Category Archives: Library

Eric Burns Remembers 1920

Like Sam Cooke more than 50 years ago, most Americans today don’t know much about history.

Eric Burns does.

Eric Burns

Eric Burns

The longtime Westporter — an award-winning media analyst and former NBC News correspondent– has just written a new book: 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar.

The few folks still alive then probably don’t remember much about that year. The rest of us probably wouldn’t peg it as any different from, say, 1919 or 1921.

But Burns does. In a recent interview with Salon, he explained:

 1920 was the year of the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil. It was the only year in which there have been 2 amendments to the Constitution (Prohibition and the women’s vote). For the entire year, we had a female president— not elected, obviously; she was the de facto president, not the president de jure— because of Woodrow Wilson’s stroke. Isn’t it ironic that for the entire year of 1920, the year women got the vote, there was a woman running the country?

1920 was also the year of Charles Ponzi (cue the Bernie Madoff comparisons); debates over “homeland security” (following the alleged terrorism by anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti), and immense changes in art and literature.

In fact, according to the Salon writer who interviewed Burns:

The America of the 1920s, especially during the very first year of the decade, really was eerily similar to America today! The country was recovering from a war of choice that not only led to results far less inspiring than originally promised, but caused a toxic level of division and rancor within the body politic; the economy was turbulent, with new technologies and social norms wrenching an agricultural society ever-more toward the cities; immigration was changing the very face of the average citizen, often in a way American nativists could not stand; and terrorism was forcing a political culture built on dual loyalties to liberty and safety to engage in a precarious rebalancing.

There’s much more — and Burns will talk about it all at the Westport Library this Thursday (May 21, 7:30 p.m.).

Attendance is free for anyone 95 years or older. And everyone else, too.

1920 book - Eric Burns

Community Conversation Set For Sunday On #WhiteLivesMatter Flyer

Last week, some Westporters woke to find #WhiteLivesMatter flyers thrown anonymously onto their lawns and driveways.

Some were outraged. Others shrugged.

When “06880” reported the story, some commenters talked about hate groups. Others talked about the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Still others countered, “All Lives Matter.”

It was an intense discussion. And it deserves to be played out not only in cyberspace, but in real time, with real faces.

Several local organizations are giving Westporters the chance to do just that. This Sunday (May 17, 4 p.m., Westport Library), everyone is invited to a community conversation. The topic is: “Why Does the Flyer Matter?”

Participants include First Selectman James Marpe, Police Chief Dale Call, Rev. Alison Patton of the Saugatuck Congregational Church, and yours truly.

TEAM-Westport-logo2The following statement announcing the event was signed by TEAM Westport, Interfaith Clergy Association of Westport and Weston, the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, Westport Human Services Commission, the Westport Board of Education, and Westport Police:

On the night of Thursday, May 7, 2015  flyers containing the slogan “#White Lives Matter” were left anonymously at a number of residences in Westport. We are deeply troubled by this campaign. While some have raised questions about the intent of the slogan, it is clear from similar campaigns in neighboring towns that this message was motivated by racism, which we reject absolutely and without qualification.

Further, we contend that dismantling racism requires us to attend to the impact of actions, regardless of intent. These flyers attempt to co-opt a movement that has been created by citizens of color across our nation to redress disparities in treatment, based on race. We are united in declaring that these flyers have no place in Westport, which aspires to be an inclusive community that values a diverse population.

We affirm the principle that all lives matter equally. However, there is much more work to do before our nation achieves genuine equality across race and ethnicity. In circumstances where this equality is not upheld, we affirm our commitment to support and pursue constructive efforts to redress institutional and cultural racism which tears at the fabric of our nation.

In the next several months we will organize a number of opportunities in Westport for education, discussion and engagement on matters relating to race relations in the United States. The initial event will be a community conversation held at the Westport Library on Sunday, May 17 at 4 p.m. regarding the topic:  “Why Does the Flyer Matter?” We hope you will join us.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport in the middle of the night last week.

These flyers were tossed onto Westport lawns in the middle of the night last week.

Lynsey’s Love Fest

Maxine Bleiweis has mastermined 17 “Booked for the Evenings.”

But tonight was her first honoring a homegrown hero.

Lynsey Addario — Pulitzer Prize winner, MacArthur genius grant awardee, inspiration for an upcoming Steven Spielberg movie and now best-selling author — drew a packed house to the Westport Library.

