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Hey, Gardeners! Grow Your Own — And Share

The Westport Community Gardens is a wonderful place. Dozens of gardeners — from  families with little children to folks in their 80s — grow fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs and grasses, in all kinds of designs and configurations.

They joyfully share their bounty with others. The Grow-A-Row fresh food  initiative encourages gardeners to grow an extra row — or more — to donate.

Last year the program donated nearly 100 grocery bags loaded with fresh, organically grown produce to the The Center for Food Equity and Economic Development (FEED) in Bridgeport. Their culinary training program team prepares the donated food, distributes meals to soup kitchens throughout Bridgeport, and runs a food truck to reach neighborhoods that lack access to fresh food.

Some of the food donations grown and collected at the Westport Community Garden through the Grow-A-Row initiative last  summer.

This year, Grow-A-Row — with partners Sustainable Westport and the Zero Food Waste Initiative — invites all Westport home gardeners, everywhere in town, to participate.

They’ll even get you started, with seeds.

The Grow-A-Row Project received a generous donation of vegetable seeds from the University of Connecticut Extension Master Gardeners Program. They include radishes, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra and squashes. Seeds are available for pickup at Branson Hall, at Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

Seeds are limited to first come, first served. But all home gardeners in Westport are welcome to donate whatever they grow.

Once harvested, all fresh produce and herb donations can be dropped off at Branson Hall.

Questions? Email amyunikewicz@gmail.com.

Cramped RV Opens A Big, Wide World

The pandemic has taught thousands of Westporters that they can work anywhere.

Joe and Ashleigh Saponare knew that already.

In 2018, the couple hit the road. They’ve traveled around the country ever since.

Joe — a 1998 Staples High School graduate whose father Joe Sr. is Westport’s animal control officer — manages his PsiMac Apple consultancy — remotely. Ashleigh quit her former jobs teaching English, yoga and mindfulness, and now works for Go Zen!, whose animated programs help children learn social and emotional skills.

They work in their RV, in coffee shops and anyplace else with WiFi. They hike before breakfast, take fewer showers than before, and move whenever the spirit moves them.

Ashleigh Saponare works remotely, in Oregon.

Being together in the cramped quarters of an RV has strained their relationship. But the wide open spaces of national parks and other natural wonders has strengthened it.

Joe Saponare and the RV, in Gardiner, Montana.

Joe and Ashleigh have branched off on their own American dream. But the roots lie here, in suburban Westport.

From his early days at Kings Highway Elementary and Bedford Middle Schools, Joe’s life was shaped by access to technology. His Staples mentor was computer teacher Jim Honeycutt. When Joe hated his first corporate job, Jim encouraged him to call TBI, the Apple service provider then located on Post Road West.

Joe left later to start his own business. Life was good. But he and Ashleigh kept watching YouTube videos of people living nomadic lifestyles. They worked remotely, and documented their adventures for homebound viewers to enjoy (and dream about).

The couple spent 2 years trying to figure out how to join them. They realized that payments on an RV would be only slightly more than their car. They planned how to work from the road.

They found a renter for their condo. Three years ago next month, Joe and Ashleigh flew to California to pick up their new home.

They headed up the California coast, to the Pacific Northwest. They spent a lot of time in Montana, working and looking at bison.

They headed south, and fell in love with Sedona, Arizona.

Joe and Ashleigh Saponare,, in Sedona, Arizona.

Everywhere, the couple met people who wanted to talk. They offered tips on what to see, where to eat. Their desire to help was genuine — and invaluable.

In March of 2020 Joe and Ashleigh were temporarily back in New York, visiting friends. Coronavirus was closing in.

“We realized our lives were going to change,” Joe recalls. “We knew we had to be in a stable campground, near the outdoors.”

They headed back to Sedona. Despite the pandemic, it was a “great experience.” With tourists gone, downtown was deserted — so much that wild boars roamed the streets.

The couple hiked every morning. They had the trails to themselves.

Then it was off to Boulder. They stayed in the Rockies through the holidays.

“Once we took the leap, it changed our lives,” Joe says. “We’d sit somewhere in a town working. We’d get to know the people and the place. We’d take hikes they’d recommend. Our work and our lives were integrated so much better.”

Ashleigh Saponare at Wind River Canyon, Wyoming.

Ashleigh adds, “The morning routine of primping, and putting on a professional outfit, is not necessary.” They fill that time with hikes, meditation or yoga.

