50 Years Ago – May, 1966

Originally published in The Smithfield Times, August, 2015

By Jim Ignasher

Fifty years ago Smithfield was the heart of Apple Valley with numerous orchards dotting Greenville, North Scituate and Harmony, and every May, when the apple blossoms were in bloom, self-guided auto-tour maps would appear in local papers.  In those days Apple Valley was a day-trip destination, and tourist and locals alike made the rounds. 

As a point of fact, there are literally thousands of apple varieties in the world, but one might not know it by the handful of choices offered in today’s supermarkets.  Yet the apple growers of yesteryear offered a wide selection of the fruit of knowledge.  The Payette Brothers of Spragueville, for example, advertised 26 different kinds of apples.  Today, homes and businesses along Pleasant View Avenue occupy the land once covered by their orchards.     

Besides Apple Blossom Tours, there was the Apple Blossom Festival and Art Show held on May 15th at the Greenville Plaza.  Organization committee members included, Merle Sparfven, Paul O’Day, Mrs. Arlene Bertwell, and Miss Barbara Lutz. 

This was said to be the first outdoor art show ever held in Smithfield, and it was a great success.  Numerous local artists submitted their work, ranging from oil and water color paintings, to sketches and ceramics. 

First prize was awarded to Ruth Ericksen of North Scituate for her oil painting titled “Old Haying Scene”, which depicted three men loading hay into a wagon. 

The day before the festival, the Smithfield Apple Blossom Garden Club participated in a statewide litter cleanup program.    

In keeping with the apple theme, the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association sponsored a Miss Apple Blossom Queen contest held on May 15th.  The winner for 1966 was Miss Jean Edson, of Coventry.

Most home telephones in 1966 were bulky, and had rotary dials, but New England Telephone urged one to upgrade to their new “Trimline” model which came in a smaller and sleeker design, and featured a light up dial.

Boy Scout Troop 3 of Greenville held a Mother’s Day breakfast at the St. Phillip’s parish center – on Smith Avenue. Today the former 19th century church and parish center are privately owned.    

Dennis Rylands, and Frederick C. Mueller, both of Esmond, were awarded scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Awards committee.

In May of 1966 the Oakhurst platt off Smith Avenue, and the Maplewoods platt off Austin Avenue were in the process of being developed, and potential buyers were urged to take time out of their Apple Blossom Tour to come and look over some nicely wooded house lots in “Beautiful modern Oakhurst”, or on the “beautiful land of the former Maplewoods Orchard.

U.S.M.C. Private Eric C. Chew, of Greenville, graduated from recruit training at Paris Island.

Meanwhile a meeting between two Smithfield men took place on the other side of the world in South Vietnam.  Lance Corporal Shane M. Jackson of Farnum Pike was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, in a combat area south of Da Nang, when he was given leave to attend a USO show where the “Big Tiny” Little Band was featured.  There he met his long-time friend Dick Lopez of Greenlake Drive, who was the band’s drummer.  

For those that don’t know, Dudley “Big Tiny” Little, (1930 – 2010) was, among other things, part of the “Champagne Music Makers” on the famous Lawrence Welk Show.

On May 29th Ground breaking ceremonies for the new St. Michael’s Church and rectory were held on Farnum Pike in Georgiaville.  Rev. Leo Lyons had the honor of turning over the first shovelful of earth as town officials and local dignitaries looked on.  The new church, which was scheduled for completion in July of 1967, was to replace the older church built in 1872.  (The old St. Michael’s Church stood on Homestead Avenue, and was torn down after the new church opened.

The Greenville Volunteer Fire Company announced its plans for the July 4th annual Firemen’s Carnival, which would include games, prizes, and fireworks. 

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