Sunday, February 24, 2013

WALLINGFORD - Baksa gets out of the passenger seat after 55 years (and at least that many one-liners)

As published in the Record Journal on Sunday February 24, 2013

By Eric Heredia
Record-Journal staff 
(203) 317-2243

WALLINGFORD — John Baksa gave his last driving lesson last Sunday. It was the student’s eighth hour on the road and it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but Baksa, 79, has decided to retire after 55 years of running the Modern Driving School out of a garage on Judd Square.

“Fifty-five years of anything is too long,” Baksa said.

Over the years, the part-time standup comedian has compiled many funny stories about students trying (some not as hard as others) to please the instructor sitting patiently in the passenger seat.

Baksa recalled one driving student who approached the fork in the road where Quinnipiac intersects with Ward Street coming off Route 15 near Wallace Park.

“I said to the lady, ‘Bear right,’ ” Baksa said. “Her response: ‘Where’s the bear on the right?’ She’s looking for an animal, so I couldn’t let it rest. I said it ran behind Sara Jay’s. Let’s find it!”

Another woman seemed to be squinting from the driver’s seat.

“I said, ‘Is the sun bothering your eyes, ma’am?’ She said no,” Baksa recalled. He asked her, “Why not?” “ ‘Because I’ve got my eyes closed’ — she’s driving the car, you know?”

Sometimes the trouble started before the student even got behind the wheel. Just last year, Baksa drove to Meriden to pick up a student for a lesson on a very hot summer day.

“It must’ve been 95 degrees out,” Baksa said. “She lived up on the hillside. There were 22 steps up to the front step, I counted them.” After calling and getting the answering machine three times, he walked up all those steps and rang the doorbell.

She answered the door and Baksa asked if she heard the phone. She said, “Yes. I did, it rang three times.”

“I said, ‘Why didn’t you answer it?’ ... You ready for this? She says the phone was in the other room. I could’ve strangled her. You’ve got to be kidding me!”

Baksa remembered learning how to drivein a Chevy from the 1950s with a stick shift. Despite getting stuck on a hill in Meriden, he passed his first driver’s test. While at Southern Connecticut State University, he needed an extra credit, so he took a driver’s education course.

Baksa opened his business in a one-car garage at 13 Judd Square in 1958. Eventually the garage was expanded, making room for more desks and a refrigerator containing candy bars and Gatorade for his students.

Modern was the first driving instruction school serving Wallingford and surrounding areas, Baksa said. Now he has passed his business on to his longtime partner, Bob Read.

“He’s more than served his time,” Read said. “Now it’s his reward to sit back and relax and let someone else do it.”

Read said the school usually teaches just fewer than 200 students a year. Its website says the school has helped 13,000 people earn their driver’s licenses.

“What’s nice is to see the youngsters you taught when you first got into the business. Now we’re teaching their kids,” Read said.

The retired teacher from the Berlin public schools remembered a fifth-grader whom he had taught how to drive.

“That’s when she was in high school I taught her how to drive,” Read said. “Now she lives behind me and tonight I had her son in class ... It’s rewarding. You must be doing a good job for people to remember you.”

Baksa is quick with a one-liner and has done standup comedy, opening for other performers.His voice and style resemble Rodney Dangerfield’s.

Last November, he performed at Il Monticello during A Night Out For Haiti, a fundraiser organized by Dr. Anthony Lendino.

Read said Baksa has made quite a living with his little quips, and people recognize him for his sense of humor.

“That’s his style, I’m kind of the straight man in the organization,” Read said.

At one point Baksa worked three jobs for 15 years to support his wife, Mary, and three children. After getting off the night shift at the Police Department, he’d get home, shower and go teach math at Lyman Hall High School. After classes were done, he’d switch gears and teach driving.

“What really carried me was the driving school,” he said, because police officers earned only $2 an hour back then, with no overtime.

Baksa said his family is planning his retirement party for September at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn.


Photo by Dave Zajac courtesy of the  Record-Journal

John Baksa is retiring after 55 years as a driving instructor in Wallingford. “Fifty-five years of anything is too long,” he said.

