Community Memories – John Marchand

John Marchand circa 1965
John Marchand circa 1965

“A magical, innocent time of joy is my memory of growing up in the Bay Spring area of West Barrington”. Born in 1945 John Marchand, Jr. shared his memories of growing up surrounded by family in a time when life was so less complicated.

The Bay Spring area of West Barrington was first developed in the late eighteen hundreds as a summer colony overlooking majestic Bullocks Cove. Originally developed on tent lots the closely divided properties became a magnet for working class families wanting to spend time by the sea.

At the turn of the century a number of textile manufacturers were established, the Cunnawomscott Mill in 1897 on Park Drive finished cotton goods and the Rhode Island Lace Works which closed in 1990 and is now the home of the Barrington Cove Senior apartments and Atria Bay Spring Village.

The area is blessed with many residents who were related to the original settlers. John’s cousin Tommy Phillips still resides in their grandfather’s home at 10 Rose Lane. The house was originally built by their grandfather Vincent F. Phillips who was born in 1891. He worked for Gorham Silver. His father Tom Phillips came from England. John’s father, John Marchand, Sr. was a fireman at the local fire house on Narragansett Ave. which is now the Bay Spring Community Center.

John and his four sisters grew up at 180 Narragansett Ave. His sister Joanne Marchand still resides there and their sister Sharon Brown lives behind her on Spring Ave.

Growing up John was surrounded by many of his Aunts and Uncles living in the same area. His Uncle Tom Mello was the Postmaster in Barrington

Life was much simpler. Children would spend their day’s quahogging; spending time at Ashman’s Spa, a combination of convenience store, soda fountain, grills and juke box. Ice cream at Coopers Ice Treat was always delicious… Serbea’s Soda Services was another great place. Jolly playgrounds and Lavin’s Campgrounds, always something to do, never enough time.

The unexpected arrival of Hurricane Carol in 1954 remains vividly clear… He was gathering quahogs with his feet for his mother so she could make chowder for dinner when the storm began. “It was like the calm before the storm”. The skies were bright, the water calm and all of a sudden the skies blackened and the rain and wind began. The family tried to stay in their home but when it became obvious it might not be safe they rushed to the fire station. His youngest sister Paula was wrapped in extra blankets as she had the mumps.

Afterwards they learned a lot of people had been rescued by boats. There was 2 to 3 feet of water and Narragansett Cove was completely flooded. Unfortunately many of the “summer shacks” went taken out to sea. Fortunately no lives were lost.

The fire station seemed to be one of the main attractions and a great place to hang out. Local kids would play hockey on Mill Pond (off the bike path) and local baseball was a hit sponsored by the Lions Club, Almacs and Mitchell Ford. Many of the kids would walk or hitchhike to see the R.I. Red’s Hockey team play at the center in Providence on North Main St.

Living in the Bay Spring area your neighbors became part of your family – Fred and Joanne Watson, Joe Gunn, Joe Black, Jack Lavin, Ernie Silva, Bobbie Lavin and Mrs. Arnold, just to name a few.

John Marchand, Jr. graduated Barrington High School in 1963. He bravely enlisted in the U. S. Navy and after boot camp served in the Seabees in Vietnam. Divorced, he is the proud father of three and grandfather of three. He worked in various construction businesses and retired as an Estimator Construction Manager for Coordinated Metals.

Spending time with John I am reminded about the importance of living your life to the fullest. He has survived many challenges; now blind in one eye and requiring in a wheel chair, he is a resident of Atria Bay Spring Village. He has a thirst for learning and studying historical history. There is much we cannot change in our lives. Yesterday is gone but for John, today is a new day and there is so much to learn and stories to tell.

– interview and essay by Magi Green


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