Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog


By Rosalie Tirella

2022 Cracker Jack … pics: R.T.

I picked up a 3-pack of CRACKER JACK at the dollar store the other day. I was curious: had this snack classic, at the height of its wow-ness during World War II, changed since we Green Island kids scarfed it down on Lafayette Street, always a bit stale, having sat on the shelf of Eddy’s Penny Candy Store for a couple of months, but still pretty terrific. From popsicles, to Nutty Buddy ice cream cones, to cream-sickles (my mom’s favorite treat) to huge ropes of purple bubble gum that turned our lips a lurid indigo, Eddie had all the goodies – plus a few loaves of bread and bottles of Moxie, if you needed a meal. Moxie was/is a dark brown soda pop with zing to it that I liked a lot as a kid. Rose had MOXIE! My mother did, too, as she loved the soda pop and always had a bottle of it in our old refrigerator.

“Eddy’s” was located across the Lafayette Street three decker in which we lived and was the penny candy mecca of our neighborhood. Eddy had one side of his store dedicated to just penny candy. Hundreds of sour balls, malted balls, gum balls, candy canes, licorice twists, lollipops, little wax figurines filled with colored sugar water … all individually wrapped sitting in their own cubby waiting for you to say to Eddy: I’ll take that one, Eddy, and that kind, Eddy, and that one, Eddy! You never touched. You just pointed at the candy you wanted. The cubbies were built onto a huge brown table/stand, so as a little kid you looked over this sea of candy, each kind, in its own nook, and Eddy stood over you holding a little brown paper bag and picked out the candy you pointed to and dropped it into your wee paper bag. He did this not out of sanitary or health concerns but because he didn’t want us kids – most poor, many bold (boys and girls both) – to steal even one gum drop from him. I tried once – when I thought Eddy wasn’t looking. I thought I very smoothly placed my chubby little paw over a wrapped butter scotch … PUT THAT BACK! Eddy screamed at me, in front of all the other kids waiting their turn for candy. I looked up at his red twisted face and felt ashamed. Chastened. A sinner. THOU SHALT NOT STEAL was the Seventh Commandment! Would Eddy tell my mother I tried to STEAL the next time he saw her? I skulked out of Eddy’s and never tried to pilfer his penny candy again.

Eddy – an epileptic who often had his seizures in the back room of his store, which signaled to us kids: come back later to buy penny candy – wasn’t a kid person or even a candy and snack person. His little store at the bottom level of his mother’s three decker (he lived with his mother above the store) was a way to bring in some money – and set off store fire crackers in the middle of Lafayette Street, creating little pyrotechnics shows for himself and us kids. Eddy loved the pop sizzle pop of the fire crackers, and he always drew a crowd of us because we kids liked the smoke and noise and unpredictability of firecrackers and secretly hoped Eddy would have one of his “fits” in front of us while setting off his fireworks. Now that would be a terrific show!!

Rose and kid sisters at Rocky Point – Rocky Point clam fritters better than Eddy’s stale Cracker Jacks!

Sometimes I’d go to Eddy’s and buy not firecrackers but a roll of “caps” and just bang out the red strip of caps with a stone, right in front of our house. With the dots of black fire cracker powder in the middle of the strip I knew exactly where to slam my stone and loved the smell of the cap powder once released. I had a cap gun that my mom bought for me at the Mart…a real Western John Wayne cowboy lookalike gun that you could feed a roll of caps into. You felt like a real cow girl shooting at the TV set or your kid sister! My cousin Ann had cowgirl boots, a cowgirl vest, a cowgirl hat and two cap guns to stick in her brown plastic holster that she wore around her fat waist. Ann was my Uncle Mark’s daughter and was spoiled. She wasn’t poor like me and my kid sisters – she was the daughter of a school principal and always got any toy she wanted. Uncle Mark called her his “Polish Princess” and never disappointed her …

