Category Archives: Categories

Job Seekers, Employers Connect With Jasmine and Runa

A few years ago, Jasmine Silver was a divorce attorney. She cut back on full-time work to raise her young children, but still wanted clients. However, she had no idea how to find them.

Runa Knapp was a senior manager in KPMG’s credit practice. When her kids were born, she too left the full-time workforce.

The 2 women met through their children’s Westport pre-school. Realizing how many friends they have with corporate backgrounds — “intelligent women who took time off for their kids,” but who wanted either part- or full-time  jobs — they brainstormed ideas.

Jasmine Silver

“There are so many super-educated, super-ambitious people here, and in the rest of Fairfield County,” Jasmine says. “They’re untapped talent. But they needed a resource to re-enter the job market.”

Now, they’ve got one. ConneCTalent helps both stay-at-home professionals and employers by, well, “connecting” them with each other. Opportunities include law, engineering, finance, marking, public relations, non-profits and “creatives.”

They’re also a great resource for commuters looking for opportunities closer to home. Plus people already employed, hoping to move up the corporate ladder.

It sounds like it’s aimed solely at women. Yet, Runa notes, many men face the same job market issues.

In some ways, conneCTalent is like a typical recruiting agency. Employers pay a commission, based on the first year salary. However, Jasmine explains, their rates are lower than others.

In addition, there’s a human touch lacking in most keyword-driven agencies.

Runa Knapp

She and Runa source jobs personally. They also hear of opportunities directly from employers.

Their database of job-seekers is filled with people who are not listed elsewhere. Some are just beginning their search. Others simply like Jasmine and Runa’s personal touch.

“We don’t just match buzzwords on resumes with jobs,” Runa says. “We have conversations with people and businesses. That’s how we make thoughtful, curated matches and connections.”

ConneCTalent is growing rapidly. It will grow even more after a launch party on September 5 (6:30 to 8:30 p.m., B:Hive Southport). The event includes a career transition coaching workshop led by Morgan Mermagen; a resume writing workshop with Lesley Vanderlee, and a roundtable discussion on social media tips headed by WestportMoms co-founder Megan Rutstein.

ConneCTalent will sponsor more workshops this fall. Runa and Jasmine hope to see many new faces at those events. After all, the idea is that everyone in their current database will be busy working.

(For more information, or to RSVP for the September 5 event, email info@connectalentct.com) 

Seniors Feast On SMORES

Jake Motyl’s grandparents lived through the Holocaust. He’s learned a lot from them.

Jake is proud that he’s able to teach them something in return: technology.

With his help, his grandparents in Washington, DC and Florida now use FaceTime, Facebook and Skype to stay in touch with the Staples High School rising junior and his family.

But Jake did not stop there. This summer, he and his friends took their expertise to the Senior Center. Twice a week — under the name “SMORES,” and with help from program manager Holly Betts — they offered free sessions. From iPhones and iPads to alarm clocks (yes, alarm clocks) they demystified the process of connecting with today’s world.

Jake Motyl

“They teach us a lot. I’m glad I can teach them,” Jake — who, in his spare time, is a varsity tennis and squash player, and member of Staples’ Service League of Boys — says of his “students.”

He and Josh Suggs, Sam Seideman, Eli Herman, Phoebe Miller and Caroline Motyl — Jake’s younger sister — have had an eventful summer.

They helped set up tablets. They taught a woman having trouble typing on her phone how to use Siri (she, in turn, taught her husband). They showed people how to open photos online. They answered questions about email, and the functions of all those mysterious icons.

The man who brought in his alarm clock — hey, anyone who has tried to use one in a hotel knows how confusing they now are — learned how to set the alarm on his iPhone. “He was amazed,” Jake says.

Working with older men and women is an act of joy for Jake. “They helped build this community,” he says. “It’s so gratifying to help them. We can really empower them, to stay connected.”

Phoebe Miller and Caroline Motyl take a break from teaching and learning. In the background, Jake Motyl helps out.

Teaching comes naturally to him. In fact, he says, he may go into education as a career.

Jake’s friends have talents beyond technology. Josh gave a lecture at the Senior Center on cryptocurrency. Sam is an accomplished cook.

“Westport teens get a bad rep,” Jake says. “I want to change that. My friends and I really like helping. And I think everyone learns a lot.”

Sam Seideman demystifies an iPhone.

When the school year starts, SMORES will probably move to 3-5 p.m. on Mondays. They hope teenagers in other towns pick up the concept, and start similar programs.

(From left): Holly Betts, Jake Motyl, Sam Seideman, Josh Suggs and Eli Herman, outside the Senior Center.

It’s a great idea. So what about the name?

“We wanted something creative — not just Tech Help or something like that,” Jake says. SMORES stands for Social Media OutReach EducatorS.

And whether you’re a young digital native or a senior citizen, everyone loves S’mores.

(There are many ways to learn more about SMORES. Click here for the website; for more information, click “Contact Us” at the top of that page. You can also email motyljake@gmail.com. Jake encourages people to book sessions for their parents and grandparents in Westport.)

We* Were There: Westport And Woodstock

*Well, some of us, anyway. 

Earlier this month, I put out a call to “06880” readers: Send in your Woodstock memories.

Sure, many of you were not even alive 50 years ago this weekend. (One or two of you may have been conceived there, though.)

But plenty of you were around then — either at the historic festival, or somewhere else and heard about it.

Whatever your age, sit back. Relax. And read these Woodstock tales. I don’t vouch for 100% accuracy — but this is how some readers remember it.