Friends from childhood, friends of her parents, family members (including her 102-year-old grandmother), and just proud Westporters, they were already impressed by the New York Times photojournalist. When they saw her compelling images, heard her harrowing stories of her work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Darfur and Libya, they left even more awed.

Lynsey Addario speaking tonight at the Westport Library's

Lynsey Addario speaking tonight at the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening.” One of her vivid photographs is projected behind her.

It was a hometown evening. Actress Cynthia Gibb (Staples High School Class of ’81) read excerpts from Lynsey’s book, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War. Doug Tirola (Staples ’84) produced a tribute video (narrated by CNN anchor and Easton native Ivan Watson). Eli Koskoff (Staples ’15, and Lynsey’s colleague Tyler Hicks’ nephew) played guitar.

Lynsey was called “brilliant, articulate, warm, engaging and very kind” — and she did not disappoint. She gave shout-outs to her sisters, parents, and the town she grew up in. All helped provide the one quality that, she said, every photojournalist needs: “being non-judgmental.”

It was a wonderful evening: for Lynsey, for Westport, and for the library that — in 17 years of “Booked” events — has raised over $3 million.

As New York Times Magazine director of photography Kathy Ryan said: “This is the rocking-est library I’ve ever seen!”

#White Lives Matter: Yes, The Flyers Are Racist

The discovery Thursday morning of anonymous flyers — saying only “#White Lives Matter” — disturbed Westporters in the Compo Beach and Roseville Road areas.

The reaction to yesterday’s “06880” story was mixed. Some commenters were stunned, ashamed, appalled and angry.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport early Thursday morning.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport early Thursday morning.

Others complained of an over-reaction. “All lives matter,” they noted. They said this was political correctness run amok, and wondered why anyone assumed the flyer was “racist.”

As the story reported, similar flyers were distributed equally anonymously — in Ziploc bags, weighted with pebbles — in Milford a few days earlier.

There was one difference. While the Westport flyers said only “#White Lives Matter,” the Milford flyers included more text. They said:

America is under attack. This fact has been known for some time. Each year, we the American people lose more rights. Each election we get sold out and stabbed in the back. Between misfits robbing us and the government taxing us, we the honest hardworking Americans are barely getting by. Tired of being tired, and sick of being sick, Americans united in 1987 to form The Nationalist Movement. And ever since, it has served the American people proudly.

While other groups pop up only to vanish, The Nationalist Movement continues striding to unify the American people and liberate us from the communist regime that is currently occupying our White House and Congress Halls. The American people have been shackled with chains of “equality”, beaten bloody with the whip of “diversity”, and forced to bow a knee before the tyrants ruining our homeland.

However, Americans all across this sacred nation are arising, to make a difference. This exclusive organization carries the Red, White, and Blue with the same pride that our fore fathers did. And in doing so, we vow to never let the Amrican [sic]  dream perish.

There was a link for the Nationalist Movement website. The site shows photos of a flag that looks like a cross between a cross and a swastika.

Nationalist Movement

On the home page, there is a link to “Racist America Radio.”

This Radio show is for activists, not those who are lukewarm, sell outs, or inactive keyboard commando’s [sic]. This is real life activism, in the public, without police protection. We are friends to only the truly sincere devotees of freedom. We stand with only the true zealots for our people.

So yeah, there is a racist element to the flyers.

Perhaps the Westport flyers were just a juvenile, copycat attempt?

Probably not. Both flyers used the exact same typeface and 3-line style.

The Westport (left) and Milford (right) flyers.

The Westport (left) and Milford (right) flyers.

Meanwhile, Westporters swung into action.

Yesterday afternoon, representatives from TEAM Westport, houses of worship, Staples High School, the Westport library, the town Social Services department, and community members gathered at the Saugatuck Church to frame a response.

They are drafting a joint statement. They’re organizing a community conversation at the library (Sunday, May 17, 4 p.m.). Additional steps will follow.

Clergy have been encouraged to speak about the incident in services this weekend.

They’re also compiling a webpage of resources — blog entries, videos, podcasts, etc. — to provide history and context for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

More will follow.

All lives matter. Including those that stand up against vile, offensive, and very racist behavior.

(Hat tip: Dan Donovan)

How Our Gardens Grow

You can see the Westport Garden Club‘s work all over town.

In the early 1970s, Ginny Sherwood asked fellow members to reclaim a 3-acre landfill on Imperial Avenue. Her vision of a refuge along the Saugatuck River came true. Today, Westporters love the hidden-in-plain-sight beauty of Grace Salmon Park.

