from Ellin Braun Drasser
click “Read More” to see invitation
The table and graph below shows how average real income for households has not changed significantly since the late 1960s. This data was compiled at MSN.com.
In the 1960s the Bureau of Labor Statistics changed from calculating median income in the workforce to average household median income to account for women entering the workforce by the 1970s. So in most households during the last 40 years it took two people working to produce the flat average median household income shown in the graph. I have a good memory of our financial well-being in the 1950s and early 1960s even though my mother never worked and my father made less in 2013 dollars than I do today.
It is my recollection that our standard of living in the 1950s and early 1960s was higher than it is today although I can’t complain. This was an era when Americans travelled to Europe with a great exchange rate but Europeans could not afford a vacation in the USA. For example, in 1966 I had a large hotel room a block away from the Spanish Steps in Rome for $7.50 a night and in Paris on the Blvd de St. Germain on the Left Bank within earshot of the Notre Dame bell for $15 a night.
Fortunately one can survive the turmoil and unpredictability of life with hard work, serendipity, and a little bit of luck, and prevail over the rest to come before the last ding-dong of time (“doom” as Faulkner said).
Watching some of the speeches on the National Mall yesterday reaffirmed to me that our social and political future is heading in the right direction, if at an agonizingly slow pace. Martin Luther King can be thanked for this. When he gave that speech, he wisely copyrighted it so that it could not be used willy-nilly. So, in doing this he recognized the importance of the moment and his place in history. I recall that there was a synergism between Martin Luther King’s movement and popular music of Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter-Paul-and-Mary, and the jazz of Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and Willy-the-Lion Smith. I had Dylan’s first album with “Hard Rains” and “Corina, Corina” and went to the Newport Folk Festival that year, 1963. That same year I had the first album from The Mothers of Invention also and I heard the Beatles for the first time as I drove into Darien from Rowayton in my newly purchased 1957 four-seat, six cylinder Austin Healey… She Loves Me Yah,Yah,Yah was a completely new sound. This was the year that I turned 20 on September 8th when I started to head in the right direction (in retrospect), albiet at a slow pace with only a few imperceptable pieces of evidence. Eight years later I would roll into East Baltimore to begin six years at Johns Hopkins. The charred ruins around Hopkins Hospital were still there from the 1968 race riots.
In the last few days I have heard a number of leaders of the civil rights movement say that change is generational thereby hinting that the generation to come will have dramatically shifted views about race relations and political direction. One young white commentor referring to a white extreme right-wing racist politician, who had just gotten through bashing Obama as a Muslim who hates white people, spoke about that generation now in their 60s dying off. Needless to say, I felt a little insulted because I am two weeks from becoming 70. Writing off people in their 60s and 70s as too near death to count does not appeal to me. Some of us will march on like Diane Wilkinson Trefethen who is still competing in 50-100 mile horse races and winning (also Judy Beatty, Pat Lauder, and others), while those other people (the racists) will eventually fade into their wheel chairs with mounting dementia for one final decade. While we hear about how often people are living well into their wonderful 80s and 90s, I don’t relish that but aging is inescapeable.
I feel more sorry for those in the 15 to 20 years pre-retirement generation whose wages have not kept pace with inflation who have insufficient or no funds put aside for retirement. They watch as the wealthy get richer and a rare few win the lottery. After 45 years of life these people have little or no options but to stagger on into oblivion. Some would say it’s their own fault.
Some of us were lucky to have good mentors. In January of 1964, I took time off from college and started my first real job in Stamford. That began almost 50 continuous years of employment which will not end on September 8th … knock-on-wood. US Open Tennis is starting which takes me back to the early 60s when I often went to the Open at Forest Hills. Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra were drug-free at least, Casey Stengel was managing the Mets, and Roberto Clemente started to impress me. College and pro-football also starts taking me back to Broadway Joe on the rise and the demise of Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall and the Colts. And UConn basketball will soon follow taking me back to the days of Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman.
But more importantly, President Obama will show a youthful new generation that they can be proud to have a black President … and this is good! Because of this passing, hopefully more people will recognize the importance of sharing and providing equal opportunity so that all can have a productive, fulfilling quality of life.Read More
from Kathy Pinto
Left to right, back row: Eleanor Stow, Beatrice Waddell, Lynn Bradford; front row is Jouke Vanderguissen, Candy Mattiello and Linda Bishop, 1958. Donna Wilmot is in the second picture (below), same year.Read More
Pat, your name sounds familiar, and the time of which you spoke coincides with my life as a kid in Rowayton. Matter of fact, I worked at Soybel’s back when Mr. Soybel, accompanied by his two daughters, Myra and her sister,whose name escapes me were running it. While I worked there, the tables overlooking the river had not yet been installed. My job was as soda jerk, and general worker-bee. My class at Rowayton School headed the march from the old school on Rowayton Avenue to the new one, which was probably around 1940. Miss Angelina Wakeman was our principal.Read More
Karen Thorsen – Wilson Point Kid – Writer, Producer, and Director of Soon to be Re-Released “The Price of the Ticket” – James Baldwin
As a kid and teenager Karen was Heide Thorsen of Wilson Point. She is not technically a RowaytonKid although she has many qualifications to be called a RowaytonKid. She graduated from Thomas School on Bluff Avenue just like other RowaytonKids (listed above) – Judy, Connie, Margo, Laurie, and Diane Wilkinson - and she frequently visited our house down the road. Also her father, Wallace, would occassionally give the sermon at the Methodist church on the corner of Pennoyer Street and Rowayton Avenue.
