Happy Birthday, Esta Burroughs

Esta Freedman’s mother left Poland for Ellis Island at 17.  Esta’s father worked in the gold mines of South Africa as a teenager.  He stowed away on a US-bound ship, but gambled away his nest egg before it docked.

Esta Freedman at 17...

Esta was born in Cambridge, Mass. in 1913.  She and her 4 siblings shared a room.  At 17, she left home for New York.

A chance meeting in the subway led to a meeting with Bernie Burroughs, an illustrator.  They hit it off.  Soon they eloped.  They lived in Greenwich Village, then Neptune, N.J.  In 1946 their son Miggs was born.

Bernie’s artist friends were moving to Connecticut.   The Burroughses followed:  to Stamford in 1948, then Westport in 1950 when their 2nd son Tracy was born.

Bernie and Esta quickly joined the local artists and writers’ circle, making friends with the likes of Howard Munce, Tracy Sugarman, Max Shulman, Evan Hunter, John G. Fuller and their families.

Bernie played poker; Esta, bridge.  They entertained often, and went to parties.  At some, couples put car keys in a bowl, and drove home with the owner of whichever set they pulled out.  Esta says she and Bernie always left before that happened.

She wrote articles for local newsletters.  Then she met Sidney and Esther Kramer.   They were opening a bookstore, called Remarkable — the name included “Kramer” spelled backwards — and asked her to join them.

The Remarkable Book Shop. Today it's Talbots. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Esta stayed in the iconic pink building on Main Street — working in the warren of rooms, loving the tall stacks of books, sloping floors and comfy chairs — until the day it closed.

She also partnered with Pat Fay — running tag sales as “Those 2 Girls” — but her Remarkable work really defined Esta Burroughs for generations of Westporters.

She waited on Paul Newman, Liz Taylor, Bette Davis, Keir Dullea, Christopher Plummer and Patty Hearst.  She also massaged the egos of many local authors, who visited constantly to check on sales of their books.

An avid reader, Esta enjoyed meeting writers.  The opportunity to read any title was a great perk — and a huge advantage for customers.  They asked countless questions about books.  She answered them all.

After Remarkable closed, Esta worked at the Save the Children Gift Shop.  Until recently she volunteered at the Westport Historical Society.

Today, Esta Burroughs turns 98.  The Remarkable Book Shop is long gone.  So are Paul Newman, Bette Davis — and key parties.

But Esta remembers them all, quite clearly.  Those memories are all part of her 6 decades in Westport — and her much-loved, seldom-acknowledged contributions to our town.

...Esta Burroughts, almost 98.

17 responses to “Happy Birthday, Esta Burroughs


    I live in Southern California but have friends in Westport who frequently sends me frequent newspaper articles. While I enjoy reading them on occasion, I enjoy your blogs about citizens of Westport such a the story of Esta Burroughs and her love of books. What a “remarkable” woman! HAPPY BIRTHDAY #98 and I look forward to #100 and another story about Mrs.Burroughs. BESTWISHES

  2. Estelle Margolis

    Happy Birthday, Esta,
    You are as beautiful now as you were then! We all celebrate you and your
    endless contributions to our town and our lives.
    Estelle Margolis

  3. Jill Ross Beres

    I remember Esta very fondly, from the days of the Remarkable Book Store. I join with my greetings for her Birthday.

  4. Happy Birthday Esta.
    I have felt very lucky to count you as my friend over many years. Working with you at Remarkable was one of the best experiences in my life.
    I hope you are enjoying the wonderful celebrations you deserve.
    Love today and always,

  5. Bunni and I send love, wrapped around a whole bunch of wonderful memories
    of the 50s and 60s in Westport. Esta and Bernie were so warm and fun-filled to be with. The “Remarkable” alas is no more, but Esta smiles still. Happy Birthday.

  6. From my barber, Lou Santanella I learned of a house that his sister in law was selling in Westport back in 1974. We bought it and our neighbors across the street were Esta and Bernie. They were so warm and friendly to us. We loved the way they decorated their house with old things and all sorts of signs .
    They were great friends to us and we have enjoyed having Esta for a friend and neighbor all these years. She is such a good spirit and my wife Sandi and I try to keep a look out for her and share some of Sandi’s fine cooking with her.
    Happy Birthday Esta. We are so lucky to have lived so close to you and shared so many wonderful memories with you on this special little street.

  7. Suzanne Goldstein

    Happy Birthday, Esta.
    Thanks for being my mentor when I started playing bridge.

  8. Happy Birthday, Mrs. Miggs 🙂

    Wish you were still at the Remarkable Book Shop… always enjoyed chatting with you there. Never knew about the “Kramer” reversal or the “Key Parties.” Is there a book in the works ? 🙂

    • Those ‘key parties’ are depicted in the film ‘The Ice Storm’ which was filmed in New Canaan and based on the book by Rick Moody who grew up there and is a Brown alum like our Mr. Woog (maybe he can shed some more light on that subject for you;)

  9. Dan, you did such a great thing getting the two photos, and Esta is as beautiful today as she was at age 17! I’ve worked with her at the Historical Society and just love her joie de vivre. My parents (Hardie and Doppy Gramatky) knew Esta and Bernie Burroughs and his talent sure came down in the genes to Miggs. (Sorry, I don’t know Tracy, so he may be artistic too.) Thanks for the warmest story on this delightful woman! I hear that the WHS’s Oral History commitee is trying to interview Esta via video. What a treasure that will be for their collection.

    • Miggs supplied the photos. They’re also lenticular images — depending on where you stand, the same photo shows the two different ages. I could not find a way to embed that lenticular shot on “06880,” unfortunately — it’s very empowering.

  10. Linda Hudson

    Esta, Happy Birthday! I first met you when I worked at Remarkable starting in ’76. What fun we had — I can still hear your laugh. And you were my inspiration for growing out my gray hair years later; I remember the scarves and bandanas you wore while you grew yours out, and never looked cuter.

  11. Great story, beautiful pictures (of Esta), nicely told.

  12. Darryl Coates Manning

    Happy Birthday Esta! I so enjoyed working with you when you volunteered for Dress for Success. Always a joy to be with!

  13. Esta, dear, I think of you and Bernie so often and of your many kindnesses to Ron and me. I cherish the two pieces of his art and they have made three moves with me including the latest to NY. You are beautiful!