Author Archives: Dan Woog

Pic Of The Day #68

When JP Vellotti took this shot Wednesday evening, he had no idea the Compo Beach pavilion would close the next day for roof repairs. (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Friday Flashback #45

Last weekend, the United Methodist Church celebrated the 50th anniversary of its home on Weston Road.

“06880” recounted the history of the church. It’s been here, in one form or another, since 1790.

From 1850 to 1908, congregants gathered in a building at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Main Street. A law office now occupies that site. This photo — from Seth Schachter’s postcard collection — shows that church.

Note the fence on the lower right, which still encloses what is now Veterans Green. And the hill on the left is where Town Hall sits. It was built as Bedford Elementary School in the 1920s.

Compo Pavilion Closed; New Roof Ahead

The Compo Beach pavilion — the brick structure next to the bathhouses and Joey’s by the Shore, popular with picnickers, people-watchers and photographers — is off-limits for a few days.

Westport’s Parks and Recreation Commission heeded the report of consultant Jim DeStefano that damage to the pavilion — from age and storms — made it unsafe.

It’s been blocked off with security tape. On Monday, work begins on a new roof. It’s expected to take 5 days — just in time for the surge of July 4th weekend beachgoers.

The Compo Beach pavilion roof is a favorite home for seagulls…

“We’re sensitive that the pavilion is in a historic district,” says Parks and Rec Commission chair Charlie Haberstroh.

He noted that there will be no changes to the structure itself. The roof was last replaced in 1988.

“We’re being very careful not to touch any walls,” Haberstroh says.

Parks and Rec may provide canopies or umbrellas for shade during the project.

Joey’s (and the lockers and restrooms) will remain open throughout.

… and a favorite too of photographers, who love to frame shots through it. (Photo/Susan Woog Wagner)

This Space For Lease

The other day, an alert “06880” reader — hopefully in the passenger seat — counted 25 “For Lease” signs on stores and business properties on the Post Road, just between Whole Foods and Roseville Road.

On another trip, in the other direction — Bulkley to Roseville — he spotted 25 more.

That’s over 50 vacant stores and offices, on the Post Road alone.

There are 10 or so others on Main Street.

Is there something wrong with Westport’s commercial real estate market?

If so, are there solutions?

Click “Comments” below.

155 Post Road East (across from Design Within Reach) is one of dozens of commercial properties standing vacant. There are 2 empty storefronts in this building.

Pic Of The Day #67

Basketball at Compo Beach (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

Congratulations, Staples Graduates!

The Staples High School Class of 2017 is now history.

Over 450 members of the 130th graduating class received their diplomas amid the usual pomp and circumstance in the fieldhouse. 

It was a day of celebration, joy, pride — and relief, sentimentality and longing.

Graduates and their parents looked ahead — and back.

And of course, everyone took photos.

For weeks, seniors have filled a large poster with their post-high school plans. Today it was on display for all to see.

Fabian Becerra waited for the ceremony to begin…

… and so did salutatorian Christopher Scherban and valedictorian Emily Schussheim.

The processional into the fieldhouse isn’t a red carpet — but at graduation it can seem like one.

Some seniors decorated their caps with messages. St. Andrews is in Scotland.

Class speaker Megan Hines had a wonderful message. She described never taking AP or honors classes, but finding herself — thanks to caring friends, guidance counselors and teachers. “You are never alone” at Staples, she said.

Listening intently to the student speakers were (from right) superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer, principal James D’Amico, 12th grade assistant principal Pat Micinilio, assistant principal Rich Franzis, and and assistant principal (and proud father of graduate Jimmy) James Farnen.

Shelby Lake got special congratulations from big brother (and Staples Class of 2011 graduate) Court Lake.

Brooke Wrubel posed with her family in the courtyard.

A celebration isn’t complete without some good cigars.

A Better Chance scholars Manny Ogutu and Sam Larkin enjoyed a post-graduation party at Glendarcy House with their proud parents — and a host of well-wishers.

Emma Charleston: Ready To Rock Rockwood

When Emma Ruchefsky was at Staples — singing with Orphenians and performing onstage with Players — everyone predicted great things.

After graduating in 2015, Emma headed to Berklee College of Music. She’s a professional music major, with a concentration in performance and songwriting. That’s just about the best place for anyone looking to achieve — well, great things.

This Saturday (June 24, 8:30 p.m.), Emma Charleston — that’s her professional name (and her mother’s) — makes her New York debut at Rockwood Music Hall. She follows in the footsteps of Lady Gaga, Jessie J,and  Mumford & Sons.

Emma will perform 9 songs — 6 originals and 3 covers. Drummer Joe Zec is a fellow 2015 Staples grad — and a Berklee classmate.

