Stop The Presses: Kids Walk To School!

Last Friday, a couple dozen students walked to Saugatuck Elementary School.

In another time — even today, in much of the world — this would no more be news than “breathing is the key to life” or “the Duggars have a shitload of kids.”

Here, in 2012, it rated a photo on WestportNow.com.

Last Friday’s remarkable walk to Saugatuck Elementary School. (Photo/Gina Beranek for WestportNow.com)

I understand this post will strike nerves. I am sure some people will be appalled that these kids walked once to school all year — when of course the sun was shining (and they were probably monitored all the way by cell phone). They may even have had a police escort.

I am sure some other people will cite very legitimate reasons why kids no longer walk to school regularly, such as that Riverside Avenue now resembles the Indianapolis Speedway (though without the safety features), and that it is amazing kids can walk at all, seeing as one requirement for entering 1st grade is buying a backpack and filling it with 120 pounds of books bricks god knows what’s in there.

Me, circa 6th grade. Those were the days.

So I will not take sides in this issue. I will, however, recount my own experiences in the school year of — well, you really don’t need to know. Let’s just say Burr Farms Elementary School had not yet been dismantled, and sold as scrap metal.

The summer before 6th grade, a few friends and I decided to celebrate our upcoming final year by walking every day to school, and back home. We could take a bus, mind you — we always had — but now we decided to hoof it. No matter what the weather, we would walk.

Our parents said 2 things. The 1st was, basically, “You are far stupider than we ever thought.”

The 2nd was, “Meh.” Or “Whatever.” Or whatever the 1960s version of those words were.

My buddies and I all lived on High Point Road. We had 2 routes to Burr Farms. One took us through back yards — Moss Ledge, Elmwood, Linda Lane, Adams Farm — until we crossed North Avenue, trooped up Blackberry, and arrived at the Burr Farms gym.

We trespassed on dozens of properties. No one ever said a word.

The alternate route took us across the Staples field hockey field, past the newly constructed 9 building, out the high school south entrance, down North Avenue, and through the fields that once belonged to Farmer Rippe (and now, in an architectural homage, are silo-sporting homes on very randomly named Greystone Farm Lane).

Burr Farms Elementary. Buses were for wimps. (Computer image by Steve Katz)

We set a goal, and we achieved it. Every single day, from September through June — in glorious fall and spring, through rain and wind and sleet and every kind of weather — we walked to and from school.

When it snowed, we tromped across the Staples fields. We arrived at Burr Farms wet and cold, but we didn’t care. We were the walkers. We were cool.

I have no idea what we talked about on those 180 days, back and forth, back and forth. The conversations were probably the same as the 4 kids in “Stand By Me.” When you’re 11 years old and you walk with your friends, you talk about nothing. And everything.

The “Stand by Me” kids could have been us (without the sleeping bags and canteen).

The next year — 7th grade — we moved up to Long Lots. We walked again. This time we had no choice. The school was at the end of our road. It was half a mile away — a mile, for Glenn, Ricky and Charles.

Sometimes we walked with older kids — the 8th and 9th graders. Sometimes they bullied us. Sometimes they told us about sex. Sometimes what they said might even have been true.

When I got to Staples, and got my license, I actually drove to school. I’m embarrassed now — it took far longer to drive than walk — but that’s the way the teenage brain operates. That’s why today I never mock kids who do the same thing I once did. (Though in much spiffier cars.)

I said I wouldn’t take sides in the walking-to-Saugatuck El-once-is-a-newsworthy event?! issue.

But if you’ve read this far, you can figure out that I firmly believe you’ve got to walk the talk.

70 responses to “Stop The Presses: Kids Walk To School!

  1. Those were the days...

    Totally agree and for the record my kids sometimes walk to and from their school (GFS) and I see others as well, so the concept isn’t entirely forgotten.

  2. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    I walked to Saugatuck Elementary School from Narrow Rocks Rd. My only fear was if a train came while I was walking under the rail overpass on South Compo Rd. What a racket that was! So I ran when I came to that, hoping to make it under and through without a train.

