Category Archives: Looking back

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.

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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.

“If These Walls Could Talk…” For Drew Coyne, They Do.

The best teachers model their passions.

English teachers read and write. Culinary teachers cook. Phys. ed. instructors work out.

Drew Coyne

Drew Coyne teaches US History Honors at Staples High School. He’s been nominated for Westport Teacher of the Year. His students adore him.

He’s tough, but fair. He makes learning interesting.

And he walks the talk — inside the classroom, and out.

Drew grew up in an 1850s house in upstate New York. His partner Matt O’Connell was raised in a Boston suburb. In September 2017, they started searching for a house to buy. They wanted something historic.

They came close to purchasing in Greens Farms. Then they found an even better property on the Old Post Road in Fairfield — part of that town’s Historic District.

The owners were Paul and Barb Winsor. Paul was George Harrison’s gardener. But that wasn’t what made it amazing.

It was built in 1837 by the Turney family. They owned land by Fairfield beach, and grew peaches.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church took it over. For nearly 100 years, it served as a parsonage.

In 1936, the church sold the property to the Hermenze family. Four years later, they sold it to Donald and Ann Robbins. The price was $8,000. The Robbinses raised 5 children there.

175 Old Post Road — back in the day.

Drew loved his new home. Walking the halls, he felt compelled to know who walked them before him. And he wondered what stories the walls could tell.

Like any great history teacher, he researched the past. The Fairfield Museum had little information. The church did not have much either.

But searching online, Drew found an obituary for Ann Robbins. It included the names of her surviving children. One — Ann’s daughter Nan Hotchkiss– lived in Fairfield.

Drew called. She’s in her mid-80s now, but was delighted to hear from him. She asked many questions about the house. It obviously meant a lot to her.

So Drew invited her to come see for herself.

Thrilled, she asked if she could bring 2 brothers, and her younger sister. Oh, and also her son’s daughter, who is in her 40s.

The visit — a couple of weekends ago — was wonderful. The former residents walked all around the house, touching things and remembering tiny details like the smell of gingerbread cookies, tricycle races and Nan’s basement “jewelry shop.”

3 generations of owners. Standing at left: Matt O’Connell and Drew Coyne. From the top of the stairs down: Barb Winsor, Carol Robbins, Pat Robbins, Bruce Robbins, Henry Robbins, Anne (Nan) Jackson. Larry Robbins Skyped in with his wife Deirdre.

They pointed to nicks in the wood, and told Drew and Matt how they got there.

“Those are the subtle things we’d never notice,” Drew says. “But they meant so much to the family. They give warmth and beauty, and enhanced my view of our house.”

One of Nan’s brothers lives out of state, and could not make it to Fairfield. So his siblings walked around with an iPad, showing him the 19th century house via 21st century Skype. He added his own memories.

The Robbins children, with their parents, Donald and Ann.

Barb Winsor — who Drew and Matt bought the house from — also came that weekend.

So the couple heard stories about the house, all the way from 1940 to today.

Drew says, “We saw layer upon layer of history. We heard about victory gardens in World War II, and the noise from the Post Road when that was the only highway around.”

As she was leaving, Nan said, “It’s so nice to come home.”

That’s a feeling Drew Coyne has every day, when he walks through the door of the house that is now his. And that he now understands, better than ever.

“This was a great Christmas gift that Matt and I could give them,” he says.

“And a great gift that they gave us, too.”

175 Old Post Road, last winter.

What? No Famous Weavers School?!

A recent issue of the New Yorker offers looks backward.

There’s a tribute to founder Harold  Ross, followed by many old stories and cartoons.

Karl Decker — the longtime, legendary and now retired Staples High School English instructor — is a devoted New Yorker fan. The magazine sent him scurrying to his cellar, where he keeps his back copies.

All the way back to the 1930s.

Karl Decker, with his 1934 New Yorker.

He picked one — June 23, 1934 — and settled down to read.

There was a long article about Franklin Roosevelt; a cartoon by Peter Arno — and 500 words of “precious whimsy” by Parke Cummings.

In the summer of 1960, Karl and Parke — a famous author and humorist — worked together at Famous Writers School.

Al Dorne — one of the founders of the Famous Writers, Artists and Photographer Schools — was always looking for ideas to add to those 3 “schools” (all correspondence-based, and headquartered on Wilton Road).

An advertisement from the 1950s.

Parke and Karl had already submitted proposals for a Famous Sculptors School (which required a railroad spur, to ship in granite) and Famous Dancers School (huge pads on which students would ink their bare feet, then step out the moves on big rolls of paper).

Their latest idea: Famous Weavers School. The preface read: “The School will provide each student with 4 English Shropshire sheep, a shepherdess, and …”

Dorne told them he’d have to consult with Ed Mitchell before they went any further.

