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- Pics Of The Day #456
- Saugatuck Rowers Make Waves At Nationals
- Add To The List: 2 More Westporters Nominated For Emmys
- Historical Society Shines A Light On Westport’s Troubled Past
- Pic Of The Day #455
- “06880” Party: Need A Ride? Share A Ride?
- A Bridge Too Far
- Seymon And Lynne Need Our Help
- Sunset Drama On Sunrise
- Compo Beach: 2018 Style
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DISCLAIMERThis blog is personal opinion, and is not representative of the views of the Westport School District or Board of Education.
The Saugatuck Rowing Club continues to pump out national caliber athletes.
And a good number of them live right here in Westport.
Eddie Kiev was a coxswain on the US Under-17 junior national team. He helped his boat to a silver medal on Friday, at the US Rowing Club National Championships in Camden, New Jersey.
Parker Cuthbertson was a member of the CanAmMex junior national team that won a gold medal last week in Mexico City.
Sven Herrman and Sam Kleiner were part of the men’s Under-18 high-performance team, which also competed in Camden.
And keep your eyes on these guys (and gals): Harry Burke will row for the men’s U-19 worlds team, and Kelsey McGinley, Alin Pasa and Noelle Amlicke are on the women’s U-19 worlds team. Both boats compete in the Czech Republic on August 8.
All are Staples High School students. And all of “06880” congratulates them for their great work!
Last week, “06880” reported that Kelli O’Hara and Justin Paul were nominated for Emmy Awards.
That’s only half the story.
Two other Westporters are also in the running for television’s highest honor.
Britt Baron is part of the “GLOW” ensemble that’s up for Outstanding Comedy Series.
If her name is not familiar, try Brittany Uomoleale. That’s how she was known at Staples High School, where the 2009 graduate starred in Players productions like “Romeo and Juliet.”
Jeanie Bacharach-Burke, meanwhile, is nominated for her part in Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series. The 1981 Staples alum works on Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
Congratulations to all 4 nominees. We’re rooting for you — and any other Westporters we may have missed!
Iron shackles. Burned timbers. “Negro child.”
They’re not the usual things you see at the Westport Historical Society.
But this is not the usual WHS exhibit.
“Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport” opened in May. It’s one of the most creative and compelling shows ever mounted at Wheeler House. (Which, the exhibit notes, sits across Avery Place from a building that may have been built by slaves.)
It’s also one of the most important.
I attended the opening reception. It was packed. I talked with people who recalled some of the important events, like Martin Luther King’s visit to Temple Israel, and the fight over bringing Bridgeport students to Westport through Project Concern.
But it was too crowded to really see the artifacts and photos, or read the texts.
So the other day I returned. The Sheffer Gallery was quiet. I had time to study the exhibit.
And to think.
I learned a lot. I’m a Westport native and lifelong New Englander. But I never knew, for example, that slavery was not fully abolished in Connecticut until 1848. (The decades-long process spared white farmers the loss of free labor while they were still alive.)
Some of Westport’s biggest names — Coley, Nash, Jesup — were slave-owners. The property deeds — as in, these human beings were their property — are right there, for all to see.
We see too a recreated hearth, from a Clapboard Hill home. It’s cramped and dark — and it’s where a young slave girl might have slept.
I did not know that black Westporters fought for the Union in the Civil War. Nor did I know that an unknown number of slaves are buried in unmarked graves in Greens Farms Church’s lower cemetery.
I did know — on some level — that African Americans have a long history here. But I had not thought about what it meant for them to work on our docks, in our homes, or at our farms.
Black Westporters were domestics, chauffeurs and seamstresses. But they were also, the exhibit notes, teachers, artists, physicians, activists and freedom fighters.
The exhibit includes a 1920s painting by J. Clinton Shepherd, “The Waffle Shoppe.” It may well be based on an actual restaurant on Main Street.
In the 1920s and ’30s, the Great Migration drew millions of African Americans north. Westport — offering work on farms and estates — was one destination. Black families lived on the Post Road, Bay Street — and 22 1/2 Main Street.
