Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #167

If you think the back entrances to Main Street stores — the ones on Parker Harding Plaza — look bad today, be glad you were not around in the mid-1950s.

Before the parking lot was built, the Saugatuck River lapped up against those stores.

The landfill changed downtown — and the river. It must have been quite a project. Jim Ezzes shares some photos of the construction.

The Westport Hardware building at the far left is the current site of The Gap.

A bit further south.

Paul and Mary Kowalsky — whose construction company created Parker Harding Plaza — stand next to an earth mover.

Friday Flashback #166

Over its long history, Westport has seen thousands of restaurants come and go.

Everyone has favorites. Here are a few. Click “Comments” to add your own.

Allen’s Clam House was a great place for celebrations and dates. It was demolished more than a decade ago. The site is now the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve.

(Photo courtesy of Dave Stalling)

The Big Top was a beloved hamburger place that attracted everyone: doctors, lawyers, businessmen, high school students, stoners and (very famously) Paul Newman. Today it’s McDonald’s. If that doesn’t say something…

Here it’s the Ocean House. For many years though it was Chubby Lane’s — the first $1 hamburger restaurant in town. The meat came from Charpentier’s butcher across the street, and it was fantastic. Today, this is the site of Willows Pediatrics.

Pearl’s was a longtime Riverside Avenue favorite. It’s easily recognized now, as Da Pietro’s.

Who can forget the Arrow? For years, the Nisticos’ restaurant defined Saugatuck. These days, it’s Mystic Market.

West Lake on Main Street was Westport’s first Chinese restaurant. It was considered to be quite exotic.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

Originally a stagecoach stop in the 1700s, the Three Bears closed after many years. It’s been remodeled as Chabad of Westport.

The Three Bears, in its heyday. (Postcard/Cardcow.com)

The Clam Box drew diners for its seafood. The location — on the Post Road by the Sherwood Island Connector — did not hurt. It was later Bertucci’s; now the spot is shared by Shearwater Coffee, and soon-to-open Ignazio Pizza.

Friday Flashback #164

I’m not sure why a funeral home thought it was a good idea to send out clocks with their name on it. Can you imagine seeing this, every time you checked the time?

(Photo courtesy of Seth Schachter)

On the other hand, if you ever needed to call them — well, their 4-digit number was right there, staring you in the face.

Friday Flashback #163

This Sunday (October 13), Saugatuck Congregational Church celebrates the dedication of its new organ.

Founded in 1832, it’s been an important part of town life for nearly 2 centuries. The 1835 announcement about the incorporation of the town of Westport was nailed to the meeting house door. For years, town meetings were held there.

But “there” was not its typical New England site: the back of a broad lawn, on by Myrtle Avenue. 

The church was first located diagonally across the Post Road, up the hill and a bit east, near the current site of the Sunoco gas station and the Fairfield County Bank branch that no human being has ever been seen going into or out of.

In 1950 the church was moved — carefully, and over the course of a long day — to its present spot. The event was featured in Life Magazine. I’ve written about it before, on “06880.”

There will be a big crowd Sunday, for the organ dedication and concert. Will anyone there remember when the church was here?

(Photo courtesy of Don Willmott)

Friday Flashback #162

The streetscape looks the same.

(Photo/Fred Cantor)

But Fine Arts I and II move theaters, Fine Arts Art Supplies, Westport Smoke Shop, Schaefer’s Sporting Goods, Quick Copy, Village Coiffeurs, Ship’s Lantern bar — even the traffic island and crosswalk — are all gone.

That’s not unusual. A lot happens in 42 years.

So if Marty McFly suddenly traveled from 2019 to 1977 — when Fred Cantor took this photo — would he feel very disoriented? Or quite at home?

Probably both.

Friday Flashback #161

Much has been written about Staples High School’s rich rock concert history (you know — little acts like the Doors, Cream, Byrds …)

Mark Smollin wrote a book about it. Fred Cantor followed with a movie.

But for a few months in 1967, another Westport venue booked some of the biggest bands of the day too.

The Nines Club was the brainchild of Lester Lanin. Somehow, the nationally known orchestra leader heard about an abandoned skating rink on the Post Road, next to a mini-golf course and driving range (today, the site of Lansdowne condominiums).

He converted it into a “discotheque.” There were 3 stages; when one act finished, the next immediately began.

Among the groups that played at the Nines Club: ? and the Mysterians (“96 Tears”), the Left Banke (“Walk Away Renee”), Youngbloods (“Get Together”),  Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Vanilla Fudge, Blues Magoos, Blues Project and Vagrants (with guitarist Leslie West).

An early advertisement for the Nines Club. Despite the promises, it was not a “country club without membership dues.” There was no ice skating either.

I don’t know how Lester Lanin got the idea to open a dance club in Westport. I don’t know why it lasted less than a year (though targeting the less-than-lucrative teenage market may have played a part).

I remember it only vaguely. I was in Long Lots Junior High at the time. Some friends and I were hired to help “build” it, though our contribution consisted of a few days of moving sheetrock and cinder blocks.

We were excited though: We were promised that — in return for our “work” — we would get free admission to the Nines Club.

It never happened. It’s easy to stiff 8th graders.

But I did hear ads for all those great bands on WMCA.

Friday Flashback #160

This photo is over 100 years old.

The buildings look different. So does the transportation. The trees are gone; the street is now paved.

But more than a century later, there’s no mistaking the gentle curve of Main Street, as it heads north toward Elm Street.

Some things never change.

(Photo courtesy of Mary Gai)

Friday Flashback #159

Alert “06880” reader — and native Westporter — sent this photo:

The Stage Door Restaurant — on the Post Road in Greens Farms — was before my time.

I never heard of it. I’m intrigued by the 60-cent dinners (that 75-cent turkey dinner must have been extra special).

And I wonder where the name came from. What “stage” could have been close by?

If you remember the Stage Door Restaurant — or know anything about it — click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #158

Most Friday Flashbacks show how much our town changes over the years.

This one demonstrates how much it stays the same.

The aerial photo of the I-95 and railroad bridges seems like it could have been taken yesterday. In fact, it’s from 1977 — more than 40 years ago.

There’s something very familiar and reassuring about this shot.

Time marches on. But some parts of Westport are timeless.

(Hat tip: Seth Schachter)

 

Friday Flashback #157

As Westport students returned to school this week — and parents returned to chauffeuring chores for all those after-school activities — moms and dads who were themselves kids here in the 1970s and ’80s may think back to their Minnybus days.

Back in the day, they were Westport’s cutting-edge (yet diesel-belching) transportation technology. Driving fixed routes (with Jesup Green as the hub), they ferried people — mostly pre-teens and teenagers — around town. At least one parent was known to park kids on a Minnybus for a round-trip or two, using it as a vehicular babysitter.

At least 10,000 youngsters used it as a place to escape home, smoke cigarettes, and/or make out.

Rick Davis was too young to do any of that stuff.

Kids still ride all over town. Today, Uber delivers them from Point A to B much quicker (and more expensively).

But — no matter how entertaining your Uber driver — it’s nowhere near as much fun.