individuals whose actions exemplify a shared concern for the well-being of mankind and belief in worldwide brotherhood of man.

In the end, DeWitt Clinton accomplished as much as any leader in civic and state affairs can hope to do. However, he died destitute, and his family did not have the funds for a proper burial. Fortunately, Clinton was a prominent Freemason, and if not for his Masonic friend, his body would not have been buried in a proper resting place; eventually, he was buried in Brooklyn, New York.

Indeed, there is much to be learned from one man’s vision that reached farther than the passage to the west.

~Dulcy

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Early American Ship Revealed Near the World Trade Center
By Dulcy Brightman

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation announced on July 29th, 2014, the scientific findings of a shipwreck discovered four years ago at Ground Zero. The report revealed the white oak wooden ship was built near Philadelphia around 1773. The year was determined by the rings in the white oak wood used to build the ship.

Also, announced in New York City news, is the plan for the tallest residential building in the world. The Nordstrom Building will be seven hundred and fifty feet high, one foot shorter than the World Trade Center, and have seven floors which will house the Nordstrom Company; and is expected to open in 2018.

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
U.S. Naval Lt. Commander, Albert Smith - “Mr. Century City”
By Dulcy Brightman
Naval Lt. Commander, Albert Smith
Naval Lt. Commander, Albert Smith
Here is a photo taken in 2002 of myself with Albert Smith at the Northridge, McDonalds. I am holding one of the works by a very young (Korean-American) girl who created her special greeting card for me. Mr. Smith, would leave McDonalds to visit his friends from WWII in a nursing home.

World War II now seems a fading memory to some who were not born then, nor lived during the early 1940’s. The many films, documentaries, and television shows that have been produced since then help us to remember. Of course, those that are still living, who went overseas to fight against fascism, have quite vivid memories of their service. In addition to the thousands of people who helped in the war effort to support our troops. They are the ones that told their stories to their children.

When I first arrived in Los Angeles, California, I didn’t have many friends outside of my family. It takes time to develop friendships and make a city a part of your life. You have read the numerous stories of my experiences in New York City, but little of my life in California.

One of the people that I first met was on Sunday mornings after church services; there was a group of very cheerful Korean-American people, and their delightful children. It was while I was sitting in McDonalds Restaurant in Northridge, having coffee. I noticed an older gentleman who was seated at a nearby table; he was having coffee and reading the Sunday Los Angeles Times.

At first, this older man in a tie, white shirt, and suit did not notice me at all, that is until I started talking to his friends, a Korean-American Family. Their two little girls were immaculately dressed in pretty, summer dresses, and always spotlessly clean. Their parents were chattering almost non-stop in their native tongue, with some English mixed in as the older man smiled, and giggled behind his newspaper. This would happen every Sunday of the first year that I was living in the Northridge area. Later, I learned that the father of the two little girls had a business down the street that fixed high-end foreign cars. Another family with children also joined our group; that father had a dry cleaning establishment very near that McDonalds. All arrived after Sunday church services.

On one these Sunday mornings, the stand-offish father of the two girls began speaking to me. I was telling his wife how wonderful his daughters were, who were always busy drawing with their colorful crayons, or doing their homework. He asked, “Don’t I know you from television?” “Huh?” I replied, very shocked that anyone would have a clue about me? He had previously avoided me, as he was too shy to inquire about my television shows. Yes, this man was serious! I had to acknowledge that, yes, I did work as a producer and host on my cable shows, and indeed, I did appear “on camera“.

The gentleman in the white shirt, tie, and suit was then introduced to me by the father of the two little girls. I was to learn that this was Naval Lt., Commander, Albert Smith, who had been a pilot in WWII. After some joke telling, Mr. Smith would often give me part of his Los Angeles Sunday Times in that wonderful Northridge McDonalds. We would wait for the Korean families to show up after Sunday Church Services. One of the dad’s would often get a pitcher of coffee and pour it into my cup to refresh it as if I was some celebrity. I would thank him, and then he did the same for his wife and friends. His children would bring me their drawings to see. He knew of my art training, and wanted his children to pick up some tips, I supposed.

