Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #137

I’m not sure what year this was.

I don’t know what “Projectoscope” means.

But — even if it didn’t live up to its promise as “the best program ever given here” — it must have been pretty cool.

(Courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

I do know one thing: the Opera House where D.W. Robertson presented his famous, marvelous Projectoscope is still around.

Today though, we call it Toquet Hall.

Friday Flashback #136

A few years ago, Patrick Laffaye remodeled his bathroom.

Behind the shower wall — stuffed behind a soap dish, next to empty cans of Reingold beer — he found this:

Big Top drew everyone from doctors and lawyers to teenagers and motorcyclists. They sat together at a long table, or outside when the weather was good, enjoying some of the best burgers in Westport history.

Big Top is now McDonald’s. If that doesn’t say something about the decline of America, nothing does.

Patrick’s house was built in 1964 — in the midst of Big Top’s heyday.

He doesn’t live there anymore. But, he notes, his new house is closer to Big Top.

Friday Flashback #135

Hey, kids: Your parents are not that old.

Still, they grew up in a different world than yours.

Their video games did not come on a phone.

They were big. Really big. Like, not-even-fit-in-your-room big.

Check this out:

That was the scene at Arnie’s Place. It was a “video arcade” — have your parents used that term? — located where Ulta Beauty (formerly Anthropologie) is now, next to Balducci’s.

Maybe your mom or dad is in the photo above. He or she might even be that kid in the stroller. (Love that low-tech stroller. Yet the tot survived!)

As you can see, back in the day people played video games in groups. They also had to pay every single time! Here’s how:

That’s called an Arnie’s Place token. You bought them, then put them in the machines. Crazy, huh?

Just like today, some adults didn’t like video games. They tried to shut Arnie’s Place down. But the kids fought back:

Here’s the really funny part: Some of those kids from the 1970s and ’80s are your parents today.

Don’t let them tell you not to spend so much time on your games.

PS: In 2050, you’ll be telling your kids to stop playing games on their stupid microchipettes!

Friday Flashback #134

As Westport debates what’s needed to make Main Street lively again, we hear one chorus a lot: live music!

It’s been only a few years since Bobby Q’s rooftop concerts ended. But before that, there was Mark’s Place.

Located on the left side of Main Street — on the 2nd floor of what was, most recently, Acqua and Boca restaurants — Mark’s Place was a late ’60s/early ’70s club/bar/disco.

It was not the only venue for live music in Westport — there was the Nines Club at the old skating rink on Post Road East (owned, improbably, by orchestra leader Lester Lanin; Mitch Ryder, the Youngbloods and ? and the Mysterians played there); the Players Tavern, and a spot underneath the Ice Cream Parlor where I saw the Shangri-Las.

I’ve tried to find photos, with no success. Recently though, these images of Mark’s Place surfaced on Facebook, thanks to Rufus Eakin.

(Photos courtesy of Rufus Eakin)

Close your eyes. Remember the scene. Then click “Comments,” to share any groovy memories of Mark’s — and all those other music — places.

Friday Flashback #133

As the Library races toward the June 23 grand opening of its Transformation Project — a full-throated, very cool reimagining of the space — this is a good time to remind Westporters that the current location between the Levitt Pavilion and Taylor Place is not its original home.

It was built in 1908, on the corner of the Post Road (then called State Street) and Main Street. Its original name was the Morris K. Jesup Memorial Library. He died just 4 months before its dedication, after donating both the land and $5,000 for construction.

The original library still stands, though an addition built just to the west hides its grandeur.

It included a very quiet reading room.

An addition in the 1950s — around the time Parker Harding Plaza was built — accommodated the booming demands of post-war Westport.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

The “new” library may not have worked particularly well at its current site — the former town dump — where it moved in 1986.

But the third time’s the charm. The “new new” one will blow you away.

Morris Jesup would be very proud.

Friday Flashback #132

Last week, I posted a story about the day Marian Anderson visited Bedford Elementary School. Buried in the piece was a quick line noting that the building now serves as Town Hall.

Sure, our Myrtle Avenue seat of government looks like a school. But although generations of graduates think about their alma mater every time they drive by or see a reference to it on “06880,” I wonder how many Westporters who moved here since the 1979 conversion realize its history.

Bedfprd Elementary School (Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

In 1917, the town voted to build a new school to serve children from “East and West Saugatuck, Cross Highway, Poplar Plains and Coleytown.” Major funding came from noted philanthropist (and Beachside Avenue resident) Edward T. Bedford.

Eight years later he helped fund Greens Farms Elementary School, much closer to his estate.

