Category Archives: Organizations

Bruce Allen: A Reluctant Grand Marshal

The stereotype of World War II veterans is that they don’t like to talk about their service. They did what they had to. They came home. They got on with their lives.

Tomorrow’s Westport Memorial Day grand marshal fits that stereotype perfectly.

Bruce Allen  was a combat infantryman, serving as a gunner in the 78th Division. His decorations include a Purple Heart (for wounds at the Remagen River Bridge in 1945), Bronze Star and Croix de Guerre.

Bruce downplays it all. After the war, he says, “I wanted to be away from all that. I never look back. Always forward.” He’s been to just one high school reunion, and did not join any veterans group.

Bruce Allen (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com)

Bruce Allen (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com)

After his service, he majored in theater and English at Wesleyan University. He worked in TV production at NBC and ABC (and freelanced at CBS), and became a producer/director at J. Walter Thompson and Grey Advertising. He was also a vice president and production supervisor at Grey.

Bruce and his wife Marjorie moved to Westport in 1957. His brother and sister-in-law (who was also Marjorie’s sister) already lived here. Bruce and his wife loved the water.

While scoutmaster of Troop 39, 13 boys became Eagle Scouts. He was director of community services for the Y’s Men, and has been active in Greens Farms Congregational Church as moderator, chairman of deacons and a church school teacher. Bruce also spent 46 years as an auxiliary and special police officer.

He says he is embarrassed to be named grand marshal. Speaking for many others of his generation, he says: “We did what we did. Then we went on with our lives.”

Tomorrow morning, Bruce Allen will lead Westport’s parade reluctantly. He’s been in it before — but only as an Indian Guide, police officer and Y’s Men member.

In recent years, he and Marjorie have brought chairs, and sat near Town Hall. He never imagined he’d be the one that so many paradegoers cheer on, and wave to.

“It’s a great day to honor all those who sacrificed for our country,” he says simply. “It’s a nice day for the town.”

(The Memorial Day parade begins Monday, May 25 at 9 a.m., at Saugatuck Elementary School. It travels up Riverside Avenue, across the Post Road bridge, then turns left on Myrtle Avenue before ending at Town Hall. Memorial services — definitely worth watching — follow immediately on Veterans Green, opposite Town Hall.)

“Art About Town” Floods Main Street

Once a year, downtown turns into a pedestrian mall. It’s “Art About Town” — one of Westport’s newest traditions.

Part art exhibit, part street fair — and all fun — it’s a great way to kick off a month-long exhibit of art (for sale!) by 65 artists, in 60 locations.

It started an hour ago. If you’re reading this before 8:30 p.m. on Thursday — there’s still time to go.

Just don’t think of parking on Main Street.

There were plenty of great artist demonstrations tonight. But none was more impressive than Rosiejon. She has no arms -- so she uses her feet. Amazingly, she has been painting for just a year.

There were plenty of great artist demonstrations tonight. But none was more impressive than Rosiejon. She has no arms — so she uses her feet. Amazingly, she has been painting for just a year.

Harry Moritz graduated from Staples in 2010 -- and from Pratt less than a week ago. Here's one of his creations.

Harry Moritz graduated from Staples in 2010 — and from Pratt less than a week ago. Here’s one of his creations.

Another kind of artist is performer Jared Rydelek. This was just his warmup.

Another kind of artist is performer Jared Rydelek. This was just his warmup.

This young man may be trying out for Art About Town -- the 2035 version.

This young man may be trying out for Art About Town — the 2035 version.

Joyce Landon is among 65 artists who is showing downtown, for the next month. Her works can be seen in the TD Bank lobby.

Joyce Landon is among 65 artists who is exhibiting downtown, for the next month. Her works can be seen in the TD Bank lobby.

This Old House #14

The main clue to last week’s mystery house was its former location: “on the present site of the Fine Arts Theater in State Street.” That identification, of course, dates from the 1930s, when WPA photographers took shots of a number of already-very-old Westport houses.

Dan Herman, Jill Turner Odice and Morley Boyd said that its current location is 23 Jesup Road. Westport Historical Society house historian Bob Weingarten confirms the site. (Click here to see a photo of the house, and read comments about it.)

It was not easy to do. Boyd says that a 2005 renovation — illegal, because the house sits in a historic district — “drained it of its historic integrity.”

Here is this week’s unidentified home:

This Old House - May 20, 2015

All we know is that it’s somewhere in Green’s Farms.

If you know its whereabouts, click “Comments” below. The WHS is seeking info on this and other “mystery houses,” in preparation for an upcoming exhibit on the changing face of Westport.

Remembering Herb Barrett

Herb Barrett — a member of that great generation who settled in Westport soon after World War II, raised a family here and spent decades contributing to civic life — died today. He was 93 years old, and had moved with his beloved wife Lou to Pennsylvania several years ago, to be near his children.

