50 years Ago – March, 1971

50 years Ago – March, 1971

By Jim Ignasher

March, 1971

Lieutenant Edmund B. Lynch, Jr., of Greenville, was awarded the Air Medal for flying 25 helicopter missions over hostile territory in Vietnam during the month of September, 1970. At the time he was awarded the medal, he’d flown more than 80 additional missions!

Several functions were held by various organizations throughout the month of March, 1971.

The Smithfield Democratic Committee sponsored a “Swing into Spring” dance held at the St. Maria Goretti Hall in Pawtucket.

Almac’s supermarket sponsored a dinner/dance held at the Smithfield High School to benefit the Senior Class.

The Smithfield Golden Agers held a meeting at the Esmond Recreation Hall on Esmond St.

The Greenville Senior Sunshiners held a meeting St. Patrick’s Day party which included food and door prizes as well as traditional Irish songs, and a rendition of “Who Put The Overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?” by Joseph Lopez.

The group Ecology Action for Smithfield also met to discuss ways to reduce pollution in Smithfield.

On March 7, St. Phillip’s Cub Scout Pack 3 held a blue and gold dinner at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Pascoag.

Those awarded their “bobcat” pins were Tim Carleton, and Scott Barrett.

Those awarded ‘wolf” patches included Keith Lewis, Christopher Wood, William Kulisch, Thomas D’Agostino, James Laferriere, Joseph Mattera, Steve Laesora, and Thomas Pickles.

Christopher Kirkwood was awarded a “bear” patch, and Greg Manion and William Kulisch were awarded silver and gold arrow emblems.

Joseph Raimondo was Cubmaster.

The Greenville Public Library had a St. Patrick’s Day display which included books of Ireland.

An advertisement from New England Telephone posted in a local newspaper stated that anyone wishing to make changes in the upcoming Providence Area Directory regarding their name or business should contact them. Who would have thought that phone books would one day be obsolete?

If one went to the Apple Valley Cinema in March of ’71 they had a choice of three movies. The first was “The Owl And The Pussycat”, a romantic comedy starring Barbara Streisand and George Segal; the movie “Joe”, a dark drama starring Peter Boyle; and “Lovers and Other Strangers”, another romantic comedy with Diane Keaton in her film debut role, and Sylvester Stallone as an “extra”.

On March 10, the “Junior Embassy of Smithfield” held an awards presentation at the Smithfield High school. Awards were granted to Henry Shepard, the school principal, and athletic director Robert Salisbury.

Richard Kernacki, director of the embassy, announced an award for then President Richard M. Nixon, and a phone call was placed to the White house switchboard to pass the message to the President.

On March 14 the Smithfield Boys Club held its annual dinner at the Club 44 restaurant. New officers were elected. Lionel Peloquin was elected president; Leo Bouchard, first vice president; Rita I. Connor, second vice president; Richard Scott, secretary; and John H. Jenkins, treasurer.

Eight boys were given awards: Joseph Prest, Timothy Peloquin, Thomas Connor, Thomas Aitken, Thomas Peloquin, Steven McGinn, John Peloquin, and Michael Scorpio.

Miss Isabel Brown was honored by the Greenville Grange for her fifty years of service to the organization. Joseph Connetti, Grange Master, presented her with a certificate.

A local Pontiac dealership was advertising a brand new Catalina. It’s interesting to note that the “extra features” that came with the car would be taken for granted today. Such as power disc brakes, padded dashboard, padded sun visors, padded arm rests, seat belts with push-button-release, head rests, dome lamp, safety hood latch, outside mirrors, 4-way hazard lights, windshield washer and two-speed wipers. All for $3,343.00. With a 350 v-8 engine!

The Smithfield Fire Department got a demonstration of “The Air Cycle” on Stump Pond. The vehicle was said to be an all-terrain hover craft driven by a powerful fan. The demonstrator hoped the town would purchase one for rescue work, but the craft didn’t perform well on rough and uneven ground.

