Category Archives: Looking back

Que Pasa, Qdoba?

You may not have heard of Qdoba. But your kids probably have.

As reported in “06880″ way back in Enero, the Mexican grill — beloved by college students for its (relatively) fresh food and (somewhat) reasonable prices – is coming to our little ciudad.

The sign went up today:

Qdoba

Burritos, quesadillas and 3-cheese nachos can’t be far behind.

Qdoba is located in the free-standing space at the entrance to Playhouse Square. The previous tenant was Pierre Deux. Before that, it was Alphagraphics. Earlier, it was Sam Goody.

Waaaaay before that, the Crest Drive-In.

And yeah — even longer ago, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth — it was a Dairy Queen.

Dairy Queen, Westport CT 1956

Fortunately, Qdoba has its own parking lot. So traffic in Playhouse Square won’t be adversely affected — well, not too much.

On the Post Road around that light, though – ¡ay, caramba!

Another Park. Another Plan?

For many years, Luciano Park was a thriving neighborhood playground.

For 2 years during college, in fact, my summer job was supervising the small Saugatuck spot, between the railroad station and parking lot. Another counselor and I kept an eye on kids, organized a few games, and set up bus trips to amusement parks and Yankee Stadium.

Luciano Park, looking from Railroad Place and Charles Street toward the parking lot. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Luciano Park, looking from Railroad Place and Charles Street toward the parking lot. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Later, when Parks and Rec stopped funding the positions — and the area changed — Luciano Park was known mainly as the site of the annual Festival Italiano.

These days, it’s largely forgotten. And almost completely unused.

Home plate remains, but the rest of the softball diamond is gone. View is toward Railroad Place. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Home plate remains, but the rest of the softball diamond is gone. View is toward Railroad Place. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

The reasons are varied. Saugatuck is no longer a place of small homes and large families.

The few kids with free time in the summer don’t play baseball in parks. They don’t swing on swings.

No one does, anywhere in Westport — except for the very creative Compo playground, which has sand, water and food nearby.

The seldom-used playground equipment in Luciano Park. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Seldom-used playground equipment in Luciano Park. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

I was reminded of all this after receiving an email and photos from alert “06880″ reader JP Vellotti. Walking through Luciano Park at 12:30 last Friday afternoon, without a soul in sight, he thought: “If there is a park in Westport that needs a master plan, this is it!”

He added:

As Westport thinks about its future, let’s give this park some thought. It need not only be for kids. Hundreds, maybe more, quite literally ‘park’ nearby every day.

Could this be a quiet place to sit before or after work? Why not add a fitness station as an alternative to the gym?

Good questions, all. And as Railroad Place prepares for the next stage of Saugatuck’s redevelopment, and residents throughout town ponder both Compo Beach and downtown improvements, why not add this tiny, valuable parcel into the planning mix?

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

Johnny Winter’s Summers

Johnny Winter was found dead in a Switzerland hotel room late last night.

The 70-year-old albino guitarist/singer — called one of the 100 all-time greatest guitarists by Rolling Stone – was legendary throughout the blues/rock  world.

He also spent some legendary summers here, in the late 1960s and ’70s.

Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter says that to escape stifling summers in New York City, he “always rented a big summer house with a pool in Westport, Connecticut for vacations and rehearsals.”

One day, the book says, the house caught fire. Winter says the firefighters told him, “Get the fuck out of here….Don’t get anything, just get out of here.”

He adds, “They stole some grass we had too, those motherfuckers.”

Johnny Winter

Johnny Winter

Winter’s band White Trash played a concert in the Staples auditorium on July 11, 1971. But there was much more informal music.

A Staples graduate from the mid-’70s recalls that Winter and his brother Edgar would “hold court at the Playhouse Tavern [most recently the Dressing Room restaurant] on summer nights. The beer, drinks and aroma flowed freely.

“They often were joined by group members like Rick Derringer. Other rock stars would surprise the audience, like Joe Cocker and his Mad Dogs and Englishmen, as they prepared for their famous road show that followed.”

He adds: “Rock on, Johnny. RIP. 70 years young.”

 

Uber Westport

Since time immemorial — well, at least since F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald summered here, guzzling bootleg gin and carousing in their motorcar up and down South Compo — Westport has had a difficult relationship with drinking and driving.

We don’t condone it, of course — particularly now, in the post-Mad Men era, when we all know its dangers.

