Category Archives: Friday Flashback

Friday Flashback #178

It’s still a couple of months until the opening of the Longshore golf course.

But the other day, alert “06880” reader Phil Bancroft spotted an interesting item on an online auction site: A score card for that very course, signed by Babe Ruth.

Nearly 7 years ago, I wrote about that week in 1946 the Bambino spent at the River Lane home of Dr. Vito Caselnova, a longtime friend. The doctor was chairman of the golf committee at Longshore, at the time a private club.

Ruth played on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with Caselnova; Ruth’s physician Dr. George Irwin; Norwalk police commissioner Thomas Murphy, and club pro George Buck. The Sultan of Swat shot a 79, highlighted by a 35-foot eagle putt on the 12th hole.

Babe Ruth at Longshore. (Photo courtesy of Norwalk Hour)

Babe Ruth at Longshore. (Photo courtesy of Norwalk Hour)

The next day, Hour sports editor Williard Williams wrote that Ruth “did not dub a shot. His drive was good, his approach shots excellent, and his putting almost perfect.

“In between his golf, he shook hands with scores of persons introduced to him on the course and took care of autographs for the youngsters who swarmed all over him. The Babe was as gracious as ever and seemed to enjoy it all.”

Ruth played several more times at Longshore that week. His partners included US Senator Brien McMahon.

Babe Ruth autographs a baseball for George "Nookie" Powers. A nurse looks on.

Babe Ruth autographs a baseball for George “Nookie” Powers. Powers’ fiancee looks on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruth also visited Norwalk Hospital, where he met Westport firefighters injured in a horrific Post Road truck blaze. He signed baseballs for — among others — brothers Nookie and Chick Powers. Both had been legendary athletes at Staples.

Just 2 years later, Ruth was dead from cancer. It started in his throat, and moved to his brain.

Caselnova’s son, Vito Jr., told Albano:

When he stayed with us he used to complain about headaches. He would come downstairs in the morning, go right to the refrigerator, and pull out a can of beer. Not to drink it, but to rub the cold can over his head. He said it made him feel better.

He said he was going to come back next year, but he never made it. He said he was going to bring another player with him, a guy named Joe DiMaggio.

Bancroft remembered all that. But he was fascinated by something more: the score card itself.

The hole numbers, distances and pars were different from today’s course. He was confused too by some of the rules.

So Bancroft went sleuthing. Comparing a 1934 aerial view (below) with one from 1965, he determined that although none of the yardages are the same, identifying the par 3s and par 5s seems to fit — if today’s 17th hole is made into the original hole number 1, and today’s 16th is the original 18th.

A1934 aerial photo. Longshore is at the center; Compo Beach at the bottom of the image.

He adds, “Rules regarding balls on the then 2nd and 3rd holes have similar rules to today’s 18th and 1st. And the roads mentioned related to then holes 13 and 17 would be today’s 11th and 15th holes.”  

Bancroft concludes that when Babe Ruth played Longshore, the road ran to the left of today’s 11th hole. Today it runs down the right hand side. Today’s 11th and 12th holes would have been “oceanfront,” with 12 having an “over-ocean tee shot at high tide, and mud at low tide.”

Fore!

The holes that Babe Ruth played.

Friday Flashback #177

It’s been (knock wood) a very snow-free winter.

That was not the case back in the day.

I’m not sure what year the photo above was taken. Carriages had already been replaced by automobiles. But on a day like that one, it was nice to have a horse on hand.

I don’t know the year of this one one either. But believe it or not, Greenberg’s was luckier this day than a few decades later.

In the 1960s, heavy snow collapsed the roof of the Main Street “department store.”

It never recovered, and closed shortly thereafter.

Friday Flashback #176

The Post Road sure has changed in the century or so since this photo was taken.

Yet 100 years or so later, much of it still looks familiar.

Click on or hover over to enlarge.

In this west-looking view — provided by alert reader/amateur historian Mary Gai — we see the road median, beginning about where the new retail/ residential/office complex is at the foot of Long Lots Road.

Further along on the right is the current site of New Country Toyota, and other buildings that still remain.

At the crest of the hill, on the south (left) is Sakura’s predecessor. Cumberland Farms, Calise’s, a lumber store, small shopping center, Citgo and more have taken over the rest of that side — but the topography is the same. It’s easy to visualize what the Post Road (State Street/US 1) looked like then.

It’s much harder to imagine the almost total lack of traffic.

Friday Flashback #175

In 1925, Edward T. Bedford contributed most of the funds to build Greens Farms Elementary School. The handsome building on the corner of State Street (Route 1/Post Road) and South Morningside was designed by architect Charles Cutler. (He also built Westport Bank & Trust, now Patagonia.)

It brought together pupils from 3 schools: East Long Lots, West Long Lots, and Lower Greens Farms.

That “lower” school was located at 37 Clapboard Hill Road — with funds previously donated by Mr. Bedford. It started as 2 rooms; he later added 2 more. In 1916 it looked like this:

According to Kitty Field Graves, who grew up in the house (and lived there from 1944 to 1960), for several years after the new school was built, the Clapboard Hill property became “a kind of boarding house or single room occupancy.”