It’s a delightful spot for a walk, picnic or simply a few moments of peace and quiet.

Over the years though, the land has flooded. Vegetation has been lost. It needs improvement.

The Garden Club will once again help. Members are recommending which plants to save, and which native species to add. They’ll provide volunteers to do the labor, and keep Grace Salmon Park looking great.

To accomplish this — and so much more — the club needs funds. They raise money the best way they know how. This year’s annual plant sale is set for Friday, May 8 (9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.) at the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

Among the Westport Garden Club's many activities: keeping the Compo Beach entrance looking gorgeous. Members were hard at work recently. (Photo/Ann Pawlick)

Among the Westport Garden Club’s many activities: keeping the Compo Beach entrance looking gorgeous. Members hard at work recently (from left): Roseanne Mihalick, Jane Eyes, Jenny Robson, Debbie Tiede, Lori Meinke, Sue McCabe. (Photo/Ann Pawlick)

The Garden Club is one of those organizations whose work Westporters constantly admire, even if we don’t know it’s theirs. They’re responsible for — among many other things — planting, weeding, pruning and mulching sites like the Compo Beach entry and marina; Adams Academy; the Earthplace entrance; the Library’s winter garden near Jesup Green; various cemeteries, and the Nevada Hitchcock Memorial Garden at the Cross Highway/Weston Road intersection.

We also owe the club thanks for what we don’t see.

In the 1930s — just a few years after its founding — the Westport Garden Club persuaded the town to ban billboards on all local roads.

The prohibition still stands.

So on Friday, buy a plant to support the Westport Garden Club. For nearly 100 years they’ve made our hometown look beautiful — just like home.

Westport Garden Club logo

 

Brother, Can You Spare A Ride?

“06880” reader Elliott Fisher is a 1977 graduate of Staples High School. Except for 1992-2004, he has lived in the same house here since 1971.

Last August, Elliott suffered a mild stroke. He is no longer able to drive. He writes:

While I have wonderful friends who take me grocery shopping and to various doctor appointments, my greatest treat is the social aspect of being at the Westport Library.

I would like to be able to get there 4-5 times a week. Are there Westport residents who can drive me from my house off Greens Farms Road, near South Compo?

If so, please email consultants3000@gmail.com, or text 203-451-5087. Put “Help with a ride” in the subject line. Thank you!

That’s Elliott’s request, and it’s an important one.

Here’s mine: There must be many folks like Elliott in Westport in the same, um, boat. What transportation opportunities are available to them? (Besides the obvious — and costly — taxis.)

If you’ve got ideas, please click “Comments ” below. Knowledge = power.

Elliott Fisher

Elliott Fisher

 

Maker Faire: Westport’s Greatest Collection Of Nerds, Geeks, And Way Cool People

Westport’s 4th annual Mini Maker Faire is in full swing today. Up to 6,000 creative, inventive folks of all ages are expected to flood Jesup Green and the library. They’ll spend the day building, designing, creating, hacking, learning, connecting, eating, drinking, listening and playing.

And that’s just at one of the hundreds of interactive, interdisciplinary, interesting exhibits.

The Maker Faire runs till 4 p.m. today (Saturday, April 25). The inspiration will last forever.

“The Great Fredini” is constructing an entire scale model of Coney Island, with a 3D printer. Faire-goers could have their own body scanned — and printed — to be included.

Anyone can play regular foosball. It takes a certain type of person to be part of a human foosball game.

Anyone can play regular foosball. It takes a certain type of person to be part of a human foosball game.

Getting set for the Nerdy Derby: a Pinewood Derby with no rules.

Getting set for the Nerdy Derby: a Pinewood Derby with no rules.

A scavenger hunt includes -- naturally -- QR codes. As noted, this event was developed by the Kids' Committee.

A scavenger hunt includes — naturally — QR codes. As noted, this event was developed by kids. Participants earned a free download of digital goodies; the randomly selected 1st prize was a gift certificate to robotics camp.

Where can you find a real live violin-maker? At the Maker Faire, of course.

Where can you find a real live cello-maker? At the Maker Faire, of course.

But sometimes it was fun just to play with a low-tech toy: the sculpture outside the library.

Sometimes it was fun just to play with a low-tech toy: the sculpture outside the library.

Come One, Come All To The Maker Faire!

It’s crunch week, as organizers get ready for Saturday’s 4th annual Mini Maker Faire.

6,000 attendees are expected at Connecticut’s largest event focused on creativity and innovation.

