Attention All Seaplane Pilots!

Don’t ask me how, but spectacularly alert reader Mary Gai spotted this ad, from the Norwalk Hour of October 27, 1948:

Westport Seaplane Base

That’s it. I had never heard of a seaplane base — or a Sea Wings Club — ever.

A fairly thorough search did not turn up any photos, either.

Pretty amazing for an organization that was around for at least 10 years.

Inquiring minds want to know more. If you have any information about seaplanes in Westport — or can find photos — click “Comments” below. Or email dwoog@optonline.net.

Our seaplane story — with the lowest rates “in the history of aviation” — deserves to be told.

18 responses to “Attention All Seaplane Pilots!

  1. Charlie Taylor

    Wow! What a find!Sent from Xfinity Mobile App

  2. Terence Sauer

    Here’s a link to pages in a Google book describing a flying boat to be made by “Ground Effect Craft Corp (GECC)” of Westport Conn. It’s much more recent, from Popular Science in 1992. (Reading further, it’s not a true plane; it flies just above the water on a ground effect air cushion).

    https://books.google.com/books?id=kwEAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA57&lpg=PA57&dq=westport+conn+sea+plane&source=bl&ots=dJ7aVTpuPy&sig=ZFJ3hUSSRCQCi7cnT-qnVnKl1WY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjplv-13oPMAhWC8j4KHe_9Dvo4ChDoAQgrMAM#v=onepage&q=westport%20conn%20sea%20plane&f=false

  3. Yes, Dan. There was a seaplane ramp
    and parking area near what later became what we used to call “the dump”, at the river’s mouth. I cannot remember ever seeing it in use by planes. Salt water is awfully corrosive to aircraft metals, and it may be that was why it failed.

  4. In my early days of fishing in Westport, that area behind the parking lot along the river was always known as the seaplane base among the old-timers. Several of my mentors told of watching the seaplanes taxi-ing and taking off alone the river. It also reminds me of the period not that many years ago when a large group of pilots of the small one-man planes adopted Westport for a base. I believe a Town Ordnance had to be enacted to shut the activity down. – Dick Alley

  5. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    My late mother once told me that the residents of Compo Parkway lobbied against it because depending on the wind the final approach would be directly over their houses. Also that it was considered by the Navy for use in anti – sub patrol during WWII.

  6. That was the year I was born and we lived down at Compo on Roosevelt Rd. Mom keeps up with your blog, so she might have some insight. Longshore was private back then… Phone #”s in the 50’s had the “CA” which stood for Capital. Our phone was CA7-7137 (now 227). Who has that # now?

  7. The picture in your sequel piece is much more recent. May have been
    Michael Waldman or John Gardella (just a guess) the only guys I knew that had active seaplanes in the 80’s

  8. Peter Prigge

    This is third hand information from long ago. I was told that the owner / operator of the Long Shore Seaplane Base was Al Chase who lived on Wilton Rd near Rices Lane. There was severe damage from one of the larger 1950’s hurricanes (about 1954 – 1956) and along with local opposition closed the operation. He then became a corporate pilot out of Westchester airport.

    The hanger ended up – again 3rd hand long ago – just over the Norwalk town line on the Post Road as the workshop for Hermenze Construction. Close to the radio station transmitting tower ( if that is still there).

    The phone was non dial and party lines early on. You picked up the phone and told the operator your number 2-1234. Party lines were lost first. Then came dial phones and Capital 7-1234 or now known as 227-1234. The phone company came around to the schools with demo phones explaining the new system so we could tell our parents how it worked.

  9. Sally Kellogg Deegan

    In the early 30’s my Dad “Major” (Sereno) Jacob owned a 48 foot Alden cutter, Aries, and he wanted it on a “swing” mooring. There was no room for one in the original Cedar Point Yacht Club. So he dumped a 1,000 lb. mushroom anchor off Kitt’s Island (which was in front of Longshore) near Seymour’s rock at the mouth of the Saugatuck River. The Aries was moored there for several years. Then one day a large float was anchored out there with a seaplane secured on its deck. That was the birth of Sea Wings. I don’t know who started it and/or owned it, but there was always a couple of young men who hung out there, including my uncle, “Lofty” Wakeman and Charlie Miller. I do clearly remember (we were returning from Newport) sailing in there on the Aries and my Dad calling to Charlie on the float that we had no power and we were going too fast to pick up the mooring line – could Charlie give him a hand. “Sure, Major,” and he dropped into a dinghy, throwing his crutch on the seaplane float — he only had one leg (but he had a pilot’s license). My Dad doused the sails and we slowed down enough for him to grab the mooring line from Charlie. Now that I think of it, maybe Charlie was the owner and Ruth Bedford was involved in the operation, too. At that time there was only 1 seaplane and it would be slid off the float and the pilot and guest would board it and take off.

