NEWS&VIEWS by Jacqueline Bennett

The Tale of “Big Tom Roberts” – Windham, CT Cop & Stone Mason

Posted on August 20, 2018

Tom Roberts’ great-great grandson and great-great-great grandson, Lance Bennett and his son Preston Bennett shown in front of Eastern Connecticut State University. In the background can be seen the exquisite stone spheres that grace the stairs of the university along Valley Street and are said to have been carved by “Big Tom Roberts”, respectively their 2 times and 3 times grandfather, who was also a stone mason. Windham/Willimantic, CT. Photo courtesy of Lance and Preston Bennett 8/19/2018

By Jacqueline Bennett


With the 2018 celebration of the 125th anniversary of the police department in Windham, Connecticut going on – a.k.a. Willimantic Police Department – my brother reminded me of a family connection to the early days of the WPD. According to our mother, her grandfather Tom Roberts walked the ‘rowdiest’ beat in the city.


“They called him ‘Big Tom Roberts’,” she would say, “He was known to be tough but fair.”


“Big Tom Roberts” was said to have walked the toughest beat in the city for the Willimantic Police Department during the early part of the 20th Century. His great-great-great grandson, Preston Bennett, proudly stands in front of the present day WPD. Photo courtesy of Lance Bennett 8/19/2018

This colorful part of the family history has been passed on by word of mouth, and through the years it was corroborated by more than one of the family elders who were contemporaries of my mother. Many of her grandchildren have probably heard the tales and certainly all seven of her children, myself being the youngest, heard the stories of “Big Tom Roberts”. He stood about 6′ 6″ tall and was said to have had a powerful presence.


An article in the Willimantic Chronicle detailing the history of the WPD notes it began in 1893 “as little more than a few neighbors wanting to keep their town safe.” By the early 1900’s wrote Claire Galvin, there is evidence of the department’s first K-9 unit patrolling what she described as the “rowdy” Jackson Street and Union Street block.


It is that very section that my mother said was patrolled circa the same timeframe by “Big Tom Roberts”. According to my brother John Jr., his recollection of the tale of “Big Tom Roberts” was that he was one of a highly select group of individuals chosen to serve as a supernumerary for the WPD, at a point in time when that position was considered an honor. These were part-time fully sworn officers, sometimes volunteers, who typically had the authority of full-time police officers.


In fact, my brother said, some 30-40 years later, fueled by the continuing heyday of the American Thread Company which closed in the 1970’s but was centrally located in that district, (Willimantic’s nickname is Thread City) that rowdy part of the city was still referred to as an east coast version of San Francisco’s “Barbary Coast.” During the second half of the 19th Century and early half of the 20th Century the California Gold Rush spurred a “red-light” district in San Francisco of dance halls, concert saloons, jazz clubs, variety shows and brothels dubbed “The Barbary Coast, San Francisco” where lawlessness was not uncommon, say on-line sources.


The small town girl in me prefers to think brothels were not part of Windham’s Barbary Coast east, however, apparently there were plenty of bars frequented by the mill workers, and lots of drinking. Enter “Big Tom Roberts” who as Mom would tell it, was well-respected and fearless in his determination to help keep the community safe. As a kid, I must say, these stories were thrilling of a great-grandfather who stood tall in every sense of the phrase, and, who served on the side of lawfulness helping to tame the roughest part of town.


“You really stand on the shoulders of these cops who have served before you,” Lt Matt Solak, of the present day WPD was quoted as saying in The Chronicle story.


Tom Roberts’ shoulders were certainly broad.


A photo of him belonging to my mother showed this towering man. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find it. If I do, it will be added to this article. A family tree prepared by Mom and my sister Muriel before their passings, indicates that Tom Roberts’ parents came to America from England. His first wife, my great-grandmother, passed away after the couple had three children, Delia Roberts Generous – my grandmother who is buried in North Windham Cemetery, Oliver Roberts and Celia Roberts Palmer, both also buried in Windham. We do not know the location of Tom Roberts’ grave.


Windham’s “Barbary Coast” east exists no more. It was torn down decades ago during redevelopment. Recently a new band shell named “Shaboo Stage” was built on a parcel where some of these notorious spots once played dance hall music.


Outside ECSU 

My brother added that the former rowdy section of Willimantic was not one-dimensional. Other types of businesses existed there, residents lived in upstairs apartments, as well as, civic clubs being located in the area. “There were good people who lived there,” he said.


As for “Big Tom Roberts,” according to my mother, he was also a stone mason who carved the exquisite spheres that grace the front stone stairway of what is now Eastern Connecticut State University along Valley Street.



