Uncovering new computers and old signs

Uncovering new computers and old signs

The Westerly Sun

I’ve probably deviled you enough with tales about my computer woes but you know having a computer is a lot like owning a car. When it runs right, boy it’s wonderful, but when it doesn’t, it’s hell.

When my laptop crashed I resurrected my old 2003 desktop. It worked okay but it didn’t agree with my printer. Then I couldn’t get on the Internet so I trotted up to the Ashaway Library to send the weekly column with a lot of help from librarian Heather Field. (Hopkinton Councilor Scott Bill Hirst also gave me a hand.) When it became obvious that wasn’t a permanent solution I bit the bullet and got a new computer. I shunned the new ones with the touch screen because … well ... something else to go wrong.

Unfortunately something did go wrong with the new one (are we EVER going to finish this story, Gloria?). Yes. There was something wrong with the first one, so I’ll skip over that. Next, I found a modestly priced (cheap to you) but brand new one that I’ve had help with getting started on so you won’t hear (not written in cement, mind you!) me whining in the immediate future. Whew!

But I must tell you, it’s a little scary. First of all when I got back to the Internet I found I had something like 120 e-mails waiting and the morning I got up extra early to fool around with it I accidentally hit a button that drew a wild-eyed snarly-gray-haired old crone up to the screen (that’s what I meant about being scary) because it was ME! Something called Skype had unmasked me.

Albeit a bitter blow, but I won’t dwell on it. Instead, I’m going to ask you to forgive me for not answering you if you sent me a recent e-mail. I’m doing my best to catch up. Also, thank you so much to all the Facebook friends who were kind enough to send birthday greetings. I’m still struggling with getting to know how to use that social network properly and I hope you’ll bear with me but I want you to know how much I appreciate all of you making the effort to ... well ... make contact.

Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton is gone now but he would have been proud of the people who work at the local department store for endorsing his belief in serving his customers.

I went out to the store on a blustery rainy day at the tail end of April (which I had no business to do) and got stuck because I left the lights on when I went in to pick up a couple of things. The car, left to its own devices over the winter months, had a weak battery.

Panic-stricken, I slogged back to the store and managed to blurt, “I’m in trouble,” to Judy McQuaide, a young woman who was walking by. Speaking gently, she promised to help, took my hand and led me to the courtesy desk, where Eric Cole overheard her explaining my predicament. He responded at once. Summoning Eric Andre, the pair hurried out to jump-start the car without stopping for coats or hats.

Within minutes I was on my way, but I want to thank each of them publicly for being the good Samaritans they are. I’ve been discouraged oft times when I read or hear unpleasant stories about my fellow man. But this wasn’t one of those stories. Hat’s off to the good folks at Wal-Mart for coming to my aid. Sam would be proud of you. I know local management is.

A lot of you were surprised to learn workmen at Westerly Jewelry had uncovered an old glass sign hidden under the wooden jewelry store shingle that identified the O. Stillman book store and stationery shop. (They also sold phonographs and records and booked steamship treks.)

The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Inventory, nomination form on file with the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission as 4-10 High St., is numbered 4-8 High St. on local records. The flat-roofed three-story brick commercial building was built in 1888, as an extension of the adjacent Wells Block on Broad Street, following a fire which destroyed a previous commercial building on the site. The top of the structure is treated with a corbelled brick cornice and the stone window lintels on the upper floors are set into the courses of decorative brickwork.

Historian Barbara Mehringer discovered the ‘O’ in Mr. Stillman’s name stood for Orsemus and that he signed a lot of the papers with just the initials ‘O.M.’ An entrepreneur, he was the first president of the Pawcatuck Bank, an inventor, industrialist and real estate giant, and the founder of the area we call Stillmanville.

In 1831, Mr. Stillman bought the brick woolen mill at the end of Stillman Avenue (which still stands today) and built the bridge over the Pawcatuck River which bears his name. The mill belonged to John Schofield, who, in 1806, had purchased a former linseed oil mill and converted it into a wool processing mill.

The mill, operated by John Congdon, was a wooden water-powered factory used to process linseed oil from flax and was located just south of the bridge. The first building to be constructed on the site, the oil was important to the American Revolution because it was used in the production of paint products, printing ink and other items necessary to a nation in revolt. This information was taken from the Pawcatuck Hyde estate history by Anthony D. Lombardo.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, those women who influence their children, the girls who will be mothers one day and the boys who will help them raise a family. And Dad, you get best wishes on this day as well, for all the help you give them.

Gloria Russell lives in Westerly and was a longtime reporter for The Sun.


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