Fred Cantor moved to Westport when he was 10. After Yale University and law school, he and his wife bought a 2nd home here. Then they moved permanently. They spent COVID in California, but are back now.
Fred is an astute observer of all things Westport. Today — looking backward and toward the future too — he trains his eye on downtown.
On Friday, the New York Times wrote about efforts in England to help keep alive and/or revitalize the nation’s “high streets” — the British equivalent of our Main Street — in towns around the country.
Among the ideas is the notion of short-term leases in certain instances — even just 3 months.
That got me thinking about one of the great mysteries of life (which perhaps “06880” readers who work in commercial real estate can answer): How come middle school students in Westport have no memory of any business operating out of the prime location where the Remarkable Book Shop was so successful for so many years?
How and why has that building remained vacant for so long?
The Remarkable Book Shop, back in the day.
And is the concept of a short-term lease for perhaps a seasonal summer-related business, or another entity that would run from the beginning of October through Christmas feasible at that location? Or any retail site on Main Street?
On a related note: The Remarkable used to have display cases outside its store. Even if the current owner of the building can’t find a suitable tenant for the space, is it worth it for the owner to consider renting to a business that wanted to operate a kiosk on its property? Are there other Main Street locations where a kiosk might make sense?
I have happily patronized the Strand Bookstore kiosk on 5th Avenue near Central Park South. Perhaps kiosks would add some street appeal to downtown.
Shopping at the Remarkable Book kiosks. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
Turning from England and New York to California: When we stayed not far from Laguna Beach, we enjoyed seeing how the town closed off the bottom portion of its Main Street equivalent — Forest Avenue — and turned it into a pedestrian mall. “The Promenade on Forest” featured temporary retail and dining decks, along with art displays.
I love what has happened here with Church Lane. And I know that Main Street has been closed off for an entire weekend for the annual Arts Festival.
I hope to hear from store proprietors on the lower half of Main Street whether they think it might be worthwhile to experiment with closing that section, perhaps for an entire week, to see if it successfully attracts more business.
At the same time, I would love to hear from local officials and residents who live near downtown whether such an experiment might be worth pursuing to evaluate the impact on traffic congestion near downtown.
This was Main Street, during the 2014 Art About Town festival.
Speaking of Laguna Beach: The town permitted installation right by City Hall of a fabulous artwork that generated a lot of interest.
Could Westport do something similar with Veterans Green on a regular basis? By that I mean perhaps scheduling periodic events such as small acoustic concerts? Would that type of “happening” help make Main Street more of a destination?
I don’t claim to have any definitive answers. But I would have no objection if Main Street became something close to Yogi Berra’s famous observation: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.
Staples High School social studies teacher Suzanne Kammerman has been named Teacher of the Year by the American Lawyers Alliance. The honor comes on top of — and in part because of — her role in leading her school’s “We the People” team to their 2nd consecutive state championship. They hope to follow in their teacher’s footsteps, and win a national title. Last year’s team placed 5th.
Kammerman initiated the “We the People” class and competition at Staples, after competing herself in high school.
A 14-year educator, Kammerman was previously selected by the League of Women Voters to train at Harvard Business School.
During COVID — and despite distance learning — she continued to develop created, engaging ways for students to learn about democracy. They researched Supreme Court cases, discussed hypotheticals, learned how to analyze and synthesize facts and opinions, and honed presentation skills.
Congratulations, Ms. Kammerman, for your passion, dedication, and profound impact on the next generation of citizens.
Volunteers help Staples students prepare for the 2021 “We the People” competition. Suzanne Kammerman is in the top row, 2nd from left.
State Senator Tony Hwang hosts lunch next Wednesday (April 28, 12:30 p.m., Tarantino’s). He’ll be joined by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Police Chief Foti Koskinas, State Representative Stephanie Thomas and Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director Matthew Mandell.
The event — in coordination with the Chamber — will promote outdoor dining. The group will discuss ways to continue to support local businesses during COVID.
