The Trailer Park

As a young boy growing up on High Point Road, my Westport horizon was limited to Burr Farms Elementary School. It was a comfortable, secure place. Everyone there looked and acted just like me.

Things changed the 1st day of Long Lots Junior High.

I was a tiny 7th grader, surrounded by enormous 9th graders. The boys had facial hair; the girls had breasts. I sort of expected that.

But there was something new: students who’d gone to Green’s Farms Elementary. Most were like my Burr Farms friends.

A few came from “the trailer park.”

A recent view of the mobile homes at 1655 Post Road East. (Photo/Paul Schott, Westport News)

Their clothes were slightly different. Not a lot — but just enough, in the ultra-status conscious world of junior high, to be noticeable.

They hung out together.

They smoked cigarettes.

Gradually, I got to know the kids from “the trailer park.” Some were nice and funny and smart; others were not. Just like everyone else at Long Lots.

One thing never changed, though. I never went to any of their homes. I never set foot in “the trailer park.”

I thought of that the other day, when I read that the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to demolish the final 33 trailers — now called “mobile homes” — that still sit, very immobile, at 1655 Post Road East.

They’ll be replaced by 54 rental units, in 3-story buildings. It’s an important step forward, upgrading facilities while increasing Westport’s affordable housing stock.

The news also made me take an important look back.

Decades have passed since my junior high days. But I still think of 1655 Post Road East as “the trailer park.”

And I realize how little I cared about the lives of my fellow Long Lots students, about a mile away from my comfortable High Point Road home.

24 responses to “The Trailer Park

  1. Nice post Dan

  2. Very nice post Dan

  3. Mobile home AKA manufactured housing. See for more information.

  4. I was surprised to read last week that the trailer homes would be removed and buildings constructed. I’d love to see what the new buildings would look like. It seems to be that the trend in public housing has been toward structures that give the occupants a sense of pride and ownership. If it were me, I’d rather live in my own trailer with a lawn and a porch than in a building unit made up of indistinguishable apartment units.

  5. This is very positive progress for affordable housing in Westport. And if the recent redevelopment of Hales Court is an indication, the result will be a significant upgrade from the trailers. Here’s a News 12 youtube clip from the opening ceremonies of that neighborhood:

  6. sweet post……….

  7. Ann Marie Flynn

    Dan your honesty is so much appreciated in the days of ‘dribblling flow’ by others. Thank you.

  8. Not to paraphrase what’s-her-face, but I could see the Trailer Park from my house. I lived on a cul-de-sac off of Old Road, and there was a stone wall and a bit of woods separating us from theTrailer Park. A few economic strata separating us also, it seemed. I’d often cut through there on my way to the Post Road. You know, back when kids in Westport actually walked.

    In the early ’60s, My brother had a Bridgeport Post paper route that included the Park, and I’d frequently sub for him. And I knew the kids from there at both Greens Farms and Long Lots. Greens Farms always had a more economically diverse school population than Burr Farms did, in any case.

    No one in the Park was ever less than nice to me, but to me at age nine or ten, the differences from the rest of Westport were obvious. No large families like the one next to our house, where nine kids lived. Many older people, alone. Some obvious alcoholism and some real poverty. There was one boy at Greens Farms who was mocked for the way he smelled, but his trailer didn’t have a shower, his father was AWOL, and his mother was drunk. And essentially, he was taking care of her. The school didn’t do anything at all to help him. Then again, few of us kids did, either.

  9. I once worked with a woman who grew up in the park. She was 20 at the time and she and her 19 year old sister, who also had a full time job, still lived there with their parents. She didn’t drive or own a car so I drove her home one day and saw her house. It was an old wooden trailer about 10 or 12 feet long. As a Christmas gift for their parents that year, the two young women bought and financed a new double wide. I am sure it felt like a McMansion to them.

  10. Insightful post

  11. I hope what’s going to be build in its place will be something substantial and nice for these deserving people. I met an elderly woman who lives in one of the affordable housing apartments behind the moblie homes and she said the walls are paper thin and she can hear every word that’s said and every TV, radio and stereo in the apartments next to, below and above hers. That’s not right. Everybody deserves the quiet enjoyment of their home. I hope these new buildings will be properly insulated for both heating and cooling purposes and for sound.

