[OPINION] Fred Cantor’s 24 Hours In “Our Town”

Alert “06880” reader — and longtime Westporter — Fred Cantor hears frequent laments about the changes in town since “whatever decade people grew up here in.” Of course, he admits, things are different.

But, Fred notes, the small-town feel that existed when his family moved here in 1963 is still alive and well. As proof, he offers a series of events that occurred recently, in just one 24-hour period.

Bruce Davidson, from his Staples High School yearbook.

It started with a visit to a local periodontist which, believe it or not, proved enjoyable overall. That’s because he’s Dr. Bruce Davidson, Staples High School Class of 1965, a family friend from back in the day and a former soccer teammate of my brother Marc. Bruce has practiced for decades at the same location on the Post Road, near Sylvan Avenue.

After a thorough exam and patient clarification of potential issues raised by X-rays taken in California, there was time to catch up and hear, among other things, about the status of a documentary film by Bruce’s brother, Doc (Staples ‘70).

After my appointment I drove to Cohen’s Fashion Opticals to pick up new glasses, which were almost ready. No problem: It was close to lunchtime, so I headed a few doors down to Gold’s. Owner Jim greeted me warmly.

I had a delicious turkey salad sandwich. The food at Gold’s is every bit as good today as when my parents first took me there in the 1960s — and the setting seems exactly as it did back then.

Jim Eckl and his wife Nancy have owned Gold’s since 2003.

Later in the day, I enjoyed a timeless outdoor Westport scene: a large crowd gathered on the hill to watch a Staples soccer game, on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

I had not arranged to meet anyone there. That didn’t matter. I sat with Bill Mitchell (Staples ’61) and former soccer coach Jeff Lea. We shared a few laughs and some entertaining stories. Dave Wilson (a Staples captain in 1974) was there too.

The ageless Laddie Lawrence (Staples ’64) also joined us for a while; so did former Westport Late Knights soccer teammate, Alex Anvari. Somehow Alex’s little boy Emerson has grown up — he’s 6-1 now!—to be a Staples senior who, to my delight, is on the varsity team.

Enjoying Staples soccer on the Loeffler Field hill (from left):L Fred Cantor, Jeff Lea, Bill Mitchell, Laddie Lawrence.

It was the last weekend of summer, with near-perfect temperatures, so after the game my wife Debbie and I headed to Compo to enjoy the sunset. As often happens, we ran into a couple of longtime Westporters.

I also had a nice chat with Joey Romeo, the owner of Joey’s By the Shore. He is every bit as friendly as any Main Street storeowner was in the 1960s.

Compo Beach sunset. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

The next morning I was walking on Bridge Street toward the train station. A car pulled over. The driver was Staples alum Mike Elliot; he offered me a ride. I explained that walking is my regular exercise these days.

As I neared the station, another car stopped. Staples classmate Bob Uly wanted to know how I was doing health-wise.

It was just 24 hours. Nothing truly out of the ordinary happened.

But those little slice-of-life occurrences demonstrate, at least for me, that certain “Our Town”-like qualities still very much exist here.

20 responses to “[OPINION] Fred Cantor’s 24 Hours In “Our Town”

  1. Joanne Crawley

    This was a delightful post! As a relatively recent arrival to Westport (2011) from Darien, I never had the pleasure of growing up here. Nevertheless, I felt the small town atmosphere here from the start and I love Westport as much as my own hometown, Riverhead, NY. You lucky guys to grow up here!
    Thank you for sharing a day in your life with us, all your neighbors!

  2. Sharon Fiarman

    I agree! I didn’t grow up here, have been here since 2007, and would add to the list family owned Westport Hardware – it is one of the warmest places you can step into, they get to know you and they really care. Also agree about the wonderful owners of Golds who always ask me about my kids, their staff are just as friendly and familiar, too! I’ve become “friends” with one of the guys at Superior Seafood who gives me “the usual” every week and who I shared a recipe with, and of course perennially favorite Coffee An’!

  3. We had the privilege on Sunday of attending a special event at the Westport Country Playhouse, free and open to the public. The conversation between the playhouse’s Mark Lamos and playwright Lynn Nottage was stimulating as they talked about her childhood, her works, and her passion for social justice, using her plays as her voice.

  4. An absolutely pure and undiluted tale of a man who sees the glass half full! What a pleasure to read A Day in the Life a la Westport without one curmudgeonly comment!

  5. Great story, Fred! I love Westport!

  6. Arline Gertzoff

    Sorry Fred the Class Of 64 proudly claims Laddie Lawrence who I have known since the Fifth Grade .

  7. That was a most enjoyable account of 24 hours in town and very reflective of my own experiences, as well. My family has witnessed the warmth and support of so many people in Westport which only reinforces the point there are far more kind and generous folks than the few entitled and rude ones often capturing our attention.

    I know Fred, as he is a friend of my daughter and son-in-law, but I feel I know him more as a result of his comments here. I have often said that Fred never comments unless he can find something positive to say. This story pretty much sums that up.

  8. Thank you Fred for this gem, it reinforces my own daily experiences in this wonderful Town I get to call home – I share your feelings for Westport and I when I put up a post about this Town on some social media platform, I still get challenged by those who have left who claim that Westport is not at all like it was back when THEY grew up here. I always respond that it isn’t a particular restaurant, or house, or business that defines Westport so much as it is the PEOPLE who live here – just as you have shown in your 24 snapshot.

  9. Thank you, Fred Cantor, for spreading sunshine, making my day and I dare say everyone who stops by to “visit” today.

  10. Thank you, Fred Cantor, for spreading sunshine, making my day .. and I dare say everyone who stops by to “visit” today.

  11. Dan- a great post! Thank you!

  12. Susan Siegelaub Katz

    I saw you on the Bridge Street Bridge too but couldn’t stop! Great story


  13. I LOVE everything about this post!!! What a wonderful slice of life from our town!

  14. What a Wonderful Post …

  15. Thank you, Fred for the lovely tribute and thank you Dan for posting it. We are here 44 years and have never regretted our decision. This really is a small Town in many ways. I have two sons and daughter-in-laws living here and 3 wonderful grandchildren having gone through and going through our schools. Lucky us. I love this Town.

  16. Margaret Rynshall

    Oh Fred, you are such a treasure! Thanks for the ‘slice’ and don’t you ever change!

  17. Thanks for all the kind words and positive feedback,

  18. wonderful story, my 50th year in town in 2019. Always havwe said it really is a small town, After awhile always meet someone you know in Stop and Shop, the railroad station, library, transfer station, etc.

  19. Great 24 hour reflection on the heart and soul of westport! Born and bred here..still proudly serving the community since the late 70″s!! Not slowing down anytime soon..like any of you townies!! XOXO