50 Years Ago – October, 1968

50 Years Ago – October, 1968


     The first annual Providence County Grange Fair was held Columbus Day weekend at Waterman’s Field at Waterman’s Lake. Attractions included a midway, carnival games, rides, and food concessions.

     Opening day was designated “Pawtucket-Blackstone Valley Day”.

     Day two was designated “Northern Rhode Island Apple Country Day” during which the Apple Blossom Queen and her court, the Grange prince and princess, the Dairy Queen, and Miss Rhode Island, were all on hand to take part in the crowning of the Providence County Grange Harvest Queen. (That’s a lot of royalty for a fair!).

     The day was marked with agricultural events and contests which included calf roping, cattle and sheep shows, and a greased pig chase and greased pole contest.

     The third day was designated “Providence County Horse Lovers Day”, and featured a horse show.

     Mayors and town officials from all over Providence County attended the event, as well as Rhode Island’s governor.

     It was also on Columbus Day weekend that the volunteer fire companies of Smithfield held a parade that went from the high school, down Pleasant View Avenue, and culminated at Greenville Plaza. (Where the hardware store is located today.) The purpose was to celebrate the launch of a year-long fire safety campaign known as “EDITH”, (Exit Drills In The Home).

     The program was to assist families in creating escape plans as to how they’d exit their homes in the event of a fire.

     The program was implemented by Chief Norman Segee, with assistance from Lieutenant Harold French, and the president of the Smithfield Jaycees, Leon Carney.

     When the parade was over, firemen put on fire-fighting and first-aid demonstrations.

     Navy gunner’s mate Richard N. Kanea of Greenville returned home after his third tour of duty in Vietnam as a gunner on an assault boat.

     Lieutenant Stephen S. Wyman of Esmond was married in the chapel at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

     On October 11, NASA launched Apollo 7, with the three-man crew of Schirra, Eisele, and Cunningham, aboard. The goal was not to travel to the Moon, but to orbit the earth and test the Lunar Module docking capabilities with the Command Module while broadcasting live television. This was the first time live television had been broadcast from space.

   The town dump was once located on Ridge Road at the North Providence town line. By the fall of 1968 it had grown significantly, leading area residents to complain about the smells, frequent fires, and thousands of rats, prompting local officials to look for alternative ways to discard trash. It was reported that from October, 1967, to October, 1968, the town had deposited 10,000 tons of garbage at the dump, and it was projected that by 1990, that amount would double.

     The Smithfield Conservation Commission presented the Apple Blossom Garden Club with a citation commending the organization for its town beautification efforts. In recent months the club had landscaped the Greenville Common and the Panzarella-Silvia Vietnam Memorial on Whipple Road at Douglas Pike, and was currently in the process of planting trees and flowers at Greenville Plaza.     

     The Smithfield Conservation Commission, with support from the Greenville Grange and the Apple Blossom Garden Club, put forth a proposal to turn a section of vacant land at the intersection of Austin Avenue and Putnam Pike into a memorial park honoring all volunteer firemen who’d served in the town of Smithfield. The plan included landscaping, tree planting, a monument, and a parking area. History has shown that the park was never built.

     On October 20 the Raymond C. La Perche School was dedicated. Mr. La Perche had served in various leadership capacities within the Smithfield School Department for 41 years before retiring in 1963.

     The IGA supermarket in Greenville was offering three pounds of Macintosh apples for 29 cents.

     Peoples Bank at the Apple Valley Mall was offering 5% interest on all savings accounts, compounded monthly.




Forgotten Romance Superstitions Of Halloween

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine, October, 2018

Forgotten Romance Superstitions of Halloween

By Jim Ignasher

     “Halloween when goblins walk,

     And Cupid laughs and spookies stalk.

     All pretty maids their sports forsake,

     To bake themselves a nice big cake.”

     Lines from the Halloween poem, “Cupid’s Cake”, author unknown.   

Antique Halloween Postcard

     Halloween night and Valentines Day are three-and-a-half months apart, and are generally considered to be very different holidays, yet one may be surprised to learn that in the 19th century All Hallows Eve was considered the night when a young man or woman could learn the identity of their future wife or husband, or if they were destined to remain single. Gaining such “knowledge” was achieved through a variety of superstitious rituals that in the 1600s would have gotten one convicted of practicing Witchcraft.  