During the Depression, an interior designer purchased the house and incorporated stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers, mahogany paneling and more from the demolished Wendell Mansion in New York.

The building still stands, as a private residence. It’s a bit larger than when it was a school. But it’s just as graceful — 21st-century style.

Thanks to alert “06880” reader/amateur historian Seth Schachter, for the postcard of the school, and today’s image via Zillow.

Friday Flashback #174

Last month, a Friday Flashback featured a handsome Al Willmott painting of old-time Westport, with National Hall, the Post Road bridge, and a merchant ship. For years, it hung in Dr. Peter Ferrara’s dental office.

Now practicing in Shelton, Dr. Ferrara still loves this town. He sent along another favorite Willmott painting from his office.

For a couple of decades, Ships anchored downtown. At the corner of the Post Road and Taylor Place — replacing the longtime Colgan’s and Thompson’s drugstore — it was the restaurant to go, for any occasion: meeting friends. Showing Westport to out-of-towners. In the middle of shopping. Before or after movies a few doors away.

And — on a cold winter’s day, like Willmott painted — there was nothing better than Ships’ lobster bisque.

Friday Flashback #173

After more than 2 decades of “First Night”s, Tuesday marks the 2nd New Year’s Eve without the long tradition.

It ended last year. Several factors — including fewer volunteers, decreasing corporate sponsors and dropping attendance — led to the end of the family-friendly, alcohol-free event.

In a few years, First Night will join other season celebrations — Festival Italiano, anyone? — in the “remember when?” category.

For now, here’s a fond look back at First Nights past:

Horse-drawn sleighs roamed downtown. Photo/Dan Woog)

Fireworks over the Saugatuck (Drone photo/John Videler for Videler Photography)

A mother wrangles her young son at the Saugatuck Elementary School bounce house. (Photo/Dan Woog)

The Westport Astronomical Society hauled out some serious telescopes. (Photo/Dan Woog)

And, for good measure, let’s remember the Christmas crane that towered over Westport just 4 years ago, during the construction of Bedford Square.

(Photo/Wendy Cusick)

 

Friday Flashback #172

Back in the day, restaurants handed out matches like, well, candy mints.

Back in the day too — when alert “06880” reader/beloved sailing instructor John Kantor was smoking — he collected them.

The other day — in the back of a closet — he found his collection.

They range from old favorites (Arrow, Allen’s Clam House, Manero’s) to barely remembered spots (Beansprout, Panda Pavilion, Boss Tweed’s).

Turns out, restaurants still give away matches. John’s collection includes Dunville’s, Sakura’s, even Bartaco — places still very much alive and well.

Although, if you need all those matches to light cigarettes, you may not be for long.

(NOTE: As a special “06880” gift, John Kantor will send a high-res digital copy of this poster to anyone who wants it. Just email hijkantor@yahoo.com. What a great way to “light up” your holiday!)

Friday Flashback #171

Last week’s Friday Flashback — an aerial view of downtown from the 1930s — drew a number of comments.

Readers noted the old Saugatuck River bridge, and wondered if vessels passed beneath it. They talked about the importance of maritime commerce to the growth of downtown, and mentioned the majesty of National Hall.

And they commented on the trolleys that once rolled along the Post Road.

The photo inspired alert “06880” reader Chip Stephens to send along this painting.

For many years, it hung in Dr. Peter Ferrara’s dental office here.

Drawn by Al Willmott — a noted illustrator in the late 20th century — it shows a Westport from decades earlier.

It’s all there: National Hall. The bridge. A merchant ship.

And — my favorite — the trolley.

Friday Flashback #170

This aerial fascinating photo of downtown Westport in the 1930s was posted to Facebook by Bill Stanton.

The view is toward the east (top).

Among the intriguing sights:

  • At the bottom is National Hall. Just to its north sits a substantial-looking building that must have been torn down long ago. Today it’s the site of Bartaco.
  • The bridge across the Saugatuck River is much narrower than the current span. The river itself is wider than at present. Parker Harding Plaza has not yet been built. Water laps up against the back of buildings on the west side of Main Street.
  • The Westport Public Library (now a pop-up art gallery, at 1 Main Street) is the large building just to the left of the eastern end of the bridge.
  • Look closely (top center). You can see the gas station that is now Vineyard Vines.

What else do you notice? Click “Comments” below.

Friday Flashback #169

From time to time, “06880” readers mention Thompson’s or Colgan’s. Those were the 2 names — at different times — for the business on the corner of the Post Road (then called State Street) and Taylor Place.

It was an old-fashioned, community drugstore. There was “luncheonette” service, and a soda fountain (handy for Staples High students; they could walk over after school, from nearby Riverside Avenue). Paperback books were sold from revolving metal racks. You don’t see places like that anymore — not in Westport, anyway.

Today, Thompson’s/Colgan’s is Tiffany. [Insert your own comment here.]

Across Taylor Place was Muriel’s. Designed like one of the trolleys that passed right by it, Muriel’s was an old-fashioned, community diner. It burned to the ground in a 1970s fire.

This photo was taken a couple of decades earlier. It’s hard to tell the season — early spring? late fall? — and I don’t know what brought so many people (with American flags) downtown.

It seems like a special day. But every day, really, was special at the downtown drugstore, and Muriel’s.