50 Years Ago – May, 1971

50 years Ago – May, 1971

By Jim Ignasher

April, 1971

     Tec. Sergeant Kenneth E. Bessette of Esmond was serving in the U. S. Air Force at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

     Second Lieutenant James L. DeStout was serving as a pilot with the U. S. Air Force.

     The Georgiaville Baptist Church held its annual candlelight memorial mass for all deceased war veterans of Smithfield.

     Roy Andrews of Stillwater was installed as the Exalted Ruler of the Smithfield Elks Lodge No. 2359.

     On May 8, NASA launched its Martian probe, Mariner 8. Its mission was to orbit and photograph the planet Mars, but five minutes after the launch a malfunction prevented it from achieving earth orbit. Two days later the Soviet Union launched a Mars probe of its own, and it too failed. Later in the month both countries launched second probes aimed at Mars. Both successfully reached the red planet, but the Russian probe crashed on its surface. This was the first time in history man-made objects had gone to another planet.

     A flowering cherry tree was donated to the Greenville Grange by the members of the Apple Blossom Garden Club. The tree was placed on the grounds of the grange as part of a beautification program. Members of Girl Scout troops 101 and 882 assisted with the planting.

     The historic grange hall stood on Austin Avenue just in from Putnam Pike. Unfortunately, both the building and the tree are no longer standing.

     On May 9, the tenth annual Apple Blossom Queen Pageant was held at the Smithfield High School. The event was sponsored by the Rhode Island Fruit Growers Association, and the Rhode Island State Grange Agriculture Commission.

     Local young ladies who participated included Debby Dupointe, Ellyn Thurber, Betty Dolbey, Bonnilyn Dobson, Cheryl Place, Janet Hill, and Janice Hill.

     The winner was Linda Bertrand of Newport.

     A controversy arose when a local businessman petitioned the town to approve the operation of an outdoor flea market next to the Apple Valley Mall. The Town Council met on May 28, and numerous residents came to protest the plan. Some objected to the types of goods that could be sold, others spoke of unsold goods and trash being left behind, while others claimed property values would be lowered, and traffic in the area would increase. The Council denied the plan.

     If one went to the movies in May of ’71, they might have seen “Support Your Local Gunfighter”, a comedy starring James Garner who is mistaken for a notorious gunslinger in an old-west mining town. Two competing factions try to hire him to drive the other out of town. And thus the hi-jinx began.

     Another popular move that month was “Escape from the Planet of the Apes”, a prequel to the 1968 movie, “Planet of the Apes.”

     On May 16, the price of mailing a letter in the U. S. rose from six to eight cents.

     Voters at the annual Town Financial Meeting approved funding for a new police station. Up until this point the police station had been located in the Town Hall, and the department had outgrown the space.

     Charles Sandner of Greenville was presented an award for his service as Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 43 of Greenville. He had been associated with scouting since 1954, and Cubmaster since 1966. Pack 43 was sponsored by the Greenville Baptist Church.

     On May 22 the Smithfield Police held its annual policeman’s ball at the St. Michael’s Church parish hall. More than 300 people attended.

     On May 28 the Rhode Island Heart Association sponsored a “balloon dance” for 7th and 8th grade students which was held at the Greenville Grange Hall. Radio personality Joe Thomas of WPRO served as master of ceremonies and DJ.


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