Unsung Heroes #20

Many Westporters know them only if there’s a problem.

Compo overcrowded? Call the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Issue with your new deck? Call the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Aquarion building a huge water tower nearby? Call your RTM member.

“They” are the men and women who volunteer for our town boards and commissions. In addition to the above, there’s the Board of Finance, Board of Education, Planning and Zoning Commission and more.

(Photo by Cathy Zuraw/Connecticut Post)

They spend countless hours reading reports, fielding emails and phone calls, and attending meetings (and meetings and meetings).

They get criticized for taking stands, taking votes, and not taking votes.

They even put up (and take down) their own road signs.

And they do it for no pay.

Zero. Nada.

That’s why they’re called volunteers.

They seldom get thanked. Even during election season, we seldom think of the enormous sacrifices our volunteer town officials make to make Westport the wonderful place it is.

That’s why everyone who runs for public office — Democrats, Republicans and independents; men and women; lawyers, business executives, stay-at-home parents and retirees; winners and losers — are this week’s Unsung Heroes.

You’ve got our “vote” of thanks!

(Want to nominate your own Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

 

Tim Jackson’s Film: Joan Walsh Anglund’s Life

In 1958, Joan Walsh Anglund and her husband Bob moved to a 1750s home on Kings Highway South. The young mother began writing, and drawing small books.

Without her knowledge, Bob submitted one of her works to Harcourt Brace. “A Friend is Someone Who Likes You” soon became enormously popular.

For the rest of her life, Anglund wrote at home. Her children’s books and poetry sold over 45 million copies worldwide. Meanwhile, she raised 2 kids: Joy and Todd.

Tim Jackson dated Joy while both were at Staples High School. Her parents became big influences on his life. Bob was “the man of a thousand great stories and impressions.” Joan was “the steady voice of inspiration and reason.”

Their home was a place where everyone talked, laughed and tried to figure out life.

Joan Walsh Anglund and her husband Bob. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

In college in 1969, Tim introduced the Anglunds to his new girlfriend, Suzanne. Sixteen years later, they were still together. Joan asked if they were going to have kids.

When Tim said “probably, eventually,” Joan replied, “Well, it only takes one day to have a baby.”

Ten months later the Jacksons’ first son, Max, was born. He turned 33 this month.

Right now, Max is composing music for a film Tim is making. “Joan Walsh Anglund: Life in Story and Poem” is a tribute to thee 92-year-old best-selling author/illustrator.

It’s narrated through a series of first-person oral histories, accompanied by her art and unpublished poetry.

It also describes her own story of tragedy and triumph — one that has never before been told.

Joan Walsh Anglund and Tim Jackson. (Photo/Emily Anglund)

Jackson has had quite a life himself. He sat behind the Nixon daughters when the Beatles appeared on “Ed Sullivan” in 1964 — an event that launched his musical career.

He got kicked out of the Staples orchestra for “not being serious.” His band, The Loved Ones, opened for the Rascals at Staples (and provided the sound system the Yardbirds used there).

Jackson majored in drama at Ithaca College (and eventually left, drawn away by Rob Carlson’s Benefit Street band). He went on to play drums in several bands (and open for Bruce Springsteen).

He toured with Tom Rush, LaVern Baker and others, and recorded often. His ’60s band — The Band That Time Forgot — has performed for over 30 years.

Jackson acted (he’s Joe Kopechne in “Chappaquiddick,” due for release next month), earned a master’s in education, and taught for 20 years (mostly film history and production).

Whil teaching, he made 4 documentary films. “When Things Go Wrong” — about Robin Lane — won Best Documentary at the New Jersey International Film Festival. (He was in her group The Chartbusters, the 11th band to be broadcast on MTV.)

The Joan Walsh Anglund film focuses on a woman who, like Lane, is strong, capable, and enriches lives through the arts.

A Joan Walsh Anglund drawing. (Photo courtesy of JWA Archives)

Jackson’s documentary uses storytelling, illustration, animation, poems, music and rare home movies to convey her eccentric upbringing, 3 childhood tragedies, 6o-year romance with Bob, and unexpected success.

“Our world is in turmoil,” Jackson says. “We need stories of personal triumph and celebration.”

He hopes to appeal to Anglund’s worldwide fan base (which included, in its heyday, Eleanor Roosevelt and Queen Elizabeth).

“This oral history honors the wisdom of age,” he notes. “It will encourage people to tell their own stories.”

It could also spur the publication of many short poems she wrote — only a fraction of which he includes.

Next year, Houghton Mifflin releases a special 60th anniversary edition of her first book. It will coincide with the completion of Jackson’s film.

He’s got a unique Westport perspective on Joan Walsh Anglund’s life. And now he’s ready to share it with the world.

(Tim Jackson is raising funds for his editor, composer, animator, Photoshop artist and a producer’s honorarium. He also needs to pay for stock footage and post-production, including color correction and sound editing. All contributors receive screen credit. To help, and for more information, click here.)

