The Cupheag Crier
Carl Helbig reflects on Paradise Green in March 1988

Carl Helbig reflects on Paradise Green in March 1988

June 23, 2019

Carl Helbig was born in Bridgeport on November 1, 1899.  He relocated to Paradise Green and opened Carl A. Helbig's meat market in 1920.  The store was located where Paradise Pizza is now located.  Mr. Helbig expanded his product lines and retired from business in 1951.  Carl and his wife, Hilda, resided at 382 Wilcoxson Avenue.  

Mr. Helbig was interviewed by Lew Knapp, Miller Walks, and Mr. Helbig's granddaughter in March 1988.  Mr. Helbig reflects on 30 years of running his market in Paradise Green.  

Memories of life in Stratford provided by Marion Finger

Memories of life in Stratford provided by Marion Finger

June 17, 2019

Marion Beach was born in 1900.  She grew up on Longbrook Avenue near the DC Wood saw mill and the blacksmith shop.  She married J. Walter Finger.  She lived with Mr. Finger at 2979 Main Street and they ran a bakery business from their home.  She was Interviewed by Miller Walks in 1988 as part of the assembling of memories for the book In Pursuit of Paradise.

Mrs. Finger recalled when Main Street was a dirt road.  She remembered Stanley Beach's airplane and his trying to fly the plane giving First Selectman James Lally a ride.  Her grandparents owned Beaver Dam.  She recalled DC Wood's four wives and a poem written about Mr. Wood.  Mrs. Finger discussed the Depression and its effects on Stratford; the hurricane of 1938; Mary Fairchild piano teacher and Bible teacher; travelling through Stratford before Barnum Avenue extension was built; Peck's Mill disaster; and, the fog horn in Stratford Center blowing when school was to be cancelled due to weather.

Mrs. Finger died in 1990.

Mary G. Clinton recalls her childhood in Stratford

Mary G. Clinton recalls her childhood in Stratford

June 10, 2019

Mary G. Clinton was born in 1880.  She attended Center School and graduated from the 8th Grade.  She married Marine Colonel Thomas Clinton and traveled with him, in their early married years, to the Philippines, Jamaica, and Washington DC.

Mr. and Mrs. Clinton lived at 2012 Elm Street.  Mrs. Clinton passed away June 17, 1965.

In this brief recording, Mrs. Clinton is interviewed by Vivienne Knapp and Alma Fowler on March 3, 1964.  She recounts the early Caribbean ship trade in town, Captain Benjamin Pulaski, her membership in the Housatonic Boat Club, shad fishing in the Housatonic, the Stratford Library, the Todd grocery and dry goods store, and John Sterling.  Mrs. Clinton spent a lifetime performing volunteer work at Christ Episcopal Church.


Ferries, Docks, Bridges, and Boats which operated on the lower Housatonic River

Ferries, Docks, Bridges, and Boats which operated on the lower Housatonic River

June 3, 2019

J. Fletcher Lewis was born in 1889.  Mr. Lewis was appointed by the State of Connecticut as Stratford's Harbormaster in 1951.  Mr. Lewis served in that position for the next 20+ years.  He was elected President of the State Harbormasters Association in 1959.  Mr. Lewis lived at 138 Sutton Avenue from the 1920's through the early 1940's.  He moved to 178 Housatonic Avenue in the mid-1940's.  

In this presentation, Mr. Lewis addressed the Stratford Historical Society September 23, 1966 at Christ Episcopal Church.  He had made an earlier presentation to the Society on July 24, 1958 at Boothe Memorial Park.

The Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson and Colonial Music

The Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson and Colonial Music

May 26, 2019

In the 1975-76 school year of Bunnell High School, two seniors, David Lastomirsky and Barry Lessow, conducted an independent study project on the life of William Samuel Johnson.  On March 31st, 1976, David and Barry reported the findings of the study to the Stratford Historical Society.  In addition to David's and Barry's report, the Bunnell Choir performed music which would have been contemporary during William Samuel Johnson's life.  


