What do Hamden Public Library's Digital Navigators, local Hamden youth non-profit organization We Are The Village, the town's Elderly Services and Public Works departments all have in common? They are all "unsung heroes" of Hamden featured in this episode! Lots of great interviews and information in this one, you won't want to miss it.
Michael Pierry 0:08
Hello and welcome to the Hamden Library Podcast. I'm your host, Michael Pierry, and with me, as always is my co-host, Alyssa Bussard.
Alyssa Bussard 0:16
Michael Pierry 0:18
We have a great episode for you this month. We wanted to highlight some of the organizations and town departments who do great work for our community behind the scenes, so we reached out and spoke with the folks from Hamden nonprofit, We Are The Village, Hamden's Elderly Services and Public Works departments, and the Library's new Digital Navigator program. We're calling this episode "Unsung Heroes of Hamden". We've also got book and movie recommendations, and we're going to start off with what's coming up in the library:
Beginning today, Monday, March 7, Brundage Community Branch library has a Grab and Go children's activity available to pick up: Make a Wind Chime. It's recommended for ages three to eight. These bags are available through the end of the month while supplies last.
Monday March 14, Miller Library has a Grab and Go activity for preschoolers ages three to five: Dinosaur Meltdown. Discover the best method to help the dinosaurs escape the ice. Pick up a dinosaur science kit from the library to help them. You can pick up your craft bag and a dinosaur story from the Miller Library branch. Grab and Go bags are available while they last.
Also on March 14 at 5pm in Thornton Wilder Hall, the Brennan-Lucey Irish Dance Academy Family Program. Learn the history and culture behind Irish dance. Watch a demonstration and learn a step or two. This program is for ages five and up. Registration is required.
Wednesday, March 16 at 10:30am: storytime at Whitneyville Branch library. Join us at the Whitneyville Branch library for stories, songs, and lots of fun for ages two and up. Registration will be limited due to the size of the room.
Another storytime will take place at 6:30pm. This one is Pajamas Storytime at Brundage Community library, recommended for ages two to six. Registration required.
Also on March 16 at 6:30pm on Zoom, join the Hamden Public Library as we explore simple tweaks in nutrition that could lead to big results at our fun and interactive nutrition program, Eat This Not That. Our presenter, Jill Patterson, is an award winning registered dietician nutritionist. Registration is required.
Miller Library's second Grab and Go offering of the month is Magic Blooming Flowers for ages three and up. Available from March 21 for as long as supplies last.
March 21 is also the day of the next installment of In the Kitchen with Mrs. Paula. Follow along with Mrs. Paula as she leads you through the steps to make some great snacks. This is a virtual event on Zoom.
Tuesday March 22, from 6:30 to 7:30 on Zoom, the Hamden Public Library hosts a virtual presentation on Eleanor Roosevelt by historian Mark Albertson.
Then on Wednesday, March 23 at 6pm Brundage Community library hosts an origami workshop for kids aged seven to 12. Space is limited and registration is required.
Monday, March 28, Miller Library is offering its third and final Grab and Go for the month of March. This one is a wild hair STEM activity. You can pick up your bag while supplies last. Ages two to five only.
Also on the 28th at 6:30pm on Zoom, Pam Ross leads the Hamden Library book discussion. This month's book is "The Plot" by Jean Hanff Korelitz.
A reminder that all adults and children ages two and up are required to wear masks in the library and during all of our indoor programs, regardless of vaccination status. Registrations for all library programs can be made via our website, or by calling 203-287-2680, and that's what's going on at the library.
Alyssa Bussard 4:11
I'm going to review "The Lighthouse Witches" by CJ Cooke, which I just finished. "The Lighthouse Witches" starts with Liv in 1998, who was commissioned to paint a mural on a 100 year old lighthouse on a Scottish Island. She has her three daughters with her on the island and two of them and her all go missing.
We fast forward 23 years later and it's 2021 and Luna is the one sister who did not go missing. She gets a phone call that her youngest sister, Clover, has been found. When she goes to see Clover she finds that she's the same little girl that she remembers 20 years ago. That is, she's still seven years old, which is the age that she was when she vanished. Luna starts on a journey that brings her back to the Scottish Islands and the lighthouse and she learns tales of witches and wildlings and treachery.
The thing I love the most about this book is that it also features some diary entries that talk about a cave beneath that lighthouse where accused witches were kept before their so-called trials in 1662. There are three points of view and three time periods, and things blended together in a way that honestly made it so hard to put the book down. I think I read it in one day, because it was so compelling.
I think it's actually pegged as a horror novel, or maybe a thriller, but I don't know that I would call it that. I don't I didn't find anything too horrific through it, and I will say that it was thrilling in the way that everything blends together and you really need to know what happens next.
