Tag Archives: Inklings

Roundup: AI, Anna Diorio, SLOBs …

Can’t get to the Westport Library this Monday (May 22, 7 p.m.) to hear David Pogue’s “Artificial Intelligence Gets Real!” talk?

Click here for the Zoom link.

Warning: AI is really real. Buckle up!


You gotta love SLOBs.

Yesterday afternoon, a group of SLOBs — more formally, Staples Service League of Boys — stopped by Westport Fire Department headquarters.

They handed a check for $1,340 to the Westport Uniformed Firefighters Charitable Foundation. The money — proceeds from a fundraising basketball tournament — will help buy smoke alarms for hearing impaired people.

Not too shabby!

SLOBs deliver.


Speaking of Staples: Anna Diorio has won a national writing award.

The Staples High School senior earned 3rd place in the National Federation of Press Women Education Fund contest. Nearly 2,000 students participated.

Anna qualified by taking first place in the Connecticut contest, for her Inklings opinion piece and May 2022 cover story addressing gender normativity, “The Damaging Effects of: ‘I’m Just teasing.“

Meanwhile, Staples’ broadcast news program “On the Wreckord” took first place in the state, and honorable mention nationally, for “Best Newscast: Radio or Television” for Episode 6. The executive producer was Finnegan Courtney; the team included broadcast directors Diorio and Abby Nevin; anchors Zach Brody, Diorio and Ela Shi; intro producer Diorio, and other students who provided content and theme music.

Joseph DelGobboo and Mary Elizabeth Fulco serve as advisors for Inklings and “On the Wreckord.”

Anna Diorio


The 10th annual Dale Hopkins Memorial Golf Tourney will be held today, on Armed Forces Day. Fittingly, it is his birthday.

The event — this year, in Bermuda — raises money in honor of the man Carl Addison Swanson calls “everybody’s giant.” The Staples High School Class of 1966 athlete gained All-FCIAC honors in football and basketball. But it was his easy-going, friendly nature that attracted so many people of all ages to him.

After graduation, Dale served 2 tours in Vietnam as a Marine. He then moved into the construction business. he died in 2008.

The Dale Hopkins Memorial Fund, in correlation with the Semper Fi Fund, Annie and John Charitable Foundation and the Swanson Charitable Trust, was formed to assist a homeless classmate. It then assisted other Staples alumni who needed helping hands, and the Semper Fi Fund. 84% goes directly to veterans.


The New Works Initiative — the Westport Country Playhouse opportunity to see the first public meeting of a new play (and meet young playwrights) — continues June 5.

The play — “Quick Service,” by May Treuhaft-Ali — is about the precariousness of the food service industry. Four employees of a Chicago empanada shop try to make it through the dinner rush as something sinister rises up from the basement, ex-workers enact their revenge, and the oven has a mind of its own.

All tickets are $25. Click here to purchase, and for more information.


Punk rock from New York-based Darling blasted in MoCA Westport’s gallery Thursday — a different part of the usual “Cocktails and Conversation” event.

The evening also included a talk by Emann Odufu, curator of MoCA’s “Rainbow in the Dark” exhibition of German contemporary artist Anselm Reyle. Inspired by punk and heavy metal, his color palette utilizes Day-Glo colors as an outgrowth of his fascination with psychedelic and punk aesthetics.

The next “Cocktails and Conversation” (Thursday, May 25, 6 p.m.) features a discussion on design and female entrepreneurship with Barbara Sallick of Waterworks and Shari Lebowitz of Bespoke Designs, moderated by Jen Berniker of Designport. Click here for tickets.

Emann Odufu at MoCA.


Bob Gill, a longtime Westport resident and Boy Scout leader, died peacefully at home on Monday. He was 96.

After Trenton High School where he won a New Jersey diving championship, Bob enlisted in the Navy. He became a pilot, serving in the Pacific out of Hawaii’s Hickam Field until 1949.

Upon his discharge Bob was hired by American Airlines as a New York-based pilot. He married Olivia, a stewardess for American, in 1953.

In 1963 they and their 5 children moved to Westport. The next year he became a captain at American. A

As a young man Bob had enjoyed his time in the Boy Scouts, earning Eagle Scout His sons joined Troop 36. Bob became scoutmaster, spending much of his free time organizing monthly hikes and campouts throughout Connecticut. He also led the troop to national and international jamborees.

Bob took great pride in seeing his sons earn their Eagle Scout award, as well as grandson Odin, and watching daughter Kirsten participate in Girl Scouts. Even after his children left scouting, he continued on for years with the troop.