 

Pic Of The Day #183

Saugatuck River by the Levitt Pavilion (Photo/Jeb Backus)

The Little Red Gingerbread On Long Lots Road

It’s one of the most recognizable houses in Westport: the red “gingerbread” house at 55 Long Lots Road, just east of Hall-Brooke.

For the first time in 60 years, it’s on the market.

As befits a home built more than 150 years ago, it’s got a back story.

Plus a bit of mystery.

According to Tad Shull — a current co-owner and musician/writer in New York, who spent his childhood there — it was constructed as a caretaker’s cottage or gatehouse, elsewhere on Long Lots.

It was moved to its present site in the 1870s by William Burr, who inherited it from his father. Additions were built in the 1920s and ’60s. From the street, it still looks much like the original.

55 Long Lots Road. The entrance to Hall-Brooke is on the left.

It may (or may not) have served as a 1-room schoolhouse. But it has a definite connection to education: Burr Farms School opened in 1958 a few yards away. (It was demolished in the 1980s; all that remains are athletic fields.)

The most intriguing tale is this: Shull’s parents bought the house in 1957 from Elaine Barrie — the 4th (and last) wife of John Barrymore.

Shull had heard that the actor used the house as a “love nest.” It’s uncertain whether Barrymore lived there; Barrie bought it after he died in 1942.

Shull also heard rumors that Barrymore had an affair there with a married woman,  Blanche Oelrichs, who published poetry under the name Michael Strange. Shull found a book of her poems — with her handwritten annotations — on his mother’s bookshelf last fall.

More lore: Stevan Dohanos’ famous “Thanksgiving” painting may have used the red Long Lots house as its model/inspiration. (“06880” posted that possibility last year; click here, then scroll down for several comments confirming it.)

Stevan Dohanos’ “Thanksgiving” painting. Recognize this house?

And, Shull adds, he heard from Tony Slez — who once owned a gas station at the foot of Long Lots, where Westport Wash & Wax now stands — that his Polish relatives worked as onion pickers on the road.

Shull says that as a youngster he was teased for living “next door to a mental institution.”

But he calls his boyhood “a paradise. There were plenty of kids around. We had a pond with frogs. It was a great place.”

His family hopes that whoever buys the house will preserve it. And — even if only part of its history is true — the red gingerbread that everyone passes on Long Lots has quite a past.

Pic Of The Day #182

The I-95 and railroad bridges in Saugatuck. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Parker Kligerman Wins Talledega

Staples High School graduates follow many interesting career paths.

But only Parker Kligerman traveled down victory lane at Talladega.

The 2009 graduate won the Truck Series at the Alabama race track this weekend. It was his 1st victory since 2012 — and his 2nd at Talladega.

In his post-race interview, Kligerman dedicated his trophy to breast cancer survivors everywhere.

In addition to racing, the Westport native is also working as a “NASCAR on NBC” analyst.

(Hat tip: Tony Coccoli)

10 Questions For 1st Selectman Candidates

Anyone can ask the 1st Selectman candidates what they think about taxes, traffic and the future of Main Street. Their answers may not be surprising.

But “06880” wants to know more. We’d like to know what makes these men (and woman) tick. And what makes them Westporters, as opposed to politicians.

So we asked each candidate the same 10 questions. Here are their replies. I chose the fairest way to post them: alphabetically. But — since as a “W” I’m always last — they’re in reverse order. Hah!

What got you to Westport?

John Suggs:  My wife and I were looking for a community in which to raise our newborn twins, with great schools, friendly neighborhoods and unique community character. A place that our kids would always be proud to call home. That is Westport.

Jim Marpe:  Our family moved to the New York City area 30 years ago at the request of my employer, Accenture, following a lengthy expatriate management assignment. By coincidence 2 of our best friends had moved to Westport while we were overseas, so we had already visited several times and gotten a preview of the community. Our daughter was entering elementary school, so the world-class quality of the school system was the primary attraction. But the other attractions were the physical character of the town, the cosmopolitan atmosphere and the wide variety of activities that did not exist in similar places we had lived.

Melissa Kane: I began coming here as a child and have loved it ever since.

TJ Elgin:  My grandparents helped save me from a dark path with my father.

John Suggs and his dog Monty. The photo was obviously taken between October 1 and March 31.

What kept you in Westport?

Suggs: The friendly people, the community ties and the schools which have become a second home for our children.

Marpe:  The Westport public schools are the primary reason we stayed, but by then we were involved in leadership roles with a variety of interesting community service organizations that help a wide cross-section of Westport, including Homes With Hope, the Westport Weston Family Y, Green’s Farms Congregational Church, the Rotary Club, Westport Country Playhouse, the Young Woman’s League, and Neighbors and Newcomers of Westport. My wife, Mary Ellen, was a successful small business owner for over a decade (Westport Academy of Dance). Moreover, we had come to appreciate the wide variety of high quality amenities that Westport offers (Library, beaches, Longshore, performing and visual arts, attractive open spaces) as well as proximity to New York City. In the end, it’s the great friendships we have developed with an amazing array of interesting and involved Westporters that will keep us here for many years to come.

