Never Forget! (more like no one remembers)

One of the local newspapers that I do not write for but read had a page one story this week about last week’s Highlands Council meeting and focused on the vacation of Cornwall Street between the two terrific restaurants that are on either side of it. But the headline said the borough vacated property AT Cornwall Street, not Cornwall Street itself. It is rather misleading and incorrect when you realize the borough indeed vacated that portion of the street and now each restaurant will own half of what used to be borough property. BUT…BUT..the borough still owns the bulkhead at the very end directly on the Shrewsbury River, which means yes, taxpayers you’ll be responsible for the upkeep and repairs of it. But you can enjoy your drinks and the view from land which was once yours right next to it. Until, of course, the new owners of that borough street decide to build something on it, or put a gate up around it, or hey…maybe the owners will join their restaurants and build a spectacular addition to each across what used to be a borough road. I love both restaurants. I think they’re both an asset to the borough and I certainly frequent them simply because the staffs are terrific, the atmosphere great and the food spectacular. And yes, even the prices are right. So I applaud and encourage continued success for both. The story, continued inside on Page 8 complete with two photos and great coverage of that one portion of the meeting, then quotes “right a wrong” in that someone at the meeting said the road vacation was really passed 32 years ago but somebody slipped up on the paperwork so it was never official. So this council, this council with three new members in January and I daresay absent a total of 32 years COMBINED living in Highlands, is righting a wrong. By problem is really that the newspaper, which has good reporters and does a fine job in these days so difficult for print news, like the borough council, like so many people in town, don’t know what happened in Highlands 32 years ago. Or 40 years ago, or 50 years ago. Some probably don’t even know what happened last year. Councilwoman Mazzola tried to tell them, but no one apparently listened. She said the ordinance came up last year and that council, the council that was making all the rules up until January 1 and even had one member who, yes, has been living here for 32 years, rejected the ordinance. They voted it down. They said no, don’t give away borough land. So why are we going back to what people who weren’t here say happened 32 years ago? Councilman Martin said that’s one of the things wrong with the town. A lot of things happened, he said, that are incomplete, that were done wrong, so many, he opined that it’s a hallmark of a lot of things … Really? One of the reasons I wrote my latest book, The ABCs of Highlands, is because I do want to remind, or introduce, people to what happened in Highlands 10, 20, 40, 100 years ago. I was struck three years ago when March 22 went came and went in Highlands without so much as a recognition for Tommy Ptak. No place. By no one. Tommy Ptak is the borough’s only resident who gave his life in Vietnam. He had just turned 20 on Feb.1, 1968 and his family…all those siblings and the parents beloved by all in the neighborhood, Ben and Gerry, were all living in their every busy home at the corner of Highland and Valley avenues where the kids were all raised. Tommy was only in the country 98 days, serving in the Thua Thien section of South Vietnam, when he was struck by hostile gunfire and fell with multiple wounds. But when they brought his body home, the town turned out to show their grief and thanks, to let Tommy know they appreciated all he had done. Bud Bahrs was the mayor and ordered the flags at half-staff. Sal Giovenco was retired from his own incredible service to the nation, but he donned his uniform for the mass at OLPH to show his respect for a neighbor the same ages as his own kids. Overflowing crowds from school kids to oldsters turned out for the mass at OLPH and the town didn’t take long to name its soon to be completed senior building Ptak Towers. But 50 years later, on March 22, 2018, not even Ptak Towers did anything to tell Tommy and the Ptaks they still are grateful for the kid who made a sacrifice for his country. Historian Wal Guenther has been researching all the names of the heroes of the second World War memorial plaque and doing a terrific job of it. But there are some no one knows. No one remembers. Apparently because at some point, no one cared. These are only a couple of examples. Indeed, the town has changed. There are fewer and fewer families who can say they still live in the town where their grandfathers, great grandfathers, or four or five generations back lived. Fewer and fewer people even know who Joshua Huddy was, let alone Lady Barberie, for whom two streets are named. Heck, do people even thank Jimmy Kovic for that magnificent Miller St. hill wall? Jimmy’s a living, breathing incredible artist today whose artwork appears on the hill and other buildings in town and throughout the county. Do people even know Miller St. is named for a former Mayor? People do know a lot of the history of Bahrs Restaurant…because Jay and Becky Cosgrove do a great job of reminding everyone the role that family played in the business and commercial growth of Highlands four generations ago and since. Heck, did people even know how Cornwall St. got its name before they gave it away, or that the the property in question was used to dock the magnificent steam boats that brought scores of tourists and visitors to our town? Never forget is a shallow mantra that went the way of that dock and those steam boats.


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