The ending was very bittersweet. I think that the big takeaway was mother's love and female family bonds and everything. But I found it, I would say, just paranormal enough, I guess, to be believable, because it's almost like magical realism in the way that things happen and you're blending that line between reality and fantasy. So it was very interesting to try to figure out, you know, what was real and what happened, and I don't want to give anything away, but like I said, I am pretty sure I read it in the course of one day, because it was just that compelling. I couldn't put it down.
Michael Pierry 6:19
Wow, that's pretty cool. I mean, I was like, intrigued when you said that it takes place in 2021.
Alyssa Bussard 6:27
Michael Pierry 6:28
It's like, there's wildlings and witches and stuff. It seems like you could just go out and go out into the woods and find them right now, if it takes place in 2021.
Alyssa Bussard 6:38
Yeah, that's what I think it was actually, I think it came out in 2021, as well, so it was pretty cool because I was trying to do the math. It was like "23 years later", and I was like, wait a minute, 1998, and then they do say that it was 2021 as well but then you go the whole way back to 1662, and I think a lot of us are aware of all of the trials, so-called, that women and men went through that were accused of being witches. So it was -- I guess it was horrific in that way but, you know, nothing too, too bad on the page. But I was just, I'm like "what is real? What is not real?" So it was it was pretty great.
Michael Pierry 7:16
That's awesome. So I wanted to read something a little lighter for the past few books that I've done for this podcast so I picked up a book about games.
Alyssa Bussard 7:25
Oh good. You love games.
Michael Pierry 7:26
My recommendation for this month is called "Seven Games: A Human History" by Oliver Roeder. The seven games Roeder focuses on are checkers, chess, go, backgammon, poker, Scrabble and bridge. Now, this is a fascinating and highly entertaining book. Roeder plays many of the games himself, even going so far as to enter Scrabble and high stakes poker tournaments. His enthusiasm for the games is very infectious, so you'll definitely want to play some or all of these after reading about them.
One thing I didn't expect was the focus on computers. Computer programmers and data scientists have created programs that play all of these games. And in all but one case, the computers have become orders of magnitude better than the best human players in the world, so he spends a good deal of time talking about the history and development of these programs, as well as the impact they've had on the community of people who play these games, both as amateurs and professionals.
Of course, there's one thing humans can do that even the most sophisticated AI programs can't, which is have fun, which is usually the whole point. In fact, some scientists actually worry that teaching computers to play games is kind of a waste of time, because they're very narrow and pared down compared to reality, and the goals are clear, the rules are laid out consequences of winning and losing are not that big a deal compared to some things in real life. So they're really not a good simulation of the real world for AI because AI doesn't learn the way humans do.
Humans can learn lots of things from playing games. They can learn how to cooperate, compete -- you know -- you can learn empathy, you can appreciate the beauty of the game, learn how to strategize, generally, and so on. Computers don't learn any of that from playing games. They just learn how to play the game as efficiently as possible. So yeah, it was really interesting book. I really recommend it. It's a lot of fun, and you will definitely -- I was definitely inspired to learn how to try to learn how to play go. I don't think I'll ever really be able to play Go, but it's really interesting.
Alyssa Bussard 9:39
Yeah, that is interesting. I was just reminded of a program I attended a long time ago about playing, and playing games. But one of the things that the presenter said was how, for example, kids are happy and they they do make believe and they play.
Think about like a puppy, right? A puppy is having a good time playing, and adults tend to stop playing in that way and then there are adults -- well, people of all ages -- who still do play different kinds of games or be it on your phone or just, you know, a board game or anything like that and there's something to be said about the connection that you make with people that you're playing with. So, you know, you're playing a board game with someone or say it's a family game night or something, and you learn things about people and it's always like a really fun experience, I guess, unless you're playing Monopoly with my family, but--
Michael Pierry 10:41
Alyssa Bussard 10:41
You know, if you -- one thing about the AI I was just thinking about is, I don't play poker, I don't know how to play poker, but isn't a big thing, being able to read the tells and being able to read your opponent and see? I mean, how can that be done?
Michael Pierry 10:58
Yeah, you, you're right and he does. He does talk about that in the book. It turns out if you're good enough at simulating, like, lots and lots of games, which is what most of the AIs do to learn. They play, like, millions of games with themselves, basically. You get so good at the odds that it doesn't matter.
Alyssa Bussard 11:23
Okay, so is it kind of like--
Michael Pierry 11:25
it actually, they, like, professional poker players now, they they basically have to take strategies from the computer now in order to compete successfully--
Alyssa Bussard 11:36
Michael Pierry 11:37
And they don't really, they don't really do tells anymore.
Alyssa Bussard 11:41
Okay, so is it kind of like akin to being able to like, you know, how people they can count the cards?
Michael Pierry 11:48
Kind of, yeah.
Alyssa Bussard 11:49
Okay, that's neat.
Michael Pierry 11:50
That's -- Yeah. I mean, you can't do that literally--
Alyssa Bussard 11:52
Michael Pierry 11:52
With poker look like the way you can with blackjack. But um, yeah, it's basically complete -- it becomes completely computational and like, basically takes all the fun out of it.
