Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #160

This photo is over 100 years old.

The buildings look different. So does the transportation. The trees are gone; the street is now paved.

But more than a century later, there’s no mistaking the gentle curve of Main Street, as it heads north toward Elm Street.

Some things never change.

(Photo courtesy of Mary Gai)

Friday Flashback #159

Alert “06880” reader — and native Westporter — sent this photo:

The Stage Door Restaurant — on the Post Road in Greens Farms — was before my time.

I never heard of it. I’m intrigued by the 60-cent dinners (that 75-cent turkey dinner must have been extra special).

And I wonder where the name came from. What “stage” could have been close by?

If you remember the Stage Door Restaurant — or know anything about it — click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #158

Most Friday Flashbacks show how much our town changes over the years.

This one demonstrates how much it stays the same.

The aerial photo of the I-95 and railroad bridges seems like it could have been taken yesterday. In fact, it’s from 1977 — more than 40 years ago.

There’s something very familiar and reassuring about this shot.

Time marches on. But some parts of Westport are timeless.

(Hat tip: Seth Schachter)

 

Friday Flashback #157

As Westport students returned to school this week — and parents returned to chauffeuring chores for all those after-school activities — moms and dads who were themselves kids here in the 1970s and ’80s may think back to their Minnybus days.

Back in the day, they were Westport’s cutting-edge (yet diesel-belching) transportation technology. Driving fixed routes (with Jesup Green as the hub), they ferried people — mostly pre-teens and teenagers — around town. At least one parent was known to park kids on a Minnybus for a round-trip or two, using it as a vehicular babysitter.

At least 10,000 youngsters used it as a place to escape home, smoke cigarettes, and/or make out.

Rick Davis was too young to do any of that stuff.

Kids still ride all over town. Today, Uber delivers them from Point A to B much quicker (and more expensively).

But — no matter how entertaining your Uber driver — it’s nowhere near as much fun.

Friday Flashback #156

Regular readers know “06880” often laments the loss of things that make a town a community.

Movie theaters. Mom-and-pop shops.

And bars.

I’m talking about real bars. Not bars attached to restaurants, like so many places in town: Spotted Horse, Tavern on Main, Arezzo, Little Barn, you name it.

And not restaurants with very active bars, like Viva’s and the Duck.

No. I mean actual, go-and-stay-and-drink-and-maybe-have-peanuts-but-a-place-where-everybody-knows-your-name bar.

The Westport equivalent of Cheers.

Parsell’s Purcell’s was that kind of bar, on the Post Road near Southport. So was the Red Galleon, across from Green’s Farms Elementary School.

Ship’s Lantern was too, downtown on the Post Road (before it become The Ships nearby — which today is Tiffany 😦 ).

Then there was “The Bridge.”

Formally Ye Olde Bridge Grill — though there was nothing formal about it — The Bridge sat on Post Road West, right over the bridge (aha!), a couple of doors down from National Hall (at the time, Fairfield Furniture), and directly opposite Art’s (now Winfield) Deli.

It was around for years, but hit its stride in the 1970s and ’80s. With generous owner Dave Reynolds, popular manager/bartender Dennis Murphy, a large and loyal bunch of regulars, and a jukebox that played the same songs over and over and over again (“Domino” by Van Morrison, anyone?), The Bridge was the kind of gathering spot we just don’t have any more.

Owner Dave Reynolds …

(It was also the sponsor of an Under-23 soccer team of the same name. Stocked with the best Westport players of its time, and their friends from the college and semi-pro ranks, it won all kinds of state and regional championships. After every match, players and fans celebrated you-know-where.)

… and manager Dennis Murphy (standing, left). He coached the Bridge Grille team to many state titles.

Things change. Rents rose. The drinking age rose too, from 18 to 21.

The Bridge has been gone for 3 decades or so. Today it’s an antiques shop, or something like that.

Cheers!

Friday Flashback #155

In early 1960, the town of Westport bought the failing private Longshore Beach & Country Club. The 169-acre property included a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant, residential cabins, even 2 private roads.

Plus — why not? — a lighthouse.

The entire process — from concept to approval from the Board of Finance and (unanimously!) the RTM — took just 18 days.  Town officials put together a $1.9 million package, then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM.  The latter vote was 38-0. 

Five years later, the Westport Town Crier published a remarkable aerial photo of what was then the still-novel town-owned country club.

(Aerial photo/Robert Lentini)

Moving counter-clockwise from the center, you can see the old tennis court locker rooms, and adjacent wooden bathhouses (though you can’t see how dark they were, or smell their decades-old musty odor); the original Longshore Sailing School; several cabanas by the old pool — and, partially hidden by trees next to the marina, the circular lighthouse.

It was always a source of fascination for kids, and admiration by adults.

The lighthouse survived one demolition attempt in the late ’60s or early ’70s. Eventually — when the entrance to the pool area was modernized — it was torn down.

Here’s what we miss:

(Photo courtesy of Peter Barlow)

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Friday Flashback #154

The opening of the transformed Westport Library brought back memories of the original — and reminders, once again, that it was built on what was once the “town dump.”