Restaurants on Railroad Place, Church Lane and other areas of town have set up tables, tents, domes and other structures for outdoor dining. The state and town have eased regulations, and owners look forward to a robust spring and summer scene.
Speaking of COVID regulations: Governor Lamont is easing earlier restrictions.
Effective May 1:
Bars that do not serve food can open for service on an outdoor-only basis. They still cannot serve only alcohol indoors.
The 8-person per table limit will be lifted for outdoors only. The limit remains in effect for indoor service.
The curfew for restaurants, entertainment venues, recreation venues and theaters will be moved back an hour, to midnight.
Effective May 19:
Contingent upon sufficiently low rates of infections and increasing vaccination rates, all remaining business restrictions will be lifted. The Department of Public Health will issue recommendations for indoor and other large outdoor events, such as concerts, and clarify where masking will continue after May 1.
(Hat tip: Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce)
The Levitt Pavilion — and many other organizations — wait for an announcement about what kind of gatherings will be allowed this summer.
“I am blessed to be able to walk to Compo Beach. This area has a very special vibe. The downside is that the vibe encourages people to drive down South Compo Road like lunatics. disregarding speed limits, crosswalks, even common sense and courtesy.
“Compo Road from Greens Farms Road to the beach might as well be the Autobahn: screeching tires, ignoring full stops, flying through crosswalks. These are not just visitors — they are locals too, rushing, blowing off stop signs and exceeding speed limits by over 25 mph.
“We have a wonderful Police Department, but they can’t be everywhere. This is going to get worse as the weather gets warmer. The weekends are a drag race by noon, through 11 p.m.
“Many dog walkers, children and elderly walking on Compo Road. Will it take someone getting killed or seriously injured to finally address the situation?”
“06880” readers know Fred Cantor as a passionate Westporter. If you’ve read many of his comments here, you know he’s an avid Knicks fan too.
He’s also proud of his roots. Until he was 10, he lived in Fresh Meadows, Queens. That’s where he learned to love the NBA team. And it forms the background of his most recent book, Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir.
It’s getting great looks. Yesterday, NY1 aired a story about Fred, including 3 generations of Cantor Knick fans: his 93-year-old mother Pearl, and his brother Marc’s older son, Sam. Click here to see.
The day before, the New York Post‘s Mike Vaccaro called Fred’s book “delightful. The stories ring like a trusted friend’s from the neighboring barstool.”
The Knicks may not be at the top of the standings. But Fred From Fresh Meadows is definitely a winner.
And how about this: All proceeds benefit the John Starks Foundation. The Knick legend started the charity, which gives scholarships to teenagers in need.
Speaking of sports: There’s a Westport connection even to the controversy over a proposed “Super League” of top international soccer clubs.
Joaquim Monnerat played freshman soccer at Staples High in 2019. His family has moved to London. But there he was — photographed all over social media — protesting with over 1,000 others outside of Stamford Bridge (the Chelsea team’s home stadium).
The protest worked. The plan collapsed a few hours later when 6 of the 12 clubs — including Chelsea — dropped out.
Joaquim is in the center below, with a (dangling) face mask. And though you can’t tell, he’s wearing a Staples Soccer shirt in the image that went ’round the world. (Hat tip: Bruno Guiduli)
“06880” readers know Fred Cantor as an avid commenter, with a keen eye for Westport’s history, and a passion for its present and future. He’s also a multi-talented writer, movie and play producer, and attorney
Fred Cantor (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)
The 1971 Staples High School graduate has had health issues, so for the past few years he and his wife Debbie have spent winters in Southern California. They were there last year, when the pandemic (and his doctor’s advice) turned a few months’ stay into more than a year. It was the longest time he’d been away from Westport since moving here at age 10.
After 17 months, Fred and Debbie are back. Here’s what he sees.