  3. Abby Peterson

    We on Keenes Road were walkers to all three schools…Burr Farms, Long Lots Jr. High and Staples. I remember one time when I walked to Burr Farms in the snow…arrived at school only to find out it was a snow day. Great 60’s parenting there…we spent the rest of the day outside building snow forts. All of our walking days were via short cuts…backyards of houses with dogs that greeted or barked. It is true…no one said a word…but would wave as we tromped through the clear path leading us closer to school. Walking buddies with stories of parents, of older sibling fights, or grades and grounding…and forever planning the next escapade. Thanks for the reminder Dan!

  4. When we were kids, we walked to the old Saugatuck School every day, in the snow, 10 miles, up hill both ways!

  5. Bruce Fernie

    Great article… as usual.
    I lived next to the Hunt Club and walked to Long Lots JHS everyday… once for a month on crutches after a ski accident. But like you dreamed for the day I got my license and some wheels.
    We have not done our children any favors by making them so ‘soft’.

  6. The photo in WestportNow left me perplexed. Annual group walk to Saugatuck El? Why not every day? What is there to be afraid of? Seagull attacks? Errant golf balls from Birchwood? What? My kids were raised in the Riverdale section of the Bronx — walked to public school a mile every day beginning in 3rd or 4th grade along with the other kids from the neighborhood and learned to take public trans by late elementary school. Yes,I walked to old Saugatuck El from Saugatuck beginning in very early elementary school ( one mile, not 10!) and to BJHS. The Assumption kids walked there along Riverside. Walked/rode bikes all over town. Kids arranged their weekend and summer days amongst themselves and were gone from 7:30-8 AM until dark. We took extra dimes with us in case we had to call home. Hitchhiked to and from Staples, including after dark following football or track practice. Where did this mania (it’s not just a Westport phenomenum) for parental control come from?

  7. Terry Brannigan

    This is the greatest post! W/o getting too nostalgic, walking from Loretta Ct to Hillspoint School is one of my favorite childhood memories. What was even more exciting was when we hit 4th grade and were allowed to ride our bikes. Saddlebag style aluminum racks on the back, I remember racing to the bike rack when we were dismissed and flying home with the sound of my 3 speed hub ticking in my ear. That experience is honestly about as free a feeling as I have ever had. I also remember the excitement of going to “Barkers” (ugh!) and getting all the requisite safety equipment for the annual visit from the Westport police for “Bike inspection” day! I’d see all my friends at the store doing the same thing!
    Mrs. Smith (mother of Robert, Darin and Wayne) was our crossing guard and always granted us the right of way. I think her uniform was a cross between 1960’s police chic and a milkman!
    For those of you who know me, it may come as no surprise that the walk to school also helped burn off a little extra energy…. My own kids would benefit from the same opportunity
    Congratulations to the walkers. Let’s make it a scheduled town wide event. Say the first Monday of every month etc. We may even be able to pick up some trash on the way!

  8. brad courcier

    i walked to Saugatuck Elementary every day from first grade (miss Fitzgibbons)to fifth grade (mrs. Asquith) sometimes the sidewalk,sometimes thru Parke Cumming’s yard thru the ravine where the secret pond was.I can remember it like it was yesterday.Long for those simple days… Brad Courcier 177 south compo rd.

  9. Guy Northrop

    I grew up on Woods Grove Rd and was suppose to walk to Bedford Jr. High on Riverside Ave. Our house was on the Saugatuck river so to beat the system, I rowed my boat across the river, walked up Bolton Ln. and caught the bus on Wilton Rd.

  10. Things have changed

    While reminiscing about the good old days is interesting, it’s simply not safe for the bulk of our kids to walk to school in “modern” times. Population explosion, more cars, bigger cars, people rarely coming to a complete stop at stop signs, texting, driving 55mph down south compo…..anything else I’m missing? Am I “soft” for not wanting my kids to walk from Park Lane / Rayfield Rd area to SES? While I’m not a life long Westport resident, I do realize that times have changed, the town is not what was in the 1960s, and no, it’s really not safe for our kids to walk.

    • Bruce Fernie

      55 on South Compo… in the 1960’s that was an idle and the drivers had had a few… it’s just as safe/dangerous now but we have decided that life is too dangerous for our little darlings. Not safe for our kids to walk… sorry but thats gotta be a joke.