Kurt Anderson of Smithfield appeared in the Rhode Island Theater Company production of “Dark of the Moon”, a drama set in Appalachia. The play did a six day run at the URI Quinn Theater.

The sit-com “Beverly Hillbillies” aired its final episode on March 23rd after a nine year run, and the “Ed Sullivan Show” aired its final broadcast five nights later after 23 years on television.



50 Years Ago – February, 1971

50 Years Ago – February, 1971

By Jim Ignasher

February, 1971

Gregory Schroeder of Greenville graduated from the University of Rhode Island Reserve Officers Training Corps and was appointed a second lieutenant in the United States Army.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 3 of Greenville offered their services to the town for blazing trails at the Forge Road Green Acres Project. The offer was accepted, and the trails are still in use today.

Members of Esmond Boy Scout Troop 1 camped out overnight at Buck Hill in Burrillville.

On February 5th the Apollo 14 lunar module successfully landed on the surface of the moon. Remote television cameras set up by the astronauts later captured mission leader Alan Shepard driving two golf balls with an improvised “golf club”. The balls sailed off in the much reduced gravity of the moon.

Apollo 14 returned to earth safely on February 9th.

If one went to the movies in February, 1971, they might have seen “Cold Turkey”, starring Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Pippa Scott, Jean Stapleton, and a host of others. Set in the mythical town of Eagle Rock, Iowa, the plot involves a tobacco company which offers twenty-five million dollars to the town if everyone can stop smoking for thirty days. The citizens accept the challenge, and thus the hi-jinx begin.

February, 1971

Popular songs that topped the charts included “One Bad Apple”, by The Osmond Brothers, “Knock Three Times”, by Tony Orlando and Dawn, and “Lonely Days”, by the Bee Gees.

A local oil company was advertising 200 gallons of heating oil for $32.00 plus tax. For those doing the math, that comes to just over six cents a gallon.

The Smithfield Town Council approved an industrial tie-in with the Blackstone Valley Sewer System which included plans to run pipes along George Washington Highway to Ashton.

On February 17th, Smithfield Cub Scout Pack 44 held its annual Blue and Gold Dinner at the Smithfield High School. Achievement awards were presented to: Paul Thorpe, Alfred D’Angelo, James White, Michael Falls, Blaise Amidy, Robert Shirley, David Conte, Brian White, Todd Provost, Adam Bianchini, Richard Thorpe, Richard Scott, Walter Sullivan, Stephan Falls, Michael Serapiglia, Kevin McMaugh, Roger Paquette, and James Boyle.

On February 21st Smithfield Cub Scout pack 141 held its annual Blue and Gold Dinner at Wright’s Farm. The following scouts received achievement awards: Jason Macari, Michael Winsor, Stanley freeman, Scott Graham, John Gerlach, Gregg Hall, Francis Conroy, and Craig Noke.

February, 1971

The following scouts received prizes for raising money for the Christmas Fund: Peter Sparmeni, Jason Macari, and Paul Francisco.

Reverend Michael F. Ray was appointed Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Greenville.

Father Joseph A. Besse was appointed the new pastor of St. Philips Catholic Church in Greenville.

The Smithfield Police Department acquired three brand new police cars which had a black and white color scheme and dual “gumball” lights on the roof.

The Elks Lodge on Farnum Pike dedicated its new ball room, said to be the largest in the area. A Valentine’s Day dance was held there February 13th which was well attended.

50 Years Ago – January, 1971

50 Years Ago – January, 1971

By Jim Ignasher


Navy Petty Officer 3/c Lloyd Courtemanche of Greenville was serving aboard the U.S.S. La Salle.

James P. Hegarty of Greenville was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Air Force T/Sgt. Kenneth W. Fuller of Spragueville was serving in Torrejon, Spain.

A local newspaper held a “first baby of the year” contest of which Robert H. Hartley III of Esmond was the winner. His parents received an assortment of prizes donated by local businesses.

At midnight on January 1st a new law went into effect banning cigarette advertisements from television and radio. The law was aimed at keeping youngsters from wanting to smoke.

