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A History of Windsor 1944–1962: As Seen Through the Pages of The News-Weekly

A History of Windsor 1944–1962: As Seen Through the Pages of The News-Weekly

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A History of Windsor 1944–1962: As Seen Through the Pages of The News-Weekly

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Nov 29, 2018


Windsor, Connecticut's oldest English settlement, underwent many political, economic, and social changes between the end of World War II and the dawn of the 1960's. After over 1,000 Windsor servicemen and women returned from fighting abroad in World War II, more schools were built, new highways and bridges were constructed, new businesses opened up, the form of government was changed, and Republicans and Democrats battled for control of the town. In addition, Windsor voters and town officials had to wrestle with many other issues such as whether or not to legalize gambling in town, force entrenched interests to pay their fair share of local taxes, sue Loomis Institute to require it to admit more Windsor children, and earmark funds to replace a filthy rat infested, unheated dog pound. 

In the first book of its kind, Herbert C. Hallas uses The News-Weekly, a weekly newspaper founded by his parents, as his primary source and recounts the significant changes in the town's politics, schools, housing, businesses, and culture that occurred between 1944 and 1962. He also unveils 47 pages of chronologies of selected athletic, business, governmental, and community events, as well as 105 photographs and headlines that were published in the newspaper, and an index with 722 names.

Nov 29, 2018

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A History of Windsor 1944–1962 - Herbert C. Hallas




1. The Last Years of the War

2. Trying to Solve the Housing Riddle

3. Schools, Schools, and More Schools

4. Budgets, Busing, and Educational Soul-Searching

5. Enlightened Public Opinion Confronts Mulish Stubbornness

6. A Hodge Podge of Bits of Power

7. The Ascendancy of the Democrats

8. The Growth of a Political Cancer

9. The Republican Restoration

10. As Windsor Goes, So Goes Connecticut

11. Cracking the Glass Ceiling of Windsor Politics

12. Building Community Pride and Welfare

13. Eyes to the Future or Minds in the Past?

14. Town-Gown Ups and Downs

15. Changing the Shape and Face of Windsor

16. The Shopping Center Wars

17. There is No Substitute for a Game of Football, Except Football

18. From Number Please? to Dialing MUrdock

19. Television Tommy Comes to Town

20. Newsworthy Court Cases

21. Notable Disputes and Controversies

22. The Story of The News-Weekly

Chronologies of Selected Events

Winners of the Jerry Hallas Memorial Award


Sources and Methodology

List of Names that Appear in the Book

About the Author

    Also by Herbert C. Hallas


Change was in the air in Windsor between the end of World War II and the dawn of the 1960’s. Everyday life in town was often dominated by thorny questions, the clash of competing interests, and above all, a desire to advance the welfare of the community.

How should Windsor children be protected from fires in schools? Will inexpensive housing ruin the town? Who embezzled money in the tax collector’s office? Where should shopping centers and industry be located? Do pig farms belong in Windsor?

These were only a few of the questions Windsor voters and town officials had to wrestle with and ultimately answer between 1944 and 1962. There were many more such as whether or not to legalize gambling in town, force entrenched interests to pay their fair share of local taxes, sue Loomis Institute to require it to admit more Windsor children, and earmark funds to replace a filthy rat infested, unheated dog pound.

The following pages examine how local voters and officials dealt with these issues, and many more. The story here begins in 1944 with over one thousand Windsor men and women in the armed forces fighting overseas in the war against the Germans and the Japanese.


The Last Years of the War

Life in Windsor during the last few years of World War II was grim. People worried about their loved ones who were in uniform. Between 1,000 and 1,500 Windsor men and women were serving in the armed forces. Scores of them were honored for their heroism.

One of the most heart-rending stories of bravery on the battlefield was that of Marine Pvt. John Douglas Murray whose parents lived in Wilson. Murray and six other men took cover in a shell hole after coming under heavy machine gun and hand grenade fire from the Japanese in a battle on Okinawa in 1945. A hand grenade landed in the shell hole with the seven Marines. All froze momentarily, unable to move. Murray dove for the grenade, covered it with his body, and was instantly killed as it exploded. None of the other men were injured.

During the war, scores of Windsor’s men and women were decorated for their heroic service. Frank W. Carmon was probably the most decorated soldier from Windsor. He entered the army as a private in September 1941 and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel by the war’s end. He participated in the North African and Italian campaigns with the 88th Blue Devil Division and led the first combat troops into Rome. When he was discharged in December 1945, he had been awarded the following decorations: Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Combat Infantryman’s badge, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Service Cross, Presidential Unit Citation, Italian Military Cross of Valor, and Polish Military Cross of Valor. After the war he served as Windsor’s Civilian Defense director and founded the F.W. Carmon Funeral Home.

Windsor’s civilians were also honored for their tireless work in support of the war. Hazel A. Bruyn received the highest recognition that Connecticut could give for meritorious contribution to the war effort on the home front, the Connecticut Medal for Distinguished Civilian War Service. Nominated for the award by First Selectman Leland B. Granger, chairman of the Windsor War Council, she was the first woman in the state to be nominated for the award by a local war council. Governor Raymond E. Baldwin presented her with the medal at special ceremonies in the state senate chambers on November 18, 1944. Her name had been submitted because of her work finding homes for more than 1500 families of soldiers stationed at Bradley Field.

