By Rosalie Tirella
I suppose if you do not live on Lafayette, Lodi, Meade, Grosvenor, Scott or Langden – the streets ACROSS from the old Wyman Gordon – the proposed slots parlor looks like a pretty good deal to you.
After all, city movers and shakers have gotten the city a hotel and other downtown amenities as a big thank you from the gaming guys. A big bribe for Worcester to sweeten a horrible dish – a slots parlor, for the Wyman Gordon site in Green Island. A slots parlor with 1,200 computerized slot machines that take credit and debit cards. A slots parlor, the kind of attraction no city or town wants.
When I was a kid growing up on Lafayette Street I was keenly aware of the fact that I was living in one of Wusta’s tuff neighborhoods. Not so much as a child, attending nearby Lamartine Street School, but as a teenager attending Providence Street Junior High, and later Burncoat Senior High. All my junior high and senior high pals were great, but I always cringed whenever they picked me up or dropped me off in their cars to go somewhere. At the beginning of Lafayette Street you had a strip joint (today, true to its stripper roots, a Hurricane Betty’s). Millbury Street, where my mom worked and my family shopped, was home to almost a score of seedy bars, places out of which men and women would stumble, drunk and bellicose. Lafayette Street had two bars, for Cripe’s sake: Ben’s Cafe and the old PNA club.
I was awash in booze!!! But I had a great mom who kept her girls straight – school every day, church every Sunday or Saturday eve,The Girls Club in summertime, after school jobs as soon as we turned 14 and a half years old (kids got work cards then). Summer and weekend fun with my aunts and uncles and their kids.
I was too busy being raised by Mrs. Tirella to sink into the world around me, even though my sisters and I were real neighborhood girls. We played with the neighborhood kids, walked to church, walked to Millbury Street every day for after school treats like burgers and cokes at the old Peter’s Dairy Bar or Messier’s Diner or even a bowl of clam chowder with our mom at Charles Restaurant – heaven! We were totally part of our urban environs. I saw lots of good and bad things. Stuff that delighted me, stuff that scared me. But out my mom and sisters and I went every day into what I now realize was a very rich, complex urban environment.
In a way, the Wynan Gordon site, then the Wyman Gordon factory, kind of anchored my world. It was where people worked, worked hard. It was a gated, no-fun place for me as a kid. A place that was noisy with machines and guys in hard hats worked hard. Big steel tubes were stacked in pyramids. They sparkled in the sun. I was kinda proud of the factory. It was always busy, it was always safe to walk by it as we made our way to the Worcester Public Libray on Salem Street. A City of Worcester Fire Station was right across the street as we made our way under the concrete over-pass. Urban, hectic, noisy. Sometimes unsafe, even violent. My old neighborhood.
Does Green Island need more noise, more social ills, more pain?