Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #266

From time to time, our Friday Flashback visits Fountain Square. That’s the Post Road/Main Street intersection. Early in the 20th century — dominated by a large fountain (aka horse trough) — it’s where townspeople gathered to conduct business, socialize, and water their horses.

It was also known as “Hotel Square.” Prior to construction of the YMCA in 1923, the Westport Hotel stood on the corner.

Last weekend, Gitta Selva went to a flea market in New Milford. She bought a plate that depicts Hotel Square. The seller found it while cleaning out her mother’s house in Westport.

The inscription says it was reproduced from an original mural by Westport artist Robert Lambdin (1886-1981). It shows a street scene from 1875-1880, including the Westport Hotel.

There was plenty of action: well-dressed people bustling around a horse-drawn trolley, a horse drinking at the trough, others nearby at the hotel.

Lambdin’s mural hung in the Westport Bank & Trust building. Today it’s Patagonia — a few yards away from the scene shown on the plate.

The hotel is at the current site of Anthropologie. The trough is on Main Street. The white house behind it is where Patagonia is now. It looks quite a bit like the house that was converted a few years ago into the Spotted Horse restaurant.

If so, was that house moved later to its present site? Did Lambdin take artistic liberty with what he drew?

Click “Comments” below if you know. And if you are 100 years old and remember “Fountain Square,” we’d love to hear more!

Friday Flashback #265

The other day, I looked through some photos.

This shot — of a long-ago store in what was then Sherwood (now Sconset) Square — caught my eye.

(Photo courtesy of James Gray)

It was nothing special — just another local business.

But it got me thinking:

  • What’s happened to all our cool-looking, colorful stores?
  • Why don’t they have fun names anymore?
  • How come we lost all our paint shops?
  • And is this what is meant by “painting the town red”?

Friday Flashback #264

Here’s a flashback of a flashback.

Tobe Berkovitz posted this photo on social media. It first appeared in the Westport News. The date is unknown.

It shows 4 Westport youngsters — already grown, when the paper ran the image — receiving vaccinations, in the early 1960s.

The image was taken for an ad agency owned by Westporter Bill Backalenick. His children Paul and Lynn, and 2 Berkovitzes — Toby and Amy — served as models.

Were they being immunized against polio? Measles? Mumps?

Who knows. But whatever was in the vaccine worked. All 4 became healthy adults.

Friday Flashback #263

No bygone business has been mentioned more in “06880” than the Remarkable Book Shop.

The Main Street/Parker Harding corner store was a beloved, comfortable, meeting place. Whenever I need a reference point for a locally owned, customer-centric shop: Bingo!

But the Remarkable comes up in other ways too. There’s the Remarkable Bookcycle, a three-wheeled, mobile homage complete with the same pink color and logo.

There’s the Remarkable Theater, our downtown drive-in theater that takes its name directly — and fittingly — from that long-ago other entertainment option.

More recently, Cold Fusion Gelato — located opposite the former shop — hung the wooden “Remarkable Guy” inside, looking out on his old haunt.

And now Local to Market has opened on the book shop’s old site, offering food and crafts in a down-home way reminiscent of its predecessor.

But in all my references to the Remarkable Book Shop, I never knew that it was also part of a very popular children’s book.

The other day, alert “06880” reader Kerry Long spotted a Remarkable reference on Instagram. A user posted 2 images from Richard Scarry’s 1968 Random House classic, What Do People Do All Day?

There in the lower right corner — below drawings of a poet, artist and writer — was the Remarkable Book Shop.

A close-up shows that Scarry included the name of the proprietor: E. Kramer.

That would be Esther Kramer — the actual owner of the Westport store. (Regular “06880” readers know that the “Remarkable” name comes from “Kramer” spelled backward.)

So — decades later — the Remarkable Book Shop still lives. And not just on “06880,” but Instagram too.

Remarkable!

 

Friday Flashback #262

The more traffic clogs downtown, the more important it is to look back at bygone days.

Our “Friday Flashback” feature has focused on “Fountain Square” before. The Post Road (then called State Street)/Main Street intersection was dominated by a fountain. (Actually, a horse trough. “Trough Square” does not have quite the same ring.)

Well after a century later, we’re still finding “new” images of that old scene.

(Postcard courtesy of Seth Schachter)

Seth Schachter sent this along. It’s from well before 1923. The YMCA had not yet been built on the east side of the Main and State (now Anthropologie).

The bones of some of the buildings on the west — still standing today — are recognizable.

As for the trolley, the horse, the women’s fashions, and the fountain/trough: I wonder what the early 20th century version of Westport’s Downtown Association thought.

Friday Flashback #261

When Life magazine went looking for a mom-and-pop business to epitomize community involvement for its July 5, 1963 issue, it found one in Westport.

That’s not unusual: At the time, Westport was bursting with Time/Life editors and writers, and advertising executives at all the top shops.

Achorn’s Pharmacy was actually one of many local sponsors for Little League teams. (Though as alert “06880” reader — and former Little League player — Fred Cantor, who found this gem, points out, it was actually a “pop-and-grandpop”: the Main Street drugstore was owned by Murray and Henry Bravin.)

The Life text explains that the sponsor didn’t get to see his team play, because as an important part of of the community he opens early and closes late. Achorn’s, it seems, symbolized pharmacists and pharmacies everywhere.

Nearly 6 decades later, Achorn’s is still a Westport institution (though now at Playhouse Square). And local businesses continue to support Little League, softball, and countless other sports and youth activities in town.

