Tag Archives: Tom Leyden

Memorial Day Parades: We Remember

Last year around this time, I posted a fascinating video of Westport’s 1981 Memorial Day parade.

Tom Leyden had just bought a new-fangled video camera. Standing on Riverside Avenue near Assumption Church, he captured 21 minutes of the annual event:

Former Governor John D. Lodge and all the town bigwigs; the Staples High School, and Long Lots, Coleytown and Bedford Junior High bands; WWPT sports broadcasters, Little Leaguers, Scouts, Indian Guides, the Westport Historical Society — even Big Bird (and traffic cop/drum major Bill Cribari).

The video was so popular, I’m posting it again.

But Tom uploaded another parade to YouTube. This one is from 1969.

It’s grainier than ’81. There is no sound. It’s just as fascinating though — especially the final shot.

In those days, the post-parade ceremony was held at Jesup Green. On the left, you can see the town dump. (Today it’s the site of the Westport Library.)

That’s one of the few things that have changed, however. As Tom’s twin videos prove, Westport’s Memorial Day parade is timeless.

See you on Monday!

(PS: The ceremony is now at Veterans Green, starting around 10:30 a.m. It’s part of the event that should not be missed.)

Friday Flashback #94

A couple of days ago, I posted a photo of the end of a well-known house.

Toni Cunningham’s Soundview Drive home — familiar to every Compo Beach goer, and the longtime unofficial headquarters of the Compo Beach Improvement Association — fell to the wrecking ball this week.

It was a poignant shot (click here to see).

But there’s much more to the house than my brief summary.

Alert “06880” resident Tom Leyden — a longtime beach neighborhood resident — quickly sent along this photo. It’s from 1920 — and it shows the Cunningham house standing almost alone on the road.

In the distance is the vast pavilion — with a 2nd floor. It was the site of big dances and other gatherings, until a hurricane roared through

But wait! There’s more!

Tom also sent this photo:

He explains:

I have a record of 90% of the beach property owners, going back to the original ownership by the Bradleys in 1909.

They mapped their property into lots, mostly 50 x 100. Sam Roodner (of Roodner Court fame in Norwalk) bought up many of the lots, and sold them off during the early 1920s

The Cunningham property was an exception, as Irving Bradley sold to Lockwood in 1911. I’m guessing the house was built around 1915.

According to property records, the Cunningham family bought the house in 1945.

Tom and his family live on lots 88/90.

Paul Lane — longtime Staples High School football coach, who grew up on Soundview, and lives next door to the now-former Cunningham house — has a framed copy of the plot map above.

It hangs on the wall of his home, just a few feet from what is now — once again — an empty lot.

More Memories: 1981 Memorial Day Parade

In December 1980, Tom Leyden bought a video camera.

He was one of the first Westporters to tape kids’ sports, school shows and other events.

An early effort — taken from the Assumption Church steps — was the 1981 Memorial Day parade.

Leyden’s son had just won a trivia contest on WMMM’s morning show. The prize: a chance to ride with host John LaBarca, in the back of a groovy convertible.

Leyden captured that moment — and the rest of the parade too.

It’s all here: former Governor John D. Lodge and all the town bigwigs; the Staples High School, and Long Lots, Coleytown and Bedford Junior High bands; WWPT sports broadcasters, Little Leaguers, Scouts, Indian Guides, the Westport Historical Society — even Big Bird.

There are many gems. Right at the beginning, for instance, we see Bill Cribari — the man the Saugatuck River bridge is named after — strutting proudly along.

Westport’s Memorial Day parade is timeless. After 37 years, so much in this video looks familiar.

Except for one thing: Everyone actually watches the parade.

There’s not one cell phone to be seen.