2007-08-30 / News

Avenue stars in film made by summer residents

By Donna K. Drago

What began as a project to keep a couple of retired guys "out of our wives hair," has resulted in an informative and entertaining documentary that will benefit the island's historical society.

Barry Cook and Nicholas Schaus, who are summer residents of the island, met through their wives, who are good friends. The men came up with the idea last year to document the importance of Narragansett Avenue throughout the history of the island.

Using interviews with current merchants and residents who either live or work on the avenue, interspersed with historical photos, the two have captured the essence of the street at the heart of the island.

Viewers will instantly recognize the summer traffic jams, the off-loading beer trucks on Friday mornings. The way the fire horn works its way into everyone's life will have viewers nodding knowingly.

Avenue "regulars," like Lillian Hadfield, who is interviewed in the early morning while sweeping the sidewalk in front of her apartment building, and veteran firefighter Bucky Caswell, who gives an account of all the fires that have happened on the avenue over the course of several decades, gives viewers the sense that Narragansett Avenue is as much about people as it is about asphalt.

The filmmakers followed Jane Bentley of the historical society as she gave a historical tour to a group of interested tourists and residents. She points out the oldest buildings and offers anecdotes, like the one about the skunks that had to be cleared out of the Bomes Theatre before it could be opened for the summer season.

John Brown, of the Narragansett Indian tribe, is featured in the film, describing the importance of Narragansett Avenue to his ancestors. He says that in his tribe's native language, the street would likely have had a name like "this is the way that you go," indicating its importance, rather than its more modern nomenclature.

In the interest of full disclosure, this reporter is featured in the film representing the Jamestown Press.

The span of time covered by the film is from the glacial activity that tore Jamestown away from the mainland, through the ferry years and right up through the challenges that islanders will face due to development in the coming years.

The video is both charming and educational.

"We hope people will appreciate it (the avenue) in a deeper way," Cook said.

Cook and Schaus have made and donated 200 copies of the DVD to the historical society. It is for sale at the Jamestown Museum for $20, until Sept. 2, and will be available at the JHS house tour on Saturday, Sept. 8. To order a copy by mail, call JHS president Rosemary Enright at 423-2674 or send a check for $22 (includes shipping) to the JHS, P.O. Box 156, Jamestown, RI 02835.

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