Friday Flashback #260

Last week’s “Friday Flashback” featured a group photo of artists, writers and photographers from the Famous Schools of the same name. Starting for a couple of decades in the 1950s, they were headquartered on Wilton Road.

I identified 3: Stevan Dohanos, Norman Rockwell and Rod Serling.

Eagle-eyed readers spotted a few others: Alfred Eisenstaedt, Whitney Darrow, Harold von Schmidt, Al Capp and Red Smith.

Max Shulman was indeed there, but in a different spot.

Jules Pfeiffer and Bernie Fuchs were not in the photo, though readers thought they were.

How do we know all this?

Robert Cohen send along a cheat sheet. The entire Famous group was identified in the Westport Weston Arts Council book “A Community of Artists: 1900-1985.” It was written by Dorothy and John Tarrant, and designed by Howard Munce.

Here is the photo — it was cropped from the full version.

And here is the full version …

… with all the names. Hover over, or click on, to enlarge.

Robert adds: “We are looking for people interested in funding a history project about this unique period in Westport’s history” (from after World War I on).

To learn more about this project, email R@RobertCohenArchitect.com.

 

Friday Flashback #259

Newcomers may have heard that Westport was once an “artists’ colony.”

Oldtimers remember the Famous Artists School on Wilton Road (just north of Bartaco — click here).

For a while, magazine ads and matchbook covers all over the world invited aspiring artists to learn from Famous Artists School masters.

They did not exactly “teach.” They lent their names to the enterprise. But they were quite an accomplished (and very male) bunch.

Anthony Dohanos sent along a great photo. His father — Stevan Dohanos, the famed Saturday Evening Post and US postage stamp illustrator — sits prominently on a rock at the front left, wearing plaid pants.

Norman Rockwell puffs his trademark pipe in the row behind, near the right.

Sitting in the front row on the right is Rod Serling. He was, I guess, part of the auxiliary Famous Writers’ School. (There was also a Famous Photographers’ School).

How many of these men (and 2 women) can you identify? Click “Comments” below — and add any memories you have of the years when the Famous Schools made Westport famous.

Friday Flashback #258

Last month, our Friday Flashback paid homage to Troop G. The story noted that for decades, our State Police barracks sat opposite both a gay bar (Brook Café) and a strip club (Krazy Vin’s).

Over the years, I’ve posted several photos of the Brook. But until this shot of Krazy Vin’s popped up on Facebook — courtesy of Paul Ehrismann, who has a treasure trove of great, long-ago images — I could never find one of its “companion” bar, across Cedar Road on the Post Road. (It’s been replaced by a new building. Today it’s Earth Animal.)

Sure, it’s from Krazy Vin’s final days. But you have to love the self-referentially ironic signs advertising its demise.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

I’m still searching for interior shots of either the Brook or Krazy Vin’s. If you have any, please send them along.

I promise to blur out any faces.

Friday Flashback #257

Last week’s Friday Flashback featured a 1967 poster It advertised a rally at Town Hall, to “Save Cockenoe Island” (from an electric utility, which wanted to build a nuclear power plant there).

This week’s Flashback also features a poster. It too references an August event — almost exactly 30 years ago today. And — go figure — it too has a strong Cockenoe connection.

(Poster and photo courtesy of Andrew Estey)

Well, check out this video:

There’s a lot of bizarre stuff on YouTube. But this ranks right up there.

In tones befitting Marlon Perkins on “Wild Kingdom” — or, this century, an endangered-species documentary on the National Geographic Channel — a narrator breathlessly describes what seems to be a very odd tradition in our coastal community.

“Just another lazy day along the river in Westport, Connecticut,” the 1977 video begins. “Except that this is the day of the Great Race.”

After describing the event — a 1-mile run, a 3-mile row or paddle out to Cockenoe Island, picking up 1 pound of garbage, then rowing or paddling back for a 1st-place prize of $1,000 — the narrator declares that on Great Race Day, Westport is the center of “high international drama.” (Cut to an interview with an Australian guy.)

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

Just a couple of Great Racers being interviewed.

There are classic quotes — “We run to the liquor store to get our bodies in shape” — interspersed with vintage shots of downtown, and the not-sure-if-it’s-tongue-in-cheek-or-not description of a team that trained “in a handmade aluminum craft for an entire year, just for this race.”

In fact, I’m not sure if the entire video is serious, a satire, or just a goof. When you see 2 teams fighting over a piece of garbage on Cockenoe, you’ll wonder too.

Running down Taylor Place, to the start at the Post Road bridge.

Running down Taylor Place, to the boat launch at the Post Road bridge.

But — as the narrator notes — “constant seamanship and vigilance” were keys to winning the Great Race.

And, at the end, “the townspeople have come together with their picnic lunches to cheer and debate their favorites. The memories will keep for a whole year.”

Paddling ...

Paddling …

...and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

…and partying at a house on the river, as the racers go by.

It was a tradition that lasted from the ’70s into the ’90s. If you participated in the Great Race — as a boater, a spectator or the guy who delivered the kegs — we’d love to hear what you remember. (If, of course, you remember anything.)

Click “Comments” below. Ahoy!

(Hat tips: Jack Whittle, Ted Friedman, Rich Stein)

Bonus photo: Schlitz sponsored the Great Race. The guys dressed up as Schlitz cans were high school students (the drinking age in Connecticut was 18 back then). They did not win the race — but they did win the Best Costume award.