Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #220

John Kantor is my source for all sailing-related news.

The other day, the Longshore Sailing School founder — a native Westporter who grew up by and on the water — sent a link to the Sailing News’ “Scuttlebutt” website.

The site featured the back story to this month’s photo in the Ultimate Sailing calendar. It showed sailors bundled against the cold off the coast of Italy, on a 12 Metre called Nyala.

The November 2020 Ultimate Sailing calendar photo, by Carlo Borlenghi.

A South African reader wondered why “an active yacht in Italy was named after an antelope found in the game reserves of his region.”

Scuttlebutt explained:

Nyala was built for Frederick T. Bedford of Westport, Connecticut. His father, Edward T. Bedford, was a director of the original Standard Oil who established a large family farm in then-rural Westport in 1910.

Frederick, who was also an industrialist, named the farm “Nyala” for the antelope he had seen while on safari in Africa. Later, the name would be used for the Olin Stephens-designed 1938 12 Metre. Like the wooden twelve, the 52-acre farm remains a going concern where the last family member resided until 2014.

Nyala Farm (Robert Vickrey painting, courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

I’m not sure that’s true. Nyala ceased to be a working dairy farm long ago. The property just off I-95 Exit 18 became Westport’s first office park in the 1970s, when Stauffer Chemical Company moved in (and, thanks to progressive land-use policies, kept much of it as rolling hills and meadows).

Nyala Farm (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

The main tenant today is Bridgewater Associates. None of the Bedford descendants lived there. They had their own large estates on nearby Beachside Avenue.

The Nyala Farms office complex. Much of it is hidden from view, on nearby I-95, Greens Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector.

Scuttlebutt continues:

Built of the finest hardwoods at the famous Henry Nevins yard (City Island, NY), Nyala carried the unique identifier 12-US-12 (ie. the 12th 12 meter in the USA).

Several sources note that she was a wedding present by F.T. Bedford to his daughter, Lynn (Lucie) Bedford (aka LuLu) and new son-in-law, Briggs Cunningham (yes, that Cunningham – winning 1958 America’s Cup skipper on Columbia).

It’s also reported that FT and Briggs had previously owned an 8 Metre together (late 1920s), and Briggs is said to have credited his wife-to-be with teaching him to sail (Stars) at Pequot Yacht Club, so maybe a 12 Metre for them to campaign together is not as surprising a wedding gift as we might, at first, be tempted to surmise!

As an aside, there are at least a couple of 6 Metres still sailing that are named for Mrs. Cunningham (Lucie and LuLu) which Briggs had raced to good effect.

John Kantor did not know the back story to the Nyala name. But he knows the farm. And, he says, “I knew Briggs Cunningham. I knew the boat. But I had no idea how all the names interconnected.”

Briggs Cunningham II was also a race car driver. That’s how he appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

(Click here for the full Sailing News Scuttlebutt story.)

 

Friday Flashback #219

Joey’s by the Shore has shifted to winter hours (Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Friday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.).

They’ve added soups and other seasonal items. There’s Elvira Mae’s great coffee bar too.

Customer traffic may be slower, but the Old Mill neighborhood relies on Joey’s. Just as they did for 20 years with Elvira’s. And — decades earlier — Kenny Montgomery’s store.

But even before that, there was a market at the foot of Compo Hill.

When Betsy and Hal Kravitz opened Elvira Mae’s, their across-the-street neighbor Robin Tauck gave them this:

Sheila Bergmann sent it along. She lives up the hill, and is fascinated by the photo.

So am I.

At the time this was taken, the Old Mill Market — featuring Park City Ice Cream — was also the temporary office of the Compo Hill Developing Co. They offered “Restricted Building Sites for Sale.”

“Restricted” as in “limited options for what can be built”? Or “restricted” as in “No Jews Allowed”?

It’s clear that Compo Hill was ripe for development. How lucky the neighbors are that the little store at the bottom survived the building boom that followed.

If you remember the Old Mill Market, or anything else about Compo Hill from those years — whenever they were — click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #218

Opening a new restaurant in Westport is never easy.

Opening in the midst of a pandemic is especially tough.

But Hudson Malone did it. The steakhouse-and-more is drawing raves with its menu, Westport-themed decor, and comfortable, COVID-conscious ambience.

Hudson Malone took over the former 323 restaurant — named for its Main Street address, across Canal Street from Coffee An’.

That’s been the site of many restaurants. Before 323, it was Bogey’s. And before that, Oliver’s. And before that …

… well, that’s this Friday’s flashback. If you can name all of Hudson Malone’s predecessors — or even any of the others — click “Comments” below.

