Protecting Bryant University

By Jim Ignasher

 

    Author’s note: While a student at Bryant College in the late 1970s, I worked for the campus security.    

 

    It was a peaceful evening in September of 1979, and Sergeant Jack Currier of the Bryant College Security Department was on foot patrol in the Townhouse Village when the upper windows of a unit in G-Block suddenly exploded outwards followed by sheets of flame.  Currier radioed for the fire department before entering the building to search for victims, but intense heat and smoke drove him back into the street.  The fire began to spread to an adjacent unit, but fortunately there were no injuries, for the residents of the burning townhouse weren’t home, and others evacuated safely. The cause of the fire was blamed on a smoldering cigarette ash on the couch.

    It could be said that the Bryant campus is a community, and the incident mentioned illustrates the need for those to keep it safe.  Today the campus is patrolled by the Bryant University Department of Public Safety, a professional organization that provides 24/7 protection by being the first responders to all on-campus emergencies and calls for assistance.  As such, the job entails certain risks, for they never know what they might encounter. The same was true in the early days of the department’s history, when the world, and the campus, were much different than today.

    When Bryant’s Smithfield campus opened in 1972, the town was more rural, and the campus more isolated. Route 7 was a two-lane road, and the intersection of Route 116 was regulated by stop signs.  There were no hotels, industrial park, or business plazas between the college and Route 295.  

    Initially, the college contracted with a private security company, but for various reasons the arrangement didn’t work out, so a permanent campus security department was established.   

     At the time, Bryant had a criminal justice program as part of its curriculum which included students who lived on campus.  Some of these students became the first members of the Bryant College Student Patrol, the first public safety agency for the college.  The new Student Patrol adopted uniforms similar to those worn by the Smithfield police at the time; light blue shirts, dark blue pants, and “Smokey Bear” Stetsons.  

    The department’s first chief was Robert Gardner, a retired San Diego police detective, who along with three sergeants supervised the part-time student patrol.  Gradually more full-time positions were created and within a relatively short time the name of the organization changed from “Student Patrol” to “Security”.  By 1978, the department had about an equal number of full-time officers and part-time student patrolmen.

    Student positions weren’t limited to criminal justice majors, but few outside that major applied. The pay was $2.69 an hour, and it was the highest paying job a student could get on campus. Full-time officers received much better pay with benefits.

    Training to be a campus security officer in the 1970s was minimal.  A new officer would be assigned to a senior officer for a few days to be given instruction, and then be put on his own.  The campus population was relatively small compared with today, and the job for the student officer was particularly difficult for they were often dealing with peers or classmates.

    In the late 1970s, Smithfield’s fire department relied on volunteers between the hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., which meant response time to Bryant during those hours could take 15 minutes or longer depending on weather and availability.  This situation led two student patrolmen, Jeff Hutchinson, and Mike Cei, to establish the Bryant College Emergency Medical Technician’s Association, which enabled on-campus volunteer EMTs to be available as first responders.  This organization was run entirely by students who became certified EMTs by attending night classes at C.C.R.I. in Lincoln, at their own expense.  

    Two EMTs were scheduled for duty at all times, day and night.  Each carried a pager that could receive radio transmissions from the security department – very hi-tech for the time.  When needed, the dispatcher would “activate” the pagers and advise the EMTs where they were needed.  The security patrol car would carry first-aid equipment to the scene.    

    The EMTs were kept busy answering all types of calls, from the mundane to the very serious, and provided care until the fire department arrived.  On occasions where an ambulance was unavailable, or deemed not needed, transportation to Fogarty Hospital in North Smithfield would be made with the security patrol car. (Fogarty Hospital no longer exists.)  

    The EMT Association was disbanded in the 1980s.     

    One duty of the security officers in the 1970s was to investigate all fire alarms on campus. In most cases they were accidental, or due to a prank, and once the “problem” was found officers would re-set the system.  Today the fire department responds to all fire alarms.

     During the mid-1980s, the security department stopped wearing uniforms and adopted a dress code that included a blue blazer, tie, dress shirt, and slacks.  A small patch worn over the left breast pocket of the shirts and blazer was the only identifying insignia.  A few months later the department name was changed to “Public Safety”.  

    It was also in the 1980s that the college discontinued its criminal justice program, and thus, as student patrolmen graduated, they were replaced by non-students.  

    In August of 1992 the Department of Public Safety once again began wearing uniforms.   

    The Bryant campus has more than doubled in size since 1972, and it continues to grow. Campus life has changed too, for today’s students and public safety officers have to consider issues that didn’t exist in the 1970s.  As such, today’s DPS officers are far better trained then their predecessors, and their training is always on-going.  Modern technology affords campus residents and employees a safer environment through surveillance cameras, and emergency call stations.  

    At present, the department is administered by Director Stephen M. Bannon, a retired Rhode Island state trooper, and his second in command, Captain John Rainone both of Smithfield.  

News Items From 1867 & 1868

 

News Items From 1867 & 1868

By Jim Ignasher

 

         In 1867, the present-day municipalities of North Smithfield, Lincoln, Central Falls, and Woonsocket south of the Blackstone River, were all part of the Town of Smithfield until the town was divided in 1871.  The following news items were culled from the archives of the former Woonsocket Patriot.    

