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A book of postcards — the past in pictures
By Brad Durrell   - 04/02/2009

The Bridgeport News

More Info on This Book: Bridgeport: 1900-1960

One postcard of Bridgeport will always have a soft spot in Andy Pehanick’s heart.

It depicts the inside of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on the East Side, a largely Slovakian congregation where the Pehanick family went to church when he was growing up.

For years, the postcard was in a vase on top of the refrigerator in the Pehanick family home in Bridgeport. “I’d always see it as a kid,” Pehanick said.

His father eventually gave the postcard to Pehanick, who has just authored his second book on Bridgeport postcards for Arcadia Publishing, titled “Bridgeport, 1900-1960.”

When the St. John congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary, Pehanick was the only one with a copy of the postcard that showed the original church’s sanctuary. An enlargement then was made and now is on display in the new St. John the Baptist Church’s foyer in Trumbull.

Pehanick will give a presentation about his book Saturday, April 4 at 3 p.m. at Rainy Faye Bookstore, John and Broad streets (call 336-6911). Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing. He also will talk at the Barnum Museum on April 18.

The book includes more than 230 images. It has chapters on Main Street, the University of Bridgeport, the waterfront, notable homes, restaurants and recreation, transportation, advertising, mechanical and multiple views, and bird’s-eye views.

Pehanick said he always has admired the Victorian structures on the UB campus, but only a few have survived. One that didn’t is Waldemere Hall, shown in the book, where a prominent national political leader had lived when it was built as a private residence. Hubbell Gymnasium stands where Waldemere Hall was located.

Some of the city’s most ornate homes were on Washington Avenue, but the eastern half of the road was demolished to make way for the Route 8 and 25 connector in the 1960s. Pehanick fondly remembers the former Knights of Columbus hall, a former mansion, where professional wrestling bouts would be televised in the 1950s.

One home shown in the book is the Bartram estate in Black Rock, which was called “The Anchorage.” It’s near where Anchorage Drive is today. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once stayed in the estate, which has survived.

Some of his favorite postcards in the book are ones showing a horse’s rear-end for Matt Lucey’s Hotel and Bar, the entire Harding High School class of 1932, and well-known photographer Lew Corbit.

Owns thousands of cards:

Pehanick put out his first postcard book in 2005, also for the New Hampshire-based Arcadia. The publisher contacted him to produce another one, he said.

He is the owner of one of the largest collections of Bridgeport postcards, with more than 3,000 different cards.

The 1978 Bassick High graduate has been collecting them for decades. Nowadays, most purchases are made on the Internet rather than at postcard shows because he owns so many cards already.

With eBay, he can easily check his collection to see if he already owns a particular card before purchasing it. “It’s convenient,” he said of using the computer from home.

Pehanick suggested anyone hoping to start a collection should just go to a postcard show, As a seasoned collector, though, he finds most of those cards to be in less than perfect condition because so many people have been “picking through them.”

He keeps his postcards organized and protected in plastic sleeves in three-ring binders.

Postcard prices have been dropping in recent years, Pehanick said, partly due to the economy and to a general decline in the value of collectible cards.

He knows the other major Bridgeport postcard collectors, even listing what kind of cards they have that he doesn’t.

Pehanick collects more than postcards of Bridgeport. He collects all kinds of Bridgeport souvenirs. “I just keep my eyes open for anything interesting that’s for sale,” he said.

Many postcards were printed in the early 1900s, when mail was delivered twice a day and many people still didn’t own phones due to the expense. People would send frequent postcards to each other, often with the goal of helping them create a collection.

Bridgeport scenes were particularly popular because of the city’s prominence at the time and its large population.

Although he now makes his home in northern Fairfield County, Pehanick still spends a lot of time in Bridgeport. While downtown for the parade on St. Patrick’s Day, he was able to get a look at the renovation of the Arcade Building.

“The developer actually used postcards to help with the restoration,” Pehanick said. “That’s what you need to do. Make it original. I’m optimistic about that project.”

Pehanick, 48, helps run the parts department at Sikorsky Aircraft. He will celebrate his 30th anniversary at the helicopter manufacturer this year.

Andy Pehanick’s “Bridgeport 1900-1960” is $21.99 at local retailers, online bookstores, arcadiapublishing.com or 888-313-2665.

Buy It Now: Bridgeport: 1900-1960 $21.99

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