Friday Flashback #112

Torrential downpours a week apart brought flash floods to Westport, earlier this month.

But they weren’t hurricanes. And they weren’t the first times floods caused havoc here.

Earlier this year Bill Coley — a 1967 graduate of Staples High School, and a descendant of the founders of the Coleytown section of town — was sorting through old photos.

He found 2 from August 1955. Back-to-back hurricanes — Connie and Diane — had just pummeled Westport.

The images show what was left of the old stone bridge that carried North Avenue over the Aspetuck River. Bill is 5 years old, standing with his father on Coleytown Road looking north on North Avenue.

He had heard a WMMM radio announcer say the North Avenue bridge was out. Bill’s father didn’t believe it. He had to drive over and see for himself.

Bill’s father was born, and grew up in, the house on the road just north of the river. Bill’s great-grandfather was born in the house where Paul Newman lived.

The bridge has been replaced. And Paul and Joanne Woodward’s house still stands.

26 responses to “Friday Flashback #112

  1. Sort of looks like the Bulkley Pond dam today!

  2. I love Friday flashbacks!!!

  3. If Bill graduated in 1967, he’s probably 69. So if we’re talking about his great-grandfather, we must be talking the 1850s. Westport had to have been desolate in that area of town in the 1850s! That’s just an observation along with some quick math. With that said, I was 8 when Diane hit, and I remember it well.

  4. Wow. Old photos? The Coley Family was key to the settlement of what is now Westport. What a history, what a legacy. If Bill wants to share those old photos, I would be a happy camper to take a look. I researched and listed the old mill and barn at 39 Coleytown road that just sold a few feet from where the picture was taken. Exciting stuff!!

  5. Quite the meaningful Flashback for me Dan! I was born a month early in Philadelphia on August 13th in ’55. Poor Mom was a little more than worried!

  6. Great find, thanks.

  7. Fantastic photos of an area I know very well (I had my first real kiss under that bridge!) provided by a member of one of Westport’s true legacy families. Friday flashback indeed!

  8. We just moved to Westport when the floods came–Ibwas 7 years old. I remember the old Y had a marker where the water mark was in they basement level. A building in downtown Norwalk was destroyed and taken down after the flood, with the remnant of it’s painted walls remaining on the adjacent building for years. And in the days before I-95, I remember the temporary Merrit Parkway bridge in Norwalk over the river causing traffic snarls for months.

  9. Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

    I remember the 1955 hurricanes well also. I was 15. my brother 12 and my sister was just about 4 months old. There was a pontoon bridge in Norwalk for a very long time that you had to cross if you were going to go to the center of Norwalk or the Norwalk hospital. I also remember that everyone pulled together to do what they could after the storm(s). There was serious flooding around Ansonia and Waterbury.

    • Ansonia and Seymour had historic floods.

      • Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

        Thanks! I’d forgotten about Seymour.

      • MaryAnn Meyer

        There is still a water mark at the Derby Train Station showing the height of the flood waters. Derby is at the confluence of the Housatonic and Naugatuck Rivers which flooded all of East Derby during the Flood of ‘’55.

  10. I always wondered about how/why/when the previous bridge was replaced.

    When you descend the hill from Coleytown Middle, driving North, you can look across the river and see that the road was straight over a bridge at one point and it’s replacement upstream create a dogleg in the road.

  11. Isn’t the second pic of 19 River Road Weston, just east of Goodwill where the bridge crosses the Saugatuck River?

  12. Great Friday flashback and wonderful photos. I was also Staples ’67 and remember the flood, as well. My family lived on the Aspetuck, not far upstream from the bridge in Bill Coley’s photos. Our nearest bridge, on Bayberry Lane/White Birch Road, was also washed out, taking two cars with it. Our parents were out of town and learned of flood from front page story in San Francisco newspaper. Quite an adventure.

  13. Yes, the second picture is the bridge on River Road in Weston. I remember that my brother-in-law (Bob Keedy) had a summer job working for the Town of Weston painting that bridge. He had just finished when the flood came and washed the bridge away. The house in that photo is still there. It now has a wall built around it to protect it from high water.

