Main Street Stroll Schedule Mixes It Up This Year

Dog Stroll takes place May 31 while Chalk a Block contest has moved to July. 

East Greenwich, R.I. – The East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce has announced its Main Street Stroll schedule for 2018 and there are a couple of changes: Main Street is going to the dogs earlier this year, with the Dogs on Main stroll set for Thursday, May 31. Meanwhile, the annual Chalk a Block contest – traditionally on a Saturday in May – has moved to Thursday evening, July 26, paired with the Arts on Main stroll.

The Main Street Stroll series features businesses open late, live music and sidewalk vendors, creating a party-like atmosphere downtown.

Music on Main will take place on Thursday, June 21, coinciding with the summer solstice – the longest day of the year.

The Taste of Main stroll – when restaurants up and down Main Street offer samples – will be held on Thursday, Aug. 23.

The strolls start at 5 p.m.

 

Police Log: Fires, Hit-and-Run, and a Syringe

By Bethany J. Hashway

Monday, March. 26

5:58 p.m. – Police were called to assist EG Fire at Castle Street for a report of a structure fire. When police arrived, EGFD had put the fire out. It had started in a recycling bin next to the side of the house. A UPS driver saw the fire while delivering a package to the house and he alerted the homeowner. The homeowner was able to largely extinguish fire using a garden hose; when  EGFD arrived, they put out the rest of the small fire. It was unclear of how the fire started. There was some damage to the recycling bin and to a portion of the wood shingling on the south side of the house. 

Tuesday, March. 27

7:26 p.m. – Police cited a Providence man for possession of marijuana after he was involved in a car accident at Main Street and First Avenue. Police smelled marijuana on an injured passenger who was being treated at the scene by fire department personnel. Police asked the man if he was carrying any marijuana, noting that the fire department does not allow passengers to carry illegal drugs when being transported by rescue. The man denied having any marijuana, but police found a large plastic bag containing what later tested positive for marijuana in his pocket during a pat-down search. The man said he did not have a medical marijuana card. Police confiscated the marijuana and the man was taken to the hospital to be treated. Once tests determined that the substance was indeed marijuana, police mailed the man a citation.

8:29 p.m. – Police arrested a Warwick man, 66, for leaving the scene of an accident, after police were called to Post Road at the (former) Benny’s Plaza for the report of a hit-and-run accident. At the scene, the driver who had called the police said she had been driving southbound when a small Mercedes sedan pulled out of the Jason’s parking lot and ran into the passenger-side door of her car. The woman said the Mercedes fishtailed as the driver tried to get it under control, then the car drove off northbound on Post Road. Two people said they witnessed the incident and told the woman that the other car’s license plate was stuck on her passenger-side door.

Wednesday, March. 28

1:49 a.m. – Police stopped a Providence man for having dark tinted windows and after a licence plate check showed that the plates weren’t on file. The driver told police that he had just purchased the car and lost the dealer plates, so he placed his license plate from his old car onto this one until he was able to register the car. Police gave him a summons for driving an unregistered car, and gave him a warning on the illegal window tint. Police seized the license plates and the car was towed.

Friday, March. 30

2 p.m. – A Main Street resident told police she found a syringe filled with what looked like blood when she was doing yard work. Police took the syringe and disposed of it.

5:48 p.m. – A Queen Street resident told police that she gave her daughter permission to open a PayPal account with her Santander credit card in the beginning of March to buy a $4.99 teddy bear. During a recent visit to her bank, Santander, she learned her balance was low. It appeared her daughter had withdrawn $942.12 from her account using the PayPal account. She had the bank cancel the bank card.

Sunday, April 1

10:42 a.m EG police picked up a Cranston man, 52, from Cranston PD after he was arrested in that city on a warrant out of East Greenwich for larceny.

3:45 p.m. – Police were called to Ashbrook Run for a fire. Police found a large fire pit piled high with large pieces of furniture that had tumbled over beyond the confines of the fire pit, lighting nearly logs, branches and twigs on fire. The homeowner was trying to contain the fire but the fire department was called and extinguished the blaze. No one was injured.

Town’s 2017 Audit Shows $380,296 Surplus

The town had a $1.1 million surplus but the schools had a $728,808 deficit.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Nine months after the end of fiscal year 2017, the town’s audit shows an overall $380,292 surplus and an unrestricted fund balance of $6.4 million.

The audit was posted to the state Auditor General’s website last week (find it here). It has not yet been posted to the town website and was not available in the town finance department Tuesday.

The audit was due to the state by Jan. 1 – six months after the end of the town’s fiscal year.

