Friday Flashback #14

Today is Veterans Day. Westporters — those who served our country, and those who simply wished to honor them — gathered in the Town Hall auditorium, for an 11 a.m. 11/11 ceremony.

Back in the day — the World Wars I and  II, Korean and Vietnam Wars day — Town Hall was located on the Post Road. It was a small, handsome building next to what was then the Fine Arts Theater.

town-hall-original-2

Today the old Town Hall is next door to Restoration Hardware — and it’s where you’ll find the Rothbard Ale + Larder restaurant.

There’s another reason it’s appropriate to run this photo today. Stevan Dohanos’ December 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover showed our town’s Honor Roll. It celebrated all our citizens serving in the armed forces that year — quite a while after the above photo was taken.

This was the 1st of Dohanos’ 136 covers for the magazine.

stevan-dohanos-veterans-cover

Today the Honor Roll is part of Veterans Green, opposite the current Town Hall on Myrtle Avenue.

Of course, there are many more names now than when Dohanos made Westport’s Town Hall famous, nationwide.

20 responses to “Friday Flashback #14

  1. Hi Dan – I love the nostalgic photos reminding me what Westport was when I was young. I wish I ‘d appreciated what made Westport special back then but I guess I as too busy growing up. Thanks for the memories. David

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  2. I love the old Town Hall & the new one when it was my school (though I haven’t been in that building since 1972).

    The only thing I think of when people describe Veteran’s Green is that before the Westport Historical Society took over that house & stone barn & when that was simply the property of the house — it had a tall chain link fence all around it.

    My almost feral childhood close friends & classmates convinced me to climb that fence — rather than spend the three minutes it would have taken to use the roads to Main Street — causing me to tear my cords on top of the fence.

    Hence it doesn’t symbolise Veteran’s for me but rather the importance of saying ‘No’ & sometimes swimming against the tide.

    • *This (saying ‘No’/swimming against the tide comment) was btw an anti-war metaphor. I’ve decided it was necessary to explain that here. As was the post in this thread about my grandfather & how he himself felt about being a ‘veteran’. A word that I doubt crossed his lips frequently except in recalling & explaining a horrific nightmare.

  3. Was there an Honor Roll, such as the one depicted, before the one that was constructed on Veterans’ Green? If so, what happened to it?

    • Michael Calise

      The Honor Roll depicted in the painting was in that location until sometime in the 60’s maybe even 70’s but then it was put in storage or disposed of never to be seen again. Around 1995 A fine Westport Veteran Edward Keenan took on the task of researching all of the available military records to reconstruct the current monument at Veteran’s Green. Ed was a Navy Veteran and ultimately wrote a book about his work. Today is a good day to tip our hats for his efforts.

      • Michael. I believe it was Ed Keehan that made the effort. Probably a typo. He devoted many hours to getting that done and deserves all the recognition he gets (now posthumously)

  4. Wonderfully appropriate imagery on this solemn and important day. As a sidenote, I’m curious about one thing and I’ll address it to the current owner of our former town hall: the very striking gable mounted flagstaff is still on the structure and appears to me to be in working order. Provided that last observation is accurate, is there any way you might consider returning the American flag to the top of this most handsome of buildings?

    • x Morley Boyd

      They have probably done everything possible to rob it of it’s former significance of having been a government building. That is just my impression of it having endured various *stylings* since no longer being the Town Hall: rather than people celebrating it’s small town original Town Hall building incarnation w/ flag in place. You are not a shop or restaurant *stylist* Mr. Boyd. That’s a compliment in this particular instance.

  5. Robert Mills IV

    My grandfather Robert R Mills III was a stone mason who worked for the union, and he was one of the masons who built this building.

  6. The following family veteran story is about inclusiveness:

    My grandfather — who was a book loving Frankfurt Germany pacifist — was drafted into WWI to fight in France where he participated in the amazing Christmas Truce & was seriously wounded there & survived & then after recovery sent to fight on the Eastern Front in Russia. In France he had held his best friend in his arms — who had the bottom half of his face shot off — as he died & when he himself was gravely wounded he played dead as French African soldiers walked around near him crushing the skulls of German wounded as they lay dying.

    When he returned from the war both of his parents had died. He won the Iron Cross for being wounded & was so disgusted by the war he threw it away.

    My mother came here as a displaced person from Berlin after the allied bombings in WWII & worked at GE to bring my grandparents over. By the time my grandfather died my family was living in Westport so my grandfather was buried in Willowbrook Cemetery as my grandmother moved in w/ us.

    Every year a veteran’s org. put an American flag on my grandfather’s grave — assuming he was an American soldier of WWI age men (as his stone only had his name and date of birth & death). We used to laugh warmly about it since the vets who did that were so inclusive by not viewing him as *the enemy* even though his name was Adolf Börger. Apparently they just assumed he was German American & had fought for the States.

  7. Anthony Palmer

    Did you know that local town companies donated materials and our time to build the monument on the town green, not one town dollar was spent on the entire project from Architects Larry Michaels, L.H Gault,Kowalsky Bros,Colonial Electric, Tim Romano Masonry, Tony & Pete Palmer Landscaping. .all free. Do we have town pride!

  8. I have a copy of this Post cover. It’s framed in a wood frame that has attached to it, the original wood marker with my father’s name on it. My father Daniel B. Driscoll , now 96, received the Congressional gold medal last year, along with other American Aces.

  9. Linda Dinsmore Tufts

    the basement level was the police station…have really enjoyed all the memories.

  10. To Michael Calise..the man responsible for the new honor role was Ed Keehan….he worked so hard for it that I feel he should at least get credit.

  11. Mike..all I meant was that the name was spelled wrong and Keehan and Keenan are both old Wedtport names…just wanted to make sure the kudos were going to right Vet

  12. My cousin Robert has told me the story before that his branch of the family had built the Town Hall, so I did a bit of digging. Stopping in at the library I read through the annual town report for the year ending 14 September 1908. In the report you can see the motions at the town meetings concerning the town hall. Two proposals were put forward. First was the acquisition of Toquet Hall property. It was also offered to be able to rent the property for a nominal fee yearly. It was the second option that was pursued, the acquisition of the “Kemper Property”, which was bought for $4,500. An allocation of $16,000 was made for the construction of the building itself, and the record gives a fairly detailed description of the building to be built. There is mention that an architect and design was select, but who the architect was is not noted. Nor is there any mention of the people who were to build the building. I then stopped by the Historical Society to see if they had additional records, but alas apparently they let Sven have a day off once and while, so I couldn’t access the archives. So I can neither confirm nor deny my cousin’s story.

    Which regards to the Honor Roll for World War II, there is an omission that I am aware of, LeRoy Mills jr served in World War I (and is on the Doughboy Statue), but he also served in World War II, and was killed in action in 1942.