Interesting article about an almost exclusively New England issue that effects the entire state and the New England region


Historic Congregational churches struggle for survival and revival
By: TOM CONDON |

Though Connecticut has changed dramatically over the centuries, one part of the landscape of virtually every city and town endures: the Congregational Church on the green or main street.
The graceful and handsome “meetinghouses,” many with soaring white steeples, may be the state’s most enduring image, both for their beauty and their significance. They were central to the founding and development of the state, espousing values — civic duty, education, local autonomy — that laid the groundwork for today’s society.
But though these quietly majestic edifices and the communities they represent seem timeless, alas they are not, and keeping them going in the 21st century is becoming a challenge. Aging buildings and graying congregations, competition from Sunday youth sports and other diversions, as well as a general distrust of institutions are draining resources and worshippers.
These issues are not limited to Congregational churches; many denominations face them. A Pew Research Center study in 2014 found weekly adult church attendance in Connecticut at 28 percent, down from 31 percent in 2007. But no other religious body held the status of the once “established” church.
Though still the state’s largest Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ, of which most Congregational churches today are a part, has seen a decline from 110,000 members just two decades ago to about 63,000 today.  The number of churches in the state has fallen from 267 to (a still-impressive) 237 over the same period, but a fourth of those cannot support a full-time pastor.
While the long-established and well-endowed Congregational churches continue to prosper, some less well-off churches are struggling. The response being urged on the churches is one that is antithetical to their long tradition of independence and local autonomy: to work collaboratively with other churches and community institutions.
In some ways, the church’s challenges reflect the public debate between those who promote the advantages of regional cooperation to keep costs down and those who are reluctant to yield local autonomy.
Puritans
It is hard to overstate the Congregational influence on Connecticut. The churches trace their lineage to the Puritans who settled the colony in the 17th century. The church communities in Hartford, Windsor and Wethersfield were founded in the 1630s. Representatives of the three met at the Hartford meetinghouse in 1639 to draft the Fundamental Orders, the rudimentary constitution that is said to have influenced the U.S. Constitution and inspired the “Constitution State” nickname.
The Fundamental Orders “clearly expressed the democratic principle of government based on popular will,” historian Albert Van Dusen wrote in “Connecticut,” his 1961 history of the state. This sense of participation, along with the common-law principles and sense of individualism brought from England, began to shape the character of the colony.
 The problems of travel in the early days led to the creation of new churches. Farmers in, say, North Branford would rather have a local church than make an hours-long wagon ride. Over time many of these church communities became towns. They assumed the self-governing spirit of the Congregation churches — run by the congregation — giving the state what Trinity College historian Andrew Walsh calls “the cult of the town.”
The Congregationalists founded dozens of colleges, notably Harvard and Yale, to provide an educated ministry. Congregational leaders were, and are, at the forefront of social justice, from the abolition of slavery in the 19th century and subsequent civil rights movement to LGBT and immigrant rights today.
For nearly two centuries, until a new state constitution was adopted in 1818, the Congregational church was the state’s official or “established” church, meaning it was supported by the civil authority and, for part of that time at least, attendance was mandatory. So strong was the Congregational tradition that Connecticut was the last state to separate church and state.
Iconic Buildings
The earliest meetinghouses were simple log structures, but in the 18th and especially 19th centuries these were replaced by structures that today are considered architectural gems. Hartford’s lovely Center Church, the fourth iteration of the original meeting house, was completed in 1807 and for decades was the city’s tallest building.
After “disestablishment” in 1818 came many of the Federal or Greek Revival churches we see across the state today, with Grecian columns, arched Palladian windows, multi-stage belfries and tall steeples, many listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The magnificent First Congregational Church of Litchfield, built in 1829 in the Greek Revival style, is said to be the most photographed church building in New England.
The church endured theological disputes and changes over the years. The UCC was created in 1957 by the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches, though most that had the name “Congregational” kept it.  The UCC/Congregational churches remained at the center of Connecticut life well into the 20th century.
Though no longer the established church, the Congregational churches maintain a civic mindset, said Trinity’s Walsh, who is associate director of the school’s Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He said the Congregational/UCC congregations still include many local leaders, and that the churches sponsor civic activities such as scout troops, AA meetings and soup kitchens.
Still, the era when the prominent families bought pews by subscription and spent much of Sunday in them, when a pastor could fill the church simply by opening the doors, is now behind us.
The position of privilege afforded to the church on the green is no more: “It’s over,” said Rev. Kent J. Siladi, the conference minister of the Connecticut Conference of the UCC, the state association of UCC/Congregational churches.
Though many UCC/Congregational churches continue to do great work, the signs of contraction are unmistakeable.
In Waterbury, the Bunker Hill Congregational Church has announced that it will close, Siladi said. In New Haven, the Church of the Redeemer and the United Church on the Green are merging into a new church. In New London, the Second Congregational Church gave its grand stone building to another church in 2013 and moved to neighboring Waterford to share space with a Presbyterian church.
A number of congregations have similar shared-space arrangements. Some churches, such as Waterbury’s South Congregational Church, are sharing a pastor with another church, in this case a church in Bethany. Also, dozens of congregations are relying on part-time or bi-vocational ministers, those who have another full-time job and are sometimes known as “tentmaker ministers” after the evangelist Paul’s day job while he preached in Corinth.
The “tentmaker” ranks include a college mathematics professor, a high school guidance counselor, even an attorney. The newest is one of the state’s top trial lawyers, James K. Robertson Jr., who is being ordained next month and will preach in Watertown, where he lives, while maintaining his practice with the Waterbury firm of Carmody, Torrance Sandak Hennessey.
His church and several others are creatively augmenting their incomes by renting steeple space for cell phone towers.
Time of Change
The Congregational churches have seen difficult times before and been able to reawaken themselves and grow stronger. Siladi and others think such a change is underway now, a year shy of the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. To midwife the change, he is urging churches to work together, to innovate, and to focus intently on community engagement.
There’s a theological nuance here. The UCC churches have a long and strong tradition of autonomy, but also a tradition of “covenant and being bound to one another,” Siladi said. In urging voluntary coordinated activity he is addressing the latter tradition without disparaging the former.
Though churches are independent and don’t have to take his advice, some are. The two Congregational churches in Middletown are collaborating on youth ministry, Bible study and other activities. Some 45 churches are working together to help settle Syrian refugees in the state.
 Hartford’s Asylum Hill Congregational Church is a national model of community improvement; its members built a Boys & Girls Club, started a tutoring program, support a soup kitchen and have helped build neighborhood housing.
On the innovation front, the UCC and other mainline Protestant churches are trying more modern music, block parties, informal “sandal Sundays;” a few are even experimenting with weekday services.
Robertson said he thinks the church will thrive — though possibly in a different form, that could involve smaller weekday meetings, possibly even social media — and never waiver in its commitment to social justice.
But if the evolution of the UCC/Congregational churches involves less use of their landmark buildings, what happens to them?
Preservation
Maintaining old churches is somewhere between a serious problem and, in some cases, a crisis. Some are more than 200 years old — the Abington Congregational Church in Pomfret, the oldest active house of worship in the state, was built in 1751, centuries before building codes and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
For the past two years, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation has dedicated its entire Maintenance and Repair grant program, funded by the Community Investment Act, to historic houses of worship of all denominations “because the needs are just overwhelming,” said Jane Montanaro, who administers the program.
The funds, a total of nearly $600,000, have gone to stabilize steeples and bell towers, repair roofs, upgrade electrical systems, and the like. Montanaro said some congregations are victims of their own altruism, putting their resources into their activities rather than their buildings.
Many churches will muddle through. The UCC does not have a hierarchy, as the Catholic and some Protestant churches do, so no one can order them to close a church. And, said Walsh, some churches with small congregations can hang on for a very long time.
 Nonetheless, Siladi said his churches have “more buildings than we need,” and that he expects some smaller churches to close, merge or strike up new partnerships with neighboring congregations in coming years. So what happens to the buildings?
If churches cannot be transferred to other congregations, they are difficult to reinvent, said Brad Schide, a circuit rider for the Connecticut Trust. Smaller churches have become homes, nightclubs, art galleries, offices. Larger churches are more challenging. Three handsome 19th century buildings – the state’s oldest synagogue building in Hartford, a former Methodist church in New Britain and a former Baptist church in New Haven – have become the Charter Oak Cultural Center, Trinity-On-Main theater and the Yale Repertory Theater, respectively. But, there is only so much demand for performance space (though a church in Bristol, UK, is being used as a circus school — the high ceilings allow room for trapezes).
The challenge of reusing religious properties might be evidenced by the fact that LoopNet.com lists 11 religious properties for sale in Connecticut and another 100 or so, of all vintages, that were recently sold or taken off the market.
The Trust hopes to do a survey of historic religious properties to understand the scope of the problems.
So, as with most other denominations, there are challenges on all fronts for the UCC/Congregational churches, but also opportunity. If the churches can revive themselves through coordinated community service, such as the efforts by 45 churches to settle Syrian refugees, who knows, they may inspire more coordination by cities and towns.

