When the post office moved from its big, handsome and very functional Post Road building — now Design Within Reach — in 2012, many Westporters predicted that the new space would be cramped, and service would suffer.
They were right about the first part.
And wrong about the second.
There’s not much space to move inside. Don’t get me started about the parking.
But our US Postal Service employees are as great as ever.
Patiently, they answer the same questions over and over.
Helpfully, they offer the least expensive solutions.
Magically, they find whatever supplies they need, to make your (okay, my) poor packing skills work safely and securely.
It can’t be easy working in the Westport post office today. There are constant lines. There’s little room to maneuver. Customers are not always — how can I say this politely? — polite.
But the men and women behind the counter never complain.
They do their job every day, through snow, rain, heat, and everything else. I’ve never seen them without a helpful smile, or kind word.
“06880” has given shout-outs to our mail carriers before. This week, our Unsung Heroes are all the people toiling at the Westport Post Office. Thank you all!
To nominate an Unsung Hero, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Westport’s 11U District All-Star baseball team defeated Glastonbury 14-8 on Wednesday night. That’s the second straight state championship for the team!
Congratulations to Dylan Burdeshaw, Miles Delorier, Henry Ellis, Justin Goldshore, Wyatt Johnson, Christopher Lambert, Chase Landgraf, Jack McGrath, Luke Moneyhon, Torrey Rossetter, Toby Slavin, Grant Theisinger. Nolan Walters, plus manager Justin Walters and coaches Marc Theisinger and Jon Ellis.
Now it’s on to the regional championship, started Monday in Beverly, Massachusetts. Good luck, guys!
They’re downsizing, after all; you don’t cut a ribbon at some spare, utilitarian space.
It’s a far cry from 1936, when Westport’s shining “new” post office opened on (appropriately) the Post Road.
Sheila Murphy Foster remembers that ceremony like it was yesterday. She should: She cut the ribbon.
Sheila Murphy Foster
Sheila was back in town the other day. She’s lived in Florida since graduating from Staples in 1948 — but she’s 82 years young, and still loves Westport.
Her roots are deep. Her own mother Mary is a Staples grad — in fact, Sheila says, Mary helped develop the school lunch program, and came up with the name “Inklings” for the school newspaper.
Sheila’s father John commuted to New York City for his job as an accountant with American Standard. He had 3 children, and when his wife got sick he needed a job closer to Westport.
John Murphy was active in Democratic politics — locally and nationally — and knew Postmaster General James Farley. Soon, President Roosevelt appointed Murphy as Westport’s postmaster.
“It was a plum job,” Sheila says.
The job was even better because a new post office was about to be dedicated. The WPA project replaced what Sheila calls a “ratty building” across the street.
“It was the middle of the Depression,” she recalls. “Things were bad. Having the government build a new building was good. Thank heaven for the WPA.”
So one day in 1936, 7-year-old Sheila stood on the broad steps of the “magnificent edifice” and cut the ceremonial ribbon. Well, she tried to — the oversized scissors were too big, so her father the postmaster finished the job.
Sheila Murphy and her father, cutting the post office ribbon.
He had a lot to do besides pose for photos. Mail was delivered twice a day back then. Westporters — many of whom did not have telephones — communicated with friends by mailing postcards back and forth, one delivery following the next.
The Westport Post Office, in 2011. Trees now obscure the front of the WPA-era building.
John lived only a couple of more years. He died very young — as did his wife. From age 9 on, Sheila was raised by her aunt.
Sheila remembers her Imperial Avenue home — near the intersection with Bridge Street — as a wonderful former onion barn. There was sledding in winter, and playing on a nearby 10-acre estate. Owner Rose O’Neill had already earned fame as the creator of the Kewpie doll.
In town, Sheila took dance lessons at what is now Toquet Hall.
Though she stayed in Florida after college, Sheila returned regularly to Westport — with her 3 sons.
Sheila Murphy Foster outside the Postmaster’s office. It probably looked the same when her father had the job.
On her most recent visit, she stopped by the post office she dedicated 75 years ago.
How did she feel when she heard the building has been sold — taking with it three-quarters of a century of Westport history?
“I felt bad,” she says. “It still looks like a beautiful building.
“But it’s old,” she admits. “Maybe it’s too expensive to renovate.”
