Monthly Archives: February 2022


Nonagenarians have an advantage over others of lesser years. Starting life in 1932 or earlier they have witnessed a large part of the 20th Century and a significant portion of this one, and all the stupendous changes in society and the world over in that period of time. They are experiencing a change now they never thought they would witness. That is the threat to our own democracy, now extant for close to 250 years, and to democracies all around the world. All three principals in this podcast are nonagenarians who have lived in or near Brookline, Massachusetts for most of their Iives. They are Justin “Jerry” Wyner, now 97, former Moderator of the Brookline Town Meeting, Marshall Smith, the founder of Paperback Booksmith, and the force behind the Paperback Revolution of the 1960’s, and my classmate at Brookline High School, Class of 1948, and myself. Marshall and I will turn 91 in 2022, God willing. All three of us have made a mark professionally, Jerry as the CEO of Shawmut Mills, his family’s highly successful business, and is known for his participation in Jewish affairs locally, nationally, and internationally. Marshall is a successful entrepreneur in whatever field he enters, especially in books, which he regards as indispensable to the populace of a democratic country. In my work as a lawyer, and now as an author, I have always loved American democracy and freedom, and have done what I could to protect it. Each of us is still fully engaged in life and work.

Let’s take Jerry and Town Meeting first. This is where democracy starts. As the French philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, author of “Democracy in America,” observed when he visited America almost two hundred years ago, “The town….exists in all nations….It is man who makes monarchies….but the township seems to come directly from the hand of God. Town meeting….bring(s) it within the people’s reach.” Indeed! Jerry Wyner invoked as a precedent to the first vote of any town meeting in the country, the vote of the Brookline Town Meeting to bring home the troops from Vietnam, the action of the very same Brookline Town Meeting in 1773 opining on the Boston Tea Party.

As you will hear from me on this podcast, and as you have read, local institutions everywhere have been attacked in the last few years. The divisiveness in the country has been seen lately for the first time ever in the Brookline Town Meeting. The constructs of democracy gifted to us by our founders are under threat of dissolution in all corners of the land.

Marshall Smith, a man who doesn’t say a lot but does a lot, recognized when he founded his first paperback bookstore in 1961 that “democracy is founded on the knowledge of its citizenry.” Thus he took as his mission to broaden the scope of paperbacks to cover a multiplicity of subjects. Not long after, under the impetus of Marshall and others, the number of paperback titles grew exponentially in number and subjects from 3,000 to 30,000, including titles in fiction, non-fiction, history, political science, science, and other subjects. That signal event has been dubbed, “The Paperback Revolution.”

Both of these gentlemen are personal friends. Their families and friends are more than interesting. My own interactions with each of them are informative, and sometimes humorous. I think you’ll enjoy all of that on this podcast, as well as the discussion of the present crisis.

I thought I should devote this note to the sections in the podcast of existential importance – the threat we face of losing our cherished democracy, the longest lasting
democracy in the world’s history.

People, Always People!

The Two Faces of Rudy Giuliani

Within a month after the horrific events of 9/11, I wrote a story entitled, “Baseball, Brookline and  Giuliani,” There existed then another Rudy Giuliani who resembled the one seen lately aspiring to become the mayor of Kiev in the Ukraine. That Rudy Giuliani was a terrific DA, and then a terrific mayor of New York City. A few weeks after 9/11 he was seen rallying Americans at the World Series, and intoning accurately that, “Baseball has an amazing grip on people. It is a unifying force.” That Rudy was a real unifier, not the divider his alter ego became.

How right Rudy was! America came together in those almost now forgotten days,  perhaps for the last time. What is it about baseball that has such force. It can’t really be defined. It has to be experienced. It lies in mysterious regions, like music. One way to approach it is in the telling and retelling of ordinary folks‘ baseball experiences. That is what I tried to do in the story. That is what I tell about in this podcast. Like how “Bunny” Solomon got to catch for his grammar school team when regular catcher, “Wiggy” Wiggins fell out of a tree and broke his wrist. “Bunny” had “a proud moment” when out of the corner of his eye he caught his Dad proudly watching behind the backstop! Like how Pops conductor, Harry Ellis Dickson, would sit with his friend, famed movie star and comedian, Danny Kaye, in the press box at Fenway Park, munching hot dogs and talking baseball. Like how Bob Sperber, longtime innovative Brookline Superintendent of Schools, was given a “Fifty is Nifty” birthday party by his workers, the motif of which, as shown by the Red Sox themed paraphernalia they created, was his love of the Red Sox and dislike of the Yankees of his native city. And what about Broookline folklorist and School Committeeman, Owen Carle, whose hilarious baseball recollections include his grammar school principal, Charles Taylor, giving him a baseball to make a serious point; French philosopher Albert Camus; his violinist mother, Florence Owen Mills; the megaphone toting public address announcer of the lineups for that day’s game at old Braves Field, Eddie O’Brien; his bottle collecting to make a profit with later rabbi, Al Rubin, at the 1936 MLB All-Star Game, which turned out not to be very profitable, and his trip with the the local nine to play the Young Men’s Polish Association of Manchester, NH, where his outfield collision with budding artist Billy Maynard resulted in Billy’s tooth sticking in Owen’s hand. That left the team with only eight players. Who won? Did Billy ever get his tooth back?

As for me, I have many baseball memories, marking the seasons of my life and how my character developed. My words ending that story of a generation ago seem as true now as they were then:

“For sure that grip and that force are being felt all across America every day and every night in these baseball days following the trauma of 9/11, somehow diverting us, helping us to heal the wound, and making us yet again feel whole as a people”

Listen and meet these people.

People, Always People!