THROWBACK THURSDAY: Did you know these Wallingford local legends?

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Did you know these Wallingford local legends?

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Editor’s note: This story is part of a monthly series highlighting Wallingford history as the town approaches its 350th anniversary.

In the 1993 movie “The Sandlot,” the spirit of Babe Ruth tells Benny, who must pluck up the courage to retrieve a lost baseball autographed by Ruth, that “heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”

Neighborhood legends often have a basis in truth, even if the details get distorted over time.

In fact, a car accident involving the real-life Ruth became a Wallingford legend that’s still repeated today.

On Oct. 2, 1920, the then-25-year-old crashed his car into the brownstone rail bridge spanning Route 150.

He collided with a truck while driving a new roadster to Springfield, according to the Morning Oregonian.

Fortunately for the New York Yankees, the team Ruth had just completed his first season with, the Bambino left the crash unharmed and went on to hit another 611 home runs in his career.

Here are some other Wallingford stories that have reached the level of local legend.

There’s an elephant buried in Wallingford

A circus elephant is buried near South Cherry Street, but exactly where remains a secret to protect the animal’s grave.

On June 29, 1953, the Mills Bros. Circus performed two shows in Wallingford sponsored by the Lions Club. The circus was set up at the town’s airport, now the property of the Electric Division, near South Cherry Street.

On July 1, the Meriden Record reported that the circus left at 5 a.m. on June 30, “but ‘Miss India,’ a 2,600-pound cow elephant, didn’t know it. She died several hours earlier.”

According to the article, Miss India was 25 years old, the youngest elephant in the show. It was believed she died of a heart attack at about 2:30 a.m. on June 30.

After debating what to do with the carcass, “it was decided to bury her where she fell,” just east of the airport hangars, about 25 feet from South Cherry Street, according to the article.

Alfred Audisio, an excavator and owner of the Audisio Excavating Co. in Wallingford, brought a gasoline-operated shovel and diesel bulldozer to dig the elephant’s grave.

Audisio died in 1998 at the age of 88. His grandson and local resident Jerry Farrell Jr. told the Record-Journal in 2017 that his grandfather never wanted to stir up a lot of interest in the elephant out of fear someone would attempt to dig her up, so he and his grandfather kept the exact location secret.

Community Lake founders were old-school hippies

Today, Community Lake Park is a 9-acre property off Hall Avenue featuring a picnic pavilion with a fireplace, a playground, sports fields, and the southern entrance to the Quinnipiac River Linear Trail.

The origins of the park, situated on what’s left of the lake after a 1979 dam breach drained it, are the stuff of legend.

The name comes from the Oneida Community, a religious commune that expanded into Wallingford in 1851 when a local farmer invited founder John Humphrey Noyes to establish a new community on 228 acres of his property, where Masonicare is presently located, according to a 2015 Record-Journal story.

Noyes believed in the idea of Christian perfectionism, which did not recognize private ownership. They also embraced a form of free love they called “complex marriage,” today called open marriage.

The community initially began farming fruit, expanded into printing and eventually built a silver company — Oneida Silverware — at what is now Amphenol on Hall Avenue.

A dam, built across the Quinnipiac River to power the silver plant, created Community Lake.

A number of factors contributed to the decline of the Oneida Community: competition from Wallace Silversmiths, the rise of Victorian-era morals, the death or defection of members.

The deadly tornado of 1878 was another blow. It began over Community Lake, the waterspout sweeping up Daniel O’Reilly, the town’s first police chief, who was fishing on the lake. O’Reilly survived after he was thrown hundreds of feet onto the shore.

The Oneida Community in Wallingford dissolved in 1881, its remaining members returning to New York, where they founded the Oneida silverware company which still operates today.

In the 1960s, the town purchased the land for $1 from the International Silver Co. A series of dredged ponds remains today, with the Quinnipiac River snaking between them.

Mentions in the movies and TV

Wallingford has been portrayed on the screen at least a couple of times.

In “Riding in Cars with Boys,” a 2001 movie starring Drew Barrymore, Wallingford was the backdrop to the true-life story of town native Beverly Donofrio.

Donofrio grew up in Wallingford in the 1960s and raised her son as a teen mother, eventually graduating from college and moving to New York City. She shared her story in her 1990 memoir of the same name.

Although the movie was not shot in Wallingford, the producers reached out to the public library, police station and Record-Journal looking for photos and information to recreate the old look of the town.

Wallingford had another brush with the movies when “The Other Side of the Tracks,” a 2007 indie thriller by writer and director A.D. Calvo, was filmed at Trackside Brick Oven Pizzeria.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. even had a cameo as a bartender at Trackside, a restaurant inside of a 1920s Philadelphia subway car.

Michael Bolton, the Grammy-award winning singer and Connecticut resident, was an executive producer.

The lead was played by Brendan Fehr, who starred in the television series “Roswell” and now appears in “CSI: Miami.”

The girl in question was portrayed by Tania Raymonde, who appeared in TV’s “Lost.”

Also in the cast was Sam Robards, the son of Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall, who was in “American Beauty” and “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.”

Wallingford also showed up on TV. The town’s zip code, 06492, was used as the zip code of the fictional Connecticut town of Stars Hollow on the TV show “Gilmore Girls.”
Twitter: @LCTakores

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