20,000 visitors view outdoor art exhibits
Politics, art and a barbecue at the beach blended seamlessly on a brisk autumn weekend in New Canaan 48 years ago.
Gov. John Dempsey was among an estimated 20,000 people, including many arriving by special train from New York, who strolled along Main and Elm streets admiring hundreds of paintings and sculptures displayed in store windows and curbside kiosks.
In fact, the governor took time out from his campaign to present the top prize for a professional artist, the Thomas E. Saxe Award of $500, to Mary Kay of Norwalk for her impressionistic oil painting of a landscape. The best in show award for amateur artists went to Mrs. Gerald Cutler of New Canaan for a landscape in watercolor.
The Democratic governor remarked to a reporter accompanying him on his walk through town that he had been warned about coming into "enemy territory" in heavily Republican New Canaan, but, he added, he had found people to be "very nice and downright friendly."
Gov. Dempsey was in town for more than just the art. He and Abe Ribicoff, a former governor and then a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, were headed for the barbecue and dance sponsored by the New Canaan Democratic Town Committee that Saturday night at the Roton Point Beach Club in Rowayton.
Addressing the crowd there, Gov. Dempsey said that "prospects for rehabilitation of the New Haven Railroad grow steadily brighter." The commuter line, indispensable to local commuters, was being operated then by court-appointed trustees under federal bankruptcy laws.
Ribicoff said he sensed a "friendly welcome" in Republican New Canaan. "Why else," he asked, "would so many people come out on a Saturday night to hear politicians' speeches?"
He urged support for Victor Knauth of Wilton for the State Senate from the 26th District and for George Haynes for state representative. "Don't be scared by George's pirate look," he advised voters. On that night, Haynes was wearing a black patch over one eye, which he did occasionally while a World War II battle wound was being treated.
Highlighting that weekend in 1962 also was the first service held by New Canaan's newest parish in the town's oldest church. Erected in 1834, the God's Acre building was home to St. Mark's Episcopal Church until earlier in the year when the parish moved into its new edifice on Oenoke Ridge. The vacated church then was purchased by Lutherans and named St. Michael's.
The Rev. Wayne Johnson, St. Michael's first pastor, officiated at the service, attended by clergy of all denominations from throughout the area, and the main speaker was the Rev. Reuben Lundeen of the Lutheran Board of American Missions in Chicago.
The week also saw major changes on Elm Street. A legal notice advertising an application for a liquor license indicated that after running it for more than 25 years, Izzy Cohen had sold his popular bar and restaurant, "Pierre's," to Jim Hutchinson of New Canaan and Nick Lombardo of Darien. (The Family Britches store is there now.)
But, at the same time, there was one familiar old scene that was restored in New Canaan. Joseph DiPanni was back tending to his productive garden at the corner of Summer and Vitti streets. He and Mrs. DiPanni had been away for several weeks, visiting their old home-town, Panni in Italy, for the first time since leaving it 42 years earlier.
Elsewhere, two FBI agents and members of the State Police "safe squad" joined local detectives, Capt. Jim Corson and Lt. Fred Tiani, in investigating what was termed "the biggest theft in New Canaan history."
A battered safe, its doors pried off, was found on the golf course at Woodway Country Club in Darien and police were able to determine that it had been taken from a home on Country Club Road. Corson said it had contained jewelry valued at about $115,000, including a necklace of matched pearls with a huge diamond-studded clasp. Burglars broke into the house while the family was away at a funeral and the safe was too big and heavy for just one man to carry. Corson said.
Also that weekend, police set up a road block and radar screen on Route 123 from Friday evening through the pre-dawn hours on Saturday and issued a total of 16 summonses, most of them for speeding.
In another precaution during the week, Dr. Charlotte R. Brown, public health director, arranged skin tests for all first graders in town to detect any signs of tuberculosis. The Visiting Nurse Association staff administered the tests.
In New York City, the National Art Museum of Sport opened in Madison Square Garden and Germain G. Glidden of Silvermine, the founder, was there for the festivities. Glidden, known in town as "3-G," was the painter famed for his portraits of presidents and athletes.
Back home, Coach Ty Reed's cross-country team at New Canaan High School ran its string of consecutive victories to eight by defeating Rippowam and Stamford Catholic. Capt. Steve Norris and Bill Colton paced the Rams.
And that's the way it was here in late September of 1962.
Ed Chrostowski can be reached at email@example.com.