Tag Archives: Rhode Island

Immortal love

An inscription on a gravestone for Archibald Corden Place, located in Oakland Cemetery, Cranston, Rhode Island; he died in 1882:

I know his face is hid,
Under the coffin lid,
Closed are his eyes – cold is his forehead fair,
My hand that marble felt,
O’er it in prayer I knelt,
Yet my heart whispers that –  he is not here.



Dr. Sarah Seal, first woman optometrist in Rhode Island

while photographing gravestones in Lincoln Park Cemetery in Warwick, Rhode Island, I ran across this stone for Dr. Sarah Seal, first woman optometrist in Rhode Island.  I just googled her name, but haven’t yet found more information about her …  I would love to know more about her.Seal_Sarah_Dr

‘Good, smart boy’ was my grandfather

As I continue to scan more items from my family’s treasure trove of papers, ephemera and photos (lucky for me, they never threw anything away!), I found this gem, dated Oct. 1, 1912, from Henry C. Whittier & Co., diamonds importers and designers located at 335 Westminster Street in Providence, Rhode Island, on his company stationery:

“Mr. Geo. F. Weston, City.

Dear Sir,

This will introduce to you my boy at my office, who is desirous of more schooling – kindly look into his case – he is a good, smart boy. James J. Hogan.

Yours very truly,

Henry C. Whittier & Co.”

James Joseph Hogan (senior), born March 10, 1896 in Providence, would one day (after serving in World War I) own his own jewelry store in Washington Park on the Providence – Cranston line.

Apparently he, and later my grandmother and my father, saved this letter of recommendation from 1912 – now more than 100 years old.Hogan_James_J_letter

More than seventy years later, a WWII-era photograph travels across generations and an ocean to return home

As the number of living World War II veterans continues to dwindle, the importance of documenting their stories is more important than ever.

In 1945, a twenty-year old army veteran of World War II returned to Rhode Island following a stint as a cook, serving under General Patton. He eventually married, built a house in Johnston, and raised seven children.

Federico “Fred” Paolucci, was born in 1925, the son of Italian immigrants. He was the only son and he and his five sisters grew up in North Providence. Fred would have a variety of jobs, including working at Brown & Sharpe, at a fireworks factory, and for the Johnston School Department.

Later in life, Paolucci was well known for his sign art, homemade and hand-lettered folk art-style signs commenting on anything and everything he found interesting in the news of the day. After his retirement from the Johnston schools where he worked at several schools in the maintenance department, he found a hobby. Often using recycled items, he created his sign art in his garage, often while listening to talk radio. The signs were displayed in his yard and on the facade of his garage.

An ocean away from Johnston, Rhode Island, in Tourlaville, France, Jean-Paul Corbet was going through some family photos last year, scanning them.


In uniform, Federico “Fred” Paolucci, age 19

Among them, he ran across a black and white photo of an American GI in uniform. On the back was a name and address written in pencil: Federico Paolucci, 32 Forest Street, Box 77, Centerdale, Rhode Island, USA. [Centredale is a village in northwest North Providence, on the Johnston line.]

“[It] represented a handsome dark GI, a proud soldier taking the pose,” Corbet said in an interview published in a French newspaper. Paolucci was 19 years old at the time.

Curious, he asked his mother, Renee, about the man in the photo.

She told him that Federico was one of the young American soldiers who came to the aid of his grandparents – Paule and Gustave Valognes – and their five children (his mother Renee, Jacqueline, Therese, Paulette and Louis) in 1944.

“When I was young, my grandparents told me their own story and how they have felt the German occupation, the exodus, the liberation,” said Corbet in an email interview from France in January.

“They were simple people, the existential issue for them was live [sic] during this lean time and survive during the exodus. After the 6th of June, they were civilians on the battle field under the belligerent’s crossfire,” he said of their hunger and constant fear – they were lucky to to be alive. Corbet noted that his wife’s family wasn’t so lucky. “My wife’s dad lost his mother and two young sisters,” he said of the loss of life – 37,000 allies and 20,000 civilians.

The family had been evacuated from their home for two months, and upon their return, Renee and her younger sister Jacqueline were underweight and sick. Both were treated in the American camp. Jacqueline was five years old at the time, and reminded the soldiers of Shirley Temple, recalled Renee. “She became in a way a mascot of the camp,” she told Corbet, recalling that the Americans even organized a Christmas party in December 1944. Among the soldiers the sisters met was Federico Paolucci, a cook at the camp.

Corbet went online to find out what had become of Paolucci, and soon found a memorial for him created by his daughter Vivian (Paolucci) Doyon at a genealogy site called Find-A-Grave. He was saddened to learn that Paolucci had died in 2008. He became determined to return the photo, and contacted Doyon, who now lives in Kernersville, North Carolina.

After corresponding by email in November, he sent Doyon the photo of her dad – which had been “sitting in a box for 74 years” as a Christmas present, enclosing it in a Christmas card.

Doyon, who said her father did not speak much of his World War II service, was thrilled.

