, Salem, MA

October 19, 2012

Heard Around Town: Golf course controversy for police, firefighters

The Salem News

---- — SALEM — Flatfoots versus Nozzleheads.

The annual golf tournament between Salem police and firefighters takes place every fall at Kernwood Country Club. It’s roughly 20 cops against 20 firefighters.

And every year, or almost every year, the firefighters win.

Police like to say the firefighters are better golfers because they have more free time. The truth, of course, is the firefighters are probably just better golfers.

At stake is the uncoveted Loser’s Trophy, which the losing team must shamefully display at its headquarters. Usually, you can find it at the police station on Margin Street, which is where it sits this year.

However, there is a twist to this year’s tournament, which took place Monday. This year, the golf was followed by controversy, possibly scandal.

It surfaced during the post-tournament party at The Tin Whistle, a local watering hole. A retired and wily cop, George Canney, thought he spotted a “ringer” among the Salem firefighters, a man he had seen often at The Meadow, Peabody’s municipal golf course. It turned out to be a Peabody firefighter.

This Peabody firefighter somehow wound up on the Salem firefighters’ golf team, the cops allege. That wouldn’t have been such a problem, except he was a pretty good golfer.

When the ruse was exposed at the cookout, all hell broke loose.

“This is unacceptable,” boomed police Lt. James Walker, a mild-mannered duffer of unimpeachable character. Other cops joined in the chorus of denunciations. A folding chair or two might have been tossed.

It was, of course, all in good fun. But the controversy will live on for years to come, and no doubt become one more club with which police will try to beat their friendly foes, the firefighters,

But, from what we are told, it will take more than Peabodygate for the poor-putting police to finally procure this prize.

Remembering WRB

They will gather at The First Church this afternoon to remember William Russell Burns Jr., who died last week at 86.

He was one of a kind.

Bill Burns served on both the City Council and School Committee, but what friends will remember most is the gruff voice, the stories and the gentle soul.

Bill Burns was a character. A lovable, down-to-earth, mischievous, wonderful character.

He was a Yankee, but never happier than when he stopped at Steve’s Market in the old Italian neighborhood to mingle with friends.

He was a man who loved dogs, none more than Baxter, his beloved, if overfed, black Labrador retriever. Some say he never got over Baxter’s death.

And he loved traditions. On Sunday mornings, well into his golden years, he could be found on Chestnut Street playing goalie in the never-ending street hockey game. His late brother, Jere, affectionately called him “the sieve.”

Maybe, above all, he was a man who loved madcap adventures. He led annual sojourns into the wilds of Maine and once, well into his 70s, went searching for a crashed plane the FAA couldn’t find in the hills of New Hampshire. He didn’t find the plane and returned covered in cuts and scratches.

When you saw Bill Burns coming down the street, you smiled because your day was about to get a little brighter. What better epitaph than that.

Fearless Felix

By now, everyone must have heard about skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s death-defying leap from a balloon 24 miles above Earth on Sunday and his safe landing in a New Mexico desert.

But did you know a Salem High graduate has a connection to the history-making event?

Craig Mielcarz, Class of 1999, designed the GPS that tracked Baumgartner during his fall through the skies and allowed helicopters to get in position to photograph his descent and landing.

Mielcarz, by the way, is an amazing story in his own right. He was an absolutely sensational high-jumper in high school who soared more than 6 feet 9 inches to win the national indoor high jump title. When it came to college, he bypassed track powerhouses and went to MIT.

It’s kind of interesting that someone famous for jumping from Planet Earth worked on a project to land someone back on Planet Earth.

Mum is the word

Poor Joan Lovely.

She has worked so hard to be the next state senator from this district and achieved a truly impressive victory in the September primary over strong Democratic opponents. Now, because this is such a blue state, everyone just assumes she will win the November final over her Republican opponent, Mr. What’s-His-Name.

Not Lovely — she is still campaigning hard.

But every time she goes to an event or shows up at a meeting, she gets introduced as the next state senator. She smiles politely but inside is clearly squirming, not wanting to appear to take anything for granted and probably fearing bad luck.

Fear not, Joan. It will be over soon.

Good cause

They are holding a staged reading next week at Salem State University of Ronald Harwood’s play “The Dresser.” This is a pretty funny play about a group of Shakespearean actors in London during World War II.

The readings are Thursday and Friday nights and feature past and present faculty, including our own Patricia Zaido. While better known today as executive director of The Salem Partnership, in a former life she was a member of the college’s theater and speech communications faculty.

They are not selling tickets but are asking for a $20 donation at the door to support Salem State’s Center for Creative and Performing Arts. For reservations, call 978-542-6284.


The current holder of the title “Best Raffle in Town” is the Salem Theatre Company.

For a $50 ticket, you can win a $5,000 Broadway getaway — round-trip travel for two to New York City, two nights in a hotel, two theater tickets to two shows of your choosing, and up to $500 for meals and other expenses.

Tickets are available at The Art Corner, 264 Washington St., and the STC theater box office, 90 Lafayette St., one hour before shows, and from board members and staff. For more information, visit or call 978-790-8546.

The drawing will be held Saturday, Dec. 22.

Witch news

Lori Bruno, who has been doing psychic readings for more than 50 years, has her own shop.

Majika is on Wharf Street on Pickering Wharf.

Make way for bikers

One of the great annual charity events takes place Sunday, the 24th annual Halloween Motorcycle Ride for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

More than 2,000 riders are expected to descend on the city around 1 p.m. They’re coming through Marblehead and straight down Lafayette Street before landing at Shetland Park.

Tom Dalton can be reached at