Compo Marina: Then And Now

In the wake of my recent “06880” post about the upcoming Compo Beach marina dredging project — specifically, who should pay for it — plenty of folks weighed in (on both sides of the issue).

The 50-plus comments included several from long-time and once-upon-a-time slip owners. Some recalled an era before permanent docks, when you did not have to wait several years for a mooring permit.

Now, alert reader Matt Murray sends along this fascinating aerial photo:


Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The shot — taken by R.P. Lentini in 1965 – shows a much less crowded basin, for sure. And yes, owners had to toot horns to be ferried from their boat to the dock.

But there are some other interesting items too, which you can see clearly if you hover over the photo or click on to enlarge.

Chubby Lane’s concession stand sits where the volleyball courts are today.

To the south of Chubby’s and the pavilion are the old (and very scary) wooden bathhouses.

But what are those two rectangular things in the bottom of the photo, near the west end of the circular drive?

And — most importantly — why was there no one at the beach?

It’s mid-summer; the trees are full. But there are just a couple of cars, and no one on the sand.

It’s hard to tell from the photo. Perhaps it was taken just after a thunderstorm.

Or maybe no one went to Compo in the summer of ’65?

A much more recent shot of the Compo Beach Ned Dimes Marina.

A much more recent shot of the Compo Beach Ned Dimes Marina.

30 responses to “Compo Marina: Then And Now

  1. Carl Volckmann

    Bocce courts?

  2. I think those were horseshoe pits. I was only 8 in ’65… So stretching some old brain cells. Chubby’s I remember, though. And the bath houses, summer camp, learning to sail, climbing on the Canons…

  3. Alexander See

    “The rectangular things” may have been parking spaces for aquacat, Howie cat, and sunfish trailers”.

  4. Peter Barlow

    Great photo! I see my boat in there. Those were the days! The lack of people in the pictures suggests early morning, the shadows indicate sun coming from the beach.

  5. Agree with Carl. Bocce courts…a vestige of Westport’s Italian heritage.

    Hi Sandy! I hear you and Nancy re-established contact.

  6. Michael Calise

    I recall two bocce courts at compo

  7. Our family was all over Compo in the mid-sixties, but mostly at the end of the “No Lifeguards” section, near the rock jetty (lower middle of the pic), so we could launch our kayak off the beach. We were probably there three or four days a week, sunburns included. I believe that our friend’s/neighbor’s 32′ Chris Craft plywood cruiser is visible in the middle bottom of the marina, next to the sailboat (the Quigley’s “Connie Q.” Fiberglass was still a new construction material for bigger power boats back then). Every boat had a horn or whistle to summon the marina’s launch, often manned by a Staples kid on summer break. If memory serves, the two rectangular sand pits were for horseshoes. Along with people, there aren’t any smaller trailer boats in the middle of the field, around the sand pits, as there normally would have been. Although maybe they came later(?). Another curiosity: What’s the floating platform in the lower right of the marina? Don’t remember that. The picture was possibly taken early morning or off season (late). What shadows there are look like the (hazy) sun is off to the East. I have distinct memories of walking barefoot through that big field trying to avoid stepping on the grass stick-tights, so we could buy ice cream sandwiches at the concession for a quarter or two. Great pic. Thanks!

  8. Peter Barlow

    The rectangular shapes are Bocce courts. You mentioned boat owners having to toot horns for the launch to come get them. I had a cornet aboard and the launch boys called out tunes!

  9. Nancy Hunter

    If it was late spring, I’d suggest that no one skipped school in ’65!

  10. Jack Whittle

    I’m guessing early or late season, would explain the lack of lifeguard chairs and lack of human activity. By the way, I don’t think I’m all that old, so I don’t consider my memories of the boat basin before the concrete floating docks to be all that ancient – working the dock as a boat launch operator, responding to air horn toots from those needing a pick-up, was viewed as a pretty cool summer job when I was in Staples (just ask Tony Eason). Certainly by the 70’s, the moorings were lined up in 4 or 5 rows.

  11. Bill Boyd (Staples '66)

    Yeah… early or late season… about 10.30- 11 a.m. according to shadows…. a week day…

  12. Edna Alvarez

    EDNA R.S. ALVAREZ (Staples ’57) – wondering about the ‘scary’ editorial comment re the wooden bathhouses. They were great! Spent entire high school summers playing bridge on the beach … and using the very non-scary wooden bathhouses.

  13. Bonnie Bradley

    Don’t think the old wooden bath houses were scary either. Received my first kiss there… sweet, chaste and innocent.

  14. My little-kid memories of the bathhouses are that they were dark and dank. They sure scared the heck out of me whenever I was in them!

