On Friday a number of town officials gathered at noon outside the existing Eastern Greenwich Civic Center for a bit of nostalgia and some smash therapy.
Susie Baker, Scott Johnson, Joe Siciliano and Fred Camillo shared youthful memories of the civic center, including Baker’s recollections of being the president of the OGRCC and chaperoning Friday night teen dances in the 1970s that involved here interrupting surreptitious kissing under the bleachers.
Siciliano recalled taking the train two stops from central Greenwich to Old Greenwich to attend events in the building.
Scott Johnson, chair of the Parks & Rec Board, recalled being about 10 years old when The Rascals performed live (It’s a Beautiful Morning, How Can I Be Sure, I’ve Been Lonely Too Long) and being in the front row.
Ed Krumeich, who also grew up in town, recalled other nationally recognized bans that played at the civic center.
“The Doors played there the summer that ‘Light My Fire‘ was a top 40 hit, probably 1967 or 1968,” he said via email after the event. “My brother Jay says The Wild Weeds (The Happiest Girl) and The Lemon Pipers (Green Tambourine) also played there. And local favorite, Billy and the Showmen.”
Also, Krumeich said according to Brian McGlynn, The Rogues (his band in high school) played at the civic center as well as The Rich Kids, a Long Island Band.
“We used to have a circus in the 1970s,” Baker said.
“I have pictures of the circus and the elephants,” Siciliano said. “It was a traveling circus. There were trapeze artists. “
“This is saying goodbye to the building we’ve had for 55 years,” Camillo said, recalling years of reunions, pancake breakfasts, numerous graduations, basketball leagues, rollerblading, Boys Club father-son dinners, Indian Guides and Indian Princesses events.
“There are lots of good memories for people, but the building got old,” Camillo added. “It’s been a point of debate for at least 30 years.”
“We’re very proud of our public-private partnership,” he added, noting that the signage will say Cohen Eastern Greenwich Civic Center when the new building opens.
Siciliano said the interior remediation of asbestos insulation was underway and he expected sometime in September there will be a ground breaking and demolition.
“We’re excited about the new building and providing new opportunities for the town,” Siciliano said. “It gives us a new format to work from, new programs we can put in here. When I first got to be the director 22 years ago Tom Ragland told me, ‘Get all those people together, we’re going to build a new building.”
The building was originally opened in 1950 by the Electrolux Corporation for employees’ recreation.
However, employees preferred to go home after work instead of staying and using the building.
The building was sold from Electrolux to the Town of Greenwich, after much discussion.
The acquisition of the Civic Center, plus 20 acres of land from the Electrolux Corporation, was approved by the RTM in 1966. A subsequent referendum failed to reverse the action. The sale price was $432,000.
Eastern Greenwich Civic Center: From Electrolux Employee Rec Center to Heavily Used Town Treasure (By Ryan Bologna, August 2017)
Siciliano pointed out a sample of brick facade on display in the front of the building. It is white brick, with a repeating black brick stripe.
Of course the most fun part of the event on Friday was when the official each took turns with a sledgehammer to take down the front wall. After many turns, not much more than a few chips of brick were dislodged.