Memories of exile: Watching ‘The man from U.N.C.L.E.’

We say happy #90 to David McCallum, who was born in the UK on this day in 1933. Many of us remember him as Illya Kuryakin in “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” He was Napoleon Solo’s partner in the series.

Back in the early days of “el exilio,” we watched a lot of TV to learn English and get acquainted with the new country and language. One of our favorites was “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” We learned quickly that UNCLE was not Tio, but rather some multinational anti-crime organization.

P.S. Check out my blog for posts, podcasts and videos.

George from Matanzas died on 9/11

George Merino from Matanzas came to the US from Cuba when he was 7. He married Olga, a Cubanita, and they lived in New York with their two daughters. Merino worked for Fiduciary Trust as a securities analyst. His job took him daily to the 90th floor of Tower Two of The World Trade Center.

On 9-11, George became victim # 2,147.

We remembered 9-11 with Bill Katz, who was in New York that day.

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Happy #78 Jose Feliciano

We say happy birthday to Jose Feliciano, one of the best performers of the pop era. He was born José Monserrate Feliciano García in Puerto Rico on this day in 1945.

Back in the early days of “el exilio”, we enjoyed anything on the radio or turntable with a Latin flavor. Back then, we would go out on Sunday drives in Wisconsin and the AM radio was usually set on the local Top 40 station. My mother would always lower the volume if something too loud came on. She did not turn down the volume when Jose Feliciano came on the radio.

Over time, I admired Feliciano’s work, specially how he made “Light my fire” into a classic.

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Did your Cuban father say that Ted Williams was the best hitter ever?

Our fathers and grandfathers followed major league baseball on the sports pages, radio, and TV. Cuban baseball fans were passionate and very knowledgeable. Did you ever hear your father say that Ted Williams was the best? I did. I remember a Cuban neighbor talk about going to Yankee Stadium and witness the “Williams” shift, or every defensive player positioned to stop his classic line drives. It didn’t work because Williams was unstoppable.

The great Ted Williams was born on this day in San Diego in 1918. He died in 2002. He did not play in Cuba, but may have visited in 1950 when Boston visited for spring training.

He was probably the greatest hitter ever, although his numbers were impacted by military service in World War II and Korea: .344 career batting average, a .482 On Base Average, 2,654 hits, 2,021 walks, 521 HR and 1,839 RBI.

Williams hit .406 in 1941, the last hitter to do so, and flirted again in 1957 with .388! Williams was also a bit temperamental with fans and the media. However, there was no better hitter once the game started.

My dad passed away in 2015, but I remember many chats about the great Ted Williams.

P.S. Check out my blog for posts, podcasts and videos.

What do you do when one of your English teachers turns 92?

We say Happy Birthday to Barbara Jean Morehead who was born in Tucson, Arizona, on August 23, 1931. Most of us know her as Barbara Eden and “I Dream of Jeannie.”  It was on the air for five seasons in the 1960s. What can happen when an astronaut finds a bottle with a pretty woman inside? Watch the show!

Well, I remember the show, but my story is more than that. Our family arrived in the U.S. in September 1964.  My brother, sister, and I walked to school every day. My father had two jobs and my mother was at home helping out and keeping everyone in tune. Most of all, we were grateful for freedom, and our parents always kept us current on the situation in Cuba.

Our early days were pretty typical. Most Cubans share similar memories of growing up and watching our parents put everything on the line for their kids. They worked hard and we got to enjoy the new culture and the reality that most of our friends had never seen a Cuban not named Ricky Ricardo or Minnie Miñoso.

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Exile memory: Did your parents love that Eydie Gorme LP?

Edith Garmezano was born in New York on this day in 1928.  Her parents were Sephardi Jews and that’s why she spoke Spanish. She died in 2013 days before her 85th birthday.

In 1964, Eydie Gorme revived her career with Trio Los Panchos and an LP of Spanish songs. And this is where my parents and thousands of other Cuban parents come in! In those early days in the US, my parents found tropical relief in cold Wisconsin winters by listening to all of those Spanish ballads that Eydie Gorme recorded.

I can remember listening to her LP (that’s what we had before CD or MP3 files) over and over again. My mom really loved them. It was the romantic music that she and my dad dance to in Cuba.

Frankly, I learned to love it, too.

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‘El exilio’ and collecting Rocky Colavito cards

Our family arrived in Wisconsin in September 1964. By March 1965, my brother and I put on our gloves and joined the kids at the sandlot, forming baseball teams. It was also our first exposure to collecting baseball cards. It was so much fun buying the pack, chew the bubble gum included and trade cards with our friends.

One of my favorites was a guy named Rocky Colavito. What a name. Rocco Domenico Colavito was born in New York on this in 1933. He broke with the Indians in 1955 and was hitting a lot of HR’s in a few seasons.

Colavito was quite a power hitter: 374 HR & 1,159 RBI in 1,861 games. His best season was 1961: .290 average, 45 HR & 140 RBI. He hit 4 HR in one game in 1959.

Great power hitter and one of the most popular men ever to wear the Indians’ uniform. And one of my favorite baseball cards from those early days in the US.

P.S. Check out my blog for posts, podcasts and videos.

Lucy was funny in Spanish, too

Here’s a pleasant thought for your Sunday: the amazing and hilarious Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown, N.Y. on this day in 1911. She died in 1989.

Back in the late 1950s and until Castro expropriated private television stations in the early 1960s, we used to get most U.S. TV shows, but dubbed in Spanish, from “Rin Tin Tin” to “Lassie” to “Perry Mason” and others.  In fact, my first exposure to American football was watching a Disney cartoon of Pluto running with the ball.  I should add that there was a lot of Cuban-produced TV — a shock to leftists who think the island was a “you know what”–hole longing for a Robin Hood to save us from Yankee imperialism.

Personally, I don’t remember watching Lucy and Desi on Cuban TV, but my parents did.  My memories of watching Lucy dubbed in Spanish was watching the show on business trips to Mexico or pre-Chávez Venezuela.  What I found even more interesting is that everybody knew about Lucy, from the receptionist to the manager to the guy on the assembly line.  Mentioning Lucy always brought a chuckle and a good feeling for all.  I once told a friend that Lucy was better known than Mickey Mouse, and it’s true.

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