Category Archives: Looking back

Meatball Shop Update: ImPortant News

Earlier today, “06880” reported that the Meatball Shop will open its 8th restaurant this spring in Westport.

The location has just been confirmed. They’ll be serving ‘balls in what was, most recently, The ‘Port. The family-style restaurant closed last June.

National Hall, when The ‘Port restaurant was there … (Photo/Dave Dellinger)

National Hall has seen a lot, since it was built in the early 1800s. It’s housed the Westporter Herald newspaper, Horace Staples’ bank (and, very briefly, the first classes of his high school).

It was the site of the town meeting hall, and — for many years — Fairfield Furniture.

In the early 1990s, Arthur Tauck saved the historic building from the wrecking ball. (After decades of pigeon droppings, the roof was ready to cave in.)

… and back in the day. (Photo/Peter Barlow)

He and his family converted National Hall into an inn and restaurant of the same name. Several other restaurants later occupied that prime ground floor space.

Now it’s ready for its next phase.

Arlo Guthrie once sang, “You can get anything you want, at Alice’s Restaurant.”

You can only get meatballs (of many kinds, for sure) at the Meatball Shop.

But — with Arezzo, OKO and Bartaco all just steps away, and David Waldman’s new project at the old Save the Children headquarters moving quickly along — the west bank of the Saugatuck River just got a little spicier.

National Hall: The view from Post Road West, even further back in the day.

Chef’s Table Returns To Westport! Cross Highway Rejoices.

When Christie’s Country Store closed in December, a shiver went through the Cross Highway neighborhood.

The breakfast/sandwich/grill/grocery place had been around since 1926. It served nearby residents, Staples and Bedford students, and plenty of landscapers and workers nearby or passing through.

But it was a non-conforming use, in a residential area. Now it was shut. These things don’t usually end well.

Fortunately, this one does.

Chef’s Table is moving in. Rich Herzfeld will pick up right where John Hooper left off.

It’s a homecoming of sorts. Herzfeld — the Culinary Institute of America-trained baker/chef, who honed his trade under Jean Yves Le Bris at La Gourmandise in Norwalk — set off on his own in 1995. He opened his first Chef’s Table at 44 Church Lane.

It was, Rich recalls, “like a small Hay Day.” High-end prepared foods and fresh salads drew a devoted downtown crowd. Two years later, Herzfeld added soups.

In 2001 he opened a 2nd Chef’s Table, on the Post Road in Fairfield. Two years later he added a 3rd, in the former Arcudi’s pizza restaurant next to  Carvel.

The 2007 market crash hit the 2 Westport locations hard. Suddenly, Rich says, everyone was brown-bagging lunch, or eating fast food. Corporate catering dried up.

The Fairfield site — with a broader demographic — did fine.

Rich sold the Church Lane spot to the Wild Pear. Arcudi’s returned to its original spot.

Wild Pear took over from Chef’s Table, on Church Lane. It closed in 2013. After extensive renovations, it is now the site of Aux Delices.

The 2 locations changed hands again. Today, both — coincidentally — are Aux Delices.

Meanwhile, Rich had asked commercial realtor (and Staples High School graduate) Tom Febbraio to keep an eye out for any place here that was already set up for a Chef’s Table-type operation.

Last year, John Hooper’s Christie’s lease was up. Tom told Rich. He was not only interested — he’d loved it for a long time.

“I knew Christie’s well,” Rich says. “It’s a great location. It has history. And the space is perfect for us.”

He’ll sell his signature soups, salads and sandwiches. A few years ago he got back into baking, so there will be plenty of croissants and baguettes.

Rich Herzfeld, with his delicious sourdough bread.

There’s a pizza oven in back — something the Fairfield Chef’s Table lacks — so Rich will make sourdough pizzas too. (The crust is great, he promises — “it takes 3 days to make!”)

The Fairfield location — not far from Fairfield University, Fairfield Ludlowe High and 2 middle schools — is “student-centric,” Rich says. His new Cross Highway spot is even closer, to Staples High and Bedford Middle Schools.

“I have a 21-year-old and a 14-year-old,” Rich notes. “I know what kids want.”

He plans to sell old-fashioned candy, ice cream — and items like milk, sugar and toilet paper, for neighbors who just need one or two quick items. And he would love to resurrect the Frosty Bear ice cream gazebo.

