Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

Meet me at the DINER โ˜•๐Ÿ๐Ÿฉ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿณ

By Rosalie Tirella

Did you know the film DINER makes my ALL-TIME TOP 15 MOVIE LIST? Today, as I rewatch it, it is number 8. Once it was #1 – even besting my all time #1 flick: THE AWFUL TRUTH staring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant!

Maybe this Barry Levinson masterpiece, a swan song to his Baltimore youth, is so near and dear to my heart because I see my Worcester-as-a-true-Gateway-City in it: my childhood friends, my parents, my friends’ parents …

… all that penny-pinching, the plain-spoken average Joe just wanting – because it’s what he can afford – the basics. All that Greek, Italian, Polish, Lithuanian industriousness … believing in the American Dream of house, backyard, car and college for your kids. Realizing that Dream in a few generations because you COULD back then. The factories were union shops … the small stores cried out for the thrifty, smart Italian or Russian proprietor. All that touchy, feely, sometimes saccharine, immigrant love! Church all the time. Praying to God – together as a family. The search for success in a new country while staying true to Old Country truths and traditions. Can we have both? we wondered. …

DINER’s grubby Baltimore warehouses were Worcester’s, the movie’s modest shoppes in a nondescript downtown matched our old Denholms, Marcus and American Supply … the religiosity of the people in DINER, the respect for elders, the many churches … and even more diners serving up roast beef sandwiches, French fries, bleh plain white bagels … and all that private talk with best friends. The pain and joy of assimilation. The ol’ Worcester.

I saw DINER for the first time decades ago (we are both that old!) in Worcester’s once bustling downtown – with our Mart, Sylvia’s Dress Shoppe and Marcus still open for business. I loved the Paris Cinema in its pre-porn days, before it became an XXX-movie theater. I still miss its wonderful vintage PARIS cinema sign which screamed HOLLYWOOD!!! and MOVIE STARS! I can still picture its thick, heavy, red velvet ropes, deep, red-plush chairs and its big gaudy chandeliers, lit from within, dripping those strands of big crazy rhinestone teardrops! But Showcase Cinemas was great too – in a more compact way, with its huge glass wrap-around concession area, right in the middle of the first floor – popcorn and Jujus before the escalator ride up to one of four screening rooms. Marble stairs to class it up. You always saw people from your school or church going up or down them making sharp clack clack clacks with their shoe heels. COMMUNITY.

Back to the film DINER: I saw it with two Burncoat Senior High School gal pals, falling for the film’s six handsome male leads … and its terrific storyline: a group of Baltimore townies, guys now in their early 20s, best buddies from high school, grow up – in fits and starts … going in separate directions, but wistful for old times … tentative. As they head into their adult lives, they are having second thoughts about a lot of stuff – from Eddy and his impending marriage, to Billy and his pregnant friend. Eddy is making his fiancee take this 100-question, esoteric, wicked hard!! football test – one wrong answer and their wedding is off! Billy, the Masters Degree candidate in business college got his TV news station producer friend pregnant during their weekend in New York City. They had been platonic, best friends for six years. Now home for Christmas vacation, Billy offers to marry his friend. tells her he loves her. She says, “You’re confusing friendship with a woman with love. It’s not the same thing.” Billy, sitting opposite her, looks flummoxed.

A few of the guys, like Shrevey and Boogie, will stay townies, not heading off to college, not straying too far from their childhood neighborhoods, but they are still living lives, still navigating affairs of the heart. Shrevey is a salesman at a furniture store in downtown Baltimore and married to the gorgeous, young Ellen Barken, whom he loves, knows is beautiful … but still … they don’t seem to connect … don’t have much to talk about these days. Ellen doesn’t understand or share his passion for music and records – touchstones for Shrevey. He lashes out at her when she doesn’t know where an lp goes – rock n roll or rhythm and blues. …

… And Boogie, a young, beautiful Mickey Rourke, before the boxing and Botox, is stunning and riveting as he sweet talks the ladies and tries to survive poverty and moving beyond his job at the hair dressers. He is desperate for money because he owes a loan-shark TWO GRAND. Tomorrow. He tells his mom he’s got $56 to his name.

… So he comes up with crazy, degrading schemes like taking bets on a box of his special “surprise” popcorn and a not very bright beauty.

A young Paul Reiser plays the young comedian of the gang, and a baby-faced Kevin Bacon plays the brilliant alcoholic trust-fund kid with a maniacal laugh that subs for crying.

To see the guys standing by the gray, dirty Baltimore harbor … to see them sitting at the diner, at the shiny chrome counter looking out those big windows at their world, from their cool clubhouse … is to see Worcester when she was grand and gaudy and gritty. To see Eddy’s mom complain to Billy: Why is Eddy still living at home?, then to watch her chase her son with a carving knife when he demands: MA, MAKE ME A SANDWICH!!! only to acquiesce and ask Billy: BILLY, DO YOU WANT A SANDWICH? IT’S NO TROUBLE! is to see shades of your Polish Mom or Greek Granny… You also see why Eddy is still a big kid!

My favorite shot in the film? After Billy and Eddy ham it up with a pretty, middle-aged stripper at a strip club, they take her out for coffee at a diner. Sitting at the long counter that faces the street, they look out the window and chat as they watch the world go by. Their banter is soft, sweet, respectful, silly … tinged with sadness and longing. They talk thru the late night. As dawn lights up their city, a horse clomps by – he’s pulling a wagon filled with junk and rags, the bells on his harness tinkle. The neighborhood rag man. They were a big part of city life not so long ago. My late mother used to tell me of the rag man and his horse – lowly travelers – coming through her Green Island, down Lafayette Street, up Millbury Street, up Water, calling for RAGS, JUNK. I once saw the rag man, when I was very young, a toddler. I saw his brown horse clomping down Lafayette Street pulling an old wagon. A beautiful horse!!! A coach like Cinderella’s! The rags were dirty and in a heap but I was entranced … by my city’s magic. Made in Americaโค.

