EAST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -- Channel 3’s spring journey around Connecticut made a stop in East Hartford on Monday.
It's a town that was originally a part of Hartford and has a real small-town feel.
Most people know East Hartford for Rentschler Field, Great River Park and Cabela’s.
However, what is not so well known is the history of East Hartford, a history that runs as long and as deep as the Connecticut River.
Craig Johnson, president of the Historical Society of East Hartford, said the town was incorporated in 1783.
“For 300 years, our economy was primarily agricultural, with tobacco being the main crop,” Johnson said.
All that changed in 1929, when Frederick Rentschler, head of the new Pratt and Whitney Aircraft Company, moved production from Hartford to a sprawling site in East Hartford.
Sales of Pratt’s first engine, ‘the wasp,’ were soaring. The air-cooled radial design was pure genius, providing more power with less weight.
The wasp powered Amelia Earhart across the pacific, and into the record books.
It also carried Charles Lindbergh nonstop across the Atlantic, into aviation history.
During the 1930s, Lindbergh often visited East Hartford to consult with Pratt engineers, and his desk is even still there.
“We continue to pioneer and really have a laser focus on continuing to change the game in aerospace,” said Maya Raichelson, a general manager at Pratt and Whitney.
Channel 3 was granted special access to the Pratt and Whitney Customer Training Center in East Hartford, where aircraft mechanics from all over the world go to learn how to service and maintain Pratt engines, including the state-of-the-art gear turbo fan.
“It provides significant improvements in fuel efficiency and in noise reduction and in emissions, so this is really game-changing technology,” Raichelson said.
Right now, 89,000 Pratt engines are transporting people all over the world, every second of every day.
Through the decades, the town of East Hartford has also played a major role in the nation's defense, which is a point of pride for many who live there.
“When I was in the service, people knew about Pratt and Whitney and East Hartford,” said Fred Clark, of East Hartford.
Who could have known back in the 1700s, that tobacco would give way to turbo fans, but what is clear is the place East Hartford will forever hold in the history and progress of aviation.
Also in East Hartford, Channel 3 caught up with Anita Coullard Dziedzic, whose son Dave was killed in Iraq in August of 2005, along with five other marines who were protecting a dam in Haditha.
When Anita saw two casualty officers outside her home in East Hartford, she knew.
“I've got to represent Dave in the most professional way possible. He was a marine and I’m what you call a mom, a mother of a marine, so I just kept telling myself that over and over,” she said.
She couldn’t be prouder of her son.
As a child he excelled in sports, but showed exceptional skill in hunting and competition rifle shooting.
She said she wasn’t surprised when Dave announced he was going to join the Marine Corps.
“I was happy. I wanted him to become something,” she said.
And that, he did. Sgt. David Coullard rose through the ranks and served with distinction, earning numerous medals and citations and achieving one of the highest ranks the Marines bestow for marksmanship -- scout sniper.
Sgt. Coullard was deployed to assignments all over the world.
When he volunteered to go to Iraq, Anita says she didn't worry.
“I just figured he was going to come back. I lived in bliss,” Coullard Dziedzic said.
Since 2010, Anita has been holding a golf tournament to raise money for veterans, through the charity she named the Sgt. David Coullard Memorial Fund.
“He was my son and he was my friend, and I miss him. But when I have the tournament, and I know the money is going to help people, it's what matters. It's simply what matters. And as long as I can pull the tournament together, I’m going to do it,” she said.
This year, the tournament will be held Sept. 13 at Hawk’s Landing in Southington, but Channel 3 wanted to give Anita a head start, with a check for $1,000.
For Anita, any donation to help the Marines and veterans everywhere is priceless.
"They just have a quality of goodness and you know they go through so much. When they need help, we should be there for them,” Coullard Dziedzic said.
For more information on the charity golf tournament, click here.
East Hartford is certainly a town with a lot of history, and that history can also be found at some great places to eat.
There are two landmark restaurants that have come to embody the spirit and hard-working roots of East Hartford.
Back in 1946, Harry Truman was president, and Frank Sinatra had a new hit when two police officers from East Hartford opened a hot dog stand and dairy bar called Augie and Ray’s.
Now, 73 years later, Augie and Ray’s is still going strong, owned and operated by Ray’s great-grandsons.
“You do feel a little bit of the pressure because there’s generations before you, kind of watching like ‘okay, don’t mess this up’,” said co-owner Chris Costello.
Augie and Ray’s is located just a stone’s-throw away from Pratt and Whitney, and is an institution in East Hartford.
“We fell in love with the charbroiled burgers and everything else that came with it,” said Alton Moss.
The restaurant is also known for its homemade chili sauce for its famous chili dogs, and the ingredients are top secret, passed down through the generations.
"We have great grandpa Ray’s original recipe that we still do to this day, and I think that brings people here,” said co-owner Mike Ekstrom.
Augie and Ray’s has welcomed some famous visitors over the years, but the truth is, everyone gets the royal treatment.
“We probably know at least 90 percent of the people’s names who come in here,” Ekstrom said.
Another well-known spot in town is also Mickey’s Oceanic Grill.
“Originally, it was started by my uncle back in 1953. And after my dad retired, my brothers took over the business,” said co-owner Doug Repoli.
At Mickey’s, you’ll find all kinds of fresh seafood on the menu, from clam bellies to crab bisque.
But if you want to try Mickey’s signature dish, go for the fish sandwich.
"You couldn’t find a place like this anymore. If you’re from East Hartford, you know where this is," said Eric Schaeffer.