Alyssa Bussard 12:05
[Alyssa laughs.] That's interesting, though. Wow, okay. That's it. Well, I'm glad that you reviewed this one, because this one sounds like it was a fun read for you.
Michael Pierry 12:12
Yeah, the only game that computers basically haven't been able to best humans at is bridge, because bridge has too much cooperation and hidden knowledge from your opponents and stuff like that. So it's a little more, a little more complicated.
Alyssa Bussard 12:29
Michael Pierry 12:30
Alyssa Bussard 12:30
Michael Pierry 12:32
Dave Scanlon, Robert Gagne, and Matt McGregor are the Digital Navigators at the Hamden Public Library. Welcome to the podcast.
Robert Gagne 12:40
Hello. Thank you for having us.
David Scanlon 12:42
Matt McGregor 12:43
Michael Pierry 12:43
So what is the Digital Navigator program and why is it needed right now?
Robert Gagne 12:48
The Digital Navigator program is a grant-based pilot project. The program is made possible through grant money from ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] -- funding released through the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and provided to us by the Connecticut State Library. The Hamden Public Library is one of four libraries in the State of Connecticut -- in addition to Hartford, East Hartford, and Stamford -- offering similar programming. Our main goal is to help bridge the digital divide through digital equity and digital inclusion.
Michael Pierry 13:15
Great. What is the digital divide? And why is it important to address?
Robert Gagne 13:19
In COVID-19, all of us experienced how much our lives rely on digital technology, whether communicating with our family scheduling appointments, or accessing resources. Digital technology is a resource. The digital divide refers to a divide in that resource. Individuals may not have had a strong knowledge of digital technology due to limited learning opportunities or financial limitations. Bridging the digital divide is important as it helps provide that resource to the community.
Michael Pierry 13:49
Excellent. Thank you. What has surprised you the most about either the clientele, the work itself or anything else since the program started?
David Scanlon 13:58
I'm not sure if it is exactly surprising, but an element that I'd like to talk about would be the immediate response which did surprise us, though maybe it shouldn't have. We started the program in mid-January and have to date served over 100 -- somewhere between 100 and 125 -- people and there are constant voicemails coming in of people requesting additional help. One surprising thing that I have found has been that there is this kind of existing stereotype that a digital skills are connected to age and that has not been consistent in my the work that I've been doing. There are plenty of people that are very senior that are very quick in navigating their laptop, very quick at navigating their telephone, and the opposite is true at the other end of the age spectrum. So I guess it has been very much disproving that stereotype that digital skills are equated to one's age.
Michael Pierry 15:06
You're absolutely right. I mean, that completely jives with my own experience on the reference desk as a librarian. There is that stereotype, and I found the same thing: that folks of all different ages have all different skill levels, you just, you can't really predict. So what's the biggest challenge or one of them for a program like this? And for you personally, in serving the needs of the public?
David Scanlon 15:35
Yeah, I feel very fortunate to be on this team of three people with Robert and Matt. And I feel very confident in everyone's patience and empathy in addressing things. But that is not to say that there have not been challenges or that it's not challenging.
There are a lot of things that I have found that are kind of out of our hands, if you will. I'm very excited, and the easiest appointments are always the kind of digital skills appointments when someone suddenly like, "I didn't even need an email address", or "can you help teach me how to use my camera on my phone", all of these things of like, "here's this skill that I'm going to learn". However, unfortunately, in addressing what Robert was describing as the digital divide, many of our appointments are, in fact, interfacing with service providers. That might be an Internet service provider. That might be a phone service provider, and that has been challenging because some of it is a bit out of our hands. And then also in interfacing with those institutions -- we might say -- it can be complex, I'm glad that we are here to help navigate, if you will, some of those challenges and even if we in navigating those things feel -- even ourselves -- like, over our head a bit, I think it has been very helpful for the people we're helping, for them to feel like they kind of have someone, like. is with them in their corner--
Michael Pierry 17:15
In their corner, yeah--
David Scanlon 17:16
Or like working with them. So I would say, just to kind of recap that a big challenge, it has been this kind of interfacing, being "elite liaison", if you will, and trying to navigate that.
Michael Pierry 17:32
Right. So your liaison on behalf of them for their, like, contacting their service providers and stuff like that.
David Scanlon 17:42
I mean, a liaison would probably be the wrong word, because we are not filling out applications for anyone. We aren't really doing the talking. We are certainly -- we're actually chiming in on the phone calls--
Michael Pierry 17:56
David Scanlon 17:57
But we're essentially sitting with them on hold, eventually getting through talking to technical services, and helping to clarify what the operators have said, and some of the people we're helping have limited experience--
Michael Pierry 18:16
David Scanlon 18:17
So we're able to know to ask certain questions about things that might be affected by navigating these different services.
Michael Pierry 18:28
I think that must feel very empowering for them. So that's great.
