I’ll Be Home For Xmas 7

Here’s what you can find in Wikipedia about the history of Greenwich:

The town of Greenwich was settled in 1640. One of the founders was Elizabeth Fones Winthrop, daughter-in-law of John Winthrop, founder and Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. What is now called Greenwich Point was known for much of the area’s early history as “Elizabeth’s Neck” in recognition of Elizabeth Fones and their 1640 purchase of the Point and much of the area now known as Old Greenwich. Greenwich was declared a township by the General Assembly in Hartford on May 11, 1665.

During the American Revolution, General Israel Putnam made a daring escape from the British on February 26, 1779. Although British forces pillaged the town, Putnam was able to warn Stamford.

In 1983, the Mianus River Bridge, which carries traffic on Interstate 95 over an estuary, collapsed, resulting in the death of three people

For many years, Greenwich Point (locally termed “Tod’s Point”), was open only to town residents and their guests. However, a lawyer sued, saying his rights to freedom of assembly were threatened because he was not allowed to go there. The lower courts disagreed, but the Supreme Court of Connecticut agreed, and Greenwich was forced to amend its beach access policy to all four beaches.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Greenwich’s location as the first Connecticut town off Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway meant that when New York City-area residents wanted to buy Powerball lottery tickets as the jackpot rose above $100 million, they crowded into Greenwich stores to purchase them, creating traffic jams in the business areas. The Connecticut Lottery introduced special rules for such situations. This no longer was a problem after Pennsylvania joined Powerball in 2002; those living west of the Hudson River no longer cross it to buy Powerball tickets.

        I don’t know what you think, but I see this as amounting to pretty much nothing.   After all, the town is approaching its 400th anniversary, and you would think that there was something more to this place. 

         Don’t bother going to the offshoot article featuring the subject, because you won’t find much else there, except for an unbalanced emphasis on the poor conditions of the roads during the 18th Century.  I’d also stay away from the town’s Historical Society website because its page on Greenwich History is under construction and whatever it had before that was even scanter than what you see above. 

         A quick study of the information provided should be enough to help you understand why I feel the way I do.  The beginning is all right I guess, though they could have added that the first land was purchased for 25 English coats.  And the part about Putnam escaping is mandatory knowledge for any local.  Yes, I too find it hard to accept that my town’s greatest contribution to this country’s independence was an elderly general running away from the enemy.  Grant you, the hill he bolted down was mindbogglingly steep, and he did manage to get word to the nearby Stamford garrison that the “British were coming!”; but does it merit such attention?  Was this a kind of make-it-or-break-it moment in the revolution?  It seems so.  And if you don’t believe me, take a look at the town seal:

Yeap.  There you have it folks.  My town’s finest hour in its struggle to free itself from English rule immortalized on the official seal.  A crowning moment in its nearly 375 years of existence.  There’s our man galloping away from the redcoats; running, fleeing and waving his sword with defiance as he says, “I’m outta here!”  He wasn’t even from Greenwich by the way, nor did he die there. 

      Doesn’t it make you wish that a town smack in the middle of a war would have been responsible for something more historically significant than the tale of a man tearing off with his tail between his legs in the face of danger?  But that’s the way history works and you can’t change it.

       And you know what?  Deep down I like the symbol.  It takes guts to make it the image of your town.  Just the way it took guts for that old officer to barrel down a drop so inclined it could almost be considered a cliff.  And he certainly did the right thing, because trying to stand up to them would not have gotten the town anywhere.  And he probably would have died in the attempt. 

      Turning Putnamp’s escape into a source of local pride says something about this town.   I just wonder how many locals realize that. 

I’ll Be Home For Xmas 6

Greenwich has always been a fairly quiet and safe haven in the world considering its size.  The most memorable murder ocurred 35 years ago when a pretty 15-year-old blonde was bludgeoned to death with a golf club by a psychotic neighbor of roughly the same age.   The fact that the convicted killer was a nephew of the late Robert Kennedy only served to give this story greater national atention.  The result was two books, a novel and a movie based on the painful event.

      But for the most part, tragedy has rarely invaded these parts.  Unforunately, when it does, I happen to be around for it.  Two years ago, the last time I spent Christmas here, a Polish live-in gardener vented his anger at his wife’s filing for divorce by slitting their 20-year-old daughter’s throat and then trying to commit suicide, which he failed at.  The item of news left me distraught.  What a way to end the year.  What a way to end your life.

