Remarkable Guy: The Sequel

When the Westport Museum for History & Culture jettisoned the nod-to-local-history name of its Remarkable Gift Shop — it’s now the much-more-meh The Shop at Wheeler House — it thankfully did not also toss out the Remarkable Guy.

That’s the wooden, Edward Gorey-inspired dancing figure that greeted folks browsing for books, posters and other Westport-themed gifts at what used to be called the Historical Society, on Avery Place.

Remarkable Guy at Westport Historical Society (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The Remarkable Guy had been exhibited at the WHS thanks to the Kramer family. Sid and Esther Kramer owned the Remarkable Book Shop, a long-lived, much-loved funky bookstore on the corner of Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza, a few feet from Wheeler House. (Westporters know it now as the long-vacant Talbots building.)

WMHC officials tracked down Sid and Esther’s son Mark. Executive director Ramin Ganeshram emailed him that the Remarkable Theater — the new organization that hopes to bring a theater to Westport, staffed by people with disabilities — had asked for the “wooden die cut image.”

She suggested Kramer take it from the museum, and give or lend it to the theater for their events. (It is of course still in the early planning stages).

She noted that because the Remarkable Guy had never been “formally gifted or accepted into the collections,” it was not the museum’s right to lend.

Though the museum did not have the funds to ship the Remarkable Guy to Kramer, who lives in Massachusetts, they promised to keep it safe until he could retrieve it.

Or perhaps, Ganeshram said, he could officially donate it to the museum. Then, however, it could not be lent to anyone, because of insurance complications. She noted, “It is our understanding that the figure was brought to the museum but never intended to be an ‘artifact’ per se.”

Kramer worried that the museum might not treasure the Remarkable Guy.

A solution arose when Kramer’s longtime Westport friend Pam Barkentin offered to keep it in Westport, so it can be loaned when appropriate.

Chris O’Dell — whose O Living Experience builds high-quality, high-efficiency new homes and renovations — quickly agreed to move the Remarkable Guy to Pam’s garage. gratis.

Chris O’Dell (left), O Living Experience owner, and employee Chuck Hilman volunteered to move the Remarkable Guy.

That’s where he sits now, safe and sound.

And waiting to be loaned, to lend a bit of local history to organizations that appreciate and cherish him.

Pam Barkentin is keeping the Remarkable Guy safe for Mark Kramer.

36 responses to “Remarkable Guy: The Sequel

  1. Charles Taylor

    Yea Pam our Staples ‘61 classmate and friend!

    • Pam Barkentin

      Ahem…Charlie, I’m class of ‘62. Perii was ‘61. Not that it matters after all these years. I figure we are all about the same age now anyway. XX

      • Rene' Jaeger

        Hi Pam, You are looking great in that picture.
        My sister Mary Ann forwarded this blog. It brings back good memories of driving wildly around the countryside with you! What great times.
        Good to connect with you after all these years.
        Rene’ Jaeger

  2. Morley Boyd

    Run Remarkable Guy! Run!

  3. Eric Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Sounds like all the air has gone out of the WMCH accountability movement. Such a shame deserved at the very least a Saturday protest on the RSC memorial bridge or have they renamed that too.

    • Westport has an Historic Commission. Westport also has a great Spirit. The Remarkable Guy can be our symbol as an homage to our recent past. We can have a suit made and have him be around at events. Lots of possibilities. It’s The most iconic symbol I can think of next to the minuteman. And he is so cute.

      • Morley Boyd

        Sorry to break it to you, Mary, but our Minuteman has been cut loose too. Apparently, the Administration concluded that we were frightening away Millennials by having a man with a gun as a town symbol. So he, along with our town seal (which was jettisoned because it depicts a church on a hill and is thus very scary) have quietly been put on the shelf in favor of a non-threatening, childlike “W” which would be right at home on the roof of a third tier mid-western hospitality chain. Don’t tell anyone from the town this, but every time I get something from a public official with that silly “W” embedded in the masthead, I think to myself: how do I take this person seriously with that goofy thing sitting there?

        • What?

          • Bob Stalling

            I agree, the “W” symbol seems to stand for “What?”

            • People say the W stands for “whatever”. Either way, I can’t wait to see it on all the giant black road signs that are to be erected at every gateway to Westport (est. cost to taxpayers: $700,000.00) – even in residential neighborhoods. Luckily the signs only last about 15 years before they have to be replaced. So there’s hope…

        • Arline Gertzoff

          Well said Morley I prefer my old Westport pin .The nonsense level is out of control.The insistence on trying to make this town into something it is not nor will ever be is out of proportion. All the hyp is ridiculous.Keep the faith somehow and let me know when the parking lot plaque will be dedicated.Some repaving of parking lots should be a priority over hyp.

        • Dorothy Broadman

          Morley. Where dd you hear that? Is the Minute Man not still on the Westport Flag? Here’s more information on all the Westport symbols if anyone is interested. Is this outdated?

          • Morley Boyd

            I attended the recent public meeting where it was all spelled out. And I’ve got the entire scheme sitting on my laptop. Say goodbye to the nice, blue, locally designed Minuteman signs with the distinctive cutouts on top.
            They’re going to the landfill. Say hello to black, blue and orange signs like you might see on level 4 at the Stamford Mall….

            • Maybe the town can donate the old signs to the Museum of History & Culture.

              • Elizabeth Devoll

                That happy remarkable guy has a name! I remember coming across it while working at the historical society. He is a character from a storybook.
                It’s driving me mad…. anybody know his real name?
                I’m so glad he’s saved!!!
                I like the idea of using him for a logo!