“We’ll be listening closely to what neighbors and customers want,” Rich says. “We’ll try to make it happen.”

Though Chef’s Table will operate from around 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Rich predicts his bread-and-butter will be breakfasts and lunches. He’s especially excited to serve breakfasts — “good food, providing great energy” to folks working in the area.

Christie’s — with its handsome front porch — has always been a welcoming, neighborhood place.

The Cross Highway store will be overseen by Rich’s son David. Now 29, and the breakfast guru at the Fairfield spot, he grew up at Chef’s Table on Church Lane. When he was just 9, David was baking cookies — and selling them at a table there.

Rich hopes to open by April 1. (No fooling!)

And the name?

It will be “Chef’s Table at Christie’s Country Store.”

Rich knows the 93-year history of the spot he’s moving into. He loves the legacy.

He can’t wait to begin writing the next chapter.

(Hat tip: Suzannah Rogers)

At Staples, The Day The Music Died

On February 3, 1959, Charlie Taylor was a Staples High School sophomore (and a budding songwriter).

Exactly 60 years later, he remembers that day with stunning clarity. Charlie writes:

That Tuesday morning dawned bright, sunny and very cold in Westport. I was 15 years old, standing outside the cafeteria in the smoking area, chatting with friends.

Buddy Holly

Someone ran up and told us they heard a news flash about a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed when their chartered Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashed in a cornfield a few minutes after takeoff from Mason City.

We were speechless.

I think I felt a kindred spirit with Buddy. We were both Texas natives.

The mood at Staples was muted for the rest of the week. We all followed the news broadcasts about the crash, and Buddy’s sad funeral in Lubbock. It was, as Don McLean later sang, truly The Day the Music Died.

Suddenly, we realized we were mortal. Buddy Holly was 22 years old — and Ritchie Valens, just 17.

Charlie Taylor, in the 1959 Staples yearbook.

We collected their records. We danced and made out to their songs.

Music was important to us. Bo Diddley played a number of dance shows in Westport, at venues like the YMCA. My ’61 classmate Mike Borchetta booked him, when Mike was still at Staples.

When I moved from rural Kentucky to Westport, I was washed in the blood of rockabilly and blues from Nashville and Memphis.

Then I got bathed in doo wop on WINS and WABC. My rockabilly roots collided with my new Westport friends’ jazz, folk an doo wop sensibilities.

At Staples we had the CanTeen every Friday or Saturday night. Sturdy and the Stereos, Dick Grass and the Hoppers, Barry Tashian and Mike Friedman’s Schemers, and bands Bobby Lindsey fronted were our weekly entertainment.

When those bands played songs like “Please Dear” or “Mr. John Law,” a dancing, sweaty fever seized us teens. We fogged up the windows of the cafeteria!

Sixty years later, I have to wonder what songs Buddy Holly would have written had he lived.

As fate (or luck) would have it, I met and was mentored by Buddy’s manager, Hi Pockets Duncan, in San Angelo, Texas in 1968. Hi Pockets played a recording of mine on his radio station, then told me to go to Los Angeles to develop my craft.

I moved to LA on August 15, 1970 — driving my black 1959 Chevy.

I still think about that day at Staples, exactly 60 years ago today.

Charlie Taylor has spent the last 3 decades in Tennessee. He’s recorded with, written with and for, jammed with and learned from the likes of Gram Parsons, Minnie Pearl, Chet Atkins, Barbara Mandrell, Rick Nelson and Barry Tashian. 

Four years ago he wrote and recorded this tribute to Buddy Holly. He uploaded it to YouTube on February 3, 2015.

Amy Van Arsdale De-Clutters My Life

“06880” — my blog — has a clean, uncluttered look. I’m proud of that, and work hard to maintain it.

My office is another story entirely.

It’s cluttered. It’s messy, disorganized, and filled with stuff I think I need, but really don’t.

In other words, it’s like nearly every other home office in America.

Every home office that has not yet been professionally cleared, de-cluttered and reclaimed by Amy van Arsdale, that is.

Amy van Arsdale

Amy is a Westporter. In 2008 she, her husband and 4 kids lived near Old Mill Beach. In preparation for renting their house for the summer, she moved everyone’s personal items to the attic.

When she returned in late August, she retrieved only what her family needed, loved and used.

It was a lot less than what she’d moved upstairs.

The next 2 summers, Amy did the same thing. Each time, there was less to bring back downstairs.