Kane:  My husband proposed to me way out on a sandbar at Old Mill Cove. We love this town and wanted to raise our children here. The overall character, roots in the arts, and the people make it an easy place to love.

Elgin:  My family and friends.

Favorite place in Westport to relax?

Suggs:  Golden Shadows back porch in Baron’s South.

Marpe:  Compo Beach (South) on a summer evening with friends and a picnic dinner. Certainly not Town Hall!

Kane:  Walking on the beach.

Elgin:  Compo Beach.

Favorite place to go when you’re NOT in Westport?

Suggs:  Cape Town, South Africa.

Marpe:  Any place that has small, family-owned vineyards and wineries and a small, quiet inn.

Kane: Hiking in the White Mountains with my family.

Elgin:  Stratford Pyramid Shriners.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe, in the 2013 Memorial Day parade. Behind him are State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, 3rd Selectman Helen Garten and 2nd Selectman Avi Kaner.

Musical group you’d most like to see at the Levitt?

Suggs:  The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

Marpe:  The Rolling Stones.

Kane:  Ben Folds.

Elgin:  Lights, she is from Canada.

Favorite annual event in Westport, and why?

Suggs:  Staples High School Candlelight Concert. The music by our talented students together — during the holiday season — makes my heart soar.

Marpe:  Memorial Day parade. Truly a local event with a family focus that reflects our small town character, honors our residents who fought for our freedoms, and marks the unofficial beginning of summer.

Kane:  Memorial Day parade. It’s the most wonderful small town, magical event one could imagine. It really captures the spirit of the town like nothing else.  My children have been in it; I love to watch and participate in it. I am also always humbled by the sacrifices that were made by our servicemen and women.  

Elgin:  Fireworks because it’s my first real date with my soon-to-be wife, and Lobsterfest because of old friends I never get to see.

Melissa Kane (right) with her mother, Judith Orseck Katz.

If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about Westport, what would it be?

Suggs:  The traffic congestion.

Marpe:  Traffic would flow easily and freely through all our intersections. The Waze and  Google Maps apps would cease to divert traffic from I-95 and the Merritt Parkway onto our local streets. Our drivers would obey all speed limits and traffic regulations, and observe safe driving etiquette. And our streets would magically widen to become “complete streets” with sidewalks, pedestrian- friendly crosswalks and bicycle lanes, along with plenty of room for cars to pass.

Kane:  Making it a place our children could come back to and our seniors can stay in.

Elgin:  The entitlement. We live in a world where we all need to help each other and our surroundings, to have a brighter future for our planet.

Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts?

Suggs: Neither. The Sherwood Diner.

Marpe: Dunkin’ Donuts. But my real choices are Coffee An’ and Donut Crazy.

Kane:  Coffee An’.

Elgin:  Neither. I don’t drink or eat from places that I don’t know where their products are from.

TJ Elgin and his fiancee, Denise Bahr.

5 words to describe Westport?

Suggs:  Compo, Cribari Bridge, beautiful, home.

Marpe:  Cosmopolitan, active, creative, caring, innovative.

Kane:  Forward-thinking, beautiful, engaged, active, community.

Elgin:  Historical, environmental, artistic, educational, proper.

5 words to describe yourself?

Suggs:  Persistent, dedicated, devoted, father, husband.

Marpe:  Hardworking, proactive, principled, optimistic, collaborative.

Kane:  Collaborative, optimistic, determined, down-to-earth, objective.

Elgin:  Generous, knowledgeable, noble, wolfy, strong.

Pic Of The Day #181

Sturges Highway, near the Fairfield line. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

“06880” Endorses…

No other candidate for kayak commissioner has such a great Abba-esque slogan.

Or a Swedish flag.

Of course, there are no other candidates for kayak commissioner.

Because the post doesn’t exist.

But if it did, we’d definitely vote for Magano.

(Hat tip: Dana Kuyper. She took this photo at the Spicer/Rayfield Road intersection.)

 

Photo Challenge #146

Last week’s photo challenge was one of those I’m-sure-I-saw-it-somewhere images.

If you’ve ever strolled along Soundview Avenue — and every Westporter enjoys the beach exit road at some point — you noticed the handsome gray-shingled home on the corner of Norwalk Avenue.

And you saw — whether you remembered it or not — the red postal box by the porch.

Congratulations to Patricia McMahon, Fred Cantor, Elaine Marino, Catherine Ryan and Seth Goltzer. They remembered exactly where it was. (Click here for the photo.) 

Back in the day, the entire Compo Beach neighborhood was summer homes only. Many — like this now-renovated house — date to the early 20th century. In addition to the postal box, 15 Soundview boasts a historic plaque.

Here’s this week’s photo challenge. If you know where it is, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)