The real story is about the Naval, Lt. Commander, who flew his plane over islands in the Pacific during WWII. His job was far from ordinary. In fact, his duties included taking spy photos of areas where the Japanese were located, and had military facilities in advance of American Forces taking action; later, I saw many of these photos strewn about on table tops in his apartment. He told me that none of the public had ever seen those photographs; I was amazed that they weren’t hidden away in an album?

Often, during his flight missions, he and his crew were fired upon. One of his best friends, a co-pilot, died on such a mission, leaving a son without a father, and a mother who was too ill to support their child. So Smith and his wife (who had a boy and a girl of their own) adopted the baby boy, and raised him as one of their own.

I met two of Smith’s children, when their father, decided he was too old to keep driving his truck. I phoned his daughter, who was a nurse, and also a professor at a northern California college. She was shocked to hear about her dad. She had spoken to her father several times a month, but had no hint that her father was in decline, since many times in his 80’s, he was up on the roof of the house that he had built for her, making repairs; there was no stopping Albert. He also had provided houses for each of his sons as well.

When I met Smith’s daughter, she filled me in on the time he was working as a builder of the famous, Century City. U.S. Naval, Lt. Commander Albert Smith was the architect and builder. In fact, the idea of putting Century City on rollers was his. This new innovation was to prevent the buildings from falling in an earthquake; they would move, but not break. He was also the architect for the “A-Framed” house that would keep a house cool in summer and warm in winter. I saw the many newspaper clippings on his building career, mixed in with the spy photography.

Smith’s daughter told me that while her dad, was working on the building of Century City, they were living on his yacht. She told me her famous architect /builder dad, and his often co-builder Kelly, dubbed him, “Mr. Century City”. Smith & Kelly were also greatly responsible for expanding the growth of homes in the San Fernando Valley during the 1950‘s and 1960’s. They left their trademark of a “Z” on the house shutters; these houses can still be seen throughout the San Fernando Valley.

Al’s daughter recalled her father’s years of building Century City. She said that on one day at the Century City Site, a construction worker dropped something that landed on her dad’s head; he was not wearing a helmet. His daugter told me that he brushed it off saying, “Guess it’s my hard, Irish head.”

Yes, that’s what it took for the American generation that fought in WWII. U.S. Naval Lt. Commander, Albert Smith built most of the town of Ojai, California, and there is a plaque on the Ojai firehouse wall dedicated to this man of American History for more than one reason.

Side note on the next generation: One of Smith’s Daughter-in-Laws is co-founder of Pier 1 Stores.

~Dulcy

Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Eye Opening Commercial Drug Store News
By Dulcy Brightman

Most of us have visited our local drug stores, not just for prescriptions, but for many of our household needs. It is very reassuring to know that if you haven’t purchased everything on your grocery list, you’ll most probably find what you need in your local drug store.

I recall that in the days, even before I was born, being told that a child could easily read magazines for hours on end in drug stores of little or big towns all across America, and not be disturbed by management. Yes, even today a child or adult can browse the magazine racks for all sorts of interesting subjects. Some drug stores carry toys, for a quick buy, when time is pressing, and you are due to arrive at birthday party; it’s all about “one-stop-shopping” which is really convenient.

Recently, I was in line waiting for a prescription when a young man approached me with a hand and wrist full of cosmetics for sale. I had never experienced what is considered an old scheme by nefarious types on the streets of New York City, but never in a Los Angeles major drug store chain.

I was immediately confronted with the “pressure sales technique” by this stranger, knowing full well that this was out the norm of drug store policies. My response was to decline, while looking at what this man displaying his bag of cosmetics. I thought that these products were very suspect, and quickly told the man, “I really think you shouldn’t be here.” Mind you, I had no idea that he could have responded aggressively, but felt I had been safely pleasant and assertive; the man quickly turned and ran for the drug store door. I then alerted a security guard in the back of the store, who immediately rushed out asking me, “Where is he?” Then the manager came by, and thanked me profusely. I know the manager quite well, and he was glad I had informed him of the situation.

Later, the security guard came over to talk to me. I indicated that he should check the store cameras. Then he told me these individuals are often responsible for the high volume of product theft in this drug store. These thieves are directed to steal by unknown organized crime organizations. This security guard said that this operation became larger when we had the recent economic downturn. I was completely unaware until that moment that this was occurring on a large scale all across America.

A word of advice for everyone; beware of unknown products, because they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. And beware of those who sell them. Just say “no thank you” and walk away.