But after a night at a party, restaurant or bar, none of us may be in condition to drive. Local taxis have sketchy reputations. And not many parents will call their kids for a ride.

Enter Uber.

Uber logoThe San Francisco-based company connects passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire. Cars are reserved through a cellphone app. Payments are done by credit card, so there’s no need to carry cash.

When you need a car, you click on the app. GPS pinpoints your exact location, and estimates how long before a car gets to you.

You can select car types: a black car or SUV. UberX is the least expensive: usually a Toyota Camry or something similar. You can also rate your driver.

Uber operates in over 70 large cities — and, for the past couple of months, Westport.

A longtime local businessman — who requested anonymity — used it Friday night to return home from a party.

It cost $7 — including tip. (Uber says, however, there is “no need to tip.”)

He told a few friends. The next night, they texted Uber too.

3 screen shots from Uber in San Francisco.

3 screen shots from Uber in San Francisco.

They report that their cars were nice and clean. The drivers were pleasant. It’s a great economic opportunity for them to operate here, the Westport rider says.

“It’s great,” he adds. “You don’t have to worry about having that extra glass of wine. Once the word spreads, our roads will be much safer. And the parties more fun!”

Somewhere in that great speakeasy in the sky, F. Scott and Zelda are smiling.

 

Remembering Shirley Land

Shirley Land died last night, surrounded by her family. She was 96.

Shirley’s daughter described her as a “remarkable, kind, upbeat, intelligent, interesting and inquisitive woman. She grabbed life with both hands, and enjoyed it immensely.”  

Shirley was one of the last of a generation of men and women who made a remarkable impact on Westport. In 2008, when she moved to North Carolina to be closer to her family, I wrote a story extolling her virtues. I am honored to reprint it.

As a new generation takes over Westport — altering its physical, political and social landscapes in ways large and small, positive and negative — an older generation fades. Men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s — the ones who steered our town through the turbulent 1960s; who modernized old cultural icons like the library, and created important new ones like the senior center; who kept the artistic flame burning on stage and in galleries — are moving on.

Some go permanently, through death. Others fade slowly, moving away from Westport into assisted living centers or with their children. That is how things happen in a community, and the world. It is life, and life moves on.

But Westport must remember, and honor, the many folks whose countless hours of service and boundless stores of energy made this place what it was, what it is, and, in many ways, what it will remain for years to come. Which is why the departure of Shirley Land — who leaves Westport next month for North Carolina — cannot go unnoticed.

Shirley Land, loving life.

Shirley Land, loving life.

Land is small in stature — I tower over her, no small feat — but her imprint on our town is huge. Julie Belaga, a former state legislator and candidate for governor, first met her in 1965, when the Belaga family moved to Berndale Drive.

“We were next door neighbors,” Belaga recalled. “From the very start I realized she was a remarkable woman. She was dear, loving, high-energy and every time I turned around she was working on something. The first project I knew about was for underprivileged pre-school children, with Sybil Steinberg, but she went on to work for the bicentennial, the library, the arts — you name it.” Belaga remembered that Land was one of the Westport News’ first EASE columnists.

“Shirley was the best neighbor anyone could have. She was generous and fun. Everyone would be lucky to have Shirley Land as their neighbor.”

Shirley Land and her beloved husband Alex.

Shirley Land and her beloved husband Alex.

Westport got lucky when Land moved here in 1961. Immediately, she volunteered at her 3 children’s schools. “That was natural, because this was such a wonderful small town,” Land said. “I grew up in Chicago, and never lived in a small town. Moving here was a wonderful fluke, but it was the best thing that happened to us and our children.”

Mollie Donovan — no slouch herself in the volunteer department — said, “In 1974 the PTA Council took over the Westport Schools’ Permanent Art Collection. My sister Eve Potts, Dora Stuttman and I worked with Shirley on it. She said it would take a year. Thirty years later, it’s still going strong.

“Shirley is one of the most loyal friends I’ve had,” Donovan praised. “Any committee I ever asked her to serve on, she did, from arts shows on Jesup Green to anything for the historical society. Her energy and creativity are amazing.” Donovan also noted that Land ran “one of the earliest exercise groups in Westport” — at her backyard swimming pool.

In 1974 Land was appointed chairman of Westport’s Bicentennial Committee. Throughout 1976 she helped produce a full and wide-ranging calendar of events, culminating with a Grand Ball at what is now the Levitt Pavilion.

