Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #52

Today, the Friday Flashback turns 1 year old.

Since last summer, we’ve featured some fascinating photos of Westport’s past: The sanitarium. The Compo Beach bathhouses. Gorham Island. Ray the Good Humor Man.

To celebrate this anniversary, I wanted something truly iconic.

The cannons? Minute Man? Remarkable Book Shop? Big Top?

Nah. They’ve all been featured many times on “06880.”

The Minnybuses? Arnie’s Place? A bit too narrow.

Suddenly, it hit me. For generations of kids of all ages, nothing said “Westport” like the Ice Cream Parlor.

The final location, on the Post Road.

In 3 locations — Main Street, Compo Shopping Center, and finally the Post Road (opposite what is now Qdoba) — the Ice Cream Parlor served up a lot more than sundaes, wax candy and a Pig’s Trough.

It served up memories.

Mine are of wrought-iron chairs, more ice cream flavors than Howard Johnson’s, and jars filled with candy.

What are yours? Click “Comments” below.

An Ice Cream Parlor menu, signed by famous people who had been there.

Friday Flashback #51

I remember many old, long-gone buildings from my childhood.

I’m fascinated by our 2 sanitariums, downtown (now Winslow Park) and on Long Lots Road (Hall-Brooke).

I’m sorry I never got inside the original Staples High School, on Riverside Avenue (the current site of the Saugatuck Elementary School auditorium).

And I hear that whatever happened at the Compo Inn, stayed at the Compo Inn.

But nothing fascinates me like the Penguin.

I’m not talking about Le Penguin — the French bistro in Sconset Square. It’s a very good restaurant, mais oui.

But it’s nothing like the Penguin.

Nothing was.

A white building with a nautical theme — portholes and a big anchor outside — it sat proudly on the crest of Hillspoint Road, just south of the train tracks.

The Penguin.

The Edgewater Commons condos are there now. But for several decades — from the early 1900s through the ’40s, I think — the Penguin was the place to be.

I heard it was the first air-conditioned jazz club between New York and Boston. I heard it was a speakeasy during Prohibition. I heard there were white tablecloths and a crystal chandelier, and that George Raft and James Cagney were frequent guests.

I heard it was also a hotel, and once you left the bar for your room, anything — and everything — could happen.

By the time I got to junior high, it was long since past its prime. It looked seedy and abandoned — though it was really just an apartment building.

But word on the 8th grade street was that it was a “whorehouse.” On a dare, some friends and I walked inside. It was dark, musty, and scary as hell.

We had not thought through what we would do if we met an actual “whore.” Suddenly, a woman wearing a frumpy housecoat stepped into the dim hallway.

We fled. We did not stop running until we got to Old Mill Beach.

But boy, did we have a story to tell our gaping classmates the next day.

The Soundview Hotel. (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Oh, yeah: Before it was the Penguin, it was the Miramar. Before that, it was the Soundview Hotel.

I don’t know too much else about the Penguin — or whether my knowledge of it is fact, fiction or a combination of both.

But if I ever have a chance to time travel back to the Westport of yore, I’ll head to the Penguin.

I’d hear great music. I’d eat and drink. I’d head to my room. And then … 😉

Friday Flashback #50

Despite the traffic, construction and removal of trees, the Merritt Parkway is still more pleasant than 95. (Then again, so is colonoscopy prep.)

Back in 1939 — a couple of years after it opened — the Merritt really was a “parkway,” though.

So were the entrances. Here’s a shot of Exit 42 southbound, on Weston Road. The commuter parking lot was decades in the future.

I have no idea when the calming island was removed.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Friday Flashback #49

As much as things seem to change around here, Old Mill Beach looks much like it did in the 1920s.

Fashions are different, of course. And a few of the houses have succumbed to hurricanes or new owners’ plans.

But — as Seth Schachter’s postcards show — bathers from nearly 100 years ago would find themselves in familiar territory, if they were plopped down today on this hidden-in-plain-sight jewel.

Friday Flashback #48

The news that Amazon is buying Whole Foods has everyone atwitter.

Perhaps the mammoth company that delivers nearly everything except babies will now make those pesky supermarket food runs obsolete too.

What could be better than, say, having fresh milk delivered right to your home?

Jeff Bezos, meet Marty McFly. And both you guys, meet the milkman.

(Photo copyright Paul Ehrismann)

Back in the day, Westport was awash in milkmen. Ferris (on North Morningside), Wade’s, Clover Farms* — they and many other local dairies brought milk straight to your doorstep. Sometimes, they’d even put it in your refrigerator icebox.

Sounds like a great idea whose time has come.

And gone.

And come again.

If that works, maybe we can also ask doctors to come to our homes too.

I’ve got just the name too. We could call them “house calls.”

*Never heard of Clover Farms? That’s because it turned into a slightly larger business called Stew Leonard’s. You know — “the worlds largest dairy store.” They don’t use an apostrophe — but they do sell cashmere.

Friday Flashback #47

July 4th marked the 56th anniversary of one of the most famous events on Gorham Island.

Around 2 a.m. that morning in 1961 Brendan McLaughlin — a former Marine working as a New York advertising executive — shot and killed his father during a family argument.

The murder took place in the McLaughlins’ old Victorian house on Gorham Island. The house was originally built on Main Street, then moved to the island.

The Victorian house on Gorham Island in 1971. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

McLaughlin fled. An hour before dawn he burst into the police station on Jesup Road. He pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and fired at 2 policemen behind the front desk, wounding Donald Bennette.

Officers chased him into the parking lot, where he shot officer Andrew Chapo. A shootout ensued; McLaughlin was wounded.

Chapo and Bennette recovered.  McLaughlin died several weeks later.

The other famous Gorham Island event was when that handsome — if haunted — home was demolished, over a decade later. Another structure nearby was also razed.

Today a 40,000-square foot green-and-gold-glass office building fills Gorham Island.

Which no one except those who remember the old house calls it anymore.

Close-up of the Gorham Island house, 1973. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

Friday Flashback #46

The July 4th holiday — the biggest beach-going celebration of the year — is a good time to look back at Compo Beach of yore.

Here it was in the early 1900s — almost deserted, but ringed with wooden bathhouses:

The cannons were placed at the beach in 1910 1901. Shortly thereafter, a horse and cart passed by:

Here’s one of the rafts that were anchored offshore:

There’s a common element to these photos, taken half a century apart:

Rocks.

From long before the British landed offshore in 1777, right up until the late 1950s, Compo was not the sandy beach it is today. It was rocky, uneven — downright uncomfortable.

A major project created the Compo we know and love. It was not easy — but it was important.

Think about these photos the next time you complain about anything beach-related.

Like sand on the boardwalk.

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.