Quahogenstein

Quahogenstein

A compendium of odd facts, audacious anecdotes, goofy photos, and random flotsam.

Drawer full of quahog shells
Quahog.org's junk draw.

This section is a catch-all for short items that don't fit elsewhere on Quahog. It includes news stories, advertisements, trivia, handy tips, "funny" photos, correspondence, and sights from around the Ocean State that are quirky, interesting, or otherwise fun, but that we don't feel we can, in good conscience, devote an entire article to (at least, not yet). We like to call this collection of spare parts and substandard materials... Quahogenstein.








Last Edited
2020-03-19

I Heart Providence

Quahog staffers took part in their first public event on February 10, 2009, manning an information table at I Heart Providence. Organizers of the event invited people to Providence City Hall to meet, mingle, and confess their feelings for Rhode Island's capital city. The results can be seen in the following two videos.

We were too busy chatting with folks about Providence history and our website to be interviewed (or to sample any of the treats purveyed by some of the other event participants), but you can see us packing up in the background of a couple of shots, so that's kinda cool and lame at the same time.

Originally posted March 27, 2009.

Last Edited
2023-09-04

Dear Stuffie,

I'm stuck in Providence on a rainy day. Do you have any suggestions for indoor activities?

There's also the Providence Place Mall, but unless you're looking for the comforting sameness that can be found in any mall coast to coast, we don't encourage you to go there. If that's what you're looking for, though, hey, knock yourself out.

Last Edited
2022-04-29

A Towering Idea

From: Stephen S.
To: stuffie@quahog.org
Received: March 29, 8:12am
Subject: Water Tower I-95 West Greenwich

"I am writing to suggest doing a similar thing to the water tower on I-95 in West Greenwich that has been done to a water tower on I-85 in South Carolina. The water tower has been made to look like a gigantic peach. I think the water tower in West Greenwich made to look like a Quahog would forever make the quahog synonymous with Rhode Island for all the traveling vacationers from all over America. Just a thought!!!"

Questions of who owns the tower and who would pay for the paint job aside, we think it's a great idea. Here's our mock-up of what a quahoggified water tower might look like:

South Carolina's peach; West Greenwich's water tower; West Greenwich's water tower quahoggified.
South Carolina's peach; West Greenwich's water tower; West Greenwich's water tower quahoggified.

Update, April 13, 2021: We posted this to our Facebook page on April 7, and by the 13th it had been viewed by almost 30,000 people and shared 150 times. For a page with only 5.4k followers that's the equivalent of viral. Comments were overwhelmingly positive.

Last Edited
2021-09-16

Pep Song for Rhode Island

by Mildred Harris

[With an obvious debt to Flanders and Swann's, "A Song of Patriotic Prejudice," from At The Drop of Another Hat.]

Rhode Island? Rhode Island? Rhode Island is where?
Look in New England; it should be right there.
It's neighbors are huge and prosperous as well.
But Rhode Island has chickens and it's easier to spell.

Rhode Island is tiny; Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island's the littlest State of them all!

It's proud to be known as State Number Thirteen
From 1790 and all in between.
It flies a State Flag of blue, gold and white.
With "Hope" as its motto, it's future looks bright.

Rhode Island is tiny; Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island's the littlest State of them all!

You can pedal across from the East to the West.
Or walk North to South, whichever is best.
The Ocean State's beaches draw tourists in droves,
Water sports, sunning and fishing in coves.

Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island's the littlest State of them all!

Rhode Island is pretty; it's summers are nice.
Sometimes in winter it's covered in ice.
The chickens are red and delicious to eat.
And if you like quahogs, you're in for a treat.

Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island's the littlest State of them all!

You've heard about Newport and nothing much more?
There's Providence—thrice!—and a whole lot of shore.
Central Falls, Cranston, Woonsocket are three,
Warwick, Pawtucket—and a red maple tree.

Rhode Island is tiny, Rhode Island is small.
Rhode Island's the State that I like best of all!

Mildred Harris describes herself as a "foreign* admirer of The Littlest State of Them All, (*as in 'from one of the other (larger) States')."

Submitted via email December 12, 2013. Posted to Quahog Annex on WordPress, December 2013; to Quahog.org, March 22, 2019.

Last Edited
2023-01-07

Better than Torture

Christopher and Dan were recently interviewed by Gordon Forman for his nascent podcast series on weathergnome.com. In it they talk about how Quahog.org came to be and discuss the borders of South County, vampires, Johnnycakes vs. jonnycakes, and other Rhode Island minutiae. Take a listen. After all, there are far worse ways to spend thirty-five minutes of your life. Standing on line at the DMV comes to mind. Or buried up to your neck at the top of the Johnston Landfill, during a hurricane. Or regaining consciousness to find you're tied up, with one of Buddy Cianci's old toupees stuffed in your mouth as a gag, surrounded by hundreds of live, unbanded lobsters, at noon on a 100-degree day, inside the thorax of the Big Blue Bug. Those would be bad ways to spend thirty-five minutes.

Anyway, listen here and be thankful you're not being forced to endure a thirty-five-minute performance by The Dancing Cop.

Originally posted June 7, 2011.

Last Edited
2020-08-04

A Difference of Opinion

Don Bousquet cartoon, 1985
(©1985 Don Bousquet. Used with permission).