A local newspaper carried an advertisement for an “Air-cycle”, said to be an “all season escape machine”. It carried one person and behaved like a hover-craft. It was driven by a powerful propeller blade and would float on a small cushion of air thus enabling it to perform on water, ice, snow, muddy terrain, and sand, at speeds in excess of 40 mph. As to price, one had to call for details.

On January 12, the television series “All in the Family” starring Carroll O’Connor, Jean Stapleton, Sally Struthers, and Rob Reiner, aired for the first time on CBS.

The Smithfield Jaycees honored Buddy Balfour as “outstanding young man of the year” for his work done with the Smithfield Raiders football team

Sergeant James H. McVey and Detective Saverio E. Serapiglia of the Smithfield Police taught a driver’s education class at the Smithfield High School.

Student Dennis Henlin received an award for highest marks.

A local Ford dealership was advertising a 1971 Ford maverick for $2,247; a 1971 Mustang for $2,982; a Galaxie 500 for $3,247; and a Pinto for $2,107.

On January 28, the group, Ecology For Smithfield held a meeting at the Greenville Grange to discuss pollution reduction.

On January 31, Apollo 14 took off from Cape Kennedy bound for the moon carrying astronauts Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Stuart Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell. This was the second trip in space for Shepard, who in 1961 became the first American to travel in space in a one-man Mercury space capsule.

Smithfield Voting Districts – 1845

Smithfield Voting Districts – 1845

     This newspaper article appeared in the Herald of the Times of Newport, Rhode Island, February 20, 1845.  It relates to the establishment of new voting districts in the Town of Smithfield. 

     In 1845, Smithfield was much larger.  In 1871 the town was divided, and the towns of Lincoln and North Smithfield were incorporated.  It was also in 1871 that land south of the Blackstone River, which included the villages of Globe, Bernon, and Hamlet,  was deeded to Woonsocket.  Central Falls was later incorporated from the Town of Lincoln n 1895.        

     Click on images to enlarge.



Woonsocket Falls Village Fire – 1829

     In 1829, Woonsocket Falls was a tiny village on the Blackstone River, and land south of the Blackstone was at that time part of Smithfield. 

A news snippet from the Literary Cadet & R. I. Statesman
(Providence, R. I.)
November 3, 1827

Click on images to enlarge.

Phenix Gazette
(Alexandria, Virginia)
March 31, 1829

Phenix Gazette
March 31, 1829

Moshassuck Valley Railroad

Moshassuck Valley Railroad


The Barre Daily Times
December 1, 1904

The Barre Daily Times
December 1, 1904

The Barre Daily Times
December 1, 1904

50 Years Ago – December, 1970

50 years Ago – December, 1970


December, 1970

     Navy Chief Petty Officer Paul E. Piggott of Greenville was serving aboard the submarine U.S.S. Tullibee.

     Chief Warrant Officer Louis G. Therock of Esmond was serving in the Rhode Island National Guard and received an Army Commendation Medal. 

     Army Specialist Allen H. Uttley of Greenville was promoted to SP/5 while serving in Korea.

     Air Force Major Vincent R. Suppicich of Greenville was awarded his third air medal while serving with the Strategic Air Command.     

        A new Boy Scout troop was established in Greenville – Troop 14. The scout master was George H. Vallee. 

     On December 5th St. Philip’s Church held a Christmas Ball at the Kirkbrae County Club.  Music was provided by the Tommy Masso Orchestra. 

     The newly completed community room at the Greenville Manor was used to host the Manor’s first Christmas party.       

December, 1970

     Mrs. T. Frank Fogarty of Georgiaville returned from Hollywood, California, after appearing in a film segment for the television show “This Is Your Life” which would air in January of 1971.  The show was paying homage to actress Ruth Buzzi of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in” fame.  Mrs. Fogarty was a dance teacher, and Miss Buzzi was one of her former students.    

     On December 11th and 12th the Smithfield Players performed the play, “The Tender Trap” at the Smithfield High School.  Joseph Janake played the character Earl Lindquist, William Johnson played Sol Schwartz, and Thomas Tobin played Charles Reader.  The production was directed by Calt Calvo.

