Friday Flashback #9

Wednesday’s fatal accident between I-95 exits 18 and 17 closed the southbound highway for nearly 12 hours.

From 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. Thursday, vehicles crawled through Westport. It took almost an hour to get from the Sherwood Island Connector, down the Post Road and out Riverside Avenue.

Fortunately, it was nighttime. But that meant there were tons of trucks. Traffic was stop-and-go — mostly stop — all night long.

That was the scene nearly every day in the 1950s, until I-95 — then called the Connecticut Turnpike — opened. The Post Road was the only way for trucks to get from New York to Boston.

Newcomers have no idea how bad the traffic was. Oldtimers barely remember.

This week’s Friday Flashback shows a typical scene. It doesn’t look too bad — but it was.


Today the Fairfield Furniture Store is National Hall, with its 1st-floor Vespa restaurant. The Food Mart and Calise’s Wine & Liquors are gone. So — truly unfortunately — is Ye Olde Bridge Grille, one of Westport’s best dive bars.

The intersection of the Post Road, Wilton Road and Riverside Avenue is still bad. But can you imagine what it would be like without I-95, the highway we love to hate?

8 responses to “Friday Flashback #9

  1. Wilhelmina de Haas

    I95 is a very scary road. I live on Underhill Parkway just a few hundred feet from it. Where the poor truck driver’s cab tumbled down the embankment is right where I usually walk my dog. Thank God I wasn’t walking her that eve at that time, nor any of my many neighbors who walk along there. I saw pretty much the whole thing unfold – after the second explosion I ran outside with all my neighbors. Thank God everyone is safe – RIP to the innocent victim of this horrible accident. I’ll never walk along that embankment again.

  2. I remember the trucks and traffic on the Post Road in the early 50’s ,I frequently rode my bike along with it. No matter how bad it was, it was never as bad as when the I-95 gets tied up now, or even the morning congestion traveling west on Post Road East. Where are all those cars going?? Also, the side roads were always ok…no bumper to bumper on Greens Farms Road and Bridge St. Aside from the Post Road, the heaviest traffic flows were when the evening trains came in and on Saturday home football game days!

  3. Love the picture of the sign of my Grandfather’s Liquor store. I remember the traffic and I also remember my father telling me how every morning he and my grandfather would drive down on the post road to the Fulton Fish Market to get fresh fish for the fish market that my Grandfather owned across the street. Of course that was in the 30’s and 40’s before he left for WW2. Nice memories…

  4. Kenny Montgomery had a first-half-of-the-20th-century “convenience store” on the northwest corner of South Compo and Bridge Street which was swallowed up and bridged-over by the construction of 95. The store featured cigarettes, candy, soda, some fresh (?) produce, etc. Kenny was a pleasant, sort of taciturn man, heavy even then and very nice to kids. . But the store was the dirtiest, most shabby and falling apart place you can imagine. I don’t think the wood floor was ever swept and the counter was scummy and sticky. To call the produce limp would have been a compliment. I can’t help but shudder when I think of it, especially in light of today’s health standards – how we all survived I’ll never know. (But then I had never even heard of the words “allergy” or “contamination” in those days either.) That didn’t stop any locals, including my family, from stopping by frequently on the way home or to and from the Beach.

    Kenny’s brother and mother had the store at Old Mill beach. It wasn’t much better. When Kenny was displaced by 95 he took over the Old Mill store – I never saw his mother or brother again. Sometime in about the 1960s,
    some health dept. or other town department must have gotten Kenny’s attention and the beach store reached a new bar of cleanliness.

    Kenny was a generous man and loved Westport. I believe that when he died he left a large amount of money to a local non-profit – the YMCA, I think.

  5. Ah, the Bridge Grille… so wonderfully grungy! Wasn’t it destroyed in a fire?

  6. The principle difference between the somewhat quaint image above and the astonishing scene that unfolded in Westport the other night after the tragic accident on I95 is the sheer size of today’s over the road trucks. At 11:00 pm in downtown Westport one could observe FedEx trucks (which had previously attempted to cross the Saugatuck Swing Bridge via Greens Farms Road) pulling double trailers, car carriers, massive bulk haulers that resembled rolling refineries – the biggest of the biggest. As this near seamless column of pantechnicons poured into my neighborhood, the sound of that much mass moving in tandem induced a kind of low grade panic. Just another reminder that we are a mouse sleeping next to an elephant.