Subject: Don Bousquet
Date Sent: Sunday, December 5, 2010 6:02 PM
From: JAYTNT@...
To: stuffie@quahog.org

I don't know who you are or what you do—but I'm pissed...

I am totally sick of Bousquet thinking that the Rhode Island Accent is funny. Making fun of a localities speech patterns and pronunciations just shows ignorance and bias.

If you see him, tell him to go back to what ever finishing/charm school he attended in whatever boring state he wasn't educated in and learn some manners.

Or just shut up! No resident of this state thinks he's funny when he makes fun of half the populace. Maybe in Kansas it's funny—not here.

Ray


Subject: Re: Don Bousquet
Date Sent: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 10:45 AM
From: Stuffie
To: JAYTNT@...

Hi Ray,

Hate him if you wish, but I respectfully suggest that you may be in the minority in your opinion of Bousquet's humor. Since 1980 his cartoons have appeared in newspapers and magazines all over New England. He's published more than twenty books and people stand in line for hours at his book signings. In 2009 he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. His book, The Rhode Island Dictionary (in collaboration with Providence Journal columnist Mark Patinkin), still stands as the definitive final word on the Rhode Island accent and language. No longer in print, Amazon.com currently lists the book at prices from $41 to $75 a copy.

Moreover, even in a state this small, there's enough interest in local humor to sustain a cartoonist, a columnist (Patinkin), and a comedian (Charlie Hall), all mining the same material. The thing is, though, they make fun, but they do it with a deep affection for their subject matter.

None of this, of course, negates that fact that you are offended. The same way that Rush Limbaugh being wildly popular with millions of people doesn't make me think he's any less of a douche. But Limbaugh has a right to make a living and to speak his mind, and so does Bousquet. And you and I have the right to complain about it, if it pleases us to do so. Ain't America great?

I don't have Mr. Bousquet's email address, otherwise I'd CC: him so he could be aware of your feelings, and possibly defend himself.

Respectfully,

Christopher Martin
Curator, Quahog.org

PS: Bousquet is a life-long Rhode Islander; born in Pawtucket, moved to Richmond at the age of nine, attended Chariho High School. His "finishing school" was the United States Navy.

Last Edited
2023-07-21

Emancipation Day at Crescent Park

I believe that tomorrow (August 1) is the anniversary of Emancipation Day at Crescent Park. My memories of it are somewhat my own and somewhat borrowed from my older sisters.

In 1960 and 1961, my oldest sister was employed by McCusker's Pop Corn stand, across the midway from the merry-go-round and next to the road and the bus stop for buses heading back to Providence. I remember that on both August firsts she came home at 11:30pm after work at the park and talked about the "mayhem" that occurred that evening on the midway. "Mayhem" wasn't the word she used. On one of those two August firsts, another two of my sisters had gone to the center of Riverside to the Gilbert Stuart Theatre to see a movie, and were walking the 2.5 miles home but were hoping to flag down a bus if one went by on Pawtucket Avenue in Riverside. One bus did go by and they tried to flag it down but the bus driver ignored them and kept on going. When they got home, they called the bus company (UTC, the forerunner of RIPTA) to complain. What they learned was that the bus driver saw them but didn't stop to pick them up because he didn't think it would be good to introduce two white teenage girls into the mob on the bus who were rampaging and ripping the seats to shreds.

Detail of Crescent Park post card, circa 1912
This circa 1912 postcard shows an earlier incarnation of a McCusker's stand. (From the collection of Louis McGowan).

By 1965, it was my turn to work at McCusker's during the summer. As usual on Emancipation Day, five minutes before the park closed, McCusker's would be mobbed with people wanting to buy $1.55 boxes of popcorn with 10s and 20s. People would be standing four to five people deep with arms thrust out waving money at us. Mae McCusker, who owned the concession and ran the stand, decided not to do business with this mob, so she made the decision to close five minutes early. So us girls stepped back, out of arm's reach, and the boys stepped forward, one boy to each window. On the inside of the building, there were wooden shutters that were raised and lowered on tracks, and when the bottoms of the shutters were flush with the counters, the shutters were then locked into place. So there was one boy per window/shutter and at the count of three, all the shutters started to come down. Every inch that the shutter could be lowered, it was, despite the arms thrust forward and waving money. Slowly, people came to realize that if they didn't pull their arms back, they were going to be crushed by the descending shutter, so eventually, all the arms disappeared and the shutters were closed and locked. But then we had to wait in the darkened building for twenty to thirty minutes until the crowd dissipated. Then we had to walk in groups back to our cars. No one, male or female, was allowed to leave the building alone.

The next year, 1966, word went out to the rides, games, and concessions that the park was going to close fifteen minutes early. Every night when it was closing time, a factory-type whistle would blow that could be heard the length of the midway. The whistle was located at the administration building which was across the street from the midway and next to the shore dinner hall. So on this particular Emancipation Day, in 1966, the whistle blew at 10:45pm instead of its usual 11pm time, and all the rides stopped and all the shutters on the concessions and games came down in unison, leaving everyone standing or walking on the midway looking stunned. But the crowd, having gotten over its surprise, dissipated quietly and without trouble. Again, we had to wait for the crowd to leave before we were allowed to walk in groups back to our cars.

By 1967, I was working somewhere else and lost track of events on Emancipation Day.

