Fred Cantor graduated from Staples High School in 1971. After Yale University he got a law degree, married, and worked and lived in New York.
But his heart was always in Westport. He and his wife, Debbie Silberstein, bought a place here for weekends and summers. Then they moved in fulltime.
It’s a decision Fred never regretted — in part because of his close-knit neighborhood.
That friendly spirit remains. Fred reports:
Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)
My family moved to Westport in 1963, when I was in 4th grade, and I have many fond memories of my childhood here. Our home was on Easton Road. I spent many afternoons and weekends playing and/or hanging out with friends on nearby Silverbrook. It was a true neighborhood — at least for kids.
I know a number of “06880” readers lament some of the changes in town in the decades since that time. But I can attest that the small-town, neighborhood feeling is alive and well on the street my wife and I have lived on for the past 20+ years: Drumlin Road.
One prime example: This past weekend we had our annual road barbecue. Close to 50 residents turned out.
The ages ranged from 91 to just under 2 years old. Homeowners who lived on Drumlin since the mid-1950s chatted with a family with young daughters, who moved here just a few months ago.
Every household brought a dish (many were homemade).
Generations mixed (and ate) together at the Drumlin Road party. (Photo/James Delorey)
The friendly interactions during the party reflect the year-round atmosphere. It’s not unusual to see residents helping out each other out. One man put his new snowblower to use in a winter storm, clearing the sidewalks of his elderly neighbors.
One of my favorite sights is seeing kids come off the school bus and — believe it or not — not stare down at their iPhones but instead talk and mess around with their friends or siblings as they head up the street to their homes. Later in the afternoon, they kick a soccer ball in the front yard, or shoot a basketball in the driveway.
Kids had a great time too at the neighborhood event. (Photo/James Delorey)
Perhaps the size of the lots — 1/4 acre — and the horseshoe shape of the road contribute to the neighborly character of the street. Whatever the reason, my wife and I feel fortunate to have lived more than 2 decades in a place that — to borrow from the slogan of the old Westport Bank & Trust — is truly a small-town neighborhood in a town of homes.
All ages posed for this Drumlin Road party photo, by James Delorey.
In 1952, Mike and Galy Starzyk moved to Drumlin Road.
Two years later, Gordon and Dot Hall moved in across the street. Nine years after that, Bernie and Barbara Dorogusker bought a house next door to the Starzyks.
Much has happened since then. Countless families moved in, had kids, raised them, moved away. Decks were built, 2nd floors added. Trees have grown tall (and fallen).
But nearly 50 years later, all 3 families still live on the horseshoe-shaped drive near Hillspoint and Green’s Farms Road, just south of the railroad tracks (and the “Connecticut Turnpike” — I-95 — which was still being debated when the former cow pasture was developed back in 1952-53).
There may be no other place in Westport where 3 neighbors have lived so close together since the Kennedy Administration.
A 1952 ad for "Compo Manor: A Residential Community Situated in Westport, Beauty Spot of Southern Connecticut" shows "The Perfect Three-Bedroom Rancher" model home. It is "Priced at $14,500. Complete."
The Starzyks are the only original owners left. Mike and Galy were living in Bridgeport. With 2 children, they needed more room. Galy’s brother-in-law — Art Reale — told them about a new development, “Compo Manor.” The lots were small — 1/4 acre — but the $14,500 price was perfect.
Better yet, nearly all their neighbors were like the Starzyks: young, and with kids.
In 1955, Gordon and Dot Hall’s daughter was not yet born. Married 2 years, and both teachers — he at Bedford Junior High School, she at the brand-new Coleytown Elementary — they had rented “tiny, ramshackle places” elsewhere in town.
But they saved their pennies — “literally,” Gordon notes — and loved the little ranch house that was for sale. Other tract homes they’d seen — on Reichert Circle, Bauer Place and Tamarack — all faced in the same direction. The 43 Drumlin homes were built with the same 2 or 3 floor plans, but they were angled uniquely. And each setback was different.
The asking price was $20,600. The Halls paid $19,600. On their salaries — he made about $3,000, she $2,900 — that was manageable. But for 4 summers, when they took graduate courses, they rented the house out. The extra cash helped make ends meet.
“There were lots of strollers, and there was lots of sledding,” Dot recalls. “Everyone was very sociable, because (the adults) were all around the same age.”
Gordon and Dot Hall's house in 1957 (left) and 2012 (right). The 3 families that have been neighbors for nearly 50 years share the mailboxes in the photo at right.
Barbara Dorogusker is the “newest” of the 3 neighbors — but she’s got the longest local connection. A 3rd-generation Westporter, she grew up on 6 acres on Sturges Highway. Her grandmother (a former indentured servant in Poland) lived next door. The property included a pond and barn.
After graduating from Staples in 1952, Barbara married a man from New York City. They wanted to buy a house, but without much land. Bernie was a sailor; proximity to the Sound was key.
With $2,000 in the bank, they searched for a while. Finally they saw a place on Drumlin. With a big field in back — off Jennie Lane — they could look at nature, but not have to take care of it.
“It wasn’t our dream house,” Barbara admits. “But every house is a compromise.”
Her parents were “appalled. They thought we were moving into tomorrow’s slums because the lots were so small.” But, Barbara says, “it was perfect for us.” And Cedar Point Yacht Club was just down the hill, at Compo Beach.
They built a big sunroom, and a deck. They had 2 children. “We wanted them to grow up surrounded by friends,” Barbara says. “They sure did.”
The kids created secret pathways between bushes. An empty school bus would pull up to the foot of Drumlin Road. It drove away filled.
Every summer, the Drumlin Road neighbors have a block party. Last summer's event showed an enormous span of ages -- but plenty of smiles.
Over the years, the road changed. There were many “older couples, divorced people, one-child families,” Gordon says.
Miraculously for Westport, there have been only 2 demolitions — and both were caused by accidents. One house burned; the other had a tree fall on it.
Of course, many homes have been remodeled. They’re a bit larger than they were (Gordon calls them “mini-mansions, not McMansions”). So they’re once more attractive to young couples. “We’re seeing bicycles and strollers again,” says Dot.
But not every house has been sold, re-sold, and re-re-sold.
“Why would we ever want to move?” Barbara asks. “Everyone looks out for each other here. We’ve got one story, which is great.” (She’s 77; Bernie is 85.)
“And with housing prices going to pot, why leave?”
Similarly, after the Starzyks’ kids grew up and moved away, Mike and Galy stayed. “We were comfortable,” she recalls. “There was no reason to leave.”
Sixty years later, they’re still on Drumlin Road.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be in this world,” 93-year-old Galy says. “But I have no plans to move.”
Nor do her neighbors. After 49 years together, there’s no place like home.
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