Category Archive 'New Haven'

10 Sep 2020

Elliott Brause 1937-2020

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Quality Wine, just to the left of Cutler’s. 1970s or 1980s photo with Broadway under construction.

A Yale friend forwarded today the New Haven Independent obituary for Elliot Brause, the genial owner of the long-time Yale community institution Quality Wine Store.

I know a good bit about wine, and I was recently reflecting just how much I learned, back in my student days, from Elliot’s selections. Really, I found myself ruefully noting, when you come right down to it, I’ve never known a better, more knowledgeable, more discerning, and more sophisticated wine merchant.

Kermit Lynch is pretty darn good, but he operates at a much more Olympian price level than Elliott used to, and Kermit (the toad!) won’t ship to Pennsylvania. There are, of course, good wine stores in New York City, but… again, for them, too, price is no particular object.

Elliott knew his audience and recognized that Yale undergraduates had lean purses and he skillfully filled his shelves with amazing bargains. Back then, German Rieslings were just as out of fashion as they are today, and Elliott made a point of laying in superb vintages of Qualitätsweins mit Prädikat with Spatleses and Ausleses offered for peanuts. I used to drink Schloss Eltz routinely, it was so cheap.

Even less expensive were hocks from the less prestigious Rheinpfalz region. Their prices were derisive.

It was from Elliott that I and my friends developed the habit of drinking May Wine, flavored with Woodruff (the Waldmeister) and strawberries in the Spring.

I remember, too, a particular “Quinta de Something” Port Vintage of 1940, which cost something like a piddling $7.50 a bottle back in the early 1970s. It was ambrosial.

I wish I could shop at Quality Wine today.

It was always a pleasure to do business with Elliott. He was cordial and avuncular and surrounded always by his enthusiastic corgis. If you were short of cash, Elliott would have no problem taking a check for $10 or $20 dollars over your purchase. He was essentially a member of the family and Quality Wine was a key and basic institution of Yale student life.

All that, of course, cut no mustard with the reptiles and invertebrates who operate the Yale Administration. When the greasy pols in Hartford raised back the drinking age to 21, Yale didn’t like its underclassmen having such convenient access to wine. And, in later years, Yale began making a point of micromanaging its retail rentals so as to grind out every minimal iota of higher income and status advantage.

A key part of Yale’s new strategy required wiping out all the old-time cherished and familiar retail institutions and replacing them with upmarket, high prestige, international brands whose shops would be required to remain open until 10 PM to help deter the street crime Yale had inadvertently invited via its own liberal politics.

An old news story, describes the fatal moment.

Yale’s Vice President for New Haven Affairs Bruce Alexander… gives us [the rationale behind] the act Yale has performed upon Broadway. From the article:

“Alexander said he was walking on York Street near Broadway and noticing litter and storefronts such as barbershops and liquor stores. Since Yalies went through the area on their way to the Yale Co-op, he thought it needed an upgrade.”

Yalies, you see, did not need haircuts, used books (from Whitlock’s), music (from Cutler’s), or wine (from Elliot Brause). They needed Patagonia, J. Crew, Urban Outfiteers, and Apple.

So perished our beloved Quality Wine. Elliott gracefully retired. He is remembered with affection by all who knew him.

17 Aug 2018

Not “The Land of Steady Habits” Anymore

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Pajamas Media reports that, last Wednesday, the homies were dropping like flies all over the New Haven Green. It seems that a bad batch of synthetic pot recently arrived.

Residents watched in horror as more than 70 people collapsed near a city park in Connecticut Tuesday night into Wednesday, overdosing on what authorities believe was a tainted batch of synthetic marijuana. Vomiting and hallucinating drug users dropped like flies throughout the day as emergency crews raced to the New Haven Green to save lives.

“We have a guy laid out in the alleyway, unresponsive, eyes wide open. He’s out cold,” one bystander hollered, according to the New Haven Register. …

An emergency medical technician for the New Haven Fire Department told the Register that he’s never had such an abnormal day at work in the five years he’s been there.

“This was a particularly odd, rare occasion where (there was) call after call for man down, obviously with symptoms of some kind of overdose, and at the time of getting that patient packaged and transported to the hospital, we’d see another immediately fall down, right there,” Lt. Ernest Jones said. “At that point, we’d go help that patient, and while helping that patient, another person went down. So it became a domino effect.”


