Before we had the bridge we had the steamboat service from Rockland. During my youth we had the steamboats “Vinal Haven,” “North Haven,” and “W.S. White.” Just about everything came and went via Rockland. Folks travelled to Rockland to catch the Boston steamboat or to just go shopping in Rockland. The most important service was the U.S. mail. Since the boat didn't arrive until after 5 p.m., and the mail didn't get to the post office until 6 p.m., downtown was a very busy place during the early evening hours.
Floriston "Coot" Young had a contract to truck the mail from the steamboat wharf to the post office [today, that's the Harbor Cafe]. Coot would let us kids ride in the back of his truck from the wharf to the post office, which was a big deal for us. I always liked to watch the steamboat workers bring the freight up the gangway. If it was low tide, the ramp [gangway] was quite steep, and it was a tough job pulling a loaded hand-cart up that ramp; but they had it rigged so that the guy going back down the ramp would hook up to a pulley and thereby help the guy coming up the ramp with a full load; pretty cool! So after the mail, freight, and passengers were all unloaded, the steamboat would head on down to Swan's Island and stay there overnight. Must have been a good deal for Capt. Ross Kent, as he lived on Swan's Island.
Anyway, downtown Stonington was always very busy up until 8 o'clock or so. There were a lot quarrymen, plus all the local residents, and they all wanted their mail. Jewett Noyes’ drugstore sold the papers, and that was always busy in the evening. Charlie Brimigion had a “Toonerville Trolley”-type cart set up across from the post office where he sold hotdogs, hamburgers, etc. On a nice summer’s night you could smell those hotdogs all across town; Charlie did a land-office business. Many of the quarrymen would sit along the wall next to the drugstore and talk. We kids would hang around, playing tag or whatever. If we got “out of hand,” Reuben Cousins, who was the town cop as well as the steamboat agent, would get after us to behave. Of course, we could outrun him, but he would say, “If you don't cut out what you're doing, I'll call your father,” and that was enough to stop us.
Yes, those days have long gone but it's nice to recall the days when things seemed to move along a little slower, and a warning from the town cop was all you needed to behave.
Montelle L. “Monty” Small