Throughout the war, shortages of goods plagued Windsor households. New cars were unavailable and car dealers urged car owners to take care of their cars and service them properly. Numerous goods were rationed. The Windsor War Price and Ration Board opened its headquarters in May 1942 in the basement of the post office and then eventually moved to town hall. Irwin S. Jourdan, proprietor of the Jourdan Lumber Company, was chairman of the rationing board. It issued coupons that consumers were required to use to purchase such items as shoes, gasoline, fuel oil, stoves, rubber boots, sugar, tires, food, and other goods that were rationed.

When the shortage of meat became acute in Windsor, shoppers were forced to scurry from store to store. Shopkeepers took abuse from irate customers who swore that the customer in front of him or her got a heavy bundle of what looked like meat from under the counter or out of an ice box. The News-Weekly advised shoppers, to keep on the right side of the meat man, who being only human, may play favorites from time to time.

Labor was in short supply during the war also. Farmers in particular reported they needed help. Some Windsor families utilized a state law that provided that high school pupils could continue to work on farms for the first 15 days of the school year if they had the permission of their parents.

In January 1945, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Earle S. Russell reported that the fuel situation for heating the schools was critical because the delivery of coal was often delayed due to manpower shortages. He said that consumption of fuel to heat the schools had been on a more or less hand to mouth basis.

Windsor residents were constantly on edge because of irregular nightly air raid drills during which householders had to use blackout curtains or blankets to keep their houselights from showing out onto the street. At the height of the war, Windsor had 450 air raid wardens under the command of Robert D. Morse, head of the air raid warning service. The wardens monitored their neighborhoods to make sure no lights from homes could be seen.

During the day, squadrons of planes constantly flew overhead from either Bradley Field or the Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, MA. Aircraft identification charts hung on kitchen walls to help resolve household debates about whether a plane was a P-47 Thunderbolt or P-51 Mustang, and once identified, which plane was faster.

Convoys of army trucks roared through town on Windsor Avenue, sometimes carrying German prisoners of war to their camps at Bradley Field.

It seemed as though there was an endless stream of fund-raising activities and recycling efforts that families were asked to participate in to support the war effort. The campaigns included drives for war bonds, paper, tin cans, and clothing.

Young children had their own war-related after school activities. The youngsters played guns, dug foxholes in their backyards, used toy wagons with boxes on them for tanks and pieces of pipe for tank guns, adapted trees to become bombers with each branch serving a function such as a turret for the machine gunner, a cockpit for the pilot, and a window for the bombardier.

As the war came to an end, town officials and private citizens held serious discussions about how to honor the war dead and where to bury them. A Poquonock Honor Roll was unveiled in September 1944 in a dedication ceremony that was viewed by nearly 400 residents. Two veterans of World War I donated a large fireplace to the American Legion in memory of their sons who were killed in World War II and money was raised for the Legion to purchase a flag and pole as a memorial to the Windsor women who were members of the armed services during the war. However, no official town monument to Windsor’s war dead was dedicated until the Veterans Memorial Swimming Pool at the Windsor High School was officially opened in November 1957. At that time, a monument was dedicated in memory of those from Windsor who died while serving in both World War I and II, and the Korean conflict.

Windsor used to bury its dead soldiers in Northwood Cemetery’s Soldier Field in Wilson. The cemetery was owned by Hartford. When the city decided to restrict the cemetery’s use to Hartford servicemen and women, Windsor was forced to find a new location for its war dead. In January 1945, a portion of Riverside Cemetery on East Street was chosen as a site for the Windsor Memorial Cemetery. Provisions were made for 1,500 graves. Two and a half years later, the cemetery was ready for burials. George N. Greene, chairman of the Veteran’s Cemetery Committee, announced that any veteran of any war, and his or her spouse, could be buried in the cemetery.

When Windsorites heard the news of the end of the war in Europe, they followed the lead of First Selectman Granger who had urged that V-E Day be celebrated with a day of thanksgiving and prayer rather than an uncontrollable explosion of hectic and unrestrained joy. On May 8, 1945, residents went to the high school for religious services conducted by the Windsor Committee on Unity and Amity. American Legion Commander Robert Strahan gave the chief address in which he urged people to stay at their jobs and work until Japan was defeated.

Three months later, on August 14, 1945, when President Harry S. Truman announced that the war with Japan was over, Windsor let loose with that explosion of joy that First Selectman Granger had referred to before V-E Day. Whistles screamed, horns tooted, and cries of joy and gladness came from throngs of people milling around the Green. There was joy and laughter and tears. Everyone was happy the war was over. Church bells pealed, fire trucks from Poquonock, Wilson and Windsor paraded around town, Carlan H. Goslee led a parade around Windsor Center’s streets. Neighborhood parties and parades broke out in every section of town. Bonfires were built in Windsor Center and Poquonock. Fire crackers were set off and some homes turned on their Christmas lights.