Town officials received two extensions through March 31. According to state Auditor General Dennis Hoyle, the state got the audit on April 9.

The Town did not officially seek an extension beyond March 31,” Hoyle said via email. “As a matter of course, if we are in communication with a municipality and they need a few more days to complete beyond the approved extension date we allow that.”

In March, Town Manager Gayle Corrigan issued a letter to residents to explain why she had asked for the extensions, citing among other things an adverse legal ruling on the impact fees collected by the Fire District. According to the audit, the town will use $1.7 million from the fund balance to cover the impact fee settlement (page 16). 

In the town’s Management Discussion and Analysis letter (page 7, signed by Finance Director Linda Dykeman), it is noted that the town’s liabilities exceed its assets by $26.9 million.

According to Auditor General Hoyle, “It is not uncommon for governments, on their government-wide (full accrual) financial statements to have negative net position due to the recognition of pension and OPEB liabilities.”

Hoyle noted that East Greenwich opted to implement the new OPEB standard (GASB 75) standards in 2017, a year before it was required.  

“It appears most of the negative net position at June 30, 2017, resulted from the recognition of the OPEB liability,” he said, referring to audit note 23 (page 74) for details.

Other information from the audit:

The town administration was over budget by $464,913, largely due to legal claims and employee contract payout. Fire Department was over budget by a total of $143,739 – the overtime overage of $225,526 was offset by not filing the fire clerk’s position and lower salary and holiday pay.

In addition, the town’s tax rate for 2018 (the current fiscal year) is $23.66 per thousand, with 39 percent allocated for general government and 61 percent allocated for education. For fiscal year 2017, the town’s tax rate was $24.09 per thousand, with 45 percent allocated for general government and 55 percent allocated for education (page 13).



 

Just A Thought

By Bob Houghtaling

Last week I wrote an article extolling the value of philosophy and how schools would be so much safer if we hired more philosophers to help with life’s big issues. For this article I am hoping to highlight the importance of history, as both a subject and means for perpetuating our culture/traditions. Like philosophy, history is often considered soft (or just a collection of dates). Hopefully, by placing some emphasis on history, we might just come to remember the importance of learning about our past.

History teaches us where we came from. All Americans can recite the story of how Columbus sailed across the ocean with three ships, the Nina, Pinta and Andrea Doria. From there a New World would open up. After enslaving a few Africans, and killing some Indians, America became a place to inhabit and establish religious tolerance. Soon Cortez, Rocky Balboa, and countless others, would risk the high seas to establish new colonies. Every child clearly knows this.

Sure, from time to time, it could get rough, but eventually colonies became thriving states. Ted Williams would establish Rhode Island. James Oglethorpe would help create Georgia, and Penn and Teller would work to create Pennsylvania (along with Quaker Oats Cereal). These brave individuals formed the basis for our way of life. History also tells us that the American Revolution served as the template for today’s United States. Founding Fathers like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington Carver, Gomez Addams and Alexander Hamilton all played vital roles in helping to form a new nation. Where would we be if it weren’t for all of those who stood tall against the British Umpire?

Without being taught history, Americans would never know that Manifold Destiny propelled us to expand our nation’s borders. Without history we would not know that Lincoln freed the slaves, Douglas Fairbanks rose from harsh servitude to great success speaking on behalf of Black Americans, and that America would soon become the “great smelting pot.”

From time to time we would be challenged. Franklin Roosevelt would have to roll up San Juan Hill to win the Spanish American War. Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and others would etch their names on the scrolls of history. We can never forget the importance of Richard Nixon teaching us about the value of special prosecutors. On top of this, great strides would be made on behalf of minorities and women along the way. Martin Luther, Rosa Parks, Christa McAuliffe, Barack Obama (the first Muslim president), Jim Thorpe, Colin Powell and Georgia O’Keeffe are but a few of those worth mentioning. One of the nation’s proudest moments was when Sugar Ray Robinson broke the sound barrier in 1947. This along with Louis Armstrong landing on the moon are accomplishments all Americans can be proud of.  

The point I am trying to make here is that learning history is important. It tells us where we have been. It can also help create a sense of culture and community. We can learn from the past and use this knowledge to build upon. When we forget our past a sense of mooring is lost. Surely we do not desire to live in yesterday – but tomorrow will be better for understanding the contribution of our forebears.

George Santayana once stated that, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” While many parents might not want their sons, or daughters to run off and become historians (or philosophers) encouraging them to develop an inquisitive appreciation for critical thinking, the past, and a sense of purpose might make life’s journey a little more meaningful.

