Friday Flashback #355

Westport’s manufacturing days are long gone.

Factories no longer churn out ping pong balls. The Embalmers Supply Company has gone to that great business graveyard in the sky.*

And it’s been more than a century since the Toquet Launch Company developed mechanical equipment for automobiles and boats, including carburetors for Fords.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

The Riverside Avenue business was owned by Benjamin Louis Toquet.

If the name is familiar: He also built an opera house on the Post Road. It doubled as the site of town meetings and “assemblies.” After being used in the 1960s and ’70s as storage for Schaefer’s Sporting Goods, it’s served for 2 decades as Westport’s teen center.

The Toquets had long roots in Westport. Benjamin Louis’ father, Benjamin H., was born in Paris in 1834, but settled here in the 1840s. He served in the Civil War, then returned to Westport.

Benjamin Louis Toquet died in 1913. He could never have imagined what would become of the automotive industry.

Or the traffic crawling past his former factory on Riverside Avenue.

*Yep. Both are true.

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16 responses to “Friday Flashback #355

  1. Jen Kobetitsch

    These flashbacks are always fascinating! As a side note, I have a formaldehyde glass bottle from the Embalmers Supply Co!

  2. You mentioned factories that “churn out ping pong balls”. That was on Riverside Ave. just a little way from the Post Road. Kids walking from Staples to downtown in the mid 1940s would walk past open windows that were level with the street and look down on workers doing something with ping pong balls. It was a bizarre sight, probably making us kids feel a bit more aware of life.

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    The ping pong ball business was still operating in the 60’s when I and my buddies Mike Rea and Don Bratz would walk from BJHS to the Y after school (before they both moved to Mars – I’m talking about the Y and the middle school Don and Mike stayed in town)
    As I recall the ping pong ball business was called Tennex and was frequently confused with the market research firm called Trendex which was owned by my parents’ friends Messrs List and Rogers.

  4. Hey Dan, This is interesting. Toquet Launch Co. I wonder if they made the carburetor or anything else that powers my 1897 Racine launch which has a 3/4hp “Electro Vapor Motor”. Do you know where I might find more info on them?

  5. Elaine Marino

    Dan – I love your writing style. These Friday Flashbacks are informative in and of themselves, but the “stories” behind them are written in a way that take me back in time. Thank you!

    — Elaine

  6. Dan – What is the correct pronunciation of Toquet? “To-Kay”?

    • Right: toe-kay. Not sure if the accent is on the first or second syllable. Not, as teenagers a while ago called it, “toke it.”

  7. In googling this I noticed the teen center is called Touquet Hall.

  8. Another great Friday Flashback, Dan. However, Embalmers Supply Company didn’t go to that “great business graveyard in the sky”. Still “alive and embalming” only now from East Lyme, Ct. with former Westporter Shawn Beck at the helm.

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