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Cathy Larlham, the South Kingtown recreation superintendent, looks at the original blueprints for the Neighborhood Guild in Peace Dale, which will be included in the “Attic Treasures and Memories” event this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Visitors can look through a collection of scrapbooks, ledgers and other items collected from over 100 years of activities at the Guild.

SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A small, but memorable, yellow newspaper headline reads: “South Kingstown Boys Meet ‘Babe.’”

No, it wasn’t Babe from the 1995 movie, “Babe, A Little Pig Goes A Long Way” that drew attention to this group. Another headline written from the same time nearly a century ago, says it all: “Boys See Famous Home Run Hitter.”

“An ambition of eighty Wakefield and Peace Dale boys to see Babe Ruth, the idol of young Americans, was realized Thursday,” began the first paragraph in almost-brittle newspaper in The Neighborhood Guild’s old scrapbook.

It continued, “On that day, boys who participated in the Summer Playgrounds League were taken to Fenway Park in Boston, where the Yankees are playing and before the game, at which they were guests of President (Robert) Quinn of the Red Sox, they met the Home Run King.”

This trip for young fans of the national pastime also brought the observation, “It was a ‘big day’ for the boys of South Kingstown, who did not return home until late last night, but were ready to relate the story of the whole trip.”

This vignette captured a slice of South Kingstown. So, too, do the thousands of other stories in scrapbooks, events transfixed in pictures, ledgers detailing activities and assorted memorabilia from The Guild’s archives.

A planned display this weekend marks only the second time since 1908 — when the building first opened — these items have been available for public viewing. The last time was when The Guild marked its centennial.


The Guild and The Community

The Guild, the community and traditions have become inseparable.

“What we thought would be cool for people in the community is to come and pull up a scrapbook from 1940s and look through it and go, “Oh, I remember when I swam at Old Mountain Field’ or ‘I remember going to the playground,”’ said Cathy Larlham.

She’s the town’s recreation superintendent who manages the operations and programs in the old stately granite building on Columbia Street. She’s also been the keeper of the traditions.

“I think there will be some people who will be interested in the old stuff, realizing it’s been here since 1908,” she added.

But it’s also more than just a local smaller-scale version of Antiques Road Show. In that television series old items are assessed a value as a tutorial is given about their history.

In this show, the value is part of the personal history and interest in learning, remembering — even reliving — good times playing sports, going to summer camps or even attending one of the many classes, such as woodworking or sewing, offered throughout the years.

All this comes to life again in the scores of scrapbooks that can wake up a sleeping memory, she said.


A Community Resource

The Guild throughout the years has sponsored diverse activities, including boys and girls clubs, cooking and gymnastic classes, a variety of sports activities, playground programs, summer camp programs, and specially-designed programs, such as “Ice Cream for Breakfast” for young children wanting an early morning treat.

Larlham paused for a moment as she recalled that listing from past and present. She looked around the room at piles of scrapbooks on tables.

“You know, in 1927 we were teaching woodworking and the Girl Scouts met here.  In 2021 we’re still teaching woodworking and the Girl Scouts are still here. I just think that is really cool,” she said.

She pointed to a nearby 1963 poster. It said, “6-Week Course For Expectant Mothers” and sponsored by the South Kingstown Visiting Nurse Association and The Guild. It also advised “To Register, Call STerling 9-9301 Between 8 and 9 A.M.”

“And you know what,” she said after a moment, “We still have that same phone number today.”

“I think some of the people in town just assume that the Guild has always been here, but I don’t think they really realize how long it’s been here,” she added.

It might apply to herself as well. That nostalgia dwells deep in the heart of departing Larlham. She will retire in March after working for 35 years keeping the flame going at The Guild.

“I don’t want to think about it,” Larlham said, brushing away her own connection with one last stroll down memory lane before ending her career.

Larlham along with the building and activities associated with both are interconnected as an institution in the community.

As with the thousands of people spanning more than 100 years in those newspaper stories and photographs, she and The Guild create tradition that paints a gauzy familiarity for many residents even as people and events seep away in time.

“The goal is to not stop, through pandemics, closures, or snowstorms or whatever. The goal is to keep making it work, and keep offering programs for the community. We are entrusted to continue the tradition, to change it and be innovative, but to continue the tradition,” she said.

The Neighborhood Guild display will be open Friday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Bill Seymour is a freelance writer covering news and personality feature stories in Narragansett, North Kingstown and South Kingstown. He can be reached at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

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