Friday Flashback #369

The Westport Weston Family YMCA is 100 years old.

Last Friday, 300 members, supporters, friends and employees gathered under a huge tent at the Mahackeno Outdoor Center to celebrate the centennial.

They enjoyed dinner, dancing, an auction — and plenty of stories.

Bob Knoebel — former Water Rat swimmer and coach, then the Y’s first aquatics director — now lives in Idaho. But he came “home” for the occasion.

He has plenty of great memories. Among them: Charlie Moffat.

For 17 years Charlie was the face of the Y. He collected membership cards, handed out towels, and told absolutely everyone — with a wide smile — “Have a nice day.”

Charlie was so popular that when he retired, the Y’s most famous badminton player came to his party.

You might recognize him: a fellow named Paul Newman.

Paul Newman and Charlie Moffat (Photo courtesy of Bob Knoebel)


50 years ago this week:

First Selectman John J. Kemish, “to the accompaniment of fight songs played by the Staples band,” signed documents at a ceremony in which the federal government transferred the 6-acre Nike missile site to the town of Westport.

CBS News filmed the event. Paul Newman (a few years prior to meeting Charlie Moffat) stood behind Kemish. He remarked, “It’s a great day for Westport.”

Paul Newman (far left) at the Nike Site ceremony in October 1973. 1st Selectman John Kemish is at the far right. The 2 men in the middle are unidentified. (Photo courtesy of Jim Kemish)

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8 responses to “Friday Flashback #369

  1. Great find on the both pics. Wasn’t Charlie though at the Y going back to the 1960s—and for a lot longer than 17 years?

  2. David J. Loffredo

    Somewhere I have my Krein’s Kocky Kids WRAT towel with a Water Rat on a racing block, a core memory that Bob was a huge part of, love that the legacy continues.

    BTW – I was lucky to be little kid back in the 70’s when the big kids had to use their kick boards to push all the dead rats out of the Longshore Pool so we could practice.

  3. Bert S. Twombly

    Was 1st Selectman Kemish related to Mrs. Kemish the teacher?

  4. Few realize that the downtown YMCA was the “hub” of the town back in the Wonder Years. For us Bedford Elementary (Town Hall) and Bedford Middle (Saugatuck Elementary) it was a natural to go there after school for ping pong, pool, hoops and a swim. With the large theater across the street, on Saturdays it was the a custom to watch the flick and then the fight up by the court house (police station) afterwards. There was always a dance on Friday night at the Y as well. Now? Nothing for kids to do but for organized sports.

  5. My funny Paul Newman YMCA story:

    I came upon a member sitting on the steps outside the lower gym waiting for it to be set up for badminton. He was hunched over hugging his knees. I asked him if he was ok — he said “I’m just waiting for them to set up the gym for badminton”.

    I said “Oh it’s a very hot in there. I’ll get a fan from the Spin room for y’all. “

    As I set up the fan, he joins me in the gym, and he said, “Isn’t it going to bother the birdie?”

    I replied, “Oh those sparrows are fine, they’ll be up near the ceiling.”

    I was oblivious as to it being Mr. Paul Newman, and that his idea of a birdie was far different from mine!

    Then I said I had to hustle to teach, and not until I got to the pool deck did I realize it was Mr. Paul Newman!!! I laughed so hard about my sparrow comment, and that he was actually referring to the birdie you hit with the badminton racquet.

  6. As a former Y employee during the 1980s/90s, I have plenty of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward stories (they both frequented the Y). I won’t share them here but I will make a connection to the Nike site. Some may not know that the movie “Rally Round the Flag, Boys,” was based on a book written by Westport author Max Shulman. The story was loosely based on the controversies surrounding the establishment of the real life Nike Base in Wesport. Paul and Joanne both starred in the movie. Despite the fact that a portion of the Nike Site remains intact and in situ in Westport, and despite the fact that Newman and Woodward moved here because of their positive impressions of Westport when they visited the Nike site, and despite the work of some good Westporters who, several years ago, attempted to get the Nike Site designated as a Local Historic Landmark, our RTM showed no interest in that designation. What a shame.

    I’ll end with Charlie Moffat. His most memorable wish was actually, “Have a nice REST OF THE day.” My family and I, in memory of Charlie, still use that expression with one another (my mom and sister also worked at the Y). REST in peace, Charlie.

  7. Me again. I believe the man standing immediately beside Paul Newman is the author, Max Shulman.

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