Using its first five-column headline, The News-Weekly trumpeted, WINDSOR CELEBRATES VICTORY. Thomas Nagle, the proprietor of the Cozy Corner restaurant on Broad Street, said every service man and woman who returned home to Windsor would be entitled to a free sundae, on the house. The lights on the clock in front of Windsor Trust Company on Broad Street were turned on again having been turned off since Pearl Harbor Day in 1941.

The end of the war meant that Windsor was about to enter a period of major change and adjustment. In September 1945, the Windsor War Price and Ration Board suspended its operations. By October 1945, about 200 Windsor veterans had returned and the remaining servicemen and women began returning at a rate of 25 a week. Many went back to their old jobs, others expressed interest in opening their own businesses or buying farms. Others wanted to continue their education. Numerous veterans began proudly wearing a little button on the lapel of their civilian clothes. It was an Honorable Discharge button – a gold badge about the size of a dime with an American eagle spreading its wings through a circle of gold.

In an editorial, Victory at Last, The News-Weekly said, Peace has come. Victory is here. Let us not lose this victory. The job of winning this war was a great one. The job of reconverting our country to a peaceful economy will be an intricate one which will require the unselfish cooperation of the big fellows and the little ones. We have learned to cooperate to wage war. We must now cooperate to win the peace.

Windsor’s big fellows and its little ones eyed each other warily, and began the hard work to win the peace in the only place possible for most of them – their own hometown.


Trying to Solve the Housing Riddle

The greatest home building boom in the history of Windsor began during the first few years after the war was over. Returning servicemen and women were running smack into an acute housing shortage and builders moved quickly to meet the surging demand for new homes. At first little housing could be built because of a shortage of lumber caused by a strike in the lumber camps and a shortage of bricks. The available supplies of lumber and bricks were going to commercial and industrial channels where the demand was even greater.

To prepare for the anticipated housing demand, the Windsor Board of Selectmen hired the town’s first full time building inspector in October 1945, George R. Walker. He was a prominent contractor and builder who was a native of Vermont where he built several churches and buildings at Norwich (VT) University. He came to Windsor in 1931. Walker’s primary task was to enforce Windsor’s zoning regulations.

Local officials expressed concern about the possibility that undesirable housing would be built by fly-by-night operators that would bring down property values. Oliver J. Thrall, chairman of the Windsor Zoning Commission, advocated increasing the minimum square footage required for new homes and said, We don’t want Windsor to become a mecca for small, pre-fabricated or ready-made homes that would detract not only from our present beauty but would present several important problems to the town.

Residents in town were divided about a proposed increase in the minimum square footage requirement. Some agreed with it and nodded along with a proponent who said, All you need is one shack in a nice residential section and the whole neighborhood will deteriorate. Others were opposed to the proposed change. One said it’s too ritzy for Windsor, I think the board is trying to move West Hartford into Windsor. Another said it was like telling people you can’t live in this town – we don’t want you. Is it fair to tell a returning soldier he can’t build a type of home he wants? What the ?#@$! have they been fighting for? I think the whole business is unconstitutional!

The first new housing development in 1945 did not cause much of a stir. Eugene Lohman received approval to build 15 houses on lots varying in size from ¾ of an acre to 5 acres on a 40-acre tract in the Heights section of town off Windsor Avenue across from Park Avenue. The development was known as Orchard Acres.

The following year, an announcement that a new 100-house development was in the works for a subdivision on Giddings and Tobey Avenue and that another new development of 44 new homes was planned for the Rood Avenue area, alarmed some residents who began calling for a wholesale revision of the local zoning regulations. For many Windsorites, the problem was that there were too many exceptions to the zoning code being granted for small homes that threatened the value of homes in established neighborhoods. They demanded new town wide zoning and an end to spot zoning.

S. Franklin Bell.

A major controversy erupted in Windsor Center when Edward J. Kernan sought permission from the Windsor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to build 29 Cape Cod cottages on lots located on Maple Avenue, Bloomfield Avenue, Filley Street, and Lennox Avenue. ZBA permission was needed because 18 of the 29 lots did not conform to the B zone building requirements. About 200 people attended the public hearing on Kernan’s application in August 1946. All of them except Kernan and his lawyer opposed the project. S. Franklin Bell led the opposition and said he was opposed to speculative building which might endanger the neighborhood. Other opponents said granting the change would be dangerous because it would set a precedent and would allow homes to be built that would not harmonize with the homes already in existence.

The ZBA denied Kernan’s application. To prevent Kernan from resubdividing the property to meet the B zone requirements and moving ahead with the development without the need for permission from zoning authorities, Bell and a group of property owners in the neighborhood asked the Zoning Board to change the zone of the land Kernan wished to build on from B zone, to A zone. The A zone would require greater frontage and greater area for the building lots and the homes themselves. The week after the request was made, Windsor Town Attorney Hugh M. Alcorn ruled that Kernan’s revised plans for the homes met all the minimum requirements and that there was nothing to prevent construction from being carried out. Building Inspector Walker subsequently issued permits

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