On Mount Greylock’s Thunderbolt Trail
In 1938, a German ski team was dispatched to Western Massachusetts by Adolf Hitler to compete in the Eastern Downhill Championships, which were held that year on the slopes of Mount Greylock.
Over 7,000 spectators lined the wooded ski trail called Thunderbolt. They witnessed the defeat of local favorite Rudy Konieczny of Adams, who was that year’s runner-up, by the University of Munich’s Fritz Dehmel.
Seven years later, during the Second World War, Konieczny was killed in combat while serving as a member of the U.S. Army Tenth Mountain Division in the Italian Alps. In 1999, at the summit of Mount Greylock, descendants of the Konieczny family took part in a ceremony dedicating the Thunderbolt Ski Shelter to the former skier and soldier. This winter, that dedicated shelter will keep dozens of skiers and boarders warm as they wait for the beginning of this year’s Thunderbolt Ski Race.
Skiing is a pastime steeped in history. Many of its most famous trails whisper old stories that can still be heard through the frozen snow pack. Not many trails, however, are as legendary as the Thunderbolt Trail, which continues to wind its way unassumingly through the eastern hardwoods of Mount Greylock, just as it has for more than three-quarters of a century. At 3,491 feet, Massachusetts’ highest peak does not enjoy the impressive elevation or the reliable snowfall of so many other notable peaks across the skiing landscape. But few mountains have played so important a role in skiing’s history.
“The Thunderbolt [is] much more than just a ski trail,” David Goodman suggests in Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York. “Built in the wake of the Great Depression, the trail formed the hub of a bustling ski subculture.” Indeed, it was the growing local interest in skiing as a winter activity that led to the trail’s creation in the first place.
Critics take aim at a league of billionaires
It may be true that even bad publicity is better than no publicity. But these days, the NFL (National Football League) is certainly putting that marketing philosophy to the test.
Richie (not so) Incognito and the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal. The Oneida Nation adding its voice to the chorus asking the Washington Redskins to change their team name. Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett joining the long line of legendary players speaking out about their concussion-related struggles with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
“Are you ready for some football?” With so many off-field concerns casting shadows on today’s game-day action, answering that familiar Monday night refrain is not so easy as it used to be.
Add to that list of troubling professional football issues revelations regarding the league’s status as a nonprofit organization.
This year alone, the NFL will rake in $9 billion in revenue, yet it is technically a nonprofit organization. If you’re thinking that this deal just doesn’t add up—or shouldn’t, at least—you’re not alone. A recent Change.org petition, created by diehard New Orleans Saints fan Lynda Woolard, is asking the U.S. Senate to “Revoke the Tax-Exempt Status of the National Football League.” The petition had garnered 300,000 signatures at press time.
And earlier this fall, arch-conservative senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced a “Bill to Restrict Professional Sports Leagues from Qualifying as Tax-Exempt,” which would either prevent said organizations from making over $10 million annually or force them to give up their tax-exempt status.
Barbara Bosworth’s”outdoors-based” photography exhibits in the Valley.
“How do you make a photograph on a trail?”
This is the question Barbara Bosworth poses both to herself and to the 30 or so of us in attendance at her recent lunchtime talk at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum.
“What is a trail?” she ponders. “How do you account for it moving through the landscape?”
The first artist-in-residence of the New England National Scenic Trail (NET), Bosworth spent the summer and fall of 2012 on the 215-mile trail with a large-format camera. The exhibit that grew out of that long hiking adventure, To Be at the Farther Edge: Photographs Along the New England Trail, is showing at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum through Dec. 17, and at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum and Beneski Museum of Natural History until Dec. 8.
The exhibit is presented by the National Park Service—which oversees the NET—along with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association. To Be at the Farther Edge is also on display south of the Valley at the New Britain Museum of American Art and the Hartford Art School through the end of November. It also shows at the AMC headquarters in Boston during that time.
When the Emily Dickinson Archive was released online recently, it rekindled a literary rivalry between Harvard University and Amherst College that goes back over a hundred years.
The archive “gives free access to high-resolution photos of thousands of the poet’s manuscripts, including envelopes or bits of paper with poems jotted down on them, letters, doodles and many, many exuberant em-dashes,” National Public Radio reports.
But Harvard has been accused of taking too much credit for the project, in part to boost the status of Ralph Franklin’s 1998 collection of Dickinson poems, which was published by Harvard University Press, reports The Guardian.