————————

Peter Gambaccini, former Westporter, journalist: I used to estimate that about 50 Stapleites had been at Woodstock on that August weekend 50 years ago. As I heard more tales over the years, I figured it must have been 100. Now I’m convinced  there may have been 300.

Whatever the number, I’m wondering how many of those Westporters (and Westonites) had a very strong scene of deja vu as Richie Havens took the stage on a sunny afternoon.

Havens, with just his acoustic guitar, was ready to go when the other headliners were delayed by weather, traffic snarls (many ultimately arrived by helicopter), and equipment issues. He began his typically electrifying performance, walked off to the back of the stage, played and sang some more, walked off and then came back again, ultimately running out of material and improvising “Freedom,” which became his best-known song.

For what by some estimates was 3 hours, Havens kept the festival multitude entertained, occupied and sufficiently distracted. I didn’t make the connection at the time — and probably no one did — but in the Staples auditorium we’d been witness to precisely the same situation 2 years earlier.

The concert headliners, the Blues Project, were running extremely late at a recording session in New York, and were not going to make it to the show on time. Someone had to be dispatched to the Staples stage to keep the teenage crowd from getting too restless and ornery.

That person arrived, in the form of Richie Havens. He saved the evening in much the same way he’d save the afternoon in front of a few hundred thousand people in ’69.

There was an expanding youth counterculture by 1969, of course, though few would have dared estimate how large and influential it would prove to be. Everyone I knew who was there went because they’d seen the lineup of performers, far surpassing in quality and quantity anything we’d seen to that point.

Four years after Woodstock — strongly influenced by the experience — Peter Gambaccini still reveled in the counter-cultural revolution. He’s shown here in London, with his then-girlfriend Margot.

We went there for the music. Period. We didn’t think about any possible hardships, like having to abandon and retrieve cars, getting drenched in the rain, and having very little to eat.

We watched Santana, a Bay Area band almost unknown in the East, make perhaps the most colossal breakthrough from obscurity in one single afternoon that any rock band has ever made. Sly and the Family Stone seemed magical and superhuman; I couldn’t fathom how they accomplished what they did. The Who, already my favorite concert band, reached a new peak. And with the sunrise we were prepared for, and rewarded by, what the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick accurately called “morning maniac music.”

That sunrise, after sitting absorbed (and pulverized) by heavily amplified sounds for 18 hours. That’s the memory I treasure most deeply. From the hillside, we saw an expanse of acres and acres of darkness behind the stage. But as morning came, a part of the New York State countryside that must have been miles away suddenly became lighter. And bluer.

Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock.

One section of horizon and the sky; it must have taken more than two hours  before it fully illuminated Grace Slick.  I can’t say how many of my 400,000 new best friends were affected like I was. It’s up there with my moments in a rural Swiss train station on a winter morning, and my emergence through the Canadian Rockies into Lake Louise, or my first glimpse of the domes of Yosemite. It endures, and it’s deep.

I’ve written several Woodstock articles over the years, and the one thing I strive to do each time is to correct the impression that the weekend was some kind of horrifying disaster. Even as this 50th anniversary approached, I was seeing reports to that effect.

I was 19. My brother Phil, who was with me, was 17. We could handle a couple of days of torrential weather, and a night (or two) without much sleep. We’d be able to get our cars out when everybody else wanted to get their cars out. I ate very little but have no memory of ever being hungry. Somehow I got an olive loaf sandwich and a bowl of granola. Both were new experiences for me. One was never duplicated.

We were not connected by communications with the outside world (I suggest try it sometime). When stage announcers read newspaper accounts of how Woodstock sounded like Pompeii crossed with Sodom and Gomorrah without a meal plan, it all sounded like fiction to us. This was not a disaster. The word never crossed my mind.

We got along. We all smiled. I don’t recall one single instance of a lack of consideration in 3 days. I didn’t even hear a cross word all weekend. No one got visibly angry, except when The Who’s Pete Townshend clobbered Abbie Hoffman with his guitar because Hoffman got to the microphone and kept ranting about antiwar radical John Sinclair’s legal problems in Michigan. We were antiwar, we loved Abbie, and those who knew about Sinclair liked him, too. But this was about the music. Shut up, Abbie.

By 1974, Peter Gambaccini was managing editor of the upstart Westport newspaper Fairpress. He interviewed labor leader and Latino civil rights activist Cesar Chavez.

The other impression I always hoped to correct is the notion that these were just a bunch of “hippies” gathered outside to get blasted on drugs and otherwise misbehave. Yeah, some of that happened. And I like hippies. But I really believe that by and large, Woodstock Nation was comprised of suburban teenagers (and early 20-somethings). One was my own class’ valedictorian. If they’d all been hippies, why were there only about 50,000 of them left when Jimi Hendrix took the stage, hours late, as the final performer?

We had jobs to get back to. Somehow, Phil and I got our car out of the quagmire. I was back on time Monday morning for my summer gig at the Westport News. When I walked in the front door my colleagues, who’d been following TV and newspaper accounts of the Woodstock adventure, told me they really hadn’t expected me to be back in the office that day.

A bit chagrined by the underwhelming reception, I proceeded to my typewriter and wrote one of my many articles about Woodstock, which ran with Phil’s pictures. Someday I have to find that story.

————————————

John Gilbert Plantinga, former WestporterIt was a hell of a summer.

A month before Woodstock, I was at the Newport Folk Festival when we landed on the moon. On Sunday afternoon Joni Mitchell was in the middle of her set when someone came on stage and whispered in her ear. She announced we just landed on the moon. The crowd booed.

