Steve Fagin
Outdoor writer
The Best Day-Hikes in Connecticut and Rhode Island
April 9
, 2024

There is certainly no shortage of hiking trails in our area, replete with nature’s beauty including streams, waterfalls, eagles, osprey and foxes. Presenting an illustrated program on day-hiking in Connecticut and Rhode Island to 39 Y’s Men of Meriden on April 9, adventurer and avid hiker Steve Fagin shared much information from his recently published book “AMC's Best Day Hikes in Connecticut and Rhode Island”.

After reciting an introductory passage from his book, Fagin proceeded to briefly describe numerous popular hiking trails such as Clay Head (Block Island, RI), the Cliff Walk (Newport, RI), Mount Misery Trail (Voluntown, CT), Chauncey Peak (Meriden, CT) and Long Pond (Hopkinton, RI). Additional hiking trails included Bluff Point (Groton, CT), Barn Island (in CT near the RI border), Sachuest Point (Middletown, RI, an easy 3-mile hike), Indian Council Caves (Barkhamsted, CT), and Pachaug State Forest in Griswold, CT.

 Fagin continued with illustrations and descriptions of more of his favorite hiking trails, including Green Fall River (on the Narragansett Trail in RI), Watch Hill (Westerly, RI), Bear Cave (Voluntown, CT), and Chapman Falls (Devil’s Hopyard State Park in CT). Of special interest: Lantern Hill (North Stonington, CT) where colorfully costumed dancers annually perform a celebratory dance at sunrise on the first day of Spring.


Chauncey Peak (Meriden, CT)


Morris Dancers atop Lantern Hill (North Stonington, CT) at sunrise on first day of Spring


Ell Pond Preserve (Hopkintown, RI)


Mt. Misery (Voluntown, CT)

Fagin was then met with a barrage of questions from knowledgeable audience members. Subjects included operations of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and how he protects himself from swarms of insects while hiking (uses a head net, when necessary). He cautioned about tick bites, noting he has previously suffered from Lyme Disease 4-5 times; he advises hikers to stay in the center of the trail away from vegetation, and check yourself for ticks at the end of every hike. And responding to another question, he stated that he will hike in any weather (after getting properly dressed), including a hike up Mt. Washington during a blizzard.

John Ellsworth
Executive Director
Vintage Radio and Communications Museum of CT
April 2
, 2024

Thirty-four Y’s Men of Meriden reacted to a presentation on April 2 as John Ellsworth, Director of the Vintage Radio and Communications Museum (VRCM) of Connecticut, detailed the remarkable history of this institution. But finding a home has been challenging since its doors first opened to the public some 34 years ago.

Speaking energetically and needing no microphone, Ellsworth (a teacher by profession) became fascinated by a 5-tube antique radio and his interest then exploded, resulting in ongoing purchases of other dated radios; indeed, he once encountered a vintage radio which a cat was digging at, and upon opening, he released a trapped bat. The expanding collection soon swamped his home, leading to the first 500 square-foot home for VRCM in New Britain. Word of the museum quickly spread and an increasing horde of people donated their antique radios for display, and regular “swap meets” soon began.

Less than two years later, more space was needed and a 1600 square-foot location was secured in East Hartford. This in turn was replaced within two years by a larger 2200 square-foot space, with a continuous flow of donations. The list of volunteer workers continued to expand (indeed, VRCM has never hired professional staff) and a highly successful display at the “Big E” exposition in the Connecticut Building was managed. And then within another two years, the museum moved to its fourth home using 5500 square feet.

After absorbing blows from the onset of internet sales and then COVID, the museum has rebounded with a growing collection (and resulting storage challenges). Museum interests also began expanding into electronic test equipment. A HAM radio club was formed and swap meets continued. The museum subsequently became located in its fifth and sixth locations in Windsor, and now occupies a 12,000 square-foot space (using 4000 as a display area).


Early Pathescope hand crank projector


Horn Speaker display

VRCM today has 86 registered volunteers (about 30-40 active) and displays HAM equipment, player pianos, juke boxes, antique motion picture cameras, antique TVs, and foreign-made radio sets. All displayed TVS are working, thanks to a dedicated volunteer who performs the work on these items. And a unique item for purchase is a chessboard with differently shaped vacuum tubes used as chess men. For more details, visit vrcmct.org .

