Tag Archives: Staples High School PTA

Friday Flashback #232

A recent “06880” story on the death of Hal Holbrook noted his 1959 Halloween appearance — as Mark Twain, of course — at Staples High.

I wrote: “The school had just opened its modern North Avenue campus. The PTA had an active arts program, bringing musicians, dancers and actors to the new auditorium stage. Hal Holbrook might have been the most famous name of all.”

Staples High School auditorium in its first year: 1959.

He sure had competition. As John Kelley notes, in those early days of the new high school, Ottilie Kaufman — who lived right next to the south entrance — organized and produced a one-of-a-kind, first-ever performing arts series at Staples that included (in addition to Holbrook) the Weavers, Marcel Marceau, Ferrante and Teicher, Odetta, Sir John Gielgud , Andrés Segovia and others.

Segovia — a world-renowned Spanish classical guitarist — died in 1987, at 94. But his legacy — and his visit here — lives on.

Soon after another legendary Latin musician — José Feliciano — turned 75 last year, our Weston neighbor received a gift: Segovia’s footstool.

Autographed. And from that March 1960 Staples concert.

A page from the 1960 Performing Arts series program.

The back story: Prior to his show, Segovia came to the Kaufmans’ home next door to the high school. He warmed up in the living room using that footstool. Many classical guitarists do that; it supports the instrument, as they play seated.

Growing up in Spanish Harlem in the 1950s, Feliciano was highly influenced by the skills and intrigue of Segovia’s delicate flamenco style.

The antique stool sat in the Kaufman family’s attics for decades — first on North Avenue, then at Ottilie and Zenn’s son Roger’s house. A guitarist, singer and founder of Old School Music’s concerts, promotions and events, he’s as famous locally as Feliciano and Segovia are internationally.

The stool seemed a fitting present for Feliciano, who always sits when he plays. Now the “Feliz Navidad” and “Light my Fire” Latin/jazz/blues/soul/rock musician is sitting pretty with Segovia’s stool in hand — er, under foot.

From left: local drummer Tyger MacNeal, Jose Feliciano and Roger Kaufman, with Andres Segovia’s footstool. The 75th birthday presentation was at Sakura.

PTA Thanks Cops

In a show of appreciation, the Staples High School PTA and Westport PTA Council treated the Westport Police Department to lunch today.

The card below says it all:

A Real Community Conversation

This Tuesday, the Staples PTA and Westport Library co-sponsor a “Conversation in the Community on Underage Drinking.”

The event (7:30 p.m., Bedford Middle School cafeteria) opens with John Dodig.  The Staples principal will describe the steps his high school has taken to reduce drinking before and during next weekend’s Homecoming football game.

The bulk of the meeting, though, involves an open discussion about kids and alcohol, in all areas of Westport life.  (Students are strongly encouraged to attend.)

Attendees will break into small groups to discuss areas of interest.  At the end of the evening, each group will summarize its conclusions for everyone.

If Tuesday is at all like previous forums, it should be an interesting evening.

It would be even more fascinating if someone steps up to the mic and asks questions like these:

  • The Homecoming game is scheduled for 10 a.m., in part to stop drinking beforehand.  How many students plan to drink afterward?  And how many parents know not only that their kids will drink then — but also exactly where?
  • How many parents had a cocktail or two after work — and before driving to Tuesday’s meeting — “just to unwind.”
  • How many students are willing to talk openly about their drinking habits — the “secret lives” few Westport adults are privy to?
  • How many parents actually want to hear about those secret lives from their own kids?

If we are to have a true “community conversation,” those are important questions to ask.

They’re even more important to answer.