The first thing that grabbed our attention coming off Exit 17 was the empty train station parking lot. We had read about the large number of people working at home, but that was an eye-opener.
Yet then, almost instantly, there were old welcome sights: the approach to the distinctive Cribari Bridge — with early signs of spring (daffodils in full bloom) — and just past the bridge, 19th-century homes with yards fronted by quintessential New England stone walls or wrought-iron fences.
Daffodils near the William F. Cribari Bridge.
I don’t think Debbie and I crossed a bridge over a river once in our area of SoCal— and certainly not a bridge on the National Register of Historic Places — even before the pandemic, when we did more driving. Southern California has much natural beauty, but in the area of Orange County where we rented, numerous rivers and streams are certainly not among them.
And historic 19th century homes — well, they did not exist there. Some of those towns were created in the 1960s or later.
Handsome home on Bridge Street.
Westport’s historic homes, stone walls, rivers and meandering tributaries — such as can be seen along Ford Road — are among the sights I missed the most.
The scene along Ford Road.
Forsythias blooming all around Westport were another “welcome home” sign; that too was much rarer in our part of SoCal.
Forsythia blooms outside a 1930 Imperial Avenue home.
Heading to the beach, I had to stop at Joey’s By The Shore at its new location. I hoped to see Joey after all this time. but he’s away.
Back in business: Joey’s by the Shore.
That reinforced my feelings that, while many of us embrace longtime local establishments, it is largely the proprietors we really have such warm feelings about. That was certainly true when the Nistico family switched its restaurant operation from the Arrow to the Red Barn.
Walking across the street to Old Mill Beach instantly reminded me why that has long been a personal favorite. It’s not only beautiful; it’s often serene, as exemplified by a couple quietly reading their iPad and newspaper on a nearly empty beach.
Old Mill Beach.
When I was away I stayed in touch with Westport friends via email, texts, social media, occasional phone calls and Zoom.
I followed local Westport news via “06880,” so in certain respects I didn’t feel 3,000 miles away from what was happening here. By contrast, I vividly recall the summer of 1964. I was at camp in Pennsylvania, and learned of my Little League team winning the Minor League World Series a week after the fact, when I received a letter from my parents with a clipping from the Town Crier.
The most difficult thing about being so far away was not being able to see our 93- and 95-year-old moms. Daily phone calls and occasional FaceTime calls didn’t quite suffice.
So that first weekend back in town generated a teary reunion hug between Debbie and her mom. It was coupled with a culinary discovery: delicious mini-babka at the new Kneads Bakery, which we all enjoyed at their outdoor dining area.
Fred’s wife Debbie Silberstein, Debbie’s mother and aide, at Kneads Bakery. (All photos/Fred Cantor)
That first weekend back also generated our first experience with traffic. At 4 p.m. Saturday there was a big backup on Bridge Street toward Saugatuck. Traffic crawled on 95, spilling over onto local streets.
Other than on the single-lane canyon road leading to Laguna Beach, we never experienced major backups in SoCal. The main local roads have 3 lanes in each direction — with an additional two left-hand turn lanes at major intersections.
During that traffic tie-up on Bridge Street I witnessed an “only in Westport” moment (and something I had never seen in close to 60 years here). Moving right by the traffic on a highly unusual mode of transit were two cyclists on penny-farthings (you can look it up🤨).
Seeing that, I knew for sure I was back in Westport!
The University of California professor of astronomy is the only member of both teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the universe, which led to a Nobel Prize. He’s been voted the Best Professor at Berkeley a record 9 times.
On December 15 (8 p.m.), he’ll visit the Westport Astronomical Society — virtually — for a free lecture on “A New Surprise in the Accelerating Universe.” It’s available on Zoom, and YouTube.
Mozy is a new member of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. The local company produces a “lower-body thermal wrap engineered to keep you 100% warmer than most blankets.”