“This means a lot to me. This story makes me see my dad through the eyes of another, who has seen him through his mom’s and grandma’s stories,” she said. Already interested in the family genealogy, she is now researching more about her father’s military history.

“It blew my mind that this man knew more about my dad in that time period than I did,” she told a local news reporter. She hopes to one day meet Corbet in person.

Corbet, too, is also interested to hear from other soldiers who were stationed at the camp in Tourlaville, France after the occupation ended.

He is quick to point out the fact that after seventy years, his new friendship with Doyon and her family is symbolic of the friendship between the American GIs and the liberated French people, a friendship that continues to this day.

“Every year in Normandy is commemorated the D-Day. More than a duty of memory, it is a recognition, indestructible, eternal – especially for the inhabitants who lived the operation Overlord. We must see this popular fervor, this immense burst of gratitude, these moments of intense emotion, the tears of the pampered and adored veterans idolized and elevated to the ranks of heroes. Our liberators of yesterday are now our very old friends. They have become, without knowing it, icons, true ex-votos of the friendship between our two nations,” Corbet noted, recalling the story on Feb. 6.

“‘The most true friendship between noble souls is that which has for its knot the respectable link of benefits and recognition’,” he said, quoting Francois-Rodolphe Weiss.

An account of Corbet’s story appeared in a French newspaper and also on a local television news channel in North Carolina.


An English translation of the story that appeared in a French newspaper, featuring a photo of Doyon holding the photo of her father, Federico “Fred” Paolucci.


Jean-Paul Corbet and his mother Renee holding a copy of the French newspaper featuring their story.

Tag sale treasures to be found amid clutter of collectibles offered at Old Warwick Grange

A sign outside the front door of the Old Warwick Grange # 41, located at 1175 West Shore Road not far from Conimicut, advertises the weekly tag sale. Located on the building’s lower level, treasure hunters can dig through piles and isles of all kinds of stuff, ranging from collectibles to house hold items.

The weekly tag sale, held each Saturday year round, is run by Richard Fuller.

Fuller, age 82 and a longtime member of the Grange, has been selling yard sale items since the 1960s. And he loves to talk about both subjects with visitors to the tag sale.

“I’m just a lonely guy who loves to do this stuff,” he quipped on Saturday, Jan. 13. “I got a lot of stories,” he said, adding that he loves answering questions about the Grange, which still holds monthly meetings, and about agriculture. In fact, most questions receive an answer that often starts with “Let me tell you a story…”.

Fuller recalled how he got started in the resale business, almost 60 years ago. He had met a woman who had wanted her house cleared out, but all the companies she had contacted had wanted too much money. Fuller offered to do it for much less, and she took him up on his offer.

Fuller rounded up some assistance and began removing the items to his own property, setting up a very large yard sale – on 120 linear feet of land in front of his house. “People said, ‘hey, nice yard sale!,’” – and he was hooked.

“I didn’t know anything about antiques or anything,” he admitted. “It was the 1960s, everything was different back then,” he continued. He became known for offering good deals.

He did keep one thing for himself from that original sale. “When I cleaned up that house, I kept the Shirley Temple glass – one of the few things I collect,” he said.

Over the years Fuller branched out, selling items on tables he set up at the Rocky Point Flea Market, which had been located in the former Shore Dinner Hall. He would often buy out tables from other dealers when they decided to discontinue selling there.

He’s quick to point out that he didn’t start the Warwick Grange tag sale – a flea market was held in building for years decades earlier. “I’ve been here for about 15 years,” he said.

The tag sale fills the entire lower floor of the Grange, where almost anything can be found on any given weekend, from fuzzy dice, to music albums to collectible toy cars. Fuller also features “Mystery Treasure Boxes” of items for $1.

Looking for something specific?  Fuller can usually point you in the right direction.

“It’s hard, at my age I forget where things are – I’ve got a little bit of everything,” he said. And it’s best to come early – at his age, he often heads home early if business is slow.

For model train aficionados, visit upstairs to see train layouts by members of the Providence Northern Model Railroad Club, open 12 noon to 4 p.m., on “most Saturdays.” (There is an admission fee for special events – check their website.)

For FaceBook fans, a page is available: http://www.facebook.com/WarwickGrangeTagSale

The Railroad Club also has a FaceBook page:  http://www.facebook.com/providencenorthern

Clam cake aficionados author book, share their knowledge of ‘Rhode Island Clam Shacks’

Just the thought of clam cakes and chowder can conjure memories, images and smells and set taste buds watering for most New Englanders. The nostalgia of clam bakes of the past has been preserved with the publication of a new “Images of America” series called “Rhode Island Clam Shacks.” The book was created by clam cake experts David Norton Stone, a Warwick native and resident, and Christopher Scott Martin, co- creator and curator of the popular online site Quahog.org

Stone, a Hendricken High School graduate and a self-proclaimed food historian, has also penned “Clamcake Summer: One Man Eats Every Clamcake in Rhode Island (Or Dies Frying),” “Stuffie Summer,” and “Chowder Summer.” The two have been researching the clam shacks project for about a year, gathering and scanning antique postcards, ephemera, family photos and information shared by clam shack owners and their descendants. The book, published by Arcadia Publishing Company, was the subject of a launch party at the Providence Public Library on May 15 – images from the library’s digital collection appear in the book – and the duo have been traveling to local libraries, museums and historical societies to share their work.

