Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #69

Stevan Dohanos is best known for his 123 Saturday Evening Post covers.

But the Westport illustrator was also a noted US stamp artist. He designed several dozen — the number varies, according to who’s counting — honoring a wide range of subjects, including American presidents, NATO and the statehoods of Alaska and Hawaii.

Dohanos also created Christmas stamps. In 1989, Westport served as that year’s official “first day of issue” post office.

Dohanos’ other holiday stamps ranged from the classical, like this 1969 scene …

… to the playful, like this in 1970…

… to the religious, in 1975:

Of course, Dohanos drew holiday scenes for the Saturday Evening Post too. This cover — from December 13, 1947 — is called “Rural Post Office at Christmas.” (The sign says “Georgetown.”)

As chair of the Stamp Advisory Committee, Dohanos oversaw the art design of more than 300 stamps. He was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and served under 7 presidents.

Stevan Dohanos died on July 4, 1994, at his Westport home. He was 87 years old.

(Hat tip: Paul Ehrismann)

Friday Flashback #68

The other day — while cleaning his garage — alert “06880” reader David Squires found this thin aluminum sign:

He remembers exactly when and how he got it: While house-sitting for his distant relatives, the Baldwins, on Bayberry Lane. Herb Baldwin was Westport’s 1st selectman from 1957-67. He was best known for masterminding the town’s purchase of Longshore — from conception to approval — in just 17 days.

Baldwin was in his 1st term in 1958, when Westport was named an all-America city.

The National Civic League has presented 10 awards each year, since 1949. They go to places where citizens “work together to identify and tackle community-wide challenges and achieve uncommon results.” All-America winners can be neighborhoods, villages, towns, counties or regions, as well as “cities.”

If you were around in 1958 — and remember any hoopla associated with the honor — click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #67

Most Friday Flashbacks show how much Westport has changed.

This one shows how little it has, too.

The photo of the Saugatuck train station waiting room was taken around 1979.

It could have been yesterday.

(Photo courtesy of Ken Bernhard)

Friday Flashback #66

Recent Friday Flashbacks have featured interesting sites at the head of Main Street: Needle Park (the old library plaza) for example, and West Lake Chinese restaurant.

This week’s flashback goes way further back — all the way to the turn of the 20th century.

This circa-1900 photo of E. Lehn’s Bakery shows that same area of downtown. It looks a lot different today — and also very similar.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Friday Flashback #65

Today, there are plenty of places in Westport to buy great hamburgers. From Matt Storch’s Burger Lobster in Saugatuck to Shake Shack near Southport, we’re awash in meat.

Once upon a time, there were 2 places to go: Big Top, and Chubby Lane’s.

Big Top — which drew a great lunchtime crowd ranging from lawyers to bikers — was at the corner of the Post Road and Roseville. Today it’s McDonald’s, which basically says everything you need to know about America.

Chubby’s, meanwhile, was more of a dinner place. It was located next to the New Englander Motel (now the Westport Inn). Across the street was Charpentier’s (now Border Grill), a butcher shop that was the reason Chubby’s burgers were so good. (They were also the first place in town that charged the astronomical price of $1 for one.)

I don’t have any photos of Chubby Lane’s. Long ago, it was replaced by the Willows Pediatrics Group. But its predecessor was called the Bantam. And it looked like this:

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)


Friday Flashback #64

Last weekend, when I reported that Calypso St. Barth was closing, current Westporters thought of the “luxury lifestyle brand” store’s massive concrete steps, on the very visible Post Road East/Main Street corner.

When I referred to it as “the original library building,” that helped “06880” readers who once lived here, yet no longer do, visualize the location.

But it was the photo caption that really brought back memories, for anyone of a certain age. Referring to Calypso’s entrance kitty-corner from Tiffany (the old Ships restaurant, and before that Colgan’s and Thompson’s drug store), I wrote:

“Years ago, the plaza was a public park, outside the original Westport Library.”

“Needle Park,” circa 1970.

Ah, yes: Needle Park.

That was the nickname given to what was — in the 1960s and ’70s — a very funky place.

Teenagers hung out there. They strummed guitars, held anti-Vietnam War protests, and made out.

They smoked cigarettes. They smoked weed. They bought and sold drugs too — though there was not much heroin around then. “Needle Park” was a name meant to scare people away.

But — like most attempts to tell teenagers what to do — calling it “Needle Park” just made it more attractive.

The park is gone now — victim of the corporatization of downtown (and, perhaps, no one paying attention to the fact that there was supposed to be a park “in perpetuity”).

Teenagers don’t spend time downtown anymore. Even if they did, they’d never think of hanging out on the cold concrete steps. Too intimidating.

Not welcoming at all. Nothing like the joyful image that “calypso” conveys.

Needle Park today.

Friday Flashback #63

2017-18 marks the 60th anniversary of the last classes to attend Staples High School for the full year.