    • Nancy Cardozo

      I lived near Dan and walked to school from second grade through high school. Part of the reason it was safe for us to walk back then was that the community supported the notion. There were crossing guards near schools. Who ever it was whose backyard we cut through when we walked to elementary school at age 8 or 9 never complained about the well-worn path in their grass. When the town built the sidewalk along Long Lots Rd. no one bitched about paying for it, but they did complain about cars speeding along there and the police, responding to the wishes of the public, cracked down on speeders. Westporters back then wanted to live in the kind of town where even young kids could walk to school and they worked to create a town where that was safe and reasonable. I wonder if the town today is a reflection of what the current population wants it to be or if people would like it to be different but there is less civic engagement?

  11. Babette d'Yveine

    What I don’t get is why the school buses have to stop at every single driveway. It’s hell driving behind one of them. When my kids were little (in a town in Westchester), they would gather at a corner and all get on the bus together. We didn’t have sidewalks there, either.

  12. Dennis Jackson

    Walked through the woods to Burr Farms and Staples and still enjoy dreams of walking through the fields of Rippe’s farm and the one on the High Point side of North Ave (what was that called, Grey’s Farm?) Rode bikes to Greens Farms for split sessions before Burr Farms was quite finished, as well as to Long Lots. Developed decent leg muscles and cardio system riding up North Ave on the way home. Wet hair would be frozen solid on a cold day. After school, we’d ride all over town – down to Greens Farms Beach and over to Fairfield Beach, to Carroll’s and later Carvel, Mac’s Meat Market for a Pal orange soda, We and our bikes were never at risk to our knowledge. Tony Soprano was wrong about nostalgia. And we LIKED it! 🙂

  13. Jane Nordli Jessep

    There are some neighborhoods in town that are pretty close to the schools and I’m not sure why the children in those neighborhoods need buses. I now live in the house where I grew up, it’s a stone’s throw from the Coleytown schools, both elementary and middle. It is an easy walk and completely safe. It seems funny to me now to hear the school bus go by my house every morning picking up the elementary school aged children. Would it save the town some money if some of these neighborhoods were no longer part of the bus routes? Is it a question that needs asking? When I was little I envied the kids who took the bus, as it turns out maybe some of them thought we walkers were cool. But by far the coolest kids were the ones who rode their bikes to school, there was even a bike rack set up for them.

  14. Hey Dan,
    One of the best parts of being a “walker” at The old Saugatuck School, was that we were the first ones to be dismissed.

  15. Jonathan Aibel

    I walked from my home to Coleytown, for Elementary school (with my brother) and Jr High, and then mostly took my bike to Staples. The hill up North Ave. was a killer!
    But the long walks with friends to their houses; we built worlds and fixed them. They were great times.

  16. Hey – how about a mile or two back and forth everyday, in MICHIGAN! Cold, windy SNOWY…I remember getting stuck in waist-high snow and having to wait for a rescue. And it was a bit dicey, even back then: crazy drivers, crazy sick-o’s who, after telling my Mom what I had seen in his car, made it so that she walked WITH ME from then on…now that’s a story worth recognizing…when a PARENT would WALK to school with their kid…

  17. Westport Convert

    The schools could endorse or encourage a “walk-to-school day” but you all know, as well as I do, it would open up the town to massive lawsuits should – god forbid – something awful happen to a child on his or her walk. So sad.

  18. I grew up on Silent Grove and we walked to Staples every day! We’d cut through Wakemans Farm, passed the abandoned Nike Sight, and pop out in the back of Staples. If we didn’t feel like doing that, we’d head out to Cross Highway/North Ave and hitch-hike!! Could you imagine suggesting that to your kids today? It never occured to us that anything bad could happen to us. And by sheer dumb luck, nothing ever did. Simpler times.

    • Nancy Cardozo

      That’s right! I completely forgot about hitch-hiking. We did it a lot and nothing bad ever happened. Weird.

  19. Gina Beranek

    I’ll chime in, since I organized this walk and took the picture… This is our 3rd (yes, just once a year) walk. The kids in our neighborhood get very excited for the walk and some love to see themselves “in the news”. Each year, WestportNow has posted our photo and I’ve heard that other schools have begun the same tradition. For that, I’m glad they deemed it “newsworthy”. Yes, I wish kids still walked to school, but I guess in 30 years these kids will be posting on a blog about the one day a year that their mothers made them walk to school, in the sun, on a perfect spring day.