My mother, a baseball fanatic, didn’t have the money to buy me cow girl outfits or even two cap guns, but she did teach me how to sing TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME, an old baseball tune that immortalized CRACKER JACK with its lyrics: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack/I don’t care if I never get back!/It’s just root toot toot for the whole team … It’s a shame if they lose but It’s one! two! Three strikes you’re out!! at the old ball game!” This is the song my mom would whistle around our tenement when she was washing clothes over the big concrete basins in our kitchen – holdovers from the 1920s when the wife washed the laundry by hand in one bath tub and rinsed it in the adjacent one. Both concrete and ugly. When not in use there was a slab of concrete that went over it. I think my mom covered it with yellow daisy contact paper she bought at White’s Five and Ten on Millbury Street to make this industrial hunk look pretty. During birthday parties Ma would set out her buffet on this concrete slab with a pretty paper table cloth draped over the dark stone. I remember watching in trepidation as Ma fed pieces of wet laundry – tee shirt, apron, dress – in between the two big black hard rubber rollers that rolled and rolled …this squeezed out all the water in the articles of clothing, leaving Ma with flat-as-pancakes clothes for her to hang on our third floor clothes line, square and hanging from a metal pole from our back porch. I always worried she’d get her careworn fingers stuck between the big rollers and they’d get caught between the rollers and they’d be a horrible accident. But my mother was always sharp and ready for anything – except my father, who strode into our kitchen when he was in town to call my sweet mother, doing our laundry, “a dumb jackass” for working so hard. Didn’t she know they had invented the washer and dryer?! Didn’t she read the Sears and Roebuck catalog?!!

Didn’t Daddy know we were poor?

And so Ma whistled the CRACKER JACK song when she washed our clothes, tuning our peripatetic father out of the picture. A cozy, domestic picture my mother lovingly created for her three girls and Polish immigrant mother, Bapy.

Rose, 10, standing before our washing basins in our Lafayette Street kitchen. The basins are covered up and ready for a CECELIA birthday party!

I always liked the free prize in my box of stale CRACKER JACK that I had bought at Eddy’s. Eddy couldn’t ruin the prize no matter how long the box stood on his rickety store shelf. Every box of Cracker Jack came with its own secret prize, usually at the bottom of your box of Cracker Jack. It was often a terrific glow-in-the-dark plastic ring, or a red whistle that really sang, or a little plastic magnifying glass that worked!, or a strip baseball tattoos – bat, mitt, ball – that I used to rub onto my forearm and wash off with warm, soapy water before I went to bed …There could also be a maze, with little silver balls that you tried to roll into an enclosed picture. The balls were the eyes of a cat, or a baseball in mid-flight over the pale green outfield of your little picture. Lots of kids bought their box of Cracker Jack just for the toy inside! And the box was colorful, festive, fun. You felt great carrying a box of Cracker Jack. You sparkled.

So here I am 60 years old, with my boxes of Cracker Jack. Ma is dead, so is White’s Five and Ten…the dollar store has stuff made in China, including their bags of penny candy. I open my dollar store Cracker Jack box tentatively. What a bust – for me – for any kid! The box is small and cheap looking. The CRACKER JACK history is touted for all to read …

– but it’s not respected by its current manufacturer.

The Cracker Jack is BIOENGINEERED …


I taste it… tastes Ok. Not enough peanuts. The free toy is a small flat square piece of paper, no bigger than a postage stamp. Really nothing I want to explore. Same piece of crap free toy in all three CRACKER JACK boxes! No variety, no zip, courtesy of Frito Lay, a multi-billion dollar $$$ global corporation that could definitely afford to sell big beautiful boxes of yummy Cracker Jack, with glow-in-the-dark rings that boys and girls love to wear to bed, or red whistles that you can string on some red yarn and blow into them and pretend you’re a police officer busting in to catch the criminals: Frito Lay. Global capitalism.

Hey, Domino!!!

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Who’s the king?!


At the park. The guys are playing dominoes now. Not for money, they tell me, but TO BE KING! They all claim to be #1, and there is much slapping down of the plastic dominoes in a kind of sweet bravado! I am bugging them, I know, but keep asking them: Who’s the king? Who’s the king? The guy with the table, I think! One of the men points to his ample chest to tell me he’s the winner and then drops his cig on the grass to pat Lilac. Lilac frees herself from her collar and goes over to the cig. The man stamps his cigarette out on the grass and is distracted by who’s under their table. Then he says to me, Take off your glasses! I ignore him and ask, Where’s this game played? … ALL OVER THE WORLD! they shout! ALL OVER THE WORLD! Cuba! Puerto Rico! CUBA!



