1798: To the Inhabitants of Middletown

A number of us have agreed to devote the Evenings of Tuesday’s and Friday’s in each week, and sometimes the evening of Sunday, to acquire knowledge and perfection in Psalmody. A general invitation is given to persons of both sexes, and of all persuasions to join with us in the object expressed. No expense will arise; our association is voluntary, and the services of those acquainted with the art of singing will be free, happy in uniting their endeavors, to cultivate the taste and perfect the practice of their fellow citizens in the attainment of an object; both pleasing and important. It may not be useless to mention that a building for public worship will soon be completed, and that this ought to animate us in our exertions, for the acquisition of some degree of perfection in Psalmody,–a most beautiful and interesting part of divine service.

It is expected that the Ladies and Gentlemen of this place, will not only give a countenance to our object, but will personally join us, with their talents, on this occasion. Nothing will so effectually assist our endeavors, as the patronage of those persons of both sexes, whose example will lead to imitation, and this can alone be done efficaciously, by their punctual attendance on our Evening Schools.–Those, whose ears are deaf to the charms of music, it is charitably hoped, will not cast any impediments in our way, by soliciting or occasioning the absence of any who would otherwise attend with us.

The singing Schools generally will be shut against spectators,–at least, until some proficiency is made in the attainment of skill and power to entertain them.–When any considerable advances are made to this point, their attendance will be admitted.

Particularly we would solicit parents, and those who have the government of families, to advise such of their children or friends as have talents for music, to join the proposed school.

As an inducement to persons in general, to begin with us, on the Evening of Tuesday, December 4th, when the school will open, they are informed, that some attention to the rules of music will be given, previous to much practice.

Inhabitants of Middletown.

From the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Connecticut), Friday, November 30, 1798.

1972: Youths Convert Old Theater Into Mod Movie House

By Thomas Kent, Associated Press

Middletown, Conn.–Six young people have added a health food stand to an elegant, old theater and created a mod movie house that the theater’s owner says is pulling viewers in as never before.

With tie-dyed decorations and a concession stand that sells banana nut bread and apple cider, the six have transformed the 50-year-old Capitol Theater into a combination of old and new that has owner Nicholas Saraceno, 50, asking why he didn’t let the team move in before this September.

“They asked for three months before I would even say yes to them,” Saraceno says. “At first I was ready to toss them on their ear.”

Instead, Saraceno says he has found the young theater planners–who include an artist, a filmmaker and a building projectionist–fun to work with and a good investment.

“The theater is doing much better than it did before and it has attracted many younger theatergoers,” he said. “We have broken all our theater records for the past three or four years.”

The young planners, whose average age is 25 and who call themselves “T’aint”–without further explanation–have a profit-sharing arrangement with Saraceno. They live in various parts of the state.

T’aint has converted a lounge in the theater into an orange, pink and blue setting that includes an old weigh-yourself-for-a-penny scale. Parts of old chandeliers serve as knickknacks on tables.

From the Arizona Republic (Phoenix, Arizona), Friday, November 3, 1972.

1970: ‘People Festival’ Rocks On

powder ridgeMiddlefield, Conn. (UPI)–Thousands of young people ignored oppressive heat, health dangers and a court injunction Saturday to stage their own “people’s festival” in this rural community in the Connecticut River Valley.

An estimated 30,000 young people, lured to the 300-acre Powder Ridge ski area by a now-banned rock festival, provided their own entertainment with a heavy accent on drugs–sold and used openly.

Dr. William Abruzzi said there were some 4,000 to 5,000 medical cases–mostly of a minor nature–including about 1,000 who were on “bad drug trips.”

But not all the entertainment came from drugs.

Many of the youths sprawled on the hillside, sunning themselves in the 90-degree temperatures and listening to radios and stereos. Others–many semi-nude–frolicked among the tents and sleeping bags.

Impromptu musical groups–using bongos, kazoos and invented instruments of various sorts–took the place of the 27 rock groups and individuals who were scheduled to appear before a court injunction ended the formal ceremonies.

John Zell, of Marlon, Mass., a bearded carpenter camped here with his wife and four children, expressed a common opinion: “Who needs music. The people make it, not the music.”

“You know, we have just started people’s festivals,” he added.

One youth, wiping himself with an American flag after bathing, said “this is where it’s at–the people, not the music.”

Most of the youths no longer were bathing in “powder puddle”–the once-clean mini-lake at the base of the ski slopes which is now polluted despite 200 gallons of chlorine dumped into it.

