Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

Actor and Native Son Denis Leary comes to Worcester – but half our three deckers cry out for the spotlight!

Text+photos by Rosalie Tirella

Dear Worcester City Leaders:

Why keeping losing our princes?

In light of Denis Leary’s visit here to help Worcester honor the six WFD firemen who died 20 years ago fighting the Cold Storage Warehouse inferno on Franklin Street … Why not tamp down on the star-gazing (we love Leary, too!) …


They are the problem, they are firetraps! They are seldom up to code … landlords don’t want to fix things to make their property safe … many landlords will not even rent to people of color!… many rent leaded apartments to families with toddlers! They are blatantly BREAKING HOUSING LAWS. Worcester City Council, as our housing stock, our three deckers, get older and older – 100+ years old at this point!! – we need to have a gameplan to keep our historic old buildings safe – and looking good.

Firemen and -women don’t see color

Inevitably, every winter, when it’s freezing cold out – like it was the night of the Stockholm Street fire that claimed WFD Lt. Jason Menard’s life – tenants in our three deckers struggle with the subfreezing temps. Many of our three deckers just have: a parlor heater in the living room and a gas heater log in old gas stoves in the kitchen. That is it. No central heating! And some buildings are so drafty! I grew up in an ice box, decades ago, on Lafayette Street in Green Island. We had 2 space heaters going in our third floor tenement in an old three decker (that we loved♥️) during winter-time. As a little kid I wore a knit hat to bed! … Folks STILL improvise in all sorts of ways – many drag out their electric space heaters in our old neighborhoods – and set them too close to their beds, bed linens, curtains or laundry. They just wanna get warm! We cannot blame them! I’ve been there! Then … DISASTER STRIKES … LIVES ARE LOST, OUR CITY MOURNS.
Lt. Menard honored as he is brought to the graveyard! He was just 39 years old!

But we rise up again! We are resilient, we denizens of these old New England mill towns. We are the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of factory workers … immigrants. We are tough.


But this shouldn’t keep happening! The new city task force that will study this situation and make recommendations MUST FOCUS ON THE REALITY IN OUR APARTMENTS, LIFE AS LIVED BY our working poor and working class!

WHY HAVE CHILDREN, OLD PEOPLE, FIREMEN DIE every Worcester winter because it was too cold in three decker flats? Why not CLOSELY LOOK AT EACH TENEMENT – and make landlords make improvements? WE ARE TALKING HALF THE HOUSING STOCK in Worcester!!

And why not build new, affordable housing? Why not enact rent control? And if the old guys on Meade Street in the Housing Code Dept. are not up to their cushy City of Worcester jobs as housing/code inspectors, lay them off – and HIRE A NEW YOUNG DIVERSE WORK FORCE to really do the job! New city workers for a new Worcester!


Giving thanks at the Boulevard Diner!

Text+pics by Rosalie Tirella

Today @ the Boulevard

An urban oasis of love!

Thanksgiving at The Boulevard♥️ Diner! The sweetest waitresses – the tastiest veggies – the most grateful, polite customers!

Becky and the girls☕

Wonderful volunteers

You went out into the nippy November day and your heart was chilled. You entered the Bully, like it was a chore. Photos for your Thanksgiving Day photo essay.

Inside … magic!

You sit at the “Bully” counter with the other guests …

You “order” a big plate of carrots, peas, squash, potatoes, a mug of coffee – cream, please, because it is Thanksgiving. You skip the bird out of your love for birds and all animals. Becky serves you your meal, smiling, happy to be with family, friends, the community.

Soon Becky and the gals’ (volunteer waitresses today) goodness washes over you. Son Chris is helping out, too. …


… You see Becky and the Boulevard family treat Worcester’s needy, sitting in the booths or at the counter, like family, so sweetly – with such care – and professionalism! The real kings and queens of Worcester! More turkey? More gravy? A meal to take home? they ask their customers, many homeless young adults with stuffed backpacks and plastic bags filled with their clothing. This upsets you! You feel: They are too young for this – where is Worcester’s affordable housing?! They are just beginning their lives – where is Worcester’s living wage jobs for all? (You donated a Marshalls tote bag filled with shirts, socks, fuzzy bathrobe, jacket … Other folks brought in handmade knit scarves and hats – or pumpkin and apple pies!)

Some of the guests are astounded at the waitresses’ generosity! And the portions!! They smile as they eat. More coffee? Another roll? the volunteer waitresses ask them. No, thank you! they say. I may have to take some of this home!