Nations are kept together by communication, a sense of commonality and the ability to evolve. America is unique that way. We have plenty of problems, but possess the enormous capacity for change. When we are open to honest discussion, and reflection, growth can ensue. Our present days might be filled with questions that challenge, but by considering the past we might learn just how those of yesterday handled the tribulations at hand. While we might not be able to place a philosopher (like I called for last week) in all our schools, promoting the importance of history and civics could be a viable substitute. Intellectual ambivalence now calls for alternate facts and questioning the definition of “is.” We have to be able to discern the foolish from the factual.

As I attempt to highlight the importance of relationships, reflection and critical thinking, the importance of science and technology cannot be minimized. In addition, no pretense is being made that Philosophy and History are going to solve gun violence and other societal maladies by themselves. With this being stated, I do feel that enhancing culture, promoting a sense of community, and creating reasons for pride, are important for society to thrive.

With tongue-in-cheek these words are penned, but still with subtle truth. While often complex, the world’s concerns, at core, often contain fear, misinformation, greed and the survival instinct. Understanding, developing trust, cooperation, and a belief in something greater than the perfunctory, should all be factored into potential solutions. Philosophy and history give us the how’s and why’s that lead to our what’s. In essence they ask us to examine the human condition.

Just a thought.

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program. 




 

EG Golf Club Closes Abruptly

The restaurant and golf club closed abruptly April 14.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

East Greenwich, R.I. – Anyone interested in golfing at East Greenwich Golf Club Saturday found the parking lot gate closed and a security guard sitting in a car just inside the gate to keep people from gaining entry.

One year after the club and restaurant were taken over by lawyer and former state attorney general candidate Rob Rainville, they were abruptly closed.

The nine-hole golf course was public – golfers could pay by the day – but also had yearly memberships.

The security officer on duty Sunday said club members should contact New England Tech for more information. Rainville was leasing the property from New England Tech.

“It’s going to be closed a little while,” said the security officer, who said her information came from the school. “They don’t know exactly how long before they get that squared away.”

For Joe Bertrand, it was a blow. The East Greenwich resident said he golfs at the club multiple times a week, along with a group of retirees who’ve been coming to the club for years. He had golfed there last week.

Bertrand said Rainville had done a good job improving the course and the restaurant, which had been known as Bistro 9 but became The 4o1 under Rainville.

“The restaurant is gorgeous. The greens are fantastic. They gutted the whole place. He did a great job,” Bertrand said. He said Rainville had been there pretty much every day since taking over and that Rainville had had big plans.

“He was going to put a place where you could buy equipment, and something by the sixth hole where you could drink and eat,” he said.

“It was a shock to me,” he said of the closure.



EGHS Wall of Honor Celebrates Community

From left, Diane McDonald (with a granddaughter), Matt Plain, John Chandler, Bernice Pescosolido, and Guy Asadorian – the 2018 inductees of the EGHS Wall of Honor.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

EGHS Wall of Honor inductee Bernice Pescosolido had to leave East Greenwich before she could understand the its power.

“The most important thing that EG High School and the Town of East Greenwich and – I have to say – the state of Rhode Island provides for people … is a sense of community and a sense of belonging,” said Pescosolido.

“I’m so proud to be from East Greenwich because we really were this working class community,” she said. “I had no idea that what we were was so special and so different. I’ve come to understand and believe that.”

Pescosolido graduated from the high school in 1970 and is a distinguished professor of sociology at Indiana University. (You can read more about Pescosolido and the other four inductees here.)

John Chandler, Class of 1966, lived in East Greenwich a mere five years. He spent four of them at EGHS and it made its mark. He made his mark too, serving as class president for two years, among other distinctions.

Chandler, who had an illustrious career in information technology, almost didn’t finish high school in East Greenwich. His family, after moving to EG from California before his 8th grade year, moved to Oklahoma the summer before his senior year.

He ended up staying with the Forscht family for that final year of high school.

Chandler’s life has been elsewhere ever since 1966 but Chandler’s love of EGHS came through loud and clear Wednesday.

“I feel like I’ve come  home,” he said before launching into his prepared remarks.

“I’ve been the fortunate beneficiary of an enormous amount of support from this community and love from my family for my entire life,” said Matt Plain, the youngest of the night’s honorees. He graduated in 1994.

Plain, a member of the EG School Committee, made his love of the EG schools clear, recalling all those who taught or guided him in elementary school, including the school custodian.

“Who could forget Bobby Taylor, keeping our school clean and safe for everybody to enjoy,” Plain said.

