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(April 2014.)

Napoleon “Gene” Poyant didn’t have much of a commute from this 1840s home, tucked behind the former Congregational Church of the Pilgrims. Poyant, who was from Acushnet, served in the Coast Guard during World War II and was stationed at Race Point, falling in love with Provincetown in the process. In the 1950s, he ran Gene’s Pastry Shoppe, on what had been the church’s front yard on Commercial Street. It became one of the liveliest spots in town after 1960, when he opened what he called a “French sidewalk café”: Café Poyant, one of the first in town. The portrait artist Harvey Dodd completed the tableau.

Poyant was something of a reactionary in the mid-60s, calling on town officials to combat the scourge of “beatniks, so-called” by the promulgation of “whatever rules and regulations may be necessary to make them unwelcome here.” He was rebuffed repeatedly by town officials, who could find no Constitutional basis for discrimination against long-haired visitors who might be in need of a shave or a bath or both. Seeing that he was losing his battle, Poyant warned in 1966: “Mark my words, we won’t have a decent town for long.”— Expanded from Building Provincetown (2015).


Irma Ruckstuhl wrote on 23 May 2011: Gene, a stout and gregarious fellow, later became Town Crier and dressed as a Pilgrim, became the subject of many a tourist photo, for which he readily accepted many a small token of their appreciation. His wife Lillian was also a large woman; they had no children.

 

 

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