David Scanlon 18:32
I think those sometimes it is a big challenge. And sometimes I leave the meeting, the appointment and being like, "I don't know, if I fully finished that"
Michael Pierry 18:43
David Scanlon 18:43
Or like "I didn't necessarily, this person's phone isn't necessarily working again, we're only halfway through". But so I might feel frustrated, but the patron often has does seem to really, really appreciate there being someone kind of in it with them.
Michael Pierry 19:01
Exactly, yeah. You don't feel alone. I think that's really important. So that leads me to the last question, which is, what kind of lasting impact do you hope this program will have on the Hamden community?
Matt McGregor 19:18
Like Dave said, we are going out and we're teaching people skills, so that they'll be able to hopefully do these things on their own, and be able to share the lessons they've learned with their community. That's when we have really succeeded. When the connections that we have made, go out and make their own connections and organically spread the scales for the entire community to reach digital equity. We're only three people but if it spreads out from the people who we help, I think we could make a real lasting change in the community.
Michael Pierry 20:07
Absolutely, I think that's wonderful. It's a wonderful way to put it. And that's a great way to wrap things up. So thank you, Dave, Robert, and Matt, for participating in this interview, and I look forward to more digital navigation at the Hamden Public Library. July 31 is the official end date. But I hope you guys can can stick around longer than that. Thank you very much.
Matt McGregor 20:34
Robert Gagne 20:35
David Scanlon 20:35
Ariana Davis 20:37
I'm privileged to interview today, Miss Melissa Atterberry-Jones, founder and CEO of We Are The Village youth center. Under her leadership and dedication, a sanctuary for young ones in our community has been created. Thank you so much, Miss Atterberry-Jones, for joining us today.
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 20:56
Thank you for having me. Thank you.
Ariana Davis 20:58
So my first question for you is, if you can explain to those who may not be familiar, if you could please tell our listeners about We Are The Village as well as the mantra behind the name.
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 21:10
So We Are The Village was created October 2020, and we were created because we saw a need in the community with our youth as far as programming life skills, and just a safe place for them to just be themselves. We didn't see that in the community so we decided to become that and that's the -- you know -- our mantra is we are a village, "it takes a village so we became one", so we had to become what we needed and that's what we did. So I got together with a couple of people and I let them know, like, this is the need of the community, and we just made it happen. We listened to the youth. We got their input on what they would like to see what they would like to do, and also just knowing what developmental skills that they need to be functioning -- good functioning adults. So we added those things in as well.
Ariana Davis 22:05
Wonderful. Thank you for explaining that. My next question for you is if you could please share with us the story behind the formation of your organization.
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 22:17
So the story behind that is kind of a touching story. Growing up, there's always a house -- usually in the neighborhood, especially the neighborhoods that I grew up in -- where most of the kids migrate to. That was my house.
That was my house, and growing up. I didn't really understand it. My sisters and I used to ask my mom, like, "Why do everyone always have to come here to eat? Why do we have people staying at our house?", but my mom already knew what was needed so she met the needs of the community. So I felt that I was groomed into this thing, and she and I always talked about having a youth center. We did all the planning, and she passed a year and a half ago. She passed the May before I opened the center, so I said in her honor, I will follow that through and make sure it's the best that it can be because that's what she wanted.
Ariana Davis 23:10
Wow. How proud your mother would be to know that you are really putting this into action, the conversation that you had and the desire you both put into making this possible. Thank you for sharing that.
Are there any particular local or national events, in addition to the COVID 19 pandemic, that stand out in your mind that have intensified the need for safe and secure places for youth?
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 23:39
I would just say the uptick in crime in general. There's been a lot of car thefts and break ins and robberies and it it just seems like - not saying that it's the actual solution to the overall problem, but it helps. When kids have idle time on their hands, they do things and sometimes they do things that aren't good. You know, idle time is not good time. So we wanted to create a place where they can utilize their time wisely. We have a space where they can just hang out if they want to, or they can gain skills.
We have we had a gym, but now we turned it into a game room listening to the children, you know, and a lot of older children do not want organized programming. They're like "we're in school all day", so they just want somewhere where they can be themselves, but to answer the question, I would just say the overall uptick in crime is what really pushed me to say "okay, the time is now. This is the time where our youth need something". So we decided to become that something.
Ariana Davis 24:44
Thank you. What role do you personally feel that community based organizations like We Are The Village play in the the lives of young people today?
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 24:57
I feel it plays a really, really big role. It promotes development. It fosters positive relationships, it gives the children, the youth, a sense of security. A lot of children that we come across do not have both parents in the home. A lot of children, you know, are raised by grandma or in foster care. So it gives them a sense of security when it comes to having a parent, having an adult, knowing that that parent -- well, you know, we step in the parental role, and we're consistent. And sometimes all it takes for a child to develop properly is just knowing that somebody is there for them, you know, a little encouragement goes a long way--
Ariana Davis 25:40
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 25:40
And that's what we've been seeing at The Village, that sometimes that's all it takes. We had an instance where the Hamden police brought a child to our center. And we were, they come and visit once in a while, but I'm like, "this didn't look like a good visit". You know?