Jim and manager Lisa cooked most of the food – including the turkeys😢 – early in the morning, at Jim’s church. Then they brought all the prepared food to the Bully. Jimmy, tired, is napping in the van now.

You begin to feel warm and cozy in the snug East Side diner! Everyone is smiling and so happy! You feel grateful and content, too. Some people want to donate a dollar or fiver to the diner as a thank you gift! Nope! Becky and the gals say! No money, please! There is no money in the cash register today! They sound giddy as they say this! They know they are blessed. They work hard to be successful, but they give back, too. Worldly but innocent! Strong yet vulnerable! Just like Jesus wants! We are in this life – at the Bully – TOGETHER!

Happy Thanksgiving!🥔🥕☕ + more♥️ + Alice🎶!

This holiday season I will be missing the Frank Carroll Plaza all decked out in holiday twinklies! file photo: Rose T.



The Boulevard Diner is serving free Thanksgiving meals to all in need!- spiritual, as well as nutritional!♥️🥕 file photos: Rose T.

Lisa and Becky – the ♥️ of the Boulevard!

Today, are you LOOKING FOR a great Thanksgiving Day meal with all the fixings? Or: just some wonderful COMPANY? Repartee? A few prayerful moments? FELLOWSHIP? … you have NO DOUGH$$$? In other words, you need A FINE PLACE TO DINE THIS THANKSGIVING DAY for FREE.

Then head over to the Boulevard Diner on Shrewsbury Streer around noon FOR THEIR FREE COMMUNITY TRADITIONAL THANKSGIVING MEAL! Open to all in need!… Jim and family/staff are cooking up a ton of homemade veggies, stuffing, gravy, pie, coffee, the main dish! Plus: they will gift you with LOTS OF LOVE, smiles and encouragement – all served up by the lovely waitresses at the “Bully!”

For the community!

Worcester at her most gracious, fun, open-minded … Christian!

– Rosalie Tirella


Fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities


10 Tips for Including People with Disabilities in your Holiday Celebration

With the holiday season upon us, it is easy to hold a gathering where all guests — with and without disabilities — feel welcomed, respected and have fun. All it takes is some planning. With some help from Alie Kriofske Mainella, an expert on working for inclusion of people with disabilities, here are some tips to ensure your gatherings are inclusive, thoughtful and welcoming to all:

♥️1. Don’t be afraid to include guests with disabilities.
People with disabilities have their disabilities 24/7, so they know how to create work-arounds so that they feel comfortable. If you know someone has a disability, use a simple strategy — ask the person what they need to be fully included. All too often people with disabilities are not invited to events, or don’t go because they feel embarrassed to “put someone out” by asking for a simple thing that will help them attend. By telling them that their presence is valued, and asking what they need, you will build a new level of trust and affection. For example, one of the biggest things that aging loved ones need is a ride. So help them find a carpool or send an accessible taxi or Uber to pick them up and return them home.

♥️2. Include a line about disability accommodations in the RSVP.

Keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible, so you may not know that someone you want to include in your event has a disability. By including a line about accommodations and food allergies in the invitation’s RSVP, you are already letting guests know that everyone welcome. If it’s an event for children, parents can tell you, right off the bat, what their child’s needs might be to attend the event. They will be happy you asked! “We want everyone to have fun — please let us know if you have dietary restrictions or require other special accommodations to attend! We will do our best to meet special needs.” Note that you aren’t promising to meet all needs — if you can’t find a sign language interpreter at the last minute or there is another issue, for example, you will be able to let your guest know in advance. Indeed, they may be able to help you find a solution!

♥️3. Physical Access

Most public places are accessible. However, because religious institutions are exempted from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), many of them are not fully accessible. Thus, if your event is at a venue that is not physically accessible to all, move it to a place that is. That can mean a different room in a place of worship, or to a completely different place. Venues should have a ground level entrance or ramp, an elevator if it’s upstairs, and accessible bathrooms. Most public places (hotels, restaurants, bowling, video games, pools, bounce houses, etc.) are usually equipped for people with disabilities. Just check with the venue ahead of time. If you have someone coming who uses a wheelchair, you should also put the food on a table that is low enough for them so they can take it themselves

♥️4. Special Diets and Fragrance Allergies

Anyone can have allergies, celiac disease or lactose intolerance, but you won’t know unless you ask on the invitation RSVP. Making sure there is an option for cake, snacks, treats and other food for these guests can be as simple as picking up a gluten free cupcake to serve with the cake. It is thoughtful to have refreshments that everyone can enjoy and/or asking people not to wear perfume to your event.

