Tag Archives: Westport Woman’s Club

Friday Flashback #104

Perhaps it was a slow news week.

More likely, a Westport Woman’s Club member’s husband was a high-ranking Life Magazine staffer.

Whatever the reason, on August 11, 1947 America’s leading photo magazine featured the organization in a 2-page spread.

Describing the town of 8,258 just 45 minutes from Manhattan, Life said Westport “pleasantly combines the character of New England and the up-to-date bustle of a commuting population.”

Like most American towns, Life noted, Westport has a woman’s club. But ours had “little time for lectures, cards and teas.”

The Life magazine story included this photo of members of the Westport Woman’s Club.

Instead — already 40 years old — the Westport Woman’s Club had transformed our “once somnolent” town through good works: organizing and funding street signs, public drinking fountains, garbage collections and trash cans, playgrounds, sidewalks, street lights, hot lunches in schools, and lifesaving equipment and a pavilion at Compo Beach.

Now, Life said, the club was focused on a visiting nurse service, free milk for underprivileged children and a free dental clinic. They also provided over $1,000 in scholarships each year.

Life reported that Ann Jones, 18, won a $300 art scholarship from the Westport Woman’s Club.

With 693 members — but annual dues of only $3 — members relied on the Yankee Doodle Fair to fund those projects. The 1947 event raised $18,000, with attractions like a merry-go-round, dart games, pony rides, and a raffle with prizes including cars, washing machines, luggage, watches and cases of scotch.

The Yankee Doodle Fair, as shown in the August 11, 1947 issue of Life Magazine.

More than 70 years later, the Westport Woman’s Club — and Yankee Doodle Fair — are still going strong.

Which is more than can be said for Life magazine.

(Hat tip: Paul Ehrismann)

A caption for this Life magazine photo described children of Westport Woman’s Club members, playing on a sidewalk that the organization helped build.

Pic Of The Day #492

Any Westport resident or organization can rent the Ned Dimes Marina clubhouse for a party or function. The other day, the Westport Woman’s Club held a lobster bake there. (Photo/Gloria Smithson)

Damn! I’m Sure I Put That Time Capsule Somewhere Around Here …

Those pesky time capsules.

We keep burying them. And keep forgetting where they are.

It happened a few years ago with Greens Farms Elementary School.

Now it’s Saugatuck Congregational Church’s turn.

In 1866 a time capsule was buried under the cornerstone of their then-new Sunday school building. The church was located across the Post Road, and up the hill from where it is now — approximately where the gas station and adjacent bank are, near South Compo Road.

Saugatuck Congregational Church, at its original site.

In 1950 the church was moved — v-e-r-y slowly — across the street, to its current location by Myrtle Avenue. At the same time the school building was relocated to Imperial Avenue, where it created what is now Bedford Hall at the Westport Woman’s Club.

In the 1950s, Life Magazine ran photos of Bedford Hall being moved from the Post Road to Imperial Avenue.

The cornerstone was not unearthed during the move. No one seems to know what happened to it.

Now — 68 years later — the Westport Historical Society is on the case.

If you have any idea of the whereabouts of the Saugatuck Church cornerstone — or hey, any other in town — email info@westporthistory.org.

And for God’s sake, the next time you bury a time capsule, leave detailed instructions!

How Old Is Old? Free Appraisal Day Can Tell

Westporters are great at getting rid of things.

We tear down old houses. We run tag sales. We bring books to the library, clothes to Goodwill, and everything else to the transfer station.

Does anyone here keep anything old? And if so, how old?

The Westport Woman’s Club believes many owners of private treasures may be surprised to learn their origin, purpose, age and current value.

So this Saturday (June 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 44 Imperial Avenue), they invite the public to bring objects — or good photos and measurements of pieces too heavy to carry) — to Appraisal Day.

Do you know how much this is worth?

Nine professional appraisers — whose specialties include antiques, paintings, jewelry, clocks, books, and Asian and mid-century modern collectibles — will be on hand. All donate their time.

