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February 11, 2011     Post-Gazette
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February 11, 2011

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POST-GAZETTEI FEBRUARY 11,2011 Page5 RE VIE I/I/ by Claude Marsilia DARK TIDE by Stephen Puleo Hard Cover * 263 Pages * Published by Beacon Press THE GREAT BOSTON MOLASSES FLOOD OF 1919 This extraordinary book by historian Stephen Puleo heralds his skillful report- ing. This book is an impres- sive presentation of a tragic event that occurred on January 15, 1919. The first part of this book consists of two protagonists. One is Puerto Rican born Isaac Gonzales who eventu- ally finds employment at U.S. Industrial Alcohol (USIA) as "general man" Isaac, no doubt, is one of the most con- scientious worker USIA ever hired.. The second pro- tagonist is an entity, the mo- lasses tank. There it stood in all its glory, defiant and powerful as King Kong. A huge metal tank fifty feet high and ninety feet in diameter, 240 feet in circumference, ca- pable of holding more than two million gallons of molasses. Located near the waterfront of Boston amidst the crowc[ed ten- ements and commer- cial enterprises. Puieo explains it was easier for USIA to build the tank where Italian and .Irish immigrants lived because they would not dare the building of the molasses tank. Isaac; the defiant one, never felt comfortable with the construction of the tank. His instincts warned him that the leaking tank was about to collapse. He warned his superiors of the impend- ing disaster to no avail. Isaac was frightened to death; night after night his sleep Author Stephen Puleo the Germans in Pennsylva- nia used molasses in shoofly pie and pandowdy. Puleo adds a little color and humor into this dark tale when he introduces the likes of Mayor of Boston, James Michael Curley who liked to browbeat the Brah- Giuseppe lantosca, from his window, saw his son Pasquale swallowed up by a tsunami of molasses. ~mins of Boston to the delight of his constituents. Puleo cleverly sets the tone of that period by describing the pulse of the people of that time. The lack of decent wages and decent living quarters impeded the ad- vancement of the local citi- zens. Puleo was able to have the reader sense the des- peration of the people. It was a time when the American flag displayed only 48 stars, tank. A pig farmer, loading his pigs on a nearby train. Then the tank implodes and thousands of rivets become deadly missiles. Puleo writes, "Rolling walls of mo- lasses, fifteen feet high, scraped everything in their paths, carrying a wreckage of animals, humans, furni- ture, produce, beer barrels, railroad cars, automobiles, and wagons, and smashing them against other build- ings, into the street. Or sweeping them into the har- bor." 21 people died and Over 100 were injured. Giuseppe Iantosca, from his window, saw his son Pasquale swallowed up by a tsunami of molasses. The agonizing stories by the victims, as written by Puleo, will remain fixed in everyone's mind for a long time to come. The blame game begins now. The owners, USIA, claim the local anarchists are at fault, whereas the work- ers blame the poor con- struction of the tank, placing the onus on the owner's back. Although the main thrust of this book is about the molasses disaster Puleo emphasizes the rise of the anarchist. This is important to note because USIA wants to divert the guilt attention onto the anar- chists. Adding to the misery brought on by the molasses disaster were the strikes by rail workers, steel workers, and nearly 1,400 Boston was troubled. Many nights he would venture out into the cold to observe the condition of the tank. Most of the molasses, stored in the tank, would be shipped to a manufacturing plant and distilled into "grain alcohol for the rum and liquor industries". A good deal of the molasses was used to manu- facture high explosives. New Englanders made baked beans and brown bread and The local children contin- police officers and the Sacco ued to collect molasses from and Vanzetti case. This was the leaking tank. When Mr. September, 1919. White, Isaac's boss, ordered it was late summer of 1920 the leaking joints to be painted, in order to hide the leaking molasses, Isaac had enough he quit and joined the army. Puleo artfully de- scribes the scenes just prior to the collapse of the tank. For instance, children col- lecting pieces of wood and cans of molasses around the RISTORANTE & BAR .... Traditional Italian Cuisine Donato Fraffaroli 415 Hanover Street, Boston, MA 02113 617.367.2353 -- Open for Lunch and Dinner Daily -- J Private dining rooms for any occasion www.tucia before the case to determine who was at fault for the mo- lasses disaster began. Si- multaneously Puleo en- riches the reader with his- torical events such as the League of Nations contro- versy and the signing of the armistice ending the Great War, WWI, to name a few. Colonel Hugh W. Ogden was selected as auditor, (a judicial hearer in an audi- ence court), Boston's "sol- dier-lawyer." The attorneys were Damon Everett Hall for the plaintiffs and Charles Francis Choate for the de- fense. The interrogation of the witnesses by both attor- neys is written verbatim by Puleo. The trial lasted 3 years and 1 month. Auditor Ogden's decision after a lengthy re- view favored plaintiff attor- ney Damon Everett Hall. Puleo ends his dramatic story with the final days of Saeco and Vanzetti. ringing in my ears. Puleo writes, "More than two hundred thousand people thronged the route to pay tribute to the two Italian anarchists." Puleo's Epilogue is a study of deep philosophical value. 'i Two-Time Tony Award- Winner- Best Musical I NOW THROUGH FEBRUARY 20, 2011 AT THE Roberts Studio Theatre Boston Center for the Arts Paul Daigneault celebrates SpeakEasy's 20c~ anniversary with a very special pro- duction of his all-time favorite musical, nine. Based on Fellini's classic film 81,~, this spectacular show tells the story of film director Guido Contini, who is facing both mid-life and marital crises after turning 40. Drifting toward a nervous break- down, Guido finds himself examin- ing his past flawed relationships with the many women who have come through his life, while struggling to accept and live life as a mature adult man. SpeakEasy Stage Company, info: 617-933-8600, www. SpeakEasyStage. com. Book by Arthur Kopit, music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, adaptation from the Italian by Mario Fratti, Directed by Paul Daigneault, Musical Direction by Nicholas, James Connell, Choreography by David Connolly.