Worcester, Massachusetts!

All hands on deck!

These friends play every afternoon.

Away now sitting on a patch of dry grass with my dogs under a tree, I can still hear their yips and shouts and the dominoes coming down hard on the plastic table or being mixed in the middle. I’m annoyed at this drought. The grass is brown and rough and scratches my calves. Jett rolls around on his back – a good scratching for his old back.


… It’s so refreshing to see something slow and social, a kind of jazzy board game, with folks talking across a table, ribbing each other, making eye contact, listening to their music, being happy together.







Beating the city heat in their local park.


Worcester ❤️!

Worcester’s “Main Middle” is asleep …

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Denholm’s = dead-zone. Empty commercial buildings in Worcester’s Main Middle are the norm.

Clean but barren …

This week: All dressed up, driving through WORCESTER’S MAIN MIDDLE to find businesses to sell CECELIA ads to. But it’s as dead as a door nail here! A handful of small biz folks and a million plants, benches, banners, murals, flower beds … Downtown Enhancements that beautify yet don’t seem to attract businesses to our Main Middle.

WORCESTER’S MAIN MIDDLE, the stretch of downtown Worcester’s Main Street that we ol’ Worcesterites used to flock to in our childhood and early teen years. The “happening” and fun part of the city where we all came together to shop, snack, worship God, window shop, people watch and so much more.

Where are all the shoppers???

All gone. The stores and shoppes that drew thousands in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s – Marcus, Shack’s, Sylvia’s Dress Shop, the Mart, Lerner’s, American Supply, Denholm’s, Rovezzis, Ephraim’s Bookstore, Woolworth’s, Kresge’s, the Paris Cinema, lawyers’, dentist’ offices …music shops! Gone and not replaced. … I remember: My mom rented a pretty little violin for me from a music store on the second floor of, I think, the Commerce Building. A tone-deaf old lady with a gold front tooth gave piano lessons. Her husband rented and sold their musical instruments. Small accordions, tubas, violins, trumpets and clarinets were all displayed on high shelves. There were a few music rooms with upright pianos in them for people taking piano lessons from the gold-toothed old lady. … My mother was enthralled! Enthralled when we entered together and she made her tiny weekly rental payment on my pretty little violin. Her daughter Rosalie, a second grader at Lamartine Street School, played the violin she rented from these folks! Got weekly free lessons at Lamartine St. School from a very talented WPS music teacher! She was asked to be in the WPSchools orchestra by her teacher! I remember being bored with my violin and fascinated by the shop’s little red accordion with its rhinestone-studded C button – and also drawn to the store’s framed black and white photo of a big white rabbit wearing a bowler and fake-playing a piano … I think he was smoking a cigar …

Downtown Worcester deceives the uninitiated, but then you see this store front – one of many – and you know the score.

What do little kids have to experience today as they traipse through Worcester’s Main Middle with their parents?! Where are their memories?! Where can they buy a cute Cinderella wrist watch or fidget impatiently as mom buys herself a tube of Elizabeth Arden classic red lipstick?

Main Middle is asleep – and this time we can’t blame City leaders for its refusal to wake up!

Worcester City Hall, left, is located in the middle of a dead downtown Main Street.


By Rosalie Tirella

The site of the Golub brothers’ Green Street Market, now a parking lot. photos: R.T.

A few hours ago I got a phone call from a Richard something – I glanced at my cell phone quickly and picked up immediately, not noticing the last name on the menu bar … I was quick with a HELLO? because I thought it was a Worcester landlord about to offer me an apartment! I was wrong. Instead it was Richard Golub, famous New York City lawyer and famous crime thriller novelist calling me from NYC. To thank me for my column on his late dad Charlie Golub and Uncle Izzy! I wrote the piece a few months ago after driving by the little Green Street parking lot where once stood their little Green Street Market. I wrote about the always sweet, always quietly intelligent Golub brothers, proprietors of a Green Island landmark that deserved its own special historical marker, just like so many other spots in the now chi chi Canal District. Richard said his cousin sent him my story and he read it and liked it. “It was so warm, it brought me back … so nostalgic …”

