A few days ago, I posted the back story of the Police Athletic League’s nearly-70-year sponsorship of Westport’s Independence Day fireworks.*
That sent alert “06880” reader/amateur historian Fred Cantor scrambling to the stacks.
He found the July 8, 1954 Westport Town Crier. There — on the front page — were photos and a story of that year’s pyrotechnics.
Held on Sunday, July 4**, the event drew a crowd of more than 3,000, the paper reported.
Some of them were dressed quite a bit fancier than today’s revelers.
Announcer Don Tedesco introduced the national anthem, then the fireworks.
They were shot from the sand, near the cannon. I remember that site well (though not from 1954!). The smell was strong and distinct. I always wondered what would happen if one landed next to me, sitting a few feet away from where they were launched.
Here’s a black-and-white photo from the paper. I’ll let you decide whether it looks very cool, or like a radiology report.
There was a lot going on, that holiday week.
Dorothy and Lillian Gish “sojourned” in Westport, at the home of Dr. John V.N. Dorr. Their visit was the lead photo on Page 1, as they posed with the equally famous Lucille Lortel:
Meanwhile, the Westport Country Playhouse advertised an upcoming production starring Eva Gabor and Richard Kiley.
Other front-page news on July 8, 1954: “First Jewish Temple in History of Town Set For Construction” (the 6-acre site on a former Hills Lane nursery was eventually abandoned, due to issues with the land); town prosecutor Robert Anstett was named head of Westport’s Civilan Defense Corps, and 600 people were expected to attend the 6th annual Compo Beach Clambake, sponsored by the Saugatuck Fathers Club.
But the most intriguing story was this: “Teen-Agers Make Problem at Beaches.”
Turns out the Beach Commission was considering closing all beaches at night, “to stop teen-age beer parties.” In addition, “vandals, not yet apprehended, defaced many bathhouses and destroyed a new stone fireplace” at Compo.
Fishermen reported “beer cans piled along the shore,” while residents complained of “noise and speeding cars late at night.”
The town employed “special constables” to patrol Compo and Burial Hill.
If you’re reading this now, and were a teenager then — making you in your 80s today — click “Comments” below. We’d love to hear how that worked out.
* Bottom line: If you haven’t yet bought a ticket, do it now!
** Unlike these days, when the fireworks are shot off NOT on the actual holiday. Overtime for the scores of workers would be prohibitive.