1 Road, 3 Neighbors, 50 Years

In 1952, Mike and Galy Starzyk moved to Drumlin Road.

Two years later, Gordon and Dot Hall moved in across the street. Nine years after that, Bernie and Barbara Dorogusker bought a house next door to the Starzyks.

Much has happened since then. Countless families moved in, had kids, raised them, moved away. Decks were built, 2nd floors added. Trees have grown tall (and fallen).

But nearly 50 years later, all 3 families still live on the horseshoe-shaped drive near Hillspoint and Green’s Farms Road, just south of the railroad tracks (and the “Connecticut Turnpike” — I-95 — which was still being debated when the former cow pasture was developed back in 1952-53).

There may be no other place in Westport where 3 neighbors have lived so close together since the Kennedy Administration.

A 1952 ad for "Compo Manor: A Residential Community Situated in Westport, Beauty Spot of Southern Connecticut" shows "The Perfect Three-Bedroom Rancher" model home. It is "Priced at $14,500. Complete."

The Starzyks are the only original owners left. Mike and Galy were living in Bridgeport. With 2 children, they needed more room. Galy’s brother-in-law — Art Reale — told them about a new development, “Compo Manor.” The lots were small — 1/4 acre — but the $14,500 price was perfect.

Better yet, nearly all their neighbors were like the Starzyks: young, and with kids.

In 1955, Gordon and Dot Hall’s daughter was not yet born. Married 2 years, and both teachers — he at Bedford Junior High School, she at the brand-new Coleytown Elementary — they had rented “tiny, ramshackle places” elsewhere in town.

But they saved their pennies — “literally,” Gordon notes — and loved the little ranch house that was for sale. Other tract homes they’d seen — on Reichert Circle, Bauer Place and Tamarack — all faced in the same direction. The 43 Drumlin homes were built with the same 2 or 3 floor plans, but they were angled uniquely. And each setback was different.

The asking price was $20,600. The Halls paid $19,600. On their salaries — he made about $3,000, she $2,900 — that was manageable. But for 4 summers, when they took graduate courses, they rented the house out. The extra cash helped make ends meet.

“There were lots of strollers, and there was lots of sledding,” Dot recalls. “Everyone was very sociable, because (the adults) were all around the same age.”

Gordon and Dot Hall's house in 1957 (left) and 2012 (right). The 3 families that have been neighbors for nearly 50 years share the mailboxes in the photo at right.

Barbara Dorogusker is the “newest” of the 3 neighbors — but she’s got the longest local connection. A 3rd-generation Westporter, she grew up on 6 acres on Sturges Highway. Her grandmother (a former indentured servant in Poland) lived next door. The property included a pond and barn.

After graduating from Staples in 1952, Barbara married a man from New York City. They wanted to buy a house, but without much land. Bernie was a sailor; proximity to the Sound was key.

With $2,000 in the bank, they searched for a while. Finally they saw a place on Drumlin. With a big field in back — off Jennie Lane — they could look at nature, but not have to take care of it.

“It wasn’t our dream house,” Barbara admits. “But every house is a compromise.”

Her parents were “appalled. They thought we  were moving into tomorrow’s slums because the lots were so small.” But, Barbara says, “it was perfect for us.” And Cedar Point Yacht Club was just down the hill, at Compo Beach.

They built a big sunroom, and a deck. They had 2 children. “We wanted them to grow up surrounded by friends,” Barbara says. “They sure did.”

The kids created secret pathways between bushes. An empty school bus would pull up to the foot of Drumlin Road. It drove away filled.

Every summer, the Drumlin Road neighbors have a block party. Last summer's event showed an enormous span of ages -- but plenty of smiles.

Over the years, the road changed. There were many “older couples, divorced people, one-child families,” Gordon says.

Miraculously for Westport, there have been only 2 demolitions — and both were caused by accidents. One house burned; the other had a tree fall on it.

Of course, many homes have been remodeled. They’re a bit larger than they were (Gordon calls them “mini-mansions, not McMansions”). So they’re once more attractive to young couples. “We’re seeing bicycles and strollers again,” says Dot.

But not every house has been sold, re-sold, and re-re-sold.

“Why would we ever want to move?” Barbara asks. “Everyone looks out for each other here. We’ve got one story, which is great.” (She’s 77; Bernie is 85.)

“And with housing prices going to pot, why leave?”

Similarly, after the Starzyks’ kids grew up and moved away, Mike and Galy stayed. “We were comfortable,” she recalls. “There was no reason to leave.”