Plain started out as a teacher himself. A lawyer now, he continues to work on education issues.

Diane McDonald spoke about how she got to live out her childhood dream, riding horses and then owning her own stable (Dapper Dan). For McDonald, the daughter of teachers (her father, Norman Monks, taught and coached in East Greenwich for decades), being a horsewoman was not a given. But it was something she always wanted to do, she said.

If she could tell young people anything, she said, it would be to “follow your passion. Don’t settle for a job that’s just a job.”

Guy Asadorian, Class of 1982, spoke lovingly of this town he’s never left.

“It’s that whole deep sense of community that, really, gave me the foundation to try and be successful as an adult,” he said. Asadorian works in financial services.

“I’ve done a lot of volunteer work in this town and I’m 100 percent certain that it’s that connection that I have to the community that’s really motivated me to want to give back.”

There was a sixth person honored Wednesday night, if not officially. That was Dominic Iannazzi, who died in 2017. Iannazzi was a teacher, school administrator and coach in East Greenwich from the 1950s into the late 1970s. He wanted no fanfare upon his death but Wall of Honor organizer Bruce Mastracchio recounted a couple Iannazzi stories and that seemed to prompt others.

John Chandler said before he was able to find a permanent home for his senior year (his family had moved out of state), Iannazzi actually took him in for six weeks.

Bernice Pescosolido recounted how she’d tried hard to stay off Iannazzi’s radar since her brothers were definitely ON his radar.

“I just thought if Mr. Iannazzi knew my name I would automatically be given detention,” she said.

Diane McDonald DID get detention.

She’d asked if she could take a day off school to compete in a horse show. Iannazzi said no, but she went anyway. When McDonald turned up at school the next day with a note, Iannazzi held up the newspaper announcing that she’d won a trophy at the horse show. He gave her two days detention.

If you know of someone from EGHS you think should be put on the Wall of Honor, contact Bruce Mastracchio at thebrooker23@yahoo.com.


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This Week in EG: Planning Board, Electronics Recycling

It may feel like winter, but the daffodils make it look like spring.

A weekly article that lists happenings in East Greenwich and nearby. If you have something you’d like to add, send your information to egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Monday, April 16

Boston Marathon – Here are the people from East Greenwich who will be running: Brooke Andreozzi, Ross MacAndrew, Robert Bentsen, Jason Reilly, Dino Caparco, Tom Sheeran, and John Thomas, and Lisa Meehan. Good luck, everyone!

Exploring Mindfulness Meditation – Meditation at East Greenwich Free Library on first and third Mondays. No experience necessary; all are welcome. Free. 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the library. For more information about this program or the Friends of the Library, contact: friendseglibrary@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 18

Lunch on the Hill – If you are looking for some good food and company, stop by the dining room at St. Luke’s Church on Peirce Street where you will find both. A free lunch is offered every week, sponsored by various local churches and restaurants – a different church-restaurant combination each week. From 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

Planning Board meeting – The only project on the agenda is final plan review of an 11-lot cluster subdivision called “Frenchtown Place,” on Frenchtown Road (not surprisingly). The project gained preliminary plan approval back in 2016. They meet in Council Chambers in Town Hall at 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 19

Paper Shredding & Electronics Recycling – You will be able to recycle all sorts of electronics, including computers, TVs, keyboards, monitors, printers, window air conditioners, routers, microwaves, cables, wires, cell phones and more. And there will be a mobile paper shredded on hand too. At Office Recycling Solutions, 65 Rocky Hollow Road. Shredding costs .25 cents per pound; recycling costs $5 per item with a $20 maximum per resident, $50 maximum for businesses. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Presented in part by the EG Chamber of Commerce. For more information contact Brent at 401-580-5132 or info@officerecyclingsolutions.com.

Saturday, April 21

Earth Day

OTHER ITEMS OF NOTE

Recycling is ON this week.

Volunteers Needed for After Prom! This is as much fun as you will have all year. You get to meet new people, be surrounded by amazing creativity, and help a bunch of teenagers have a terrific After Prom. Click here to learn more.

EG Police Union Is Fundraising – This is an “all points bulletin,” if you will, to let you know the EG Police Union is soliciting sponsorships to its 2018 Yearbook and Business Directory, so don’t be surprised if you get a phone call. This is in advance of their Comedy Night at Quidnessett Country Club June 28 – the directories will be available then.

