Tag Archives: Staples High School Class of 1971

Roundup: Hamlet & P&Z, Lamont & Stefanowski; A Better Chance ….

The Hamlet at Saugatuck — a retail/residential/hotel/marina plan that would reimagine the neighborhood between the train station and I-95 bridge — got its first Planning & Zoning Commission hearing last night.

Representatives from ROAN Ventures — the local developers — and their architectural, environmental, traffic and legal partners began their application for text and map amendments. Both are needed to begin remediation efforts of the contaminated land, followed by construction.

The hour-long presentation included a video, maps, and conceptual artists’ renderings. The actual design process has not yet begun.

Applicants addressed issues like traffic, with solutions that include underground parking, and working with the state to synchronize lights. They also noted that 50% of the land will be open space.

Commission members and residents had mixed reactions. There praised the thoughtfulness of the planning and the depth of the presentation, and questioned density and traffic.

No action was taken. The P&Z will continue its discussion on October 3.

A conceptual view of the Hamlet at Saugatuck project, from the river.

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In less than 2 months, Connecticut will elect a governor.

If you don’t know anything about the candidates — or do, and want to ask a question — you don’t have to go far.

The Y’s Men of Westport and Weston has partnered with the Westport Library to host 2 forums. Both are in the Trefz Forum.

This Thursday (September 15, 10 a.m.), Republican challenger Bob Stefanowski speaks, and takes questions. Incumbent Democratic Governor Ned Lamont does the same next Monday (September 19, 1 p.m.). Both visits will also be livestreamed.

Click here to register for either or both session, in-person or via livestream. Attendees should arrive 15 minutes prior to the start.

(Graphic courtesy of Connecticut Education Association)

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A Better Chance of Westport’s 21st year is off to a rousing start.

New resident directors, 7 multi-talented scholars, and a chance to really be part of (and give back to) the community after 2 COVID years has energized Glendarcy House, the program’s North Avenue home.

The scholars — in grades 9 through 12 — are engaged in a range of activities, at Staples High School and beyond. Because they are not allowed to drive, they need rides after school and in early evenings.

Community volunteers have always come through. To help transport — and get to know — these great young men, and for more information, email abcwestportrides@gmail.com.

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On Sunday, Jeff Manchester took his kids to the 9/11 Memorial.

Not the one at Sherwood Island State Park, though. Jeff is drawn to the one at Oak Lawn Cemetery & Arboretum, off Bronson Road. It’s a 100-acre site where people have remembered loved ones for more than 150 years.

The memorial is a pair of 9-foot granite towers atop a pentagon-shaped granite base. A rock engraved with “Let’s Roll” honors the heroes of Flight 93.

Dedicated last September, it was designed by Dean Powers, a native Westporter and Oak Lawn’s longtime groundskeeper.

He never saw it completed. He died of cancer in 2020.

Click here for the back story on the monument, and Dean’s remarkable contributions to it.

Rock and trees at Oak Lawn Cemetery.

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Do you want some money?

If you’re involved with a non-profit organization, read on.

The Westport Woman’s Club is accepting grant proposals for 2022-2023. Click here for more information, and the form.

Requests for projects that will make a difference in the community may be in the form of funds, or a one-time use of the Westport Woman’s Clubhouse for an event. Grants go each year to organizations in education, health and safety-related programs, and the arts.

Community groups should submit their proposals by October 31 to Westport Woman’s Club, Attention: Community Service Grants, 44 Imperial Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.

For more information, call 203-227-4240.

Organizations can apply for a one-time use of Bedford Hall at the Westport Woman’s Club.

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Like many Staples High School reunions, the Class of 1971’s fell victim to COVID.

Organizers Bonnie Housner Erickson, Tucker Sweitzer and Joanne Romano-Csonka felt the 50th was too big to let pass. So — a year later — the reunion is on (September 30-October 2).

Bonnie and her crew want to make sure “all classmates feel like they matter,” even though some may not have felt that back then. The organizers sought to “remind them they were an integral part of a life-changing period in history.”

In keeping with the late ’60s/early ’70s zeitgeist, they wanted to create an environment of peace and harmony, with “no hierarchy, no difference in status.”

The theme is “Welcome Home” — and the website (hey, this is 2022, not 1971) may be the best for any reunion class, ever. Click here to see.

Bonnie spent hours designing it. Much of it is class-specific of course. But the 1971 flashbacks and photos will interest many people, whether or not they (or their parents) were even alive then.

The reunion itself will feature peace signs, and memories of hangouts like the Ice Cream Parlor and beach. Music is supplied by the Reunion Band — featuring ’71 alums Brian Keane, Michael Mugrage, Bill Sims, Rob and Julie Aldworth McClenathan, Dave Barton and Bonnie Erickson — who rocked the Levitt Pavilion in 2019, the Class of ’70 reunion several weeks ago, and the Class of ’72 reunion last weekend.

