Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #156

Regular readers know “06880” often laments the loss of things that make a town a community.

Movie theaters. Mom-and-pop shops.

And bars.

I’m talking about real bars. Not bars attached to restaurants, like so many places in town: Spotted Horse, Tavern on Main, Arezzo, Little Barn, you name it.

And not restaurants with very active bars, like Viva’s and the Duck.

No. I mean actual, go-and-stay-and-drink-and-maybe-have-peanuts-but-a-place-where-everybody-knows-your-name bar.

The Westport equivalent of Cheers.

Parsell’s¬†Purcell’s was that kind of bar, on the Post Road near Southport. So was the Red Galleon, across from Green’s Farms Elementary School.

Ship’s Lantern was too, downtown on the Post Road (before it become The Ships nearby — which today is Tiffany ūüė¶ ).

Then there was “The Bridge.”

Formally Ye Olde Bridge Grill — though there was nothing formal about it — The Bridge sat on Post Road West, right over the bridge (aha!), a couple of doors down from National Hall (at the time, Fairfield Furniture), and directly opposite Art’s (now Winfield) Deli.

It was around for years, but hit its stride in the 1970s and ’80s. With generous owner Dave Reynolds, popular manager/bartender Dennis Murphy, a large and loyal bunch of regulars, and a jukebox that played the same songs over and over and over again (“Domino” by Van Morrison, anyone?), The Bridge was the kind of gathering spot we just don’t have any more.

Owner Dave Reynolds …

(It was also the sponsor of an Under-23 soccer team of the same name. Stocked with the best Westport players of its time, and their friends from the college and semi-pro ranks, it won all kinds of state and regional championships. After every match, players and fans celebrated you-know-where.)

… and manager Dennis Murphy (standing, left). He coached the Bridge Grille team to many state titles.

Things change. Rents rose. The drinking age rose too, from 18 to 21.

The Bridge has been gone for 3 decades or so. Today it’s an antiques shop, or something like that.

Cheers!

Friday Flashback #155

In early 1960, the town of Westport bought the failing private Longshore Beach & Country Club. The 169-acre property included a golf course, tennis courts, pools, marina, inn/restaurant, residential cabins, even 2 private roads.

Plus —¬†why not? — a lighthouse.

The entire process — from concept to approval from the Board of Finance and (unanimously!)¬†the RTM — took just 18 days.¬† Town officials put together a $1.9 million package, then earned approval from the Board of Finance and RTM.¬† The latter vote was 38-0.¬†

Five years later, the Westport Town Crier published a remarkable aerial photo of what was then the still-novel town-owned country club.

(Aerial photo/Robert Lentini)

Moving counter-clockwise from the center, you can see the old tennis court locker rooms, and adjacent wooden bathhouses (though you can’t see how dark they were, or smell their decades-old musty odor); the original Longshore Sailing School; several cabanas by the old pool — and, partially hidden by trees next to the marina, the circular lighthouse.

It was always a source of fascination for kids, and admiration by adults.

The lighthouse survived one demolition attempt in the late ’60s or early ’70s. Eventually — when the entrance to the pool area was modernized — it was torn down.

Here’s what we miss:

(Photo courtesy of Peter Barlow)

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

Friday Flashback #154

The opening of the transformed Westport Library brought back memories of the original — and reminders, once again, that it was built on what was once the “town dump.”

Alert — and historic minded — “06880” reader Fred Cantor found a fascinating aerial photo, published by the Town Crier¬†in 1965

(Photo/Robert Lentini)

Back then, the library was located in the building at the lower left of the photo. Today it’s the site of Starbucks, Freshii and other tenants.

Across the Post Road — at the foot of what we now call the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge — is a block of shops and apartments that burned in the late 1960s or early ’70s. Today it’s South Moon Under, and other stores.

But the most fascinating part of the photo is seen beyond Jesup Green and the Taylor Place parking lot. There — in the center of town — sat the Rogers Little League baseball diamond. The dugouts are about where the upper entrance to the library lot is today. (Why is it so bumpy now? Landfill.)

