Eve Potts is a longtime Westporter. She’s been active in the arts, history, education and much more. Today, she shares a special encounter with “06880” readers.
Those of us who have been in Westport a long time remember vividly when there was a great deal of discussion (not all of it positive) about inviting a group of youngsters from Bridgeport to join classrooms in Westport. The program was known as Project Concern.
Over 40 years have passed since those first eager kids jumped off a bus from Bridgeport and were enrolled in Westport elementary schools. My 2 daughters were in the lower grades at Burr Farms. They were excited to welcome one of the girls, Anjetta Redmond, to stay at our house overnight each Tuesday so she could be part of the special early morning music rehearsals.
Eve Potts painted Anjetta Redmond’s portrait 40 years ago, when she was a guest in their home.
A couple of months ago — after all these years — we had a wonderful reunion with Anjetta Redmond Holloway and her close friend, Lisa Jones Mendenhall, who often joined Anjetta at our house overnight.
The conversation was lively. Besides getting reacquainted and sharing photos of kids, grandkids and husbands, we talked a bit about their Westport experience.
Both talked frankly — and enthusiastically — about what a great experience it had been for them. They were emphatic that coming to Westport, and learning about this other world, had impacted their lives.
We asked how they were treated back in Bridgeport after they enrolled here. They said there was teasing, and some pretty derisive comments from some of their friends.
Both women insisted that they honestly never felt any prejudice from their Westport schoolmates, even as talk of recalling the Westport Board of Education chair swirled and became reality here in Westport.
There was a lot of reminiscing — about funny happenings, and about Lisa’s brother Leonard who had been accepted into the program because an older sister had suggested it would be good for him. Leonard was a favorite at Burr Farms School for his incredible ability to walk on his hands and do other acrobatic feats.
The women mentioned the treats that were available in Westport, like Baskin- Robbins, that weren’t available in Bridgeport. Amy remembered how her Bridgeport friends brought Now & Laters — candy not available in Westport — to school to sell to kids here.
It was a wonderful morning: very loving, very happy, and very nostalgic.
Both Anjetta and Lisa have had very successful careers and marriages. Anjetta has had a long career at People’s Bank, and is a research representative. Lisa, who also worked for years at People’s Bank, is now employed by the Board of Education in Bridgeport. She is involved in discussions about the validity, balance and fairness of magnet school policies.
Here’s what Lisa posted on Facebook when she got home:
OK. So the year is 1971. There’s a program called Project Concern being introduced to inner city communities. Myself, along with my friends Anjetta Holloway and Wanda Thompson-Mosley, to name a few, were allowed the opportunity to attend.
We joined Brownies, then Girl Scouts. We played the flute and clarinets, mastered cartwheels and splits, and went to sleepaway camp. Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips was good eating (no Arthur Treacher’s in Bridgeport), and we were completely fascinated with Baskin-Robbins’ 31 flavors.
Fast forward. It’s 2019 and you receive a friend request from Amy Potts. Hmmm. Amy and Abby from Westport — could it be? Yes, it was, and this morning after 40-plus years we met for breakfast with Amy, her mom, and her auntie.
What a great time we had reminiscing of how great life was way back then. Life is good. Always cherish each moment.
(For more “06880” stories on Project Concern, click here, here and here.)