“Screw the lid on the top of the sugar shaker just like this, so it appears as if it’s on,” Joe whispered as he prepared the glass sugar shaker for an unsuspecting customer who’d doubtless upend the container to find a rush of that granular sweetener into his coffee.
We high school kids crouched low in the booth so the counter waitress couldn’t see what we were about. We’d learned early in our lives that adults usually look the other way, regarding adolescent antics, unless they suspect serious misadventure—the kind that burns down buildings.
As it was, we watched and admired our friend Joe’s willingness to wreak havoc on another. His was typical youthful misadventure.
We kids often went to the Donut Kettle, on Main St., in Arctic, where, if we did it right, we’d arrive just as a batch of fresh donuts came out of the fry-o-lator, ready for the chocolate drizzle that went on top…all the more heavenly if the freshly-fried donut made the chocolate topping warm and melty.
It was a once-in-a-while treat we afforded ourselves, usually after collecting for charities in the raw weather, outside some of Arctic’s more visited shops—Seena’s, Maxine’s, St. Onge’s. We’d all be out in force during the holidays when the townspeople were all the more amenable to giving to those less fortunate. We’d hold our cardboard containers with the cut in the lid, so people could fold up their dollars (if we were lucky) or press through their quarters.
The Chronicle (John F. Deering High School yearbook) signifies all sorts of charity-collecting as a graduate’s activities in the 60’s and 70’s. I don’t know when charity-collecting in front of stores ceased (maybe when the Malls arrived), but it was an activity many of us engaged in, during our era.
We’d be on the streets for hours and then turn our containers in, at American Legion Post #2, where an adult collected and counted the results of our work.
We girls opted to stand outside the ladies’ and girl shops while the boys took on St. Onge’s.
I hated accompanying Mom to the latter store, when she was bent on a mission for either or both of my brothers, for I felt the store a colorless place. Even the names “olive drab,” or “charcoal grey” for suits suggested dull and were a far cry from the oranges, pinks, and yellows one sees in men’s and boys’ clothes today.
In our era, boys’ and men’s clothes were supposed to suggest seriousness of purpose.
No such color constraints operated for girls’ and women’s clothes.
If the Donut Kettle were a daytime gathering spot for West Warwick High School kids, in our day, Mruk’s in Coventry attracted a nighttime contingent. In retrospect, it was an odd choice since it was in the next town whose high school was a rival of ours. Mruk’s was positioned in the center of the village of Anthony, next to a wall, running alongside the mill river, where several yards away the ominous train trestle spanned the river. We kids had heard stories about that trestle, such as how two kids got stuck walking across it one day when a train came through.
My distinct memory of that trestle and the wall (see pic above) that supported it? On the wall is where I first saw the word “F..k” scrawled, in big, black letter, graffiti-style. I noted it as I walked back from my Girl Scout meeting held in a small building up the street.
After walking the mile home, I came in and called out, loudly, “Mom, what does F..k mean?” Her immediate reaction? “Shhhhh…..your brothers are in there” (the living room.) She never did tell me the word’s meaning but I learned: It’s not a word we use.
In retrospect, it seems odd she would be in such protective mode of not wanting my brothers to hear a word they were probably all too familiar with by that point.
After all, they were 16 and 14, respectively, while I was only 12.
West Warwick native, Colleen Kelly Mellor (firstname.lastname@example.org), is a motivational speaker and freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Wall St. Journal, Scripps-Howard, and many regional newspapers. She is author to the children’s books Grandpa and the Truck (grandpaandthetruck.com) and is regular commentator in the Providence Journal. She currently completes “The Asheville Experiment,” the story of her and her husband’s nine year life in one of America’s trendiest little retirement towns—a cautionary tale for all those who consider a move. In this book, she tells what went wrong and why they returned to live, full time in Rhode Island. Her website is colleenkellymellor.com