ABOUT TOM CONDONMORE BY THIS AUTHOR
Tom Condon writes about urban and regional issues for the Mirror, including planning, transportation, land use, development and historic preservation. These were among his areas of interest in a 45-year career as a reporter, columnist and editorial writer for The Hartford Courant. Tom has won dozens of journalism and civic awards, and was elected to the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2016. He is a native of New London, a graduate of The University of Notre Dame and the University of Connecticut School of Law, and is a Vietnam veteran.





100 MUST-READ BOOKS SET IN NEW ENGLAND


 KATE SCOTT



Fiction
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
The Cider House Rules by John Irving
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve
Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
On Beauty by Zadie Smith
Faith by Jennifer Haigh
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Strong Motion by Jonathan Franzen
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Summer by Edith Wharton
House Rules by Jodi Picoult
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Edinburgh by Alexander Chee
It by Stephen King
Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Europeans by Henry James
Mercy by Jodi Picoult
Island Girls by Nancy Thayer
Blowback by Bev Prescott
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
God’s Kingdom by Howard Frank Mosher
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
The Wedding by Dorothy West
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
The Narrows by Ann Petry
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Bostonians by Henry James
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The Mortifications by Derek Palacio
The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz
The Wapshot Chronicle by John Cheever
The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter
The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken
Shelter by Jung Yun
The Hopeful by Tracy O’Neill
See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid
The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand
Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III
The Pearl of Orr’s Island by Harriet Beecher Stowe
The State We’re In by Ann Beattie
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
The Virgins by Pamela Erens
Boston Noir, Edited by Dennis Lahane
The Island by Elin Hilderbrand
The Good House by Ann Leary
The Edge of Winter by Luanne Rice
Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve
Karma and Other Stories by Rishi Reddi
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride
Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich
The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
Northern Borders by Howard Frank Mosher
The World Below by Sue Miller
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Blind Stitches by J.B. Chicoine
Nonfiction
All Souls by Michael Patrick MacDonald
Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill
Townie by Andre Dubus III
John Adams by David McCullough
The Witches by Stacy Schiff
Bunker Hill by Nathaniel Philbrick
Black Ice by Lorene Cary
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
The Maine Woods by Henry David Thoreau
The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser




The capitol


Montville


Montville is in New London County. The villages of Chesterfield, Mohegan, Oakdale, and Uncasville are located within the town; (the latter two have their own ZIP codes.) The Mohegan Sun casino resort is nearby.

