Tag Archives: Green’s Farms Academy

Friday Flashback #55

For over 50 years, The Willows medical complex — aka “Fort Apache” — has sat at the Kings Highway North/Wilton Road intersection.

But for 3 decades before that, it was the 3rd home to The Bolton School — aka The Westport School for Girls.

Mary E. E. Bolton

The school was opened in 1925 by Mrs. Mary E.E. Bolton and her sister, Miss Katherine Laycock. The founders’ main goal was to educate Bolton’s 2 daughters.

The women were “completely unknown in Westport,” a school history in the 1951 yearbook says.

But they put up a sign outside a 3-story Myrtle Avenue house. Bolton leased room for her school — and living space for herself and her daughters — there.

Besides Betty and Bunny Bolton, 2 other girls — all 7 years old– enrolled. By year’s end, 14 others joined them.

The next year the school moved to a large Greek Revival house on the corner of Post Road West and Ludlow Road.

Three years later, they relocated to the Kings Highway North site. The Bolton School occupied a large Victorian farmhouse, and 3 outbuildings.

Each year, a new grade was added. The first graduating class was 1935.

By the mid-1950s though, the old house, barn and sheds were fire traps. Mrs. Bolton’s lease was nearing an end, and the owner of the property wanted to sell.

The Bolton School, on the corner of Kings Highway North and Wilton Road. The photo was provided by Bonnie Bradley, from the school’s 1950 yearbook.

A group of concerned parents and friends of the school, including Lucie Bedford Cunningham, approached the sisters with the idea of incorporating The Bolton School as a not-for-profit, which could raise money to build or buy new facilities. Mrs. Bolton declined, preferring to retain ownership of her nursery school and lower school, but Miss Laycock, headmistress of the Upper School, agreed.

Long story short: In 1956 the Kathleen Laycock Country Day School opened in the dilapidated house. After a search, the Bedford/Vanderbilt family sold 26 acres of property on Beachside Avenue — for $250,000.

Kathleen Laycock

In 1959, Kathleen Laycock School moved in. The next year, Mrs. Bolton’s younger school followed.

Both prospered. But by the end of the 1960s, single-sex schools were under siege. In 1969, after a year of study and deliberation, the trustees voted to admit males.

Knowing the difficulty of attracting boys to “Kathleen Laycock Country Day,” the trustees renamed the school. In September 1970, 23 young men joined 300 young women at Greens Farms Academy.

The rest is history. You can still see the remnants of what was once the Bolton School on Beachside Avenue.

If you close your eyes, you can visualize it too at Fort Apache.

(Hat tip: Bonnie Bradley)

Saugatuck Rowing Club Sets Sights On Horizons

Rowing is a great sport.

It’s demanding, but healthful. It teaches discipline, teamwork and goal-setting. It instills self-confidence, self-control and pride. Plus, nothing beats being out on the water at 5 a.m., in a driving rain.

But rowing also has a stigma: It’s expensive, and elitist.

For the past 4 years, Saugatuck Rowing Club has defied that stigma. The Riverside Avenue facility throws open its doors — and provides a place in its boats — to a special group of teenagers.

And the kids have given back as much as they’ve gotten.

Thanks to a partnership with Greens Farms Academy’s Horizons program — a national project that provides underserved children with academic, social, emotional learning and enrichment programs — SRC welcomes more than a dozen 8th graders for 6 weeks each summer.

Three afternoons a week, the Bridgeport children clamber off buses and into the sprawling clubhouse. Very quickly, it becomes their home.

“Our mission is twofold,” says Diana Kuen, a beginner/intermediate SRC coach who oversees the program.

“We want to introduce them to a sport would never otherwise have a chance to experience. And it’s our responsibility to chip away at the socioeconomic barriers that exist in our own backyard.”

They start like many beginners. Some are terrified of the river. None ever touched an oar.

Under Kuen’s direction, they row on an ergometer. When they’re ready, they step into a boat and onto the water. Figuratively — and literally — they jump into the deep end.

Diana Kuen, and a Horizons rower.

Kuen and co-coach Bridge Murphy watch closely. They figure out which kids will work best where, and who is comfortable going out alone.

The new rowers are like boys and girls everywhere. They’re quick learners. They want to succeed. They love to compete.

