Friday Flashback #70

Last week’s “06880” story about downtown holiday decorations drew plenty of comments. Many readers recalled with fondness the ghosts of Christmases past. Main Street, they remembered, was alive with lights and garlands. It was a bright, magical winter wonderland.

That may have been true. But not in 1975.

On Christmas Day that year, Fred Cantor drove through town. He captured several scenes. The other day — sparked by the nostalgic debate — he unearthed those photos.

Snow had fallen earlier. The plowed, shoveled and congealed streets and sidewalks have that bleak midwinter look.

There’s nary a star, ornament or whimsical Santa on any pole. You don’t see any twinkling lights either.

The only wreaths are on Sport Mart (far left).

But the view of the Mobil station (now Vineyard Vines) brings back fond memories. Every year — a few days before Christmas — owners Gene and Mary Hallowell lowered the hydraulic lifts. They covered them with table cloths. Then they laid out a feast.

The party was supposed to be for loyal customers. But anyone could wander by for food and (of course) drink.

And everyone did.

Further down Main Street, Fred found this:

The Remarkable Book Shop hummed with activity at holiday time. It was the perfect place for gifts — there were toys, puzzles and trinkets, plus a joyfully eclectic collection of books, maps and whatnot — as well as a great spot for curling up in an easy chair to read, relax or just people-watch.

But the Remarkable Book Shop did not go all out with holiday decorations either. In fact, as Fred’s photo shows, in 1975 there were none.

One place did get into the holiday spirit.

And with good reason: The Corner Spirit Shop — on Wilton Road, at the Post Road West intersection — was one of the most visible spots in town.

Plus — then, as now — a liquor store hops at holiday time.

So of course they threw a couple of wreaths on their windows.

That’s what Westport looked like, 42 years ago this holiday season.

The Sport Mart is gone. Remarkable, too. And — as of a few weeks ago — the building that housed the Corner Spirit Shop is only a fond memory.

Just like some of those Christmas decorations of yore.

17 responses to “Friday Flashback #70

  1. Shortly after that, maybe 1977, when I was working for Outdoor Services, we were hired to string the new trees with Xmas lights. They had been lit the previous year cuz we had to use those lights. Not easy untangling, testing and trimming those trees with those lights! If one bulb was bad the whole string wouldn’t work.

  2. Maybe holiday spirit was created in more simple ways way back when. I know that in the mid 1960s Orphenians used to sing at some kind of holiday event at the old Townley restaurant, as well as on Main Street. Well after high school and college, returning home and running down town was always a wonderful thing to do on Christmas Eve as you would always bump into old friends. There were plenty of places to pop into for holiday libations. It seemed more full of delight back then, even without decorations, though that could just be because memory makes it so.

  3. Wait. Is that a CVS on Main Street? I do not remember that at all.

  4. Hey Dan,
    Anyone out there have a picture of the east shore (Parker Harding Plaza) and west shore (Famous Artist Schools) of the river when there were Christmas trees on both sides of the river that were lighted every year, guessing in the 60’s.

  5. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    Dorain’s Drugs? O.M.G.! C.R.S. now (and that’s not CVS) But that’s where I bought my first condoms. Do they still use them today?

  6. I bet the trees that Tom Wall mentioned we there all along the river. It was beautiful. See if anyone has a picture of that.

  7. Why do I remember Christmas decorations in Remarkable during the holidays? I thought I did when standing in long lines to get books signed.

  8. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    Until about 5 years ago, it seems to me, there were those strings of white lights wrapped around many of the trees along the Saugatuck River and on Main Street. I think when the trees were removed, that was the end of those bright lights that twinkled through the night. There was also a big tree with colored lights – was it on Gorham Island? – and at night you could see it from Route 33 or just about anywhere on the Parker Harding side of downtown Westport. The wreaths and lamp poles with garlands of green on Bedford Square are very festive, with a kind of Dickensian look. Maybe wrap greens around the poles with the snowflakes? They look a bit bare.
    I agree with Jane Nordli – there used to be a holiday spirit downtown – you would meet people you knew and greet them…Pack Roads (remember that?) would hold an Open House and serve hot cider.
    The Orphenians always make a great show on Main Street, too!
    All is not lost…

  9. TMI , John

  10. I have great memories of shopping at the Remarkable Bookstore around holiday time with my dad, but this would’ve been late 80’s or early 90’s, before Barnes and Noble opened up on the post rd. I remember more lights and decorations than these photos suggest!

  11. Dan Woog, you are a genius !! Moved to Westport in 1976. Thanks for the trip down memory road. PJKJR

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