♥️5. Addressing attitude

Kids and adults can be daunted when encountering someone who is different from them. If children are at the event, you can talk to them at the start of the event about kindness and respect for each other and each other’s differences. A holiday gathering is a great opportunity for kids to learn about one another.

♥️6. Involving parents

Holiday gatherings can be exhausting for the hosts. Asking a parent or two to volunteer to help out, particularly if it’s a big group, can lighten the load for the hosts. Parents may feel more comfortable, especially if their child has social anxiety issues, if they are invited to stay or help as an option.

♥️7. Sensory overload awareness

Holiday gatherings can cause sensory overload for any child or adult. But for a person with autism or a sensory processing disorder, a large gathering can be really overwhelming. Offer opportunities for guests to take a break, perhaps in a quiet room away from the crowd. Some venues may have options for turning down music or minimizing stimulation — and that is useful anywhere there are a lot of kids! Latex allergies (balloons) and chemical sensitivities (use of highly scented cleaners or staff wearing perfumes) are real issues. Solutions: Use alternative mylar balloons. Ask people to not wear strong scents, and choose unscented cleaning products. Avoid flashing lights that can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy.

♥️8. Communication

If a guest attending the gathering is non-verbal or communicates in other ways such as American Sign Language or a communication board, talk about it with the guests. Installing free Dragon software onto an iPad in advance can enable you to speak with someone who is deaf as it instantly transcribes what you are saying. Having an interpreter can be worth the cost, as all the people can communicate and maybe learn a little sign language! Remember to speak directly to a child or adult whether s/he is verbal or not.

♥️9. Reading, Cognitive Access and Vision Issues

Children and adults with cognitive, learning disabilities or vision impairments might not be able to read the menu, instructions for a scavenger hunt or a game score sheet. Pictures and verbal instructions are useful, as well as pairing children with those who can help. It’s always great to have an extra pair of reading glasses around if you are inviting seniors. But you can always tell someone who can’t see or read what they will need or what to know.

♥️10. Enjoy the gathering!

Don’t let inclusion stress you out. If you are reading this list and considering these tips, you’re already doing more than most! Stay positive, smile and have a great time!


Thinking of Worcester fireman Jason Menard

By Rosalie Tirella

I, like most Worcesterites, didn’t know Jason Menard, the 39-year-old Worcester fireman who died a horrible death this past week while doing his job. But I, like all of Worcester, love him. Not so much for “fighting” the flames in that Quinsig Village flat but for perishing while saving two of his “brothers” – fellow WFD firemen – up in that third-floor fire-trap on Stockholm Street, in Quinsigamond Village, Worcester’s old blue collar Swedish neighborhood. A neighborhood, like many of our older, ethnic neighborhoods, filled with 100-year-old two- and three-deckers: Kindlin’ wood.

One Worcester fireman was a newbie and couldn’t find the staircase in the carbon monoxide- and smoke-filled building. Jason found him (by touch? by words?) and led him to the staircase (did they hold hands?, lean together shoulder to shoulder?, whisper? cry out?). Jason helped another fellow fireman to an open window … to safety. And they say Jason was searching for the tenants’ baby when, and the cliches tumble out now: when the fireman was “overcome,” “overtaken,” “succumbed” … “didn’t make it.”

What does all the verbiage mean? Safe, sterile “nothing” words that can never convey the physical pain or emotional and bodily shock Jason experienced – or how a WFD “brother” pulled Jason’s body out. How that fireman felt lugging his dead friend out of all that crap. We call it smoke-inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning, but Jason’s lungs were burning up! On fire like that building – his delicate, fluid filled lung membranes inflamed, burning… Only Jason gasped for fresh, clean, cool air. Only he felt his fireman suit and gear grow heavy! An encumberance between him and the stars in the cold Worcester sky, it turned out.

What if we could empty those Worcester night stars like coffee cups? And have Jason’s wife’s tears flow out of them to wash our city souls clean? Have Tina Menard stop all our clocks! Shut our city down!! To shout, like an ancient woman warrior: MY HUSBAND, A GOOD MAN, A GOOD FATHER TO OUR CHILDREN, IS DEAD!!

The man she loved at the grill, by their kitchen table, over their dishwasher, in bed, under the quilts … Jason died hurting and suffering in that crumby old Worcester three-decker.

