Way We Were, for the week ending January 25, 2019

Published: January 25, 2019 at 02:00 pm


January 28, 1994

A chapter of Newtown history ended this week when Lyndon Thomas closed the Smoke Shop. The Smoke Shop wasn’t just another store. For many Newtowners, Lyndon’s place had become the unofficial center of the town, where they stopped not only for newspapers, coffee, or Lotto tickets, but also to find out what was happening in town. “A lot of people used the Smoke Shop as a drop-off point where they could leave messages or things that would be picked up by someone else,” Mr Thomas said, reflecting on why the business he bought in 1974 had become a popular gathering place. Lyndon’s own influence on local politics also played a large role. He was an original member of the Legislative Council when it was created in 1976 and later became its chairman. Until this month he served as the Republican Town Committee chairman and Economic Development Commission chairman. For the past two decades he has been behind the counter at the Smoke Shop, answering questions and helping residents understand how their government works. But what he described as insurmountable financial problems forced him to close. “I guess I made the wrong decision when I rebuilt the place after the fire in 1988,” he said. “The financial impact of the fire has kept me trying to juggle things ever since. But I’ve run out of steam. I’ve examined all of the options for keeping the business going and they just weren’t feasible. Debt buried me.”


Police are investigating a series of mailbox bombings in recent months, which they believe are related. Chief Michael DeJoseph said January 26 police are investigating 16 mailbox bombing incidents in locations scattered throughout town. There are no reported injuries related with the blasts, which can disperse dangerous shrapnel. On January 23, one resident on Cedar Hill Road and one resident on John Beach Road reported that their mailboxes had been blown up. Police then stopped a vehicle on Platts Hill Road that they considered to be traveling in a suspicious manner. Police said they found a person whose identity they didn’t disclose and bomb ingredients inside the vehicle, which they confiscated. Chief DeJoseph termed the string of mailbox explosions a “complex case.” Besides violations of state law, federal laws may have been broken, he said, noting the federal government’s jurisdiction over mailboxes. He described the bombs as being made from large soft drink containers holding explosive chemical substances. The force of exploding mailbox blasts would be dangerous to anyone who was near them when they blew up, the chief said.


State police say they are seeking an arrest warrant against a Garner Correctional Institute inmate following a January 19 incident at the high security prison. State police said they are seeking a warrant charging inmate Keith Blassingame, 33, with assaulting Correction Officer Russell Erickson. Police said that while correction officers were watching an inmate visitation, they saw Mr Blassingame attempt to conceal a package in the back of his trousers. He was brought to a private processing area where four correction officers participated in a strip search of him. One officer saw an object protruding from Mr Blassingame’s body. Mr Blassingame punched the face of the officer who was conducting the strip search. While attempting to subdue Mr Blassingame, he was seen putting something in his mouth, and then swallowed the contraband. Officer Erickson suffered a swollen face and abrasions and was transported to Waterbury Hospital for examination. Mr Blassingame suffered a broken wrist and bruises and was taken to Danbury Hospital for treatment.


The Board of Selectmen agree that the town needs affordable housing but would rather see empty buildings at Fairfield Hills Hospital used for that purpose rather than have new units built on open space there. The selectmen Monday night acted on a request by Harvey Gerber, of WestConn Affordable Housing Corporation, by saying they would compose a letter to the state’s Fairfield Hills Task Force supporting the idea of affordable housing there. The letter will recommend that the state allow the non-profit housing agency to use a building such as Watertown Hall to develop affordable housing. If this is not feasible, the selectmen would support the alternative of building new units there.


STEPHEN SMALL'S WINE WISDOM: I am going to someone’s house tonight and I would like to bring a bottle of wine. Do you have any suggestions? Depending on the situation, the answer is quite simple. A few general rules of thumb should be considered. First, how well do you know the people who are getting the bottle of wine? If they are aficionados, an agreeable, unique bottle of red would probably be appropriate. If you don’t know them very well, a chardonnay or white zinfandel would do the trick. Second, what is the occasion? A summer barbecue would call for something light and easy while a formal dinner party would require a much more serious wine. Third, how much money do you want to spend? There are good wines currently available from $3 a bottle to the sky is the limit. It is not very complicated to bring a gift of wine. It’s not very expensive and most people will find a use for it. If you buy what you know you like, chances are your guests will enjoy it too.

January 31, 1969

The biggest news to be reported from the January 28 meeting did not happen that night, but the previous Tuesday in a closed special session of the Board of Education. Meeting minutes given to the press this Tuesday show the choice of a site for the elementary school, property owned by Frederick Luf Jr near the higher section of Head O’ Meadow Road; that a new five-year contract at higher rates has been negotiated with the school bus drivers; and that Superintendent John Sommi has requested time off to complete his work for a doctorate. The school board last week asked the Public Building Committee to study the feasibility of placing a new elementary school, Newtown’s fourth, on the 22-acre Luf property. Over a year ago the town appropriated $10,000 to make studies of soil and other conditions. The Building Committee must first be satisfied that the price for the property is reasonable and that conditions are met for an access road.