 

   On April 18, 1867, a youth identified only by his last name of Connell got his arm mangled in a printing machine at a mill in Spragueville and it had to be amputated.  19th century mills were notoriously dangerous places to work, and worker compensation and child labor laws as we know them today were nonexistent.   

   

    According to a Mr. Stephen Smith, the source of a May 10th article titled “The Smiths of Smithfield”, the first Smiths to settle in Smithfield were Thomas, John, and Daniel, who came to America from England, but exactly when is unclear.    

    Thomas Smith was a physician who built his home at the “pine grove a short distance south of the present residence of Edward Hotchkiss.”  John settled “near the Smith Ray Mowry place”, and Daniel at “the present Nelson Taft farm.”  Both John and Daniel were blacksmiths who manufactured saw blades at their forge located “near the present residence of Thomas Miller.”  Some of these blades were reportedly still in use.

    It was also mentioned that Stephen was in possession of some English-made silver buttons that had been in his family for over two-hundred years.

    A meeting of the Woonsocket Temperance Union was held the last Sunday of May at a church in Globe Village which was once in Smithfield, just across the Blackstone River from Woonsocket. (Today it is part of Woonsocket.)

    Saloons and other liquor establishments were plentiful in the rapidly growing village of Woonsocket, which incorporated as a town in January of 1867, and a city in 1888.  

    According to one weekly crime report issued by Woonsocket’s police, five persons were arrested for public drunkenness, and one for “reveling”.  The later was a sad case involving a man from “a neighboring town” who’d come to Woonsocket to buy a coffin for his recently deceased child.  Instead, he got drunk and got into a street fight.  The sympathetic desk sergeant sent him home without charges.       

   

    On June 28th, what could have been a disastrous blaze in Greenville was narrowly averted when by chance a small fire was discovered in a barn belonging to Daniel Garey, and was quickly extinguished.  The fire began with a pile of oily rags which spontaneously combusted.  The barn was connected to several other buildings, and had the flames gained headway all of them could have been destroyed, for Greenville didn’t have any means to fight a fire at that time other than “bucket brigades.”  (Greenville didn’t get its first fire engine until later.)  

    According to an 1871 map of Greenville, Mr. Garey’s property was located on Route 44 across from the present-day St. Phillip’s School.  

 

    On August 9th, a small news item reported that Valentine Dorius, a Narragansett Indian, about 60 years of age, was found dead in a barn belonging to Sarrah Ballou of Smithfield.  No further details were given.     

 

    The following story has nothing to do with Smithfield, but it’s too intriguing to over look.  On September 6th, it was reported that a worker demolishing a former horse stable at Fort Adams in Newport discovered a letter dated 1835 which described a place where a man had buried a quantity of gold before committing suicide.  It’s likely the letter was a hoax, but one never knows.  The workman refused to divulge the location stating he intended to find the gold himself.  Could it have been in Smithfield?

 

    On September 19th, a man identified as Barney McNally was killed while blasting rocks along “Arnold’s Ledge”.  The ledge was located in the vicinity of Great Road in the present-day town of Lincoln.

 

    In October, a large quantity of Nephrite, a greenish gemstone in the Jade family, was discovered in a limestone quarry in Smithfield.  At the time, Nephrite stones were very popular with jewelry makers in France.  The majority Nephrite came from Siberia, making the gem somewhat valuable and difficult to get.   

   On November 9th, a 6-year-old boy was killed in a freak accident in Greenville while his uncle was using dynamite to blast away some rocks.  Before setting off the charge, the boy was sent to watch at what was believed to be a safe distance, however, when the explosives ignited, a piece of rock was blown skyward and came down directly on the boys head.  

 

    In January of 1868, a new Masonic Hall (Temple Lodge #18) was dedicated in Greenville.  It was a wooden structure, not to be confused with the brick building that presently faces the Greenville Common.      

  

    On Monday, February 10, 1868, a meeting of the Judiciary Committee of the Rhode Island General Assembly was held to discuss the proposed division of the Town of Smithfield as it pertained to the annexation of the villages of Bernon, Globe, and Hamlet, to the newly incorporated town of Woonsocket.  The minutes of that meeting were posted in the Woonsocket Patriot on February 14.   

    The article, which for some unknown reason was written in the past tense, stated in part, “The town of Smithfield is a large town, with a great amount of territory to take care of, mostly agricultural.  The chief manufacturing interests were on the Blackstone River, on the outskirts of the town.  The villages of Hamlet, Bernon, and Globe were situated just across the Blackstone River from Woonsocket, and in all except a legal point of view, were part of Woonsocket.  Many of the businessmen resided in Smithfield, and did their business just over a narrow river in Woonsocket.”  

    Mill owner George C. Ballou was cited as one such example, owning establishments on both sides of the river, and having to pay taxes to both municipalities, and subject to regulations of two town governments.

    One point of contention was police protection of the three villages. It was noted that Woonsocket had a stronger police presence than Smithfield, and the bustling villages were left virtually unpatrolled and unguarded compared to those in Woonsocket.  However, it was countered that constables did patrol the Smithfield side of the river, the only difference being that Woonsocket paid its officers, and Smithfield did not.  

