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Smithfield, RI Weather

50 Years Ago December 1968

50 Years Ago December 1968

By Jim Ignasher

This month denotes the 50th anniversary of a tragedy. On December 10, 1968, Smithfield police officer Norman G. Vezina was dispatched to Indian Run Trail for a report of a 5-year-old boy who had fallen through the ice of the Spragueville Reservoir. The youth’s name was Kenneth Firby, and when Vezina arrived he saw the boy struggling in the frigid water. Without hesitation, the officer went to aid the child, but unfortunately both were lost.

Officer Vezina was promoted to the rank of sergeant posthumously.

Airman 1st Class Robert J. Mitchell of Greenville was home on a 30-day furlough after serving a year-and-a-half in Vietnam.

Navy Lieutenant (j.g.) Andrew H. Aitken, Jr., of Greenville was also home on leave.

Air Force Sergeant Robert G. Browne of Greenville was stationed in Thailand.

The Smithfield squadron of the Civil Air Patrol awarded cadets Dennis Duhaime and Mike Hennessey the Curry Award after successful completion of training.

Cadet Master Sergeants Linda Fornaro and Richard Larkin were promoted to Warrant Officers.

Cadet Lieutenant Lynette Blackmore was promoted to Captain, and Cadet Captains Rosalie Verin and Paula Blackmore to Majors.

On December 7 a Christmas dinner and theatrical program was held at the Greenville Grange Hall titled, “The Lighting of the Candles”. The event was open to the public.

That same evening the Smithfield High School Drama Club held it first theatrical production for the 1968-69 Season with its presentation of the play “Dracula”.

Cast members included Kevin Fallon as Dracula, with Kurt Anderson, Kathy Kelly, David de Pasquale, Susan Dearmin, Mark Beaudion, Deborah Imbruglio, and Karen Kapanakis, in supporting lead roles.

The club had been rehearsing since the beginning of the school year.

A fire safety tip that appeared in a local newspaper of the day advised all homeowners to keep “an ashtray in every room”, and to empty them often. It went on to explain how many fires in the home are accidentally started by careless holiday guests. Yes kids, there was a time when smoking cigarettes indoors at people’s homes was not only acceptable, it was also permissible to light a pipe or a cigar.

Among the “Christmas specials” to be had at a local clothing store were turtle neck shirts for men, and “wool checkered” bell bottom pants for both sexes. In 1968 there was a word for these clothing styles – “groovy”.

Another store was advertising Polaroid “Swinger” cameras for $17.93 – regularly $23.95. For those too young to remember, the “Swingers” offered an “instamatic” finished photograph within sixty-seconds. The picture quality was generally poor, but it was considered quite the innovation in its time, and perfect to using to capture those special moments, or for giving as a gift for the holidays.

The Providence Gas Company was advertising a free ham or turkey with every new gas stove purchased before Christmas. Price – $214.00

On December 15 the annual tree lighting ceremony took place on the Greenville Common sponsored by the Apple Blossom Garden Club. Mrs. Everett Fernald, Jr., served as Chairwoman, and Senator F. Monroe Allen turned the switch that lit the tree.

Mr. Robert Reall of Greenville was appointed Campaign Director of Smithfield for the 1969 March of Dimes charity fundraising campaign.

The Emblem Club of Smithfield, and the Cranford Club of Greenville, joined together to bring a Christmas celebration to the patients at Zambarano Hospital in Burrillville.

On December 22, Santa took time out of his busy schedule to come to Smithfield, but on this occasion he wasn’t using reindeer to remain airborne. Instead, he landed at Anna McCabe School in a helicopter! The event was sponsored by the Smithfield Town Council, the Greenville and Georgiaville volunteer fire companies, and the Smithfield Jaycees. (Don’t you wish they still did stuff like this today?)

On December 23, Scuncio Chevrolet opened for business and remained so for more than twenty years. The large auto dealership once stood where the Stop & Shop supermarket is located today.