Remembering Rhode Island's
Good Ol' Days
Used to go to Highland Orchards every fall in the late 1960s/1970s to get fresh, crisp delicious Macintosh apples. You could keep those nasty "Delicious" apples. You could also buy honey and preserves there after a while, and there was a caramel corn stand, too.
My father was the owner of the Merry Go round, Ferris wheel, little boat ride , Tank ride,and the Model t Cars. He also converted a 1927 Reo ladder Fire truck into a ride. He would give you a ride around the orchard blowing the sirene and ringing the Brass Bell. The owner of the orchard operated 2 paddle wheel boats and a real steam train engine ride. He had business there from the 60s to the mid or early 70s. The Merry Go Round ended up at Rodger Williams Park the last I knew. I grew up at Highland Orchards. I picked apples for Cider, Paled up with all the concessioniers, and had full rain of the park. It was fun and have many fond memories of the orchard. The owner Cayton Brown sold the Orchard to a Lawyer who got rid of the steam train and used a gas one instead and then it seemed thats when my father pulled out and sold all the rides. I guess the Orchard died a slow death after that and I moved to Florida. My father got to see Disney World after he got out of the business and he was fascinated with Disney. I guess he was a kid inside and always enjoyed amusement rides and fire trucks. He also operated and gave rides at the Foster Fair with that old Fire truck. He also had a 1937 Fire Truck he bought from the Anthony Fire Dept when they decided to retire it. He kept it in a barn and would pull it out and wax it every so often.He sold it to a collecter in Tennesee. Hope this brings back some memories. I will certainly not forget Highland Orchards.
Thanks so much for posting that. So many of us looked forward to going each year. I remember going late 50's early 60's. So many many fond memories. I had forgotten about the boats and the fire truck!
Hi Ray! Your dad was "Stewy" Letts, as my father, Hadley Wild, used to call him. Hadley ran the Sugar Shack there at Highland Orchards, and I just made some peanut brittle for the holidays with his old recipe. I recall your mother, a pretty lady, used to make cotton candy in a small room off of the building where your dad kept all of his toys and equipment.Old "Papa Clayt" Clayton Brown ran that place immaculately. He'd ride around on his Gravely tractor and pay special care to the whole place. Tom Mallon used to run that old steam engine train - he knew all about it. When in Winter the ponds froze he'd let us into the train station where there was a wood stove, and we'd put our skates on in there where it was warm. Larry Nogler, an immigrant Canadian farmer who worked for Brown, taught me the finer points of hockey and stick-handling.The stories that I could tell... Maybe I'll write more sometime.'Alan
worked at the restaurant at Highland Orchards, I was soda jerk one summer and washed pots and pans for a little while. once after work, me and another kid i worked there with got drunk onhard cider he found in the cooler. fond memories of my youth. loved the go cart track that was down the road a little.
I also worked at Highland Orchards from 1960 to 1965 in the kitchen...Got a lot of memories....
I loved the steam train. I've got some good home movies when I was a kid. I stopped at the location last week and walked into the woods. The tracks are still there with trees growing between the rails. I took a spike out of the ties for a souvenier. The dock and the station house were all caved in. Great fun.
can you make any copies of the train film? I own it now....email@example.com
I LOVED going to Highland Orchards as a kid....My grandparents took me often. My favorite ride was the paddle wheel boat and of course the train.Very fond memories.....Thanks to the family that made it all possible.
If anyone has any old photos from hereWe'd love to post them!!send them to Jen@rimag.biz
I began my working career as a dishwasher there, I think it was 1964. I eventually graduated to Waiter. Many of my kinfolk also worked there. Two of my aunts were cooks, and several of my cousins worked on the train, steamboat, and in the fruit stand. If we had owned stock, we might be wealthy now. :|
I was so sad when I brought me kids back home in the fall and Highland Orchards was gone. They closed a year after my first was born. My family where very busy when I was growing up in Providence, but every single year we made a couple of trips for the fun, but mostly we loved the cider! We would drink itbfresh and then leave a jug of it on the counter to " sparkle" I live in Seattle now...apple country...never have I enjoyed the smell of the apples here ( and I DO enjoy our apples) like I did at Highland Orchards. I will when I can go through our old photos and see what I can find for photosThanks Heidi
Reasonable too. Bring our daughters for burgers and fries with a few rides on Sundays. Would anybody know what became of the steam engine? Gal I worked with thought somebody in Scituate was using the loco. It was manufactured in Providence.Thanks Ron, Cumberland
Its in Utah I bought it years ago......
I have fond memories of this place... Family use to make a trip there every Fall.
