Historical Perspectives / Ed Chrostowski
Community activities in seasonal transition
Autumn began creeping, perhaps prematurely, into summer's space during this August week in New Canaan in 1962.
The calendar and the weather left no doubt that it was still summer, but football, the new school year, the Labor Day tennis tournament and the coming state election were the talk of the town.
Superintendent of Schools Albert P. Mathers reported that a record enrollment would necessitate use of the "old telephone building" on Main Street for classrooms to accommodate Center School overflow. The two-story brick building across from the New Canaan Library was then owned by the town and at various times had been used as an annex for the school as well as for the library and at one point even housed Board of Education offices. Now privately owned, it houses a local business.
Mathers was anticipating a total enrollment of 3,254 when New Canaan's five public schools were to open a week later. He said that was 203 more than on opening day in 1961 and was the largest single year increase in decades.
In the meantime, Coach Joe Sikorski called all football players out for preseason practices and assured eager fans that a veteran team would be ready for the kick-off against Woodbridge on Sept. 16.
Elsewhere, Sid Sweet, chairman of the annual town-wide tennis tournaments, began registering players for competition in men's, women's and mixed doubles at Mead Park. Rules required at least one New Canaan resident on each team.
The three-day tournament, climaxed by the finals on Labor Day, always was one of the largest sports event of the year in New Canaan, attracting scores of top players and hundreds of spectators.
As party caucuses unanimously endorsed local candidates, preparations for the state election in November also highlighted the community's mid-August activity. On the Republican slate were "Molly" Cunningham and Dick Brinckerhoff for state representatives and Carl Nelson for judge of probate, all incumbents. Democrats chose a realtor, George Haynes, and an attorney, George Vest, for state representatives, and John Brice for probate judge.
Although coming fall programs dominated public attention, summer did not bow out quietly.
Thunder rolled and lightning crackled in a violent storm during the week and one bolt struck the home of James Swallen on Wahackme Road. Structural damage was minimal and nobody was hurt, but the house's electrical system required extensive repair. Firemen on the scene said it was the third lightning strike they responded to this summer.
Summer's dwindling days also offered a couple of golf tournaments. Most of the town's policemen and several Town Hall officials competed in one, billing itself as "The New Canaan Hackers," at the Woodway Country Club in Darien. Scores were not divulged, but Chief Henry "Red" Keller and Officer Anthony "Dinny" Lapolla topped the leader board.
Also at Woodway, two New Canaan golfers vied for the women's championship with Mrs. Harry Day prevailing over Mrs. Hoyt Steele.
The Audubon Society's nature study classes also wrapped up their season at the Nature Center with Mrs. William F. Murphy, president, and Bill Swallow, instructor, presenting graduation certificates to more than a score of youngsters.
The week also marked the start of a new parish in New Canaan, the first in decades, to occupy the oldest church building in town.
The Augustana Lutheran Church officially took possession of the white wooden church formerly occupied by St. Mark's Episcopal Church and announced that it had called the Rev. Wayne Johnson of Iowa to be its first pastor.
St. Marks had vacated the building, erected in 1834, and moved to its new church on Oenoke Ridge.
Pastor Johnson said he would call a meeting of all potential members to discuss formation of the new parish and to select a name for its church.
Elsewhere, the financial troubles of the New Haven Railroad, the lifeline of thousands of commuters who worked in New York City, continued to be a matter of great concern in town.
The New Canaan Study-Action Committee, headed by Ted Winpenny, asked commuters in all towns along the line to persuade business executives they knew to ship as much of their company's freight as possible by rail. The added revenues would "greatly ease" the railroad's financial crisis, the committee said.
Three court-appointed trustees had been running the railroad for more than a year under the Federal Bankruptcy Act and said continuing economic losses could force them to halt train service.
Also during the week, the Chamber of Commerce appointed Robert Moat of Pound Ridge, N.Y., to succeed Sal Monti on its board of directors. Moat was president of Silliman's Department at the corner of Forest Street and East Avenue. Monti, who was associated with the Weed and Duryea company here, resigned when he relocated to Ridgefield.
Ed Chrostowski can be reached at email@example.com.