In addition, said former 2nd selectman and dynamo-about-town Betty Lou Cummings, “Shirley really made the Riverwalk come true. She was president of the Friends of the Library. She thought having a brick walkway along the Saugatuck River was a wonderful idea, and she made sure it happened.”

Cummings lauded Land’s “Yes, we can do it!” spirit. “She always had a positive answer. Everyone always turns to her because such a good do-bee. She’s made such a difference in our lives.”

Land’s other accomplishments include leading the United Fund (the precursor to today’s Westport-Weston United Way), and co-founding the Y’s Women organization.

Shirley Land

Shirley Land

More recently, Land turned her attention to the Senior Center. She was an original member of the organization’s Friends group, and served on the center’s policy and planning board. According to director Sue Pfister, “Jack Klinge, the president of the Friends of the Senior Center, says that whenever something absolutely had to get done, he asked Shirley. Then he was sure it would be taken care of.”

Land was active in the center’s home-delivered meals program, organized current events seminars and, with her late husband Alex, participated in aerobic chair activities. “She was so loving, committed and devoted to him, particularly in the final years of his life,” Pfister said.

“She is energetic, informative, well-versed, enthusiastic, upbeat and determined,” Pfister added. “If there was ever a problem, Shirley solved it immediately and correctly. She is so well-respected and loved. I’ll miss her — and so will everyone here.”

Perhaps no organization is more closely entwined with Land’s life than the Westport Public Library. “She was involved with everything here,” said director Maxine Bleiweis. “She reactivated our Friends of the Library group and was president of it. She was an employee here, doing public relations, for 11 years, and then she volunteered. She was the first recipient of our Special Friends award, and no one was more deserving of that honor.”

“It has been a privilege to have her energy and positiveness put to use for the library — as it has been for so many other groups and organizations in town,” Bleiweis added. “Her personal strength and her willingness to do whatever needed to be done, for whatever cause she was working on, are inspirations and examples to everyone.”

Shirley Land was not a big woman, but she had a broad reach throughout Westport.

Shirley Land was not a big woman, but she had a broad reach throughout Westport.

Five weeks from now, on March 31, Land leaves the town she calls “so comfortable. I feel so privileged not to have sat in a corner, but to have gotten to know such a diversity of people through so many activities.” She will miss all that — including walking along Compo Beach, an activity she continued with her husband even when he was sick. “We met everyone there, she said. “And together we solved all the world’s problems.”

Land looks forward to living near her daughter Carol in Chapel Hill and getting involved in the rich cultural and social life of the area. However, she admitted, “At 90 years old, this is a long jump to take. The thought of leaving Westport is a little scary.”

Not nearly as scary as imagining Westport without Shirley Land.

(There will be a small service in North Carolina for Shirley this month, followed by a memorial in Connecticut at a date to be determined.)

The West Lake Restaurant: Chinese Way Before It Was Cool

Today, Westport is awash in Asian restaurants. There’s Little Kitchen, Tengda, Rainbow Thai, Matsu Sushi, Shanghai Gourmet, Tiger Bowl, Westport Chinese Takeout, and probably others I’ve missed.

In the 1950s, though — and continuing for more than 25 years – our choices were limited. There was West Lake and Golden House.

Golden House was located in Compo Shopping Center — where Little Kitchen is now, interestingly.

West Lake was on Main Street, near the Post Road. Today it’s a retail outlet. But for many years, Westporters thought it was one of the most exotic restaurants around.

The West Lake restaurant (left) in 1976, a year after it closed. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

The West Lake restaurant (left) in 1976, a year after it closed. The stores next to it — Liverpool and Welch’s Hardware — are also long gone. The Westport Y’s Bedford building is on the opposite side of Main Street. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

West Lake lives on in memory. Now — thanks to Elizabeth Lee (granddaughter of the owners) and her cousin Beverly Au — it also lives on in a website.

West Lake Restaurant is a fascinating look — in words and photos — at long-gone Westport. It describes its founding in 1950 by Eddie and Frances Lee, as the 1st Chinese restaurant in Fairfield County.

West Lake, circa 1965.

West Lake, circa 1965 (back view, from Parker Harding Plaza).

West Lake took over the bankrupt Talley-Ho Tavern, which featured a grand piano with lounge singers. Because Parker Harding Plaza had not yet been built, a dock ramp led from the back door straight down to the Saugatuck River.