Of course, life was not always perfect. “We had epic fights in epic places,” Joe laughs. “It’s hard to have a relationship in a van. But after a normal domestic argument we’d open the door, and on one side would be Pacific Ocean waves. On the other would be rolling hills. That puts everything in perspective.”

A view of the Grand Canyon — and Ashleigh, outside — during the pandemic.

Also in perspective: the amount of waste 2 people produce, even in a van.

Living in a tight space magnifies waste. Ashleigh and Joe constantly throw out excess packaging.

The travelers’ eyes have been opened wide, both say: to the prevalence and effects of wildfires. The number of homeless people, particularly in warm climates.

And, says Joe, “I know it sounds trite, but I’m open now to much bigger ideas. I’m not trapped in the bubble of day-to-day experiences. There is so much natural beauty. There are so many great towns, with different ways of life.”

Joe Saponare at Glacier National Park, Montana.

Still, he notes, “people everywhere are a lot more similar than different.”

The prevailing wisdom is that the US is deeply polarized — divided into 2 opposite camps, with no overlap or even real contact.

In fact, he says, “sitting in coffee shops, we’ve had great conversations with lots of people. We didn’t realize we had completely different political views until the end.”

This month, the couple are temporarily back in the area. They’re seeing friends and family, checking in with their East Coast roots.

It’s great to have roots. But the West beckons.

Joe and Ashleigh also have wheels.

(Joe and Ashleigh blog about their adventures. Click here to see.)

Sidd Finch, Sports Illustrated And Westport: The Back Story

It’s April Fools Day.

I may or may not have tricked you this morning, with my Keith Richards-teasing post.

But that’s nothing compared to what Sports Illustrated did on April 1, 1985.

The magazine — at the time, a must read for sports fans everywhere — published a cover story on Sidd Finch.

Sidd Finch. George Plimpton wrote that he liked to pitch with a boot on one foot, the other barefoot.

He was — according to writer George Plimpton -= a New York Mets pitcher who threw an astonishing 168 miles an hour. He was a Harvard graduate. He practiced yoga and played the French horn. He was a recluse.

He also did not exist. It was a hoax. (The first letters of each word in the opening paragraph spelled out “Happy April Fool’s Day.”)

But so much about the story seemed real. Including Sidd Finch’s dorm room at Harvard.

In reality, it belonged to Rob Hagebak. He was a 1982 Staples High School graduate — and the stepson of SI’s deputy art director, Westporter Rick Warner.

And that’s the God’s honest truth.

Sidd Finch/Rob Hagebak’s Harvard dorm room.

(Hat tip: Ted Gangi)

 

Staples Class of ’61 Zooms Between Yesterday And Today

The Staples High School Class of 1961 was the first to spend all 3 years at the “new” campus on North Avenue.

Some students were the first at Coleytown Elementary or Long Lots Junior High, when those schools opened.

Some of their parents were part of the baby boom families flooding Westport in the 1950s. Others had parents who had been here for a few generations — either as blue-blood Yankees or Italian immigrants.

Like many classes, they held reunions, every 5 or 10 years. As expected, numbers dwindled.

The 50th, in 2011, was a big one. Hard work and internet sleuthing drew 108 classmates (including some who had moved away after elementary school or junior high, graduated late or quit school). It might have been their last hurrah.

But the passage of time does something. Two years later, a group gathered to celebrate their 70th birthdays. In 2015 they had a year-early 55th celebration.

Plans for a 60th reunion were derailed by COVID. But if a global pandemic reminded classmates of their vulnerability — and kept them from traveling getting together, even if they wanted to — it also provided an opportunity.

The “new” Staples, circa 1959. The auditorium (center left) and gym (largest building in the rear) are the only original structures that remain today.

Peter Kelman had been a reluctant reunion-goer. But he got roped into helping with the 50th reunion, however. And as the 60th loomed, he saw a chance to “break through the cliques”: athletes, hoods, nerds, popular crowd, artsy crowd, student council types, top students and more.

Kelman wanted to “expose” those cliques, and “encourage empathy and understanding that most in the class never had.”

Like so much else, the Class of 1961’s reunion would be on Zoom. But this would not be an awkward video event, where half the people talked at once, and the other half tried to but were on mute.

A hundred or so classmates joined the session, a few days ago. Twenty-five volunteered to speak, for 5 minutes each. I was honored to be invited to listen in.

A small part of the attendees at the Class of 1961 Zoom reunion.