BONUS QUESTIONS: How about all of the restaurants that once occupied Shake Shack? Or the Sotheby’s real estate office at the Post Road East/Myrtle Road intersection, which for many years housed many eateries? Dig in!

(Hat tip: Steve Crowley)

Friday Flashback #217

Have you ever heard of Vivien Kellems?

I had — vaguely — but I sure couldn’t tell you who she was, or what she did.

Alert — and history-minded — “06880” reader Wendy Crowther recently stumbled upon a story about her.

According to ConnecticutHistory.org, Kellems was a women’s rights activist and suffragist. She earned her main fame though for her battles with the IRS.

The Iowa native, and University of Oregon BA and master’s in economics graduate, partnered with her brother Edgar, who in the late 1920s invented an improved cable grip for electrical wiring. Their Kellems Cable Grip company made equipment used in the New York subway system, Chrysler Building and George Washington Bridge.

Vivien Kellems, with a cable grip.

In 1942 the firm moved to Westport. Vivian ran for Congress, but lost to Claire Boothe Luce — Connecticut’s first female representative. Kellems also ran for the US Senate in 1950, ’56 and ’62, and governor in 1954. She lost each race.

The history website says:

A year after moving to Westport, Kellems opposed the country’s use of a graduated income tax and publicly announced her decision to abstain from paying federal income taxes. After having her patriotism called into question for withdrawing financial support for her country during time of war, she backed down, but only temporarily.

In 1948 she announced that she would no longer withhold federal income taxes from employees. She became one of the first interviewees on a new TV show, “Meet the Press.”

That same year, she lost a zoning battle with Westport.

According to CourtListener.com — also sent to “06880” by Wendy Crowther —

The defendants’ property consists of an approximate two-acre tract of land situated between Riverside Avenue and Franklin Street in the Saugatuck area of Westport, together with a one-story white frame building housing some fifteen machines including a turret lathe, small lathes, milling machines, welding machines and other experimental and manufacturing equipment.

To the north of this property is located a two-story yellow frame building, leased by the defendants, wherein is conducted a very substantial part of their manufacturing, consisting in fabricating wire into cable grips in sizes from one-half inch to four inches in diameter.

The fabricating process requires the constant use of forming tools, winding lathes and solder pots, and the operation of a variety of machines driven by electric motors. At the time of trial the defendants employed thirty-eight persons in their manufacturing operation; an employee load far below the peak of 150 persons employed during the recent war years.

Judge J. Cullinan noted:

The defendants’ challenge to the town’s zoning regulations, while many-sided, may be summarized in the general contentions that the regulations are not uniform for each class or kind of building or structure in the Saugatuck district since other buildings in that business district are used for manufacturing purposes, either by virtue of the fact that they were thus used when the regulations became effective and thereafter continued as nonconforming uses, or by virtue of the regulation permitting industrial uses in a business district when such uses are clearly incidental to the conduct of a retail business conducted on the premises; that the prohibition of industrial use of the defendants’ premises estops them from making the highest and best use of their property; that the Saugatuck district should be an industrial or manufacturing area and that a restraint on industry creates an arbitrary and unlawful limitation; and that the prohibition against light industry amounts to an unconstitutional taking of property without due process of law.

Vivien Kellems (Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution)

Saugatuck, the most densely populated area of Westport is, in reality, a community within a community, containing as it does, a very substantial number of moderate and low-priced residences; a number of large and valuable estates, whose assessed valuations exceed half a million dollars; a variety of retail stores, whose right to operate in a business zone is unquestioned; a community coal and lumber yard; and a sprinkling of properties, which, when the zoning regulations were adopted, were devoted to nonconforming industrial and manufacturing uses and which, by law, were permitted to continue without suppression.

Concluding that “zoning legislation is a valid exercise of the police power within proper limitations,” he upheld the town of Westport’s position. The judge then fined Kellems $250.

After that defeat, Kellems moved her company to Stonington. She closed it in 1962, “proclaiming it an end to the era of small business in America.”

Her IRS battles continued. Connecticut History says:

Protesting that tax laws unfairly penalized unmarried individuals, Kellems never filled out another tax return. She, instead, signed blank returns every year and sent them to the IRS. She continued her fight for tax law reform right up until her death in 1975.

Do any “06880” readers remember Vivien Kellems — either personally, or her manufacturing company? Click “Comments” below, to fill out this fascinating piece of history.

(To read more from ConnecticutHistory.org, click here. To read the court’s decision, click here.)

Friday Flashback #216

Last week, town officials reassigned the Inn at Longshore lease.