The Cantonese menu was “probably too far ahead of its time,” the website says. “When the cheaper and more common Chop Suey and Fried Rice style competitors opened, many patrons went to them.” (In deference to diners who did not eat Chinese food, in the beginning West Lake served steak and potatoes.)

The regulars came every week or so. Eddie Lee knew them all by name. Famous regulars included Paul Newman and Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas. Mariette Hartley was a hostess there, while a student at Staples. She told Frances Lee, “I’m going to be an actress!”

The Lees met at NYU. Eddie majored in banking and finance. They married in 1930. He climbed the banking ladder, in the US, China and Hong Kong. In 1942 the Lees and their children were repatriated to the US in a diplomatic exchange.

But Eddie could not find a job in banking. After working for a tool company, he opened his restaurant in Westport.

Eddie Lee with customers. A brave woman gingerly tries chopsticks.

Eddie Lee with customers. A brave man and woman gingerly try chopsticks.

The average chef lasted 8 months, the website says. Though the waiters and waitresses stayed much longer, there was a rapid turnover among the cooks and dishwashers. They spoke only Chinese, and rarely mixed with Americans.

They lived above the restaurant, in barracks. “Every bed seemed to have a tiny nightstand with a fancy camera,” the website says. “They toured the country by working in a different Chinese restaurant every 6 to 9 months, sending home money to their families in China, and taking pictures of their travels.”

West Lake was open 7 days a week. Though it closed in 1976, it had something in common with its Asian cuisine successors: December 25 was one of its busiest days of the year. Even in the 1950s, Jews ate Chinese food on Christmas.

 

Cal Neff: When Giants Fall, The Earth Shakes

Cal Neff — a legendary Staples athlete from the 1960s — died last week. His friend Myles MacVane sent along a special tribute. They have been edited for length. A full version can be found on Facebook; search for “Myles Angus MacVane,” and scroll down.

A giant fell last week, and all who knew him well were shaken by his passing.

In 1964 I donated over 300 pounds of equipment and a pair of squat stands to Staples’ weight room. Football coach Paul Lane let me use the room whenever it was open.

I was fairly strong. But one evening I noticed a strongly built 15-year-old do 10 deep, full squats with over 300 pounds on his back. I was thunderstruck. That young man was Calvin Neff.

Within 2 years Cal and I became fast friends. Though his great strength was always present, I came to appreciate his many other qualities.

Cal Neff (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

He was intelligent, well-educated, liked to read, played a strong game of chess, had a quick wit and a vivacious personality. He was open, unaffected, direct, and, almost childlike in his sincere enquiries. Above all, he was loyal to his friends.

Though he was just 5-9, he was a powerhouse. Once, a young man fled into a telephone booth to escape Cal’s wrath. Cal simply picked up the whole telephone booth and flung it 6 or 7 feet. Then he walked away.

Cal believed wholeheartedly in William Blake’s adage that “The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom.” Cal was certainly on that road. Without ever joining the Armed Services, Cal was “special forces,” and a special force of personality is what he had in spades.

As he matured, he specialized in powerlifting. Cal bulked up to over 250 pounds, bench pressed 525, and earned a master’s rating in powerlifting. Yet his weight, and the methods he used to gain it, hurt him. In his late 30s or early 40s he could barely walk, and needed a cane to support himself.

In later years, he ran a marathon — in Vietnam. That’s the kind of drive and willpower that he exemplified.

Near the end of Cal’s time of excessive mass, his life took a totally unexpected and fortuitous turn toward the East. It turned out to be the keystone of his existence. He, who would have laid down his life for a friend, was saved from a life of working as a guard at Bridgeport’s North End jail, in Bridgeport, working the door at the Black Duck, and tooling around in an over-sized, over-powered, totally unnecessary, red pickup truck by a childhood friend who grew up a few houses away from Cal.

Cal Neff, Terry O'Grady and Gerry Manning. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff, Terry O’Grady and Gerry Manning. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Gerry Manning opened a door for Cal to walk through, so that he might become the person he was always meant to be. Cal, as with everything he ever did, saw the opportunity, and barreled through that doorway.

Gerry was a few years older than Cal. An artist by nature, he eventually returned to Westport to enter the business that his father had built dealing semi-precious gemstones.

