100 Years Ago in Warren: A 'soul-stirring' rescue
Taken from the pages of the Warren and Barrington Gazette this week in August 1912:
It came near being a drowning accident with two victims. It turned out to be a tale of heroism, that deserves recognition by a Carnegie medal. William Platt, a boy living at the mill boarding house with his father, and employed in the mill as a bag boy, went in swimming Tuesday evening at the railroad bridge over Warren river. He is a newcomer to the town, having just removed here from Woonsocket, and when he announced his intention of going in swimming, he was repeatedly warned by those who heard him against the bridge. In the spirit of daring or thinking that he knew more than others, he dove into the tideway between the railroad bridge and the temporary bridge. It was but a moment before he was caught in the swirling current which was particularly strong just at this time. He soon lost his strength and his wits, and found himself being carried down by the eddies. It was about 6.30 o'clock, just the time when there are the fewest people present. His cries soon attracted the attention of some other boys, and one, Angelo Vitullo, seeing the lad's predicament, without taking off his clothes, jumped in after him. He succeeded in getting to Platt before he went down and struck out bravely for the shore. But with all the strength of a drowning person, Platt grabbed Vitullo and clung to him until it seemed as though both would be lost. They did go down the second time. The cries of the boys had by this time attracted members of the Volunteer Live Saving Service and others. Bobby Bryden was among the few who hurried to the scene, and without hesitation he plunged overboard to the rescue of both boys. After a struggle he broke Platt's hold on Vitullo and swam with him to the shore. In the mean time others had put off in a boat, and before Bryden could reach land had gotten to him and took both he and Platt into the boat. Vitullo, finding that his burden was gone, swam to the shore unaided. Platt was taken from the boat by other members of the corps and carried to their boat house near by where Bryden, Capt. Wells, Robert Hiller and Mrs. Robert Bryden applied the methods of resuscitation laid down in their manual. For a time it seemed as though their efforts were to prove hopeless. They kept on working vigorously until finally some signs of returning consciousness appeared. Weak brandy was then administered, but the boy was so weak from the shock and struggle that it was not until eight o'clock that Commodore Burbank, who had been supervising the work of revival, gave orders for him to be taken home. Platt could not walk, so members of the Corps raised him in their arms and started. About half way, they were overtaken by an automobile which was offered them and in that he was carried to the mill boarding house and put to bed. The boy's father could not be found at the time. Bryden seemed last night to be all right after his heroic task, though pretty well tired out. This is not his first deed of humanity; he is an expert swimmer and as much at home in the water as on land. He has before this saved people from drowning and performed thrilling feats. This rescue, in the opinion of those who saw it, was the most spectacular and soul-stirring of the many that have been performed at this place. Some recognition of Bryden's feat, besides newspaper writeups and the compliments of friends, is due him. He is loth to talk about his deed, and takes it as all "in the day's work." He certainly deserves the most hearty praise for this his last act of heroism, and the commendation of the entire community. Nor is the Vitullo lad undeserving of praise. In a way the honors should be divided. Without hesitation, he took his life in his hands and jumped to the assistance of the drowning boy. Had it not been for him Platt would have lost his life. That he was able to keep both himself and the other above water until Bryden came, was a feat requiring pluck and strength. Both lads are a credit to the town in the deed which they performed.
Warren ought to be proud of its oyster industries. Warren ought to give every encouragement to the men who have engaged in the work of building up these industries. It was only the other day that a prominent oyster dealer of this community received a letter from a firm in the farthest west, congratulating him on the quality of the product and seeking more oysters. There are those in town who stand ready to knock the men who have invested their money in this business; there are those who are and will throw everything possible in the way to prevent their reaching out. If we believe that the best policy is the encouragement of home industries, then we should favor these men. They have made Warren's name known where no one ever expected that it would reach. They have brought business and capital to the town and they have kept it here. If these men need improvements that the town can give, then by all means the tax-payers should grant them. The town can change its line of sewerage. This is one of the most important considerations. The town can obtain additional freight facilities, providing they are needed. Just at present the oyster men are patiently waiting to see what the season will bring forth in the way of sets. Reports are encouraging in some quarters and adverse in others. The sets apparently run in steaks. The oysters are notional about this thing at any rate. Some years they will spawn in one place and the next year the spot will be barren. If they are not quite up to the mark this year, it is not too late, for they have been known to set in the latter part of August and the first of September even. As has been said the industry is one of the infant industries of the town. It is only a few years, comparatively that it has assumed its present proportions. Each year sees it reaching out; sees the greater investment of capital; sees more men interested. And Warren can put up with some inconveniences, provided it gives the business all the help its importance demands.
A movement which augurs much good was inaugurated among the French citizens of the town last Thursday evening in Jacques Cartier Hall. The attempt is being made to form a total abstinence society such as exists elsewhere in the state and in southern Massachusetts. The meeting which was held on the evening stated was only preliminary, and was well attended, the hall being nearly filled. Many of the prominent French speaking citizens of the town were present and some noted ones from out of town.