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Wednesday, August 12 News

Woog’s World: How’s your Westport trivia?

Miggs and Trace Burroughs are artists, jacks of all trades, native Westporters and Staples High School graduates. They’re also brothers, and hosts of a regular podcast. “Oh Brother, Not Another Podcast!” is more than just cleverly named. It’s filled with interesting banter and plenty of surprises.

Thursday, July 23 (7 p.m.), may be their most interesting podcast yet. Broadcasting live (but virtually) from the Westport Library, they promise a special event. They’ll offer videos, “celebrity” surprises, and interactive quizzes.

I have no idea what the quizzes will consist of. Well, okay, I will have an idea soon, because (spoiler alert) I am one of the guests, and I’m supposed to provide a few questions. I better get hopping.

But first, let’s warm up with a “Woog’s World” Westport quiz. If you’ve lived here a while, you may do pretty well. If you’re a newcomer: Here’s your chance to bone up on local lore. The answers are at the end — but no Googling or other cheating allowed.

Questions:

1. What’s up with the name “Staples High School?” Is it sponsored by the office supply store, or the Los Angeles sports arena?

2. If you were part of the 1970s and ’80s Great Race, how would you have competed?

3. Which of these celebrities never lived in Westport: Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Lindbergh, Elizabeth Taylor, Martha Stewart, J.D. Salinger?

4. What was Arnie’s Place, and why did so many residents fight to keep it from opening?

5. A famous Westport-based school — which skirted the edge of scamming — taught what kind of subjects?

6. The Remarkable Theater sponsors drive-in movies at the Imperial Avenue parking lot this summer. Why is its name particularly clever?

7. Which crop did Westport farmers grow abundantly during the Civil War, in hopes of keeping union troops healthy?

8. What feature does the Westport Library and Parker Harding Plaza — the parking lot behind Main Street — share? (Bonus question: What’s Parker Harding’s nickname?)

9. Why did E.T. Bedford provide funds to build the YMCA in downtown Westport?

10. Speaking of Bedford, our current Bedford Middle School is built on the site of what previously controversial facility?

Answers:

1. Neither! The founder of our high school was Horace Staples. The wealthiest man in town — he owned stores, shipping vessels and an axe factory, and was a bank president — he got tired of watching young Westporters head to schools in Norwalk and Bridgeport. In 1884 he provided funds for our own high school, built on property he owned on Riverside Avenue (now Saugatuck Elementary School).

2. The Great Race began with a run through downtown. Contestants then got into their own homemade crafts, paddled out to Cockenoe Island, filled a bag with trash, and raced back to shore. The event included music and parties (with copious amounts of alcohol). It ended in part because of liability issues, and in part because some Great Racers cheated by “pre-filling” trash bags. Go figure.

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3. A trick question. All of them lived in Westport — along with many more. We pride ourselves on giving famous people space. But everyone in town has a Paul Newman story.

4. Arnie’s Place was a video games arcade. It was in the space now occupied by Ulta Beauty, next to Balducci’s. Conceived and developed by Arnie Kaye — a larger-than-life (literally as well as figuratively) figure —- some Westporters feared it would attract the “wrong element.” But kids — and later, families - flocked to the opulent, enormous and well-patrolled parlor.

5. Famous Artists School was located on Wilton Road, at what was recently Save the Children’s headquarters. It later spawned Famous Writers and Famous Photographers Schools. “Students” who answered ads on matchbooks and magazine covers were not always convinced they learned much.

6. The theater is named for the Remarkable Book Shop, for decades a beloved institution on Main Street (now the long-abandoned Talbots). The book store was itself cleverly named: It includes “Kramer” — the owners’ last names — spelled backward.

7. Onions helped prevent soldiers from contracting scurvy. And crops still pop up from time to time, in Westport meadows and fields.

8. Both were built on landfill. The library was once the town dump; the lot (whose nickname is “Harder Parking”) replaced the river, which at one point lapped up against the backs of Main Street stores.

9. Mr. Bedford — a very wealthy director of Standard Oil — got tired of watching boys hang around the pool hall in the Westporter Hotel. He provided funds for a (male-only) YMCA. The original building remains, reimagined as Anthropologie.

10. In the 1950s, the U.S. military built a Nike missile facility on North Avenue. The goal was to shoot down Russian missiles before they attacked the defense contractors’ factories in Bridgeport. It worked: We’re still safe.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his “Woog’s World” appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is danwoog06880.com.

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