Archive for John O’Donnell

The German Titanic

Before the British A Night to Remember and the James Cameron blockbuster Titanic there was a German version of the story which was made by the Nazis during World War Two. Joseph Goebbels, mastermind of propaganda, hand-picked the director, Herbert Selpin, and gave him a staggeringly large budget to make the movie. Selpin in turn picked the screenwriter (who was also his best friend), a man named Walter Zerlett-Olfenius. The two men eventually clashed and Selpin made the fatal mistake of disparaging the German naval personnel who were helping out on the film. Olfenius reported his remarks to the Gestapo and Selpin was arrested and died while in custody. Another victim of the Titanic!

Lake Kenosia Amusement Park

Lake Kenosia Amusement Park was largely the work of a visionary named Leo Leisseur. He came to Danbury in 1895 and wanted to make Lake Kenosia into Danbury’s “Coney Island.” To a large degree he was successful in his efforts. He partnered with the Danbury Trolley Co. and the Park opened officially on Memorial Day in 1895. The Park also included a theatre where the Danbury populace could view a play, concert or dance contest for a 25 cent ticket. There was also the Victorian Kenmere Hotel. Sadly Leisseur passed away in 1918 and the Park did not fare as well without his leadership.

Jennings Michael Burch RIP

It is with great sorrow that we note the passing of local author Jennings Michael Burch. He passed away on January 15, 2013 at the age of 71. He was the author of They Cage the Animals at Night. This was his harrowing account of his five year stint in foster homes. But he rose above his troubled start in life and worked as a taxi driver as well as a New York City Policeman. He was a regular visitor to schools and drove home his message to students: “Please Don’t Hurt Me!”

A Food Genius

Alan Davidson (1924-2003) was a British diplomat who also established a reputation as a fine writer about food but also about its lore, ethnography and history. While on assignment in Tunis his wife was confused by the fish which were available there. Her husband undertook to compile a list of the various fish. He then embarked on his writing career in earnest. This resulted in two masterpieces: North Atlantic Seafood and The Oxford Companion to Food.

The Case of the Missing Crown Jewels

Sir Artur Vicars was a distinguished genealogist as well as Ulster King of Arms and Chief Herald of Ireland. He was also a second cousin to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the creator of Sherlock Holmes. In a case worthy of the great Holmes Vicars was in charge of the security for the Irish Crown Jewels. In July of 1907 King Edward VII was on a state visit to Ireland and Vicars had to retrieve the Crown Jewels from a safe in Dublin Castle. When one of his assistants opened the safe the jewels were gone. The case was never solved but Vicars was made the scapegoat and forced to resign. Too bad Conan Doyle did not give Holmes the case to solve!