     For example, one superstition involved placing a small piece of wood in a glass of water, and leaving it next to the bedside overnight. It was said that the person who did so would have a dream about someone falling off a bridge and into water. The dreamer was to then “rescue” that person, and stare into their face, for it would be the face of their future spouse.  

     Another superstition held that if a maiden ate an apple in a room illuminated by a single candle, while staring into a mirror, she would see the image of her future husband appear behind her. A variation of this ritual involved standing outdoors under a full moon with a hand mirror, and begin walking backwards while reciting a short incantation.  

     Apples also figured into other Halloween rituals. It was said that if one carefully peeled an apple skin in one continuous piece and then threw it over their left shoulder, the way it landed would form the first initial of the person’s name they were to marry.      

     If one wanted to get an idea where their future spouse lived, they’d go outside at midnight and toss a small lock of their hair into the night breeze. Whatever direction the hair was blown would be the direction from which their true love would come.

     It’s possible the following superstition was once practiced in the Limerock section of Lincoln. It was said that if a young lass made her way to an old lime kiln on Halloween Night she could learn the identity of her future husband. To do so involved tossing a blue ball of yarn into the empty kiln while holding on to one end, and then slowing pulling it out. At some point “something” would grab hold of the string, at which time the lass would call out, “Who holds!?” The voice that answered would state the name of her future husband. Why the color of the yarn had to be blue is unknown.

     If no lime kilns were handy, a girl could toss a ball of yarn out her bedroom window at midnight on Halloween. (Color optional) The man who returned it would be the one she’d marry.    

     One Halloween superstition only predicted if one would marry. It involved placing three cups on a table in a dimly lit room. The first cup would be empty. The second would contain clean water, and the third, dirty water. A boy or girl would be blindfolded, brought into the room, and told to place three fingers in one of the cups. If their fingers landed in clean water, they would marry a young person. If they touched the dirty water, they’d marry a widow, or perhaps marry late in life. If their fingers landed in the empty cup, they were destined to be single.

     Another Halloween ritual involving blindfolds dates to the 1830s in which young people would have their eyes covered and then be led to a garden where stalks of colewort grew. Each would be instructed to pull at the first stalk they touched. The size, taste, and condition of the stalk indicated certain physical characteristics and personality traits that would be found in their future spouse. If the roots still held a large clump of dirt it meant a significant dowry and good fortune.      

     We’ve all heard that the woman who catches the bride’s bouquet at a wedding will be the next to marry, but how many are familiar with the superstition involving “Cupid’s Cake?” In this affair, a ring symbolizing a wedding band would be baked into a cake on Halloween. At midnight, the cake would be cut into pieces and all single persons present would be invited to eat one. The person who got the slice with the ring inside was presumed to be the next to marry.

     Nuts also figure into Halloween lore pertaining to romance. In some parts of Scotland and northern England, Halloween was known as “Nut Crack Night”, during which some would practice fortune telling by roasting chestnuts over a fire.

     One example involved a woman giving each nut the name of a potential suitor, and then placing them over the hearth. The behavior of the nuts would indicate certain personality traits. Such as, if a nut hissed it indicated a bad temper. One that caught fire indicated passion. And so on.

     Other times a couple contemplating marriage would place two nuts together. If one “popped” and moved away it indicated a separation; either death or divorce. If both remained together while they turned to ashes, it indicated a long and happy life together.           

     One tale held that a single person could go to a walnut tree at midnight. After circling the tree three times they were to call out, “Let him (or her) that is to be my true love bring me some walnuts”. The apparition of their future spouse would then hopefully appear sitting in the tree.

     There were of course variations to all of these superstitions, which over the last century have fallen into obscurity and Halloween as we know it today is vastly different. In any case, may all who seek it find true love, whatever day of the year it is.

     Happy Halloween!

Historic Cemetery 68 & 72

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Proposed Esmond Library – 1980s

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Artist drawing of new Esmond Library – 1980s.
Never Built.

