The New Haven Roadrace via City Point: A.D. 2000

Perhaps Captain Jonathan Wisch called out "All hands on deck !" Maybe his crew, students of Schooner Incorporated, tramped down the gangplang to view the hundreds of runners who would will soon be filling the streets as they raced from the New Haven Green, down to City Point and then back again to the starting point at "the Green."

This is City Point, once an important maritime port. Sailing ships still anchor here and pleasure boats make the marina their home. But the oyster folks have moved on.

Bobby and Red Moore on the John Stuart

City Point is a seascape that has lived beyond its time, indeed beyond many times. And though it still has some of the charms of former years, the hustle and bustle of the oyster trade is only a dim story from yesterday to the children of today. Yet, their parents and grandparents remember the oysterboats that went out before dawn from the docks at the end of South Water Street, then, later, chugging back to the docks with their loads of oysters with the setting of the sun.

Tom Moore with the two-masted Hawkridge in the background and flat-bottomed Sharpie in the foreground
(Images taken from hand-tinted Frank Connellan photos)

Here, is the end of the road, with only the barrier of Long Island to separate the continent from that long expanse of ocean called the Atlantic. Many years ago ancestors of City Point residents came from that land, from Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy and many other European countries. So too the new neighbors look back to their origins in China, Japan, Spain and other distant points.

Two of the Moore boys, Ray and James

Both nature and "man" have conspired to change the nature, the very shape of "the Point" with Hurricane winds of the 1930's wrecking delicate oyster beds which then took years to replace. Redevelopment and a highway driven, like a stake, through the heart of this community finished off that industry. Now only a few boats, anchored upriver at Fair Haven, have any commerce with the fishing industry at all.

The "City Point Gang" at Charles Island

This point of land was not always called by the name "City Point" though. The ancient American Indians called it Oyster Point as it was a favorite place for the tribes to gather and eat natural oysters. Here in the bay, the brackish waters, are an ideal spawning ground for shellfish. Countless young boys and girls have fished in these waters. Some of the "boys" have gone off to fight in the wars, a few not to return; others grew up on "the hill" and are buried there today. But once they were known as the kids of "The City Point Gang" our gang, so to speak, and proud of it.


We're ready and waiting on Sea Street

But on warm, summer days such as this "the Point" suddenly begins to look like its old self again. A troop of excited children gather in front of their house, just like little Gunda Dins, water boys and girls, to hand out life sustaining water to the runners which will soon be racing past their house.

A few of the relatives and neighbors

The neighbors gather early to find places to sit and chat with other friends and relatives. Many of these families have lived in these same houses for several generations spanning back to the early 1900's, some beyond. Now they sit, talking of loved ones lost, friends of yesterday, and the many stories of those times, now grown to almost mythic proportions.

They remember Charlie Eaton's store, where the smell of cigar smoke blended with those odors of penny candy. Old Charlie, retired oysterboat captain gone these many years. They remember being children, playing ring-a-leavio on the city streets in Summer and then trooping up the street to school with the coming of Fall, to Saint Peter's School and Kimberly Avenue School. Now even the architecture, the schools and the church of Saint Peters are gone.

But now! Back to the year 2000 and the race is about to begin.

Brother "Red" still at the Point, and sister Kay, visiting from the countryside are ready for the runners.

Here are Pat and Mary eager to see the first runners

"We're ready too!"

"And us . . ."

"Hey! Here they come!"  The first runner, way ahead of the pack, seems to float silently through the air.

"They're here kiddo!" says Grandma.

"Mine! Take mine! You'll win if you take mine!" the waterkids all clammer.

"Here comes the rest of the pack."

"It will be her turn in about 15 years."

"I'm here! Take mine! Take mine!"

"What's all the fuss about?"