Historical Perspectives / Ed Chrostowski
Business interests reassured as town growth slows down
After what was described as "only a fair to middlin' holiday shopping season," retailers in New Canaan were advised not to be too concerned as the growth of the community appeared to be peaking 48 years ago.
Only "marginal" land and the vast acreage of "untouchable estates" were still available for housing development and the population of the community already was a bit over 18,000, builders feared.
Statistics from the office of Building Inspector F. Walter Tippman seemed to back them up. Tippman reported that he had issued permits for projects costing a total of just over $4 million in the past year, a drop of almost $400,000 from the previous 12 months. His annual report also noted that 85 new houses were built in New Canaan during 1961, a drop of more than 50 from the previous year.
Some reassurance came quickly from a panel discussion at the Chamber of Commerce's monthly meeting, however. Bankers reported the economy was sound, realtors called the housing market "lively" and Judy Stinchfield, owner of the Whitney Shop and president of the chamber, noted that 37 more building lots would be available soon in the 50-acre subdivision off South Avenue, which included a 7-acre parcel for the YMCA building.
In the meantime, the YMCA project moved a step closer to being "shovel ready." Police Chief Henry E. "Red" Keller, president of the YMCA board, announced the appointment of a building committee which would begin its work with the selection of an architect.
The nascent YMCA also was among the beneficiaries of the New Canaan Sewing Group's annual sale. Four other agencies also shared the $7,500 proceeds from the sale of items hand-sewn by women of the group throughout the year.
At the police station, Sgt. Chet Lewis, public safety director, announced that there were more than 200 traffic accidents in the past year, a slight increase over 1960, and that there were two fatalities.
Public safety developments included an announcement by the Federal Office of Civil Defense that it had retained a consultant, Dunlop Associates of Stamford, to survey Stamford, Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan buildings for potential use as public shelters in the event of nuclear fall-out.
News from elsewhere that week was far less foreboding, however. At New Canaan High School, Betsy Reid received the annual "Good Citizen Award" from the Hannah Benedict Carter Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
And Leslie B. Young of the Board of Finance, called "Mr. Moderator" because he always presided at town meetings, was selected to be the "fall guy" at the Gridiron Club's annual dinner and show. Young was the father of Leslie T. Young, who later represented New Canaan for 10 years in the State Legislature.
During that week, too, Helen and Alice Bristow of the Aubudon Society reported that more than 3,500 birds of 37 different species had been counted in the annual Christmas Bird Census. They praised volunteer spotters who watched backyard feeders and wooded areas on a day when temperatures dipped down into single digits at times. The sisters joked that some red-nosed boozers were seen and there was even a double-breasted dowager, but not a single partridge in a pear tree.
On the social scene, Deborah Hicks and Lucy Lyden made their debuts at a ball in the Waldorf-Astoria, New York City. They were the daughters of Town Counsel and Mrs. Ira E. Hicks of Silvermine Road and of Mr. and Mrs. John Lyden of Rosebrook Road.
On the sports scene, the New Canaan Townies were invited to compete in the prestigious Varsity Club's inter-city basketball tournament at the Stamford Jewish Center. On the local squad were Mark and Brian Kelley, Charlie Mahlot, Joe Cerullo. Graham Corr, Frank Coletto, Dick Whitcomb, Tony Socci and Dinny Lapolla.
As the week drew to a close, the community mourned the death of the Rt. Rev. Msgr. William J. Fox at the age of 92. Msgr. Fox had been a star third baseman at Holy Cross College and then turned down a potential career in professional baseball to enter the priesthood, a decision local Catholics called a "blessing for the whole town of New Canaan."
The popular priest had been pastor of St. Aloysius R.C. Church for 33 years, retiring shortly before his death. He led the parish through its biggest growth spurt, building the parochial school and developing youth groups. With his dog always at his side, he often carried his old baseball mitt during walks around town and was known to pause to play for a while in neighborhood games.
Ed Chrostowski can be reached at email@example.com.