He was also an active board member of the Compo Beach Improvement Association, member of the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston, and a volunteer Red Cross driver.

Bob also flew for 20 years in the Naval Reserves, retiring as a commander.

After 36 years with American Captain Gill retired in 1987, He continued his love of aviation by piloting his Mooney 252, flying all over the US until he was 87. He was named an FAA Wilbur and Orville Wright “Master Pilot” for 50 years of accident-free flying.

Bob was proud and honored to have his children take up professional flying with the major airlines. His granddaughter Amelia become a flight instructor.

In retirement, Robert and Olivia traveled the world by sea and air. He enjoyed physical fitness training, sailing and skiing. He marched in many Memorial Day parades as a scoutmaster, and in his Navy uniform.

He was a member of the Grey Eagles, a retired American Airlines pilots’ organization, and of the First Church of Christ Scientist Westport.

Bob was predeceased by his brother, sister, and oldest son Gary. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Olivia; their children Robert of Hawaii; Jeffrey (Dana) of Elgin, Illinois; Steven (Sally) of Exton, Pennsylvania; Kirsten (Steve Bartie) of Westport, and 10 grandchildren.

Services will be held tomorrow (Sunday, May 21, Harding Funeral Home; viewing at 10:30 a.m., funeral at noon).

Bob Gill


Sometimes, “Westport … Naturally” photographers have to work quickly. Birds, bobcats, and most other creatures tend to move rapidly.

Rowene Weems had no such problem Thursday, at the Library Riverwalk. This trio never budged — not before she snapped her shot, or long afterward.

They may still be there.

(Photo/Rowene Weems)


And finally … on this day in 1927 Charles Lindbergh took off for Paris from Roosevelt Field in Long Island. His Spirit of St. Louis landed in Paris 33 1/2 hours later: the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic.

(“06880” will be as lucky as Lindy, if you click here to donate to Westport’s hyper-local blog. Thank you!

Roundup: Free Trees, Open Doors, Police Arrests …

Get your seeds!

The Westport Tree Board celebrates Arbor Day with a tree seedling giveaway tomorrow (Friday, April 28, 3 to 5 p.m., rear of Town Hall near the softball field).

The seedlings come with planting instructions for school-age children and residents of Westport on a first-come, first-serve basis. They’re donated by Bartlett Tree Service.


A reader who works on Riverside Avenue writes: “A stroll down Main Street recently, on an exceptionally warm day, spurred me into action.

Almost every door to every retail establishment was propped open, air conditioning the outdoors. And as always (I walk 2-3 miles a day in town) I passed many parked cars, engines idling with owners sitting inside, engrossed mostly in cell phones.

I think emissions could be curtailed significantly 2 ways:
• A reduction of idling vehicles (epidemic even during reasonable weather)
• Stores not opening their doors to attract people (heating the outside in cold weather, cooling it in hot),

Legislatively, these things could take much longer than we have to reduce our emissions and our warming climate.

What if they both were tackled as PSAs? Part education via some easily digestible data, and part message along the lines of “What can I do?” Perhaps a campaign akin to the crying Native American of our childhood, the icon for the anti-pollution campaign that was very effective in cleaning up our littered roadways.

A national effort is needed. Perhaps we here can take a leadership position.

This photo ran on “06880” in 2012. More than a decade later, little has changed.


Westport Police were busy recently.

The Staples High School school resource officer was alerted to an irate parent in the front lobby. As the SRO approached the lobby he heard a man screaming at school staff. The man became increasingly agitated, about a custody issue. A staff member had to put their hand up in a defensive move.

The SRO could not de-escalate the situation, but moved the conversation outside The man continued to act aggressively, and refused to obey lawful orders from the SRO. He was arrested, and charged with criminal trespass, interfering/resisting an officer, and breach of peace.

Another shoplifting incident at Ulta Beauty led to the arrest of 4 people, for larceny, conspiracy to commit larceny, and illegal possession of a shoplifting device.

Westport Police also issued a number of citations, from April 19-26:

  • Operating a motor vehicle with a telephone, electronic device or texting: 16 citations
  • Failure to obey traffic control signals: 8
  • Operating a motor vehicle without minimum insurance: 8
  • Unreasonable speed: 6
  • Operating a motor vehicle under suspension: 6
  • Improper use of marker: 6
  • Distracted driving, not cell: 5
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 5
  • Failure to comply with state traffic regulations: 4
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 4
  • Failure to obey stop sign: 3
  • Failure to drive in the proper lane: 1
  • Improper use of high beams: 1
  • Violation of readable plates: 1
  • Illegal tint: 1
  • Failure to renew registration: 1
  • Failure to carry license: 1.