The clerks — and postmaster — may move to Playhouse Square. But one thing will never change, Sheila Murphy insists.
“It’s always been my post office.”
Sheila Murphy Foster died peacefully Monday evening at her Miami home, surrounded by her family. She was 92 years old.
Sheila Murphy Foster
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There was no better illustrator of Westport life than Stevan Dohanos.
And there’s no better time to look back at one of his many Saturday Evening Post works — one that showed our town off to a national audience — than today, a week before Christmas.
The piece is “Christmas in Westport.”
Using a mundane scene — postal carriers (“postmen,” we called them then) heading out to deliver cards and packages, in the snow — he showed both the hard work and joy of the holidays.
If the setting looks familiar: It is. From the 1930s through ’90s, the building that is now Design Within Reach served as our real (non-rinky-dink) post office. The loading dock was on the east side, facing Bay Street — where the patio is today south side, facing the building across the Post Road.
Dohanos — a longtime Westporter who designed not only magazine covers but postage stamps, World War II patriotic posters and more — used artistic license to move the Saugatuck Congregational Church across the street.
No problem. Our postmen knew exactly where to find it — and every other customer on their route.
Friday is October 1. Which means that Fido — and all his 4-legged friends — will once again be allowed at Compo Beach.
For the next 6 months, they can enjoy the off-leash area (south of the pavilion, including South Beach), and the leashed area north of that. They’re prohibited from the pavilion, playground and walkways.
It goes without saying, but Parks & Rec says it anyway: Pick up all poop.
Tyler Hicks is an internationally known New York Times photographer. Fittingly, he just won (another) international prize.
The Staples High School Class of 1988 graduate (and 2-time Pulitzer Prize winner) captured the 2021 Visa d’Or Award for Best Digital News Story. He won for his COVID coverage on the Amazon River.
Hicks spent over a month last summer traveling on a riverboat with health workers, entering villages where the dead were uncountable.
The Visa d’Or international news photography awards are presented in Perpignan, France, after a series of jury reviews.
This is Hicks’ second Visa d’Or News Award. He won in 2014 for his coverage of the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi, Kenya.
Click here to see his prize-winning Brazil photos.
COVID in the Amazon (Photo/Tyler Hicks for New York Times)
The Westport Library’s Fall Book Sale returns — live and in person — Friday, October 8 through Monday, October 11.
Thousands of “gently used books” include dozens of categories. A few examples: children’s, literature and classics, fiction, mysteries, sci-fi, fantasy, art, photography, history, math, science, psychology, religion, biography, business, cooking, gardening, performing arts, travel, foreign language and antiquarian. Tons of DVDs, CDs and vinyl records will be available too.
Everything Sunday (October 10) is half-price. On Monday (October 11), you can fill a bag for just $5.
Early bird admission on Friday (October 8, 8 a.m.) is through a pre-paid $15 ticket. It’s sold online only; click here. For more information about the Book Sale itself, click here. To help, email email@example.com.
There’s something for everyone at this Sunday’s “Smart Walk for Smart Kids with LD” (October 3, 12 p.m., Sherwood Island State Park).
In addition to crafts, games, ice cream, music and tai chi, Piglet — the blind, deaf, pink dog with the positive attitude — will make an appearance. And Stephanie Bass will sign copies of her book of pandemic signs, Driveway Showcase.
Child’s Pose Yoga helps youngsters connect their bodies, minds and health. To help, they’re partnering with “mindful expert” Denise Zack on a workshop: “Setting Your Child up for Success with Mindful Skills.”
The goal is to help children develop emotional resilience. Parents will learn specific, useful strategies.
It’s October 8 (10 a.m., 8 Church Street South).
Tickets are $40 each. Registration is required; DM @childsposewestport.
Meanwhile, look what crawled up Molly Alger’s window the other day. It posed long enough to be our “Westport … Naturally” feature.
And finally … on this day in 1836, Thomas Crapper was born. The English plumber held 9 patents, including the ballcock, leading to the invention of modern plumbing. [Insert your own juvenile joke here.]
I arrived at the Westport post office early the other day. They don’t open until 9, but Lou saw me standing beyond the metal gates. He opened them for me, and waved me inside to Rosie’s counter.