It does become increasingly apparent in these 20th century days of stress and strain that the general public is waking up to the values of its own physical surroundings and the need to protect them from callous destruction. In our opinion, too little has been done about it for too long, particularly on the local level, but a distinct rustling is being heard, indicating that action is about to be taken. On a state level, legislation establishing a policy for protection and improvement of Connecticut’s natural environment is proposed in a measure which has been introduced into both houses of the General Assembly. The bill proposes that the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the state Health Department shall establish a comprehensive environmental policy for the state, and that the policy then be submitted to the State Planning Council for review and adoption by all pertinent state agencies.


A break developed Tuesday afternoon in the new 12-inch water main which has been laid by the Newtown Water Company on School House Hill Road to the new plant being built by Allied Container Corp. The break occurred at 4:20 pm and interrupted water service to some customers in town for almost an hour, until it was possible for Superintendent Chris Grieve to shut off the new line from the rest of the system.


The Holstein born on Sunday morning came into the world with its best foot forward — in fact, best feet forward. This youngster was born with two feet on the left front leg. The calf is a member of the family at Snow’s Dairy in Easton and was in its stall with Bert Moody, barn foreman. According to Mr Moody, the calf gets about with five feet just as well as the others with only four and is the first such animal he has seen. The strangest birth he recalls from his days about the farm was a pig with two heads.


The 5th and 6th grade language arts class of Burnham School in Bridgewater visited The Bee at press time last week accompanied by Mrs Meier and Mrs Shook. The young people were most interested not only in the mechanical means of getting out a newspaper, but also in the editorial and advertising duties. The students have written their impressions of the trip and The Bee will share these readers in an early issue.

February 4, 1944

All are invited to attend a “Fair of Hearts” which will be given by the Camp Fire Girls of Sandy Hook in the parish hall of St. John’s Church on Friday night, February 18 at 7 o’clock. The whole performance will be given for the benefit of Camp Fire programs. Candy and cookies made by the Camp Fire Girls will be sold. Rosemarie Kilbride will be on hand to tell fortunes. There will be lots of fun, for the girls will have a circus. Come and bring your friends.


Mrs Richard Egan of Palestine district had the misfortune to fall at her home on Tuesday evening, breaking her right leg below the knee. On Wednesday, Mrs Egan was removed to Bridgeport Hospital in the Newtown Ambulance, where the fracture was set by Dr Griswold.


It is announced by Dr William H. Walker, acting superintendent at Fairfield State Hospital, that the hospital will be open to visitors again, starting Wednesday of this week, so that in the future visitors to patients will be permitted on regular visiting days, which are Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 2 to 4 pm, and Sunday forenoon from 9 to 11 am. Visitors will be limited to not more than three members of a patient’s immediate family. For the past month all visitors have been prohibited as a precaution against the influenza epidemic which has prevailed, but now largely subsided.


FOR SALE — Completely modernized Colonial house, 8 rooms, 1 bathroom, equipped with coal pipeless furnace. 2-car garage, chicken house for fifty chickens. Acre and a quarter of grounds on which owner maintained 2 horses, 4 goats, 2 pigs, 30 chickens, and vegetables for a family of five. Within walking distance of private swimming club, rural delivery. Arrangements can be made to deliver groceries at no cost and school bus goes by door. Will sell for $12,000. Write to Mrs Fownes Barnes, West Cornwall, Conn. for further particulars.


Police Chief Andrew Nearing had a narrow escape from death last Friday afternoon at 2:30 o’clock when his Oldsmobile sedan crashed through the ice at Lake Candlewood, near the New Fairfield town line. Chief Nearing had left a party of fishermen with whom he had been fishing and was returning to his home when the car broke through. The chief jumped from the front seat to the back and broke the window to escape. He escaped from the car just as it plunged to the bottom in about 25 feet of water. Chief Nearing was removed to his home by Patrick Lillis. Medical aid was summoned for the chief who suffered from shock, a cut to the head, and exposure.

January 31, 1919

Microfilm for the January 17 through April 18, 1919 issues of The Newtown Bee are not available. It is unclear why New England Micrographics Inc in 2000 was not able to produce film for these dates. Based on the poor quality of the early January issues, the film for which reveals torn and damaged originals, the newspapers for these dates may have been destroyed.


Please consider sharing your old photographs of people and places from Newtown or Sandy Hook with The Newtown Bee readers. Images can be e-mailed to kendra@thebee.com, or brought to the office at 5 Church Hill Road to be scanned. When submitting photographs, please identify as many people as possible, the location, and the approximate date.


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