For defense against the Pequot, the Mohegan sachem Uncas had established a fortified village on a promontory above the Thames River within what is now Montville. The Mohegan village, now known as Fort Shantok, was protected on the inland side by palisades first built in about 1636 at the time of the Pequot War, rebuilt during wars with the Narragansett people circa 1653–1657, and rebuilt again at the time of King Philip's War (1675–1676).

Connecticut State Representatives of the past


Samuel B. Wilcox of Cromwell Ct. 1871

Edward C Hungerford Chester Ct. 1871


 Giles Potter Essex Ct. 1871


David S. Purple,East Haddam-1871




William Wallace Eaton


William Wallace Eaton (October 11, 1816 – September 21, 1898) was born in Tolland. He moved to Columbia, South Carolina for a while and then returned to Tolland, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1837, and began practice there. He was a clerk of courts of Tolland County in 1846 and 1847, a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives 1847–1848, then a member of the Connecticut state senate 20th District in 1850.
In 1851, he moved to Hartford, and was clerk of courts of Hartford County in 1851 and 1854, as well as city attorney in 1857 and 1858. He was chief judge of the city court of Hartford in 1863 and 1864, and from 1867 to 1872, and was a delegate to Democratic National Convention from Connecticut in 1864 and 1868.
Eaton was again a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives in 1853, and again was a member of the Connecticut Senate in 1859. An unsuccessful Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1860, Eaton again served as a Representative in 1863, 1868, 1870–1871 and 1873–1874. He served as speaker in 1853 and 1873.
Appointed as a Democrat to the United States Senate, Eaton served from February 5, 1875, to March 4, 1875. Elected for the full term beginning March 4, 1875, he served until March 4, 1881. While in the Senate, he was chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations (Forty-sixth Congress).
He was also elected as a Democratic Representative to the Forty-eighth Congress (March 4, 1883 – March 4, 1885), and was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1884.

Eaton resumed the practice of law until he died in Hartford, on September 21, 1898 (age 81 years, 345 days). He is interred at Spring Grove Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut.

125 Lebanon Ave, Colchester, CT, probably around 1940s


The Very Last Howard Johnson’s



The once-ubiquitous iconic American diner is down to just one store, but the legacy of its success can be seen nearly everywhere.
 Were there ever to be a canonized checklist of Americana, the very last breakfast rush at New England’s very last Howard Johnson’s on Tuesday covered most of the bases. Local police and firemen dropping in to deliver farewells? Check. A wistful waitress of 50 years? Check. Longtime regulars settling into counter seats for a final plate of eggs? Check. Check. Check.
The writing has been on the wall—er, the orange roof—of Howard Johnson’s for several years now. After Tuesday’s closure, the iconic chain, which boasted more than 1,000 outlets in the 1970s, is down to just one location, in Lake George, New York. And while nostalgists mourn the looming end of the vaunted HoJo, its legacy is ubiquitous in the American landscape that it inspired.
Howard Johnson opened his first store in 1925. It was a generally unremarkable soda fountain with an orange roof in the Boston suburbs. After discovering that ice cream produced with high butterfat content was popular with his customers, he set up stands on beaches and roadsides, lending his name and trademark orange roof to evince a sense of familiarity and continuity. At the time, chain restaurants were still relatively rare. Johnson eventually expanded his empire in 1929 with a full-service restaurant, which he found to be more lucrative than just selling ice cream.
In 1935, however, Johnson found himself at an impasse. Having stumbled upon a prime venue for a second full-service store and lacking the finances to open it himself, he decided to franchise his business. The first franchisee was Reginald Sprague, a yacht captain and an old school friend of Johnson’s, who launched the store on a popular tourist route on Cape Cod. Sprague ran the shop and used Johnson’s name, trademark look, and products with considerable success. Five years later, there were more than 130 Howard Johnson’s outposts scattered across the East Coast, managed under similar arrangements.
While the restaurant franchising system in America was hardly new—a chain called Harvey House became fixtures in railroad terminals in the late 1800s—Howard Johnson did it particularly well. “These were conspicuous restaurants,” the writer Philip Langdon wrote in his book, Orange Roofs, Golden Arches. “Johnson had a knack for selecting sites that would be visible from a great distance. They stood at major intersections, at traffic circles, along gradual curves—wherever they were sure to be noticed.” Langdon adds that in an era when billboards were considered gauche, Johnson “set out to make the building its own advertisement.”
The stores were clean, the parking lots were paved and well-landscaped, and eventually the designs were standardized, made to appear as symmetrical as possible. Hot dogs were rebranded to the more grandiose “frankforts” and highfalutin chefs like Jacques Pépin and Pierre Franey were poached from the ritzy New York haunt Le Pavillion around 1960 to help build the menu.
“I worked a few months as a line cook at one of the largest and busiest Howard Johnson's restaurants at the time, on Queens Boulevard in Rego Park,” Pépinwrote in a 2005 lament after the closing of the Times Square location. “I flipped burgers, cooked hot dogs and learned about the specialties of the house, among them tender fried clams made from the tongues of enormous sea clams whose bodies were used as the base for the restaurants' famous clam chowder.”
Eventually, the competitors and imitators spawned by Howard Johnson’s success bested it as the franchise and its old-fashioned sensibility and formality, asdepicted in Norman Rockwell’s 1958 painting “The Runaway,” became passe. In the fifth season of Mad Men, a trip to Howard Johnson’s came to emblemize a generational divide between Don Draper and his wife, Megan. The flash point: A sundae glass of orange sherbet. Howard Johnson’s may not be a staple of the American roadside anymore, but the visually similar franchises it helped popularize go on as far as the eye can see.
ADAM CHANDLER is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers business.

