June 2014 Archives

Celebrity Wedding

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If you look at the front page of the December 12, 1940 Greenwich Time (on microfilm), you'll see a photo of Lucile Ball and Desi Arnaz. The famous couple came to Greenwich to get married!  Many celebrities took advantage of the fact that Connecticut had a shorter waiting time to get a marriage license compared to New York.

Lucille Ball was born in Jamestown NY in 1911.  Her family moved to Montana and Michigan due to his job.  Unfortunately, he died in 1915. Her mother remarried, but her stepfather had no use for children.  She was taken in by her mother's family.  At age 15, she enrolled in the New York Drama School.  Her teacher thought she was too shy and lacked ambition, so she left school.  By 1927, she had become a model, posing for a fashion designer and making commercials for Chesterfield cigarettes. 

In the 1930s, she headed to Hollywood, where she landed a job as one of the "12 Goldwyn Girls".  Lucy started landing various roles in such movies as "The Three Musketeers" and "Stage Door".  She would appear in 72 movies during her career.  It was on the set of the movie "Dance, Girl, Dance" that she first met her husband-to-be Desi Arnaz.

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LUCY AND DESI CUTTING 10TH ANNIVERSARY CAKE CIRCA 1950

 CLASSIC CINEMA PHOTOS

Desi Arnaz was born in 1917 to a wealthy family in Santiago, Cuba.  After a revolution, his family fled to Miami in 1933.  Desi worked for Xavier Cougart in New York City, then returned to Miami to start his own band.  It became so popular, that he returned to New York City.  Due to his new found celebrity, he was offered a role in the Broadway musical "Too Many Girls".  The musical was turned into a screenplay for RKO.  This is where Desi met Lucy.

The couple dated for six months. They were separated for a month when Desi was in New York and Lucy was in Chicago.  This must have been the turning point because they suddenly decided to get married.  Greenwich was the first town over the stateline, so they headed to Connecticut.  A Connecticut Probate Judge waived the 5-day waiting period, and they enlisted the help of Judge O'Brien to marry them. Being sentimental, the Judge insisted on taking them to the Byram River Beagle Club to get married since it was more romantic than O'Brien's house.

The Beagle Club was located at 100 Riversville Road at the intesection with Pecksland Road.  It was built in the 18th century, and bought by James McEntee Bowman in 1918.  He was the president of Bowman-Biltmore Hotels.  He remodeled the site, adding horse stables and a great restaurant.  Since foxhunting was popular at the time, he had kennels built for the hounds (beagles), and horses could be housed in the stables.  Hunters very often had lunch at the club.  From 1919 to 1933, it  was a "Speakeasy", serving illegal liquor.  Cockfighting was also held on Sundays. 

The Club was very exclusive.  Only the well-to-do were invited.  Of course, this was no problem for Desi and Lucy.   The only problem turned out to be the ring.  All the jewelry stores were closed on the weekend, so they had to buy a cheap ring at Woolworth's to use in the ceremony.  It was made of copper.  Lucy later had it coated (electroplated) with platinum.  A small reception followed.  Only an agent and manager attended the wedding.  The couple would be remarried in California in 1949 with family members present.

Desi worked to develop the television series "I Love Lucy", which ran for six years from 1951 to 1957.  It never fell below third place in the ratings.  Desi was known for being a Lothario, and the couple divorced in 1960.  Both remarried. They each pursued  their own careers, and continued to be successful.  Desi died of cancer in 1986, while Lucy died in 1989. 

Historical Happenings

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Virtual Walking Tour of Byram
Monday - June 23 - 10 AM
St. Paul Lutheran Church - Delevan Avenue - Byram

Patricia Baiardi Kantorski will speak on how Byram developed from a farming area in the 1600's to the community it is today. The slide show will start at 10 am on Monday June 23rd in the Meeting Room at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Delevan Ave., Byram. Sponsored by the Byram Shubert Library.  Parking is available in the back of the church or at the library.

Historical Happenings

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There's no shortage of historical information in Greenwich!  Today's technology provides new ways to reach out to the public.  You might want to take a look at these:


Greenwich Historical Society Newsletter

This informative newsletter provides information on interesting programs and
tidbits of historical events, prominent people, etc.  Access the website and
select the newlsetter link, or enter:  http://www.hstg.org/newsletters.php as a URL.


Oral History Project Webpage

OHP maintains a website with an index of their transcripts and red books.  You can also read past blogs and e-mail the office.  Select it on our main webpage, enter the URL:

http://www.glohistory.org/


Greenwich Library Historically Speaking Blog

Take a look at this interesting local history blog.  You're bound to find some interesting article on something new.  You can also comment and add background information.  Access it through the Local History Link, under Blogs or enter this URL:    

http://www.greenwichlibrary.org/blog/historically_speaking/

Greenwich Lawn Bowls Club

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If you've ever driven through Bruce Park, you've probably noticed a well-manicured grass plot surrounded by a white pickett fence.  On some afternoons, you might even see a group of people dressed in white clothes and straw hats congregating inside the fenced-in court.  These are members of the Greenwich Lawn Bowls Club, who have beeen engaged in this sport since 1940.

