Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #107

Word on the street — Charles Street — is that Mystic Market opens next month.

Some folks will describe it as the old Blu Parrot spot. Others — with longer memories — will say it’s where Jasmine was.

But real old-timers know it — and will never forget — the site as the beloved Arrow restaurant.

For a couple of decades — after its move from the nearby Saugatuck Avenue/Franklin Street location that gave it its name — the Arrow defined the neighborhood.

And made its mark on all of Westport.

Here’s a look back, at the way we all were.

Owner Frank Nistico

Owner Tom Nistico, back in the day.

Lou Nistico, son of the founders of the Arrow.

FRIDAY FLASHBACK FUN FOLLOW-UP: Last week’s Friday Flashback featured a 1946 photo of Marie Corridon on the Longshore high diving board. 

It was a great shot (click here to see). Now comes word — via alert “06880” reader Chris Corridon — that Maria was not your casual, Sunday diver.

Turns out her family lived in Norwalk, and were members of Longshore. She learned to swim at the then-private club — and went on to win a gold medal at the 1948 Olympics in London!

Marie was the lead swimmer for the champion, Olympic record-setting US team in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.

She is a member of the swimming Hall of Fame. Her 7 children all participated in Division I athletics. The girls all swam, and are active Masters swimming record holders. One — Sheila Stolarski — is a Weston resident. Several of her grandchildren swim competitively too, in high school and college.

Who knew? Thankfully, Chris Corridon does!

Friday Flashback #106

Another summer is nearly over. Kids no longer crowd the Longshore pool. A few older swimmers do their final laps, before it’s closed for the season.

Which makes this a great time to look back at the days when there was an actual high dive there.

Marie Corridon jumps off the Longshore high diving board in 1946. It was a private club then — but the high dive remained for years after 1960, when the town of Westport bought the property. (Photo courtesy of James Corridon)

It was imposing. Jumping off was a test of courage. It kept the lifeguards on their toes too.

When was the last time you saw a sight like this?

Friday Flashback #105

In the incessant — but very important — debate over the future of the William F. Cribari Bridge, references are often made to the previous renovation, about 30 years ago.

At that time, a temporary span was constructed just north of the permanent one.

It took out a small gas station next to Mansion Clam House (now Parker Mansion). But it was — surprisingly — graceful, efficient, even loved.

Many Westporters wondered: Why don’t we just keep it?

It was a good question. And alert “06880” reader Ken Bernhard, who remembers it fondly, has another one: Was it made of wood?

If you know — or if you have any other memories of the Brigadoon-like Saugatuck River bridge — click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #103

If you went to the Westport Country Playhouse any time between 1931 and 2005, you remember certain things: The tight lobby. The bench seats. The unique smell.

And the olio curtain.

Hanging in front of the main curtain, the olio — a large canvas attached at the bottom to a long rigid tube — featured painted advertisements for local businesses.

Since the WCP renovation, theater-goers have been greeted immediately by the set on stage. There is no curtain.

Until now.

The current production — “The Understudy” — is a comedy that takes place in a theater. At this show, patrons see the red velvet main curtain, hanging from the proscenium arch.

So what did that olio curtain look like?

The Playhouse’s Pat Blaufuss sent along this photo:

She doesn’t know the date. But alert “06880” readers who remember Brooks Hirsch, Ann Marie’s Figure Forum and Davy Jones’ restaurant can help.

Pat also sent this photo, from the New York Times:

Just to compare, here’s the post-renovation view:

(Photo/Robert Benson)

FUN FACT: Pat adds that the WCP main curtain does not have “legs” (the narrow curtains on each side of the stage).

In early vaudeville days, producers booked more performers than could possibly fill the time. That way, they could pull “bad” acts before completion.

Performers were not paid unless they actually performed onstage. The phrase “break a leg” meant breaking the visual plane of the legs that lined the side of the stage.

In other words: “Hope you break a leg and get onstage, so you get paid!”

Friday Flashback #102

Some things never change. The only constant is change.

Those 2 adages — which, like so many, sound completely contradictory — are expressed well in this fascinating photo:

The Post Road looks much as it does today. There’s traffic, stores, even the same trees, buildings and vistas.

But back when this photo was taken, the Post Road was called State Street. The shops and automobiles were different.

Look closely at the biggest building. That’s not even the Fine Arts Theater. In those days, it was called “Fine Arts Photoplay.”

Since 1999, of course, that property has been Restoration Hardware.

That may change too. Word on the street — State, Post Road, US 1, whatever you call it — is that the upscale home furnishings shop is slated to close.

If that rumor is true, I’ve got the perfect tenant. The Westport Cinema Initiative could convert it into — ta da! — a movie theater.