The cost is just $25 for 3 items, $10 for each additional piece. The fundraiser helps the Woman’s Club provide community grants and scholarships.

Organizer Deb Fratino offers $100 to whoever brings the oldest collectible item. There’s also a random drawing for a restaurant gift certificate.

PS: If you’re disappointed with an appraisal, you don’t have to haul your item back home. Just donate it to the Curio Cottage next door. They’ll be happy to have it!

(Click here for more information on the Westport Woman’s Club Appraisal Day.)

Or this?

Unsung Hero #17

If you’ve been in Westport for any length of time, you’ve probably heard — and met — Jo Fuchs Luscombe.

She’s been involved in every aspect of life here — politics, education, community service. If it needs doing, Jo has done it.

But how many people know her back story?

A Dallas native, she was just a year old when her father — an oilman — moved the family to Venezuela. Jo grew up speaking Spanish — and gaining an important, real-world view of life.

She went to boarding school and college in Texas, headed to Katherine Gibbs secretarial school, got married at 19 and had a child at 20.

Jo Fuchs Luscombe

Her husband was in oil too, so they headed to Libya. Jo learned Italian there, and was once more immersed in a very different culture.

In 1969, the family moved back to the US. Her boys were 13 and 10.

In her mid-30s, Jo and her husband divorced. Encouraged by Rev. Dana Forrest Kennedy, she threw herself into every aspect Christ & Holy Trinity Church. She became president of the Women’s Guild, served on the vestry, and ran fundraisers.

She got interested too in the Westport Historical Society. Jo was a driving force behind the acquisition and restoration of Wheeler House — owned at the time by her church — as the organization’s headquarters.

In 1980, Jo was asked to fill out an unexpired term on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Public speaking did not come easily. But — as with everything else in her life — she worked to master it.

She won a full term on her own, then was appointed to the vacant post of 3rd selectman.

In 1986, Jo headed up her friend and fellow Westporter Julie Belaga’s campaign for governor.

Jo’s next step was the state House of Representatives. She served 5 terms — from 1987 to ’97 — and rose to Republican minority whip.

Retirement from state politics did not slow her down. As a member of Westport’s School Building Committee, she helped oversee 5 major construction and renovation projects (including the new Staples High School).

Jo Fuchs Luscombe (Photo courtesy of Westport Woman’s Club)

Remarriage did not slow her down either. Jo has been president of the Westport Woman’s Club (where she helped run major events like the art show), and is active in Westport Rotary, Greens Farms Garden club, and countless others.

As a longtime Westport Family YMCA board member, she helped shepherd the new building on its long, torturous journey from downtown to Mahackeno.

Her husband John says there is one reason she accomplishes so much: “She doesn’t sleep.”

There’s one more thing: Jo Fuchs Luscombe is one of the nicest, most always-smiling people you’ll ever meet.

Congratulations, Jo. And thanks from all of us, for all you’ve done in so many ways.

(Hat tip: Bobbie Herman)

Fun At The Fair

Westport’s annual rite of almost-summer — the Yankee Doodle Fair — kicked off last night at the Westport Woman’s Club.

The first night always attracts a horde of tweens and young teens. Alert “06880” reader Andrea Pouliot was there, with kids and a camera.

Sean Collins, in a timeless scene.

Eliot Klein enjoys the ride.

Aiden Rourke is a rising 7th grader at Fairfield Country Day School. He looks forward to playing football at Staples one day.

Andrea Pouliot and her daughter Callie.

110 Years Of Yankee Doodle Women

For 110 years, the Westport Woman’s Club has sponsored the Yankee Doodle Fair.

Attractions and entertainment have changed. But for 100 years, fair-goers have wondered “Who puts this on?”

When someone tells them, their next question is, “What’s the Westport Woman’s Club?”

To answer a century-plus of inquiring minds — and to honor their 110-year history — the WWC has hung a pop-up exhibit inside Bedford Hall. (That’s the wonderfully refurbished auditorium in their Imperial Avenue clubhouse, on the hill overlooking the Yankee Doodle Fair.)