They weren’t booing her. They were booing NASA and nationalism. Joni finished her set, and we went home.

I don’t know how I got home. I was living part time at the beach, but I ended up at my girlfriend’s house in New Canaan. I was 17.

So here’s how I got to Woodstock. I was hanging out at Compo Beach, probably playing the guitar and smoking pot, when 3 people came up the boardwalk. They said they were going to Woodstock, and showed me their tickets.

I hadn’t even thought about going. A few minutes later, I walked away. A while later I was back on the boardwalk. I looked down in the and, and saw the 3 tickets. The 3 people were nowhere to be seen.

I picked them up. “I’m going!” I thought. I figured when I got there, someone would need the other 2 tickets.

John Gilbert Plantinga, back in the day.

Wednesday morning I woke up early, packed my duffel bag, walked to Roseville Road and put out my thumb. I don’t remember my rides, but I got to the other side of the Hudson and made my way toward Bethel. I never had to use the tickets, because the gate wasn’t built yet.

I had my Martin guitar, my sleeping bag and some clothes. I was comfortable with my thumb out. I had been a runaway. I just wanted to get the fuck out of Westport with a guitar.

That night there was a campground set aside for people to build the stage and get everything going. There was a kitchen under tarps in case it rained. The Hog Farm was serving free rice.

Ken Kesey was there with his Merry Pranksters. Other school buses had also been set up like a circle of wagons. People were playing music.

More and more people showed up. Thursday night someone gave out free hits of psilocybin. I think it was the Pranksters.

Then a band started playing. It was the Grateful Dead.

By Friday morning you couldn’t get to the festival site. I probably dropped acid before noon. The daytime concerts I remember were Sly & the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, Country Joe, Richie Havens and Melanie.

At some point I ran into Liz Yoder, who had been my girlfriend during the school year. We spent the rest of the weekend together.

John Gilbert Plantinga held on to his original program.

I never got too far from the stage once the concert started. I was in the middle of the hill. People came around with food and big jugs of Almaden wine. You had to go to the top of the hill to use the Port-a-Potty.

Then it rained. It got really, really muddy.

At some point the Who played. I think it was Saturday night. During their set Abbie Hoffman got a mic, and started politicizing. Pete Townshend kicked him, and shoved him off stage. It was the only violence I saw all weekend.

I woke up Monday morning soaked, muddy, filthy. I heard a guitar: Jimi Hendrix. I made my way as close as I could to the fence in front of the stage. He played “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a solo, then the Band of Gypsies came on with him for an awesome set.

Jimi was done at 9:30 a.m. Iron Butterfly came on. “In A Gadda Da Vida” didn’t cut it. I started figuring out how to get home. I can’t remember if I was still with Liz.

Then I ran into this guy Zang from Norwalk, who’d worked with bands in Fairfield County. To move them, he had a decommissioned ambulance (still red and white). He gave me a ride back to Norwalk with a bunch of hippies. I hitched the rest of the way home.

Then it was time to go back to Staples. I was bored. I had done the same stuff sophomore year at Pomfret, then again before dropping out junior year.

The draft lottery was coming. I graduated, and got accepted as a math major at Ithaca College. That summer of 1970, I headed west in a van with friends. I won a quarter in the slots, and bought a paper to see my lottery number. I was 336. I wasn’t going to war.

My friends dropped me off in Berkeley. I had no money, no plan, just a duffel bag and a guitar. I called my parents and said, “Tell Ithaca I’m not going. Sorry about your deposit.”

I went back home, worked, got drunk and acted like a jerk.

—————————————————

Bruce Salvo, Westport architect: Driving back from Boston in my orange Beetle, I picked up a young woman hitchhiking to Woodstock. She changed clothes from her backpack right there in the front seat. Later she changed back to original outfit, right next to me.

Dropping her off as I headed south, she begged me to come along to the festival. Square that I was, I declined. She got out and continued hitching. I drove home.

—————————————

Pat Workman, longtime WestporterMy husband Jim and I just got back Bethel, New York. I was feeling nostalgic. I wanted to see the museum at the Center for the Arts, and visit the hill where I sat for 3 days.

My first journey to Woodstock began with hearing advertisements on a New York radio station. I bought 2 tickets for $18 each, a new camera, and asked my boyfriend (now my husband) if he wanted to go. He turned it down; his music was country (and still is). A friend of a friend of a friend offered to drive n exchange for the ticket.

I was 22. I wore my trendy puka shell necklace, but I was not a hippie. I was just a girl from Westport.

We arrived Thursday, before the roads got clogged, and parked in a field. The plan was to return after each day of music to sleep, and eat the food we brought.

That never happened. Once we walked a short way to the hill, we never left. We realized if we didn’t claim a spot then, when the concert began Friday afternoon it would be impossible to return.

My camera stayed in the car. So did the food and sleeping bag. We didn’t even lock the car!

We were way up on the hill. It was a bowl, so no matter where you were you could see the stage.

It rained the first night. Plastic arrived from someone nearby.

Pat and Jim Workman were married in 1970, at the Westport Woman’s Club.

Food didn’t exist. The Hog Farmers did their best, but the lines were long and they ran out of provisions quickly. Every once in a while oranges and apples were passed around. But we were there for the music.

I don’t even know if used the bathroom facilities. The lines were very long, and they were way up on the hill far from our spot.

Mud was in great supply. We still had grass around us.

Everyone got along. We were all in the same situation. Stories were shared while we waited for the next band. No one complained.

