Service Aboard the USS Spearfish, 1943-45
Speaker: Tony Faella, WWII Veteran
Monday, May 13, 2013
Our May speaker is Antonio “Tony” Faella, a native Rhode Islander and WWII veteran of the Navy’s silent service. He will discuss his adventures aboard the USS Spearfish (SS-190), which made twelve patrols in the Pacific from December 1941 to January 1945.
Born in Providence in 1922, Tony moved to South Kingstown at age 7. He left school at age 16 to work in local mills. He later worked installing anti-aircraft guns as part of Rhode Island’s WWII coastal defense system. In May 1942, he enlisted in the Navy. After 21 days of boot camp in Newport, Rhode Island, he was sent to electrician’s school at Iowa State College. Following graduation from submarine school at New London, Connecticut, he reported aboard the Spearfish at Midway Island in August of 1943. There he served as an Electrician’s mate until the end of the war.
After the war, Tony completed high school and attended the University of Rhode Island, graduating with a degree in elementary education. He served in the education field for 34 years, first as a teacher then as working principal. Today Tony and his wife, Betty, own and manage the Kingston Azalea Gardens, the New Fernwood Cemetery in Kingston and Larkin’s Pond Beach Club. Thanks to Varnum Russ Malcolm, the evening’s host.
Please RSVP to Tony Amaral, at 884-4110 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, May 9. Your cooperation with making/changing/keeping/cancelling reservations is especially important now as an accurate head count is needed for the caterer.
Social hour begins at 5:45 pm in the Lounge at our Armory, 6 Main St.; dinner will be catered and served upstairs in the drill hall. The menu includes: chicken marsala, penne pasta with marinara sauce, chopped salad with champagne raspberry vinaigrette dressing, rolls & butter, coffee, and dessert. The cost is $12. Please notify us of any food allergies.
Varnum News …
* Memorial Day Parade: Monday, May 27, 10 a.m., Main Street East Greenwich. Varnum Continentals, RIM, will be near the head of the parade. Col. Larry McDonald invites you to join us at the Armory immediately after the parade for refreshments.
* June Varnum Meeting: Monday, June 10. Speaker: Col. John Cuddy, President, Varnum Continentals
A Look Back at the East Greenwich Railroad Station
By Varnum Member Brian Wallin
Take a ride down London Street and you'll find the old railroad station at the corner of Duke Street. It was once a focal point of 19th and 20th century East Greenwich. The red wooden building dates from 1873. Typical of the period architecture, it has a cross-gabled roof, clapboarded siding with Italianate trim, arched first-story windows, and a handsome oriel window on the south end. In the 1970s, a wrap-around porch, typical of many old-time railroad stations, was dismantled.
This was not the only station to serve the town, however; in 1837, a small building was erected just south of the King Street Bridge. Together, they served the original Stonington Railroad. The Stonington RR almost bypassed East Greenwich but, the line's owners were later persuaded to come through town. Very shortly thereafter, the Stonington RR was taken over by the Boston and Providence RR. The original stone bridge is still in use, reinforced over the years to handle newer and heavier rolling stock – today, high-speed Amtrak passenger and Conrail freight trains.
The Boston & Providence, planning ahead, quickly replaced the first station with a new depot at its present location. The old building, with typical Yankee frugality, was moved to Slocumville to serve passengers there. By 1876, according to then town historian, Dr. Daniel Greene, 34,300 tickets were sold annually at the new station as riders traveled to and from Boston and New York and beyond. Every train passing through East Greenwich stopped at the station.
The immediate neighborhood soon gave rise to numerous businesses, including a hotel, livery stable (a forerunner of Hertz, maybe?) and railroad service buildings. Well into the 20th century, the right of way, by then op-erated by the New Haven Railroad, was marked by numerous grade-level crossings … and numerous accidents as well. The London Street crossing just south of the depot (remember the crossing guard house?) was among the last to disappear.
A 1987 edition of The East Greenwich Packet, published by the East Greenwich Preservation Society, recounted heady days for the station through the end of World War II. In 1900, seventeen weekday trains ran daily between East Greenwich and Providence, a boon in a time when fewer people drove and roads weren't what they are today. In 1917, pontoon-equipped Navy and British DeHaviland bi-planes built by the Gallaudet Company in Chepiwanoxet were trucked disassembled to the East Greenwich station for shipment. After the War, progress progressed at a rapid rate.
By the 1960s, trains had a hard time competing with highway and air travel. The often-bankrupt New Haven Railroad bit the dust in 1969. Its successor, the Penn Central, was merged into Conrail in 1976 and passenger service taken over by Amtrak. But the takeover also marked the end of rail service in East Greenwich. The venerable depot was boarded up and fell into disrepair. After many idle years, it returned to life in the mid-1980s, first as a restaurant and gourmet shop. In the 1990s, new owners opened an early learning center that continues today. Imagine the delight of the toddlers who can thrill to the trains speeding by outside their windows. Fortunately, this piece of town history, along with many other structures in town, has obtained a renewed lease on life. It would have been a shame to lose these special and important parts of our local history.
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House Museum (1773), 57 Peirce Street, East Greenwich, RI 02818-3338
Varnum Memorial Armory, 6 Main Street, East Greenwich, RI 02818-3827