He asked me how I was doing. I told him I slept in my car last night. “I’m basically homeless,” I said. I could tell he felt bad. Always a bit competitive, if not proud, I felt: Here is a successful writer and a loser writer. Someone whose novels made him millions $$ versus someone whose little community rag – filled with her stories and columns – made her homeless after 21 years. Richard sounded emotional when I told him of my fate, but then we both got excited about each other’s writing. We started talking shop, Richard in his fabulous New York City, maybe his penthouse. Me in my 2010 Ford Focus with the R rejection sticker plastered on the windshield. Richard told me he just finished writing a Worcester book.

Really? I said. Is it about Green Street, Green Island, the old neighborhood?!

A little bit. But mostly it’s about a girl I loved … she worked at Table Talk Pies.

Wow, I said, thinking: first love, good Jewish boy primed for college falling in love with a blue collar Green Island pie factory girl … What a yarn!

I’d love to read it! I said.

It’s coming out in six months. It hasn’t been published yet. I’ll send you the first chapter. What’s your email address, Rosalie?

I told him. Then Richard said he was mailing me something, too. What was my address? I told him I had no address at this point in time, but he could send me whatever he was sending me (one of his previously published crime thrillers, I supposed) to my p.o. box. We really struggled with this…me giving him my p.o. box, Richard telling me to slow down, me telling him I was driving and had a heart murmur, Richard telling me he had heart problems, too, as did local author Nicholas Gage. YOU NEED TO SLOW DOWN, Rosalie, Richard said firmly.

I know, I said.

Still, I was getting excited: I know I’m nowhere near your level, I said … I’m old, 60 –

I’m 79! Richard piped in, his voice booming.

Well, I’m 60, I continued, and before it’s too late, I want to publish a book about my mother … about growing up in Green Island. Can you help?

Richard said he knew no publishers.

I thought: bull sh*t.

But we talked…we talked about the old neighborhood … Where was St. John’s Church? he wanted to know.

Ash Street School is located behind the old Green Street Market site. Allen Fletcher bought the school 23+ years ago and now lives there with his tenants.

I miss your dad and uncle I said. They were saints, Richard said. Just like my mom, I said. She died 10 years ago. … and on and on we reminisced … about Kelley Square, Millbury Street and our good parents overflowing with sweetness and integrity.

Things took a turn for the worse when Richard said, I’m friends with Allen Fletcher.

Fletcher, I hissed. He’s the one who destroyed the old neighborhood! Then I told Richard, who said he never understood why Allen chose to buy and live in the old Ash Street School, I told Richard that if Allen hadn’t butted in and moved into our neighborhood with all the gentrifiers, then our neighborhood would have evolved into a cool Vietnamese neighborhood. It would have become, it was becoming before Fletcher “interloped,” Worcester’s Vietnam-town, with Vietnamese food, celebrations, homes, three deckers. Fletcher and co came to the ‘hood and the Vietnamese couldn’t compete $$$.

And so we chatted. Writer to writer. Green Islander to Green Islander. It was delicious.

Richard said he was mailing me my little something.


He said, No. That everyone he grew up with on Green Street and Worcester no longer lives here.

Then he said he’d give me a buzz next time he was in town, but he doesn’t come back to Worcester very often.

Then I said, email me your chapter! Then we said goodbye.


Two “L” words …

Leo …

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

This morning: “Leo”‘s digs on Greenwood Street overflowing with crap:


The stuff that was strewn all over the sidewalk in front of his house is gone, but there’s still a bunch of refuse on his lawn, which is a foot tall. Not all Leo’s fault – a morbidly obese guy in a wheelchair. He called Vo Robert, director of St. Paul’s Elder Outreach, to ask for some help with mowing his lawn. A church volunteer, perhaps? She said “no.” She told me later, We don’t do that type of help.