Destination: Two Little Fish a Clam Shack in Westerly, Rhode Island

Posted on August 12, 2018

Write-up & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett

Thanks to its new location, I discovered Two Little Fish, a clam shack on Atlantic Avenue in Westerly, Rhode Island, this summer – what a great find! It has been voted ‘Best Seafood’ for “seventeen years running” in the Westerly Sun online reader’s poll, as announced on the sign out front it’s Atlantic Avenue locale. Relocated from Granite Street where Tim Brennan and Kevin Urbonas started the business in 1997, Two Little Fish is so good that customers willingly, eagerly, wait in long lines to enjoy the food.


Seriously, Two Little Fish has been in business for 21 years but in the past I must have overlooked it as I was focused on going to other restaurants located along the long beach strip that is Atlantic Ave. With the landscape of Misquamicut Beach having been changed by the storm of 2012, I decided to search out clam shacks this season and I’m glad I did.

Typical in season weekend night line at Two Little Fish. Overhead fans help diffuse the summer heat.












Overhead fans help diffuse the summer heat at the environmentally conscious Two Little Fish which is plastic free and has a supportive relationship with Mystic Aquarium. Straws, bags, plates, bowls and soft drinks cups are made from “biodegradable recycled paper” to help reduce their carbon footprint. A portion of the sale of every meal is said to be donated to the Animal Rescue Team of the Mystic Aquarium, which rescues, provides medical care and releases injured and stranded animals, ie. turtles, seals, manatees. According to their menu, Two Little Fish donates its used cooking oil to be converted into bio-diesel – “a non-toxic, locally produced fuel, to power vehicles and heat the homes of those in need”. The chartiable effort not only helps the less fortunate, but is also predicted to prevent more than 30 million pounds of CO2 emissions this year alone. 


How about that great tasting seafood served by Two Little Fish? They are proud to say their seafood is “wild caught” meaning it is non-farmed, sustainable (non-endangered) and locally sourced. “At the end of every season, all left over food is donated to local soup kitchens and social service agencies to help feed those in need.” Impressive, I must say.


The kicker, what we have ordered thus far has been excellent – whole belly clams, lobster roll, lobster bisque and Tim’s Clam Fritters. Even the refillable lemonade is good. Waiting in line with the weekend night crowds has been part of fun – everyone in a good mood, friendly, striking up conversations; so too with the staff – friendly, pleasant & very, very busy. Or, you can call ahead for pick-up. Seating is available in the rustic indoors and on the front deck.


Two Little Fish seems to be fast becoming one of those “it’s the place to be” kind of spots.  Situated directly across the road from the beach, parking is available in an adjacent lot.









Two Little Fish 300 Atlantic Ave. Misquamicut, R.I. 401- 384-9941


Oh Those Summer Nights ~ in Black & White

Posted on July 21, 2018

Looking towards the early evening sun at Misquamicut Beach.


No – I didn’t snap this one of me by the lifeguard stand.


By Jacqueline Bennett


Shot these photos in color in Westerly, Rhode Island Friday evening, July 20. Decided to experiment with the saturation, and do a simple black & white pictorial. One of my college photography professsor’ s favorite themes was “self portrait”. He encouraged us to “be creative” and I still play around with the concept ~ such as the shadow pic. Oh those summer nights! ~ Jackie




The day ends and the nightlife will soon begin.











Self portrait.











Waves roll in.

Combat Gunner Leon E. Larned, Sr. Served On USS Trathen DD 530 ~ Korean War

Posted on June 25, 2018

Leon E. Larned ,Sr. served as a combat rear gunner on a destroyer during the Korean War, the USS Trathen DD 530.


Leon E. Larned, Sr. “Brud”, is shown second row , 6th from the right. U.S. Training Center Recruit Training Command,. Maryland  2nd Regiment Co. 444.

John Larned, Sr. proudly displays a photo of the destroyer on which his father – Leon E. Larned, Sr. – served during the Korean War.

By Jacqueline Bennett


Proudly displayed on his youngest son John Larned Sr.’s fireplace mantle are two framed photos from his father, Leon E. Larned, Sr.’s United States Navy service. One photo shows the destroyer on which Leon Sr. served as a rear gunner during the Korean War ~ the USS Trathen DD 530. The other photo is Leon Sr.’s recruits class in Maryland, the 2nd Regiment, Co 444.


“I’m glad he came home,” John said during a June 24 interview at his North Windham, Connecticut home. (In addition to Leon Sr.’s service as a rear gunner, John said he believes, his father also served as an explosives expert and a “frogman.”)


Fortunately for his family, Leon Sr. nickname “Brud”, who saw combat duty, was among those who made it back to parents and siblings waiting at home in Windham, Connecticut ~ where he married and raised a family.

