In a 1989 address to the Stratford Historical Society docents, Lew Knapp talked about how Stratford was named; where the Stratford settlers originated from in England; the early Stratford heroes; Goody Bassett; and, Flora the Slave Girl's silhouette. The photo accompanying this podcast shows Lew in a photo from the Bridgeport Herald in 1967 at the Housatonic Boat Club.
Elden Dustin, well known Stratford educator, interviews Velmore Spamer on September 13, 1989. Ironically, Mr. Spamer passed away exactly one week after this interview; fortuitous timing on Mr. Dustin's part. Velmore Spamer was born in Stratford September 26, 1916 and remained in Stratford for his entire life. He worked for the State Welfare Department and the State Transportation Department. Mr. Spamer served on the town's bicentennial committee in 1976 and served as President of the Stratford Historical Society in 1970 and 1971.
In this interview, Mr. Spamer discusses his research on his forebear, and Stratford founder, Adam Blakeman. Mr. Spamer traveled the United Kingdom to gain additional information about Adam Blakeman.
Lew Knapp reviews photos (in slide format) of Stratford Schools with Frances Russell on February 14, 1986. Frances Russell was the first principal of Second Hill Lane School. She became principal when Second Hill Lane School first opened in September 1954. Ms. Russell was born in 1898 and was a lifelong resident of Trumbull. She began her teaching career in Trumbull, but shortly thereafter, moved to the Stratford School system.
Ms. Russell began teaching in Stratford in 1927. She taught at Honeyspot, Center, and Putney Schools. She retired as principal of Second Hill Lane School in June 1960.
On April 4, 1964, J. Fletcher Lewis (Harbormaster), Edwin Washburn, and Lewis Knapp discuss the Housatonic River, the Stratford Point Lighthouse, the lighthouse keepers, Minor Smith's Shorehouse inn and restaurant on Housatonic Avenue, and the five Washington Bridges.
Lew Knapp, long time town historian, was interviewed on September 30, 1988 at his stately home on Shore Road. He was asked to discuss various house styles and house building periods in Stratford. Mr. Knapp details the Judson House, Lt. Governor David Plant's house, Samuel William Johnson's house, his own house, and others. He talks about the settling of Stratford and Mac's Harbor. The Mac's Harbor story alone is worth the listen as this story has largely been lost to history. Lew discusses the process of writing a history book as he was in the final stages of publishing "In Pursuit of Paradise." Lew's wife Vivienne also describes writing her historic cookbook, "Paradise Enow", which was published during the town's 350th anniversary
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.
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 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.
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.
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.