Question Box

Every Westporter — 5th generation or 5-days-ago newbie — has questions about this town.

Who were William Cribari and Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, and why are bridges named after them?

What’s happening (or not happening) with that construction project on Kings Highway North, near Canal Street?

When did 9th graders start going to Staples?

Where were Westport’s 5 movie theaters located?

Why is there a grass median on the Post Road between McDonald’s and the Connector?

How come traffic has suddenly gotten so bad?

Why has traffic increased recently? And who was William F. Cribari?

Time for a new “06880” feature!

“Question Box” will appear occasionally — whenever I have enough to address them en masse.

Readers’ questions can be current or historical, concrete or abstract, deep or shallow.

I won’t know all the answers. But one of our readers probably will.

So if you’ve been wondering something about Westport — how the town works, why we do the things we do, what’s going on — email

As your teachers always said, “there’s no such thing as a dumb question.”

Fingers crossed.

18 responses to “Question Box

  1. Joyce Barnhart

    One answer – the Class of ’87 were the “first” 4-year class at Staples, so they would have entered in ’83. And a question – when did the Junior High system start and Staples was a 3-year school, before 1983?

    • Shannon Nordlinger

      I think it might have been a year or two before class of ’87. I’m ’87 and remember being the oldest grade when we were in 8th grade at CJHS, so at least the class before us was at Staples for 4 years.

      • 9th graders entered Staples in the fall of 1983. They were the Class of ’87. Trust me!

        • Shannon Nordlinger

          Totally trust you on this, Dan! I really thought we were the oldest one year at CJHS, but absolutely believe you! 🙂

  2. Jamie Walsh

    I miss “Crowbar” in the morning!

  3. Tom Feeley Sr


    “Bill Steinkraus — member of a celebrated Westport family, and the first American to win an Olympic individual gold medal in an equestrian sport — died November 29 in Darien. He was 92 [2017]

    “Steinkraus grew up in Westport. His sister, Ruth Steinkraus Cohen, was active for many years in local and international affairs, many involving the United Nations.”

    Source 06880 12/07/2017

    I was on the RTM at the time when Ruth Steinkraus Cohen was proposed as the name for the bridge. I had lived in Westport 30 years and never heard of her so I went into my District by Compo Beach and started asking: “Have you ever heard of a Westport woman named Ruth Steinkraus Cohen?” Didn’t matter whether it was the beach, Elvira’s, Oscars, or Main Street…NOT ONE PERSON HAD HEARD HER NAME!

    So I sent an email to the entire RTM a few days before the vote with my results saying I was a NO and asking them to poll their District. WOW! Diane pulled the item from the agenda to get her votes together for next month.

    But meanwhile, Ken Bernard, a dear friend of Bill Steinkrauss, is up in Hartford getting the final seal on the bridge naming. Hartford votes! But wait…Hartford can’t approve till Westport votes next month! Out of sequence! OMG

    SNAFU FUBAR just be quiet and don’t tell anyone! It really isn’t properly named…or so I’m told.

    Any suggestions?

    • Fred Cantor

      Tom, I’m surprised that, given your involvement on the RTM, you had never heard of her. And I’m equally surprised by your statement that “NOT ONE PERSON HAD HEARD HER NAME!” I assume that’s hyperbole, right?

      I don’t think I ever met Ruth Steinkraus Cohen but, for those of us who grew up here in the 1960s and 1970s, her name was in the local newspapers—The Town Crier, Westport News, Norwalk Hour—from time to time due to her volunteer/charitable activities. I have no idea when—or if—her local volunteer and charitable work stopped but, based on what I know of her from that era, she was certainly a worthy honoree.

      Plus, having played in the jUNe Day soccer games in the 1990s and 2000s, after I returned to Westport, I can unequivocally say that the jUNe Day alone is an ongoing testament to the wonderful work Ruth Steinkraus Cohen engaged in.

    • I’m surprised to read this comment on a number of levels. Here’s the bio that appears on the Staples Tuition Grants’ website and provided at the creation of the annual award given in Ms. Steinkraus-Cohen’s name (funded by the good people at the United Nations Association of Southwest Connecticut):

      Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen was a strong supporter of the goals of the United Nations since its founding in 1945. Her passions were peace and justice, and she assisted Eleanor Roosevelt in her work on behalf of the UN. Thousands of UN and other international visitors enjoyed her home hospitality in Westport, CT. With boundless energy, Ruth led the United National Association of Southwestern Connecticut for many years and oversaw the growth of the local chapter. She was also a leader of the Westminster branch of the United Nations Association in London. A continuing legacy of Ruth’s is the annual jUNe Day celebration in Westport founded by her in 1965. Hundreds of UN staff and delegates, including ambassadors, are welcomed on the last Saturday in June by the local community to enjoy breakfast, lunch, golf, tennis, soccer, the town’s beach on Long Island Sound and many other activities. These are just a few of her many accomplishments. Ruth Steinkraus-Cohen embodied tolerance, enthusiasm and knowledge. She said, “We must speak out against ignorance, isolation and distrust and guard against them in ourselves.”

    • maryschmerker

      First, Dan is announcing a new feature not looking for answers right now. However, I have to reply that I find it close to impossible that the people you talked to did not know Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. Did you talk to the summer visitors at Compo? I knew and even met her as a young person in the early 1950’s. She was so well known for her kindness, love of music, philanthropy and willingness to serve where needed. She would help anyone. The Bridge is well named.

  4. Phil Perlah

    Bill Cribari was a special police officer who directed morning rush hour traffic at the intersection of Bridge Street and Riverside Ave. Bill was to cars what a matador is to bulls. He directed traffic with elan and panache.

  5. Mickey Herbst

    With Bill, it was a dance to his whistle.

  6. Melinda Hemson

    I can answer the movie theater question!! Bare with me since I moved to the Hartford area in 2000 so many things have changed.
    Fine Arts 1 & 2 were across from the Y downtown, Fine Arts 3 was behind it, accessible across from Jesup Green. I can’t remember what the other 2 were named but there was one in the rear of the building where Baskin Robbins was (is it still there? Maybe Fine Arts 4?)), next to the USPS and the last one was in the plaza where, last I remember, Barnes and Noble and Angelina’s were located. Possibly called Post Cinema?

  7. Ann Chernow


  8. Doris Levinson

    There was a movie theater where Bassett furniture is now located.

  9. Tom Feeley Sr

    except for a downtown clique. It was an inside job. A disgraceful display of political opportunism 🇺🇸🇺🇸

    • Fred cantor

      Tom, I didn’t realize I was part of a downtown clique.🤨 Trust me, plenty of older Westporters knew about her efforts and generosity.

      Maybe the situation is somewhat similar to the recent honor for Coach Lane. The petition supporting the honor generated just over 1000 signatures, many from former Westporters (which means an enormous percentage of current residents did not come out in support. But I still think it was the right thing

      • Tom feeley Sr

        You nailed it Fred‼️not realizing you’re part of a clique or echo chamber is what causes these mishaps. Now folks know may her name but little else. She wouldn’t garner big votes back on the day nominated. WHO⁉️

      • Tom feeley sr

        A comparison to Coach Lane⁉️NO WAY‼️
        not even close ‼️Cmon Fred🙈