I have known for years that that address — set back in an alley that later became Bobby Q’s restaurant — was the site of a boardinghouse, where dozens of African Americans lived.
I knew that in 1950, it burned to the ground. Arson was suspected.
But until the WHS exhibit, I did not know that a few months earlier, black Westporters had asked to be considered for spots at Hales Court, where low-cost homes were soon to be built. The Westport Housing Authority grudgingly agreed — but only after veterans, and others “with more pressing needs,” were accommodated.
Was that a cause for the fire? The exhibit strongly suggests so.
(Nearly 70 years later, construction at the old Bobby Q’s has revealed charred timbers — vivid testimony of that long-ago tragedy. It’s worth a look.)
The exhibit pays homage to African Americans like Drs. Albert and Jean Beasley, beloved pediatricians; Martin and Judy Hamer, and Leroy and Venora Ellis, longtime civic volunteers, and educator Cliff Barton.
It also cites the contributions of white Westporters like Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein (arrested with Dr. King in St. Augustine, Florida); Board of Education chair Joan Schine, who fought for Project Concern, and artists Tracy Sugarman and Roe Halper, staunch supporters of the civil rights movement.
But ultimately, “Remembered” remembers the largely forgotten men, women and children who helped shape and grow our town. Some came freely. Others did not. All were, in some way, Westporters.
In the foyer outside the exhibit, a stark wall serves as a final reminder of the African Americans who lived quietly here, long ago.
It lists the 241 slaves, and 19 free blacks, found in the Green’s Farms Congregational Church record books between 1742 and 1822. Most were listed only by first names: Fortune. Quash. Samson.
Some had no names at all. They are called only “Negro Child,” or “Negro Infant.”
The wall does not carry the names of all the white people listed in the church books during those 80 years. Many are well known to us, centuries later.
And most of them, the exhibit notes, owned the men, women and children who are now honored on that wall.
(For more information on “Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport,” click here. The Westport Historical Society, at 25 Avery Place, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students and seniors. Members and children 10 and under are free.)
(WHS is also memorializing the names of over 200 Westport slaves, through bricks in the brickwalk. The $20 cost covers the brick and installation. To order, click here.)
Several readers would love to come to Thursday night’s “06880” party. But they don’t have beach stickers.
As much as they like a good time, they’ve decided it’s not worth the daily parking fee. Can’t say I blame ’em.
Uber is one alternative. Here’s another:
- If you need a ride, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me where you’re coming from (geographically, not metaphysically).
- If you can offer a ride, email me: email@example.com. Tell me where you can meet people (your home, or someplace neutral).
I’ll do my best to connect riders and drivers — privately, of course. No guarantees.
But it’s just one more way in which “06880” is “where Westport meets the world.”
Several Westporters have recently noted their bad luck. They’ve been held up by the opening of the William Cribari Bridge — the span over the Saugatuck River that usually swings open only a few times a year.
It may not be coincidence. It could be deliberate.
Alert “06880” reader Billy Scalzi says that for the past 2 or 3 weeks, the same boater has demanded the bridge be opened once or twice a day — always during rush hour.
Billy snapped these photos:
He’s seen it happen time and again. But that’s all Billy knows. If any “06880” reader knows more, click “Comments” below.
Seymon and Lynne Ostilly are longtime Westporters. Their 2 kids — now in their 20s — are Staples High School graduates.
And they’re dealing with quite a lot.
For the past 8 years, Lynn has been the primary caregiver as her husband struggled with dementia. Over the past 6 months, as his condition grew much worse, it became increasingly more difficult for her to help him.
In May, Lynne suffered a hemorrhage stroke. The brain bleed was so deep, it was too unsafe to operate. Emma flew home from California.
Lynne is fighting to recover. She must relearn how to walk, use her right arm, and remember words she once knew.
When she is finally discharged from rehab, she will need extensive physical and occupational therapy.
A month after Lynne’s stroke — when she was stable and on the path to recovery — Emma returned to California, and her work. (She’s also planning her wedding, for next year.)
