This is the month of year when — for a quarter century — Westporters flocked to Festival Italiano at Luciano Park.
We were joined by thousands of others — plenty of actual Italians, and many more wannabes — from as far away as Brooklyn.
The Italian Festival is gone. So are the days when Saugatuck was a true Italian neighborhood, filled with extended families, shops and restaurants handed down through generations, and a special atmosphere remembered lovingly by the ever-dwindling number of people fortunate enough to grow up there.
Sam Febbraio did. The other day, while going through his mother’s papers, Tony Giunta found a list Sam made.
Tony thinks Sam typed it up in the mid-1960s. It’s filled with his best recollection of the names of people and places in Saugatuck in the 1930s and ’40s.
If you are a native Westporter — particularly from Saugatuck — you’ll remember many of these names.
If you don’t: You missed some of the best times — and people — our town has ever seen.
I’m sure “06880” readers will have comments about some of them. We should all read them.
It’s a way of celebrating our own Festival Italiano.
A couple of years ago I called the Masonic Temple on the Post Road “the spookiest spot in Westport.” In the Comments section, Tony Giunta invited me to come see how un-scary it was.
Recently, the 1964 Staples grad — and current Worshipful Master — repeated the invitation.
The other day, I took him up on his offer. Despite occupying the top 2 floors of a building that also houses a funeral parlor, the building on the corner of the Post Road and Imperial Avenue is not particularly spooky.
Westport’s Temple Lodge #65.
A bit dated, perhaps. But also — as Tony notes — one of “the best-kept secrets in Westport.”
Our Temple Lodge #65 has been around since 1824 — more than a decade before Westport itself was incorporated. After convening at various spots (including National Hall), the local chapter of the centuries-old international organization moved into the then-new building in 1911.
The Masons have been there — meeting the 2nd and 4th Thursday of every month — ever since.
There are now about 100 Masons, though a typical meeting draws 40 or so. The lodge includes a parlor, dining room, kitchen, library, foosball room and large meeting room.
The Masons’ meeting room.
The meeting room includes a clock from Jason Robards’ estate, and an altar. “We’re not a religious organization. But to join you must have a belief in a Supreme Being,” Tony explained.
“We don’t discuss religion or politics in meetings,” he added. “That causes too much discord.”
Meetings are governed by rituals, but include committee reports, information on the welfare of brothers, and discussions of charitable works.
Tony joined in 2007, after retiring from the Westport Police Department. He’d been a Kiwanis Club member and worked with the Y, but had always wanted to be a Mason.
Tony Giunta, in the meeting room.
He proudly showed me a list of previous Masters. Well-known Westport names like George Constantikes, Don Goss, Tom Hofstetter, George Underhill, Carl Cirino and Rocco Frank are inscribed in careful calligraphy.
In earlier times, the list included Westporters from famed families like the Fables, Wakemans, Sniffens, Bradleys and Krauses.
As Tony conducted his tour, I realized that the Masonic Lodge is not a scary building. Instead, it’s simple — and historic.
Plus, it’s got a killer view of the Memorial Day parade. Every May, the Masons gather there.
When it’s over, the bagpipers come upstairs. And then the real party begins.
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