And each time, she got more and more efficient.

After Amy put her new skills to use helping downsize her mother, and move her aunts into assisted living facilities, she realized she was on to something. Not only could she de-clutter people’s homes — she could do the same for their minds.

The result was Cleared Spaces: a lifestyle service helping people live better, with far less.

Marie Kondo’s recent fame has shined a light on the process of de-cluttering. But Amy has been doing it for a decade too.

Plus — unlike Marie — she doesn’t leave, then come back weeks later to see the results. Amy is there with her clients, every step of the way.

In fact, she does all the dirty work for you.

I know first hand. The other day, Amy came over to de-clutter my office.

Well, part of it. Even a miracle worker like she could not do everything in one afternoon.

Amy began with a closet. It’s where I’d stuffed everything — old newspaper articles, scrapbooks, report cards from Burr Farms Elementary School, tax returns dating back to the Reagan administration — in the belief that it was important and useful.

That closet was where I needed to move all the crap from my desk and the rest of my office. But first it had to be reclaimed.

Ta da! Thanks to Amy, I’ve reclaimed the closet in my office.

“Eighty percent of what I do is purge,” Amy says. “People have too much stuff, and it’s not sorted well.”

No shit.

So Amy spends a lot of time helping clients figure out what should go, and what must stay. “People pay me to stand over them, and do what they can’t do,” she says. “It’s not brain surgery,”

Her mantra is simple, but key: “If you don’t need it, love it or use it — get rid of it.”

The space Amy creates is not only in the home. It’s in the mind too. She is a certified Kripalu yoga teacher. When she de-clutters, she doesn’t dwell on that part of her life — though she does start with “take a deep breath. People are nervous that I’ll get rid of everything.”

But Amy firmly believes “you really don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy.” Clearing out physical space is centering and relaxing.

My desk still needs a ton of work.

It sure is. As we worked together — she handing me boxes; me realizing I didn’t really need to keep all the correspondence about every book I’ve written, but that I loved every photo I found; she sorting everything I was tossing into bins marked “recycle,” “incinerate” and “donate” (to Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations) — I felt awe.

And relief.

Amy was right. I felt better. Lighter. Freer. I was ready — eager! — to attack the piles of who-knows-what cluttering my desk and chairs, filling up my floor (physically) and my head (mentally).

Amy is a pro. She’s non-judgmental. She’s confidential. And — this may be most remarkable of all — she hauls most of the stuff away, fitting whatever she can into her SUV for distribution to Goodwill or the dump.

Amy van Arsdale gets set to make a dump-and-Goodwill run for me.

She even brings bins. This woman is the real deal.

Amy’s services go beyond de-cluttering. She does estate dissolutions, and helps senior citizens downsize. (“Your kids don’t want it!” is another favorite mantra.)

She’s available too for “virtual organization”: telephone consultations, or video chats via Skype and FaceTime.

I’m glad we got together in real time though. Amy was fast, efficient — and fun.

I’m enjoying my un-cluttered closet. I’m ready for the next round.

And I don’t miss all those old Christmas cards, my notebooks from college, or that VHS cassette telling me how to use my Kaypro computer at all.

(For more information on Amy van Arsdale’s Cleared Spaces, click here.) 

MLK

This story has become a Martin Luther King Day tradition on “06880.”

Today is Martin Luther King Day. Westporters will celebrate with a day off from school or work.  Some will sleep in; others will ski, or take part in a Staples basketball clinic for younger players. Few will give any thought to Martin Luther King.

Twice, though, his life intersected this town in important ways.

Martin Luther KingThe first was Friday night, May 22, 1964. According to Woody Klein’s book Westport, Connecticut, King had been invited to speak at Temple Israel by synagogue member Jerry Kaiser.

King arrived in the afternoon. Kaiser and his wife Roslyn sat on their porch that afternoon, and talked with King and 2 of his aides. She was impressed with his “sincerity, warmth, intelligence and genuine concern for those about him — our children, for instance. He seemed very young to bear such a burden of leadership.”

King’s sermon — to a packed audience — was titled “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” He analogized his America to the time of Rip Van Winkle — who also “slept through a revolution. The greatest liability of history is that people fail to see a revolution taking place in our world today.  We must support the social movement of the Negro.”

Westport artist Roe Halper presented King with 3 woodcarvings, representing the civil rights struggle. He hung them proudly in the front hallway of his Atlanta home.

