Oakland Beach 5 - The End of the Century
As Oakland Beach began to rebuild after Hurricane Carol and new residents moved in, the demand for greater services and improvements grew. The Reverend Alfred Colby of the Oakland Beach Congregational Church and the Reverend Francis O’Hara of St. Rita’s Catholic Church were instrumental in establishing the organization known as J.O.N.A.H. (Join Our Neighborhood And Help). In 1980, Joseph Carrolo and his daughter, Mrs. Alice Round, presented the former Midway Theater to the two churches to be used for J.O.N.A.H.
The building, once called the Scenic Theater and then the Midway Theater, was an important part of Oakland Beach in the 1920s and 1930s. Now, as the center for J.O.N.A.H., it is still an integral part of the Oakland Beach Community.
Throughout the beach’s long history, there have been visits from many of Rhode Island’s great and famous who made the beach part of their summer. B. Russell Brown, R.I. Governor from 1892-95, was one of the first to develop the area. J. Howard McGrath, R.I. Governor (1941-45, Solicitor General, and U.S. Senator (1947-49) was a frequent visitor to the Beach as his mother and sister maintained a summer home there.
For the sports fans, there was a visit from the immortal Leo “Gabby” Hartnett, Rhode Island’s Hall of Fame catcher. Richard “Pop” Johnson, who served on the City Council and as Representative from Oakland Beach, had a baseball signed by Hartnett, dated Aug. 22, 1935.
Oakland Beach has provided Rhode Islanders with innumerable fond memories, many coming from the time when the Warwick Railroad and later the trolley wended its way through Oakland Beach and on to Buttonwoods.
One of the very pleasant memories associated with Oakland Beach was the pony rides at the BEV-LIN farm. Children of all ages loved to go down and watch the little kids as the ponies took them around on the “Pony-Go round.” The Bev-Lin farm was once the Wilcox Farm owned by Henry Wilcox. . At one time it was a working farm with apple and pear trees.
St. Rita’s Church has gone from a small group of Catholics celebrating Mass at John Tatly’s house on the corner of Mohawk and Oakland Beach Avenue. This soon became too small to hold the number of Catholics and in June 1911, a temporary structure was erected on Oakland Beach Ave., but this too was inadequate and people had to stand outside on Sundays. Today, St. Rita’s lovely church is one of the landmarks of
Residents of Oakland Beach in this century continue to have a strong sense of community and pride. The many changes that have occurred during the twentieth century have altered the beach, at times for better and other times for worse, but the spirit that has made Oakland Beach an integral part of Warwick continues.