Brendan Noonan
Assistant Fire Chief, Meriden Fire Department
Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Fire Department
March 26
, 2024

“Ten things you didn’t know about the Meriden Fire Department”. These facts, and more, were discussed by Brendan Noonan, Meriden Fire Department Assistant Chief, as he addressed 42 attending Y’s Men of Meriden on March 26, backed by a dramatic PowerPoint slideshow.

Noonan noted that the Meriden Fire Department (MFD) currently employs 103 firefighters which are split between six fire stations working in four shifts, as well as one fire chief, two deputy chiefs, four assistant fire chiefs, five engines, one truck (carrying many items such as reserve equipment) and one training and safety officer. At any given time, each fire station houses 3-4 firefighters and one engine. With this coverage, fire staff are able to reach any point in the city within five minutes.

Noonan then described additional MFD functions: medical emergencies, motor vehicle accidents, community education, fire prevention and enforcement, and technical rescues (high angle from cliffs and mountains, confined space rescues, hazmat mitigation including natural gas leaks, and water rescues including iced-over lakes and ponds). But why does the MFD respond to medical emergencies: because they know the streets better, they can provide additional hands as paramedics for the two-person ambulance crew, they can shovel sand or snow to provide access to the victim, and they may provide admittance into the victim’s home via lockbox access or ladders).

Noonan proceeded to display images taken during notable Meriden fires from the past, such as the Carabetta mansion and the Charles Parker Building. He noted that firefighters will often vent a burning structure during a fire, not to suppress the fire (actually may make it worse) but to provide an air supply for possible victims trapped inside. And an item you may not know; at an auto accident, the MFM is likely to remove the side wall of the vehicle prior to extracting a victim, for safety’s sake.


Gasoline tanker fire on I-91 Northbound


Fireman in gear and airpack

Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job, requiring physical and mental training.  Firefighters are backed by training and modern equipment, including regular equipment inspection, a rapid intervention team and air packs with automatic alarms. Not to be overlooked is community involvement, including managing fundraisers for non-profits and providing Meriden’s Back-To-School EXPO (which provides new filled backpacks for school children).

Horst Antosch
Adventurer
Kayaking in the South Pacific
March 19, 2024

So who would head for Australia to visit his son, only to become intrigued with the thought of exploring the Solomon Islands located off the northeast coast with a collapsible kayak on his back? That would be adventurer Horst Antosch who presented a fast-paced slide presentation to 43 Y’s Men of Meriden (plus three guests) on March 19 regarding this remarkable 2004 adventure.

Antosch is no stranger to adventure: he was born in Sudetenland (now known as the Czech Republic), his family later escaped post-war East Germany,  and he then began working in numerous European countries. This was followed by four years in the German, Dutch & British Merchant Marines and then time in Hotel Management College in Switzerland. He emigrated to the USA in 1965. As of today, his love of travel and adventure has led him to 49 countries, the Trans-Siberian RR, Namibia's Skeleton Coast in Africa, and kayaking among the alligators in the Florida Everglades, to name a few.

The audience was first transported to Samoa (despite warnings to avoid it due to ongoing civil war) with  Antosch displaying images of the open-air market, fish market, his sleeping quarters (a thatch roofed hut), visiting a villager’s home, and attending a local wedding (with the priest arriving by foot from another village). Then on to the Solomon Islands (especially known to Americans for one of its islands, Guadalcanal). Here the locals love to play football (soccer) and play music, and are extremely friendly with strangers; there is great respect for America in this land, although peace between various tribes is  maintained by Australia. Antosch enjoyed kayaking its streams and displayed images of nature’s waterfalls that he encountered. He subsequently went on a local overnight ferry, with photos including dolphins, fishing boats, and sleeping arrangements (on the floor of the deck, with urination carried out over the leeward railing as there were no on-board facilities).


Made it to Seghe in the Solomon Islands


Transporting reading materials (received from America and Australia)
by canoe to schools in the Solomon Islands

Next came a visit to Matikuri, another volcanic island in the Solomons, where he lived in a shack surrounded by swarms of mosquitoes, but enjoying pancakes with honey (prepared over coconut husk fires). He undertook a kayak outing (3.5 hours out, 5.0 hours back) earning him the moniker “Tough Old American”. Other photos displayed salt-water crocodiles (very aggressive), chewing addictive betelnuts (resulting in red stains on the teeth, with ultimate tooth loss and local cancers) and complex hairdos. And a dramatic moment: Antosch aboard an overloaded local airplane that crashed in the jungle on takeoff (no casualties).