George Barrett — one of Herb and Lou’s 5 children — writes:

My dad liked to describe himself as unremarkable, but  he was far from that. He was a gifted therapist, possessed of a special capacity to see the unique qualities in all people – and able to help people to see those things in themselves.

Herb Barrett

Herb Barrett

He was a very talented writer, a skill very few of us had the opportunity to enjoy, but so very obvious when reading though his journals and his letters to my mom from the war.

He had a raw musical aptitude which he never fully appreciated, but which his children were encouraged to polish. He could burst into song any time, and no microphone was off limits if it were in reaching distance.

He had a wicked sense of humor and an impish grin.

He was a proud veteran of the US Army – Signal Intelligence  Company, attached to the 5th Army headquarters. He spent 2 1/2 years abroad, in North Africa, Sicily and other parts of Italy. He lived through Anzio, which he rarely discussed.

He was married to my mom Lucille for more than 73 years. He was father to 5, grandfather to 10, and great-grandfather to 3 (with another on the way).

He loved Westport, and everything and everyone associated with Westport. At Compo Beach, he taught all of us to climb the cannons. Along with my mom, he lived and breathed the public school system, which drew him there in the first place. I’m not sure that he ever missed a Staples Candlelight concert when he was healthy.

He had a deep desire to see the walls between people dissolve. That is clear through his deep commitment to civil rights, his clear messaging to his children, and this classic section from a journal I found where he discussed his war experience:

I developed some wonderful friendships with the gang of fellows who shared the same tent…Neils O. Blackburn from Moroni, Utah; Kenny Biggs from Townsend, Montana; Charlie Sheehan from Cheyenne, Wyomingl Lou Ambort of Little Rock, Arkansas and Johnny Abs from Chicago.

Herb Barrett, during World War II.

Herb Barrett, during World War II.

I recall a discussion the night we pitched camp outside Santa Maria ( near Caserta). It was a bone chilling rainy night, and we piled together for warmth inside the buffeted pyramidal. How or why I can’t say, but we discussed religion — a Mormon, a Catholic, a Jew, a Lutheran, a Methodist and a Presbyterian.

We were no scholars. We just compared experiences. And when all was said and done, we felt that what we had in common ran deeper than our specific beliefs.

(Friends are invited to attend a service for Herb Barrett this Thursday (May 21), 11 a.m. at Temple Israel. Following burial, the family will receive visitors at the home of Marvin and Joan Frimmer, 138 Imperial Avenue. Contributions in Herb Barrett’s name may be made to Congregation Kol Ami, 8201 High School Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027.)

It Won’t Be Long…

…until the Levitt Pavilion opens for another season.

This guy at the Westport Arts Center — across the river — can hardly wait.

WAC with Levitt in distance

Concours, Of Course

Today’s 1st-ever “Concours d’Caffeine” was a roaring success.

No. there were not a lot of loud engines.

Just plenty of cars — antiques, classics, limited editions, expensive, and very cool ones.

You did not have to be an automotive buff to admire the buffed, shining vehicles. All you needed was an admiring eye, and a cup of coffee as you strolled around the train station.

The Concours was sponsored by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, with help from Bill Scheffler, John Shuck, Tim Walsh and Frank Taylor.

Let’s hope it becomes an annual tradition. Maybe one day my 2000 Camry will fit right in.

(NOTE:  Click or hover on any photo to enlarge.)

Little GTO, you're really lookin' fine...

Little GTO, you’re really lookin’ fine…

Like Jaguars today, this 1948 model must have been the envy of many other drivers.

Like Jaguars today, this 1948 model must have been the envy of many other drivers.

This 1915 Trumbull was built in Bridgeport. There were 20 on the Lusitania when it was sunk by the Germans that year. Also on board: Isaac Trumbull, who was traveling to Europe to close a deal. His company went down with the ship.

This 1915 Trumbull was built in Bridgeport. There were 20 on the Lusitania when it was sunk by the Germans. Also on board: Isaac Trumbull, who was traveling to Europe to close a deal. His company went down with the ship.

George Dragone -- of Dragone Classic Motorcars -- loves this 1928 Packard. He says it represents a transition from "boxy, unexciting" cars that preceded it, to "beautifully styled ones"that followed.

George Dragone — of Dragone Classic Motorcars — loves this 1928 Packard. He says it represents a transition from “boxy, unexciting” cars that preceded it, to “beautifully styled ones” that followed.

Only in Westport do 8-year-olds like Max Manchester have their own Escalades.

Only in Westport do 8-year-olds like Max Manchester have their own Escalades.

Two symbols of American automotive power: a Chevrolet (front) and Ford (Mustang Mach 1).

Two symbols of American automotive power: a Chevy and Ford (Mustang Mach 1).

Among the attendees at Concours d'Caffeine: Jim Motovalli, a 1970 Staples graduate and noted car journalist (New York Times, NPR's Car Talk, etc.).

Among the attendees at Concours d’Caffeine: Jim Motovalli, a 1970 Staples graduate and noted New York Times and NPR car journalist.

Most classic cars don't have stickers. The owner of this one has a good sense of humor.

Most classic cars don’t have stickers. The owner of this one has a good sense of humor.

Why can't the railroad station always look like this?

Why can’t the railroad station always look like this?

 

Party On Main Street!

A lot has happened downtown in one year.

“Tunnel Vision” — Miggs Burroughs’ spectacular 16-image transformation of the long-dingy pedestrian tunnel between Main Street and Parker Harder Plaza — was unveiled last May. Today it’s a destination — not a nightmare.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association‘s big sidewalk-and-lamps project is nearing completion.

So let’s party!

Tall, older dancers and shorter, younger ones performed at last year's Art About Town party. They'll be back this Thursday for more fun.

Tall, older dancers and shorter, younger ones performed at last year’s Art About Town party. They’ll be back this Thursday for more fun.

The WDMA’s annual “Art About Town” opening night street celebration is set for Thursday (May 21, 5:30-8:30 p.m.). It’s a unique, family-friendly combination of original works, interactive art demonstrations, funky live music, dancing, street performances, food and drinks at pop-up cafes — all in the middle of traffic-free Main Street.

Westport Arts Center educators will help everyone create small wall signs using crazy colors, funky patterns, buttons and beads.

Artists give impromptu demonstrations in the middle of Main Street.

Artists give impromptu demonstrations in the middle of Main Street.

And — going back to that “Tunnel Vision” anniversary — Miggs gives “tours” of his work at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m.

The party kicks off a 4-week art event. Hundreds of original works by local artists will fill more than 60 shops and restaurants. Downtown becomes one big gallery. All works are juried, for sale, and on display until June 21.

Of course, plenty of art is sold long before then. Some even goes during the opening party.

Hey — this is Westport. We move fast.

Except through Miggs’ tunnel.

 

Miggs Burroughs, in his "Tunnel Vision" creation.

Miggs Burroughs, in his “Tunnel Vision” creation.

Remembering Mickey Feiner

It’s astonishing that someone lives over 100 years, and dies in obscurity.

It happened this fall to Vivien Testa. A superb art teacher, townwide director of art, and mentor to countless students and teachers; a 40-year educator who began teaching here in 1936, and a Westport resident for over 70 years, she died in September at 102. The 1st notice of her death was on this blog, 2 months later.

Mickey Feiner’s passing was similarly unnoticed. He died April 23 — just a couple of months shy of his 107th birthday.

And what a full 107 years he had!

Born on July 4, 1908 in Springfield, Massachusetts, he began his retailing career at Hartford’s fabled G. Fox. He spent the bulk of his career with May Department Stores, retiring as president of May Merchandising in 1974.

In other words: After a lifetime of working, he retired during the Ford administration.

Mickey Feiner

Mickey Feiner

He and his wife Elaine moved from Westport — his home of nearly 20 years — to Florida. He began a new career in politics, serving 13 years as mayor of Key Colony Beach. He spent 6 more after that as chairman of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.

Then, in 1995 — around the time Bob Dole was gearing up to challenge the incumbent President Clinton — the Feiners moved back to Westport. At the age of 87 he got re-involved in civic service. Mickey served 2 years on the  Town Site Planning Committee, 5 on the School Building Committee, and 2 years as vice chair of the Greens Farms School renovations subcommittee.

I met Mickey Feiner a few years ago, at his beautiful Stony Point home. Well over 100, he was still working — as facilities manager of a Norwalk shopping center. Yet that was not even the most remarkable thing.

He wanted to show me a news story. So he headed upstairs — very steadily — and found exactly what he was looking for.

On his computer.

All of us strive for a life well spent. In 106 years, it sure seems that Mickey’s was.

I would hate for his death to pass unnoticed. It should be an inspiration to us all.

 

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.

WAC Flags Wave

Downtown Westport’s most iconic symbol is the Post Road bridge. For years, residents and visitors have admired dozens of flags flying proudly on both sides.

For much of the year, they’re the Stars and Stripes. On jUNe Day and UN Day, those are replaced by countries around the globe.

This week, the flags are from the Westport Arts Center. They support the upcoming “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil” fundraiser, set for Saturday at Vespa and National Hall — the handsome building anchoring the west end of the bridge.

(Photo/Helen Klisser During)

(Photo/Helen Klisser During)