Kelman chose carefully. He wanted people with stories to tell — ones that would “explicitly or implicitly cut through people’s superficial ideas of their classmates.”

For example, Jerry Melillo — part of an old-time Italian family — has become one of the world’s pre-eminent climate change researches.

Kelman cast a wide net. Don Law produced some of Boston’s biggest concerts; he’s now president of Live Nation New England. Thea Vierling has a second career as a beekeeper. Morgan Smith flew planes in Vietnam. Deborah Fortson relied on music to help her care for her mother during her battle with dementia. Joe Valiante volunteered at Ground Zero for several months after 9/11, and gave President Bush a firefighter’s badge that’s now displayed at the presidential library.

The stories were wide-ranging, intriguing, and full of the real-life details that show the many paths that unfold after high school. Taken together, they showed too the power that a Staples education provided for a very diverse group of young — and today, much older — people.

But the most powerful presentations came from a pair of speakers in the middle of the program.

Kelman himself talked about the “Westport Caste System.” Moving to Westport in 1956, he made friends with a wide group of classmates. But it was also clear, he said, that even as an assimilated, non-observant Jew he was outside of that caste system.

WASPs were at the top, Kelman said. At the bottom were some of his Italian friends, stereotyped academically and socially.

Many Jewish kids “strove for the top” group, he said. “And we looked down on the others.”

Kelman then read a story from Pat Ferrone Land, who was unable to attend. She wrote about her guidance counselor who told her not to take college courses, and how she was excluded from many activities.

Those experiences, she said, fueled her desire to prove the doubters wrong. They helped shape the rest of her life. (See below for her story.)

It was a reunion unlike any other that Class of ’61 has had — and unlike anyone else’s. There were no worries about booking venues and motel rooms, making small talk or looking great.

All anyone had to do was listen to everyone else. And they did. More than 2 1/2 hours after they logged on, nearly 100 people were still on the screen.

Junior prom, 1960.

So what’s next?

“I’m going to do everything I can to tighten these new bonds,” Kelman says.

He’s looking too to pull in classmates who did not attend — and find those they don’t have contact information for.

After all, the 65th reunion is not far away.

(Want to see what members of the Class of 1961 have accomplished, and are up to today? Click here. For the website homepage, click here.)

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Here is Pat Ferrone Land’s story for the Staples High School Class of 1961 reunion:

I was the youngest of a large Italian family in Brooklyn. My father and his siblings owned and lived in an apartment building above the family bakery.

The family purchased land on Newtown Turnpike in Westport as a summer retreat, much to the outrage of local Yankees. Italians did not belong on that side of town!

Summers were spent at Compo Beach, and with friends made through Assumption Church.

In Brooklyn, I attended a Catholic school that reflected the diversity of our neighborhood: multiracial, multi-nationalities and culturally diverse.

I thrived in school, consistently being at the head of my class. By 4th grade we were writing cursive, multiplying and dividing fractions, and reading for knowledge and pleasure.

Due to a change in city planning, my family chose to make Westport our home. I was enrolled at Bedford Elementary. From my first day there, I was met with condescension and indifference by the primarily WASP class. I was rebuffed as I attempted to make friends. I was blessed to be seated next to Mindy Pollack, who was welcoming and kind.

The exclusion by classmates was painful. The message was clear: “stick to your own kind.” I did, with the good fortune of meeting Louie DeLallo, Jack Jackson, and Petey and Carlo Tucci Palmer. They took me under their protective wings and we remained lifelong friends.

By 5th grade, due to Westport’s population increase, I and my Italian guardian angels were transferred to the new Coleytown Elementary school. While studying countries of the world, my teacher said, “Pat stand up. This is what an olive-skinned person with kinky hair looks like.” I was mortified and embarrassed.

Pat Ferrone’s 5th grade class, Coleytown Elementary School.

In 6th grade, my best friend at school was a WASP. One day she invited me to her home to play. But when we got there, I was not permitted to enter the house.  Message received.

Then came junior high. Sadly, many of my Coleytown friends were assigned to Long Lots. I was sent to Bedford Junior High, where I found myself enrolled in the lower-tier classes.

I approached former acquaintances from Bedford Elementary, only to be rebuffed. I became invisible to my former best friend.

During my elementary and junior high years I would go downtown to my family’s laundromat, visiting the library and shops along Main Street. Most owners welcomed the skinny girl with the Brooklyn accent — with the exception of the lady in the Map and Book Store: “Dear, your kind does not belong in this shop.”