She’s never seen a show at Rockwood. It’s 21 and over, and Emma is just 19. But she and her mother — noted singer Rondi Charleston — went down to the Lower East Side recently, to scout it out.

The age limit means most of Emma’s friends are too young to see her professional debut. But on Saturday, Rockwood will be packed with her parents, and plenty of family friends.

Yet that’s not all the Emma news. She’s released 4 singles, all original songs backed with Berklee musicians. They’re on Spotify, iTunes and SoundCloud — just search for Emma Charleston. An EP is coming Friday.

 

Then — if you’re 21 or over — you can watch her live in New York, on Saturday night.

(For tickets to Emma Charleston’s Rockwood Music Hall performance, click here.)

jUNe Day: When Westport Welcomes The World

It’s one of the longest-running, most enjoyable, most visible — and yet least remarked upon and little noticed — events in Westport.

For more than half a century in early summer, our town has welcomed guests from the United Nations. It’s called jUNe Day — clever, no? — and the 2017 version takes place this coming Saturday (June 24).

Over 300 folks — ambassador types, embassy and headquarters workers, and their families — arrive at the train station. (Whether they come from a 1st or 3rd world nation, they’ve probably never seen anything quite like Metro-North.)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. Cohen originated jUNe Day in 1965. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

Having overcome that initial hurdle, they’re shuttled to Saugatuck Elementary School for a 10:30 a.m. welcome.

The UN is known for speechifying, but these are short. Then comes the real fun: a tennis tournament and golf at Longshore, tours of Earthplace, a visit to Wakeman Town Farm — you get the idea.

There’s a soccer match between a UN team and the Westport Knights men’s side. It’s not the World Cup, but some years tensions are nearly as high.

Many guests head straight to Compo, or the Longshore pool. They shop. They enjoy Westport.

Sometimes we forget what a day in “the country” can do. Many UN folks and their families don’t get many chances to leave New York.  jUNe Day is an opportunity for them to do just that — and for us to show off our town.

We may not be a “typical” American town. But this is our chance to offer typical American hospitality.

Volunteers are needed to serve breakfast and lunch, help out at Longshore, and clean up. “Tour guides” on buses are also needed. If interested, call 203-526-3275, or email andreasusa@yahoo.com.

Or just give a big hello on Saturday to anyone wearing jUNe Day hats, and an orange bracelet.

Pic Of The Day #66

School is almost out — and these Greens Farms Elementary graduates Matthew Bukzin and Aiden Schachter could not be happier. (Photo/Seth Schachter)

Unsung Hero #3

If you’re a Westporter, you probably know Mike Calise.

The 1958 Staples High School graduate and Marine Corps veteran runs the longtime and very successful Settlers & Traders real estate firm. He’s a frequent attendee at town meetings, making sure nothing slips through our boards and commissions’ cracks.

Mike Calise with his sweetheart, Sally.

You can find him almost any day — in any weather — at Compo Beach. That’s where he hangs out, by himself or with his extended family. He keeps a loving eye on it too.

Mike and his grandkids. Cookouts on the beach are a family tradition. The food often comes from Calise’s deli — the market his family established in the 1930s,.

Mike has a great back story. While still at Staples, he boxed in the New York Golden Gloves tournament.

While stationed at Camp Lejeune, he bought a 9-passenger Pontiac Safari station wagon. Each weekend he ran a North Carolina to New York transport service ($15 each way; 658 miles in 11 hours).

His mother Louise — of Calise’s market fame — packed a large bag of delicious meatball and eggplant sandwiches for every trip back.

Mike Calise, Staples Class of 1958.

As a Marine from 1958 to ’63, he was assigned to Force Recon — an elite group that was always first on shore. They trained with daily long distance runs and swims.

Mike started an Arnold bread truck route in 1963. He founded Settlers & Traders in 1967. In 2008, he received a Historic Preservation Award for the restoration of  his office building at 215 Post Road West. This year, his real estate firm celebrates 50 years.

For all his life — going back to his family’s stores on Post Road West and East — he’s been an important part of life here. He’s a longtime member of the Republican Town Committee; a former delegate to the state Republican convention, and served on the RTM and Architectural Review Board.

Mike loves nature, gardening and canoeing. No morning at the beach is complete without his “Compo Gumbo.”

He loves Compo so much, he’s got it on his license plate:

Mike cherishes his family: his longtime sweetheart Sally; his 5 children (Catherine, Sandra, Maria, Bettina and Frank), and 7 grandkids (Francesca, Trent, CJ, Reed, Charlotte, Cameron and Caleigh).

They love him right back.

As does the rest of Westport — the town he’s loved for over 70 years.

Mike Calise, in a familiar pose.