FireFIGHTER. That is the trendy term to describe all firemen these days, including Jason Menard. Implying the guys FIGHT fires, BATTLE flames – which they do. But to me the term renders the men plastic, Disney-like, super-hero action figures – all iron-clad muscles, steely gazes, red cape-wearing fearlessness, even godlike … when in truth, the WFD guys – all firemen – are just guys. Guys who maybe love the challenge more than most of us, but men, often in the middle of life and love: youngish wives, young children, aging parents, mortgages, college savings accounts for their kids. They have fancy lawn mowers they love because they remind them how successful they are – married with kids and a nice home in the nicer parts of town. Leaf and snow blowers mark the seasons in their big back yards. Sex, BBQs, wide-screen TVs, Red Sox games – the fun stuff of guys in their 30s and early 40s! In their prime!

But these firemen, when they get into these fire-trap three deckers and warehouses in our old New England factory towns – Lawrence, Lowell, Worcester … – become guys in their prime doing their best. They save lives – and families. And communities. They save each other, too. All the time. Grabbing, holding each other hands, as they stumble to safety … giving each other hearty hugs of encouragement … pulling and pushing each other to that open window … sighing and maybe crying in all the smoke and darkness and admitting to the fireman next to them: I’M AFRAID, bro! A firefighter once told me, smiling: “There have been plenty of (WFD firemen) guys who’ve saved my life.” … intimating that he had returned and would continue to return the favor, again and again. If that’s not intimacy, true love, then I don’t know what is!

And that’s why the guys seem so close when you drive by one of their many Worcester neighborhood fire stations: together, they grill steaks on their grills/BBQ smokers outside their firestations; one guy will make a big pot of homemade soup or chilli for his crew on the station stove; they sit on lawnchairs outside on the drab cement parking lot, talking in the inner-city sun or maybe listening to one of their mate’s bag-pipe playing out by their sparkling red, just washed and hosed fire trucks, safe in their bays, ready for a parade – or a 3-alarm fire!

Jason Menard and the Worcester Fire Department firemen (and -women) are firefighters … but, best of all, they’re HUMAN BEINGS rushing into the void, not knowing, not thinking, about their mortality. Innocent as lambs.

“Just” men, “just” firemen.


♥️Find us on Facebook!♥️

Some things never change in Worcester – like all the illegal dumping. Despite the City’s revamped recycling/trash plan!

Here’s Blackstone River Road, where I live, yesterday afternoon. Right outside my house – huge trash bag thrown onto the middle of the sidewalk! Our neighborhood’s trash-pick up day is Friday! If no one removes it, it will be on the sidewalk all week!!!:
😢😢 pic: Rose T.

But some things DO change: like we’re on FACEBOOK! 20 years after the rest of the world!! Oh well …

Sign in to FB and explore, share, comment on and like our 3 pages!

♥️Our FACEBOOK pages are:

incity times

Rosalie Tirella

CECELIA the newspaper

🍁P.S.🍁Next issue of CECELIA hits Worcester stands this Friday/weekend!🍁


🇺🇸Story ideas? Email them to


Rosalie Tirella

Jett and Lilac, yesterday afternoon, during our Greenwood Street walk!

Chef Joey in Rose’s space – New Recipe!

🥞Swedish Apple Pancakes!🥞

Text and pics by Chef Joey

Here’s a quick recipe for this time of year: Let’s make a Swedish Apple Pancake!

Take an apple, peel it and shred it with a large cheese grater. Shred into a frying pan!

Add a tablespoon of butter and sauté.

Add a bit of water to the apple so it doesn’t burn. When they feel nice and soft, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

In the meantime take 4 tablespoons of flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, two eggs and a tablespoon of oil and a half teaspoon of vanilla mix.

Pour over the sautéed apples.


Mix well and cook like a pancake – adding a few dabs of butter here and there!

Now you have a Swedish Apple pancake!🥞🥞

Autumn is here … 🍂🍂🍂🍂

Walking Jett and Lilac in my long socks and heavy skirts these days …


Jett & Lilac♥️♥️:

A big Thank You! to Dorrie for gifting me this cutie vintage autumn-rain coat! Lined and cozy😊! Perfect for walking Jett and Lilac in October!:
pics/text: Rose T.

Yesterday was Jackson Browne’s birthday. I’ve been listening to him since senior year Burncoat High School.

I have this lp, bought YEARS AGO, somewhere. Real and beautiful picture of life on the road, according to a lighting technician I loved at UMass/Amherst who toured with Billy Joel, Madonna and was planning on accompanying Marvin Gaye (but Gaye was murdered by his father!):

Beto’s great idea! … Cory and Julian care about animals – watch them📺 tonite: 3rd Dem🇺🇸 Presidential🇺🇸 Debate – 8 p.m … + more🎶


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)!