The Dickinson collection held at Harvard’s Houghton Library was originally gifted to Harvard by Susan Dickinson, the wife of Emily’s brother Austin. The collection at the Amherst College Library was donated by Mabel Loomis Todd, Austin’s lover.
“It all goes back to the adultery and the two homes,” Oxford University Dickinson biographer Lyndall Gordon told The Guardian. “Austin had an explosive affair with Mabel … [who was] an incredibly accomplished young woman … But she was malicious, and she maligned Susan, and so it became embittered very quickly.”
Can They Play That Funky Music?
On the homepage of its website, the Valley band Shokazoba highlights a quote from Bluebird Reviews describing it as “an Afrobeat ensemble that blends jazz and old school funk, with a West African beat that sets the foundation for a great community vibe.”
That foundation proved very shaky, however, when the band’s performance at Hampshire College’s annual Halloween party on October 25 was canceled amidst cries of racism—both from a group of students at Hampshire and from the predominantly white band as well.
One of several musical acts hired by Hampshire’s event-planning Hype Committee to play the Halloween party, Shokazoba’s performance was canceled after a group of students voiced concerns about the musicians in the Afrobeat band being mostly white. The annual event is funded by student fees.
“We have always been a group that celebrates diversity. However, the problem was that we apparently have too many white members,” Shokazoba said in an email to the Advocate. “Then there was a frighteningly ignorant chain of comments on the Hampshire Hype page defaming our character after members of our group attempted to defend themselves.”
The Hampshire administration, however, says that the band’s performance was not canceled due to the racial makeup of its musicians, but rather because of the remarks that were made after the students questioned Shokazoba’s inclusion on the bill.
The comedic commentator comes to Springfield’s Symphony Hall
Bill Maher tends to say things a bit bluntly. A few weeks ago, on his weekly HBO show Real Time, he suggested that California would lead the way to a modern, liberal American society because, with 40 million residents, the Golden State is by itself the eighth largest economy in the world.
And with that kind of size comes a demand that can’t be ignored. “It’s ironic,” Maher mused, “[that] the two things conservatives love the most—the free market and states’ rights—are the two things that are going to bend this country into California’s image as a socialist fagtopia.” But Maher, who visits the Valley this weekend for a show at Springfield Symphony Hall, is no platform-regurgitating Democrat. He’s always been too politically incorrect for that, as the title of his former show suggests.
Politically Incorrect frequently featured an impressive combination of panel guests, such as Florence (Mrs. Brady) Henderson sitting next to shock rocker Marilyn Manson, openly discussing the issues of the day in a refreshingly unscripted format. Maher was let go by the show’s network, ABC, for suggesting that “lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away” was more cowardly than “staying in the airplane[s]” that hit the Twin Towers on September 11. But he’s since found a more compatible home, he says, at HBO. Recently Maher spoke over the phone with the Advocate about the perils of politics and religion, his firing by ABC, and his love of traveling the country doing stand-up.
Paranormal journalist Jeff Belanger’s New England Legends premiers on PBS Springfield.
When he was 10 years old, Bay Stater Jeff Belanger heard that his friend’s historic house was haunted by ghosts. Immediately intrigued, he requested a sleepover. That night, Ouija board in hand, the two boys attempted to contact the spirits squatting with his friend’s family. It was the early ’80s, years before the influx of ghost hunting cable TV shows and zombie paraphernalia took root in popular culture. But Belanger’s path was set.
“Ghosts weren’t out of the closet back then,” Belanger tells the Advocate, adding that he was impressed that his friend’s parents appeared so relaxed about the paranormal activity possibly taking place in their home. “It wasn’t like a Hollywood movie,” he continues. “They weren’t scared.”
In the intervening years, Belanger has authored several books on mysterious phenomena, including Weird Massachusetts, hosted the web talk show 30 Odd Minutes, and written for the Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures. His new documentary project, New England Legends, airs in two parts this Halloween on Springfield’s PBS affiliate, WGBY. He is hopeful the project will grow into a series.
“We’re focusing on the backstory and the history of these legends,” he explains, “trying to nail it down to something that can’t be argued: the experience of an eyewitness. That’s what gives a legend its legs.”
“A legend is a living, breathing thing,” he says— something that is constantly evolving according to both the people who agree with it and the people who don’t. “These stories make our communities unique,” Belanger adds. “We all have a link to them.”