TV Host Don Wildman Drops By i95 Radio Show to Talk Danbury History
Photo Credit: Lou Milano
Don Wildman is the former host of the Travel Channel's "Mysteries at the Museum."
I was a huge fan of all his work, particularly "Mysteries at the Museum" so when we got the opportunity to have Wildman on as a guest a few years back, I jumped at the chance. The interview was good but the best thing to come from it was getting Don's phone number and I used it. I broke one of the cardinal rules of doing a radio show and I texted him out of the blue to see if he'd come back on the show just to talk. He graciously accepted and we've been in touch ever since.
Recently we started discussing his next project. Widman is hoping to move Americans to learn about their hometown. He wants to talk to as many small towns and cities as possible and get folks to embrace the history that is right in front of them. America has so many stories to tell but they won't live on, if we don't share them with one another.
Even though Don's project is in the embryo stages, we wanted to take part so we asked him to come back on the I-95 Morning Show. Wildman came to Brookfield to hangout in the I-95 studios on Friday (10/27/23) and he did so with no promotional agenda
We had a very informal discussion about his career and it didn't take long for him to teach us something about our own hometown. We were talking with Don about our shared love of American History and just then he put Danbury's history center stage.
Don: "The Danbury Museum is a very cool place and they've got a ton of stuff. I have been driving I-84 all my life. We had a family place up in New Hampshire so I'd be blazing past Danbury not knowing what was going on here just seeing it on the highway. I have my own theories about American life, the car altered our existence more than anywhere in the world and we fly through these great places without ever knowing what they are and they become unfairly labeled in our minds as sort of mundane and oh, there is that Danbury on the highway sign, that's it. Then you stop, and Americans don't stop enough and just today, this week, getting ready to talk to you guys I stopped mentally in Danbury. I started looking through the website, the Danbury Museum, I started thinking, what is Danbury? That is what is fascinating to me as we were talking about this big national moment happening, for me it happens on a local basis. I want to get Americans interested in why their towns are named what they are, why is it called Danbury? I actually can't answer that right now but isn't that weird?"
Lou: Yeah, a lot of people can't, we can because we've gone through this whole kind of thing but that is important. It's important to stop and figure out why things are what they are and I don't know why people don't want to know. You get that feeling, like my wife let me move our family to Downtown Danbury just so I could walk around every day staring at the buildings and historical markers.
Don: "Well you're a plaque reader, that is what I call it I do it too. Why do people stop and say hold on honey, I've just got to read this thin. You go to places like London and there are plaques everywhere, it's a big thing but only certain types of people, you're obviously one of them, do that, it's weird."
Lou: Because it enriches your life. I walk around and the kids don't even listen to me, I say you see that bank? Back in 1970 the Pardue Brother robbed it and set off multiple explosions right here on Main Street and my wife, the kids, none of the them are listening.
Don: "That is exactly when my wife's eyes glaze over.
Ethan: But it's so fascinating! I guess people's lives are structured to where they don't really find the time to look, what you can learn about where you live.
Don: "You can chalk this up to men of a certain age talking about it but I was like this when I was 20. I remember being fascinated by the puzzle of it all, there was such a satisfaction about putting this thing together and it was very much like a jigsaw puzzle. Like I finally got that piece, there it goes and know I understand why Danbury is called Danbury or whatever. So I called, at your suggestion, the Danbury Museum and asked them for five stories. Just give me five stories because that is what we did at Mysteries at the Museum. What are the most interesting things that you can tell me about Danbury right now? And so she (Brigid Guertin) sent me, are we talking about this at this moment?"
This is when Wildman managed to tell us a story we'd never heard before. The story of Robert Sandeman, his followers "The Sandemanians" and the birth of the hat industry here in Danbury. Listen to this amazing story below.
You can read more about the "Sandemanians" on CT History, below is just some of the history they share on their website:
They danced on the green. They passed around a “kiss of peace” between members at a communal meal, shared in the middle of their day-long service held at a special “eating house.” Their clergy didn’t need to be trained. Their practices earned them the derisive nickname of ���Kissites.”
They were the Sandemanians of Danbury, a vanished semi-communal sect whose outsized influence outweighed its tiny numbers. A breakaway sect of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, their name comes from Robert Sandeman, son-in-law of their founder, an early 18th-century Scottish Presbyterian minister named John Glass. Their keystone beliefs were that a profound faith experience was unnecessary and that the Bible, especially the New Testament, was to be interpreted absolutely literally.
If you have anything else you'd like to learn about the Sandemanians or any other chapter in the city's history, go to the Danbury Museum & Historical Society. Please tell them we sent you.
Our talk with Don Wildman was extensive, he spent over two hours in the studio with Ethan, Dave and I. We learned a lot about his career and his deep love for the history of the world. The discussion was broken down into four parts.
As a true admirer of Don's work, I'm happy to report that he's a good person too. When you meet him, you don't walk away disappointed he's as kind as he is intelligent.
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