But Fine Arts I and II move theaters, Fine Arts Art Supplies, Westport Smoke Shop, Schaefer’s Sporting Goods, Quick Copy, Village Coiffeurs, Ship’s Lantern bar — even the traffic island and crosswalk — are all gone.
That’s not unusual. A lot happens in 42 years.
So if Marty McFly suddenly traveled from 2019 to 1977 — when Fred Cantor took this photo — would he feel very disoriented? Or quite at home?
Regular readers know “06880” often laments the loss of things that make a town a community.
Movie theaters. Mom-and-pop shops.
I’m talking about real bars. Not bars attached to restaurants, like so many places in town: Spotted Horse, Tavern on Main, Arezzo, Little Barn, you name it.
And not restaurants with very active bars, like Viva’s and the Duck.
No. I mean actual, go-and-stay-and-drink-and-maybe-have-peanuts-but-a-place-where-everybody-knows-your-name bar.
The Westport equivalent of Cheers.
Parsell’s Purcell’s was that kind of bar, on the Post Road near Southport. So was the Red Galleon, across from Green’s Farms Elementary School.
Ship’s Lantern was too, downtown on the Post Road (before it become The Ships nearby — which today is Tiffany 🙁 ).
Then there was “The Bridge.”
Formally Ye Olde Bridge Grill — though there was nothing formal about it — The Bridge sat on Post Road West, right over the bridge (aha!), a couple of doors down from National Hall (at the time, Fairfield Furniture), and directly opposite Art’s (now Winfield) Deli.
It was around for years, but hit its stride in the 1970s and ’80s. With generous owner Dave Reynolds, popular manager/bartender Dennis Murphy, a large and loyal bunch of regulars, and a jukebox that played the same songs over and over and over again (“Domino” by Van Morrison, anyone?), The Bridge was the kind of gathering spot we just don’t have any more.
Owner Dave Reynolds …
(It was also the sponsor of an Under-23 soccer team of the same name. Stocked with the best Westport players of its time, and their friends from the college and semi-pro ranks, it won all kinds of state and regional championships. After every match, players and fans celebrated you-know-where.)
… and manager Dennis Murphy (standing, left). He coached the Bridge Grille team to many state titles.
Things change. Rents rose. The drinking age rose too, from 18 to 21.
The Bridge has been gone for 3 decades or so. Today it’s an antiques shop, or something like that.
Some of us are born here. Others are brought here by parents, spouses or work. We come here wonderingly, wanderingly, willingly or by whimsy.
Hanne Jeppesen arrived as an au pair.
She grew up safe and secure, in a small town 30 miles south of Copenhagen. Wanderlust took her to a kibbutz in Israel, to Iceland, to a hitchhiking tour of England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland.
Then a chance glance at a newspaper ad changed Hanne’s life.
Instead of heading to a Danish teacher’s college, she decided to become an American au pair. She knew nothing about Westport — her destination — other than that it was near New York City.
That was enough. She arrived on December 28, 1966, ready for adventure.
Hanne Jeppesen in 1968, as a Westport au pair…
Life in the suburbs was lonely at first. But she met a German au pair. Hanne took a night school English class at Staples, where she met a “real live wire” Dutch girl. Fifty years later, they’re still friends.
Hanne started going out. The Ship’s Lantern bar downtown was a popular destination. So was the beach.
Westporters were very friendly. Hanne dated a few men. She had a wonderful time. Life was good.
“We drove around in a Corvette, with the top down,” she recalls. “This is what I dreamed America would be like.”
In October of 1968 she returned to Denmark. But her parents encouraged her to live the life she wanted, and 2 months later Hanne was back in Westport. She and her Dutch friend rented a house here.
Soon, though they moved to New York City. New adventures beckoned.
…and in New York, a year later.
From time to time, Hanne and her friend returned to Westport to visit. Once, at Compo, she met a married man. He invited her to a party that night. And he gave her the keys to his car, in case she wanted to drive around and have fun.
In New York she met a man. They got married, moved first to New Orleans and then San Francisco. They divorced. She had a daughter, and a career in insurance. Now — still living in the Bay Area — Hanne works at Macy’s.
She stayed in touch with a few friends. She always thought fondly of Westport. But except for a couple of visits — the last was in 1998 — Hanne has not spent any time here.
A few years ago though, she saw news online about Jeff Simon. That’s a common name, but it was the same guy she’d dated in Westport. She was intrigued to learn about his life as a photographer and video director.
Then she stumbled on a story about Tracy Sugarman. She’d known his son.
Finding “06880” — including a story about her old friends Alan Sterling and Steve Emmett — helped her reconnect with Westport. She doesn’t know many of the people I write about, but photos and references to the past bring smiles to her face.
Hanne Jeppesen with Jeff Simon, at Compo Beach.
Living here during a very lively time in Westport and America’s history was wonderful, Hanne says. And she was exactly the right age to enjoy it.
“We did what we were supposed to do in our early 20s,” she explains. “We partied, at people’s houses and the beach. We went to Port Chester, because the bars stayed open later. We had a great group.”
While she lived here, Hanne kept a journal. It was stashed away for years. But after seeing the movie “The Big Chill,” she looked at it. Reading about her time here, and her close-knit friends, she felt a surge of familiarity.
Of course, a movie is not real life.
But Hanna Jeppesen loves the story line that Westport provided to hers.
Peter Pastorelli — the longtime, well-known and much-loved Westporter — died earlier this month, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
A celebration of his life is set for this Saturday (June 25), 12 p.m. at the Westport Woman’s Club. The public is invited to attend.
Peter Pastorelli, in one of his favorite rides.
Friends, fans and family members will recall the life and laughter (and great parties) of the movie and TV location and production manager. His credits include “American Psycho,” “Fame,” “Midnight Run” and many more. He won a Directors Guild of America Award, and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy.
Peter was a lifelong Westporter. He attended the University of Bridgeport, and worked at the Post Road post office that his grandfather — postmaster John Murphy — opened in 1936.
He worked for his father, Fran, at Village Painters of Westport, and at Ship’s Lantern on the Post Road, before bartending at Chumley’s in Greenwich Village. That’s where he cultivated his artistic skills, and discovered the TV and film business.
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