Responses from readers to recent, and one or two not so recent, “Postscripts” pieces:
A column, published Aug. 20, about encountering a woman, fully dressed, as I emerged, wholly not, from the sauna in the men’s locker room at the Mystic YMCA provoked these emails:
First, from a male reader in Westerly: “At best, your indifference to nudity is exhibitionism. At worst, you present yourself as an absolute pervert.”
And from a male reader in Mystic, “I have to tell you I am still laughing over your recent article remembering the old Mystic Y locker room situation. Keep pointing out to us the funny and unique.”
Finally, from a woman in Stonington: “I know, being a frequent ‘Y’ flyer, that it happens. However, most uncomfortable this year for me was our new transvestite entering the locker room in his/her sweats while I was in your state of sauna attire. I suppose the worse sight of the morning for me was the black skirted swimsuit worn by my new locker room coexister as he/she proudly paraded out the locker room door. Life’s awkward moments.”
This email, regarding a story positing that the name Westerly might well be traced to Westerleigh in southwest England, published Oct. 8, came from Toddy Hamilton-Gould (nee Household) in Souldern Oxfordshire, England.
“I was interested when my ‘Rogue Male’ Google alerts came up with your article about wandering in Dorset and local history. I am Geoffrey Household’s daughter and have been contacted many times, and read articles by people, who think they know where the ‘Rogue Male’ den is — interestingly no one has got it right … I just thought I’d touch base, as there is a lot of interest at the moment with a film being planned starring Benedict Cumberbatch, which is very exciting, and will at last give this classic book the recognition it deserves.”
More than a few readers responded to a Sept. 10 piece about The Mischievous Carrot, the natural foods restaurant in Mystic that closed in 1983 after a seven-year run. They included Gail Turgeon, of Mystic, who once worked there:
“The restaurant was truly a family; all who worked there ate for free and anyone who helped with its beginnings did too. We worked together, but we played together, watching SNL after our shift on Saturdays, hurrying to Mystic Cinema on slow winter evenings, stripping to our underwear on summer nights to swim at Groton Long Point. I never exited the place after work without a thank you. Never. …There was respect for everyone who worked and ate there.”
Michael Gorra, the Mary Augusta Jordan Professor of English at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., wrote:
“Googling around … I found your piece about it (The Carrot) with that little reference to my father’s produce business (Gorra Brothers in New London). Which warmed me — he died on Labor Day weekend thirty years ago, but I’m glad the Mischievous people remember him, as I do delivering boxes of stuff to them when I was in college."
A story, published May 21, about Dana Burnet, a most prolific and widely published writer who lived in Stonington from the late 1940s until the early ’60s, produced this email from abroad:
“Just read yr good little piece from the Sun. Dana B. saved my life. In the early 1960s, Dick Baum, a village resident, asked me for a helping hand. Would I accompany him to the Burnets’ house with a hospital bed? As we got to the front door, we heard a man coughing — coughing his last, as it turned out. When I got back to School Street, I decided I had smoked my last cigarette. I had.
“Still going here on the East Anglican UK Coast. Overfly the Village on way to two daughters on yr West Coast now and then. Grateful for the golden age in Stonington.”
This was from Anthony Bailey, a prolific writer himself and best known locally from his 1971 chronicle of life in Stonington, “In the Village.”
And just the other week, this email arrived. It was in response to a piece published on Sept. 11, 2016, about Stephen Dobyns, the novelist, poet, short story writer and essayist, living in Westerly.
“In doing some online research about my relatives, I came across a 2016 article in the Westerly Sun about an unpublished novel by Stephen Dobyns that takes place in 1919 Boston.
“The article … mentions the relatives I am trying to gain more information about — the nephew (and his secret wife) of Cardinal O’Connell of Boston … Our family had some paintings and other effects, including a large, striking portrait of the nephew’s secret wife (our blood relative) but we have only bits of information about the scandal story in large part because the former Msgr. James P. O’Connell (the Cardinal’s nephew) changed his name after he was defrocked …”
The email came from Deborah Rathbun of Sharon, Conn.
The name Rathbun resonated, since I’d written a piece, in March 2016, about Valentine Rathbun, a minister born in Stonington in 1724, who migrated to Pittsfield, Mass., and became infamous as a scourge of the Shakers. I sent that story to her, and received this response:
“My husband’s Rathbun grandfather was from Pittsfield — and after he moved to the NYC area as a young man, he was very silent about his Berkshire relatives.
“We never learned how that line of the family made its way from the Block Island Rathbuns, whom everyone is aware of, to western Massachusetts. Now we know!”
Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist for The Day in New London. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org