To know New England, know our food: Coffee Cabinet





What's In That Coffee Cabinet? A Delicious Taste Of Rhode Island History
JOHN BENDER

Even if you've never heard of the "coffee cabinet," chances are you've probably tasted something like it. And you might have called it something else, like a coffee milkshake.
The ice cream beverage with the quirky name is a Rhode Island staple, dating back to the World War II era. Its ingredient list is pretty simple: It's just coffee syrup, ice cream and milk. But despite its popularity, the origins of the drink – and its name – remain a mystery.
"It's my understanding that the coffee syrup probably came first, owing to the large Italian immigrant population in the area," says Peter Kelly, a professor of culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University. For the uninitiated, coffee syrup is usually just a concentrated mixture of coffee water and sugar, used for flavoring and baking.
At the turn of the century, Italians were fast becoming Rhode Island's largest immigrant population. "And like a lot of Europeans, the Italians are absolutely crazy about their coffee," says Kelly.
Rhode Island soon became home to several coffee syrup manufacturers, including Autocrat, which still has its headquarters in the Ocean State. Today, coffee milk is Rhode Island's official beverage. (In case you ever order one, that's just coffee and milk, and nothing else.)
And coffee syrup just happened to find a home in a state that was once well-known for its dairy production, says Kelly. "There are records going back to colonial times that show that Rhode Island had huge, massive cheese and milk production," he says.
Kelly says the coffee cabinet was probably the lucky creation of happenstance. The state had plenty of milk and ice cream, and plenty of coffee syrup-loving Italian Americans. And reliable refrigeration was becoming more common by the '30s and '40s. Someone was bound to put them all together and "make a really delicious combination that everyone sort of takes for granted," says Kelly.
These days, coffee cabinets remain a staple in Rhode Island – not just for tourists but locals, too, says Eric Delekta, owner of Delekta's Pharmacy in the town of Warren. An old-school silver soda fountain sits atop a stone bar. You can still fill prescriptions in the back.
Delekta's has been serving up coffee cabinets since before World War II – Eric is the third generation in his family to man the counter. He says he has regular customers, some daily, just for the beverage. As customer Justin Riley, who's been coming here for years, tells me, "It's Rhode Island. It's the drink you've got to have, and you've gotta have 'em here."
As for the beverage's idiosyncratic name? Eric Delekta has a theory: "I've heard that they used to keep the machine [the blender] inside a wooden box or a cabinet, but I don't definitely know for sure."
As long as Delekta's keep churning out these coffee cabinets, perhaps it's fine to just let the mystery be.

A guide to some of the best lesser-known leaf-peeping spots in New England



The Northeast’s fall foliage dazzles locals and draws millions of tourists, but many flock to the same tired vantage points.
Those willing to venture off the beaten path will be rewarded with stunning and comparatively uncrowded autumn vistas — and some killer selfies.
Here’s your guide to the best corners of New England and upstate New York for leaf-peeping:


Connecticut

The Heublein Tower in Simsbury, Connecticut sits at the top of Talcott Mountain State Park.
The 165-foot tower was built in 1914 by liquor magnate Gilbert Heublein as a summer home and offers spectacular views that on a clear day extend north to the Berkshires in Massachusetts and south to Long Island Sound.
Getting to the tower involves a relatively easy 1¼-mile hike up a foliage-filled trail that winds up the mountain with plenty of overlooks of the Farmington River Valley. There’s also a nearby pumpkin patch where visitors can enjoy hayrides and pumpkin picking.
—Pat Eaton-Robb



To know New England know our food: Table Talk Pies


A Massachusetts success story: How the love of pie and family brought Table Talk back from extinction



