F!RST Notes

Running with Newark’s Howling Huskies, a Bad Company star bounces back, the wisdom of Mayor McLaughlin, and more.

Gone With the Dogs

Newark may be a continent away from Nome, but it still provides a real sled experience.

Get out your snowpants and hide the Snausages—here comes the Howling Huskies sled dog team. Led by Newark’s Sue Thompson, 61, Howling Huskies gives Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other kids a true sled dog experience. Thompson is a 15-year vet of the sport, as well as a two-time volunteer at the famous Iditarod Great Sled Race in Alaska.

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Through the Howling Huskies, scouts can earn patches and merit badges. Kids learn basic veterinary care, sled safety and a few sled dog pointers. Even when there’s no snow, the dogs pull carts over the trails of White Clay Creek State Park. “The scouts just naturally love dogs,” Thompson says. “And the dogs
love the kids.”

Jack London, eat your heart out.

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Meet the Team: Mars, Caramel, Candy, Milky Way, Nugget and Polar. Cop, Jed and Granite are retired.

On Danger: “It really, really can be dangerous. A lot of the danger is being dragged by the team and the sled. Or going around a corner and flying off the sled. They like to play crack the whip around turns. I carry my phone with me, a first aid kit for me and the dogs, a whistle, a GPS and a knife.”

Commands: “‘Gee’ means go to the right. ‘Haw’ means go to the left. ‘OK’ is my start command. They key on that word. A lot of people use ‘hike’ or ‘mush’ or something else. It’s beautiful to see them take the commands.”

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On Movie Myths: “They don’t bark when they run. It’s so quiet. But I have to bring them inside when there’s a full moon. They actually do howl at full moons. That’s not
a myth.”

One with the scouts: “We have a program modeled after the Iditarod. They meet me, meet the dogs, then we transport them out to a 5-mile trail. Every half-mile is a checkpoint, and at every checkpoint is a scout, and we do a veterinarian check on the dogs, a check on the equipment.”

On cleanliness and dogliness: “They do make the house dirty. Wet dogs. I wish someone would develop a chute or something where they could walk in the house and they’d be dry automatically. In the springtime, when they’re shedding, the hair comes off in clumps. I’ve gone through many, many vacuum cleaners.”

–Matt Amis

Bikes and Tykes

Burly bikers get warm and fuzzy for the tots.

The site of 40 tough-looking men riding rumbling motorcycles down a city street might unnerve even the bravest of the brave. But when the children at the Our Youth, Inc. community center in south Wilmington see the bikers coming, they smile.

That’s because the bikers—members of the Delaware chapter of the Wheels of Soul motorcycle club—have lashed toys to their bikes and are following Santa himself.

The Wheels of Soul hold a toy drive each December for the needy children in the Our Youth, Inc. after-school program. Most of the children are from low-income families, so many would not otherwise receive a gift during the holidays, says Norman Oliver, CEO and president of the non-profit Our Youth, Inc.

William Holly, a former chapter president of the Wheels of Soul who helps organize the toy drive, can relate to those children, having been one. Holly says the larger, more well-known toy drives are great, but the toys don’t always find their way to poor neighborhoods such as Southbridge.

“A lot of toys people give go to different areas,” he says, “but they don’t go to our community.”

The Wheels of Soul teamed with Oliver, a former Wilmington city councilman and local entrepreneur, five years ago to begin the toy drive. The Wheels also deliver 1,000 turkeys to the area each November.

“Sometimes motorcycle guys get a bad reputation,” Oliver says. “Don’t get me wrong—these guys are tough. They don’t take anything off anybody. But I commend them. They go above and beyond for our kids.”

Says Holly, “We’re all tough on the outside, but we’re soft as cotton on the inside. It makes us feel good to see the kids’ faces. It’s like having a brand new baby—they touch your heart.”

To donate a new, unwrapped toy, visit Our Youth, Inc. at 1213 B St. in Wilmington on December 9 at noon.

— Drew Ostroski

The Real Rock’n’Roll Fantasy

Paul Cullen went from the heights of fame to unemployed.

A new CD puts him just where he wants to be.

Paul Cullen of Rehoboth Beach has what every budding guitar player wants: killer calluses. They start as bloody grooves that come from pressing hard on steel strings. To go from groove to callus, you have to practice.

Call it a metaphor for Cullen’s life. After years of struggle, he has finally landed a record deal, but not after the standard highs and lows of rock’n’roll.

The roller coaster started in Fort Myers, Florida, 20 years ago. Cullen, a bass player for the locally popular Boys of Summer was invited to audition for world-famous Bad Company. He got the gig.

In three years, Cullen played 234 shows to a total of 3.5 million people, and was positioned to hit a seven-figure salary. Then, for reasons he won’t disclose, he left.

