We Remember …

In the years following the Civil War, Americans began a springtime ritual of decorating the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and flags.

That was the start of Decoration Day. Today we call it Memorial Day.

On Saturday, Boy Scouts with Troop 39 — and Troop 139, Westport’s first female Scout troop — continued the tradition.

They decorated the headstones and markers of scores of military members at 5 cemeteries: Greens Farms Congregational Church upper and lower; Assumption; Christ & Holy Trinity, and Willowbrook.

I saw them, as they finished at Christ & Holy Trinity cemetery on Kings Highway North. After they left, I visited those graves.

Some honored men killed in action, as far back as the Civil War.

Others led long lives, after service in the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.

The Boy Scouts remember them.

All of Westport should too.

(Cemetery photos/Dan Woog)

Thank you, Troops 39 and 139!

(Photo/Laurie Cizek Brannigan)

 

Pic Of The Day #769

Beautiful sight on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge

Staples Wins State Freshman Rugby Title

It’s been quite a year for the Staples High School freshman rugby team.

Last week they beat the Greenwich High frosh team — a first for any Wrecker rugby team, at any level. That earned the 9th graders an undefeated season record.

Today Staples played in the state freshman championship game. Once again, they faced Greenwich.

Once again they prevailed — in a 59-14 rout.

It’s the first-ever state rugby championship for the entire Staples rugby program.

Even more remarkable: Many of the frosh never played rugby until this year.

Congratulations, lads (and coaches!).

Staples High School: state freshman rugby champions.

(Hat tip: Rebecca Mace)

If You’re Not Down At Compo This Afternoon …

…what are you waiting for?

(Photo/Caroline Walshon)

Photo Challenge #230

Last week’s Photo Challenge was straightforward.

Molly Alger’s image showed a handsome stone pillar. It’s flanked by a road on one side, and a long, hilly driveway on the other. (Click here to see.)

Westporters drive by it all the time. It’s on South Compo Road, near Park Lane.

Many folks don’t know, though, that it’s the main entrance to Baron’s South.

We — as a town — own that great 22-acre property between South Compo and Imperial Avenue. It’s open sunrise to sunset. Now you know how to get into it.

Andrew Colabella, Seth Braunstein, Jonathan McClure and Amy Schneider already know. They correctly answered last week’s Photo Challenge.

Today’s Challenge honors the many Westporters who have given their lives, while serving our country. If you know where you’d see this inspiring plaque, click “Comments” below.

HINT: It’s NOT at Veteran’s Green, opposite Town Hall. But you should go there tomorrow, immediately after the Memorial Day parade. The brief ceremony is moving, and important. And there you’ll see many plaques with the names of Westporters killed in action. But not this one.

(Photo/Jay Dirnberger)

Crowd Sourcing Our Memorial Day Parade

The Memorial Day parade is one of Westport’s favorite town events.

Everyone has a favorite spot to watch from. Everyone has a favorite band, float or marcher to photograph.

But why share them only with a few hundred dear pals, casual acquaintances and random how’d-they-get-on-my-list Facebook “friends”?

Tomorrow, let all of Westport see “your” Memorial Day parade. Send a few (not all!) of your photos to “06880” (email: dwoog@optonline.net). Deadline: noon. Please include brief identification, if needed, and of course your own name.

I’ll post some (not all!) in the afternoon.

And be creative! We want special photos, for our special parade.

The start of the parade. Send us your photos tomorrow!

Elvira’s Is Closed. Opening Soon: Elvira Mae’s.

Betsy and Hal Kravitz sat outside Elvira’s yesterday.

The deli/market/community center on Hillspoint Road by Old Mill Beach has been closed since winter.

A steady stream of people — all ages, on foot and bike — stopped to peer in the dark window. No one — not even nearby neighbors — knew what lay ahead.

Betsy and Hal told them.

They’re the new owners. On Thursday, they closed on the property.

They’ve already begun renovating and remodeling. Soon — to the delight of everyone in the area, and countless other walkers, joggers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, tradesmen and everyone else passing by — Betsy will reopen it.

The new store will be great. So is the back story leading up to it.

Hal and Betsy Kravitz, at Elvira’s.

Hal is a Stamford native. He retired after a career with Coca-Cola and related companies, focusing on bottled water.

Betsy was born and raised in Buffalo. She spent most of her adult life in California, working on music for TV networks.

While in Atlanta to help start the Food and Wine Festival, she met Hal. Several years ago, they got married.

Life in Malibu was good. But they came back East in October, to be near ailing parents.

Neither of them knew Westport. When a realtor brought them here, they loved the “artsy, fun” vibe — and the water. “It was as close to the Malibu lifestyle as you can get,” Hal says.

They were also intrigued by Elvira’s. The realtor stopped there with Betsy, for lunch. Soon, she and Hal bought a house near Compo Beach.

Elvira’s, where Betsy had her first meal in Westport.

With 4 dogs, Betsy thought about running a doggy day care center. They explored other business options.

Then, on March 11 — Betsy’s birthday — they heard Elvira’s was for sale.

“We wanted to put down roots in Westport,” she says. “Buying it, and keeping it open, seemed a great way to be part of the neighborhood. Even though we were new to the community, we heard rumors it might be sold to a builder and become a house. We didn’t want that.”

Niki Boulas — part of the Yiovanakos family that owns it — was “fantastic,” Betsy says. She let the Kravitzes begin renovating even before the sale was final.