    • Edna Alvarez

      Wonder what decade. Maybe they changed. When I was using them, there were always lots of people going in and out, laughter, families, sunshine coming through. That was the ’50s. Perhaps, changed … a lot!

  15. Bocce courts for sure. Remember them, that marina setup and Chubby’s burgers like it was yesterday. Basically spent a huge portion of my life in that area.

  16. Sharon Paulsen

    My Dad kept his sailboat there in the 1970’s (mid to late), and we had to toot for pickup then as well.
    Not sure when that changed though.

    I also remember “beach school” – good times!

    • Nancy Hunter

      I remember beach school, too… too shy, though, to last the week (and sun!)
      A sailboat would have been terrific…

  17. Caryl Beatus


  18. A fascinating photo indeed. One thing that caught my eye was the open area without trees toward the top left of the photo. Was there some kind of farm there? Is that the top of Minuteman Hill?

  19. My dad, Jerry Davidoff, moored his 16-foot Bull’s Eye 16-foot sloop in the Compo Yacht Basin. It’s probably in that photo. I see several boats that look like in in our corner of the basis.

    Of course, I remember tooting the metal fog horn for the launches.

    On the fright scale, I disagree with Dan Woog. The Compo bathhouse was more of a maze. It was a puzzle rather than a house of fears. In the middle was the safety of my grandmother’s summer changing room. It was frightening only because I hated the perpetually sandy concrete floor. But having raised two children on the Atlantic Ocean in Belle Harbor on Queens’ Rockaway Peninsula, Bunnee Zuckerman Taft was not about to give up the beach life when she moved to Westport during the early 1950s. She went to Compo and Burying Hill beaches as often as she could from her houses on Abbots Lane, then Woodcock Lane, and finally Hills Lane where her condo lay to her annoyance on the Norwalk side of the Norwalk-Westport line.

    I reserved my fright in those days for heeling over more than about 10 degrees on the Bull’s Eye. This was a baseless fear as the boat was based on a classic design by Nathaniel Herreshoff, who developed the wooden gaff-rigged 12-1/2 “Larchmont Class” sloops for racing in Larchmont, N.Y., and Marblehead, Mass. The Herreshoff family built the wooden “12-12s” at their boatyard on Narragansett Bay in Bristol, Rhode Island. Our boat, then as now, was the fiberglass Bull’s Eye fabricated 38 miles to the east by the Cape Cod Shipbuilding Co. in Wareham, Mass., at the head of Buzzard’s Bay. Bull’s Eye boats have a full-length 750-pound keel with a draft of 2’5″. This is, of course, the reason my dad, a most prudent sailor, purchased the boat for his family. Try as I could during my youngest years, I could not believe the Bull’s Eye was any safer than the centerboard boats other families sailed, or swamped, or capsized every so often. Dad’s propensity for sailing serenely through summer squalls (he had confidence because of the keel, of course) completely unnerved me to the point of tears. You can see a drawing and stats for the Bull’s Eye on Cape Cod Shipbuilding’s website at:
    … and see that it is indeed a most stout little boat. Today, I’d sail a Bull’s Eye just about anywhere from Manhattan to Maine if I had a compass, charts, healthy sails and good equipment. Especially if I had a more reliable outboard engine than the one Dad had. It really was a no-good engine.

    As for squalls, I lived for 26 years in Indianapolis and Chicago. I’ve seen and sailed through my share of Midwestern thunderstorms, the ones with “puke green” tall boiling clouds and also funnel clouds and tornadoes. Squalls in the Northeast no longer unnerve me. I kind of laugh at them and take them in stride. I still prefer keel sailboats to centerboard one-designs, however.

  20. Ugh. Too many typos,. Sheesh. Let’s make tjhird and final sentence in the first graf of my post as, “I see several boats that look like it in in our corner of the basin.” (Every good writer needs a good editor.)

  21. Now my correction has typos, Double-Sheesh. I give up. The old newsroom motto, “If you can’t get it first, get it right,” applies to spelling, too.

    • I went to school with this guy… I think he typed better then 😉
      Just kiddin’ Doug… been like 100 years.

  22. Hanne Jeppesen

    This photo is from 1965, I came to Westport in 1967 (winter) and lived there until the fall of 1968 (Dan wrote a nice story about my time as an au pair in Westport). As far as I remember, and what my journal from that time tells me, we were at beach almost morning, noon and night, whenever we had time off, or as au pair, with the child and/or children we took care of. We had parties at Compo, we were often there, late summer when the weather was not that great, (have pictures of a group of us in drizzly rain) and few people were present, my girl-friends and I were there with a few friends, no life guards in late summer. This picture must have been taken on an unusual day, I don’t think there should be much difference between the summer of 65 and 67.