  12. Good post Dan, I however have a different view. My first exposure to the park was through a “parts man” who worked at O’Keefe Cadillac. He lived in the park, eventually paid off his trailer, sold it and purchased a home for his familky in Westport. Later I had a friend at Staples who lived there and whose parents eventually did the same thing. Yes, I am sure there were many that fit your description but at least they had opportunity which sadly no longer exists. You see the park was privately owned, it was tax paying property and it provided opportunity for many proud people. Residents leased their plot which included sufficient for a yard and a garden, and there
    were plenty as these were down to earth folks. To me it’s unfortunate that these spaces with opportunity for people at the bottom rung of the economic ladder have been exchanged for living spaces without opportunity. More than that those 31 additional units will add twenty or so students to our school population which will increase our school budget and the increased taxes could cause some who own their own homes and can barely afford to live here to sell and leave. Trailer parks are a free enterprise form of affordable housing which pays it’s own way and thumbs its nose at public


    • Eric Buchroeder

      Anonymous, your last post is reasonable, considerate and thought provoking. Why be anonymous?

  13. I did not intend to be anonymous. I tried to correct a spelling error and somehow sent it !
    Michael Calise

  14. Dan, we grew up around the same time but I at Bedford El then Bedford Junior High and just like you when I entered Bedford Junior was introduced to Hales Court kids. Some good kids some a bit “tough” The area was best described by a student, Bill Simpson, in a paper he did in english class, and later published in the school literary magazine, titled “Hells Court”
    Thankfully the new Hales Court is very well done, everyone should drive by to appreciate the project, likewise the Sasco Creek (trailer park) will be of the same design and quality.

  15. I grew up in Westport, and I’m not sure how many places we lived at, but my parents always rented. Henhawk Lane, Ridge Drive, Long Lots Road, Stonybrook Road, North Avenue, Newtown Turnpike, and probably a couple of others I am not recalling right at the moment. Whenever someone asks me where I grew up, I say, “I grew up in Westport, but on the poor side of the tracks.” We did not live in the trailer park, but I did go to school with a couple of friends who lived there. Yeah, I never did see their trailers. I live in Wallingford now, since 1982, and we have a number of mobile home parks here. No one here looks down on them at all. I looked into a couple of them a few years ago, and they are really pretty nice. I just decided the cost of the mortgage plus the monthly maintenance fee equaled my rent, so why move? I understand that Westport is different. Different attitude. I do believe that towns should be able to have affordable housing for all, wealthy town or not. We eventually had to move to Norwalk before our senior year at Staples. There was no longer a place for us to live in Westport. Maybe my mom never looked into Hales Court. I don’t know. Our dad was long gone by that time. We were fortunate to be allowed to finish our senior year at Staples, me and my twin sister, even though we lived in Norwalk. We lived right across the street from Stew Leonard’s at that time, which was basically a couple of vending machines then. Thanks for the blog post, Dan.

  16. Anonymous, Donor to Dan's Site (Do you donate?)

    It is nice to hear some commentary and reminiscences on the trailer park as a place giving families a leg up, and a boost in getting established. My father succumbed to his many demons after leaving our family, and the trailer park was is last foothold in town as he slipped down the tubes. I have always had a negative vibe associated with that spot in town, based on my observation of his tenure there, and the folks that neighbored him. (And believe me, the state he left us in, did not leave us living the Life of Riley.) It is nice to hear some other perspective; puts things in balance.

  17. Nancy Powers Conklin

    I grew up in Westport in a humble home that my father and grandfather built. It was in Greens Farms and at the time it was built, Greens Farms was considered the “wrong side of the tracks.” I know it is hard to believe but, it was true! I attended Greens Farms School with many kids who lived at the trailer park. I was friends with a few and remained friends with them through Long Lots and Staples. Lost track of them after high school and every time I drive by there I wonder what ever happened to my friends who lived there. Hales Court was where my cousins lived and as a kid I spent a lot of time there playing with my cousins and other kids in the neighborhood. My cousins both became very successful business people who made a great life for themselves, despite their humble beginnings.

