Slater Monument will be Moved for Shopping Center  
Thursday, November 10, 2011

A good-size monument honoring Samuel Slater, ¡§founder of America's Cotton Industry,¡¨ is on Route 16 in Webster.

It was dedicated in November 1967, some 44 years ago, a gift of Ms. Ray and H. Nelson Slater, two of Samuel's great-grandchildren. It has been in the news of late because plans are moving forward to raze the vacant Cranston Print Works Co. factory and replace it with a shopping center.

In its first form, the East Village plant was known as The Green Mill, and was home to Samuel Slater's first cotton factory. The monument and a clock tower, all that remain of the first manufacturing facility, will be moved to a corner location within the planned retail plaza, giving it historical bearing.

There's a story behind the story here. Once it is moved, the monument will be close to the site Mr. Slater's great-grandchildren selected for their salute to their great-grandfather.

To explain, one of the last units owned by the S. Slater & Sons Co. Mills was a small gasoline station at Routes 12 and 16. Socony Vacuum Oil Co. operated the station, and chances are the late Walter Kolak was their last manager.

The station was in a triangle to the roads, backing to the Cranston Webster Division Plant. Given their purpose, the Slater great-grandchildren couldn't have asked for a better location, even though it had been declared too small to accommodate a Flying Red Horse sign. Cranston Co. was in the throes to a print conversion those years ago, going from roller print machines to screen print systems, and the little piece of land at 12 and 16 would facilitate the process, giving screen print priorities. The monument was assigned to a site across from the original Green Mill, and Cranston acquired the little triangle. It gave them another four decades of print dominance without too many internal alignments.

Now, with plans for a shopping center on the Cranston acreage, the monument that Ms. Ray and H. Nelson Slater commissioned to honor their illustrious ancestor is scheduled to be moved to the location they first selected.

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Webster residents Kathy and Norman Gillen have a summer address in Wells, Maine, where they've come to know Webster native Donald Peters.

Kathy and Norman were in Wells recently, closing their summer digs, and had breakfast at Jake's Seafood in nearby Moody. A chance meeting with Mr. Peters, one of their summer friends, was the bonus. As usual, Webster dominated dialogue, according to the Gillens.
Don, once a sports writer and then advertising manager for the Webster Times, and later a Boston Gas Co. representative, retired to Maine, and to some of the popular gathering spots around Wells, from what Kathy and Norman report.

¡§He seems to know about the latest goings on down here,¡¨ says Norman, suggesting Don has a lot of email friends in his home town.

Don was in a nostalgic mood when the Gillens enjoyed Jake's fare, and opened their eyes to life in Webster years ago, before they migrated from the Blackstone Valley and he moved north.

Don was known for his humor and repartee in his days around Webster and hasn't lost any of his social skills, the Gillens suggest.

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Webster Lake Gifts, the shop run by Carla Manzi, housed in the Sterling Realty Co. building on Thompson Road in Webster, has a new line of T-shirts:

¡§Where Eagles Fly¡¨ is the overview to the series. Eagles have become a genuine attraction at the lake in the last couple of years, even though they found a pretty good cover behind Cobble Island, suggesting they have to be in flight to be visible from points on South Pond.

I'm among those who have scanned in vain.

The concern right now is whether the eagles will remain at the lake because their nesting place was damaged by Hurricane Irene. While the answer seems positive, experts remain on alert.

¡§Where Eagles Fly¡¨ will be on Lake Gifts' latest Web offering.

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I made Richard B. Bembenek's acquaintance years ago, when he was buddies with John E. Bialy, with whom I shared Webster Times news assignments at the time. John always introduced me as ¡§Pat.¡¨

Time recall was automatic when a ¡§Hi, Pat,¡¨ came out of a supermarket line last Thursday. Sure enough, it was Mr. Bembenek, a longtime resident of Rawson Road in Webster.

He had a nickname starting with a ¡§B,¡¨ I instinctively knew, going with ¡§Buzzer.¡¨ Mr. Bembenek smiled and said ¡§Beaver.¡¨ The correction made, he added, ¡§It's been a while.¡¨ Yea, ¡§Buzzer¡¨ turned out to be Kunkel.

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Alexander A. Zackiewicz, now 90, has lived in Gainesville, Fla., most of his life, but has a 1930s mindset of Webster, his hometown.

Al put some of his nostalgic recollections together recently, and offers them for a ¡§what used to be.¡¨

¡§Frances Biadasz and Ralph Dumas led most of the parades, and Mr. (Stephen L.) Sadler sang ¡¥America' at most public functions.¡¨ Miss Biadasz was one of the first women to enlist in the Waves (Navy), and became a high-ranking officer. Mr. Dumas became a school superintendent, and Mr. Sadler was director of the Webster Continuation School, a Depression-era program to educate children that worked to sustain family coffers.

¡§Webster had a fife and drum corps (The Universal) that always looked good, winning awards in competitions throughout New England.¡¨

¡§A teen date was a movie downtown and a walk to Deary's (on West Main in Dudley) for an ice cream.¡¨

¡§A yellow ball of something was mixed with a slab of margarine to look like butter. The best way to sharpen a kitchen knife was to rub it along the sidewalk curbing.¡¨

¡§Electric refrigerators replaced ice boxes, Kool Aid gained in popularity, and radio cabinets with record players were a popular combination.¡¨

The WPA, one of the Roosevelt administration's make-work programs, built a stone wall along the front of the Athletic Field on Ray Street. For an addendum, the wall was taken down and moved to Memorial Beach after World War II. The stones were used to build the beach house at the location. In its original location, the wall had wire fencing that matched to the height of fencing around the rest of the field. There's still evidence of that today. A section of fencing was installed along the Ray Street part of the field, and knitted together. The knit line has become more obvious with time.

¡§Harry Seder Co. (still in business in Palmer) delivered flour and sugar in 100 pound bags, and the free cloth was dyed and used to make skirts.¡¨

¡§Bush Hall (on Dresser at Lake Streets) was a popular spot for pitch and pinochle games, as well as horseshoes, at which the Canty family excelled.¡¨ For an aside, horseshoe matches are still held at the club, and seem to be regaining popularity.

Double ice cream cones, twinsickles, and fudgesickles became popular as the 1930s came along.

-Courtesy Of
Telegram & Gazette

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