I have great memories of this place... Family use to go there every Fall.
what kind of gocarts were there I found an old gocart I'm restoring in a scrap yard in rhode island and I'm trying to find out maybe possibly where it came from thanks for any help
hi all, I love reading your posts! I grew up at the orchard too and wrote a loving story about it. I am looking for an illustrator right now and will have the book hopefully sometime this summer. Let me know if anyone is interested in following me with this and perhaps want to contribute pictures. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Orchard was a magic place, a child’s dream come true.Amongst the sea of apple trees, so many things to do…With apples to pick, and cider to squeeze, and rides to ride all day, We wished the Spring, Summer, and Fall would never go away!If we wanted a treat, we would stop by and visit Hadley’s Sugar Shack,Where he’d cook up a batch of his caramel corn and give us each a sack.Then on to the Garden Center we’d go, to see all the flowers and plants… and gaze with awe at each living thing, even ladybugs and ants!When we were hungry we’d meet Mom and Dad, at the restaurant by “Country Straw.”Together we’d sup, a family of many, always willing to take on some more!Then on to the ferry boats we would go, The Highland Queen and Cider River Belle.The bright red paddles and crisp white rails are what we remember so well.Down to the docks and onto the deck, to ride with Captain Len…Once we had ridden three times over, we’d ask to ride again!Finally our favorite, the height of the day, to the station we would go,Where I’d ring the bell and tell all the people the things that they should know.“Please remain seated while the train is in motion” I’d announce so loud and clear…“Keep your arms and legs inside the train at all times” as riding time came near.The little steam engine, in real life was, the “LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD!”With brother Mark our engineer, EVERY ride was good!He’d lead us down the little track beside the pond so blue…Soon we would see, to our surprise, a tunnel to go through.He’d whistle the whistle and clang the bell, and give us all a fright,Until we saw, at the end of the tunnel, there finally was a light!Winter had a magic all its own, the pond now frozen in time.We would skate and play and learn our turns, and stop upon a dime.When we got cold and our noses were icicles, to the station went the whole crew,Where the pot belly stove was blazing a blaze to warm us through and through.Then we’d wait for Spring to bring us the blossoms that promised us apples and more… more memories, and friendship, and love in abundance is what The Orchard was for.© Beth Ellen DiLuglio 2/27/99
The four of us Mom, Dad, my Brother, and me would take family rides on Sundays. Many times we would end up at Highland Orchards and get apples. Really liked it there. So sad that things have to change so much.
I lived not half a mile down Rt. 101 for 3 years in the late 70's - loved the go-carts. A shame it ended as it did.
I was awe- struck by the paddle wheelers in the late '60's . I had spent summers at Sand dam reservoir , and , me being just a kid , I had never seen one . Shame they're not there anymore.
My family went every year on the way to Crystal lake in ct from pawtucket for our month vacation..first time I was eight years old..we'd always eat first...then go on rides and visit gift shop..one year maybe 1967, I was reading a summer book and the main character loved swordfish..imagine my excitement when there it was on the menu...the waitress(had the same one every year)told ten year old me that true swordfish lovers ate it with lea and perron Worcestershire sauce, so of course I replied, "that's how I eat mine too" she brought me a bottle and now fifty years later not only swordfish still one of my favorite meals, but I'd never think of eating it any other way but doused in Worcestershire...thank you for many wonderful childhood memories of riverboat rides with my gram, dinner with my late parents and candy picked out at the gift shop to share with my brothers and lake friends
I saw an entry on another forum by one of the 2nd owner's sons. He blamed the fall of the place on the price of gas increasing and people not wanting to drive all the way out into the country. Someone tracked him down to interview people about the history of the place, but he and his kind came well after the heyday of the place when we were directly involved. His assertion was absurd. The FACT is they failed to continue to invest in the place in a way that Brown did. And so the whole thing went the way all things go when they are not properly maintained, back to the earth! The spirit that once drove the place to be great changed and then vanished. We knew things were changing for the worse when the Mitson boy came down to talk to us while we were playing hockey on the pond as we had done for years and told us we were trespassing and needed to get off. That was not Clayt Brown’s way … it was however the way of these new owners who were also lawyers, and thought like lawyers. As is typical the new owners were looking to turn a quick buck on their investment and ended up "cost-cutting" the place into a state where no one would want to visit it any longer. Get rid of the train, the boats, etc and just sell apples. It was no longer Highland Orchards the mini amusement park; it was just another farm stand. It was no longer worthy of a family destination day trip. That’s the reason business declined. By comparison it went from the experience of relaxing to music over a fine roast at a Star Bucks to getting a coffee in a styrofoam cup at a gas station.
Right on, Fred... the new owners were Thomas Diluglio, aka. former Lt. Governor of RI and close and quiet counsel to Joe Molecone (king of the RI Saving & Loan banking crisis... they were school kids together)Funny how 1 year after the Highland's restaurant suspiciously burned, RT 101 (Hartford Pike) was paved east to west from Johnston, but not much farther west than Highland Orchards.