After graduating from Thomas School in 1964 she went on to Vassar where, as most Vassar girls do, she dropped her childhood name and adopted her first name “Karen.” She’s had a storied career as a writer, producer and director of documentaries the Public Broadcasting TV, the History Channel, and others. Her biography is HERE at the American Masters website. Her most notable accomplishment is “The Price of the Ticket” on the life and struggle of James Baldwin which was released in 1989. This work has been restored and will be re-released as an American Masters feature at 9PM, Friday, August 23rd. The timing of this re-release marks 25 years after Baldwin’s death, 50 years after the historic March on Washington, and publication of Baldwin’s bestselling essay The Fire Next Time. I encourage all to watch this masterpiece about an important author and civil rights crusader.
I recall Heide mentioning her admiration for James Baldwin back in 1964; so she had read Baldwin probably while she was at Thomas School. That was a time when both of us were seeded with notions of where we were going in life. Her success was far more predictable than mine because of her intelligence and charm. My career and future was influenced greatly by her father. Wally and I played tennis that summer at Norman Cousins’ house in New Canaan. I recall Norman Cousins complaining about his tennis elbow when we asked if he wanted to play. It turned out that he was in the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis which led him into a new career in medicine.
Wally was a visionary who shared his excitement with me about the emergence of modern genetics with the cracking of the genetic code by Marshall Nurenberg at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This story had just been written up in Life Magazine. Funny thing, but two years later in September 1966 I began my Ph.D. work investigating the mechanism of gene expression in a renowed lab at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Wally was also enamored with the powers of vitamin C as a cure-all. Seventeen years later in September 1981, I found myself standing in front of Linus Pauling trying to explain how the mutation in the human beta-actin gene, which I had discovered at NIH, caused cancer. He smiled and interrupted me to ask if I knew who discovered actin, the most highly conserved protein in our evolution. I knew that it was Albert Szent-Györgyi who Pauling admired. Szent-Györgyi also discovered vitamin C and received the Nobel Prize for that in 1937. We all took vitamin C at the Pauling Institute because every year Hoffmann-La Roche would send us a large package of uncut C which we would divide up. At the time word had it that everyone at Harvard was taking it so why not? I considered C a Linus Pauling tax that gave us all better health in some mysterious way, and funding to boot.
Pauling had become an advocate of vitamin C, after Norman Cousins, and Wally. He had also won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. Pauling would also have been able to understand the double helical structure of DNA had he been able to leave the country to visit Rosalind Franklin; but his passport had been revoked because of McCarthyism.
While some consider Pauling’s advocacy of vitamin C quackery, I saw him almost single-handedly force NIH to fund research on human nutrition which he considered to be the biggest health problem worldwide – not the other diseases we all know about. Today, the Linus Pauling Institute is thriving at Oregon State as a prestigious and highly funded center for human nutrition research. Back in 1981 Pauling and I managed to float his fledgling institute, then in Palo Alto CA, with our grants from the National Cancer Intitute and, of course, a few important contributors. My Bio is HERE.
So the story that started in the early 1960s in an around Rowayton led to some very satisfying results thanks to Heide’s father, Wally Thorsen.Read More
Heidi Westover writes about her training experiences at her blog - a good read for those who aspire to be long distance runners. Crick Leavitt
Meg Gatten Westerling (Wilson Avenue next to the Ladrigans), husband Tommy (Hickory Bluff and East Norwalk), and elite runner and daughter Heidi Westover are shown here in Costa Rica recently where Heidi won the national marathon. Heidi and husband Rob and Meg and Tommy live in New Hampshire. In May Heidi won the Vermont City Marathon. She had to pull up in the Boston Marathon because of a hamstring injury, but placed 3rd among American women and 18th overall in the Boston Marathon three years ago. She also placed 15th in the Olympic Trials in Houston a year and a half ago. Meg and Tommy travel with her to races on ocassion.Read More
Chasmar’s Pond and the boathouse in 1941 on the right and my parents, Peter and June Leavitt, living there on the left (click to enlarge). After enlarging the pond picture, if you place the cursor on the lower right of the boathouse picture you can expand this picture to an even larger picture to capture the panoramic beauty of this pond.
My family’s first contact with Rowayton was when my parents lived at the boathouse on Chasmar’s Pond after their marriage in August of 1940. The property on Chasmar’s Pond was off of Rowayton Avenue just north of the railroad tracks; it was owned by the Ganns whose daughter was Stella Gann Eakin, the librarian at the Rowayton Library through most of the 1950s. Stella and her husband Boyce Eakin were longtime friends of my father (Peter Leavitt). I have not been able to extract from my father how or when he met Boyce; but I have about 30 to 40 letters to my father from Boyce that begin in September of 1935 and end in 1943, the year I was born. Boyce was born in 1913, the same year as dad. They probably met at Blair Academy. After that dad went to Amherst for a year and a half before dropping out. He said he wasn’t learning anything new at Amherst after being educated at English schools. The need to correspond in writing ended when my parents ended up in Darien and then Rowayton in 1942 and 1943.
