Westport’s Oral Histories: A True Hidden Treasure

It’s easy to overlook the tab at the top of the Westport Historical Society website.

“Oral History,” it says. You probably figure it provides a bit of info about whatever oral histories the WHS has collected.

But clicking it reveals nearly a dozen videos — all on YouTube, all waiting to provide 10-minute-to-an-hour chunks of intriguing Westport history. (Another 300 oral histories are on audiotape only.)

On camera, Jo Fox Brosious remembers the (thankfully successful) 1960’s fight to save Cockenoe Island from becoming a nuclear power plant. Close-to-centenarians Lee Greenberg and Elwood Betts recall the Westport of even longer ago.

(Click here if Katie Chase’s interview with Elwood Betts does not load directly from YouTube.)

Former police chief Ron Malone and former fire chief Harry Audley share stories. Shirley Mellor sits in Max’s Art Supplies, describing the importance of the store to Westport’s artists’ colony.

Other oral histories explore our literary heritage, community garden, oystering and more.

Each year, the Historical Society runs a tour of Westport’s hidden gardens. Visitors to Wheeler House — the WHS’ historic home across from Town Hall — constantly revel in the surprises they find there.

These oral histories are one more treasure — hidden in plain sight, at the top of their site.

(Click here to go directly to the Westport Historical Society’s Oral History page. Videos are also available for puchase, at $10 each.)

(Click here if Allen Raymond’s interview of Ron Malone does not load directly from YouTube.)


9 responses to “Westport’s Oral Histories: A True Hidden Treasure

  1. Peter Gambaccini

    Liked your own literary tour, Dan, and seeing the house that was next to our own.

    • For those not privileged to grow up (as Peter and I did) on High Point Road, he is referring to Rod Serling’s house. Those were the days!

      • David Schaffer

        I have long wondered why Serling moved to Rochester instead of staying in Westport in the middle of “Twilight Zone’s” run. It seems being closer to NYC during that time (the show was filmed in CA but the transcontinental transit would have been easier) would have made sense, and Westport was at least in the early stages of its artist-performer haven era. Dan, any insight on that?

        • Rod Serling grew up in Binghamton, NY. I do not think he moved to Rochester from Westport — I always understood it was directly to LA, and that’s what his daughter Anne says in her book. The Serlings did keep property in Binghamton and Ithaca. He did die in Rochester in 1975, following complications of open-heart surgery. He was 50 years old.

  2. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Oral histories provide the best history. We’re lucky to have them.

  3. katherine Hooper

    i had no idea. thanks!

  4. Marc L. Bailin

    Didn’t the Leff’s move into the Serling’s place? We were across the street at 9 High Point. What a great street that was. Almost a mile long. And dead end street!

    • Yes, the Leffs moved in to #14 High Point. It was a fantastic street — dozens of kids, always something going on. I think it’s the longest dead-end street in Westport.

  5. Dan — great videos. Didn’t include Amelia Walden in the literary video who was a friend of my parents and spent time in our home. But she may not be considered a literary great but she published several books. http://www.goodreads.com/author/list/460631.Amelia_Elizabeth_Walden