Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Knights’ Antiquities in the American Legion Hall

At the age of 6 and 7 years old in 1963 and 1964, I was enrolled in a girl’s ballet and tap dance school at the American Legion Hall, Post 111.  The old building was on Golden Hill Street, Bridgeport, CT across from City Hall and located between the Eisenhower Center and the Methodist Church on the corner.  The ballet lessons were held in the basement of the hall on Saturday mornings.  The ballerina was a young Russian woman.  She instructed students visually by demonstration of ballet techniques.  I do not ever recall the ballerina speaking to the class and students.  The Comer sisters ran the dance school and one of them played piano during the classes.

My youthful and ultimately lifelong passion was sports not ballet.  However, while enrolled in the ballet and tap program, I was fascinated by the glass cases full of knight’s antiquities which were in the front lobby or entryway of the building.  These antiquities preoccupied me during that time.  The swords , shields, and helmets entreated my young warrior girl personality.  There were many other knights’ accoutrements in the collection.  A full coat of armor and helmet stood in the lobby entry, also.  I had not yet read Mark Twain’s novel Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.  (I read the book later on in 8th grade English class at Blackham School.  Mrs. Tripoli, the teacher assigned more than one Mark Twain book to read.)

After approximately one year of lessons and a formal ballet recital at the Klein Memorial auditorium, I stopped taking ballet and tap lessons.  Grew-up and went away to college, lived and worked out of town and State.  On one Thankgiving weekend holiday many years ago, I was in Bridgeport for the holiday weekend.
Decided to go down to the old American Legion Hall that Saturday night of the holiday weekend.  Honestly, for many years of my subsequent youth, teenage, and young adult life, I had forgotten about the hall and antiquities.  As an adult, I recognized the original collection had to very valuable, i. e., all museum-quality.  This did not occur to me as a child.  Yet, what was equally important to me as I stood in front of the boarded-up American Legion Hall in the evening darkness was how did the antiquities get into the hall in the first place and what happened to the antiquities?  This was November 1996.  The hall building was dilapidated, boarded-up, and obviously there would be no valuable antiquities in the now vacant building.  This building reflected the typical state of downtown Bridgeport, CT.

I left town again for academic and professional reasons and returned again 3 years later.  I started my inquiry with the Connecticut State American Legion Hall office in Rocky Hill, CT.  They gave me the name of the name of the old post commander, Robert Larsen (son) of Trumbull, CT.  I found a telephone number in the phone book and called him with the introduction that I had obtained his name from the State office.  He told me he had been the primary post official during those years 1960’s ….and mentioned that only himself and one other post veteran were still alive.  Everyone else from the post had died.  He also mentioned that he had been the permittee for the post and original building on Golden Hill Street.  I explained that I had taken ballet and tap lessons at the hall as a young girl.  He acknowledged that he remembered the dance school and that his wife had taken dance lessons, also. I openly asked him if he knew what happened to the knights’ antiquities from the front lobby.  He seemed to expect the question. 

He answered that the antiquities disappeared through the years while the old building was operational.  To paraphrase Mr. Larsen “oh, some of the things may have been stolen” ….(Read through the line- “all not some”)  I did not ask him how the antiquities happened to be in the original building since some of this is self-evident.  The conversation was fairly brief and I thanked him for his time.  He never asked me why I was looking for the antiquities.  (year 2005 or 2006).
Prior to the telephone conversation with Mr. Larsen I called the American Legion Museum in Washington and spoke with one of their librarians.  I told the person  about the antiquities and asked if they had any records of the items in their library and museum?  The librarian stated that there was nothing like that in their records and that nothing like that had ever been catalogued in their museum.

The current Post 111 meeting site was at that time (2005-2006) was a small building in Trumbull, CT which was a meeting spot for the Elk’s Club. The Connecticut State office had given me this information, also.  I drove over there one afternoon and looked in the window of the building.  Certainly, there were no antiquities in this one room building.  There was nothing but card tables.  There was an enclosed storage area underneath the building, but I could not see into this area.

So, the extensive collection of extreme value disappeared.  My impetus in locating these antiquities is to return them to the countries from where they originated.  Hence, my friends Percival and Guenivere I will continue the search….

Elaine M. George
Bridgeport, CT


  1. Dear Elaine,
    I am a former professional ballet dancer and I teach independently for several Fairfield County Schools. I have a tremendous interest in the history of dance education in Bridgeport. Can you share with me any further detail or contacts that may have information regarding this subject?

    1. The trail has gone cold on 99% of the details, perhaps? Other former ballet students of the school could possibly be found? Otherwise, my only thought was to try to find friends or relatives of the Comer sisters in the Brideport area. The Comer sisters ran the dance school and were musical directors. A few years ago I noticed the Comer family name in McLevy Hall in downtown Bridgeport.

      Wish I could provide more specific information, however, I do not have any at this time. Thank you for your comment.