“Inexplicably, our workloads increased markedly after that,” Karl reports.

Mark Kramer: A View From The Bridge

Mark Kramer spent 3 decades as a writer-in residence at Smith College, Boston University and Harvard’s Nieman Foundation. He also enjoyed a storied career as a book and magazine writer, editor, speaker and consultant.

Mark has not lived in Westport since graduating from Staples High School in 1961. But — as an alert “06880” reader — he notes from afar that “the Saugatuck (Cribari) Bridge is threatened by traffic and time.”

It meant a lot to his childhood — and the town. Mark also has an idea for the bridge’s future. He writes:

I fished from that bridge in the 1950s. I loved watching the crew of volunteers (including John Santella from his dad’s barber shop), Paul Nette from Bridge Garage, and a few firemen from the nearly adjacent firehouse answer the call to pivot it open.

They appeared with a giant wrench — a waist-high T of iron, shaped like 3-pins of the traditional lug wrench that came in auto tool kits.

They stuck the socket into an embedded peg in the center of the bridge, and leaned into the crosspieces of the wrench. Slowly the massive bridge swung parallel to the river, a sailboat or two passed under, they swung it closed again and walked back to work.

Hand cranking the “Bridge Street Bridge,” back in the day.

People crossed the walkway for the pleasure of the view from midstream. They probably still do.

There’s an example of bridge preservation, connecting the twin towns of Shelburne Falls and Buckland, Massachusetts — not far from Smith College — that might be a feasible way for Saugatuck to go.

The “Bridge of Flowers” has had a big part in invigorating the commercial life of the twin towns, which has seen craft workshops and good restaurants come, along with scads of tourists on weekends.

After the local trolley quit, its bridge was long neglected. Then a local committee, led by a visionary real estate woman, raised some minimal funds, turned out lots of volunteer help, and turned it into a 3-season amazement, a walkers’ bridge bulging with horticultural wonders.

The “Bridge of Flowers.”

Now active committees, and perhaps a paid employee or two, keep flowers planted and flowing. It is a community-binding wonder, defying time and making folks happy.

Meanwhile, a new bridge across the Deerfield serves traffic a few hundred yards upstream.

I lived a town away for years, and my perspective on the Bridge of Flowers shifted.

At first it was a great place to bring the in-laws. But then I aged enough so the neighborly generosity that made it happen came into view.

The visitors’ book at the Buckland end of the bridge fills daily with thanks from  people who drive there, and walk the bridge. Many stop for lunch or supper, and browse the shops selling ice cream, used books, ceramics and paintings — a good sort of tourism to draw.

Mark hopes Westporters will look into the idea of a Bridge of Flowers — with a new bridge built nearby. Click here for the Bridge of Flowers website. For more information and personal insights, email Mark directly: kramernarrative@gmail.com.

 

Former Positano’s Finally Goes Down

Last month — when “06880” reported that Peter Nisenson flood-proofed, refurbished and saved 201 Main Street, the “little red house” on the Saugatuck River that had been slated for demolition — readers rejoiced.

Now Nisenson and his PEN Building Company are about to start work on another property. It’s a new structure — but it sits on one of the most visible corners in Westport.

For decades, 233 Hillspoint Road has been the site of commercial ventures, in the heart of the Old Mill residential neighborhood. First a grocery store, the 2-story building later housed restaurants, including Cafe de la Plage and Positano’s.

This morning, it became Westport’s latest teardown.

The view from Old Mill Beach, as the former Positano’s and Cafe de la Plage was demolished this morning. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Over the next year, Nisenson will build a new home there. He and the owner have spent a couple of years planning how best to utilize the awkward-shaped lot — while maintaining the neighborhood character, and views admired by all Westporters.

“It’s a very public property,” Nisenson notes. “It was important to create something that blends in.”

The new house will be pushed back from the road. A dense buffer zone with native plants will provide privacy in back for the owners. But it’s on a public beach. The property ends where the sand begins — so Old Mill will remain the same as it’s always been.

The sidewalk in front will remain too.

The former restaurant has been vacant for nearly 4 years. Neighbors — and everyone else who loves the beach area — hope that Nisenson’s new project will be as well received as his Little Red House.

Remembering Arpi Ermoyan

Arpi Ermoyan — a longtime Westporter, and a major name in the world of commercial illustration — died last week. She was 99 years old.

Arpi Ermoyan

Ermoyan was an illustrator, editor at Cosmopolitan in the 1950s and ’60s, worked at Doyle Dane Bernbach ad agency, wrote an important book called “Famous American Illustrators,” curated gallery exhibitions of illustration art, and for many years directed the Society of Illustrators. She was one of very few women to break through in that male-dominated field.