The Bridgeport Post
March 29, 1976
W. S. Johnson Topic Of Historical Group

     “The Life and Times of William Samuel Johnson” will be the topic of a general membership meeting of the Stratford Historical society on Wednesday (March 31st) at 8 p.m. in the United Methodist church hall, 1600 Main street.
     David Lastomirsky and Barry Lessow, students in the independent study program at Bunnell high school, will jointly present the program as a summary of their research into the life of the Stratford native.
     Their work has involved the use of over 20 sources, including the research facilities at Yale university, and the Stratford and Bridgeport libraries. Richard Fournier, their teacher, coordinated the work.
     The Bunnell choir, directed by Charles Wakeley, will present music appropriate in Dr. Johnson's time, “Freedom Song 1776” by Kirk.
    William Samuel Johnson was born in Stratford in 1727, the son of the Stratford Episcopal church's first rector, Samuel Johnson. A graduate at the age of 17 from Yale college, he prepared at Harvard university for a career in law.
   He was elected to the Connecticut Colony General Assembly in 1761, and came into prominence in 1767, when he represented the colony in England in the settling of land disputes with the Indians.
    In 1787 as a member of the Constitutional Convention, he was one of the first statesmen to propose a two body congress, with a Senate and a House of Representatives.
     Dr. Johnson was elected one of the. state's first two senators. Also, he was the first president of Columbia college.
     His last years were spent in retirement in his Stratford home. He died in 1819.
     David and Barry will illustrate their commentary on Dr. Johnson with slides.
    Following the presentation, refreshments will he served by Bonnie Smith, assisted by Susan Bachlechner, Billie Chaplowe, Judy Kurmay, Barbara Olsen, and Jean Girban.
     Floral arrangements will he provided by Mrs. David Jenny.
     The public is invited to attend, free of charge.


Lew Knapp recalls Lobell’s Farm

Lew Knapp recalls Lobell’s Farm

May 20, 2019

In December 18, 1994 recorded his memories of William Irving Lobdell's farm.  Lew began working on Lobdell's farm at age 5 as Lew tried to help his widowed mother with household expenses.  Lobdell's farm house was located at 317 Huntington Road and is still standing today.  Lobdell's farm was located between Huntington Road and Freeman Avenue.  Mr. Lobdell was born in 1855 and died in 1954.  In the 1920's and 1930's the farm was one of many "truck" farms in Stratford which began disappearing during World War II.  The farm was 15 acres in size.  

Lew recalls the products grown and marketed from Lobdell's farm, the layout and operation of the farm, and the seasonal activities performed on the farm.  He relates some charming memories of Mr. Wilcoxson, of Wilcoxson's farm, and of Mr. Spamer and his cigars.  Lew tells how Mr. Lobdell would drive to the circus grounds in Bridgeport to pickup elephant manure to fertilize his fields.  All-in-all, this is an historical tale of a largely forgotten Stratford.

Elizabeth Sammis discusses early Stratford history

Elizabeth Sammis discusses early Stratford history

May 12, 2019

This recording was made of Mrs. Frank (Elizabeth) Sammis at the Judson House in 1955.  Mrs. Sammis lived her entire life in Stratford.  When she married Frank Sammis, they bought a home on Academy Hill.  Mrs. Sammis was one of the founders of the Stratford Historical Society, and its curator for 30 years.  She was born in December 1861 and was 94 at the time of this interview.  She was also Donald Sammis' mother.  Donald Sammis was Town Manager from 1932 through 1934.

Mrs. Sammis discusses many interesting facts in this interview: a tunnel from the flagpole on Academy Hill which ran to the Judson House; Stratford's District schools; witchcraft and witch's rock at Linden and West Broad; Phelps Mansion haunting; Moses Wheeler who was born in 1698 was the first man to live to 100 in Connecticut; manufacturing in Stratford; railroad coming to Stratford in 1853; her parents welcomed the first train to Stratford in 1853; William Judson having slaves; the cost of those slaves; bars on the windows of Judson House to keep Indians out; origin of saltbox houses; her father being held in Andersonville prison and coming home from the Civil War when Elizabeth was 4.5 years old; and, lastly, William Samuel Johnson who was the most famous man in Connecticut during his lifetime.

The recording ends with Frederick C. Booth (age 74), Mrs. Sammis replacement as Historical Society Curator, recounting the important people who've lived in Stratford.