9th grade was the year of the Royal Knights. The Italian girls paraded around in the boys’ jackets. One day some of the WASP girls began wearing them as well. I thought, “Finally, we’re being accepted and coming together.”’

The Bedford Junior High School Class of 1958.

Then Staples…

My guidance counselor told me, “Your kind is not college material. You should take the secretarial program.” My Brooklyn moxie kicked in. I told her I would take college prep and secretarial.

The summer of junior year, Lorrie Tremonte drove a group of us to the Duchess.  A carload of boys from school parked alongside and began calling us “whores.”  They didn’t see Johnny Izzo in the car. He jumped out and confronted them. They said they were joking and didn’t mean it.

There was a clear delineation of social groups at Staples. By choice, the Italians parked in the lot by the industrial arts building. At Compo we sat by the brick lockers. “Stick to your own kind” was embedded in our psyche.

The cover of the 1961 graduation program.

Graduation arrived and my new life began. It’s amazing how even negative experiences in our younger years can end up impacting our lives positively.

My Coleytown teacher made me an avid non-sun worshiper. My skin became the paler tone of my mother. I’ve never had a positive test for skin cancer.

My guidance counselor’s comment made me the “I’ll show you” kid.

At 18, I became the secretary to the administrator at Norwalk Hospital. I took night classes to improve my grades in order to enter nursing school.

I became an ER nurse, and was chosen to be on Governor Grasso’s task force to designate specialty hospitals in the state.

I went on to become a school nurse. I was named School Nurse of the Year by the town of Fairfield in 1997.

And I was inducted into an International Honor Society at Fairfield University.

The years of exclusion in Westport served me well in my later life and profession. I learned to accept those who were different from me, to celebrate diversity, to show compassion and empathy for the less fortunate, and to reach out to the underdog.

I don’t mean to say that my years in Westport were all darkness. I was embraced by many kind and sensitive students and faculty.

Let me end with a line from a Frank Sinatra song: “But now the days are short, I’m in the autumn of my years.”

It has been said that in the fall, the leaves on the trees blossom and become their true colors.

I wish you all a time of blossoming, rebirth and joy!

 

Barnes & Noble Opens Wednesday

The new Barnes & Noble opens in the old Restoration Hardware this Wednesday (February 24).

A press release touts this as “the first to show the new design direction now taken by Barnes & Noble for its bookstores,” and “a radical change in appearance” from the former Post Road location, a couple of miles east.

The newly designed store is “light and bright, with bespoke oak shelving and custom designed tables curated with the Westport customer in mind.”

The new site of Barnes & Noble.

The opening includes a 10 a.m. ribbon cutting by local author Liv Constantine. This weekend features appearances by more area authors, like Rowan MacColl, Maria Scrivan and Jane Green.

The press release says that although smaller, the new “clever design holds almost same number of book titles” as the previous location. There is also a children’s section, and toys, board games and puzzles.

This is the first new Barnes & Noble in Connecticut in nearly 15 years. Though the pandemic has led to a surge in online sales, CEO James Daunt believes that “book lovers want to return to real bookstores.”

Barnes & Noble’s original Westport location was the former Pier 1 store on Post Road East, now occupied by BevMax. It moved to the Post Plaza Shopping Center more than 20 years ago. That location closed in December.

Nadja Streiter: Cultivating “Digital Wellness”

Nadja Streiter’s oldest son is now 26. When he got his first cell phone, around 2006, he — like every other kid — entered the world of texting.

He had restrictions, due to a data plan. Not so his mother. Her 3 children said they would not talk to her while she was texting; she could not follow their conversation.

Streiter was horrified to think what things would have been like had she texted so much when they were younger.

Streiter is more than just a longtime resident of Westport (and conflicted texter). She’s a mental health professional.

Nadja Streiter

Well over a decade ago, she grew alarmed at the consequences of constant connectivity. She envisioned being enslaved by devices, and wondered how the pace of life would change.

Streiter is not “anti-tech.” But she is serious about helping people “extract the positives and minimizes the negatives” of each new technology.

In 2015, she went back to school for her master’s. Now, Streiter consults and treats digital “illnesses” like video game addiction. She promotes and teaches digital wellness.

She speaks in numerous school settings — including Mike Caetano’s physical education class at Staples High — and for groups like the Rotary Club. She’s interviewed on podcasts, and writes articles. (One, inspired by her son, is called “Alexa, Where are Your Manners?”)

Streiter is also programs director at Game Quitters — an international support and education group. She wrote a program to help parents (and spouses and partners) deal with problem gamers.