It’s perfect for “game day, drinks on the deck or a sunset hike” — and the “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Blanket) outdoor dining initiative championed by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce. Click here to buy online, or email for in-person pickup: email@example.com.
They just released their first book: “Fred From Fresh Meadows: A Knicks Memoir.” Author Fred is also from Westport. The 1971 Staples High School graduate is well known to “06880” readers as a frequent commenter on a variety of topics, a documentary filmmaker, an off-Broadway producer, and a keeper of the flame of local musicians like the Remains and Charlie Karp.
Fred’s Knick bona fides go back decades. He was at Madison Square Garden for the “Here comes Wilis!” game. He stayed up late the night before the SATs to watch a big game on the West Coast. In law school he chose where to live based on which neighborhood had a team cable TV package, then chose an apartment in Manhattan based in part on proximity to Madison Square Garden.
Along the way, Fred might have inadvertently caused Jerry Lucas to have one of the worst shooting nights of his playoff career, drove with Earl Monroe to a business meeting, and sort of sued Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to get revenge for Knicks fans.
Fred is a truly good guy. He’s donating 100% of the royalties from his pandemic project to the John Starks Foundation, which provides grants to college-bound high school seniors with academic excellence, financial need and a commitment to community service.
During COVID, many folks are drinking alone. Now you can do it without shame — and with the knowledge you’re helping raise money for great causes.
The Westport Woman’s Club is sponsoring a “Swirl & Sip” wine-tasting fundraiser (Wednesday, December 9, 6 to 7 p.m.). For just $25, Castle Wine & Spirits is providing sparkling wines from Italy and Spain. Silver Ribbon donates the door prize: a $200 gift certificate.
Proceeds from the virtual event help fund grants to local non-profits, and need-based college scholarships. Cheers!
MoCA Westport’s Holiday Open House has been postponed from this Saturday to next (December 12, noon to 5 p.m.).
The outdoor event includes caroling by the Staples High School Orphenians, free admission to the World Peace exhibition, performances by teachers and students of the Westport School of Music, and a holiday-themed project for kids.
There’s free hot chocolate and doughnuts, and food trucks for purchases. There is no admission fee, but MoCA suggests bringing an unwrapped toy for the Westport Police Department’s annual drive.
And finally … in honor of the Westport Astronomical Society’s lecture on the expanding universe:
Alert “06880” reader — and longtime Westporter — Fred Cantor hears frequent laments about the changes in town since “whatever decade people grew up here in.” Of course, he admits, thingsare different.
But, Fred notes, the small-town feel that existed when his family moved here in 1963 is still alive and well. As proof, he offers a series of events that occurred recently, in just one 24-hour period.
Bruce Davidson, from his Staples High School yearbook.
It started with a visit to a local periodontist which, believe it or not, proved enjoyable overall. That’s because he’s Dr. Bruce Davidson, Staples High School Class of 1965, a family friend from back in the day and a former soccer teammate of my brother Marc. Bruce has practiced for decades at the same location on the Post Road, near Sylvan Avenue.
After a thorough exam and patient clarification of potential issues raised by X-rays taken in California, there was time to catch up and hear, among other things, about the status of a documentary film by Bruce’s brother, Doc (Staples ‘70).
After my appointment I drove to Cohen’s Fashion Opticals to pick up new glasses, which were almost ready. No problem: It was close to lunchtime, so I headed a few doors down to Gold’s. Owner Jim greeted me warmly.
I had a delicious turkey salad sandwich. The food at Gold’s is every bit as good today as when my parents first took me there in the 1960s — and the setting seems exactly as it did back then.
Jim Eckl and his wife Nancy have owned Gold’s since 2003.
Later in the day, I enjoyed a timeless outdoor Westport scene: a large crowd gathered on the hill to watch a Staples soccer game, on a beautiful Friday afternoon.
I had not arranged to meet anyone there. That didn’t matter. I sat with Bill Mitchell (Staples ’61) and former soccer coach Jeff Lea. We shared a few laughs and some entertaining stories. Dave Wilson (a Staples captain in 1974) was there too.
