Tag Archives: Al Willmott

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.

Don Willmott’s Westport Wonder Years

Today’s “06880” post belongs to longtime Westporter Don Willmott. His father  Al was a noted (and beloved) artist. Don, meanwhile, paints a wonderful picture with words.

In a few weeks I’ll sign the papers to sell my late mother’s Whitney Glen condo. With that signature, my lifelong connection to Westport will come to a sudden end that I should have anticipated, but never really did. After 49 Christmases, my 50th will be celebrated somewhere else. Suddenly, a wave of nostalgia crashes over me.

A red and white Minnybus putt-putt-putts noisily through the middle of my childhood memories: Laughter and tears at Seabury Nursery School. The beautiful Miss Amendola, who taught kindergarten on Bayberry Lane. Beach school. The friendly cashier at the Main Street IGA, and the even friendlier man who ran the liquor store next door. Microfilm in the old library reference room.

A red-and-white Minnybus, putt-putt-putting at Jesup Green.

A red-and-white Minnybus, putt-putt-putting at Jesup Green.

Play rehearsals in the darkened auditorium of Coleytown Junior High. The candy collections at the Merritt Superette and Carmine’s Smoke Shop. A swimming lesson at the Longshore pool on the day Nixon resigned. The line outside Fine Arts I to see “Star Wars.” A field trip to the police department’s basement firing range. Tense driving lessons with my father in the Sherwood Island parking lot.

Endless hours in the Staples hallways even as they were being rebuilt around us (for me, every high school memory includes the smell of roofing tar). Compo in every season. Putting my purchases on the family account at Dorain’s. The combo hero at Westport Pizzeria, and chocolate fondue at Ships. Talcum-scented haircuts at Lou Santella’s barber shop until I grew longer hair and demanded to see a “stylist.”

Many things change in Westport. The pizzeria is not one of them.

Many things change in Westport. The pizzeria is not one of them.

WMMM’s Bicentennial Quiz. Bike rides deep into Weston to discover the sources of the Aspetuck and the Saugatuck. Hot Memorial Day parades with a heavy saxophone strapped to my sweating neck. Nerve-wracking busboy shifts at The Treehouse Café and Comedy Club.

Clinging to the rope swing at the secret swimmin’ hole of Riverfield Drive, and all the block parties and holiday bonfire singalongs Riverfield’s parents orchestrated through the decades to make memories for their children that would last. And they have.

I won’t complain, as some others do, about what’s been lost over the years. After all, in the ‘70s my parents told us how much better Westport was in the ‘50s, and more is sure to change — and disappear — in the future. That’s life! It only moves in one direction, and we all move with it, even as we stop every once in a while to look back, smile, and remember how fortunate we’ve been.

Thanks, Westport. I’ll be back to visit soon.

Al Willmott painted his 6 Riverfield Drive home in 1989.

Al Willmott painted his 6 Riverfield Drive home in 1989.