My uncle John on the left and Boyce Eakin on the right with Stella below (click to enlarge). John had graduated from Darien High in the late 30s. John joined the RAF and flew bombers over Germany. Later as a CIA station chief in the middle east, he and Kermit Roosevelt orchestrated the overthrow of Mossadegh and the installation of the Shah in Iran. There’s a long story to tell about John there. John died on January 31, 2009.
I remember Stella very well. She seemed to me to be the quiet librarian type. I have only a vague recollection of Boyce. His letters to my father are very interesting to read because they provide a novel view of my father from his early 20s (he was 22 in 1935) up to the age of 30. My parents lived at the boathouse into late 1941 and this was their introduction to Rowayton. Since my father had also become close friends with Jack and Henry Maury while living and working in New York City this may have been when Brooke’s family (father Henry and mother Hester) and Johnny, Dickie, and Rosalie’s family (father Jack and mother Rolly) were also introduced to Rowayton.
Indeed, this is a picture of Brooke’s mother, Hester, and father, Henry (picture on the right), visiting my parents at the boathouse two years before Brooke and I were born. My mother is on the left scanning a vegetable garden she planted that spring (age 21).
Boyce was a handsome fellow who to my limited knowledge could not and did not want to sustain a job except for teaching at Darien High in the 1950s. He was friendly with Dick Bissell and would visit him on his riverboat in the Midwest. Boyce was an aspiring writer who repeatedly mentioned the novel he was writing in his letters. He also referenced the novel dad was writing which, I know, was finished (though never published) because its type-written pages are sitting here next to me on my desk. Boyce’s short story, Prairies, which I have read was recognized as one of the best of the year in 1942 along with stories by John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, and others in a compilation of short stories that year.
From 1935 up to the early 40s Boyce and Stella were like nomads living in eastern PA, Atlanta, Taos, Santa Fe, and other places with frequent returns to Rowayton. I don’t think that Boyce ever finished his novel. I could only find one short story, Prairies, that he published in a New Mexico literary journal now out of print. I understand now how close dad and Boyce were because of these letters. I now understand the expression on dad’s face when he found me in his basement workshop on Bryan Road one weekend morning in 1957. He had come down to tell me (at 13 years old) that Boyce had died last night from lung cancer.Read More
In the early 1950s we got 2 baby boy kittens which I named Stop and Go. When they grew up, they lived up to their names as Stop would sleep most of the day on the radiator or sofa, and drool and purr if you patted him. Go, on the other hand, would take a swipe at you if you got too friendly and try to catch birds – occasionally successful. This would strike terror in me and my father would have to run out and try and save the poor bird.
So when our next door neighbor, Mr. Novotny, came out into his back yard to shoot at squirrels in the trees with his BB gun, I was again struck with fear that he would injure or kill a defenseless squirrel. I was not going to let it happen.
We lived at 28 Bryan Road off Wilson Avenue in the 1950s and the Novotny’s lived next to us at 26 Bryan Road. The picture of me next to our au pair, Judy (here), was taken on our front steps at the side of our house which faced the Novotny’s house about 25 feet away.
Mr. Novotny, if I recall correctly, was a school teacher in Brooklyn NY. He and Mrs. Novotny with their two children would come out to Rowayton on weekends and during the summer. From my perspective, he was an angry, abusive man who often shouted at Mrs. Novotny.
Steve Miller (here), who lived on Crest Road, came over to my house one day to play and we quickly noticed that Mr. Novotny was shooting at squirrels again in his back yard. My bedroom was upstairs adjacent to the Novotny’s house. There was a porch off of my bedroom on which I could observe all that was happening in Novotny’s back yard. Somewhere I had found a very elastic rubber sheet which we cut up into long one and a half inch wide strands. Steve and I decided to strike back at Mr. Novotny from behind the tree that had grown up next to the porch. We collected lots of acorns that had fallen from another large tree in our back yard. We then attached the long rubber strands to posts on the railing that surrounded my porch (so I wouldn’t fall off). We had created the perfect retaliatory weapon in a very large slingshot shielded from view by branches from trees. We could see Mr. Novotny in his back yard in his redneck white undershirt taking aim. At the same time we were taking aim by pulling the elastic back at least by 2-feet cocked and ready. Every time Mr Novotny pulled the trigger we let loose with an acorn at warp speed aimed directly at Mr. Novotny’s head through the trees making sure to remain invisible should he turn in our direction. We were immediately impressed with the power of our weapon of mass destruction. From Novotny’s perspective the acorns seemed to come at him from nowhere slung by the very combative critters he was trying to shoot in the trees.
We had no idea if he ever figured us out and Novotny never let on that he was on to us; furthermore, because we were in great fear of being discovered we hid after each fire so that we never saw whether he was hit or not.
After a short while Mr. Novotny retreated to his house.