Sixty years later, they’re still on Drumlin Road.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in this world,” 93-year-old Galy says. “But I have no plans to move.”

Nor do her neighbors. After 49 years together, there’s no place like home.

17 responses to “1 Road, 3 Neighbors, 50 Years

  1. My parents were the first owners of #6 Drumlin Road. We moved in when I about 1 yr. old and my brother, Norman, was 4. We lived there until after my younger brother was born in 1959. We moved to Harding Lane. The Fitzgeralds and the Wardells lived on either side of us. Nonnie Starzyk was one of my best friends. The Crists were across the street. I have so many memories of Drumlim Road. Mostly involving lots of kids doing everything kids did. Riding bikes, adventuring…those were the days when Mom would just let us out in the morning, we’d come back for lunch, then out again until we heard her calling us home for dinner. Thanks for writing this Dan. My mind is flooding with tidbits of my life between the ages of 1 -7…Darryl Coates Manning

  2. How lovely to hear the human history behind the tear downs-waiting-to-happen. I hope they live there happy and healthy for another couple decades.

  3. Dan,
    What a nice story. Many of us Westporters still live in the homes that we raised our children in. We live down the street from Drumlin and we are also surrounded by young families with young children. I think the block party is a great idea. We have talked about doing one for years. Maybe next year!

  4. The Dude Abides

    Wonderful story about ole Westport. We have a block party every summer on Pleasant Valley Lane where seven old timers still reside. But the nice thing about the newcomers, they all have young kids and thus, the legacy continues.

  5. Lee Terpening

    In 1962, Marshall Terpening, 93, bought his house on Drumlin Rd., with his wife, Jane. Jane passed away in 2010, but Marshall still lives in his home.

    He enjoyed the article, but has one correction he’d like to make. Drumlin Rd., he says, was not a cow pasture, it was an apple orchard. He said when he first lived there, the apple tree in front of his driveway would drop so many apples that they were constantly crushing them as they drove in and out. This would cause swarms of bees and other insects to congregate, and created quite a nuisance.

    Lee Terpening (daughter in-law)

  6. Terry Brannigan

    That’s a fantastic story and legacy. We built our place 4 years ago and I can’t even name all or our neighbors directly adjecent to our house. Shame on me. As the crow flies, if I walked down to the bottom of Loretta CT, cut through the Santella’s yard, over the Gilbertie’s lawn and through the Estony’s yard I could be in the north leg of the Drumlin horseshoe in <5 min. (which I did all the time). Some great famlies…The Barrets, Hansons, Touchings, Rintooles… Congratulations!
    Some great families…The Barrets, Hansons, Touchings, Rintools… Congratulations.

  7. The property from the Corner of Hillspoint and Hales Road was originally an onion farm and later a golf range. That had to be over 50 years ago. I know Terry is too young to remember that.

    • The Dude Abides

      H m m m . . . a golf range? There was a golf range and mini-golf off the Post Road (where the Landsdowne condos are now) some 50 years ago. You sure about Hillspoint?

  8. Even though I have been in Westport for close to 40 years, I have only become familiar with Drumlin Road in the last 2 or so after my daughter, son-in-law and grandson moved there. A very nice place as noted in this piece and the comments above. A true neighborhood, with appeal to those of all ages.

  9. I can vouch for the driving range on Hillspoint Rd/Beachside Ave across from the Penguin with my own eyes. It had a dirt parking lot that filled up with water every time it rained but if memory serves me right it was gone by 1960 band replaced with houses.

  10. Great story, Dan! An unrelated but important side note; Drumlin Road was home to at least three of your soccer players during my childhood time living there. That’s a very high concentration of soccer talent for such a small neighborhood:) Keep up the good work!

  11. Laurie Dorogusker Weisensee

    Dear Dan-
    Thank you for writing about the incredibly close relationship my parents have with their amazing neighbors. The Halls and the Starzyks are truly special people, and Drumlin Road was (and still is) a wonderful place to build a community of friends and to raise a family. I was one of the lucky kids to benefit from the closeness of all the families on Drumlin Road – and the surrounding roads all along Hales, Hillspoint, Jennie, Old Mill and Compo Beach as well. In so many ways, it was a charmed place to grow up, where everyone knew you, and you always knew you had friends and neighbors to turn to when you needed them. So many lovely memories. And I can still picture the Penguin – wow. 🙂