Sunday, March 1, 2015

Eastern State Penitentiary

  Since our longtime friends Bob and Deb Greenberger moved from Connecticut to Maryland, getting together with them has become more involved than an afternoon visit. As a solution, we came up with the idea of meeting at a mid-point, which is what we did this weekend, selecting a motel outside Philadelphia as a good place to do so.
  And, as it would involve an overnight stay, we decided to add some activities to our meeting. We decided to take the tour of Eastern State Penitentiary, a prison that originally opened in 1829 and closed in 1971.
  Much of the facility is in an advanced state of decay, but it is a fascinating view into the past, both the original plan and design -- which was based on the total isolation of each prisoner so that they could repent for their sins, along with mastering trades that would enable them to reenter society -- and the economic and societal demands that resulted in overcrowding, over-building, and the complete abandonment of the original premise.


  A few of the takeaway facts:
  * The "wagon wheel" design had the guard station in the center and a single guard could check all of the original corridors while standing in one spot. As the need for more space required additional construction, including a second level on some of the "spokes," this became more difficult.
  * Each cell had its own private "exercise yard," into which the prisoner was released for an hour or less a day.
  * Prisoners served their terms, usually a year or two, in complete isolation, with the exception of a visit from the chaplain or a guard who was giving the prisoner some instruction in developing a skill, usually for about thirty minutes a week.
  * Though the penitentiary was originally built in the middle of a cherry orchard two miles outside the city, by the time it was closed, it was surrounded by residential housing and businesses, including an elementary school right across the street.
  * It was the first public building in the United States to have central heating, running water, and indoor plumbing. These were all part of the initial design and construction.
  * Al Capone served eight months of a one-year sentence there in 1929. He had been arrested in Philadelphia for carrying an unlicensed gun. His recreated cell looks more like a hotel than prison.
  * Willie Sutton (known for responding to a reporter's question about why he robbed banks, "because that's where the money was") was one of twelve prisoners who tunneled to freedom in 1945; Sutton was recaptured a block away.

  It was a very entertaining and enlightening tour and an excellent addition to the opportunity to see Bob and Deb.

Old Photos of the Week #8

  In addition to meetings at the DC Comics retreat, DC president Jenette Kahn wanted a variety of social events for the staff to take part in. In my role as unofficial morale officer, I suggested a company-wide Olympics. Jenette thought it was a great idea and then left it to me to figure out how to accomplish it.
  With the aid of my morale co-conspirator, Robyn McBryde, we randomly split the company into six teams, though we did take care to make sure each team included members from all the different departments. We decided that there should be both physical and cerebral challenges and that the individual teams would decide which members would compete in which events.
  Since the Great Gorge facility included an indoor swimming pool, a water event was in order, so, with the help of the staff there, we arranged for some races. One involved get across the pool and back in an inner tube.
Ready...set...splash!
Tom Pattison kicks his way to victory
Muffy Greenough and Bruce Bristow
After the races, Lionel Martinez, Peggy May, Bruce Bristow, Muffy Greenough and Jenette Kahn listen to the official results.
  Tom Pattison of the accounting department won this particular race, beating out Bruce Bristow, who was favored to win.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Old Photos of the Week #7

And one more round of dinnertime photos from the DC Comics retreat...


  Though he might be familiar to some fans as one of DC's letterers, Milt Snapinn was also the head of the film library, where all the negatives for DC's books were stored for use in reprints and foreign editions. Milt was originally hired for a two-week stint at the company that ended up stretching for decades and joked that he would sometimes go to the bosses and ask, "Is it Saturday yet?" Next to Milt was his assistant, who I believe was named Helen (and her last name escapes me).


   Jeanette Winley (l.) succeeded Milt as the head of the film library and continues to work at DC today; her long tenure, like that of a number of other staffers, will come to an end when the company moves to California in April. Alyce Raeford was Dick Giordano's assistant; she also had a long run at the company.


  Editor / artist Sal Amendola worked on a variety of titles, most especially New Talent Showcase, the series created to give new and rising artists and writers an opportunity to have their work published. Lucia Gorpfert was Joe Orlando's assistant in the Special Projects department. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Old Photos of the Week #6

Still more dinner photos from DC's company retreat at Great Gorge, NJ...


Seated (l-r) are Charlie McDaid; Midge Bregman, who was Paul Levitz's assistant; and DC President Jenette Kahn. Standing are editor/ writer Barbara Randall Kesel; a woman whose name I don't recall who, I believe, worked in the accounting department, licensing director Mary Yedlin; and editor / artist Sal Amendola.


Carol Fein had two terms at DC, the first as Carmine Infantino's assistant when he became head of the company. She left during his tenure, but then returned to fill the same role for Jenette Kahn. Linda Robak was a member of the marketing department.  Arthur Gutowitz was the head of the accounting department.


Writer / editor Joey Cavalieri started in Joe Orlando's Special Projects department, then moved to the Editorial department, where he is now wrapping up his DC career as the company prepares to move to California in April; Susan Weil, who worked in the licensing department; Robin Phelps, who worked in the marketing department; and yours truly, back when I had glasses, a mustache, and a lot more hair on my head.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Old Photos of the Week #5

  Still more dinner photos from the DC Comics company retreat at Great Gorge, NJ in 1985...


   Peggy May (left) was a member of the Marketing Department, which was led by Bruce Bristow.
   Neal Pozner was DC's art director; he and I sometimes clashed when it came to form versus functionality, such as the time he designed a Superman umbrella as a freelancer gift, choosing a fabric that was not waterproof because he liked the particular color. When I pointed this out, he remarked that it would be a collectible and no one was going to actually use it in the rain anyway.
  Karen Berger started out as Editorial Coordinator, but is most noted for her years as the head of the Vertigo line.


  Seated, from the left, are Chantal d'Aulnis, who was the head of the Foreign Publishing department; Lisa Saladino, one of our Production artists and the daughter of famed letterer Gaspar Saladino; Bob Greenberger, editor of a variety of titles, including DC's Star Trek books; Audrey (?), who was, I believe, a member of the licensing department; and Lionel Martinez, another licensing department member.
   Standing behind them are Super-editor Julie Schwartz; Paul Levitz, who would eventually become President of the company; and Diane Perla, a long-time member of the Accounting department.