Happiest Days of My Life

Mr. Charles Sterling: Posted on Tuesday, January 3, 2012 11:18 AM

I began coming to Woodmont when I was six years old in 1929. We would come up by trolley (and later by bus) in June, and stay through Yom Kippur. My parents, Alex and Eva Sterling, and my 3 siblings and I lived in Hamden during the year. When we began coming to Woodmont, we rented a cottage each summer, and then in 1937, my parents bought a cottage on 23 Hillside Ave.

We’d spend most of our time in the water swimming. We had small sailboats, and we fished. We’d play baseball on the sand bars, and softball at Rec Field. The “older” kids would hang around in front of Sloppy Joe’s. We’d walk to Savin Rock and to the Capital Theater in the center of Milford where we’d watch movies. We would pay 10 cents to watch a movie. When I was 13, I got a camera and took many pictures. When the hurricane of 1938 hit, I was 14. It was one of the worst storms in New England. There was water was across Hillside Avenue, and it came through to Edgefield Ave. We took my mother out in a rowboat, and we had to go back to the city during the storm. My parents had paid $2,700 for our 5 bedroom cottage, and when the hurricane knocked down our seawall, it cost $4,000 to replace!

Charles Sterling as a young man

My parents owned a store in New Haven, Sterling & Susman. It was a department store that sold men’s, ladies’, and children’s clothing and shoes. In order for all of us to enjoy Woodmont and the beach, we divided shifts at the store. My cousin who was 16 years old and I would

go into the store in the morning to work, and then my parents would come to run the store in the afternoon and we’d go to Bagel

Beach. Some of our neighbors were the Jacobs, Perelmans, Lears, and Susskinds. The families I knew who lived near the Anchor

were Harold Rome (famous songwriter), the Polowitzes, Cohens, Tamskys, Sidarsky, and Suismans (Eddie and Sam).

I remember the “Rav’s Cottage” on Hillside Avenue. Some of the landmarks I remember are Sloppy Joe’s, Mrs. Fleischner’s Meat

Market, Sauter House, Glick’s Deli, the fruit market, Allinson’s, Cohen’s Wooden Lockers, and Chain’s Cottages - Max Chain

owned cottages where the Surf Village condominiums are now. (He later sold them to Artie Abeshouse.) The Sauter House (now the American Legion Hall) was a “kuch-alein,” a hotel with a communal kitchen. (Bagel Beach was also known as Sauter’s Beach.) Many people stayed there, but those who could afford to rent cottages did so. Leo Wixman’s mother had a stand across the street from Sloppy Joe’s in front of another, smaller, “kuch-alein.” And in the Farview Beach area, Ephraim Sinn had a grocery store. I went to the synagogue rarely, only when I was “schlepped in” for a minyan.

I got married in 1950 and we purchased a cottage on 9 Hillside Avenue, not far from my parents. We spent summers at the beach with our kids. By then, there weren’t as many children in the area. In 1956 we had another hurricane. Rocks were hitting our 3 floor. The police came and made me and the kids get out. I literally saw trees coming out of the ground. After about a week the power was restored and we came back. We had planned to winterize our cottage, but ended up selling it in 1980, partly because the children were grown and we didn’t think they’d come back anymore. In retrospect I regret the decision. I moved back to Bagel Beach in 1990 and enjoy spending summers here once again.

Woodmont brings to mind the happiest days of my life. There were no fences, only open doors and an open community. Three were no class barriers. The fact that everyone was Jewish was similar to living in Tel Aviv. I have three children. All have a connection to Woodmont. My daughter would move here in a heartbeat. I like this part of the world with this big body of water called the Long Island Sound. For me it is an endless summer. 

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