1939 Aherns Fox Fire Truck

1939 Aherns Fox Fire Truck

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1939 Aherns Fox
Greenville Fire Company
Greenville, R.I.

50 Years Ago – September, 1968

50 Years Ago – September, 1968

     Incoming freshmen at Bryant College were invited to a “down on the farm’ barbeque at “Memory Hill”, the future site of the Bryant Unistructure. Students were introduced to faculty and administrators. These students would graduate in 1972, the year the Smithfield campus opened.

     Army Specialist James J. Motta of Georgiaville was discharged from the army after completion of his service in Vietnam.

     Staff Sergeant David M. Balfour Jr. of Esmond was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal for meritorious service as a crew chief aboard an F-4C aircraft in Vietnam.

     Angus Bryant of Mountaindale Road completed his tour of duty in the U.S. Air Force.

     Army Specialist John M. Cullen of Greenville was serving in Vietnam.

     Airman Jeffrey R. Sweet of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Air Force, and would be assigned to Logistics Command at Chanute Air Base in Illinois.

     Seaman Apprentice Ernest F. Littlerick, Jr. of Greenville completed basic training for the U.S. Navy.

     A carnival to benefit muscular dystrophy was held at 103 Dean Avenue in Esmond by Karen Shea, Joann Cunningham, Jeris and Cheryl Noducci, Kathy Wyatt, Polly and Marie Parsakian, and Bill Kerwin. A total of $48 was raised.

     The Maplewoods neighborhood in Greenville was still under development. A two-story garrison colonial on Peach Blossom Lane was advertised at $25,600. The home featured a two-car garage, fire place, 1.5 baths, and a walk out basement.

     Speaking of construction, two Greenville youths, Robert Lyons and Donald Morse, built a five story tall tree house behind a home on Beverly Circle. A photo was featured in a local newspaper.  

     In September of 1968, the television shows 60 Minutes, Adam-12, Julia, and Hawaii Five-O aired for the first time.    

     On September 15 the Smithfield Raiders pre-teen football team went to North Attleborough to play the Plainville Packers. The Raiders won, 27 to 13.  

     On September 17 the St. Michael’s Ave Marie Guild elected new officers. President: Mrs. Rose Farnsworth, Vice President: Mrs. Jemny Arruda, Recording Secretary: Mrs. Ann Tobin, Treasurer: Mrs. Joanne Serapiglia, Corresponding Secretary: Mrs. Marion Drummond.

     On September 18 People’s Bank at the Apple Valley Mall held their grand opening. The public was invited to stop in and receive a free lollypops and balloons, and to register to win a color television. (The TV was won by a couple from North Providence.)

     The bank also offered the choice of “a rugged all purpose lantern”, a wool blanket, or a “handsome” 21-inch plaid suitcase, to anyone who opened a new account.    

     On September 20 Cub Scout Pack 43 of Greenville held a meeting.

     On September 26 the East Smithfield Homemakers held a meeting at the Esmond Recreational Hall.

     On September 28, Smithfield launched a “town wide cleanup” spearheaded by the Conservation Commission. The program was scheduled to run through November 9.

Apple Lore And Fruits Of The Harvest

Originally published in The Smithfield Times, September, 2018.

Apple Lore, and fruits of the harvest

By Jim Ignasher

     According to ancient Greek mythology, the god Zeus held a wedding banquet in honor of Peteus and Thetis, and many of the gods and goddesses were invited. However, the goddess Eris was omitted from the guest list, for she was after all, the Goddess of Discord. Not one to be snubbed, she came to the celebration anyway, and brought with her a solid gold apple to be presented to the most beautiful woman in attendance. The goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, immediately stepped forward to claim the prize, and it therefore fell to Zeus to decide who should receive it. Yet Zeus knew when to delegate authority, and passed the decision to a Trojan mortal named Paris.      In what may have been the world’s first (mythical) beauty contest, Paris decided on Aphrodite because she’d promised to use her powers to give him the world’s most beautiful (mortal) woman, Helen of Troy. Aphrodite kept her word, but unfortunately Helen was already married to the Greek king Menelaus, who as one might imagine wasn’t pleased. And thus it was that the Apple of Discord is said to have caused the Trojan War.  

