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We are the Rowayton kids who grew up in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Post a comment by first clicking on "Read More" underneath the article.

The Spring of ‘63

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

This was the Spring before President Kennedy was assassinated. I’m one of those people who remembers exactly where I was and what I was doing on November 22nd 1963. I’ll try and write that up today. This was the beginning of an important year for me. So to warm up, this is where I was in the Spring of that year. But of course, much more important things happened that year.

from Crick

This week or last week (February 2012), a controversy surrounding the identities of the voting members of the Movie Academy arose mentioning one derogotory example who was a nun. I thought to myself, ‘This must be Dolores’ … Dolores Hart. A few days later the news caught up with the controversy and confirmed that the nun was Dolores … a beautiful young woman, then and today.

Here’s a picture of Dolores with one of my favorite actors, Montgomery Clift, in “Lonelyhearts” (1958). My favorite Montgomery Clift movie is “Wild River” (1960) with Lee Remick which portrayed life in Appalachia, much like it existed in West Virginia where I went to college. The second picture is Dolores today, still a beautiful woman.

Thinking of Dolores jogged my memory to an experience in my youth when I was a sophomore at Bethany College in West VA – the ‘small college of extinction’ – my frat brothers preferred saying, derived from a sign-post on the main road which then stated “Bethany College, Small College of Distinction.” Now I see they’ve added the word “National” to the phrase… Hmmm, Small College of National Extinction? Fifty years in retrospect, it was a fine place to be which prepared me for a significant career in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology. I have recalled the experience in the early spring of 1963 often and fondly but never thought of bringing it up until Dolores came back in my life this week.

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The Last Time I Was In Louie’s

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Peter Leavitt

It’s funny. With all the fond memories of Louie’s does anyone remember Louie? Anyone who delivered the Norwalk Hour picked them up at Louie’s. I inherited Crick’s route which was as exciting as it gets, my first job. When the Holidays came, you couldn’t wait to get those extra tips.

I remember being down in the basement on Bryan Road at about 7 pm way after paper delivery time. Mom came down and said “Peter, did you deliver your papers?” Oh CRAP, she must have been getting calls. “WERE IS OUR PAPER?” That night she drove me around on my deliveries which were usually done by bike unless it rained.

Back to Louies. I have to confess that in the closet on a dresser in mom and dad’s room was a tray with change in it. I would steal, yes steal (there is no other way to say it), quarters from the tin; then go down to Louie’s and buy baseball cards with the bubble gum pack for a quarter. I would end up with a giant wad of gum in my mouth.

The last time I was in Louie’s I said “Hi” to a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I heard he had gotten a job at Louie’s. When I went into the store, all I could utter was “hi.” I didn’t know what to say. He said hello from behind the counter and asked how I was doing. Everyone in Rowayton knew of Eric Lund’s leukemia. He died shortly after in 1972. He was a good friend.

My sixth grade class at Rowayton School: Here is the order from left to right, top row to bottom of some of my classmates: Me (Bryan Rd), Chappy Bradford (Ridgewood Rd), Chan Davis, Eric Lund (Rowayton Beach), Debbie Slocum, Jane Pemberthy (Wilson Ave near Highland Ave), Andy Jackson (Highland Ave), Chris Alk, Tony Wilson (Witch Lane in Brooke Maury’s old house), may be Nancy Anderson, Billy Lee (Rowayton Beach), and Rickie Hayes. Eric’s mom Doris Lund wrote the book “Eric” about his struggle with leukemia which was made into a movie.

From Crick: Peter on his prized Harley in 1968 at our house on Bluff Ave (below).

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Louies Update- The Way the Store Looked in the 1960s and Now

Monday, October 28th, 2013 12 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

from Kathy

This is a great shot of Louies, how I remember it. The TV repair place was right next door. We used to sit out in front and smoke our cigarettes (then our parents would come by and catch us!). It was a hangout for all of us. I remember John and Louie, 5 cent candy bars, 10 cents for ice cream, and the comic book section. My mother would always send me there for milk and bread. I can still hear the creak of the front door and the squeaking wood floors! Thanks for posting this, it really brings back some fun memories.

from Crick

RowaytonKids has been looking for a picture of Louies since its inception. This photo is compliments of Tupper (Lloyd Rex Gatten). Although this picture was likely taken in the 1960s, this is pretty much how I recall Louies in the 1950s. Paul Tebo and I would bike to Louies on the corner of Rowayton Ave and McKinley Ave to pick up our paper route bundles of The Norwalk Hour which were tossed by the delivery man in front of Louies daily. We each had about 42 papers to deliver. Paul would buy a coke and Little Lulu comic books and I would get a Pepsi or Yogi Berra’s favorite drink and Superman comics at Louies. Louies was a kid’s ideal of a store. No pretenses.