In 1953, she and her husband Suren — also a noted illustrator, who served as art director at Good Housekeeping — moved to Tanglewood Lane, off Stony Brook.

She became part of the vaunted Westport Illustrators group — again, one of the few female members.

According to the Illustration Art website:

Illustrators in Westport during this era used each other for models all the time, and Arpi was a favorite….Neighboring illustrators would stop by the house on Tanglewood Lane and before you know it, Arpi had to “put aside her drawing board and start modeling.” Several great illustrators of the era were inspired by her striking good looks and painted her into their illustrations.

In 1961, the Ermoyans moved from Westport. They sold their house to another, younger illustrator.

Perhaps you’ve heard of him: Bernie Fuchs.

Arpi Ermoyan, by Bernie Fuchs

(Hat tip: Kevin McConnell)

Mystery Object #12

Westport leads the nation in nail salons per capita.*

But our obsession with nails is not new.

Back in the 1890s, Westporters may not have had 27,915 salons to choose from. But they did have Victorian Nail Buffers.

The wooden blocks were finished with felt, covered with leather chamois, then topped with a sterling silver filigreed handle. They gave nails pleasing shines.

Victorian nail buffer

I didn’t know any of this. Neither did you (I’m sure).

But Laura Mozier knew what a Victorian Nail Buffer was. That’s why she’s the winner in the most recent Westport Historical Society Mystery Object contest.

It’s part of their ongoing “Westport in 100 Objects” exhibit. Every 2 weeks, the WHS displays something new. If you stop in and identify it, you — like Laura — can win something from the gift shop.

There are plenty of good items to choose from. Though they don’t carry gift certificates to nail salons.

*#FakeNews. But close.

Christie’s Closes Soon. Another Westport Institution Is Gone.

In 1926, Christie Masiello opened a fruit and vegetable stand on Cross Highway. For nearly 7 decades she and her nephew Don were staples of that northern Westport neighborhood: a place to buy food (and gas). And — just as important — to meet.

The place went through some changes — it was briefly a dry cleaner — but when John and Renee Hooper bought it in 2009, Christie’s regained its rightful place as a neighborhood store. And community center.

John added burritos, prepared foods and more to the menu. He rented space to Frosty Bear ice cream. There was a farmers’ market on Sunday mornings.

Nearby Staples High and Bedford Middle School students flocked there after class (sometimes during). Neighbors stopped in a couple of times a day, for whatever they needed. (Including cumin for a Christmakkah meal — click here for that great story.)

It was the only place around for builders, construction workers, tradesmen and delivery people too. They packed the parking lot at lunchtime.

Christie’s was also the go-to place during weather disasters. When hurricanes howled or blizzards blew, the store was the neighborhood port in a storm. John offered ice, water, food, cell charging — whatever anyone needed.

If his power was out too, it was still the place to gather, swap stories, and get energized for the cleanup ahead.

(Photo/Katherine Hooper)

But all those will soon be memories. With sadness, John has announced that Christie’s is closing next month.

Rent and taxes are high, relative to sales and income that can be generated in his out-of-the-way place.

The lease was up in June. But John and Renee stayed on, to see if they could create a plan to make things work.

Christie’s is a non-conforming use, in a residential neighborhood. Zoned as a retail food establishment, it can operate as a takeout deli, with limited tables and chairs to seat approximately 9 patrons indoors.

The Hoopers wanted to offer brunch in the winter — in front of the fireplace — and on the porch in summer.

Christie’s handsome front porch.

They hoped for limited dinner too, in the form of Friday Family Fun Nights  (Saturdays too).

But before they could get approval from Planning & Zoning, they needed an okay from the Health Department.

Health officials said the septic system could not handle the additional stress. And — according to state regulations — the surrounding soils made expansion of the current system unfeasible. John and Renee had to operate as they currently do.

“Local officials were great,” John says. “They tried to work with us. But state laws prohibit expanding the septic system.”

So Christie’s will close soon after their last catering event: a Staples PTA holiday lunch for teachers.

That’s fitting. John has always been a huge supporter of Westport (and Fairfield) schools. He’s provided great food as cheaply as he can — sometimes at cost.

Four middle schoolers hung out the other day at Christie’s — near a menorah, moose and reindeer.

“Renee and I are thankful for all the great friends and supporters we’ve met,” John says. “I’ve watched a lot of kids grow up. It’s been amazing, and what I’ll miss the most.”

“Closing Christie’s is sad for me. But Renee is comforted that I will be able to devote more time to her growing food company.” White Oak Farm & Table sells non-GMO and organic shelf-stable food to stores nationwide.

Everyone who made Christie’s their home away from home is sad too.

Really, everyone in Westport should be.

A little bit of what made our town special will soon be gone.

Thanks, John and Renee, for 9 great years.

And Christie’s, for 92 of them.