Friday Flashback #113

From the 1950s through ’80s, Westport junior highs fielded interscholastic athletic teams.

Bedford and Long Lots — and, after it opened in 1965, Coleytown — competed against junior highs from Darien, New Canaan and Greenwich in football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball and track.

Competition was intense — both within the league, and to win the mythical Westport “town championship.”

Interscholastic competition ended in 1983, when Westport schools moved from a junior high model, to middle schools. Ninth graders went to Staples High, and competed on their own freshman teams.

But in the 1950s — and perhaps earlier — local elementary schools had their own intra-town sports teams. I have no idea when they began. By the 1960s, they were gone.

I don’t know what sports they involved either — except for boys basketball, as shown by this Saugatuck Elementary School photo provided by alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor.

Fred adds that a scrapbook from Coleytown Elementary School’s first year — 1953 — describes a girls kickball competition between that school and Bedford El.

If you’ve got stories about elementary or junior high sports teams, click “Comments” below.

And try not to stretch the truth.

14 responses to “Friday Flashback #113

  1. Girls interscolastic field hockey was a big sport through the 50’s.

  2. Loved the photo from long ago and far away. It’s true that not only did the junior highs compete in interscholastic events, so did the elementary schools. When I was in sixth grade at Coleytown Elementary I was on the girls’ kick ball team and the girls’ basketball team, I think I made the teams because of my enthusiasm and spirit, as it certainly wasn’t for my athletic ability. This would have been the 1958-1959 school year. We played Saugatuck, Bedford, Kings Highway, Greens Farms, and Burr Farms. We were undefeated at basketball and someone organized a trip to Barnum and Baily’s Circus in NYC as a reward. Later on a lot of the star athletes on those teams from all the schools were also stars at Staples. But the girl athlete I remember best was Connie O’Neill, who did not go to high school with us. She was amazing.

  3. For those who did not grow during the time of sports teams at the Junior High School level, it sounds clichéd but you really missed a golden era, filled with inter-Town rivalries, well-regarded coaches and mini-dynasties (depending on the sport). I was on the Coleytown JHS Soccer and Wrestling teams during the mid-70s.

    The CJHS soccer team (coach Holliday) was like being on the NY Yankees; high expectations, high caliber of play and respect for the coach, and yes, we never lost a single game during those years (definitely not due to my soccer prowess!) While we played many surrounding towns, the games against Bedford and Long Lots were definitely the most important and very-well attended. I can send Dan the team photo from 1977

    The CJHS wresting team (coach Van Hagen) was another great experience, but little more of a rag-tag crew and focused on individual performance, as wrestling can be – and the season concluded with a Town tournament, where I wrestled against Marlon Acuna (Bedford) and Doug Clark (Long Lots) – of course I remember it like it was yesterday!

  4. Sent from my iPhone

    >

  5. The photo is one I received from the legendary WMCA “Good Guy” DJ, Ed Baer, who is on the far right of the top row. For those who might know or remember Westporters from that era, below is a list provided by Ed of the kids in the photo: The top row left to right are Joe Giordano,Bob Bergman, Robbins Conn,Jack Lago,and Ed Baer. Middle row Jerry Cacchio, Kit Dunham,Bobby Berger,and Larry Tepper. Front row, Lee Greiner,Jimmy Bellini,Donald Renzulli,Donald Bennette and Tommy Caldwell.

    Also, Dan was very kind not to point out that (unlike Jack Whittle) my Coleytown Jr High soccer team lost the town and league championship to Long Lots in a battle of unbeaten teams late in the 1967 season. One of the starting fullbacks on that championship Long Lots squad was Dan Woog.

  6. I grew up in Greenwich, CT and played field hockey and softball for Central Junior High! It was the best. We sang school songs on the bus and played other local teams. I think abolishing middle school sports was a huge mistake! There are so many private leagues to choose from, that there is no longer town unity or a sense of camaraderie.
    I miss those days, and I am saddened that my children have not been able to have that same experience.
    I am going to take a stand and say that I would rather pay more in taxes to fund middle school sports and after-school buses then funnel money into the “pay to play microeconomy!”