  10. Told you Big Sal would have some recollection!! She’s gonna be 90 next month!

  11. Dick Leonard

    I flew P5Ms on ASW patrols out of Bermuda for 2 years just after the Korean War had ended. The P5M, a large multi engined seaplane with a crew of 11, had replaced the PBY and PBM of WW2 fame. The Martin company had plans for a jet seaplane, to be called the P6M, but it crashed on its second test flight. I happened to be at the Martin company in Baltimore for the first flight and congratulated the test pilot on his 5K bonus. A month later he crashed.

    I have no knowledge of the Longshore ramp, but Rod Hurtuk is correct about salt water and metal not marrying well. The Navy has pretty much given up on seaplanes.

  12. I have a question re the phone number/exchange advertised here. When my family moved to town in 1963, the common number–at least for my friends in the north side of town–was 227 (or CA7).

    As of 1948, was the common number or exchange in Westpor WE2 or 932? Thanks.

  13. Peter Barlow

    I took photographs of the 48 foot cutter AIRES, sail # 111, sailing off the Norwalk Islands on Sept. 8, 1956 and sold prints to Seward De Hart. I guess that’s the boat!

  14. In the late 40’s My mom dated a young man that used to bring a seaplane over to Compo Cove to see her. I always wondered where they came from. Now I know. Somewhere I have a picture but too many to wade through.

  15. Bonnie Bradley

    I grew up and lived the first 60 years of my life in Owenoke, in three different houses. As a very small child I remember going to the Longshore Club and pool with my parents. My father, J. Kenneth Bradley’s first wife was the daughter and only child of Fred Lewis, who built and lived at the Lomgshore estate. When Lewis moved to the West Coast (California or Oregon?) he sold several tracts of Owenoke vacant land and the Gray’s Creek bottomland rights to my father and grandfather, James P. Bradley, who also built a house and lived in Owenoke.

    I also remember the seaplanes and haul-out ramp at Longshore very well.
    I think the arrangement was just an example of the easy way things were often done then….. Someone just asked Fred Lewis if they could land there and leave their planes there for a few days and it was very casual, no club or organization or anything. Someone created a little paved ramp and there you were, in business. The photo with police boat and marina docks speaks for itself – it’s from the sixties or seventies. There was no police boat, were no docks in the 40s or 50s. The only story I know is about Mary Piper (who lived in one of the houses on the Longshore property) who somehow unfortunately lost two fingers and half her hand when she came in contact with a spinning prop while on the ramp. It was tragic but as little kids we were fascinated.

    Re phone #s: When they first came to Westport, replacing picking up the phone and giving the number you wanted to the operator, my father was the judge of the Wspt court (there were town courts in CT then) and we were assigned 3141, supposedly in line with similar town official numbers. Later this became CA-3141, then 227-3141.

    Finally, a shout out to cousin Sally Kellogg Deegan! My father loved you so much. I remember how fondly he spoke of you to me – he truly held you dear. Unfortunately, as happens in many families, one person, my grandmother Bradley (and probably my mother too) severely discouraged any contact with my father’s Westport relatives for reasons forever unknown to me and which I greatly regret. I hope you are well and happy.

  16. Speaking of Police Boats, I remember Fred Kellogg very well as Westport’s Marine Patrol. As well as Fred and Marion Kellogg who lived between the bridges at Old Mill. Wonderful people. Fred (the older) used to take his Boston Whaler out to fish almost every day.

  17. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    I am quite late in responding to this one. I have been searching for some pictures that we once had. Like Bonnie Bradley, my family lived in Owenoke for a long time, but not as long as hers. Once a Sikorsky helicopter landed on the sound side of Owenoke, close to Mrs. Hein’s house. I’d love it if Bonnie happened to respond again. As for telephone numbers. My memory is the same but no special reason for our numbers. We were simply 5604, then 2-5604, then CA7-5604 (Capitol) and finally just 227-5604. Oh yes, don’t forget the addition of area code 203!

  18. Bonnie Bradley

    Mary Cookman – I’m really sorry that I don’t remember meeting you ever! I knew Ramona Cookman, daughter of Ella Otis, and her daughter Carol very well, of course. They lived in next door to us in Ella’s house which had been moved down the street from the space between the Kenny and Heyn houses in the mid 40s. The house is probably now numbered about 33 or 35 Owenoke, with a gambrel roof (if it hasn’t been built over). When I was married, Carol Cookman was for many years our wonderful, amazing babysitter/nanny, beloved of my three children and absolutely terrific with them. The first time Carol babysat for us she was 13 yrs. old & had a full cast on her broken leg! And my daughter was only about 3 months old! Nothing stopped Carol then or ever. As an adult Carol moved to (Brenham?), Texas & we lost touch… Sad. Hope she is fine and happy.