Tag Archives: Big Top Shoppe

Roundup: Big Top Ribs, “Best In Show”, EV Club, More


Owner Pete Aitkin wants to add some new “flashback” items to the Black Duck menu.

And he needs “06880” readers’ help.

“Many readers have fond memories of the Big Top,” he says, referencing the beloved, mouth-watering burgers-and-more joint on the Post Road and Roseville Road that is now (aaaargh) McDonald’s. “Some even worked there.”

Pete wonders: What kind of ribs did they serve? Baby backs? Beef? He thinks they were pork spare ribs. Any info on sauce or seasoning would be great too.

Email duckpeter78@gmail.com, or call 203-227-7978.


Yesterday marked the start of another school. It’s different than any that came before. But — as students, staff and parents saw yesterday at Coleytown Elementary School — some things never change:

(Photo/Stephanie Mastocciolo)


The Artists Collective of Westport knows about shows. So they’re proud to collaborate with the Remarkable Theater on a showing of “Best in Show.”

The drive-in movie — a biting satire about dog shows — will be shown Thursday, September 17 at 8 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The gate opens at 7.

Tickets are $50 per car. Click here to reserve.


Who says parades must be loud?

The EV Club of Connecticut is sponsoring a (socially distanced) electric car parade. It’s set for Sunday, September 27 (check-in at 9:30 a.m.

It starts at 10 a.m. at the eastbound Westport train station, by Donut Crazy. The parade ends at Fairfield’s Old Town Hall.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas will lead the parade in the department’s Tesla Model 3 police cruiser.

All makes of EV are welcome. To register, click here.

The Westport Police Department’s electric car.


And finally … today is September 9. Which means, whether you’re using American or European style, it’s 9/9. Which means …

 

Friday Flashback #136

A few years ago, Patrick Laffaye remodeled his bathroom.

Behind the shower wall — stuffed behind a soap dish, next to empty cans of Reingold beer — he found this:

Big Top drew everyone from doctors and lawyers to teenagers and motorcyclists. They sat together at a long table, or outside when the weather was good, enjoying some of the best burgers in Westport history.

Big Top is now McDonald’s. If that doesn’t say something about the decline of America, nothing does.

Patrick’s house was built in 1964 — in the midst of Big Top’s heyday.

He doesn’t live there anymore. But, he notes, his new house is closer to Big Top.

Friday Flashback #65

Today, there are plenty of places in Westport to buy great hamburgers. From Matt Storch’s Burger Lobster in Saugatuck to Shake Shack near Southport, we’re awash in meat.

Once upon a time, there were 2 places to go: Big Top, and Chubby Lane’s.

Big Top — which drew a great lunchtime crowd ranging from lawyers to bikers — was at the corner of the Post Road and Roseville. Today it’s McDonald’s, which basically says everything you need to know about America.

Chubby’s, meanwhile, was more of a dinner place. It was located next to the New Englander Motel (now the Westport Inn). Across the street was Charpentier’s (now Border Grill), a butcher shop that was the reason Chubby’s burgers were so good. (They were also the first place in town that charged the astronomical price of $1 for one.)

I don’t have any photos of Chubby Lane’s. Long ago, it was replaced by the Willows Pediatrics Group. But its predecessor was called the Bantam. And it looked like this:

(Photo courtesy of Paul Ehrismann)

 

Independence Day Weekend — In Westport?!

Bill Whitbeck grew up here. His 1st job was cooking burgers at Big Top, where his customers included Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Bill also was a huge Mario’s fan.

He moved far away in the late 1970s. But he still lives in Westport.

Bill sent along a few photos, and explains:

“Happy 4th of July from Westport, Washington! A beautiful evening on the Pacific Coast.”

Westport WA 1

Westport WA 3

Westport WA 2

Back To The Big Top

I’ve been accused of glorifying the Remarkable Book Shop — making the Main Street store (now Talbot’s) into a symbol for a long-ago unique, mom-and-pop downtown now replaced by faceless, corporate chain stores.

But whether you think I’m a starry-eyed, stuck-in-the-past romantic or a long-time Westporter recalling a funkier community, I dare you to look at this picture and tell me that what’s there now is an improvement.

That was the Big Top, sitting coolly at the corner of the Post Road and Roseville.

Today it’s McDonald’s.

Through the 1960s and ’70s, the Big Top was the place to go for burgers, dogs, fries, onion rings, ribs, chicken and shakes.