    Additionally, the roads of these villages were said to be left in disrepair, despite the high taxes imposed on the property owners, while roads in other parts of Smithfield were being improved and maintained.   

    Lastly, there was the topic of schools.  Woonsocket had good schools, just across the river, but children living in the three Smithfield villages couldn’t attend without paying tuition, and the Smithfield schools available to them were several miles distant.  

    While some spoke in favor of annexation, others voiced opposition, maintaining that a large portion of the town’s taxable income came from the three villages, and that annexing them to Woonsocket would mean a loss of tax revenue.

    Mr. Wellington Aldrich of Smithfield noted that Woonsocket’s schools weren’t large enough to accept the influx of students that would be created by the annexation, and proposed that a large school be built in Globe village that could accommodate the youths from all three villages, and thus negate the need for dividing the town.

    No final decision was made at the meeting, and the debate went on. The idea of dividing the town was a hotly contested issue, and there were many more factors than these to consider, but history has shown that the town was finally divided four years later in 1871, and Smithfield, as we know it today, came into being.      

  

    One final item of interest appeared in the Woonsocket Patriot on April 24, 1868, and began with the question; “Has there been a murder?” A reward was being offered for any information pertaining to the whereabouts of one Louis Lepre, of the Bernon village side of the Blackstone, which at that time made him a resident of Smithfield.  Mr. Lepre had been missing for a week after reportedly “drinking in a saloon” and leaving “with some elated associates”.  At some point he was involved in an altercation on the Bernon Bridge, during which he was tossed into the icy river and hadn’t been seen since.  Hence the question, “Has there been a murder?”  Further research did not reveal an answer.  

Tall Tales Of Treacherous Trees

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine – October, 2016

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Tall Tales Of Treacherous Trees

By Jim Ignasher

    From time to time, especially as Halloween approaches, I get asked about the so-called “Witch Tree” that once stood in the middle of the intersection of Log and Mann School Roads that before being cut down had acquired an ominous reputation.  According to legend, or I should say, legends, for even now the story continues to evolve with each retelling on the Internet, the tree, and the area around it, was said to be haunted.    

    One story goes that the tree was haunted by a witch, hence the name, and if one drove their car around it backwards, three times, at night, with the lights off, (Never a good idea.) they would meet the witch.  

    The anonymous witch, by the way, is said to have lived in a “nearby” house that burned down at some unspecified date.  Why she haunted the tree is not explained.  

    Other versions point to alleged accident victims killed when their vehicles slammed into its trunk, or by a single spectral motor cycle rider who failed to negotiate the turn.  

    The old tree was finally cut down, some say, to exorcise the “ghosts”, but a new one was planted to replace it – thus the legends continue.

    The idea of a tree being haunted isn’t new, and if ever a tree qualified to be haunted it would’ve been the “Hangman’s Tree” that once stood in Calaveras County, California.  An 1896 newspaper article described the tree as a “natural gallows”, and no less than forty men swung into eternity from a convenient limb that stretched across the road.  And that’s not all.  One failed rescue attempt led to a heated gun battle, and when the smoke cleared twenty men lay dead or dying.  Survivors of the losing side were summarily hung next to their friend.     

     Most hauntings have a tragic story connected to them, the details of which are often cloudy, and in some cases, “portable”, as with the following example.    

     Traveling peddlers were once a common sight, and in the late 1800s one such man was found with his throat cut under a roadside apple tree in Douglas, Massachusetts.  It was said that from thereafter the man’s gruesome looking ghost haunted the spot.  Furthermore, the apples produced by that tree reportedly had blood-red streaks extending from the cores!  This story was reported as fact in some newspapers in 1900, and if it sounds familiar, you’re right.  A similar tale has been told about an orchard in Franklin, Connecticut, but the time-frame is set a century earlier.  

    In 1886, floodwaters swept through an unnamed town in Georgia and left a “haunted tree” story in their wake.  Two men climbed a tree to get above the swiftly rising water, but the tree wasn’t high enough, and both drowned.  Afterward, locals claimed their ghostly figures could be seen sitting in the tree at twilight.

     In 1916, citizens of Brenham, Texas, cut down an ancient pecan tree said to be haunted by the spirits of three men who were lynched from its branches about thirty years earlier.  Since that time, many reputable citizens claimed to have seen ghosts in the vicinity of the tree at night.  One newspaper stated, the tree, “…has now been made into cord wood, and it is hoped the spirits will cease their wanderings.”

    Sometimes the reasons for “haunted trees” are unclear, but the following unrelated stories might offer an explanation.    

    Anyone who’s ever ventured into an old cemetery has noticed trees growing out of graves, but how many have considered where the roots might have gone? When the grave of Rhode Island’s founder, Roger Williams, was being moved for re-burial, it was discovered that the root of a nearby apple tree had entered the coffin and took over – so to speak – assuming Roger’s general form.  At last report, the root is in the possession of the Rhode Island Historical Society.     

