John Chatfield Jr., 90, sat next to his television while a video from 1935 showed images of Easton's past. Chatfield was skating on the Aspetuck Reservoir, throwing snowballs on Sport Hill Road and playing baseball at what is now Toth Park. Chatfield got a movie camera for Christmas in 1935, which cost $9.90 at the time. He videotaped activities around town a town that is very different from Easton now.
Chatfield will be a speaker at the Easton Historical Society's "Stories of Easton" presentation June 5 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Easton Senior Center. Other presenters will be Jean Everett, Brainerd McGuire and Irving Silverman all longtime town residents.
"There were 650 people here when I moved. Everybody knew everybody," said Chatfield.
When he first moved to town in 1933, all of the roads were dirt except Sport Hill Road and Black Rock Turnpike. There were 100 farms in town, and the Easton Village Store was a blacksmith's shop. Chatfield's family was the first commuter family in town and had the first private phone line in Easton.
Chatfield would pay 16 cents to watch a movie in Westport a 6- or 7-mile bike ride away. School was different, too, because the principal would confiscate guns from students who would often try to go hiking during recess.
Square dances were held at the firehouse and people were still driving buggies. The year before Chatfield moved to Easton, someone stole a buggy, took it apart and put it back together on the roof of Samuel Staples on Halloween.
Chatfield married his wife, Priscilla, in Easton in 1944. He was active on the fire department and was president in 1971. He invented the Chatfield Water Drill after seeing a house off Silver Hill Road with a fire in its walls. The firefighters tried to chop through the 1-inch oak planks when Chatfield came up with the idea of a drill that could hook up to the hose and put the fire out with an indirect attack.
He enlisted in the Navy during World War II, was the master of the Masonic Lodge and built the pond at Christ Church. He worked in the insurance and real estate business, selling everything from lumberyards to a portion of Route 8.
Chatfield stayed in Easton for all of these years with his wife and three children because of he loved to watch nature. He once had three large vegetable gardens and sold extras on his street with a vegetable stand on wheels.
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