Cal Neff and his wife Surat. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff and his wife Surat. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

I guess that in Cal, his friend and childhood neighbor, Gerry found the perfect protégé to learn the overseas trade. Cal gave up the red pickup, the door at the Black Duck, and the concrete corridors of the North End Jail, and moved to Lantau Island, off the coast of Hong Kong. After several years of daily travel to Hong Kong by ferry, Cal’s business interests shifted to Sri Lanka, where he lived before settling down for good in Thailand. There he found a wife, with whom he had a son, Colter M. Neff, now 17. After a divorce, Cal found his last wife, a younger woman who practices Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing).

Cal Neff loved his son more intensely than he had ever loved anyone. Their bond was breakable only by the Grim Reaper. Cal’s life in Thailand was the adventure that most of us can only experience vicariously, as if in a dream, during a vacation. His training blossomed into a practice of Strong Man events.

At times, when the behemoth participants in those events would come to Thailand to train, compete, or vacation, Cal would train with them. He had his own commercial gym for a while. He was invited to Scandinavia to design a strong man event gym there.

Cal Neff and his son Colter. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

Cal Neff and his son Colter. (Photo courtesy of Myles MacVane)

He kept up his own practice of those events in Thailand, even staging competitions for up and coming Thais interested in the culture of strength. At his son’s school he taught the proper methods of strength and health, using his vast knowledge of those subjects to help the children find a wholesome path — one which, at times, he had strayed from in his own youth. In that field, I can think of no better a role model than Cal.

Cal Neff was a unique force of nature. In the end, the youthful excesses of the road that led to his own, personal palace of wisdom, marshaled an insidious attack upon the organs that supported that still muscular, still strong body, and finally cupped the bright light in Cal’s eyes. But we will always remember his childlike wonder, his strong personality, the man who would have given his own life unhesitatingly to protect a friend. And to the end of our days, we shall revere him not as a legend, but as our true friend, the one friend who loved life so much, that life created legends to wrap ‘round him.

Westport’s RTM: 65 Years Young!

65 years ago, Westport replaced its “town meeting” form of government with a “Representative Town Meeting” (RTM). 

Ann Sheffer used that anniversary as the theme of her invocation at last night’s session. As Westport prepares to celebrate Independence Day — and America’s special democracy — Ann’s remarks are very instructive.

When Velma Heller asked if I would give the invocation tonight, she suggested I talk a bit about the history of the RTM and its relevance today… because the 500 or so people who have served over the years embody the traditions and values of our town.

Ann Sheffer, at last night's RTM meeting. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

Ann Sheffer, at last night’s RTM meeting. (Photo/Dave Matlow)

I am one of a number of Westport families with multiple family members who served on the RTM. My father was on the RTM from 1953 until 1969, and served as moderator from 1959 to 1969. I was on the RTM from 1993 to 2005, as was my husband Bill Scheffler. That makes us one of 11 sets of married couples who have served on the RTM (though not necessarily at the same time).

But more importantly, I realized that July 16 marks the 65th anniversary of the date in 1949 when the citizens of Westport approved the change from a town meeting to a Representative Town Meeting – which made us one of only 7 towns in Connecticut to have this form of government. We are the only fully non-partisan one.

In 1999, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the RTM, we published a history of this body (it’s available here). Here are a few details that show how the RTM has evolved.

In 1949, there were 124 candidates for 26 seats. But only 4 women were elected that first year. Today, both the moderator and deputy moderator are women, a first for the RTM.

Each member was to represent 250 citizens (today it’s about 700). One commentator observed that it was “as democratic as Congress and twice as personal.”

There were notable votes over the years. My favorite, with my father presiding, was the 1972 resolution asking President Nixon to withdraw from Vietnam. It passed, 17-15. There were also many, many evenings, often until 3 am, spent debating the education budget, sewers, and, of course, dog leash laws.

RTMIn essence, the history of the RTM is the history of the Town. We were reminded of that in recent months, when we lost 2 of the most notable members: Allen Raymond (the 4th Moderator) and Bill Meyer, who gave many an impassioned speech from this lectern.

I was going to add David Royce, but I remembered he was never a member of the RTM — just a wonderful gadfly who was actually arrested during one of his protests.

There are traditions that I hope you will learn about and continue. For example, RTM Rules of Procedure call for the “first right-hand seat of the left-hand section as you face the Moderator” to be left empty as a memorial to Maclear Jacoby, one of the original members, and to all deceased RTM members.

I want to leave you with the words that Gordon Joseloff wrote when he was elected moderator of the RTM in 1995:

“May those who serve in this body, and hold the responsibility for our Town, be

  •  Respectful of our past
  • Confident of our present
  • Bold about our future.”

