Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #210

Over the years I’ve seen tons of photos of the Riverside Avenue/Wilton Road intersection, looking down and east from the Post Road hill.

But until I spotted this one — courtesy of Kathleen Kiska and Michael Tedesco — I’d never seen a view quite like this.

The wide, sharp shot — from 1914 — seems to capture turn-of-the-last-century Westport. A thriving business district existed right alongside residential neighborhoods. The little kid riding a bicycle looks straight out of Norman Rockwell.

But who was in charge of the roads? They look in even worse shape than they are today.

Friday Flashback #209

“Loving” is a 1970 movie starring George Segal, Eva Marie Saint and Keenan Wynn.

If you’ve never heard of it — and I sure haven’t — here’s a review from IMDB:

George Segal (not as scruffy as he typically had been at the start of the decade) plays a troubled husband and father suffering through career uncertainty who cheats on his wife (Eva Marie Saint, cast yet again as a doormat-spouse). Segal is an affable screen presence, but we never learn much about what makes him tick, what causes him to hurt the ones he loves.

Talented director Irvin Kershner hit a few snags in his career; here, the semi-improvisational ground he’s treading desperately needs a center, or a leading character we can attach some emotions to. The dramatic finale is well-realized, and Segal’s comeuppance is provocative and thoughtful–at least something is HAPPENING; overall, it’s a cynical slice of the marriage blahs, one that probably played a lot fresher in 1970 than it does today.

Somehow, Andy Laskin found it on TCM. (Turner’s definition of “classic movies” is quite broad.)

Suddenly, he spotted a familiar locale:

“Loving” was not nearly as successful as other movies filmed in Westport, like “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” or “The Stepford Wives.”

Nor is it as well remembered as (my favorite) “Manny’s Orphans.”

But it reminds us of a time when nearly every Westporter commuted to New York.

And of a train station that — except for that long-gone wooden building — still looks almost the same as it did, 50 years ago.

Friday Flashback #208

The big day is Tuesday. Nearly 6 months after closing — and a week after the original date — students return to Westport schools.

Many things will be different. They’ll attend in shifts: half in classrooms, half studying remotely. Desks will be 6 feet apart. Some hallways will be one-way. And those are just a few of the changes COVID has wrought.

Some youngsters have not even driven past their schools in half a year. To remind them of what they look like, here is a special “Friday Flashback” drone gallery. All images are courtesy of multi-talented and spectacular Staples High School senior Brandon Malin. (Click on or hover over any photo to enlarge.)

To start off, here’s the school he’s headed back to:

Bedford Middle School

Coleytown Middle School (construction project)

Coleytown Elementary School 

Greens Farms Elementary School

Kings HIghway Elementary School

Long Lots Elementary School

Saugatuck Elementary School

Bonus feature: Greens Farms Academy (All drone photos/Brandon Malin)

Friday Flashback #206

Confirmation that a tornado touched down in Westport during Tropical Storm Isaias sent “06880” reader/devoted postcard historian Seth Schachter scurrying to check his collection.

Sure enough, he found this — from 1900. The caption says: “Result of TORNADO at Main and Elm Streets, Westport, Conn.”

Between buildings that no longer exist and the downed trees, it’s hard to tell exactly what we’re seeing. But I’m pretty sure the view is looking north on Main Street. Elm Street would be off to the right. I think the white building at the end, with columns, still stands opposite Brooks Corner. Just before it is the current site of the 3-story Gap. What do you think?

Meanwhile, we’re left to wonder: 120 years ago, how long did it take Eversource to come?

Friday Flashback #205

The Old Mill parking lot has been reopened to all Westporters with a beach sticker.

When it was closed due to COVID-19, however, some folks wondered why Old Mill residents (and 2 guests) got to park there, and they — the non-residents — did not.

Well, because they have nowhere else to park.

That was not a problem in 1913. As this photo shows, no one parked anywhere.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

But where did they keep their horses?

Friday Flashback #204

Nothing I can say about this 1980s (?)-era map of Westport — sent by Jill Turner Odice, and showing the stretch of the Post Road State Street East from  Playhouse Square toward the Southport line — will be as good as what readers will write in the Comments.

From still-established businesses (Organic Market! Sakura! Fortuna’s!), to legendary spots (Big Top! Boat Locker! Arnie’s Place!), on to the all-but-forgotten (Everything Personalized! Beethoven’s! Video Source!), this map evokes memories.

Click below, and let’s hear yours! (PS: Hover over or click on, to enlarge.)

(Map courtesy of Sean Byrnes)

Friday Flashback #203

The Westport Library is slowly reopening. The newly transformed building includes a spectacular children’s section, filled with books, games, and a killer view of the Saugatuck River.

Generations of Westporters still remember the original library, across the Post Road where the PopT’Art gallery, Freshii and Starbucks are now.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

The children’s library was on the second floor. It was probably large and well-stocked for its time. It had a very particular smell and sound.

Generations of boys and girls raced up the loudly clanging stairs for reading times, other programs, and to check out the latest kids’ books.

Not many photos were taken of those days, but Jean Whitehead posted this one on social media:

Do you have a favorite Westport Library memory, from the old building? Click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #202

For over a century — ever since it became a public beach — Compo has been a center of local life.

Of course, fashions change. Mary Gai provides this look at what the well-dressed Westporter once wore.

Compare it to today:

(Photo/Dennis Jackson)

Hah! I fooled you!

That’s not a photo from yesterday. It’s from 50 years ago.

Sure, we’ve got social distancing. We knocked down some bathhouses, and removed the rocks.