It was a couple of them in the squad cars. And they came in and they said, "Well, do you know this child?" And I'm like, "Yeah, we know her, she's one of ours". She was found by a retired officer in New Haven, wandering the streets with a Village shirt on just saying that she had to get to The Village.
Ariana Davis 26:17
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 26:18
So she ran away from foster care, and that's why we're here. That's -- we want to be that safe haven, we want to be the place where the kids feel safe, where they can trust us enough to come to us when they're in need.
Ariana Davis 26:32
Wow. Wow. Thank you for sharing that with us. How beautiful that you have youth that feel that they have that safe haven, and they have found that directly in We Are The Village.
In your opinion, do you feel that the needs of Hamden youth are being responded to? Why or why not?
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 26:57
I feel that we're on the right track, I can say that in the town of Hamden, there really isn't a lot for the youth to do and if there is, some of it could be a little costly. So I believe, I mean, the previous administration, I wouldn't say that it failed at it. I just think that it could have been more done to help our youth, I could definitely say that, and especially programs like mine. They should be supported and they weren't, you know, so that right there is just saying something in itself. There's programs that are out there that are putting everything together, that's doing the work, but there's a lack of support. With the new administration, I see a little change. So -- prayerfully? -- you know, things will move in the right direction, which I feel like it is, and I mean, right now, I don't feel like the needs are really being met, but I feel that we're on the proper road to do so.
Ariana Davis 28:04
Wonderful. Wonderful. And for those who are listening to our segment, how can those who are mentors, volunteers, and also other individuals get involved or support We Are The Village?
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 28:19
Two ways. we have a website, it's www.WeAreTheVillage-CT.org, or you can stop in and fill out a volunteer application. We're located at 21 B Pershing Street in Hamden, and we welcome all volunteers. We love community volunteers, because it takes a village. It literally takes all of us. One of us cannot do it. The children need to know that the village is behind them.
Ariana Davis 28:46
Thank you so much, Miss Atterberry-Jones for your time, for your attentiveness to the needs of the local community, and your dedication and drive to fill that need.
Melissa Atterberry-Jones 28:58
Very welcome. Thank you for having me.
Michael Pierry 29:01
And now let's hear from Mike Wheatley.
Mike Wheatley 29:03
There are almost 640,000 individuals in the state of Connecticut -- or about 18% of its population -- over 65 years of age, according to the last US census, and around 45,000 of those live below the poverty line, which is about $12,000 if you are single, $20,000 per family, and many of our seniors are single, living alone. With the opening of the Miller Senior Center in October of 1980, Hamden offered its older residents programs with an emphasis on cultural and educational events. The Elderly Services Outreach Office continues to offer information and assistance to town residents 60 years of age and older.
I would like to offer some information from Susan Burbage, the Elderly Services Director of the town. She says:
Currently we have a staff of five persons in the town of Hamden, with 13,927 seniors of 60 years old plus. I am the coordinator and municipal agent for the town. We have Kim Craft as the secretary, Thomas Davis, Nicole Brown Johnson and Patti Heyer in outreach, which assists Hamden seniors in connecting, applying for state federal programs, such as energy assistance and rent rebate, SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance) and Medicare Savings Programs (MSP). The Elderly Services Department administers the senior transportation program and the Elderly Outreach Office.
The department has a minibus service handled through Greater New Haven Transit. We function as the central resource center for information on programs, activities and services for elderly residents 60 years of age and older and oversee the operation of the Miller Senior Center, a multi purpose facility located at 2901 Dixwell Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut, 06518. We distribute a monthly newsletter, including a calendar of events, informing residents of many programs, services and activities. We also provide information and referral assistance to individuals and families caring for elderly relatives.
I would also like to mention that through Community Foundation of Greater New Haven grant, we are able to help eligible Hamden seniors with emergency needs who are facing hardship. We are fortunate to have been accepted for this three-year grant since 2014. The grant assistance goes entirely to the seniors. Since 2014, over 447,000 grant funds have been providing assistance to the seniors in need, has helped seniors with: special dental needs, shut-off notices, homecare until the state program is implemented, hygiene goods, lift chairs, etc. Thank you, Suzanne, Kim, Tom, Nicole and Patti.
What I hope is that someday soon, when these days of masks and isolation are behind us, we will do a whole podcast with an emphasis on the important work that Elderly Services does in this town. And July of this year, I will be 75 years old. Almost a quarter of the population of Hamden is over 60.
The movies love old people. There have been so many films where actors have won awards for playing people so much older. Dustin Hoffman and "Little Big Man", Russell Crowe and "A Beautiful Mind". Cicely Tyson in "The Autobiography of Miss Jean Pittman". So many amazing makeup artists. Last I checked, there are over 200 films listed on the Internet dealing with the elderly. I could just list them all, but I will spare you that ordeal. Consider the following list an introduction. I probably have missed your favorite, and one of my favorite films in this category. "A Woman's Tale" from 1991 by the great independent Australian director, Paul Cox, is only on VHS and you can only get it locally from one of our last remaining video stores, Best Video. Needless to say, it's very deserving of the DVD release.