—Phyllis, Augusta, Maine

Originally posted August 1, 2010.

Last Edited
2023-07-23

History Repeats

With the BP oil spill gushing up to 62,000 barrels of crude per day into the Gulf of Mexico, it was very timely to come across this article in an old local newspaper from March 4, 1968. The disaster that time was a grounded oil tanker in a Puerto Rico bay, but a lot of the techniques used in the containment were the same as those in use today—and there's a Rhode Island connection.

News clipping, 1968
(Providence Journal, March 4, 1968).

Originally posted to Facebook July 13, 2010.

Last Edited
2023-08-04

Disco is Dead? Tell that to Bobby Braciola.

Bobby Braciola, Rhode Island's "Italian Rapper," attempts to bring back all of those steps that we thought we had seen the tail end of in 1979.

Chooch to Gooch: The Ten Steps of Disco Dancin'

Last Edited
2023-07-22

Air Mail Mailbox #2

Pictures of a mailbox with wings, 2004.
140 Lindy Avenue, Warwick. (March 28, 2009).

This is the second one of these we've seen in our little state. It's possible Lindy Avenue was named for Charles Lindbergh, who in 1927 was the first person to fly solo between New York and Paris, France. The mailbox is also located less than a mile from T.F. Green Airport. Coincidence? Or intention?

Last Edited
2020-07-12

Floating Bust

"Le Reve, the Man in Water," by artist James Steele can be seen in the Providence River, just south of the Crawford Street Bridge. It has appeared in various incarnations since 1999. Anchored to the river bottom by a twenty-foot chain, the sculpture looks north or south, depending on the direction of the tide.

Floating bust, 2005
(May 1, 2005).

Floating bust, 2005
(May 1, 2005).

Floating bust, 2005
(May 1, 2005).

Floating bust, 2005
(May 1, 2005).

Floating bust, 2008
(June 28, 2008).

Last Edited
2023-07-28

Find the Spivak

Joel Spivak headshot

Phyllis from Augusta, Maine, contacted us in May 2008 and asked: "Does anyone remember Joel A. Spivak who followed Salty Brine in the mornings on the radio?"

Using the awesome power of the Internet, we were able to track down Mr. Spivak and piece together his resume. From what we can gather, he worked at WPRO-AM around 1962-'64. Previous to that, in 1958, he was at KILT in Houston. After his stint in Providence he moved on to KLAC-AM in Los Angeles (c1968), WCAU-AM in Philadelphia (1970-'87), and WWRC-AM in Washington, D.C. (1987-'95). Some of these stations had sister television stations and he worked for them as an anchor or commentator. Since 1995, says Mr. Spivak, "I've done press relations for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a national anti-tobacco advocacy group headquartered in D.C."

"I have a lot of wonderful memories of my time in Providence," Mr. Spivak writes. "WPRO has a very active alumni group and, over the years, I have heard from several of the people I worked with on radio and TV while I was there. I am stunned that anybody up there remembers me, and I must say I'm flattered."

Whatever else Spivak got up to on the air during his tenure in Providence, it may have been something as simple as a cookie that imprinted his show on the memories of listeners. According to Phyllis:

One of the regular features on Joel Spivak's morning radio program was a contest in which he would pose a riddle and ask people to call in with the answers. The riddles were logic problems. He promised to give a cookie to anyone who got the riddle right. One day my mother called in with the correct answer. When she told us that evening that she had won a cookie, we wondered how the station would get her her cookie. Was it a REAL cookie she'd won? Would it be mailed? Would it arrive in crumbs? A few days later, she got an envelope from WPRO with a "lump" inside. When she opened it, she discovered a Fig Newton wrapped in aluminum foil. I thought it was very clever to send a Fig Newton, because the filling would keep the cookie from breaking up into bits. The cookie was edible, and she enjoyed eating her cookie.

Update, March 4, 2011: Mr. Spivak passed away at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, at the age of 75.

Last Edited
2023-07-25

In the Company of Misery

Screenshot of Kathy Bates in Misery, 1990
"Tell those cockadoodie media jerks to leave my Little Rhody alone!" (Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990)).

Another ranking based on a selection of arbitrary measures, this time by Forbes.com, places Providence at number ten on their Misery Index. 150 cities were ranked based on unemployment, taxes, commute times, weather, violent crime, and Superfund sites, then the ranks were added together for an overall score. With ranks of 121, 149, 69, 110, 51, and 111, respectively, Providence's Misery Measure added up to 611. Detroit was number one with an overall score of 696. With a tax rank of 149, Providence is second only to New York City for acute chronic wallet pain.

Critics of the ranking point out the obvious, that there are good things about living in these cities that, for many of us, counterbalance or outweigh the bad. Not included in the equation are access to beaches and green space, historical and cultural resources, local cuisine, or [insert your favorite local boastable here]. At best, this kind of ranking system is mere trivia, filler for a slow news cycle. At worst it reinforces the feelings of those citizens who believe that where they live is a big part of why their lives suck. Take it for what it's worth.

Last Edited
2023-09-04

Cat of Death

Dr. David M. Dosa, in the July 26, 2007, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, reported that a cat residing at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 100 Borden Street, Providence, can seemingly predict patient deaths. Two-year-old Oscar, a grey and white long-hair, has been observed consistently choosing for his cat-naps, the beds of end-stage Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease sufferers who only have two to four hours left to live. Once their time is up, Oscar rises, stretches, and casually walks away.