Dixie Larned (my sister) was married to Leon E. Larned, Sr. “Brud – shown here with their sons, “Mike” (Leon E.Larned, Jr.) and John Larned, Sr,. Photo by Jacqueline Bennett taken September 30, 2017 in New Haven, CT.


The grandchildren ~ Mike’s girls, Michelle and Maryann & John’s children, Johnny Jr. and Ariel. Courtesy photo..

“Mike” with his grandson, Michelle’s son ~ “Brud’s” and Dixie’s great-grandson, Thomas Praskievicz  III. Photo by J.B. taken April, 2018.

The Korean War began 68 years ago today on June 25, 1950 when North Korean troops invaded South Korea. Soon after, the U.S. came to the aid of the South Koreans resulting in the loss of 36,914 American lives as “the bloody war” raged on. There were 33,652 battle deaths plus 3,262 non-battle deaths that occurred in the war zone, according to the 1994 Pentagon publication “Service Casualties in Major Wars and Conflicts.” Although Korean War hostilities came to a halt on July 27, 1954 ~ nearly seventy years after, the Korean War has not officially been ended in a formal treaty.


“The remains of thousands of U.S. soldiers are still in North Korea despite decades of effort by families and the U.S. military to repatriate them,” CNN recently reported.


As with so many of America’s World War II and Korean War veterans, Leon Sr. “Brud”, rarely discussed the war, family members noted. Sometimes when meeting at the local American Legion or V.F.W., veterans talked about those days, noted his brother-in-law who served in the U.S. Air Force during the war. But among family, the conversation was mainly about family, he added.


Dixie Larned, who was married to “Brud” said he saw the atrocities of war up close, losing one of his best buddies who was blown off the ship while positioned next to him. “He had nightmares,” she recalled.


“Brud” joined the US Navy in 1950 at age 18. His two younger brothers, Les Larned and Billy Larned, later also served in the military. Billy served in the navy on an icebreaker in Alaska and Les served in the army. It was their sister, Shirley, the oldest, who is said to have given “Brud” his nickname, a variation of the word brother – the story goes, repeatedly having asked her parents for a baby brother. Dixie and Brud met in 1953, she attended high school with one of his younger brothers. At the time, “Brud” had another year of navy service left. Subsequently, they married and had two sons, “Mike” (Leon Everett Larned, Jr.) and John. They share four grandchildren: Mike’s girls, Michelle and Maryann; and John’s children, Johnny Jr. and Ariel. As well as, the newest member of the family ~ Michelle’s son, an adored great-grandson, Thomas Praskievicz III.



Photo by J.B., taken June 17, 2018




Born December 21, 1932, “Brud” passed away on February, 4 2000. He was buried with military honors in Windham Center.






(Writer’s note: Mike and John Larned are my nephews.)

NFL Star Chris Baker Returns To Windsor & Bart’s – Continues Efforts to Inspire Youth

Posted on June 24, 2018

NFL star Chris Baker is surrounded by family June 21, 2018 when he returned to his hometown of Windsor, CT and visited Bart’s restaurant to sign autographs.

Story & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


National Football League star Chris Baker, a native of Windsor, Connecticut returned to his hometown this past weekend to continue with his efforts to inspire area youth. And, as everyone knows, a visit home to Windsor is not complete without a stop at the iconic Bart’s Drive-In Restaurant. In Baker’s case, he was there on June 21 to sign autographs and mingle with fans. However, a hotdog from Bart’s Magic Grill was a must.


NFL star Chris Baker shown with Mayor Donald Trinks and his wife Barbara Trinks.

Baker has made a stop at Bart’s part of his annual visits to Windsor for a number of years. He and Mayor Donald Trinks, owner and general manager of Bart’s, share a mutual admiration.


“Mayor Trinks, he’s been my number one supporter since I decided to bring my football camp here,” noted Baker.


For the 6th consecutive year, Baker said, Trinks has donated all the food for the camp. The football camp, which was held Saturday, June 23 in town, not only teaches local youngsters football skills but strives also to instill in them the disciple, work ethic and sportsmanship that comes with playing the game. Some of Baker’s NFL buddies also were slated to turn out such as Terrence Knight.


“To me Chris is just an exceptional young man. At this point he doesn’t have to come back here to his hometown but he does. He is concerned about literacy and kids,” said Trinks.

Sisters Carol Engelmann and Jane Garibay were among those who came to see Chris Baker at Bart’s.

Jane Garibay has a little fun seeing what it would be like to be taller than an NFL star.











In addition to the football camp, Baker who founded the Chris Baker 92 Foundation to inspire literacy and leadership mentorships,, sponsored a fundraiser Friday night at the bowling alley in South Windsor. All proceeds from the event were to go to pay the cost of two student’s books for the coming college semester.


