Fred Cantor’s Timeless Westport

As an alert “06880” reader, Fred Cantor has seen comments on every side of every debate about the changing nature of Westport.

As someone who came to Westport in 1963, Fred has seen many of those changes himself.

An accomplished attorney, film and play producer and writer, Fred has spent years taking photos around town. Recently, he asked Staples grad Casey Denton to help create a video of those shots.

Fred’s goal was simple. He wanted to document his belief that the essence of Westport’s beauty and small-town New England character — which his family discovered upon moving here over 5 decades ago — remains alive and well.

The video opens with long-ago Westport scenes. There are photos of mom-and-pop stores, the kind that filled Main Street back in the day. Obviously, that’s changed.

But most of the photos are from the recent past — many taken within the past year. And, Fred notes, they are “timeless Westport scenes.” Churches, barns, the Saugatuck bridge, the Minuteman and Doughboy statues, the Mill Pond and cannons — we are surrounded by wonderful history and spectacular beauty.

Fred knows that family businesses are very much with us. From long-time establishments (Oscar’s, Mario’s) to relative newcomers (Elvira’s, Saugatuck Sweets), there are more here than we realize.

Finally, Fred wanted to show that institutions like the Library, Westport Country Playhouse and Levitt Pavilion have been significantly upgraded over the years. The entire community benefits, Fred says, from “the strong commitment to the arts that existed when my parents brought us here over 50 years ago.”

Fred knows this is the perspective of just one near-native. But, he says — as health problems limit how far he can go from home — he is glad he can notice and appreciate more than ever what is right around all of us.

 

40 responses to “Fred Cantor’s Timeless Westport

  1. Not to get too sentimental — but that was gorgeous, Fred and brought tears to my eyes. You showed some scenes that were my first life memories on earth – I loved the Bridge Street bridge fall shot – I must have seen that light hundreds of times crossing it on my bike or in the car. We moved to Westport in 1960 and I was a tot. Please make another one showing some more Saugatuck scenes and Compo. Westport is a deep heart connection for some of us that is always there.

  2. Very nicely done!

  3. William Adler

    Fred and Casey – thanks so much for creating this … it brought tears to my eyes too. I find myself looking in the older pictures for ghosts of my youth, or for glimpses of my parents, both gone two years ago this month. Westport has a timeless beauty and you’ve captured and conveyed it. I think your other goal is important too – showing that Westport is wonderful today, both in continuity (the Minuteman, Compo Beach, Long Shore, Mario’s, Oscar’s) and also with new features and sensibilities. I am grateful for change every time I attend a Westport Playhouse LGBTA reception and realize, “in my parents’ day this was unthinkable.” Not every house knockdown is a tragedy. And not every change of stores or restaurants is sad – some changes have come because people living here want new resources and new ways. I am thrilled that today we have a vibrant restaurant scene and so much more – Westport is blessed both with timeless continuity and healthy change.

  4. Fred, you are yourself a timeless, gem of Westport. Thank-You for all your thoughts and uplifting spirit of generosity.

  5. Eric William Buchroeder 'SHS '70

    Dan and Fred,
    I guess this is what’s meant by “convergence.” On the day that our friend Chou Chou Merrill will be laid to rest in Boston!! The timing could not be better (or more Providential) and I can see and feel her pride in our hometown in your artistry. I hope I’m being taken seriously but this would be great to show either at her upcoming memorial service in Westport or at the SHS Class of ’70 reunion this summer. I guess you really can take the child out of Westport but you can’t take Westport out of the child.

  6. Thanks for everyone’s comments. And, yes, I too was thinking that Chou Chou would especially have enjoyed this.

  7. Marc Sholes Staples class of 80'

    Fred and Casey, what can I say except thank you for a walk down memory lane, a lane that I carry with me at all times. That was really beautiful. Each image conjurers memories and emotions for me.

  8. Dale Eyerly Colson

    This is so lovely that it actually made me cry. My family moved to Westport in 1954 and my husband and I finally sold the house in which my sister and I grew up in July of 2013 and moved to North Carolina. At least once every day, I find myself thinking about Westport and missing my hometown. These beautiful images of that town take me back there with such clarity. Thank you for this precious gift, Fred.

  9. I couldn’t agree more with Fred – I truly believe the essence of Westport’s beauty and small-town New England character remains alive and well. I find myself constantly defending this perspective with naysayers and disenfranchised former residents – who nevertheless make valid points here and there. Somewhere along the way I pivoted from trying to change their minds to instead simply being a big fan of my hometown, where I now have the good fortune and privilege to live and raise my own family.

  10. nlongman@optonline.net

    Hey, Dan,

    Can we see Fred Cantor’s video?

    Thanks, Norbie Longman

  11. Beautiful.
    Thanks,
    Proud to live here!

  12. Lucinda Mirk Setnicka

    This is wonderful, and I agree with Eric, beautifully timed for our memories of Chou Chou. Thank you for putting it together. Westport was a great place to grow up and I look forward to seeing the “new” during our Class of ’70 reunion next summer…I ended up having a 25-yr career with Patagonia, and when they moved into the Westport Bank & Trust Co., I was able to entertain the employees with my memories of going into the bank with my parents as a young child and staring up at those beautiful murals; I’m glad they’re still in place. Thank you for posting this, Dan – I will forward to my brother and sisters.