If we were more superstitious people we might imagine that Oscar was somehow sucking the last spark of life from these unfortunates to stoke the fires of his own nine lives. The staff at the nursing homes see a bright side to the fluffy little harbinger of death's cuddly visits, though—it allows them time to notify next-of-kin that the paradise train is probably about to leave the station. In recognition of Oscar's eerie gift, the cat was awarded a certificate of merit by Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island, "for providing exceptional end-of-life care."

Last Edited
2021-07-01

Ask Stuffie No. 001

Question mark icon.

Q: Your site is da bomb! Can I have a job?

A: Sorry, folks. We're flattered by your interest, but Quahog is not hiring. We are an all-volunteer organization, we don't accept advertising, and we have no money to pay you. If, however, you're interested in contributing research, writing, photographs, reminiscences, materials for our collection, or whatever, please drop us a line at stuffie@quahog.org.

Last Edited
2020-05-24

Celebrating Eye Strain

The Providence Journal has begun running television and radio ads touting their new expanded classifieds section with the slogan "You give me double vision—ProJo." Now, we understand the concept—they've doubled their classifieds content and it's accessible both in print and online—but we can't help but do a mental double take (so to speak) every time we hear the commercial. Double vision to us means you've been spending too much time reading small print or staring at a computer screen. It also means blunt force injuries to the skull, overuse of alcohol or controlled substances, sleep deprivation, or a symptomatic indication of a growing brain tumor. Not since the Foreigner song, which celebrated the effects of an all-night bender, have we heard a more ineffectual attempt to rehabilitate an unpleasant occular condition.

Originally posted April, 13, 2006.

Last Edited
2021-09-23

Bridge Boggin

We couldn't believe it at first, so we did it again. Then we asked a friend to do it and it came out the same. So it's true, a roll of Newport Bridge tokens is possibly the biggest bargain in Rhode Island. Here's the deal: the cost to drive your car once over the bridge is $2. But if you hand the toll operator a $10 bill and ask for a roll of tokens, you get ten tokens and you get to drive over the bridge. That's eleven trips for $10, a savings of $12, or almost fifty-five percent off the full price! So why wouldn't you buy a roll of tokens, even if you only drive over the bridge a few times in a year? Keep 'em in your glove compartment—you'll use them eventually.

Pell Bridge tokens.

Update: Since writing the above, we came across a June 1969 Evening Bulletin article announcing the sale of discounted tokens. While we're somewhat chagrinned to find we trumpeted something that probably everyone but us knew about, we're amazed by the fact that this discount has been in place almost forty years. Can you name any other product or service that costs the same now as it did in 1969?

Update, May 2008: Tokens will soon be a thing of the past with the installation of the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system on the Newport Bridge. However, once you get past the $10 cost of your first transponder (a second is $15 and any other boxes will run you $20.95 each), the cost of the toll for Rhode Island residents will remain at 83 cents a pop for the foreseeable future (which matches the current cost of "bulk" tokens—$50 for sixty). The fare for drivers paying cash will remain at $2. The Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority plans to have the system in place by January 2009.

Update, July 2023: E-ZPass has for some years been the main toll collection method, with license plate readers being used to identify vehicles that lack the technology. (In-person cash and credit card transactions ceased at the Newport Pell Bridge toll plaza in October 2021). Non-residents with E-ZPass are charged $2 per axle, while anyone without a transponder is mailed a bill at $3 per axle. Residents with E-ZPass continue to enjoy the low, low price of just 83 cents per toll, when by all rights, accounting for fifty-four years of inflation, the cost ought to be around $7!

Last Edited
2023-07-22

A Gastronomic Dare

Earle's Service Station, Meetinghouse Lane, Little Compton.
Photographed March 11, 2006.

Hand-written sign, 2006
(March 11, 2006).

Last Edited
2023-07-30

Debt Threat

Outlet Department Store credit card, c1976
Outlet Department Store credit card. (Circa 1976).

Providence Journal columnist Bob Kerr reported on February 24, 2006, that a Scituate couple, Walter and Deanna Soehnge, had recently been investigated by the Department of Homeland Security. Why? Because they paid off their credit card.

You read that right. Deciding that the balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten way too high, they conscientiously paid off the entire $6,522 amount... and promptly came face to face with Big Brother. The credit card company, noting the unusually large payment, notified Homeland Security and froze the Soehnge's account.

The account was later freed up—the Soehnge's were apparently found to be no threat to national security—but no explanation was ever offered as to how paying a debt could be viewed as subversive behavior.

Last Edited
2023-07-21

Blue Motorcycle Sculptures

Phillipsdale Landing, 310 Bourne Avenue, East Providence.
Photographed June 11, 2005.

Blue motorcycle sculptures, 2005.

Blue motorcycle sculptures, 2005.

Last Edited
2020-08-17

Bursting Forth in Song

So inspired is Providence-born fine artist Rossi d'Providence by the charms of his home state that he couldn't restrain himself from sharing the following little ditty with us:

Oh, Rhode Island (The State Song)
by Rossi d'Providence
May 21, 2005

Oh, Rhode Island, my Rhode Island
You are the nation's finest to me
From Woonsocket to the Scarborough beach
Good people are all I see.

