Everett Eastman remembers Apponaug

Many of the old-timers who attend the Apponaug Old Timers Night enjoy recalling their boyhood escapades and pranks. The older members grew up in Warwick at a time when much of the area was still farmland and Greenwich Ave. was an unpaved road called Pontiac Road. It was 1985 when the idea of getting together on an annual basis started with the late Bertram Brown. He, along with men like Domenic Petrarca, Eddie Lillebridge, Joe Grady, Norm Perkins, Bob Champagne, Leo Grenier, Ralph Petrarca and Frank Carney, felt it would be a great opportunity to share and remember the Apponaug of their youth.

The Vigilant Fire Company #1

In 1990, Everett Eastman is one of the old timers whose excellent descriptions give us a nostalgic look at Apponaug in the early 20th century. Eastman, who was born in 1912, recalled when the fire company volunteers had to take the reel from the shed in Apponaug and drag it to the nearest hydrant. The Apponaug company was known as Vigilant Fire Company #1 and the hand drawn hose reel mentioned by Eastman had 1000 feet of hose and three hose pipes. In the late 19th century the East Greenwich Water Company had installed 16 hydrants in Apponaug with 70 pounds of pressure. In 1918, during World War I, the Vigilant Fire Company purchased its first motorized fire truck, a Model T Ford. Many of the old timers remembered that vehicle and others recalled that in 1925, the company became modernized with the purchase of an American LaFrance Pumper. This piece of equipment could pump 750 gallons of water per minute and served the company for twenty-eight years. It was used at most of the major fires fought by the Apponaug volunteers.

Edward Everett also had a clear recollection of the horror of the flu epidemic following World War I. Many of the servicemen who fought in the war contracted a disease called "Spanish Influenza." Some brought it home to Rhode Island. The disease, or flu, spread throughout the state. Nine hundred and fourteen died in Providence alone. Many of these were babies and old people. At that time, Everett Eastman recalled, Doctor Long was the only doctor in town.

Boyish pranks circa 1920

Everett Eastman's funniest memories revolve around some of the characters in the town and of the boyish pranks in which he participated. He recalled with a smile how one of “Oliver Jenks’ boys played three harmonicas at the same time.” Eastman and his boyish companions loved teasing the farmers along Pontiac Road. He especially remembers how, on one Halloween, he and a few of his friends decided to have some fun with an old farmer. "Old farmers, he said, “ went to bed early and got up early, so as soon as it got dark we went and took his (a farmer on Pontiac Road) old surrey apart. It took us kids hours to do it, but we did, and we re-assembled it on top of the barn." His eyes twinkled as he remembered the next day when the farmer came out and saw the carriage, fully assembled, on the roof.

The boys were sure he would stomp and holler, but instead, the old farmer tied a rope to the surrey axle and gently had his horse lower the carriage from its precarious position. "It only took him twenty minutes and us kids had worked on it most of the night. The joke was on us."

Many Apponaug old timers remember how, when they were boys, they would creep into farmers' orchards for fresh fruit. The farmers almost always kept a shotgun loaded with rock salt for those occasions. When those boys not lucky enough to escape the farmers' blast went to see old Doctor Long. He, being familiar with the situation, would usually say, "Oh. Oh. Whose apple orchard were you in?"

The farmers of Apponaug

According to Everett Eastman, “During the winter the old farmers would hook up V-plows to their horses and open up the roads around Apponaug." During the fall, when the produce came in, many of the farmers would go up Pontiac Road to Reservoir Ave. and into Providence to sell their vegetables and sometimes young Everett would be allowed to go along. He recalls that when he was about six years old he accompanied a farmer to Providence. After selling all his vegetables, the farmer took young Everett with him to a bar where the farmer proceeded to drink until he passed out. Everett recalled, "The bartender took the farmer out, put him on the seat of the wagon, and the horse took us home..."

Bob Champagne, Edward Everett, Joe Carney and others also have many fond memories of Apponaug in the early twentieth century and many of them center around High Sheriff Michael B. Lynch, Police Chief Theodore S. Andrews, and the early days of the Warwick Police Force.

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