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John Maynard saga appears to be over


Der Volksfreund/People's Friend,
November/December, 1999
Reprinted with permission of the editor


The long saga of the bronze John Maynard memorial plaque has, with a spelling correction, finally, come to a happy ending.

The problem -- only the last in a long string of difficulties concerning the memorial in the Erie Basin Marina -- lay in the fact that the name of the author of the translated poem, Theodor Fontane, was misspelled. Someone had inserted the letter "I" between "A" and "N" so that the name read Fontaine!

In view of the fact that the Buffalo-Dortmund Sister City Committee together with the City of Buffalo had commissioned the pouring of the bronze by the Casting Institute of the University at Buffalo as a sight-seeing attraction for German tourists, the mistake was especially embarrassing. But what made the situation almost insupportable was how long it took, despite repeated promises, to make the correction by simply grinding out the intrusive narrow letter. Ultimately, Mr. Herman Endres, president of the Buffalo-Dortmund Committee, had to point out to the university authorities, including the dean, that Buffalo's reputation was suffering as a result.

Shortly thereafter, over the weekend of Oct. 2-3, the head of the Casting Institute, Professor Tony Patterson, personally completed the improvement. He explained that the assistant who many months before had promised to make good the situation had, in the meantime, left the institute.

The saga of the installation of the English translation of the ballad, which is one of the best known poems in lands where German is spoken, began on Sept. 27, 1997, in an almost tragi-comic manner before hundreds of spectators, including the Lord Mayor of Dortmund, Mayor Anthony Masiello, and Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. Barely minutes before the ceremony it was announced that the casting of the plaque had gone wrong and a substitute of cardboard would have to be "dedicated." The echo of this breakdown reached as far as the columns of the Berlin newspaper, Die Altglienicke.

Finally, thanks to the efforts of the then acting director of the Casting Institute, Mr. Boyd Patterson (no relation to the professor who had gone on sabbatical), the plaque this time was successfully poured and was dedicated on June 10, 1998, before about two dozen members of the local German-American community. A few weeks later, the incorrect spelling was noticed.

But, as Mr. Endres said, "All's well that ends well." He reported to Der Volksfreund/People's Friend (whose editor had translated Fontane's ballad about the burning on Aug. 9, 1841, not far from Buffalo of the paddlewheel steamer "Schwalbe" or "Swallow" -- in reality the "Erie") that according to Mr. David Granville, the city would so clean the plaque that traces of the grinding away would not be obvious.

Professor Patterson, himself, planned to apply a special solution to mask the work and to impart a patina to match the rest of the inscription.

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