     September marks the beginning of the local apple harvest, and the start of the autumn season. Before long tourists will descend on Apple Valley to take advantage of what the orchards have to offer, yet it’s likely that few have ever considered the historical significance of the humble apple, or its incorporation into folklore, legends, and fairy tales, religious illustrations, music, business logos, and even commonly used expressions.  

     For centuries the apple tree has been depicted by artists in their renderings of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, which early on gave the fruit its “forbidden” reputation. The poisoned apple in the German fairy tale of Snow White, first published in 1812, didn’t help the apple’s reputation either. There’s also the lesser known yarn of William Tell, who is arrested for failing to show proper respect to a self-important nobleman. As punishment, he’s forced to shoot an apple off his son’s head from fifty feet using a bow and arrow. Tell is successful, and then kills the nobleman with a second arrow. There are also several versions of a legend about a king’s garden, in the center of which grew a tree that produced golden apples.

     Then there’s the historical figure, Sir Isaac Newton, a real person who lived from 1643 to 1727, who is said to have “discovered” gravity while sitting under an apple tree where a piece of fruit dropped on his head. While the facts of the story may be in question, it’s true that Newton was a mathematical genius known for his “laws of motion”.

     Another man of legend associated with apples was John Chapman, (1774 – 1845), more commonly known as Johnny Appleseed, who roamed the American countryside planting thousands of apple trees. He’s often depicted wearing a pot on his head for a hat, and carrying a bag of apple seeds. There’s even a museum dedicated to him in Urbana, Ohio.

    Songwriters have been putting the apple to music for centuries. Two well known melodies made popular by the Andrews Sisters during WWII are “I’ll be With You In Apple Blossom Time”, and “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me.)”    

     Greenville, R.I., was once home to the undisputed “king” of apple growers, Thomas K. Winsor, whose massive apple orchards once covered the land now occupied by Maplewood Estates off Austin Avenue. T.K.’s business not only sold apples locally, but shipped them cross-country and world wide, which was quite an accomplishment in a time before standard refrigeration.

     And there’s a reason why Smithfield is known as “Apple Valley”, for at one time dozens of orchards covered the local landscape, but today that number has dwindled to a mere handful.

     As a point of fact, most 18th and 19th century farms had apple trees, and our colonial forefathers are known to have drunk copious amounts of hard cider, apple-jack, and apple brandy, for it was usually safer than drinking water, which before the days of modern purification systems often contained a variety of harmful microbes. Thus it might be true that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

     It’s also interesting to note that there are literally thousands of varieties of apples, but not all are as pleasing to the eye, or as sweet tasting, as those grown for commercial sale today.

     There was once a time when apples were routinely given to school teachers as gifts. How this tradition got started is unclear. Some say it dates to a time when teachers in poor rural communities received partial payment in the way of food supplies, while others say it’s because the apple is a symbol of knowledge.

   “As sure as God made little green apples”, we’ve incorporated apple lingo into some common expressions. For example, someone might say you’re “the apple of their eye”, but a person who gives false flattery is said to be an “apple polisher”. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a “bad apple”, or “rotten to the core”. It simply may be a case of “the apple not falling far from the tree.”

     Something can be “as American as apple pie”, and “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel.”

     A person who “upsets the apple cart”, might hope for a “second bite at the apple”.

     When arguing, one might compare “apples to oranges”, and conclude with “how do you like them apples”?  

      Yet apples aren’t the only fruit connected to common expressions. Some people have been known to “go bananas”, while others have ruled “banana republics”.

     At work, we may get a “plum assignment”, and it’s all “peaches and cream”; but if we don’t, we get “sour grapes”, and are reminded that “life isn’t always a bowl of cherries”.      

     Some get along like “two peas in a pod”, and fog can be as “thick as pea soup.”      

     Someone in trouble is said to be “in a pickle”, but maybe they don’t “give a fig”, and remain “cool as a cucumber”.

     A person can “extend an olive branch”, “dangle a carrot”, be a “couch potato”, or just “full of beans”. And don’t even get me started on meats and dairy.