  13. Barbara Sherburne '67

    Beautifully done! Too short!!! I have shared it on Facebook. Although I could not name every single place that was photographed, I recognized most of them immediately. Loved the music as well.

  14. This is great. Does anyone remember the name of the coffee shop that was located downtown next to the old library?

  15. Gorgeous. Thank you, Fred! I’ll be sure to show this to my Mom and Tim at Christmas.

  16. FAB…Thank Thee !! 🙂

  17. Real nice, Fred. While you have been in town a decade more than I, we share the same fondness for the town, both then and now, and your video expresses its beauty most vividly.

  18. Lovely! Thanks Fred.

  19. Elizabeth Thibault

    I 100% echo the sentiments lauding this montage for sharing both the history and spirit of Westport. I grew up in VT and while I might consider that “home,” I love this town and all that it offers us. Small details these capture also demonstrate the quiet respect and consideration I see here daily, (parking infractions excluded!,) that allow us to enjoy this area so much, such as the benches at Compo or the local shops who go out of their way to provide outstanding service.
    Thank you, both Dan and Fred, for providing this beautiful gift to your readers.

  20. Another fabulous post, Dan. Made my heart sing. Thanks Fred & Casey. Gorgeous photos.

  21. Thank you Mr. Cantor. Wonferful

  22. karen Howes Westport youth comm.

    Wonderful job at producing the video..my husband and I grew up here, and really enjoyed seeing our town’s lovley sites past and present ! Thank you 🙂

  23. Fred:
    You are so right. Chou Chou would have adored this piece. As did I. Superb work. Keep it up!

  24. loved it Fred
    Thank you!

  25. Margaret Hart Rynshall

    You did good, Fred. Thank you, and Dan, for keeping so many memories alive.

  26. Nicely done, Fred. Thanks.

  27. wow. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you to Fred, Casey and Dan for putting this together. Our family moved to Westport in 1956 and some of you know my father Murray and his dad Henry owned Achorn’s Pharmacy for many years. Westport will always hold a special place in my heart. And when I close my eyes and click my heels three times and say “there’s no place like home”, Westport is where I’ll be.

  28. Well done! And the track from The Cider House Rules brought back memories of Rippe’s farm in the autumn. As one of ten kids we did not go out to dinner often, when we did it was to West Lake! I had forgotten that. Great memories of a magical childhood in a great town.

    • Mike, thanks. And I wasn’t sure if you noticed but the winter picture of the “CIDER MILL” from back in the day was the Rippe’s farm stand on the Post Road. You can sort of see the Rippe sign in the front of the building.

  29. Becki Miles Whittington

    What a beautiful video. Like many of the other comments, it brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my youth. Loved the photo of the “old” Staples! Thanks so much for doing this!

  30. Carol Buffinton

    I simply love this video. Thank you.

  31. Great Job! A fine reference to what many of us call hometown.Thanks.

  32. When I recover from such an unexpected infusion of home heart shots, I’d love to know how I could get copies some of the pics. In the meantime, thank you, Fred.
    Jeremy Jones

  33. Fred, this is fabulous. I’m a second generation Westporter – my dad was born here in 1919. I remember people back in the ’60s complaining about the invasion of “New Yorkers” and all those “big houses” they were building (um, the same ranch houses that are now tear downs). I shared this post on facebook so everyone could see your video and Dan’s comments – thank you Dan – and I would like to share with you what I wrote on my post: “The most interesting thing I read in the post is that the majority of the photos are recent. Ever since I’ve returned, I hear people who were born here bemoan the changes to the town over time, but there are a lot of folks who would be damn happy to end up in a place near this beautiful. I’m a city girl at heart, so will never love the suburbs as much as most, but I can’t deny Westport remains a wonderful, safe, and caring community for those who are so lucky to be here. “

  34. Thanks for the continuing stream of positive feedback. Vici, the vast majority of the photos are indeed recent–and many of those I took in the past year or so (to capture the changing seasons). Specifically, out of the 90 photos, roughly 70 are recent. The last vintage photo in the video is the view of Staples in the 1970s taken from the far side of the soccer field. The starting point for the recent photos is the view of a Staples state tourney soccer game taken from the hill in the fall of 2013.

    Jeremy, if you want some for your private use–as a screensaver or for your own photo album, for example–I’m happy to email you some pics. I don’t look to do anything with these commercially; this is just a hobby. You can email me at canfre@yahoo.com and I’ll email you back some photos.

  35. Fred, wonderful job. Thank you for spending the time to create this.

  36. Rachel Blinken Herz

    What a wonderful photo montage. We moved to Westport in 1972 from NYC. I felt right at home from my first day at Bedford Junior High through my graduation from Staples in 1977. Although I live on the other side of the world now, I relish the visits I make to my mother in Westport. I always feel that I have come home again. Thank you for sharing these memories.
    Rachel Blinken Herz

  37. My folks moved here in 1963 also. Thanks for the great shots of my youth.