Streiter says that people should be thinking about how they use technology. “It’s not inherently negative,” she insists.

In Caetano’s classes, she asks Staples students how often adults assume a teenager is doing something frivolous when they’re on their phone — even when they’re not. Everyone raises their hands.

“I stick up for kids,” Streiter says. “You can’t just say, ‘I didn’t need a phone when I was that age.’ You have to engage digitally to function in modern society.” She also knows that youngsters make and maintain friendships through their screens. FaceTime and Zoom can fill important social needs.

But to function well, we also need real-life, real-time human connections. Streiter avoids self-checkout kiosks at the supermarket; that’s one screen too many. “Little things chip away at over-use,” she says.

Technology is great. But human connections are important too.

Youngsters see parents modeling behavior that like. But adults can also be explicit. “I’m using this device for work (or information, entertainment, or whatever),” you can say.

Then say, “I’m tired of this” — and shut it off.

Gaming is fun, Streiter knows. But so is taking a digital art class, or creating music with a software program. The key question to ask — and to encourage others to ask — is: “When is this device taking over my life?”

Working against “the will of multi-billion dollar companies’ is hard, she realizes. Her goal is to “raise awareness and fight. We can’t get run over by them.”

More than a decade ago, Streiter realized that new technology would lead to big changes — much of it unintended.

Kids using cellphones on the Compo cannons. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Looking ahead, what does she now see?

“We’re in the midst of a gigantic social experiment. Kids growing up today will be transformed into a slightly different species.

“We can’t predict what kind of jobs they’ll have. Will they be equipped for them? Probably.”

Streiter is more concerned with “the pace of life. We can spend all day keeping up with our tech connections. I know that personally: I need to be more than a therapist. I need a media presence.

“I can work more than 16 hours a day, and still have more connections to make. I worry about that for kids.

“We all have to do what we can to cultivate digital wellness.”

Photo Challenge #320

Last week’s Photo Challenge’s honored Sigrid Schultz.

As the Chicago Tribune‘s Berlin bureau chief — the first female bureau chief of any major newspaper, anywhere — the pioneering reporter, social justice activist and longtime Westporter played a key role in exposing the growing Nazi threat during the lead-up to the war, and beyond.

A plaque memorializing her was unveiled last year, near her former residence. (Click here for the photo.) Where, the Challenge asked, was that?

The plaque is at Serena & Lily — the lifestyle store in the former Kemper Gunn House. It was moved across Elm Street in 2014, to make way for Bedford Square.

Schultz lived a bit behind the site of the present store, in what is now the Baldwin parking lot. Her home was demolished, to make way for cars.

Dick Lowenstein notes that in 2019 the RTM unanimously named the area “Sigrid Schultz Plaza,” though there is no signage to that effect.

Others who identified the site correctly were Fred Cantor, Linda V. Velez, Wendy Cusick, Wendy Schaefer and Judy Reid.

This week’s Photo Challenge is another plaque. It’s appropriate, because tomorrow is Presidents Day.

If you know where in Westport we honor our first president — and why there’s a Westport tie to him — click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Kathie Motes Bennewitz)

Unsung Hero #178

After 38 years as founder and chair of the Susan Fund — where she has overseen raising and distributing nearly $2 million in scholarships to 285 Fairfield County students diagnosed with cancer — Ann Lloyd is stepping down from her role. Fortunately, she’ll remain on the board. (Four members are previous scholarship recipients.)

Fellow board members Jeff Booth and Kelly Frey Pollard nominate her as an Unsung Hero. There is no better choice — and no better giving, caring, wonderful Westporter.

Ann founded the Susan Fund in honor of her daughter, a vivacious Staples High School student who battled bone cancer for 13 months before succumbing in 1980.

Susan worked at Westport’s Fine Arts Theater, and was lookin forward to attending Colgate University when she died.

Ann Lloyod

Thanks to Ann’s efforts — and of the countless others she’s marshaled to the cause — Susan’s legacy lives on.

In addition to Susan, Ann — a decades-long Westporter — raised 3 sons: Will, David and Doug.

During their school years she worked at IBM, National CSS and Xerox, primarily in computer systems. Following early retirement from Xerox, Ann worked for Children in Placement as a guardian ad lidem, and volunteer coordinator for abused and neglected children in the Stamford court.