Several hundred portable toilets were overflowing, posing a health hazard.

Jacob Belford of Middletown, the attorney for Louis and Herman Zemel, owners of the ski resort, was stricken with a “mild heart attack” at the site Saturday.  He was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital where he is listed in good condition. The owners appear in court Monday on contempt of court charges because the crowd refused to leave the scene.

From the Kingsport Times-News (Kingsport, Tennessee), Sunday, August 2, 1970.



1894: Marie Tempest Quite Ill

The Comic Opera Prima Donna Threatened With Pneumonia.

Marie_TempestMiddletown, Conn., May 31.–Marie Tempest is very ill here and cannot sit up. She played here in the “Fencing Master” on Tuesday night, and only sang out of courtesy to Reginald De Koven, who is a native of this city and was directing that night. Mr.De Koven asked the indulgence of the audience for Miss Tempest before the curtain went up.

In the first act her “Will o’ Wisp” song had to be cut, and at the end of the second act she was so ill that she had to be helped from the stage. In the last act a duet was omitted. Yesterday she was suffering from pains in the lungs, and was obliged to have a physician in constant attendance. Her maid is at her bedside at all time. Dr. Edgerton, who is attending her, says he does not think the case will develop into pneumonia, but she will not be able to leave her bed for several days.

Miss Tempest was advertised to play in New London last night and expected to sail for Europe next week.

From the Scranton Tribune (Scranton, Pennsylvania), Friday, June 1, 1894.


1974: Stewart Alsop Dies

Washington (UPI)--The “beast” of cancer has overtaken columnist Stewart J. O. Alsop, who since 1971 had stoically and eloquently recounted for readers his battle against acute myeloblastic leukemia, a rare blood disease.

Alsop, 60, died Sunday afternoon at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., near here. Pneumonia was the immediate cause of death, according to Joseph Alsop, his brother and one-time writing colleague.

“A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep,” Stewart Alsop wrote in a recently published book “Stay of Execution,” “and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.”

Alsop, for the past six years a columnist for Newsweekly magazine, first wrote that he had the disease in a column Sept. 6, 1971.

Funeral services will be held at 10:30 a.m. EDT Wednesday at St. John’s Church in Lafayette Square near the White House.

Alsop will be buried at Indian Hill cemetery in Middletown, Conn.

From The Daily Intelligencer (Doylestown, Pennsylvania), Monday, May 27, 1974.

1910: Giddy Students are Canned

Middletown, Conn., April 29.–Fresh from triumphs along the “kerosene circuit,” a musical comedy struck Middletown to display the “shapely chorus” to townspeople and Wesleyan students.

Today three of the college’s leading lights got a year’s suspension because they burned the midnight rum omelet for three of the most shapely. Following the performance, the trio led their conquests to the “leading lobster palace.”

Having left the girls at their hotel, the students wended a devious way toward their dormitory. En route President Shanklin was encountered, discoursing to guests from the New York East Methodist conference on the good behavior of his charges.

The trio were glad to see him, and made it known that “cherries were ripe.” Suspension followed.

From the Spokane Press (Spokane, Washington), Friday, April 29, 1910.

March 20 – Middletown 366


The Great Flood

Spring snow melt from the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, combined with heavy rain caused the Connecticut River to flood, with the flood stage reaching 30 feet, six feet higher than the record set in 1854.  Seven hundred residents along the riverfront were evacuated and the displaced slept in the National Guard Armory on Main Street and in the Italian Club on Court Street for a month.  In addition, the flood had devastating economic effects, since many businesses on the first floor of buildings were flooded as well as factories, causing widespread unemployment.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

Thge Great Flood of 1936
William Street, looking east.


Allie Wrubel Wins Academy Award

On this day, Middletown native Allie Wrubel won an Academy Award for his song “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah,” part of the score for Disney’s Song of the South. Born in Middletown in 1905, young Allie Wrubel helped out in his family’s popular women’s apparel store on Main Street, but his main interest was music. After graduating from Wesleyan University, he went to Hollywood. From 1934 to 1946, he was under contract with Warner Bros. to write songs for movie musicals. In the late 1940s, he began writing songs for such movies as Jennifer Jones’s Duel in the Sun, and Burt Lancaster’s I Walk Alone. . He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. Wrubel died in 1973.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

Zip -a- dee- doo-dah [6054]