Four hours free to amuse ourselves. We headed across the Rhode Island border to Pawtucket. Why visit Rhode Island's fourth largest city ... industrial, non-exciting Pawtucket, you ask? First, it was really close (16 miles/19 minutes) and therefore accessible. The more I researched, the more interesting things sounded. Plus we'd already committed to breakfast at the Modern Diner. We were there, why not discover what else was hidden in the area. As it turns out, quite a bit.
A city of about 71,000 people, Pawtucket's Native American name translates to “river fall”. There are three rivers here, the mighty Blackstone (not really mighty, but hey), the Moshassuck and the Ten Mile and several waterfalls along their paths. All that water power made Pawtucket a choice spot for industry, specifically the textile industry.
Huge mills, many renovated and revitalized, preside over downtown city blocks. Nearby old three-deckers, multi-storied apartment houses, provided homes for the factory workers. Slater Mill built in 1793, now a museum and National Historic Site, sits on the Blackstone Falls. It was the first fully mechanized cotton-spinning mill in America, a reminder of Rhode Island's premiere place in the American Industrial Revolution.
With a baseball history dating back to 1892, Pawtucket is also home to the Pawtucket Red Sox, locally known as the PawSox, a AAA farm team to the Boston Red Sox. The longest professional baseball game in history, 33 innings, was played at McCoy Stadium in 1981. The PawSox weren't playing today, but we drove around the small stadium and thought it might be fun to catch a game sometime later in the summer.
Slater Memorial Park was quite the surprise. It's lush, green and spacious on the outskirts of the city. Little League baseball games were in progress. Paddleboats, their occupants pedaling madly away, dotted the small pond.
Canadian geese had taken up residence at one end of the pond and honked away in blissful contentment. The piece de resistance, however, was the Looff Carousel.
Built in 1895 by Charles I.D. Looff, the Looff carousel has been operating in Slater Park since 1910. It sports 44 standing horses and some menagerie animals including a lion, giraffe and camel. There are also some dogs and griffins … not sure how they fit into the mix. David bought me a 25-cent ticket and I picked a good-looking steed for my 3-minute spin. The horses don't go up and down and there was no brass ring to catch, but I enjoyed it anyway.
Ah, yes, and Mr. Potato Head, the lead-in topic in today's title. Hasbro, one of the world's largest toy makers, is headquartered in Pawtucket. Outside their corporate offices stands a very large, colorful, quite handsome Mr. Potato Head. Born in 1952, Mr. Head was the first child's toy ever advertised on television and was an immediate smash hit. I had one except the early ones provided face parts that were stuck into various veggies like potatoes and carrots, to make veggie characters. Mom would collect them when I was done playing and toss them in the stew pot. No waste in our house. Nowadays, they provide a plastic potato. What's the fun in that?
By the way, a little Mr. Potato Head trivia - In 1985, Mr. Potato Head received four votes in Boise, Idaho mayoral race. This became the world record in the "most votes for Mr. Potato Head in a political campaign" category as verified by Guinness Book of World Records.
So the motto of this blog post … Obscure, cool, quirky stuff is pretty much everywhere … you just have to look for it ...even in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.