And they sure have fun.

“These kids bring joy and levity with them every day,” Kuen says. “They are genuine, authentic and happy.

“Each afternoon is filled with laughter, pride and a sense of purpose. When they step into the club, they light everyone up.”

Another day, with Horizons rowers on the Saugatuck River.

None of that comes easily. The coaches demand that these youngsters — just like any new rowers — step out of their comfort zones.

One girl was terrified. The first victory was getting her out on a launch, with the coaches. Gradually, she eased into a boat.

At the end of 6 weeks, Kuen says, “she was an outstanding rower.”

One boy was so successful at rowing with 7 teammates that he asked if he could scull alone. Once he pushed off from the dock however, he froze.

Kuen swam out to get him. “We tell them we will never let anything bad happen. We will do whatever we can to help.”

Every day throughout the Horizons program, the coaches and kids talk.

“They’re great communicators,” Kuen says. “They understand that this is about so much more than rowing.”

On the final day, each 8th grader spoke from their hearts about what the program meant. Kuen and Murphy listened, with tears in their eyes.

That final session ended with a pizza party. An SRC member — someone who’d witnessed the kids’ transformation, and appreciated the can-do attitude they brought every day — bought ice cream cakes for everyone.

On the way out, SRC general manager Suzanne Pullen overheard 2 girls talking.

“I’ll miss this place so much,” one said.

But not as much as the Saugatuck Rowing Club will miss them.

(Hat tip: Frank Rosen)

The Bridgeport Horizons group poses proudly.

FBI Head Highlights GFA Graduation

It had to be the biggest graduation address ever in Westport — and not just because the speaker is 6-8.

FBI director James Comey keynoted Greens Farms Academy’s 90th commencement yesterday — and not just because he lives around the corner.

Comey — whose previous jobs include deputy attorney general, US attorney and general counsel at Bridgewater Associates — is the father of graduating senior (and student council chair) Claire Comey. Two of his 5 other children also attended GFA.

After noting that a drone flying overhead was not the FBI’s, Comey discussed 4 keys to success: high emotional intelligence; effective communication; the courage to ask questions, and care for one’s reputation.

Want to hear more of what an FBI director says to 78 teenagers? Click below.

 

A Blow Dry Bar At Greens Farms Academy?

September Sirico has opened her 2nd Blow Dry Bar. It’s downtown, on Church Lane near Sconset Square.

Ordinarily, the opening of a blowout “bar” — also offering braiding, airbrush spray tanning, threading, lash/brow tinting and more! — would not rise to the level of “06880”-worthiness.

But, September says, her new salon bar has an interesting history. It’s on the site of the original Greens Farms Academy.

Who knew?

The exclusive private school began as “Mrs. Bolton’s School for Girls,” in 1925. The “English lady of education and culture” took as her model “the best English schools.”

Mary E.E. Bolton leased room for her school — and living space for herself and her 2 daughters — in a 3-story frame house across from Christ & Holy Trinity Church.

Yes, this is the original home of Greens Farms Academy.

Yes, this is the original home of Greens Farms Academy.

The  school began with 4 students. But by spring of 1926 there were 18 girls — all 7 years old or younger — and the Church Lane space was already too small.

Mrs. Bolton (and her sister, Kathleen Laycock) moved to a large Greek Revival house on the corner of West State Street (Post Road West) and Ludlow Road, then to the northeast corner of King’s Highway and Wilton Road (present location of the Willows Medical Center). For the next 30 years Mrs. Bolton, Miss Laycock and their small faculty tutored young ladies in a large Victorian farmhouse and 3 out-buildings there.

By the mid-1950s, though, the old house, barn, and sheds were fire traps. Mrs. Bolton’s lease was nearing an end, and the owner of the property wanted to sell. A group of concerned parents and friends of the School, including Lucie Bedford Cunningham, approached the sisters with the idea of incorporating The Bolton School as a not-for-profit, which could raise money to build or buy new facilities. Mrs. Bolton declined, preferring to retain ownership of her nursery school and lower school, but Miss Laycock, headmistress of the Upper School, agreed.

