Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #116

The other day, alert “06880” reader Alan Hamilton was checking out Westport’s Wikipedia page.

He noticed we have 3″sister cities”: Marigny-le-Lozon, France; St Petersburg, Russia, and Yangzhou, China.

I guess we’re one of those families where siblings don’t really communicate. It’s been ages since we’ve chatted with our French, Russian and Chinese sisters!

But Alan wanted a closer relationship. He took a virtual drive — aka Google Street View — through Marigny.

And there — smack in the center of town — he saw this:

“Pharmacie Westport”!

He wondered if there is a story to this.

Bien sûr!

Right after D-Day in 1944, Westporter Bob Loomis — a gun sergeant — ended up in Marigny. It’s just 25 miles from Utah Beach.

A couple of weeks later another Westporter — heavy machine gunner Clay Chalfant — moved through Marigny with his company on their way to Belgium.

Woody Klein’s history of Westport notes that after the war Charlotte MacLear — head of the French department at Staples High School — sparked a campaign to “officially adopt Marigny” and help its recovery.

Our town sent clothes, money and Christmas gifts, thanks to fundraising that included selling toys and buckets with designs painted by Westport artists.

In return, Marigny created the “Westport School Canteen,” and named the town’s largest square “Place Westport.”

In June 1994 — as part of the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy — Marigny invited 3 Westport middle school students and 2 Westport veterans to stay in the homes of residents. They visited “Westport Gift Shop” and — of course — “Pharmacie Westport.”

The 2 veterans were, of course,  Loomis and Chalfant

Zut alors!

Marigny – c’est magnifique!

Friday Flashback #115

At first glance, Fred Cantor’s 1976 photo of downtown Westport seems timeless.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

The facades on Post Road East look very familiar. More than 40 years later, little has changed.

But look closely. So much is different now.

Three spaces — all in a row — tell the story of downtown Westport, then and now.

Fine Arts Theaters I and II (and their companions, III on Jesup Road and IV a short way east) drew scores of people after dark. They came early for dinner. They had drinks afterward. They window-shopped. They made downtown a destination.

Next door, Fine Art Supplies — rechristened a few years later as Max’s — was much more than a place to pick up watercolors, easels and brushes. It was the center of Westport’s bustling, creative, supportive arts community. World-renowned artists shared stories and secrets. Aspiring painters and illustrators met mentors. Window displays proudly showed Westport’s talent to everyone passing by.

And next door to Max’s stood Schaefer’s Sporting Goods. It catered to an entirely different clientele: jocks. But high school students found a home here too. They bought soccer cleats, bats and skis, sure. But they also hung out. Tip and Charlie Schaefer told them stories, offered tips, and gave them their first jobs.

In short, there were reasons to go downtown. There were things to buy, places to feel comfortable in, people to meet.

All day long, and after dark.

If you’ve got memories of the Fine Arts Theater, Max’s, Schaefer’s — or any other place downtown — click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #114

Last weekend’s nor’easter brought flooding — again — to many parts of town. Main Street was spared this time.

Downtown was not so lucky last month, though. Torrential downpours on consecutive Tuesdays sent water pouring into stores on both side of the road.

Merchants and shoppers think these floods happen more frequently these days.

Perhaps.

But there’s no doubt that flooding on Main Street is not new.

Alert “06880” reader James Gray sent this photo. It was taken at 2 p.m. on August 31, 1954. Hurricane Carol had just roared through town. Packing winds of 110 miles an hour, it headed toward landfall in eastern Connecticut.

The sun was already out in Westport. But — in a ritual as unwelcome in 2018 as in 1954 — the cleanup had just begun.

Friday Flashback #113

From the 1950s through ’80s, Westport junior highs fielded interscholastic athletic teams.

Bedford and Long Lots — and, after it opened in 1965, Coleytown — competed against junior highs from Darien, New Canaan and Greenwich in football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball and track.

Competition was intense — both within the league, and to win the mythical Westport “town championship.”

Interscholastic competition ended in 1983, when Westport schools moved from a junior high model, to middle schools. Ninth graders went to Staples High, and competed on their own freshman teams.

But in the 1950s — and perhaps earlier — local elementary schools had their own intra-town sports teams. I have no idea when they began. By the 1960s, they were gone.

I don’t know what sports they involved either — except for boys basketball, as shown by this Saugatuck Elementary School photo provided by alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor.

Fred adds that a scrapbook from Coleytown Elementary School’s first year — 1953 — describes a girls kickball competition between that school and Bedford El.

If you’ve got stories about elementary or junior high sports teams, click “Comments” below.

And try not to stretch the truth.

Friday Flashback #112

Torrential downpours a week apart brought flash floods to Westport, earlier this month.

But they weren’t hurricanes. And they weren’t the first times floods caused havoc here.

Earlier this year Bill Coley — a 1967 graduate of Staples High School, and a descendant of the founders of the Coleytown section of town — was sorting through old photos.

He found 2 from August 1955. Back-to-back hurricanes — Connie and Diane — had just pummeled Westport.

The images show what was left of the old stone bridge that carried North Avenue over the Aspetuck River. Bill is 5 years old, standing with his father on Coleytown Road looking north on North Avenue.