        Well, this year was hardly any better, if not worse altogether.  No crime was committed but tragedy struck again and dampened the Christmas spirit the rest of the area was trying so hard to kindle.  Early in the morning of Christmas day, a fire rapidly spread in a beautiful old Victorian house in the Shippan section of Stamford, engulfing it in flames in a matter of minutes.   That result was unthinkable.  A woman and her partner survived, but her three daughters, aged 9 and 7 (the younger ones were twins) perished along with her parents, who were in the house and tried to rescue them.  The news wasn’t sad…it was horrrific.  I couldn’t get those children out of my head.   I kept running through those terrifying final moments with them.   It just seemed impossible.

       It turns out that the blaze was caused by embers which had been taken out of the fireplace by the boyfriend and placed in a bag and then out in the mudroom  so that the young ones would believe Santa Claus had come and not been burned.  Yes, the story is that ironic and that heartbreaking.  I can’t even begin to try to imagine how that mother will manage to overcome such a personal catastrophy.  And the man who survived will have to live with this terrible reality for the rest of his life.  I can think of few emotional burdens as hard to bear, though I have to admit that the man seemed to be handling everything initially with uncommon collectedness and even a touch of thoughtlessness.  His first words were something to the nature of “We’re going to be OK.  We’re just trying to stay positive.”  He added that his three days in the hospital felt like an eternity.  These he uttered just three days after the fire.  No mention of the victims, especially those poor little girls who clearly must have suffered so much.  It also turns out that he didn’t have any fire alarms activated (or so it seems), was inhabitating a house under renovation without a permit, nor was he even licensed to  serve as contractor in Connecticut.  The authorities of Stamford mentioned that no charges were expected to be placed, and the home was demolished about 24 hours after the event, which I personally found surprising.

        No one is saying we should lynch this guy, but to dismiss any resposibility without a full-scale investigation, especially after an apparent series of grave acts of professional and human negligence were committed, seems a bit precipitous.   I get the feeling that, after the shock has faded, we won’t have heard the last of this story.

      I just hope that the next time I’m in Greenwich for Christmas, I won’t have to see another tearful event.

I’ll Be Home For Xmas 5

Here is a list of some of Greenwich’s famous residents and former residents.  Some are even illustrious:

  • Glenn Close (actress)
  • George C. Scott (actor)
  • Ron Howard (actor/director)
  • Victor Borge (actor/entertainer)
  • Diana Ross (singer)
  • Tommy Dorsey (musician)
  • Regis Philbin (TV host)
  • Brian Murdock (I just felt like doing this, forgive me)
  • Dorothy Hamill (Gold-medal winning ice-skater)
  • Bobby Bonilla (baseball player)
  • Tom Seaver (Hall of Fame pitcher)
  • Ivan Lendl (Tennis champion)
  • Steve Young (Quarterback)
  • Half of the Mets roster
  • Truman Capote (writer)
  • George Bush (41st president)
  • George W. Bush (43rd president)
  • many more…

Then there is Fred Thrower, former president of the local NY channel WPIX and generous-souled creator of one of most beloved Christmas traditions in the area, and later America itself.  It was a television program called “The Yule Log” and it consisted of the following: an 18-second filmed segment of a burning log in a Christmas adorned fireplace which was looped over and over for three hours while famous Christmas carols and songs were played.  You just can’t get any more basic.  Or cheesy.  Thrower’s idea was to allow a little warmth to enter the homes of millions of New Yorkers who live in apartments devoid of these ameneties.  That meant airing a program without the support of advertising and making it long enough so that employees could spend a little more time with their families.  In other words, it was a gift by the station to its viewers.  And there is nothing sappy about that.

         This show was endearing to a genreation of Americans that when it disappeared in the late 1980s, it was as if a piece of the holiday had been completely removed forever.  After a 1-man campaign to bring the log back, and a fortuitous finding of the original tape in a warehouse by an employee of WPIX, the show was returned and syndicated and is now more popular than ever.

       Fred lived in Greenwich for many years and died in Greenwich hospital back in 1999.  To this day, most people from Greenwich don’t know that.   Silent night