We left on Sunday afternoon, missing so many more performers. I arrived home to find my mom was worried I wouldn’t make it out of there.

In the days that followed, newspapers printed stories about things I never knew had gone on: tents, drugs, swimmers, children, etc. Most of that happened if you left the concert site and walked through the woods. I’m glad I stayed in my spot for 3 days.

And I’m glad to have been part of such a historic event that can never be replicated.

I’ve come a long way. Today I’m a preschool teacher at Greens Farms Nursery School, mother of 3 and grandmother of 7.

I recommend the easy drive to Bethel Woods Arts Center. I was thrilled to walk onto the hill and find what I think was the very spot I occupied. Standing there, looking down where the stage was, I could almost hear Richie Havens singing “Freedom.”

Pat Workman, on her recent visit to the Woodstock site.

————————————————————–

Carl Shea, former Westporter: Your request inspired me to dig out my little black book, which I miraculously found in my basement desk. I had made notes in it about my trip home from Vietnam.

I left my unit (327 Signal Company, Long Binh, about 20 miles from Saigon) at 10:30 a.m. on August 15, 1969. We left Bien Hoa airfield at 5:23 p.m. local time. Given the 11 hour time difference, that was 6:23 a.m. on the East Coast.

We stopped in Okinawa and Wake Island, which we left about the time Richie Havens took the stage to begin the concert. Then on to Honolulu, and San Francisco/Oakland (3:30 a.m. local time), where we exchanged our fatigues for new dress uniforms.

Carl Shea (right) in Long Binh, 1968. He says, “I had 32 weeks of electronics training to learn this.”

About 12:15 on August 16 (3:15 p.m. EDT) I boarded a plane for New York. I arrived around 8:45 p.m. My parents and sister excitedly told me about half a million people at some concert on a farm in New York, and how the New York State Thruway was closed.

I was unimpressed — or unconscious, since it was 45 hours since I’d left my company in Viet Nam.

My response was: “Great. Can we go get some pizza? I haven’t had pizza in a year.”

I missed the moon landing too. War is hell.

—————————————————–

Hedi Lieberman, former WestporterWe lived very close to Woodstock. My mother made 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for Temple Sholom Sisterhood. My father — principal of Monticello Middle School — opened the building for emergencies.

My brother, who was 11, was helicoptered back and forth to help with overdoses, and to bring people to the schools where my BFF — whose father was a local dentist — helped with child care.

I was not allowed to go. I was stuck making sandwiches with my mother.

——————————————————

Eric Burns, former Westporter/author/media criticI was living in Boston. Five of us packed into an old Pontiac one Friday morning. We never made it.

We still had another 10 miles to go when traffic on our 2-lane country road came to a dead stop. We couldn’t go forward, couldn’t back up. We took shifts in the front seat because the air conditioner couldn’t reach further. We were starved and thirsty.

Eric Burns, during the Woodstock era.

Finally, it seemed that help was on the way. People living along the road poured out of their houses with food and beverages for us poor, stranded wayfarers. Or so we thought.

It wasn’t what it seemed. They were not Samaritans; they were capitalists. A peanut butter sandwich went for $10. Margarine sandwiches were $5. The Wonder Bread was stale. A small cup of water was a dollar; so was each refill. When we finished, we had to return the cups to be used for the next customer.

By the time my friends and I pooled enough money for a few bites and sips, the traffic opened up a few feet. We executed a u-turn, and headed back the way we came.

We never heard so much of a measure of music from Hendrix, Joplin, the Who, the Dead, Creedence or Crosby, Stills & Nash. Instead we rolled down the windows, blasted the radio, and sang along with the Archies to “Sugar, Sugar.”

—————————————————-

Marcia Wright, retired Westport teacherI remember how polite everyone was. Legions of tatted-up bikers carefully maneuvered their bikes through throngs of people, saying “pardon me.”

There was lots of nudity. People casually walked around butt naked, enjoying life and music. Few gave them a second glance. Many rinsed off in Yasgur’s pond. Lines for the Porta-Potties were impossibly long.

The wafting odor of marijuana was everywhere. And the mass of individuals was so dense it actually changed the acoustics. Even though we were outside, it sounded like inside.

It rained a bit, so we used our motorcycle to secure a tarp.

I gave my pictures of Woodstock to the Staples social studies department in the 1980s. I imagine they are long gone, the victim of construction and time.

Not Marcia Wright’s picture. She did not get backstage.

————————————————

David Barton, native Westporter: I wanted to go to Woodstock for months. The DJs on WNEW made it sound like if you didn’t, you’d be a loser who could never look at your friends again.

The only problem was, I was too young to drive. And none of my friends’ parents would let them go. I whined, pestered and eventually bribed my college-age brother Artie to drive me there.

We left totally unprepared: no tickets, directions, sleeping bags or food.

We followed the traffic toward the Catskills, and parked in a farmer’s field 4 or 5 miles from the site. Artie says we coincidentally parked next to fellow Westporter Pete Gambaccini.

Dave and Artie Barton, a couple of years after Woodstock.

We joined the procession hiking to the concert. Almost every male wore army fatigues and jeans. Local residents handed out cups of water. In retrospect, they were incredibly tolerant. I even used someone’s hose to cool down.

We arrived just as the music started Friday afternoon. I think it was Richie Havens. That’s the last music I remember. My brother says Santana was great. I have to take his word for it.