Friday, February 15, 2013

AWESOME SHOW - Rockers In Recovery All Star Band "The Dry Dock Fundraiser"

Tonight was the Rockers In Recovery All Star Band "The Dry Dock Fundraiser" and it was a fantastic time.

For the cost of a $20.00 donation which went to The Dry Dock you got three hours of classic rock and roll.

Worth every penny and for a very worthy cause.


Message from the Mercier’s courtesy of WPAA

The prior post about Wallingford’s Mercier family if anyone wanted to know a little more about their story.

WPAA taped this thank you from them – it has been playing on Public Access for a number of days and I was able to get the MP4 file to upload it.

Thank you to everyone who helped out in the ways that they could.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rockers In Recovery All Star Band "The Dry Dock Fundraiser"

Friday February 15th 2013
Rockers In Recovery All Star Band
The Dry Dock Fundraiser"

Lyman Hall High School Auditorium, 70 Pond Hill Road
Wallingford, CT 06492
"Call 203-626-5560 For Tickets"


To become a sponsor of Rockers In Recovery and The RIR All Star Band's up coming 15 shows for 2013.
Call 954-826-4920 or reply back to this message..
Check out the
RIR Magazine Online Media Kit


Rockers In Recovery "Back From Hell Tour"

Friday February 15th 2013 8PM-11PM - Rockers In Recovery All Star Band- "The Dry Dock Fundraiser "

Sponsors of the night American Addiction Centers and our friend Andrew Kowalczyk

Venue:Lyman Hall High School Auditorium, 70 Pond Hill Road Wallingford, CT 06492 203-626-5560

Featuring: Rockers In Recovery All Star Band and Special Guests SELFISH STEAM...



RIR All Star Band - Mark Stein (Vanilla Fudge), Liberty Devitto (Billy Joel) ,Christine Ohlman (Saturday Night Live Band), Ricky Byrd(Joan Jett and the Blackhearts), Kasim Sulton (Todd Rundgren and Blue Oyster Cult), Richie Supa (Aerosmith and Richie Sambora)

Tickets Go On Sale Now Call 203-626-5560

100% of Ticket Sales and Meet and Greet Donated To "The Dry Dock"

$20.00 General Admission

$50.00 VIP Meet and Greet

Meet and Greet February 15, 2013 6PM EST:

$50.00 VIP Rockers In Recovery All Star Band Meet and Greet at The Dry Dock Club 68-1/2 Quinnipiac Ave Wallingford, CT 09492


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Update from the Short Foundation – event postponed one week

Dear Taylor Short Foundation Dance attendees,

we unfortunately are having to postpone the dance by a week. So officially the new date is Feb. 23rd, at the Elks Club 4 - midnight. Sorry for any inconveniences...the weather has put the whole town in a little bit of a jam. But, we will overcome, and still enjoy a great time just delayed.

In loving memory of Taylor, Jen Short

The Fundraiser is now on Saturday Feb 23, 2013 at the Wallingford Elks 4PM to 12PM

TICKETS $15 each

The foundation will provide free counseling for kids with drug problems.
EVERYONE is invited and no donation too small! Help us help the kids of our community!!!

Band (Red Zone) and DJ (Local Motion) will be the entertainment
There is a dinner, cash bar, raffles and more.

Any Donations or Raffle Gifts would be greatly appreciated.

Please contact Maria Polito at for tickets. You can also call Maria at 203-213-0469 with any questions.

She is also a point contact person if you have items available for the raffle. If you are sending an email please put “Taylor Short Foundation” in the SUBJECT line.

Please make all checks out to “Taylor Short Foundation”; they can be mailed to the following address:

Taylor Short Foundation
c/o/ Maria Polito
4 Elmwood Road
Wallingford CT 06492

Please specify if your check is a donation or a ticket purchase and in the case of ticket purchase please indicate where to mail the tickets.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Wallingford BOE concerned about cost of teacher evaluation

As published in the Record Journal, Tuesday February 5, 2013

Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235
Twitter: @ericvoRJ

WALLINGFORD - Although the school district will be adopting the state model for teacher evaluations, members of the Board of Education’s instructional committee expressed concerns Monday night over the amount of work that must be done before the next school year.

