Bert Wilson – the Builder behind Wilson Field

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Wilson Field has long been a part of sports and activities in the parcel of land it encompasses off of King Street. As early as the mid-1950s, the Forestville Little League occupied the space after first starting out on the grounds of the former Sarah A. Reynolds School, now the location of St. Matthew Church and its parking lot.

The field was named after Albert D. Wilson, whose biography is included in the “Builders of Bristol” series.

Here is Albert D. Wilson’s original story, along with some of my recent additions: Bert Wilson was born in Forestville just seven months after America’s Centennial on Feb. 5, 1877, and that was to John C. and Caroline (Beach) Wilson. Upon completing grammar school in Forestville, he attended Bristol High – that being the current Bristol Historical building – but left before graduating.

He received some training in business at Huntsinger Business College in Hartford and soon took a job as a bookkeeper. At the turn of the century there were no trolleys or automobiles between Forestville and Bristol, so the young Mr. Wilson road his bicycle or the train to the A.J. Muzzy Store on downtown Main Street where he earned $10 a week.

After working at Muzzy’s for seven years, he left in 1902 to work as a bookkeeper at the Bristol Brass & Clock Company. For the next 49 years he worked for the development of Bristol Brass, serving in many capacities in climbing his way up the ladder. Besides the position of bookkeeper and also as a clerk, he was promoted to secretary, treasurer, president and finally to chairman of the board.

During WWI he played a key role in the company’s expansion and reorganization, which doubled the production capacity of the company. At the same time, he participated in the organization of a realty company that would provide nearby housing for 75 employees and their families.

These streets would originally be called First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Avenues, later to be renamed as First Street, Second Street and so on. What was to become Wilson Field was an open space between Fifth and Sixth streets directly off of King Street.

Later, the Celtic Athletic Club would be built on the east end of Fifth Street, a gathering for the area’s sports-minded men to use for meetings and social events. It had a bar and club held parties for the membership neighborhood kids, including during Christmastime, of which I recall attending as a young boy.

The children in that area would attend the Fifth Street School, later named after Ellen P. Hubbell, and that was before the newer Hubbell School was built on West Washington Street. During its early years, area children would only attend their first years as students at the four-room building on Fifth Street before moving on to Mary A. Callen School a couple of blocks away on the corner of Pine and Middle streets.

During this time Wilson began a tireless war on waste. The government demanded an accounting of materials used because of the war, but most systems were based on estimates. Wilson developed a method determining the exact proportions and costs of copper, spelter and scrap that went into an 80-pound bar of brass. Then with the tonnage produced he was able to institute waste control systems that were used during WWII.

When Wilson came to the presidency of the corporation in 1935, the country was at the bottom of the Depression. Strange noises were coming out of Germany, Wall Street had collapsed, and economic conditions could hardly be favorable. Yet the company prospered and prepared for the war effort that was to follow. Production increased and the contributions of Bristol Brass to the war mobilization were recognized with the coveted “E” Award on two occasions.

The President’s “E” Award was created by the country’s leader by executive order to recognize those company’s, organizations and individuals whose efforts increased the country’s exporting.

During the war Bristol Brass had 162 of its employed males serve their country. Allyn Roger Huntley is listed in the blue hard-covered “Bristol, CT During WWII” book as the lone Brass employee making the supreme sacrifice, although there were supposedly two.

Wilson had a number of interests and affiliations during his time here and those and other segments of his life will be included here in next Monday’s final segment of his story.

Our thanks to  Bob Montgomery, Staff Writer for The Bristol Press.