Edith in Rose’s space! ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ๐Ÿ

Changing Policing

By Edith Morgan

Under the Green Street Bridge: WPD cops are often asked to deal with/help solve Worcester’s homeless challenge. pic: R.T.

AMERICAN POLICING: Changes are needed, certainly. But, before we do anything, we should be clear as to where the trouble really lies:

Some people are blaming unions, but that isn’t right. Union have power over a limited number of things, by law: hours, wages and conditions of work. Those things need protection, and individual workers need the protection of their coworkers, so they do not have to stand alone against the power of the bosses, the corporation and big money. That is only fair, and works very well in most European nations where labor and management actually sit down together as equals.

One problem I have not seen mentioned in the regular press is that in many places in the U.S. policemen are a kind of Brotherhood, a sort of fraternity โ€“ with all that this means in terms of loyalty to your fraternity brothers – no matter what. That explains why police officers mostly will not turn in their fellow officers – even when it is obvious they are guilty (we see the same phenomenon in college fraternities).

In addition, there are certain obvious events that we can all agree should be remedied NOW; there is much agreement that chokeholds should be banned by police depts โ€“ and cops should be punished if they are used.

In addition, I have always been amazed that the public tolerates and excuses (at least, until the โ€œBlack Lives Matterโ€ movement) the execution of Black victims: I call it execution because I can not imagine that police officers, trained to shoot, need to put 7 to 12 bullets into unarmed subjects! One shot should be all that is allowed โ€“ and should certainly be enough to disable a truly threatening person.

Of course, there is the question as to why a fully armed poluice officer is threatened by an unarmed person, or child.

We need to get answers to these questions.

And, above all, we need to redefine the function of our police forces.


A New Kind of October

By Edith Morgan

Edith and family …

October usually brings to mind Indian summer days, a warm and comforting spell before winter comes to New England. We think of Oktoberfest, falling leaves, the final harvest, drives into the country to see all the brightly colored trees and bushes. We get out our warm clothes, prepare for Halloween and bring in our bulbs and indoor plants, and thoroughly enjoy the last sigh of warm weather …

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But October of 2020 promises to be very different! This year, we face the continuation of precautions against the COVID 19 menace and the expectation that we will be masked and distanced for some time to come.

Our children will be subject to various kinds of schooling, in very different settings, with the gaps between those who can afford$$$$ all the technology and those who can not, widening ever more. And in addition to the threat of the virus, the yearly flu will spread around among us – at least among those who did not get vaccinated against this yearโ€™s type.

And, of course, our country will be limping along to the November 3rd Election, when the final bunch of votes will be cast in this very important national election.

By now every registered voter in our state hs received the absentee ballot application, and hopefully most have returned it so they can receive their ballot. And early in the month, as soon as possible, all of us will have returned the ballot well before November 3rd, so we can be sure; it will arrive in time to be counted. So much hangs on this election that for the first time in many years, I am truly apprehensive …

This October also will see a continuation of the protests against racial injustice and police brutality – and hopefully the beginning of some much needed changes or, rather, improvements, not mere changes, in the ways we govern ourselves.

As I write this, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has just died, and already the scramble to decide what to do to fill her spot is raging day in and day out. …


All the ugliness of the struggle for power and money is already showing itself. This is not the America I came to in 1941 when we had a President, FDR, who, though born rich and powerful, nevertheless had a real feel for and caring for us, the people. (Actually, I have always credited the wonderful first lady, Eleanor, known all over the world to this day for her great and effective advocacy for human rights.)

How have we descended to this state, where now we are the laughing stock of most other nations, are ruled by someone who promised to get rich off the presidency, where every major arm of the executive branch has been decimated, and is being headed by political hacks incompetent but loyal to the person of the president (or else), not to the constitution or the people who are paying their salaries?

The answer hangs in the air , depending on the November 3rd election. I pray that all voters realize thatโ€ฆ


“The Searchers” forever!๐Ÿ“ฝ

By Rosalie Tirella

I’m watching – for the 10th time!! – one of my favorite movies, THE SEARCHERS. The John Ford masterpiece starring John Wayne, Ward Bond and Vera Miles and the breathtaking Monument Valley, a bigger “character” in the movie than even the human actors, except for John Wayne. The movie still stands. Tall, graceful, haunting 70 years after it was made. Nothing soft or sentimental about this movie. It is true … and, for me, depicts both sides of the Indian/White Man rift with brutal truth. Yes, one side had to annihilate the other!! – this country was so gorgeous!! – worth fighting to the death for! The two cultures were incompatible; it would have been impossible to co-exist. Rape, murder, devastation of homesteads, even the brutal taking of scalps (initiated by the Whites) took place on both sides.

Wayne is racist in the movie, but director Ford isn’t, so his vision, his story, isn’t. The forced march of the Comanches, the American barracks the women and girls are held in, the slaughtering of all the women and children in an Indian camp by American soldiers, the murder of Luk, even the old scrawny Indian extras of the movie – real Navahos from a nearby reservation – break your heart.