On her way to the airport, she learned that her father had suffered multiple mini-strokes. Two days later, he had a very large and severe basal ganglia stroke.
Seymon has now joined Lynne at a rehab facility. Both are trying to recover. But his dementia has greatly slowed his progress. And his Medicare coverage is ending.
Meanwhile, Seymon’s strokes resulted in a series of blood clots, which have moved to his lungs. Some were dissolved with blood thinners, but he has deep vein thrombosis. His leg is extremely swollen, making it even more difficult to walk. Doctors say he will probably never live at home again.
Dane has put his career on hold to care for his parents.
Fortunately, the Ostillys have some long-term health care. However, their care is extremely expensive. Coverage will eventually run out.
More costs — a caregiver for Lynne, and a nursing home for Seymon — loom.
Emma and Dane have set up a GoFundMe page. It’s a chance for all of us to help our neighbors — whether we know them or not. Click here to contribute, or for more information.
“Anything you can give would be an absolute blessing,” Seymon and Lynne’s children say.
“Love you all. Life is precious.”
Sunrise Road was not made for 18-wheelers.
The driver of a truck filled with 43,000 pounds of refrigerated meat — bound from Minnesota to West Haven — learned that out the hard way last night at 7.
He tried to make a right turn onto Saugatuck Avenue — no easy feat even for Mini Coopers. Soon, he was hung up on a stone wall.
Alert “06880” reader Gerald F. Romano Jr. was on the scene. For the next 2 1/2 hours, he says, Westport police and firefighters did a great job. A crew from Quality Towing unloaded 10,000 pounds of meat off the truck.
That lightened the load, so the Quality guys could pull the rear wheels off the wall. No one one was injured. The driver — who said this was his first incident in 40 years — drove off.
“It all ended well,” Romano says.
But just imagine if the driver had headed for the William F. Cribari Bridge.
Compo Beach sure looks and feels a lot different this year than last.
If you haven’t noticed, you’re not paying attention.
Or maybe you can’t get in.
A quick recap: This past winter — in response to Westporters’ rising complaints about overcrowded parking, picnic tables and sand — the Parks and Recreation Commission did some rising itself.
They raised the price of season beach stickers for Weston residents, from $250 to $375. They raised it for all other non-residents even more: from $490 to $775.
Daily passes rose too. They’re now $50 on weekdays, $65 on weekends.
Westporters’ prices rose slightly. A season sticker is now $50 ($25 for seniors).
Parks & Rec also instituted caps on sales. They limited non-resident sticker sales to 350 (from the previous 600). And — perhaps most significantly — there is now a daily cap: No more than 100 non-residents are allowed in each day. Signs on nearby roads indicate when the limit has been reached (sometimes as early as noon).
Add in newly remodeled bathrooms on both sides of the bathhouses, and extra grills at South Beach; a new entrance pattern and special parking area for non-residents — leaving prime beachfront spots for Westporters — and the difference is palpable.
Many beachgoers love the “new” Compo. They applaud the space they’ve got, the availability of picnic tables and grills, even the lower decibel level.
Others are less pleased.
They wonder about lost revenue. Though Parks & Rec said that increased fees would pay for better maintenance and the full-time cop, it seems from anecdotal evidence and those daily cap signs that the beach is bringing in a lot less money than it used to.
That probably also affects Joey’s by the Shore. It may have contributed to PAL sitting on a few hundred unsold fireworks tickets this year — thousands of dollars that won’t go to programs and kids.
And smaller crowds means less “life” at the beach. There are fewer languages spoken, fewer games played on the grass, fewer opportunities to share our shore with others.
Plenty of people think that’s great. It’s our beach — paid for by our tax dollars.
Others miss the out-of-town regulars they used to see, and worry we’ve only added to our “elitist” image.
What do you think? Do you love the changes, and think they’re long overdue? Do you think they’re too draconian? Are you conflicted?
Click “Comments” below. And — as always — please keep things civil. Play nice in the sand.