50 Years Ago – September, 1969

50 Years Ago – September, 1969

     Airman Walter J. Abbott of Smithfield completed basic training with the U. S. Air Force.

     PFC Wilfred R. Beaudoin of Esmond was serving in Vietnam near Saigon. 

     On September 2, the first automatic bank teller machine, (ATM), went into service at a bank in Rockville Centre, New York.

     Miss Robin Lynn Marshall, age 11, was crowned Homecoming Queen for the Smithfield Raiders football team. Members of the Queen’s court included: Kathy Troy, Cathy Averill, Chris Dio, Judy Harrison, Leisa Halligan, Suzanne Payette, Kathy Nangle, Rochelle Gagnon, and Barbara Zuba.

     By the way, the Raiders won the homecoming game.

     Smithfield High School Senior Gail Wilbur won an essay contest in which she articulated why her school should receive a free video tape recorder. Her essay was one of thirty-two entered.

     Thanks to Miss Wilbur, the high school received a new SONY video tape recorder valued at $2,395. Keep in mind that this was 1969, when $2,400 could purchase a new car.  

     On September 13, the popular kids cartoon Scooby-Doo premiered on Saturday morning television. It was reportedly created in response to complaints that cartoons had become too violent.

     Other well-known television shows introduced later in the month included The Brady Bunch, and Love American Style.    

     If one went to the movies in September of 1969, they likely saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford which, by the way, featured the popular song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”.  

     Fifty members of the Apple Valley Barbershop Chorus competed in the Eastern Seaboard Barbershop Chorus Contest held in Albany, New York. They brought with them fifteen bushels of locally grown apples to give out.     

     The Greenville Grange, once located on Austin Avenue just in from Putnam Pike, elected new officers. They were: Joseph P. Connetti, Master; John Aiello, Assistant Steward; Ernest Smith, to the Executive Committee; Howard Horton, Secretary; Earl House, Steward of the R. I. State Grange, and Installing Officer; J. Lester Tobin, to the Executive Committee, Christopher Cabral, Overseer of the Executive Committee, Americo Capanelli, Gate Keeper; Ruth Smith, Lecturer; Eleanor Wood, Chaplain; Mildred Steere, Flora; Anna E. Connetti, Ceres; and Mary Sheffield, Pomona.      

 

 

50 Years Ago – October, 1967

50 Years Ago – October, 1967

By Jim Ignasher

     October 1, 1967 marked the 60th anniversary of the Greenville Grange, an organization that promoted community and agriculture.

     Henry S. Turner and a group of other influential citizens are credited for the formation of the Greenville Grange which held its first meeting in 1907 in the vestry of the Greenville Baptist Church.

     The officers elected at that meeting were: Henry S. Turner, Master; Nicholas S. Winsor, Overseer; Mrs. Henry Eldredge, Lecturer; Thomas K. Winsor, (aka “The Apple King”), Steward; Frank Colwell, Assistant Steward; James Winsor, Chaplain; Mary M. Steere, Treasurer; Mary B. Lamb, Secretary; Frank Grant, Gatekeeper; Mary Barden, Ceres; Lizzie A. Hill, Pomona, Alice Blanchard, Flora; Jennie A. Winsor, Lady Assistant Steward.

     The organization initially held its meetings at the church before deciding to utilize the upstairs portion of Wilkinson Hall which once stood across the street from the Baptist Church on the corner of Austin Avenue and Route 44, where a dry cleaners and law office are located today. The first floor or Wilkinson Hall was occupied by the Smithfield Market, but the upper floors were used for meetings and entertainment,

     Wilkinson Hall burned to the ground in 1916, necessitating the grange meetings to once again be held in the church. A short time later the Greenville Grange began to hold its meetings in the back room of Tobey’s Store, which once stood on the corner of Route 44 and Smith Avenue, on the site now occupied by Wood Items and More. Tobey’s store burned on January 23, 1924, and was replaced by the brick building that stands today.

     In 1939 the Greenville Grange acquired the former Greenville School, a building that dated to 1874, and converted it to a Grange Hall. The school stood on Austin Avenue, just in from Route 44, until the 1980s when it was demolished to make way for new development.

     On October 10, 1967, the Grange held an open house party to celebrate the anniversary and invited the public to attend. In preparation of the event, the building had been refurbished and painted. Presiding at the celebration was Master Joseph Connetti.

     State Master Woodrow Tucker presented awards to Greenville Grange members for community progress, membership growth, and home economics.

     Music was provided by Priscilla Lowell and her orchestra.

     On October 3, the Bernon Library, that in 1967 stood at 15 Homestead Ave., and the Esmond Free Public Library, which occupied the former Esmond Recreation Hall at 7 Esmond Street, merged together to form the Esmond Free Public Library Corporation. The name was changed shortly afterwards to the East Smithfield Public Library.

     At the time of the merger it was hoped that a new library building could be built within the next three years. Meanwhile, the library would continue to operate at both locations.

     Airman 2/C Brian P. McCaffrey of Greenville was home on leave before his deployment to Vietnam.

     Airman 1/C Thomas D. Paiva of Esmond was serving with the Air Force Security Police at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam.

     Lieutenant (j.g.) Warren Manchester was appointed commander of the Smithfield Junior Naval Cadets.  

     The annual Smithfield Harvest Festival was held at Waterman’s Lake on October 8. Besides the traditional games and rides, entertainment included a trick-motorcycle exhibition performed by New England’s champion rider “Chubby DeCubellis”, as well as a multiple parachute drop by members of the North Central Sky Diving Club.