Artist Roe Halper (left) presents Coretta Scott King with civil rights-themed wood carvings.

Within a month Temple Israel’s rabbi, Byron Rubenstein, traveled south to take place in a nonviolent march. He was arrested — along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King.

In jail, the rabbi said, “I came to know the greatness of Dr. King. I never heard a word of hate or bitterness from that man, only worship of faith, joy and determination.”

King touched Westport again less than 4 years later. On April 5, 1968 — the day after the civil rights leader’s assassination in Memphis — 600 Staples students gathered for a lunchtime vigil in the courtyard. Nearby, the flag flew at half-staff.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

A small portion of the large crowd listens intently to Fermino Spencer, in the Staples courtyard.

Vice principal Fermino Spencer addressed the crowd. Movingly, he spoke about  his own experience as an African American. Hearing the words “my people” made a deep impression on the almost all-white audience. For many, it was the 1st time they had heard a black perspective on white America.

No one knew what lay ahead for their country. But student Jim Sadler spoke for many when he said: “I’m really frightened. Something is going to happen.”

Something did — and it was good. A few hundred students soon met in the cafeteria. Urged by a minister and several anti-poverty workers to help bridge the chasm between Westport and nearby cities, Staples teachers and students vowed to create a camp.

Within 2 months, it was a reality. That summer 120 elementary and junior high youngsters from Westport, Weston, Norwalk and Bridgeport participated in the Intercommunity Camp. Led by over 100 Staples students and many teachers, they enjoyed swimming, gymnastics, dance, sports, field trips, overnight camping, creative writing, filmmaking, photography, art and reading.

It wasn’t easy — some in Westport opposed bringing underprivileged children to their town — but for over a decade the Intercommunity Camp flourished.

Eventually, enthusiasm for and interest in the camp waned. Fewer Staples students and staff members wanted to devote their summer to such a project.  The number of Westporters willing to donate their pools dwindled. Today the Intercommunity Camp is a long-forgotten memory.

Sort of like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Even on his birthday.

MLK speech

Fast Music

The recent death of Ed Baer — the Westport native, longtime resident and renowned, versatile radio DJ — got local folks thinking about the role of radio in our lives.

Inevitably, talk turned to Westport’s rich musical past.

Mike Fast has plenty of memories to share. Growing up in Bridgeport in the 1950s, he was one of many young boys fascinated by radio’s reach and power.

In 1957 he started hanging out at the WNAB studio downtown. Just 13 years old, he learned all he could about the business.

A couple of years later, at Harding High, he spent after-school hours at the station’s transmitter site. Mike had no formal training, but he learned how to build and design his own equipment.

Mike Fast, at WNAB’s Bridgeport studio.

At 17 — through his Westport friend Stuart Soroka — he discovered WMMM. The station’s studio was above Oscar’s, on Main Street. Mike’s interest in Westport was piqued.

“It seemed like everyone in town smiled, and wore new clothes,” he recalls.

In 1961 Mike, Stuart and a kid named Gordon Joseloff started a radio station at the YMCA. Their 1-watt transmitter — a couple of miles away, at Compo Beach — was hooked up to a phone line in their “studio.” It was an early “pirate” station — and it was called WWPT.

A July 1961 New York Times story on WWPT featured (from left) Gordon Joseloff, Jeff Berman and Stuart Soroka. As the caption notes, Mike Fast was missing from the photo.

Joseloff went on to become an international news correspondent with CBS — and later, first selectman of Westport. Today he runs WestportNow.com.

Mike’s Westport connection grew stronger. He, Dennis Jackson and Cliff Mills bought a turntable, and ran record hops at the new Staples High School on North Avenue.

A poster for dances at Staples High School. Perhaps Mike Fast’s shows cost a dime more than Dennis Jackson’s because they were 2 hours longer.

In 1962 Ed Baer — whom Mike had befriended back at WNAB — was working weekends at New York’s WMCA. Mike had very little experience, but when Ed set him up with an interview there, Mike talked his way into a job. (The key: Both his mother, and the mother of the engineer interviewing him, were from County Cork.)

Mike worked other jobs too: doing sound at the United Nations; at the National Radio and TV Center; at WHN. A stint at 1010 WINS lasted “about 10 minutes.” He played the wrong record, and legendary DJ Murray the K threw him out.