Another one on my "I'm pretty sure you've never seen it" list is "Strangers in Good Company" directed by Cynthia Scott, in 1990. "A load of women become stranded in an isolated part of the Canadian countryside. As they await rescue, they reflect on their lives through a mostly ad-lib script." This feels like it could be a documentary with charming and real women recruited by Scott from Montreal senior citizens. It is available through the Hamden Library system.
In 2013, Bill Gibron wrote on his website, "The 10 Best Films About Aging and the Elderly" about "The Straight Story" from 1999. Just gonna read his quote: "Believe it or not, this is a David Lynch film made by Disney and it was rated 'G' as well. And that's not even the most stunning aspect of this amazing film. Richard Farnsworth, partially paralyzed from bone cancer and barely able to walk, was a trooper [sic] throughout filming, startling everyone including the director with his intense work ethic... His turn as an aging vet off to visit his dying, estranged brother (Harry Dean Stanton) by means of a riding mower sounds like perfect Lynch fodder, but instead of turning the tale into another of his patented fever dreams, he delivered a soft, simple classic.
Hard to say what is the oldest film with the primary subject being old age. I would need to research that a lot more, but I do remember seeing a great black and white film called "Make Way For Tomorrow", a 1937 film directed by Leo McCarey starring Victor Moore and Beulah Bondi. It is the story of a poor elderly couple split up to go to separate nursing homes. Warning: this might be one of the saddest films you've ever seen. "Beautiful and heartbreaking", says Roger Ebert.
After the Second World War in Italy, the film industry revived and director Vittorio De Sica emerged shooting outdoors natural light around the distressed cities near and in Rome. In 1952. He made a beautiful Neo realist film, "Umberto D", about an elderly man and his dog, and their struggle to survive on his government pension in Rome. Another amazing, but not overly cheerful film.
A few years later "Wild Strawberries", about an academic reliving his past, burst into the international scene, winning countless awards. One of the best by a great Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman. If you get a chance on YouTube, check out a hilarious short film parody from 1968 called "De Duva" (The Dove). Listen carefully to the language.
In 1972, Paul Mazursky's classic "Harry and Tonto" has Art Carney as a retired teacher traveling like Steinbeck's "Travels with Charlie" with his cat, instead of a dog, curled up on the windshield. From IMDB's description, "Harry is a retired teacher in his 70s living in the Upper West Side of New York City, where his late wife and he raised his children, and where he has lived all his life. When the building in which he lives is torn down to make way for a parking garage, Harry and his beloved cat, Tonto, began a journey across the US, visiting his children, saying world he's never had the time to see before, making new friends and saying goodbye to old friends."
"Grey Gardens" is a famous 1975 documentary about 79 year old Edith Bouvier Beale, and her 56 year old daughter, Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, who are Jacqueline Kennedy's aunt and cousin, living along with several cats, fleas and raccoons in the Hamptons.
Oscar winning "Cocoon", a 1985 comedy sci-fi drama, where Don Ameche, who won Best Supporting Actor, Hume Cronin, Jessica Tandy, Wilford Brimley, and more discovered the true fountain of youth in Florida.
"The Trip to Bountiful", a 1985 film based on Horton Foote's award winning play, and an award winning Geraldine Page plays an elderly woman in 1940s, Texas, determined to see her home one last time.
in 1987, "The Whales of August": Two aged sisters reflect on life and the past during a late summer day in Maine. Lindsay Anderson directs Bette Davis, Lillian Gish -- the famous silent film star -- Vincent Price, and Ann Southern.
"Driving Miss Daisy" in 1989: An old Jewish woman and her black chauffeur in the American South have a relationship that grows and improves over the years. The Australian film director Bruce Beresford directs Morgan Freeman as the chauffer and Jessica Tandy as his boss. Dan Ackroyd and Patti LuPone also star.
"Elsa & Fred" from 2005 then aging dance couple who adore Ginger and Fred Astaire. There's an original Italian version, and a Shirley MacLaine/Christopher Plummer American remake.
"Get Low" from 2009 is a movie spun out of equal parts folktale, fable and real-life legend about the mysterious 1930s Tennessee Herman, who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party while he was still alive. Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek star in it.
"Up" from 2009: You almost forget it's animated in the first 10 minutes.
"RED" from 2010: Retired Extremely Dangerous with Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich as senior retired Black Ops. A very funny action movie about retirement.
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" in 2010, about British retirees who travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than advertised, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways. Great cast, but Judi Dench, as usual, is amazing.
"Nebraska" from 1913 [sic] was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Actress, and Cinematography. An aging booze addled father played by Bruce Dern makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a multi million dollar mega sweepstakes marketing prize.