She is also active in community organizations, particularly Westport Sunrise Rotary, Y’s Women (board member), and an investing club. Ann was an active tennis player, and still plays bridge via Zoom. She is a member of the Wellesley College Alumnae Association — and an amazing person.

Every year, the Susan Fund board meets with applicants to learn of their challenges and successes, and provide emotional support. Ann is proud that over 90% of contributions go directly to scholarships.

Congratulations, Ann — our Unsung Hero of the Week. Readers wishing to honor her can click here to donate to the Susan Fund.

Friday Flashback #230

I’ve always been fascinated by what Westport looked like before I-95 (known then as the Connecticut Turnpike or “the thruway”) came through in the mid-1950s.

Now I’ve seen some tantalizing glimpses.

Cliff Cuseo posted a 7 1/2-minute video on Facebook. It’s a digitized (in color!) version of home movies, taken at various points during construction.

The opening shots look vaguely familiar, but I can’t place them. Perhaps they’re part of Saugatuck — near Exit 17? — that has since been demolished, to make way for the road.

Where was this taken?

But — in addition to showing work on the Saugatuck River bridge and the road itself — there are glimpses of Riverside Avenue (including the long-gone Gault oil tanks), and the Hales Road/Greens Farms area.

Riverside Avenue, and the Gault tanks. The Bridge Street (now Cribari) Bridge is at top left.

Construction near Greens Farms Road, and the new Hales Road bridge.

There’s also the aftermath of a scary truck accident, on what seems like a lunar landscape.

Truck accident.

The movie captures scenes we take for granted today, in a unique way. But I’d still love to see film of Saugatuck — that thriving, compact and close-knit village — before the earth-movers arrived.

Click here for the full video.

The Saugatuck River bridge, before completion.

(Hat tip: Don Willmott)

 

 

Friday Flashback #229

Everyone remembers their first job. Staples High School Class of 1963 graduate David Grant — now a California resident — remembers his.

As far back as I can remember, my parents loved playing tennis.

My father and his regulars played doubles from 9 to 11 every Saturday and Sunday morning. My mother played singles with her friends. Now and then my folks played mixed doubles, but that was usually only for a tournament.

My mother, the clothing designer, wore her Midge Grant tennis dresses. My father wore a white t-shirt and sharkskin shorts.

They played at the Doubleday courts next to what was then Staples High School on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School). The pro was Freeman Marshall; everyone called him Doc. I started taking lessons from him when I was 10, and continued for several years. Doc Marshall was also my high school tennis coach.

The Doubleday tennis courts are behind PJ Romano Field (formerly Doubleday Field) at Saugatuck Elementary School. (Drone photo/Brandon Malin)

The Doubleday courts were made of clay. They take much more maintenance then asphalt or concrete. They have to be watered regularly and get a weekly dose of calcium chloride so they don’t dry out. They needed to be rolled often, brushed daily, and lines had to be painted on as needed.

Doc Marshall hired me when I was 14 to help maintain the courts. I rode my bike 3 or 4 miles to the courts, arriving (if I was on time) by 7:30 to get the courts ready for each day’s play. At first my lines were a little squiggly, and needed to be straightened. After a while, perfect.

In 1957 — several years before David Grant entered Staples — the tennis team posed with Coach Doc Marshall (standing, far right).

There was a tennis shack at Doubleday. We took reservations, set up tournament pairings, sold tennis balls and soft drinks, and strung racquets. Eventually I took over most of these chores while Doc was on the courts teaching. I kept my job for 8 summers, earning $80 a week — a king’s ransom to me.

As I got older I was also allowed to teach, from 12 to 1 each day and 6 to 8 in the evenings. For that I charged $6 per half hour.

After I’d been working at the courts for several years, Doc hired my best friend Jerry Keneally to help with the work of the courts and shack. It was so great for us to work together and play tennis into the dark after everyone went home. I had the greatest job and the most fun imaginable.

David Grant’s 1963 Staples High School tennis team.

When there was little to do I would pick up trash, or hit balls against a practice wall. Quite often someone would need someone to play with or fill in a fourth for doubles, and there I was.

There was an artist named David Levine, best known for his caricatures. You could see his works regularly in the New York Review of Books. David spent summers in Westport. One day he asked me to hit with him, then on to a set of tennis. I played right-handed, David Levine left-handed. We played, I won.

David challenged me to switch hands, so in our second set I played left-handed and won again. My reward was a trip to his studio in Brooklyn to pick out one of his artworks called “Spies.” Almost 55 years later, I still have it.

“Spies,” by David Levine.