In January 1959, students and staff moved from Riverside Avenue — Staples’ home since 1884 — to a sparkling new campus on North Avenue. Bedford Junior High relocated a few yards east into the now-“old” Staples; the former BJHS became Kings Highway Elementary School.

Staples High School on Riverside Avenue, as seen in the 1958 yearbook.

Alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor was fascinated by a 1958 yearbook, from Staples’ final school year on the river. He sent along several interesting photos from it. Taken together, they prove how much Staples has changed in the past 6 decades.

And how much it hasn’t.

In the fall of 1957, coach Albie Loeffler fielded the 1st-ever Staples soccer club. The following year, it became an official sport. And what a sport: over the past 59 years, the Wreckers have qualified for the state tournament 58 times. In the photo below — with just 13 players –Loeffler stands at the far right. Per Haarr — a Norwegian exchange student who became a legendary track star, and may have been an Olympic decathlon champion had he not died in a tragic accident at 22 — stands 3rd from left.

Staples still has a soccer team, of course. But the rifle team — which by 1958 had become a club — is long gone. There were still plenty of members though (including at least 2 girls). The yearbook noted that the Rifle Club was part of the NRA.

The yearbook itself had a huge staff. With several cheerleaders, it looks like a very popular activity. (And check out the skirts!)

The yearbook featured writeups of every senior. Some still live here, like Mike Calise:

Some remain connected to Westport through frequent comments on “06880.” Here’s Mary Louise Cookman (now Schmerker):

Others went on to other kinds of fame. Here’s actor Christopher Lloyd — who also played a major role in creating Staples Players:

The yearbook also showed the results of the Class of 1958’s “favorites” poll. A few were serious. Many sound like inside jokes. But there was little doubt about their favorite actor;

Near the end of the yearbook, local businesses took out ads. (Today those yearbook pages are filled with parents’ ads, congratulating and praising their own children).

In 1958, Ike was nearing the end of his 2 terms in the White House. When JFK replaced him, America — and the world — suddenly changed.

The same thing happened with Staples. The move to North Avenue brought the school into the modern era.

Soon — like the rest of Westport education — those no-frills yearbooks grew more creative, fancy and high-tech.

You can’t stop progress. But it sure doesn’t hurt to slow down every once in a while and remember what life was like, 60 long/short years ago.

Friday Flashback #62

The recent kerfuffle over photographs near the Compo Beach showers inspired alert reader Bruce Erickson to send this photo along.

His mother — Florence Brotherton Carlson — is at the far left, with 3 bathing beauty friends. The date was sometime in the 1930s.

Florence has lived here for her entire life. When she was a child, her parents rented a big house off Riverside Avenue. They paid $17 a month.

If  you’ve got memories of 1930s Westport — or you’ve heard stories from your parents (or grandparents) — click “Comments” below. Beach and real estate tales are particularly welcome.

Friday Flashback #61

Westporters have watched with interest as renovations begin on 1 Wilton Road.

That’s the quaint little building squatting underneath the massive Wright Street office project.

Today it’s one of the many frustrating reasons for back-ups at the Post Road West/Riverside Avenue intersection. Plans to move the building to create a turning lane have been rejected (perhaps to rise again, in the future).

Once upon a time, that section of town was less chaotic. Back in the day, a man could stroll down the middle of State Street — past a still-familiar streetscape that includes National Hall (now The ‘Port restaurant).

But I’m sure turn-of-the-20th-century Westporters found plenty to complain about.

Look at that mud! Those rocks, and the wagon ruts!

And I know some folks thought that watering trough didn’t need to be smack in the center of the road.

Friday Flashback #60

Alert reader — and 11th-generation Westporter Jacques Voris — sends along a fascinating photo:

He writes:

This photo of John Burr Mills was taken circa 1922. He was about 87, and is holding his great-grand-niece, Shirley Mills.

John Burr Mills — a relative of mine — was here for much of the early formation of Westport, and its transition from a farming community into the artist colony of the 1920s.

He was born on February 25, 1835 in Greens Farms — a few months before Westport was incorporated. He was the second of 3 sons of John Mills and Sarah Batterson. His father died when he was 20 years old. He and his older brother Charles struck out on their own.

John was primarily a mason. He built the State Street (now Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road) bridge. He lived until 1934, and his direct descendant Wayne Mills still lives on West Parish Road.

What I really like about this photo are his hands, as he gently holds the child. Look at the size of them, and think about their obvious strength.

In addition to the photo, Jacques has a request:

I need “06880” readers’ help finding something. There was once a horse track in Greens Farms called the Dingee Racetrack. Other than a name, I don’t know a thing about it. Where exactly was it located? When?

Readers: If you have any information on the Dingee Racetrack, click “Comments” below. NOTE: The racetrack on the Bedford property — near, interestingly, West Parish — was called Wynfromere. It may be a different one.