"Mr. Holmes" in 2015 is about an aging Sherlock Holmes, who reflects back on the case he never solved, brilliantly played by Ian McKellen. You don't remember him? He played Gandalf.
"A Man Called Ove" from 2015. Based on the bestseller about a grumpy man named Ove, an ill tempered, isolated retiree who spends his days enforcing block association rules and visiting his wife's grave has finally given up on life just as an unlikely friendship develops with his boisterous new neighbors.
In the superhero movie category "Logan" which is a film from 2017. It was a film about old age with Professor X from the X-Men played by Patrick Stewart, and a very tired Wolverine played by Hugh Jackman.
Other recent films include Jack Nicholson playing against type in "About Schmidt", Julie Christie's amazing "Away From Her" award winning "Amour" from 2012, Glenn Close as "The Wife", and finally a shout out to Sir Anthony Hopkins, one of my favorite actors in one of his best performances in 2020's "The Father" where he plays a man who refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. He tries to make sense of his changing circumstances. He begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind, and even the fabric of his reality.
I know I've missed a few and next month, I'm sure that there will be two more to add to the list. What is your favorite?
Ariana Davis 43:06
Joseph Colello is the Superintendent of Sanitation, Waterways, and Recycle under the Town of Hamden's Public Works Department. Included in the many duties associated with his position is the management of preparation and cleanup during winter storms and other inclement weather. I have the privilege of interviewing him to find out more about the important work behind maintaining Hamden's roads during the winter season. Thank you so much, Mr. Colello, for joining me.
Joseph Colello 43:35
You're very welcome.
Ariana Davis 43:37
So my first question is, if you can please explain to our listeners some of the steps that are taken to prepare for inclement winter weather.
Joseph Colello 43:46
Sure. We have winter upon us and we start watching the weather forecasts more closely. There's a team of us. It's not just me, it's always we. What we do is we keep an eye on the weather forecast, watch the radar. When we have an incoming storm, we try to get together and make a plan to see what kind of storm it is: which way it's coming from, is it going to be ice, is it going to be snow, is it going to be mixed.
The day before we usually will get our troops together, we'll pre-trip [inspect] our trucks and our equipment. We'll keep an eye on the forecast and the radar. Supervisors will meet so everyone is on the same page to come up with the best plan possible. Consider the type of storm, adjust, adapt and overcome as we do. We put on plows on the trucks, maybe certain trucks or in certain routes we'll have plows on maybe not all of them dependent upon the storm, and then sometimes it is the whole fleet. After that we'll load our trucks with the product, which is treated salt and and sometimes if it's an ice storm will be mixed in with that so have a little bit of grit to it. We will pretreat if we could before the storm and then after that, we'll park the trucks so they're all ready for the storm. If we are confident in a weather forecast, and it's saying it's going to be a significant amount of precipitation, it's going to be at the small window of time, generally, we will tell the whole crew be in at -- let's say -- midnight, or be in at 10 o'clock at night, and that's what we'll do. If we're not confident in the weather forecast, then we have a duty foreman either keep an eye on the radar, the weather on TV, or we may have him come in a few hours before the storm. I was anticipating being here and he may be stationed at public works by himself, then once you start seeing the [precipitation] come, he'll start making the calls to get that crew in.
Predicting the weather. One of your questions on there, "what do you find the most difficult part of your job", and it's absolutely predicting the weather, and especially when the reports are conflicting. Sometimes, as you know, if you go to different radio stations or television stations, sometimes they're pretty much far apart from one another, and that's when we have to scratch our heads a bit. That's when our experience comes in. We get together so we can make the safest call that's possible.
Ariana Davis 46:15
Wow, thank you for going in detail into the work behind preparing for these storms and I could speak for many people that may not know about this information that really gives us a deeper insight into really keeping everything in order and keeping the roads passable. Thank you for that.
Joseph Colello 46:36
Ariana Davis 46:38
My next question for you is: If you could share with the Hamden community a little known fact about your line of work, what would it be?
Joseph Colello 46:45
Well, there's a, there's quite a few supervisors in town, and we all have significant jobs. What I'd like to share with everybody, it's not so much a secret, but maybe people don't realize, is how much cooperation goes in to the communication between municipalities, whether it's police, fire, public works in parks departments, to make it as functional as safe and efficient as possible. And what I mean when I say that, there could be automobile accidents, there could be fires, medicals, storms where we have to make way for the medical emergency vehicles, natural disasters.
Sharing safety information. Plenty of times it hasn't just been snowstorms, as you guys know. It's been tornadoes, it's been hurricanes, it's been electrical storms and we have to coordinate with UI, with Police, Fire, Public Works, anybody that's part of the municipality. We communicate, and we do it well, and nine out of 10 times nobody gets hurt. It's very professional, it's very caring in what we do, and people should know that when you're in your homes, and you're saying, "the electricity is taking a long time to come on," you know, "when are they going to clear the street of the snow?" "They haven't been down my street yet" -- a ton of these questions.