Friday Flashback #101

The other day, I mentioned how few photos I’ve seen of Saugatuck before I-95 was built. I’ve always had a tough time visualizing what that neighborhood looked like before bulldozers, concrete and pillars.

Alert — and historic-minded — “06880” reader Neil Brickley rode to the rescue. He’s a Staples High School classmate of mine, with an equal fascination for the Westport a few years before our parents arrived.

The photo Neil sent is fascinating. It’s a stupendous aerial view of Saugatuck from 1951 — about 4 years before construction began.

I noticed a few things.

The Arrow Restaurant (most recently Blu Parrot) was not yet built on Charles Street.

Greens Farms Road met South Compo quite a bit further south than it does today.

Most significantly, the area west of Saugatuck Avenue — where land was taken to build the Exit 17 interchange — was much more wooded than I imagined.

Click on or hover over the image above. Explore. Then click “Comments,” to share what you see.

Neil also sent this bonus aerial view: The same area, taken in 1965.

A lot changed in just 14 years.

Which makes me wonder what the Saugatuck of today will look like in 2032.

Friday Flashback #100

This is the month of year when — for a quarter century — Westporters flocked to Festival Italiano at Luciano Park.

We were joined by thousands of others — plenty of actual Italians, and many more wannabes — from as far away as Brooklyn.

The Italian Festival is gone. So are the days when Saugatuck was a true Italian neighborhood, filled with extended families, shops and restaurants handed down through generations, and a special atmosphere remembered lovingly by the ever-dwindling number of people fortunate enough to grow up there.

Sam Febbraio did. The other day, while going through his mother’s papers, Tony Giunta found a list Sam made.

Tony thinks Sam typed it up in the mid-1960s. It’s filled with his best recollection of the names of people and places in Saugatuck in the 1930s and ’40s.

If you are a native Westporter — particularly from Saugatuck — you’ll remember many of these names.

If you don’t: You missed some of the best times — and people — our town has ever seen.

I’m sure “06880” readers will have comments about some of them. We should all read them.

It’s a way of celebrating our own Festival Italiano.

Friday Flashback #99

The William F. Cribari bridge is all over the news. Plans are meandering and/or plowing ahead for reconstruction. Meanwhile, emergency repairs will begin soon.

And there’s a brouhaha over the recent spate of rush hour closings, in order to accommodate a boat moored just north of the swing span.

A discussion rages in the “06880” comments section: Is the 136-year-old bridge historic? Or just old?

You be the judge. This photo — sent by Carmine Picarello — comes from Eve Potts’ great book, “Westport…A Special Place.”

We’re not sure what the future holds. But whatever a renovated or new bridge looks like, one thing is sure.

It won’t have trolley tracks.

Friday Flashback #99

At first glance, this photo looks unremarkable.

Fred Cantor took it in 1977, he thinks — during the Great Race. That was the fun, funny and often alcohol-infused event in which people dressed in costumes, created their own vessels, ran from Taylor Place to the river, jumped in their watercraft, raced out to Cockenoe Island, filled a bag with garbage (the cheaters already carried pre-packed trash), then rowed or sailed or whatever-ed back to shore.

Meanwhile, Main Street merchants held sales. This was the scene outside Remarkable Book Shop. The stalls were always outside, but on this day they attracted huge crowds.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

The Great Race is (regrettably) long gone. But this weekend the Fine Arts Festival returns to Main Street. It’s a great show.

Unfortunately, few Remarkable-type stores anymore offer something else to all those art-lovers (though Savvy + Grace is worth a trip from anywhere).

Also this weekend, the Westport Library hosts its 26th annual Book Sale. Those squintillions of volumes make this Remarkable scene look, well, unremarkable. But whenever and wherever people buy books, it’s a good thing.

Finally, this Friday Flashback raises the question: Now that Remarkable Book Shop is gone — and Talbots too is a long-ago memory too — will anything ever take their place?

Friday Flashback #98

The house by the Sherwood Mill Pond footbridge leading to Compo Cove is being raised. You can see the work from Old Mill Beach — and far beyond, at Schlaet’s Point on Hillspoint Road.

It’s an iconic Westport site. Originally a grist mill — destroyed at least once by fire — it has been a private residence since the early 1900s. Like its predecessor, the home straddles the water.

Here’s what it looked like in the early 20th century:

Don Willmott found this postcard — with “Compowe” misspelled — in a box belonging to his father, artist Al Willmott. There’s a note on the back, from “Nina” to “Francine.”

It reads:  “Father and I went to Compo Beach today. It was lovely. I wish you could have gone with us. I think this is a pretty card. We had some fine ice cream in Westport.”

Another postcard from the same area and era — this one without any misspellings — comes courtesy of Mark Krosse:

You can’t see the “old mill” that gave the beach and neighborhood its name.

But you can sure tell that the scene is timeless.