Remembrance of Things Past: Legendary incidents that may have happened in Mystic

The term “urban legend” has become part of our vocabulary over the past decade. While Mystic can hardly be considered an urban area, there are some stories pertaining to our village that might fit the criteria of an urban legend.

The first, I’m sure did happen, though I can’t say for sure how long ago, but I seem to recall reading about it in The Day.

It seems that a Groton policeman pulled off to the side of the street on one of Mystic’s most scenic routes, River Road, at a location that locals call “Where the Ducks Are.” This spot, on the upper reaches of the road, is generally a foot or less above the river at high tide, and can be underwater at times of very high tides. It is also, as the nickname implies, home to a lot of ducks and other waterfowl.

The officer, who, I’m sure, has long since retired, chose this spot to take a break and eat a sandwich, the crusts of which he threw out the window to the ducks. The next thing he knew his cruiser was surrounded by a multitude of mallards and, try as he might, he couldn’t shoo them away and make them stay away. Starting the car did nothing to disperse the flock. He finally had to radio for assistance. I can only imagine the razzing he took back at the station!

Parade mishap

The second event absolutely did happen. I know because I took part in it, though I was more than a little embarrassed afterward. This took place about 50 years ago.

Mystic was holding a parade (though I don’t remember the occasion) and the Community Center, then located in a former garage on Pearl Street, had a float which consisted of a flatbed truck with kids on the back illustrating many of the activities offered at the center. Judo comes to mind.

A local businessman and a friend of the center loaned us the truck for the event. I was riding in the cab.

As I recall, the center float was near the end of the parade. As the parade advanced up West Main Street, the truck’s engine sputtered and died. We had run out of gas!

I jumped out of the truck and ran back to Bank Square, which then hosted two gas stations. I stopped at the first one, a Tydol station, quickly explained the dilemma, and was able to get a two-gallon can of gas. I ran back to the truck and began pouring fuel into the tank. The driver was able to get the truck started and I trotted alongside still filling the tank. We shouldn’t have bothered. Within seconds of getting the truck running, the familiar toot and bells told us the bridge was going up.

And there we sat.

The Community Center float may not have been the best in the parade, but it got the most laughs!

The final incident may be closer to the idea of a legend. I don’t recall reading about it in the paper, though it may have happened at a time when I was in the service and not living in Mystic.

I was reminded of it the other day when I crossed the bridge from west to east. Parked on the south side of the bridge, not far from the Groton side, was an orange State of Connecticut pickup truck. I assume state employees were performing some maintenance on Mystic’s most famous structure.

The story I’ve heard was that a similar orange truck was parked in the same place one day years ago when the bridge operator began the process of raising the roadway and lowering the counterweights – on top of the truck.

I’m glad I didn’t have to explain that incident to the insurance company! I can imagine the second hand truck ad for the pickup; “Runs well, needs some body work.”

Robert F. Welt is a retired Groton public schools teacher.

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