    • While the whole concept of walking for one day to school is neither novel nor earth shattering, the fact that it brings the community together to do something wholesome that doesn’t involve a screen or buying something makes it far more newsworthy than much of the news that is reported daily in this town. Dan, it seems like you just wanted to use this story as a springboard for waxing nostalgic, which is lovely and enjoyable to hear about, but would have been better without the criticism. I gather it must have been a quiet news day all around to focus on this.

  20. I think the situation with kids walking to school might well have started to change in a major way after the highly publicized disappearance of Etan Patz and the subsequent display of missing kids’ pictures on the side of milk cartons. Did the nation truly become less safe for kids going out on their own or did parents simply become more fearful? I don’t know the answer to that.

    • Westport Convert

      Fred – many argue that society has become more dangerous and cruel. The stats simply do not back that up. The only difference is the media exposure and coverage.

      • Bruce Fernie

        Absolutely right! My sister had pervs stop and flash and I was bullied by nasty 9th graders on the way to Long Lots JHS but we survived.

  21. Probably both,Fred. A national obsession with “safety” in nearly every human endeavor seemed to emerge full blown after that sad event. Gina, congratulations on arranging this annual walk, but I wish the kids could walk a mile or a mile and a half to Saugatuck El (the former BJHS) in the rain or snow to get the full flavor of the downside of our childhood daily expeditions. Re today’s crazy drivers vs yesteryear’s: Kids walking from Saugatuck to Saugatuck El on Bridge Street, to Assumption or to BJHS (which was Staples pre-’58, when BJHS was where Kings Highway is now) had to buck RR station commuter traffic which was no less crazy then than now. As many Westport residents commuted to NYC daily in the 1950s-60s when the town’s population was around 20,000 as today — about 2000, The difference between now and than is that today in a town of about 30,000 residents, thousands commute to jobs in Westport from elsewhere. That’s a big difference.

  22. Dan, what is the most bizarre way a Westport student has ever gotten to school? Helicopter, horse, parachuted……..?

    • Not counting the one who lived unnoticed for a few months in the 2nd floor of the auditorium, so was already there every morning?

  23. My sister took a short walking home from school, she walked across the frozen Saugatuck River…..

  24. Patricia Driscoll

    Dan, great post, enjoyed your story. I grew up on Myrtle Ave. and walked to Bedford El, a five minute walk down the street and then to BJHS which was far more of an adventure. Through my backyard, the neighbors yard, past Sigrid Schultz’s cottage, through the Methodist Church parking lot, down Church St. and over the bridge to Riverside Ave. Yes, through all kinds of weather. Times have changed, but couldn’t kids walk in groups or with a parent? Too complicated to arrange in todays’ busy world? We were lucky to have so much unsupervised time to play, think, draw, write, bike ride etc.

  25. Are you sure that photo of you isn’t really Jerry Mathers? I lived too far from Bedford Elementary to walk, but I was on the Safety Patrol (reporting to Guy Northrop, who, I see, replied here), and we helped with safety over the final leg for some walkers. Another thing that’s changed is that we bus riders used to have to walk to distributed bus stops… now there seems to be a stop every 25 feet… not so great if you’re driving behind a bus!

  26. Anonymous (above) was from me – William Adler

  27. I was so glad that after elementary school, I never had to get on a school bus again (except for sports trips to out-of-town schools). I walked from our cul-de-sac off Old Road up to Maple Avenue and over to Long Lots Jr. High for three years, almost always by myself. No one ever bothered me, certainly not bullies, certainly not any drivers. I realize times have changed but … seriously, are kids who live with a quarter-mile of a school NOT walking?

  28. I wonder, with every child over 10 having a cell-phone (with GPS!), will kids start to have more freedom to walk and ride around town?

    And for the record, I rode my bike 5 fairly flat miles to and from BJHS in the 70s, except when it got too cold. More recently, when my daughter went to Staples, I drove her in the morning (sort of on my way to work), unloaded her bike, and she found her own way home every night.

  29. David Abrams

    Dan – it wasn’t trespassing. It was called cutting through someone’s yard. Our folks called it going cross lots. Only now do we consider a kid going from neighborhood to neighborhood through someone’s yard to be trespassing.