How proud we are for whom we are
The Hummingbird, the Narragansett and thee
Together we're the grandest land of all
Oh Rhode Island, nature's jewel by the sea.

And Quahogs, tooooooo...

Last Edited
2021-03-16

Confirmation of Our Most Widely Held Belief

Rhode Island Driver's Manual, c2003.
Rhode Island Driver's Manual. (Circa 2003).

In late May 2005, GMAC Insurance released the results of a nationwide survey of drivers' knowledge of the rules of the road, confirming what many of us already knew: Rhode Island drivers suck. That's right, we came in dead last with an average score of 77 percent (wooo, high five!), while Oregon drivers tested best, with an average score of 89 percent. As an additional point of reference, the staff of Quahog.org (one of whom has been living in Japan for the past twelve years, where they don't even drive on the right side of the road), got an average score of 92.5 percent. In your face, Oregon!

Last Edited
2023-07-21

It Could Happen to Anyone

Screenshot of Alanis Morissette, 2015.
(Youtube).

On April 4, 2005, former Rhode Island Attorney General (1999-2003) Sheldon Whitehouse emerged from the front door of his Elmgrove Avenue, Providence, home and, flanked by his wife and two children, formally announced that he would run for the United States Senate seat held by Republican Lincoln D. Chafee.

At the conclusion of the press conference, in which Whitehouse spouted the usual political Mad Libs and promised to "work my heart out in this race for every vote... and take absolutely nothing for granted," he and his family turned to reenter their home, and found the door locked.

—from Providence Journal reports.

Last Edited
2023-09-12

Air Mail Mailbox

Pictures of a mailbox with wings, 2004.
60 Moosup Valley Road, Foster. (August 17, 2004).

Is it the case that every state has to have at least one example of this cheesy visual pun? Well, here's ours. We can't help but wonder what the stats are regarding the number of people who come up with this idea on their own versus those who are merely imitators.

Now if we can only find a two-story outhouse...

Update: As of September 2019 Google Street View shows this mailbox is no longer in place at this address, so don't bother to go looking for it.

Last Edited
2020-07-01

Bullrake to the Rescue!

Outside the Island Tap bar on Park Avenue in Portsmouth, Friday afternoon, February 6, 2004, one guy allegedly whacked another in the chest with a quahog rake.

According to police, the man with the rake, Michael Archambault, 45, of Portsmouth, got into a verbal disagreement with two brothers, Bradford and Christopher Landerville (23 and 26, respectively), also of Portsmouth, inside the bar. The disagreement became physical, with Archambault getting the worst of it.

Archambault exited the bar followed by the brothers, and the fight resumed. At some point Archambault ended the altercation when he took a quahog rake from his car and thumped Bradford Landerville a good one.

The fracas resulted in a bloody nose, other head injuries, and a charge of assault with a deadly weapon for Archambault; a trip to Newport hospital with "critical" chest injuries for Bradford Landerville (his condition was later upgraded); and a felony assault, a bail violation (in connection with a previous Newport drug charge), and a trip to the ACI for Christopher Landerville.

—from East Bay Newspapers reports.

Last Edited
2021-02-08

Advertorture

Rhode Island Monthly reported in April 1991 on a recent Blue Cross/Blue Shield television commercial:

A professor asks if anyone knows where Rhode Island is. His dimwitted students mumble a few stupid guesses and then a voice-over explains that, while it's true not everyone knows the location of the littlest state, everyone around the country is familiar with the Blue Cross line of coverage.

But the final frame holds an unintentional gaffe. The teacher, clearly exasperated, throws up his hands, then turns to a map and points to...

Delaware.

"Well," said one member of the Blue Cross public relations staff, "they're both small states."
Last Edited
2020-06-22

Firsties!

Author William Manchester offered up this anecdote in the August/September 1982 issue of American Heritage:

My mother belonged to one of the First Families of Virginia; my father was a New England Yankee. Late in life his last surviving brother became interested in genealogy, digging in the records of, among other places, Little Compton, Rhode Island. He found that Thomas Manchester, the first of our small but plucky clan, arrived from Yorkshire, England, in 1638, and three generations later, on August 16, 1723, in Little Compton, Benjamin Manchester married Martha Seabury, a great-granddaughter of John Alden and Priscilla Mullens. That put my father's family's roots in Plymouth, where, I had believed, the colonies had started. I mentioned it to my mother. In a voice like a bearing about to go, she replied, "That was in 1620. We were in Jamestown in 1608."

Last Edited
2020-07-28

What the Flock?

Clipping

Conn.: Dear Oracle: In reading an old will executed in Rhode Island, I noted that a son was given a flock bed. Could you kindly tell us what this is? A.E.G.

Answer: In this case "bed" means simply the pad such as "feather-bed," only not all old beds were stuffed with feathers. Some were stuffed with "flock," which was odds and ends of wool-combings, lint, and so on. Not a fancy article.

—Sayings of the Oracle, Yankee, April 1970.

Last Edited
2021-09-16

Distinction Can't Be Taken for Granite

Typical curling stones, 2023
Typical curling stones sold by Kay's Scotland, made of granite from Ailsa Graig. (www.kaysscotland.com, 2023).

