Yes – in Connecticut for my 50th reunion – kindergarten that is (and if you believe that, I still have a few choice bridges in my inventory for sale). As I have groused to a few of you, reunions are not my thing, but friend from before kindergarten, Mimsy, talked me into coming. And I have joyfully said I am going because: 1) I am alive; and, 2) I look great. Now that I am home and writing, may I say it was a perfect weekend – both in Ray’s timing and the fun and pleasure I had.
By the numbers: My graduating class was 142. About 10% of my classmates are deceased, and another 10% have not been located in the intervening 50 years. But, of the remaining tad over 100 – 60 plus classmates assembled for the weekend – an amazing percentage. And even more amazing, a good number or us were together from kindergarten through graduation. And, everyone looked great, shared stories, life experiences, and philosophies and thoughts on what made our generation different from previous ones. In a review of bios submitted it was noted that as a group we have volunteered more than previous generations, travel more, and for the most part show no sign of slowing down. I relate to that!
I left shortly after noon on Friday the 17th for a leisurely drive to Wilton, picking up US Route 7 in Danbury to head south. I have sadly seen the changes over the years. In Branchville I cut over to Nod Hill Road to work myself down and past my home. Upon entering Wilton I passed the Weir Farm National Historic Site where I played as a youngster. Remember one time in the barn one of the Gullys (caretakers at the time) just missed me with a pitchfork, and another time when fishing at the pond (site of many of J. Alden Weir’s impressionistic paintings) I did a good job at catching my finger only.
I first stopped at my home that my Dad built on family land in 1949 at 15 Partrick Lane – well, the house is to the left and the garage to the right. Both overshadowed by the additions in the middle. Hard to see with the growth of trees. I was here until graduation.
As I came back down to the end of Partrick Lane to take a picture of my first bus stop, a bus pulled up (Nod Hill has had many spots in the roads – including this – cut down and leveled out, or straightened a tad – Mimsy agreed).
My Dad built this house when I left for college. Now enveloped too by additions and growth in the past 50 years.
And a tenth of a mile south at 523 Nod Hill Road is my grandmother’s house. When I came through two years ago this month (click on this link for a great read and images of that Nod Hill Road, Wilton, CT trip) the lovely young new owner saw me and invited me in. Complete rip-out had just begun for renovation and additions. Would you believe she recognized me as I pulled up to get this image, and she invited me in to see the completed work. FABULOUS and I thanked them and wished them many joyous years there.
I need to write this story down that I have told many over the years. When my grandfather found the Nod Hill farm in the mid-1920s for a weekend and summer home it was a costly $3,000 for the farmhouse, barn across the street, and over 200 acres. (you cannot get much for under $1,000,000 nowadays in Wilton). “But I just want the house,” my grandfather stated. ($3,000 was alot of money, even for him as Chief of Staff at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx). “You do not understand,” replied the farmer. “the $3,000 is for the house, I am giving you the barn and acreage.”
By 5 PM I arrived at The Norwalk Inn where out of towners were staying. We visited and chatted at the bar, and then Mimsy, Aggie, Doug, Dusty and her husband and I had dinner at the inn before heading to the new Orem’s Diner in Wilton where others were gathering. We all of course remember the original diner built in 1921. The new diner building is huge, and the group took many tables around the room. I meandered around, and then talked with Leland, with whom I have been friendly since high school. Do you have those friends that if you have not seen each other in years that you pick up like it was yesterday? I am fortunate to have three – Leland (since early 1960s); Mimsy (since early 1950s); and Scott
and Betty (since 1995). Leland asked what I had planned for Saturday before the 3:30 homecoming football game. “Well, nothing yet,” I replied. “Great, call me if you would like to go out on my wooden boat.” “About 85% for sure,” I replied.
Saturday I joined several folks for breakfast at the Norwalk Inn, and at 9 AM I turned around and there was Leland. “Ready to go,” he asked. And off we went to his small marina in Rowayton on the Five Mile River.
