Edmund Joseph Hylenski
Today’s youngsters, the prime occupants of the playroom at the Recreation Center, will be surprised to learn that the quick-witted gentleman who oversees the equipment, and those who use it, was once a cog in successes of sports in Branford.
Edjoe Hylenski, more commonly recognized as Dave, had native skills beyond the ordinary in baseball, basketball, football, bowling and arm wrestling. Nimble feet and agile hands were his forte in the Roaring Twenties when the Laurels in football and basketball, and the Townies in baseball posted enviable records against the best teams that the state could offer.
Born in New Haven in 1906, Edjoe came to Branford before he was five. His father had purchased a grocery store in the Fourth Ward and it was there that Dave showed natural endowments that made him a standout.
It was natural for the Fourth Ward gang to want to emulate the athletic skills of the Hustlers whose clubrooms were at the entrance to Bradley Street. Thus did they form the Laurels A.C., mostly from a group of skaters who played hockey on Seth’s Pond nearby.
Dave was the standout that first year in games played behind Sliney’s coalyard. His natural shiftiness and ability to reach top speed in a stride trumpeted the club’s first year’s success. Subsequently, the football team moved to Hammer Field and embarked upon a seven-year victory skein that was to end with a 12-9 loss to the Boys Club. Dave did not play after the first kickoff.
Because of an injured knee, he shunned play in 1929, but continued his basketball play against the best in Connecticut and as the shortstop of Branford’s three-time Middlesex Baseball League’s champions. In both sports, he was a standout. He went six for six against Ivoryton one memorable afternoon and was offered a professional minor league shot which he turned down after a week’s deliberation.
He once owned the Redmen’s Bowling Alleys with Frank Sveda, a boyhood chum. There one memorable night he defeated the worlds reigning big pin king, Stanford’s Mort Linsley, head to head in a pot game.
In due time, he and George Laich established the Sportsmen’s Restaurant, and in subsequent years, when he became the sole owner, he sponsored championship teams, and near champions, in various leagues in town and throughout the state.
He’s been married to the former Elsie Coughlin of East Hartford for the past 52 years. Their daughter, Mim DeSantis, is a valued employee in the Town Hall. His grandson, the peripatetic Tommy Jr., a B.H.S. graduate last spring, currently is a private in the U.S Air Force.
The kids that Dave supervises are not aware of the one-time sports skills of the man who watches them at play. They should be alerted now that among his pastimes is assessing the future abilities of those at play. He has an uncanny ability to spot the naturals. Old timers are not surprised. They all know Dave as a good scout.