A year ago, “06880” reported on Westport10: the social and networking group for Black men in town and their families.

The other day, News12 Connecticut picked up the story, with an insightful interview with founder Jay Norris.

He talked about the benefits and opportunities for the organization — now “Westport 100,” as it’s grown from 4 men to 55, plus their spouses and children — for the members, and all of Westport.

Click here for the full interview.

A recent Westport 100 lunch at Hudson Malone.


The opening of the Westport Woman’s Club’s 3-day art show will be special.

On May 5 (5-7 p.m.), Staples seniors Chloe Hackett and Mia Vindiola will be awarded scholarships of $10,000 each. The 2 very talented students plan to pursue arts careers — thanks in large part to the grants from the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.

The scholarships will be presented by Miggs Burroughs of the DFCAC, and 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker. The scholarship project was a collaborative effort with “06880.”

The show continues May 6 and 7 (2 to 5 p.m.). Featured artists include Nina Bentley, Ola Bossin, Michael Brennecke, Ellen Ehli, Susan Fehlinger, Hernan Garcia, Erszebet Laurinyecz, Katya Lebrija, Diane Pollack, Tina Puckett, Jon Puzzuoli, Dorothy Robertshaw, Katherine Ross, Agata Tria and Kathleen Rampe.

All art will be on sale.

Mia Vindiola and Chloe Hackett.


Several Staples student journalists with Inklings were honored recently by the Connecticut Press Club, as winners of their High School Communications Contest.

Finnegan Courtney cleaned up, taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd places for Best Newscast (“On the Wreckord,” episodes 6, 5 and 3 respectively.

Also taking 1st: Genevieve Frucht (Feature Story, for “Logan Goodman ’24 Incorporates Love for Sneakers, Art into Business”), Anna Diorio (Opinion, “The Damaging Effects of ‘I’m Just Teasing'”), and Talia Moskowitz (Sports, “Report Highlights Impact of Wealth Inequality on State Championships in Connecticut”).

Caroline Zajac was 3rd in the News Story contest, for “Connecticut Swatting Incident Highlights Growing National Problem.”

Samantha Sandrew placed 3rd for Video Feature Story, for “Sneakerheads of Staples.” Anna Diorio earned honorable mention in the category, for “The Power of a Good Book: A Discussion with Staples’ Librarians.”

Congratulations to all of Staples’ superb journalists!


Speaking still of Staples:

The boys lacrosse team’s annual “Sticks for Soldiers” event is this Saturday (12:30 p.m., Paul Lane Field).

The ceremony — before the 1 p.m. game against Greenwich — highlights the service and sacrifice made by our military. Funds raised support wounded veterans and their families.

A minimum donation of $5 is suggested. For more information and to donate, click here or email edward.iannone@gmail.com.

Staples lacrosse players have worn special jerseys to honor “Sticks for Soldiers.”


Longtime Westporter Daisy McCann died last Friday, surrounded by her family. She was 98 years old.

Her family says, “She lived a long and wonderful life, leaving behind a legacy of love, faith and a commitment to giving back to her community.”

Daisy was born in New York City on May 31, 1924. She earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Hunter College.

After World War II she married Navy veteran Hugh (Bud) McCann. They moved to Westport in 1959, where all 6 of their children lived and attended school: Hugh Jr. (Sarah) of Venice, Florida; Marguerite Francis of New London, New Hampshire; Tom (Mary Jo) of Nantucket, Massachusetts; Rosemary Semanski (Paul) of West Hartford; Tim (Tricia) of Easton, and Rich Tina) of Darien. Daisy is also survived by her grandchildren Katie, Scott, Kristen, Brittany, Shana, Kyle, Conor, Erin, Ali, Jack and Colin, and 7 great-grandchildren. Her family says, “She loved shopping for all of the wee ones in her extended family, and nothing brought a smile to her face more than their visits.”

She was predeceased by her husband.

Daisy was a trustee at St. Luke Parish, where she organized ladies’ luncheons for several decades and hosted generations of priests at her holiday parties. “She loved to feed people; it was her love language, whether at the church, in her home, or at the Norwalk Soup Kitchen.” In recent years, attending St. Luke’s regularly became more challenging, yet she never missed her daily digital Mass.