EGHS Class of 1960 Reunion – The East Greenwich High School Class of 1960 will be holding their 58th Reunion on Sunday, July 22, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the East Greenwich Veterans’ Firemen’s Hall on Queen Street in East Greenwich. People from EGHS classes before and after the Class of ’60 are welcome. For more information and detail contact Dan Shea (401-821-4521 or dsheajr@cox.net). To reserve your spot, send a check for $30 (per person) to Judy Briggs, 146 Sisson Road, Greene, R.I. 02827.

LOOKING AHEAD

Thursday, April 26

Collecting Original Art – The Friends of the East Greenwich Free Library will present a panel discussion will offer several perspectives on collecting art, with an emphasis on the How, Why and What of buying art today. Panelists include Cade Tompkins, contemporary art dealer and gallery owner Cade Tompkins Projects, Providence; Richard Whitten, artist and Professor of Painting and Art Department Chairperson at Rhode Island College; Catherine A. Sammartino, Partner at the law firm Sammartino & Berg LLP in Providence; and moderator Michael Rose, art historian, gallerist, appraiser, and gallery manager at the historic Providence Art Club. From 6 to 8 p.m. East Greenwich Free Library, 82 Peirce Street, East Greenwich. Designed for all levels of the collecting experience. Seating is on a first come, first served basis and subject to capacity. For more info, contact: friendseglibrary@gmail.com or visit www.eastgreenwichlibrary.org.

Saturday, April 28

Touch a Truck – The Greenwich Bay Woman’s Club is sponsoring Family Open House Touch-a-Truck at the Warwick Fire Station at 225 Potowomut Road from 9 to 11 a.m. They will be collecting canned goods for a local food pantry, so donations are encouraged!

Sunday, April 29

Race to the Stage – Performers competing for a spot on the program for Summer’s End – as well cash prizes – take the stage at the Odeum at 4 p.m. Live judges will ultimately select the winners, but audience response may help decide their fate. Tickets are $10 in Advance, and $15 at the Door.

Tuesday, May 1

EG Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner – More details soon.

Together RI Community Supper – The Rhode Island Foundation is holding a series of community dinners around the state. The idea is to share a meal with other members of your community and get creative about the challenges and possibilities facing Rhode Island. It’s free. At the Varnum Armory, 6 Main Street, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is encouraged but not mandatory. Click here for more information and to register.

Friday, May 4

Into the Woods, Jr. – The award-winning Cole Drama Club will perform this musical based on fairy tales with a twist at East Greenwich High School at 7 p.m. (and again on Saturday at 4 p.m.). Tickets are $10 per person and will be available at the door and online at https://bit.ly/2pTjkSD. Find more information on the show on the Cole Drama Club’s Facebook page here.

Saturday, May 5

Into the Woods, Jr. – The award-winning Cole Drama Club will perform this musical based on fairy tales with a twist at East Greenwich High School at 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person and will be available at the door and online at https://bit.ly/2pTjkSD. Find more information on the show on the Cole Drama Club’s Facebook page here.

Sunday, May 6

May Fair 2018 – ”County Fair” is the theme of this year’s May Fair. The Barbara Tufts Co-op Preschool’s annual event features pony rides, bunnies, games, food, silent auction and lots and lots of fun. As always, at Academy Field from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, May 13

The Gianna Cirella Memorial 5K Walk/Run

And …

Interested in Running for Office? Here’s a pamphlet from the Secretary of State’s office with everything you need to know. While the period to file to run for office isn’t until June 25-27, there are earlier deadlines, say if you want to change party affiliation before filing to run (that’s March 27-29) or if you plan to run for office but are not yet registered to vote (May 26-28). If you are planning to run and are ready to go public, contact egreenwichnews@gmail.com.

Police Log: Arguing, Magic Mushrooms & a Deer

By Bethany J. Hashway

Monday, March 19

8:52 p.m. – A man driving west on Kent Drive hit a deer after it ran out in front of him. He was not hurt but the deer had to be put down by police after they arrived. The front of the man’s car was damaged.

Tuesday, March. 20

3:28 a.m. – Police arrested a Warwick man, 27, on a District Court bench warrant and possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms after receiving a call about a suspicious person on Queen Street. Police located the man, who said he believed there was a warrant out for him. He was right so he was taken into custody. At the police station, police found he had some marijuana on him (less than an ounce) along with the mushrooms. In addition to the arrest charges, the man was cited for the marijuana and, later, taken to the ACI in Cranston.

