August 21, 1978.
That is the date of the first letter I wrote to Mayor Wayne Goodsite. And it was published in this space.
After the news of Mayor Goodsite's death 10 days ago, I dug out that letter and many others that I wrote to the mayor during his 11 years in office.
I see now that they really weren't as clever as I thought they were at the time, but readers loved them. Few things in the history of this column have gotten more response than my letters to or about Mayor Goodsite.
For instance, I wrote one Sept. 9, 1981 after this newspaper featured two huge photos of a young woman named Janice Velez being crowned "Miss Norwalk Raceway Park." There was, of course, the obligatory shot of her in her new tiara. But then there was the money shot: a close-up of Wayne Goodsite in full pucker planting a kiss on the scantily dressed Miss Velez. Solid gold for a newspaper columnist.
Two days later, I published a letter to Janice Velez. It began: "You don't know me, but I have your picture hidden in my bedroom dresser drawer. Actually, there were two pictures. One was of you being crowned. The other was of you kissing an older fellow. You probably still have the crown, but whether you still have his handprint in your back, I don't know."
Later in that same story I identified the mayor to Miss Velez. "The older man previously referred to is our mayor, Wayne Goodsite. No, I didn't make that name up, Janice. Can you imagine my shock when, before I even get a chance to open that day's paper, somebody calls me up and says there's a picture of the mayor kissing a drag queen? I hate to tell you what I thought when I heard it, but thank heavens it turned out to be you, Janice, queen of the dragstrip."
Later in the letter I noted that "as a politician, the mayor is supposed to be out kissing babies, not babes."
This is how wonderful, good-humored Wayne Goodsite allowed me to talk about him in the newspaper.
And I was on him all the time, too.
Six people complain about the city getting mosquito spray on their cars, and I ride him like it was Chernobyl.
He hires Jim Crowl a bearded guy with a receding hairline to be city engineer, and I pose in Crowl's identical attire, making us look like twins. I rag the mayor for trying to build his staff with people who look like me.
He makes a special trip to Massachusetts to the main offices of Fanny Farmer to try to keep their candy factory here in Norwalk. I run a satirical tribute to: "The Man Who Saved Our Fanny." Further, I suggest that he may be hoping that West Baking (now New Horizons) will try to leave so he will have a chance to "save our buns."
He would make a decision that saved the city money or something and I would write: "What planning! What foresight! What Goodsite!"
Oh man, he was a lot of fun for me.
Readers were always sure that the mayor must be furious with and frustrated by me.
But he was not like that at all. In fact, every time I would run into him somewhere it was the highlight of my day. He would rib me about something I had written, but never in anger, never without that trademark twinkle in his eye.
The big front page headline that announced his passing said he was "A Great Guy." And nobody could deny that.
But he was also a good mayor, a tireless advocate for our fine city, an honest and dedicated head of our city government. He wanted the best for Norwalk and tried to make it happen.
Every civil servant could do worse than to follow the example modeled by our special friend, Wayne C. Goodsite. I'll miss him.