    Sometimes a falling tree can reveal a mystery, as with the case of a 215-year-old tree that fell in Sligo, Ireland, in 2015.  Entangled in the massive root ball was a human skeleton thought to be over a thousand years old!  Furthermore, preliminary analysis determined he was likely murdered!   

    Besides being found under trees, people have also been discovered inside of trees.  One instance occurred in Pennsylvania in 1902, when woodcutters discovered a skeleton clad in tattered clothing in a hollow tree trunk. Access could only have been gained through a small hole located high in the tree.  How it came to be there remained a mystery.  

    A famous “skeleton in a tree” case occurred in England in April of 1943, during the height of World War II, when the remains of a murdered woman were discovered in a hollow Wych Elm by a group of youths. The question, “Who put Bella in the witch elm?” has never been answered.  

    Finally, there’s the story of a “haunted tree” that appeared in the Holmes County Farmer, in 1863, which detailed the story of a large oak that stood outside Millersburg, Ohio.  On March 12, 1832, a lone traveler was robbed and killed by two bandits who disposed of his body under the tree.  His ghost reportedly haunted the area ever since.      

    One interesting point to this tale was that like the “Witch Tree” in Smithfield, there was a ritual one could perform – if they had the nerve – to meet the ghost.  “Approach this tree on a clear still day,” the paper advised, “and rap three times upon its aged trunk, and ask the question: “Where shall I go, and what shall I do? and immediately you will receive the answer.  Go to Chitchfield & Ramey’s and buy your plow points, stoves, bells, and castings of all kinds.”      

     OK, by a show of hands, how many saw that coming?  Me either. It was certainly a clever way to advertise, and it makes more sense than driving backwards in the dark without headlights.  Happy Halloween!

Are There Ghosts in Smithfield’s “Haunted City?”

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine, October, 2016

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A stone-lined cellar hole in Hanton City where a home once stood.  

Are There Ghosts in Smithfield’s “Haunted City?”

By Jim Ignasher

    I should have known better, but the urge to continue my explorations got the better of me, and I’d ventured too far and stayed too long in the woods.  This was more than ten years ago.  It was January, it was cold, and the sun had fallen nearly level with the horizon.  As darkness closed in around me I was thankful for the coating of snow on the ground which provided enough contrast with the trees to allow me to navigate my way out.  

    I’d been exploring Hanton City, Smithfield’s colonial-era “ghost town” located in a thickly wooded area where cellar holes, stone walls, and a cemetery are all that remain of a once thriving settlement. It’s a place steeped in myth and folklore, and has sometimes been called “Haunted City”.  As I traipsed back to my truck hoping for the moon to rise I began to wonder about the “haunted” part.   

     The mysterious tales surrounding Hanton City date back to the 1880s when a Providence Journal reporter published the term “Haunted City” in an article he wrote about the area, but made it clear that locals viewed the phrase with “amused contempt”, and no anecdotal ghost stories accompanied the article.  Over time the article was forgotten, but the name stuck.   

    By the early 1900s what remained of any Hanton City buildings had fallen to decay, and Mother Nature was well on her way to reclaiming the once open land.  As more years passed, hikers and hunters would visit the area and wonder about the cellar holes.  Their questions as to who built them and when, as well as what happened to the populace, were answered with rumors and speculation that morphed into folklore that in modern times has been taken as fact.    

    This was primarily due to the lack of documentation relating to Hanton City, which, by the way, was never a “city”, but a small farm settlement. Thomas Steere’s book on Smithfield history published in 1881 didn’t mention the settlement, nor was it designated on early maps.   This wasn’t due to any deliberate omission, for the names of some of Hanton City’s residents are mentioned in Steere’s book.  It was likely because there was nothing remarkable about the settlement in terms of industry or historical significance.  Yet it was this omission that fed the fires of folklore.   

    Hanton City has also been referred to as “Island Woods”, or “Islands in the Woods”, due to the granite hills jutting up from marshy wetlands.  The rocky soil isn’t conducive for farming, and in summertime the area is infested with mosquitoes.  Thus it wouldn’t have been considered “prime real estate” which begs the question; who settled the area and why? By the 1930s several theories had been put forth ranging from runaway slaves, ex-prison inmates, and Native Americans, to ex-inmates of the town’s poor farm, and AWOL British soldiers hiding out during the American Revolution, all of whom could have reasons for wanting to live in seclusion.  However, historical research has proven these theories to be wrong.  

    Speculation as to what happened to the inhabitants includes; they were wiped out by a plague or natural disaster, left to serve in the American Revolution, or had their land confiscated for refusing to fight in the revolution.  Again, research has disproved these theories.  

     Part of that research lies in a Providence Journal article titled “A Buried City”, published October 6, 1889.  In it, the reporter interviewed Tom Hanton, 80, and his sister, said to be the last two inhabitants of Hanton City.  The article indicated that the community was in its prime by the 1730s, about the time Smithfield was incorporated as a town.  The first settlers were three English families of the yeoman class, which put them near the bottom of the social ladder, who arrived around 1676-77, shortly after King Phillip’s War.

    Residents made their living by growing what they could, quarrying stone, tanning leather, and making boots to sell in Providence.  There wasn’t much cash money to be had, so many bartered for their needs.  For example, Mr. Hanton recalled how at weddings the Justice of the Peace would be paid with a good meal and some rum.  

