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.
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.
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.