We sat on the lawn close to the stage. Our neighbors passed around water, food, beer and lots of pot. I didn’t smoke anything the entire weekend. I don’t remember anyone passing around acid or pills. Maybe we were in the PG section.

I was quite a bit younger than most of the crowd, but didn’t feel out of place. Everyone was happy and friendly. A lot of frisbee tossing and balloon swatting.

One thing does stand out: I was a barely 16-year-old Westport kid surrounded by lots of topless college girls. I pretended it wasn’t a big deal. Of course, it was.

This photo is not by David Barton.

The first day was the best. After the rains hit, it wasn’t quite the same for me. After the announcers told us to stay away from the light towers, as everyone rushed toward them to get shelter, my memory is largely of lots of mud, and lines for the bathroom.

We got a few hours of rest (not sleep) back at our car at one point, but we were pretty sleep deprived the 2nd day, which is why I don’t remember the music. Also, we moved further back and to the side, for more room to play frisbee and toss a football. That’s what I would do in front of the Staples cafeteria during lunch — except now there were rock bands.

By the end of the 2nd day I was hallucinating — not from drugs, but lack of sleep. We decided to head home after it rained again. It was so muddy we had to be towed by a tractor out of that poor farmer’s field. I hope we paid him something.

My only regret is not seeing Jimi Hendrix play “The Star Spangled Banner” on the final day. Woodstock seemed like a really big, most fun, party to me — not a generation-defining sociological event. Maybe I was too young to know better.

——————————————————–

Fred and Kathy Fassman, longtime WestportersIn 1969 Kathy suggested going to Woodstock, to see what it’s all about. We bought tickets, and loaded our car with a tent, 3 friends and a dog.

No problem camping at a state park a few miles away, and driving to the site on the first day. Five of us and a dog fit into a 2-man tent just fine after a day listening to amazing bands and enjoying the atmosphere.

Day 2 was a bit different. We had to park a distance away, and find our place on the hillside among so many happy people.

Walking through the woods to the site was an event in itself. There were lots of makeshift tents, people dancing, singing, smoking. The second night the rain started, but nobody moved. All was peace, music and rain.

Cathy and Fred Fassman (center), flanked by Cynthia, Nora and a dog.

We had jobs waiting for us in New York, so we left to be at work on Monday. That’s when we found the news, and most people talking about the most amazing concert and event. Who knew we would be a part of history?

———————————————————–

Ann Chernow, Westport artist: In the early 1970s, we and our best friends bought a walk-up studio on the East Side. It wasn’t beautiful; it was burglarized 3 times; we endured our next door neighbor who was in scream therapy. But for 10 years, every other weekend we enjoyed New York’s shows, museums and restaurants.

When I could no longer climb the stairs, we decided to sell. We took out a few ads and spread the word. After no takers for several months, we decided to spruce up the room. Although none of us were at Woodstock, we were big fans of The Happening.

My partner had purchased an original Woodstock poster that we hung on the wall near the front door. The first prospective buyers took one look around. Instantly they said they were buying, because anyone who would hang a Woodstock poster near their front door was cool and must enjoy life.

Their only caveat: We had to leave them the poster.

Can you find yourself in the crowd?

———————————————————–

Nomi Meltzer Jacobs, longtime Westporter married to a Westporter: I was 16 when I went to Woodstock with Kevin Buckley, Tullio Ferri and another girl way too young.

We left on Thursday, and hit the traffic jam 10 miles before the site. It took 8 hours to go 10 miles. It was a party the whole way. We ran into Tim DeHuff and Geoff Ferguson on that road.

We finally put down our tent. We saw a lot of Richie Havens, because nobody else could make it through the traffic.

None of us had tickets. It didn’t matter, because the fence surrounding the concert area was torn down.

The next day w saw a lot of nude bathers and the Pig Farm bus (kind of like the Merry Pranksters).

Saturday we saw everyone that played. But there was not food — or not enough, anyway. Someone threw pears to the crowd.

Of course, I hadn’t been allowed to Woodstock. So I ran away. My father called my older sister, who worked at Carvel’s, and said he was going to call the police. My sister laughed, knowing the police would do nothing.

I was in deep trouble when I got back. It was worth every memory I have now.

A week after Woodstock, Westporter Jon Sinish’s photos illustrated a Bridgeport Sunday Post story about the already-historic event.

———————————————————–

Jim Grosner, former Westporter: August 16, 1969 was my 23rd birthday.  I was a year out of the Navy, and had just purchased a blue Harley Davidson. I found this photo of me and a friend on that Sportster on the Woodstock 1969 video.

Woodstock was absolutely amazing…the parts that I can remember.

—————————————————————

Matt Murray, longtime WestporterWhen I went to work at the Mediasound recording studio in the mid-70s, I learned that 2 of the partners — Joel Rosenman and John Roberts — had put together the funding for Woodstock, and hired the production staff.

Being a gofer for the studio, another guy from shipping and I were sent across 8th Avenue and 57th to get some office furniture. In the storage area was a stock of Woodstock posters. We asked if we could have a few. They said sure. I still have my 2.

Matt Murray still has his original poster.

For a Christmas party, they had unused Woodstock tickets as drink chits. I should have saved those, and bought my drinks.

(The studio opened a couple of months before Woodstock. They took a financial beating, but the movie and record offset the losses.)

———————————————————

Dan Woog, longtime Westporter, blogger, soccer coach: My friend Neil Brickley and I were planning to go. We hadn’t thought much about logistics. We just thought the music would be cool.

Dan Woog, a couple of years after Woodstock.