Stone and Martin recently participated in a “clam cake crawl” around the state, sampling (re-sampling) some of the best that Rhode Island has to offer.  The book includes more than 200 images, anecdotes and history of many well-known (some no longer in existence) clam shacks, all pre-dating 1970.

The authors visited the Johnston Historical Society on Wednesday, June 28, where Martin is a longtime member and where Stone has spoken in the past, to talk about their new book and sign copies. (Johnston Historical Society president Louis McGowan, a post card collector, also contributed images for the book.)

Stone and Martin are planning future talks, and have been invited to visit the Crow’s Nest of Apponaug to speak on July 16.  They were recently invited to attend an invitation-only 30th anniversary party for Evelyn’s, also featured in the book.

The book includes several clam shacks from the Warwick area, including Gus’s and Mrs. Gus’s, both formerly located in Oakland Beach (now the site of Iggy’s). Of particular interest are reproductions of old menus (and their prices), as well as photos of proper Rhode Island clam bakes.

Also included, Rocky Point’s “World’s Largest Shore Dinner Hall” – Stone points out that there were four different buildings over the course of its history – “built not near the bay, but right over the water.” (Stone worked at Rocky Point for a summer during college).

The book also includes information on the devastating effects of hurricanes in 1938 and 1954 to the Rhode Island shoreline, where many of these clam shacks were situated. According to information from a caption in the book, Rocky Point’s Conrad Ferla “watched the roof of his shore dinner hall fly off and into the parking lot.”

Other Warwick connections include interviews of Warwick historian Henry A. L. Brown, who attended many Rhode Island clam bakes in his day, who also contributed images for the book.

Other notable names include George’s of Galilee (which started as a small lunch room), Champlin’s, Flo’s, Ballard’s, The Hitching Post, Dead Eye Dick’s, Aunt Carrie’s.

Aunt Carrie’s, which is often credited with creating the clam cake, will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2020.  Stone noted that clam cakes pre-date Aunt Carrie’s, but the restaurant should be credited with refining the clam cake as we know it – although they were called clam fritters. Both Stone and Martin counted the clam cakes at Aunt Carrie’s among their favorites at the recent “clam cake crawl.”

The authors lamented that several clam shacks which could have been included in the book had not responded to queries for information – leading those in attendance at the recent talk asking about the possibility of a Volume II. The book includes ephemera from the personal collections of Stone and Martin, both of whom collect “Rhode Islandiana.”  Stone is currently working on three future book projects, researching information about restaurants of Rhode Island no longer in existence.

Copies of the book are available from arcadiapublishing.com and Amazon.com online, or locally at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, or from the authors as they travel around the state. Future talks are listed at Martin’s website, http://www.quahog.org/calendar


Memorial Day, 2017: Honoring a Rhode Island civil war veteran

Video of the ceremony

As a volunteer with Find-A-Grave [FindAGrave.com], I photograph graves of veterans all the time.  Many are marked with a generic military marker of marble or bronze, but some graves of veterans bear only family gravestones, with nothing to designate the deceased as having served our country. Such was the case of a gravestone I photographed in St. Ann Cemetery in Cranston, for Frederick C. Brayton.  He is buried (section O, lot 330) with his wife and several of his children.  Back in October of 2015, I created Find-A-Grave memorials for each, and uploaded photos of the front and back of the stone.

Fast forward to May, 2017. I received an email from a member of the Rhode Island Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War [RISUVCW], Elisha Dyer Camp 7, asking about Frederick C. Brayton (1849-1933).  A member of this group was a descendant of Frederick Brayton, who had served in the Civil War. The group was planning on honoring the veteran during Memorial Day weekend.

According to Peter Sarazin, Camp 7 graves registration officer, Brayton was mustered in on March 7th, 1865 as a Private in Company B, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, and mustered out as a Private on June 12th, 1865 at Providence, Rhode Island.

Additional research revealed that Brayton was a member of Post 4, Grand Army of the Republic [GAR], following the war – the predecessor of Camp 7, SUVCW.


The group held a grave-side ceremony on Saturday, May 27, which included a reading of Brayton’s service, a musket salute and the playing of taps. It turns out Brayton’s brother, Oscar L. Brayton, also a civil war veteran buried in nearby Pocasset Cemetery, has been honored by the group each year, and will once again be honored on Monday, May 29.

St. Ann Cemetery and Pocasset Cemetery were just two of the many stops the Camp 7 SUVCW group – comprised of descendants of civil war veterans – had planned for Memorial Day weekend, which also included several parades.

Attending the ceremony for Frederick Brayton was a nice reminder of what Memorial Day – formerly known as “Decoration Day,” – is really about.