By SHERIDAN CYR
The Town of Southington celebrated the observance of “Doris Day” at the library on June 30, the 60th anniversary of the acclaimed motion picture actress’ visit to the town during the filming of “It Happened to Jane” at the historic Milldale railroad station, established in 1892.
An official Town Council proclamation was presented and read by TylerCityStation rail historian Robert Belletzkie, recognizing Day’s visit to town and for choosing Southington as a representation of small-town American democracy in action, municipal civility, family values and equal opportunity for women. The proclamation states these values “are dear to the people of Southington.”
“Ms. Doris interacted in a most gracious manner with the people of this and other towns in Connecticut for which her visit will be long remembered and cherished,” stated the proclamation.
The community room at the library was packed wall-to-wall with locals taking part in celebrating the recognition of “Doris Day.” Belletzkie gave a narrated presentation of the film, “It Happened to Jane,” accompanied by newspaper articles, photos and other captures of the time that Day spent in town. He shared some historical points of interest in town that the cast and crew visited during their filming.
“We are here to honor two venerable institutions: Doris Day, and the Milldale Depot Museum,” said Belletzkie. “This is both historic, and history in-the-making.”
Though most of the filming took place in other nearby areas, one prominent scene of the movie transformed the railroad station from Milldale station into “Holgate.” On that day, thousands flocked to the area to catch a glimpse of the scene being filmed.
Doris Day is known for her 20-year career as a motion picture actress and for her talents as a singer-songwriter. Later in life, she turned her focus to activism for animals, founding the Doris Day Animal Foundation, a nonprofit, grant-giving charity that assists other nonprofit animal welfare organizations across the country with spay and neutering, veterinary expenses, seniors programs, pet food pantries, wildlife rehabilitation, educational resources and many other programs.
Though she couldn’t attend the official Doris Day event, Day wrote a letter to the Town of Southington in response to the proclamation.
“I am honored and delighted,” she wrote. “I had such a good time filming the movie in Connecticut and I can’t believe it’s been 60 years. All of the people were lovely to us, and it gave me the chance to work with Jack Lemmon, who was a wonderful man, talented actor and good friend. I’m happy that the Milldale Depot and its history have been preserved for future generations.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.