I never made it. A couple of weeks before Woodstock, I got grounded. For good reason: I wrecked my parents’ car. So even if I was not grounded — which, I must emphasize, I well deserved — we would have had to figure out alternate transportation.

A few years later, I was cleaning out stuff at my parents’ house. I came across my Woodstock ticket: forgotten, unused, and in pristine condition.

“Hmmmm — that’s interesting!” I said to myself. And promptly threw it in the trash.

I had no idea collectibles were ever going to become a thing. If I had held on to that $18 ticket for a few years, I would have been able to pay for many, many car repairs.

Even at today’s prices.

 

 

Solving Our Traffic Light Woes

Everyone in Westport has a pet stoplight/stop sign peeve.

You know — the place where, every time you sit there, you think to yourself, This makes no sense! 

For me, it’s the light at the Kings Highway North/Wilton Road intersection. With Fort Apache on your right, there are 2 lanes. One — always with less traffic — is for left turns only. The other is for people heading straight on Kings Highway, or right onto Wilton Road.

If the car in front is turning right, they can turn on red. There’s a bonus: A left turn arrow for drivers heading south on Wilton Road allows even more right-hand turns onto Wilton Road, thanks to the delay in oncoming Wilton Road traffic from the left.

But if the car in front is going straight, you’re out of luck. No right turn on red.

The car in front is not turning on right. A backup ensues.

The solution is obvious: The left lane on Kings Highway should be for drivers turning left or going straight. The right lane should be for right turns only.

Traffic often backs up on Kings Highway (sometimes blocking the medical center entrance/exit). That simple change would help a lot.

My second pet peeve: Without getting into too much detail — because everyone knows how bad it is — here’s my suggestion for the deadly Compo Shopping Center/Compo Acres light: Alternate them.

In other words, show green for 10-15 seconds only for cars exiting from the CVS lot. Then have green for another 10-15 only for cars leaving Trader Joe’s.

It’s not perfect. But it’s 10,000% better than what we’ve got now.

This is the light in question. Note — just for grins — not one but TWO cars entering the CVS lot the wrong way.

Those are my pet traffic signal peeves. What are yours? Click “Comments” below — and don’t just complain. Suggest a solution too!

Despite Denials, Hiawatha Lane Housing Proposal Still Lives

Folklore says that cats have 9 lives.

The proposed Hiawatha Lane housing development has been rejected 8 times by town officials.

Its developer is betting the 9th time’s the charm.

In June, Westport’s Planning & Zoning Commission struck down Summit Saugatuck’s plan for 187 units on the narrow road nestled between Saugatuck Avenue and I-95 exit 17. Board members cited concerns about access by firefighters and first responders, as well as traffic and pedestrian concerns.

Applications for sewer connections were denied earlier, by the P&Z and/or Board of Selectmen, in July and September 2007; January 2015; July 2016, and February 2017.

A text amendment and zone change were voted down in November 2016. The text amendment, map amendment and zoning amendment request defeated this past June was the 8th request.

Every denial was unanimous.

Summit Saugatuck’s plan for Hiawatha Lane.

But Summit Saugatuck principal Felix Charney will be back again. Because the proposal is submitted as an 8-30g application — meaning it falls under the state’s “affordable housing” regulation — it’s been re-submitted. A public hearing is set for September 12.

The plan would include 130 market-rate units, and 57 deemed “affordable.” Hiawatha Lane already includes many homes that are among the most affordable in Westport.

The 8-30g statute mandates that 10% of a town’s housing stock be “affordable,” under a state formula. Westport is currently at 4%.

However, only units constructed after 1990, and those that are deed-restricted for 40 years, are considered. Most Westport units serving lower-income groups do not fall into either category.

In March, Westport received a “Certificate of Affordable Housing Completion” from the state Department of Housing. The result was a 4-year moratorium on 8-30g.

The moratorium was granted “based upon the significant progress Westport has made in supplying affordable housing,” 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. Yet the moratorium does not preclude more submissions, like the one Summit Saugatuck is proposing.

Summit Saugatuck and Garden Homes — another developer whose proposal to build on untenable land was denied by the town — tried to get the state to vacate the moratorium. Their petition was denied on Monday by Connecticut’s Department of Housing.

1177 Post Road East helped Westport earn a 4-year moratorium on 8-30g proposals.

The town has received “moratorium points” for these units:

  • Rotary Centennial House, 10 West End Avenue (6 out of 6 total units)
  • Bradley Commons, Bradley Lane (4 of 20)
  • Saugatuck Center, Riverside Avenue (5 of 27)
  • Bedford Square, Church Lane (5 of 26)
  • 20 Cross Street (3 of 10; a portion of all others also earn points)
  • Coastal Point, 1135 Post Road East (2 of 12)
  • 1177 Greens Farms, 1177 Post Road East (29 of 94; a portion of all others also earn points )
  • Sasco Creek, 1655 Post Road East (31 of 54)
  • Hidden Brook, 1655 Post Road East (4 of 39)
  • Hales Court (38 of 78).

As noted earlier, that does not count any affordable housing built before 1990.

(Hat tip: Carolanne Curry)

Remembering Kathryn Blumhardt

Kathryn “Kay” Blumhardt — a highly demanding but extremely well respected Staples High School English teacher from 1967 to 1995 — died last week, of ovarian cancer. She was 83 years old.

Tributes poured in on Facebook. Erin Buff Madden Collins — who was inspired to become an English teacher by her Staples instructors — calls her “tough as nails, very challenging, (and) a gift to all her students.”

