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Saturday debate club

Men make shooting the breeze a weekly pastime

Men make shooting the breeze a weekly pastime

February 01, 2009|By JULIE E. GREENE

HALFWAY - They debate the best route from Hagerstown to Charles Town, W.Va. They sometimes argue over politics. And they squabble about baseball.

But it was a discussion about which keys on a typewriter are the home keys that a group of retirees said almost got them kicked out of the Valley Mall food court in December.

They might be exaggerating. They do occasionally, but more often they're prone to getting caught up over nitty-gritty details.

The group of seven men meets every Saturday morning in the food court to argue and are sometimes joined by friends.

"We don't argue. We have different points of view, that's all. ... And we know everything about everything. We're jack-of-all-trades," said Lee Cordelli, 78, of Hagerstown.

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They know each other from attending Hagerstown High School and many of them also played baseball or other sports together so sports is a frequent topic.

They also know each other from church - "the church of what's happening now," said Fred Billmeyer, 70, who lives outside Funkstown.

"You make a statement and it's true and they want to argue about it," Cordelli said.

One of their recent debates centered around how many bridges are along North Burhans Boulevard from Antietam to Church streets, though the real question seemed to be how many bridges along Burhans cross West Washington Street.

The railroad overpass appears to have one foundation, but two track overpasses with a significant gap between them.

"I drove (Lee) over there and we counted them," said Harry Parks, 74, of Hagerstown. Parks prefers listening to the debates rather than participating in them.

Some of the men, such as Cordelli, think the overpass at Washington counts as two bridges, while others, like Cordelli's brother Tony Cordell, think it is one. (And yes, Tony's name is Cordell and Lee's is Cordelli, but that's another story.)

Recounting their research the debate picks up again, still with no unanimous consensus.

The Saturday gathering began about 10 years ago when Cordelli and Parks began meeting. Then Billmeyer and Cordell joined in, and before they knew it there was a group of them around a couple of tables pushed together.

One Saturday in December they were arguing about specific plays in a New York Yankees' game in which Joe DiMaggio played, trying to determine whose recollections were correct.

Some of the older men used to go to Dixon's on West Washington Street in the late 1940s and early 1950s to learn about sporting events from the ticker tape telegraphing in news of games.

Some of the men get out together beyond the mall, going to Beaver Creek Country Club to play golf or to Charles Town (W.Va.) Races & Slots to play slots. Some of them play Keno during their mall debates.

The group also includes Ronnie Baker, 73, of Williamsport, and Ryan Granville, 73, of Hagerstown.

The men playfully tease each other, referring to each other's limited knowledge, or explaining how Glenn Kline, aka "the Grinch," earned his nickname.

Billmeyer claims Kline hates everything, including Santa and the Easter Bunny, but Kline disputes that - of course.

"I'm the nicest person you'd be around," said Kline, 71, of Halfway.

And that bridge or bridges over West Washington Street?

"I would say it's one substructure and two superstructures" as the bridge appears to have one concrete foundation, but two track overpasses with a gap between them, Hagerstown City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

"I would still consider that a single bridge," Tissue said. "Technically, I'm not sure there's a right or wrong answer to that."

The debate continues ...

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