Saturday, June 15, 2024

The Stories We Tell

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By David Wright
Historian@TownofStratford.com
Photo: Theodore (Thene) Judson

“Twenty Thousand Pounds of Bananas”

In Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Secret Lives of Bees, she declares “Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” We couldn’t agree more, and our stated purpose in bringing you this feature column is to help Stratfordites to remember who they are, and why they stay in Stratford.

Harry Chapin was the quintessential singer/songwriter/storyteller who died in a car accident on Long Island in July of 1981. Just weeks before Harry’s death, he revealed, in concert, that his most requested song was 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, which he had played in concert over two thousand times. Harry wrote 30,000 Pounds in 1974. The song commemorated a banana-carrying truck accident in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in 1965.

Stratford, not to be outdone by Scranton, had a banana truck crash of its own in 1970. Fortunately, unlike Scranton’s banana mash of 1965, no one was killed in Stratford’s “mash up.”

Harry must not have learned of Stratford’s banana truck wreck while writing 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, or he may have wanted to feature it in song. In Stratford’s wreck, a banana-carrying truck driven by Russell Mooney of Malden, Massachusetts, crashed into a beer-carrying truck at Exit 31 of I-95. We always find a way to outdo the “competition” here in Stratford!

Decades after Stratford’s banana-beer truck accident, Two Roads Brewers built an experimental brewery just feet from where the banana/beer truck accident occurred. That got us to thinking, what if, in commemoration of the 1970 banana-beer truck accident, Two Roads created an experimental banana-beer brew? Maybe we should recommend an experimental banana-beer brew to the Area Two brewers. Any takers out there?

By the way, if you’ve not heard Harry Chapin’s song, 30,000 Pounds of Bananas, you may listen to it at https://youtu.be/HfFM4Ilt4Rs. You may also read the entire Bridgeport Post story of the Stratford accident at https://bit.ly/20000lbs. We don’t know if Russell Mooney’s mind was on his wife back in Massachusetts at the time of the Stratford crash. In fact, we don’t know if Russell was married, but we do know the brakes on Russell’s truck were bad, and he was cited for those bad brakes at the time of the accident.

Russell was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts in 1928 and he passed away in Chelsea, Massachusetts, in 1980. We don’t know much about Russell, and we couldn’t locate a photo of him, but we do know misfortune struck Russell, again, in 1960 when he flew his model airplane into high voltage power lines. He was injured, but, apparently, not severely. Is it possible that at the time of the plane accident Russell’s mind was on Stratford’s banana mash 10 years earlier?

Yes, we have no bananas” is what Russell Mooney, 42, of Malden, Massachussetts, might be saying to his boss when he explains how his truckload of bananas overturned last night at the Honeyspot Road exit of the Connecticut Turnpike in Stratford.

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