The ageless Laddie Lawrence (Staples ’64) also joined us for a while; so did former Westport Late Knights soccer teammate, Alex Anvari. Somehow Alex’s little boy Emerson has grown up — he’s 6-1 now!—to be a Staples senior who, to my delight, is on the varsity team.
Enjoying Staples soccer on the Loeffler Field hill (from left):L Fred Cantor, Jeff Lea, Bill Mitchell, Laddie Lawrence.
It was the last weekend of summer, with near-perfect temperatures, so after the game my wife Debbie and I headed to Compo to enjoy the sunset. As often happens, we ran into a couple of longtime Westporters.
I also had a nice chat with Joey Romeo, the owner of Joey’s By the Shore. He is every bit as friendly as any Main Street storeowner was in the 1960s.
Compo Beach sunset. (Photo/Fred Cantor)
The next morning I was walking on Bridge Street toward the train station. A car pulled over. The driver was Staples alum Mike Elliot; he offered me a ride. I explained that walking is my regular exercise these days.
As I neared the station, another car stopped. Staples classmate Bob Uly wanted to know how I was doing health-wise.
It was just 24 hours. Nothing truly out of the ordinary happened.
But those little slice-of-life occurrences demonstrate, at least for me, that certain “Our Town”-like qualities still very much exist here.
That’s my usual response when organizers ask me to publicize their upcoming or recent event. If I do one, I say, I’ll have to do them all. And — sorry, guys! — your reunion just isn’t that interesting to 99.99% of “06880”‘s daily readers.
But rules are made to be broken. And if any class has experience breaking rules, it’s the rockin’, rollin’ Staples High School class of 1969.
So here goes:
Last weekend, 131 no-longer-teenage-but-still-young-at-heart former Wreckers gathered for their 50th (!) reunion.
There were no cell phones — or selfies — back in 1969. In 2019, these reunion-goers make the most of theirs.
They were rebels, back in the day. But in 2019, they got a ton of help from all corners of the town they grew up in. Former — and still — class president Peter Krieg reports:
Assistant principal Rich Franzis was a tremendous help. He helped prep Krieg for his tour of the “new” school, worked with Geno Heiter to post 1969 visuals on the lobby TV screen, and enlisted head custodian Horace Lewis and one of Lewis’ staff to guide the group around.
Not far from a banner welcoming the Class of 2023 to the “new” Staples, the Class of 1969 gathered for a group photo.
The tour culminated in the library, where librarian Jen Cirino helped screen the “High School That Rocked” movie. The film depicts the amazing (Doors, Yardbirds, Cream, Sly & the Family Stone, Rascals, Animals, Beau Brummels) concerts that so many of those former Stapleites attended.
Producer Fred Cantor — the young (Class of ’71) producer — was there.
So was former social studies teacher and administrator Gordon Hall. Now in his 90s — and living in the same Westport home as then — he spoke to the returning alums.
“He was inspiring, knowledgeable and very funny,” Krieg reports. “His comments about retirement were not just appropriate; they were a teaching moment for us.”
Krieg is giving gifts to everyone who helped. Hall, for example, will receive a framed photo of his talk.
New Staples principal Stafford Thomas gets one too. (“He was keenly interested in ‘The High School That Rocked,'” Krieg says — even though he had not yet been born when those bands were hot.)
The way we were … or at least, the way we think we were, today.
Krieg gives a shout-out to Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department as well. They provided great help for the Saturday night Compo Beach party: tent permits, use of the Ned Dimes Marina, and passes for vehicles.
The marina building was decorated with professionally produced ’69 posters and memorabilia. Organizers raffled off 3 unique pieces of art. They’ll donate (appropriately) $1,969 of the proceeds to Staples Tuition Grants.
Of course, no reunion is complete with a party at the Black Duck. Pete Aitkin hosted a boisterous crew on Friday night.