    As to what happened to the population, Mr. Hanton explained, “They had all got poor, and sold out to anybody, and died off.”   Of course “poor” had to be a relative term given their circumstances.   By the early 1800s mills were springing up along the Blackstone and Woonasquatucket Rivers which could pay regular wages, offer better opportunities, and make products more affordably than those who worked with their hands. Thus it was most likely the Industrial Revolution that led to the demise of Hanton City.   

     As the settlement faded away, it became a ghost town of sorts, and by the late 19th century the name Hanton City had morphed into “Haunted City”.  

    However, on that long ago January evening I was unaware of much of this information as the black shadows of the trees and rocks assumed ominous shapes while I made haste to exit the darkening woods.  Then I heard the call of a nearby coyote, and realized that encountering a ghost might not be my first concern.  

    So, is the place haunted? I guess that depends on one’s beliefs and experiences. There are Internet postings and stories in contemporary books (about the supernatural) of people who claim it is, and not all ghostly encounters are said to have happened at night.  

    Speaking for myself, I’ve returned to Hanton City dozens of times over the years – in the daytime of course.  During those treks I’ve encountered hunters, dirt bikers, photographers, treasure hunters, various wildlife, and fellow explorers, but not a single ghost. I’m not saying ghosts don’t exist.  I’m only saying I haven’t seen any in Smithfield’s so-called “Haunted City”.  Happy Halloween!  

50 Years Ago – November, 1966

By Jim Ignasher

It’s been said that the more things change, the more they remain the same.  November of 1966 was an election year, and party mud-slinging was just as active then as it is today.  One local political advertisement in particular got my attention; its banner read, “Half Truths For Sale At Giveaway Prices”.  Catchy.  

In 1966, the comedy movie, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” was released, which is the reason for one local paper’s play on words, “A funny thing happened on the way to the Petrified Forest”, which was a story about a Greenville couple who happened top get stopped by the Sheriff of Holbrook, Arizona, while they were passing through on vacation.  The officer’s stern look broadened to a wide grin when he announced to the driver that he and his wife had been selected to be judges at the nearby Navajo County Fair currently in progress.  With their consent, they would be treated as guests of the town, and all their motel and meal expenses would be taken care of.  They agreed, and found themselves judging various contests in the company of a couple from California who’d also been stopped by the sheriff.  When their stay was over, they continued on to the Petrified Forest.  

On November 8, the Greenville Grange held an apple contest.  Exactly what the contest entailed wasn’t stated.

Charles E. Grady, President of the Smithfield Lions Club, announced that the Lions International would be holding a “Peace Essay” contest open to those 14 to 22 years of age, in an effort to generate an, “understanding of peace” to tomorrow’s leaders.  The local winner would go on to compete in state-wide and national contests where the grand prize would be $25,000 in grant money for education or career development.      

 The Smithfield Public Health League moved into its new office on the second floor of the town hall.  

 The pre-teen football team “Smithfield Raiders” won the Northern Division Championship with a 14-0 win over a team from Franklin, Massachusetts.  

Later in the month they went on to win the “Apple Bowl” game held at Burgess Field where they defeated the Cumberland Colts.   

4th grade students from the Dorothy Dame School in Esmond went on a field trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts, to tour the Mayflower II, and Plymouth Plantations to learn about the Pilgrims.  Teachers leading the trip were Miss Mary Kingley, and Mrs. Mildred E. Arnold.  

On November 10th a teenage “record hop” sponsored by the Smithfield Recreation Department was held at McCabe School.  

Later in the month another dance was held at the Smithfield High School, where it was announced that for the first time those attending could dress casual, or, “casual within the limits of neatness.”  This meant that girls could wear slacks or jeans instead of dresses, and boys weren’t required to wear jackets and ties.

 On November 11th, Veteran’s Day ceremonies were held by members of the Smithfield American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts on the Greenville Common.  

Pvt. Raymond W. Laboissonniere of Esmond was serving with the 1st Howitzer Battalion, 103rd Artillery, of the Rhode Island National Guard at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.   

On November 12th, St. Michael’s Church held its annual Christmas Bazaar.  

On the 15th NASA’s Gemini XII containing astronauts James A. Lovell, and Buzz Aldrin, successfully “splashed down” near the Bahamas thus marking the end of the Gemini program.  Both went on to fly missions in the Apollo program, and in 1969 Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon.

 For those who wanted to dine out on Thanksgiving one Smithfield restaurant was taking reservations, offering a Turkey dinner “with all the fixins” for $3.00.  Children under 12 were half-price.   

Meanwhile, with the end of the year in sight, local car dealers were trying to clear their inventory of all 1966 models, promising great deals to anyone interested.

And with winter coming, one local fuel oil dealer was advertising 200 gallons of oil for 26.60 cents per gallon, plus tax.  Customers were expected to pay cash on delivery.   

50 Years Ago – September 1966

By Jim Ignasher

 

September is the start of apple harvest season, but in the autumn of 1966 local growers found themselves short of able-bodied apple pickers.  A temporary employment office was established at 15 Smith Avenue where those seeking work were urged to apply.  