Announcing RespectAbility’s New NDEAM Webinar Series!

The Right Talent, Right Now!

Fighting Stigmas and Advancing Opportunities for People with Disabilities

If you have been working in disability employment, inclusion or workforce development for any length of time, then you should know that October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). This month marks a key opportunity to celebrate the incredible contributions of employees with disabilities.

It also is a good time to educate employers about strategies for recruiting, training and promoting people with disabilities. The theme for 2019’s celebration of employees with disabilities is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”

As such, RespectAbility is delighted to invite you to join us this October for an exciting webinar series promoting best practices in disability employment, employer engagement and workplace culture. Each webinar is FREE, includes open captioning and features a subject matter expert sharing their insights, perspectives and strategies-you-can-use in your own work.

🌞First up, on Wednesday, Oct. 9:

We invite you to join us for a conversation with James Emmett
about “Structuring the Workplace for Long-Term Success.” Emmett has been closely involved with some of the nation’s most successful workplace inclusion projects and will be there to share his insights with all of you.

🍂After that, on Wednesday, Oct. 16:

We are delighted to be hosting two private-sector titans of diversity and inclusion to talk about “
Disability Inclusion, Assimilation and Success.” Learn from
Jim Sinocchi, Managing Director of the Office of Disability Inclusion at JP Morgan Chase about launching “new era of disability inclusion” and “hiring professionals with disabilities into the robust culture of the firm.” Likewise, Vincenzo Piscopo, Community and Stakeholder Relations Director for Coca-Cola will talk about the key work that Coca-Cola has done to bring greater diversity to their team, their culture and their brand.

🇺🇸Lastly, on Tuesday, Oct. 22:

We will shift gears to how the workforce development system can
successfully engage employers
and get more jobs for people with disabilities. To do that, we are hosting leaders from Iowa’s Vocational Rehabilitation System
who have built up a robust network of business partnerships and have had great success serving rural communities. We hope you will join us for this great learning opportunity.

All our webinars are FREE to enjoy and will feature accessible slides, captioning and downloadable materials.

If you have any questions or need more info, go to


🍁Structuring the Workplace for Long-Term Success with James Emmett
Date: Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 10:30 a.m. PT

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

For years, James Emmett has been at the forefront of promising practices and proven strategies for getting more and more people with disabilities jobs. Join us on Wednesday, October 9th for a special conversation where James will share key insights from his trailblazing work in the private sector. Learn from him about taking an integrated approach to recruitment, accommodations, and promotion to structure the workplace for the long term success of employees with disabilities.


🍁Disability Inclusion, Assimilation and Success – Lessons from JP Morgan Chase and Coca-Cola
Date: Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 10:30 a.m. PT

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

🍂Join us for a special conversation with some of the nation’s leading experts on disability, inclusion and success. Jim Sinocchi and Kevin Sylvester will speak about their efforts to launch a “new era of disability inclusion” at JP Morgan Chase, by “hiring professionals with disabilities into the robust culture of the firm.” They will share key lessons they have learned about how to identify, training and promote professional with disabilities.


🌻Likewise, Vincenzo Piscopo will talk about the key work that Coca-Cola has done to bring greater diversity to their team, their culture and their brand. From the new Unlabeled ad campaign to his personal experiences as a leader in the firm, Vincenzo will offer insights from a globe-trotting careers as a successful inclusion leader.

🌄Iowa Voc Rehab’s Stories of Successful Business Engagement and Disability Hiring

An intensive workshop where Fellows will gain the tools needed to revise and refine their pilots and navigate a changing industry landscape

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Time: 1:30 p.m. ET / 12:30 p.m. CT / 11:30 a.m. MT / 10:30 a.m. PT

Duration: 1 hour 30 minutes

The great state of Iowa has been at the forefront of outreach work to educate business partners on the bottom-line benefits of hiring more and more people with disabilities.

We invite you to join us for this webinar to learn how Iowa’s Vocational Rehabilitation system has built up a robust network of business partnerships with Kwik-Trip and other diverse firms. We are also excited for our guests to speak about the unique challenges of meeting the workforce training needs of youth with disabilities in rural Iowa.


Brilliant! GREAT IDEA, Team Beto!

Go, Beto, go!!!

From Beto for America:

Credit cards have enabled many of America’s mass shootings in the last decade:

For example, the man who shot up a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, got away with buying $11,000 in assault rifles, gas masks, grenades, and ammo. He just charged it to his credit card.

However inadvertent or deliberate, credit card companies and banks profit off of those who terrorize our communities. And we know that in this moment, no one can sit on the sidelines. Everyone has a responsibility to do their part.