“The support we got from the school, from one of our teachers, and the town was really special,” says Krieg.
“This was Westport at its best. It felt like the Westport of old. In some ways, Westport hasn’t changed at all.”
Neither have the members of Staples High School’s Class of 1969.
Even if they did graduate half a century ago.
It’s been 50 years. But some friendships never fade.
Last week, I asked readers — those who now live far beyond here — to send photos that remind them of “home.”
Images of a place, a thing, a person — all were fine. Whatever stirs your heart and soul was good.
Submissions came from as far as the West Coast. Here are some of the scenes that — no matter what your zip code — say “06880.”
Stephen Doig says Alki Beach in West Seattle reminds him of Compo (including the rocks) from his 1960s lifeguarding days. I’m struck by how similar the curvature is to the view from Old Mill towards Hillspoint — including the height of the hills in the background. All that’s missing in Westport is a Space Needle.
This scene in Cannon Beach, Oregon reminds Brenda Magnes of Westport beach cottages.
Westport Way — in Laguna Niguel, California — reminded Fred Cantor of his hometown.
John Mirk says Ojai, California reminds him of the Westport he grew up in: “We’re surrounded by orange orchards instead of apple farms, but there is still a nice semi-rural feel.” Every spring he recalls Staples Players, as he builds sets with high school drama students. This photo is from the latest production, “Crazy For You.” He and his wife started volunteering when their son was a high school freshman. Twenty years later, he’s worked on everything from “Guys and Dolls” to “Into the Woods” (both of which Players has done too). John says, “It’s still a thrill every year to see a set take shape on stage, then watch the amazing performances that high school kids are capable of.”
Susan Stevens von Schenk moved to Westport in 1961, and lived there until the late ’80’s. She remembers Main Street, and “all the wonderful stores. It was busy, filled with people shopping and walking around. I have fond memories of the art festival held every year too.” She now lives in Columbia, South Carolina. Every Saturday morning, several blocks of her Main Street are closed to traffic for the Soda City Market. The food, artists and handicraft vendors always remind her of old Westport.
Peter Barlow says: “For decades I enjoyed the Bridge Street Bridge, re-named for Officer Cribari after I moved away. There is something similar where I live now. The White Rock Bridge is about 2 miles north of Westerly (RI)/Pawcatuck (CT), and my house. This part was originally a railway bridge for a 22-mile trolley line built in 1906. Now it’s a splendid sidewalk with a view. But it’s not easy to get to. There are no sidewalks or even shoulders on White Rock Road.
Brenda Magnes crosses the Bridge of the Gods over Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge a few times a month. She used the William Cribari Bridge over the Saugatuck River daily in Westport — and recalls it every time she takes this bridge these days.
Jeff Booth is no longer a Westporter. But every time he sees this — which he swiped from his movie theater workplace in 1979 — he remembers his home town.
Susan Farewell and her husband Tom Seligson recently moved to Essex, Connecticut. She took this photo at the Pettipaug Rowing Club. It reminds her of the many beautiful sunsets they enjoyed at their Compo Beach house.
For Marc Selverstone, — now of Charlottesville, Virginia — there’s no better reminder of Westport than this truck .
Last week’s Friday Flashback — showing a snowy Post Road sidewalk from 1993, with the Fine Arts Theatre prominently featured — sent alert “06880” reader/ amateur historian Fred Cantor scurrying down the internet wormhole.
He found Cinema Treasures, a website devoted to 51,000 movie theaters from around the world. (“Because you’re tired of watching movies on your laptop,” the tagline says.)
There’s a page devoted to “Fine Arts 1 and 2” — though the photos show only the original theatre (now Restoration Hardware), long before it was subdivided into a pair of cinemas. (Later offspring included Fine Arts 3 in the back — now Matsu Sushi restaurant — and Fine Arts 4 down the block, across Bay Street from Design Within Reach.)