Lawn bowling is a sport that is closely related to the Italian game of bocce.  The Greenwich Time (5/12/2002) stated that a predecessor of the game may go back as far as 5200 BC!  It's believed to have been played in its modern form in Scotland and England in the late 1200s AD.  It was considered to be a popular distraction in Europe in the 1500s, and there's a legend that claims Sir Francis Drake was engaged in a game of lawn bowling before he sailed off to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588!  Many Kings apparently had their own private bowling greens.  It's been played in Connecticut since 1715, and 1723 in lower Manhattan - hence the name "Bowling Green".

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Bocce and Lawn Bowling are slightly different.  The object is essentially the same:  to roll a large ball as close as possible to a target ball, while keeping your opponent away.  In Lawn Bowling, this white ball is called a "jack" or "kitty". Points are awarded based on position.  Bocce is played on a dirt alley.  Spherical brass balls are used, which tend to roll straight.  In Lawn Bowling, on the other hand, level, manicured grass courts are used.  These measure 120 feet by 120 feet.   Since the balls are asymmetrical with built in weights, and have flattened tops and bottoms, the balls tend to curve.  They are about the size of grapefruit and weigh 3-pounds each. The bowls are not heavy, and require little power to roll.  "Bowls" (balls) are black in color, and are fitted to the the player's hand. I understand there are about 9 sizes.  Some players carry them in monogrammed cases.  Interestingly, the grass changes while playing, making the bowl roll differently.  Players stand on special mats to play.  A measuring tape is used to determine distances.  Lawn Bowling can be played with up to as many as 4 people.  A game lasts about 10 minutes on average, and it's customary to play 3 games to determine the winner based on total points

I learned that the Lawn Bowling court was built in Greenwich in 1940 by George Stevenson, the head of Parks and Recreation. There have been as many as 100 members and as few as 15.  The season runs from May to October or November, depending on the first frost (Frost changes how the bowl rolls on the grass.)  Over the years, the competition has changed from daily to several times a week, the weekends being regular.  The competition begins at 1 pm and usually goes until 3 pm, but it can go on into early evening.  Occassionally, there is a "Fun Day" when non-members can come and participate in a picnic and receive lessons on bowling.  Greenwich has also been home to state and national tournaments.  These include an Irvington Memorial Tournament, a Southern Connecticut Lawn Bowlers Association Triples Tournament and the Connecticut State Fours Tournament. 

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You may think such a sport couldn't generate much controversy, but this is not the case!  In 1988,  the Bayberry Mallet Club (a local croquet group) submitted a petition with 200 signatures claiming the lawn bowlers had used the court exclusively for their own sport.  They said the town favored the GLBC, and wanted the town to build more courts   Parks and Recreation Director Frank Keagan got the parties to agree to a compromise.  A strip 50-feet by 120-feet was reserved for lawn bowling, while the remaining 70-feet by 120-feet section would be used simultaneously by the croquet players.  The entire court would be reserved for croquet after 3pm, and the whole court could be used for lawn bowling tournaments.  Both groups contribute to the maintenance of the court.  The problem was solved, and the lawn bowlers and croquet players happily co-exist!

In 1995, there was another controversy over a sign that had been placed on the fence around the court.  It indicated that only members and guests of the GLBC could use the court.  This was to protect the grass.  Some local residents took exception, claiming the group had become an exclusive club. Opponents wanted to know why town funds were being used for maintenance that only benefited a small, tight group.  They argued the town maintained the the lawn bowling court just as much as the softball fields and tennis courts.  The croquet and lawn bowl players countered that they gave money to the town for maintenance.  The GLBC gave $250/year while the croquet club gave $500/year.  In fact, the croquet players gave $3500 for a new sprinkler system.   Members of the GLBC said they were not a closed, exclusive group, but welcomed new members and anyone who wanted to learn more about the sport.

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I couldn't find a followup to this story, but I've noticed the sign is still on the fence in Bruce Park. I'm certain the players and town just want to protect the grass.  I'm keeping my eyes open for any players that may be using the court, and if I have any time, I may even stop to watch for a while.  It's a link to the past that has survived time.  The only thing that matters is rolling the "bowl".   As several players noted, it's great exercise, you get a lot of fresh air, and you meet a lot of nice people.


SOURCES

Photos by Carl White

Greenwich Time; Times-Warner Corporation, Hearst Corporation;  Various dates from 1983 to 2007. 



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This page is an archive of entries from June 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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