The family will receive friends tomorrow (Friday, April 28, 4-7 p.m., Shaughnessey Banks Funeral Home, 50 Reef Road, Fairfield). A Requiem Mass will be held Saturday (10 a.m., St. Luke). Interment will follow in Assumption Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Near & Far Aid in memory of Daisy McCann at www.nearandfaraid.org (select donate); P.O. Box 717, Southport, CT 06890 (note honoree’s name in memo).

Daisy McCann


A Burritt’s Landing bald eagle poses for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Dan Vener)


And finally … on this day in 1981, Xerox PARC introduced the computer mouse.

(You never know what you’ll find on “06880,” right? Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)


Staples Senior Seeks Identity Beyond Sports

Ella Alpert is broadcast director of Inklings, Staples High School’s newspaper/magazine.

She is also president of the Young Democrats Club, and one of the presidents of the Staples chapter of TEAM Westport.

For far longer, she’s been a competitive swimmer. After many years in the sport, Ella was named captain of last fall’s Staples swim and dive team.

It was quite a season — but not always in ways she expected. This month, Ella — who heads to Scripps College next year, to major in political science, American studies, or writing and rhetoric — wrote about her experience for Inklings. 

Her words are insightful; her message, important. With her permission, I’m reprinting them here:

Throughout my childhood, I’ve missed birthday parties, sleepovers, playdates, you name it. Instead, I was staring at the black line on the bottom of a pool. Six days a week, 3 hours a day and around 48 weeks a year. This routine lasted for my 10 years as a competitive swimmer.

I finished my senior season as captain of the Staples swim and dive team this past fall. Then I took my cap and goggles off for the last time and quit. Even after starting the college recruitment process, I was no longer willing to keep up with the commitment and pressure of it all. I can now see how pressure and toxic competition hurt my relationship with the sport that I loved and limited my ability to pursue other passions.

Ella Alpert: on the pool deck …

I joined my first club swim team in 2ndgrade, and fell in love. Something always clicked in the pool. I loved the excitement of racing, the feeling of diving into the water, nailing the turns, pushing your body to the limit and the pride of hard work paying off.

However, I was adamant that I made time for my other interests. I liked my balance of orchestra practice, dance lessons, Girl Scout meetings and swimming. But I watched as my teammates improved greatly by making swimming their priority. And I was receiving the same advice from coaches: “You have great potential but need to be more committed if you want to improve.”

They told me double practices before and after school, 6:30 a.m. Saturday workouts and hours of daily exercise outside of the pool would be what it takes to become a serious, successful swimmer.

As a competitive person, I wanted to succeed, so I became fully committed to the sport and began to see results.

For many years, my love for swimming outweighed my desire for a normal childhood. But after years of serious commitment, my love began to fade and I resented swimming for taking it all away. Yet I wouldn’t let myself think about quitting. Swimming had become my whole life, identity, purpose. The child in me who vowed she wouldn’t let swimming consume her entire life was gone — whisked away by the pressure.

… and in the water.

I was lucky that my parents never added to the pressure that I received from coaches and teammates, but many of my teammates weren’t as fortunate. My best friend’s parents pressured her to workout at home in addition to swim workouts and hired outside coaches for private lessons. They put so much pressure on her success that she pitted herself against her closest friends, damaging friendships.

Even as early as middle school, some parents were under the impression that swimming was going to get their child to college, and they needed to stay on the path to get there.

That being said, I don’t hate swimming or even regret my years in the sport. I love swimming and despite the pressure felt a deep yearning for success just like all competitive athletes. The sport introduced me to some of my best friends and taught me invaluable life lessons. However, I do wish I could have explored my other interests without the immense guilt that came with missing practice.

Now that I’m done with swimming, I have the time and flexibility to enjoy the rest of my senior year with friends, explore new hobbies and dedicate more time to the other extracurriculars that I enjoy. I’m excited to enter my college years without 6 am practices limiting my social life.

Swimming was such a huge part of my identity and for a while I didn’t know who I would be or what I would do without it. But I am excited to find out.

Roundup: RTM, Inklings, Pop-Up Thrift Shop …


Admit it: You hear “RTM” all the time. And you don’t know a thing about it.

Well, for one thing, it stands for “Representative Town Meeting.” For another, it’s our special local legislative body.

For a third, Westport’s League of Women Voters is sponsoring a series of “Know Your Town” events. And — wouldn’t you know it — the first one is “Know Your RTM.”

Set for this Wednesday (March 23, 7 p.m., Westport Library Trefz Forum and Zoom), the all-star (and all-RTM) panel includes former moderator Velma Heller, who’ll discuss the body’s history; member Matthew Mandell (today’s RTM), and current moderator Jeff Wieser (why you should run for office).