Back to the story: Wayne’s niece is kidnapped by Skar and his band of Comanches during one of Skar’s murder raids. Skar is the John Wayne of Indian country – big and tall and strapping, the wise and brutal king – he must be killed. Skar and his band of marauders torch the homestead and kills the family of Wayne’s character, Ethan: All murdered: Ethan’s brother, Aron; the nephew; sister-in-law Martha and another niece. The women are raped before they are killed. Seven-year-old Debbie is spared – she is kidnapped by the Comanches. To see Wayne making his way through the charred rubble, to watch him pick up the blood-soaked blue dress of his true love, Martha, to know what he understands … He calls MARTHA!!! at this ground zero – not the name of his brother. But MARTHA!!!, his brother’s wife. This is the person who is HOME for Wayne in The Searchers:

I don’t care what anyone says, Wayne was a great actor!!! His visage grows darker and heavier with each loss in the movie. To see that close-up of him as he leaves the barracks where white Indian teenaged girls, all kidnapped when they were little, are housed in, is to see a beautiful portrait … of hatred. Wayne becomes mad – eaten up – by his vindictiveness. He WILL FIND DEBBIE, he tells fellow searcher Marty! EVEN IF IT MEANS SEARCHING FOR HER FOR YEARS! But when he finally tracks Debbie down, after five years of searching, he learns she has assimilated…lives with the Comanches as family, is the wife of an Indian, will have his children, Ethan turns on her, hates her. She must die. He intends to put a bullet in her brain. She is no longer his people, his family – but belongs to the other tribe.

As I watch this movie in my early old age, it feels Shakespearean. Epic like Homer. Or Steinbeck. I love when Wayne speaks … never coming down hard on a line, like his sidekick Marty does to show “emotion” (it’s like the young actor has turned it up to 11 for the entire movie!). Nope. Not the Duke – he’s marinated in nuance. His creased and heavy face tells his story, reflects his pain, his hurt, his loneliness, his aloneness. Ford shoots him so lovingly. And when he does cry out, it’s feels Olympian.

I won’t give away the film’s ending, in case you’ve never seen it, but to hear John Wayne, middle-aged, heavy shoulders, deep-voiced tell Marty he will find Debbie, that it is their inexorable fate, like “the turning of the earth” … WOW. Or to hear Wayne talk of the Indian after-life, as if he almost believed in it himself … after shooting out the eyes of the Indian buried in the red dust so the Indian’s a lost, restless wanderer in the afterlife, for eternity. As bereft and homeless as Ethan is in this amazingly beautiful country! The way Wayne uses his hands and arms in the movie, with graceful flourishes, to mimic the wind, winding paths, forks in the road, geese in the night sky is to watch and listen to a poet tell his story. You are captivated by his adventure!

The movie is BEAUTIFUL to look at. The final shot of the film is beautiful and heartbreaking. What does it mean? No happy ending for Ethan! He’s got no home, even after his gallant act, with the Jorghunsans. They are white and friends – but they don’t welcome him into the fold the way they do the young Marty. He doesn’t fit in. He can’t fit in! The Indians fear and respect Ethan but reject him, too. The heavy wooden front door closes shut on him, and he walks into the sun absolutely alone, with that signature John Wayne walk. He’s outside, with the other untamable things. A force of nature in his own right. What cabin, bunkhouse, tee pee could ever hold Ethan?


New column from Edith๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒบ – in Rose’s spaceโ˜•

Rosh Hashanah 5781

By Edith Morgan


The Jewish New Year is coming up – this year will be 5781, probably the oldest continuing celebration of the beginning of another year. (the next oldest seems to be the Chinese, which is well over 4,000 years old, and the Cambodian, which is over 2,500 and the Christian calendar which is 2,020 years old. The newest should be the Mohammedan, which is about 1500 years old.)

Rosh Hashanah, celebrated every year on the first day of Tishri, the seventh month in the Jewish calendar, is the first of the 10-day period culminating in the day of atonement – Yom Kippur.
Most non-Jews are probably acquainted with the two most traditional aspects of this holiday period: the blowing of the โ€œShofar,โ€ the hollowed-out ramโ€™s horn which is specially treated to be hollow, and curved, so that it emits a haunting sound during this period; and the apple sliced across, with honey on the slice, symbolizing the wish for a full, round and sweet year for all.

Edith honors all LIFE …

This period is dedicated to days of self-examination, reminding ourselves in what ways we have failed ourselves, others, our God – leading then to regretting and remorse, and finally to attempts at restitution where possible.

Then, ultimately, on the day of atonement (Yom Kippur), when we are enjoined to fast and abstain from all pleasurable activities and begin truly the New Year with renewed purpose to do better and improve in all areas.

For me, this period always is an opportunity to stop and reflect on what I regret having done or left undone, and to determine that I can and will do better in the coming year.

We all need a time like this, when we drop everything and โ€œtake stockโ€ quietly and โ€œoff the clockโ€ – taking a good look in the mirror and seeing if we are really happy with what we see. So much of the time we are plunging headlong into activities, habits and demands that we lose perspective and just blindly run on. Taking a whole day off to stop and think without the distractions of daily life would do us all good. I know it helps me to re-focus and repurpose my life!

So, to all my Jewish friends: I wish for you a full, round, sweet year in 5781. And, if you are not Jewish, enjoy a slice of apple and some honey, as those things are so good for all … and some introspection, repentance and self- improvement is good for us all …



By Rosalie Tirella

Rosalie, left, and her kid sister, years ago.

Driving down Green Street into the new “Peanut Square” makes me feel old. Old because all the upstart trendy shops on my once working class childhood street/magical touchstone – the new all-bacon restaurant, the bo bo tapioca drinks, the glorified high-calorie pub food, the black bralettes, the shabby-chic reclaimed/refinished furniture – are meant to attract the young. I would have loved this new Green Street if I were “newer” – say 25 years old, or maybe even rounding 30 … Ahh! The perfect blouse! Now I know that guy in philosophy class will notice me! … Hey, what’s the customer next to me buying? She’s prettier than me! Sigh. … Cool end table at this shop! Perfect for my new one-bedroom by the highway!

I will be 59 years old next month. I call it 60. May as well. I usually go a step further and label myself an “old broad.” The chuckles rounded with … sadness, wistful feelings.