What is striking about this is the fact that, within living human memory, Connecticut’s cities were truly extraordinary examples of ancient culture, high civilization, and prosperity. There would be found in each of them many of the wealthiest and most famous of American businesses and industries. Factory workers lived in homes that bankers in other states might envy.

Today, Connecticut cities still have government and universities, sitting there surrounded by the deserts created by the bad political policies of the former and the bad ideas of the latter. The old population descended from 17th Century Puritan founders has fled to the suburbs or out of state. Connecticut cities are populated by government-dependent blacks and Puerto Ricans.

08 Sep 2013

Manson Hale Whitlock, 1917-2013

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Manson H. Whitlock, proprietor of the last prominent typewriter repair and sales shop in the United States, and the last of Bethany, Connecticut’s renowned Whitlock brothers passed away August 28 at the age of 96.

His elder brother, Reverdy Whitlock (Yale 1936), known to generations of Yale students as the third-generation proprietor of the used book shop on Broadway, died in April of 2011 a little more than a month shy of 98.

The other two brothers, who managed the famous Whitlock Book Barn on the grounds of the former family dairy farm in Bethany, Everett and Gilbert, left us only slightly earlier: Everett in September 2003, aet. 91, and Gilbert in March of 2004, aet. 88.

The four Whitlock brothers represented, on the essential commercial fringe of University life, a kind of charming survival of indigenous local Yankeedom, preserving in their personalities, manners, and accents an otherwise long-vanished rural Connecticut.

All the Whitlock brothers were stubborn and opinionated, but formal in manner, and taciturn and restrained in speech. All of them were also careful and precise in business and notoriously thrifty. I can still remember Reverdy reaching into his pocket and taking out an old-fashioned farmer’s change purse when the store register came up short as he was making change for a book purchase. When he opened the clips on top, a moth flew out, and I’ve always suspected that all the buffaloes on the nickels inside blinked.

All the Whitlock brothers clearly experienced a characteristic kind of quiet glee in personally approximating so perfectly all the classic New England Yankee stereotypes.

At one time, Manson Whitlock probably owned the most lucrative, if not the most prestigious, of the Whitlock businesses. Before the personal computer came along, every Yale student had to own a typewriter and every typewriter, sooner or later, needed new ribbons, and occasional cleanings and repairs.

The Whitlocks were competitive, and I suspect the other brothers quietly gloated when technology rendered Manson’s formerly vibrant typewriter shop obsolescent. But Manson didn’t care. He had put away his competence decades earlier, and he stubbornly continued to open his shop every day and contently passed away his time repairing and maintaining individual specimens of his extensive store collection. Once in a blue moon, some superannuated fossil who had declined to change over to computers would show up for a typewriter servicing or repair. Even more occasionally, a collector would descend to conduct fierce negotiations with Manson over a particularly desirable early example. One thing never changed, Manson Whitlock’s typewriters, despite the changing times, did not get any cheaper.

And Yale and New Haven will never be the same without the Whitlock Brothers. Their passing from the local scene leaves the kind of painful gap that the vanishing of Yale fence along Chapel Street and the perishing of the stately elms overlooking the Old Campus and the Green once did. Some crucial and beloved landmarks have been lost.

Manson’s New York Times obituary.

Washington Post obituary.

08 Mar 2006

New Haven Characters


New Haven

(Non-Yalies, please excuse the New Haven trivia. I feel obligated to post it for friends and classmates. This kind of post is bound to come along once in a while, I’m afraid.)

This week’s New Yorker mentions a project by Leslie Kuo (Y ’03) consisting of cards depicting local New Haven characters.

Reading all this made me heave a sigh, as I can remember (and miss) a lot of people who flourished long before Ms. Kuo’s time: the elderly Italian peddler with the ancient green truck who used to sell balloons, penants, and programs on football weekends; Johnny of Johnny’s Pipe Center (at the corner of Chapel & College) who blended the best pipe tobacco in the universe; Reverdy Whitlock and (long ago) Epraim Eliot, beloved used book-dealers; Bob Muller of Merwin’s; the ubiquitous Bill Dodson; Brother John; and a host of New Haven personalities now… forgotten with the rest.

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