May 5, 2021

EPVME history (part 2) : Seeking relatives of EP veterans with memorials and names for honor roll

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Prior to 63 years ago, the rectangle formed by today's Purchase St., School St., Oakley St., Broadway, and Freeborn Ave. was filled with houses, two schools, and an outcrop of stone. Today, from this unique street level rectangle, from Potter St. to Lyon Ave., you can look down and view the traffic on Interstate 195. This freeway was named the East Providence Veterans' Memorial Expressway (EPVME) 60 years ago.

There was no School St., between S. Prospect St. and Lyon Ave. as we know it today, prior to the late 1950s. This was a rock formerly occupied by the estate of Tristam Burgess in the 1860s. After blasting the rock with dynamite to create the freeway, rock remnants still exist on School St. behind the Warren Ave. apartments.

On the corner of Potter St. and School Street, there was the Potter St. School. Have any photos of the interior and exterior of this school? Do you recall visiting the school dental office there? Dr. Charles Genter was the school dentist for over 47 years. The dental clinic was moved to the new 1958 Grove Ave. School.

The Potter St. School was also the Lt. Donald Carlton (of WWI) VFW Hall. After the building was torn down to build Route 195, this VFW eventually merged with the Primmer-Cordeiro VFW Post (formerly on Lyon Ave. and Juniper St.). What are the first names of these two KIA WWII veterans for whom this P-C Post was named? Do you have a photo of this P-C VFW Post's flag pole and rock with plaque to share?

On the corner of Lyon Ave. and east side of Freeborn Ave. was the bell tower of Albert Pierce Hoyt (A. P. Hoyt) School. Albert was not a veteran, but a young bank clerk and a school committee member. The original wooden school had 3 floors. After the fire in 1940, a flat roof was installed without a bell tower. Did Mr. Wesley let you ring the school bell? The school bell, cast in 1875, is now part of the senior high school orchestra. (This bell will be rung during the EPVMER ceremony. As bells are a symbol of freedom for which our troops fight, the public is encouraged to bring hand bells, cow bells, and jingle bells to ring at special times during the Nov. 6th ceremony.)

The AP Hoyt school building was along Lyon Ave. from Freeborn Ave., extending towards Warren Ave. where there was a house. What became of this house when AP Hoyt School was torn down in 1958 to build the freeway? Today this former house location is a street without a street sign between Lyon Ave. and S. Carpenter St. After thinking it was a continuation of School St., surprise! It is Oakley St.!

A house on Purchase St. was moved to the east of Fort St., near Seventh St. A house on Phillips St. was moved to Brightridge Ave. near the Edward Faria WWII memorial. Where are the other houses located now?

Of the 14 original pairs of bridge memorial signs along the EPVME in 1961, 5 signs still exist in this rectangular neighborhood. On Purchase St. and west on Freeborn Ave., the sign is in memory of WWII veterans Frank Maciel (married) and John Webb. On the corner of Lyon Ave. and west side of Freeborn Ave., one sign remains for two fathers, who left their toddlers to serve in WWII, Eugene Fontes (He has a daughter.) and Emanuel Gracie Jr. (He has a son.).

Do you know these 8 veterans, their children, or relatives? Are you a relative? Please contact the families to let them know they (and the public) are invited to the re-dedication ceremony for the bridge memorial signs and the naming of the expressway on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 at Pierce Memorial Stadium, 1-3 pm. Also short biographies will be written about these veterans. Their family and friends are encouraged to share life and military details and photos with the EPVMER 2021 committee ( epvme@hotmail.com  )  to help record and preserve this EP history.

View https://sites.google.com/view/epvmer2021  to read the entire list of 28 veterans' names with memorial bridge signs and to learn more about items (ex. save and dry your live roses to throw as confetti during the parade; buy and donate 2 inch base, plastic flower pots for use at the Bristol Veterans' Home greenhouse) and volunteers needed (ex. to assemble flags, to set up flags) for this special Veterans' Day celebration.

An updated EP Military Service Honor Roll is posted at ephist.org. Please check and email corrections and new submissions to epvme@hotmail.com  Include "in memory of (dead)" or "in honor of (alive)" last name, rank, first name, middle name or initial, war, or name of the military event served in (or years, country), peace time, active duty, KIA, POW, MIA, etc., branch of service. Optional: awards, medals, etc. Deadline Sept. 1st.

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