This was a victory that I am sure the squirrels of Bryan Road never forgot.Read More
Reading about Wilson Point reminded me that about 10 years ago, I read a book entitled “Flanders Point.” Can’t remember how I found it, but after reading the first chapter, I knew this was about Wilson Point. The main character, a young woman in her senior year of high school, attends a very small nearby girls’ school that was obviously Thomas. There were just so many parallels that I’m sure I wasn’t mistaken. The author was a woman named Jacquie Gordon. I tried to find out something about her, and learned she taught creative writing at Manhattanville College, lived in Greenwich, and had a daughter who went to Rye Country Day School. The descriptions in the book, however, do not fit with Greenwich or Rye Country Day at all. Unfortunately, she has since died. I wondered if anyone on Rowayton Kids has any information about her or knows why she apparently had a connection with Wilson Point and Thomas. In any case, the book is available on Amazon, and probably in many public libraries, and I heartily recommend it. It is sometimes categorized as a young adult, because of the main character, but it is definitely NOT for most YA’s, although it may be considered “chick lit.” Fun to read and see the parallels, however.Read More
The comments in Italics were contributed by Pat Dawson Lauder, RowaytonKid of the 40s, 50s, and 60s and co-founder of this website.
by Nan Lauder Eckfeld
When I was growing up, my hometown of Rowayton was really just a fishing village of about 2,000 people, located on the Five Mile River. The river ran south into Long Island Sound. On the northern end of Rowayton Avenue was a Baptist Church and a Methodist Church. Our ancestors had attended the Methodist Church for generations, but my parents belonged to the South Norwalk Congregational Church, “up town” as we called South Norwalk. On the west side of Rowayton Avenue heading south along the river, our “downtown” had Soybel’s drugstore, Stephanak’s grocery store, the barber shop, the Post Office and the Library. That was the main shopping center. A few blocks further south on the east side of the street was another small grocery market called the First National, and next to it was Louie’s News Stand, a great little store that sold newspapers, magazines, candy, toys and various assorted must-have sundries.
I feel like I should be carrying a cane and bent over with a hand on my back when I talk about Rowayton back in the 40s, but thankfully I am not there yet. I lived a block away from my grandfather’s boat yard, Rowayton Marine Works, and I would always find an excuse to pop in to say hello, pet the cat, check out the activity on the river and give grandpa a hug, which was generally followed by the gift of a penny or two. That was big money for a little kid and that wealth allowed me to stop at Louie’s News Stand only a hop-skip away on the corner of McKinley and Rowayton Avenue. Louie’s was a sliver of a store with well-worn wooden floors and jammed packed with newspapers, magazines, basic grocery needs, sundries, toys and candy. The main attraction there for me were the M&Ms out of the penny candy jar – 10 for one penny. In those days we could stick our filty mitts in the jar, grab a handful, count them and put back the overage!!! My, my, times and health laws have changed, but we all survived and built up our immune systems in the process. Pat Dawson Lauder
Across the street from these stores was the gas station. Rowayton also had several beaches and boatyards.
The new, brick, one-story elementary school was several blocks from “downtown” and opened a couple of months after I began Kindergarten. Buses took the older children to junior high and high school “up-town.”Read More
The Rowayton Civic Association has a very nice website www.rowaytoncurrents.com that watches for articles at RowaytonKids and lists them using a rolling News and Events plugin. Because of this RowaytonKids who wish to communicate with modern day Rowayton can do so by publishing at RowaytonKids.Read More
I spent the summers of 1961 and 1962 taking care of this beach which included two nice tennis courts just beyond the beach. It was like having my own private club. Allie and Cookie McDowell’s father would come by on weekends to pay me for my labor.
The labor was cleaning the seaweed off the beach first thing in the morning and then raking the sand smooth. As you can see, this wasn’t a big job. I would also mow the lawn behind the beach and make sure the dressing rooms were tidy. The courts took care of themselves because they were hard courts. The rest was playing tennis with Ward Chamberlin and his guest, sports author John Tunis, both of whom lived in Rowayton; also playing tennis with Paul Tebo, and giving an ocassional lesson to Sybil Schwarzenbach. Sybil had a brief cameo in Peter Sellers entertaining movie “World of Henry Orient” getting on a school bus in Manhatten. I remember this because Heide Thorsen was jealous because she didn’t get in the movie.
There wasn’t a great amount of traffic at the beach so it became my domain for these summers. I can remember counting the cars that were parked at the Phillip’s mansion on The Point just east of the beach and marvelling at their wealth from selling Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia. One weekend the very attractive Yolanda McDowell showed up at the beach with a “Duke” in tow. Word had it that the McDowells had met the Duke and his entourage in Canada and had invited them down as house guests. At some point the hosts learned that the Duke wasn’t a Duke, and I never saw the Duke again. Toward the end of the 60s, I read in the Norwalk Hour that Mr. McDowell had committed suicide up at the Norwalk reservoir, very sad. I wonder what happened to the rest of the family? Also Sybil’s brother, who I never saw at the beach, lost his life racing his sports car around Darien. Remarkably, I remember the night because I could hear the tires screeching in the distance from our home on Bluff Avenue. This was also very sad because he was going to Yale and had so much promise of a productive life ahead of him.