     On December 12th a memorial mass was held at St. Michael’s Church for Smithfield police sergeant Norman Vezina who died in the line of duty on December 10, 1968 while attempting to rescue a 5-year-old boy who’d fallen through thin ice.

     On December 14th to the 16th Senator F. Monroe Allen of Greenville attended a conference on ways to cut air pollution held at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.   

December, 1970

     Dr. Thomas A. Manion of Greenville, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Bryant College, represented the college at the annual meeting of the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools held in Boston.

     The Georgiaville Volunteer Fire Department held its annual meeting to elect officers for the upcoming year.  Edward Horan was elected President; Fred Andrews, Jr., Financial Secretary and Treasurer; Donald Brown was elected Deputy Chief, Harold French, Captain, Ronald Patterson, Rescue captain, and Edward Horan, Lieutenant.   

     Edward Kocielniak, Roger Desnoches, and Henry Tremblay, Sr., were elected delegates to various Rhode Island fire leagues.    

     The movie “Love Story”, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal, was released by Paramount Pictures on December 16th

     A local electronics retail store was advertising Sylvania 25 inch color TV’s for the “low, low, price” of $559.95 as part of a pre-Christmas sale promotion.  For those too young to remember, a 25 inch TV screen was considered massive in 1970.     

December, 1970

     A local car dealership was advertising a 1968 Ford Mustang with a “vinyl roof”.  (Remember those vinyl roofs?)  The car was also equipped with power steering and a V-8 engine.  If it had a set of wings it could have flown, and it could have been yours for a mere $1,895.00.         

     The Smithfield Jaycees held a toys-for-tots drive for underprivileged children.

     On December 23rd a Christmas Ball was held at the high school for the juniors and seniors and their dates. 

50 years Ago – November, 1970

50 Years Ago – November, 1970 

By Jim Ignasher


December, 1970

     Air Force Sergeant Mary C. Hess of Greenville was serving as an inventory management specialist at Naha Air Force Base in Okinawa.

     Richard N. Kanea of Greenville was serving his fourth tour of duty aboard a navy gunboat in Vietnam.

     A local Ford dealership was advertising a 1970 Ford Galaxie 500, with a V-8 engine and a “cruse-o-matic” transmission for $2,994.

     On November 6, the rock band Aerosmith, performed for the first time.  The concert took place at the Nipmuc Regional High School in Mendon, Massachusetts.

     On November 7 the Smithfield High School Student Council held a spaghetti supper at the high school as a fund raiser.

     Leo Bouchard of Esmond, president of the Rhode Island Association of Conservation Commissions, led the Rhode Island delegation to a conservation convention held in Bedford, New Hampshire.  The convention was held to exchange ideas about the “growing national crisis of environmental problems”.  

     Smithfield Senator F. Monroe Allen was among those who spoke at the convention.  

     Shrubs and trees donated by the Rhode Island Highway Department were planted at William Winsor School by volunteers from the Apple Blossom Club, and the Smithfield Jaycees.

     Loam for planting was donated by Clint Gustafson of Greenville.

     The Greenville Pharmacy, owned by the Kayatta family for thirty years, was sold to Vincent Volpe.  The pharmacy was located at the intersection of Rt.44 and Austin Ave.

     The establishment opened in 1940 in the former “Woods Store”, and was the first drug store in the area.  Prior to its opening, the closest drug store to Greenville was in Centerdale.

     At the time of its opening, there were few retail stores in Greenville Center.  There was the Greenville Garage across from the bank building, an ice cream parlor, and a First National grocery store, which later became Benny’s, and is today Woods and More.  

     In 1941, Francis Kayatta, Jr., entered the armed forces and served with the 1st Calvary division in the Pacific during WWII. 

     Linda Piscatelli was crowned Home Coming Queen at Smithfield High School during half-time on the football field.

     The Smithfield Elks Club presented Greenville Manor with brand-new Boston rocking chairs.