But to generations of Westporters, Compo Beach truly is timeless.

Friday Flashback #201

Years from now, kids growing up in Westport today will look back with love on Saugatuck Sweets.

The Riverside Avenue hangout has it all: great ice cream, and plenty of other sweet treats. An inviting, we-want-you-here vibe. A plaza right on the river, with music and other entertainment. It’s a special go-to place for kids (of all ages).

Decades ago, the Ice Cream Parlor played a similar role. Pretending (in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s) to be an “old-fashioned” ice cream shop, it was known for sundaes, a “pig’s trough” (if you finished it all, you didn’t have to pay), and penny candy like dots you licked off wax paper (seriously?).

It was a family spot, somewhere to go after the movies, definitely a date destination.

The pink Ice Cream Parlor on the Post Road, painted by Gabrielle Dearborn. It’s now a non-pink office building.

The Ice Cream Parlor had 3 incarnations. It started on Main Street, on the first floor of the building The Brownstone recently vacated (next to what’s now Savvy + Grace and the former Tavern on Main restaurant — back then, Chez Pierre).

The Ice Cream Parlor moved to the north end of Compo Shopping Center (now Cohen’s Fashion Optical). The final spot was on the Post Road just east of Colonial Green; it’s now a real estate office, opposite Quality Towing & Auto Repair.

In 1955, Seventeen Magazine used the first location for a photo shoot. I’m not sure what the story was. But these images — sent along by Brenda Pool — are either very iconic, or very ironic.

(Photos/Dennis Warsaw)

Friday Flashback #200

Everyone remembers Woodstock. More than 50 years later, the music festival a couple of hours from here remains the poster child for peace and love (and sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll).

Who remembers the Powder Ridge Festival the next year, though?

Scheduled for 50 years ago this summer — July 31 to August 2, at the ski area of the same name just an hour away —  it too promised an outstanding lineup of musicians.

Eric Burdon & War, Sly & the Family Stone, Fleetwood Mac, James Taylor, Joe Cocker, the Allman Brothers, Little Richard, Van Morrison, Jethro Tull, Janis Joplin, Chuck Berry, Grand Funk Railroad, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Ten Years After — all were advertised as appearing.

And tickets were just $20.

So why haven’t you heard of the Powder Ridge Rock Festival? Think of a more recent event: The Frye Festival.

Neighbors in Middlefield — worried about the impact of such a big event on their small town — got a preventive injunction days before it began.

A crowd of 30,000 arrived anyway. They found no food, no plumbing, dozens of drug dealers — but no entertainment.

They stayed anyway. The results were predictable.

Some of the crowd at Powder Ridge.

Westporter Leigh Henry was there.

“Basically without any food or music (with the exception of Melanie and a couple of local bands playing off the generator from a Mister Softee truck), there was nothing else to do but get high,” he recalls.

“It didn’t help that dealers had brought enough drugs for 500,000 people.”

Wasted in Middlefield.

“There were a lot of bad trips, he says. “And a lot of bad vibes.” That includes hostility toward the owner of Powder Ridge, Lou Zemel.

Who just happened to be Leigh’s stepfather.

Because the promoters had skipped town — “with whatever little money was in the kitty” — Zemel was the target of festival-goers’ anger.

That was although he had risked jail himself to defy the state injunction, Leigh says. “Think 1970 — he was ‘The Man’ that everyone was ‘sticking it to.'”

An angry confrontation (though not, this time, with Lou Zemel).

The hostility and frustration eventually led to a confrontation between Zemel and a group of New Haven Black Panthers who appointed themselves spokespersons for other angry attendees.

Fortunately, Leigh — who was there with his mother and sister — says that they reached an agreement. He thinks that Zemel offered Powder Ridge to the Panthers for meetings and rallies, and gave a speech to the crowd that “defused what could have become a violent outcome.”

“Eventually people ran out of drugs, patience and whatever food and fluid they had brought,” and left Leigh says — though it took a few days to flush out the final stragglers.

He spent the next week picking up a colossal amount of trash.

“That put a little dent in my 19-year-old hippie naivete,” he notes. “I was struck by how these presumably love-they-brother festival-goers did not seem to love their planet, or respect their brothers’ property.”

Fellow Staples High School grad Peter Gambaccini — fresh off seeing The Who and Jethro Tull at Tanglewood, and Jimi Hendrix and Mountain at Randall’s Island earlier in the month — headed to Powder Ridge with classmate Scott Beasley.

They’d heard it would “probably” be canceled, but figured something would happen.

What they found was an acid — not marijuana — scene. “Without music, people seemed bleak and dazed,” Peter recalls.

“Honestly, all of them. I don’t remember seeing a smile. It seemed “grim and post-apocalyptic.”

Hanging out on top of a ski lift pole.

They found Leigh in the ski lodge. Then they headed out to watch Melanie play, plugged into that ice cream truck.

Peter could not see her face. But, he says, “on that very quiet site on a summer night, she was what everybody needed.” She was “the hero of Powder Ridge.”

He had a lot less trouble finding his car than he did at Woodstock. He was happy to head home, and sleep in his own bed.

“Powder Ridge was supposed to be historic,” Peter says. “It was, I suppose, but not in the way it was intended.

(All photos/Leigh Henry)

“Did it mark the end of a chapter of American musical history? Perhaps. But I didn’t think about it much. I was going to London in the fall, and all I could think of was what I’d be able to see and hear at Royal Albert Hall and the Marquee.

“Which turned out to be plenty, including acts I didn’t get to see at Powder Ridge.”