By Sandy Clark
The Collins Hotel in Straitsville (part of Rt 63, Naugatuck) served as a stopping point for the stage coach line that traveled from New Haven to Litchfield. Owner, Ahira Collins, and his staff were very busy seeing to the needs of tired and hungry passengers. Collins offered some of the finest food in the area, and his kettles were always filled on the fires of the four brick ovens. Ahira was a short, thickset person with a jovial disposition. He is remembered not only for his food but for his famous fruit punch as well.
Stories abound about the Hotel, the Post Office there and the small store Collins kept across the street. Two elderly sisters who lived down the road were among his customers. The sisters’ dislike of humans, especially men, led to their conducting business through the use of signs. When they needed supplies, they wrote an order and place it on their back porch with a blue flag in the yard as a signal to the grocer to get the grocery list. The food was placed on the porch steps, and one of the eccentric sisters would come out to take it into the house.
Too romantic to be acceptable is another story concerning one of the sisters. She had a lust for a handsome young husband in the Revolutionary War. Supposedly, the husband was captured by Native Americans and many long years later escaped to search the house for his wife. He found the two sisters dead in each other’s arms in an empty house.
Collins is noted for being something of a practical joker but had the tables turned on him by one of his patrons. On one occasion, a traveler had a meal for which he complained of the charge, saying that it was only “pork and beans.” However, he settled the bill and went on his way. A few days later, Collins received a letter for which, as was usual in those days, he paid 25 cents in postage. Inside, without a signature, was a simple message: “Pork and Beans.” This happened a second time, but when a third letter arrived, Collins finally refused to accept it.
After 30 years of seeming prosperity, people thought that Collins was a wealthy man, ready to retire from business. To the surprise of all, he went into bankruptcy which was caused in large part by his three sons, Oscar, Orville and Sheldon. They were adverse to working, and spent their father’s money on sports, women and strong toddy. Collins was forced to retire and died a poor man.