Memories of Riverside
Transcribed by East Providence Historical Society member Jeffrey Howe from the verbal memories of his 92 year old father Gordon Howe.
I was born in 1913 near the Narragansett Fire station #2 section of Riverside, becoming a third generation Riversider. We actually lived at many different addresses in the neighborhood until my father and mother could afford to build a cottage in 1921 at 56 Halleck Avenue one block off Bullocks Point Avenue immediately behind the Riverside Trolley Car barn. The reason for staying in the area was that my father William was one of many Riverside men who manned the trolley cars out of this barn, which was opened in the mid 1890’s. It was a large brick building located on the corner of Bullocks Point and Knowlton Street, and more recently was the former location of the concrete water tower in the 60’s, now the site of the new Library being constructed in 2005. I was educated at the East Street School, now an apartment. One of my earliest memories was the men furiously ringing the school bell in the tower until it fell out of its mounting celebrating the end of WWI. At the time we were living directly across East Street above Chretians Hardware Store. Although there were automobiles traveling Bullocks Point Avenue most area residents took the trolley cars to school and work in upper East Providence and the city. During the winter it was the United Electric Railway cars that kept the avenue open during snowstorms. I remember as a young boy going out with my father on his run to Bristol during a blizzard, helping him shovel switches and break ice off the wires and anything else he needed. He once worked three days straight in one, coming home exhausted and snow blinded. Many Riverside men worked the water then; clamming, oystering and general fishing. The Bay was alive with oyster beds and was a large employer, my father worked on the oyster boats before he was a motorman. He worked for the United Electric Railway from about 1911 or 12 until he retired in 1947 driving busses. The streetcars ran until about 1921 as I recall, there was a heavy snowstorm that winter and after clearing the tracks they were abandoned. The streetcar company had to compete with Consolidated Railway also that made stops in the square and offered more direct and quicker runs to Watchamoket Station. Strange as it seems when I was a young teenager in the 20’s I would walk from my home on Halleck all the way up to Watchamoket on Sundays to visit my grandfather even though I could ride the street cars, I enjoyed the exercise. Like most area boys I worked at the park summers and remember walking the elephants down to the bay for a dip when they came to town, usually I set pins in the old bowling alley. When the depression hit I had to go to work before graduating and walked across the trestle over to R.I. Lace works in West Barrington where I worked for 60 years as a Lace Designer. My grandson and family now live directly across the street from the location of the old car barn, a 5th generation Riversider.