     November is the time some start to think about Christmas shopping, and one local retail establishment came up with a novel idea to bring in early customers.

     The Family Store, a clothing store once located in Route 44 in Greenville, advertised a “balloon sale”.  Hundreds of balloons were filled with helium and allowed to float to the ceiling.  After making a purchase, a customer would choose one and pull it down and see a number on the top.  The number would indicate the amount the purchase would be discounted.  Numbers ranged from 10% all the way to 100%. 

     1970 was an election year for the Smithfield Town Council.  When the new council was sworn in it consisted of Allan B. Schwartz, John F. Emin, Jr., Peter Coogan, Thomas J. Vanner, and Geoffrey S. Weston.

     If one went to the Apple Valley Cinema in November of 1970 they had a choice of seeing Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, Patton, Catch-22, and Diary of a Mad Housewife.     

     On November 26, the Greenville Grange hall, which stood on Austin Ave. just in from Rt. 44, was rededicated after extensive repairs were completed due to a disastrous fire the year before.  The building had been used as a Grange hall since 1939, and was demolished in the 1980s to make way for further development.    

     Thomas J. Connor, Jr., of Greenville, a 7th grader at St. Philip School, auditioned for the Barrington Players for their production of the Broadway musical Mame.  He won the major role of “Patrick Dennis”, the nephew of Mame Dennis.     

     A Farewell reception was held for Reverend W. Stanley Pratt of the Greenville Baptist Church.  Rev. Pratt had served as pastor for eight years and was leaving to serve as pastor of the First Baptist Church on Block Island.  Four-hundred people were in attendance. 


Sgt. Norman Vezina, Smithfield Police, Memorial Poem


Sgt. Norman G. Vezina

      Sgt. Norman G. Vezina of the Smithfield Police department lost his life in the line of duty on December 10, 1968 while attempting to rescue a 5-year-old child who’d fallen through thin ice.  

     On December 12, 1970, a memorial service was held for Sgt. Vezina at St. Michael’s Church in Gerogiaville.   At that time, fellow Smithfield police officer, Sgt. Prescott J. Williams, Jr., wrote a poem honoring Vezina which appeared in the December 17th, issue of The Observer.  

One of our brothers, has departed,

it was on a cold December day.

While performing his duty as a policeman,

trying to save a child at play.

We’re not known to be the greatest,

we’re not known to be the best.

But while performing our duties as policemen,

we do our very best.

On that sad day, may we all pray,

when Norman was laid to rest,

while performing his duties as a policeman,

he did his very best.

he will be long remembered,

by us, from day to day,

for performing his duty as a policeman, 

and the price he was asked to pay.

There is no way of knowing,

no words that can define,

while performing the duties of a policeman,

life may end at any time.

Captain Prescott J. Williams, Jr.

Scituate Reservoir Plane Crash – 1982

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine.  

Ablaze Over The Scituate Reservoir

By Jim Ignasher

     The pilots opened the cockpit windows, but it did little to ventilate the toxic smoke filling the cabin and choking their lungs.  Meanwhile flames licked at their legs from under the control panel, burning away clothing and flesh while inflicting excruciating pain.  Yet both men remained at their posts, for to do otherwise would mean certain death for all aboard. 

     The date was February 21, 1982, and Pilgrim Airlines Flight 458 had been on a routine flight from New York to Boston when disaster struck. The plane was a twin-engine De Havilland Otter, capable of carrying up to eighteen passengers and used by many of the smaller airlines of the day.

      After making a brief stop in Groton, Connecticut, Flight 458 continued on at 3:10 p.m. with ten passengers and a crew of two aboard.  The pilot was Captain Thomas Prinster, age 26, and the First Officer was Lyle Hogg, age 27. 

     The plane climbed to its designated cruising altitude of 4,000 feet, but before long frost began to form on the exterior of the windshield, so Captain Prinster activated the external de-icing system. Just after doing so he noticed a strong odor of the de-icer solution permeating the cockpit, followed by wisps of smoke that began to emanate from behind the control panel.  Realizing there was an onboard fire situation Prinster radioed T. F. Green Airport and declared an emergency, and was granted priority clearance to land.  However, the aircraft was still over western Rhode Island and it soon became apparent that they were now in a race for their lives. 

