The Block Island Times

"The rest of the story"

By B.I. Historical Society | Oct 23, 2014
Photo by: Photo by David G. Hawkins, courtesy Block Island Historical Society left top right: Peter Blane, Brad Whitman, Maureen & Herb Whitman, Wade Ortel holding baby Jim, Dee, Jo and Jane Ortel (holding “baby” violin), Christopher Blane and Edith Blane. (anyone knowing the identity of the two persons we were unable to name at the edge of the photo please contact Pam at the Historical)

Interconnectedness — Continued


By Martha Ball


People come and people go and sometimes, even approaching 50 years later, they resurface. In mid-January, Pam Gasner opened an email from David Hawkins, that teacher from the sixties. Hard as it is for his former students to imagine, were we able to go back in time we might well characterized him then as “a kid with a camera.” He is today a professional photographer going through a lifetime's accumulation of photos and he offered the Historical a number of them he had taken over the course of that long ago winter. We have since received a box of captured school events, including trips, and peering at them — still in slide format — we found at least one showing the interior of the cabin of the Sprigg Carroll! The Historical has access to more images, documenting the year the Interstate wharf was built out into the Old Harbor basin, the school drama production was “Scenes from Shakespeare” performed at the Spring House, and there was real “when I was a child it was this high” snow.


It was a smaller world then, there were fewer than 10 teachers at the school and rarely were any of them, to our eyes, young. A number of us remember not only Mr. Hawkins but seeing some of the very photos in the account link he forwarded to Pam, particularly a snow storm in January of 1965 that closed the Neck for two days. “There was no snow on Block Island” he told us, “it was all in the road in front of my house!”


Also in that grouping of photos we discovered a few of the Chamber Ensemble during one of their Thursday night gatherings in the Whitmans elegant music room, always a place of warmth and joy. Another gave us a window on some members of that group, with children, gathered at the Ortels' house, presenting Jim, the new addition to the family, with a small violin.


Today, all those years after the cars with Alaska license plates came off the boat, the grandson of the then new young doctor, is helping the Historical scans the slides that came to us without expectation, bounty from a young teacher who still recalls the Ortel family with great affection.


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