  18. Doc Skerlick lived in one of the trailers at 1655 PRE. Doc was a long-time conservationist and outdoorsman who loved to hunt and fish. He was known throughout the State by anglers and hunters. He would travel to Hartford to testify on conservation measures. In his spare time, he was the night guard at Sherwood island and in more of his spare time, he delighted in helping kids learn to fish. He was a guy who never made a lot of money, but gave of himself to his fellow citizens throughout his life.
    Brad Palmer also lived there. He volunteered on the Westport Police Boat and put in many of his so-called leisure hours serving the Town of Westport as a Special, both on the boat and in the wintertime on patrol. Summers, he camped on Cockenoe island, as did the late Off. Don Paver, who ran the police boat. Brad was always there when needed on and off the water. – Dick Alley

  19. Mr. Woog,
    I just moved from Dallas to Westport with my husband and our daughter, who just started Kindergarten. My husband’s company transferred him to New York and we had heard great things about Westport and the schools, so we settled down here. We decided to rent for a year as we had to bring a ton of money to closing and our cash supply was pretty much depleted, as the housing market in Texas has been awful. I am interested to know what the city is doing for those families who are being forced to move. Do they have young children? I’m not sure what the current standards are for “affordable housing” in Westport, as we searched exhaustively only to find that our first rental house, while I suppose might be considered affordable to most Westporters, ($3500/month) was in active foreclosure and the landlord was in bankruptcy proceedings. The roof leaked in five different places and there was a mouse infestation that was so bad, it makes me nauseous when I think about it. Our new rental is wonderful, as are the landlords, who were willing to reduce their asking price of $4,200 down to $3,700 a month for responsible tenants with great credit. I know Westport prides itself on its wonderful access to cultural programs and activities for children. We were at Levitt Pavilion most every Sunday over the summer enjoying the free concerts. I wish there were more options available for hard-working families like mine that are looking for an affordable housing solution. I really feel for these residents in the “trailer park” who most likely don’t have a down payment for a home or even a security deposit. Our first security deposit was $9,800, and we will probably never see a nickel returned to us from the bankrupt landlord. Our second deposit, three months later, was $11,000. It was more than a little difficult to come up with this money on short notice. I hate to see these people displaced to another town simply because their land is being turned into a new development. The condos that we were shown were almost as expensive as the houses available for rent. As far as I know, there are no true affordable housing options in Westport. I am certain that the responses to this will be negative, interpreted as another freeloader looking for a handout. And I love the “if you can’t afford it, move to Norwalk” response. But I’ve heard it all already, and I just laugh. I’ve had several parents at my daughter’s school be completely nasty and make comments like, “Ohhh…you’re renting? How tragic.” I hardly consider our situation tragic. We feel blessed to live in such a wonderful town. Not all are as lucky as we are. I would love to have the chance to donate to an affordable housing fund for those being displaced by this development. Do you know if one exists? I’m sure, like everywhere else, there are the few “bad apples” in the trailer park that do their share of trouble making. But even the wealthiest citizens of this town have been accused of far worse.

  20. Erin, That was a really thoughtful reply to this blog posting. I was surprised when reading most of the other replies to it but then again most people who read this blog didn’t post replies because it’s doubtful that they note differences from one neighborhood to another. Westport always strikes me as more concerned with genuinely important achievements of its residents than exactly what neighborhood within the town the residents reside in and who the residents make their home-ownership payments to. The difference between paying rent v. paying a mortgage which I believe many residents have used to purchase their Westport homes would, I think, preclude many from that sort of prejudice.

  21. Awesome post, great discussion. Kudos Dan, as always.

  22. I grew up in the “trailer park”… Thats what we called it too. I moved out about 6 years ago after being a resident for over 10 years. To be honest this post made me smile because our clothes were ‘slightly different’, all the kids did hang out together and people from outside the park never came over. I am happy to have grown up in that community and I cherish the memories.