These were lazy summers before my transition from pure RowaytonKid to a guy with a career that is still running strong today. I entered grad school at the University of Pittsburgh in September of 1966 and received my Ph.D. in Biochemistry in April of 1971. Without that experience and three special scientific mentors at Pitt, I can’t imagine where I would have ended up…probably in Vietnam. My first job was this Wilson Point Beach job; then I spent most of 1964 and the summer of 65 as a lab technician at Diamond National in Stamford. During those two summers Suzie O’Gorman and I ran the Bayley Beach concession also. Then after a summer in Europe I started with a full fellowship at Pitt which covered the cost of my life for 4.5 years. So I have been employed since the summer of 1961 with few gaps.Read More
My childhood was spent in a safe and very small, affluent, white world on Covewood Drive in Rowayton, CT. And then I ventured out into the larger world. At age 18? 1968, was I ever unprepared for what I walked out and into! I would love to hear from others that I knew. Jean (Wilson) TempletonRead More
From Suzanne Miller: The name was Bois Jolie….pretty woods. We have a booklet called Point in Time which is a small history of the Point. If you would like one, I have some extra copies. Let me know!
From Shelby McCord
It was the original “Wilson Point” developer’s home. Col. Duncan G. Harris built it in 1920 and used it as a weekend or summer home. He was a real estate developer from NYC. He married a french woman, Alice Abell but they never had children.
My son just purchased it in foreclosure and I am trying to collect the history on the house for him as a “house gift”. Any clues would be great.
It is located at 10 Woodland Road in Wilson Point. The house is small and directly on the water. It has survived all these years virtually intact and unremuddled.Read More
Judy with sister Janis. From Dorit: “Judith remembers the day when it all started very, very clearly. “I was 6, almost 7. It was in late August 1949 in Connecticut. I jumped out of bed to run to the bathroom and fell and then couldn’t get up.” Judith was very, very frightened. By the next day, she was paralyzed from the neck down.”
From Crick Leavitt: Thank you Dorit for writing this story and Judy for telling it. I have written about Judy’s experience on a number of ocassions. Judy and I grew up in Rowayton CT and our memories are exactly the same, even Judy’s description of learning to swim. We were playing together when her contraction of polio began. I remember this in my mind’s eye and the thought of that early evening comes back to me often. I wrote the following some time ago:
“Shortly after I arrived at the Bureau of Biologics of the FDA (at the Natl. Insts. of Health) all the staff were tested for polio antibody titre in our blood because I was going to grow the live poliovirus. A titre of 1:8 to 1:32 (negative serum:immune serum) achieved by vaccination is thought to provide immunity to poliovirus. I had a titre that was basically off-scale (1:>>>5000). This finding confirmed that I had once had the natural infection. I believe that this was when I was four or five because I remember playing with my friend Judy (about 1949) in our front yard at dusk. My parents also connected the dots although at the time we had no proof of the timing of our infections. Judy went home with a fever and ended up in an iron lung. I was the lucky one because I ended up with a flu-like disease with no apparent paralysis. Today you don’t often see people walking around with leg braces due to polio but this was not that uncommon before the 1970s. One of my Ph.D. advisors, Garrett Ihler who was a brilliant scientist, wore one. I have always been aware that I favor my right leg tremendously but this only shows up when skiing or skating. I hate to bring this up in light of Judy’s struggle; but it is worth mentioning that poliovirus infections left less dramatic physical effects on some of the unparalyzed.
I am so happy that you both told this story. John (Crick) LeavittRead More
Any other father/child pictures are welcome.
Left to right and down.