When you are old like me, cool end tables don’t excite you the way they did when you were 25 and an apartment virgin. You have lived in a bunch of apartments! In third-rate cities with your – or so you thought – first-rate dreams! The funky sofas and vintage lamps you have scored through the years blend into each other these days. A waste of time, all that ridiculous shopping. But necessary at the time! I was 27 and in love with blues, all hues. These days the chairs and plant stands and water gobblets are an afterthought as you begin to ponder … death. YOUR death!! A very real, tangible kind of possibility. Now an impossibility. You are 60 now and can imagine it death “happening” to you. Say in 10 or 20 years. The blink of an eye! It will, like birth, be painful. It will, like birth, be a solitary exercise. Vintage end tables seem pointless compared to the Grim Reaper. I fear the reaper!!

You dream of your estranged sister, both of you kids in your childhood home in your dream, in the old ugly living room on Lafayette Street watching The Honeymooners on Bapy’s black and white Philco TV. The conversation you had with your estranged sister in your dream two weeks ago feels more real than the chit chat you had today with your pal down the street! …

Lucky times, missed opportunities. You see the big picture and realize: It was all a crap shoot!! You controlled so little of it all! Your birth. Your birthplace – and time. Your family. Even your marriage. Your remarriage. Your move to this city or a hightail to that town…and then life just sorta unfurled. Sometimes slowly, sometimes fast enough to give you whiplash. Sometimes with such heart-wrenching beauty or cruelty. You marvel at all the goodness in the world and you’re horrified by all the ignorance. You realize the men who loved you in your diaphanous blouses can leave you, no matter how seductive you look in that billowy blouse. For new girls in new blouses. Maybe made of linen – or (horror of horrors) even polyester! And he sticks with polyester girl – and you say: POLYESTER!??? … You realize blouses have nothing to do with love! Having similar ethnicities, churches, work ethics, childhoods and values are better predictors of “love” and successful relationships. Two neuroses “clicking.” That’s what love means to me at 60. I don’t take it too personally these days.

At 60, you look at all the gourmet donuts, fancy sugar-laden cupcakes (again gourmet), artisan pizza pies in all the Green Street shop windows and your arteries ache.

At 60, you have seen a lot, and you begin to make up your mind about people in about 20 minutes. This is bad. But you’ve been around and think you sense the patterns – like the old f*rt (a stereotype!) you’ve become! You see and ignore: the shallow bland blond rich white girl with nothing to say; the arrogant blobby millennial guy who works in IT and thinks he’s attractive but is a fat slob to you and most Boomers who were slim, at times anorexic, when we were young. Then there’s the white trash young woman and her six kids … the junky homeless guy … the pointless WASP money guy, so oblivious to the working class.

They all have their stories but you cannot hear them. A disgrace! You are alarmed at your closed mind, but you are trying to make sense of your little existence! You realize you were just a drop in the universal water bucket but you were eternity, too. Just like all the other people-drops …


Edith in Rose’s space! New column!๐ŸŒธ๐ŸŒฟ๐ŸŒบ๐Ÿ–‹

Fall is Coming!

By Edith Morgan

Edith and familyโค

September has crept up on us โ€“ days are shortening and the autumnal equinox looms ahead. Mother nature moves ahead inexorably, …


… regardless of us. We can choose to go along and cooperate with nature or try to overcome and overpower her, as we so often have done, to our chagrin.
Our gardens have slowed down, the grass is growing more slowly, even the weeds have not come back as plentifully as earlier. And things are ripening.

Edith’s urban garden๐Ÿ’š

Pie crust ready for all those autumn apples!

Apple picking time is near, and with it the wonderful treats that apples make possible: apple pie has made it as a symbol of America (โ€œAs American as apple pie!!โ€) and every year we learn about more great uses for the many kinds that are on our grocery shelves. I love Macs, Galas and all the varieties in their many colors and flavors. I eat at least one fresh apple daily. Did you too grow up believing that โ€œan apple a day keeps the doctor awayโ€?

And did you begin your eating of solids with apple sauce? And did you wrap cored apples in pie crust, add cinnamon and honey and bake them? I could go on forever with the many uses of apples and their health benefits. So, get out and pick apples – and enjoy!

vegan apple pie!

Apples keep a long time and are very โ€portableโ€! I often carry one along for a quick snack …

September also brought us VOTING – the primary. Now the final slog to November 3 and the presidential election. At last an end to the incessant campaign ads and mud-slinging – when I hope we will get down to work and pick up the pieces and rebuild our nation.

September also brings us the beginning of flu season โ€“ this year on top of the CORONAVIRUS! So there is no respite from the hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing that we are practicing. The ordinary rituals of school opening are now โ€œvirtualโ€œ to a large extent … technology is more and more invading the education process, and new methods for imparting knowledge and information and skills are being tried โ€“ with mixed success.

And despite all the turmoil, I still look forward to the yearly beauties of fall in New England: the great final blush of autumn leaf and flower everywhere, before the winter …

The country as a whole seems to be veering off the cliff of extremism and seeking a middle course away from the cliff to greater cooperation and understanding and less labeling, lying, violence and name calling.

I will be celebrating the New Year in the Jewish calendar, which this year comes close to the beginning fall here. And I am hopeful for a healthy, sane, safe, year, trying to remember the path prescribed by the prophet Micah (and I paraphrase freely!!): โ€œWhat does the Lord require of thee but to practice justice, love mercy, and walk HUMBLY with your Godโ€

Movie Time!

By Rosalie Tirella

Funny. I’m watching Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in YOU’VE GOT MAIL. On my TV. This Nora Ephron rom-com from the 1990s (I love her Meg Ryan movies๐Ÿ’š) is based on the Jimmy Stewart classic movie of the early 1940s, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER: guy meets girl through writing of letters/emails, falls in love … but no! The love of his life, the object of his bookish desire, can’t be the horrid woman he works with/against. She hates him, too! In fact, they go around crowing to each other about their secret pen-pals and how the Hanks/Stewart can’t hold a candle to their true love’s wit, erudition, compassion … It’s all in their letters/emails …

Finally, secret pen pals plan on meeting in person – in a coffee house. The gal will be at a cafe table reading a book – and displaying a rose, laid across the cafe table.