  7. Bedford Junior High basketball under Coach Ed Hall, 1978 team featured a 114-47 drubbing of Long Lots (numbers may be off, but directionally correct!)

  8. Chip Stephens SHS '73

    I remember it well, Bedford Junior High in late 60s, football and wrestling. The real competition was between the 3 locals but we got to travel outside Westport. The two I can remember were Mather and Hillcrest. It was quite an experience traveling up the Merritt in a bus back in the day when the rules for trucks, busses and commercial vehicles were enforced on the Merritt. But we had special permission, and the trip to Lather Mather or Halt Hillcrest was always successful.
    Also Wrestling took it a step above with a season ending town tournament at Staples. Coaches Chacho and Stahl at Bedford were brutal and efficient in delivering wins and teaching technique, conditioning and above all respect for the coaches, the opponents and each other. It was a different time

  9. While I have lived in Westport since 1985, I grew up in Newtown. I was on the Hawley Elementary School basketball team in sixth grade. We had green, silky uniforms and in my mind is was a dream come true. Our coach said not to pay attention to the Harlem Globetrotters but to focus on the NBA games that were occasionally on ABC. Unfortunately despite my love for basketball, I was too short, too slow and too poor a shooter to be a high school star or college player. I did, however, call basketball games on WCFM in Williamstown for three years at Williams College.

  10. My family moved to Westport in 1962 and I did 9th grade at Long Lots. I hadn’t done any athletics where I lived before, but I was big for my age and coaches Bob Yovan and Pete Benedetti spotted me the first day and pretty much told me I had to go out for football. Next thing I knew I was quarterback, though I couldn’t throw a pass with any accuracy. My teammates included later Staples stars like Steve Emmett, Dennis Parise, Scott Bossert and Bobby Forehand. My go-to play-caling was “hand off to Parise and sweep left.”

  11. At the Bolton School, all girls, we had only two sports available: field hockey played in the fall, where we walked up Wilton Road to a vacant field owned by the school, wearing our tunics and bloomers (matching balloon underpants), – pretty much fun, to break the general boredom of the day, but one girl had her front teeth knocked out while playing, which was shocking and a shame. Dentistry certainly wasn’t as creative as it is today…
    In winter we went to the Y for basketball once a week. In those days, at least as we were told, girls were only “allowed” to play 1/2 court! zzzzzzzz
    I did everything but slit my wrists to sit it out on the bench.

  12. Peter Gambaccini

    I got out of Greens Farms in 1962. We didn’t have any interscholastic teams, but I have some vague memory of a townwide “field day” which included footraces. My last year at Long Lots, 1965, was the last one with only two Westport junior highs. In football, basketball, and baseball, Long Lots and Bedford played each other and the two Darien schools, Mather and Middlesex. In basketball, we played all of those teams twice each. Our basketball team was undefeated, but I remember being stunned when I showed up as a Staples sophomore in the fall and found that two of the best players had moved to Illinois. You’ll know this for sure, Dan, but I think my class was the last in Westport to not have junior high soccer reams, which helps explain why so many Weston kids did well in soccer.

    • Right on re soccer, Peter. John Day started it in Long Lots. A great industrial arts teacher from Maine, he’d learned the game serving in England in World War II.

  13. In basketball, the 1953-54 Bedford Bears went undefeated against all junior high competition, and a center named Jack Mitchell outperformed Wilky Gilmore, the New Canaan superstar who would later play for Colorado and be drafted by the St. Louis Hawks. That year the Bears also played the Staples sophomores twice (won one, lost one). Coach Gordon Hall, my father, remembers every player on that talented team, as well as the fact that though there wasn’t money in the budget to pay him, the PTA came through with $100—and at Christmas, a new tie.

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