Long story short: In 1956 the Kathleen Laycock Country Day School opened in the dilapidated house. After a search, the Bedford/Vanderbilt family sold 26 acres of property on Beachside Avenue — for $250,000.

In 1959, Kathleen Laycock School moved in. The next year, Mrs. Bolton’s younger school followed.

One of the Bedford/Vanderbilt homes is now part of Greens Farms Academy.

One of the Bedford/Vanderbilt homes is now part of Greens Farms Academy.

Both prospered. But by the end of the 1960s, single-sex schools were under siege. In 1969, after a year of study and deliberation, the trustees voted to admit males.

Knowing the difficulty of attracting boys to “Kathleen Laycock Country Day,” the trustees renamed the school. In September 1970, 23 young men joined 300 young women at Greens Farms Academy.

The rest is history.

Except for this fun fact, which brings us back to September Sirico and Blow Dry Westport.

September Sirico

September Sirico

When September was ready to begin 1st grade in Westport, her parents applied to GFA. She was not accepted.

Her family was told she was “too social.” The fit with the other children wouldn’t be right.

Thirty years later, September finally feels like she been “accepted to Greens Farms Academy.”

She plans quite the blowout to celebrate.

Giorgio: The Sequel

Earlier this month, I wrote about the day in 1977 when Giorgio Chinaglia and the New York Cosmos played an exhibition soccer match at Green’s Farms Academy.

Carlos Almeida posted a comment, noting that the Cosmos played on Beachside Avenue not once, but twice.

The 2nd time was nearly 6 years later. In the spring of 1983, the world-famous NASL team returned to Westport. This time their opponent was the University of Connecticut — with a goalkeeper from Danbury named Carlos Almeida.

Two years earlier, the Huskies had won the national championship. This time, Carlos recalls, “the Cosmos took it easy on us.”

By 1983, superstars Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and Carlos Alberto were retired. But Giorgio Chinaglia — chain-smoking, moody, and as electrifying a goal scorer as ever — was there.

Carlos sent a few photos of that day. It was his last game for UConn. What a way to go out, he says — against his favorite pro team.

And it all happened on a tiny field, tucked away behind a small private school in Westport.

The Cosmos (blue) pose for a photo with the University of Connecticut. Giorgio Chinaglia is just out of the frame; he was next to #8 Vladislav Bogicevic (first row, far right). Carlos Almeida is the goalkeeper in the front row, wearing yellow.

University of Connecticut head coach Joe Morrone gives a halftime talk to his team at Green's Farms Academy. Note the fans hanging from a tree on the left.

Giorgio

It was a surreal scene, one I’ve never forgotten. And it’s tough to describe, because it sounds like I’m making the whole thing up.

Giorgio Chinaglia, in his prime.

In the late 1970s, the New York Cosmos were the most famous franchise in the entire sports world. A pro soccer team with superstars like Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Carlos Alberto — and Giorgio Chinaglia — they were glamour personified.

Mick Jagger, Henry Kissinger and a host of other boldface names followed them like groupies.

They sold out the 77,000-seat Meadowlands for every game — and did the same in Russia, China, South Africa, or anywhere else on the planet they played.

On November 20, 1977 — a couple of months after winning the NASL championship — they showed up at Green’s Farms Academy.

They were part of a “Soccer Spectacular.” There were clinics, a couple of games involving private schools — and the Cosmos, playing an exhibition match.

They didn’t just wander in off I-95, of course. Jay Emmett — the #2 man at Warner Communications, which owned the club — lived a mile away, on Prospect Road. The club’s PR director was Mark Brickley, a Staples grad just 3 years out of Union College.

Still, it would have been like the New York Giants showing up this weekend to toss the football around.

I don’t remember much about that game. But what I do remember is Giorgio Chinaglia — the team’s leading scorer, an international star, a man who broke Italy’s heart when he left to play in America — weaving elegantly and effortlessly up and down the Green’s Farms Academy field.

Wearing sweatpants.

He never took off his warmups. He played the entire match that way.

And before the game, at halftime, and after, Giorgio Chinaglia stood on the sidelines, smoking cigarettes.

Pele (left) and Giorgio Chinaglia. When the Brazilian retired in 1977, the Italian took over the club's limelight.