  14. My wife and my then 3 month old son along with our dog were the last ones over that bridge after the police came by our home on the corner of Lyons Plain and Cedar Roads. My parents lived on North Avenue so we headed for their house. As my rear wheels got over the North Avenue bridge we heard this crashing sound and I stopped the car and looked back and the bridge was gone. It was a matter of seconds that we escaped going down with the bridge. My legs turned to jelly. We think of this often when we cross the new bridge.

    Thanks for the picture that I will keep, along with our story, with other memorabilia for my grand children.

    As an aside, we think the new bridge should be re-named The Paul Newman Bridge to honor a man who did so much for Westport and lived only a few steps away.

  15. Linda Pomerantz Novis

    These are all Amazing Stories and the Photos are Wonderful! .. (that area not far from where we lived off Lyons Plains at North Ave,Weston,1960’s..)
    At that time,1955,our family lived in the Pink House ,corner of Godfrey Rd. & Newtown Tpke,Weston. One night,my parents,Jane & Frank Pomerantz, were at the old Weston Field Club with others & a neighbor of theirs then
    ran in there, alerted the entire place of the flooding. (For many years afterwards, my dad would talk of how fortunate our house’s ‘high
    ‘foundation’ -survived that flood ;how ‘he – ‘a city boy from Brooklyn’- quickly learned to build a fire in fireplace for our daily meals’;’we all lived in front of that fireplace for a week or so’.
    (My brother,Jeff -classmate of Bill Coley’s-still remembers going up Rte. 57 with our Dad, soon, afterwards -(‘Gifford’s Hill’ ,back then) & how the entire road uphill had washed away in the flood, there.)
    (Back then,both my sister & I were 3 & 2 years old.. thankfully with no memories of all this..)

  16. Arlene and David Gottlieb

    We live in the Coley house they are standing in front of.
    Arlene and David

    • My father was born in that house Sept. 30, 1897. His father (my grandfather) raised honey bees on the farm there and sold honey to Margaret Rudkin who started Pepperidge Farm during the depression.

  17. The Norwalk River rose and completely flooded Route 7. I was about to be married and there was a shower planned for me and I had friends in Ansonia who were unable to attend because the town was totally flooded and all the new cars from a dealership on the main street floated down the street and crashed into each other. We were all totally amazed at how the river rose to the level of the street and above.

  18. Richard Alley

    I was stationed at Fort Monmouth NJ and came home on a weekend pass to see my sweetie. Next day, many bridges were washed out everywhere. Sam Friedson was a National Guard Lt. and had a shelter set up at Greens Far,s School. At first I didn’t think I could get back to NJ so I volunteered my services there. Finally I was ale to determine that a series of back roads could get me down towards NYC. It took me 12 hours to drive back to Fort Monmouth and I was late getting back, but the Officer of the Day believed my story and checked me back in without filing a disciplinary report.

  19. Jack and Adam are correct – that second picture is River Road in Weston. I couldn’t place it when I sent it to Dan, but they jogged my memory. I also have a picture of the bridge on Old Redding Road at Easton Road near that pump house that is still there today.

    Regarding Chris’ comment about the dogleg in North Avenue, that was there before the flood as well. The pre-1955 bridge was very close to the location of the current bridge. I always wondered why they didn’t “line up” North Avenue after the flood, but it was probably too expensive and would have required the town to buy additional land on both sides of the river.

    Regarding Jack’s comment, from what I have learned of that area in the 1800’s, it was very rural. The farm owned by my grandfather and previous generations was on the east side of North Avenue from the river north to just past where Arlen Road is today. I have just started to do a title history of that land going back to the late 1600’s but it’s going to take a while since it will probably involve three town halls (Fairfield, Weston and Westport) since I believe that land was in each of those towns at one time or another.

  20. Do folks know that the WMMM call letters stood for Westport’s Modern Minute Man? Maybe the coolest call letter extant.

    • Dan, I’m sorry, but I need to correct you on the meaning of WMMM. The letters stand for Woogs Many Memorable Moments!