For those who enjoy eating wild mushrooms, a young man by the name of Charles Campbell Jr. discovered a seven pound Iscalavtia Gigantea, (A what?) (A BIG mushroom) growing behind the former Masonic Temple in Greenville.   

September is also back to school time. The Smithfield Citizens Scholarship Fund, in their “dollars for scholars” campaign, awarded $800 in grants to two local college bound women, Beverly R. Nemitz, of Greenville, and Rose Marie Rathier of Stillwater. Miss Rathier was going to study history and minor in English, and Miss Nemitz was planning to be a French teacher.      

Like 2016, 1966 was an election year, and newspapers were full of names and faces of those hoping to get elected to town and state office.  Meanwhile, local organizations held elections of their own.

The Greenville Grange held an installation dinner for its newly elected officers who included: Stephen Steere, elected to the Executive Committee, Joseph P. Connetti, Master, Ernest L. Smith, Overseer, John Cook, Treasurer, JoAnn Atkinson, Chaplain, Ruth L. Smith Lecturer, J. Letser Tobin, Steward, Christopher Cabral, Assistant Steward, and Mildred Paterson, Assistant Steward,   

In Georgiaville, the St. Michael’s Ave Maria Guild held its installation dinner at the Admiral Inn. New officers included: Mrs. Jean Fagan, President, Mrs. Rose Farnsworth, Vice President, Mrs. Jean Chasse, Secretary, Mrs. Ann Scott, Treasurer, and Mrs. Ann Baglini, Recording Secretary.

Boy Scout Troop 4 of Greenville elected new patrol leaders. Arrow Patrol Leader, Paul Hiley, Assistant leader, Prescott Williams.  Beaver Patrol Leader: Douglas Borst, Assistant leader, Joseph Lowe.  Eagle Patrol Leader: John Riley, and Assistant Leader Russell Keach.  Panther Patrol Leader: Mark West, Assistant Leader, Ronald Charnley.  And George Leach was elected Senior Patrol Leader.  

The American Legion Balfour-Cole Post #64 elected Martin T. Murphy as Post Commander, and Mrs. Anita Payette as President of the Ladies Auxiliary.        

On September 20, U.S. Army 1st Lt. James F. Panzarella, 27, of Esmond, was killed on a combat operation in Tay Ninh, South Vietnam while serving as a company commander with the 1st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade. He’d arrived in Vietnam only five weeks earlier on August 14.  Lt. Panzarella came from a large family and had a wife and two sons.   His name is on the Vietnam memorial at the intersection of Douglas Pike and Whipple Road.

U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Apprentice Mark McNeily of Greenville received orders for duty aboard the nation’s newest cutter, Active.   Commissioned September 1, 1966, the Active is still in use by the Coast Guard today.  

Captain Craig Harris of Esmond was assigned to the medical corps at Pope Air Force Base in North Carolina.

U.S. Navy Recruit Philip A. Royer of Esmond completed basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, and was headed for Aviation Mechanic School.

Airman Terrance M. McCaffrey of Greenville was selected to attend Air Force Radar Operator School.

Airman 2/C Angus Bryant of Spragueville came home on a 30 day leave.

The “Space Race” between The United States and Russia was in full swing by the mid 1960s, and American television began focusing on science fiction related programs. On September 8, the first regular episode of Star Trek (The original TV series) aired on NBC.  Ironically, by the end of its first season the show was slated to be cancelled due to low ratings, however it wasn’t, and the starship Enterprise continues its “five year mission” fifty years later. As Mr. Spock would say, “Live long, and prosper”.

There was a time when most automobile tires had rubber inner-tubes just like bicycles, and many a youth of the 1950s and 60s found that discarded inner-tubes made great floatation devices for lounging on the water – and they could usually be had for free at many auto repair stations.  However, advancements in “tubeless” technology put an end to that.   

One local retailer advertised “4 ply nylon tubeless tires guaranteed to last 30,000 miles”, for $12.88 each, which included free mounting.  What did you pay the last time you bought tires?  

50 Years Ago – October, 1966

By Jim Ignasher

    

Airman Brian P. McCaffrey of Greenville was stationed at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington, as a Computer Administrative Specialist.  

1st Lt. Peter J. McGuire of Greenville was serving as a platoon leader in Vietnam.

James J. Motta of Georgiaville enlisted in the navy.

Richard Kanea, USN, of Greenville, came home on leave after serving one year aboard the USS Whetstone off the coast of Vietnam.

Donald C. Boucher, USN, was serving as a crewman aboard the submarine tender USS Canopus, attached to the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea.

Robert V. Tessitore of Greenville returned home after serving three years with the Army Corps of Engineers, and sixteen months in Germany.  

    

The Junior Naval Cadets of Smithfield announced that radio classes would be given every Thursday to any youth interested in joining.  

The Balfour-Cole American Legion Post on Pleasant View Avenue announced its plans for starting a new Boy Scout Troop in town.  The troop was open to all boys between the ages of 11 and 17.

