Historical Perspectives / Ed Chrostowski
Police compare notes for clues to burglaries
Training schools and "mutual aid" programs for municipal police departments in the region, advocated for years by New Canaan Chief Henry "Red" Keller, began to pay off back in 1962.
During a sweltering July week, when many local families were away on summer vacations, burglars broke into two New Canaan houses, one on Canoe Hill Road and the other on Mariomi Road, and made off with fur coats and several hundred dollars worth of jewelry from each.
Soon police in several area towns and in adjacent Westchester County also began reporting daytime burglaries and detectives began to find many similarities in what the thieves took and how they operated. In New Canaan, Capt. Jim Corson and Det. Sgt. Fred Tiani reported they had been able to identify suspects as a result and were expecting to make arrests soon.
Chief Keller was among the founders of a Fairfield County "detective school" and of a state academy for training rookie policemen appointed to municipal departments throughout Connecticut. He led the movement after returning from a trip to London where he observed Scotland Yard training programs. Ultimately, a Connecticut academy was built in Meriden and the auditorium there was named in Chief Keller's honor.
Police reports during this week 48 years ago also noted that an "unexpected nocturnal visitor had knocked exceptionally hard" at the front door of Al Lutringer's house on East Maple Street. The late night visitors were three local teenagers in a car that crashed through the front porch.
The youth at the wheel was charged with drunk driving, but was not hurt. His two passengers required treatment at the scene by Dr. Thomas P. Cody, police physician. Lutringer, chairman of the Democratic Town Committee in New Canaan, surveyed the damage to his house and chuckled about "rough and tumble politics" being tame by comparison.
Also on the political front that week, 26th District Democrats nominated Victor Knauth, former president of Norwalk Hospital, to run against New Canaan Republican leader Bob Bliss for the State Senate.
In town, residents were just settling down again after partying over the Fourth of July weekend and the Knights of Columbus promised that more community fun was on the way.
Lawrence "Lonnie" Wood of the American Legion reported that about 6,000 people jammed into Kiwanis Park for the 45-minute fireworks display. Before the first skyrocket zoomed into the night sky, Wood said public donations were still $350 shy of the $1,500 needed to cover costs. Before the last embers cooled, however, a "pass the hat" collection in the crowd sent the fund over the top, Wood said.
In the meantime, the Knights began arrangements for a carnival, complete with rides, games and food stands, on the South Avenue grounds later in the month.
At their annual meeting, the Knights named Paul Murphy, Milt Faubel and John Locke to run the show and Pat Foley to chair a town-wide golf tournament that would follow at the Country Club of New Canaan.
Also at the meeting, the Knights elected Val Buonaiuto to succeed Bill Creed as grand knight of Father John H. Stapleton Council. [Mr. Buonaiuto, a life-long New Canaan resident, died last week at the age of 75.]
Elsewhere, 27 American Field Service exchange students from 18 different nations arrived by bus in New Canaan as they wrapped up a year's stay in the United States. Local celebrations included a picnic at Kiwanis Park. The visitors had been touring the country after leaving their host high schools throughout the country and were spending a weekend here prior to boarding planes in New York for a flight home.
At New Canaan High School in the meantime, it was announced that graduates in the Class of '62 had enrolled in 100 different colleges and schools throughout the United States. That was hailed as a remarkable number for a class that numbered only 174.
At Town Hall that week, Building Inspector Walt Tippman reported that construction activity during the first six months of the year was running slightly ahead of the same period in 1961. Included were 46 new houses so far in 1962, compared to 42 in 1961. Permits for nine new houses, ranging from one for $17,000 on Summer Street to one for $42,000 on Laurel Road, were issued in June.
Across the street, the New Canaan Fire Company took delivery of a new rescue truck outfitted with emergency equipment ranging from oxygen tanks to a generator and acetylene cutting torches.
A report by Administrative Officer Norm Lucas was more astonishing. He said an average of 116 cars were parked illegally each day in the area of the Talmage Hill train station, but only 26 of them were registered to New Canaan residents. The report confirmed a "hunch" that many commuters from out of town were using the station and parking at random spots while most New Canaan drivers were taking out the $35 permits required for parking in the lot.
But it was vacation season, time for Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and the parking crunch had eased as it usually does for the summer.
The regional Boy Scout council reported that more than 200 boys from 10 area towns, including about 50 from New Canaan, had pitched their tents at Camp Mauwehu on the shores of Lake Candlewood in Sherman. The program during their two-week stint included a canoe trip in Canada's Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal.
Lots of boys were getting their summer excitement right in town as well. The Bears won the Little League pennant at Mead Park and trophies were awarded to squad members Bob Vitti, Skip Lappitalo, Rob Hutchinson, Rich Perna, Randy Roorbach, Doug Balne, Scott Rodde, Jim Duguid, John McSweeney, Kevin Qualey, Allen Leland and Jeff Tuttle. Mike Vitti was the coach.
Ed Chrostowski can be reached at email@example.com.