This Week in Local History
Covering the news in the Bridgeport, New Haven, and Housatonic and Naugatuck Valley regions from 100, 75, and 50 years ago
July 3 - 9
100 Years Ago - 1911
Monday, July 3
Another day of stifling heat, with a high of 100 and a low of 72. Trolleys are filled with people heading to the shore or just riding simply to catch a breeze. Contractors stop all work. Soda and ice cream is very popular, some are open till midnight.
WESTPORT – “For the past few days Westport has been sweltering under one of the worst spells of hot weather this season. Sunday the temp registered 90 in the shade in Hotel Square, and in the sun it must have been fully 110. The trolleys to the beach were well patronized and although there was 20 minute service and 2 cars on the regular trip the standing room was at a premium, but the crowds seemed to be willing to put up with all sorts of inconveniences if only the cooling breezes of the shore could be obtained”.
July 4, Independence Day
There is less noise and crowds in the cities, due in part due to the ongoing heat wave. Ice cream and soda are more popular then fireworks. The high temperature is 99, with a low of 78.
ANSONIA – The Ansonia Baptist Church is broken into and vandalized overnight.
BRIDGEPORT - Several fires are caused by fireworks. Seaside Park is packed. Theaters are well patronized despite the heat. Attendance at Steeplechase Island reaches a record 25,000.
DERBY - Motorcycle races at are held at Suburban Park, though only 93 tickets are sold, probably due to the heat wave. There are no accidents.
NEWTOWN – “Fully 350 people enjoyed the fireworks in Sandy Hook…which were ably and successfully set off by Frank Hulse, who deserves much credit for his good work. The display was fine and the crowd was well entertained for an hour and a half”.
OXFORD – “The quiet manner in which the Fourth was celebrated in Oxford is worthy of being chronicled. We doubt if it has ever happened bf since the town was settled, that the church bells were not rung during the night or early morning hours. This year there was an absolute silence of noise to disturb anyone's slumbers. About 8 AM the bell of the Congregational Church was rung a short time. The Sunshine circle gave a lawn party on the lower green selling ice cream and lemonade. During the evening there was a modest display of fireworks, rockets, roman candles, wheels, etc. There was quite a display of flags and bunting, which gave the town a festive look, but noise was not in it. A hundred years ago, there was a fading custom of breaking into churches at midnight on the Fourth of July and ringing the church bells.
STRATFORD – The town has a “safe and sane” Fourth.
ANSONIA - Two Jersey Street children die of heat related causes, while many more are sickened. Liverymen are worried of the effect on their horses, while icemen are overworked.
BRIDGEPORT – A barn fire after 2 AM on 1651 Madison Avenue badly burns a carpenter sleeping inside and the owner trying to rescue him. The carpenter dies of his injuries the following day.
OXFORD – “Haying as commenced in earnest now. The cut is lighter but better than was expected a month ago”.
OXFORD – “The hot wave, which reached this locality in all its force Sunday, has been intense. With not a leaf stirring to mitigate the sweltering air, humanity has had to suffer. The record in the center of thermometers in the shade has been unusually high, ranging from 88 to 103 degrees, according to the locality, but dropping at night to about 70, which has made it possible to obtain rest. A change will be gladly welcomed”.
SHELTON – The State is now investigating the large number of typhoid cases traced to a Wells Hollow milkman.
The high is 99 degrees, work is at a standstill. Temperatures are over 80 in many houses, sickening many. Many children are swimming, getting badly sunburned while doing so.
BRIDGEPORT – There has been an average of 10,000 people visiting Steeplechase Island each day of the heat wave.
SEYMOUR – A man is found dead of heat related causes behind his Swan Avenue house this morning.
WATERBURY - City Jews are upset that October 2 has been set aside for City elections, saying it will disenfranchise 400 Orthodox Jews on Yom Kippur.
A northeast wind lowers temperatures a bit, but it is still very hot. Many go into the woods for relief and the breezes.
MONROE – Stevenson – “Big 5" hailstones, balls of solid ice, yesterday. Today mercury flowing freely at 100 degrees. Tomorrow, what?”
NEW MILFORD – A Board of Trade has been organized.
REDDING – Georgetown – “The first installment of fresh air children arrived at Life's Farm, last week. If you wish to know whether Mr. & Mrs. Mohr make it pleasant for them, just look at their faces and hear them shout”.
Milk supplies are running low because cows are giving less milk in the heat wave.
Temperature reach a high of 98.
BRIDGEPORT – Bridgeport has one of the largest Slovenian populations in New England, with about 9,000 children. They are scattered throughout the City, but more thickly settled on the East End around Hallett, Reilly, Willard, and Church Streets. Major institutions include two churches, St. John's of Nepomuck at Jane and Brooks streets, and Sts. Cyril and Methodius on Crescent Avenue and Church Street, as well as Sokol Hall on Hallett Street.
MONROE – Both Bridgeport and Newtown motorists claim Stepney Road (today’s Route 25) should be repaired, saying it is damaging automobiles.
WESTPORT – 2,000 are at Compo Beach today.
75 Years Ago - 1936
Friday, July 3
BRIDGEPORT – The stucco YMCA building on Golden Hill Street at Broad Street is being demolished. The YMCA used it from 1917 to 1934. Once the home of the Bishop family, it was considered the social center of the city at one time. It was used by the Courtland School for Girls until the early 1890s, and the University Club used it from 1908 to 1917.
