Historical Perspectives / Ed Chrostowski
Community life follows some familiar patterns
Published 1:04 am, Thursday, April 29, 2010
Names, places and other details change over the years, but current community issues often reflect similar concerns of a generation ago in New Canaan.
Zoning squabbles, a search for parking, cautionary measures for public safety and health and the activities of the town's social organizations are pretty much the same now as they were in 1962.
During this week 48 years ago, J. Elliott Smith petitioned the Town Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone property at the corner of Cherry and Park streets and adjacent to the Hawthorne, Ackerly and Dorrance law offices from "B" residential to business use.
Quick to note how the area had been changed by the widening and reconstruction of that block of Cherry Street between Park Street and South Avenue, Smith had asked for the rezoning earlier and was rebuffed. This time, however, he argued that his request was in effect a new one because he was adding the Mabel Lamb property and some land owned by Matthew Bach.
Also back for a second go-around with zoning authorities was the application to build a Japanese inn and restaurant, along with Oriental gardens, on a 27-acre site off Route 123 on the Norwalk line at the Merritt Parkway. Twenty of the acres were in New Canaan and seven were in Norwalk. While Norwalk approved a change from residential to business, New Canaan did not.
In filing again, Attorney Richard Weinstein argued that it was in effect a new application because plans had been altered so that only the gardens, no buildings, would be on New Canaan's side of the town line. He contended also that New Canaan approval therefore was no longer required.
As with the Smith application, the Zoning Commission reserved judgment pending further deliberations. Ultimately, Smith's plan came to pass. The Japanese inn did not.
The Board of Education also was being asked to take a second look at its decision to eliminate school dental clinic funds from its budget. This time, the New Canaan Health Council, composed mostly of local medical doctors, was joining the New Canaan Dental Society in urging restoration of the $5,600 to retain the program. Doctors said the clinic provided regular check-ups and lessons in oral hygiene which promoted the over-all health of local children.
Elsewhere on the civic front, Civil Defense Director Charlie Morton reported that he had concluded his survey of 120 buildings in town and determined that only four sites were suitable for use as community fall-out shelters in an emergency. Those sites were at St. Mark's Church, New Canaan Country School, St. Aloysius School and the Holy Ghost Monastery and Retreat House at the corner of Weed and Elm streets (now a condominium complex).
The week had begun with a Sunrise Service celebrating Christ's resurrection and a large congregation turned out for the ecumenical Easter Sunday program on God's Acre. Temperatures that day and during most of the week hovered around the 80-degree mark.
The late Easter holiday break and the ideal weather brought householders outdoors with their rakes to tackle spring clean-up chores, but New Canaan's volunteer firemen probably worked harder than anyone.
Flames got out of control in piles of burning yard debris, leaving scores of acres scorched and firemen were called more than a dozen times to keep fires from spreading. Hot and dry conditions prevailed throughout most of the state during this week in April, 1962, causing the State Fire Marshal to void all burning permits.
The Lions Club also was making plans, naming Al Roles chairman of its annual scrap metal drive, and Howard M. Bossa Post 653 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Ladies Auxiliary installed new officers. Ray Girard succeeded John Stanton as commander of the VFW and Rose Marie Petronella succeeded her mother-in-law, Margaret Liberatore, as Auxiliary president.
During the week, the New Canaan Branch of the NAACP named Marshall Walker, Mrs. Maxie Thaxton and Mrs. Jamison Hatton to represent it at the New England Regional Conference. Roy Wilkins, national executive secretary of the NAACP, was the featured speaker at the conference.
Meanwhile, the Town Players moved its next theatrical effort a step closer to reality. For its production of "Not in the Book," an English comedy-mystery, the Players recruited three natives of Great Britain for the lead roles. They were Charles Stephenson, a local attorney; Marnie Hartman, a New Canaan resident; and Jim Taffee, a bank teller in town.
Confident of success in the million dollar building fund drive, Chairman Clairborne Carr promised that a new YMCA would be "open and ready for business" on South Avenue within 18 months.
As a sign of community enthusiasm for the project, especially among the town's youths, he noted that a group of teenage girls had raised $775 at a "white elephant sale" and presented the check to the YMCA.
On the sports front, well over 500 boys turned out for baseball, necessitating extra try-out sessions and the creation of a new division, the Cub League Reserve in addition to the Cub League and the Little League.
Also that week, Eddie Riccoboni of New Canaan was named golf pro at Sunset Country Club in Sumter, S.C. He had been a caddy at the Country Club of New Canaan and then polished his game as a member of the teams at New Canaan High and the University of Connecticut.
In short, this week in 1962 was not too much unlike all other weeks in community life in the 48 years since then.
Contact Ed Chrostowski at email@example.com.