    

 The Town of Smithfield was advertising for the position of “Permanent Patrolman” for the police department.  There was a time when the town utilized part-time reserve officers to augment the full-time force, which is the reason for the word “permanent” in the ad.  (The reserves were disbanded in the 1980s.)

Minimum requirements were a high school diploma, height, 5’ 8” or taller, and weight no less than 145 pounds, and all candidates had to meet accepted physical and medical standards.  Starting pay, $4,882.50 a year, with benefits.  Applications could be obtained had by seeing Chief of Police Arthur B. Gould at the police station, which in 1966 was in the Town Hall.  

The School Department was also looking for two custodians.  Starting pay was $1.75 per hour with benefits.

On October 10, a California rock-and-roll band, The Beach Boys, released “Good Vibrations”, a song that became a number one hit.  How many remember hearing that song on the AM transistor radio?     

  

The Smithfield Players Theatre Group advertised it would begin rehearsals for their upcoming production of “You Can’t Take It With You”.  Anyone wishing to volunteer to help could contact Mr. George Reilly.  

The Greenville Grange, once located on Austin Avenue just in from Route 44, held a whist party and penny social on October 15th.

It was also on October 15th that then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Historic Preservation Act creating the National Register of Historic Places.  Since then, thousands of New England buildings have been placed on the register.  

Industrial National Bank was offering 5% interest on one-year savings certificates of $5,000 or more.  For those keeping score, that comes to $250.  Don’t you wish today’s money market accounts offered even half that amount?   

A local dealership advertised a 1964 Corvair, 2dr., with a standard transmission, radio, heater, and four new tires, as well as a “stunning black exterior with a sleek red interior”, for $975.  The Corvair was mentioned in Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe At Any Speed”.

Sewing classes, sponsored by the Smithfield Recreation Association, began October 20th at the Esmond Recreation Hall on Esmond St.  Classes were open to anyone 10-years or older, and were administered by Mrs. Clarence King, and Mrs. John Buckley.    

The Greenville Public Library formally opened its new Children’s Wing by hosting an open house for town residents.  

Rotary telephones were the norm for many households in 1966, but “touch-tone” service was slowly making headway.  One New England Telephone ad urged subscribers to “Keep in touch with the times”, and “Do the touch-tone tap, in place of the old dial twist”.     

St Thomas Church in Greenville held a Halloween Festival and Bazaar on October 28 and 29.

On October 31st, ghosts, goblins, and things that go “bump” in the night prowled the evening streets knocking on doors to homes adorned with glowing jack-o-lanterns.   

50 Years Ago – August, 1966

By Jim Ignasher

 

In mid-July of 1966, Army Specialist Clifford William Silvia of Esmond came home for a thirty-day leave after serving the previous 23 months in Germany.  Towards the end of his furlough in August, family and friends held an outing in his honor at Pulaski Park in Glocester, and by the end of the month he’d left Smithfield for deployment to Vietnam with the 25th Medical Battalion.  

On July 13, 1967, about a month before his tour of duty in Vietnam was to end, Specialist Silvia was wounded during hostile enemy action, and died in an army hospital four days later.  He was 20-years-old.  

 Among the medals awarded to Specialist Silvia are the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.  Few may know that there is a Vietnam memorial dedicated to those from Smithfield who lost their lives in the war located at the intersection of Whipple Road and Route 7.  

Another serviceman from Esmond was Air Force Cadet Stephen Shaw Wyman of Prospect Street, who was entering his senior year at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.    

Air Force Staff Sergeant Charles D. Dawley of Greenville was serving as a supply inventory specialist in Vietnam.

 Airman 2/C Daniel E. Scully of Greenville was serving as a radar technician in Vietnam.   

 Airman John Smith of Greenville was sent to Lowry Air Force Base for nuclear weapons specialist training.

 Air Force Sergeant Walter L. Labrie of Log Road came home for a 30 day leave after serving three-and-a-half years in Japan.

PFC Everett R. Gardner of Brayton Rd. was attached to the 11th Armored Cavalry in Vietnam.

Seaman Recruit William R. McDermott (USNR) of Greenville, completed two weeks of active duty at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.      

Airman 1/C Thomas D. Paiva of Esmond was stationed at Tan Sun Nhut Air Force Base serving with the air police.

On August 5th groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the future site of the World Trade Center in New York City.  The “Twin Towers” opened in 1973.  

       

Two hundred youngsters participated in the Bluegill Derby, a fishing contest held at Slack’s Pond in Greenville, where 158 of them reportedly caught nearly 1,000 pounds of fish.  $300 in prize money was awarded, and organizers said the derby was so successful that they planned to make it an annual event.   

    

Local youths organized a carnival, the proceeds of which went to Muscular Dystrophy research.  The carnival, which was held August 11 and 12 on  Eisenhower Drive, included refreshments, a vegetable sale, a donated clothing sale, sundry games, a fortune teller, and other activities.   

Organizers included; Theodore Faraone, Susan Buddy, Cheryl Winsor, James, Billy, and Glenn Ross, Cathy, Linda, and Anne Zangarl, Marlene Dunn, Deborah and Christine Brosseau, George Corrente, Joseph Antonelli, and Richard and Donald Ladouceur.   

