By Dan Shine
Savin Rock’s Transition
Those of us of a certain age have fond and romanticized memories of Old Savin Rock. It was a wonderful, magical place, and maybe it could have been rehabilitated and retained, but this was not to be.
The Boy can still recall the magic of the Rock; but he can also recall a Savin Rock of broken sidewalks, broken glass, weeds, bums and poor sanitation. And he remembers Saturday and Sunday mornings on Kelsey Avenue during the warmer months, when he and father would have the regular task of picking up garbage, leftover food and drink containers, and other assorted objects which had been flung from car windows, and onto their lawn, as the evening’s revelers drove home. Dinnertime talk became more and more frequent as to “what should be done” about all of this.
Apparently, they weren’t alone–West Haven taxpayers expressed their will by referendum in 1963, and in 1967 the various structures of Old Savin Rock were demolished, one-by-one.
However, every story has more than one side to it, and this one is no exception. Below, we share the words of Sue Burke Hutchinson, daughter of longtime Savin Rock Consessionaire Maggie Burke:
It’s October, 1965, dreary, chilly and gray. It’s the day we are to empty our stand in Savin Rock’s old Midway.
I remember walking the back way with Aunt Marie; Hill Street, across Ward Street, through the parking lot to Palace Street. Down the Midway, and past Ihne’s bar.
I remember the silence. Hers, mine, the empty streets, echoing with its emptiness. The destruction all around, houses being demolished, Tiernans half gone, all the heavy equipment sitting in the parking lot, waiting for the next day.
Sadness deep in our souls, knowing even at my age of 16, life was changing big time. Our house was going down soon, Aunt Marie’s also. Our livelihood had been taken away, and everything I knew for sixteen years was being destroyed. I didn’t understand it then, I do now, but still hold bitterness somewhere deep inside.
Walking down the Midway, I saw that other concessionaires were doing the same, some had signs of merchandise for sale, pickup trucks in the Midway filling up with the prizes people coveted and came from miles around to win, tossed around like the junk they were.
At our stand, Lenny was already there, taking down the wooden shutters to open up for the last time. His face said it all.
No one spoke, no greeting, no chatter, just the sounds of people emptying their stands. No rides open, no food stands open, except Cameron’s, the flying horses, the arcade and fascination. Nobody was around, it was as though they knew to stay away; to let us grieve and work privately; to respect this day for what it was.
So we packed prizes in boxes for hours. Bill Cameron came by with coffee and rolls and to hug and say goodbye. As we worked, the tears just kept flowing, silently, just kept coming, mine mostly for my Aunt and for Mom, for their sadness.
I remember thinking for the first time, how dirty and shabby it all was. Maybe it was time? Was there a better plan for my family?