  30. Fred Cantor

    I lived just north of the Merritt Parkway bridge on Easton Road and walked much of the time to both Coleytown El and Jr High. It was a little less than a mile and, to the best of my knowledge, bus service was not offered to students who lived within a mile of Westport schools back in the 1960s. Easton Road had a fair amount of traffic back then but safety was not really an issue in terms of walking as we had a sidewalk along that entire stretch of Easton Road. Of course, in bad weather, I was very glad to get rides from my mom in 6th grade because my parents had just bought a ’65 Riviera–the one with the cool clamshell headlights–and my friends all loved that car.

  31. I understand that having kids take the bus is a safety issue, but can’t the kids have a group bus stop on the street like we used to do?! These days, driving behind a school bus is stop and go every other house it seems because each kid has to be picked up/dropped off at their own house. It seems like kids these days have it a little too easy if walking to the busstop is as big a deal as walking a couple miles to school!

  32. Steve McCoy

    Dan
    If I had known you were driving to Staples every morning I would have had you pick me up so I didn’t have such a long walk.
    I loved the walk or riding my bike down Terhune, through several yards, into the woods (and stopping by a small pond I fished and caught turtles) and on to Burr Farms. I suspect the woods became ? Burr Rd. Sometimes Toro came with me. Those were the days.

    Diller

    • Dennis Jackson

      That pond, which as I recall also had some snakes among the lily pads, was “relocated.” That is, filled in and a new one dug behind what was the Hills’ house on Tulip Lane so that it provides a nice view from where we live on North Avenue. (Try pulling that today!) I assume Brian is your brother? I filled in on his paper route when your family was away.

  33. Eric Buchroeder

    While at Staples ’67-’70 I hitched a ride regularly with Jono and “Mama Joy” Walker when that didn’t work due to schedule conflicts I walked from 96 South Compo to Whitney Street to Roseville, down Salem Rd to North Avenue to Staples. Wouldn’t have been caught dead on a school bus. Other than that I was a certified walker from K-10. The kids out here in Ohio all ride buses and several years ago they tried cutting them out to save money and there was gridlock. Luckily no one was hurt.

  34. Steve McCoy

    Dennis
    I think we are talking about the same pond. Also GIANT snapping turtles (at least to an 8 year old). Brian is my brother.

    • Dennis Jackson

      That’s the one, Steve. We also caught sunnies in there, and were skating on it the day that new unoccupied house on Terhune a ways past your house went up in flames. BTW, I should say we “lived” there (past tense.)

  35. In support of those for whom this story inspires nostalgic anecdotes rather than “trouble with today’s kids” diatribes, and because I feel privileged to have been one of the many kids who he helped cross his walk, I want to give a shout out to Harvey; Harvey the Crossing Guard. I’m sure he had other posts in town, but this wonderful man of an earlier time was during much of the seventies, a dependable, welcoming and assured figure helping ferry Kings Highway El. bound children across the dangerous Post Road crossing at Ludlow.

    Decked out in full blue uniform and hard brimmed cap, Harvey (I’ve only known his first name) inverted the laws of toll crossings with his tradition on certain holidays (Halloween, for instance) and, of course, the first and last day’s of school, of producing from his pockets a shiny new nickel or dime which he’d place into our upturned palms…but only after we’d addressed him with a polite and friendly greeting which was really not in anyway at all contrived. Less a cynic’s quid pro quo than one good deed deserves another, exchanged in candy bar stakes and big smiles. Walking to school was good for the mind, the body, the planet and pocketbook too!

    • Eric Buchroeder

      Doug, I can’t believe I remember this but Harvey’s last name was Racioppi. I lived on Old Hill Rd. and walked from Old Hill to King Highway North to Ludlow. Went from KHS to Bedford in ’64. I’ll never forget that guy.

      • Eric! That is impressive…Harvey Racioppi! Of course your revelation led to some googling….Harvey Racioppi, born in 1899, also did duty in later years at Mitchell’s, but this hit really captivates…from the Norwalk Hour, September 18, 1945:
        “Additional chiefs will be raised at a meeting of Compo Tribe 68, IORM, at 8 o’clock tonight in Arion Hall. Harvey Racioppi is Sachem.”

