Tag Archives: Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge

Remembering Estelle Margolis

Estelle Margolis — an artist, political activist and longtime figure on the Post Road bridge, who was also energized by bringing her diverse Myrtle Avenue neighborhood together — died last week. She was 92.

In 2010, her then-17-year-old grandson Jonah Newman had an assignment for his American Protest Literature class in California: find people who had been politically active. He wrote about his grandmother Estelle, and her equally passionate husband Manny. He died in 2011, age 86. Here is part of what Jonah wrote:

As far back as I can remember, Emanuel and Estelle Margolis — my maternal grandparents — have been a part of my life. Every year my parents, my brothers and I join the rest of the Margolis clan at my grandparents’ home in Westport, Connecticut to celebrate Passover.

Emanuel Margolis and Estelle Thompson (“Papa” and “Buba” respectively) were both born in New York City in 1926. The house occupies a special place in my heart — like its own timeless world it remains the same every year, as comfortingly consistent as the presence of the two people who have lived there for five decades.

Perhaps it is because I have known my grandparents for my whole life that until recently, I had rarely thought about their rich backgrounds as political activists.  I discovered that my grandparents, who participated in many of the key social and political movements of the 20th and 21st centuries, are the very definition of living history.

Estelle Margolis was 87 during this 2014 protest on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. (Photo/Robert Baldrich)

Buba was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home. Her family was hit hard by the Great Depression; her father often had trouble finding jobs and making ends meet. She was artistic, participating in arts, theater, and music programs at school.

She never went to college but was admitted to the graduate School of Architecture at Yale and graduated in 1955. Her drawing talent was strong, and as a young woman she made a living out of art and architecture. Her political activism began when she was an adolescent and continued throughout her life.

Her career as an activist began much earlier than Papa’s. At 12 she picketed outside Alexander’s Department Store in the Bronx in an attempt to get people to boycott Japanese silk after the Japanese invaded Manchuria. Throughout her life, Buba has employed several diverse methods — including picketing, art and hands-on involvement — and has drawn from her innate empathy to protest war, discrimination and economic inequality.

Over many years since then, the anti-war message has been consistently important. She says: “It overwhelms me with the thought of the devastating damage that has been done…What sense are we making out of the policy that keeps throwing young kids to their deaths?”

Buba’s sympathy may stem from her maternal instincts (she has 5 children and 10 grandchildren), and shows the simple human compassion that motivates her continued struggle against war. She was active in her criticism of the Vietnam War during the 1960’s and 70’s, and has protested the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the late 1980s, Sen. Jesse Helms attacked the National Endowment for the Arts. Estelle Margolis responded with this painting.

Since 2005, Buba has helped lead a weekly vigil on a Westport bridge to protest the war in Iraq. Her signs at these present-day rallies say what they have said for decades: “Support The Troops, Bring Them Home.”

One of Buba’s natural skills has proved to be a lifelong tool for her activism. “I’ve been very lucky all my life because I know how to draw,” she says. Lucky is an understatement; in the late 1940’s Buba worked as an assistant to legendary artist Ben Shahn. In 1946, Buba and Shahn worked on an enormous collection of political leaflets and posters to support Democratic candidates across the country. “We created a leaflet for every single candidate,” she recalls.

But there are risks to political activism. In 1947, when she taught union organizing to black and white students at the desegregated Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, angry vigilantes drove by, shouting and shooting at the building.

Even the government was an occasional threat. Buba says the FBI planted spies in the meetings of activist organizations at the school.

In 1970, Buba and a group of women protesting the Vietnam War by picketing in the middle of a busy street were almost run over by an angry truck driver. The women were arrested for obstructing traffic, but Papa used his legal skills to keep them out of prison.

Driven by her human empathy and making full use of her artistic talents, Buba continues to be a potent voice of protest. Although both she and Papa believe the world needs changing, they also believe that the world is inherently beautiful.

Papa and Buba fervently believe America and the world are fundamentally good.  We just need to fight to keep them that way.

(Click here to read Jonah’s full story — including much more about his grandfather, Manny. And click here to read an “06880” story from 2014, about how Estelle brought her Myrtle Avenue neighborhood together. A graveside service is set for today, Monday, March 4, 1 p.m. at Willowbrook Cemetery. Hat tip: Larry Weisman)

Estelle Margolis (center), surrounded by Myrtle Avenue neighbors. (Photo/Rondi Charleston)

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Flags frame National Hall (Photo/Jaime Bairaktaris)

Senator Blumenthal In Westport: Separating Families Is Profoundly Depressing — And Un-American

Yesterday, Richard Blumenthal was in Texas. He toured a border processing center, and a detention center packed with 250 boys.

