Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #150

If you were a teenage driver in Westport around the time this photo was taken — and judging by the car, it was the 1970s — you remember this scene:

The target was painted on Bayberry Lane — the hill just north of the Merritt Parkway.

It was a real hill then too — not the measly mound it is today. (It was probably flattened because someone painted that target.)

I don’t know the artist. Someone did a great job.

And had the right idea.

You really could get air, particularly with a good rate of speed southbound.

Of course, those were the days when auto repairs were fairly cheap.

Friday Flashback #149

First communion at Assumption Church, 1959 or ’60.

The fashions, cars and number of kids making communion has changed over the years.

The Riverside Avenue neighborhood has not.

Friday Flashback #148

A few days ago, I posted the back story of the Police Athletic League’s nearly-70-year sponsorship of Westport’s Independence Day fireworks.*

That sent alert “06880” reader/amateur historian Fred Cantor scrambling to the stacks.

He found the July 8, 1954 Westport Town Crier. There — on the front page — were photos and a story of that year’s pyrotechnics.

Held on Sunday, July 4**, the event drew a crowd of more than 3,000, the paper reported.

Some of them were dressed quite a bit fancier than today’s revelers.

Announcer Don Tedesco introduced the national anthem, then the fireworks.

They were shot from the sand, near the cannon. I remember that site well (though not from 1954!). The smell was strong and distinct. I always wondered what would happen if one landed next to me, sitting a few feet away from where they were launched.

Here’s a black-and-white photo from the paper. I’ll let you decide whether it looks very cool, or like a radiology report.

There was a lot going on, that holiday week.

Dorothy and Lillian Gish “sojourned” in Westport, at the home of Dr. John V.N. Dorr. Their visit was the lead photo on Page 1, as they posed with the equally famous Lucille Lortel:

Meanwhile, the Westport Country Playhouse advertised an upcoming production starring Eva Gabor and Richard Kiley.



The current production did not fare well. The last line of “Court Olympus” was “Let’s go home” — exactly what the Town Crier‘s reviewer advised audiences to do.

Other front-page news on July 8, 1954: “First Jewish Temple in History of Town Set For Construction” (the 6-acre site on a former Hills Lane nursery was eventually abandoned, due to issues with the land); town prosecutor Robert Anstett was named head of Westport’s Civilan Defense Corps, and 600 people were expected to attend the 6th annual Compo Beach Clambake, sponsored by the Saugatuck Fathers Club.

But the most intriguing story was this: “Teen-Agers Make Problem at Beaches.”

Turns out the Beach Commission was considering closing all beaches at night, “to stop teen-age beer parties.” In addition, “vandals, not yet apprehended, defaced many bathhouses and destroyed a new stone fireplace” at Compo.

Fishermen reported “beer cans piled along the shore,” while residents complained of “noise and speeding cars late at night.”

The town employed “special constables” to patrol Compo and Burial Hill.

If you’re reading this now, and were a teenager then — making you in your 80s today — click “Comments” below. We’d love to hear how that worked out.

* Bottom line: If you haven’t yet bought a ticket, do it now!

** Unlike these days, when the fireworks are shot off NOT on the actual holiday. Overtime for the scores of workers would be prohibitive.

Friday Flashback #147

I’ve seen plenty of photos of Westport through the ages.

I’ve heard about tons of other places too, even though I have no idea what they look like.

But this photo — courtesy of Seth Schachter — is not only an image I’ve never seen, but a spot I’ve never heard of.

It’s the front of a postcard. The sign above the store says “Cash Grocery.”

Here’s the back. It was sent in 1909. Years later — in handwriting much different from the young student Edith Ivy, who hopefully got an A+ in penmanship at school — someone wrote “Aspetuck Cash Store” at the top.

If you know

  • where it was
  • what it sold
  • whatever happened to it
  • how it got its name

click comments below.

Or just click comments to mention how cool this postcard is.

Friday Flashback #146

Today’s Friday Flashback is barely a decade old.

But when Ashley Skatoff moved to Westport in 2008, Rogers Septic Tanks caught her eye. It was an actual service company — one of the few left on the Post Road.

One day, she pulled in and asked to take some pictures. Sure, the man (whose name she does not recall) said. He was proud — and a wonderful subject.

Ashley says, “I loved the spot and the images, because they were larger than Rogers and larger than Westport. There is so much humanity on that plot of land, and I thought it came through in pictures from that day. This could be anywhere in the United States.”

“I believe the earth has good energy there – it was like a different dimension – and whatever goes there next will inherit that energy and pass it on through the next humanity that spends time on it.”

What’s next is — possibly — 32 housing units. The 1- and 2-bedroom development is in the permit approval phase with town boards.

“I am sad to see this treasure fading away,” Ashley says.”He really enjoyed that I could appreciate the gem — enough to stop — and gave me a tour.

“That day he said he hoped a restaurant got the space, and would be able to salvage the building and the part of it that would still be cool. He had vision.”

(Photos/Ashley Skatoff)

Friday Flashback #145

Curtis Blake died the other day.

You may not have known him. But if you grew up in Westport during the 1970s, ’80s or ’90s, he was a key figure in your life.

As the New York Times explained, Blake “opened a Massachusetts ice cream store with his brother during the Depression and built it into Friendly’s.” The Times defined Friendly’s as “a homey restaurant chain in the Eastern United States.