5 p.m. – The manager of the McDonald’s on New London Turnpike told police that the restaurant received a counterfeit $20 bill for a food order. The manager tested the bill by using a counterfeit bill detector marker, and it revealed that the $20 bill was fake. The manager said she’d approached the customer about the bill and the customer, a woman, seemed surprised and ran out. The manager reported to police that the woman drove off in a silver car with Connecticut license plates.

9:43 p.m. – Police arrested an East Greenwich man, 32, for a Superior Court bench warrant after police were called to the man’s home on a report of a disturbance. When police arrived, they heard two people arguing loudly. The man answered the door; routine checks turned up the warrant. He was taken into custody and taken to the station for processing. Unable to come up with cash bill, he was transported to the ACI in Cranston.

Saturday, March. 24

7:30 a.m. – Police cited a North Kingstown man, 40, for driving a car with a suspended registration after they noticed his expired inspection sticker. The car was towed; police seized the plates.




 

Stagger Lee and Dicky Cee

By Bruce Mastracchio

We came of age in the 1950s. Most of our crowd were either 13 or 14 when a dark-haired, swivel-hipped, guitar-playing young man from Tupelo, Mississippi, came before us in all his gyrating, soul-singing glory. Elvis had arrived just in the nick of time. For music, and for us.

A movie came out called Rock Around the Clock, with Bill Haley and the Comets.

Rock n’ roll was born. It was revolutionary and exciting, but disgusting to adults. We were there for its birth. For us, it was a wonderful time.

The girls got into it first. My two sisters, Karen and Gail, and their two “sisters” Elaine and Linda, were the best at the new dance steps and, as they used to practice at our house, I was often brought in as a “partner.”

It was thus I started to learn the intricate steps of the new rock n’ roll dance, the jitterbug.

I actually practiced a lot, with a broom, and basically became the first boy in our crowd to do the fancy steps and moves of this new dance craze that was sweeping the country.

Father Joe, with help from some of the parish men, had already built a teen center in place at a renovated horse barn just behind the old Our Lady of Mercy Church on Main Street. It had a big, shiny, new dance floor and a jukebox. We were in like Flynn! We would get the jukebox going and practice our moves all over the floor.

Soon, Benny, Joey, Vinny and the other guys were coming to our sessions and learning how to dance the new dances.

Besides the jitterbug, we soon had the Stroll, the Mashed Potato, the Pony and the Twist added to our repertoire.

We also found it was a good way to pick up girls. Guys who could dance were in demand. They were also in short supply, so they had their pick of the “chicks.”

Not long after that there came a show on television that would change our teenage lives forever. A young disc jockey by the name of Dick Clark started a show in Philadelphia called American Bandstand.

Shortly after we would know it on a more intimate basis, and for a lot of teens, especially the girls, it would become a daily religious experience. For some of us, we would meet it up close and personal. We would never be the same again.

The night was clear
And the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumbling down
I was standing on the corner
When I heard my bulldog bark
He was barkin’ at the two men who were gamblin’
In the dark
It was Stagger Lee and Billy
Two men who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw seven
Billy swore that he threw eight

I will remember that song forever. Good old Stagger Lee set up another life-changing experience for me. Here is why.

A couple of years after we had started in with that new rock n’ roll dance craze, Father Joe decided to have a money-raising dance for the CYO at the fairly new Our Lady of Mercy School auditorium. He also announced that he would hold some dance contests, and that the winners would get a week in Philadelphia and appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand television show.

It was exciting just thinking about it.

I could see no way that my sister Karen wouldn’t win. She was paired up with Joey M., Linda paired up with Benny, and Elaine was my partner.

The song we got to dance to was “Stagger Lee,” sung by Lloyd Price. Elaine and I had practiced a routine that we could do with our eyes closed. Fifty years later, we could still do that dance. We wowed the judges that night, and at the end, Karen and Joe, Linda and Benny, and Elaine and I had all won our way for the trip to American Bandstand!

The trip came the next spring. We all piled into Father Joe’s station wagon for the trip to Philly.

It was exciting. We got there on a weekend and did the obligatory sightseeing. We saw the Liberty Bell, crack and all; Freedom Hall; a statue of Ben Franklin; the Main Line, and a host of other sights. There was no Rocky statue back then, so naturally we didn’t see that.

Monday morning came fast. We got down to the studio and there were three lines of kids already in place. One was for guests to the show, like us. One for kids who were just trying to get in for that day, and one for the “regulars,” the semi-stars of the show who were there day in and day out and who had become national celebrities in their own right.

As we looked over, though, we were startled by an unbelievable sight. The “regulars” were putting on lipstick and powder! Not just the girls, but the boys, also! We boys were shocked! We had never seen such a thing. Though we later learned that the makeup made them look better for the TV cameras, it made little difference. It would color our perception of American Bandstand forever.