Ann Belser says she became an English major because of Blumhardt, and an English teacher because of her colleague Joy Walker. And Audrey Wauchope became a writer thanks to Blumhardt, and the rest of the Staples English department.

Steven Uydess became a teacher too. He says:

Her office was in the book surplus closet, and she met with every student to talk about the kinds of books they enjoyed. After a few minutes of thoughtful listening, she pulled from the myriad boxes a half dozen books that she thought we might enjoy and gave them to us. I got “The Maltese Falcon,” “Last of the Mohicans” and “Catch-22,” among others.

I recall finding her so odd in some ways: her dramatic affect, her love for Walt Whitman (true love!), the way she could cut you down to size with but a meaningful stare. But she also taught me that to be an effective teacher you need passion, and that being your authentic self is how you connect with your students. Rest In Peace, and say hi to Walt for us!

Michelangelo Sosnowitz notes, “She scared the hell out of me. She was a tough and strict teacher but she was great. She also loved Marlon Brando, so I have to give her extra credit there.”

Kay Blumhardt, in the 1977 Staples High School yearbook …

Ian Atlas says, “We butted heads, memorably over whether I could sell chocolates for band before class (I may have been sent to the office over that one), but I learned to love Shakespeare in her classroom.”

Scott Cussimano calls her “tough but passionate.” He remembers a favorite saying of hers: “I’ll do anything for my students.”

Beth Wilson Matteson echoes those thoughts. She writes: “I loved her. I did my junior research paper on JS Bach. When I told her my church choir would be singing a Bach anthem, she drove to my church to hear me sing.”

Ursa Heilbron Mooney says, “She was tough, but we bonded over a mutual love for Sherlock Holmes (both the stories and the BBC production with Jeremy Brett). I had her freshman year, and her in-depth coverage of ‘The Odyssey’ was spectacular. And the eyebrows – the legendary eyebrows. She was great.”

… and in 1989.

Peter Danbury writes, “her enthusiasm for her subject could be intense. I loved the TV schedules she passed out every week, noting all the interesting things we might avail ourselves of amidst all the trash. She was so keen on us honoring with our attention what was valuable in the culture at large, and not wasting our time on the insipid and it was kind of wonderful. I‘m glad I ran into her in the late ’90s and could tell her how much I loved her Myth & Bible class.”

Ted Howes adds, “She was instrumental in my care for words. She loved Melville. She was tough, but I appreciate her a lot more now.”

Susan Huppi praises, “She definitely prepared us for college. I respect the work she put in. She helped me understand that teaching students is a tough but wonderful job. She expected we would always do our best.”

Former teacher Tod Kalif writes, “Kay Blumhardt was the ultimate old school English teacher. She earned the respect of every one of her colleagues, and demanded excellence from every one of her students.”

Jason Tillotson remembers her “clear as day: tough in class, a mysteriously stern exterior which kept you on your toes. But one-on-one in her cozy office closet she was warm, connective, and inspired curiosity by asking just the right questions. She introduced me to George Bernard Shaw beyond his work as a playwright, and into his life as a whole. It was a learning experience I won’t forget. I even saved the paper!”

And — in honor of one of the habits her teacher imparted — Mary Palmieri Gai says she read the Facebook post twice.

Photo Challenge #238

At first glance, last week’s Photo Challenge was impossible.

Molly Alger’s shot showed some beautiful wineberries. They looked delicious — and it seemed they could be anywhere.

Lurking in the background, though, was a small part of a building.

It was easy to miss. But Andrew Colabella saw it — and recognized it as part of Golden Shadows, Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff’s 1950s-era “mansion.”

Today, we’d call it a “house.” It’s still there, on the now-town-owned property called Baron’s South.

Click here to see the photo. To see it in real life, use the South Compo Road entrance (or walk through from Imperial Avenue). Most people don’t know, but the park is open from dawn till dusk.

Here’s this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, fire away!

(Photo/Lee Scharfstein)

Repair Work Underway In Downtown Church

Last October, a chunk of plaster fell from the Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church ceiling, to the sanctuary.

Thank God no one was in the pews. But it it worried clergy and administrators.

Engineers gave the bad news: The plaster had dried out.

Not all of it. The prominent building on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Church Lane — finished in 1863 — was heavily damaged by a 1951 fire. The part of the ceiling repaired then was in bad shape. The original ceiling itself was fine.

There was more bad news: The lead holding the handsome stained glass windows together had bowed and deteriorated. Several windows needed to be replaced too.

One of the stained glass windows.

Finally, the organ — installed in 1933 — was also found to need repairs.

The project costs $2.5 million. Half has been raised by parishioners so far, under the direction of Kemp Lewis.

If funds remain at the end, they’ll help fix the bell. It used to ring every 15 minutes. It broke over a year ago, and has been silent — unless rung manually, during services — ever since.

Architect, parishioner and property chair Deirdre O’Farrelly with the bell.

Plaster work began in early June. It will be completed by October 5 — God willing — in time for a long-scheduled wedding.

While the sanctuary is filled with heavy equipment, scaffolding and tarps, services are held in Branson Hall. Completed in 2012, that was the church’s previous big project.

Work continues in the sanctuary.

This is not an easy job. Workers from John Tiedemann Inc. of New Jersey — one of the nation’s top church restoration firms — work 50 feet high, in the hot attic.

The Christ & Holy Trinity space is beautiful. Congregants and clergy have admired and appreciated it for more than a century and a half.

Each star on the ceiling represents a family that donated for repairs after the 1951 fire.