In 1968 an inquiry from Canada through the Rhode Island Development Council indicated that the game of Curling in Canada was having difficulty in obtaining good curling stones. Apparently the very best curling stones had come from Rhode Island, but the quarries had ceased to operate. From the descriptions supplied in the inquiry it seemed almost certain that Westerly Granite was what they wanted, and it was true that most of the Westerly quarries had closed. Rhode Island's apparent distinction as the Curling Stone Capitol [sic] of the World had not been known to most Rhode Islanders.

—from Rhode Island Geology for the Non Geologist by Alonzo W. Quinn, (Providence, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Department of Natural Resources, 1973).

Note: So what has the curling world been doing for stones since the 1960s? Another island, Ailsa Craig, off the coast of Scotland, also lays claim to having the best granite for curling stones. According to Mike Thompson, the secretary general for the World Curling Federation in Perth, Scotland, sixty to seventy percent of curling stones in use in the world today came from Ailsa Craig.

Originally posted April 6, 2006.

Last Edited
2023-07-22

Citified East Providence Puts Horse Laws Out to Pasture

Toddler riding a toy horse
(Providence Public Library, James N. Arnold Image Collection (VM014_GN0427), undated).

Now that East Providence is a city instead of a town it plans to ignore the horse and buggy and concentrate on more modern means of transportation. A contract let to codify the community's ordinances specifies that all references to laws governing the conduct of horses and their owners be eliminated leaving nothing but the wholesome smell of gasoline in the East Providence air. No longer will it be unlawful for a citizen to hitch his horse to a tree or shrub, a public lamp, fire alarm, or police signal post or box. One rather confusing ordinance which is being put out to pasture is that which required horses to head "in the direction of travel." The codification of the ordinances is required by the city's home rule charter. The contract for the job of weeding out the laws of an earlier era went to the Michie City Publication Company of Charlottesville, Virginia, for $4,500.

—from the Providence Evening Bulletin, July 30, 1959.

Last Edited
2023-07-21

Clammers Menaced by Fake Quahaugs, Old Bedsprings

News clipping

Clam diggers are having a hard time these days, and [it] isn't from the weather. Greene River, between Potowomut and North Kingstown, is the scene of fiendish devices against clammers, according to usually reliable sources.

Fake quahaugs, cast in concrete by the thousand, are being taken in these waters, it is reported. Several bushel baskets full, representing a day's work, may return only a few cents in actual clams.

The other source of annoyance is a veritable mat of old bedsprings, wired together, said to cover much of the river bottom. A bull rake or tongs caught in this contraption may as well be kissed good-bye.

East Greenwich Pendulum, June 19, 1958.

Last Edited
2023-01-07

aka "The Bucket"

Robert O'Brien, in his guidebook, This is San Francisco, A Classic Portrait of the City, was less than enthused about S.F.'s Bush Street: "You won't remember it; you will get it mixed up with some street in Seattle or Chicago or that Armageddon of drabness and futility, Pawtucket, Rhode Island."

Last Edited
2023-12-24

Nope, No Bacon

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So Customer Wrecks Place At Cranston

"What, no bacon?" asked the customer.

"Nope," laconically answered the clerk in Frank Iaciafano's Cranston market.

That, apparently, was enough for the customer. Bit by bit, he proceeded to pull the store apart. Passersby were sure that a four-ton block buster had descended on the heretofore peaceful community.

Today, Anthony Mariano, 44, of 22 Cope street, Providence, whose liking for bacon and dislike of meat shortages caused the wrecking of the store, was committed to the state hospital for mental diseases by Acting Judge Edward Drinkwater in Eighth District Court.

Mariano walked into the market early yesterday afternoon. After receiving the negative answer be proceeded to (1) smash the refrigerator, (2) hurl soda bottles through showcases, (3) sweep the cash register and scales to the floor, breaking them, and (4) heave fresh vegetables, spices and flavors all over the place.

Leaving the once neat store the irate customer concentrated on the exterior as follows:

He picked up stones and laid down a barrage which destroyed (1) four big and expensive plate glass windows (2) transom windows, and (3) even a window in a second floor apartment.

Damage was estimated by police at several hundred dollars.

The Pawtucket Times, March 25, 1943.

Last Edited
2022-02-22

'Nope,' He Says...

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...Body Isn't His.

GALILEE, R.I., Sept. 24[, 1938](AP)—Charles Keville walked into a temporary morgue and looked at the body which had been identified as his.

"Nope," he said, "that ain't me," and walked out again.

Last Edited
2020-06-22

Good Advice, Even Today

80 DAYS—Don't do this!

Boy riding car bumper, 1938
One of the greatest perils to Providence's 80-day record of going without an automobile accident fatality is shown in the above picture—posed—a boy stealing a ride on the back of a car. A jounce may throw the boy to the street—and the following car may be unable to stop in time. Parents are urged by police to keep their boys from 'hooking rides'.
Evening Bulletin, April 28, 1938.

Last Edited
2023-07-30

To Blaze in Glory

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(Providence Journal, November 17, 1898).

Internal Revenue Office Interior Will Match Water Cooler

They are painting the Internal Revenue offices in the United States building on South Main street, and all the neighbors wonder. It's a great event. No one can remember when they have been painted before, and as for the paper, it was made at the time Jackson was having his fight with the State Banks under the advice of his kitchen cabinet. So you see the renovation is not such a small thing as might be imagined.

