Francis J. Connors: A leading man in Stonington History.


Francis J. Connors of Stonington, Conn.

By Camden Celtruda, Local News/Falcon Press Writer/Website Manager - Analytics

As many readers may already know, I have a hobby of digging up and collecting old bottles. I am always surprised and entertained by the history behind the bottle and the individual or company that put them out for sale. One bottle I recently found had a particularly  impressive and entertaining story related to it and even myself personally. This story is that of the prominent figure in Stonington history, and Drug Store owner, Mr. Francis J. Connors. 


The Backstory:

I was out on one of my digging trips at an old artifact dumping spot I found, known for turning up objects from the 1930s-1950s. While digging through the usual mix of coke bottles and milk bottle keepers, a small glass bottle suddenly rolled out from my hole. Though these are usually nothing special, blanks with no label (rotted away from being in the ground), and plastic bakelite caps, this one had an interesting feature. The label was actually placed on the inside, a rarity. Not only was it preserved because of this, but it also was able to be read and even had a 1940s date! The label read, “Francis J. Connors / Registered Pharmacist / Main Street / Stonington, Conn.” I took it home, washed the outside carefully and posted it alongside  all of my local finds on Facebook and asked for some information about Mr. Connors. A couple days later I got an email from my past Sociology teacher, whom many here at Fitch know, Mr. Byassee. He told me that his great-grandfather was Francis J. Connors. I was at a loss for words at this coincidental connection. I ended up getting into contact with Mr. Byassee’s uncle, Gary. I asked him some questions, and Gary told me that to learn even more I should interview his mother, Mrs. Martinelli, who was Francis J. Connor’s daughter. I agreed, and we set a date for the interview.


The Interview:

When I sat down to talk to Mrs. Martenelli, she informed me that she is actually close friends with my grandparents. After chatting a bit about this interesting coincidence that emphasizes what a small world we live in, I began my inquiry into who I had come to learn about: Francis J. Connors. After Mrs. Martenelli and Gary showed me an exciting assortment of various photos and documents she had on hand (see below), I conducted my interview with them:


Me: What timeframe was the store in business?

Mrs. Martenelli: 1923-1966.


Me: Where was the exact location of the store?

Mrs. Martenelli: At the Corner of High and Main St. in Stonington.


Me: Was there anything unique about the store? Was there anything that stood out or made the store one of a kind?

Gary: It was a meeting place for many people.

Mrs. Martenelli: It was a place where people picked up prescriptions from their appointments.

Gary: They used to actually get the film and take it to Westerly to get developed. He used to deliver medicine at night to people. 

Mrs. Martenelli: There was also ice cream delivery on Sundays. He would get up in the middle of the night to deliver something for someone–that was the kind of person he was. All the old men in Stonington used to come out on Friday nights; they had this big old radio in the back room, and they’d sit around for the fights. The busses used to stop there and pick up the packages from Stonington Boat Works. The bus drivers stopped there too.

Gary: When he was a state representative, the state trooper would pick him up at the drug store and take him up to Hartford. He only went up for one day a week.

Me: How long was he a state representative for?

Gary: One term. Late ‘40s.


Me: Do you have any memorable experiences to share of the store? 

Mrs. Martenelli: One thing I always remember is that we sold Whitman’s Candy and they used to send a great big life-sized Santa Claus they’d put in the window. And so as we were kids growing up, my father got one for home and he’d get in behind it from supper every night and talk to us and we didn’t know for years it was him. 

Gary: Everybody in town came there. There was a soda fountain and two or three tables with two or three chairs. 

Mrs. Martenelli: The chairs were metal, wrought iron, and the tops of the round tables were glass. My mother used to use them to display the cosmetics in them so people could see them. She’d go up to the velvet mill and she’d get rejected velvet to put in them. 

Gary: People would come into the store after work and have ice cream sodas and stuff like that. He loved ice cream.

Me: Any idea what his favorite flavor was?

Gary: Vanilla, Golden Vanilla.

Mrs. Martinelli: They used Hood’s Ice Cream there for years.

Gary: Mr. Donnely, Michael Donnely, used to deliver. He was the ice cream man, wore the pinstripe overalls and that was their uniform.

Mrs. Martenelli: They had the big metal cans, he could carry maybe three or four of those. And we’d go out to help him and he’d give us a Fudgsicle or Popsicle. Years after I was told by my father that he didn’t give me the popsicle they came out of my supply!


Me: Any hardships during the operation of the store?

Mrs. Martenelli: During the war he had the boys come up who were being drafted and they stayed at the drug store until they left on the bus. 

Gary: And he’d also go around and have to notify the widows when their husbands were killed.

Mrs. Martenelli: That was sad.

Gary: That was probably the worst part of it I would think.

Mrs. Martenelli: There was also the hurricane of ‘38 that smashed the plate glass windows.

Me: Do you remember any of the people who had worked at the store?

Mrs. Martenelli: Rita Hoadley, Frankie Kane, Eddie… all young boys that worked there were called the “Drug Store Cowboys” by us. If there was a package that needed to be delivered or stuff that needed to be unpacked they did that. 


Me: Anything else that I should mention of interest about this place or Mr. Connors?

Mrs. Martenelli: People would come up to him instead of the doctor because lots of times the doctor wasn’t available. I remember an unfortunate story that a SunnyLea Farms driver was going down Elm street and a child ran out in front of the truck. Another child ran up to my father with her in his arms and my father quickly transferred her to Dr. Halliday who happened to be across the way that day. 


After I concluded the interview I thanked Gary and Mrs. Martinelli for their time and allowed me to preserve this story here at the Falcon Press and on my website. Sometimes my hobby of collecting bottles leads me to unexpected events such as this, which is why I love doing it. Mr. Francis J. Connors was certainly a man of the community of Stonington and was beloved by all he associated with. I’m happy to be able to preserve his story and share it with everyone to enjoy.

The bottle from Mr. Connors’ Store cleaned up!


The Connors bottle just after excavating it.


An award given to Mr. Connors.


A ledger for orders from F.J. Connors’ Pharmacy.


Mr. Connors’ certificate of pharmacy practice in R.I. for the year of 1920.


Mr. Connors’ certificate of pharmacy practice in CT.