By Noah R. Bombard | nbombard@masslive.com

When Table Talk Pies owner Harry Kokkinis was just 3 or 4 years old, his father took him one weekend to the family factory in Worcester's Kelley Square. There, in an office, Kokkinis' grandfather, Greek immigrant and company founder Theodore Tonna, and his business partner Angelo Cotsidas would often have a sampling of pies from the day's production.
"They had a pumpkin pie there and I still remember them offering me a piece," Kokkinis recalls.
He quickly gobbled it up.
"They said, 'Oh, you like it that much? Have another piece.'"
He had another piece. And then another.
"All of a sudden my father turned around and said, 'You ate the whole thing!'"
It was Kokkinis' first piece of a much bigger pie that he would one day inherit -- a multi-million dollar family business that today produces a whopping 3.6 million pies a week and employs more than 300 people between its Canal District production plant in Worcester and another location it recently opened in Shrewsbury. The company also just announced plans to build an additional production plant in the long-vacant South Worcester Industrial Park where it will hire 50 more employees. It is opening a retail store on Green Street -- the first Table Talk retail store in more than 20 years.
The pie business in New England's second largest city is booming. Table Talk Pies anticipates pulling in $100 million in revenue this year for a product that (in its 4-inch version) costs about a buck.
But it was almost all lost.
Having built a successful pie business that began in 1924 with horse cart deliveries on the streets of Worcester, Kukkinis' family sold Table Talk Pies to Beech-Nut in the 1960s. Kokkinis' father, Christo Cocaine (the Americanized version of the family name), continued on with the company to help run it until 1977 when he left the pie business behind.
The company went through a couple of other corporate changes until 1984 -- when the then-owners closed the doors on Table Talk. The factory was shut down.
And that could have been the end of the story.
"Ultimately, the subsequent owners ran it into the ground," Kokkinis said. "I don't know what happened. There were a lot of changes in the marketplace at the time -- the rise of in-store bakeries in supermarkets, the falloff of diners, although diners have since come back."
But Kokkinis' father, Christo, couldn't let the family legacy die. With the help of an investor, he bought back the building, the Table Talk name and a couple of pieces of equipment. About a year later, Table Talk Pies reopened.
The new business plan: Own the snack pie market.
If there's a good example of Worcester's recent renaissance being more than just a surge in downtown development and trendy dining and coffee shops, Table Talk is it -- although its story of rebirth stretches over more than 20 years.
It started with that 4-inch snack-sized pie.
What has been a core product for Worcester-based Table Talk Pies for decades started off as simply a way to get customers to return pie plates.
Faced with trying to rebuild a shuttered business, Christo Cocaine concentrated on doing one thing and doing it really well.
"My father came back focusing on the 4-inch and really building that snack business back up," Kokkinis said.
The company may not have invented the 4-inch pie, but it quickly owned the concept -- filling supermarket aisles across the region with it's snack-sized apple, blueberry, lemon and about nine other flavors of pies, including seasonal favorites like pumpkin.
"It was just a great lunch pail desert," Kokkinis said. "So many people would talk about how their mothers would put the junior pie in their lunchbox every day. As my son often tells me, 'Dad, I don't believe you're selling it for as cheap as you are. You can't buy a candy bar for under a $1.50.'"
MassLive found 4-inch Table Talk pies in area stores ranging from 75-cents to a $1 a pie.
It took time, but the company went from a shuttered factory to a thriving business.
Kokkinis had since moved away, but in 2003, his father invited him to come back and help run the pie businesses together as it grew.
"Dad was looking to buy out the investor who helped him grow the business," Kokkinis said.
With the 4-inch pie in just about every major supermarket in the area and starting to stretch across the country, the company took the next big step -- a return to making larger pies.
"Some opportunities came up in the marketplace that we took advantage of," Kokkinis said.
Eight-inch pies began rolling out of the company's ovens. Now, the business long known for the 4-inch snack pie, takes in about 50 percent of its revenue from the larger 8-inch pies it bakes.
The output is impressive. Table Talk produces about 180,000 4-inch pies every day in it's Worcester plant, Kokkinis said. Another 80,000 8-inch pies are produced daily there.
"We've been growing by leaps and bounds," he said. "Our 4-inch pies are growing out across the country."
In fact, the 4-inch pies are now being sold in California. They've even been spotted in a store in Puerto Rico. And even though the larger pies have become an increasingly larger part of the business, it's those smaller snack pies that have really fueled the growth and are the force behind the company's plans to build a plant in the South Worcester Industrial Park -- a once-bustling manufacturing center of the city that for years has been a post-industrial wasteland.
"It's going to create some jobs in that particular neighborhood," Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr. told MassLive last week. "People who live right in that neighborhood could potentially work at those jobs."
That's been the attraction at Table Talk's Canal District plant for years.
Kokkinis says the company has a low turnover rate of workers with many of them living in the neighborhood and either walking or taking public transportation to and from work.
That's a recipe the city has been trying to replicate in its ongoing renaissance -- getting more people to both live and work in the city.
For Central Massachusetts, the growth of a brick-and-mortar business like Table Talk shows that although the area economy has moved away from manufacturing, it's far from dead, says Greater Worcester Chamber of Commerce President Timothy P. Murray.
"In 2013, the chamber put out a report studying the Central Mass. economy," Murray said. "Manufacturing played an important role, but the manufacturing base has shrunk from [number] 1 to [number] 4. But it's still hugely important."
Although the product itself is important to success, Murray said family ownership of businesses like Table Talk is also key.
"They've had deep routes in this community for years in lots of different ways," Murray said.
In fact, Christo Cocaine was on the chamber board for years.
"And because of that, they understand the importance and significance that their jobs provide."
Kokkinis' father passed away in 2015 at the age of 90. He continued to work seven days a week until the time of his death.
"I'm just sorry he's not able to see this," Kokkinis said. "We were growing a lot, but just [to see] the continued growth [in the past year], the new facility we have in Shrewsbury and now South Worcester."
As for the company's success, Kokkinis says he recalls a newspaper interview his father did in the 1950s.
"The [reporter] asked 'what's your most important product?' 'Quality. Quality is our most important product,'" Kokkinis recalls his father responding. "He always said pies have to be made with romance -- or as some people say, with a little love."
"He was a great man."




Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson in Old Lyme


 This online exhibition was created in conjunction with the exhibition, The Art of First Lady Ellen Axson Wilson: American Impressionist, on view at the Florence Griswold Museum October 5, 2012- January 27, 2013.



This exhibition is designed to enrich the Museum’s educational offerings related to Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson, as well as their young family’s role in Old Lyme at the Griswold Boardinghouse as part of the Lyme Art Colony. Primary text for this exhibition is  “Chapter Six: Woodrow and Ellen Axson Wilson in Old Lyme” from an upcoming monograph on the Lyme Art Colony by Director of the Florence Griswold Museum, Jeffrey W. Andersen. The exhibition was made possible through a grant from Connecticut Humanities.


Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), then President of Princeton University, spent the summer of 1910 at the Griswold House in the company of “a jolly, irresponsible lot of artists, natives of Bohemia, who have about them the air of the broad free world.” [1] It was a place of familiarity and pleasure for Wilson and, especially, his wife, the artist Ellen Axson Wilson (1860-1914), who wanted to paint in the company of the Lyme artists and enjoy a respite from the social demands of their life at Princeton.
Throughout that June and July of 1910, Woodrow was considering whether to accept the Democratic nomination for the governorship of New Jersey.  The decision was a weighty one because New Jersey was, as Wilson put it, the “mere preliminary” [2] for a larger plan.
A group of national political leaders were eager to recruit Dr. Wilson for the governorship as a means of making him a strong and popular candidate for the ensuing Presidential election in 1912, only a little more than two years hence.  Ruminating on this life-changing decision, he discussed it with his wife Ellen and sought the advice of several friends and Princeton trustees to whom he was particularly close. [3]
In early July, when news of this possibility was leaked to the press, reporters showed up to interview Dr. Wilson after a round of golf. The reporter noted that he was “collarless and perspiring and his face was bronzed.” He greeted the reporter with a smile, which darkened into a frown, however, when the subject of politics was broached. ‘I don’t want to talk politics at all,’ said Dr. Wilson, when first asked as to his possible candidacy for Governor.” [4] Within a week, however, Wilson decided he would accept the nomination on the condition that it was desired by a “decided majority of thoughtful Democrats of the State” and that it was clear he had not in any way campaigned for the office. [5] If those conditions were met, he did not see how he could forego practicing what he had long preached in his classes – the duty of public service when called upon. On July 16, 1910, Wilson released a statement to the press from the Florence Griswold House, signaling the beginning of his entry into politics. [6] In little over two years, Woodrow Wilson would rise to its highest office, becoming the 28th President of the United States.
The Wilsons’ first stay in Old Lyme – the summer of 1905 – was prompted by personal tragedy.  That spring Ellen’s younger brother Edward Axson (1876-1905) and his young family had all drowned in a boating