~Dulcy

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014
Summer Travel Months
By Dulcy Brightman

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, on March 8th 2014, has once again become a heartbreaking, sad, and head-scratching mystery. This incident is being heavily investigated in the year 2014; where did this flight land or crash? This summer travel by airplane is out of the question for many.

Every television news outlet spewed out numerous theories by the best minds that could be found. Mostly, the search was over the vast, unexplored, and deep Indian Ocean. At one point there was a suspected “ping” from the airliner‘s black box; this soon became a false hope or speculation. The “ping” noise, due to its limitations, soon dissipated to yet another disappointment as finding where all the two hundred thirty nine passengers became worries that they went down with the plane.

Frankly, I never thought the plane went down over the Indian Ocean at all; I am also almost positive the flight was hijacked. Why? Because no professional airline crew would disconnect their communications devices for fear of the safety issues involved. No one in a rational mind would dismantle what would in fact, have been a life preserver. Was this sabotage of communications equipment by crew, hijacking, or both?

The major tracking of the huge airliner from the ground by Malaysia, Australia, and other countries in the world aiding in the search; such as the United States, etc., indicate that Flight 370 did turn towards Indonesia. The May 2014 initial investigation revealed of reports of a sudden elevation of the plane. The altitude change would have immediately suffocated the passengers (if as high as 42,000 feet) if they weren’t wearing oxygen masks. This is a frightening theory.

Then recently, a woman sailing her small yacht has come forward, claiming that in May 2014, she saw a plane flying low, with smoke and flames shooting out of the back. This woman failed to report this to the authorities for how long? Why, with all the worldwide media coverage would anybody hesitate? Surely, this had to be an unusual event for anyone observing this! It is my understanding that to date, investigators cannot substantiate this claim.

A missing plane of any size cannot be discounted as a potential weapon. Unfortunately, the attack and destruction of the World Trade Towers in New York City on 9/11 comes to mind. Let us hope that the Malaysian Airliner MH370 can be found this summer. Every nation around the world knows the high risk of letting this investigation falter. It is of no small consequence.

Monday, July 1st, 2013
The Strange Saga of TWA Flight 800 Investigation
By Dulcy Brightman

TWA Flight 800 InvestigationThe news this summer 2013 is of a potential application by six retired investigators to the NTSB to reopen the inspection into the seventeen year old mystery of what happened to downed TWA Flight 800 over Long Island, New York? These now retired investigators say there was a hole made by something that hit the outside of the plane that was not in their original conclusions. They all agree that “wiring was not the cause!”

It was a warm summer day, early morning in 1996, after news broke about TWA Flight 800 when I walked into a local coffee shop in Queens, New York. There, seated at tables, or on stools at the counter, were twelve clean cut young men, all dressed in black trousers and white shirts. Was it my imagination that each man was extremely fit?

It is completely unusual to see that many short-haired young men at that particular location and at that hour. None of them spoke a word to each other at all. That restaurant, although it has changed ownership since then, is frequented by blue collar workers and the locals of that neighborhood. Seeing these men was quite out of character.

TWA Flight 800 InvestigationSeventeen years ago in that coffee shop, there was talk of the TWA Flight 800 and the loss of 230 lives. That morning, those men on stools shifted uncomfortably in their seats when over-hearing the local’s opinions. Most of the locals were of the opinion that the airplane had been shot down by “accident” from a secluded military facility not far away. All the locals did not believe the plane had a “faulty wire” or other mechanical problems. The question was then, who did it?

I approached one of the men at the counter, and asked his opinion. He did not reply. Nervously, he shifted his weight on the stool under the counter and barely touched his coffee, when he abruptly rose from his seat without a word, and left the coffee shop. Soon afterwards, all the other men in black trousers and white shirts left too. I again noticed their outfits were perfect, and looked as if they had never been worn before.

Who knows if there ever will be a truthful story about the tragic loss of TWA Flight 800?
~ Dulcy

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Progress on the Second Avenue Subway - New York City
By Dulcy Brightman

After 90 years of the ups and downs of New York City politics, the much needed Second Avenue Subway System is a work in progress. Work began on the tunnels being sliced through the granite rocks in 2007. It is hard to believe that more than half that many years ago I was what was known then as an “Upper East Sider”? Yes, I lived on the East Side of Manhattan. Manhattan is commonly known as one of the five boroughs of New York City.