But the guy now knows the gal is from his work world, knows her identity, so in a love jest, he meets up with her, teasing her about her lover pen pal – making her furious but ultimately getting her to fall in love with him. Jimmy Stewart and the Jimmy Stewart of our day, Tom Hanks, are funny and charming in these scenes … and winsome, handsome.



Of course, our gals fall in love – want their secret writer/lover to be Hanks/Stewart!!! I will not give away the endings of both movies … But just now I cried, burst into tears while watching YOU’VE GOT MAIL. Not at the happy ending – but at Meg Ryan arguing with her current boyfriend in A CROWDED MOVIE THEATER! I cried at the old America, at HUNDREDS OF FILM LOVERS SITTING NEXT TO EACH OTHER, SHOULDER TO SHOULDER, enjoying – together!! – a movie! This is what made me cry! Our past life – before COVID 19, before facial masks and six feet apart and elbow bumps when greeting old friends. I cried like a baby over this scene, pre-global pandemic, arguably one of the most pedestrian scenes in the movie!

I miss all the casual closeness, the casual but deep intimacy, society’s grubby humanness … sharing germs – and laughs and tears – at a filled-to-capacity movie house.

The DVDs and Video cassettes will do for now …


… but when things get better, when the vaccine comes out and I have been vaccinated and our COVID flick fades to black, I am driving to Northampton, to a real movie theater, a beautiful one – not a ghastly humungous mall cineplex in Worcester – and I am gonna buy a bucket of popcorn, a box of Jujus and sit smack dab in the middle of HUMANITY AND WATCH A MOVIE WITH A FULL HOUSE of my fellow humans. Laugh with them, snicker with them, gasp and tear up, too. While watching the movie. Together, with them!


It will all come back … eventually. This is just the middle of the movie we are all in now. There may be a Tom Hanks pandemic epic classic on the horizon!

Farewell, St. Mary’s School!

By Rosalie Tirella

So, it’s the end of St. Mary’s, the little red brick Polish elementary school on Richland Street, near the now Peanut-shaped Kelley Square! …

Kelley Square: now a shadow of her former glorious self!

Its tough as nails pastor from Poland made the announcement to parents and students in the middle of the pandemic. The final blow for a school struggling to pay teachers, bills, administrators … The same fate befell St. Stephen’s parish school later this summer.

Rose’s Polish immigrant grandparents used St. Mary’s schools and church as a life resource, support system and spiritual anchor for decades.

How my old Green Island Polish neighborhood has changed! Now it is Yes! to the Red Sox AAA team, $10 slices of artisan toast and trendy boohoo tea. And it’s No! to the genuine immigrant experience, Catholicism’s wonderful, oppressive teachings … the St. Mary’s elementary school filled with cute, round-faced Polish kids, the big concrete cross jutting over the school’s no-nonsense double front doors, St. Mary’s once cracker-jack boys high school varsity baseball and basketball teams, Monday evening St. Mary’s catechism classes for public school kids like me, with strict parents like my Mom.

Along with its attached junior and senior high schools – the teeny elementary school built almost a century ago – Worcester will no longer have a good little Catholic school to anchor and calm down what’s pretty much become an inner-city drug neighborhood. As the WPD Swat Team busts down the doors of Ward Street and Perry Ave apartments looking for baggies of heroin and AK 47’s, St. Mary’s school and small junior and senior high school buildings – add-ons from the early 1960s when the kids of Polish immigrants had grown up and assimilated into Worcester life and THEIR kids could aspire to college or high-end office work in Worcester’s many banks and insurance companies – will bid Worcester a quiet adieu. The neat brick buildings, with shiny hardwood floors and high old school ceilings (some decorative), will probably be snapped up by some Boston developer to be converted into chi chi Canal District condominiums. And so goes gentrification …

I believe my old neighborhood’s transformation is a reflection of Donald Trump’s America: It’s all about money and spending it on STUFF to impress yourself and others. It’s all about STUFF. Acquiring the best STUFF – and selling the rest of your STUFF to make MONEY. And now the trendy boo boo tea has arrived and, as always, the millennial pubs/barrooms with their expensive, glorified pub food, beckon. Places to see and be seen.

To heck with the Virgin Mary, God the Father, short, sadistic St. Mary’s junior high nuns (my two kid sisters, St. Mary’s students grades 5 through 12, knew a few). Goodbye to St. Mary’s high school’s pretty good cheer leader squad, May Day Virgin Mary processions to our Lady of Czechtohowa church down the hill on Ward Street. The holy parade began at the St. Mary’s schools on Richland, students from grades 1 to 12 lined up in pairs. It was led by the prettiest high school senior girl – usually blond haired, lithe and fresh as the delicate crown of flowers she wore! My late mother, a student at St. Mary’s until grade 8, when she had to go to work as a housekeeper for the Bishop of Springfield, remembered the holy songs they sang in Polish during the walk down the hill. She sang them to me: awful. Lugubrious. Like many Polish church hymns. Plus, my mother couldn’t carry a note. Like I said: God awful!! The female students, grades 1 to 12, dressed in their grey, red plaid modest school uniforms, skirts below the knees, and all the boys, even the adorable but sloppy six year olds, in navy blue slacks, white shirts and red ties … all following this vision of perfectly virginal young womanhood. A paen to purity!!! A symbol of love of God!!

St. Mary’s schools were filled with statues of the Infant of Prague (like this one – Rose’s) and the saints – in all classrooms and hallways.

