Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback Follow-Up: Where The Hill Is It?

When I first saw last Friday’s flashback — a shot of an almost-empty Westport road, circa 1930 — I was pretty sure it was taken on State Street (now the Post Road), looking east past what is now Compo Shopping Center, toward where the Humane Society sits today.

But I wasn’t positive. So I asked readers what they thought.

Over 60 comments poured in. Many agreed with my guess. But others ranged up and down the Post Road, and across town to places like Nyala Farm.

Someone even thought I was right, but looking in the wrong direction (the old IHOP would be on the left, with the fire station and then — yes — the Humane Society on the right).

Alert “06880” reader Tom Ryan took out his camera. He offers these 3 images, and some thoughts.

This (above) was his original guess — the same as mine. However, he says, “you can’t see the road bend left (at the top) in the current photo. I think that rules it out.”

Picky, picky.

Here’s his second shot:

It shows Post Road West looking east, with Kings Highway Elementary School just out of the frame on the right.

Tom writes: “This one looks good as well. But notice the angle of the right side of the road. Seems dead straight in the original photo but more angled in today’s photo.”

Finally — looking east on Post Road West, just past Whole Foods — there’s this:

Tom says:

“I think this is a match, mostly because of the angle of the right side of the road in both past and current photos. You can also see the curve left in the distance, and the slope of the road seems to be the same.

“Lastly, the stone wall on the left is still there, and about the same distance from the road as in the original photo (although you can’t see it here because of the trees).”

The mystery continues. There’s only one thing we know for sure.

There was a lot less traffic back in 1930.

Friday Flashback #91

Paul Ehrismann posts some very interesting back-in-the-Westport-day photos on Facebook.

I have no idea where he gets them. I can identify most of them — sometimes easily, sometimes with a bit of thinking.

But this one’s got me stumped.

I’m struck by 3 things:

  • There was not a lot of traffic back in 1930.
  • There was a lot of open space.
  • There were a lot of billboards.

Beyond that, I don’t have a clue what I’m looking at.

If you think you know where this photo was taken, click “Comments” below.

Bonus points if you know the car.

Friday Flashback #89

Last week, I posted a real estate listing for 222 Hillspoint Road.

That may not ring a bell. But this name for the property does: Elvira’s.

For 2 decades, the little store opposite Old Mill has been a big part of the beachfront community. It sells groceries, sandwiches, salads, pizza, gyros, ice cream and coffee, sure.

But it’s also a community center. It’s a place to meet, greet, eat; share gossip and snacks; hang out and hang loose.

Which makes it a far cry from its predecessor.

Kenny Montgomery’s store.

Kenny Montgomery owned the store, before the Yiozonakos family. He relocated there from the corner of South Compo and Greens Farms Road, when I-95 was built.

He sold the basics: milk, eggs and cigarettes. The store was dusty, and smelled bad. You went there only because you had to. (Or, if you were a kid, to see how much you could steal.)

That’s why — though the official name was different — everyone who grew up in Westport back in the day called it Grub’s.

But there’s another side to Kenny. When he died, he left hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Westport YMCA.

The store was a fixture at the foot of Compo Hill for many years. Long before Kenny — or so the story goes — the only telephone in the area was located there. When the phone rang the owner would walk outside, and bellow the name of whoever the call was for.

Today, of course, you can call Elvira’s on your cellphone, and have your order waiting when you arrive.

As for tomorrow — who knows?

Another view, from even longer ago.

Friday Flashback #88

If you were a 2nd grader in Westport between 1959 and the early 1970s, you remember the Jennings Trail field trip.

Bessie Jennings (Courtesy of Greens Farms Living magazine)

Bessie Jennings — a native Westporter who traced her ancestry here to the 1650s — conceived, developed and led the tour after retiring as a history, government and civics teacher at Roger Ludlowe High School.

It included the Beachside Avenue site of the 5 founding Bankside Farmers; the Machamux boulder; the old Greens Farms Church meeting house; the Compo Cove tide mill; the Minute Man monument, and the Compo cannons, among many others.

She told stories about the Sherwood triplets, the tar rock signals sent when the British landed, and much more.

After Bessie Jennings died in 1972, the Westport Young Women’s Woman’s League worked with the Westport Historical Society to create 23 markers, at historic sites throughout town.

Of course, it was called the Jennings Trail.

One of the plaques on the Jennings Trail marks the Elmstead Lane home where Bessie Jennings was born, and died. (Photo courtesy of Greens Farms Living magazine)

(Hat tip to Bob Weingarten, Westport Historical Society house historian, who published a longer version of this information in Greens Farms Living magazine.)

Friday Flashback #87

A local news site reported recently that the Post Road strip mall by North Maple Avenue — the one with Dunkin’ Donuts, a cleaners, tanning salon and much-loved Layla’s Falafel — would be torn down.

Not true. The demolition permit is for the hideous Quonset hut that has hulked behind it for decades.

A paint job in 2010 made it look at least a little more presentable.