Click here to register for in-person attendance. Click here for the Zoom link.


For the first time ever, Inklings — the nearly 100-year-old Staples High School publication — earned a Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown award for Hybrid News. Only 16 other high schools in the country received that honor.

Inklings has won numerous Gold Circle Awards for individual reporter excellence, along with overall Silver Crowns. This is the first Gold Crown since switching to a magazine model — and it came in Inklings’ first year with the format.

“I think the change in layout and design spoke to our strengths,” says co-advisor Mary Elizabeth Fulco. ” I’m so incredibly proud of our hard-working students for achieving this national recognition.” The other advisor is Joe Del Gobbo.

In order to be eligible for a Crown, a newspaper must first achieve a Gold Circle Award for individual reporting. This year’s honorees were Lyah Muktavaram for “Piglet: The Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy Embarks on New Chapter,” and Katie Simons for “Rodrigo’s Debut Album ‘SOUR’ Captures the Essence of Adolescence.”

For more information, and a list of all winners, click here. For Inklings online,, click here.

The cover of Inklings’ February magazine featured indoor track athletes heading to the national meet.


Fast fashion — mass production of cheap clothing that destroys resources and pollutes the planet — is endemic.

On March 28 (6:30 p.m., Wakeman Town Farm), WTF sponsors a “Sustainability Forum.”

Panelists will discuss the effects of fast fashion on our environment, consumers and workers. Attendees will learn how to identify sustainable businesses, make smarter buying choices, and what it means to be a conscious consumer.

There’s also a spotlight on local sustainable clothing business, including Our Woven Community, The Exchange Project and Shop Tomorrows.

Click here to register.


Meanwhile, a few yards south of the Town Farm, a group of Staples High School students is doing something about fast fashion too.

The school’s Zero Waste Committee is creating a pop-up thrift store, The EcoBoutique opens April 27 during lunch waves in the courtyard.

Whether you’re a student, parent or just a Westporter interested in the planet, you can help.

The Zero Waste Committee is collecting donations (gently used clothing, handers and bins) from March 28 to April 11, at Staples’ front atrium.

In addition to education the community about the importance of limiting fast fashion, and thrifting, funds from the pop-up thrift store will help the ZWC’s sustainability initiatives: composting, recycling and more.


Eurovision — the European singing contest that began in the 1950s, and brought fame to bands like ABBA — is coming to the US.

Instead of a variety of countries, our version — “The American Song Contest” — includes acts from all 50 states, plus US territories, possessions and Washington, DC.

The “06880” connection? Connecticut’s representative is Westport’s own Michael Bolton.

“The American Song Contest” starts tonight. Click here for more information, and to vote — hopefully for our neighbor. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)

Screenshot from the “American Song Contest” website.


For many years, this tree has captivated — and slightly concerned — Long Lots Road drivers.

It’s part of Westport’s natural beauty — and a great candidate for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)


And finally … we usually say, “Spring can’t come soon enough!” Yesterday it snuck in, a day earlier than normal. Whenever it arrives, we’re more than happy to greet it.



Distance Learning: A Staples Student’s Perspective

Molly Gold is a Staples High junior, and creative director of Inklings, the school newspaper.

Her insightful piece on her experience since mid-March with “distance learning” caught our eye. She wrote:

Balancing SAT preparation, beginning the college process, rigorous coursework, extracurriculars, sports and the already insurmountable pressure that students face all add up to create the monster that is junior year.

This year, however, our knight in shining armor wasn’t the arrival of summer, but rather the implementation of distance learning. In what seems like the blink of an eye AP tests have been reduced, college tours have gone virtual, SATs have been pushed back and for many, our extracurriculars are no longer available, lessening our load.

Most students at Staples are used to feeling high amounts of pressure to excel in all aspects of their education. In my experience, this pressure has almost exclusively stemmed from myself and my classmates, rather than my parents and teachers.

Molly Gold

Now that my education has become completely independent from my peers, I have felt more relief than I would have ever anticipated. I no longer sit in class writing a timed essay, while simultaneously glancing over to see if my paper’s length is similar to that of the student sitting next to me. I no longer rush through math tests, worried that I’m turning it in too early or too late.

I no longer feel the need to hold myself to anyone else’s standards aside from my own. Without the added pressure that so many of us have come to accept as just a part of our education, I have found myself much more eager to complete assignments with the purpose of learning, rather than getting a good grade.