“I am very concerned on the impact on teachers ... and I’m very concerned about our administrators,” said Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Jan Guarino. “There’s an excessive amount of work being thrown at them.”

With the new state education reform guidelines, the district had the choice of developing its own teacher evaluation plan or adopting the state model. The district chose the state model.

“We’ll be living by the state’s model for a whole year. By the 2014-15 school year, we can make changes to things that we see need to be fixed,” Guarino said.

School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo agreed that a lot of work has to be done in a relatively short period.

“We have to turn around the district plan really quickly, because the administrators need to turn around their school plan prior to teachers arriving so then they can have time to come up with their personal goals,” Menzo said. “So the summer for administrators — the time that we’re all supposed to take vacation — really is gone.”

While Menzo and his staff agreed that the new reform guidelines have merit, they were concerned about the teacher evaluation process because each teacher will have to be observed and evaluated at least three times a year by administrators. During the first year, each teacher would have to be observed six times.

“I’m concerned about (the requirement of six observations) whether it’s formal or informal,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Ellen Cohn. “So I block off all mornings? Or I block off two days per week and I’m just going to go from classroom to classroom and do evaluations?”

Before an administrator can evaluate a teacher, Guarino said, he or she must first pass an administrative test.

“(There is) this level of anxiety. It’s a significant ego bruise to sit through three days of training and learning the risks of not passing a test,” she said. “Everyone will know (you didn’t pass) because you won’t be able to evaluate.”

With a large amount of work to be done, Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Christine Mansfield said she felt local school districts ought to relay their concerns to the state.

“Take it back to the Capitol — take it back to the commissioner,” Mansfield said.

The new teacher evaluations are also costly, as the district must purchase software to train staff and provide an evaluation grade for teachers. Menzo said the cost for the necessary software is already in the budget and he hopes the state will help fund the first year of implementation.

While the district may be pressed for time, Menzo remains optimistic. “It’s an interesting opportunity, but we’re looking forward to it,” Menzo said. “I do think there are many elements that are very merit worthy.”

Friday, February 1, 2013

New Wallingford pizzeria to give to local food bank

As published in the Record Journal Friday February 1, 2013

By Eric Vo
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2235
Twitter: @ericvoRJ

WALLINGFORD - With 20 years of restaurant experience, Ahmet Kangal and his two brothers, Mehmet and Nedim, are set for the grand opening on Monday of their second restaurant, Three Brothers Pizza.

The brothers, who left Turkey in 1992 to live with their father in the U.S., had their first restaurant-business experience as dishwashers at the Athena Diner in North Haven. Since they barely spoke English, Kangal said, he and his brothers washed dishes “because there was little interaction with other people.”

“Hate it or enjoy it, we had to do it to make a living for ourselves,” he said.

The Kangal brothers worked their way up, becoming waiters and cooks. Ahmet Kangal eventually became the diner’s manager. In 1997, the brothers bought a restaurant in Maryland and managed it for two years before moving back to Connecticut. In 2000, they opened the Three Brothers Diner in Hamden, which is still open today.

After managing a diner for 13 years, Kangal said he was interested in opening a pizza restaurant because it was “different.” Admitting that he didn’t spend a lot of time or effort looking for a location, Kangal said he decided on the 200 Church St. location simply because he “was in the right place at the right time.”

Mehmet and Nedim Kangal will manage the new restaurant and Ahmet Kangal will manage the diner.

“We’re all excited to do and try something new,” Nedim Kangal said.

Viewing his success as fortunate and “a gift from God,” Ahmet Kangal said he does all that he can to give back to and be a part of the community. On Monday, Feb. 11, 100 percent of the sales will be donated to the local food bank, he said.

“I like to work with the community,” Kangal said. “If I am successful with my businesses, I want to share it with people.”