Originally published in The Smithfield Times, August, 2015
By Jim Ignasher
How many people are aware that June is National Dairy Month? (I wasn’t.) Maybe it’s because we don’t celebrate it like we used to, perhaps because the “mom and pop” dairies have disappeared from the local landscape.
There was a time in the last century when Smithfield could boast its share of dairy farms. There was the Crow Hill Dairy on Austin Avenue, Vaughn Dairy on Putnam Pike, McQuade’s Dairy on Whipple Road, and Niles Dairy on Limerock Road, just to name a few – all of which are long gone.
In honor of National Dairy Month, the annual statewide cow milking contest was held on June 24 in Providence, where contestants milked cows brought over from the state institutions in Cranston. The winner of the previous year’s contest was Joseph Kelly of Greenville, who was expected to defend his title. A newcomer to the competition was 15-year-old Smithfield high school student Suzanne Boulais.
In addition to the milking contest, each year some young lady would be crowned Miss Rhode Island Dairy Princess. The winner for 1966 was Miss Barbara Lawton of Cranston.
Many dairies employed “milkmen” clad in a white cap, shirt, and trousers, to deliver their product to private homes. Before the days of paper and plastic containers, the milk came in glass bottles with the dairy’s name molded in raised letters, or painted on the glass. This was because the bottles were meant to be re-used, and ensured the bottles found their way back to the correct dairy. Such bottles are eagerly sought after by collectors today.
Yet June wasn’t all about the milk. The entire spectrum of dairy products was touted for their health benefits as evidenced by the slogan, “Dairy foods…best refreshers under the sun.” (I’ll bet they were referring to ice cream.)
In other news, although Route 295 was still years away from completion, certain landmarks were slated for demolition to make way for the future. One historic home that stood in the way of “progress” was the former Nathan Barnes House, built in 1740, which stood on a small knoll where Sebille Road once intersected with Route 44 – about where the exit ramp for Rt. 44 west from Rt. 295 north is today.
The former Route 44 Drive-In was also lost to the highway’s construction. It stood to the south of Rt. 44 where Rt. 295 intersects.
A “help wanted” ad that appeared in a local paper was looking for “comptometer operators” for office work. Keep in mind this was in a time before hand-held digital calculators, cell phones, and desk-top computers. A “Comptometer” was an early mechanical adding machine, about the size of a large shoebox, with a big lever on the side.
What were described as “communion sets” for giving dying patients “Last Rites” were presented to the Greenville and Georgiaville volunteer rescue squads by the Rhode Island State Council of the Knights of Columbus. Presumably they would be utilized by the department chaplains. This was a time before advanced lifesaving techniques, defibrillators, and hi-tech trauma centers; when seatbelts in cars were optional, (Yes, optional.) and air bags were non-existent.
It was also this month that the Greenville FD Ladies Auxiliary held their annual banquet at the Admiral Inn. Both Greenville and Georgiaville had a Ladies Auxiliary corps of volunteers who assisted the fire companies in a variety of ways.
On June 11, “The Ugly Duckling” was the first play to be performed in the auditorium of Smithfield’s new high school. It was presented by the Smithfield Junior and Senior Parent Teachers Association.
On June 12, the Balfour-Cole American Legion Post on Pleasant View Avenue hosted its annual Family Picnic Day which featured square dancing, various types of music and entertainment, refreshments, a color TV raffle, and a free-fall exhibit from an airplane performed by the “Para-Nuts”. Everyone from the public was invited.
On June 18th, the Smithfield Jaycees installed new officers at their banquet held at the Club 44 restaurant which was a popular restaurant located near the intersection of Route 44 and Esmond St. President: Donald Brush, Internal VP: Robert Smith, External VP: Wayne Morris, Secretary: John Tucker, Treasurer: Lawrence Catlow.
The Smithfield Public Health League also elected new officers at their annual meeting. President: Richard Connor, Vice President: John Boyle, Secretary: Rev. Joseph P. McNamara, and Treasurer: Mrs. Eugene Belanger. A special tribute was paid to Miss Agnes Parker, who served with the league as a dedicated nurse for twenty years.
William E. LeBlanc, Jr. of Boy Scout Troop 3 in Greenville became the troop’s newest Eagle Scout.
On June 25, a town meeting was held to discuss building a new elementary school for the Georgiaville side of town, and adding on to the William Winsor School in Greenville. History has shown that both resolutions were passed.