Ramp Work Uncovers Old School Street Well  
Thursday, July 17, 2008



John P. Hickey of Ramshorn Road, Dudley, a licensed funeral director with Sitkowski & Malboeuf Funeral Home of Webster, doesn't have a divining rod, but he recently discovered a source of water near the funeral parlor. The side porch, believed to have been once attached to a kitchen, was removed to make way for a handicapped access ramp, and Mr. Hickey noticed boards under a rounded stone. Investigating, he found a well dropping 12 to 14 feet to a water line. A weighted measure established the depth of the water at 18-1/2 feet, making the well more than 30 feet to its bottom, Mr. Hickey said.

The find was a revelation to Edward D. Sitkowski, whose late father converted the School Street property to a funeral home in 1945. Mr. Sitkowski was only 7 years old at the time. "He says he never knew the well was there and doubts his father knew about it, either," Mr. Hickey said.

Contractor Michael Bonnette is building the ramp, but Mr. Hickey handled the demolition work, expressing a belief in "sweat equity." He thought of using the well water to maintain lawns about the funeral home, but a plumber dissuaded him.

"It would cost more than it's worth," he lamented.

A combination of clean fill materials will be used to displace the well.

In a separate take, Mr. Hickey added to ongoing reports of deer sightings near Webster's downtown. While he was driving down School Street about 4 one afternoon late last month, a deer bounded in front of his automobile, jumping from the Williamson family yard and scooting up Crown Street. His children, Joshua, 6, and Julia, 3-1/2, were with him, Mr. Hickey said, making them the youngest downtown deer observers that I know of.

* * *

There are experts on just about everything in the federal office of Homeland Security in Washington. Besides law, Kelly Hart, a young Washingtonian, is possibly the only D.C. homeland officer who can pronounce Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg.

Ms. Hart is the granddaughter of Webster resident Irene J. Russell.

In case anyone is interested, here's our gazetteer of the 45-letter name, split into syllables: Char-gogg a-gogg man-chaugg a-gogg chau-bun a-gun ga-maugg.

The ages-old instructions are: "Try them over slowly and the entire name will be quickly and easily pronounced."

* * *

James J. Maisto ran a popular hairdressing salon in Webster when I came to know him years ago. Then he became a teacher, working first at a vocational school on Cape Cod and commuting daily from his Dudley home. He's now on the faculty at Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School in Palmer.

Mr. Maisto developed an interest in miles per gallon of gasoline long before prices zoomed out of sight, driving a small Chevy to the Cape for five years. He recently checked a new two-seat vehicle.

"They say you can get up to 50 miles a gallon with it," Mr. Maisto said when we crossed paths earlier this month. Driving comfort is another matter, Mr. Maisto said, adding, "If I was going to drive around in that, I'd want to get 100 miles a gallon."

* * *

Dave Orbon, once a telephone installer for what is now Verizon, was seated in a booth adjoining ours at a fast-food place during a recent noon hour, and he had a couple of Webster questions.

There was an ice cream stand on East Main Street at one time. What was it named, and where was it?

Also, who ran Arthur's Restaurant on Pleasant Street?

Mr. Orbon remembers the ice cream place because it was a stop on family trips to a Rhode Island beach when he was a kid. He had the approximate location, but the neighborhood has changed. Hillside Dairy, probably owned by Arnand and Agnes Guilmette during his frame of reference, was on East Main near Park Avenue. It sat in what is now the parking lot to the Rite Aid Pharmacy.

Mr. Orbon serviced the Pleasant Street area when he first joined the telephone company. Arthur's was a coffee, conversation and information stop, he said, identifying "the owner as a great guy." Dave remembered the man's family name the moment I enunciated "Mr. Tanko." He knew, too, that he had lived on Worcester Road.

* * *

Michael Plante might have Webster roots, but time has made him a dedicated Oxford resident.

Mr. Plante, a master printer, served with the Oxford Fire Department for many years and was chief of the firefighting force when he retired some years ago. He's now fully retired, having recently folded his printer's apron.

Blessed with good diction, voice and vocabulary, he's considering volunteer work with the Audio Journal, a special radio link for blind people. He said he has an incentive: "My mother was blind before she died."

* * *

The late John Piekarczyk was a friend from our preteen years. He became a watchmaker, like his father, Stanley Piekarczyk, and was later a partner in a Worcester jewelry store. John died seven years ago.

I thought I had run into a young John Piekarczyk last Saturday outside a town breakfast place. It was a quick glance, and I realized that the man who greeted me by name was John Piekarczyk Jr., a near image of his late father.

Dialogue brought out a father-son interest in kinds of jewelry, only John Jr.'s is on wheels.

Mr. Piekarczyk and his wife, Nancy, are registered members of the Mercedes Benz Club of America Inc. They live in Webster.

* * *

Bernard F. Conti of Webster thumbed through a copy of Time magazine a couple of weeks ago in a waiting room at the Fallon Clinic in Auburn.

He was surprised to find Dudley mentioned in a Michael Kinsley essay.

"An Old Story," it says. "Two more memoirs are exposed as fakes. Why do writers do it? For the same reason you do," Kinsley wrote.

Part of the focus is that a woman now living in Dudley embroidered her Holocaust memoirs, claiming she was adopted by a pack of wolves. This, as part of an example, goes up against the human tendency to fabrication, judging from the commentary.

The book, "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust," hasn't yet been published in the United States, according to essayist Kinsley. Misha Defonseca, said the autobiography is "not actual reality, but my reality." I tend to accept this.

Besides, the point here is that local folks take notice, as Mr. Conti did, when an area town is mentioned in a big-time publication, whatever the reason.

* * *

When the late Joseph A. Patenaude, chairman of the Webster Board of Selectmen in 1936, had the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Co. tracks at North Village blown up on Friday, March 13, in that year, it became a cause celebre.

A flood had inundated homes and industries along Pearl Street a couple of days earlier, but water remained in the buildings after the flood receded, held in check by a railroad bed that kept the water from escaping.

Chairman Patenaude solved the problem by blowing up the railway line.

The blast worked wonders for the neighborhood and the newspapers had a field day. Webster Times editor Laurence J. Daly set the story to rhyme, headlining the piece, "Dynamite Joe."

Now, OldeWebster.com editor Carla Manzi has posted a photograph of the blast, along with the poem.

The 72-year-old print is being shared with town history buffs, courtesy of Kevin and Elizabeth Rekowski.
-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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