Ellen was devastated.  Feeling that a change of scenery would be restorative for her, and at the suggestion of Princeton Professor Williamson Vreeland, the Wilsons made plans to spend the summer in Old Lyme. [7] The Vreelands had a summer place on Lord Hill in Lyme and they felt the area would be an ideal place where Ellen could pursue her interest in painting with the artists’ colony.  In early July, Wilson traveled to Old Lyme to investigate the possibilities. He stayed at the Old Lyme Inn and made arrangements for the family to take their room and board at Boxwood, then a summer boardinghouse run by Miss Thibits, and just down the street from the Florence Griswold House.
Art had been long been Ellen Axson Wilson’s passion.[8]  Trained initially at the Rome Female College in her native state of Georgia and then at the Art Students League in New York where she spent a year from 1884 to 1885, Ellen had largely abandoned her career as an artist to raise their three daughters, Margaret, Jessie and Nell. Now that they were teenagers with their own interests, she had begun to seriously work at her art again.  She enrolled in the Lyme Summer School of Art, sponsored by the Art Students League.
Normally led by the popular teacher and art colony member Frank Vincent DuMond, it was taught by his assistant Will Howe Foote during the summer of 1905. Ellen enrolled in daily classes and twice weekly critiques for a period of five weeks. According to Ellen’s biographer Frances Saunders, “Woodrow’s plan to surround Ellen with artists proved wise. She began to enjoy painting landscapes in oil, and, in due course, this would supplant her former work in portraiture.” [9] With “spirits vastly improved,” she left Old Lyme in mid-September and returned to Princeton.
During the spring of 1908, Ellen made plans to return to Old Lyme
… but this time she sought accommodations in the Griswold House. [10]
She wrote to her daughter Jessie: I have just learned that Mr. DuMond teaches the Lyme class this summer!  Isn’t that good!
On June 22nd, she arrived at Miss Florence’s with her three daughters and her sister Margaret “Madge” Axson. Woodrow went abroad that summer to the Lake District of England, a region he had greatly enjoyed on previous occasions. Staying in a series of rooms on the second floor of the Griswold House, Ellen threw herself into her painting and found DuMond an encouraging teacher who saw progress in her own work. He arranged for Ellen to have her own studio, an unusual accommodation for an art student in Lyme.
While the letters she wrote to Woodrow that summer have not been found, it is possible to gain a sense of her pleasure and that of her daughters at living amidst the artists. Woodrow writes of his relief that “the experiment at ‘Miss Florence’s’ [is] such a success, the situation so different from what it was at Boxwood, —
your teacher so capable and direct in his method of helping, — and the outcome for you so certain and satisfactory in my mind.” [12] After returning to Princeton with ‘Mittens,’ a kitten from the house, Margaret, the oldest daughter, wrote to Florence Griswold:
I want to tell you that the summer we spent with you is one of the happiest I have ever spent and will always be a perfectly delightful memory. The informal life at your house is just the kind that suits me down to the ground. I do hope that we shall be able to go to Lyme and to ‘the Holy House’ very often. In fact I never should go to Lyme at all unless we could stay with you.
She went on to describe her desire to return with her father: “I hope we can bring him to Lyme with us some time.  I am sure he would enjoy living with the artists and eating at the hot air table.” [14]
Ellen’s interactions with the artists in Lyme continued over the winter months in New York.  The sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh had started work in Lyme on a small bronze of the Wilsons’ middle daughter Jessie, whose beauty was noticed by the artists and others. Ellen went into the city to visit with Vonnoh and to see the finished work which she thought had “a sort of large nobility about it in spite of its size.” [15]
A few years later, Robert Vonnoh, Bessie’s husband and a respected painter also associated with the Lyme colony, would paint a large figurative oil of Ellen and her three daughters while they summered in Cornish, New Hampshire. Ellen particularly admired the work of Willard Metcalf, whose landscapes had brought such renown to Old Lyme.
She spent an afternoon in his studio in New York and came away thinking that he “outranked every other American artist.” [16]
What the artists thought of her work is less clear.  In her letters, Ellen reported many positive comments.  But William Chadwick remarked “although Mrs. Wilson thought that she painted well, she was not really good.” [17] Within the colony, the distinction between the art student, no matter how dedicated, and the professional artist, who relied on his or her work for a livelihood, was sharply drawn.
What the artists thought of her work is less clear. In her letters, Ellen reported many positive comments. But William Chadwick remarked “although Mrs. Wilson thought that she painted well, she was not really good.” Within the colony, the distinction between the art student, no matter how dedicated, and the professional artist, who relied on his or her work for a livelihood, was sharply drawn.
Just because Ellen Wilson was accorded the privilege of living with the artists at Miss Florence’s didn’t mean that she was one of “them.”
Chadwick’s judgment seems harsh today. While some of her oils have a somewhat labored quality, many of her small landscapes interpret the seasonal nuance and mood of her subject with perceptiveness and feeling. Her art was consistent with prevalent themes within the colony – rural landscapes, river views, nocturnes, apple trees in bloom, and old-fashioned gardens. She responded well to DuMond’s advice to simplify and grasp the artistic significance of nature. Her oil of “Miss Florence’s Side Porch,” which Florence Griswold owned and treasured as a memento of their friendship, captures the back ell of the Griswold House draped in verdant vines and flowers.
The painting also depicted the locale of the “hot air table” that her husband was soon to join during the summer of 1909. Leaving in mid-July, Woodrow and Ellen Wilson were accompanied by their daughter Margaret (Nell and Jessie went off to Europe) for the summer season at Miss Florence’s. While this was Woodrow’s first stay at the Griswold House, he had very likely visited during their first summer in Old Lyme in 1905 and had certainly heard much from his wife and daughters. Judging from a letter he wrote to a friend before leaving he seems to have already experienced first-hand its daily rhythms:
The Griswold’s have been great people in their time and are still decidedly gentlefolk. Miss Florence has taken artists (for whom Lyme is headquarters in this part of the world) in to board in her spacious old house out of mind, and the place is a perfect artistic curiosity shop, the walls and doors of one room, for example, being painted from end to end with landscapes and figures by men of all stamps, most of them now famous, who have lived there the pleasant, informal life they love and she permits.
The artists of the Lyme School regard her as their patron saint, and have all in their turns made love to her.  In summer all of the meals of the singular household are taken out-of-doors on the piazza, the women at one table, the men at another, in order that they may with the less embarrassment come directly from their work to the table, dressed as they happen to be.  The men’s table is known as “the hot air club,” and it I shall very appropriately join.  I expect to be quite in my element in Bohemia. [18]
Dr. Wilson was, of course, given a seat at the men’ table, and it wasn’t long before we not only realized his interest in art, literature and music, but we discovered the he was an excellent storyteller. So good indeed that I have long regretted I did not keep a record of them. And in looking back over the years I remember him as a combination of firmness and tolerance, intellect and godliness; a man of affairs yet a scholar, a thinker, yet a doer. And I thoroughly enjoyed his friendship.
They are very easy to make friends with, and I hope I am.
Lyme was a “haven” where Woodrow spent the mornings writing, the afternoons playing golf, and the evenings around the hot air table engaged in conversation with the artists. [19]
Wilson saw Lyme as a place far removed from the fast-paced world – an enclave that appealed to his scholarly, reflective nature.
