Famous feuds are focus of new book
AMHERST – Dunkin’ Donuts versus Starbucks. Red Sox versus Yankees. Who doesn’t love a good rivalry? Ted Reinstein certainly does. The reporter for WCVB-TV’s "Chronicle" news magazine talked about famous and obscure regional rivalries at the Amherst Town Library recently.
Starting with the American Revolution, New England has been home to some glorious fights, he said. The most delicious feud – one that involves both food and family – is the ongoing competition in New Haven, Conn., over which coal-fired, thin-crust pizza pies are the best in the country: the ones made by Frank Pepe or the ones made just down Wooster Street by Pepe’s nephew, Sal Consiglio.
Family feuds are the worst, or the best, depending on your point of view. Think about Cain and Abel.
"I always find it strangely comforting that the very first family was dysfunctional," said Reinstein, who is the author of a book called "Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds."
New England’s most recent family feud was the one that played out two summers ago when long-standing conflicts in the DeMoulas family led to the firing of President and CEO Arthur T. DeMoulas. The region watched as Market Basket employees and customers successfully pressured the board of directors to reinstate him.
Then there is Rudyard Kipling, who wrote "The Jungle Book" at his beloved Brattleboro, Vt., home – a house he would have to vacate because he couldn’t stand his brother-in-law who lived next door.
One competition the state of North Carolina would like to forget about is the one between the Wright brothers and a relatively unknown Connecticut aviator named Gustave Whitehead.
The Wright brothers are justly celebrated for their flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Reinstein said, but they weren’t alone in being "first in flight," as North Carolina’s license plates boasts.
Whitehead was an aviation pioneer in Bridgeport, Conn. His successful flight of a powered flying machine was much more sustained – about a half mile – than the Wrights’, and occurred two years before their flight in 1903.
But because of "virulant German sentiment" and his uncertain immigration status, Whitehead didn’t want publicity, and he "died unknown and mostly impoverished," Reinstein said.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Whitehead story was the involvement of Lowell Weicker Jr., a former Connecticut senator, congressman and governor who was one of the first people to use the Freedom of Information Act to investigate the agreement between the Wright family and the Smithsonian Institute. The document says the Smithsonian, which repeatedly dismissed the claims about Whitehead, may never recognize anyone else as "first in flight."
Scholars, scientists and aviation buffs researched the claims about Whitehead until the state of Connecticut decided they were substantial enough to build a monument for Whitehead in Bridgeport. Connecticut is the only state that recognizes anyone other than the Wright brothers as having flown the first powered airplane.
Reinstein sold and signed copies of his book, which is newly out in paperback, at the end of his slide presentation.
Joining in the fun, Ruslyn Vear, the head of the library’s adult programming, wore a red T-shirt that said "Real women don’t date Yankee fans," and she raffled off gift boxes donated by Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks as the audience voted on their favorite brew. Not surprisingly, Dunkin’ Donuts, the New England brand, won by a vote of 33-27.
"Wicked Pissed" was the first of the library’s summer adult reading programs. For more information, visit www. amherstlibrary.org.
Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.