In 1965 the WMMM engineer retired. Mike talked his way into that job too, even though he knew little about transmitting equipment.

Around that time, Staples began bringing live bands to the auditorium. The school had no PA system, so the ever-resourceful Mike supplied groups like Cream and the Rascals with his own.

Ginger Baker, on the drums at Staples High School. (Photo copyright Jeremy Ross)

But Mike’s real love was live recording. He worked often with the Westport Country Playhouse, and the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford (which burned to the ground last Sunday).

After doing sound on the road with Edgar Winter’s White Trash, Mike produced and managed his own bands. They were booked all over New England.

But those gigs did not pay well. Mike got back into radio. He moved around: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Portland.

He returned east — and went back to WMMM. He was there when Donald J. Flamm bought the station, and turned it into WDJF (named for his own initials).

When the FCC changed rules — eliminating the need for radio stations to hire 1st-class engineers — Mike was fired. The same day, his wife told him she was pregnant with their first child.

But he always found work. Mike has spent his entire life in radio and sound.

Mike Fast

“It’s a different world today,” he notes. “Radio stations are not the creative factories they used to be. I consider myself lucky to have been there, in the golden age.”

WMCA, WINS, WMMM — none of them are the stations they once were. But Mike Fast worked at all of them.

And — thanks to Westporters like Ed Baer, Gordon Joseloff and Murray the K — he’s had a very memorable career.

(Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)

Shakespeare’s Stratford And Westport: A Twice-Told Tale

Early Sunday morning, fire destroyed the American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford.

News reports noted that the 1,500-seat venue — modeled after London’s Globe Theater — hosted performances by Katharine Hepburn, Helen Hayes and Christopher Walken.

When the theater thrived, its garden on the banks of the Housatonic River featured a garden with 81 species of plants mentioned in the Bard’s plays.

The American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford, in its heyday.

Papers reported too that the idea for the theater came from Lawrence Langner. It was not his first rodeo. In 1930 — 25 years before developing the Stratford venue — the Weston resident turned an apple orchard and old tannery into the Westport Country Playhouse.

But Westport’s connection to the American Shakespeare Festival Theater runs far deeper than that.

In fact, our town was almost its home.

In 2014 I posted a story that began with a note from Ann Sheffer. The Westport civic volunteer and philanthropist — who had a particular fondness for the Playhouse, where she interned as a Staples High School student — had sent me an old clipping that told the fascinating back story of Stony Point. That’s the winding riverfront peninsula with an entrance directly off the train station parking lot, where Ann and her husband Bill Scheffler then lived.

Stony Point today (left of the river). The train station and tracks are at top.

Stony Point today (left of the river). The train station and tracks are at top.

Written in 1977, the Westport News piece by longtime resident Shirley Land described a New York banker, his wife and 2 daughters. They lived in a handsome Victorian mansion with “turrets and filigree curlicues.” The grounds included an enormous carriage house, gardener’s cottage, barn and hothouse.

It was the Cockeroft family’s country home, built around 1890. They traveled there by steam launch from New York City, tying up at a Stony Point boathouse.

After the daughters inherited the home, the New York, New Haven & Hartford railroad purchased some of the land for a new train station. (The original one was on the other side of the river.)

The 2nd daughter bequeathed the estate to the Hospital for the  Crippled and Ruptured (whose name was later changed, mercifully, to the New York Hospital for Special Surgery).

But the property fell into disuse. Eventually the hospital sold Stony Point to real estate developers.

Which brings us to Shakespeare.

Around 1950 Langner, Lincoln Kirstein of Lincoln Center and arts patron Joseph Verner Reed had audacious plans. They wanted to build an American Shakespeare Theatre and Academy.

And they wanted it on Stony Point. Proximity to the train station was a major piece of the plan.

The price for all 21 acres: $200,000.

But, Land wrote, “the hand of fate and the town fathers combined to defeat the efforts of the theatre people.” Many residents objected. There were also concerns that it would draw audiences away from the Westport Country Playhouse. (Others argued that a Shakespeare Theatre would enhance the town’s reputation as an arts community.)

The theater was never built in Westport. It opened a few miles away –in the aptly named town of Stratford — in 1955.

It achieved moderate success there. But in 1982 the theater ran out of money (and backers). The state of Connecticut took ownership. It closed in 1985.