        Clearly, I have too much time on my hands…It seems, IORM, stands for Improved Order of Redmen.
        Dan? Got anything in your files on obscure Westport fraternal organizations from the mid-20th century named after indigenous peoples of the Saugatuck?

        • That’s news to me. Somehow the use of “Redmen” seems a bit dated (unless you’re a fan of the Washington football team).

        • Eric Buchroeder

          Doug, thanks for giving me reason not to worry about Alzheimer’s for the time being.

        • Linda Gramatky Smith

          Seeing this post late, but “Mr. Racioppi” lived in the first house on Roseville (opposite what is now McDonald’s) and was a wonderful neighbor. The Racioppis’ foster son, Gerald Poulin, was a classmate in Staples class of 1960 and kept in touch with the Racioppis (and Joe Koeller, teacher/V-P at Long Lots JUNIOR HIGH) until the end of their lives. I will forward this blog to Jerry so he can see the happy memories others have of Harvey Racioppi!

  36. Dan,
    You hit another nerve in our town lore, a good one! I recall my daughter telling a friend not familiar with Westport that she had to walk home from school in a blizzard, I did a double take and reminded her the house was two blocks from school.
    PS, anyone who has been behind a bus going up or down Compo has every right to scream, every driveway is not an understatement.

    • It is not just every driveway. In addition, many times the passengers are not ready at the end of the driveway so the bus must wait until mom gets them organized and out the door. There is one stop near my house at which the students are never outside waiting. The mother demands that the bus wait until her darlings are ready to appear, if not she will raise hell in all the places she can reach.

  37. This is a great post, Dan!! I grew up in Pennsylvania, 4 different areas, 4 different school districts and walked to each of those schools. Every day, no matter the weather. Until we moved to Westport two years ago, my kids, now 15 and 12 walked to school, every day, no matter the weather. They are now, I think, worse off. Thanks for always finding the nostalgia in the current!

  38. Walking to school taught me valuable life lessons:

    – Hope for the best, but plan for inclement weather.
    – Walking is beautiful, but there are dangerous elements. Keep your wits about you while you proceed.
    – There will always be bullies in your path. It’s good to have allies, but always be prepared to fight back on your own if need be.
    – Help others along the way if they need it.
    – You are responsible to enjoy the journey … especially when there are fresh raspberries and hockey suckle along the way.
    – It is much better to walk with a partner.

    My children walk to school in Ann Arbor, Michigan …. and it is wonderful …

  39. Hail!

    Actually, I was graduated from Northwestern. But, Michigan is a nice ‘second’ school …

  40. I remember when Staples had a late bus…so students could participate in after school activities. I walked to Long Lots and took the bus to Staples until I could drive to school. Children in Colorado have to walk to school if they live a mile or less from school – sometimes without sidewalks as well as with no paid crossing guards or Safety Patrol. Of course, walking was safer back in the day because you didn’t have so many people texting while driving (and I should say when walking as well).

  41. Okay, so I am always late in writing comments here, but I do remember walking to Bedford Jr. from Kings Hwy So. with Carol Melillo and Lynn Ross. The worst was not going down Treadmill on the walk to school but having to walk UP Treadmill on the trek back home. I also remember watching the body of a cat decompose every day along the side of the road. We would always challenge each other to remember where “it” was. Not a pleasant memory but very scientific in a way for a junior high student.

  42. The principal was Mr. Metelits but he was known as Metal-Tits to us kids. Mr. Rudd was the coolest library person in the history of the world. Mr. Morrison was kind of psycho and he was known for smashing kids into the walls if they got out of line during class changes. Mr. Judell was a great Math teacher. Mrs. Griffith was my English teacher and I really liked her too. (She sings in Choir at St Lukes.) I think Mrs. Rolnick was my Social Studies teacher. And Mr. Dorsey was a really well liked Gym teacher. This was my first year in Westport and it was quite a culture shock coming from Arlington Heights, IL. We had a school fair to raise money for a class trip to Philadelphia’s Franklin Museum. We had a great time on the trip although Robert Wakeman left his camera there and one of the Chieppo (pronounced Cheap-O) buses broke down on the way home. I am still in touch with Alix Land and Ron Kaufman from Burr Farms.

