Looking Back: Catching speeders, honoring Dr. King

Speeders Beware.

That was part of the top headline in the April 15, 1993, Press.

The Ridgefield Police Department had set up a speed trap on North Street, and reported to the newspaper that it wasn’t having trouble catching drivers.

“‘They fly through here pretty high,’” Officer Adrian Stroud said. “‘You can get them doing 60.’”

While the trap was often set set up in the afternoon shortly after the high school let out, Stroud said it wasn’t just students falling into the trap.

“Speeders of all ags are caught at all hours on the stretch,” the newspaper reported, “which has a posted speed limit of 25 mph.”

Elsewhere on the front page, the town was taking another look at how the former Barlow Mountain School property could be used.

“‘The plan is we’re gathering information to see if we want to make a recommendation,’” First Selectman Sue Manning said. “‘Until the Village Bank has a proposal, we have a wide-open window at this point. There hasn’t been an offer.’”

It was also the middle of budget season that week, and voters were looking to decide on a 1.6% tax increase.

Spending was going up by 5.2%, The Press reported, but the Board of Finance was planning to return $1 million in past surpluses to taxpayers.

“‘This is a year where, because we have a fund balance built up, we’re able to do zero cuts in the school budget, zero cuts in the town budget, zero cuts in the capital budget,’” board member Steve Nissman said.

50 years ago

More than 450 marched silently from the Community Center to Jesse Lee Memorial Church Sunday, April 7, 1968, to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated three days earlier, on Thursday, April 4.

“Led by William Webb, president of the Ridgefield NAACP, the somber marchers filed into the big new church and heard ministers from almost all of the town’s churches conduct an hour-long memorial service to honor the murdered civil rights leader,” The Press reported in its April 11, 1968, edition. “Before the silent marchers left the Community Center, Mr. Webb told them that Dr. King considered death the measure that everyone should be willing to pay for what he believes. He said that Americans now have the chance to show that Dr. King did not die in vain.”

First Selectman J. Mortimer Woodcock expressed his sorrow to the crowd.

“‘He belonged to us all,’” Woodcock said. “‘He loved us all.’”

A newcomer to town, Father Martin J. O’Connor of St. Mary’s Church was shown on the front page with his dog King, named after the civil rights leader.

O’Connor was asked to speak at the ecumencial service, The Press reported, his second day in Ridgefield.

“‘As whites we are humiliated; we are crawling on the ground,’” he said. “‘As black people, we are shocked. We have lost a great leader.’”