"Save the Clock Tower! Save the Clock Tower!"
"Save the Clock Tower!" - That was the famous rally cry in the 1985 movie 'Back to the Future' in which Marty McFly is whisked through time. A similar cry, of sorts, has been heard a couple of times in East Providence when it's famous clock tower also needed repair. The current East Providence High School opened in 1952 replacing the old school on Taunton avenue. That old high school, built in 1884, became the former Central Junior High, now the Edward R. Martin Middle School. Today the old Taunton avenue complex is for elderly housing.
When EPHS opened in 1952 it was considered "the showplace of high schools in the Northeast" in a feature article in the old Providence Journal Rhode Islander Sunday magazine. It was one of the first modern high schools in the country with a professional auditorium and a modern cafeteria and large swimming pool with two diving boards. At its' peak census in 1973 when the school had to go on double sessions, the school had some 2400 students. Census is now at about 1550.
When a 1999 bond issue made the school's new addition possible, it was determined that the iconic clock tower was in danger of crumbling. Bricks began to fall and the area was roped off to avoid injury. Then Superintendent of Schools, Taras Herbowy, didn't show an initial appetite to fix the tower. Take it down, he figured. But he figured wrong as school board member Millie Morris and others in the community rang out the cry of "Save the Clock Tower". Some bricks were sold in a short-lived fundraising effort and the city managed to find bond issue funding to demolish and rebuild the clock tower. It is practically an exact replica of its 1952 predecessor.
During the recent cold spell school Interim Facilities director, Tony Feola, was busy organizing repairs to the high school's heating system. A couple of complaints also came in from some that the Clock Tower wasn't keeping correct time. So the Reporter inquired of Mr. Feola and he said that he would investigate - once they straightened out the heating problem. Understandable of course, but Tony Feola told us today (January 6th) that "our clock tower is all set." It seems like the inner mechanism of the clock does not like computer changes, in as much as its just your basic clock. "It was off an hour because it doesn't automatically change to account for daylight savings time, etc.," explained Feola. So Feola had it fixed the old fashioned way - manually. "I'll remember now to climb up there a few times a year and adjust it. We'll keep an eye on it," he promised. A busy week for Feola, thawing out a frigid high school and saving the Townie Clock Tower. Marty McFly would be proud.