Burton Berg’s Worcester

Burton Berg has been collecting vintage postcards of Worcester for decades. He’s got thousands of them – photos of all the noble institutions and the engaged Worcesterites who made this town swing! Have a look and enjoy!

By Rosalie Tirella

They take you back to a time when Worcester was a little greener and a lot busier; days when everyone seemed to know everyone else, when church affiliation was important, when families sat down to dinner without the light of a TV screen or computer monitor shining down on them. Horses pulled buggies back then and left big wheel tracks in our downtown thoroughfares! Harrington Corner was buzzing and the grand opening of a Main Street “five and ten” guaranteed throngs of (usually) lady shoppers.

What a Worcester! What a lively, urban, ethnic stew of people with big noses and dirty hands! Bowlers straddled the heads of businessmen; caps sat jauntily on the crowns of young factory hands. A truck would go down in a snow storm and a gaggle of people would be gawking over the flattened tires. People were always out and about back then – walking down streets, running after trolleys, going to work at the factory, eating at the diners, shopping at the bakeries or neighborhood grocery stores. Everyone one seemed more connected to one another. And Worcester really worked back then, too! The factories, hardware stores, offices, butcher stores, bakeries – everyone one of these enterprises locally owned and providing jobs to Worcesterites of all stripes.

And today? Well, today you can see all this in the Worcester postcards of Worcester’s Burton Berg. For decades, the 79-year-old Worcester lawyer has been collecting vintage postcards of the old Worcester that some of us remember and many of us are nostalgic for. If you looked at all 4,000 of Berg’s Worcester picture postcards, you would see all of this city’s once noble institutions and the engaged Worcesterites who made this town swing! In them, we see the best parts of ourselves.

Which is why, for more than a half year now, InCity Times has brought them to you on page 2 – in our Then & Now feature. Burton called us – or Mack, InCity Times’ stellar photographer and confidante – months ago, intrigued by the Then & Now feature Mack brought to ICT. Mack, a history buff, liked it when we ran old photos of Worcester and decided to take “Now” photos of the historic places we were running in InCity Times. We juxtaposed the old photos and the new and – presto! – a new ICT feature was born. Thank goodness Burton called Mack because we felt we were running out of old photos to publish. Burton’s 4,000 would keep our Than & Now running until Mack and I became antiquated!

Burg, who is very active and still practices law has his law office (appropriately) in downtown Worcester. He attended Worcester Public Schools, graduating from the old Classical High School. He graduated from Clark University and the Boston University School of Law. He was an assistant attorney general in charge of Worcester County during the Edward W. Brooke and Elliot Richardson administrations. He says he is a natural-born collector. He collects matchbook covers, vintage ice cream scoops and Worcester memorobilia. His wife of more than 50 years, Lois, is into postcards, too.

“It’s the excitement of the find, wherever you go,” he says. “I find Worcester collectibles and postcards everywhere.”

Burton explains that he started out collecting tobacco tins because he smoked a pipe. “But they became too bulky – they took up too much space,” he says. “That’s when I started collecting postcards because they’re compact. But it turns out that they take up a lot of space, too!”

Still, he’s never looked back. He has his postcards in boxes in his house – catalogued, too! Sometimes he surprised a friend or someone he just met with a gift of one of h i s Wo r c e s t e r postcards – a place or event that was meaningful to him. Burton, who is mildm a n n e r e d and sweet, finds it e s p e c i a l l y gratifying to give postcards to people who have fond memories (maybe they worked or lived there) of a Worcester landmark that was bulldozed to dust years ago.

“I like to give clients and friends postcards and matchbook covers that show hospitals they were born in, churches they attended or were married in and interesting locations of what Worcester used to be,” he says.

Burton likes to tell of the time when he met a woman who had terminal cancer. He gave her a postcard of the place she used to work – with her photo on the postcard. “Oh, she got all excited!” he says. “It really brought happiness to her. Her family told me she spent her final days calling people and telling people of the postcard that had been given to her. She knew it existed, but she hadn’t seen it in 35, 40 years.”

Burton says people appreciate thoughtful little gestures – the gift of a Worcester postcard, for instance. It’s a way to connect … . It’s another way to give someone a smile, really.

And so for the past 15 years, Burton has been smiling on Worcester – with his little gifts – about 3 inches by 5. Another fun part of his hobby: he meets with a group of like-minded souls. He’s a member of the Central Mass Postcard Club, where people from all over the area meet to buy/trade cool, vintage Worcester photographs. Every year the club has a postcard show. He and his wife are also active in the Cape Cod postcard club.

Burton says his hobby has given him years of joy, and he is happy to share his collection with the readers of InCity Times. In this issue, we give you many fantastic Worcester picture postcard from Burton’s collection. Do you remember some of the places? Were they a part of your daily routine or life? Let us know! And a big “Thank you!” to Burton Berg! You’re a Worcester original! Maybe someday you’ll be on a Worcester postcard!