Screenshot, Staples High school Class of 1971 reunion website home page.

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Today’s gorgeous “Westport … Naturally” comes from Saugatuck Shores, via Ken Yormark:

(Photo/Ken Yormark)

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And finally … Ramsey Lewis — a towering jazz figure for over 50 years — died yesterday in Chicago. He was 87.

His trio hit the pop charts a few times in the 1960s. In 2007 the National Endowment for the Arts named him a Jazz Master, the nation’s highest honor for a jazz musician.

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. To support our efforts, please click here.) 

It’s Only Rock & Roll: Reunion Band Smokes

If they want music, most high school reunion organizers hire a DJ.

Staples High School’s Class of 1970 has Smoke.

That’s the house band — made up of ’70 grads Mark Smollin, Chuck Boisseau, Steve Wall,  Pete Morgen, Marc Bailin and Jeff Dowd (’71) — who played at their past few reunions.

Their 50th was delayed by COVID for 2 years. But Smoke planned to get together for their final gig this past weekend, when the Class of ’70 (coincidentally, most of whom are now 70 years old) gathered at the Norwalk Inn.

As always, they came in a few days early to rehearse. But COVID is not yet over. The virus infected the band. They had to cancel.

It was a bitter disappointment, for them and their many classmates/friends/ fans/groupies.

But the Class of ’71 rode to the rescue.

They’ve got their own reunion band — called (go figure) The Reunion Band. (They also played a legendary Levitt Pavilion show, in 2019.)

The Reunion Band rocked the packed Levitt Pavilion in 2019, at a memorial concert for former member Charlie Karp. Comprised entirely of graduates of Staples High School’s Class of 1971, its members have played and recorded with — among many others — Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Miles, Van Morrison, Smokey Robinson and Orleans. (Photo copyright Ted Horowitz)

When Smoke went up in ashes, Smollin asked Reunion Band front man/multiple Emmy winner Brian Keane for help.

There were many reasons not to: Brian’s looming movie scoring deadlines, his son coming to visit, no time to rehearse. And his partner and fellow band member, Bonnie Housner Erickson, was in the midst of planning her own (delayed) reunion.

But quickly, Brian and Bonnie said: Let’s put on a show!

It did not matter that the last time the Reunion Band played together was that Levitt gig. They’re pros.

They contacted 3 other Reunion Band members: Rob and Julie McClenathan, and Dave Barton. They could not get Michael Mugrage (previously scheduled engagement) and Bill Sims (in Vermont).

But they added some high-powered, non-’71 musicians: Leigh Sobel (SHS ’68, lead singer of famed Mandrake Root); David Giardina (SHS ’70), Tim DeHuff (SHS ’72), and non-Stapleites Tony  Aiardo and Arti Dixson.

Bonnie says, “Our collective belief of never turning down a comrade in need, coupled with our decades-long backgrounds as music and theater producers won out. It was ‘all hands on deck,’ making this happen for our friends.”

With no rehearsal — but plenty of professional chops — the Reunion Band rocked the Norwalk Inn. They played the music everyone loved (and that Smoke would have played). The Class of 1970 partied like it was 1999.

The Reunion Band at the Norwalk Inn. From left: Tony Aiardo, Tim DeHuff, Bonnie Erickson, Julie and Rob McClenathan, Leigh Sobel, Arti Dixson, Brian Keane. Not pictured: David Barton, David Giardina. (Photo courtesy of Mary Gai)

“The unexpected plus for me was that I saw so many people I hadn’t seen in years,” Brian says.

“When you go to reunions you only see those from your own class, but in reality we go to school with, and interact socially with, classmates a year or two younger and older too.

“I really felt badly for Smoke. I had played in school with many members. I knew how much they wanted to be there.”

As for the Reunion Band: They’re getting ready for their next gig. They play at their own reunion — the Class of ’71 — on October 1.

This time, they’ll even have a few days to rehearse.

BONUS TRACK: You don’t have to be a member of the Class of ’71 to enjoy this kick-ass reunion website (click here — then click “Flashback” from the dropdown menu).

And who designed it? The Reunion Band’s own Bonnie Erickson.

(Hat tip: Fred Cantor)

(“06880” appreciates donations from members of any high school class — anywhere. Please click here to help.)

Play A Song For Me

I promised myself I would not write about my Staples reunion this weekend.  But:  I can’t help myself.

Sugar pie, honey bunch…

Of course.  Anyone of a certain age (mine) knows without thinking that those are the only words that follow “I can’t help myself.”