1. Jerry Beatty with Janice, Judy…
2. Paul Ballard with David…
3. David Baumgarten with wife Florence and Margo and Laurie.
4. Jeff with daughters.
5. Shelley with Chip.
6. Ellin’s father with Horace McMahon and daughter
7. Jane Smith’s Dad
8. Crick with dad Peter in the late spring 1944
9. Crick with Mariah 1991
10. Crick with Elizabeth, Drew, and Christina at Candlestick Park in 1990.
11. Holly’s father Alan McKissock
12. Jack Maury, Johnny, Dickie, Betsy and Rosalie’s dad with June Leavitt and Anne Henry.
13. Jeff’s father, James, with step-mother, Francis.
I managed to put a SEARCH BOX next to “Participants” in the Right Sidebar. The box at the top of the page works only if you type in the word and hit return and I am not sure why. If you put a word in the BOX next to “participants” or at the top you can find the articles that mention “Crick” or “Cricky” or “Pat” or “Patty” or “Connie” or “Hickory” or “Thomas” or even obscure people like “phoebe”… etc. Have fun.Read More
From Andy Leavitt
I remember going out with Peter when he was lobstering. Later, I had one of my most exciting times on the water with brother Peter. We were in my aluminum skiff and we were off some rocky shores of Sheffield Island. Peter taught me that the Stripers like to swim amongst the rocks. He was sure right that day. My line went taught, the pole bent in half and I stood up yelling “I GOT ONE!!!” Peter threw a seat cushion down and told me to sit before I fell in! Those boats are very light in the water and the fish was rather large. So it wasn’t so much me struggling to haul in a mighty catch as it was reeling the boat to the fish. The boat just scooted along until a 39″ striper (or was it 42″) was grabbed into the boat by Peter. We were so happy. When we got ashore Mom took a picture of me holding the fish. I was so small that it came up to my chin. Later she made a little clay statue of the picture she had taken.Read More
At the Bluff we were always within earshot of the peacocks. Crick
Thanks for the interesting commentary about Tavern Island; it is indeed a special landmark and full of history. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Billie Rose kept peacocks on the island, roaming freely. They would, however, fly over to Wilson Point and spend the morning on the roof of Walt’s mother’s house (Anne Graham) on Woodland Road. They made a racket but were very beautiful to watch strutting in the yard and eating any birdseed left on the ground from the feeders. This is an old post card of “Pilot Island”. The house on the left was moved and rebuilt to the right of the main house. The photo of Tavern Island was taken in 2010. Surprisingly, there was minimal damage from Hurricane Sandy, due to the fact that the water washed over the island and did less damage than it did on the shore lands, according to the current caretaker, Mike Hart. BTW, the island is for sale for a mere $12+ million.Read More
From Peter Leavitt
I once put one lobster pot just off the rocks of Tavern Island and waited 2 or 3 days to pull the pot and see if I had any luck. Well to my surprise I caught four lobsters. What a haul! Lobster being my favorite food, it seemed so easy that I decided to get a license so I could put out strings of lobster pots maybe even sell some.
My first string of six pots I put right off Tavern Island near the same spot of the first one waited the 2 or 3 days; then headed out to pull in what had to be a great haul. As I pulled up the first pot I could hardly stand it. Oh no, nothing pot after pot nothing! Well, I loaded them with bait, changed the spot a little, and hoped for the best. Time after time, no luck.
During this time I was working in a boatyard in Stamford. During lunch all of the yard hands would sit in this large shoproom and have lunch telling each other stories. One man one day was eating lobster for lunch and we where all surprised because lobster was very expensive and we teased “What are you. rich?” We were all poor laborers. I remember, he had a Norwegian accent and he laughed and in a deep Norse accent.
He said, “I live on an Island in Norwalk called Tavern Island owned by Billy Rose. I am the caretaker for the island. Every Sunday a dumb ass comes out and puts lobster pots right next to the Island. He comes back every third day at the exact same time; so I go out a few hours earlier and pull the pots. I’ve been really making a good haul.”
That was the end of my lobstering career. Did I say anything? I was the youngest and smallest worker there. No, I didn’t say anything. I did not want to be the dumb ass. What are the odds?
I lived my first 18 years in Rowayton CT. I’ve attached below an inspiring picture of Tavern Island. This is the harbor and open waters where I took sailing lessons for five years and many of us frolicked.
In the Picture:
dark green arrow = Hickory Bluff dock, beach, and store, where Tommy Westerling and Meg Gatten hung out before they got married. Nearly all of us hung out there. I can still taste the chocolate ice cream.
dark blue arrow = Tavern Island custodian house and dock.
purple arrow = Our house and beach in the 1960s where I took many a skinny dip.
red arrow = Shelly T. and Chip’s house with beach and canoe.
gray arrow = Fashionable Thomas School for girls where Diane (Wilkinson), Judy, Margo, Laurie, Connie, and cousin Nancy Cornbrooks went along with other Rowayton girls.
green arrow = Wilson Point beach where I was lifeguard/beach boy/tennis teacher for two years.
light blue arrow = Where I capsized in Shelly’s canoe in March of 1964 and had to swim the canoe with the current and the wind to the Wilson Point Beach…burrr.
pink arrow= Bell(e) Island where Margo, Laurie, Pam, Bronwyn, Roussie, Linda, and my Aunt and Uncle Charlie and Kate Cornbrooks with Suzie and Nancy lived. No wonder the Island was often called Belle Island.
orange arrow = Bayley Beach around the corner from Bell(e) Island and Roton Point. I spent almost every summer day there playing tennis in the summers and ran the beach concession for two summers.
From our terrace looking at Tavern Island at dusk.Read More
This is from “Who Put the “Tavern” in Tavern Island?” by DC
If you go to the original article, there are some interesting comments.
While a web search of Sheffield Island or Cockenoe Island immediately produces a wealth of information about the history of those islands, Tavern Island remains more of a mystery. That’s probably because it’s privately owned, and has been throughout recent history. The island is home to a mansion and some smaller structures and gardens. Rumor has it that it took the name Tavern Island during the prohibition period. This can seemingly be corroborated by the fact that Billy Rose owned the island in the ’20s. The showman is said to have used it as a stopover for rumrunners (Editor’s correction: per Benjamin Shepherd’s comment, below, Billy Rose did not purchase the island until 1957). A post on RowaytonKids.com (an interesting collaboration of photos and tales from kids who grew up in Rowayton in the ’50s) shares some gossip about the island from the middle of the century: “Barbara Streisand was once seen on their pier waiting for the launch to take her to the island.” (attributed to June Leavitt; told by Crick Leavitt) Or better, ”you had to be careful if you tried to sneak onto Tavern Island as they had a rather aggressive ostrich.” (attributed to Andy Leavitt). The Norwalk Islands certainly add a lot to our little chunk of Long Island Sound, not only from a perspective of gunkholing, kayaking, camping, and scenery, but history as well. I invite readers to share any more tales or rumors of the history of any of the islands that you may know.Read More
I like to brag about my cousin Meg Gatten Westerling’s daughter. Meg grew up on Wilson Avenue next to the Ladrigans and married Tommy Westerling of Norwalk. They live in New Hampshire and have a son Tommy Jr. and daughter Heidi. Heidi came in 15th in the US Olympic Qualifying trials in Houston in January 2012. Here she is winning yesterday. She had to pull up at the Boston Marathon because of a hamstring injury.