Then there were the remains of old turn of the century tenements along the side streets in the East sixties (streets) near the East River. Many of those same apartment buildings are still occupied and haven’t been torn down. They are mostly the employees and families of nearby New York Hospital. They are currently tenants/owners of various sized units in the new or nearly new buildings between East 59th Street along York Avenue, First Avenue, Third Avenue to uptown and the notorious area of Yorkville. I say that because there were American Nazi‘s active in Yorkville during WWII. This is an unfortunate bit of sour history, which may or may not have lasted far after WWII. I recall being very dubious about entering cafes on 86th Street in the early 1960's. Not a very good vibe, I can tell you.

In fact, “TGI Fridays” restaurant was started as a business on First Avenue at 60th Street in a once magnificent, old neighborhood bar. The bar itself was carved from one tree, which was the most impressive bar I’ve ever seen besides the one in the Gene Autry Museum in Los Angeles.

Many the day when I would walk over to the Art Students League of New York, and back from my apartment. Designer, Betsey Johnson had her shop on East 60th Street (or was it 59th Street?). There is also the famous Serendipity Restaurant (a movie was made featuring it with the same name) co-founded by a now deceased Art Students League classmate, Calvin (I forget his last name). He was a great person, and couldn’t have been more delightful. His legacy lives on.

Even on the best of days, the long walk from the west side of New York City to the east side was a challenge. In winter, it was downright impossible. New York City had enormous snow storms in the early 1960’s, cutting off Manhattan from the other famous New York City boroughs. The mayor closed down Manhattan for over a week. Hard to imagine, but true!

After so many generations of young adults arriving daily from all over the world to the 24 hour “City that Never Sleeps”, it is projected that by 2016, the $4.5 Billion dollar extension of the vast Metropolitan Transit System will finally be completed.

Monday, November 5th, 2012
The Super Storm Hurricane Sandy & The Wall of Rain
by Dulcy Brightman
Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy
1-800 HELP NOW or www.redcross.org
Text:  90999  & iTunes.com/redcross

Catastrophic Hurricane Sandy (The Super Storm) arrived October 28-29, 2012 along the East Coast this 2012 early Fall Season. The people were warned prior to Sandy’s direct hit of New Jersey by Governor Chris Christie and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City to leave voluntarily, and then by mandatory evacuations for people living near the shorelines of New York City & New Jersey. Connecticut was drenched in disaster.

Some people listened to warnings, and others didn’t. Those that didn’t leave, unfortunately, became victims. Swept away from a mother’s arms were two small boys. The Stock Exchange closed for two days. This hadn’t happened since 1888, when weather caused closure. Hurricane Sandy pushed waters up thirty feet and flooded one hundred year old power connections in New York City Subways, FDR Drive, Wall Street, and all power went out below 38th Street, New York City. The Hudson River filled “Ground Zero”.

In New Jersey, Hurricane Sandy wrecked the “Jersey Shore” forever. Jones Beach, Long Island, New York, is gone. Hoboken, Seaside Heights, NJ, the Rockaways, Breezy Point, L.I., NY. Hurricane Sandy is the largest storm on record. People’s lives are changed forever. The recovery will take decades.

More than three major states suffered extreme wind/sea water damage to homes, power lines & transit due to Hurricane Sandy’s slaughter-slam along the East Coast of the United States. The very low pressure of this hurricane and its high winds with rain, merged with another hurricane to become what was reported as a “Super Storm!”

It was only a year ago that I returned to visit the New York, New Jersey area. I had spent many happy summers at beaches in both states during her early adult life. The memories last. The shorelines obviously didn’t.

The rest of America is watching closely as life after Hurricane Sandy returns to everyday life in those east coast states from Florida all the way up through New York, and west to the Ohio Valley. Hardest hit was the New Jersey shore, Staten Island, and Queens, New York, seaside communities’ way out to Huntington, Long Island, New York. Help is needed as so many have had losses of homes and lives. The danger of bacteria in the oil/sewage slime filled ground waters is also a hazard. Word is out not to touch the water under foot. However, many people are, and are now wondering if they’ll come down with some killer disease in ten years?

We hope you will give generously to The American Red Cross.
~ Dulcy


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