The garden turned into weeds. The theater grew moldy. The stage where renowned actors once performed the world’s greatest plays was taken over by raccoons.

The entrance to Stony Point.

The entrance to Stony Point.

Meanwhile, in 1956 Westporters Leo Nevas and Nat Greenberg, along with Hartford’s Louis Fox, bought the Stony Point property for residential development.

It’s now considered one of the town’s choicest addresses. A recent listing for one home there was $14 million.

That’s quite a story. We can only imagine what might have happened had Westporters decided to support — rather than oppose — the American Shakespeare Festival Theater in Westport.

Then again, as a famous playwright once said: “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.”

Remembering Ed Baer

Ed Baer was one of the real good guys.

That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.

Ed Baer

The VERY long-time Westporter was one of WMCA’s “Good Guys” — the name the station gave to its 1960s-era disc jockeys. At a time when AM radio ruled the world — or at least dictated teenagers’ musical tastes, which was basically the same thing — the New York station and its rival, WABC, wielded tremendous power.

But Ed Baer’s voice was warm, intimate and very, very real.

Ed — a Staples High School graduate who lived nearly all the rest of his life in Westport — had a long and varied broadcasting career. He worked at radio giants like WCBS-FM and WHN — and on Sirius Satellite Radio, where he hosted a weekday morning show featuring 1950s and ’60s music, and a weekend one with country songs.

Ed Baer died yesterday, from complications of pneumonia. He was 82 years old.

In June of 2016, I profiled Ed for “06880.” Here is that story.

————————————————–

If you grew up in the tri-state area in the 1960s, you remember the name. Ed Baer was a WMCA disc jockey. He and his colleagues — Joe O’Brien, Harry Harrison, Dan Daniel, B. Mitchel Reid, Gary Stevens and the rest — were the Good Guys.

They battled WABC (the All-Americans: Dan Ingram, Cousin Brucie…) for radio supremacy. It was a legendary time in music history, and Ed Baer was part of some of its most exciting moments.

WMCA was a New York station, but he grew up in Westport — and lived there when he was a Good Guy.

Ed lived here after WMCA went all-talk too. He then worked at WHN, WHUD, WYNY, WCBS-FM. He broadcast 2 shows — 7 days a week — from his home studio, for Sirius.

He’s still here. Still as sharp and smooth-talking as ever. And still active.

Ed’s latest project takes shape in that home studio. With his 3 teenage grandsons — Kyle, Ryan and Trevor Baer — he’s selling his entire record collection. There are astonishing LPs, 45s and 78s, with amazing stories.

Trevor, Kyle and Ryan Baer with their grandparents, Ed and Pearl Baer.

Trevor, Ryan and Kyle Baer with their grandparents, Ed and Pearl Baer. A photo of Ed — from his WMCA days — hangs on the wall.

But before you hear them, here’s the back story.

Ed’s parents moved here in 1945, when he was 9. His dad opened a candy store and soda fountain at Desi’s Corner, across from the train station. Ed worked there before graduating from Staples High School in 1954. CBS newsman Douglas Edwards — a Weston resident — was a regular customer.

Ed wandered into radio broadcasting at the University of Connecticut. When his father had a heart attack, Ed transferred to the University of Bridgeport. Westporter Win Elliot — the New York Rangers announcer — helped him grow.

When he served at Ft. Dix, his radio background helped. A sergeant who liked music allowed Ed to travel home Thursdays through Sundays. He brought the latest records back to base, thanks to a friend who worked at Columbia Records’ pressing plant in Bridgeport.

After discharge, Ed worked at 50,000-watt KRAK in Sacramento. He returned home after his father died. Dan Ingram — his former WICC colleague now at WABC — helped “Running Bear” land a job at rival WMCA.

The rest is history. Ed was there as the station moved from Paul Anka and Bobby Darin to the Beatles, Stones, Supremes and Doors.

They were wonderful years. When the Beatles played Shea Stadium, Ed sat in the broadcast booth and played the same records the Fab Four were singing. It sounded better than the concert. He’s got the only existing reel-to-reel (now CD) copy of that night.

Ed Baer still has this 78 from 1952. It's the Staples Band -- directed by John Ohanian -- playing "American Folk Rhapsody."

Ed Baer still has this 78 from 1952. It’s the Staples Band — directed by John Ohanian — playing “American Folk Rhapsody.”