Westover, from Walpole, N.H., crossed the finish line a 2:42: 02, despite struggling with rain and cold temperatures.
“It’s really exciting,” Westover said. “It was definitely a tough day out there. It was pretty cold. I was battling a hamstring issue since the middle of March, so I just wanted to have a good day.”
Westover was not shy about wanting to break the women’s course record that she set in 2009. She fell seven minutes shy of the 2:35:02 mark.
“I was going after my record but I got to 13 and ½ (miles) and I was only 30 seconds off of where I had been for my record, but it got really cold after that,” Westover said. “It started to get cold around 12 (miles) for me, from then on it was just a cold day.”
Today, I wonder how the Vietnamese think of the war? To Americans it’s still a stone in our collective shoe. Maybe that’s because we lost. Have they moved on never really looking back? My hero of Vietnam was a local boy, Will, a RowaytonKid. I won’t say his last name because he may not want it out there; but he’s my hero because he knew what was right for him at the time while most simply did what they were told. He was a conscientious objector. Because of this he was called a coward by his father and actually went to jail for refusing to go to a war he thought was wrong. I personally wasn’t smart enough to truly understand Will’s conviction and knowledge of the situation at hand. For those who fought I would say they answered a calling from their leaders and did what they thought was responsible. There is no shame in that and there is no shame in Will’s own personal war.
I grew up living in the North. I’ve always thought of the United States as just one beautiful country. I don’t think of the civil war that often but when I do I enjoy learning its history. I’ve been to many civil war battle areas and seen the horror of what happened. Antietam is always hard to believe. I’ve been living in the South for many years and, believe it or not, you feel like the Civil war is just on hold at times. It’s as though there is more to be done. To me it is actually a little funny. I’m not laughing at my Southern brothers and sisters but the only thing I can come up with is that the south lost and some are unwilling to give up. Most people, I think, don’t understand that we both lost – the North and the South. And we both won because the solution was the best for all.Read More
I found this photo taken at the Rowayton School 6th grade tea dance in June, 1959 of (L to R) me, Martha Aspblom and Missy McMahon. The picture was taken at the church’s “meeting house” built in 1955; the new church followed in 1962.
From Diane Wilkinson Trefethen
Crick’s article brought back warm memories for me. I loved baseball in the 50s and the Yankees were my favorite team too. I played hardball with the boys at recess because the girls weren’t interested. Actually it was one-a-cat (really “one old cat” but what did we know?) because we never had time to get two real teams together. I learned to throw hard by standing in front of a mirror in my bedroom and “practicing” pitching a la Whitey Ford (#16). My hero was Mickey Mantle (#7). As John says, we were kids and had no clue about what went on behind the scenes. We saw the people they were through the eyes of adoring kids, not objectively at all.
The Yankees broadcaster on Channel 11 was Mel Allen (remember the Bert & Harry Piels ads for beer?) and Vin Sculley did the Dodgers on Channel 9. During the summer, I would score ball games on the telly.
The only World Series game I’ve ever been to was in 1956. It was Thursday morning and I had barely gotten to school at Darien Junior High when my mother called the office to say she was coming to get me. She took me straight to the Darien station and put me on a train to New York. My Dad had gotten two last minute tickets for game #2 at Ebbets Field. The Yanks lost. That was the year that Don Larsen (#18) later pitched the only perfect game in World Series history.
Thank you so much for bringing back happy memories of baseball when it was a game and we loved not just “our” team but “our” players too.Read More
The movie “42” starring Chadwick Baldwin as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, is a must see for anyone growing up in the 1950s or who loved baseball in that magic era.
I was a huge baseball fan as a kid. I was devoted to the New York Yankees in the 1950s and can still recite the numbers of the starting eight Yankees (not the pitchers). Phil Rizzuto, short-stop (No. 10), was my favorite to the point where I would actually pray for him to get a hit when he came up to bat – he was short like me. He was the Most Valuable Player in 1950. In the early-mid 50s, I was also the only kid in the “300 Club” which was named the 300 Club because it was limited to 299 New York City business men and one child (me) centered at the Republican Club located on the same block where my commuting father worked at Schumacher’s next to Bryant Park.
The 300 Club was a gambling club. Every year in April, the members submitted their teams of 10 players with two alternates (if one or two of the first 10 did not come to bat at least 400 times). The trick was to pick a team with the highest combined batting average by the end of the baseball season. It was not as easy as it sounds because every year someone would have an off year or would not come to bat 400 time because of an injury. The pay-off was $50 if you were leading at the all-star break and $500 with a smaller second place prize if you won at the end of the season. So the New York Times sports pages were my bible for that decade. The closest I came to winning was when I came in second at the all-star break one summer.
