The Block Island Times
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In Case You Haven't Heard

By Fran Migliaccio | Mar 01, 2013
Photo by: Joe Kunz Two grand Victorian houses on Matunuck Beach, after Hurricane Sandy.

About town

A hearty welcome to our new Block Island Times editor, Lars Trodson! He comes to Block Island with an impressive background in New England journalism, and a published novel, Eagles Fly Alone. Moreover, he is a native Rhode Islander, a great asset when it comes to unraveling the intricacies of the smallest town in this smallest state.

Many thanks to Bob Downie for the enjoyable and informative account of Captain William Kidd’s stay at Block Island, and the likelihood that he buried his famous treasure here in 1699. Presenting valid historic information in very readable style, the story ended with the delightful anecdote of corporate treasure hunters who arrived on-Island in 1955, equipped with the latest in high-tech detection equipment and a treasure map from the Rhode Island Historical Society. Prowling the lawn of the Narragansett Inn, they were excitedly sure they “Had something!”, based on signals from their detectors. Sam Mott, owner of the Narragansett Inn, fetched them up with the flat calm voice of reality: “That’s the cesspool.” And Captain Kidd’s treasure has yet to be found.

Block Island everywhere

The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society held a session on Feb. 22 in Providence, “Remembering the Celebrity Club.” The Celebrity Club was a night club in Providence owned by Paul Filippi in the 1950s and hosting all the best known names in jazz music – Nat King Cole, Nina Simone, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and many more. It was a rare integrated entertainment venue in a country in which most establishments were segregated by race.

Blake Filippi, brother Steve Filippi and Steve’s wife Lauren, with brand new baby boy Landon, showed up to hear memories presented by several former employees and customers. At the end of the evening, Blake rose and with great feeling expressed pride in what his father had created, and appreciation that so many former customers provided positive memories for him and his family. The audience of about 50 people gave him a standing ovation.

In 1956, Paul Filippi purchased Ballard’s Inn at Old Harbor, on Block Island, and operated it until he passed away. His sons, Steve, Paul and Blake, and Paul Sr.’s widow, Marion, now operate Ballard’s.

My late husband, Rally, had many memories of the Celebrity Club, and often spoke of the enormous contribution Paul Filippi had made to the world of jazz and the cultural scene in Providence in the 1950s, with an integrated venue that provided opportunity and exposure for some of the finest known jazz musicians of the time.

Thank you to Robert Ellis Smith for providing this account.

Willis Brown, owner of The Moped Man, writes: “My granddaughters Madison and MacKenzie worked at The Moped Man for several summers. They could often be seen on the lot practicing their ball handling skills by playing volleyball without a net. MacKenzie is now attending Queens College on a basketball scholarship. She was Most Valuable Player of the week in the entire conference for a couple of weeks and twice Rookie of the Week for the entire conference, but is now out for the season with an ACL injury. The coach at Queens College wants Madison to join MacKenzie next year.”

Madison, now a senior at Shaker High in the Albany-Saratoga region of New York, distinguished herself by leading her team to a 60-39 victory over Shenendehowa High in a recent game. According to the regional Times-Union, Madison, “fueled by a pre-game trip to McDonald’s, where she consumed a self-created McDouble McChicken combo, devoured Shenendehowa’s defense for 27 of her season high 33 points in the first half.”

Which explains the note that grandad Willis added to his communication: “Her Mom, Stacey, who also worked at The Moped Man, is a wee bit miffed that after years of feeding her kids nutritious meals, McDonald’s get the credit for Madison’s energy.”

Shortly after Hurricane Sandy blew through the northeast, summer Block Island resident Joe Kunz sent a vintage “before” and a recent “after” picture of stately Victorian houses on Matunuck Beach, near his winter home. Joe wrote: “The Victorians on the beach behind Theater by the Sea were a sort of family compound — old money from Millbrook, N.Y. Seeing these homes having to be taken down is sooooooo sad. They were the grand old ladies of Matunuck. They fought a good fight over the last 20 some years — moved back, etc., but Mother Nature won.

“South Kingstown and the state should have approached the erosion here 25 years ago. Now, after losing 150 feet of beach or more, they still are dragging their feet. Its a shame. In the 80s, there was a deck, 20 feet or so of lawn, 50 or 60 feet of dunes, then at least 100 feet of beach in front of each of these houses.”

Trivia Tease

In this space two weeks ago, Block Island Trivia author Robert Ellis Smith posed a question: “How long has New Shoreham had a Town Manager?”

The answer is: “Since 1990,” which makes it 23 years now. Block Island has had a total of three Town Managers: Melinda Carlton, David Holt, and Nancy Dodge.

We had one more response to the previous trivia challenge on “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’” from reader Barton Lane, of Sheep’s Meadow. Barton writes: “Sounds like an old Billy Joel song my son used to like. P.S., we’re always late with the quiz because out in California our B.I. Times is always about a week or two late! We enjoy the Haven’t Heard news, makes us feel a little connected when we’re so far away. We were also on the Island for last years ‘tornado’, it did get very windy, we had moved the outdoor furniture inside, no damages in Sheeps Meadow I think.” — The Lanes, CA and Sheeps Meadow.

For those who may have missed the last column, I am including here the link to the original video of the Billy Joel song, sent by Sue Cotter. It is fun to watch and listen: http://vimeo.com/30866055.

This week’s trivia question from Bob Smith is, “What was the original function of the restored white, square Georgian-style building on Beach Avenue next to The Hygeia House, and when was it built?”

Of cakes and candles

Happy birthdays to: Barby Michel, Abra Savoie, David Roosa and Charles Beck, March 2 (the date on this paper!); Webb Moore, March 3; Conor Spillane, who turns 21 on March 4; Cliff McGinnes, March 5; Erica Tonner and Persephone Brown, March 6; Pam Glen, Lynn Fletcher, Fred Leeder, Diane Hammond, Peggy Nelson, Tim Cotter, Perry Phillips and Carter Philip Brown, March 7; Carl Reynolds, Betsy Theve, Barbara Temple, Jack Connell and Kate Mello, March 8; Willis Dodge, Kim Gaffett, Brian Schrauf, Cathy Payne and Tracy Muller, March 10; Denny O’Toole, March 12; Lyn Paquin and Rosemary Tobin, March 13; Mona Dwyer Helterline, March 14.

Let us know what’s happening! Visiting relatives, special occasions, updates on friends near and far, projects… Deadline is Tuesday morning, and I can be reached at fran117@mac.com.

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