Historical Perspectives / Ed Chrostowski
Governors urge federal help for ailing railroad
New Canaan's first selectman, Charlie Kelley, was among chief executives of cities and towns in the Northeast who urged the governors of their states a generation ago to seek federal funds to "rescue a railroad that's on its death bed."
The mayors and first selectmen of Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts declared that continued operation of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad was "absolutely vital" to the economic health of their communities.
As the principal commuter link to New York City, The New Haven, as the railroad was called, was essential to the employment of thousands of people and therefore key to real estate values and the economy of their communities, the plea to the governors stated.
The governors were asked to petition President John F. Kennedy to formulate a national transportation policy that would help The New Haven "and other failing lines."
This area's commuter line already had declared bankruptcy and was being operated by a court-appointed board of trustees with the help of several short-term loans. During this week 48 years ago, the trustees said The New Haven "won't last beyond summer without additional state and federal aid."
Meanwhile, however, there was active opposition in conservative circles to "government involvement in private enterprise."
In New Canaan, the Young Republican Club endorsed John M. Lupton of Weston for governor. John Langhorne, president of the club, said Lupton, a state senator, gained the club's support because "he has consistently fought against liberalism and welfareism."
Marguerite ("Judy") Stinchfield, Chamber president and owner of the Whitney Shop, expressed confidence that The New Haven would continue to run because it was "so important" to employment, business and real estate values.
Also speaking was Chester Billings, chairman of the Town Planning and Zoning Commission, who assured merchants that local land use patterns would allow "continued orderly growth" of the community. After a drop in the construction of new houses in the past year, there had been some concern about "a shrinking supply" of building lots in town.
In New Canaan, opinion was adamant on both sides of the issue. Police visibility is a deterrent to crime and reckless use of the highways, some argued. Others said unmarked cars would not be a "good behavior warning" to violators, thus enabling police to apprehend them.
Elsewhere, Chairman Darwin DeLapp of the Board of Education said a committee planning construction of a new grammar school on the east side of town would be instructed to provide for potential use of some space for a fall-out shelter. There was no comment from the board, however, on a report by Civil Defense Director Charles Morton that consultants had found that space in all existing school buildings was inadequate for shelters.
There were more pleasant things to ponder in community life a generation ago.
Walter Stewart's Market on Elm Street introduced a new shopping incentive, Gold Bond Stamps, awarded on the basis of purchases and redeemable for more than 200 items ranging from kitchen appliances to sets of water glasses.
There also were two major dinners during the week, the New Canaan Fire Company's annual gathering in the firehouse and the celebration of the first season of boys' football in town.
Highlighting the firehouse dinner, Paul Killiam and Edwin Deadrick of the Town Players presented the volunteer fire company with a check for $375 toward installation of a new alarm system. The funds had been raised by the sale of tickets to "A Fireman's Flame," a combination film and stage play produced and directed by Killiam. In addition, 38 volunteer firemen received awards recognizing up to 30 years of service by each.
At the football dinner, the presentation of awards capped the success of the Pop Warner Football Program for boys in the 10-13 age bracket, sponsored locally by the Police Athletic League.
Joey DiPanni was named most valuable player, Brian Kelsey took the trophy for the highest scorer, Jeff Conner was cited as the outstanding lineman and Paul Pullen was honored as the player with the best grades in school.
Sgt. Chet Lewis was master of ceremonies at the event, held in the Country Club of New Canaan and in the spotlight also were the policemen who coached the team: Dinny Lapolla, Ralph Scott, George Cogswell, Vinny Luciano and Lloyd Cook.
Ed Chrostowski can be reached at email@example.com.