These companies are no exception.

That’s why today we’re calling on the financial industry to do their part to cut off the sales of these weapons of war. …

We’re calling on banks and credit card companies to:

Refuse to provide services for the sales of assault weapons.

Stop processing transactions for gun sales online or at gun shows without background checks.

Stop doing business with gun or ammo manufacturers who produce or sell assault weapons.

If this Congress and this president won’t act, the least the financial industry can do is stop profiting off of sales of these weapons.

If enough of us speak out, they’ll consider it!

The financial industry has played a part in government efforts to stop the illegal drug trade, trafficking, and other violent crimes. It’s time for them to step up now and stop the easy flow of assault weapons to terrorists.

If enough of us make our voices heard now, we stand a chance to make that happen.

– Beto


To contribute to Beto’s presidential campaign via check, please address it to Beto for America campaign, P.O. Box 3628, El Paso, TX 79923.



Wild animals must stay in the wild! Not tortured, exploited, slayed …

Yay, presidential contender Joe Biden! 💚💚💚💚


Did you know Democratic Presidential Candidate Julian Castro HAS AN ENTIRE ANIMAL RIGHTS PLATFORM? To HELP ALL ANIMALS💚: wildlife, dogs and cats, puppy mill dogs and more:


Did you know Democratic Presidential Candidate Cory Booker EATS NO MEAT or Animal Products – has been vegetarian for years?

Thank you, Cory and AOC!❤️❤️:


We miss you, George Jones! Today is your birthday:


Green Island Shopping Wagons … + more🍎

Green Island Shopping Wagons

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Ma off to the dry cleaners!

Cutline … above: Cecelia, Rose’s late mom, leaving for work, about to head down our backstairs to walk Lafayette … our old Philco TV in the background (we now have a color Zenith!), the casual resting spot for Ma’s laundry basket filled with damp just-washed clothes ready for our old clothesline, pictured, also.

Ma never owned a car but she did plenty of shopping – especially grocery – on Millbury and Water streets during their – and her💛 – heyday. Lots of Green Island women – single and married – did. Their vehicle of transport? The receptacle for all their goods and goodies? The trusty White’s Five and Ten “shopping wagon” – a steal at $10. Ten bucks for a foldable, relatively light weight, metal, portable shopping wagon. They must have had them in the shtetls of Eastern Europe because when I was a little girl growing up in Green Island I saw a bunch of them pulled by the married and single Polish and Lithuanian women of Green Island/Vernon Hill. For grocery shopping all along Millbury Street, maybe Water, too. Millbury was lined with scores of tiny mom and pop stores!

My mom’s White’s shopping wagon went clickety clack behind her as she walked down the cracked Millbury Street sidewalk in her beige, sensible work shoes – the Hush Puppies she had bought for herself at Lisbon’s Shoes – on Millbury Street.

My friend’s mother, who was married to a Pole who survived the Russian work camps after World War II (he did lose his hearing in one ear) was used to deprivation. She pulled her metal shopping wagon with a ram rod straight back, head held high, looking directly ahead, never turning her narrow face to catch some distraction, like a cool car or stray pup, never cracking a smile – even though she was a good, sweet person and an INCREDIBLE POLISH COOK – everything bought on Millbury Street, everything made from scratch, even her delicious egg noodles! She and her husband owned a few three decker’s in Green Island and Vernon Hill (where they lived with my school buddy, Barbara). Mrs. K made weekly walks to Millbury Street from her family’s Vernon Hill three decker apartment, her White’s Five and Ten shopping wagon behind her – pulled by her strong work hands, tightly held. Her husband had a truck but that was for his landlord business – he’d never think of giving his older wife a ride down or up the big hill for grocery shopping! Women’s work!

It was many years ago when Green Island/the Kelley Square area was a shopping mecca – for the local working class and poorer folks from the ‘hood but also for shoppers all over Worcester who came for the ethnic specialties at shops like the Bueller Brothers Market – sausages made from scratch – Polish sausage. Ma loved her kilbasa – boiled in water, sliced then placed between two pieces of pumpernickel, one piece of bread slathered with mustard. I loved my kilbasa sandwiches, too! Or the outsiders from the other Woo ‘hoods came to Widoffs or Lederman’s bakeries to buy a dozen or two of their freshly baked, pillowy, fragrant, warm bulkies … always given to us shoppers in brown paper bags. They’d be eaten up by the evening, so why plastic??? Hundreds of folks flooded these two bakeries after going to Mass or services on Sunday mornings – a Worcester tradition that was both homey and a little extravagant for us!