One image is from 1939. It shows the theatre entrance, flanked by an unnamed restaurant and Vogel Electrical Service.
Other photos show Fine Arts after a major 1940 renovation. Here’s the exterior. It looks like the neighboring businesses are gone.
Here’s the new, modern interior:
But the money shots are these 2. They show the Art Deco lounge.
Cinema Treasures is right. The Fine Arts was definitely better than watching movies on your laptop.
Ever since 1995, a video of Steve Tyler’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame speech has played on an endless loop in the Cleveland museum.
In 1966 his band — the Chain Reaction — opened for the Yardbirds. And that, Aerosmith’s leader said, inspired him to have a career in music.
That concert — along with others by the Doors, Cream, Rascals, Animals, Remains and Sly and the Family Stone — has become legendary. “The High School That Rocked!” — a documentary by Fred Cantor (Staples ’71, perhaps the only Westport teenager of that era who did not go to one of those concerts ) and Casey Denton (Staples ’14, who obviously was born way after that golden era) — pays homage to them. It was released last year, and earned high praise on the festival circuit.
Now it too has reached the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
On Saturday, February 17, the documentary will be screened — on its own loop — prior to the Tri-C High School Rock Off Final Exams. That’s the championship round of a competition for teenage groups. Prizes include cash, scholarships, and an invitation to play during this year’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction week.
It’s all part of the Rock & Roll Hall’s 2018 film series. Other subjects explore rap, Lady Gaga, Nina Simone, Native Americans in popular music history, the music executive who signed Metallica and White Zombie, the Monkees, Prince and Hüsker Dü.
You may not get to Cleveland for the Staples concerts video. You may have missed it at its sold-out showings here in Westport.
But — in the words of Neil Young — “rock and roll can never die.”So click here to download “The High School That Rocked!”
Tell ’em Steve Tyler sent you.
ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME BONUS FEATURE: Click below for the Steve Tyler video mentioned above.
Last week’s “06880” story about downtown holiday decorations drew plenty of comments. Many readers recalled with fondness the ghosts of Christmases past. Main Street, they remembered, was alive with lights and garlands. It was a bright, magical winter wonderland.
That may have been true. But not in 1975.
On Christmas Day that year, Fred Cantor drove through town. He captured several scenes. The other day — sparked by the nostalgic debate — he unearthed those photos.
Snow had fallen earlier. The plowed, shoveled and congealed streets and sidewalks have that bleak midwinter look.
There’s nary a star, ornament or whimsical Santa on any pole. You don’t see any twinkling lights either.
The only wreaths are on Sport Mart (far left).
But the view of the Mobil station (now Vineyard Vines) brings back fond memories. Every year — a few days before Christmas — owners Gene and Mary Hallowell lowered the hydraulic lifts. They covered them with table cloths. Then they laid out a feast.
The party was supposed to be for loyal customers. But anyone could wander by for food and (of course) drink.
And everyone did.
Further down Main Street, Fred found this:
The Remarkable Book Shop hummed with activity at holiday time. It was the perfect place for gifts — there were toys, puzzles and trinkets, plus a joyfully eclectic collection of books, maps and whatnot — as well as a great spot for curling up in an easy chair to read, relax or just people-watch.
But the Remarkable Book Shop did not go all out with holiday decorations either. In fact, as Fred’s photo shows, in 1975 there were none.
One place did get into the holiday spirit.
And with good reason: The Corner Spirit Shop — on Wilton Road, at the Post Road West intersection — was one of the most visible spots in town.
Plus — then, as now — a liquor store hops at holiday time.
So of course they threw a couple of wreaths on their windows.
That’s what Westport looked like, 42 years ago this holiday season.
The Sport Mart is gone. Remarkable, too. And — as of a few weeks ago — the building that housed the Corner Spirit Shop is only a fond memory.
Just like some of those Christmas decorations of yore.
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