Growing up in Rhode Island

Published 7:17 am Friday, March 13, 2009

Growing up in Rhode Island—the Ocean State—Sally Miller quite naturally developed a love for being near the water and enjoying all its benefits.

Now a resident of Bainbridge for a little over a year, Miller was born at a naval base hospital just outside Newport, R.I., where her father was stationed. Her father and mother met at a dance on that same naval base. He was from Pennsylvania, while her mother was a life-long Newport resident.

Sally lived in Rhode Island until age 10, then moved to Groton, Conn., as her father’s naval career demanded. But even then the family went back to Newport nearly every weekend to visit grandparents and her mother’s other relatives.

Miller recently shared some of her childhood memories of living in Rhode Island from birth to age 10 when the family moved to Groton, Conn. But even then the family went back to Newport nearly every weekend to visit grandparents and other relatives of her mother.

Memories always involve being around the water, sailing and fishing with her father and grandfather, and going to the beach. She remembers the large Atlantic Ocean waves crashing on the shores, and describes them as much more powerful than those she experienced while living near the Gulf of Mexico.

Other memories include riding the beautifully painted wooden carousel horses on a huge merry-go-round at the beach. She said the carousel is gone now, but was a big attraction when she was a child.

After dinner on Sundays the family would go for drives to look at the huge mansions built by the industrial tycoons of the 1800s. Sally, like many young girls, dreamed of someday owning a house like that.

“I loved looking at the mansions. They were so incredible! We went through some that were open during certain times of the year.”

She also remembers the Kennedy family had a home there and the town experienced incredible mourning when President John F. Kennedy was shot.

“I vividly remember how overwhelmed people were that it had happened,” explained Miller.

Although Newport enjoyed an influx of wealthy summer inhabitants, Miller remembers very little real poverty in a community that had lots of year-round working class residents, many employed in the big fishing industry.

“The winters are harsh and summer is short up there, so during the nice months the people make the most of it,” said Miller.

She describes many outdoor festivals, none of the least of which was the Newport Jazz Festival. Her parents took her to that event for many years, and at an early age she was exposed to the leading jazz musicians.

“I love jazz to this day,” continues Miller, who has seen such notable artists as Count Basie and Miles Davis, just to name a couple. The Kingston Trio was a group her parents especially loved.

Lover of seafood

Seafood is another love for Miller, who grew up experiencing clam bakes on the beach and eating the fish caught off the Atlantic coast. She remembers attending The Rhode Island Clam Chowder Festival, where more than 3,000 gallons of clam chowder were served in little cups to attendees.

Miller is a big fan of clams, and has recipes for clam chowder and clam fritters. She explains that the clams we see around here are only the strips, but that real clam lovers go for the clams with bellies—described by her as a real delicacy.

Miller and her husband went back to Newport in 1995 for the first time since she was 16 and she discovered the Newport harbor area has been smartly developed into a tourist attraction offering antique shops, cafes and boutiques.

Another Newport attraction loved by Miller is the Cliff Walk, a dedicated national recreation trail that follows 3.5 miles along the rocky coast line. It offers hikers a beautiful view of the ocean and of some nearby mansions.

The Rhode Island quarter has a replica of the Clayborn Pell Bridge built to connect Jamestown, Conn., to Newport. Miller recalls before the bridge was built there was a ferry boat that ran between the two cities. She still has a token used as fare for riding the ferry. The other image on the quarter is of a sailboat modeled after The Alliance, winner of the Americas Cup in 1903, explained Miller.

She said “If I won the lottery I would buy a house in Newport and live there in the summer to enjoy the seafood and music, but I hate snow and winter. That is why I live in South Georgia.”

Miller moved here about a year ago from the Tampa Bay area, where she also lived on the water and belonged to a sailing club. She is a certified veterinary technician employed part-time at the Bainbridge-Decatur County Humane Society and operates a pet-sitting business called Cat’s Pajamas.

Sally Miller is looking forward to her native Rhode Island being the featured state at Artsfest this year so she can share her ocean-side memories, clam recipes and her love of music, Rhode Island style.