Author Archives: Michael Kleen

All-American Diner Tour: Wade’s Diner in Oswego, New York

The original Wade’s, an old Pullman car and service station on 9th Street near Route 104 (Bridge Street), was a historic diner that opened in 1937. Unfortunately, an electric fire in August 2015 destroyed the original structure. It was rebuilt in a more modern style to comply with zoning regulations and “support modern technologies.” That technology apparently doesn’t include a credit card reader.

When Neal Wade purchased the Pullman car in the 1930s, he was told he couldn’t haul it across town without a permit. Being enterprising young Americans, Wade and friends decided to expedite the process themselves and hauled it to 9th Street during the night. Since no one could prove how the train car got there, they got away scot-free. In 1983, Anthony Zappala and Joseph Clark purchased the diner. Clark passed away in 2003 and Zappala’s family runs it to this day.

Wade’s is only open for breakfast and brunch, so they have a stripped-down menu offering French toast, pancakes, omelettes, and an assortment of side items, eggs Benedict, frittata, and a breakfast patty melt. They are known for their homemade cinnamon raisin bread. You can purchase a loaf for $6.00 (they also make white, wheat, and rye).

Everyone seems to praise Wade’s breakfast, especially their omelets. It pains me to say that wasn’t my experience. The raisin roast was excellent, but my omelet was under cooked and runny. It came out as quickly as it went in. Maybe I was just there on an off-day.

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Autumn in the Adirondack Mountains

I recently had the opportunity to travel through the Adirondack Mountains. Much of the Adirondacks are covered by evergreen forest, but this area in Essex County, New York was particularly ripe with autumn colors.

The Phantom Bride of 13 Curves Road

A few miles southwest of Syracuse, New York, just down the W. Seneca Turnpike from Onondaga Community College, Cedervale Road winds its way downhill along a narrow creek. At this point, the woods close in on the road from both sides and lights are few. On Halloween night, travelers negotiate the tight turns on this road in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the “Phantom Bride of 13 Curves Road.” According to some accounts, this legend may stretch back to the days of horse and buggy.

Locals say that at some point in the past, a newlywed couple was driving a buggy down this road in the dark after the ceremony (or perhaps the reception). Unable to maintain control of the horses around the tight curves, the husband and his new bride were thrown from the open seats and broke their necks against the rugged terrain around the creek bed. As the 20th Century wore on, the horse and buggy became an automobile in the minds of storytellers. The story, however, remained essentially unchanged, with some variations. Some say only the groom was killed, and the bride’s ghost appears searching for her former beloved.

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Shapeshifting and Familiars

The following is an excerpt from my new book Witchcraft in Illinois: A Cultural History. Part Two explores beliefs about witchcraft, including a witch’s powers and abilities, which were surprisingly specific. Order it today on Amazon.com or Barnesandnoble.com

Shapeshifting was a common theme in witch tales. Storytellers claimed witches could transform into any number of animals, including deer, rabbits, cats, pigs, and horses. Others claimed that witches transformed their victims into animals.

Witches who transformed men into horses while they slept and rode them to the Sabbath caused their victims to experience physical and mental exhaustion. Others changed children into animals in order to take revenge against their parents.

A common story, repeated many times and in many locations, involved a game animal that was particularly difficult to hunt. The hunter (usually described as a skilled marksman) found his best efforts frustrated until he loaded his musket or rifle with a silver bullet.

Finally wounding the animal, the hunter pursued his quarry only to discover a neighbor crippled in the same location where he shot his prey. However, silver bullets did not need to cause the wound. Any injury to the magical animal caused an identical injury on the witch, revealing his or her identity.

Charles Neely, Sr. related the following story to his son, folklorist Charles Neely, who explained that the story circulated the Alcorn Creek neighborhood of Pope County, Illinois. Pope County is located at the southeastern tip of the state, just north of the junction of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.

“Uncle Wesley Holt, who was an old settler and part Indian, saw a deer galloping around the field. Being an expert marksman with the old cap and ball rifle, Uncle Wesley decided to have some venison. He shot at the deer and it galloped away. For several days it galloped around the field. Uncle Wesley shot at it several times but failed to kill it. He knew that his marksmanship was good, so he decided that there was something uncanny about the deer.”

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The Secret Scripture: A Romantic Irish Tale

An elderly woman with an enigmatic past pines her days away in an asylum, until a doctor begins investigating her case and ultimately gives them both a second chance at life in The Secret Scripture (2016). It is a romantic tale filmed on location in Ireland and is one of those films audiences seemed to like but critics panned. Beautiful cinematography and emotional depth masks an otherwise a ridiculous plot.

The Secret Scripture is based on a novel of the same name by Sebastian Barry, author of A Long Long Way (2005). It was released in Canada and the U.K. in 2016 but came to the U.S. in October of this year. It was adapted for the screen and directed by Jim Sheridan, who also directed My Left Foot (1989) and The Boxer (1997). Both Sebastian Barry and Jim Sheridan were born in Dublin and have focused their careers on highlighting the Irish experience.

The film centers on Roseanne McNulty (Vanessa Redgrave), an elderly woman in a mental institution who allegedly murdered her child. Dr. William Grene (Eric Bana) comes to evaluate Rose to see if she is sane enough to live on her own, because the institution is being remodeled into a spa. Dr. Grene becomes fascinated with her life story after discovering a journal she’s kept, written on the pages of a Bible.

As a young woman, Rose (Rooney Mara) lives in Belfast with her sweetheart, Michael McNulty (Jack Reynor). He leaves to join the British air force during World War 2. She moves to the Irish countryside to escape the German bombing raids, only to run afoul of local conventions. After being exiled from her aunt’s cafe to an isolated cottage, Michael just so happens to be shot down in her backyard and she hides him from Irish partisans.

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The Last Citadel: Petersburg by Noah Andre Trudeau

the-last-citadel-petersburg-june-1864-to-april-1865-by-noah-andre-trudeauIn The Last Citadel: Petersburg, June 1864-April 1865, Noah Andre Trudeau charts Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s Petersburg Campaign, from June 9, 1864, when General Benjamin Butler first attacked defenses around the city, to  April 3, 1865, when Federal troops at last captured this vital Virginia railroad hub south of Richmond. The ten-month Siege of Petersburg was the longest and most costly to ever take place on North American soil.

Within this non-traditional history, Trudeau brings to life these dramatic events through the words of men and women who were there, including officers, common soldiers, and the residents of Petersburg. What emerges is an epic account rich in human incident and adventure, told through various chapters covering all aspects of the campaign. This revised Sesquicentennial edition includes updated text, redrawn maps, and new material.

The Last Citadel is divided into six parts, including a prologue and epilogue. The chapters are arranged into a rough chronology, but this is not strictly a chronological account of the siege. Each chapter uses a different subject to frame the narrative, from the effect of artillery bombardment on soldiers and civilians, the role of newspapers and the press, and even fraternization between opposing armies.

This is a unique and interesting way to look at the battle, drawing from a multitude of primary sources including military orders and dispatches, regimental histories, civilian diaries and letters, newspapers, and more. Trudeau organizes his book well, so that various perspectives never become jumbled or distracting. This keeps each chapter fresh and interesting, like reading a collection of articles rather than a weighty historical text.

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