[On industrial park]
You know I mean when I was grown up I would ride my bicycle in the area that is now Murphy-Trainor Park or go to the other area that is now the community boating center. And when I was younger I didn’t play in the Little League but I go and see my friends playing there. We’d hang around at the original location of the field which is now an industrial park. They tore down that entire neighborhood to build an industrial park. I guess they considered that a bad neighborhood. When I was a kid it seemed perfectly fine to me. I don’t see anything wrong with it. But you know back in those days they would tear down the neighborhoods which primarily blacks lived there and they really didn’t care. Something you would never do today. But back to fifty years ago, unfortunately, that was the way urban renewal worked. She goes to a black neighborhood and just tears the neighborhood down, let them live somewhere else and uses it as whatever she sees fit. Something would never happen today. And when they did that in 1960, that’s when they built the John T. Ownes field and it used to be an abandon gravel pit.
Did you do any other things other than biking around the Mashapaug pond when you were young?
Well, actually I did ice skating when we were kids. There’s a little cove that’s right next to Murphy-Trainor Park near the community boating center that would freeze over. So I remember my father would take us ice skating there. The rest of the pond was kind of dangerous for that, because you have underwater springs connect from John T. Owens field to go underground right in that area near Murphy-Trainor Park then go underground to Roger Williams Park. And underwater springs will make it harder for water to freeze. So there is a danger of you falling in where you least expect it. And you know my father would, and other parents, let us go staking anywhere other than the cove. And occasionally kids would try to go skating across the pond and you know there were a number of tragedies when children fell in and drowned. You know again as a little kid I don’t remember too much about that. I learned more about that when I was older. I just remember our parents wouldn’t let us go skating in any place else. And nowadays the pond becomes more polluted, kids don’t go skating there at all because, you know, pollution in water is kind of like putting anti-freeze in your car, it keeps it from freezing over, just not good if you want to go skating. But other than that we never went swimming there. I heard stories years later that it used to be beaches right neat where the Little League fields are now but I am not old enough to remember those. That would be up to 1940s and I was born in 1948. And, I guess we go walking around and ride bicycles but never thought too much of it. It was really only I guess when I was older and when I was at 20s or late 20s we kind of made a project to appreciate the pond, you know, that we took for granted when we grew up as kids.
But our Neighborhood Association kind of gets started around 1978, when they had a huge blizzard, you probably had heard it was the Providence’s longest blizzard in 1978. Such a drop of 4 feet of snow in Providence all in one day. And so the city was shut down for an entire week until bringing army tanks to pull out the city after a week. And during that week we couldn’t go anywhere. We all hang around our neighborhood. It’s kind of fun because all the neighbor got to know each other and just walked around and helped each other out. Most of the time you wouldn’t pay attention to anybody. You know after that was over, our neighbors decided just to get together and formed a Neighborhood Association and try to keep everybody together like we had during the blizzard.
..But the unusual thing for my neighborhood is that as I said people lived there for a long time. Such a type of neighborhood was… a project like that will succeed because people just wait as long as it takes to make things happen. Where there are some transient neighborhood people come and go, why would people spend so much time while a project will take 5 or 10 years to accomplish while they don’t intent to still be there in 5 or 10 years. In my neighborhood there are enough people who are willing to stick it out. And you know there was actually a lot of luck involved with Mashapaug pond. There were so much open space near the pond and public access to it… there’s another pond just on the other side of the Reservoir Avenue called Blackamore Pond...everyone build houses or office houses all the way around it. There’s no public access. And just really by dumb luck, Mashapaug Pond didn’t end up in that way. Probably 80% of the shoreline is either public access or it’s behind an industrial park where it’s at least supposed to be public area behind part of the area behind the park. And so we got involved in 1978. We had that opportunity and we were able to take advantage of it.
[So what inspired you to get involved with the projects or the welfare of the neighborhood?]
Talan: Well, you know I would say once we founded the Neighborhood Association it just seemed a natural thing to want to preserve the neighborhood. We were living on ourselves, which was obvious out of self interest to keep our neighborhood up. This Mashapaug Pond was kind of unique in our neighborhood. It’s a selling point and improves the values of our property. It just potentially made it a better place for us all to live. It just seems perfectly natural. I never gave any thoughts to why I was doing it. It just seems like a natural thing to do.
[How would you describe the role of the Mashapaug Pond among the community?]
Talan: Well, obviously any neighborhood that has waterfront property nowadays that makes it more valuable. People just like living near water and being near it. I don’t know if you have much open space for waterfront property in China, but in the United States, that’s something considered very valuable. It’s kind of nice. It’s relaxing to be able to go there and get away especially if you are in a city, going there to an area that’s quiet and beautiful to look at.