So if Town Hall is now at the old Bedford El, where was it originally?

The Post Road. For decades, our town operated out of the handsome stone building next to what is today Restoration Hardware.

The old Town Hall has been repurposed. Westporters know it now for 2 great restaurants: Jesup Hall, and Rothbard Ale + Larder.

There’s not much to remind you that it was once the center of government. Although the next time you’re in Rothbard, take a close look around.

The basement once served as the police lockup.

Friday Flashback #131

When Tommy Ghianuly died last month, Westport lost more than a great barber and good friend.

We lost a man who loved local history — and made his Compo Shopping Center business a shrine to it.

The walls of Tommy’s barber shop are filled with vintage photos. Most customers see them in the mirror as they get their hair cut. Sometimes, someone glances a bit more closely at one or two.

Each of them has a story. Tommy knew them all.

He never wrote them down. Fortunately, in 2001 Staples High School video production teacher Jim Honeycutt teamed up with Phil Woodruff, a retired SHS social studies instructor who was then serving as Westport Historical Society director of oral history.

One morning, Jim filmed Tommy with his photos. They were joined by illustrious artist and longtime Westporter Howard Munce, and town native Jim Feeney.

(From left) Tommy Ghianuly, Jim Feeney and Howard Munce chat about Tommy’s barber shop photos.

These are not talking heads. They’re great conversationalists, sharing stories about the Westport of long ago. They chat about buildings, people, trolleys, downtown, holidays, daily life, and the notorious Compo Inn. At the end, Woodruff makes a cameo appearance.

Tommy, Jim Feeney and Phil are all gone now. But Jim Honeycutt is still very much alive.

After Tommy died, he dug out the 40-minute video. Then he sent it to “06880.”

It’s a way to keep these great Westporters with us.

It’s a way too to remind ourselves why they loved this town. And why we love it — and them.

(To see the video, click below.)

Friday Flashback #130

Westporters love Nyala Farm.

We admire its vast, open meadows. We marvel at its ever-changing beauty. We take almost as many photos of its iconic well as we do of the cannons at Compo.

We don’t even mind that the enormous expanse of land tucked between Greens Farms Road, the Sherwood Island Connector and I-95 is an office park — one of 2 Westport headquarters for hedge fund titan Bridgewater.

We don’t mind, because we don’t see it.

What many people may not know is that Nyala Farm is not a cute, throwback name. Back in the day, it was an actual, working dairy farm.

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

Generations of Westporters took field trips there. They learned that all 52 acres were bought in 1910 by E.T. Bedford.

His son, Frederick T. Bedford, named the farm in honor of the beautiful nyala (antelope) he’d seen on an African safari.

In 1970, Stauffer Chemical developed their world headquarters there. It was Westport’s first corporate office park.

That put an end to scenes like this:

(Robert Vickrey painting, courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

The cows and sleds are gone. But the well — and the memories — remain.

Friday Flashback #129

Last week’s Friday Flashback — showing a snowy Post Road sidewalk from 1993, with the Fine Arts Theatre prominently featured — sent alert “06880” reader/ amateur historian Fred Cantor scurrying down the internet wormhole.

He found Cinema Treasures, a website devoted to 51,000 movie theaters from around the world. (“Because you’re tired of watching movies on your laptop,” the tagline says.)

There’s a page devoted to “Fine Arts 1 and 2” — though the photos show only the original theatre (now Restoration Hardware), long before it was subdivided into a pair of cinemas. (Later offspring included Fine Arts 3 in the back — now Matsu Sushi restaurant — and Fine Arts 4 down the block, across Bay Street from Design Within Reach.)

One image is from 1939. It shows the theatre entrance, flanked by an unnamed restaurant and Vogel Electrical Service.

Other photos show Fine Arts after a major 1940 renovation. Here’s the exterior. It looks like the neighboring businesses are gone.

Here’s the new, modern interior:

But the money shots are these 2. They show the Art Deco lounge.

Cinema Treasures is right. The Fine Arts was definitely better than watching movies on your laptop.

Friday Flashback #128

It’s been an almost snowless winter thus far.

I hope I don’t jinx us. But this is what Westport once looked like, this time of year:

(Photo/Kevin Slater)

Photographer Kevin Slater says he took the Post Road East photo in February or March of 1993.

His clues: A movie on the Fine Arts marquee (now Restoration Hardware) is “The Crying Game.” It premiered on February 19 that year.

And the window of Max’s — the late, much-loved art supplies store — was being decorated for Red Cross Month (which is March).

As for “No Man’s Land”: The snow eventually melted.

It always does.