From Dirk Kretschman

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My Childhood Friend and RowaytonKid, Judy Beatty, Gets Polio

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

My childhood friend Judy gets polio in 1949. Her story is here. I believe that is me in the fifth picture down. I am blowing bubbles at Judy’s 7th birthday party in 1949.

“One Saturday in late August, we all went to the beach. I had a cold. I remember my mother and father spreading out a blue plaid blanket on the warm sand, and the sparkling water and bright sun, and my mother calling out to me as I ran toward the water, “Don’t go in; you’ll get polio.” We didn’t know anyone who had it. But even so, I tried to be a good girl. I just dipped my toes in the water.”

This interview is by Tammy Pilisuk, MPH
Health Educator
Immunization Branch
Division of Communicable Disease Control
Center for Infectious Disease
California Department of Public Health
850 Marina Bay Parkway, Bldg. P, 2nd Floor
Richmond, CA 94804

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Norwalk High’s 1960 and 1961 Tennis Teams Led By RowaytonKids

Sunday, September 29th, 2013 one Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

from Crick – This important history was recovered because the clippings below washed up in a bottle at Bayley Beach recently :-)

Spring 1960: Three RowaytonKids are in this picture – Johnny Wrigley, Mike Newman, and me. Mike Newman, who played number one that year, took Sue Emrich to the 1960 prom. Bob Hodge moved over to Brian McMahon the following year and had to play me at number one; sadly he became the victim of the famous ‘malt shot’ :-) (explained below the picture) – the invention of Coach Alcock who was also a Biology teacher.

“Then there was the ‘malt shot’. The tennis coach had created the ‘malt shot’ to get us to hit the opposition between the legs when they dared to come to the net. If we achieved this questionable accomplishment, we earned a free ‘malt’ at the nearest soda counter. So Brian McMahon HS, in their first year of existence, came to NHS with their tall number one, Bob Hodge, with a very big head that was a better target than his you know what. I nailed him, though, and received a free malt. The problem with the coach’s method of teaching was that we all developed fear of playing at the net … for life, because of the dreaded malt shot.”

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Hickory Bluff Pre-World War I

Saturday, September 28th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Jane Smith Graham

I enjoyed Nan Lauder’s story about the Bluff. She might enjoy seeing this vintage postcard of Hickory Bluff. The postmark is not visible and the stamp was removed, but it was printed in Germany and has a Litho-Chrome trademark, which are on postcards printed before the beginning of WWI (1914). The lockers are in the same place, but the doors are now facing the inner walkway and the steps leading to the water are in the same spot. The house to the left of the picture is gone, replaced by a garage owned by Tavern Island residents. Crick’s former home in the 1960s is the yellow house on the right. I was glad to win this card on E-bay, even though it is not in prime condition (note the scratch in the middle) but I’ve never seen this one before.

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Hickory Bluff – Some History

Monday, September 23rd, 2013 8 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

by: Nan Lauder Eckfeld and Pat Dawson Lauder

See the YouTube flick at the end of this article.

In my childhood, Hickory Bluff was a semi-shabby, small “beach club and bait shop” on Bluff Avenue in Rowayton, CT (before the 50s). The store had dark wooden floors, a fishy-smelling interior and was very crowded with boating equipment. It sold snacks, bait and fishing gear, and rented small fishing boats and motors. At the rear of the building were a porch with some wooden chairs, a long row of slightly shaky, two-story bathhouses on a wooden deck built over sand and water, and a ramp leading to a floating dock. The dock rose and fell with the tide, so to get to it at low tide you would be walking down a very steep and slippery ramp. At high tide it was nearly level. The deck to get to the bathhouses or the dock was always so hot from the sun it would burn your feet if you didn’t wear shoes – and I got more than one splinter from that wooden deck. There was a small beach with a float to swim out to in high tide (or to walk through the mud to at low tide), and showers off to the side to rinse off the salt (or the mud). The Bluff had a special atmosphere and everyone loved it there. George Schlicting owned it when Dad started renting his fishing boats, and it was known simply as “George’s”.

As kids. we always begged to go to the Bluff beach, but since we weren’t members, we had to wait to be asked by a friend who belonged, and then we were thrilled to go there, tacky as it was then. Although Peg and I spent most of our teen years at the Shore and Country Club, Mom, Dad and Bob spent a lot of time at the Bluff – not at the beach, but with the boating and fishing aspect of it. As our family got more involved in boats and fishing, Bob spent more and more time there until they finally gave him a job, and it became his home away from home for many years.

