Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #45

Last weekend, the United Methodist Church celebrated the 50th anniversary of its home on Weston Road.

“06880” recounted the history of the church. It’s been here, in one form or another, since 1790.

From 1850 to 1908, congregants gathered in a building at the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Main Street. A law office now occupies that site. This photo — from Seth Schachter’s postcard collection — shows that church.

Note the fence on the lower right, which still encloses what is now Veterans Green. And the hill on the left is where Town Hall sits. It was built as Bedford Elementary School in the 1920s.

Friday Flashback #44

As Westporters get ready for another summer of golf, tennis, swimming, boating, sailing and dining at Longshore, it’s fascinating to look at how folks spent their days there, back in the day:

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

That day was, of course, when Longshore was a private club — not a town-owned facility.

Formally dressed couples ate under umbrellas. A band played; above them, others danced. A lily pond added to the country club atmosphere.

I’m guessing this photo is from the 1920s or ’30s. I’d love to know more.

If you remember those days — or (more likely) heard about them from others — click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #43

A few weeks ago in my ode to High Point Road, I tossed in a memory of Ray the Good Humor Man.

Every Saturday, he jingle-jangled his way up the street. Kids dropped their BB guns, hula hoops or the younger sibling they were dangling upside down by the ankles, and raced to his truck.

At some houses, Ray sold 1 or 2 toasted almonds. Others stocked up on ice cream for the week: a dozen or so popsicles, ice cream sandwiches and whatnot crammed into a cardboard box.

Several commenters claimed Ray as their own Good Humor Man too, on other streets in town. One recalled his magic tricks, like pulling a quarter out of someone’s ear.

Ray was also a fixture at Burying Hill beach. With a lot more sand than there is today, that was a great hangout for us Long Lots kids. There was no concession stand, so when we heard Ray cruising in — and we heard him well before we saw him — we knew we would not starve.

Jean Whitehead not only remembered Ray from those Burying Hill days — she had a photo.

Here — looking like it belongs in Life magazine — are Ray, Jean and her sisters (plus some random boy).

I have no idea what year this was taken.

That’s fine. The scene is timeless.

Friday Flashback #42

Back in the 1970’s and ’80s, Westport was “the marketing capital of the world.” Our long heritage as an artists’ colony is also well known.

But even before that — when the death industry was just being born — we were home to the leading embalmers’ supply company on the planet.

It was formed in 1886 as a partnership between 2 Germans: inventor C.B. Dolge and pharmacist Max Huncke.

Four years later, the firm moved to Westport. In 1893 Dolge bought out his partner, and incorporated under the simple name The Embalmers’ Supply Company.

It manufactured embalming fluids using arsenic (formaldehyde was not yet available), as well as accessories like pumps and goosenecks, without which a body could not be embalmed.

After many years at 14 Wilton Road, Embalmers’ Supply moved to Ford Road — across the river from where Bridgewater is now. So the world’s biggest embalming supply company has been replaced (sort of) by the world’s largest hedge fund.

Today the company is called ESCO. It’s located in East Lyme — no connection to the “lime” once used to dispose of a corpse — and is strictly a chemical business.

(Hat tip: Seth Schachter)

Friday Flashback #41

Westport’s Memorial Day parade seems timeless.

I don’t know when it began — perhaps in 1868, when “Decoration Day” first honored Civil War veterans — but anyone now alive who grew up here has strong memories of the downtown tradition.

The route changes. So do businesses along the way. And of course, fashions.

But — as these photos (courtesy of David Barton) show — Memorial Day in Westport always draws a crowd.

When the parade marched south on Main Street, the Post Road was anchored by Colgan’s drug store and luncheonette. Next to it were (in order) Colonial restaurant, Gristede’s grocery store and Marvel’s Bakery. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

The parade then made a quick turn onto Taylor Place, before ending at Jesup Green.

Friday Flashback #40

As Westport celebrates the 50th anniversary of the purchase of Cockenoe Island — click here if you missed that recent post, with all that fascinating saved-from-a-nuclear-power-plant history — Bill Whitbeck sends along this fascinating Kodachrome.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

It was taken in 1971, looking north from Cockenoe Bay toward Saugatuck Shores (in the distance).