Unfortunately, the photo does not show what lies beyond left and center field. That was the town dump.

It smelled. It attracted seagulls. It was not uncommon for the birds to swoop near unsuspecting outfielders, attempting to catch flies (the baseball variety).

Around that time — perhaps a few years later — Westport artist Arthur Cady drew a series of Westport scenes.

(Illustration by Arthur Cady/courtesy of Jim Ezzes)

This one may have been a bit of artistic license. I don’t think the dump was quite that close to downtown.

But it sure was near to what is now Tiffany, nestling right behind on Taylor Place.

Friday Flashback #153

Lou Nistico is fondly remembered as part of the family that owned the Arrow — the beloved Italian restaurant in Saugatuck (it’s now Mystic Market).

In the mid-1970s though, he was also the concessionaire at Longshore. His daughter Joanne was the bartender.

At the time, Westport was the illustrators’ capital of the world. They worked at home, but socialized often.

A group of cartoonists often played golf, then headed inside for martinis. Joanne calls them a “fun and wild group of talented men.”

One day during lunch, they dashed off this collage for Lou:

Famous names are included: Tony DiPreta (who drew “Joe Palooka”), Bud Jones (“Mr. Abernathy”) and Bob Gustafson (“Tillie the Toiler”).

Dick Wingert’s “Hubert” looks half in the bag, as he raises a glass to “Lou the Great!”

But check out Stan Drake’s “Juliet Jones,” and his/her R-rated comment.

Then look at Curt Swan’s Superman next to Grace — and his wandering eyes.

They make a nice couple. Their cartoon kids would have been gorgeous.

Friday Flashback #152

“Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin” — the wonderful Westport Country Playhouse production running now through August 3 — got me thinking about entertainment options, back in the day.

America’s greatest songwriter lived long enough to see Elvis Presley (whose version of “White Christmas” he loathed) and MTV (it’s unclear what Berlin thought of “Video Killed the Radio Star”).

But in 1919 — when he turned 31, and was already a Tin Pan Alley and Broadway composing star — the main entertainment in many small towns was a motion picture theater.

Westport was no exception. The Fine Arts on the Post Road (today it’s Restoration Hardware) seems like a hopping spot. I posted photos a while ago.

Now — thanks to Kevin Slater — we’ve got a great idea of exactly what Westport movie-goers were watching, exactly 100 years ago.

There were 3 shows a day: a 2:30 matinee, then 7 and 8:45 p.m.

But the Fine Arts was open just on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. (The fact that it was closed Sunday was so obvious, it wasn’t even noted on the poster.)

You had to move fast: Each movie (and accompanying shorts and newsreels) was there for one day only.

So what was Irving Berlin doing in 1919, when long-forgotten names like J. Walter Kerrigan, Vivian Martin and Madge Kennedy were stars?

That’s the year he wrote “A Pretty Girl is Like a melody” for Ziegfeld’s Follies.

And it was a full 8 years before Al Jolson performed Berlin’s “Blue Skies” in “The Jazz Singer” — the first feature sound film ever.

If you had any questions about any of the shows — and you could find a telephone — all you had to do was call.

The phone number was right there at the top corner: 325.

Friday Flashback #151

Two of the biggest Compo Beach controversies in recent years involved the South Beach bathrooms and the playground. Opponents of both projects worried they’d block scenic views of the Sound.

That didn’t happen, of course. But for many years — through the 1960s, in fact — our vista was quite different.

Enormous wooden bathhouses stretched from what is now Joey’s to the pavilion near Soundview Drive. (The concession stand was located then at the current volleyball courts.)

I have very dim memories of the bathhouses. They were dark and musty. The floors were sandy and wet. My friends and I played inside, but it felt like danger lurked around every corner. There were many corners.

The bathhouses went through several incarnations, before they were finally torn down. Here are a few.

Note the familiar 2nd story roof atop the bathhouses at the right. When the structure underneath was damaged in a hurricane, the roof was lowered. Today it houses the pavilion near the volleyball courts.

Another view.

Wooden ramps served as an early Mobi-Mat. Beach attire was much different. Note the float off shore too.