This may be a repeated story, but telling it again here puts it into context. When Dad stopped renting boats and started buying them (first Pansy II and then Bo Jr, as I wrote about recently), he kept them moored at the Bluff, and he rented one of the bathhouses to store his boating gear – outboard motor, oars, gas can, seat cushions, fishing rods, etc. During one of our hurricanes, Dad heard a rumor that the Bluff bathhouses had been blown away. He was excited because his gear was old and he began looking forward to his insurance buying new replacements. When the storm passed, he rushed to the Bluff to see the damage. It looked like someone had taken a knife and sliced off half the bathhouses in the row, and his was the last one still standing. I’ve never before, or since, seen anyone so disappointed that he didn’t suffer a loss from a storm.
As I said, Peg and I spent most of our summers at the Shore and Country Club, so I didn’t know that much about Bob’s life at the Bluff outside of the renting of boats. I asked Pat Lauder to share some of her memories of the Bluff, so the next several paragraphs are hers.

“The first owner I recall was George Schlicting, who was grumpy and not well liked by the ‘Bluff Boys’. The Bluff Boys were Bob and his buddies – Chris Hoyt, Art Barnes, Chris Staplefeldt and Dave Grant. Their responsibilities were to carry the rental motors down to the dock and install them on the rental boat s, which they had to bring to the main dock, and then instruct the renters on how to use them before setting them free to the waters of Long Island Sound.

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RowaytonKid, DarienKid, and Thomas School Grad Diane Wilkinson Trefethen – Her Horse PeekaBoo, aka “French Quarter,” Takes the Lead in “Best Condition” in the West

Monday, September 16th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

Diane with her team of two daughters, Shari and Patricia, and Grandson after a recent 100 mile race in Mendocino CA.

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The Snow Ball – 1962

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 4 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

from Ellin Braun Drasser
click “Read More” to see invitation

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Labor Day Gone Flat for RowaytonKids of the 40s, 50s, and 60s

Monday, September 2nd, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

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).

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RowaytonKids of the 40s, 50s, and 60s Approach 70s

Sunday, August 25th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

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.

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Rowayton School – 1958

Friday, August 23rd, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

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.

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Ben Funk Remembers Rowayton in the 30s, 40s, and 50s

Saturday, August 17th, 2013 2 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Ben

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.

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Karen Thorsen – Wilson Point Kid – Writer, Producer, and Director of Soon to be Re-Released “The Price of the Ticket” – James Baldwin

Sunday, August 11th, 2013 one Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

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.

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RowaytonKid’s Kid – Marathoner Heidi Westover

Saturday, July 27th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

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.

Meg writes about her aunts June Leavitt (Bluff Avenue) and Kate Cornbrooks (Bell Island), Heidi and Tommy Westerling in 2010.

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Hidden Chasmar’s Pond and the Boathouse Just North of the Train Tracks on the Darien Border

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 2 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

from Crick

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.

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The Day the Squirrels Fought Back on Bryan Road

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 2 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

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.

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Flanders Point (Wilson Point?) by Jacquie Gordon

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Connie

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.

Get a Copy

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Rowayton Civic Association

Saturday, July 6th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

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.

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Wilson Point Beach

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 5 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Crick

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.

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Jean Wilson Templeton

Monday, June 24th, 2013 2 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Jean

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) Templeton

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House on Wilson Point – Bois Jolie

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013 7 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

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

Does anyone on the website remember the “name” of this house on Wilson Point? Most of the old homes had names like “The Nob”, Naramoke Farm” or “High Hedges”.

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.

From Crick
Norwalk Hour August 17, 1933

Dorothy (left) and Lillian Gish and two pictures of Dorothy (left to right).

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Please See the Interview of Judy Beatty by Dorit Reiss

Saturday, June 15th, 2013 one Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

From Judy

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.”

Dorit Reiss’ interview.

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) Leavitt

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Remembering the Rowayton Fathers

Saturday, June 15th, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

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.

Judy is furthest to the right and Janis is second from the left. Click to enlarge.

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You Can Now Search RowaytonKids

Thursday, June 6th, 2013 2 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

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.

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Striper Fishing Off of Sheffield Island

Monday, June 3rd, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

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.

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Those Pesky Peacocks, not to mention the attack osterich

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013 4 Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

At the Bluff we were always within earshot of the peacocks. Crick

From Jane

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.

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Lobstering at Tavern Island

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013 No Commented Categorized Under: RowaytonKids.com 1940s, 1950s, 1960s

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?


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