It all came from the water cooler. Last summer the Treasury Department with a recklessness unparalleled, placed a new water cooler in the office. To be sure, the requisitions for it had been in about three years, the request being renewed each summer, but then no one had expected any greater success this year than had attended the other efforts. The old cooler was very useful as an example of ancient architecture and could be used for several other things than holding water. Ice melted in that as well as anywhere else, and the deputies had a new pastime, of speculating on their chances of finding water in it before they went to drink. But at last they got a new cooler.

That was the beginning of a riotous career of extravagance and renovation. The glories of that cooler, with its red and blue and no one knows what other color paint, and its picture of the Maine on the front, shone forth resplendent against a dingy background. The carpet looked shabby after that, although the deputies, with jealous care, hid the cooler in a closet where none might see it and be stricken with its charms.

The carpet had to go, and a new one came in its place. That made the walls look dirty, and another requisition for 10 cents worth of paint and some rolls of wall paper, with a man to put them up, was made. An inspector came, looked at the walls, looked at the carpet and was then taken in the closet and given a drink from the cooler. That settled it. The observation through the bottom of the glass of ice water turned the scale, and the recommendation was favorable.

Tuesday the painters came and touched up the ceiling. Then they began on the woodwork and now all is linseed oil in the office, smothering the smell of the cigars brought in by customers who have fell designs on the welfare of the deputies. Some new and handsome wall paper is going up, and the deputes are fleeing from the place and working anywhere, writing letters against the wall and finding every minute of the day that their most important letters and papers are still in the desks over which the painters and the paper hangers are working.

But it cannot last forever, and then the joy of it when it is done! The deputies expect to have a coming-out party at that festive period. Meanwhile, they are casting glances of scorn at the rooms downstairs. These are being whitewashed or something, but they are not to be compared with the scene of splendor in the upper story. Nothing can be compared with that. It is like the whiskers of a Populist. Incomparable.

Editor's Notes: Alert reader Nick P. identified the "United States building" as the Custom House formerly located at 129-131-133 South Main Street, the west corner of the intersection with Customs Avenue (which no longer exists). The Custom House was built around 1817, and the Internal Revenue Service occupied the second floor in 1887. The site is now occupied by the eleven-story building that houses Hemenway's Restaurant and the Brown University School of Public Health.

Customs House, c1901
The old Custom House. (A History of Public Buildings Under the Control of the Treasury Department, 1901).

"whiskers of a Populist" may refer specifically to the impressive facial shrubbery of William A. Peffer, a Populist politician from Kansas who served in the U.S. Senate from 1891-'97.

Last Edited
2023-12-07

Woman Horse Thief in Rhode Island

News clipping

PROVIDENCE, R.I., July 19.—A woman horse thief is leading the officers of South County a lively chase all over the State. She was in town last night, but early this morning she left the city. Tuesday she appeared in Westerly at E. Hodge's livery stable. She hired a fine turnout to drive to Watch Hill. She did not return that night, and Chief Coon of that town learned that she was in league with a gang of horse thieves that has operated in Connecticut. She was followed to Narragansett Pier, and there track of her was lost. The woman is twenty-nine years old and of attractive appearance.

The New York Times, July 20, 1894.

Last Edited
2023-07-22

A Fish Story

Brick, 2023
Brick from Stiles Brick Company, Connecticut, circa 1900. (July 27, 2023).

Anthony Fish's wife, who lives on Prospect Hill Street, was arrested this morning for assaulting her husband. While drunk she threw a brick at him and inflicted an ugly wound in his forehead. He was taken to W.H. Cotton who dressed the wound. Both the Fishes have been to the state farm, and the woman will go there again. There are several little Fishes.

—from the Newport Daily News, June 29, 1875.

Last Edited
2023-07-27

Hedging His Bets

Buddy Christ, 1999
Buddy Christ, from the 1999 movie Dogma. (Wikipedia).

Judge Job Clark, of Hopkinton, aged 93 years, was baptized on the 2d instant, and united with the 1st Seventh-day Baptist Church in that town. The rite was administered at his residence by Elder Joshua Clark, pastor of the Church, assisted by Eld. Henry Clark, son of the Judge. Mr. C. has been from early life a disbeliever in the divinity of Christ, the Gospel, and the Christian religion, and has therefore depended upon morality, or, as he says, "natural religion," until within a year, when he renounced this dependence as inadequate, and professed undoubting faith in Christ, his Gospel, and unshaken confidence in all promises of the Saviour of sinners. Truly, this is "at the eleventh hour."

—from Narragansett Weekly, May 13, 1858.

Note: "Instant" used in the above context means the current month. Thus, the geezer was baptized on May 2. And not for nuthin', but Mr. Clarke lived more than two additional years, passing away September 17, 1860.

Last Edited
2023-09-11

House to Let

Strange that a harp of thousand strings Should keep in tune so long.

