Father Augustine F. Burns

st. mary with mary statueIn the 50‘s and 60’s, parish priests held powerful sway.

And none was more powerful than St. Mary’s Pastor—Father Augustine F. Burns.

Rotund and rubicund, with a bulbous nose, Father took to the pulpit, each Sunday, to pound the lectern, enjoining parishioners to ‘give more’ to the church, suggesting their souls might be at risk.

Unconcerned about my soul, I worried about his health, as I awaited the coronary I was sure would come.

Church-goers quipped others needn’t bother going  to church…

For our Pastor’s voice would go to them, as it thundered through the valley.

In a poor town, parish priests needed to fill the coffers any way they could.

PS…How many of you remember him? Care to share your story?(Some have already done so on the 3 West Warwick pages of Facebook, where I put this post, as well.)

From “In the Shadow of Princes

(a future book, about growing up in West Warwick, by author and Prov Journal commentator, Colleen Kelly Mellor)

P.P.S. Many comments are on the 3 FB pages “You’re probably from West Warwick if…” to which I added this post…Check them out and add your own. It’s been informative, indeed.

The Sewers (Garment Makers)

Women at sewing machines “Ouch!” I’d hear as the needle hit their finger. It was the only human sound I heard from that section of the Oresman Bros. Christmas Factory, muffled as it was by the whirr of sewing machines.

The sewer stopped, bandaged up, and went on.

There was no more focused individuals in the mill than the sewers, women that worked at breakneck speed, sewing together the two halves of Christmas stockings, so they’d hold the goodies little ones had grown to expect.

Like Santa’s Elves, they worked all year for a one-day-celebration.

These women (for I’d never seen a man among them) sat in a big room, hunched over machines, with their zip—zip—zip—bursts of sewing, as they ran down one side of the cloth and up the other.  That’s when they occasionally ran over a finger, sewing skin to fabric.

They never took coffee…bathroom….or lunch breaks.

You see, they were on piece work.

Wedded to their instruments, they’d become “machines” in their own right.

P.S. What mill jobs fascinated you?

From “In the Shadow of Princes,” a book in production

By Colleen Kelly Mellor (colleenkellymellor.com and @ColleenMellor) #milltownrigirl


West Warwick-ites—Please, Get Me Names….

Hello West Warwick-ites!              colleen stony knob cropped seriously

I am excited to take part in PBS’s “Our Town” segment, about our hometown—West Warwick. As a writer, I intend to shine a spotlight on exceptional people, sort of like CNN Heroes–those who have achieved in high profile careers, like judges?…movie stars?…entrepreneurs?..or people who’ve met incredible challenges in life. Or they’re just fantastic people who do our town proud. But I need your help.

Do you know of people from West Warwick who are exceptional? After all, little Rhody produced CNN Magic Map news commentator, John King and fellow foreign correspondent Christianne Amanpour, who both  graduated from URI but are nationally prominent. Are there any from our town who’ve gone on to significant fame?

Maybe, too, there’s a woman (or man) who raised 6 kids—alone—after a mate’s tragic  accident—6 kids who are now successful contributors to society. They’re heroes, too.

The point of my story? Our modest town produced greatness.

And I believe there’s a direct correlation between success and the way we were raised.

That serious work ethic taught us if we persevered, we would succeed.

I will interview the people you offer and write about them, but I need your help in identifying them. Please PM (private message) me with names, along with a way to contact them.

Our town deserves the recognition that PBS will give it, as we collectively work to show West Warwick’s uniqueness to a statewide and regional audience.

Thank you….

Colleen Kelly Mellor (West Warwick native, author, and monthly Prov Journal Op-Ed commentator whose article “Parent blames me for his failure” is in today’s–April 14– newspaper. It is available on-line, as well.) Below are my websites and my e-mail address.


Dance Night at West Warwick Jr. High

horgan elementary schoolWith Brylcream-slicked hair and Mom-pressed shirts, the boys stood against the auditorium wall, as if they were about to be shot by a firing squad.

In a metaphorical way, they were.

Soldiers each, they were about to embark on the most damnable mission of their young lives…crossing the wide oak floor, to ask one of us girls at the opposite wall to dance.

If a girl rejected some brave boy’s invitation (and many did,) the boy would have to slink back in retreat across that floor or risk a second “No,” from another.

No 12-14 year-old boy had that kind of intestinal fortitude.

Because of the format, Al Angelone‘s School of Dance Night at West Warwick Jr. High became a sort of Maginot Line for young men. It would ready them for life contests to come.

The year was 1956.

From “In the Shadow of Princes” (a book ‘in production’)

Subscribe above if you don’t want to miss release date….

@ColleenMellor #milltownrigirl

“In Honor of Mill-Working Girls” by Colleen Kelly Mellor

I’m product of the mill                

As they are of me—Lowell_Mill_Worker

We’re interwoven,

Like cotton, wool, and lace

Spun by young women

Standing at looms

Long hours,                                                              

Regardless of their time of the month              Lowell girls


Or unrelenting pregnancies….


They’re ancestral sisters

Who believed themselves ‘ lucky’

To tend machines

That produced such fine material

For garments they could ne’er-afford

For people they’d never know.


Instead, they were grateful

For their almost-living wage.


If they wove fabric, I weave words…


From “In the Shadow of Princes” (in production)

****Please, sign on to follow me by subscribing above, on website, and by Twitter @ColleenMellor #milltownrigirl