The dedication of this Sons of Italy monument will take place on Thursday near the Rumford Information Center on Bridge Street. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times


RUMFORD — As a celebration of the contributions the Italian people have made to this area, the dedication of a Sons of Italy monument will take place on Thursday.
Club member Jim Rinaldo said the event will take place at 11 a.m. at the site, next to the Muskie Memorial near the Rumford Information Center on Bridge Street. “The Italian community should be proud. This monument is a dedication to them.”
The Son’s of Italy Club in Smith Crossing had to close in 2022 after 107 years, the last Son’s of Italy Club in Maine to finally close its doors.
Rinaldo spoke about the contributions the members of the Sons of Italy made when he was guest speaker at Rumford Historical Society meeting on June 14.
He said a 2×4-foot picture of the country of Italy and its towns painted by his wife was on the wall at the Sons of Italy for a few years, along with the names of club members. It proved to be the basis for the monument when declining membership forced them to close.
He said they collaborated with Durland Monument to have this monument made over a period of several months.
A plaque on the monument reads as follows:
The Sons of Italy Club was organized in Rumford in 1915 and is one of the oldest orders of its kind in America.
The motto is liberty, equality and fraternity. They lived up to their motto not only as an organization, but also as individuals, becoming very active in Rumford and the surrounding communities.
They excelled as business leaders, officials in public office and volunteers.
This monument is for all of the people these family names represent who lived, worked, prayed and played here.
May they never be forgotten for the sacrifices they made for their families and their community.
Rinaldo spoke about the contributions by some of the things club members.
He said Peter Umbro, Jr., was a tailor on Exchange Street. He worked for Edmund Muskie’s father and ended up taking over the shop. “He was the one who start the Hope School, which actually started in Mexico…what we see now on Hancock Street is what happened because of what he did.”
Rinaldo said that in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, “you had the Chisholm’s, the Pettingill’s and other names in Rumford Point and Rumford Center that I don’t know, who were instrumental in getting the town started.”
Then, in the 1950’s or so, he said another group came in, and they were predominately Puiia’s. “Cable TV was brought to the state of Maine by Carmelo Puiia. He used to go into people’s homes and install antennas for them to watch TV.”
Puiia visited relatives in New York and they explained to him they had cable and told him what he had to do to do the same in Maine. “He came back and went to Augusta and he actually got the contract for the whole state of Maine to put in cable TV,” said Rinaldo.
But after officials started looking at it, he said they realized it was too big a project for one man. So they went to him and said he could have a quarter of the state to provide cable. Puiia selected the area from Augusta to this area.
“The Blaine House was the first place to have cable TV in the state, because of Carmelo Puiia,” said Rinaldo.
He said while “we think of the (Puiia) sons as being very entrepreneurial, but their father, Carmelo Sr., had a shoeshop in Mexico, right between where Circle K is now, and where C.N. Brown is. He had a shoeshop, but he also had a machine where he actually made shoes for you. You tell him what you needed for shoes and he’d actually make you a pair of shoes, right there at the shop.”
Rinaldo recalled another story when Rumford had town water, but it did not go to Smith Crossing. It stopped in the town. Carmelo and Nick (Puiia) went into the woods at Smith Crossing where there was a reservoir. “They hooked the reservoir up and brought water right into Smith Crossing. So all the people in Smith Crossing had running water because these guys started their own little water district, until finally, Rumford got their water down there, and they didn’t need them anymore.”
He said he was told that at one point in time, Puiia Hardware and Lumber Company was the largest hardware and lumber company under one roof in the northeastern United States. “I worked there for 17 years, back in the ’60s and ’70s, and the education I got there was unbelievable.”
Rinaldo said Nick tried to grab “every nook and cranny” that he could. There was a hardware store to the right of his. He bought that and made it unto a cash and carry store. In the middle was where H.P. Hood was, and he bought that and made it into a gift shop.
“His mind was always working. Well, we need to draw people into the gift shop. You drive down Falls Hill and you probably can’t even see it, being in the middle. So he bought Paul Bunyan and put it there. When people saw that, they had to stop and take pictures. And right there is the gift shop,” he said.
Rinaldo said the building that housed the Son’s of Italy used to be a school. The railroad owned the property and was willing to sell it for $1,000. Tony Puiia bought it for the club and they paid him back over time.
It was all the members that worked in that place for years to make it what it became “because we couldn’t afford to hire anybody.”
He said, “The people who couldn’t work there would buy pizza or beer for the guys working there. They all chipped in, one way or another. There was great comraderie up there. There were great bocce tournaments. The New Year’s and Halloween parties were unbelievable.”
“We had beano downstairs and our parties were upstairs. When we had parties, members would carry the chairs and tables upstairs, set them all up. Then the next day, haul them back downstairs,” said Rinaldo, adding that proceeds from the beano helped run the club.

Jim Rinaldo spoke about the contributions the members of the Sons of Italy made when he was guest speaker at Rumford Historical Society meeting on June 14. Looking on is Rumford Historical Society President Mary Lapointe. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

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