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Woog's World / Hidden Westport: Scavenge for vestiges of local 'stuff'

Updated 8:20 am, Monday, September 2, 2013

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  • Arnie's Place was a games emporium opened on Post Road East (now Balducci's) by the famously controversial Arnoild Kaye in 1982. This photo of his glitzy arcade appeared  in the November 1984 issue of Electronic Games magazine. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News contributed
    Arnie's Place was a games emporium opened on Post Road East (now Balducci's) by the famously controversial Arnoild Kaye in 1982. This photo of his glitzy arcade appeared in the November 1984 issue of Electronic Games magazine. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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You've swum. You've barbecued. You've baked in the sun. What's left to do in the dog days of summer?

How about a scavenger hunt? A Westport scavenger hunt? OK, and because this is my column, we'll call it the first "Woog's World Westport Scavenger Hunt."

The rules are simple. And you don't even have to leave your (air-conditioned) house. Just try to figure out where on earth (within Westport's borders) you could find all this stuff, were you actually scavenging.

Answers are at the bottom of the column. No cheating, unless you want to.

1. Since it's August, and air-conditioning was already mentioned, bring a souvenir you might have found in the 1950s, opposite what in the 1920s was (supposedly) the first air-conditioned jazz club between New York and Boston.

2. Edward T. Bedford was a major benefactor Westport. He helped build the YMCA, Bedford Junior High and Elementary schools, Green's Farms Elementary and much more. Part of his money came from Standard Oil. Get a receipt for a purchase at a 2013 descendant of that company.

3. In the 1960s, if you wanted to meet a "famous artist," "famous writer" or "famous photographer," you'd head to one place. Buy a gift from whatever is located there now.

4. Get your picture taken with someone who worked on Main Street in 1956 -- and still does.

5. You can no longer get your hair cut at Lou Santella's barber shop -- but you can have a hairy adventure, thanks to the store that's pretty much where Lou (the unofficial mayor of Saugatuck) once ruled. Pick up a price list there.

6. When Horace Staples -- the founder of the high school that bears his name -- died in 1897, he was 96 years old, and admired throughout town. The church was filled for his funeral. Where did he go from there? Bring a gravestone rubbing as proof.

7. Back in the day, you'd buy popcorn, soda and Jujubes at any of four Fine Arts Theaters. Today, there's food of a different kind at Fine Arts III. Snag a menu.

8. Once upon a time, Compo House was the finest mansion for miles around. With magnificent gardens, guest houses, and servants' and gardeners' quarters, it attracted guests like former president Millard Fillmore. Sadly, Compo House no longer exists. Pick up something that today might be "dropped" there. Be careful!

9. Download onto your smartphone something you might have done -- in a very different way -- at Arnie's Place.

THE ANSWERS

1. The souvenir would be a golf ball. There was miniature golf course on the west side of Hillspoint Road, opposite the Miramar club (aka speakeasy). Shaped like a boat, with life preservers and other nautical decor, it attracted the likes of George Raft and James Cagney. Later it became the Penguin Hotel (and, later still, a rooming house). Today -- just over the I-95 and railroad bridges -- it's the site of the Edgewater Commons condominiums.

2. The Sherman Antitrust Act forced Standard Oil Co. into 33 separate entities. One became Esso (as in the letters "S" and "O"); another was Socony ("Standard Oil Company of New York"). Those companies eventually turned into Exxon and Mobil -- and finally merged.

3. There were three correspondence schools: "Famous Artists, "Famous Writers" and "Famous Photographers." Founded by Albert Dorne -- and including Westporters like Stevan Dohanos and Harold von Schmidt -- the schools gave Westport international renown (or infamy), thanks to ubiquitous magazine ads and matchbook covers.

The Famous Schools were located on Wilton Road, in the building now occupied (though not much longer) by Save the Children. It's gift shop is on the ground floor.

4. Two folks come immediately to mind: Sally White (owner of Sally's Place, who started her Westport record-selling career at the Melody House) and Lee Papageorge, current owner of Oscar's (whose original location, including an actual pickle barrel, was located just a few doors south). If there are others, scout 'em out!

5. Lou's beloved Riverside Barber Shop is now Downunder -- a very popular kayak rental shop. If you need proof that Saugatuck is changing quickly, this is it.

6. Horace Staples was buried in Colonial Cemetery, next to Green's Farms Congregational Church.

7. Movie food has been replaced by sushi -- Matsu Sushi, to be precise.

8. Beautiful Compo House -- on the corner of the Post Road and North Compo Road -- turned into a sanitarium. Eventually, it was torn down. Today, 32-acre Winslow Park is primarily a dog run. Please pick up after your pet!

9. Arnie's Place was Westport's very plush -- and quite controversial -- video games arcade. Now it's Balducci's. And now video games are at our fingertips, 24/7/365. I'm sure Arnie would have had something to say about that.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his "Woog's World" appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.