Looking Back: Digging out, growth spurt

Ice and snow.

Ridgefield has been getting plenty of both over the last three weeks, and things weren’t much different 25 years ago.

The front page image of the March 18, 1993, Ridgefield Press showed Lem Woolf carving out a path through the snow to the Ridgefield Library Sunday, March 14, after the “blizzard of the century” dumped 15 inches of snow throughout town.

The storm cost the town more than $100,000.

And it wasn’t the only storm that hit town that week. Four days later, ice delayed traffic significantly.

“This stuff’s like a skating rink,” a first responder said over the police scanner that morning, when rain, snow and low temperatures made for icy roads and major disruptions for Thursday morning commuters.

The weekend storm was the most snow that had fallen in town during March since 1960, when two feet came down between March 3 and March 5.

“Things were different this year,” the newspaper said. “Motorists did not abandon their cars along major roads as The Press reported in 1960.”

50 years ago

Not a lot has changed over the last five decades.

Similar to last week’s Press, the top story in the March 14, 1968, edition of the newspaper was about budget cuts — something that rings all too familiar this time of year.

“School Board Cuts $39,000 from $3.9 Million Budget,” the headline read.

Some folks wanted more. School board chairman Allen O. Shafer advised a budget cut of $125,000.

“The proposed budget, about 30 percent more than this year’s, must be approved by the Board of Finance before going to the annual town budget meeting in May,” The Press reported. “Of the total figure, state aid and other income will reimburse about $800,000 leaving a net total of about $3,099,000 to be raised locally.”

The main driver of the 30% increase? More people in town.

A story beneath the fold of that week’s paper was titled, “Ridgefield Growth for 1960-1967 Highest of State’s 169 Towns.”

That’s right — even back in the 60s, Ridgefield residents had a reason to exclaim about being the No. 1 town.

The growth spurt, which was published in a report by the Connecticut Development Commission, indicated that the town’s population had increased 89.8% between 1960 and 1967.

“It lists the 1960 population as 8,165 and last year’s as 15,500,” The Press reported.

“While the increase in the number of residents here was highest in the state, the town placed second in the country in the rise in the number of dwelling units. The report said the town had 4,461 houses in January 1967, “an increase of 56.7 percent since 1960.”