Article From Daily Record
RANDOLPH -- The Breakfast Club is a faithful circle of friends who
are long-time regulars at Bagel Express on Route 10 West. Some have been
coming here for almost two decades. Every morning there's friendly
banter, good-natured discussion.
These companions are connected in a variety of ways. Some links have
become apparent only over time.
Eula Pedrick has been a member for
"We hang out here until around 10 a.m. every day. I'm
80 years old and have lived in Randolph for 54. Coming here every
morning is a springboard. Many of us leave Bagel Express and do
volunteer work for our community and church," she says. "Now I read at
the elementary school, work at the high school, do fundraising."
who is named after her grandmother, says, "I'm a proud wife and mother
of the township. My husband, my sons, and two grandsons are volunteer
firemen. I used to come here with my husband until he passed four years
ago. It's a daily tonic, a lifeline. We meet here early every morning.
We smile, have a good laugh, enjoy rare conversation. Then we settle all
the world's problems."Remarkable people
This is a truly remarkable group of people, as are Bagel Express
owners Simon Lee and Matilda Chan, who pamper their guests.
enjoy their company, we're all involved. It's wonderful for everyone,"
Andy Patten, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited (eastbound,
immediately across Route 10 in College Plaza), confirms, "We discuss
everything, not just politics. Life. During baseball season especially,
it gets very spirited. There's a lot of energy here. Harold still goes
dancing twice a week, every Wednesday and Sunday. His ballroom partners
are sometimes 70 years his junior."
Harold Sherman, who once owned
a dry-cleaning business, recently celebrated his 92nd birthday. A World
War II Marine veteran, he was grievously wounded in the Battle of Cape
Gloucester, which took place between December 1943 and April 1944 on the
island of New Britain in the Pacific Theater of Operations. The battle
was a major part of Operation Cartwheel, the main Allied strategy in the
Pacific, and was the second World War II landing of the 1st Marine
Division, after Guadalcanal.
Sherman was in both.
after the battle on Guadalcanal, some GIs and Marines went back to do
recon. They discovered my wallet on one of the enemy dead. I had left a
small package with my wallet and ID in our reserve area, didn't take it
with me (into the battle). The Japanese came across it after the attack
and it was found on one of their bodies. The Marine Corps reported me
dead, assuming the enemy had lifted it from my corpse."
Guadalcanal. Sherman's story continues in the Battle of Cape Gloucester.
was wounded, shot in the head, and they thought we were all dead," he
says. "But a fellow Marine recognized signs of life and called for
medics. I was one of the last wounded men to be put on board the medical
truck."Almost left behind
But there was no more room. Then an officer ordered a medic to make
"So they put me across the hood and took me to the aid
station. They performed a field operation. I was unconscious for three
"But this is the part of the story you have to hear," says
Gene Stracco. "Two years ago Harold's sitting in that chair and three
strangers stop for coffee on their way home to Connecticut. One of them
noticed Harold's World War II vet cap and they started to talk. When
Harold told them about how he was wounded, one of the guys said, 'I was
at Cape Gloucester. I was one of the medics who evacuated you.' Over 60
years later, these guys meet again. Unbelievable!"
Gene Stracco are retired educators. "About a dozen of us have been
coming here for years for coffee, breakfast, and conversation," Gene
says. "There's nothing like it anywhere else, and I love to hear these
guys' stories. They've lived it all."
Gene Stracco used to teach
at Randolph High. "I loved those kids," he says. "I loved them because
the kids were wonderful. Every one was great. There were no special
classes, everyone was together. There was a ton of parent cooperation
and participation. And it was much smaller then, not so competitive,
without today's pressure to get into a good college. Not everybody had
to go to college. Not everybody wanted to."
"The kids and teachers
could really enjoy each other," agrees Celeste Stracco. "It was all
farms then. We played horseshoes, ball, real community fun. It was a
six-year high school with seventh and eighth grade, about 700 kids
Celeste Stracco does volunteer work: Interfaith Food
Pantry and the Historical Society in Randolph, and at the high school to
sign in visitors. She does tours at the Randolph Museum and bus tours
of the township for third-graders. She's an officer of the Randolph High
School Alumni Association.
Gene Stracco is a member of Kiwanis,
and both are very active in the Randolph High School Hall of Fame
Committee. "But Gene is most passionate about playing senior softball,"
says Celeste. What position? "Doesn't matter," she says.
Jim Bush have been part of The Breakfast Club for a dozen years. "In
fact our daughter Sandra used to work here (at Bagel Express)," she
says. Jim is from Minnesota. Doris was born in Randolph and recalls her
"Our house (at Shongum Lake) burned down and I remember
my mother saying that house was so cold it would lift the linoleum
right off the floor. My dad worked in the Clubhouse across from the
lake. I often want to stop and see if anything remains."
was a manufacturing engineer at Lockheed Electronics in Plainfield,
which closed at the end of '89, then owned a burglar and fire alarm
company. Doris was a secretary and now does a lot of work at the Dover
Soup Kitchen. "We were Dover High School sweethearts, married 55 years
come March. Four kids, eight grandchildren."
Frank Monti, 87, is a
retired mailman and for 14 years has been a part-time court officer in
Randolph. "After 15 years, I still drive to Bagel Express most
mornings." Also a World War II veteran, Monti served as a sergeant on
the Western Front in the European Theater of Operations. "I was in
England, and all over Europe."
Monti fought in the Battle of
Ardennes (December 1944 to January 1945 in the forested region of
Belgium, France and Luxembourg), more popularly known as the Battle of
"I was in the Army, in ordnance. We supplied the
weapons. ... I was real young, put in a total of three years, five
months, saw a lot of action -- I was lucky.
"On June 14, D plus
eight (that is, eight days after D-Day, June 6, 1944), we crossed the
Channel, landed at Normandy (Beach) and couldn't get close to shore. I
was climbing down the side with all the other guys to get into the LCI
(Landing Craft -- Infantry). The water was rough, and the boat was going
one way and the ladder was going the other and then the platform didn't
come down. I had to jump over the side into the LCI, and when that
platform didn't come down I said, 'We're going back,' and the officer
said, 'Like hell you are, jump!' Right into the water, chest-high waves.
And I don't swim!
"I started coming here when my wife passed
away. My daughter bought a house in Randolph, and I was visiting 15
years ago when a friend told me about Bagel Express and that Harold
(Sherman) was here every day. I came running, too. He's a famous
ballroom dancer now. But I don't dance," Monti says. "And I don't swim."
and Monti are both members of the senior citizens group at Resurrection
Church. "Fifteen-year member on May 29," Monti says. "We have a dinner
once a month, and every Tuesday there's a movie for seniors. Harold came
one time and said he liked hot sausage. So I bought hot sausage for
Harold, but when I put it out on the table, all the Wednesday people ate
it and Harold got none. It's one of my fondest memories."
was in the Battle of the Bulge until Christmas 1944, when Patton broke
through. "Then he stole all our gas. When we had to leave, there was
none left for us. But that's a story for another day," Monti says.