“We have the sound of trains often in our ears and motor cars whirr by on the road at our door: but the world which passes by us does not notice us: we are side-tracked at a very quiet rural station where life has hardly changed its pace since the thirties [1830s]. Certainly it is the same town to a stick that I knew four years ago. I have changed much more than it has.” [20]
The Wilson family fit right in at Miss Florence’s boardinghouse. Ellen was encouraged by some of the artists there that summer (William Robinson, Harry Hoffman, Ernest Albert, and Frank Bicknell were among those staying there)
that her work was “no longer that of an amateur” and was indeed better than “a good deal of that in the exhibitions.” [21]
Woodrow was given the title of “Colonel Wilson” [22] and, as initiation into the fraternity, was the subject of the artist’s antics. Wilson’s customary breakfast was a bowl of shredded wheat. Artist Arthur Heming “selected a nice little bunch of excelsior from a newly arrived packing case, put it in a bowl, poured cream over it, and served it to the future President of the United States.” [23]
No matter what new delicious dishes we offered, Woodrow Wilson always wanted his shredded wheat. So one Sunday morning when it was my turn to wait on table, I selected a nice little bunch of excelsior from a newly arrived packing case, put it in a bowl, poured cream over it, and served it to the future President of the United States. But he didn’t detect until he tried to force it apart with his spoon.
Wilson found the colony to be a compelling experiment in communal living.  As a non-artist with a somewhat detached point of view, Wilson provides us, through his letters, with some of the most detailed descriptions of life in the boardinghouse.  Returning from a side trip to Philadelphia, he wrote
I find the make-up of the household here a good deal altered.  People come and go. You no sooner get interested in them than they are off.  It is always the interesting ones that go.  The others, to whom you never give a thought and who serve as a sort of filling, are fixed and stationery, as are their counterparts in nature.
But, fortunately, even the commonplace ones are not, in this house, of the ordinary boarding house breed.  It is, even in its mere ballast, an artists’ house. [24]
As the summer wound down in late August, the Wilson family became involved in the annual exhibition at the library [be sure to introduce earlier].  Plans and preparations for the exhibition was the subject at every meal, although once again Ellen was not invited to participate as an exhibiting member of the colony “The exhibition business is very diverting in a way,”
Woodrow wrote to his friend Mary Peck:
I sit down with the “hanging committee” at every meal, and hear all the talk of the sensitiveness of this man and the arrogance of that about the place given his picture on the walls of the little library, with its most unsuitable light.  The jealousies and personalities of another profession, from which I myself stand entirely detached, are displayed before me in all their detail, in all their consequences.  I do not mean that the men display more ill nature than others or that they speak with conscious and intentional unkindness of their fellow artists; but of course I know what men mean when they talk; I can read between the lines very plainly.  And because I am not part of it or in it, it seems to me that these fellows live in a rather petty world, — much more petty than the world I live in (there’s where the poison of self-appreciation finds entrance), a very small province of the great kingdom of life; and I feel the condescension of an outsider, who is touched by none of these things! [25]
Later in the letter, Woodrow went on to admonish himself for feeling such thoughts, acknowledging the pettiness in his life of academia.
Like many of the artists, Woodrow and Ellen longed for a place in the country and their happy experience in Old Lyme led them to think seriously about buying a place there. “Ellen and I have fallen more in love than ever with Lyme,” Wilson enthused. “It certainly abounds in beauties of all kinds.” [26]Living at Princeton in the President’s residence meant they didn’t have a residence truly their own and so, late that summer of 1909, the Wilsons began “diligently looking about for some little house, that we can afford, to buy or some site on which to put one up.” [27] They eventually found a piece of property on the west side of the Lieutenant River that was owned by David P. Huntley. Everything was settled between purchaser and seller, but Huntley’s difficulties in clearing the title to the property prevented the final closing. Despite this setback, Old Lyme continued to be an important chapter in the Wilsons’ family life over the next few years.
They celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary with the purchase from Macbeth Gallery in New York of a painting by the Lyme painter Chauncey Ryder. [28] Woodrow came to Old Lyme in June 1910 to give the principal address at the dedication of the rebuilt Congregational Church. His subject was “The Country Church.” He and his wife were joined that eventful summer of 1910 with an entourage that included, at various times, their daughters, Ellen’s sister Madge, and two sisters from New Orleans, Lucy and Mary Smith, who were best friends with Ellen. Not only was there excitement about Woodrow’s political overtures, but about Madge’s impending marriage to Edward Elliott, who had recently been appointed dean of faculty at Princeton. The two were married on September 8th at the Old Lyme Congregational Church in a quiet ceremony attended by the family. [29]
In May 1911, Ellen Wilson returned to Old Lyme by herself. Writing ahead to Florence Griswold, she exclaimed: “I should love to get in two weeks of sketching at that charming season.”  [30] Comfortable among both old and new friends at the Griswold House, Ellen turned to painting “apple-blossom subjects” with the other artists in residence, an exercise that she reported in a letter to her husband that left “everybody swearing over them and declaring them impossible.” [31] Her daughters and the Smith sisters joined her in June, all of them in rooms at Miss Florence’s, where, by all reports, they thoroughly enjoyed the Holy House’s diversions and informal life. The artists especially regarded the daughters as good sports. [32] Woodrow Wilson came up twice during the month of June for brief visits and then, in mid-July, the entire group left for Sea Girt, New Jersey.
This was the last summer the Wilson family would spend in Old Lyme. “Mrs. Wilson and I think very, very often of our happy days with you in Lyme, and I know that Mrs. Wilson has genuinely regretted that she could not get down to the exhibition this year,” wrote President Woodrow Wilson to Florence Griswold in a letter dated September 10, 1913. [33] At the time they were making plans for a fall wedding of their daughter Jessie to Frank Sayre, a recent Harvard Law School graduate who would become assistant to President Harry A. Garfield at Williams College. The wedding took place on November 25th in the White House and Florence Griswold was one of the guests. “It was quite an event for her as she had done very little traveling,” the artist Gregory Smith recalled. [34]
 “I can’t bear to think that the Wilsons will not be here,” she wrote to Ellen in 1912, in recognition that the Governor’s campaign schedule probably wouldn’t permit a visit to Old Lyme. Even after Ellen died prematurely on August 6, 1914 in the White House, Florence Griswold maintained contact with President Wilson, frequently writing to him on largely local subjects (and often requesting that he intervene on her and the town’s behalf) that had little to do with his responsibilities as President. Nevertheless he responded patiently and with obvious fondness for her. After Woodrow remarried in December 1915, he brought his new wife Edith up to Old Lyme in September 1917 to meet Miss Florence and call upon the Vreelands.
The Presidential yacht, the U.S.S. Mayflower, anchored off Saybrook Light at the entrance to the Connecticut River. A tender brought them up the Lieutenant River and they walked through the gardens to the Griswold House. On the way back, Mrs. Wilson was overheard to comment that she did not see how anyone could stand to stay in such an “absolutely dreadful, filthy” place. The charm and informality of the Griswold House that “suits me down to the ground,” as Margaret Wilson once put it, was lost on the new Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. It would, however, not be so easily forgotten by her husband and the rest of his family.