We also found out you didn’t need all that makeup to stand out.

We were representing the Our Lady of Mercy CYO and we were scheduled to give Dick Clark an award right there on national television! Imagine that. Regular kids from little old EG, the greatest little town in the center of the greatest little state, in the greatest country in the world, right up there on the national stage for the whole country to see! It was going to be “outstanding” as they used to say in the Corps.

But, we hadn’t counted on Elaine – forever to be known as the infatuated swooner and traitor – but I rush myself.

We had watched American Bandstand religiously, especially the girls. The guys didn’t watch it as much because it came on in the afternoon when we were at practice. But, we did get to see it occasionally, and we were impressed.

However, once we entered this American shrine, things were not what they had seemed.

Basketball bleachers were on the left. The dance floor, which looked huge on TV, was quite small. The records, on the wall, behind Dick Clark’s podium, had writing and scratches on them. There were three cameras to the right side by side with a red line in front of them. On the fourth side was a curtain.

On top of that, the Philly kids were not friendly and, once the music started, there was an all-out rush to get in front of the cameras. Pushing, shoving, kicking were all part of it. We guys almost got into a couple of fights and Benny was even trying to get a rumble started with some of the regulars after the show. Unreal!

But, there is a sidebar to this story. My mother, God rest her soul, wanted to see her kids on TV. She worked in Providence as a telephone operator. Somehow, she got her boss to let her off a bit early so she could see her kids on national TV, but the only place with a TV was a nearby bar. My mother didn’t smoke or drink.

So here she goes. A 47-year-old woman, into a bar. She orders a soda and sweetly asks the bartender if he would put American Bandstand on the TV so she could watch her kids dancing up a storm in front of a national audience.

She repeated that action all week.

She later told us that we could be seen no matter where we were because we were taller than most of the kids on the show. We didn’t know that as we kicked and clawed to get ourselves seen by America.

Now back to the “swooner.” On the third day we were scheduled to present our CYO Award to Dick Clark. We got to the lines with the plaque and were excited for a lot of reasons. It was Elaine’s birthday, so besides getting the spotlight as we presented Dick Clark with our award, Elaine and I would be in the “Spotlight Dance.” Just she and her partner, alone on the stage in front of the whole world.

Guess who her partner was? Me! I was excited!

But as someone once said, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

“The best laid plans of mice and men, do oft go astray.” Either way, I didn’t know it, but I was doomed.

Elaine was so overcome with excitement and emotion that she passed out in the line. They had to call the rescue squad and cart her off to the hospital.

In the excitement, the plaque was put down as we tended to Elaine. In the confusion, it got lost.

The remaining five of us entered the show, but, besides concern, we were also uncertain as to what was going to happen. We did manage to get word to Dick Clark about Elaine and the plaque. Then we settled down to have as good a time as possible, under the circumstances.

Lo and behold, midway through the show, Elaine returned from the hospital. She had just been overcome by excitement, was calmed down and was fine.

Then Dick Clark announced that he had received a plaque from a CYO group in Rhode Island and he held up “our” plaque and thanked the group that had brought it.

Apparently, one of the AB crew had picked the plaque up outside and brought it to Mr. Clark. The cameras were supposed to have panned us, seeing as we didn’t get “our moment in the sun,” but apparently they missed us on the pan.

Then Dick announced that one of the Rhode Island group had a birthday and he called Elaine down. He gave her a brief interview and then asked her who she would like to dance with in the “Birthday Spotlight.” I was starting to make my way down to the floor when she said, “I want to dance with Dennis.”

I was stunned! We had worked so hard to be here. It was going to be our moment to shine in the national spotlight – two kids from EG – and she picked one of the “regulars,” her secret heartthrob, one of those rouge-wearing, lip-stick smacking, midget dweebs from the show! We were all stunned.

The music started and she got her spot on national TV. She and Dennis. I will never forgive her for that.

But, like all things, this too passed. All in all we had a good time. I think it was the first time any of us had ever stayed in a hotel. Though the AB studio was a bit of a letdown, it taught us a lesson that things are not always what they seem. Dick Clark was, though. He was every bit as advertised, witty and funny with personal charisma. We thought he would go far and he did, though he fell victim to his stardom and had a facelift that didn’t fit.

I learned a lot on that trip. It was a good time and a good learning experience. Though I knew that I would always remember that trip, once I got back to EG, I never watched American Bandstand again. Not once. Not ever.

Of course, life goes on. I am older and right now can barely walk, nevermind dance. If I can’t get back to it, it will be something I will miss. Music and dance have always been a big part of my life. Music is my life, not my livelihood, and sometimes I have to dance to keep from crying.

But, as I always have, I will adjust, like I always have – no matter what – and the tunes will continue to reverberate through my head.

Stagger Lee told Billy, “I can’t let you go with that. You have won all my money and my brand new Stetson hat.”

Stagger Lee went home, and he got his .44 …

He said, “I am going to the barroom just to pay that debt I owe.”

Go Stagger Lee!

“Stagger Lee,” said Billy, “Oh, please don’t take my life. I’ve got three hungry children and a very sickly wife.”

Stagger Lee shot Billy, oh he shot that poor boy so hard, ‘til the bullet went through Billy and it broke the bartender’s glass.

And now I dance into the sunset, with love. Hope you enjoyed this story. As I typed it out I had Channel 924 on the TV, the Solid Gold Oldies channel.

The tunes were all there while I typed to keep from crying. And the last song they played was “Stagger Lee.”


Bruce Mastracchio weaves experiences of his youth into gold and EG News is privileged to run his pieces on an occasional basis. If you like what you read, search Bruce’s name using the magnifying glass search icon in the top right corner of the website. You will find plenty of amazing tales from “the greatest little town in the center of the greatest little state, in the greatest country in the world.”

Letter to the Editor: I’ll Get You My Pretty … and Your 6 Lateral Transfers Too

It sure feels like Ms. Corrigan is trying to get rid of the six lateral transfers hired by the fire department in 2016, one way or another.

Ms. Corrigan is now using a 3-platoon, 56-hour work-week system as a way to get rid of the six firefighters.

Let’s look at the history of her actions:

It just so happens that she is trying to remove the same six firefighters that she complained about while testifying in the James Perry case.

Ms. Corrigan said she felt a lateral hiring process was “discriminatory” because “generally the number of firefighters that are currently employed are predominately white males” and that the CBA, charter language, the active hiring list were all “thrown away” in the lateral hiring process used. Ms. Corrigan testified that she “took it very seriously and spent a lot of time and energy trying to understand what had happened, how the laterals had come in, how the whole CBA had been — it was almost like a tip of the iceberg is this firing” and why she thought “relying on solely lateral hires is a bad idea” and “not a best practice in employment.”

When questioned further and asked about being discriminatory and if that bothered her, Ms. Corrigan replied, “It’s a fact, it’s a discriminatory practice. As you know, with employment law, there’s a lot, EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission], the Town has an affirmative action program, all of these things when you are hiring laterals, it’s a fact that you are not — you are reducing the subset. It’s a fact. It doesn’t bother me. It’s a fact you are reducing the people that can apply.”

Perhaps the tip of the iceberg stopped with Jim Perry because Justice McGuirl ruled, “This Court finds without question based on the credible evidence before it that Corrigan did not engage in ‘careful and factual consideration,’ as required by §45-1 of the CBA before terminating FF Perry for ‘just cause.'”

And, “There was no valid basis to terminate FF Perry.”

Gall-lee said Gomer Pyke, I’m sure glad Ms. Corrigan didn’t reduce the subset and followed employment law, the EEOC and the Town’s affirmative action program when hiring Ms. Dykeman and Ms. Antunes.

Also noted in the decision of that case is where the judge wrote, “Corrigan stated that her analysis revealed a structural deficit and, in her professional opinion, the lateral transfer procedures were a major contributing factor.” The only other familiar statement from Ms. Corrigan that appears to be missing was about that being “unsustainable” as well.

OK. That didn’t work, let’s try this . . . .

Ms. Corrigan now comes along with a plan to have the firefighters work more hours per week on average (56 rather than 42), while saying it is being done “due to the recognized fiscal and, more importantly, health, safety and wellness concerns from such extensive overtime hours.” So I guess if a firefighter has a bad night and works the 24-hour shift continuously and then has to work overtime, that is now somehow safer than a firefighter who works a 10 or 14 hour shift and has to work overtime.

Ms. Corrigan recognizes the changes as structural changes that will take legal opinions and potentially additional complaints for summary judgement, i.e. a softer way of saying additional lawsuits. Apparently, we haven’t spent enough yet on legal fees.

Ms. Corrigan said she will supply the council with her progress reports at the meeting on June 11. So much for the town manager search, maybe Santa will bring us a new one.

– William Higgins

William Higgins, retired EG police officer and former EMA director for the town, lives in East Greenwich.