For several generations of Westporters, Friendly’s was a home away from home.

There were actually 2 Friendly’ses here. One was in Playhouse Square. The other was just over the border, in Southport.

The Southport Friendly’s.

Depending on where you lived, either one was the place to go to celebrate — after a dance, a play, a game — or just hang out.

It was also an easy place to go with young kids, or grandparents. The food was simple and fine. Hamburgers. Grilled cheese. And — for a special treat — Fribbles!

Service was slow (and not particularly “friendly”). The menu was stodgy. But it was a comfortable place.

Friendly’s is long gone from both locations. The Playhouse Square restaurant turned into Derma Clinic. Today it’s the post office. If that doesn’t say everything about changes in 1) eating habits 2) Westport and 3) the US Postal Service, nothing does.

The former Friendly’s in Playhouse Square.

The Southport Friendly’s is now Wafu.

In fact, it’s hard to find a Friendly’s anywhere. The Blake brothers sold the chain in 1979. In 2011, its owners filed for bankruptcy protection.

But I gotta say, those Fribbles were good.

Friday Flashback #144

Alert “06880” reader/amateur historian Fred Cantor has a knack for finding obscure but fascinating Westport vignettes in newspaper and magazine archives.

This week’s gem is a New York Times story from September 9, 1956. Headlined “Westport Reviews New Home Numbers,” it says that — “prodded by irate residents who are loathe [sic] to adopt an urban street numbering system” — the Representative Town Meeting voted to “reconsider the $4,500 building address program recently adopted by town officials.”

Seems like Westporters “vociferously” objected to a plan to number (or re-number — it’s not clear from the story) houses on streets. Residents clearly did not want “any change in their rural flavor to something resembling urban impersonality.”

Postal officials had contended that “the lack of proper street numbers and mix-ups resulting from similar names and inaccurate numbering were making efficient deliveries increasingly difficult.”

That’s all we know from the Times story. Whatever street numbers we had — and have now — apparently work fine.

I had no way to illustrate that story. Fred helpfully sent along a Saturday Evening Post cover from May 1944. Westport artist Stevan Dohanos used a local model — and local scenes — for his illustration.

But Fred was not done. He went hunting in the Westport Library for old town directories.

The Price & Lee 1957 edition showed that homes and businesses on at least some major streets had assigned numbers. Streets like High Point — just being developed at that point — did not.*

What was more remarkable to Fred was the personal information included in the directories. They included professions of the income earners, spouses’ names, and those of older children. Presidents of companies, domestic employees — they were all there.

In 2019, the notion of privacy is all over the news (including the New York Times). We call this the “Information Age.” But more than 60 years ago, there was plenty of personal information available to all.

Just very few street numbers.

*My parents moved there in 1956. Their mailing address at that point was “Lot 12 East, High Point Road.”

Friday Flashback #143

Years ago, the Bridge Street Bridge was renamed to honor William F. Cribari.

“Crobar” spent many years as the ever-smiling, often-dancing, always-vigilant traffic cop at the intersection of Bridge Street and Riverside Avenue.

But that was not his only post.

He was equally effective — though with less choreography — at the heavily trafficked Post Road/Main Street crossing.

This was a typical scene around 1985. Ships restaurant (now Tiffany) drew a steady crowd. So did the rest of downtown.

But Crobar was clearly in charge.

(Photo/Al Bravin)

Friday Flashback #142

The Westport Farmers Market opens next Thursday (May 23). The Imperial Avenue parking lot will be filled with vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, honey, ice cream, even pet food.

Musicians will play. Food trucks will serve pizza and tacos. It’s a wonderful part of Westport — organic, sustainable, (mostly) healthy and fun.

We have Paul Newman (in part) to thank. Back in 2006, he and chef Michel Nischan created the first Westport Farmers Market, at the Westport Country Playhouse parking lot.

But that was not the actor/automobile racer/lemonade, popcorn and salad dressing king/philanthropist’s first farm stand experience.

For years, he was a customer at Rippe’s. Westporters pretended to be cool as cucumbers as they saw Newman — then “only” an actor — and his wife Joanne Woodward casually checking out ears of corn, or putting apples in a bag.

Rippe’s Farm Stand, in its early years. It later grew into a more substantial building. (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann, via Mrs. George Rippe Collection)

Rippe’s was one of several farm stands in Westport. Produce came from orchards behind it — stretching eastward, from Turkey Hill North to behind Long Lots Junior High — and fields on North Avenue, behind Burr Farms Elementary School.

The North Avenue farm is gone (so is Burr Farms School). In its place is a private road — the strangely named Greystone Farm Lane. In a nod to the past, a few of the homes include silo-like architecture.

The Post Road orchards and stand are gone too. They’ve been replaced by what — at the time — were Westport’s first and only condos.

In another nod to the past, they’re called Harvest Commons.

Friday Flashback #141

Generations of Westporters have swum in, skated on or otherwise enjoyed Nash’s Pond.

The “modern” pond was formed in 1879, when the Nash family erected a dam and 3 icehouses. Workers harvested ice each winter. It was stored through summer, sawed into blocks, then sent to New York for sale.

In 1937 — after the ice business, but before most homes were built along “Nash’s Woods and Pond” — it looked like this:

(Postcard courtesy of Seth Schachter)

What are your memories of Nash’s Pond? Click “Comments” below.