One day, he saw John Ohanian at Oscar’s. Westport’s legendary music director had taught Ed clarinet in 4th grade (he later switched to tenor sax).

“I hear you’re playing all that rock ‘n’ roll,” Ohanian said. “I thought I taught you better than that.”

He paused. “But I hear the money’s great.”

There’s so much more to Ed’s career: The concerts he hosted. Calling OTB races, and picking horses (very well) for the New York Post. Those Sirius shows (5 days of ’50s and ’60s music; weekends were country).

Which brings us back to Ed Baer’s vinyl collection.

He has no idea how many records he’s amassed, in his long career. His grandson Kyle — a civil engineering major at Duke University — estimates 10,000.

They line the walls of the studio. There are never-opened LPs by Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Bing Crosby singing Stephen Foster. Show tunes. Comedy. Many are rare DJ promotional editions, or have never been opened.

And so many come from the WMCA days.

Ryan — who graduated the other day from Staples, and heads to the University of Southern California this fall — casually picks up a Beatles record.

Ed Baer's unpeeled copy of "Yesterday and Today." The letters "PROM" -- for "promotional copy" -- can be seen in the upper right corner.

Ed Baer’s unpeeled copy of “Yesterday and Today.” The letters “PROM” — for “promotional copy” — can be seen in the upper right corner.

It’s “Yesterday and Today.” The original cover showed the band dressed in butcher smocks, surrounded by decapitated baby dolls and pieces of meat. After protests, it was quickly recalled. A simpler photo — the Beatles in steamer trunks — was pasted over it.

Most owners peeled off the top, ruining both covers. Ed has not 1, but 2, of the very rare, unpeeled versions.

Kyle, Ryan and Trevor (a rising junior at Hamden Hall) are hearing stories like this as they help their grandfather sell his collection. They’re learning music history (who was Harry Belafonte? the Four Seasons? What was Motown?) and radio history too (what was the deal with transistor radios?).

The teenagers always knew their grandfather was a good guy.

Now they understand exactly how much of a Good Guy he really was.

Ed Baer, relaxing in his home studio. A WMCA poster hangs on the wall. A few of his many records line the shelves.

Ed Baer, relaxing in his home studio. A WMCA poster hangs on the wall. A few of his many records line the shelves.

Dr. Bud Lynch: A Loving Look Back

In 1967, Buddy Lynch made a fumble recovery that helped key Staples’ 8-0 victory over Stamford Catholic, in the 2nd FCIAC football championship game ever played. It was a huge upset, over the #1 team in the state.

Lynch went on to play at Dartmouth College, then became a noted surgeon. But he was not the first well-known Dr. Lynch in town.

He followed in his father Bud’s footsteps. The older man spent decades as a beloved Westport-based pediatrician.

And now the son has written about his dad, for the Dartmouth alumni newsletter.

Bud Sr. was born in 1915 in Rowayton. He played 4 years of football at Dartmouth — including an undefeated season in 1937.

Dr. Bud Lynch, in World War II

After Dartmouth med school, 2 years of rotations at Colubmia, then back to Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover for internship, he headed out as a medical officer to England for D-Day.

His LST followed minesweepers to a point 13 miles off Utah Beach. His ship was set up to evacuate wounded — from both sides — with racks holding stretchers as beds. He never spoke of that action. But, Buddy notes, it must have been very difficult.

Two months later, a 2nd operation took place in southern France. The Germans attacked Allied forces.

It was a brutal battle. Bud was blown off the bridge and onto the deck, 30 feet below. He broke his right femur. He may have had a spinal fracture too.

A former lifeguard, he realized he’d be better off in the water than staying on an exploding ship. Dragging his broken leg, he pulled himself over the rail — and plunged another 30 feet into the ocean.

The pain, Buddy writes, must have been excruciating. Bud was rescued, and evacuated to a hospital tent in Italy.

He returned a month later to the US. But the wound had become infected. Bud spent the next 3 years in hospitals, and in wheelchairs.

Dr. Bud Lynch’s LST, after the German attack.

Eventually, Bud recovered. He returned to medicine — choosing pediatrics because it required less walking and standing than other specialties.

Buddy was born near the end of his father’s residency at Columbia. He spent his first year in a New York apartment — with a drawer as his crib — and moved to Westport in 1951, when his father joined a practice here.

Bud could no longer play football or baseball. But he umpired Little League, swam, played golf and skied. Back pain, stiffness and a pronounced limp often troubled him, but he never complained.