The ol’ Water Street: the side of the now gone Weintraub’s Deli

My old neighborhood was home to grocery stores, fish markets, bakeries, Bueller Brothers, diners and dairy bars with takeout, the iconic Charles Restaurant and Messier’s also with takeout, the unforgettable Widoffs and Lederman’s, and a billion barrooms with a few flop houses thrown in for good measure. All shoppers rubbed shoulders in Green Island /Water Street! No one was elite on shopping days in my old neighborhood, now the gentrified Canal District where the local poor are disrespected and shut out of the activities. Nope, back then Ma pulled her shopping wagon filled with groceries before Charles Restaurant where she’d wave to some of the politicians who were going in for a famous Charles seafood lunch – they’d say, Hi, Cel! She was their counter girl at the dry cleaners where they brought in their suits to be cleaned and pressed. She smiled at her beloved customers – like the good hen admiring her cute chicks.

There was a young guy on Lafayette Street, several houses away from our old three decker, who had his own shopping wagon. He was severely crippled, his skinny legs sticks that were permanently bent like number 7s, yet he could walk wicked fast, at an angle, and with gusto! He was in his 30s but had a paper route just like the kids in our neighborhoods. He couldn’t carry the newspaper satchel on his crooked shoulders. So he had his newspapers in his own personal White’s shopping wagon – from which he grabbed his newspapers and flung them onto our back porches.

The late Tony Hmura’s mom lived in my ‘hood, too – on Scott Street. She was older – the same age as my Bapy. She looked a lot like her, too. I’d see her maybe once or twice a year walking home with her White’s shopping wagon filled with brown paper bags stuffed with groceries. But mostly Tony, who owned Leader Signs, or his sister, did the grocery shopping for their mom – using their cars.

The always controversial Tony!

One older lady who worked in the envelope factory kept her White’s shopping wagon outside her back-door area. I could tell because she lived directly across from us – a tiny front yard separated the back porches of our two three deckers. Every Saturday night, as a little kid, I’d stand on our back porch and I could see Jenny sitting alone on her back-stairs, quiet, to herself (she didn’t even own a car!) nursing a beer. Jenny was in her late 4Os; she had lived alone her whole adult life … nursing a bottle of beer every Saturday night outside her apartment, on her wooden back stairs. Tight curly perm, no nonsense dusters from White’s … shopping every Saturday afternoon on Millbury Street. She was carless just like my mother, but Ma was happy: she lived with, was surrounded by, people and pets (the people: Bapy, Jaju, her three little girls, sometimes Daddy), plus the German Shepherd mix and Old English Sheep dog pup I talked her into adopting for me, AND later a tabby kitten, my pet hamster Joy and two newts which I kept in a big muddy aquarium in my bedroom. One escaped! and Ma found him emaciated by the toilet (his brother was so fat and healthy in the aquarium). Ma didn’t seem to mind all the work and grocery shopping … Everyone in our neighborhood knew Jenny, and she was always a quiet, polite neighbor. Years later, I see: a lonely woman, a life of “quiet desperation.” Alcoholism, too. I wish I could go back in time, give Jenny a big hug and invite her to our Lafayette Street three decker flat for one of my mothers’s raucous Sunday baked chicken dinners – with all the fixings! So delicious! If I only knew then what I understand now …

Finally, when we were older, teenagers, Ma gave her big shopping list and cash to my beautiful kid sister who dutifully took up the White’s shopping wagon and made the trek to Supreme’s, the fruit store, sometimes even Widoffs, every Thursday eve. The saint of our family, she shopped right after working in Boston! She grabbed Ma’s rickety old shopping wagon and still in her pretty secretary dress booked it down Lafayette Street waving to neighbors, smiling to all, saying Hello! I see her now, walking home, lugging a wagon full of food, looking a little tired … long day. I rush downstairs to help her carry up the bags of groceries. She is so pretty, yet her brown eyes seem so sad …

“She was gold,” my mother’s best gal pal once said to Ma.

Yes, she was …






still have my ears on:
🍂🍂🍂🍂 pics: R.T.

and this 💛:



Onion sandwiches

By Rosalie Tirella

This Labor Day, as I make myself a late lunch …
🍅🍅🍅🍅 pics: R.T.

I remember … onions.

I photograph onions!

I praise onions!

I eat onions!

I always have a bag in the house:

I eat one now!

Whole, raw – just like that!

Just like a good Polak!