Paintings by Ellen Wilson







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[1] Woodrow Wilson to Mary Peck, June 19, 1909, Link et al, eds., The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, 19:262 (hereafter cited as PWW).
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[2] Woodrow Wilson to David Benton Jones, June 27, 1910, Ibid. 20:543.
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[3] Wilson had just gone through a grueling controversy at Princeton over the location of a residential graduate college that had divided the trustees, faculty, and alumni. Represented in the press as fundamentally “a contest between the forces of privilege and democracy,” Wilson earned strong allies (and not a few enemies) within Princeton with his forceful position that he was fully dedicated to democratizing American universities (see PWW, 20: vii). As he considered this “most unusual” opportunity, he was torn by his allegiances to Princeton and his realization that the educational reforms that he had put in place there were unfinished (see PWW, 20: 543).
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[4] “Dr. Wilson Not Seeking Office,” Printed in the Newark Evening News, July 9, 1910, from PWW, 20: 568.
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[5] Ibid, p. 581.
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[6] Nominated on September 15th, Wilson gave a rousing acceptance speech. Still in Old Lyme, Ellen sent a telegram: “Congratulations from all the household love from the family.”PWW, 21:101.
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[7] There are two other intriguing personal connections that may have contributed to their decision to go to Old Lyme. Woodrow Wilson’s assistant at Princeton was a young man by the name of Arthur C. Ludington whose family was one of the most prominent families that summered in Old Lyme. Certainly he would have been a source of information about the town. In addition, the Wilsons had commissioned a Richmond Virginia artist by the name of Adele Williams to paint their portraits. She began working on them in Princeton during the fall of 1903, shortly after she spent the past summer in Old Lyme with the artist colony. She became quite friendly with Ellen Wilson and it seems entirely likely that she spoke with her about her experience that summer.
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[8] Ellen Axson Wilson’s career as an artist was the subject of a 1993 exhibition held at the Woodrow Wilson House in Washington, D.C. and the Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum in Staunton, Virginia. See Frank J. Aucella, Patricia Hobbs and Frances Wright Saunders, Ellen Axson Wilson First Lady – Artist. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson House, 1993. For an excellent and authoritative biography on Mrs. Wilson, see Frances Wright Saunders, Ellen Axson Wilson: First Lady Between Two Worlds. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1985.