THE BLUE EAGLE INN by Don Gosselin
Built in 1901, one of 2 boarding houses for the single men, by George Marston Whitin and standing between Grove and Forest Street across from The Shop on Main Street, this elegant structure housed many memories and events. My mother had a part-time job in the 1950’s as a waitress and would help serve Ralph E. Lincoln’s Lunch daily. He was one of 7 Vice Presidents at that time. He told her many stories and did not reflect his “grouchy” disposition while dining there. And he always left a big “tip”.
A barber named Felix, was replaced by Dick Mailloux, who was from Gardner, MA in the 2-chair barbershop designed at “the turn of the century”. Both of these barbers used a lot of talcum powder and there was a big rack of individual shaving mugs, each having its unique embossment, which the barbers took pride in displaying. These mugs were “spic and span” with mottos facing outward. Steve Durell, a “crusty old codger” managed a “tight ship”. He started as a manager there on August 19, in 1903. Next was Harry Bullock. There were Horace Bassett and Willis Winchebach, usually called, ‘Wink’, who managed before Bob Jordan. Thomas “Tad“ Wallace, who had lived on High Street for 24 years, was very familiar with the Blue Eagle Inn. “Tad” also recalled the black chef, named Benjamin Ware, who lived in half of a shop duplex with his wife and son, Langdon, and his daughter, Barbara. In the other half lived Joe Paquette, who was a motorman on the old Linwood Street Railway. Tad also remembered that there was a sheet of metal hung with a blue eagle design that was on a post near the main entrance, and he said also that the rocking chairs on the sprawling front porch were especially comfortable back “in those days”.
I can recall Smitty’s barber shop, the kitchen, and the game room that had the billiard tables. The upper floors contained the rooms for the single men who would live there while they were employed by the WMW. The Town tore it down in 1960. Now (2007) it is a parking lot. But did you know that the very first Blue Eagle Inn was built and located in the Plummers section of Northbridge ?
Edward Blaine had managed the Blue Eagle Inn during the 1950’s. A great swimmer, who taught junior life-saving at “The Gym”, Ed later became the Civil Defense Director for the Town of Northbridge. According to John R. “Jack” Driscoll, (remember that “Luke” Driscoll was Jack’s first cousin, who served as a State Representative a while back) his Dad once lived there while he attended the high school. Eunice Evers, who had 27 years in the Production Department, said that her mother, Catherine Riley, once worked in the Laundry Room. She further said that some of the baseball players from the former Blackstone Valley League used to room there in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Eunice also related that there was a “gum machine “ in the lobby. I can recall entering the lobby and looking over the main desk onto the wall to greet a large, stuffed moose. It shook me the first time. If I wanted some cold milk, I would get it freshly made from the Castle Hill Farm right in the “cooler”.
Paul R. Philbrook, Sr. started his career in pool playing right there in the Blue Eagle Billiard Room, which had 5 tables, when he was about 9 years old. He can still be seen today “shooting pool” at the Northbridge Senior Center off Highland Street. And he became a much better pool player than yours truly, having competed against the likes of “Red” Perron and others of his day. July 28, 2007
SOURCES: Journal of William “Gummy” Montgomery;
c. 1890-1946 Conversation with Paul R. Philbrook, Sr.; July 25, 2007
Emails of Thomas “Tad” Wallace; July 28 and August 3, 2007 Telephone
conversation with John R. “Jack” Driscoll; July 19, 2007
Conversation with Eunice Evers; July 17, 2007
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