“All the lanes are sold out,” Baker added.


Nicknamed “Swaggy”, Baker, 30, is currently a defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals. He has also played for the Washington Redskins then Miami. Long after he his career with the NFL is done, Baker said he anticipates carrying on with efforts to encourage literacy and leadership. Baker said he remains passionate about returning to Windsor each summer to give youth in the Greater Hartford area tangible proof that with hard work, determination and a good education, they too have a chance to realize their dreams.


“I want them to see that If I can do it, they can do it,” said Baker.

New England Patriots Cheerleaders Visit Express Service Friendly’s ~ Manchester CT

Posted on June 19, 2018

Photo by Jacqueline Bennett Store manager Hector is joined June 18, 2018 by New England Patriots cheerleaders Isabella and Courtney, as well as, team mascot Pat Patriot, welcoming customers to the Express Service shop on 240 Buckland Street in Manchester, Connecticut.


Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett


New England Patriots cheerleaders and team mascot Pat Patriot were on hand Monday, June 18, to welcome customers to the newly converted Express Service Friendly’s on 240 Buckland Street in Manchester, Connecticut.


“It’s going well, ” noted store manager, Hector.


For those of us who grew up with wholesome Friendly’s ice cream and sandwich shops throughout New England, where we went to enjoy burger melts on grilled bread, crispy French Fries and a Fribble –  meeting up with classmates there on Friday nights, standing in line with family for a booth, or counter seats, where waiters and waitresses then took our orders – is a part of our cultural history. Remember waiters clad in sharply pressed white uniforms, and waitresses wearing gray dresses with delicate white collars and white aprons with ruffles? Friendly’s restaurants – the quaint looking shops themselves and signature menu fare – became a piece of the Americana patchwork, a New England icon.


The uniforms have evolved over the years and so too the design of the restaurant interiors but for decades, one constant has been customers being greeted and seated by staff who took the orders. Once abundant, shops have been closed in some communities. It seems to remain competitive in an ever expanding industry, Friendly’s is changing what became their traditional customer-wait staff experience at some restaurants, such as the one in Manchester – a suburb of Hartford, the capital city. The selection of the Manchester store to be converted into an Express Service shop means that customers can get the same menu items but now place orders themselves at the entry counter area, and seat themselves. (In addition, Friendly’s delivery service called is now available in town.)


Some long-time staffers have been kept on here. Three of those women, I was told, served tables a combined 46 years at this particular location. On Monday, one of those women was saying “hello” to customers at the door and explaining the new set-up. Expect to also see new hires on the scene.


Our New England Patriots Hall-of-Fame bound quarterback, Tom Brady, known for his ‘indulgence’ – so to speak – in avocado ice cream, was not present. However, team mascot Pat Patriot, whom is said to know “Tom Terrific”, and two Patriots cheerleaders turned out to promote the change to Express Service. Asked for Patriots Nation predictions for the coming NFL season, one cheerleader said,”Greatness.” 


On Monday, some area schools had early dismissal due to record heat and humidity, 90 plus degrees. To cope with the heat, what could taste better than ice cream?



My Friendly’s preferences are New England Clam Chowder and Vienna Mocha Chunk ice cream. How about you – do you have Friendly’s favorites?  If so, “express” yourself.

Mom’s Recipe Box: Melane’s ‘Father’s Day’ Carrot, Apple, Zucchini GF Bread

Posted on June 17, 2018





Mom’s granddaughter-in-law Melane’s ‘Father’s Day’ Carrot, Apple, Zucchini GF Bread has been added to Mom’s Recipe Box.


YUM and gluten free!

Melane’s ‘Father’s Day’ Carrot, Apple, Zucchini GF Bread

Mom’s granddaughter-in-law Melane Larned sent me her terrific Carrot, Apple, Zucchinni GF Bread recipe at my request to add to Mom’s Recipe Box. And, Melane sent me the accompanying photos.

She made this bread for the first time for a Father’s Day Shad Bake last weekend, celebrating the special day a bit early.

“It was a hit.”

So, I am calling it a ‘Father’s Day’ bread and appreciate having the recipe to post today for 2018 Father’s Day. Looks yummy! I like that it’s gluten free because that expands the number of people who can enjoy it. – Jackie








*Please note: In order to be able to publish this recipe in time for today I am posting the ingredients and instructions in photo format but will return to do a type written layout.




























Subsequent to the January 2015 conclusion of the original Mom’s Recipe Box Family Series – which honors the memory of Mom/Nana – look for Mom’s Recipe Box posts as occasional features on newsandviewsjb as I continue to add to, and celebrate, my mother’s recipe collection – the Cecelia G. Bennett Collection.