THE subscriber has several chambers to let in his house which is beautifully located directly opposite Trinity Church Burying Ground; he will rent the rooms with furniture, or without, as may best suit the tenant. There is, probably, no more desirable spot in Newport, for those whose souls are not entirely steeped in sin, and wrapped up in the flimsy veil of this world's delusion; the occupant may sit at the window, and view the last home of man in all its mysterious and solemn grandeur,—and seriously reflect upon the great uncertainty of all things human. Here he can commune with himself, and meditate, in full view of the grave yard, on the final consummation of all things, and anticipate that universal crash, when the earth shall be burned up, and the heavens be rolled together as a scroll. We must reflect upon these things here, and be prepared with our passport when we meet the last Tyler, or we shall receive the fatal mark of the black brush; why, land! what is a few day's sojourn in this miserable world, compared to a high seat in the Celestial Lodge above, where the Knighthood will be gathered in the pure robes of innocence and beauty: In order to secure the chambers, early application should be made, to
Sir THOMAS PRATT, K.H.S.

—from the Newport Times, May 4, 1846.

View of Trinity Church Yard, 2017
At least you know the neighbors are quiet. (Google Street View, September 2017).

Last Edited
2023-08-20

Half a Cent Reward

RAN away from the Subscriber, on the 6th Instant, an Apprentice Boy named Isaac Bowers, about 15 Years of Age, about 5 Feet high; had on a grey short Jacket, green Trowsers and a grey Great-Coat. Whoever will return said Apprentice shall be entitled to the above Reward, but no Charges. Masters of Vessels and others are forbid to harbour said Apprentice, on the Penalty of Law.

MARY WINSOR
Rehoboth, Nov. 9, 1797

—from the Providence Gazette, November 11, 1797

Last Edited
2020-05-11

Two Sides to Every Story

WHEREAS Abigail, the Wife of the Subscriber, has behaved in an unbecoming Manner: this is to forbid all Persons trusting her on my Account, as I shall Pay no Debts of her contracting after the Date hereof.

WILLIAM S. BRADLEE
Providence, January 29, 1796

—from the Providence Gazette, January 30, 1796

WILLIAM S. BRADLEE, my Husband, has endeavored to injure me in a public Manner, and circulate Reports the most inconsistent as well as vile. By Reason of his base Conduct, and stealing Articles from the House where I live, he has been turned away from it; and now, to avoid Prosecution, has suddenly ran away, spreading lies as he went. It is well known that I have lived in a House for a long Time where four Families are closely connected, all of whom will fully declare that I have never behaved in an unbecoming Manner in any thing, except in keeping with that most worthless of Men.

ABIGAIL BRADLEE
Providence, Feb. 4, 1796

—from the Providence Gazette, February 6, 1796

Last Edited
2020-04-20

You, Sir, Have Been Served

WHereas Capt. David Dexter of Col. Lippet's Regiment, has reported in public Company that I the Subscriber was a Coward, and acted the Part of such at the Engagement at Princeton—As the Honor of a Soldier is dearer to him than his Life, I hereby call upon said Dexter, in this public Manner, to made Declaration of all he knows of the Action, and wherein I acted the Part of a Coward; for as my Character stands impeached, I desire the Public may be made acquainted with the same, that they may judge of the whole Proceeding. If it has been said with a View to injure my Character, I apprehend he will be fond of communicating the whole to the public, in order to exculpate himself; but if it has been said by Way of Romance, while under the influence of the Bottle, he will be as fond of asking my Pardon. If he refuses to take any Notice of this Advertisement, I am determined never to leave him until I have obtained Satisfaction for the Abuse done me.

JOHN CARR, Captain at said Time.

—from the Providence Gazette, May 17, 1777.

Last Edited
2020-04-02

Affair at North Kingstown, R.I.

1776 flintlock pistol
1776 U.S. flintlock pistol. (rockislandauction.com).

APRIL 5, [1777].—Last Thursday, a party of rebels, under the command of one George Babcock, came into the house of Mr. Charles Slocum, at North Kingston [sic]. His son, coming to the door, was immediately collared by one of the banditti. Young Slocum clenched with him, and would soon have made him repent his rashness, had it not been for the interference of the rest of the gang. His father, seeing the scuffle, came out of the house to interfere in behalf of his son, when the infamous Babcock discharged a pistol at him. The ball entered a little below his heart, and he died in about three hours. Not content with the misery they had already occasioned to this unhappy family, they took both his sons and dragged them before their assembly, who, in their clemency, permitted them to return under a strong guard to attend the funeral of their murdered father. The mourning relatives were accordingly escorted to the grave by this unfeeling clan, who immediately upon their return home, carried both the young men off to Providence jail. This unparalleled barbarity is said to be occasioned by the information of some villain that has escaped from Newport.

Every breast susceptible of the miseries of its fellow creatures must feel for this unhappy family—a husband murdered! A number of orphan children deprived of him to whom they were wont to look up for support; and to complete the tragic scene, two sons, whose presence at home might in some measure have alleviated the loss of their parent, are likewise torn from their wives, expecting soon to share the same cruel fate. And all this performed by men who have decorated their standard with the specious names of Liberty and Justice.

—from Diary of the American Revolution from Newspapers and Original Documents, Volume 1 by Frank Moore (1860), quoting the journal of "Captain Smythe of the Royal Army."

[What Smythe leaves out of his account is the reason the rebel authorities were at Slocum's house in the first place. Said authorities were dispatched under order of the Rhode Island General Assembly to apprehend Charles Slocum and his sons on suspicion of having corresponded with, and furnished supplies to, British forces—ed.].

Last Edited
2023-02-04