The schools’s teachers – all nuns in my mom and sisters’s school days – the classes were not as advanced as the best Worcester Public Schools classes, my educational petri dish, grades K through 12!! … but the St. Mary’s kids were all good kids – weren’t tough like the WPS kids I swam with – and the classes were solid, a good foundation for Worcester State College. The St. Mary’s classes, in the beginning, were bilingual, taught in English and Polish … the Three R’s were taught in clean, perfectly hushed classrooms. Memorization was a must, perfect penmanship expected, lots of reading about the saints – and America! You were taught to revere American history and to read lots of American poetry, my mom once said. The nuns honored Jesus – and Longfellow and Whitman. Ma once showed me her 8th grade English black and white comp book – yes, she saved it. In it, in her crisp penmanship, English sentences were diagrammed, verbs conjugated and “CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN!” was written out in her American Poetry section. All the students in Ma’s class had to copy the poem carefully into their comp books, as Sister Justine wrote the stanzas on the blackboard for them. Then they had to go home, memorize the poem, and the next day, stand up by their desks and recite the it in front of the entire class. For a grade. Best reciter got a special First Place rosary from Sister Justine!

Rose’s mom, left, and auntie were St. Mary’s school students until grade 8. Then they went to work as housekeepers, during the Great Depression, to help support the family.

The funnest part of the St. Mary’s experience – for me, my kid sisters and half the St. M’s school population? The walk down Richland and Endicott streets after school was let out to Pete’s Dairy Bar, at the corner of Endicott and Millbury streets. A kind of Green Island Happy Day’s hangout bar, with rock n roll music playing on the juke box, kids slamming the sides of the big pinball machines by the windows – for a quarter, hot fudge sundaes and hamburgers, French fries and Cokes brought to your booth – or you could eat your burger at the counter and banter with the miiddle-aged owner-soda jerk. After school, for more than an hour, as kids waited for their parents to pick them up or buses or just to hang out with their friends, Pete’s Dairy Bar, on a great school day, was swarming with kids – 50 or 60 kids in uniforms, neckties loosened, the first few blouse buttons unbuttoned. St. M’s kids, all laughing, joking, a little rowdy, letting off steam – and sipping their root beer floats or Cokes. I was one of those kids, after a day at Providence Street Junior High, meeting up with my St. Mary’s kid sisters … and seeing their friends, kids with names like Barbara, Mary, Joannie, Joseph, Francis, Paul. … All good kids who graced Pete’s …

Worcester’s small parish schools did gangbusters in the early 20th century when fresh off the boat Polish immigrants like my Bapy and Jaju – who couldn’t speak a word of English – pretty much ran to their neighborhood’s ethnic Catholic churches and parish schools for HELP. They needed clothes, food, jobs, schooling for their kids – as well as a sacred place to pray to their God in their native tongues. As the decades wore on, the schools mission modernized but not by much. You still prayed before and during school. You made your first holy communion with your classmates, you studied hard and were respectful to your teachers. Worcester had a bunch of these church-parish school duos, all over the city: St. Stephen’s on the East Side for the Italians, St. Casmir’s in Vernon Hil for the Lithuanians, St. Peter’s in Main South for the Irish. A terrific immigrant support system and America rah rah!! machine!! You learned: SPEAK ENGLISH! WORK HARD! HONOR YOUR ELDERS! GOD IS GREAT! AMERICA IS GREAT! BE A SUCCESS IN AMERICA! STRIVE! ALWAYS STRIVE!

Now, all a memory.

Now, you brush the hair from your pandemic forehead and behold: all the homeless young people congregating and sleeping under the Green Street bridge, the sweet 15-year-old Ward Street kid meeting his man … he is so beautifully pale, ethereal. He is so sweet to your two dogs while sitting on the curbstone waiting for his man. You go home – and cry for him. The pretty Madonnas in bathtubs in front yards all along Ward Street, Perry Ave, Sterling Street – all gone. Most of the three deckers there don’t even have curtains on their windows …

Homeless youth under the Green Street bridge.

Green Island Gold

By Rosalie Tirella

Rose’s kid sister “Mary,” to the left of the pony, in the big play area of the Girls Club – or Winthrop House – on Vernon Hill with chubby sis Rose, far right, and twin sis standing next to Rose.

My sister, who lives outside Boston, has Parkinson’s Disease. I got the news about three weeks ago. Still “processing” it but have given up trying to figure out how I can SAVE her, how, as my wont, I can jump in and RESCUE “Mary,” make this awful sickness go away, like I tried to do for my late mom when she got sick. My kid sister, like all of us in the family, came up tough, so she is pretty stoic – her stoicism wrapped in HOPE and her love of God. So, like our late mother would do, probably like I would do, too, she is keepin’ keepin’ on: going to work, 9 – 5, Monday – Friday, except that now a special needs van picks her up and takes her to her job in the human services, which she LOVES, and brings her home at the end of her work day … going to church on Sunday, cleaning her apartment, being a part of her parish’s prayer group …

My sister, like our late mom, always loved to work. She got her first job at 14 1/2 (her new social security card and work card in her new Whites Five and Ten vinyl wallet) on Millbury Street working as a clerk at Commercial Fruit Store, working for one of her favorite bosses – “Macho,” a Greek(?) immigrant who was funny, loving/gruff and opinionated, spouting critiques of his customers and family who worked by his side and falling over little patches of ice in the big Commercial walk-in freezer. His goofy insults were delivered in jumbled, half-English “Machoisms” that my sister loved to share with us all, after she walked home from work, still wearing her mint green sales girl smock (proudly, I think). “Phillip, where you know … ” my sister would yell in a thick trippy accent or, because Macho was short, squat and had the butt of a picnic table, big and squarish, my kid sister would have fun backing into our kitchen the way Macho would back out of his Commericial Fruit freezer, butt first and swishing back and forth, his own bustling bustle, if you can imagine it. We all laughed at her Macho impressions! She was skinny but everyone could see Macho in her!!

