Memorial Day Memories

Alert “06880” reader Wendy Crowther sends along a couple of photos from former Westporter Esta Kraft Sands.  In the 1950s and ’60s Esta’s parents owned the McLaury House (99 Myrtle Avenue, across from the Westport Historical Society).

Several years ago, Wendy helped restore the house.  She also did historical research, and provided website content.

The photo below, from Memorial Day around 1966,  shows a marching group — Machamux — as it approaches the house.

Wendy writes:

I’m not sure whether the Machamux group was a precursor to the Y’s Indian Guides and Princesses that used to meet out at Camp Mahackeno, or whether it was its own dad/son association.

I don’t think the Machamux group would get a passing grade in Westport anymore.  The feathers, tom-toms and totem poles were probably not routine gear for Westport’s native Americans.  Of course the last of the Connecticut Pequots were massacred by English colonists up in the Southport swamps.  And the Bankside Farmers purchased what is now Green’s Farms from the local native tribe who called the same land “Machamux.”

In his 1933 “Greens Farms” book, George Penfield Jennings writes, “On their own responsibility they decided at once, ‘with Yankee knack for a good bargain,’ to purchase the land from the Indians.”

Ah, Yankee ingenuity and a good bargain.  It makes me wonder if the “Indians” thought they got a good deal.  Whether it was a good deal or a bad one then, I’m sure they’d regret that deal now.

It wouldn’t be all bad to help Westport kids know that Westport once had inhabitants that looked and lived nothing like today’s residents.  Today we would be sure to portray the facts accurately and not proliferate stereotypes.

And, circling back to the photos and Memorial Day,  Wendy says, “It’s always fun to be reminded that the more things change, the more they remain the same.  The parade still marches past those same houses on Memorial Day, and people still line the streets to cheer on their kids or their favorite clubs, politicians and civic groups.”

The photo below shows Esta’s family in front of their home — the McLaury house.  Wendy is absolutely right.

Wendy concludes:

I head down to the parade every year because of the old-fashioned, hometown feel of it.  It’s one of Westport’s big gatherings.  It’s a day to remember our fallen heroes (which many unfortunately tend to forget), and a day to celebrate the start of summer with games and barbecues.

These photos reflect the past, but aren’t too far off from what still happens today.  It’s why I love that parade.  Hanging out on the sidewalks with people I know, and don’t, and cheering on the passing soccer teams and fire engines, makes me feel proud somehow.

It also makes me feel a little bit like a dork, except that the streets are lined with my homeys, parade dorks like me, clapping for their faves.  It’s a great way to express some gratitude and “feel the love,” especially in a town that is so often creating or fighting about change.

8 responses to “Memorial Day Memories

  1. The Dude Abides

    Thanks for the pictures. While a “marcher” in the mid-50’s as a Little Leaguer and Cub/Boy Scout, I remember forming at Doubleday Field and marching down Riverside Avenue to Main Street and then up to the Jessup Green area via Imperial Avenue. For some reason, I do not remember streets that were heavily wooded areas with many trees as depicted in the photos. Help!! But you are correct, one of the best dang parades ever. Oh, we kids were so proud! Glad to see the heritage lives on!

    • I was in those parades, too, Dude — and they were great fun. I can still envision the older gentlemen in their Spanish-American War and WWI unforms at Jessup Green. The trees grew up. So did we.

  2. John Huminski

    Beautiful!

  3. Gary Singer

    Dude, you were a LLer in the 50s – do you remember David Jacobson?

  4. Gary, the Dude and I were LLers 1957-60. I don’t recall David in the National League, but the Dude was on the American League side of town and might remember him. Except for town championship and all-star games — and the Memorial Day parades we all marched in — there was no contact at any level between the two leagues.

  5. The Dude Abides

    Sorry, Gary. Doesn’t ring a bell. Michael Douglas, the actor, was on my minor league team, the Cardinals and later in prep school with Tommy. Wonderful time and place here to grow up. Super memories.

  6. Ellen Ashton

    I remember going to the ballfield by the Saugatuck to watch my brother, Ken Smith, play. He was also one of the “Downshifters” with Michael Douglas.

  7. The Dude Abides

    That would have been Rogers Field where the Pavillion is now. It was/is all landfill. If you dug your cleats (metal then) in hard enough in the infield, a beer can would pop up!!