     Now one final thought. Did you know that there are more apple orchards in Smithfield, than in New York City, a.k.a, “The Big Apple”? Just sayin’.

     Happy harvest.




50 years Ago – August, 1968

 50 Years Ago – August, 1968


     A plaque citing Smithfield’s Cranford Club for their “loyal and dedicated service” provided to the patients at Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville over the previous five years was hung in a place of honor in the waiting room at the hospital.

     The Cranford Club of Smithfield was a local charitable organization established by Miss Orra A. Angel on October 30, 1905. It was initially a women’s organization with eight charter members, and quickly grew to twenty-five members, and was eventually capped at seventy-five.

     According to a history of the club published in 1930, “The name “Cranford”, a name which the late Rev. James Colwell, rector of St. Thomas Church and Superintendent of Smithfield schools, was wont to ascribe to our quiet village, was derived from the classic “Cranford”, and suggested by Mrs. Henry F. Jenckes.”

     The organization was active in community affairs as well as providing for the patients at Zambarano Hospital until it disbanded in the 1980s.  

     U.S. Army PFC Michael Keach of Greenville returned home after serving in Vietnam. Meanwhile, his brother John P. Keach was serving in the navy aboard the U.S.S. Fiske.

     David A. Bann of Georgiaville was home on leave from the navy.

     U.S. Navy Ensign Andrew H. Aitken of Greenville graduated flight training.  

     On August 3, United Artists released the movie “Hang ‘Em High”, starring Clint Eastwood. Eastwood played an innocent man who survived a lynching and is later appointed a U.S. Marshal.  

     The Farnum Heights Association elected new officers. John J. Sasso was elected president; Donald Provonsil was elected vice president; Gertrude Sasso was elected secretary; and John Palumbo was elected treasurer.

     A proposal was made to merge the Greenville and Esmond post offices and call it the Smithfield Post Office. Apparently there was great confusion with postal addresses at the time between Smithfield’s villages, as well as those in the neighboring villages of North Scituate, Chepachet, and the town of Lincoln. History has shown that the merger never took place.

     The Steere Family Association held its 36th annual reunion.

   Residents of Hawthorne Road in Greenville’s “Olde Smithfield Village” held their first annual block party, while residents of the Maplewoods neighborhood held a clam bake.

     There was a time when television sets resembled large pieces of furniture. One local merchant advertised a Zenith 23 inch color TV console with dual speakers for $589.95, and a swivel base model for $569.95. Both had “modern styling” with “oil finished walnut veneers.” Those old enough to remember these behemoths will recall that it took two people to move them around. And they didn’t come with remotes either.    

     On August 19, NASA announced that a lunar landing was possible for 1969.

     On August 21 the annual water carnival was held at Georgiaville Beach. Youths who’d participated in the town sponsored swimming classes since June 24th had the opportunity to compete in various events to demonstrate the skills they’d learned. Trophies were awarded to Richard Blanchard, David La Fond, Andrea Petit, Blake Ricci, David Hendrickson, and David Petit.

     A national dry cleaning chain, of which there was a franchise in Greenville, held a national “back to school sweepstakes”.   All one needed to do to enter was to visit the store and fill out an entry form. The grand prize was a brand new 1969 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon. Second prizes included four Magnavox color TV stereos. Third prizes included fifty portable tape recorders. Fourth prizes included one-hundred-fifty sets of encyclopedias, and one-thousand Shaeffer pen and pencil sets would be given away as fifth prizes.  

     On August 26, the song “Hey Jude” by the Beatles was released in the U.S. It went on to become a number one hit.  





Circus In Greenville – 1964

     The Hunt Brothers Circus at Burgess Field in Greenville – 1964 

Photos courtesy of Mrs. Anne Allen of Greenville.

For more information, see “Elephants And Other Curiosities” on the “Historic Articles” page of this website.       

Click on images to enlarge.

Hunt Brothers Circus
Burgess Field, Greenville, R.I.

Elephants And Other Curiosities

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine, August, 2018

Click on images to enlarge.

Elephants and Other Curiosities

By Jim Ignasher

     Question: How much does and elephant weigh?

     In the summer of 1963, knowing the answer would earn you a free ride on Dolly, a circus elephant with the Hunt Brothers Royal International (traveling) Circus.