Macho treated my sister like family and, even during her college years, Mary worked for him and his family with LOVE, reveling in the Christmas holiday spirit at the shop where, under soft yellow flourescent lights and surrounded by all matter of fruit beautifully displayed on sky-blue-painted staircase shelves that circled the entire little store she made holiday fruit gift basketd. Amid all the laughs, orders and the silly Machoisms flying in the middle of that Millbury Street staple (located next door to Lisbon’s Shoe Store), Mary made gigantic fruit baskets. Easy! She would take a ton of delicious Commercial fruit, a can of mixed nuts, a package of sweet, sticky, pitted dates and artfully place then arrange them in a big basket with big arched handle. Then she’d wrap it all in clear or colored cellophane wrap and shiny Christmas ribbon – then top it off with a big red or green bow secured to the top of the handle. Saw her work her magic a few times. Sometimes after school at Burncoat High, I’d visit. Mary was always industrious and smiling. She was the pretty one, with high forehead and straight teeth and pretty smile. She loved to walk downtown on a Saturday snd buy herself a pretty dress at Filenes Basement – and often a little gift for Ma and me.

Of course, my sister gave all her pay check to our mother, a single working mom struggling to keep our poor little gang together with her own minimum wage job at the drycleaners down the street. Our peripatetic Daddy was “with” us during our junior and high school years, but he left our Lafayette Street flat each morning, after Ma made and served him his breakfast, with his own agenda and itinerary. A job to help support wife, three kids and old granny definitely not on his list. So Mary, at 14 1/2 years old, was the Daddy.

Mary was so generous. She would, as they used to say, “give you the shirt off her back.” Ma raised her to be selfless, but it also came naturally to Mary, I think. She just loved to give. She was the kind daughter. Our downstairs neighbor was told our mother, with emotion in her voice: “She’s gold.”

Mary learned, through her early experience on Lafayette Street, that giving is its own reward, kinda like the way I felt when I gave out around 100 new donated hats and scarves to Worcester’s homeless folks this past winter. When I first got my first batch of donations from gal pal Dorrie, I winced and felt: This is going to be uncomfortable. BUT IT WASN’T! IT FELT GREAT!! TO GIVE SOMETHING TO SOMEONE WHO REALLY NEEDED IT, TO FEEL THEIR THANKFULNESS, to have them come up to you and say, BLESS YOU! THANK YOU, ‘MAM! THANK YOU FOR BEING SO NICE!

It was only a hat!

I got hooked on the love! I asked my friends for more donations, even got a beautiful long fake sheepskin winter coat, like new, AND GAVE IT TO A SLIP OF A WOMAN SITTING UNDER the Green Street Bridge. I would drive by in the dead of winter and see her in jacket coughing her head off … FOR HER, A WARM COAT …

Mary would do this years before it all became trendy. When I was in college, she would go to Charlies Surplus sports store on Water Street and buy and send me a half dozen pair of white basketball tube socks. I didn’t play basketball and they went up to my knees, but I loved them. Charlie’s!! When I successfully completed my first year at college, she sent me a dozen roses from her and Ma. She would give our loser father money, if her asked for it! Right after college, holding her first professional job, Daddy put the pinch to her – and Mary gave our loser father $800! A lot of dough back then! I went nuts! He is so awful! I said to her. GET IT BACK! She just looked at me and shrugged her shoulders …

So my other sister calls me last week with a similar gripe: “Mary is giving money to people she meets on the T! And on the streets! I told her: ‘You need the money!’ ”

I could hear the panic in my sister’s voice, but I was PROUD of Mary. And moved. Our Mary – as radical as ever! I could never be that GREAT. It was like standing next to my kid sis on Lafayette Street, by the old Philco, laughing about Macho, marveling at her sweet pretty smile. I said to my other sis: “It’s her money. Let her spend it the way she likes. This makes her happy. The people are grateful, they love her.”

Then I hung up my phone and said out loud to no one in particular: “Gold.”

Amherst: Rose, left, with kid sister “Mary” who came to visit Rose on Rose’s graduation day from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst.


“IT’S A RIOT, Alice!! IT’S A RIOT!!!”

By Rosalie Tirella

Too hot out to do anything (90 degrees here in the city) except hang out in my shack and lounge with the dogs …

Lilac lounging on Rose’s bed as Rose writes this blog post. pics: Rose T.

… and kitty Cece … three rotating electric fans on, HONEYMOONERS videos playing, making me smile, chuckle …. LOVE my Honeymooners. The TV show is 70 years old, in black and white, primitive set, picture grainy … you can see the beads of sweat trickle down Jackie Gleason’s heavy bulldog face as he acts his heart out under those bright, hot spotlights. He was inventing this new medium, Television, along with Lucy and Desi and Uncle Milty. … Gleason was also doing therapy on himself, bringing back to life HIS impoverished childhood in NYC … his struggling family, the early family deaths … he was channeling his Irish American father who was poor and died early leaving the young Jackie to support the family. My late mother loved Gleason. Now I understand why. Now I do, too.

I have my fave Honey Mooners episode on now:



The beautiful SONGWRITERS.

An atypical Honeymooners episode. The shows usually revolved around more homespun themes: Ralph forgets his wedding anniversary, Ralph wants to get the $50 that is in his old coat pocket, the old coat Alice just donated to the Salvation Army … Ralph and Norton buy a neighborhood candy store … The two couples, city slickers, go camping … Ralph and Norton have a fight and stop speaking to each other … Ralph and Alice almost, almost, adopt a baby girl abandoned on Ralph’s bus.


This show, for me, the best Honeymooners show, hands down, transcends all that. A Lost Epidode, but one that lets me find myself and America over and over again!

In it, Ralph and Norton buy a piano and they decide they are the next Rodgers and Hammerstein. Songwriters! From Brooklyn!! Sure, there are the usual fun Honeymooner bits: the hilarious Norton gestures and flailing arms, the make-up kiss Ralph plants on his pretty wife’s lips at the end of each episode, the trusty Trixie playing sounding board to the exasperated Alice, the fat jokes, the sewer jokes, but … Something about SONGWRITERS, for me

The show opens with the boys at their weekly RACOONs meeting; a professional songwriter visits these NYC blue collar Elks to deliver the new Raccoon theme song he wrote special for them. The Raccoons president pays him $100 for the song!! For a simple little ditty! Ralph’s eyes bulge – especially after the songwriter tells Ralph the $100 is peanuts for him – you make the big bucks as a professional songwriter: from royalties, radio play, records.

The boys think: THIS IS A SNAP! We can do this!! Norton has a way with the piano, he can play a song on a piano right after he hears it. Ralph used to write his own Valentine’s cards when he was in grammar school!

So the boys take the money with which Ralph was going to buy a new refrigerator for his apartment – the old icebox’s door fell off again – and buy a new upright piano. It is delivered to their apartment the next day when Ralph’s at work:


When Alice, at home being a wife, sees the huge delivery box in her kitchen, she thinks it’s a new fridge. Ralph comes home, pulls off the front and Alice pulls on her ENRAGED, I MARRIED A DOPE persona. Just a mask. …: “RALPH, GET RID OF THAT PIANO!!”

Ralph responds with his I Make the Money – I’m King of This Castle bellow: “Don’t tell me what to do!” GET OUTA THE WAY, ALICE! SONGWRITERS AT WORK!!

This 20 minute Honey Mooners episode says it all: America, the poor America, the dreaming America, the upward-bound America, the Great Depression America – before and after FDR. Back then, all of Hollywood’s writers and directors and the Broadway songsters ACTUALLY DID HAIL FROM BACKGROUNDS LIKE RALPH’S. They were often poor Jews, Eastern Europeans from THE BIG CITY GHETTO. FIRST GENERATION AMERICANS – or immigrants – that the rest of America looked down on, laughed at even: Irving Berlin, Billy Wilder, Herman Mankowitz, to name a few. Ethnic poor boy geniuses … who could self-actualize in the great, shiny America! Bloom here, change their names and work their genius, become rich and buy mansions in new beautiful neighborhoods in their new beautiful country! And they wrote the most beautiful American movies and songs! Movies we still watch and love, like SUNSET BOULEVARD or THE APARTMENT. Or songs we still sing with affection. Tunes that have the best lyrics and are a joy to chirp, like I’LL TAKE MANHATTEN! … Ralph and Norton were being realistic when Ralph bought that piano!

I’ll take it!


I also, in this lost HM episode, still see American city poverty. I see my Lafayette Street childhood. Irving Berlin’s and Jackie Gleason’s, too: the drab, old kitchen where ALL the important discussions took place. Where all the fights happened. All the hugs exchanged, all the kisses planted – demurely and passionately. For 17 years I did my Worcester Public Schools, K – 12, homework at our kitchen table, our old, round-cornered refridgerator up against the wall, humming in the background, Ma peeling potatoes for our beef stew over at the gas stove, Bapy’s Jesus picture from Poland nailed crookedly above the small fridge. Me, a kid, looking up at the Jesus picture, Jesus’s arms raised, his heart pierced and bleeding like in an x ray. I feel safe and content. In the ghetto.

In the ghetto kitchen impoverished lives unfolded. Didn’t happen in a living room, or a shrink’s office, or at a restaurant booth, or even in the confessional booth at St. Mary’s church! Nope. It all happened IN THE BIG KITCHEN, just like at the Kramdens. You opened your back door – really your front door – and walked right into your kitchen. The biggest room in your tenement. Communal. Community. Family. Food. Love. Plans. Disappointments. Coffee. Warm stove. … Bedrooms were small – meant only for sleeping. Bathrooms small,too, corridor-like – 100 per cent utilitarian! No spa-like experience ever in our Lafayette Street bathroom!

But I digress: Back to Ralph and Norton. They are in their big kitchen, Norton seated at their upright piano, Ralph hovering over the piano. They are trying to compose a tune. Create.


Norton is driving Ralph crazy with his musical warm-ups. Ralph is reciting his grammar school poetry: “ears as soft as a bunny’s…” he sings. … The night wears on. The piano goes back to the music store tomorrow. The boys are getting nowhere…singing snippets, Norton tinkling the ivories …

Then a neighbor upstairs in their building starts screaming: SHUT UP! YOU HAVE NO TALENT! Another: I CAN’T SLEEP!! Ralph gives it back to them, yelling: “McGarrity, you wouldn’t know a good song if you heard one!” McGarrity: “Why don’t you try me, Ralph?!”

… and this married dame in the building … her baby cries all night and keeps Ralph up! Why is she carping?! Ralph runs to the kitchen radiator pipe to hammer it in anger at her. … Then it hits him: His neighbors’ noise, the clanging garbage cans, the banging of radiators, his GHETTO WORLD … That’s the SONG! There’s THE POETRY!!!!

THE RADIATORS GO BANG …” Ralph croons.

The boys go with the flow, chronicling their city-living trials and tribulations, but still finding TRUE love, amid the city buses and sewers. They write a great song!:

“A car outside gets a flat/
Someone steps on a cat …

“… You can have your quiet/
It takes a little riot/
to make a house a HOME. …


Ralph’s love song to his life with Alice and their best friends. Jackie Gleason’s love song to his hardscrabble childhood and a poor but HOPEFUL America … a love song to my ol’ Green Island, too.โ™ฅ๏ธ

Gleason only filmed 1 Season of The Honeymooners – 39 episodes.

Couldn’t find clip of Ralph and Norton singing the song.