Bill says:

The photo shows a typical day on a summer weekend, with many boats enjoying this beautiful island. You can see a group of large tents on the sandbar off to the left, where families would camp for long periods of time.

Unfortunately, most of this sandbar has eroded into just a tiny strip of land, currently only exposed at low tide. You can clearly see how wide the sandbar was 46 years ago.

Sure, the sandbar is gone. But can you imagine what the scene would be like today if — 4 years earlier — many Westport political leaders and citizen activists had not said, clearly and loudly and repeatedly: “Save Cockenoe Now!”

Friday Flashback #39

A year after it was published in 1955, “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” became a major motion picture.

Gregory Peck starred as Tom Rath. He and his wife Betsy (Jennifer Jones) live in a rundown house in Westport. They have 3 kids; he commutes to an unfulfilling job in New York. The title quickly became a ’50s metaphor — one that endures today.

Some of the movie was filmed in Westport. The most memorable scenes — still recalled here more than 60 years later — took place on Main Street, and at the train station.

These 2 shots show Peck as a typical commuter. Besides the lack of a platform — and the demise of the New Haven Railroad — what else has changed? Click “Comments” below.

UPDATE: Friday Flashback #38

Westport has had its share of inns: The early ones, where George Washington stayed on his travels through town. The Pine Knoll and Hawthorne, which I think were more like rooming houses. The Inn at National Hall on the west bank of the Saugatuck River (whose bottom floor is soon to be the ‘Port restaurant).

Today of course, there’s the Westport Inn.

We’ve had actual hotels too, including the Westport Hotel (on the corner of the Post Road and Main Street, which in 1923 became the site of the Westport YMCA and is now Bedford Square).

But back in what appears to be the 1930s or ’40s — judging from the hard-to-see automobiles in this postcard from Jack Whittle’s collection — we also had Mathewson’s Motor Cabins.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

According to the postcard, they were located on the Boston Post Road/Route 1.

Motor cabins — also called “motor courts” — sprouted in the 1920s and ’30s, when Americans took to the roads in cars. They were a step up from rudimentary “tourist camps.”

According to Wikipedia, the price of motor courts was higher. But the cabins had electricity, indoor bathrooms, and occasionally a private garage or carport. They were arranged in attractive clusters or a U-shape.

Does anyone remember Mathewson’s Motor Cabins? Where exactly were they? Who stopped there? Did they have any impact on Westport?

Click “Comments” below, to fill us in on this lost era of town history.

UPDATE: Thanks to alert reader Tom Leyden, we’ve got an aerial photo from 1951. It shows Mathewson’s Motor Cabins right where the Westport Inn is today (as noted in the “Comments”) section). Check it out:

Mathewson's Motor Court - aerial photo - 1951

 

Friday Flashback #37

Saugatuck is in the news a lot.

Consultants are devising a “Transit Oriented District” plan, to redevelop the area around the train station. There’s talk of dredging the Saugatuck River. And of course the Cribari (aka Bridge Street) Bridge is very much in play.

Which makes this the perfect time to look at “timeless Saugatuck.”

Peter Barlow’s view of Franklin Street — heading toward Saugatuck Avenue — was taken from the brand-new Connecticut Turnpike (now I-95) overpass in 1958.

But — except for the cars — it could almost have been taken any time in the 60 years since then.

Hey. I said “almost.”

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

[UPDATE] Friday Flashback #36

Sconset Square is seldom in the news. But now — as the small Myrtle Avenue shopping center seems poised for redevelopment — Westporters suddenly see it with new eyes.

It’s been around a long time. Originally called Sherwood Square — a name with far more historical meaning here than the faux-Cape Cod “Sconset” — it included stores like the Paint Bucket, in this 1966 shot.

Click on or hover over to enlarge. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

The view above is toward the west (Church Lane). As photographer Peter Barlow notes, it was an anchor store that sold many kinds of paint, decorating supplies and picture frames.

It also featured an art gallery — and that very cool “palette” sign.

In later years, these buildings became CamerArts. And wasn’t Carousel toys in there at one time too?


UPDATE: 12:25 p.m. After seeing today’s Friday Flashback, Seth Schachter sent along his own Paint Bucket photo. He’s told it’s from the 1950s, but wonders with the wild colors if it may be ’60s-vintage: