Woman’s Label Lingers in Speech  
Thursday, September 22, 2011

“It’s a Webster thing,” said Anna M. Steele, explaining that women were sometimes identified by their maiden names as “from home.” This was years ago, but crept into dialogue when we met in a town restaurant.

Ms., instead of Miss or Mrs., eliminated reference to marital status, and changed things, but a woman’s identity “from home” is still part of the language in some quarters, thinks Mrs. Steele. I can draw it back even further. The Webster Women’s Club and other women’s groups used Miss and two versions of Mrs. in press notices before Ms. came into being. It was Mrs. (with spouse’s full name) to indicate home and husband, or the women’s first and marital names otherwise.

In her case, Mrs. Steele said she was a Hoenig from home. She had three sisters and two brothers. The guys were “from home” forever. The old form kept standing in her immediate family because her late husband, Malcolm Steele, never heard the reference before arriving in Webster and thought it was amusing, she said. Mrs. Steele, always pleasant, and with a philosophy that says everything new isn’t necessarily better, discussed open heart surgery, maiden identities and Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy during our recent discussion.

Advancements in medical care are a big plus, suggested Mrs. Steele, but detailed disclosure, physician-to-patient, isn’t necessary. A surgeon’s reputation is important, and going forth with procedural knowledge is fine, but minute details aren’t always necessary. She’s had heart surgery, and managed fine, thank you, with her approach.

One of her sisters, Mrs. Philomena Morse, another Hoenig from home, co-owned the Colonial Club Restaurant and assisted her husband, Eudore “Ted” Morse with the management of events. Women on Wheels, a state Democratic women’s group, held a banquet in the Colonial on Sept. 30, 1958. Ms. Jacqueline (Bouvier) Kennedy, wife of the U.S. senator, and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States, was the speaker. The twist from here includes information in my recall.

It was probably the only time in history that Jackie took top billing ahead of Jack.

Sen. Kennedy accompanied Jackie to Webster, went off to dedicate Webster Democratic Town Committee headquarters and got a haircut. Julian “Peewee” Kaczynski was the barber. He lives now in Cooperstown, N.Y., and Davenport, Fla.. The headquarters and the barbershop were in the Maanexit Hotel on Main Street. There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts at the location today.

The official ribbon-cutting was delayed because the town committee didn’t have any scissors to cut the ribbon. John McNally of Webster, then just starting as an aide to the presidential candidate, went across the road and borrowed a pair from Stanley Kwasny, who ran the Webster Stationery store.

The future president wasn’t one to waste time, so he went off to the barbershop. “Peewee” worked on his presidential candidate’s hairstyle, while the Democratic Town Committee, armed with Mr. Kwasny’s scissors, held a dedicatory stance. Things were finally straightened out.


“The future first lady felt faint after arriving at the Webster restaurant,” says a clipping that Mrs. Steele had in her purse. It continues, Mrs. Morse “provided a private setting for her comfort. She (Mrs. Morse) said it was a symptom of the flu or something of the kind.”

Mrs. Kennedy quickly recovered, gave a woman-to-women speech, and held her audience in awe.

Time dismissed the other thought. Senator and Mrs. Kennedy’s firstborn arrived 10 months and three days later!

A new heating system will be installed in the Webster Town Hall, but first asbestos had to be removed from the 82-year-old facility.

A taped-tight asbestos safety tent, with an access flap for appropriately attired removal workers, blocked the door to the Town Collector’s office right after Labor Day. The door was back to open and shut a couple of days later, and people managing the project were in the basement space occupied by the Office of Community Development.

The preliminary work is probably done by now, but the wonder is how all of the asbestos in the big building escaped attention for so long. No one from any state agency ever took official notice, at least not to my knowledge.

Whatever, it is best removed, given the hype created by asbestos in public properties. Moving documents and materials about was a challenge for staff in the different offices. Linda M. Krupsky, clerk to the Planning Board and the Conservation Commission, had a slew of records to contend with, including a stack filed since November by O.M. Jay Corp. for a filling station, convenience store and coffee takeout at the inside corner to Thompson Road and East Main Street. A dwelling on the property has long been known as the Cranston Company House.

Nothing has happened because negotiations with the owner or owners of a right of way over the proposed filling station land are unresolved. The issue could end up in court. Krishma Patel is the applicant.

Incidentally, Ms. Krupsky says asbestos removal revealed a small pipe, something like an electrical conduit, behind a covered heating pipe and the back wall. “One of the workers thought it might have been for a gas light,” she said. “I’ve never read that gas lights were installed in the town building, though a gas line might have crossed the current planning room to a small kitchen behind the wall.”

The area now used for different purposes had a banquet hall when the town facility was dedicated. It wasn’t long, however, before the town turned the space over to the WPA (Works Progress Administration), one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Great Depression programs. Food packets were stored and distributed to the needy from the basement.

This ran to probably 1939, when the basement was converted for National Guard use, and the banquet hall was fitted with lockers for the citizen soldiers. Training was out of doors and in the Municipal Auditorium.

Lee Ellen and Lucien A. “Luke” Olmstead live on Beaudry Lane, a short skip off upper Lake Street, with but a couple of dwellings.

Their ranch home sides to Lake Street, and is on the back end of lot that had a couple of Bembenek businesses back in the 1930s. Mary Bembenek had a convenience store on one side of the building, and her brother, John Bembenek, had a garage and new car dealership on the other, selling Graham automobiles.

Luke would “just love” to find a photograph of the location. The garage was known as Bem-Benek Motor Co., he said. I’ve never seen a picture of the location, but Luke Olmstead hopes somebody has a print to share. If it includes some of the business people, all the better.

-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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