What it means to be a true “Greenwich Person.” (2002)


What it means to be a true “Greenwich Person.”

The essay in Greenwich Time, (Sunday, February 10, 2002) “Becoming a Greenwich Person and Proud of It” should cause all Greenwich residents to reflect on what it means to be a “Greenwich Person.”

The “typical” Greenwich person depicted in the essay is what I like to think of as the “nouveau Greenwich person” and while that person may have many redeeming qualities, as pointed out at the end of the essay, the nouveau Greenwich person also brings with him many qualities that are an anathema to the Town.

While I am a relative newcomer to Greenwich (lived here only a decade and worked here only 15 years) I try hard not to bring with me the worst traits of a nouveau Greenwich person. Adhering to the “when in Rome” philosophy, I try to emulate the qualities of the “true Greenwich people” that made my wife and me decide we wanted to raise our family here.

These true Greenwich people are above-all courteous. For instance, a true Greenwich person does not double-park or honk horns. There was none of that when I first moved here. I have often thought of starting a club – “the We Don’t Do That in Greenwich” club – with the sole purpose of giving “warning tickets” to people who shove on the Avenue or double-park on Route 1 or who don’t say please or thank you when placing an order. Whether intended or not the arrogant message conveyed by such actions is that their time is more valuable than everyone else’s and they should not have to wait or be inconvenienced. True Greenwich people know that “we don’t do things like that in Greenwich” and if the nouveau Greenwich people continue with their often rude behavior Greenwich will soon become like the places we newcomers all moved away from.

A true Greenwich person is a Cos Cob Crushers coach who still coaches two decades after his own kids have grown up, or a member of the unabashedly all-male Harpoon Club which is dedicated to preserving self-effacing Greenwich humor. She is the church-lady who would have breakfast at Woolworth’s after daily Mass at St. Mary’s — who was then exiled to the deli down the Avenue which, when Avenue rents got too high, moved around the corner to Elm then closed. He is the guy who hauls our trash, or runs a plow by day, and helps his neighbor fix his car by night. She is the pre-teen who says “I’m going to the Club” and means the Boys and Girls Club, not the country club.

A true Greenwich person is a member of the RTM who spends countless hours making sure our government is responsive, or a member of the St. Lawrence Club joining in their all-you-can eat pasta dinners and fund-raisers for education, or a member of the Lions Club selling Grapefruits on the street. She is a Byram volunteer firefighter or a Greenwich Hospital volunteer with a 5,000 hour service badge. A true Greenwich person is a member of the original “health club” – the “Y”. She associates Chickahominy not just with the Civil War. He is a Nathaniel Witherall resident who sits by the giant bird-cage in the home and greets passers-by, and knows that the home is one of the many Town crown-jewels.

We moved to Greenwich because of people like that – caring, courteous people who worked hard for many generations to make Greenwich a place like no other. A place of tasteful homes – not “McMansions.” A place with its own radio station, and magazine, and a daily newspaper that is truly local. A place with a store like Roger’s that still used a vacuum tube for cash deposits. A place where more kids played American football than soccer, or where Santa is driven to the Christmas tree lighting in a Town fire truck, or where Christmas carols can still be sung in public. A place with a police officer on the corner who will holler at you for crossing before he says so. (Reading in the blotter how someone got a ticket for jay-walking was a deciding factor for me in relocating.)

We moved to Greenwich believing we were becoming part of a more civilized way of life – like the life my parents (a telephone operator and a janitor for the Housing Projects) had in the place I was raised; that is before it became “sophisticated.” I am fearful that one day the “nouveau Greenwich people” will out-number the “true Greenwich people” and that my kids will be forced to make the same quest I did – looking for a place “like Greenwich used to be.”