On August 10th the Department of Treasury announced it would no longer produce the two-dollar bill.  However, on August 13, 1976, re-designed two-dollar bills were once again minted as part of our nation’s bicentennial celebration.           

On August 17th NASA launched its Pioneer 7 space probe at the sun to collect data relating to Earth’s nearest star.  Twenty years later it was still transmitting signals, including information about Haley’s Comet which passed by in 1986.      

The annual Water Carnival was held at Georgiaville Beach on the 19th.  Activities included a “pirate ship”, boat crewed by Bill Hart, Denise Abbatematteo, Suzanne Boulais, Maureen Tallman, Celine Welch, and Kirk Bryden.  Youths dug for “buried treasure” left by the pirates along the beach.

Ann Campbell and Leo Rainville were crowned Water Carnival Queen and King.       

A handful of lucky youngsters from the St. Aloysius home on Austin Avenue got to do some real police work while riding along with Smithfield police officer Jim McVey as he chauffeured them in the department’s new patrol car.  McVey had given each “junior officer” a list of stolen car license plates and advised them to keep a sharp eye out for them.  As luck would have it, they found one parked just off Indian Run Trail – an unoccupied1956 Chevrolet stolen from Glocester the night before.

Officer McVey retired in 1977 as the department’s deputy chief.     

On August 24th, the science fiction film Fantastic Voyage was released by 20th Century Fox.  The plot involved a submarine shrunk to microscopic size and then injected into a man’s bloodstream in order to destroy a life threatening blood clot.  Does anyone recall watching this at the old Route 44 Drive in?

 

Bring the Kids to Photos with Santa on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Smith-Appleby House

20790285079_75e50b414b_oBring the kids to share their Christmas wishes and take photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Smith-Appleby House on Sunday, Dec. 4, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Visitors will also enjoy homemade holiday treats as volunteers in Colonial-period dress present the story of the historic 315-year-old family farm home.

There is a $5 donation for adults. Children are free. No reservations are needed.  The annual event is hosted by the Historical Society of Smithfield, RI.

The Smith-Appleby House dates to 1696 and was built by Elisha Smith, the grandson of John Smith “The Miller,” a member of Roger Williams’ original party of six men who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to start the colony of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1636.

Expanded from its original construction as a one-room stone-ender cottage, the delicately restored 12-room historic farmhouse features beautiful cabinet work, varied architectural designs, original stencils, and furnished rooms showcasing an intriguing collection of antiques.

Visit the Smith-Appleby House at 220 Stillwater Road in Smithfield, RI, just off I-295.  For more information, call (401) 231-7363 or email contact@smithapplebyhouse.org.

About the Smith-Appleby House

The Smith-Appleby House is located at 220 Stillwater Road in Smithfield, RI, just off I-295. The House is owned and operated by the Historical Society of Smithfield, RI, as a living museum hosting a variety of educational activities, programs, and events throughout the year. Group tours are available for schools, scouts, and other community organizations. The House and property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are also available to rent for private events. For more information, visit the website at http://www.smithapplebyhouse.org or contact us by email at contact@smithapplebyhouse.org or by phone at 401-231-7363. Follow the Smith-Appleby House on Facebook at http://facebook.com/SmithApplebyHouseand on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SmithAppleby.

Smith-Appleby House Will Host String Quartet, Candlelight Tours, More on Nov. 19

musicatmuseum2Enjoy string quartet music, candlelight tours, wine, cheese, and more at the Smith-Appleby House’s presentation of “Music at the Museum” on Saturday, Nov. 19.

The Col ‘Areo Quartet will highlight the night, performing traditional string quartet music and featuring the museum’s newly restored 1897 chapel organ. Attendees will tour the museum by candlelight, and enjoy wine, cheese, and hors d’oeuvres — along with special soup shooters served at the hearth.

Volunteers from the Historical Society of Smithfield, dressed as and portraying Colonial-era characters, will host the evening. 

“Music at the Museum” will be presented Saturday, Nov. 19, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The cost for the evening is $25 per person.

Reservations are required as space is limited. Call (401) 231-7363, and leave a message. You will be contacted to confirm the details of your reservation. Payment in advance is encouraged.  

The Smith-Appleby House, which dates to 1696, was built by Elisha Smith, the grandson of John Smith “The Miller,” a member of Roger Williams’ original party of six men who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony to settle in Providence. Expanded from its original construction as a one-room stone-ender cottage, the delicately restored 12-room historic farmhouse features beautiful cabinet work, varied architectural designs, original stencils, and furnished rooms showcasing an intriguing collection of antiques.

About the Smith-Appleby House

The Smith-Appleby House is located at 220 Stillwater Road in Smithfield, RI, just off I-295. The House is owned and operated by the Historical Society of Smithfield, RI, as a living museum hosting a variety of educational activities, programs, and events throughout the year. Group tours are available for schools, scouts, and other community organizations. The House and property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are also available to rent for private events. For more information, visit the website athttp://www.smithapplebyhouse.org or contact us by email atcontact@smithapplebyhouse.org or by phone at 401-231-7363. Follow the Smith-Appleby House on Facebook at http://facebook.com/SmithApplebyHouseand on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SmithAppleby.

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