An enormous range of people went — teenagers, lawyers, local workers, college kids. Pretty much anyone except mommies with little kids. They hung more at Chubby Lane’s. If burger places were music, Chubby’s was the Beatles. Big Top: the Stones.

(Carrol’s came later. It was the Monkees.)

Ours was not the only Big Top — there were others, with the same funky sign and striped roof, in New Haven, Bridgeport, Monroe and Greenwich. But ours might be the most famous.

Jay Leno has referenced it at least twice. Once, in 2005, his guest was Paul Newman. Almost immediately, the talk turned to the Big Top. Here’s the clip:

A few year’s earlier, Jay’s guest was Michael Douglas. The talk turned to the early ’60s — and the Big Top.

Michael lived almost behind it — down Roseville, left on Whitney, left on Webb Road. Leno said he always stopped there, on his way to and from wherever.

A few years ago, a fan spotted Leno in California. “Greetings from Westport, Connecticut!” he said.

Leno immediately replied: “Big Top hamburgers!”

I don’t think anyone ever felt that way about McDonald’s.

Ours, or any of the other 32,736 on the planet.

Brenda Wants To Know…

“06880” is a blog by, for and about Westporters.  But “Westporters” is a very broad concept.

Many folks who left long ago — even those who lived here only briefly — still consider themselves Westporters.  A large number are avid “06880” fans.

One — a woman named Brenda — emailed me last weekend.  She said:

I really enjoy this blog.

I spent my young years in Westport in the 1960’s, and have nostalgia for those days.  I really miss it and dream about it.  It seems so changed, but somehow the same in some ways.

A view any Westporter can relate to.

I grew up off of Main Street and then on Bridge Street.  It was almost magical, even though they seemed like plain ordinary neighborhoods.  The spooky abandoned houses on our street, the embalming fluid factory at the end of our road gave us kids major nightmares!  And the beach, Big Top hamburgers, all of it is etched in my memory.

The book signings at The Remarkable Bookshop, Rico’s Hair Salon on Main, Carrols, the Carousel toy shop — I really wish I had stayed in Westport for my teen to college years.  I visited several times when I lived in NYC in my 20’s.  It was changing then, but still so much the same.

I would love to move back with my husband, but does it in any way resemble the Westport in our day?  The magic in my mind of Westport is perhaps unrealistic from all of the comments I’ve read about how much it has changed.

Thanks for all of these memories.

Brenda is not the 1st person to ask such a question.  It’s a great one — and not easy to answer.  Here’s my attempt, in an email back to her:

Thanks, Brenda — much appreciated.  We definitely grew up in a magical time, and you’ve nailed many important memories, places and events.

Remember Westport Bank & Trust? It's now Patagonia.

So is Westport the same?  Yes and no.  Some nice old homes have been torn down.  Places like Welch’s Hardware, Remarkable and Selective Eye — the stores that made downtown so memorable and homey — are long gone; the chains that replaced them have sucked the soul out of Main Street.

Kids don’t ride their bikes all over town; they don’t walk to school; they don’t play running bases at the end of cul-de-sacs.

BUT — you hoped this was coming — many newcomers are as involved in Westport as our parents were.  They are intelligent, creative, hard-working, and just as dedicated to making this a true community as previous generations.  They’re doing good things for others, and having a great time in the process.

Our school system is in tremendous shape.  I know Staples best — and with a dynamic principal, an outstanding staff, superb facilities and a remarkable student body, this could be the “best” Staples has ever been (however you measure such a thing).  That’s really saying something.  From everything I see and hear the middle schools and elementary schools are also highly regarded, and in excellent shape.

Despite being overbuilt (and over-banked), Westport remains an incredibly beautiful town. As Longshore celebrates its 50th anniversary as a municipal park; Compo retains its grace and allure; trees grow, leaves turn and snow falls — this really is a special place.

You didn’t say where you live now.  But if you’re close by, I hope you can get to the Westport Historical Society on Saturday, March 6.  From 1-4 p.m. there’s a party celebrating a very cool map and exhibit of “Main Street Memories.”  It’s dedicated to the downtown of the 1960s.  You’ll enjoy looking back — but you can also see Westport’s present, and envision our future.

I hope that helps.  Thanks again for writing.  I’d love to see you on March 6 — and, soon after, as a neighbor.

That’s my 2 cents.  But I’m just one guy.  I invite other Westporters — wherever in the world you live — to toss in your own thoughts.  Click the “Comments” tab at the top or bottom of this post.

Let’s give Brenda a piece of our Westport minds.