Yesterday’s Names

by | May 22, 2022

The Hilltop is filled with seniors
And the theater’s long since gone
While walking past the creamery site
One early summer’s morn
Almacs had a parking lot
Where kids all gathered round
Long ago and yesterday
There was a distant sound

The Post Office soon offered dinners
To Alias, Smith and Jones
Local kids hung out at a jail
And never felt alone
Today a brand-new building
Blesses Archie Cole
Telling tales of Lou Lepry
God rest his very soul

Time has been ever gentle
On this our little town
Many wonderful adornments
Have replaced those gone down
They rest upon old shoulders
Of those not so long ago
Whose names adorn parks and streets
That many today now know

Mastracchio still writes stories
About Ducky and Wilma Briggs
And if you are out at night
Go to one of Hubby Brennan’s gigs
Alexis still cares for our children
Along with the Barbara Tufts School
All of these plus many more
Have sparkled like a jewel

A gentle little breeze
Which only faithful heard
Whispers names from yesteryear
Through soft unspoken words
“Solomon, Silverman, Halsband,
Erinakes, Spencer and Fry”
Souls awaiting recognition
By those of whom might try

Time has been ever gentle
On this our little town
Many wonderful adornments
Have replaced those gone down
They rest upon old shoulders
Of those not so long ago
Whose names adorn parks and streets
That many today now know

An Armory guards the corner
Of a long busy main street
Where the hotel’s playing music
And people come to meet
It seems like merely yesterday
But only time has changed
For it’s all still East Greenwich
Just slightly rearranged

Change is forever constant
But much remains the same
New schools and remodeled buildings
Are all another name
Today soon becomes tomorrow
The world will forever turn
Still there’s much beauty at the core
A lesson all will learn

Time has been ever gentle
On this our little town
Many wonderful adornments
Have replaced those gone down
They rest upon old shoulders
Of those not so long ago
Whose names adorn parks and streets
That many today now know

Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program, a mental health counselor, and a poetry lover.

Photo from East Greenwich Then & Now Facebook page.

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May 23, 2022 6:10 am

Very nice poem, Robert. EG is a destination now. A restaurant town. We are left with our memories.
But, our memories are good.

Barbara brown
Barbara brown
May 23, 2022 8:58 am

Nice poem, Bob.

May 24, 2022 4:04 pm

Love this !!!

Suzanne Wilson Mirandou
May 25, 2022 11:55 am

Very nice!well said!Thanks for all you do!

Terry Bergeron
Terry Bergeron
May 26, 2022 1:42 am

Wonderful poem, Bob. The names and memories will not fade. Your poem and Bruce’s stories help keep them alive. I will never forget EG, or stop thinking of it as my home town.

Donna RICE
Donna RICE
June 4, 2022 8:04 am
Reply to  Terry Bergeron

A very beautiful poem. Names and places recognized.
Cliff and Donna Wilson Rice

Ray Riccio
Ray Riccio
May 26, 2022 11:59 am

Thank you for your writing and yes very thought stimulating.

South of the Hilltop Drive In was Hoppy’s Hideaway which was renamed The Post Road Inn. Names like Vinnie, Mr. Peepers, Scat, Chubbs, and BB were but a few of the clientele. And of course Hoppy and Barbara and Matches the cook.

My father’s Impala could fit 2 in the trunk somewhat comfortably (at times Joey & Tommy) as I drove through the entrance to the Hilltop. If I recall Carl Yarlborough (if my spelling is correct and I have the right Dive In) worked at the concession. During intermission (who could forget the clip with time left before closing of the concession) Carl would tell me to come back just before the end of intermission and he would wait on me. What this meant is I’d pay for a soda, maybe two, pay for one of the two or more boxes of popcorn and the left-over clam cakes headed for the garbage were given to me for the bubble, (free). Carl’s mother Viola and aunt “Goodie” (Al Luciano’s mother) were very good friends of my mother.

Across Post Road from the Drive In was Mike Palazzo’s Hillside Lounge/Tap. Being Mike’s name ended in a vowel he was a friend of my father. As was Arthur Palermo, Henry Minero, Jimmy Ruggiero, Kevin Pezzucco’s father whose nickname for some reason was “Jackson.” I could never figure out why he was called Jackson. He was owner of Kent Auto Top on Main Street. All names ending in a vowel. Either first generation or like my father born in Italy, the “Old Country.” Also Joe Zaino. I knew many of my father’s friends and be remiss if I didn’t mention Angelo Vestri, a barber my father worked with.

I worked at the Italo-American Club for my first cousin once removed (in Italian it meant uncle) Gus Zenga. He made the best tomato sauce I ever had and yes I had many plates of pasta with tomato sauce. I was given a photo from my cousin Elaine. The photo was taken years ago at the Club showing about 12 Italians playing bocce on the first bocce court. Brizzi, “Loats” Zaino (Frankie father), Joe Madelena’s father, Alan Denise’s grandfather also Al, I think his other grandfather a Ferranti and others. Priceless and framed it is.

Ok where was I.
After attending an early Sunday mass at OLM on Main I would eventually catch up with my father at Jerry’s restaurant (where Two Guys from Italy is located) and where he would buy me breakfast. As a a Catholic eating before receiving the Eucharist was taboo. At times after Mass I’d walk into Kent Auto Top on a Sunday morning where a crap-game known to but a few would be in progress. This is at a time when most stores with few exceptions were generally closed on Sunday’s.

I’d like to think of the “evils” of gambling, however as I watch on television the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont just guess I can not think of it as offensive. Plus at my uncle’s store and before the state took over the daily number (and more) people could lay a penny, nickel, dime or more and receive odds at 500/1 tax free. A bet of a penny paid off $5.00, enough for a week’s groceries. As a kid I’d have to go to Halsband’s for the “Scratch Sheet” as it contained the daily number, which was the handle usually at a NY Track then Id walk throughout the town to collect these bets at a time before I made my first communion. The money was wrapped in a piece of paper which had the written number(s) and the amount bet on that number(s). You could lose the money but you better not lose that piece of paper. My Uncle Tar was to receive in the very least that piece of paper. But in case you notice I digress.

Every year or every other year my father and some of the individuals mentioned would travel during the winter months to Florida. In the beginning it was a time before there was an I-95. All the Gumba’s (Mike, Henry, Jimmy, Jackson, Arthur) along with another friend of my father George Malcolm would drive to the warmer climate. They would stay at a friend’s home they knew in Miami. As I eluded to one of their hobbies just happen to be gambling and to be more precise while in Florida it was Horse Racing. The tracks at the time in Florida were Hialeah, Gulf Stream and Tropical. An occasional visit to Cuba under Batista may have also been on their itinerary for the 3-4 week vacation. They’d leave early February come back late February early March. It’s why I tell my brother we were both born in November.

It was generally Henry Minero who chauffeured them down in his car. One year Henry’s car broke down and as the story goes in route to walking to a gas station (no cell phones) for a tow and repair Henry decided he buy a brand new car, and that he did. Last time I saw Kevin Pezzucco he gave me a picture I think marked either 1961-62 with his father, my father and Henry Minero sitting on lawn chairs in Miami looking like they were gathering themselves to go to the track.
My father was at times a considered a Wizard when it came to picking horses. His first purchase of a house on Marlborough was from his winnings at one of the two tracks in Rhode Island. He’d know the stable, the trainer, the Sire, the Dam, the GrandDam, GrandSire, track variance, and speed rating of the horse(s), the latter two with the help of the “Daily Telegraph.” The daily “Providence Journal” or “Evening Bulletin” was $.10 to $.15, the “Telegraph” was $1.50-$2.00. When the University of Arizona during the 70’s offered an elective of how to read a “Telegraph” the final exam of the class was at a track, I told him he should be the professor for that course. I also informed him he should have met Art Rooney as legend goes a winning bet at a horse track of $2,500 gave him enough to purchase the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although Rooney did play the horses the story remains legend.

Hoppy’s I believe is Felicia’s, the Hillside has had a few different names and Kent Auto Top is a sandwich shop at the corner of Main Street and Union.

Come Memorial Day if I feel well I will walk the parade route and maybe run into a minimal amount of people I now know unlike the past. One I most recently met had the NDSM, VSM and RVCM on his cap. I learned he as I was at Camp Eagle Christmas Day attending one of Bob Hope’s specials.

Wow sorry. Memories seasoned through the ages just like wine.

PS. Congratulations to Mr. Essex being named Grand Marshal of the Memorial Day Parade. Under his tutelage and others my son achieved Eagle Scout along with “Ferg” and “RW.”
The week prior to Memorial Day the Veteran’s cemetery in Exeter was filled aside from other organizations Mr. Essex (and recently deceased John Bradley) and Troop II putting flags on the graves. It is quite the sight to see once all flags are in place and waving from a gently blowing wind. If you have time at dusk take a ride down.


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