Nearly 120 placards recount all those years of Westport Woman’s Club fundraising, and service to the town.

A placard honoring the organization that became the Westport Woman’s Club …

The story begins long before women could vote, and provides a fascinating window on women’s history, locally and nationally.

It also provides insight into public health and social services delivery here, before and after town government got involved.

… and one tying together 1920 and 1958…

It’s all for a great cause. Funds raised at the Fair go right back into the community, as grants and scholarships.

Just as they have for the past 110 years.

… and a very intriguing third.

(The Yankee Doodle Fair — and accompanying exhibit — are open tonight and tomorrow [Thursday and Friday, June 15-16], 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday hours are 1 to 10 p.m.; Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m.)

A classic merry-go-round, at the Yankee Doodle Fair. (Photo courtesy Pam Barkentin)

A Fair Look Backward

This weekend — as it has since 1907 — the Yankee Doodle Fair entertains thousands of kids of all ages. (Mostly kids.) (And their parents.)

Pam Ehrenburg — Pam Blackburn, as she was known in her Yankee Doodle-going days — has unearthed some fascinating old photos. All were taken by her father, famed magazine photographer George Barkentin.

They show the fair on what appears to be Jesup Green — or perhaps the topography of the sponsoring Westport Woman’s Club was different 60-plus yeas ago. (Pam believes the images were taken in 1952.)

Some of the fashions are different. But in many ways, the Yankee Doodle Fair is timeless too.

This looks like Jesup Green -- with National Hall (then Fairfield Furniture) in the background, across the river.

This looks like Jesup Green — with National Hall (then Fairfield Furniture) in the background, across the river.

A classic Ferris wheel.

A classic merry-go-round.

This is noted writer Parke Cummings. He may have walked over from his home on the corner of South Compo and Bridge Street. He owned a tennis court -- still there -- that was open to anyone who wanted to play or learn.

This is noted writer Parke Cummings. He may have walked over from his home on the corner of South Compo and Bridge Street. He owned a tennis court — still there — that was open to anyone who wanted to play or learn.

Marjorie Teuscher and her son Phil. Her husband -- a doctor -- owned real estate downtown, including the building that is now Tavern on Main. Phil -- now all grown up -- still lives in Westport.

Marjorie Teuscher and her son Phil. Her husband — a doctor — owned real estate downtown, including the building that is now Tavern on Main. Phil — all grown up — still lives in Westport.

Pam Blackburn -- who sent these photos from her father, George -- is shown here with her sister Perii and their mom, Jessica Patton Barkentin.

Pam Blackburn — who sent these photos from her father, George — is shown here with her sister Perii and their mom, Jessica Patton Barkentin.

Yankee Doodle Comes To Town

There are many reasons — probably more than 109 — to come to the 109th annual Yankee Doodle Fair.

But among the many — free admission! unlimited-ride wristbands! a bake sale with macaroons from 90-year-old Bev McArthur! — my favorite may be this:

Yankee Doodle himself is going.

The fictional colonial simpleton — who bears a striking resemblance to Westport artist Miggs Burroughs (designer of our town’s Minute Man flag) — will be there this week. In full costume.

With — of course — a feather in his cap.

Yankee Doodle, aka Miggs Burroughs.

Yankee Doodle, aka Miggs Burroughs.

For a $3 donation, you can take a selfie at the Yankee Doodle Fair (Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue). With Yankee Doodle.

You gotta hand it to Miggs. When he borrowed his costume from fellow illustrator Ed Vebell, he realized it was a better fit for a 1776-size guy.

So Miggs found a tailoring kit, and fixed it himself.

Betsy Ross would be proud.

Which is not just a clever line. Fun fact: Miggs actually dated Betsy Ross.

No, not that one. He isn’t that old.

Miggs met this Betsy Ross in 1998, at a New Year’s party at Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler’s house. She grew up in Westport — as Betsy Peterken– and left Staples after 10th grade.