Because of the club I didn’t just study and choose Yankees (usually Mickey Mantle #7, Hank Bauer #9 and Yogi Berra #8). I knew of all of the top hitters of that decade which included Willie Mays (center field) and Don Mueller (right field) on the NY Giants, Stan Musiel (center field) of the St. Louis Cardinals, and Duke Snider (center field), and Jackie Robinson (third base) on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Guys like Joe Campanella (Dodgers), Roger Maris (Yankees and Cardinals) and Hank Aaron (Boston Braves) came in toward the end of this era. I went to quite a few Yankees games with my parents. At my first game, Yankees v. St. Louis Browns, I saw Satchel Paige give up a bases loaded home run to Yogi Berra in the last of the 9th. I never had an opportunity to go to any Dodgers’ games in Brooklyn. Andy Rooney took me to my only NY Giants’ game in their last season at the Polo Grounds in New York before the team moved to San Francisco. We sat in the CBS box and I recall seeing Willie, Bobby Thompson, and Mueller hitting and fielding. In the 80s and early 90s Becki and I with kids rediscovered the Giants and went to many games at Candlestick Park where we were entertained by Will Clark and Matt Williams among others. Remember the earthquake World Series between the Giants and Oakland As?
I have always enjoyed my brushes with fame so when John Sharnik, a CBS producer and author, asked me to warm up Jackie Robinson for an exhibition at the Rowayton Bayley Beach tennis courts one summer weekend in either 1959 or 1960, I was more than happy to do so. As much as I was a student of baseball I was only faintly aware of the difficulties that Jackie struggled with in the late 40s and 50s. This is because I saw baseball through a kid’s eyes. Only later would I learn to understand the destructiveness of prejudice and hate in our society.
In Rowayton I was considered the best kid tennis player. I would consistantly beat the pro next door at Roton Point, I was number one on the Norwalk High team, went on to play college tennis and ultimately made the all conference team in doubles. But if the truth be known, Mike Newman and Paul Tebo, two other Rowayton kids, were just as good. But I had a lot of important mentors like Ward Chamberlin, best adult player around and George Shiras whose son Lief became a top grass court player with success at Wimbleton. I would usually be put out of the annual Rowayton Tennis tournament by Ward and there was always a good gallery. Ward would make sure that I got more games off of him than the other big hitters in the tournament. I also like to tell people that I beat Paul Gerken from neighboring Norwalk who rose to 32nd in the world beating the likes of Bjorn Borg and Arther Ashe. Paul has the only winning record over Borg (2-1). This was in the summer of 1961 when we played one set and I won 6-2. I always follow-up and confess that Paul was only 10 years old and I was 18, but Paul was already receiving his rackets from Jack Kramer.
So when Sharnik asked me to warm up Jackie Robinson, I rose to the occasion. I vaguely remember that when I was introduced to Jackie I showed no awe because this was serious business and I sensed that Jackie felt the same way. Since he was quite stoic, I wondered about his interest in being at Bayley Beach where everyone was white except for him. Darien next door was also all white except for the maids that came daily on the bus from Stamford. Jackie and his wife lived in Greenwich between Rye NY and Stamford where my maternal grandfather had built fine homes in the 1920s and early 30s.
I call this “my moment with Jackie Robinson” because it probably lasted 20 to 25 minutes. It was a beautiful warm day and I was hitting with someone I admired as a baseball player. He was at best an above average country club tennis player because of his athleticism. His forehand bounced deep in the court and was heavy to return. Jackie went on to play the exhibition doubles match with Ward and two other Rowayton men. Over those years we also had exhibitions with other top players including Billy Talbert. In my book, Ward was always the star.
After this experience I became more aware of Jackie Robinson’s trials and tribulations and the negative side of baseball in that era. In the 1960s I lost all interest in the major leagues except for the revival that I mentioned in the late 1980s and early 90s. Two things dashed that revival – the baseball strike that ended a superlative season and homerun crown for Matt Williams in the early 90s and the arrival of Barry Bonds in San Fransico. Bonds made even his uncle Willie Mays look bad.
Jackie paved the way for Elston Howard (Catcher, Yankees), Don Newcome (Pitcher, Dodgers), Roy Campanella (Catcher, Dodgers), Minnie Minoso (perennial 300 hitter, outfield, Chicago White Sox), Monte Irvin (outfield, Cleveland Indians), Roberto Clemente (right field, Pittsburgh Pirates), Willie Stargell (first base, Pittsburgh Pirates), and many others. I lived in Pittsburgh while in Grad School from 1966 to 71 and would often walk from the lab at the medical school about five blocks down to Forbes Field where I was able to enter the stadium for free after the seventh inning (bleachers on the left field foul line cost only 50 cents). Roberto Clemente was the best all-around player I ever saw. He played right field because he had a terrific throwing arm and would occasionally throw out surprised hitters at first base who thought they had hit a single. Stargell was a phenomenal clean-up hitter behind line drive hitter, Clemente, who on numerous occasions hit the ball over the third tier roof in right field. When that happened, everyone at the KFC up on the hill (the getto) would get free Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Baseball in the 40s and 50s was magical. It’s not the same for me today.Read More