MONROE – Stevenson - Camp Rippowam will soon be in full swing.
July 4, Independence Day
The weather is ideal, with heavy traffic driving to the rivers and the shore. It is estimated 100,000 people are packing Long Island Sound beaches.
ANSONIA – “The Fourth was nosier this year than last as people had more money to spend on their celebration of Independence Day. There was a general display of night fireworks in all parts of the city, and skyrockets, Roman candles, and aerial bombs shot skyward during the night of the Fourth”.
BRIDGEPORT – 40,000 jam Seaside Park for Independence Day fireworks, which climax the Bridgeport Centennial.
MONROE – A large barn on the Blakeman farm on Barn Hill Road is destroyed by fire. A dog, her 3 puppies, and several pigs are saved.
OXFORD – Camp Palmer opens for the season. 85 boys will camp there the first two weeks.
SEYMOUR – “Seymour had its usual share of beautiful pyrotechnics the night of July 4 and the skies in all sections of town revealed the celebration of Independence Day. However, when the man made entertainment was at its height, a most gorgeous moon, first behind clouds whose edges it silvered as no artist could duplicate, suddenly burst free and by its brilliance made the skyrockets and other attractive fireworks seem petty. Many admit it was nothing short of awe which struck them, and made them realize how futile it is for a human being to even try to rival the works of nature. The fireworks cost residents hundreds of dollars, but the heavens revealed an effulgent beauty of dazzling nature which cost nothing and which millions could not purchase”.
SHELTON – “The pyrotechnic display on Saturday night suggested that Old Man Depression had definitely gone up in smoke, and those who had fireworks for sale reported a large demand”.
SHELTON - Camp Pershing opens with 30 Boy Scouts from Waterbury and Naugatuck. The camp will stay open until August 12 and expected about 150 will attend.
SHELTON – Camp Irving opens with an initial group of 39 Housatonic Council Boy Scouts.
DERBY - Daniel Bacon, founder of the DH Bacon Printing Company, dies at his Atwater Avenue home. Under his leadership the old newspaper Derby Transcript, which was founded by his father, became a daily newspaper in 1889.
NEWTOWN - Thieves break into The Kegs restaurant in the early morning hours, and carry off safe containing $200 plus valuable papers. The safe is found 2 days later in Gray's Plain with the hinges knocked off. The money is gone, but the papers are recovered. The State Police is investigating.
ANSONIA – American Brass Company is now offering low cost life group insurance on an experimental basis.
SEYMOUR - An average of 300 swim in the Legion Pool every day.
SHELTON – Camp Millcroft opens with 47 Girl Scouts.
A heat wave has begun, with temperatures reaching 98 degrees today, but with low humidity.
Temperatures reach 102 with high humidity.
ANSONIA – On this hottest day of the year thus far, Cook Pond has been drained for cleaning, causing many children to seek relief by swimming in the polluted Naugatuck River. The pond will be refilled by tomorrow.
BRIDGEPORT – A garage collapses in the evening storm on Kensington Place. Large hailstones fall.
DERBY – Over a thousand children swim at the Recreation Camp today.
SEYMOUR – About 700 seek relief at the Legion Pool.
STRATFORD – What is described as a “mini-twister” goes through town at 7:25 PM, uprooting dozens of trees and poles. Homes are damaged, and trolley service is disabled. The storm lasted about 10 minutes, affecting Main Street south of Garden Street, causing much damage at Paradise Green, Nichols Avenue, Huntington Road, and North Avenue. The town’s famous police booth on Barnum Ave and West Broad Street is toppled. Main Street is blocked for hours by debris.
50 Years Ago - 1961
Monday, July 3
BRIDGEPORT - The Salvation Army has converted the Argonne Hotel on State Street, once popular with circus performers, into a thrift store. Built in 1937 it was reportedly “one a source of consolation to dejected men”.
SHELTON – 10,000 pack Lafayette Field for the annual fireworks display and program.
July 4, Independence Day
DERBY – 6,000 attend the Fourth of July fireworks show at Coon Hollow Park. Many more line the Shelton side or watch from boats on the Housatonic. The fireworks followed a brief program arranged by the Derby Civil War Centennial Commission.
DERBY - Dr. George Burns, of 42 Seymour Avenue, dies. Born May 1, 1898 in Shelton, he graduated from Yale in 1925 and had his office at 272 Main Street Derby for 34 years. He gave the first blood transfusions for children in the area in the early 1930s, and was the first to use Bohler techniques for treatment of fractures in area. He was a senior surgeon at Griffin Hospital. He delivered over 2500 babies, many by Caesarean, and performed one of the first open heart surgeries in Connecticut resulting in complete recovery following cessation of heartbeat.
SHELTON – The Huntington Anti-Communist Committee holds morning exercises at Huntington Green.
ANSONIA – A 11:15 AM fire caused by an oil stove in a 4-family 2½ story building on the 6-8 Tremont Street, at the corner of Canal Street, hurts 2.
ORANGE - A 44 year old Granfield Avenue Bridgeport man dies after his car smashes through a cable guardrail, and flips several times down an embankment, on Derby Avenue near the West Haven border.
DERBY – Griffin Hospital buys a house across Spring Street from the hospital for housing for married interns
ORANGE - A barn on Indian Hill Road is destroyed by fire.
Sources - Bridgeport Post, Newtown Bee, and the (Ansonia) Evening Sentinel daily newspapers