This is not the Betsy Ross whom Miggs Burroughs dated.

This is not the Betsy Ross whom Miggs Burroughs dated.

By the time she returned for that party she’d married and divorced Thomas McCaughey, married (and was in the process of separating from) wealthy investment banker Wilbur Ross — and was, in her own right (using the name Betsy McCaughey Ross) lieutenant governor of New York, under George Pataki.

A staunch conservative, she was also in the process of defecting to the Democratic Party — so she could run against Pataki. (She lost in the primary.)

Which brings us — in a roundabout way — back to Yankee Doodle.

The costume is hot. So Miggs will be in air-conditioned Bedford Hall — part of the Yankee Doodle Fair grounds — for limited hours: 6-8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, June 16-17; 4-7 p.m. Saturday, June 18, and 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.

After 109 years, this Yankee Doodle Fair promises to be a historic occasion.

(Full hours for the Yankee Doodle Fair: 6-10 p.m. June 16-17,  1-10 p.m. June 18; 1-5 p.m. June 19. All proceeds help fund Westport Woman’s Club grants and scholarships. For more details, click here.)

 

Remembering Elliott Netherton

Elliott Netherton was a tireless Westport Historical Society volunteer.

But the Connecticut plates on his sleek, dark green classic Jaguar always read “KY COL.”

The University of Kentucky graduate and former Kentucky National Guard officer spent 34 years with GE as a financial management executive.

Yet it was his life after retirement that made his death last Thursday at 83 so impactful on Westport.

Elliott Netherton

Elliott Netherton

As CFO of the Historical Society — during the Great Recession — Elliott moved assets into no-load index funds.

Other non-profits staggered, as sponsorships and donations plummeted. But the WHS — which was still paying off a mortgage — thrived.

“Elliott was dealing with very serious heart issues at the time,” then-president Dorothy Curran recalls. “He put his health — perhaps even his life — on the line for us.

“He was not always easy to work with. He knew his parliamentary procedure cold, had no use for wandering conversation, and insisted that board meetings end promptly at 5:30 p.m.”

His chair says it all.

His chair says it all.

But, Curran says, “he was a quiet, principled, tireless force of nature. There never was any question that his moral compass, financial integrity and heart for service, above and beyond, were in the right place.”

The WHS was hardly Elliott’s only volunteer activity.

He was a longtime Boy Scout leader (during and after GE, at the local, district and national levels). He was an avid Y’s Men participant (recruiting excellent retired executives from that group for the WHS financial advisory committee).

He served Christ & Holy Trinity Episcopal Church with his financial acumen. He also was an officer of Westport’s Republican  Town Committee (and spent many Election Days as a poll monitor).

Elliott and Joyce Netherton.

Elliott and Joyce Netherton.

In support of his wife Joyce — a distinguished executive and volunteer in her own right — he worked the “boiler room” of the Westport Woman’s Club during Yankee Doodle Fair crunch time, counting cash late into the night.

Longtime friend and fellow volunteer Pete Wolgast also salutes Elliott’s integrity.

“He could always be counted on to do the right thing,” the fellow church finance committee member says.

“He was highly intelligent. And he used native ability, along with his experience from many years as an internal auditor at GE, to be an extremely valuable member of many non-profits.”

Elliott Netherton, in his military days.

Elliott Netherton, in his military days.

Pete says Elliott “straightened out the church’s accounting and finances, and brought them up to general accounting standards.” When Pete became WHS president in 1995, he did the same for that organization.

Then he did it all over again, for the Y’s Men.

On Sunday, Pete stopped by Elliott’s house.

Seeing Elliott’s Jag with the “KY COL” plates in the driveway, Pete says, “I realized our community had lost an outstanding citizen.”

(A memorial service for Elliott Netherton is set for Tuesday, June 7, 1 p.m. at Christ & Holy Trinity Church. Hat tip: Rick Towers and Bob Mitchell)