“I had visions of beautiful groupies dancing in my head when I started,” Cullen says. “When it ended, it was bad, really bad.”

Cullen returned home to Florida, but he couldn’t find work that fed his wallet or his soul. So when a singer from the Ted Nugent band encouraged him to move to Atlanta, he did. That didn’t pan out either.

Broke and on the verge of divorce, Cullen moved to Buffalo, New York, with his parents. He tended bar, owned a music store, drove dump trucks. On a long haul through Nevada, it hit him: He was meant to play music.

In 2000, Cullen took up the acoustic guitar. His first solo gig fell on his 40th birthday.

When former Boys of Summer drummer Michael Daisey invited Cullen to visit him at his new home in Lewes, “I took that drive down Route 1, went over the Indian River Inlet Bridge, and I fell in love,” Cullen says. “I knew I would live here.”

He also fell in love with Bonnie Demetro the night before the visit ended. He moved to Delaware 10 days later, then he and Bonnie married.

Cullen is back on top. Though he has a day job selling for Zero-Point Mortgage, web-based artistshare.com has published his new CD “Dreamdance.”

“I didn’t understand the depression after Bad Company,” Cullen says. “Now I know it’s not just about the music. It’s about having everything else in your life together, then the music.”

Hear Cullen’s music at www.paulcullen.net.

—Maria Hess

Honoring Hizzonor

Age has never been important to former Wilmington mayor William McLaughlin—he didn’t even get involved in local government until after his 45th birthday.

So he’s in no rush to throw a party for his 90th birthday on December 22. Instead, friends and family will honor the man during Celebrating the Memories, Not the Years, January 19 at the Chase Center at the Riverfront. The bash will raise money for the McLaughlin Education Fund, which runs Delaware Future Stars.

We asked the man who governed Wilmo from 1976 to 1984 what pearls of wisdom a few years of leadership and 90 years of experience might yield. In his words:

You are never too old to make a difference. “I had a pension from DuPont when I was elected mayor.”

Don’t let party politics ruin a good thing. “When I became mayor, Pete du Pont (a Republican) was governor. Some people wanted to cause as many problems for the opposite party as they could. Some people make it bitter, and you shouldn’t. If you aren’t on the same page, nothing is going to happen.”

Nothing is as important as education. “Education is all about desire. Without education you’re nothing. Try to get the most education you can.”

Politics and government are not the same thing. “I spent 30 years at DuPont, and there was always more politics in DuPont than in the city government.”

Effective people surround themselves with effective people. “It’s never you. It’s always the people around you.”

Once the race is over, the real journey begins. “You try hard when you run for office, but after that’s all over, you have to try even harder to make it work.”

Don’t give up on tough goals, like the New York Times Sunday puzzle. “They bring you down to earth. I’ve never finished one, but I’ve gotten close a couple of times.”

Legacies last, such as the William T. McLaughlin Public Safety Building, which houses the city jail. “I’m proud of everything I did as mayor, but that thing is going to last forever. I went down there to pay a parking ticket a few years ago, and the lady I talked to joked that if I was any later, she was going to throw me in my own building.”

The meaning of life is to give life meaning. “You have to help others to make your life complete. I was always able to get help when I needed it and I never forgot that. There are always people out there willing to help you.”

—Bob Thurlow

Building Better Mousetraps

One Rehoboth Beach inventor says there’s always a better way.

Afraid of slimy handrails? Lost sleep because you brushed against a merry-go-round horse after a hacking toddler just wiped his nose on it?

Have no fear, germophobes. Rehoboth Beach inventor Emily Beck is here.

Beck has created products like City Mitts—sleek, black gloves imbedded with bacteria-fighting chemicals—and Sunshades, a sunscreen mask made of two laminated fabrics that deflects light so “you don’t have to put a T-shirt or towel on your face” when lying in the sun. The mask is being prototyped by a large drugstore chain in Delaware.

Beck’s biggest invention, the one she built LuLu Brand’s reputation on, are emmy b’s, a stain-fighting underwear for women. The bikini panties will be available in February in several Wilmington, Greenville and Rehoboth Beach boutiques. “We just concluded a license to a company in New York who will make underwear with my technology, called Wick-Stop,” Beck says. Expect big-name stores (Macy’s, Nordstrom) to sell the undies under the label Ongossamer.

Beck’s inventive inspiration comes from “everywhere,” she says. “I think it’s just about being aware of your surroundings and how you function in the environment and how people use things and why they use them.”

Despite the fact that Beck Amtraks back and forth from Wilmington to New York, home of her LuLu Brands office, the inventor has created all products in Delaware except for City Mitts. When she lived in New York City—briefly—she noted obsessive-compulsives holding subway poles with their pinkie fingers.

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