He was not trying to show disdain for the fans, the setting or the game. That was simply Chinaglia’s way. It was the rest of the league — some of his teammates, even — hated him. Even as he drew attention to the Cosmos, the league, and the entire sport.

In 1977 I was in the early stages of my writing career, and covering the Cosmos was a plum job. I saw many Meadowlands matches, and others around North America. In the locker room afterward, Chinaglia’s legs would be bruised, from hip to ankle. It was the price he paid, as a goal scorer. He took plenty of hits — who said soccer isn’t a contact sport? — but he never complained. He just sat there on a stool after matches, answering questions he thought deserved responses, staring imperiously at sportswriters he thought were imbeciles.

Giorgio Chinaglia, in a recent photo.

And smoking cigarettes.

Giorgio Chinaglia died yesterday in Florida, of a heart attack. He was 65 years old.

He wasn’t the best role model, as anyone at Green’s Farms Academy that day 35 years ago could see.

Then again, he never pretended to be. He was simply Giorgio Chinaglia.

More Signs Of The Times

Sunday’s “06880” story about unenforceable, hypocritical or just plain odd street signs struck a chord with John Suggs.

He responded, noting a sign on the Sherwood Island Connector his 7-year-old son Joshua spotted on the last day of school:

“Considering the thousands of times I’ve driven past that sign without noticing the misspelling,” John said, “I want to acknowledge not only my eagle-eye son Josh, but all the wonderful teachers at Greens Farms Elementary School, especially Mrs. Mary Ellen Barry, who have seen to it that our 1st graders know the correct spelling of their school, their neighborhood and the street sign.   Maybe we should send the sign makers back to Mrs. Barry for a makeup lesson?”

Well done, Joshua. And you were probably just being polite not to mention the lack of a space between “Green” and “Farms.”

But wait — there’s more!

Shouldn’t it be “Green’s Farms”? — with an apostrophe — I asked John.

Quickly, he replied:

I just did some quick fact checking on the history of the correct spelling, and discovered a few things.

The elementary school website spells it both ways on different pages of their official web site (click here, then click on “Directions to GFS”).

Wikipedia states:  “Green’s Farms Metro-North Railroad station is one of two New Haven Line stations serving the residents of Westport, Connecticut. The station is located in the Greens Farms area of Westport in the southeastern part of town, and the technically-incorrect apstrophe in the station name dates to New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad ownership of the line. No other entity spells “Greens Farms” with an apostrophe.”

(“06880” notes that Wikipedia itself spells “apostrophe” incorrectly, and hyphenates “technically-incorrect” even though we have always learned that words ending in “ly” should not be hyphenated.)

The neighborhood association, John says, uses the apostrophe — contrary to Wikipedia’s assertion that “no other entity” does.

So does Green’s Farms Congregational Church.

Greens Farms Academy — which, as an expensive private school, should probably know such things — ignores the apostrophe.

John concludes:

Basically it is anyone’s guess as to which version is the “correct” usage now, as opposed to the original usage which appears to have been with the apostrophe.   I, personally, have always spelled it Greens Farms myself — and I am one of the representatives of the GF area on the RTM (District 5)!

So most likely there is a whole other blog surrounding the  “apostrophe versus no apostrophe” debate!

Consider it done.

Soccer Helps The Homeless

Green’s Farms Academy junior Andy Mondino is passionate about soccer.  He’s also an avid member of his school’s community service organization.  And he is an intelligent, energetic young man who likes making connections to get things done.

Andy Mondino

Last spring he organized a 3-v-3 soccer tournament that raised $1,500 for Darfur refugees.  This year he’s expanded the size of the event — it’s 5-against-5 — and narrowed the beneficiary to the US.

The 2nd annual tourney is set for this Sunday (April 18), from noon to 3 p.m. at GFA.  All funds go to Street Soccer USA, a national organization that uses sports to help end homelessness.

Teams pay $20 to enter.  Soccer players of any (and every) age are welcome to form their own squads; it’s a wide-open, fun (and competitive) event.  Pre-registration is strongly recommended; email MondinoA@gfacademy.org.

“My friend Joseph Filgueiras and I hope to raise money and awareness, inspiring others to help the homeless,” Andy says.  “I figure that with a little work and pursuing our passion, we can all make this a better world.”

Andy already has.