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Basement 'Dinosaur' In Westport Bests Pack In Oldest Boiler Contest

Anne and WIllie Salmond said goodbye to their 95-year-old boiler Thursday, after they won Gault Energy & Home Solutions' Oldest Boiler Contest. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Sam Gault, left, introduced Willie and Anne Salmond to their new home heating system, valued at $11,000. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

WESTPORT, Conn. — When the boiler in Anne and Willie Salmond’s Westport home was “born,” Warren G. Harding had just settled into the White House and Americans were dancing the Charleston to “Ain’t We Got Fun?”

So it was no surprise the St. John Place couple bested about 120 entries in Gault Family Companies’ 2016 Oldest Boiler Contest, winning a whole new system to replace their 95-year-old workhorse just in time for Thursday’s chilly sleet.

“We’ve never really won anything big in our lives,” said Anne, who’s lived in the home since 1984. “This is especially nice as winter’s coming.”

Sam Gault, president of Gault Energy & Home Solutions, the oldest family-owned energy company in Fairfield County, said he and other Gault employees viewed about 20 contenders from the original pack before selecting the Salmonds for the upgrade, which — with installation — is valued at $11,000.

He estimated the Salmonds will see a 30 percent to 40 percent saving on their heating bills with the new unit.

“”It’s going to be a quieter system and give them a more comfortable home,” he said, asking the Salmonds if the old boiler made a racket.

“You know when it’s on,” Willie said with a laugh.

Ironically, the retired couple are used to the cold. Willie is from Scotland, and Anne hails from Northern Ireland.

“I never had central heating as a kid,” Willie said. “You’d just run up to bed and jump in.”

The couple entered the contest when their son-in-law went down to the basement to fetch a kayak and caught sight of the asbestos-covered behemoth.

“He was pretty sure it could win,” Willie said.

The old boiler was built as a coal-fired heating unit for the homes original owners, the Abbott family, who, coincidentally, are related to the Gaults by marriage. The Gault family viewed Thursday’s installation as a belated 45th wedding anniversary present for the Salmonds.

Having raised three children in the 1,412-square-foot home, they used it as a home base for their work in global public service. Willie was country director of World Learning’s USAID-funded HIV/AIDS prevention program in Uganda, and Anne, a psychiatric social worker, was World Learning’s orphans program coordinator.

Willie has also served in a variety of posts in India, Zaire and Sudan, and returned to Uganda in 2004 as country director for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

Gault said he couldn’t think of more deserving winners for his company’s fifth annual contest.

“That the dinosaur in their basement was installed for our cousins, the Abbott family, nearly 100 years ago is a happy coincidence,” he said. “It feels good to pay an act of kindness forward to people who have dedicated their lives to helping the less fortunate in communities around the world.”

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