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The Dutchess years… (Weeks…?)
One day in the mid-80s I happened upon an old camera at my folk’s house in Greens Farms. I recognized it as a camera I had in high school. I’d forgotten all about it. On closer examination I discovered that it contained a roll of film. Carefully rewinding it, I then sent it off to a film developer.
And what to my wondering eyes did appear, but two photos of my old high school true love, Dutchie Norris! The film had been in that camera undeveloped and forgotten for 30 years! (La Dutchess also appears as a Bedford Elementary 3rd—or 6th!—grader in a couple of group photos on Shirley Rice’s Photo Archive page.)
I met Dutchie (she spelled her name with a ‘T’) for the first time at a Wilton operetta production of Pirates of Penzance in the spring of ’55 (or ’54?) as we neared graduation (really not sure of which year—we might have been juniors or seniors). At the behest of John Ohanion I joined the group. I think Bruce Wilson and the Malkin twins also signed up. It was love at first sight. (Not with the Malkins; with Dutchess…) For me, anyway. We dated for most of the summer, and then broke up. In the photos it looks like we were off to our (Staples) senior (or junior) prom in one, and graduation ceremonies in the other, not sure.
Dutchie graduated, I believe, from Bedford Elementary but then went off to a private school. I always assumed it was the Bolton School for Girls, but I learned otherwise at the last reunion. Joel Boland also dated her whilst in high school. Sitting in the Sheraton bar in Norwalk on Saturday night after the Red Barn dinner, Joel and I hoisted a couple of cocktails in her memory. Joel told me she went to a private school for girls in Greenwich, probably beginning with 7th grade.
In Tom Saviano’s pull-no-punches comparison of our Norman Rockwell Westport to today’s Beverly Hills Westport, he spoke about Nash’s Pond and a lovers’ lane back in the woods at the northern end. I have no distinct recollection of a Nash’s Pond lovers’ lane. There was Compo, of course, and one or more in Weston near the reservoir.
But no matter as Dutchie and I discovered a little off-road hideaway practically in downtown Westport along Imperial Avenue near the gravel pit. Unless you were looking for it, you’d miss it as it required turning off the road into the woods onto an overgrown gravel driveway and up a short hill. Here, parked under the pine trees in complete solitude, Dutchie and I could discuss the comparative merits of public vs private high school education…
I believe it was not long afterward that our little hideaway was bulldozed by a thoughtless McMansion developer. Now sitting there happily, I imagine, in smug contemplation of its role as destroyer of some long-ago adolescent wickedness…!
And fun! Let’s not forget about the fun part…!
I’ve always wondered if anyone else knew about this little teenage hideaway and I’ve never forgotten Dutchie Norris. I wish I knew what became of her…
This photo of the All-State Orchestra (we played in Hartford) was from 1952. I’m in the third row just to the left of center (I deserved to be in the last row). I had qualified for All-State each of the three years I was eligible, but—as a violinist—I was never in the league of, say, Carl Harris (class of ’53). I simply wasn’t into it and seldom practiced. I just couldn’t see, for example, how violin playing was cool or would turn me into a chick magnet…
A fellow fiddler I’d almost forgotten about…
I think this fellow fiddler was Alan Hale (maybe class of ’56). One of those years while rehearsing in Hartford for the all-state concert, I developed a case of acute appendicitis. I was operated on in Hartford and I remember receiving a gigantic get-well card (I still have it, I think) signed by every single member of the Staples music department.
Ah, the Little League…
I played Little League ball for awhile—in my early twenties, I think. Pitcher. Once threw a one-hitter. Not a single curve ball or changeup. Nothing but heat. Dumbass right-fielder let a blooper land right in front of him—ruled a single.
First car (to pass inspection)
Bought this ’39 Pontiac coupe with the external windshield visor from Geoff Bullard. Forgot how much I paid for it. It was my first roadworthy car—a car that could actually be driven on roads. I had earlier purchased a late-thirtyish Merc coupe from Fran Bennett for $25. It was sitting on blocks in the woods in Weston, obviously begging to be hauled to the junkyard. I have no idea why I bought the thing.
Cub Scouting, long, long ago…
Recently found this gem in a long-forgotten photo album. Nearly faded to black, but with the magic of Photoshop I was able to lighten it up sufficiently to make out some of the faces, barely. Definitely a Greens Farms “den”. As best I recall, clockwise from top left:
- No idea (Ricky Steinkamp…?)
- David Brubaker
- Fraser Smith
- Graham Hotchkiss
- Mel Hayes
- Jim Burke (class of ’54?)
- Lyle Hayes (class of ’53?)
- Yours truly
- No idea (John Tomasky comes to mind)