Al Bruno’s Smithfield remembered

Dorothy T.P. Dame Building – East Smithfield Public Library

By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.

This is the fifteenth article in an occasional series about Smithfield locations that have either been forgotten by time or are no longer remembered for what they once represented. The locations are selected from a list compiled by former Smithfield Building Official Al Bruno. A profile of Mr. Bruno, now 86, was originally featured in the January, 2017 edition of The Smithfield Times. The first installment of this series ran in February 2017.

The original Esmond School at the corner of Dean Avenue and Esmond Street was built in 1908. In the ensuing 110 years many, many Smithfield children began their educational journey there. By 1985 the building, no longer in use as a school, was converted to the East Smithfield Public Library.

While still a school it had been named for Dorothy T.P. Dame, the venerated long-time principal there.

Al Bruno remembers Mrs. Dame vividly. “When Mrs. Dame was honored and the school was dedicated to her I was in attendance. I and all of my six siblings had Mrs. Dame for a principal or teacher. When she passed away I was privileged and honored to be one of her pall bearers at the family’s request. She was a marvelous mentor and leader.”

When she died, Mr. Bruno notes that he was the town’s Building Official. He relates that with Town Council approval he had a large photo of Mrs. Dame made and framed to hang in the East Smithfield Library.

Generations of Esmond area children passed through the doors of the building during its time as a place of learning. Mr. Bruno provides a colorful glimpse of what it was like to attend the village school.

“Between the ages of five and 13 I ran everywhere. No-one could catch me. During our 15 minute recess I used to run home across lots. I would cut through a hedge, run through back yards, and I’d fly into the house and get an apple or piece of fruit from my mother. Then I’d run back and get into the boys line – the boys and girls had separate entrances – and get back to my class on time every time. I was never late.”

He goes on to recount how the neighbors of the school reacted to some of the athletic contests that went on in the school yard.

“During recess we would play baseball and football and all kinds of games. Eventually, balls would get thrown or kicked over the fence into different nearby yards. Some of the homeowners wouldn’t give them back. I was the paper boy in that area. So, when I delivered their paper, they would give the balls to me, and I would bring them back to school the next day.”

Today, no-one is playing baseball in the East Smithfield Public Library parking lot, but there’s a whole lot of varied activity inside the thriving facility which continues to educate and enrich the community more than a century after the edifice was constructed.

(Current photo by Albert Tavakalov/The Smithfield Times. Old photo courtesy of The Smithfield Historical Society).