… while my lunch cooks …

And I remember the story that “Ma,” my late mother, told me: how my Jaju from Poland (her father, my grandfather) got ready for work, real labor, at the textile mill in Douglas, where he was a dyer. He made two or three onion sandwiches for his work day, she said, and she gave me Jaju’s recipe. My Jaju, a poor immigrant who never learned to speak, read or write English, liked to cook, but he was a master carpenter! He built my mom a backyard glider-swing for her Lafayette Street backporch when I was just a baby! So I could be rocked to sleep!


He loved working with his hands!

He loved onions!

And mushrooms and blueberries, too! He picked both with my mother, when she was a little girl and he was young, in the wilds of Worcester! Together they rambled o’er Vernon Hill, my mother way ahead of my Jaju, and my Jaju worried about his favorite daughter whom he nicknamed his “Scravonik” – “Little Sparrow.” Ma had been sickly as a toddler and almost died – she was such a skinny little girl now! Every winter Jaju gave his oldest daughter Jane this assignment: Sew your little sister the best new winter coat … made of wool, with a thick lining. Thicker than last year’s!

I have Bapy and Jaju’s pedal sewing machine on which Ma’s coats were made by Aunt Jane. It’s in my bedroom:

Here is Jaju’s onion sandwich recipe, which he followed meticulously on Bigelow Street, in his and Bapy’s tenement in The Block. Before heading to the Douglas textile mill … (a guy from the neighborhood worked at the mill, too. He had a car, so he picked Jaju up every day, and they rode in together):

2 slices of Wonder Bread

1 whole onion

Miracle Whip Mayonnaise


Slice the onion into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place the rounds on one slice of your Wonder Bread.

Spread mayonnaise on your other slice of Wonder Bread and … Voila! A tasty, healthy veggie lunch!

My mother helped Jaju get ready for work: she took his little metal rolling machine, his can of tobacco, and little square tissue papers and rolled his cigarettes – unfiltered – for work. She did this in his bedroom, where Jaju liked to smoke!! after work – and play his harmonica.

Every day Jaju took the cigs my mother made for him and his onion sandwiches and left for Schuster Mills which my uncle, his son, called “Pa’s Hell,” after working a summer vacation there side by side with his dad – who never complained about the working conditions – or anything – but was SO PROUD WHEN HE JOINED THE UNION! I have, tucked away in a desk drawer, Jaju’s union booklets, cards … He saved EVERYTHING union!

Earlier in the morning, Bapy had made Jaju a big scrambled eggs breakfast, and she’d be cooking his from-scratch, homemade supper all afternoon. She was in love – wild about her husband – until the day he died, 50 years after their wedding day. A half-century of marriage.

Theirs was a true love story:
Bapy, 18, and Jaju on their wedding day. Other pic: The Bishop

Jaju’s onion sandwiches were just snacks! Before the Worcester Board of Health shut it down, Bapy and Jaju raised rabbits on their back-porch for stew. Jaju once made me a white rabbit’s foot keychain!

In the 1930s/40s when Ma worked in Springfield, along with her two older sisters, as a housekeeper/maid for the Bishop of Springfield she would make herself onion sandwiches when she was lonely – missed her family and their food. She was farmed out to work in Springfield by my grandparents when she was just 14, during the Great Depression, and stayed there for 10 years. Such good Catholic girls! So lucky to have food, room and board and a job/$$ when half the country was starving and unemployed!
“Ma,” left, and her sister Mary at the Bishop’s during their day off.

So now it’s my turn … My turn to remember my mother on Labor Day and how she, a single mom, worked 60 hours a week for minimum wage at the dry cleaners on Millbury Street to support her three girls … how she ate, like a man when she had worked up an appetite, onion sandwiches at our ugly painted green kitchen table in Green Island. She was pretty back then, but she was worn out: her back slightly hunched, her hands veiny and arthritic. When I was in high school I was ashamed of Ma and her onion sandwiches – they were so poor. I cringed at all the Polish peasant dishes Ma cooked for me and my two sisters on Lafayette Street: Cabbage. Pigs feet/knuckles. Beets. Potato pancakes. Hard boiled eggs. I ate them all, embarassed. But now they are the suns and stars of my culinary universe! The beautiful latke! The perfect onion! The crimson beets on their cracked plate – a beautiful painting! The scrap beef floating in broth … and the potato pierogi brought down special for Bapy – who LOVED PIEROGI – by Aunt Jane, after she had made a few batches at her house.

So I chop up a small onion and throw it into the tomato and rice dish I’m making on the stove. I look at the onion’s layers and peel them off each other slowly this Labor Day. I do not cry …

The River …