So the strip mall will remain. It’s one of our many mini-shopping plazas.

The longest tenant — before sailing away in 2014 — was the Boat Locker. But back in the 1960s, that space was occupied by one of Westport’s first fast-food franchises:

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

KFC — or “Kentucky Fried Chicken,” as it was known then — was not the only quick poultry place in town.

Downtown, in Brooks Corner, Westporters enjoyed Chicken-a-Go-Go.

And yes, as the name indicated, they delivered.

Friday Flashback #86

Two weeks ago, our Friday Flashback showed the unchanging nature of an important downtown crossroads.

A time traveler from decades ago would have no difficulty today recognizing the Westport Bank & Trust building (though some of the fashions at the present tenant, Patagonia, might surprise her).

Across Church Lane, the transformation of the Westport Weston YMCA into Bedford Square has altered — but not radically changed — the streetscape.

Of course, it did not always look that way.

Here’s a view of Main Street, at what was then called “The Square” (note the horse watering trough in the middle). The building on the right was replaced by the Westport Hotel — which itself was replaced in 1923 by E.T. Bedford’s gift to the town, the YMCA.

(Photo courtesy of Westport Historical Society)

Another view — looking west up the Post Road, toward the Saugatuck River — shows the building on the Main Street corner (on the right) from another angle.

(Photo courtesy of Westport Historical Society)

Check out the trolley. It provided great local transportation, with branches running from downtown to Saugatuck and Compo Beach.

And where was the trolley barn?

Somewhere on Church Lane. So — despite its current unchanging look — that area was indeed different, back in the day.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Friday Flashback #85

It’s a big week for the Westport Country Playhouse.

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 7, 5 to 8 p.m.), the iconic theater kicks off its 88th season with a party. Everyone’s invited to enjoy food trucks, local beer, a sneak peek at the shows, an up-close look at costumes, and much more.

Next Thursday (April 12, 7 p.m.), the spring gala honors playwright A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters.” Alec Baldwin and Westport’s own Kelli O’Hara star.

The Playhouse today looks much as it did in 1931, when Lawrence Langner remodeled an 1830s tannery with a Broadway-quality stage.

Over the decades, the Playhouse has changed a bit. It’s been renovated. Amenities — including a new rehearsal building and meeting space — have been added too.

But theatergoers who enjoyed performances by Henry Fonda, Dorothy Gish, Gene Kelly, Paul Robeson and other stars in the 1930s would easily recognize the Westport Country Playhouse today.

It hasn’t changed much. It’s still a magical place, where the magic of theater lives.

Westport Country Playhouse, 1950

Westport Country Playhouse in 1960 (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Westport artist Stevan Dohanos — known nationally for his Saturday Evening Post covers and US postage stamps — created the cover for this 1960s-era Playhouse playbill.

Friday Flashback #84

Last weekend, this section of the Post Road was the site of a large rally protesting gun violence.

In years past, big crowds have gathered here for other events: A 1936 campaign speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. An anti-war demonstration in 1969. Welcoming home the Little League World Series heroes of 2013.

Most days though, it’s just the Post Road near Main Street.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Besides the cars, traffic light, lampposts on the far right — and the fact that Westport Bank & Trust is now Patagonia — little has changed in the 70 or so years since this photo was taken.

Let’s see what the next 7 decades bring.

Friday Flashback #83

Buell Neidlinger — longtime “06880” reader and commenter/Westport native/world-renowned musician/all-around good guy — died last week. He was 82 years old.

Three days before his sudden death, he emailed me a suggestion for a Friday Flashback.

He sent a few pages from an old cookbook he’d found. “The New Connecticut Cookbook, Being a Collection of Recipes from Connecticut Kitchens” was compiled by the Woman’s Club of Westport, and illustrated by Connecticut artists. It belonged to his mother.

Buell’s pages did not include a publication date. But — judging from the car in the illustration, which may or may not be parked on a stylized version of Main Street — it was early in the papacy of Pope Pius XII.

Why that example? Because the preface (below), by literary critic/ biographer/historian Van Wyck Brooks — a Westport resident — notes that as Cardinal Pacelli, “the present Pope has been a visitor here.” Pius XII was Pope from 1939 to 1958.

Brooks mentions two other famous visitors to Westport, separated by more than a century: the French gastronome Jean Anthelem Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826), and Luigi Pirandello. The Italian writer and poet attended a performance at the Westport Country Playhouse. That was sometime between 1931 — when the summer theater opened — and 1936, when Pirandello died.

The pages that Buell sent are fascinating. Then again, everything he did for “06880” was.

This one’s for you, good friend.

Friday Flashback #82

Winter keeps hanging on.

It always does. Hey — this is New England.

Snow falls. Winds blow. Trees and wires fall down. Eventually, spring comes.

This was the scene 84 years ago, after the Blizzard of 1934:

(Photo courtesy of Westport Historical Society)

The view is from Post Road West, looking west on Riverside Avenue.

The building on the left hasn’t changed at all.

Neither has the traffic.