“They know the importance of summer,” Betsy says. “They want us to open as soon as we can.”

But because the transaction had not gone through, neither she, Hal nor Niki’s family could answer the many questions about the future of Elvira’s.

Balloons will soon be seen again at Elvira’s.

Now they can.

Yesterday, Betsy told “06880” — and that steady stream of hopeful customers — that she’s adding a window in front. She’ll serve ice cream — and food to go — there from 4 p.m. on.

The store itself will open at 7 a.m., and stay open till 4. Betsy is adding specialty coffee from BonJo in Stamford, more baked goods, healthy options — and bulk candy.

Luis Romero — the popular chef — will return full-time. The menu will be less extensive than Elvira’s. The pizza oven is gone.

But she’ll still sell ice — and the very popular bacon-egg-and-cheese breakfast sandwich.

She’ll still keep house accounts — though not with the current ledger. Betsy will use a smartphone app (and a gift card option for younger kids without cellphones).

She’ll also still sell newspapers. Someone asked for tidal charts. And — on Niki’s advice — she’ll mount all those kids’ school photos (currently under glass at the counter) on the walls. “She told me they always come back and want to see them,” Betsy says.

With those 4 dogs, Betsy is canine-friendly. She’ll welcome them with water and treats.

The floors are new. There’s fresh paint inside and out. The shelves in the middle are gone.

Before Elvira’s, the store at the foot of Compo Hill was owned by Ken Montgomery.

Betsy knows that Elvira’s regulars will be pleased it’s reopening. But she also knows she’s replacing a deli that was a 2-decade-old icon.

“We’re the new people here,” she says. “Everyone will tell us what went on before.”

She gives huge props to Niki, and Stacey and Nick Yiovanakos, for their help with the transition.

“They had great ideas for this place, and we do too. It’s like 1 plus 1 equals 3,” Betsy says.

Niki echoes the kind words.

“After 22 years, this is bittersweet for us. We’re happy for my parents’ retirement, and for us others moving on.

“It’s been nothing but our pleasure to serve the community. We will genuinely miss it. We take with us fond memories, and value the family relationships we built.

“We’re more than joyful that it will continue. Betsy and Hal are wonderful people. We want you to welcome them with open arms. Thank you to them, and everyone!”

Niki Boulas and her mother Stacey Yiovanakos. The counter displays photos of some of Elvira’s many young customers.

Betsy’s middle name is Mae. She thought about calling her new place Betsy Mae’s.

But when Niki said that Elvira’s was named for her mother Stacey’s sister — who died of cancer at 38, just before the deli — she realized the importance of keeping the name.

So — hopefully in mid-June, but definitely by July 4 — Elvira’s will open again.

As “Elvira Mae’s.”

“It’s a way to keep the old, and add the new,” Betsy says.

Just like the tides whose charts she’ll stock, Elvira Mae’s will be always moving, and also timeless.

Pic Of The Day #768

Dusk on the Saugatuck River (Photo/Julie Rosemarin)

Memorial Day Parades: We Remember

Last year around this time, I posted a fascinating video of Westport’s 1981 Memorial Day parade.

Tom Leyden had just bought a new-fangled video camera. Standing on Riverside Avenue near Assumption Church, he captured 21 minutes of the annual event:

Former Governor John D. Lodge and all the town bigwigs; the Staples High School, and Long Lots, Coleytown and Bedford Junior High bands; WWPT sports broadcasters, Little Leaguers, Scouts, Indian Guides, the Westport Historical Society — even Big Bird (and traffic cop/drum major Bill Cribari).

The video was so popular, I’m posting it again.

But Tom uploaded another parade to YouTube. This one is from 1969.

It’s grainier than ’81. There is no sound. It’s just as fascinating though — especially the final shot.

In those days, the post-parade ceremony was held at Jesup Green. On the left, you can see the town dump. (Today it’s the site of the Westport Library.)

That’s one of the few things that have changed, however. As Tom’s twin videos prove, Westport’s Memorial Day parade is timeless.

See you on Monday!

(PS: The ceremony is now at Veterans Green, starting around 10:30 a.m. It’s part of the event that should not be missed.)

“T Is For Toddler”

“06880” loves highlighting young entrepreneurs. We’ve featured high school app developers; girls who design clothes and jewelry; a guy with a lawn care business long before he had a license to drive his equipment around.

Most are in high school. A few have been middle schoolers.

Today we introduce Capri. She’s a student at Greens Farms Elementary.

She’ll be there a while. She’s only in 3rd grade.

Last year, Capri realized busy parents needed help. While they were busy doing parent things, their children — younger than Capri — needed attention.

Not exactly a babysitter. More like someone to play with them.

“T is for Toddlers” was born.

Capri, and a couple of 3-year-olds.

Just contact Capri. Weekdays after school, and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., she is “mommy’s little helper” (or daddy’s).

The parent is still in the house — cooking maybe, or on a conference call. Meanwhile, Capri plays with their 3- to 5-year-old.

“We might read,” she says. “Or play games.”

Capri knows her audience: parents as well as kids.

“If the child wants to go on a screen, I’ll ask what game,” Capri explains. “Then I’ll say, ‘let’s play that in real life.'”

Capri knows something else parents might be concerned about.

“I want to make sure kids are having fun,” she says. “And that they’re safe.”

She charges $4 an hour. Sounds like the best bargain in town.

(To contact Capri, email her mother: alliqd@gmail.com. Hat tip: Matt Levey)