     As Prinster and Hogg set a course for Green Airport, the smoke grew thicker as the fire quickly gained headway feeding on wires and other materials behind the dashboard. Then flames appeared at their feet and began to attack.

     As smoke began to waft back into the passenger cabin, one man raced forward and attempted to smother the flames with his jacket, but was unsuccessful.  He then retreated back to the cabin and began using a tennis racket to attempt to break out a Plexiglass window hoping to release the smoke that was now throughout the entire aircraft. 

     Meanwhile the cockpit was now so full of smoke that the crew had to stick their heads out the windows as they flew the plane in order to breathe.  Imagine their plight; faces freezing in the 150 mph slipstream while flames burned at their legs. 

     The smoke was such that the pilots couldn’t see the instruments leaving them unable to read a compass heading, see the artificial horizon gauge, or other navigational equipment.  Below them, at 1,400 feet above the ground, was a thick layer of clouds about 400 feet thick that obscured all visual reference points which might aid them in their situation. 

     It was now obvious that they wouldn’t make it to Warwick where fire and rescue trucks stood at the ready. They would have to take their chances going down through the clouds and hope for a successful crash landing.  What lay below the clouds was unknown. They could suddenly find themselves over a populated village, a steep wooded hillside, or a radio tower, any of which could appear in an instant with no time to react.  Yet there was no choice, so they began to drop down through the scud. For a few seconds the misty whiteness was all about them as the engine noise seemed to dim.  Then suddenly the mist parted as they broke through at one-thousand feet and found themselves over Scituate, Rhode Island.  Scanning the barren winter landscape Prinster sighted the Scituate Reservoir ahead in the distance, frozen, and covered with snow.  There was no way to know if the ice could support the weight of the aircraft, but the only alternative was to come down in the woodlands, which had a higher probability of ending badly.  Choosing the best option, the pilots brought the plane down to tree-top level and approached from the northwest, passing over the Foster/Scituate town line, then Route 102 near the famous “Crazy Corners”, and setting down on the ice of the tributary that runs along Tunk Hill Road.

     When they hit the ice the impact tore away a portion of the landing gear sending the plane into an uncontrolled sideways skid during which the right wing broke loose and slid away. The aircraft continued to slide across the snow covered ice for another five-hundred feet before finally coming to rest.  And it was still burning!  Passengers and crew scrambled out as spreading flames quickly engulfed the fuselage.  A headcount revealed that one passenger, a 59-year-old New Hampshire woman was missing.  Her body was later recovered, still strapped in her seat.

     Despite serious injuries, Captain Prinster remained in charge of the situation as he and First Officer Hogg calmly led the survivors away. They reached the  safety of the shoreline as the first police and fire vehicles arrived on scene.  Unfortunately most of the fuselage was destroyed before firemen could douse the flames.  Investigators later determined that the fire was caused by a loose connection in the de-icing system which allowed the alcohol based liquid to spray behind the electrical circuits of the control panel.        

     The survivors were transported to Rhode Island Hospital for treatment.  Both Captain Prinster and First Officer Hogg were admitted with potential life-threatening injuries due to their severe burns, but both ultimately survived. 

     Their fortitude, determination, and quick-thinking under extreme pressure didn’t go unnoticed.   Captain Prinster was awarded the Lieutenant General Herald L. George Civilian Airmanship Award by the Order of Daedalians, and both men received the Flight Safety Foundation Heroism Award, and the Rhode Island Lifesaving Medal.   

     Furthermore, few may realize that there’s also a memorial park built in honor of these men located at Scituate’s famous “Crazy Corners”, known as Prinster-Hogg Park.  Just in from the roadway, amidst some overgrowth, stands a large granite boulder with a brief story of the incident engraved on its face.  It is the only aviation memorial in Rhode Island dedicated to an incident involving a civilian aircraft. 



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