Walking tour recalls an earlier era
A group of visitors and locals gathered last Saturday, July 22, for a tour presented by the Jamestown Historical Society. Markets, the old schoolhouse, and a former church were just a few highlights brought forth from another era in pictures and stories by Jane Bentley, local educator and historian.
"It's easy for me to give a walking tour of Jamestown because every year for 30 years I taught the history of Jamestown to the children here in the schools. It's easy for me because I've lived it," she noted.
Bentley carried a collection of photographs with her on the tour. As the tour stopped at each site, Bentley held up a picture from a different era. Sometimes the picture was a market, sometimes a schoolhouse or hotel.
"It was a great way to see the town in another way," said volunteer Mary Jane Murphy. Historical society members Murphy and Maureen McGuirl also co-ordinated the historical walk, but they gave the credit to Bentley for making the day a success. "I took a lot of notes," said McGuirl. "Jane told wonderful stories of how the village once was."
McGuirl was scheduled to give the afternoon tour, but she happily gave up the position for Bentley to share her knowledge again. McGuirl noted with surprise that a market used to be where Randall Gallery is, and an A & P grocery store was the site of the Narragansett Caf today. She also mentioned that a candy store used to stand where the Chemical Company is today on Narragansett Avenue.
"I was just a bystander," admitted Murphy about the tour, deferring to Bentley's wealth of knowledge during the walk. Murphy said she was interested to hear stories of how schools were set up differently to accommodate the farming community that characterized the island 50 years ago.
The Saturday morning walk was a success with 15 participants, a mixture of visitors, summer vacationers, and locals. Fewer people joined the afternoon walk after a squall passed and more threatening clouds hovered, but those who went had equal fun.
The reactions from the participants were the highlights of the event for Bentley. "It's rewarding to get instant positive feedback from the participants. Others shared stories, too," Bentley said. Since Saturday, she noted that at least five different groups of people asked her for a repeat guided tour. Bentley is a natural story teller, and she added that the short time volunteered was good fun for everyone. "It's only an hour out of my day," for an important cause of keeping our history alive, she said.
The tour participants enjoyed the informative walk so much that time ran short to include the fire department Memorial Museum on the itinerary. Nevertheless, many folks stopped by on their own when the program ended, and browsed through the historical society Jamestown Museum also. The firehouse museum is usually open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., or by chance.