Additionally, with virtual tours and postponed standardized tests, our dive into the college process just became much more manageable. Although the virtual tours are often difficult to truly gauge a school’s environment and facilities, we now have the unique opportunity to visit virtually any school in the country without leaving our couches.

This has been a game changer for me. I have been able to visit a wide range of schools within minutes of each other, which would not have been possible through traditional tours. Because there’s nothing to lose from clicking through a website, I have been more open to looking into schools that I originally thought weren’t right for me. This has caused me to be able to enter my college application process with a much more open mind than I otherwise would have had.

Not Molly Gold, fortunately.

Additionally, without the daunting presence of an impending SAT or ACT, I feel less pressure to cram in preparation for the test. Not only do I have more time to prepare, but with a shortened school day, I am able to balance studying with schoolwork much more easily.

As many schools go temporarily test-optional for the class of 2021, the additional pressure to obtain top scores is no longer relevant.

While all of these things have significantly made junior year easier, they don’t compare to one thing: sleep. Between sports, extracurriculars, homework and getting up at the crack of dawn to secure a spot at Wakeman (that last one might just be me), so many students have become accustomed to running on less than 5 hours of sleep.

Now that our learning has been placed on our time, we are able to enjoy all of the sleep that we need. While we still sometimes have to get up for an 8:30 Google Hangout, there’s nothing stopping us from resuming our sleep after class.

While the flexibility in our education has given many of us bizarre sleep schedules, I can’t remember a time where I have been able to consistently get the right amount of sleep. Now when we’re staying up late, it’s usually for Zoom calls with friends or Netflix binges, not last-minute essays or cramming for a test.

While I miss my friends, activities and routines, there truly is nothing like waking up at 11 on a Monday to start your classwork while eating breakfast in your pajamas.

(Click here for the May issue of Inklings.)

50 Years Ago, Staples’ Computer Made A Memorable Match

In the 1960s, Staples High School was in the forefront of social change.

Students could take “Experimental English.” On an open campus, they came and went as they pleased. Bands like the Doors, Cream and Yardbirds played in the auditorium.

Staples was also one of the first schools anywhere to hold a “Computer Dance.” After teenagers answered 50 questions, an “electronic computer” matched them with their “perfect” partners.

Staples may also be the first place where a “Computer Dance” actually led to a marriage.

This weekend, Collin and Sherida Stewart enjoyed their 50th high school reunion. In June, they celebrated their 46th anniversary.

None of it would have been possible without that new-fangled computer.

And the desperate financial straits of the Staples Student Organization.

The “Computer Dance” was page 1 news in the Staples High School newspaper “Inklings.” Student government president Paul Gambaccini is shown supposedly filling out the match questionnaire.

Back in the spring of 1966, the student government needed money. SSO card sales were low; gate receipts from football and basketball games were “bitterly disappointing,” said the school paper Inklings.

What better fundraiser  than a “computer dance”?

Students replied to questions about their own looks, intelligence, activities, cars, favorite school subjects, TV-watching habits, movies, and time spent on the phone. Then they answered the same questions about their ideal match.

Part of “ideal partner” questionnaire. Even though a computer did the matching, students answered the questions by hand.

Sherida Bowlin was a relative newcomer to Westport. She entered Long Lots Junior High School in 9th grade, when her dad’s employer transferred him from Kansas to New York.

Collin Stewart was even newer to town. Amoco moved his father from Houston to New York in the winter of 1966 — the middle of 11th grade.

In fact, he was not yet at Staples when he filled out the computer questionnaire. His dad — already here — heard about the dance from a new acquaintance at the United Methodist Church.

Realizing it was a great way for his son to meet people, he called Collin. Together on a long-distance call, they filled out the questionnaire.

The 2 juniors did not know each other. But they were matched together at the dance — despite a computer glitch that rendered the boy’s name as “Stewart Collin.”

Collin Stewart and Sherida Bowlin at the junior prom.

They shared “maybe 1 or 2 dances,” Sherida recalls. Neither remembers if there was a live band, or records.

Their friendship grew quickly — though more at their shared Methodist Church than Staples.

Their 1st real date was the junior prom.

Soon they were going steady. They continued all through the next year. By senior prom, they were a well-established couple.

Within days after graduation however, both families moved. Sherida’s went to the West Coast; Collin’s to London.

But they’d figured out a way to stay together. Collin was going to the Colorado School of Mines. His father and uncle both graduated from there — and he wanted to major in geological engineering.

Sherida headed to the University of Colorado — just 20 miles away.

In June 1971 they got married in Lebo, Kansas — her grandparents’ hometown.

Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, on their wedding day.

Collin’s job as a mining engineer took them all over the West. They lived in Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada. They love the outdoor lifestyle.

They’re now in Farmington, New Mexico, in the heart of the gorgeous Four Corners. They have 2 sons, and 3 grandchildren.

“We remain each other’s best friends,” Sherida says.

Collin earned a master’s degree before their kids were born. After he retired, he went back to Colorado School of Mines for a Ph.D. As of last December, he is Dr. Stewart.

Sherida taught 1st and 3rd grades, then preschool working with special needs children. Now she’s turned to inspirational romance writing. She’s won a few contests. (With her 50-year relationship, she knows a bit about romance.)

Sherida and Collin Stewart, in a recent selfie.

Collin came back to Westport just once, a couple of years after graduating. Until this weekend, Sherida had never been back.

Both looked forward to returning here. After all, had it not been for that “electronic computer,” the previous half-century of their lives might have turned out very, very differently.

Take that, Tinder!

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

M.E. Fulco: With Inklings, Future Of Journalism Is Bright

Megyn Kelly has been all over the news this year.

But the other day, the Fox News journalist/Donald Trump foil shared center stage with Mary Elizabeth Fulco.

Kelly was keynote speaker at the Waldorf Astoria, where the Deadline Club — the New York City chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists — held its annual awards ceremony. Among the honorees — and a featured speaker — was Fulco.

The journalism teacher/Inklings newspaper adviser — and first-ever honoree from Connecticut — wowed the crowd.

She began by describing teaching high school journalism in 2 words: “It’s hard.”

But her joy in working with “the most curious, intelligent and diligent” students was palpable.

Mary Elizabeth Fulco, with her award.

Mary Elizabeth Fulco, with her award.

She used their own words. Journalism, her editors say, teaches “confidence and independence in a world awash in insecurity and dependence. It allows us to contribute to our community in a meaningful way, and amplifies our voices in our school and nation.”

Fulco noted that Inklings‘ December issue included a front-page story on sexual consent. Though superintendent of schools Dr. Elliott Landon fielded complaints, he “protected the story, and our paper,” Fulco said.

As a result of the piece, school librarians organized a panel on the subject. Colleagues told Fulco they’d thought about consent in a new way. And a student whose sister was sexually assaulted thanked her and the staff for printing it.


Calling Inklings a paper with “real stories and real truths,” Fulco thanked Landon and Staples administrators for their unwavering support. “This is a genuine newspaper,” she said. “Not high school propaganda.”

The honoree closed by praising her students as “talented, passionate, driven, inquisitive, honorable and accomplished.” Thanks to them, she said, “the future of journalism looks very bright.”

To read Inklings online, click here. To hear Fulco’s full speech, click below:

Staples Principal, Between 2 Plants

In 2014 President Obama showed his social media chops, sitting down for a “Between Two Ferns” interview with Zach Galifianakis.

The other day, presumptive Staples High School principal James D’Amico took a star turn on “Between Two Plants” with Jimmy Ray Stagg.

The Staples senior — and Inklings staff member — scored the 1st online meeting with the man who takes over the school July 1.

Interviewer and interviewee each got a few good lines. It may not get 14 million views like the Obama video — but it’s a good introduction to the popular, young new leader nonetheless.

Staples Mourns Cody Thomas

The Staples High School community reacted with shock and grief to the death of Cody Thomas. The popular English teacher died yesterday in Fairfield. He was 27.

Thomas had a strong connection with students of all abilities. He was also admired by the staff of Inklings, the school newspaper he served as co-adviser.

Cody Thomas

Cody Thomas

Thomas — a graduate of New York University’s Arthur Carter Institute of Journalism — wrote for the Stamford Advocate before becoming a teacher. He was also an editor at a rock journal, and played in local bands.

Social media was filled with praise, from current and former students. A Staples grad wrote:

— Thank you for helping a self-conscious anxiety-ridden nerd come out of his shell.
— Thank you for introducing me to Faulkner and Joyce and DFW, while still assuring me there’s just as much intellectual thought in an episode of Futurama.
— Thank you for calling The Black Keys “angsty white girl music.”
— Thank you for always asking if I was alright junior year, when days could be especially depressive and lonely.
— Thank you for coming to my first show. Middle section. 4th row. Your girlfriend seemed nice.
— Thank you for encouraging and proofreading my writing, even when it wasn’t for your class.
— Thank you for defending my writing, even when it clashed with others.
— Thank you for inspiring more students in your few years at Staples than many teachers would be lucky to recall in decades worth of teaching.
— Thank you for accepting my advice that you are not a “porkpie-hat guy.”
— Thank you for always encouraging me to do better, that, like everyone else, there was potential in me.
— Thank you for inspiring me to pursue writing professionally.
— Thank you for being more than a teacher, but a true friend.
— Thank you for coming to lunch with me that day in November. It meant the world, and it was good to know you still wore the same goddamn tennis shoes.
— Thank you for accepting our birthday card, I’m sorry most of the people who signed were 1) made-up, or 2) C-list celebrities.
— Thank you for that hug the last day of classes senior year. I heard your voice crack and a small sniffle as you said, “Good luck man.” After two years with you, I knew I would never need it.

Mr. Thomas. Cody. I love you. And there’s no way I will ever forget you. Rest in peace, you magnificent, magnificent dork.

Facing Down The Communist Menace

More than 6 decades ago, the McCarthy witch hunt — highlighted in the current film “Trumbo” — affected all Americans. Area residents like Fred Hellerman — who sang with Pete Seeger in the Weavers — saw their careers torpedoed, in a frightening, country-wide rush to judgment.

TrumboIt took the courage of men like Kirk Douglas and Howard Fast — both with Westport and Weston connections — to break the blacklist. Douglas surreptitiously hired screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to adapt Fast’s novel “Spartacus,” a major step toward helping restore many writers’ good names.

A couple of years before McCarthy, Westport faced its own charges of communism. But officials here reacted in a very different way.

According to Westporter-Herald newspaper accounts unearthed by alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor, in early April 1947 Fred Hollister wrote a long story in Inklings, the Staples High School newspaper. It described a new organization: American Youth for Democracy.

David Hollister, as a 1947 Staples High School senior: class vice president, Yale applicant, alleged communist.

David Hollister, as a 1947 Staples High School senior: class vice president, Yale applicant, alleged communist.

Hollister — a senior — was awaiting word on admission to Yale. He was vice president of his class, editor of the new literary magazine Soundings, and a member of the Norwalk chapter of AYD. That group — an “interracial teen-age club” — offered “a program for economic security and opportunity, education, housing, health, farm youth, recreation, juvenile delinquency, veterans, civil liberties, and peace,” the Westporter-Herald reported.

The AYD wanted to build “more and more inter-racial clubs in our country, clubs where young Negro and white people, by working, playing and fighting for the same things together, learn through actual experience that there are no ‘superior’ and no ‘inferior’ races.”

FBI director J. Edgar Hoover called it “part of the Communist party.”

A front-page story in the local paper said that “school officials, P-T.A. officers, School Study Council members and parents of high school students are all considering ways and means to check the infiltration of what the U.S. Chamber ofo Commerce has called subversive ideas fostered by the AYD.”

A poster of the "radical" American Youth for Democracy.

A poster of the “radical” American Youth for Democracy.

Superintendent of Schools Gerhardt Rast conducted an investigation into the “publication of the AYD propoganda.” He “emphatically” cleared Inklings’ faculty advisor, social studies teacher Eli Berton, of “any blame.” Rast said that Berton had no idea what the AYD was. However, the superintendent said that he would ask the Board of Education to take action to “prevent its growth in the school.”

“The article’s listing of the organization’s aims could be that of any liberal organization, except for an emphasis on federal aid for various projects,” the Westporter-Herald noted.

An editorial took a patronizing tone. High school is a time “when youngsters look up on the world and worry about its imperfections. They are dissatisfied with the picture of war, famine, hatred and intolerance. Naturally they dream of making the world over, fashioning it to be without sin or greed.”

That’s not the way the world works, the paper continued. But perhaps Hollister should be thanked, because by “its careless publicity (the AYD) has ruined its chances for successful proselytizing in the high school  here.”

The editorial concluded: “Fellow traveler, whither now?”

Eli Berton was a long-time, and very well-respected, Staples High School social studies teacher.

Eli Berton was a long-time, and very well-respected, Staples High School social studies teacher.

In the days that followed, the American Legion asked the Board of Ed to place more importance on the teaching of American history in Westport schools.

The board discussed the matter, but refused to remove either Hollister or Berton from Inklings. 

The superintendent took a similar stand. In fact, he said, “We do teach the Bill of Rights to our students….How can we reconcile action denying David Hollister the right to publish any further articles with what they students know about Article I?…I don’t believe such action would be wise or consistent.”

And so the communist menace in Westport was dealt with: intelligently, graciously, and with no inflammatory rhetoric.