And I get it because before I worked here, it was the same questions that I had. You have to believe if we're not in front of your house, we're somewhere in town -- or many places in town -- at that time doing what we're supposed to and helping. We will get there. You just have to be a little bit of patient. But, again, that's one of the hidden -- I don't know if it's a secret, but it's a lot of things, a few things that people don't know -- about the communication, cooperation it takes townwide to make it safe.
Ariana Davis 48:03
And in particular, 2013 was a memorable year due to the blizzard that occurred in February known as Winter Storm Nemo.
Joseph Colello 48:41
Ariana Davis 48:41
If you can please share your experience participating in town preparations and cleanup during during that time.
Joseph Colello 48:49
Sure. So for this, like I told you before, 2013. I had to dig up some files, and I didn't remember a lot of things, although I thought I did, but digging up those files made me remember and I hope it's something that we never see again. But I will read you what I pulled up so far.
Our famous storm Nemo from Hamden, Connecticut, which didn't just hit Hamden but Hamden, I guess, was voted as the top snow accumulation, and which was February 8 2013, 40 inches of snow. It was definitely known as a full blown natural disaster. Hamden Public Works stayed open for business for 24 hours per day, nine days, 18 hours. And when we finally closed the doors, we came in on our normal business hours -- maybe a few stragglers stayed on, on overtime a bit -- but we were cleaning, and cleaning, and cleaning for many, many days. Besides Public Works and Parks at full power, Hamden hired seven local contractors with loaders and tri-axles. Two out of state contractors from New York and New Jersey with loaders and tri-axles. Public works had five loaders -- five of our own loaders -- and we hired 35 front end loaders, which made a total of 35 loaders. And we also hired 33 tri-axles on top of our own workforce.
Hamden staged set seven temporary snow dumping sites around town which were Brooksville Park, Legion Field, Miller Library, Hamden Dog Park, Cedar Park, Carusone Park and the old Hamden Middle School. These piles were very, very high and one of the piles that we're kind of famous for in town is our dog park, where you park your cars when you take your dogs for a walk. That snow pile that we were driving on with trucks was about 30 to 40 feet high.
People will say "well, how did you drive on top of snow with those heavy trucks?"
That snow when it started getting wet was so packed and we put road millings on top of where we had to drive. We just kept building higher and higher and higher, as we had no choice. Where else we were going to put the snow?
We had to be creative, we had to think outside the box, and again, we always say we assess, improvise, adapt and overcome, and that's exactly what we did at that time.
Hamden normally has 15 snowplow routes. We had each snowplow driver take a hired loader, and an operator, and several tri-axles to his snow route. We couldn't push the snow anymore. We had 11 out of our 15 trucks stuck at one time. The snow was higher than our plows. It wouldn't go over the edges of the road, and we had to physically pick it up and move it and remove it, right? We could not push it any more.
It took days for us to get through just a path so we could make sure emergency vehicles got through in case of any medical emergency. All the local news crews were there, camped out in the public works parking lot at the time -- forgot about that. Hamden, Connecticut made World News Tonight recording 40 inches of snowfall. Our former Mayor Jackson even said one of his family members saw it on the news in France at the time about Hamden, Connecticut, snow accumulation
Ariana Davis 52:15
Joseph Colello 52:16
People asked "how do Public Works work so long and steady?" It took about a day and a half for our entire personnel to get into work. Once we all managed to finally get into public works, we broke into two crews. Crew one would work 12 hour shift while crew two slept, then crew two would work a 12 hour shift while crew one slept. We did that for many days until we felt that the town was opened enough for it to function. Then we went into our normal eight hour days until we cleared and cleaned up the town. million dollar cleanup. It was a massive undertaking to say the least, but thank God, there were many, many people working hard together that were aiming at the same target. And that was to make him than safe and functional once again. I would like to thank the town residents for bringing hot coffee and food to many people that were working hard to clear the roadways, night and day.
It was definitely appreciated and a treat, as businesses and restaurants were closed for many days at that time. I also thank people, the Red Cross, for bringing us bottled water and food and snacks, whatever they were able to get the hands on, and I thank everyone that worked hard and helped assist to get us all through that stressful time. I hope we never see another blizzard like that again, but if we do, I want to work through it with the same dedicated caring people that I did the first time. Storm Nemo was something else. And when I mean we had to think and work outside of the box, it surely put us to the test. But Hamden did do it and we're here to say that we did and we're really proud of that.
Ariana Davis 53:53
Wow, thank you for sharing that. And I know that I can speak for the residents of Hamden, in saying that we appreciate all the work that you and all the employees of the Public Works Department, all that you do to keep our town safe and clean. Thank you so much again, Mr. Colello for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today.
Joseph Colello 54:16
You're very, very welcome. Thank you for having me.
Alyssa Bussard 54:22
Well, that's all we've got for you for this month. Please remember to rate and subscribe. And if you really like us write a nice review. It really helps us get the word out.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai