50 Years Ago March, 1968

By Jim Ignasher

For those who enjoy viewing historic photos, visit the Smith-Appleby House website at smithapplebyhouse.org. Look in the menu under “Smithfield History”. For the last several years the Historical Society has been building an on-line archive to aid researchers and preserve town images for future generations. New content is always being added as volunteers find the time.

Last month’s column began with a story about UFOs sighted over Slack’s Reservoir in Greenville. One theory put forth was that the unidentified flying objects were navy helicopters from Quonset Point. In the first week of March, a letter to the editor of a local newspaper explained why the objects were not naval helicopters. It was signed by two navy aviation electrician’s mates who were familiar with helicopters and flight procedures.

I recently spoke with a Greenville resident who remembered the UFO incidents. Although he didn’t witness them himself, to his recollection the mystery was never solved.

On March 10, St. Michael’s Church in Georgiaville held an open house for its newly completed parish complex.

Air Force Sergeant Dennis L. Bouchard of Greenville was serving as an air traffic controller with the 1964th Communications Group in Vietnam.

Lt. Commander Robert Sweeney, U.S.N.R., was home after serving aboard the destroyer, U.S.S. Donner.

Michael D. Warren of Greenville completed four years of service with the U.S. Marines, part of which was in Vietnam. His brother Bruce was serving as a lieutenant with the Rhode Island National Guard. Their father, Lt. Colonel Warren, was at the time a 28-year military veteran.

Master Sergeant Earl R. Knight, Jr., retired from the Army after 25 years.

Private Paul King of Esmond graduated from Army Finance School.

Staff Sergeant David M. Balfour, Jr., was home for a 30-day leave after serving two years in Vietnam with the 7th Air Force.

Marine Corps Captain Robert L. Higginbotham Jr., of Greenville, was serving with the 265th Marine Helicopter Squadron in Vietnam.

Second Lieutenant David Nuttall of Greenville graduated Army Officers Candidate School in Virginia and was scheduled to attend flight school.

On March 14, “child-proof-caps” on all medicines became the new standard in the U.S.

On March 17-18, five-plus inches of rain fell on the Smithfield area over a thirty-hour period overwhelming ponds, lakes, and rivers. Many low-lying areas of town were completely flooded. West Greenville Road at Rt. 44 became impassable. The bottom of Capron Road was underwater. At Shea’s Corner in Georgiaville the water surrounded homes and businesses. The Douglas Circle Platt in Greenville had to be evacuated. Local authorities established an emergency shelter in the Windsor School. Several dams were in danger of failing. Had they done so, the results would have been disastrous. The incident brought to light the fact that local infrastructure concerning flood mitigation needed to be addressed.

After the storm was over, but the water was still running high, 8-year-old Bill Thurber of Scenic View Drive was hailed as a hero for saving the life of his 4-year-old neighbor who fell into the rushing water of a nearby brook and would have been sucked into a culvert if not for his quick actions.

One of the top songs for March of ’68 was Otis Redding’s, “(Sittin’n On) The Dock Of The Bay”, recorded just days before he was killed in a plane crash.

Janet Voight, a Smithfield High school senior, was presented with the Good Citizen Ship Award by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Janet was nominated by her classmates and teachers for the award due to her participation in numerous school and civic activities.

Three Smithfield High School students, Kurt Anderson, Deborah Guay, and Alyce Sparkman, received drama awards for their performance in a play, “Our Town”.

Smithfield instituted a new dog licensing policy which required that all dogs now be vaccinated against rabies. Several hundred dog owners showed up for the vaccination clinic held by the town.

The newly formed Cub Scout Pack 3 held its first Blue and Gold Dinner at the Smithfield Sportsman’s Club.