     Square dancing music was performed by Russ King & Co., and dance music for the “younger generation”, (Who would be in their 50s and 60s today.) was provided by a group called “The Pastel Shaydes”. (Their spelling.)

     Bryant College, (Now Bryant University), announced that it was going to develop the 220 acre parcel of land on Route 7 it had received as a gift from Earl S. Tupper. One local newspaper reported that the campus would be known as “Tupper Campus on Memory Hill”. (How many knew that? I didn’t.)

     The land included several buildings, one being a former aircraft hangar, and the other being the Captain Joseph Mowry House that dates to 1708. The hangar is now gone, but the Mowry House still stands.    

 

 

 

 

Smithfield’s Early Schools

Originally published in the Smithfield Times magazine, September, 2017.

Smithfield’s Early Schools

By Jim Ignasher

     Everyone’s heard the old story about the father who tells his children how hard life was when he was young; “When I was a kid, we had to walk to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill, both ways!” We laugh at it today, but there was a time when such a statement wasn’t that far removed from fact. In the days of the iconic “one-room school house”, youths of all ages walked to school, or if they were lucky, rode a horse. They probably weren’t barefoot unless it was summer, (yes, school was sometimes held in summer.) but it’s likely that some weren’t adequately clothed for harsh weather. It was a time before electric lighting, central heating, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing. The classroom was lit with oil lamps, heat came from a pot-bellied stove, AC consisted of open windows, and the outhouse was just a short hop, skip, and a jump through the schoolyard. Perhaps that’s why the father who first uttered those words began with, “Kids today have it too easy!”      

     It’s September, the month that signals the end of summer and the start of a new school year, so an article about early schools in Smithfield seemed appropriate. In the archives of the Smith-Appleby House Museum is a lengthily research paper written by a former Smithfield teacher, Thomas B. Davis in 1933 titled “District Schools of Smithfield, R. I. Before 1871”. Part of the information in this article was derived from his research, and some from other sources.

     From 1730 to 1871 the town of Smithfield included the present-day municipalities of Central Falls, Lincoln, North Smithfield, and Woonsocket south of the Blackstone River, and by 1871 Smithfield had no less than thirty-six separate school districts. (The boundaries of each district can be seen on the Beers 1871 map of Smithfield, found in the Beers Atlas, at the Greenville Library.) Space does not permit mentioning all of them, so this article will only focus on those seven districts that were within the boundaries of present-day Smithfield.  

     As a point of fact, the “one-room school house” commonly depicted in art and literature didn’t become a common part of the American landscape until the early 1800s. Before then, school was generally held in comparatively informal settings such as homes or businesses.   And although many tend to picture a “little red school house”, photographic evidence from the 19th century indicates schools were just as likely to be painted white, and in some cases, made of brick.

     District 13 was the “Evans District”, and included Evans Road and Mann School Road. Between 1806 and 1826, Daniel Mann taught school in his home, (Hence the name of the road.), before a proper school house was erected in the vicinity of Mann School Road and Burlingame Road. That school house was later replaced by a new building in 1853.  

     Greenville was District 14. According to Mr. Davis, the first school in this area consisted of a room in the Greenville Tavern, a.k.a. the Waterman Tavern, sometime around 1750. This seems laughable when one considers that no establishment that serves alcohol can be located within 200 feet of a school in Smithfield today.

     The first school house in Greenville was constructed sometime later in the vicinity of the present-day Greenville Post Office. In 1804 it was replaced by a two-story structure known as the Greenville Academy, which was later relocated on Smith Avenue and converted to housing. In 1874, another two-story school was built on the site of the former academy and remained in use until the William Winsor School was completed in 1930.

     In 1939, the former school was acquired by the Greenville Grange and utilized as a meeting hall until it was demolished to make way for new development in the 1980s.

   The Village of Stillwater was District 15. As with other early districts the first “school” was taught in a private home – in this case the home of John Smith Appleby, which everyone knows today as the Smith-Appleby House Museum. Stillwater’s first school house wasn’t built until 1828, but its exact location is unclear. In 1856, (Some sources state 1869), a new school was erected just to the north of the intersection of Stillwater Road and Hanton City Trail.

     Georgiaville was District 16. Up until 1820, school was held in the home of John S. Farnum before classes were conducted in a building owned by the textile mill. The first school house was erected on Railroad Street in 1850. It was originally a one-story structure, but a second floor was added in 1873.

     From 1924 to 1942 the building was utilized as a fire station by the Georgiaville Fire Company before the present station was built. It later served as a DPW garage before being burned for training by the fire department in 1962.

     Esmond (formerly known as Allenville and Enfield) was District 17. The first school was erected in 1820 on Maple Street, but was replaced in 1849 by a new building on Esmond Street. Another school was later built on Chamberlain Street and is today a private residence.

     West Greenville, District 20, was one of the smallest districts in town. Its school stood on Route 44, just before West Greenville Road. The building reportedly began its existence as a grist mill, but was moved to that site by Captain Elisha Steere to serve as a school.

   The first school house in Spragueville, (District 28), was constructed next to the Spragueville Dam in 1808, and stood until 1920.   

     Mr. Davis also noted that Smithfield had a school house that wasn’t designated its own district. He wrote in part, “Levi Barnes built a small school house at his own expense on Wolf Hill about 1825.” Levi had nine children, and hired a teacher to educate them, as well as any of his neighbor’s children who wanted to attend. The building was later converted to a home, and was still standing as of 1933.  

     Today, Smithfield has six public schools which are all under one school district, and although school buses have replaced horses, the story of trudging to school barefoot in the snow endures.

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