Donald Sammis and William Howard Wilcoxson discuss Stratford history with Lew Knapp

Donald Sammis and William Howard Wilcoxson discuss Stratford history with Lew Knapp

May 5, 2019

This is a classic Stratford history recording.  In one room, simultaneously, sat three men discussing Stratford's history who undoubtedly knew more of Stratford's history than any other three people similarly assembled at that time or since.  The recording was made February 8, 1964.  Lew and Vivienne Knapp interviewed Donald Sammis (Stratford's first "home grown" Town Manager) and William Howard Wilcoxson (long time Stratford Town Clerk and Town Historian).  Lew was 43, Donald Sammis was 74, and William Howard Wilcoxson was 68 at the time this recording was made.


Anyone who has studied Stratford's history from the early years of the 20th century knows what fine, generous, kind, and highly regarded man James Lally, Stratford's last First Selectman, was.  Likely recorded nowhere else, however, is Mr. Lally's predilection for tobacco spitting and the accuracy of his expectorations.

The fight for Stratford's Council-Manager form of government is discussed at some length.  It's likely no other existent account of that fight records what a major role Donald Sammis played in winning that form of government.  Mr. Sammis describes the men who preceded him as Town Manager, and his time as Town Manager.

Also, likely unknown is how little regard the Boothe brothers had for Stratford's Selectman form of government.  David Boothe basically bailed the town out of very bad financial straights during the great depression by paying his taxes early.  He did so, however, only because he trusted Donald Sammis and the Manager-Council form of government.

Mr. Sammis describes creating Roosevelt Forest.  There is much rumor and conjecture about the formation of Roosevelt Forest.  Mr. Sammis clears all that up in this recording and goes on to describe all the locations in town where stone from the quarry in Roosevelt Forest was used for building and curb constructions.

It's well known the Federal government helped in the funding of today's Town Hall.  It's doubtful that any other account records just how large the Federal government's role was in Town Hall's construction.

Old Town Hall (in Stratford Center where I-95 crosses Main Street) is described in detail and the removal of the Post Office from Selleck Place to the old Town Hall is recorded.  The Post Office was forced to move after fire destroyed the Post Office at Selleck Place and Main Street.

Lastly, the founding of the Stratford Historical Society is retold, at length, including the transition of the ownership of the Judson House from the Curtiss sisters to the Historical Society.

Dick Steele interviews Betty Applegate in 2004

Dick Steele interviews Betty Applegate in 2004

April 28, 2019

"Elizabeth P. Applegate, age 95, a life long resident of Stratford passed away peacefully on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at her home. She was the widow of Russel C. Applegate Jr. She graduated from Stratford High School in 1937. She attended Pembroke College (Brown University) and earned a degree in nursing in 1942.

Betty was involved in many organizations including Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, 4H Club, PTA and many activities at Christ Episcopal her church. In later years she became a docent for Stratford Historical Society and Boothe Memorial Park. She was a member of the Housatonic Boat Club and participated in duckpin bowling for many years".  Foregoing from the September 27th, 2015 Connecticut Post.

At the time of this interview, Betty was 84 and Dick Steele was 82.  The recording is hard to hear, but very informative.  Betty reflects on her mother's birth in the house now known as the Perry House, trolleys in Stratford, schools in Stratford, life in Putney, duck pin bowling, and the Mollison plane crash in 1933 in Great Meadows Marsh.

Elden Dustin interviews Cecilie M. Krueger in 1982

Elden Dustin interviews Cecilie M. Krueger in 1982

April 21, 2019

Cecilie Marie Georgy Moore Krueger was born in Brooklyn, New York October 7, 1891.  She graduated from Columbia University in New York City in 1912.  At some point prior to 1920, she met and married Theodore Henry Carl Krueger who was born in Nebraska in 1889.  The two of them lived, for a time, in Manhattan and at some point, prior to 1930, moved to the Putney section of Stratford.

The Krueger house was located at 5590 Main Street which house is adjacent to the Putney Cemetery.  In 1933 Mrs. Krueger gave birth to her only child, Theodore.  She lived the remainder of her life in this house and passed away June 18, 1991.

Former Stratford Historical Society President, Elden Dustin, and his wife, interviewed Mrs. Kreuger in her home in Putney in 1982.  Mrs. Kreuger described life in Putney up through the World War II era.  She related her experiences of living next to the Boothe brothers.  The recording ends suddenly likely due to the cassette tape filling up.