Looking Back: Cuts, cuts Anne’s gift

It was a time of cuts. It was a time of bemoaning cuts.

“In one swoop of a pen this man has singlehandedly destroyed the school systems in Fairfield County,” school board chairwoman Joan Plock declared 25 years ago, in the Feb. 6, 1992, Ridgefield Press.

The evil-doer was Gov. Lowell Weicker, who’d proposed a state budget that would cut state aid to towns and cities — and most of the money, so most of the cut, went to schools. Sound familiar? A chart showed Ridgefield’s combined state aid at $2,149,000 in 1091-92, and Weicker proposed reducing it to $251,000 for 1992-93 — a cut of $1.89 million, or 88%.

Town budgeters were also cutting. A story on the sports page outlined plans, discussed at a school board meeting, to eliminate all freshman teams at Ridgefield High School: “‘We are trying to maintain the pay-for-play rate,’ said Superintendent of Schools Jerry Marcus.”

Student athletes were already paying $75 per sport, with a $375-per-family cap. Today, RHS students pay $225 per sport, with no cap to limit how much a particular family pays.

“A Ridgefielder is running — for Congress,” declared a page one story. “Democrat Jack Halbert of Silver Spring Road hopes to get the chance to unseat Congressman Gary Franks, the Republican from Waterbury.” It quoted the candidate: “‘I see the problems in this country that George Bush, Gary Franks and the Republicans deny exist,’ he said.”

Janel Jorgensen — remember her? A Ridgefielder attending Stanford University, she was planning to complete in the Olympic swimming trials. Not for the first time.

“Jorgensen was named to the 1988 Olympic squad after Angel Myers tested positive for steroids. In Seoul, she placed fifth in the 200-meter individual medley and swam on the 400-meter medley team, which took home the silver medal.”

Suzanne Mumby was also on the sports page: “Mumby, a 5’ 10” senior shooting guard, had a career high 24 points as the Ridgefield Girls Basketball team beat Greenwich 47-43,” The Press reported.

A year later, Mumby was playing for Syracuse University.

50 years ago

“Snow beat against the windowpanes and fell to a depth of 13 inches; schools were closed, the temperature dropped to a frosty 10 degrees; and the wind sang through TV aerials and whipped around roof eaves on Tuesday, Feb. 7, as New England experienced its first full-fledged snowstorm of the year. Many called it a blizzard,” the Feb. 9, 1967, Press reported.

“Miss Richardson’s homesite available as gift to town,” a page one headline declared.

“The Board of Finance, which is not known as a body of spendthrifts, had a chance to accept a gift of 29.45 acres of land on Monday night — but couldn’t do so because it lacked a quorum.

“The gift of land is from the trust fund of the late Miss A. S. Richardson and is the property on Ridgebury Road where her house stood.”

Today we call it Richardson Park.

Prince Chambliss — a black student from Alabama who had attended Ridgefield High School as a guest of the DePue family and the Carol Rosenberg Memorial Education Fund, stirring opposition led by the local John Birch Society — was described as “blissfully happy” as a freshman at Wesleyan University, Mrs. Henry Urrows had written in a report to Rosenberg Fund donors, The Press reported.

“Prince’s parents came to his high school graduation last spring. … Mr. Chambliss told us that Prince has already learned more than he could have hoped to in the segregated high school and local Negro college in Alabama.”

The good old days weren’t always so good.

Today an attorney in Memphis, Tenn., Prince Chambliss wrote a memoir in 2010 that touched on his high school experiences in Ridgefield: “Prince of Peace: A Memoir of an African American Attorney Who Came of Age in Birmingham During the Civil Rights Movement.”

An editorial called “Ridgefield Needs” began with this: “To move the entrance to the post office shopping center to opposite Prospect Street and to install a traffic control device there.”

The post office is still in that shopping center, but at the opposite end — it was right beside Ballard Park in part of the space now occupied by CVS — the traffic light’s been there for years. But the town’s still working on getting that driveway relocated.