  43. I lived on Bayberry Lane and I walked or biked to Burr Farms, Long Lots, and Staples until I got that VW bug. I remember those treks to school with great pleasure. It’s tragic that kids can’t experience the freedom we had back then – as a girl I was rarely afraid to be alone in the woods or on the streets. And yes we Cut Through all sorts of back yards and nobody ever seemed to mind.

  44. Mrs. Shorts

    Even crazier than school buses stopping at the end of each driveway are the parents who drive their kids to the end of the driveway so they can get on the bus. I see this every morning as I drive through several towns on my way to work so it doesn’t appear to be a just-in-Westport phenomenon. Is Fairfield County so dangerous that parents feel the need to drive their kids to the end of their driveways? Walking to the end of the driveway, I understand, but driving??? C’mon.

  45. Gwen Dwyer Lechnar

    Okay, my turn. When we attended Hillspoint Elementary, I lived on the end of Spicer Rd. that was within the mile you had to walk in those days. My friend, Carolyn, lived around the corner on Rayfield and so was entitled to take the bus, which she caught, like everyone in the neighborhood, at the stop on the corner of Spicer and Rayfield. We spent most afternoons together and when we were going to her house we took the bus; when going to mine, we walked. We decided which mode would suit us best the day before.Now I believe this involved permission slips, so it wasn’t just we kiddies who “worked the system” this way—our mothers were in on it!

  46. You asked about unusual ways of getting to school. I seem to remember a couple of times when Ronny Friedman (Friedson? – not sure – but his parents had a stable and ran the Tack Room) rode his horse to school. The horse didn’t stay there; as I recall, he tied the horse to the bike rack and not long after that someone came with a horse trailer and took the horse home. Unfortunately, I think Ronny got teased for coming to school smelling of horses. A lot of the girls (who liked horses) actually envied him, but that didn’t stop them teasing him. Kids can be very cruel.

    • David Abrams

      I remember stories of Ron riding to school. And yes, he was teased a lot. That would have been only one of many reasons he was teased. But then, bullies need no reason.

  47. Weather permitting I’d ride my bike from my house off North Ave near Staples to Burr Farms by taking a path through the woods off Terhune Dr.and cutting over to Burr Farms Road. Or sometimes down North Ave to Blackberry Lane and then through someone’s back yard and crossing a stonewall.
    I avoided Rippes Farm because I heard if Old Man Rippe saw someone treading near the Apple Orchard he’d fire buckshot at them! Well, it seemed couragous when kids bragged about dodging the buckshot during conversations at recess!

  48. Pamela (Hancock) Kinsey

    Hi, Dan. I was always a walker….because I lived too close to take a bus. I walked to Burr Farms, though I had to go the ‘long’ way, turning at the corner patrolled by the crossing lady…Mrs. Ellison (Eliason?). We lived on Long Lots and may have been one of the yards through which you ‘cut’…but we weren’t allowed to walk through the ‘short cut’! Then to Long Lots…walked or rode my bike. Then to Staples. Either walked or rode my bike (up hill the whole way there and down hill with no hands the whole way home!). Sometimes I took the mini bus on the special Staples run that went right past the house. I walked to school for 11 years in Westport, until my mother remarried and we moved too far away to walk. I had to take a bus my senior year and I didn’t know how that actually worked, though I had called for the buses at Burr Farms. I always loved the walk..it was great exercise. Now, as a teacher, I see the bus stop to pick up the students that live across the street from the school. There are no ‘walkers’ any more, and I find that discouraging. People organize ‘walk to school’ days, or ‘ride your bike to school’ days, but what did happen to the walkers?? I can understand the perils in a city with much traffic, but this is happening even in rural areas, where we constantly watch the roads for athletes (roller skiers), Amish buggies and animals (moose and bear). At least children are more predictable! I applaud your elementary decision and I ask you now…do you still walk to school? Work? Just because? I still walk many places and I still own the bike that I rode so faithfully all of those years ago (and it was MANY!). The walking experience set me up to give my children the same opportunity, and they rode their bikes to school on many nice days as they grew up. Thanks for the memory!

  49. Free Range Kids! http://www.freerangekids.com/