Lee said, “let’s go have lunch in Centerport (Long Island).” But as we entered Long Island
Sound he was carefully listening to the nautical weather channel and said, “no, we will get beat up and wet coming back.” So instead we cruised up to Compo Beach in Westport, back along the shore fueling in Norwalk, and returned to Rowayton.
I was fascinated by Roton Point where Lee’s mother had gone to the Roton Point Amusement Park in the 1920s traveling by train from Georgetown to Norwalk, and then trolley to the park.
One of the best amusement parks in the area, steamers would travel from New York City. In the 30s all the big bands played at the pavilion which still remains along with the entrance platform/building for the roller coaster built in 1914. Leland knows of my affinity for the old amusement parks and summer resorts.
We then had lunch at The Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood which Zagat has rated “Excellent” and voted as “Best Seafood” for years running. You know I often share my meals with you. One special for lunch (which we both had) was the Grilled Calamari.
During the course of our conversations Leland mentioned taking his boat down the Rideau Canal (follow this link for my history learning adventure there) and mentioned he wants to travel in Europe, but his wife has no interest. Fast flash in Ray’s mind, “Lee, have you heard about narrow boats in the UK that you can rent and travel the canals?” I explained and suggested we do it. (when we saw each other Sunday afternoon at Paul’s gathering he had already started researching and learning). So, finally in 2015 there will be narrow boat posts.
After heading back to Wilton I attended the homecoming game, and was amazed at the crowds – nothing like it was in the 60s. And cars were everywhere with tailgate parties set up. But, it makes sense because the 175 member band is larger than our graduating class was.
Leaving after half-time I traveled past all my schools (all with additions and changed uses) but the image possibilities were not great, so are just documented in the “slide-show” below. Remember to click on any one to open up to larger sizes.
I visited my Dad in Hillside Cemetery before heading back to the inn to shower and change for dinner at Cobb’s Mill Inn in Weston. The food was wonderful, conversation fun, and Dick related some stories from the bios he coordinated. Dancing to 60s and 70s songs followed, and both Aggie and Judy and Mimsy said I danced well – they were being nice.
Sunday morning I visited with a few remaining folks having breakfast at the inn for several hours before it was time to give Aggie and Mimsy hugs before I turned away with tears. I had never gone before, but Paul after each reunion has had people over to his home in Wilton, and I arrived there at 11 AM. It was an enjoyable couple of hours I had visiting with some other folks before leaving about 1:30.
But before recounting my journey home, I must confess that (although I mainly watched and listened to others) I really enjoyed the time I had with the Class of ’64. The group was physically fit, well versed with varied and interesting backgrounds and stories. But there was the common history. The sharing of thoughts as to where we got to where we are, and what lies ahead was insightful. I believe that most everyone I talked with share my feelings that what has been is just that – nothing to get upset about – nothing to change – just experiences and lives to accept and cherish and learn from as the next day approaches. Maybe I am interjecting more of my philosophy into this statement, but I believe that at least those I talked with feel the same way I do – Life has been, and is great.
Well, let’s get heading north back to New Hampshire. My plan was to head up my favorite US Route 7 arriving in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for dinner. At The Red Lion Inn! Did you have to ask?
US Route 7 from New Milford to Stockbridge is probably the road that was the genesis for my “shunpiking” but ironically it has been about 20 years since I was on the stretch from New Milford to Kent. When I lived off Route 202 north of New Milford in New Preston there was just no need or reason to traverse that stretch. It was time to do so, and I am glad that I did. I stopped at several antique shops (sadly nothing tempted my wallet), but I was so pleased to see that basically nothing, I repeat NOTHING, has changed on US 7 from New Milford, not just to Kent, but basically all the way to Stockbridge.
