By Dan Shine
To Savin Rock in a Packard
This week we present a young girl’s memories of a long-ago summer day, spent at Savin Rock. Our thanks to Valerie Forte for this story, written by her mother, the late Loretta BonTempo Forte:
On Derby Avenue across from the Maltby Lake falls stands a brick building that was a landmark to those of us who resided near-by.
It was the Doherty and Scott Garage, and Mr. Doherty and Mr. Scott, the proprietors, lived in side-by-side houses and were our neighbors, in the early 1920s. Mr. Scott lived in a large stone house and Mr. Doherty’s fine house was brown. As children we would walk up to the garage, there was no traffic then, and we’d pull our ‘express’ wagon to bring them fresh fruit or vegetables from our garden. My older brothers also did errands for the garage owners. Mr. Scott and his wife were especially kind and his appearance always reminded me of Santa Claus. They had no children of their own, that we ever knew, and I think they were especially fond of my brother Peter, and me, because we were little, and I was sweet and shy.
One warm summer day Mrs. Scott called my mother and asked if they could take Peter and me to Savin Rock. We would have the opportunity to ride through West Haven in their large Packard car. We quickly washed and put on our best clothes. My hair was tied back with a huge bow.
I remember seeing beautiful big houses along the waterfront, and we learned that our destination was Wilcox Pier Restaurant! THE place to go! We had heard of the delicious ice cream that was elegantly served there. I know now that they were probably known for a more lavish cuisine, but we didn’t care – and it was a wonderful warm day for a special treat – something we had also heard about, but never had, an ice cream soda!
Before our stop at Wilcox’s, however, we were taken to the “flying horses”, of course, I didn’t know that the horses actually “flew’ up and down, and I was a small child, so I didn’t actually ride a horse, I will now admit, I sat in one of the fancy big seats. My brother Peter, who was a year younger, rode a horse that bobbed up and down. Peter was more outgoing, so while Peter gleefully rode up and down, up, and down, I sat and enjoyed my Merry-go-Round experience sitting next to the understanding Mrs. Scott.
Wilcox’s was known for the long pier that extended from the back porch of the restaurant for what seemed like miles and miles, or so it seemed to me on that day, out over the water. Peter ran ahead, we walked fairly far out, while I, fearing we’d fall off, (although there were rails on each side) held tightly to Mr. and Mrs. Scott’s hands.
I said that I was loving everything, and made sure to say “yes, Ma’am” “No, thank you, sir”, but I was glad when they finally said we’d sit on the porch and have our ice cream sodas. We sat at round tables and our sodas were delivered. I don’t know WHAT I expected, but a tall, cold, frothy glass with a straw and a long spoon was brought to each of us.
I sipped it once, I sipped it twice…tears came to my eyes. It tasted of chocolate but very ‘sharp’! I was not used to the fizz of the soda water that made it seem that way! I reached for my spoon and ate some of the ice cream, I would rather have died than admit I was not entirely pleased. Peter, however, must have had the same anticipation for that sweet treat, and being more outspoken, he exclaimed, “This burns!”
The Scotts were dismayed that anything could be wrong with our sodas. I was embarrassed that Peter had revealed a flaw in our special excursion day so when they asked me how my soda was, I said, “It’s good!” Peter tried to sip his again, but the bubbles “burned his nose’, so Mrs. Scott tasted Peter’s soda and pronounced it to be fine. So, I tried mine again, and again, and finally I proclaimed, “Mine burns too!”
Mr. and Mrs. Scott looked at us, then looked at each other, and decided to call it a day. We returned to the beautiful Packard touring car that they had and rode home.
Ma and Pa were waiting to greet us and hear about our exciting day.
They were a little surprised to hear from us that our first glorious day at Savin Rock had come to a “bitter’ end! Peter exclaimed, after we had thanked Mr. and Mrs. Scott and waved good-bye, that they had bought us a treat that burned! That is my memory of my trip to Savin Rock, and a treat at Wilcox’s and my first Ice cream soda.
Loretta BonTempo Forte