                • Wendy Cusick

                  Elizabeth Devoll
                  The Remarkable guy is possibly a character from author and illustrator Edward Gorey. Gorey’s animated illustrations were the beginning and ending trailers of PBS Mystery series.
                  I just haven’t found where remarkable guy was publishered in

              • Morley Boyd

                The Westport Museum of Grievance and High Culture just left a message. It’s willing to store the soon to be discarded Minuteman signs – for $7,000.00 a year.

          • Peter Barlow

            Yes, do go to the site Dorothy has included (above) and read this bit of florid nonsense about the letter W. In case you won’t, I’ll quote a couple of lines here: “The new Westport logo integrates a dramatic use of open space in its iconography, reflecting the movement of water or seaworthy sails,… The color palate is vibrant and diverse, representing an open warmth and refreshing coolness.” All I see is a W, white on blue.

            • Bob Stalling

              You need to reflect upon your inner self and look beyond the simplistic workings of societal norms in order to experience the wonders that are the flowing W’s within all of us…

              • Morley Boyd

                Ha! Reflect as I might, this lifelong sailor is left to wonder what “seaworthy sails” are, exactly. Kind of reminds me of those user manuals that have been translated from another language. This entire brand scheme was quietly cooked behind the scenes up by a handful of people who don’t even live here. Their fatal mistake was to not put it out there for public comment before going live. FOIA’d emails indicate that, in the end, they elected not to go with the line of “W” branded apparel for town employees. Or the town-wide banners with the giant melted “W” on them.

                By the way, check out the history section in the town site; it takes a gratuitous swipe at Westport’s founding families and essentially chalks up the town’s success to slavery. Want to guess who wrote it?

        • Mary Palmieri Gai

          I just read the history on the the town site. Minuteman is spelled Minute Man in the piece. It also said colonists were buried in the cemetery the edge of the Longshore property and I always thought those were English soldiers buried there.

          Here’s what I feel generally about this Minuteman thing not being used as our logo. It’s a huge part of our history. He’s not even aiming the gun.. he is ready in a minute. That statue is an homage, also, to the early 20th century and how we perceived our history back then; with such pride and importance. Let’s not insult the millennial generation and give them a chance to whitewash history when we are gone, if they want. Let’s not do it for them. Let’s give them the chance to learn and see the value in everything that came before us. I’m pretty appalled that the minuteman isn’t proudly displayed everywhere as our logo. It’s just such a gorgeous statue.

          Regarding slavery here, we can’t run from it. In my research travels I have found information that they were a very unified group. They even elected a King and Queen and kept their own culture. I don’t think we should allow the generations before ours, to negate their contribution in today’s narrative. I have seen this happen again and again in local history; when something didn’t quite meet the wealthy white wasps standards, that they were completely left out of our history like it never happened.

  4. Elizabeth Thibault

    It’s great to see all these generous people come together to make this happen!

  5. Brad French

    Chris O’Dell, the man; the legend!

  6. Fred Cantor

    Very glad there’s a happy ending here. And that was very nice of Chris to donate his services.

  7. Pam Barkentin

    The Remarkable Guy and I are keeping very good company…reminiscing about the old days on Main Street when Esther and Sidney owned the Book Shop, and Main Street was the after school hangout destination for kids who were old enough to do what we called then, “hacking around.” Westport will never be like that again…but in a post last week Dan reimagined Main Street as a town center which could be quite wonderful going into the future. Let’s make it happen!

  8. Dorothy Broadman

    Great resolution of a tricky situation for the museum. They are wise to follow the laws and offer to hold onto this valuable Westport artifact until a good solution could be found. Glad it all worked out so well.

  9. Carmine Picarello

    This has bugged me for some time. While every other New England town has a “Historic Society” The people now managing the Wheeler House have to rename ours “The Westport Museum for History & Culture”. Really? A bit full of ourselves, eh wot? Morley, glad to see your wry sense of humor (although lost on some) is still intact.

    • Arline Gertzoff

      Ah Carmen
      At least I know I am not crazy I asked why the name change “Historical Society is old-fashioned and doesn’t get grants”All nonsense of course Tired of this branding stuff for sure.
      Good to hear your take

    • Dick Lowenstein

      Here’s what neighboring Fairfield has: “Fairfield Museum and History Center”

  10. When I was president of the Westport Historical Society, I asked Sidney Kramer for permission to name our gift shop ‘The Remarkable Gift Shop’ and he not only said yes, but gave us the Remarkable Guy to keep. Like so many other contributions to the Society, there is no formal record, but it was part of our attempt to keep as many bits of Westport’s history as we could. We were also given the sign from Max’s Art Supplies when they closed — I hope it’s still at Wheeler House somewhere! Both Sidney (and Esther) and Shirley Mellor were very generous supporters and loved the idea that these signs would live on.

  11. B. Franklin

    Executive director Ramin Ganeshram, who is providing direction to you for the role and mission of The Westport Historical Society? You seem to have come to town, joined this organization, and totally disrupted what was a community based organization that catalogued and celebrated local history and culture. This story is another example of your ideas and “administration” run amuck. Please return the Westport Historical Society to the organization it once was with some modification to serve the changing needs of Westport’s folks. Are you reading these posts? More ridiculous with each new post. Please recognize that a change is necessary, and needed, and do something to resolve the problem(s) created.

  12. Great article Dan and nice work Chris O! Growing up in town in the early 70s my parents use to bring us to the bookstore often, it was our favorite spot. I recall the excitement and wonder of seeing something new and different and the feeling that I was wondering down the rabbit hole. TecKnow would love to host the remarkable guy for a period of time in one of windows at our design showroom (the Pod) in Bedford square. For us it would be paying homage to the old rich history of Westport and the arts while showcasing whats possible in the future…which is now!