From the Founders II
Of Archives and Anecdotes
Historical researching is tough. I hugely admire those dogged people, like Anne Young of the Historical Society, who do it as a profession and keep their good humor in the process. We are reminded of that every time that contributing editor Muffin Zoubek, a lifelong Greenwich resident, helps me dig into the Moffly Publications archives to come up with another edition of “Scraps from the Past.”
But it’s not wading through all that detail that slows us down. It’s the memories triggered as we turn the pages of those old Nutmeggers and Greenwich Reviews. The generations of gossip. The surprises, the hilarity, the wonder of it all.
“You’re kidding!” we’ll say, looking at a picture of two guys inside Mianus Tavern celebrating the end of Prohibition by feeding a big bowl of beer to a horse. Today the ASPCA would be after us. Or, “That’s amazing,” reflecting on the 1951 photo of Harold Russell, the famous handless veteran who starred in Best Years of Our Lives, lighting his wife’s cigarette with his steel hooks.
Sixty years’ worth of bridal announcements never fails to bear fruit. In 1950, there was Ethel Skakel who married Bobby Kennedy, with all his brothers and sisters coming to Greenwich to help him down the aisle. (We ran across a 1962 photo taken by Mrs. Charles Spalding of her friend President Kennedy in a Palm Beach pool, his famous shock of hair considerably trimmed to make him look older, according to the caption.) In 1951 came Lanie Moore who once turned down a chance to be Miss America. Remember? In 1958, Mrs. James Edelin Bourne, née Miss Nancie Magee, graced a page. Everybody in Riverside remembers what devils those Bourne boys were, especially the frazzled former manager of the Riverside Yacht Club, who couldn’t believe it when he saw Jimmy walk into the Nantucket Yacht Club with his proper young fiancée for their engagement party. In 1970, there was Mrs. Cabot Wade, née Miss Glenn Close. “Well, that didn’t last,” Muffin and I nodded, knowingly.
Muffin found her own wedding portrait in 1967, and I spotted myself with Bobby Short at the Whiteheads’ house in 1987, at a fundraiser for Senator Lowell Weicker. Not knowing what to say to the musical icon of Manhattan, I recall blurting out: “Oh, my children will be so thrilled to know I met you!” And he said: “Why?” Good point. Ann Landers was there, too.
We giggled over a picture of Jane Seel and Isabel Malkin dressed as nuns for a walk-on in Tosca at the Met in 1987, then sobered up reading Cornelia Jahncke’s 1965 “Case for Planned Parenthood,” in which she pondered whether or not birth control would finally be declared legal in Connecticut.
A picture of two Greenwich couples in Dutch costume in Holland in 1970 triggered a personal memory. When we were teenagers, my brother Mike and I visited friends of our parents who lived in the Hague; and we, too, had gone native for a photograph in Vollendam. Months later, driving other guests into Vollendam, our hosts were startled to see a giant billboard featuring Mike and me proclaiming the delights of the city.
Naturally, we marveled at the showstopper real estate ads — like the spacious five-bedroom house on two acres of waterfront property in Old Greenwich going for $125,000 in 1965.
Muffin and I can’t wait for the next session. Come join us, but not when you’re in a hurry. You’ll have a wonderful time.
— Donna Moffly