The church shares many resources with the town. They’re doing all they can to keep it beautiful, and safe, for the next 150 years.

Downstairs in Branson Hall, an exhibit by Randy Herbertson includes stars with the names of contributors to the 2019 campaign.

A BIT OF HISTORY: Christ Church was consecrated in 1835, at the northeast corner of Ludlow Road and Post Road West. The original church is depicted on Westport’s town seal.

The building later became the Compo Inn, then the home of the restaurant Tony’s of 52nd Street.

In 1855 New York financier Richard Henry Winslow retired to Westport, and joined Christ Church. He owned the vast Compo Road properties that are now Winslow Park and Baron’s South.

He became a member of the vestry, and in 1859 offered an expensive organ to the church. He wanted to take the organ back,  however, “should certain contingencies arise.”

Some parishioners objected to the newcomer from New York making such demands. They also believed Episcopalians should not enjoy music during worship.

Winslow left the church. So did 50 other members — and the rector. The breakaway parish was organized in 1860. Winslow selected the current downtown site — back then, the Wakeman Inn — for Holy Trinity Church. In colonial times it had been the Disbrow Tavern. George Washington dined there with the Marquis de Lafayette and Count de Rochambeau.

The cornerstone was laid in 1860. Winslow died 5 months later, age 60. A new church replaced the original in 1885.

During World War II — when fuel and gas rationing caused difficulties — Holy Trinity Church asked Christ Church to worship with them. The merger was completed in 1944.

Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church today.

(To donate to the restoration fund, click here. A coloring book about the stained glass windows is available at the church office.)

Elvira Mae’s Is Open!

The work is done! The CO has been issued.

Elvira Mae’s is open – until “at least” 10 tonight

The first customers love it. Smiles all around. Stop in and say hi!

New owners Hal and Betsy Kravitz, at Elvira’s.

Hair It Is: Scott Sharkey Adds Lice Treatment For Kids

Scott Sharkey was itching for a new opportunity.

Last summer at a retreat for his franchisees, the owner of Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids — the Westport-based, very successful, always fun childrens’ salon franchise — talked about his desire to find complementary businesses.

Someone casually mentioned lice removal.

Over the years, Sharkey had been contacted by lice removal companies. But nothing stuck.

Focus groups confirmed that having employees pick nits out of kids’ hair next door to their friends who were getting styled was not a bang-up business model.

Sharkey’s is about kids’ haircuts. Would lice removal undermine the business model?

But Sharkey’s interest was piqued.

One of the people who approached him earlier was Allyson Greifenberger. A 27-year Westporter, she and Westonite Kristy Gordon were owners of the Hair Genies in Norwalk.

Sharkey called. He said he was thinking about getting into the lice trade. Would she be interested in selling?

Yes!

Last November, Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids acquired Hair Genie. Sharkey moved the Norwalk location to the Post Road — between Calise’s Market and the Citgo gas station.

Hair Genies — aka Lice Treatment Institute — on the Post Road, next to Calise’s Market.

It’s close to his salon, opposite the Westport Inn. But it’s far enough away not to worry that lice will be transmitted to anyone having a haircut.

In fact, Sharkey says, that’s one of the myths about lice. They don’t fly or jump. They spread only through head-to-head contact. That’s why they afflict kids — at sleepovers, school and camp.

They feed off blood in the head. They live for only 24 hours in a bed.

Sharkey rattles off info like that as if he’s discussing the common cold.

Aha! “The common cold takes longer to cure than lice,” he notes. “This is a completely solvable problem.”

It’s also, he stresses, not an embarrassing one. At least, it shouldn’t be. “Your kid got lice from someone else,” he notes.

Scott Sharkey and Allyson Greifenberger, at Hair Genies.

Hair Genies is designed as a kids-friendly, mom-stressless place. The chairs are comfortable. There are TVs and other distractions. A waiting room upstairs is a great place for siblings to chill (TV, free food) or do homework. (There’s also discreet parking in the back, if that’s an issue.)

During treatment, parents can use a discount coupon for Fred’s Car Wash, down the street in Southport.

That’s not as random as it sounds. A thorough interior cleaning can remove any lice eggs left behind.

The clean, inviting Hair Genies treatment room.

Sharkey says that Hair Genies fills a need.

“What usually happens is a kid feels itchy. His mom thinks it’s dandruff, sand or bugs. They go to a pediatrician or dermatologist. It takes time.

“Now they can come here. We can tell within 10 minutes if it’s lice.”

If it is, treatment begins immediately. Technicians remove all lice — strand by strand.

The combing is thorough — and chemical-free. “It’s a very natural, manual process,” Sharkey says.

“One and done. After one treatment, you’re lice-free.”

Treatment also includes checking every member of the family. The goal is to make sure the house is lice-free too.

Kids come back 3 to 5 days later for a free head check. That’s in case nits remained in the house or car.

Hair Genies also sells preventive products. Won’t that be bad for business?

Not at all, Sharkey says. “We’re all about being helpful.”

Since opening in early June, Hair Genies has been busy. Sharkey advertised a bit on Facebook, but most business comes from referrals. He told pediatricians and school nurses that he’s here, and of course parents tell each other.

“We want to spread the word,” he jokes. “Not the lice.”

The other day, 24 new Sharkey’s Cuts for Kids franchisees came to Westport for training. Along the way, he showed them Hair Genies.

Suddenly, haircuts and lice treatment don’t sound like strange bedfellows at all.

(Hair Genies is open 7 days a week, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., at 748 Post Road East. Click here for the website; appointments are available online.)