The brick bathhouses (currently, Joey’s by the Shore) contained bathhouses too. Check out the rocky condition of the beach itself.

An earlier view, from 1906. 

Friday Flashback #150

If you were a teenage driver in Westport around the time this photo was taken — and judging by the car, it was the 1970s — you remember this scene:

The target was painted on Bayberry Lane — the hill just north of the Merritt Parkway.

It was a real hill then too — not the measly mound it is today. (It was probably flattened¬†because someone painted that target.)

I don’t know the artist. Someone did a great job.

And had the right idea.

You really could get air, particularly with a good rate of speed southbound.

Of course, those were the days when auto repairs were fairly cheap.

Friday Flashback #149

First communion at Assumption Church, 1959 or ’60.

The fashions, cars and number of kids making communion has changed over the years.

The Riverside Avenue neighborhood has not.

Friday Flashback #148

A few days ago, I posted the back story of the Police Athletic League’s nearly-70-year sponsorship of Westport’s Independence Day fireworks.*

That sent alert “06880” reader/amateur historian Fred Cantor scrambling to the stacks.

He found the July 8, 1954¬†Westport Town Crier. There — on the front page — were photos and a story of that year’s pyrotechnics.

Held on Sunday, July 4**, the event drew a crowd of more than 3,000, the paper reported.

Some of them were dressed quite a bit fancier than today’s revelers.

Announcer Don Tedesco introduced the national anthem, then the fireworks.

They were shot from the sand, near the cannon. I remember that site well (though not from 1954!). The smell was strong and distinct. I always wondered what would happen if one landed next to me, sitting a few feet away from where they were launched.

Here’s a black-and-white photo from the paper. I’ll let you decide whether it looks very cool, or like a radiology report.

There was a lot going on, that holiday week.

Dorothy and Lillian Gish “sojourned” in Westport, at the home of Dr. John V.N. Dorr. Their visit was the lead photo on Page 1, as they posed with the equally famous Lucille Lortel:

Meanwhile, the Westport Country Playhouse advertised an upcoming production starring Eva Gabor and Richard Kiley.



The current production did not fare well. The last line of “Court Olympus” was “Let’s go home” — exactly what the Town Crier‘s reviewer advised audiences to do.

Other front-page news on July 8, 1954: “First Jewish Temple in History of Town Set For Construction” (the 6-acre site on a former Hills Lane nursery was eventually abandoned, due to issues with the land); town prosecutor Robert Anstett was named head of Westport’s Civilan Defense Corps, and 600 people were expected to attend the 6th annual Compo Beach Clambake, sponsored by the Saugatuck Fathers Club.

But the most intriguing story was this: “Teen-Agers Make Problem at Beaches.”

Turns out the Beach Commission was considering closing all beaches at night, “to stop teen-age beer parties.” In addition, “vandals, not yet apprehended, defaced many bathhouses and destroyed a new stone fireplace” at Compo.

Fishermen reported “beer cans piled along the shore,” while residents complained of “noise and speeding cars late at night.”

The town employed “special constables” to patrol Compo and Burial Hill.

If you’re reading this now, and were a teenager then — making you in your 80s today — click “Comments” below. We’d love to hear how that worked out.

* Bottom line: If you haven’t yet bought a ticket, do it now!

** Unlike these days, when the fireworks are shot off NOT on the actual holiday. Overtime for the scores of workers would be prohibitive.

Friday Flashback #147

I’ve seen plenty of photos of Westport through the ages.

I’ve heard about tons of other places too, even though I have no idea what they look like.

But this photo — courtesy of Seth Schachter — is not only an image I’ve never seen, but a spot I’ve never heard of.

It’s the front of a postcard. The sign above the store says “Cash Grocery.”

Here’s the back. It was sent in 1909. Years later — in handwriting much different from the young student Edith Ivy, who hopefully got an A+ in penmanship at school — someone wrote “Aspetuck Cash Store” at the top.

If you know

  • where it was
  • what it sold
  • whatever happened to it
  • how it got its name

click comments below.

Or just click comments to mention how cool this postcard is.