In 1962, Sports Illustrated named Bud as a Silver Anniversary All-American. The honor was given for talent, accomplishments and outstanding citizenship.

Bud closed his Westport practice in 1979. He moved to Hanover — where Buddy was doing his orthopedic residency. Bud saw patients at his new home, and kept up to date with the latest medicine at Mary Hitchcock Hospital.

In 1994 he fell. His leg continued to bother him. A month later, X-rays revealed that for 45 years he had walked on a femur fracture that never healed.

An operation finally healed the bone.

In his late 80s, Bud Lynch’s determination, endurance and memory began to fail.

But his memory lives on, in all his former patients and their parents in Westport.

Now — thanks to the Dartmouth ’72 newsletter story, by his son — his story lives on too.

(Click here — then scroll down to page 9 — for a much fuller version of the Dartmouth newsletter story. Hat tip: Peter Gambaccini)

60 Years Ago, A Futuristic High School Vision

Staples High School is almost 135 years old. The 3-story building — the latest incarnation — was dedicated in 2005. It’s already a teenager.

It replaced a low-slung, 1-story school that was completed in 1981. And that replaced, in turn, the original North Avenue Staples, which opened in 1958 when the high school moved from Riverside Avenue. (That building is now Saugatuck Elementary.)

That 1958 school was actually 8 separate buildings — including a stand-alone auditorium — connected by outdoor walkways. It was a dramatic architectural departure for an educational institution. It was airy, fresh — and controversial.

The 1959 version of the North Avenue campus: 8 separate buildings.

On January 1, 1959, the Westport Town Crier published a special insert, filled with news stories and photos of the new high school. One piece offered architecture firm Sherwood, Mills & Smith’s interpretation of their work.

Lester Smith described site conditions, educational programs, the need for future expansion, ease of supervision, and the desire to create a “warm, intimate environment scaled to the physical realities of adolescence” as driving forces behind the design.

But he did not say where the inspiration came from.

Ever since the 1950s, Westporters have talked about that school’s “California-style” architecture — and derided it as inappropriate for New England weather.

It turns out the inspiration may actually have come from … Michigan.

Alert “06880” reader and 1971 Staples graduate Fred Cantor offers the inside story below.


While January 2019 will be the 60th anniversary of the formal dedication of the first North Avenue campus, February marks 60 years since the opening of Chelsea (Michigan) High School. How did a school that opened after Staples perhaps serve as its inspiration?

Chelsea High School, opened in Michigan in 1959, looks a lot like …

The story begins with science teacher Ken Johnson, who taught at Staples in the 1950s and ’60s. In the mid-50s he attended a conference in the Midwest. Among the topics: effective school design. Materials included a description of a school to be built in Michigan. It would feature 1-story buildings, connected by covered walkways.

Back in Westport, Johnson excitedly discussed the plans with Staples principal Stan Lorenzen. Both men saw the value in keeping students on the move between classroom buildings.

According to Johnson, teachers were having a tough time monitoring students as they congregated in hallways and stairwells at the traditionally built Riverside Avenue school. Keeping students moving between classes meant they always had somewhere to go.

Providing a separate building for each department — English, social studies, science, foreign language, etc. — also made sense.

The need for future expansion was important too. Adding space without knocking down walls was one more attraction. In fact, an addition was constructed just 4 years after the original building opened.

… the Staples High School campus. This shot is from the 1970s. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Those same elements were considered in the plans for Chelsea High School.

But why might a yet-to-be-constructed school in a small Michigan town even be discussed at the conference Ken Johnson attended?

Because it was designed by prominent modernist architect Minoru Yamasaki. Today, he is best remembered for his design of New York’s World Trade Center.

He was already famous for his 1956 futuristic design of the St. Louis airport terminal. In 1957, his novel plans for Chelsea High were part of an article in Architectural Forum magazine.

Plans for an 8-building school were announced in Westport in January 1956. Political and financial issues delayed official approval by a full year, however. A complete redesign followed — still with 8 separate buildings. Construction finally began in June.

The new Staples High School opened 17 months later. Thanks, in part — perhaps — to a world-famous architect in Michigan.

(Hat tips: former Staples teacher Ken Johnson and his daughter Kelley for their background information. For more on Yamasaki’s plans for Chelsea High School, click here.)

An aerial view of Staples High School, 1959.