Author of the Algy Temple Mysteries


Straight Pool and Westerly

Posted by: J. J. Partridge on 3/26/2014

I enjoy being a Westerly resident for part of every year. I think I have captured a lot of what Westerly means to those who live there in Straight Pool. There are fairly accurate descriptions of toney Watch Hill, downtown Westerly, of the summer golf club life for those who are in Westerly between Memorial Day and Labor Day, what it might be like to practice law in Westerly, or to have had a family member caught up in the Hurricane of ’38.

I have been told the preface to Straight Pool captures what happened that fearful day in September of 1938. Westerly lost over one hundred lives in the tragedy, suffered immense damage to its coastline and to its economy. People who lived through it, never forgot that forty-eight hour period of calm, hurricane, and calm. It did not make much difference if you lived in Haversham or Shelter Harbor or Watch Hill or Misquamicut or Weekapaug or Bradford or White Rock; all were affected in different ways. Lives were lost, jobs disappeared. The economy was fractured beyond repair. Many have told me that if it was not for the factories’ revival beginning with World War II’s on set, the town’s economy would have been crippled forever, never to recover.

I knew I wanted to write about Westerly and the Great Hurricane of ’38 after reading Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938 by R.A. Scott and having seen photographs of the devastation particularly in Watch Hill, and reading George H. Utter’s Old Pictures of Westerly. But how to bring it present. Well, that was the trick, of course, to utilize the hurricane and its aftermath both from the perspective of 1938 and how it still affects lives. I was very pleased when Westerly residents, including State Senator Algiere, Town Manager Joseph Turro, and other government officials and leaders, were very complimentary on the book. That made me feel I had done something positive for my adopted second home.