I was there to mail a birthday package to a friend in Idaho. I put the box on Rosie’s scale, and she calculated different options. I settled on the cheapest: $17.76 for ground delivery. It would take at least a week to arrive. I told Rosie it seemed expensive.
“Try Priority,” she suggested, and left her spot behind the counter to get the box for me. I asked if she thought my items would fit. She taped up the new box, opened my existing package, and helped me carefully place the items inside the smaller one.
“But what about the stickers?” I asked, pointing to the decorations I had attached to the original box.
“Here.” She tenderly removed the tape from the box that had the stickers attached and transferred them to the new box.
Rosie typed a few things into her computer, then said, “Now it will cost less money and get there faster.”
Wow — that was service!
I was amazed. And grateful. For all of the jibes about workers “going postal” and civil servants being apathetic clock punchers, this experience proved the contrary. And I even got out of there before the official 9 a.m. open!
Thank you, Rosie and Lou, for caring enough to go the extra mile for your patrons, and for taking care of our stuff.
Rosie has worked at the Westport branch as long as I have lived here. I truly appreciate her kindness, knowledge and sticker transferring skills.
Lou and Rosie. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)
(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
A few times in the week following Isaias, I got no mail at all.
I chalked it up to the storm. Either no one was sending anything, or it got delayed somewhere along the way.
But after reading stories like this one about problems with the US Postal Service, I’m wondering if my empty mailbox is part of a larger issue.
Nearly everyone in Westport loves their mail carrier. These men and women are devoted, efficient and friendly. They know their routes, they know us, they deliver the mail with smiles and speed.
Similarly, we love the Westport post office. We may not like its crowded parking lot or cramped confines, but we know we will get excellent service. The clerks answer our questions — from basic to complicated, and often idiotic — with patience and clarity.
Whatever is happening to the US Postal Service has nothing to do with them.
But it’s important to crowdsource this one. So: Has your mail delivery been slower than usual lately? Are there fewer collection boxes around town? (The one near CVS disappeared years ago.) Have you noticed anything else in the past few weeks?
Click “Comments” below. And the next time you see your postal carrier: Thank him or her for their service.
The Westport Downtown Merchants Association and ASF are partnering to raise $10,000 for local businesses hit by COVID. They’re offering a unique Westport design, for hoodies, long-sleeve shirts, t-shirts and tank tops.
For each sale, $10 will be given to a WDMA-backed fund, and distributed ASAP.
But hurry — they’re only available through June 14!
Ready for some exercise? Want to help frontline healthcare workers?
Thanks to Colby Kranz, you can do both.
The 2015 Staples High School graduate has designed a “Half Marathon from Home.” She posts a schedule that everyone follows, with playlists, daily tips and weekly motivational podcasts — but you choose the training routes (and final run, on July 25) that works best for you and your schedule.
Colby — who has 6,000 Instagram followers, for her @livingpurely healthy recipe and lifestyle tips — says that dozens of people have already signed up for the half-marathon. They come from many different backgrounds. Some were training for a race that got canceled. Others have never run before.
All are welcome!
Colby Kranz is in national sales with iHeartMedia. During COVID, she’s working — and training — in Westport.
The latest restaurant to reopen — with new, socially distant outdoor tables — is the Sherwood Diner.
The menu is not as extensive as before. But the most popular items are all there. And 2 more umbrellas are coming soon.
It’s not their biggest graduation of their lives. But every June, the Westport-Weston Co-op Nursery School celebrates its pre-K classes moving on to kindergarten next year with a a picnic on the Unitarian Church lawn, and an end-of-year video. Parents, grandparents and siblings join in.
For the first time in the school’s 65-year history, graduation was upended by a pandemic.
The videos were made by the Co-op’s Staples High School interns, and emailed to families. And instead of a picnic, there was a “car parade.”
But each youngster got a goody bag. There were “Co-op Class of 2020” t-shirts. And there were enough smiles all around to (almost) forget that there was a somber reason behind the new-style ceremony.
On April 8, Governor Lamont ordered all flags in Connecticut to fly at half-staff, mourning all the lives lost to COVID-19.
On May 19, he directed them all to return to full-staff.
The Westport Post Office has not yet gotten the message. The American and POW flags continue at half-staff.
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