     Guessing Dolly’s weight was part of a publicity campaign aimed at promoting the circus which would be erecting the “big top” at Burgess Field located off Pleasant View Avenue in Greenville on July 31st, but more about that later.      

     For those unaware, which until recently included me, there was a time when traveling circuses used to visit Smithfield on an annual basis. This fact was brought to my attention by Mrs. Anne Allen of Greenville, whose property once abutted Burgess Field, and who supplied the photos for this article.

   “The most fun of all,” Anne explained in a recent interview, “was watching the circus set up.” She went on to explain how the circus would come in at first light,    and people of all ages would set their alarm clocks so they could wake up at 4:00 a.m. and go to watch. All the kids in the neighborhood, including her own, would be there.

   Among the circus employees were the performers, who would sit outside their trailers drinking coffee and conversing with the local children while the massive “big top” tent went up. Some of the older youths would participate in the set-up process and be rewarded with free tickets to the show.  

     The Hunt Brothers Circus began operation in Kingston, New York, in 1892, and by 1963 was reported to be the “largest rolling tent show” in America. The circus toured the northeastern portion of the United States sometimes appearing in seven towns in as many days. Life on the road wasn’t easy, but those who lived and traveled with the circus wouldn’t have had it any other way.        

     Circus life had its own lingo. Perhaps most people know that the clowns waited in “clown alley” outside the “big top” awaiting their cue from the “ring master”. But how many know that an elephant was a “bull”, and a “bull man” was its handler. Or that an “ace note” was a dollar, a “fin” a five dollar bill, and a “saw buck” a ten, any of which could be used to “duke” or pay someone. “Floss” was cotton candy, which one could buy at the “floss joint”. However, if one was in the mood, they might wander over to the “grease joint” for a hamburger, conveniently located next to the “garbage joint” where novelties and souvenirs were sold. And getting “itchy feet” meant it was time to take everything down and move on to the next town.    

     Hunt Brothers Circus advertised 50 acts which appeared in three rings under the big top – hence the term, “three ring circus”. There were acrobats and jugglers, trapeze artists and tight rope walkers, lion tamers, and of course, clowns. Dolly wasn’t the only elephant owned by the circus; there were at least two others, as well as a menagerie of trained seals, monkeys, and a pure-bred Arabian horse named Hajiian that had an appetite for pickled herring.      

Hunt Brothers Circus
Burgess Field, Greenville, R.I.

     The performances would generally last two hours, with one in the morning, and the other that same evening. By the following day the entire circus would be gone as if by magic.  

     The circus was conducted under the auspices of the Smithfield Babe Ruth League, which would hold regularly scheduled ball games at Burgess Field. Thus it was that Burgess Field was chosen over other open areas of town such as Waterman’s Field at Waterman’s lake, today occupied by condominiums, but was once the site of the annual Firemen’s Carnival.

     In 1965 the famous King Brothers Circus came to town, and like Hunt Brothers, also occupied Burgess Field. King Brothers would reportedly travel to twenty states within the course of a year, visiting 200 cities from coast to coast. Like Hunt Brothers, it too had elephants.

     Getting back to Dolly and the Hunt Brothers; the contest to guess her weight was announced in the July 4th edition of The Observer , which printed an entry blank for the “Ride-The-Elephant Contest”. Besides a free elephant ride the winner who guessed the closest would receive four photos of themselves sitting atop of Dolly as proof that they’d actually rode an elephant. Initially, any child between the ages of 7 and 17 was welcome to enter, but then some adults complained that they too should be allowed to compete for an elephant ride. The following week the rules had been broadened to include those up to the age of 70. (It was thought that nobody over the age of 70 would be interested.) In the end the complaining was for naught, for there were actually two winners, and both were under 17. Two girls, Jo-Ann Simpson, 13, of Esmond, and Jeanine Falino, 8, of Centerdale, had both submitted the guess of 6,500 pounds. Dolly’s actual weight was 6,508 pounds.

     Since the girls had tied, both got to ride Dolly. One at the morning performance, and the other at the evening show, no doubt giving both a memory that would last a lifetime.

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