Regular readers of this column over the last 21 years may remember that, from time to time when I get bored, I revert back to my 12-year old self and revel in the joys of writing from that long ago perspective. Well, COVID19 has got me bored to tears, so indulge me a bit and imagine life as a 12-year-old in the late 1960s. Off we go….
The Swamptown Guy seems to be running out of things to think about lately and he asked me to tell him about a cool thing that I think kids might want to know about here in town. I told him, “Hey, you missed the most important thing of all, if you ask me and the guys. What about the tunnel” How many churches do you know that have their own tunnel?” Well, I stumped him with that one.
I remember when I first heard about it. You know, I just could hardly believe it. Who would ever guess that being a Baptist included getting your own tunnel? When I told the rest of the guys, they were amazed too. A couple of them even figured maybe we should think about changing religions or something. Then I remembered that the Wickford Baptist’s don’t have a tunnel and besides, that, my mom said, “That’s a bit drastic, don’t you think?” I’m pretty sure that’s another one of those grownup sayings that means “No.” I figured I’d better get some information on this tunnel, so I asked my Grandpa St. Pierre. He knows about stuff like that. He’s the head electrical engineer for the Narragansett Electric Company and there’s not too many questions he can’t answer. He can get around to places most people can’t too. Whenever there’s some place he wants to go where they won’t let you go, like up where they are building Route 95 and 295 or places like that, he just puts this sign up in the car window that says “Supervising Engineer” or something like that and they just wave us through. Sometimes I wonder who those workers think I am, some midget engineer or something, but heck we always get to the best rock hunting places long before anyone else.
Well, anyway, just like I figured he knew all about that tunnel. Grandpa said they built it in 1961 at the same time they put up their Sunday School building on the other side of Post Road. It is 120 feet long and is 12 feet deep under the road. How neat is that! They had to build it in two parts because they weren’t allowed to completely block Post Road. Grandpa even said that he’s sure it is the first pedestrian tunnel in the whole State of Rhode Island. It was built by some guy named A.E. Bragger, I think, and the people at Quidnessett Church decided to put it in because some old timer (he must have been real old if my Grandpa thinks he’s an old timer) got hit by a car and darn near got killed. Grandpa also said that they’ve got the tunnel loaded with fallout shelter food now. When I told one of the older kids in the neighborhood about it he said, “Yeah, that’s the place to be in case we ever get nuked!” I had to ask Mom what that meant. As usual, she said “You’ll have to ask your grandfather about that, young man.” Grandpa said I’d get a feel for it if I happened to be around when he caught up with the kid who said it, so I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
The next Sunday when I was leaving church, right after Canon Belden got done squeezing the life out of my hand (remember I told you about those handshakes of his) I asked him when we were going to get our own tunnel. He told me he really didn’t think St. Paul’s had a need for one. I explained to him all about the old timers getting hit by cars and the fallout shelter junk and about how Grandpa St. Pierre was going to “nuke” some kid (whatever that means) and then Mom started shushing me. He kinda laughed and said “Oh, it’s all right, Jean.” He explained to me all about how we were blessed with other wonderful things a child could enjoy like the Old Narragansett Church for instance. He even told me Cranston’s had probably been going there for hundreds of years already. I said, “Yeah, that’s neat but imagine how much neater it would be if we had a tunnel going from there to the new church.” Mom said I was impossible, and we left for Sunday School. As we were crossing Main Street I couldn’t help but think about that tunnel.
The author is the North Kingstown town historian. The views expressed here are his own.