Today, Connecticut’s senior senator was in Westport. Standing on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge, lined with the flags of dozens of nations, he pointed to America’s stars and stripes flying directly overhead.

Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal on the Post Road bridge this afternoon. He pointed to the American flag — flying with many others — and said its values are more important than ever.

This country’s values are very important, he said told a crowd of about 100. They gathered to protest President Trump’s immigration policies.

But those values are under attack, Blumenthal continued. And, he warned, darker days may lie ahead.

Before he spoke, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (far left) stood with the crowd on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. They listened as protest organizer Darcy Hicks described the important of speaking up against President Trump’s immigration policies.

The senator spoke of his own father — an immigrant fleeing Nazi Germany. The current president, he said, would have turned that 17-year-old away.

Blumenthal thanked Westporters for caring, and for speaking out and standing up. Those values, he said, are more important than ever.

One of the signs seen at today’s protest.

This message counters the one worn on a jacket his past week, by First Lady Melania Trump. It read: “I really don’t care, do u?” (All photos/Dan Woog)

Pic Of The Day #432

jUNe Day flags, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Post Road bridge (Photo/Heli Stagg)

Pic Of The Day #398

National Hall, and the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Nor’easter!

Heavy rain, high winds, a full moon and high tides made for a messy Westport this morning.

Be prepared for more this afternoon.

Westport schools are closing 2 hours early. Stay safe and dry!

It’s all water underneath the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Another view of the Saugatuck River. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

A car tries to navigate Parker Harding Plaza. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Stores on the river side of Main Street. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Imperial Avenue is flooded. (Photo/Shari Lebowitz)

Long Island Sound laps up against Soundview Drive. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Another view of Soundview. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

High water on South Compo, near the Minute Man monument. (Photo/Chip Stephens)

Ned Dimes Marina is higher than usual. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Southbound traffic on I-95 is near a standstill. This shot is from Hillspoint Road. (Photo/Larry Untermeyer)

Eversource crews stand ready, at the Merritt Parkway exit 41 commuter parking lot. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Gauging The River Soon Gets Harder

In 2014, an odd contraption appeared on the side of the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge.

It was a tidal gauge and and storm surge monitor. The US Geological Survey installed it, to help improve the town’s warning, mitigation and prevention capabilities. It was funded entirely by the federal government.

Ruth Steinkraus Cohen river gauge.

Well, it was nice while it lasted.

Extremely alert “06880” reader Thomas Quealy spotted this on USGS website:

Data collection at the following gage [sic] will be discontinued on December 31, 2017 due to funding reductions from partner agencies. Although historic data will remain accessible, no new data will be collected unless one or more new funding partners are found. Users who can contribute funding for the non-Federal share of costs to continue operation of this streamgage [sic] should contact Timothy Sargent at the USGS New England Water Science Center – Connecticut Office (860-291-6754) or email at tcsargen@usgs.gov.

Which “gage” was listed?

You guessed it: “01209510 Saugatuck River at Route 1 at Westport.”

 

Surprise! Steinkraus Bridge Gets Holiday Lights

Westporters love the American flags lining the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge downtown. Every jUNe Day (and UN Day), the bridge flies flags from all over the globe.

And every Christmas, the well-traveled bridge over the Post Road is … not lit. A golden opportunity — decorating downtown with holiday lights — is lost.

But wait!

Colleen Angione-Wiedmann — community and communications director for the Westport Downtown Merchants Association — just returned from the New Haven state Department of Transportation office. She’s holding a permit to light the bridge this year.

And … she hopes it will be done to coincide with tomorrow’s tree lighting at Town Hall (5 p.m.).

She’s just waiting for ace electrician Jim Izzo to confirm that he’s finished — and for the town to approve the installation of 4 outlets on the lampposts on both sides of the bridge (so there are no unappealing extension cords).

With those outlets — and the DMA’s purchase of lights — the bridge will offer a wonderful, warm welcome this year.

And every year to come.

This is what the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge looks like most of the time. This holiday season, the view will be different.(Photo by Lynn U. Miller)

PS: Kudos to Tracy May in the DOT office. She came here recently to meet with the WDMA and the electrician, to expedite the process. 

“Honk Against Hate” Fills Downtown Bridge

For decades, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge — the Post Road span named for Westport’s tireless UN and peace advocate — has been the site of social justice protests.

This afternoon, several dozen folks of all ages thronged the bridge. In the aftermath of yesterday’s horrific anti-black, anti-Semitic, Nazi-infused demonstration and murder in Charlottesville, the group had a united message: Hate has no place here.

“Honk against hate!” they chanted.

Many drivers obliged.

As they did, the protesters cheered and smiled.

Then they chanted even louder.

Pic Of The Day #105

American flags fly on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)