Rory Tagert — who operated the facility in the heart of the park for 35 years — is retiring. Longshore Hospitality LLC — which operates boutique hotels in many states, including Delamars in Southport, Greenwich and West Hartford — is the new operator.

Since the town bought the property and took over in 1960, it’s been the scene of countless banquets and other celebrations. Here it was during the ’60s:

Besides the ballroom and several hotel rooms, the Inn’s expansive lawn — sloping down toward Long Island Sound — is one of Fairfield County’s favorite wedding sites.

The front of the building has not changed much over the years. But here’s a view of the rear, from 1949:

(Photo courtesy of Don Willmott)

Friday Flashback #215

This summer, Susie Kowalsky found a bottle behind her Imperial Avenue house, in the Saugatuck River.

(Photo/Susie Kowalsky)

It’s a fascinating relic.

Embalmers Supply was the largest company of its kind in the country. I’ve written about it before. But I find it fascinating — so it’s time once again to give the story “new life.”

It was formed in 1886 as a partnership between 2 Germans: inventor C.B. Dolge and pharmacist Max Huncke.

Four years later, the firm moved to Westport. In 1893 Dolge bought out his partner.

It manufactured embalming fluids using arsenic (formaldehyde was not yet available), as well as accessories like pumps and goosenecks, without which a body could not be embalmed.

After many years at 14 Wilton Road, Embalmers’ Supply moved to Ford Road — across the river from where Bridgewater is now. So the world’s biggest embalming supply company has been replaced (sort of) by the world’s largest hedge fund.

Today the company is called ESCO. It’s located in East Lyme — no connection to the “lime” once used to dispose of a corpse — and is strictly a chemical business.

Susie has no idea how or when the bottle washed up by her home. But it sure is well preserved.

Friday Flashback #214

Yellow school buses seem to have been around forever. Wherever we grew up, nearly every Westporter rode in one.

Yellow buses are still ubiquitous — though these days, they’re mostly empty. More parents than ever drive their kids to school — the ones who are not still home distance learning, that is.

For many years, 2 families ran Westport’s school buses: the Cuseos and Masiellos.

Here’s a photo — courtesy of John Cuseo — of an early local bus:

What do you remember about your school bus (or driver)? Click “Comments” below, to share.

Friday Flashback #213

It’s been almost 51 years to the day. But no one who was there has forgotten the energy and power of that afternoon.

October 15, 1969 was a national event: a “Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam,” Demonstrations occurred all over the country.

The cover of Staples’ 1970 yearbook included photos from that fall’s Moratorium march, in the form of a peace sign.

Sparked by young people, Westport protested too.

Staples students streamed out of school. Led by Westport police, and joined by teachers and junior high students, more than 1,200 marched down North Avenue, turned right on Long Lots, then onto the Post Road all the way to the YMCA.

Massing in front of the old Bedford building — the only part of the Y at that time — a crowd that swelled to 2,000 heard speakers, including Iowa Senator Harold Hughes and Temple Israel’s Rabbi Byron T. Rubenstein, denounce the war and demand peace.

They wore black armbands and sported doves of peace. They carried American flags, and chanted “Hell no, we won’t go!” Counter-protesters drove alongside, cursing them. A few threw eggs.

(Photo/Patricia McMahon)

A remarkable video of that Westport moratorium captures the day.

Staples senior Guy Northrop shot 17 minutes of the march, with a Bauer Super 8 camera. Eleven minutes survive, and have been posted on YouTube.

The video shows with remarkable freshness the power of that protest. It also serves as a unique time capsule. Much of Westport has changed since then. But much has not.

Friday Flashback #212

It doesn’t get much flashback-ier than this.

Jennie Greenburg Pickering sent in this vintage Westport poster:

Judging by the typeface — and some of the places pictured, like Pancho Villa’s and Party Barn — it’s from the 1980s.

But the now-gone landmarks are comparatively few. Many of the images are still recognizable, several decades later.

Does Westport change?

Sure?

Does it change as rapidly or definitely as we think?

Nope.

Friday Flashback #211

When today’s Westporters talk about “the diner,” there’s only one: Sherwood.

The Post Road establishment — about 50 years old — is our go-to for an inexpensive meal, quick business meeting or coffee with friends. It’s where we head in a power outage, or pandemic. The food is familiar and comfortable, and there’s plenty of it.

Back in the 1950s though, there were many diners. From the “S” on the Southport line, where Organika is now …

… through Elwood (the current site of Pane e Bene), and on to Muriel’s by Taylor Place …

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

… and over to the Westnor (Post Road West, near North Sylvan) …

Westnor Diner, after it closed.

… this was a diner town.

If you remember any of these classics — or any I’ve missed — click “Comments” below.