Ann nailed it. Happy anniversary, RTM — and happy Independence Day, Westport!

 

54 North Avenue: The End Of The Mills Family Legacy

Though they may not know it, Westporters are very familiar with 54 North Avenue.The brown wooden house stands a few feet from the southern entrance to Staples High School. It’s more than a century old.

54 North Avenue

54 North Avenue

But that’s not why 54 North Avenue rates an “06880″ story. More significant is that later this month its owner, William B. Mills, will sell his home. And that will end more than 200 years in which the Mills family has lived on North Avenue.

The oldest house on North Avenue between Long Lots and Cross Highway is #29. Built by Revolutionary War veteran John Mills (1760-1829) for his daughter Charity and her new husband Hezekiah Mills (a cousin), it was constructed in the right of way — without title to land. In fact, John seemed to have no claim to the spot whatsoever. Nevertheless, John set up a blacksmith shop for his daughter and son-in-law.

29 North Avenue

The saltbox at 29 North Avenue.

19 North Avenue was built by John’s grandson Charles Mills (1833-1909). Longtime Westporters know the property as “Rippe’s Farm” — now Greystone Farm Lane — but the Rippes bought it later.

Charles was a master mason who built the foundation for the original Staples High School (1884) on Riverside Avenue. When it was torn down in 1967, Charles’ great-grandson recycled the bricks to build his chimney. Charles — who represented Westport in the state legislature (1885-86) — sold off most of the Mills’ farmland on North Avenue. Legend has it he got $50 an acre — a good sum in those days. But he gave each of his 4 sons 4 acres of property up the road from the house: #54, 58, 62 and 66.

54 North Avenue — the one being sold this month — was built by Charles Mills (1857-1945) on land he got from his father. Charles planted the beautiful red maple in front that is now a local landmark. Williams Mills — Charles’ grandson — is only the 2nd owner.

A red maple frames 54 North Avenue.

A red maple frames 54 North Avenue.

48 North Avenue — built by Homer Mills (1898-1981) — was built in 1943. The road was still rural; there were no side streets, and few houses. Homer attended Adams Academy on nearby Morningside North, but left school after 8th grade. He never got to Staples — which his father helped build. As did many Westport boys, he went to work on a farm. He later became a mason, like his father and grandfather.

Other long-lived Westport families have schools or parks named for them. The Mills family does not.

But they truly built this town. Their monuments are the countless stone walls, sea walls and foundations that exist to this day.

What will happen to 54 North Avenue after it passes from the Mills family? Well, a demolition sign hangs prominently near the front steps.

(Hat tip to Jacques Voris – William Mills’ nephew — for much of this fascinating historical information and insight.)

When I-95 Took Its Toll

Before it focused its attention on Brooklyn — its real estate, its music scene, the type of glasses its hipsters wear — the New York Times actually reported metropolitan-area news in places like Westport.

Kathie Bennewitz — who was researching the construction of I-95, and the destruction it wrought on Saugatuck — unearthed a couple of interesting Times stories from nearly 60 years ago.

On June 20, 1956, the newspaper announced: “Advancing ‘Pike Drives Wild Animals to Town.”

“Human dwellers in Fairfield County are not the only inhabitants to be dislocated by the construction of the Connecticut Turnpike,” readers read. “Denizens of the woods on and near the Thruway route are also being displaced.”

A Westport Humane Society spokesman said he’d received “frequent” calls from residents wanting to know what to do about “the wild life that is invading their backyards and sometimes even their swimming pools.”

Raccoons, possums and skunks were “regular visitors.” No word, though, on deer.

Construction in 1957 of the Connecticut Turnpike bridge in Saugatuck. Charles Street feeds into Riverside Avenue (bottom). Note the Gault tanks along the river (upper left).

Construction in 1957 of the Connecticut Turnpike bridge in Saugatuck. Charles Street feeds into Riverside Avenue (bottom). Note the Gault tanks along the river (upper left).

Less than a year later — on February 15, 1957 — the Times reported that Westport had saved a 35-foot, 70-year-old holly tree from the chainsaw.

Town officials rescued it from highway demolition. Uprooted and towed 2 miles behind a police escort car, it was transplanted “a short distance from the police station in the center of town.”

“It was too beautiful to destroy,” said First Selectman W. Clarke Crossman.

Wildlife being forced from its natural habitat by construction. Saving trees from destruction.

As the saying goes: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”