Across the pond with Rex Wailes: To Newport

October 29th 2019 by Nathanael Hodge

Part 7 of a weekly series of blogs about Rex Wailes' 1929 trip to the USA and Canada.
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Boston City Club

Wednesday 8.5.29

On Wednesday I "checked my grip" at the South Station and bought my ticket for Newport in advance having decided to visit that town in Rhode Island first.

At the Boston City Club Mr. Macy lunched me. The restaurant is on the 7th floor, and Mr. Macy took me to his usual table. Four others came in and I was introduced to all of them with due ceremony. I dropped a bad brick. Over here I noticed that a number of dishes are brought on plates and are eaten out of direct. I did this in my case, and it proved wrong for this particular dish, for I saw one of Mr. Macy's friends helping from his. Whether it was this or for some other reason Mr Macy hadn't much to say in the way of general conversation.

They give you water with "cracked" ice in it for each meal. You need it! The rooms are stiffling hot and dry you right up. Ginger bread and corn bread made like a flat ginger bread cake are eaten with butter in place of bread at lunch. Milk is a great beverage. All meals end with tea, coffee, or milk. I choose milk everytime.

My trip down to Newport was interesting as being the first rail road trip in the U.S.A. The scenery was not very striking and as soon as we got away from the business part of the town, all houses were of wood - mostly shingle-hung and with but one chimney stack. All the large trees appear to have been felled, and many of the smaller ones have been broken off and left. At Portsmouth there was the derelict tower of the smock mill east of the station. It had no sails; had a chain wheel to wind it; 8 sided and had 4 floors.

19th century engraving of windmill at Newport, Rhode Island

Arrived at Newport I "checked my grip" and asked for a good inexpensive hotel. I was directed to the "Viking" and set off disdaining clamourous taxi drivers. At the bottom of Washington Square was a very good natured "traffic cop" standing in his little white railed pulpit, about 9" up from the ground with a post to hold on to. He was informative and charming when I told him I was English and had come to see what some of my ancestors had done over here. I was first directed to the Historical Society's office, then the old Colony House at the top of Washington Square was pointed out.

The Old Colony House

The Colony House now belongs to the Historical Society, and only recently - about a year or two ago - was restored and the paint covering the brickwork sandblasted off - to its great advantage in appearance no doubt. The Historical Society closes at 4.30 and opens at 10.00 a.m. so it was too late to see them that night. Behind the new State House at a cross roads was a new variety of "traffic cop". He had a white enamelled whistle in his mouth all the time and directed the traffic with this and much arm waving. Very expressive but unnecessarily energetic. He got very peeved if a "machine" didn't hurry past when he gave the signal and clapped his hands and blew his whistle to make them hurry.

I went back to the station and the baggage master 'phoned for a taxi for me - a fine landaulette. After changing I took a stroll and saw the "stone mill" mentioned in Longfellow's poem. This is illustrated in Bennett & Elton and is like a ruin - in undressed stone - of Chesterton Mill, Leamington Spa. Like a fool I never snapped it and I didn't get another chance to do so.

Newport Tower, believed to be a 17th century windmill

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