Alert — and historic minded — “06880” reader Fred Cantor found a fascinating aerial photo, published by the Town Crier in 1965

(Photo/Robert Lentini)

Back then, the library was located in the building at the lower left of the photo. Today it’s the site of Starbucks, Freshii and other tenants.

Across the Post Road — at the foot of what we now call the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge — is a block of shops and apartments that burned in the late 1960s or early ’70s. Today it’s South Moon Under, and other stores.

But the most fascinating part of the photo is seen beyond Jesup Green and the Taylor Place parking lot. There — in the center of town — sat the Rogers Little League baseball diamond. The dugouts are about where the upper entrance to the library lot is today. (Why is it so bumpy now? Landfill.)

Unfortunately, the photo does not show what lies beyond left and center field. That was the town dump.

It smelled. It attracted seagulls. It was not uncommon for the birds to swoop near unsuspecting outfielders, attempting to catch flies (the baseball variety).

Around that time — perhaps a few years later — Westport artist Arthur Cady drew a series of Westport scenes.

(Illustration by Arthur Cady/courtesy of Jim Ezzes)

This one may have been a bit of artistic license. I don’t think the dump was quite that close to downtown.

But it sure was near to what is now Tiffany, nestling right behind on Taylor Place.

Friday Flashback #153

Lou Nistico is fondly remembered as part of the family that owned the Arrow — the beloved Italian restaurant in Saugatuck (it’s now Mystic Market).

In the mid-1970s though, he was also the concessionaire at Longshore. His daughter Joanne was the bartender.

At the time, Westport was the illustrators’ capital of the world. They worked at home, but socialized often.

A group of cartoonists often played golf, then headed inside for martinis. Joanne calls them a “fun and wild group of talented men.”

One day during lunch, they dashed off this collage for Lou:

Famous names are included: Tony DiPreta (who drew “Joe Palooka”), Bud Jones (“Mr. Abernathy”) and Bob Gustafson (“Tillie the Toiler”).

Dick Wingert’s “Hubert” looks half in the bag, as he raises a glass to “Lou the Great!”

But check out Stan Drake’s “Juliet Jones,” and his/her R-rated comment.

Then look at Curt Swan’s Superman next to Grace — and his wandering eyes.

They make a nice couple. Their cartoon kids would have been gorgeous.

Friday Flashback #152

“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” — the wonderful Westport Country Playhouse production running now through August 3 — got me thinking about entertainment options, back in the day.

America’s greatest songwriter lived long enough to see Elvis Presley (whose version of “White Christmas” he loathed) and MTV (it’s unclear what Berlin thought of “Video Killed the Radio Star”).

But in 1919 — when he turned 31, and was already a Tin Pan Alley and Broadway composing star — the main entertainment in many small towns was a motion picture theater.

Westport was no exception. The Fine Arts on the Post Road (today it’s Restoration Hardware) seems like a hopping spot. I posted photos a while ago.

Now — thanks to Kevin Slater — we’ve got a great idea of exactly what Westport movie-goers were watching, exactly 100 years ago.

There were 3 shows a day: a 2:30 matinee, then 7 and 8:45 p.m.

But the Fine Arts was open just on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. (The fact that it was closed Sunday was so obvious, it wasn’t even noted on the poster.)

You had to move fast: Each movie (and accompanying shorts and newsreels) was there for one day only.

So what was Irving Berlin doing in 1919, when long-forgotten names like J. Walter Kerrigan, Vivian Martin and Madge Kennedy were stars?

That’s the year he wrote “A Pretty Girl is Like a melody” for Ziegfeld’s Follies.

And it was a full 8 years before Al Jolson performed Berlin’s “Blue Skies” in “The Jazz Singer” — the first feature sound film ever.

If you had any questions about any of the shows — and you could find a telephone — all you had to do was call.

The phone number was right there at the top corner: 325.

Friday Flashback #151

Two of the biggest Compo Beach controversies in recent years involved the South Beach bathrooms and the playground. Opponents of both projects worried they’d block scenic views of the Sound.

That didn’t happen, of course. But for many years — through the 1960s, in fact — our vista was quite different.

Enormous wooden bathhouses stretched from what is now Joey’s to the pavilion near Soundview Drive. (The concession stand was located then at the current volleyball courts.)

I have very dim memories of the bathhouses. They were dark and musty. The floors were sandy and wet. My friends and I played inside, but it felt like danger lurked around every corner. There were many corners.

The bathhouses went through several incarnations, before they were finally torn down. Here are a few.

Note the familiar 2nd story roof atop the bathhouses at the right. When the structure underneath was damaged in a hurricane, the roof was lowered. Today it houses the pavilion near the volleyball courts.

Another view.

Wooden ramps served as an early Mobi-Mat. Beach attire was much different. Note the float off shore too.

The brick bathhouses (currently, Joey’s by the Shore) contained bathhouses too. Check out the rocky condition of the beach itself.

An earlier view, from 1906.