If the fun and frolic that filled West Valley Inn’s Garden Room last Saturday evening is any measuring stick, the Natick Family and Friends Gathering may just become an annual affair.
“That’s what everyone’s been saying,” said Sam Parente, who at one time was the Math department chairman at East Greenwich High School. “We’re not quite sure; but everyone certainly had a great time tonight.”
There was fine food coupled with music and merriment that included an appearance by “Elvis Presley” and a special graduation ceremony for the “Class of 2014 at East Fudge It High School.”
An appreciative crowd of 152 people, which would have been bigger had people not called so late for reservations, was almost falling off their seats with laughter when “East Fudge It High School Principal” Sam Parente presented his brother Pat with his diploma “Summa Cum Lousy” after the latter made his “20th attempt at passing The Test.”
“The purpose of tonight was to have fun,” Sam Parente, who shows no signs of being 80 years old, added. “We tried to make it clear that we were going to pull out all the stops ... throw everything out the window ... no scumbari ... we’re going to have fun, be silly and laugh.”
That all happened on a night filled with music and merriment that included music by the Reggie Centracchio Quintet, vocalist Kim Mchale and an appearance by “Elvis,” who dropped by to sing one of his mellow ballads in honor of the past and present members of the Natick community.
Parente said the hardworking committee of Angie Petrarca, Kitty Petrarca, Shirley Ruggieri, Lisa Enos, Roselyn Nichols, Linda Centracchio, Roseanne Melone and Reggie Centracchio “wanted to have a night that would bring back those marvelous memories of our younger years in Natick.”
Natick is a village made up mostly of Italian Americans, and some other ethic groups that include a few Irish, that is part of the city of Warwick and town of West Warwick.
The West Warwick side of the dividing line, which is the Pawtuxet River that flows along Providence Street, is known as Natick. The Warwick side is dubbed East Natick and O’Donnell Hill.
“As kids, we went to Baker Street Elementary School,” Parente recalled of his days when the school was located behind where Dunkin’ Donuts now sits on Bald Hill Road and where the DiCarlo and Petrarca families had a bakery. “Back then people had an affinity for the school and people like our principal, Sadie McCrystal, who later married a man named Cardin from the village of Phenix [West Warwick] and shared lots of camaraderie throughout the village.”
That was also a time, Parente explained, when Natick’s Happy Petrarca ran against Phil Noel for mayor as a Republican and lost; and when “once we left Baker Street [Elementary] School, we went to Lockwood High [on West Shore Road in Warwick].”
It was those memories that were a direct result of last Saturday night’s reunion-like gathering.
In 1988, the first-ever Baker Street Elementary School Reunion was held and attracted 870 people to the Rocky Point Palladium in Warwick.
Since that time, Parente said, “we’ve had three other reunions all at different locations.”
In 1998, there was a Natick gathering at West Valley Inn. In 2002, there was another reunion at Valley Ledgemont Country Club (on New London Avenue, now named Valley Country Club) and in 2006 people enjoyed a similar night at Nino’s on Lake Tiogue.
Although times are vastly different from those old-time Baker Street Elementary School days, last Saturday night’s gathering was, Parente said, “for anybody that lived in Natick and wanted to come and have fun.”
It was a night that may have outdone those reunions of old.
It was a night people told jokes and reminisced about the days of old.
It was a night when bandleader Reggie Centracchio invited vocalist and former Coventry High School music director Hank Doiron to join his group and sing a few songs like he once did when Alex Mansour’s musical troupe used to perform at various functions.
It was a night when former and retired Adjutant General Centracchio and Alan Palazzo, a retired United States Navy commander, presented Armand Terricianno with a personal award in recognition of his receiving a Silver Star for his service to the OSS in World War II.
It was a night that could be hard to duplicate, however if people like Sam Parente and other Natickites have their way, there just may be a repeat performance in 2015.
And the committee would probably have more excess money like it did Saturday night and could present to Troop 2 Boy Scouts, Social Justice Committee of Sacred Heart and Sacred Heart Church – all of which are located in the village of Natick – and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.