Florence Rideout Elementary students explore local history
|Published: 06-12-2023 2:32 PM
Fourth graders from Florence Rideout Elementary School got a tour through downtown Wilton on Thursday, learning bits of local history.
The tour included stops at some of the town’s historic buildings, including the library, the Masonic Hall and the Town Hall, as well as the veterans’ memorials and the American Legion to learn about some of the town’s notable veterans.
The tour is part of the fourth-grade section on state and local history.
Selectman Kermit Williams, who led Thursday’s tour, said it has become a tradition over the last seven to eight years to have the fourth grade visit the sites. The tradition was interrupted by COVID-19, and there was no tour in 2021. Last year the live tour was replaced by a locally produced film that showed some of those historical places.
While the film was still shown this year, the tour was back on.
“There’s nothing like seeing it in person,” Williams said. “I think it’s a mix of trying to do the things the Heritage Commission highlights and things that the kids will find interesting.”
The students visited the Historical Society museum to see artifacts dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s, relating to Wilton’s wool industry, as well as the old Wilton telephone exchange. They even saw old-fashioned wedding dresses from the time before they were traditionally white.
The children met Les Tallarico, the holder of the Boston Post Cane in Wilton, which marks him as the town’s oldest resident. Tallarico told them about his service in World War II, jumping out of airplanes while serving in the 11th Airborne Division.
A visit to what is now the Local Share shop included a look downstairs at what was once the town’s police station, and the jail cells that remain.
Williams also imparted some local lore about Whiting Park. Once a dairy, the open field was later used for many things, including circuses. During one circus visit, an elephant died and, because no one knew what else to do with it, it was buried in Whiting Park.
“We tell them, ‘You’re probably only one of the only elementary schools in the United States that has an elephant buried next door,’” Williams said.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172 ext. 244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.