I first stopped in Gaylordsville which I discovered in 1962 (have fantastic old car pictures from one early garage there). This strange monument was built in the early 20th century as a “spite house” when the State took away the builder’s children. There are a number of nefarious reasons why the State did. Across the street, the building on the right I bought (in 1962) a cast iron fire truck for $4.50, and still have it. It just served as an illustration in my book.
Kent is a precious town, but is popular and was crowded, so I passed on through when I remembered the Sloane-Stanley Museum which adjoins the Kent Iron Furnace (1826 – 1892). Only lived minutes away for 6 years and never stopped. But, quick left turn and I entered even though close to closing time. Eric Sloane died in 1985 and, along with his fascinating tool collection, his studio (with painting he was working on at the time) was donated and reassembled there.
When my bookshop was in New Preston I was able to buy many Sloane signed and inscribed books from families and estates there, and I still have an original drawing from BARNS – the evolution of the New Hampshire farmhouse.
I enjoyed also touring the Kent Iron Furnace site:
But then I saw adjoining the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association’s museum on the 8 acres to the north. For some reason I missed this totally in the past. Old steam engines, hit and miss engines, and much more. All the things I have been fascinated by. I drove around the property, but there was no time to explore. Leland – we have a date to meet there next year.
A tad further just off US 7 on a steep hill in Cornwall is this house. Owned by my Dad’s uncle and then cousins, it may still be in the family, but everytime I have stopped in the last decade it appeared unused, but looking in the windows with furniture where I remembered it. I remember being there on a visit when about 7 or 8, and with my Dad we stopped and saw relatives maybe 15 years ago.
Franz Boas when visiting his family would work in the study under this barn.
Well, next comes my most favorite section of road along the Housatonic River and the Housatonic Meadows State Park. Then comes the covered bridge in West Cornwall, and eventually you cross the border to Sheffield, MA. There I visited another antique shop and reminisced with the talkative owner how antique selling used to be. When I left it was after 5PM but heading into Great Barrington one of my usual antique stops was still open – but no treasures this time (got an antique peanut warmer there for my birthday in 2013).
And my final destination to top off the perfect weekend? Of course, The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge for dinner. I finished my wine in front of the fire enjoying watching the people enjoying the inn before I headed home. But under two hours away, I can easily head back (and have) anytime for dinner.
You know I love this front porch
and also the dining room
So, my timing for the weekend from departure to return was perfect filling every waking moment. In conclusion I have added, if you wish to click on this link the bio I submitted for the reunion (with my philosophies), and there is a link to the “miracle story” of my move to New Hampshire. I don’t know what comes next, but my travels the last several months have been great, and it shall continue. Thank you for reading, as always, yours, RAY
Ray, this is extremely interesting. Great photos and stories about the homes. Think I would pass on that Witch Hair & Worm pasta though. -:)
Can tell that you had a very enjoyable time meeting with friends and ex-classmates.
That is what it is all about now days. Thank you for sharing this time.
Ray, I, too, enjoyed the WHS ’64 Reunion and for the most part, my experiences mirrored yours. We grew up with a fine group of people. After high school, my family moved up to the Berkshires living in Stockbridge until I moved away to attend college. The Red Lion Inn Dining Room is also a great favorite of mine and I swear – I think one of the first level bedrooms is haunted!
This was fascinating to read. Among other things, I had never heard of Roton Point Amusement Park before. It seems that there have been a lot of old amusement parks that I wasn’t aware of — including Savin Rock in West Haven, a place that I have visited while dating both my second wife Heloise and my wife Cindy. Only after I married Cindy did I learn from one of her brothers about the amusement park.
I’ve told Cindy that I will take her through Wilton the next time we travel to Connecticut to see her family and friends in New Haven. Maybe we’ll check out some of the other places you mentioned. The grilled calamari look delicious!
Ray, your perspective and commentary on our 50th Wilton High Reunion weekend is much appreciated and right on the mark as usual. It was great to see you and all our Wilton High
classmates, now on to our 60th. Keep up your travels, thanks for sharing. Lee.