“Westport’s Got It All”

Back in 1985, the Marketing Corporation of America gave Westport a gift for the town’s 150th anniversary: a 30-minute video.

MCA is no longer around. Westport is no longer the “marketing capital of America.”

But the video — grandiosely titled “Westport’s Got It All” — has just been posted on Vimeo. It’s gone viral — at least, among Westporters and those who used to live here.

After nearly 30 years, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

The video is filled with celebrities who lived here. Strangely — or, perhaps, understatedly and on purpose — none are named. Jim McKay reads a newspaper by the river. Harry Reasoner sits near a tennis court. Joanne Woodward has a cameo.

ABC's "Wide World of Sports" anchor Jim McKay sits on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” anchor Jim McKay on the banks of the Saugatuck River, in the town he called home.

Okay, so Rodney Dangerfield cracks, “The town of Westport has my respect.” But that’s the closest anyone comes to identifying him or herself.

The video opens with a cheesy, “Westport’s Got It All” song (including the line “Kids hanging out at the Dairy Queen…”). It’s sung by Westporter Dara Sedaka — Neil’s daughter.

But the pace quickens. There are shots of Main Street, the Playhouse, Staples, Compo, the downtown art show, Longshore, Cockenoe, the Levitt and the Memorial Day parade (ending at Jesup Green).

Most look pretty much the same today. But there are plenty of other places and things that are long gone: Remarkable Book Shop. The White Barn Theater. Mohonk House. Hay Day (in its original location, opposite Carvel). MCA.

And, of course, restaurants: Manero’s, Chez Pierre, Ships, Peppermill, Three Bears, Allen’s Clam House, Connolly’s … and on and on.

I found the voiceovers fascinating. Mason Adams, Alan Parsell, Herb Baldwin, Claire Gold, Julie Belaga, Dick Leonard, Cary Pierce — I recognized the voices of so many former politicians, educators, students and others.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Crusty Yankee Alan Parsell was 83 years old when he was interviewed for the 150th-anniversary video.

Here are some of the things they said:

  • “Nothing goes on here that people aren’t concerned about. For every issue, there are at least 10 sides.”
  • “I’m worried the town is losing its mix of a variety of people.”
  • “Westporters have extraordinary aspirations for their children. And they’re willing to pay for it.”
  • “I work 2 jobs, 90 hours a week, to keep my head above water here.”
  • “Westport has the sophistication of New York, the exuberance of a California town, the quaintness of New England — and a sense of humor.”
  • “We do have latchkey children, as more and more parents go off to work.”
George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

George Weigle conducts the Staples Orphenians. They sound great in the video.

  • “It’s a very loving community, in many ways.”
  • “We draw people into town, to go to the theater and movies.”
  • “The Post Road is a disaster. But every town has its Post Road. This one looks better than many.”
  • “Commercialization has really changed this town. It’s been good and bad.”
  • “It’s a generous, gregarious, outgoing town.You can dress any way you like. You can be anyone you want to be. That’s the uniqueness of the community.”

That was Westport, 1985. Thanks to MCA, we’ve got a video record — promotional, but still pretty honest — of who we were.

What’s happened in the past 28 years? Are we better, worse, just different — or the same — as we were back in the days when big cars roamed Main Street, the Church Lane YMCA was still new, and people came from out of town for the movies?

Click on the video below (then wait 10 seconds to begin). Then click “Comments.”

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to Vimeo.)

16 responses to ““Westport’s Got It All”

  1. Wow – a video time capsule. I emailed to my kids so they can see Westport from “before they were born”. I was moved by two things: 1) Westport’s natural beauty and 2) the vibrancy of her population.

    Independent stores have now been replaced with chain stores. Smaller homes have now become larger homes. New larger schools have been built to accommodate the influx of young families.

    While Westport has kept up with the times (for good and for bad) the two reflections above have not changed. 1) Westport’s natural beauty and 2) the vibrancy of her population.

    We are truly fortunate to live in Westport, and to raise our families in this wonderful community.

    Avi Kaner

  2. Eric William Buchroeder

    Hi Dan,
    This was fantastic! And the timing!!! I was in Westport back then (1985) all the time. I had moved to the Midwest in ’78 but was always coming home because my mother was still alive and in Westport (it’s ironic that when she retired in ’88 and moved to Florida her subsequent decline was rapid).
    I remember thinking at the time (1985) that the “Old Westport” was a thing of the past. It wasn’t. Seeing this retrospective makes me want even MORE to move back home. I have a favorite classmate who’s a very good (I think she’s the BEST) realtor in Westport and she knows that as soon as I’ve got the money she’s going to sell me a house. Thanks for pulling this out of thin air.

  3. Charles Halper

    Dan:

    Was this the film that Doris and Frank Jacobi made?—Roe Halper

  4. Richard Lawrence Stein

    For those of us who were here for years before and years after this video… It is a great nostalgic look at our very lovely town… What fun to see what it was like in mid 85. To funny to good

  5. Richard Lawrence Stein

    PS…. Every realtor… Should have this video on there IPAD or Tablet… To sell the Westport Dream… MCA were marketing geniuses

  6. I saw this a few days ago and sent the link to Kim Weigle who then shared it with George and Eleanor, and they really liked it. I was puzzled why no one was identified in the film. Thanks for posting it here.

  7. Dan:
    I moved to Westport in 1969. It was great to see all of the classic stores, restaurants, etc. Miss them all.
    Thanks for the posting!

  8. Kim Crowther Manning

    Best 30 minutes of my week!

  9. Dan, wonderful post! Thank you. I’m here in Maine on another beautiful Maine day watching this video and wondering why I’m here and not there. 🙂

  10. That was great Dan. But seeing myself marching about 30 lbs. ago was a bit scary

  11. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    I watched the whole video. It was great. My family left town before 1985 but it was still fun to watch.

  12. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Happily, I haven’t been back since 1976. Then again, I live far away in an exact town, near a road named “Westport”.

  13. Dan, I recall clearly seeing that video when it came out. I cannot recall the venue, but I remember feeling quite proud that my wife and I had chosen to move to the town that was portrayed. I remember people saying back in the 70s and 80s how “Westport has changed, it not the same”. Yet, each of the 11 items you culled from the video are still true today. Maybe Westport has changed, but it is still a wonderful town to call home.

  14. No

    Sent from my iPhone

  15. carissa keepin

    Loved this! I think I saw Richard Wall in one scene. Beautiful memories. Thanks Dan!!