Hartford learns of JFK murder

For the last few years, I’ve made a ritual of listening to this recording of the call-in show that WTIC-AM/FM in Hartford was airing as news of JFK’s murder broke on the afternoon of November 22, 1963. The first news bulletin comes at about the 26-minute mark. But what’s also haunting is the conversation leading up to it: how to make a German chocolate cake, when to trim a maple tree, what the Sigourney-Burk market had for specials that week. So mundane. Then the world changes.

Also on Youtube: Dennis House, then host of the WFSB-TV Sunday morning show “Face the State,” marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination with a look back at how local news organizations covered it:

Matthew Ritter will be the latest speaker from Hartford

With Hartford’s Matthew D. Ritter set to become the next speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives, this is a good time to list the seven previous speakers from Hartford. They include Ritter’s father, Thomas D. Ritter. All lived in the city at the time of their election.

NamePolitical PartyTerm of Service
William W. EatonDemocratic1853
Henry C. DemingDemocratic1861
Eliphalet A. BulkeleyUnion1857
William W. EatonDemocratic1873
Joseph L. BarbourRepublican1897
James J. KennellyDemocratic1975-78
Thomas D. RitterDemocratic1993-98
Matthew D. RitterDemocratic2020-
Source: Connecticut Register and Manual, 2019 edition, published by the Secretary of the State. Online at https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/SOTS/RegisterManual/RM_Archive/CT2019.pdf

Perry to be remembered Wednesday

A memorial service for former Mayor Carrie Saxon Perry will be held at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, February 5, at the Arts Collective, at 1200 Albany Avenue.

Perry was the first African-American woman to be elected mayor of a major New England city, serving from 1987 to 1993. She died in the emergency room of Waterbury Hospital on Nov. 22, 2018, but the death remained unknown–even to friends and neighbors who knew her well–for nearly a year. Why that happened remains a mystery, according to the Hartford Courant.

Rev. Paul M. Ritter, pastor and activist

The Hartford Courant reports that Paul Ritter, leader of the Warburton Community Congregational Church on Brookfield Street for 25 years until his retirement in 1997, died last week at age 82.

Ritter, a North Carolina native who came to Hartford in 1969, may be best known outside the city for his three unsuccessful runs for mayor, in 1979, 1993, and 2001. But he was best known around the city as an activist for those who lacked political power, particularly the poor and sick.

For instance, as the Courant notes, “Ritter had long been a voice for those living in Hartford’s public housing, much of it dilapidated, ridden with vermin, and difficult for the elderly and disabled to navigate. In 1977, his Brookfield Street church was ransacked after he spoke at a rally for low income tenants, the sixth time in 12 months his church had been burglarized … Earlier that year, its windows had been shot out after Ritter led a demonstration to rid a housing project of rats and roaches.”

In the 1990s, he pushed for giving those living HIV/AIDS a publicly funded apartment building on Wethersfield Avenue. That failed amid controversy–it was opposed by neighbors and even some HIV/AIDS activists who feared creating something of a leper colony–but Ritter and other clergy eventually opened a building on Homestead Avenue for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, called Zezzo House.

According to his obituary, a memorial service will be held at 4 p.m. on Sunday, October 28, at the Victory Cathedral, at 205 Bellevue Street.

By the way, if you’re wondering where Warburton Community Congregational Church got its name, check out this great article on the Historic Buildings of Connecticut site.

How has this thing survived?

Because of the huge crowd, most of us who attended the Women’s March on Hartford back in January had to park their cars some distance from the Capitol. In my case, it meant parking in my old neighborhood, on Charter Oak Avenue. There, on one of the utility poles in front of the former Capewell factory, I spotted something I’d never noticed before: a bumper sticker from Lowell P. Weicker‘s 1990 gubernatorial campaign.

“Nobody’s man but yours.”

Has this thing really survived 26-plus years of New England weather? Probably, because it sounds more plausible than someone slapping Weicker stickers on utility poles years after the election. Congratulations to the responsible printer for making such a durable product.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the Capewell since its days as a deteriorating, boarded-up hulk, you’ll be thrilled to see how much nicer it’s looking these days, as a beautiful apartment complex.