Chillhood Friends and The Woonasquatucket River

I was reminded of a story I wrote some years ago by a recent article in the ProJo, “Transformed.” It was of the reclaiming of the Woonasquatucket River corridor. Because of the efforts of many, led by Lisa Aurecchia, Director of Projects for the River so outlined in the story, The River is pristine and available for the enjoyment of man.

Here is my story of a part of that river of years ago***

I believe we should never lose touch with our childhood friends.
Steve called to tell me how much he enjoyed my stories of growing up in a cozy neighborhood in Providence in the late ‘40’s and early ‘50’s. He was an inseparable childhood friend who I had not seen in 50 years. He wanted to get together to reminisce, so we arranged a lunch date. I was eager to see him and when I did, I realized that fifty years was a chronological event and not an emotional loss, because we picked up where we left off, as if the last time I saw him was a week ago.

We quickly caught up on careers and family, and then moved to the old days, the days of uncontrollable laughter and simplicity, when all we had to think of was school, girls and fun.
“Let’s drive through the old neighborhoods and visit all the great places we enjoyed.”
We did. From grade to elementary to junior high schools; from home to home, slowly driving the streets we frequented. It seemed like such a long walk then.

“That’s where Bob lived. His Mom gave us cold drinks after we played touch football on that hot street.”
“Look, the old netless hoop is still hanging.”
“And that small lot where we played football. My god, I thought those touchdown runs were so long! I hit a home run off the third floor of that house, a ‘Ballantine Blast’ as Mel Allen might have said.”
“And hardly forty feet away now.”
“Let’s go to the Box.”

The Box was a dam in the Woonasquatucket River behind the mills on Valley Street where we cooled after a summer sandlot game.
In those days, the river was less than clean. Passing us as we swam were things both animate and inanimate, and there were streams of pea green colors snaking along the middle. Did I see a dead rat?
Today, the river is different; as was everything else we passed, whether in size, appearance or loss. Sure, some of the buildings and houses were gone. But the river remained.
It now was a fish ladder for alewives and salmon, pristine, drinkable even. Nearby was a board full of pictures and explanations.

Woonasquatucket today, Olneyville section, Providence, RI

“It’s not the same.”
“Nope, but it’s good. The river is so much better.”
Steve opened his knife, and we played jackknife baseball while sitting opposite each other on a bench near the river as we did so many years ago. We talked some more of long ago friends and places.
We looked at each other often.
Things were different, but not by much.

Childhood friends are forever.

*** This I Believe Broadcast, NPR

© 2018

By | 2018-10-13T13:31:56+00:00 October 15th, 2018|Friends, Neighborhood|14 Comments


  1. Raymond Amore October 15, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Ed, this is not the first time that you have posted about the Box. I spent uncountable days on the baseball field next to the river, but I never indulged myself by jumping into those foreboding waters. Your courage and daring were greater than mine – and probably your immune system as well.You’re lucky you didn’t become the first physician with two thumbs on each hand.

    • Ed October 15, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

      The last time we met, you did not notice. Not two thumbs, but six fingers. Courage? Daring? Maybe. Not sure why we dove into that muck, Ray. Stupid? Hot? Whatever. I gotta believe, hope, that my immunity is at a high level.

  2. Mary Ann Dherifsn October 15, 2018 at 1:54 pm - Reply

    Touching story

    • Ed October 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      Thank you.

  3. John Booss October 15, 2018 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    The intensity and durability of long time friendships, the capacity to immediately renew friendship after decades of separation, is remarkable. It is one of the great poignant pleasures of living long. You’ve nailed it.

    • Ed October 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm - Reply

      Thanks, John. Great note. I stayed close to this good friend for some time after or reunion. Unfortunately, he passed not long ago.

  4. Peter Voccio JR. October 15, 2018 at 4:11 pm - Reply


    OH, to be a child again, Sorry about the loss of a dear childhood friend. I also kept in touch with childhood friends for the past 14 years. We have lunch and take a ride buy our childhood places, where we played, worked, and did our schooling. Sadly one of my friends has had Parkinsons for eight years and has progressed and unable to attend. Last OCT, Ann and I had lunch with he and his son. We hugged before we left. He is not doing well. (Sad)

    • Ed October 15, 2018 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      I had a friend who called a friend every day. I try to do that

  5. Beverly Thompson October 15, 2018 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Great that you found each other before it was too late. Wonderful story of friendship and remembering.

    • Ed October 15, 2018 at 4:24 pm - Reply

      Yes, Beverly, and quite emotional. The most fun was doing the broadcast at NPR. What you read in the blog was our script. Unfortunately, the station lost or deleted the link to the piece.

  6. Bill Aquilante October 15, 2018 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed the piece re the Box. I was too timid to even consider going into that water, however I remember Steve being on the top of the dam control( in the buff) jumping in. My cousin
    And I would be trying to spear frogs at the river edge.

    • Ed October 15, 2018 at 4:52 pm - Reply

      Great memories, Bill. Quite a place. If you have not been, you should visit The Box now. It’s beautiful!

  7. Natalie L McKenna October 16, 2018 at 3:32 am - Reply

    Wonderful friendship and memories. I have many friends with whom I started in kindergarten at Windmill Street School and through St. Xavier Academy and we still keep in touch and try to lunch at least once a year. Sadly there are many who are no longer with us and I find out through their obituaries. Then my memory takes over and I recall different times I had with them.

    • Ed October 16, 2018 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Yes, Natalie. There are a group of us from the 1954 class at George J. West Jr. High School who meet for lunch three times a year. And we talk about the same things every time; how great our days were there.

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