Naturally, you can expect the unexpected. Like a Human Foosball table, a Nerdy Derby (Pinewood Derby with no rules), and Marshamllow Shooters.

It takes human beings to design and make a Human  Foosball Table. Hard at work last weekend were (from left) Cecilia Fung, Kerstin Rao, Michael Miller, Vijay  Rao and Jeff Boak.

It takes human beings to design and make a Human Foosball Table. Hard at work last weekend were (from left) Cecilia Fung, Kerstin Rao, Michael Miller, Vijay Rao and Jeff Boak.

The event has quickly become a highlight on Westport’s annual calendar. Over 100 “Maker” exhibitors — specializing in arts and crafts, science and engineering, robots and rockets, electric cars, boats, sustainable living, even puppets — will open their arms to anyone who likes to tinker (or hang out with those who do).

It’s a family friendly day — meaning (of course) there’s food and music too.

The poster says: “Make. Build. Design. Hack. Eat. Drink. Listen. Learn. Connect. Create. Play.”

Need another reason to go? If you register for free tickets online (to help make sure there’s enough “stuff” for everyone) — and bring your printed-out ticket to the Maker Faire — you’ll be entered in a contest to win a 3D printer.

You were expecting maybe a gift certificate? How un-Faire.

The Mini Maker Faire is this Saturday (April 25, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.) at Jesup Green and the Westport Library. Click here for more information.

Maker Faire poster

A Few Hours To Honor The Minute Men

They’re called the Minute Men, but they spent 8 years fighting the Revolutionary War.

It took a couple of years to renovate Westport’s Minute Man statue.

The annual Minute Man Road Race is actually 2 races — 5K or 10K — which take considerably longer than a minute to run.

So it’s fitting that Westport will celebrate “Minute Man Day” next (Sunday, April 26), with a series of activities that take 300 minutes (5 hours, if you failed math).

Minute Man Road RaceThe activities — commemorating the 238th anniversary of the British march from Compo Beach to Danbury and back again (our Minute Men did a pretty good job against them), and celebrating the renovation of Henry Daniel Webster’s 105-year-old statue — begin at noon on Sunday, April 26, soon after the Minute Man Race.

Departing every 15 minutes from 12 to 1:30 p.m., Westport Historical Society docents (including yours truly) will lead guided tours. We’ll start at the Ned Dimes Marina (definitely not a Revolutionary War facility), and make stops at the old cemetery and Minute Man statue. There are special children’s activities at the marina. Net proceeds from a suggested donation of $10 (ages 13 and up) go toward the ongoing care of the statue.

From 1-5 p.m., a recreated Revolution militia encampment will be set up on Jesup Green. The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution color guard performs musket demonstrations. This event is free.

At 2:30 p.m. in the Westport Library, conservator Francis Miller will describe how he restored the Minute Man statue. This one is free too.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

The Minuteman statue. In the distance is Minuteman Hill.

At 3 p.m. — also in the library — history lecturer Ed Hynes discusses the Danbury raid. He’ll talk about the 4-day adventure, which included noted brigadier general Benedict Arnold. If you don’t know which side he was on — or even if you do — this promises to be very educational.

In fact, the entire day is worth more than a few minutes of our time.

Minute Man Day

Remembering Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy — a longtime Westporter, arts patron and philanthropist — died early this morning, of complications from pneumonia. She was 91.

Though she kept a low profile, Malloy’s mark on Westport was broad and deep. She donated generously to a variety of cultural institutions, including the Westport Arts Center, Westport Historical Society (for which she drew a 4-color map of 1960s-era downtown), and the Westport Library (which hosts an annual arts lecture in her name).

Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy

Malloy also supported the noted “Years in the Making” documentary — which pays homage to Westport’s arts legacy — and the Whitney Museum in New York.

An artist herself, she had her 1st New York gallery show in 2009 — in her mid-80s.

In 2012 — at 88 — Malloy published her first book. A “Guide to Paris” for young people, it contains sketches she made the previous year on a trip to France with her niece Ann Sheffer, and Malloy’s 17- and 10-year-old grandchildren.

Malloy’s family began summering in Westport in 1937, when her father Aaron Rabinowitz followed his mentor Lillian Ward (of Henry Street Settlement fame) here.

The family home — “Robin’s Nest” — was a farmhouse at the corner of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

After Malloy married, she and her late husband Edwin lived for many years in one of Westport’s oldest homes, in the Old Hill district. In 1986 they moved to a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired property on Dogwood Lane.

Services are set for this Friday (April 17), at 11 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El in New York City.