He had heard a WMMM radio announcer say the North Avenue bridge was out. Bill’s father didn’t believe it. He had to drive over and see for himself.

Bill’s father was born, and grew up in, the house on the road just north of the river. Bill’s great-grandfather was born in the house where Paul Newman lived.

The bridge has been replaced. And Paul and Joanne Woodward’s house still stands.

Friday Flashback #111

Westport is blessed with some of the best Italian delis this side of Arthur Avenue.

Winfield Street Coffee & Deli took over the long-established Art’s on Post Road West — just over the bridge — and made it even more popular.

At the other end of town, Gaetano’s has a huge and devoted clientele. It’s particularly popular with Staples High students.

Sandwiched in between is Fortuna’s. It seldom gets the props of the others. But it’s anchored the small Green’s Farms plaza at the Post Road/South Turkey Hill corner for over 40 years.

They’ve got a winning formula — so much so, that almost nothing has changed since the Nixon administration.

Except — as the photo below shows — a few of the fashions.

(Postcard courtesy of Seth Schachter)

Friday Flashback #110

For an otherwise unremarkable spot on Post Road East, #1700 has a long and storied history.

Today’s it’s the site of a thriving Goodwill store.

For many years before that, it was the Peppermill — one of the first steak-and-all-you-can-eat-salad-bar restaurants in the country.

Before that, it was a different steak place. Bonanza Sirloin Pit served up meat in a quasi-fast food way. You got in line, snaked through, and picked up your meal at the end.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Dan Blocker — “Hoss” on the great “Bonanza” TV show — made a personal appearance there once. I was in elementary school. He seemed huge. Now I know it wasn’t just because I was small

But the site has a history even before steak spot and Goodwill. Back in the day, it served as Westport’s Greyhound bus depot.

It was called the Greyhound Post House. There must have been food available inside too.

If you’ve got any memories of the bus depot or Bonanza, click “Comments” below.

Peppermill: sure, why not?

As for Goodwill: Save them for a Friday Flashback in, say, 2048.

Friday Flashback #109

On Monday (October 1, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), a public information session explores Westport’s “Main to Train” study. The goal is to create better transportation connections between downtown and the Saugatuck train station.

Someone may mention trolleys. Cities and towns around the country are reintroducing the old-time vehicles as a way to move large numbers of people quietly and efficiently.

Westport had trolleys back in the day too. Streetcars carried passengers to and from Bridgeport and Norwalk — and beyond.

A trolley car on the Post Road (then called State Street).

Spurs operated from the town center to the railroad station and Compo Beach.

The trolley line to Compo Beach.

I’m not sure when service ended — or why. But the tracks remained at least through the 1950s.

If you remember Westport’s trolleys, click “Comments” below.

(Hat tip: John Kelley)

Friday Flashback #108

The other day, alert “06880” reader Cheryl Wiener saw a PBS “Great Performances” documentary about the Metropolitan Opera House.

Memories flooded back of spring 1966. Coleytown Junior High School had just opened. Music teacher John Hanulik took Cheryl’s 9th grade class on a field trip to the Met.

They saw Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West,” at the new Lincoln Center location. It was so new, it was the very first performance at the new Metropolitan Opera House, before its official opening the following September.

That first test of the opera house with a live audience included a rifle shot — unexpected and scary, Wiener says.

The PBS documentary included a shot of Westport students walking across wooden platforms, into the new house:

Wiener went on to Staples High School. Hanulik did too — and a storied career there as orchestra director.

Wiener became a music educator too. Last June, she retired after many years with Connecticut Regional District 13.

“Needless to say,” she notes, “Westport music teachers had a great influence on me.”

Friday Flashback #107

Word on the street — Charles Street — is that Mystic Market opens next month.

Some folks will describe it as the old Blu Parrot spot. Others — with longer memories — will say it’s where Jasmine was.

But real old-timers know it — and will never forget — the site as the beloved Arrow restaurant.

For a couple of decades — after its move from the nearby Saugatuck Avenue/Franklin Street location that gave it its name — the Arrow defined the neighborhood.

And made its mark on all of Westport.

Here’s a look back, at the way we all were.

Owner Frank Nistico

Owner Tom Nistico, back in the day.

Lou Nistico, son of the founders of the Arrow.

FRIDAY FLASHBACK FUN FOLLOW-UP: Last week’s Friday Flashback featured a 1946 photo of Marie Corridon on the Longshore high diving board. 

It was a great shot (click here to see). Now comes word — via alert “06880” reader Chris Corridon — that Maria was not your casual, Sunday diver.

Turns out her family lived in Norwalk, and were members of Longshore. She learned to swim at the then-private club — and went on to win a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics in London!

Marie was the lead swimmer for the champion, Olympic record-setting US team in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

She is a member of the swimming Hall of Fame. Her 7 children all participated in Division I athletics. The girls all swam, and are active Masters swimming record holders. One — Sheila Stolarski — is a Weston resident. Several of her grandchildren swim competitively too, in high school and college.

Who knew? Thankfully, Chris Corridon does!