Just as everyone at our reunion — or any other one, anywhere, from that era — understands instinctively that the only thing boot heels do is “wander.”  And — as Doctor Doctor Mister M.D. says — all you really need is good lovin’.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brian Keane and Charlie Karp rock on. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

One of the many highlights at Saturday’s reunion was the band.  All were members of our Staples Class of 1971.  Billy Sims, Rob McClenathan, Bubba Barton — each with non-music jobs now — joined Mike Mugrage, Brian Keane, Jeff Dowd, Billy Seidman and Charlie Karp to play some of what Cat Mother and the All Night Newboys know is “that good old rock ‘n’ roll.”

Mike toured and performed with James Brown, Ronnie Spector and Orleans. Brian is a multiple Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer.  Jeff is an opera singer based in Germany.   Billy teaches music at NYU.

Charlie never graduated from Staples.  He dropped out a few weeks into 10th grade, forsaking algebra and gym for touring and recording with guys like Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Miles.  He’s now back in this area, playing with great bands like Slo Leak.

These guys sometimes played together at Staples.  They were in different groups too.

Linda Satin, Carissa Simon, Margaret Hart and Bonnie Housner channel the Supremes. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

On Saturday night — with the addition of former Orphenians Bonnie Housner, Margaret Hart, Julie Aldworth McClenathan, Kim Plaut, Linda Satin and Carissa Simon as singers, all of whom had the “Stop!  In the Name of Love” hand motions down pat — they brought us back to a time when music was not only real and good, but a shared experience.

Everyone who went to school in the 1960s and 70s listened to the same songs at the same time.  We heard them on transistor radios, car radios, turntables at parties.

Just a snippet of the most obscure tunes — “I’m Your Puppet,” “Hitchin’ a Ride,” “Indiana Wants Me” — brings back powerful memories of precise places, people and the funny/outrageous/bizarre/typical/illegal things we were doing at those moments.

So as I listened and danced Saturday night — Mustang Sally, you been runnin’ all over town — I said to myself:  “Man, you are one lucky guy to have grown up when you did.”

Jimi Hendrix, back when music was music.

And then I thought about music today.  When the Class of 2011 has its reunion, they will not have actual music to listen to.

Nor will they have classmate bands from high school to play it.

Nor experience the joy of growing up sharing the same music, at the same time and place, during a transformative time in their young lives.

I threw this sad fact out at a friend from Burr Farms, Long Lots and Staples — a guy I haven’t seen in decades, but who because of our time together long ago, I’d reconnected with instantly.

He didn’t buy it.

His kids — in their late teens and early 20s — love the Beatles, Doors and other groups we also loved, he said, back in the day.

Suddenly, I felt fine.

In 2051, I realized, alums attending their own 40th reunions will listen to the same music we did.

Eighty years before.

Reunions Never Get Old

When they gather together July 29-31 for their 30th reunion, members of Staples’ Class of 1981 may not consider themselves old.  Reunion-goers never do.

But consider this:  On their very 1st day in high school — as sophomores in the fall of 1978 — ground was broken on a new “modernization” project.  It would tie Staples’ 9 separate buildings together, into one cohesive whole.

James Hill, Jerry Finch and Jeb Backus in the now-demolished courtyard, fall of 1980.

Three years later — a few days before graduation — a ribbon was cut celebrating the “new” Staples.

The new building lasted a long time.  But eventually it too got old.  An entirely new “new” school was needed.

Meetings were held.  Plans were created.  Objections were raised.  New drawings were drawn.  Contracts were bid.  Land surveys were made.  Construction began.

The “old” Staples was dismantled, brick by brick.  Construction continued.  Delays were encountered.  Finally, the new “new” building was finished.

And it’s been around long enough for one entire school generation — 4 years now, not 3 — to go all the way through it.  Another is well on its way.

So I don’t want to call the Class of 1981 old (even though they are).

Because I’m celebrating my reunion too this year.

And I was there in Staples’ heyday of 9 separate buildings.

Class of ’71, baby.  And we’re still young!

(Registration for the Class of 1981 reunion is open until July 15.  Click here, or call 203-856-0954. 

(The Class of 1966 has a reunion July 22-24; contact lights47@aol.com for information, and check out the website here.

(For information on the  Class of 1971 reunion August 12-14, email reunion71@ymail.com.

(The Class of 1976 gathers this weekend — click here for information. 

(And — just to plan ahead — the Classes of 1951 and ’52 plan a reunion August 24-26, 2012.  Email bigclipper@verizon.net for details.)

This photo was on the Class of 1981 website. It doesn't look like it was a school function -- but given the times, it might have been.