Woonsocket - A Centennial History - 1888-1988

"To respect the past is to embrace the future."

I recently had the opportunity to obtain and read a book that provides a great snapshot at the history of Woonsocket.  Consider that most of Woonsocket residents for generations were part of the American French Canadian industrial center in New England.  This book is a well crafted living piece of Woonsockets continuing history.


Given the drastic changes that have taken place since the publishing of this book, (economically, socially, technologically) I found “Woonsocket A centennial History 1888-1988” a great base to remember “home.”  This book also serves as an educator for the political realities and changes both subtle and completely obvious that continue to effect Woonsocket. 


In reading this historical text the first perspective that I was trying to focus on is partly sentimental in value.  If any of you were raised in Woonsocket, had family in Woonsocket then it may fill your emotional cup of  in seeing the familiar places that the city no longer has.  If you are like me and are intrigued with the larger issues that affect the federal, state, and local worlds then this book might help to provide a perspective that might not have otherwise been brought to mind. 


Woonsocket is a different sort of town, where the backward sayings and happenings have a strong connection to the French Canadian roots of this town.  The writers of this book as well as the figures that led and helped to build Woonsocket as a vital industrial strongpoint is a who’s who of what was and is Woonsocket. 


Upon opening the binders the Mayoral letter and Forward provide a strong reference for the though down trodden at times, strong and positive spirit that encompassed and always will be Woonsocket.  Former Mayor Charles C.  Baldelli wrote in his letter celebrating the 100th anniversary of this city, “Their ethic of hard work, their faith in god, and their tenacity during difficult times have given Woonsocket the determined pride it needed to once again stand tall as a leader among the communities of this state… The generations of Woonsocketers who never lost their belief in the greatness of their city.”  I still believe that has enough levity to lift the spirits of Woonsocket residents today. 


As a sign of the times, a gust of goodness in these pages that is needed during difficult economic times that strain the relations of good will.  In the forward written by the editor of this book Marcel P. Fortin, “As the project blossomed, personalities came to life, names became real people, and events called forth the hopes, fears, and accomplishments of those who proceeded us.”  This book gives a decade by decade historical outline within Woonsocket.  I was personally most intrigued by the, “Decade of Conflict” written by School Principle and WNRI Radio talk host Lawrence Poitras.  Considering that a World War was being fought and industrialization was so strong, I found it amazing to read how Woonsocket was affected by this decade of change.  The titles of these chapters provide a great description of the changes that really did take place. 


Of course this is just a book, but if you are interested in learning more about your home town and have the spirit of sentimentality that I have then this may be either a worthwhile investment, and worth the time to read.  Afterall, where else on Earth can you buy Dynamites, Coffee milk, and wieners?  My only question regarding this book is if there were ever any plans to update the rolling history to follow the 25 since its publishing?

I highly suggest this book for your consideration. 


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Tim Chase January 30, 2013 at 04:29 PM
My favorite paragraph section of this whole book is in the 6th chapter, The decade of conflict. In the 1940's the sincere and honest looking Woonsocket Call publisher Buell Hudson used this publication to expose governmental mismanagement and political corruption as well as featuring a "Patterns for progress" series. During this time the Woonsocket Call was a big deal for this area. A outside perspective was given from reverend Dean Ellenwood calling Woonsocket, " A city where anything goes and nobody cares." It appears that Buell Hudson was one of a kind and history also repeats itself. The writer contrasted this statement with the Woonsocket Jaycees who chose to celebrate Woonsockets achievements. To further editorialize, I understand both sides but see greater value in highlighting success. Most of you understand that the first perspective is the predominant one and is a reason why many good people, families, prospective business owners, and patrons stay away from this city. Though the bad ones to have a way of staying and integrating themselves. I strongly recommend this book because its larger implications for both Woonsocket and other communities alike. When you do finally browse through or read this book, it's my hope that you are filled with a rosy retrospection of the once vibrant French Canadian mill town that is Woonsocket.
Tim Chase January 30, 2013 at 04:30 PM
Don't forget that Friday is fish and chip day! A particular local business is the pinnacle for this tasty Woonsocket staple. I challenge you to prove me wrong!
Novan for Life February 02, 2013 at 03:05 AM
tim i to have read said book i find ironic that this city struggles to keep up with times and yet you dont mention that as this city faces yet another obstacle. I'm glad i've found someone else who cares about our city's history as much as i do NOVANS FOR LIFE!!!!
la_mouffette February 04, 2013 at 08:44 AM
Heeey, I've got this book! Blue cover, no? Does anyone else remember the song someone composed for the bicentennial, that began "my home is in woonsocket, and my family is all around..."? I'm happy to have experienced the tail end of that now-almost-gone Woonsocket. It's getting more and more rare to find people who speak that old Canuck patois. I love it when "Helen" calls the local radio shows, because she still sounds just a little but like the Woonsocket of my childhood.
Tim Chase February 06, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Yes, Bob took off the other 20 photos that I had and left 2


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