Greenwood garbage…

So here’s summer and poor Leo – whom I saw in his electric wheelchair last week on Greenwood Street wearing just a pair of white briefs – very tiny whitey tightys – is overwhelmed with keeping up his house – both inside and out. Lee Hall, head housing inspector for the City of Worcester Code Department, said the City is on the case, but court doesn’t work for Leo. A friendly visit may do the trick. Meanwhile, Leo, a Worcester native and senior who lived with his mom his entire life, until she died, is stuck. If you are old or special needs or homeless, America’s/Worcester’s social safety net feels … nonexistent. Good people suffer. Alone? Old and poor with a big old house? Need help but have no family? In America – unlike in Canada, New Zealand, Finland or much of Western Europe – you’re left to dangle in the wind. Poor Leo.

Lock 50

The Canal District restaurants…like LOCK 50…HOW DO THEY SURVIVE?

I drive down Water Street lunch time, suppertime…weekends…I never see any customers inside any of the restaurants… enjoying dinner or lunch! What gives? I mean, I see a customer here and there but surely not enough to be successful – stay open. 21 years of visiting Worcester restaurants and selling ads to eateries for ICT and CECELIA…I can tell if a place is gonna make it. Most of these Water Street overpriced pubs, restaurants don’t look like they’re going to remain open for years like the old Charles restaurant on Millbury Street, or Messier’s on Millbury Street or the Broadway on Water Street. YOU NEED WAVES OF DINERS…much more than a full house on a Saturday night.

Which makes me angry that Tim Murray and the Chamber of Commerce poo bas are pushing for really poor folks to use EBT cards to buy restaurant food! Every Price C Chopper and Price Rite and supermarket in Worcester sell READY MADE SANDWICHES, CUPS OF FRUIT, CUPS OF YOGURT, PINTS OF POTATO SALAD – READY MADE. FOR A LOT LESS $$$ MONEY. Why spend all your measly snap benefits at a restaurant? BAD IDEA. Just another way to exploit poor people, Tim Murray!

Tim, check out Bon Jovi and the cool restaurants he and his wife have established for the homeless, poor …and middle class diners in New Jersey! Very cool. Pay as much as you can for your terrific restaurant quality meal. Got no dough? Still get the great meal but do some volunteer work in the restaurant. Regular customers pay full price …

That’s how you help the homeless and poor, Worcester Chamber of Commerce.

LOCK 50 …

St. John’s Church Food for the Poor carries on …✝️

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

St. John’s Church is located on Temple Street …

… and its food pantry, fully equipped kitchen and dining room where a big breakfast is served daily are all housed in this state of the art building. Free veggies and fruit giveaway every Saturday morning!

We pray for a penitent Bill Riley and look to the future as St. John’s Church’s Father John Madden – pastor extraordinaire – and his staff/volunteers march on and continue to feed Worcester’s hungry at the St. Francis Food for the Poor complex on Temple Street, right by the iconic Green Island church. This early morning I saw so many people! Most were homeless. All were poor. I saw lots of people leaving the building, with it cheerful awnings facing pedestrians and gold cross offering salvation, after having eaten a big breakfast at St. Francis’s. Some carried plastic food bags filled with bread and such as they walked out of the building. …



I saw single folks, couples, a mom and dad with little child. Community. Across the parking lot I saw people lined up to take a refreshing shower in the mobile shower, parked to the side of St. John’s:


God’s work. God’s love.


Reflected in all …

Once I saw a young guy, a contractor, leave his big truck and run into the rectory and tell Father Madden: here, for all the good work you do. It was a $150 check. The contractor was on his lunch break – and had admired all the good things happening at St. John’s every time he drove by the church.

Today? Well, today, it’s a beautiful day and hope rises like the sun did at 5 a and … for believers, Jesus, a few millennia ago. The Food for the Poor truck and van head out of Kelley Square to pick up donations for tomorrow …
Hitting the road for Worcester’s hungry …

There’s something about Mary!

By Rosalie Tirella

Mary Keefe

I agree with State Rep Mary Keefe on all the issues but could never warm up to her. She’s always seemed like, well, … an as*hole. Or been one to me. And I never liked the way Mary treated the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Network Center – located next to the Pickle Barrel in Worcester’s Piedmont neighborhood: LIKE IT WAS HER PERSONAL INNER-CITY CASTLE. Mary Keefe parlayed her brief directorship of the center to a State Rep seat. After she won the election, the center went silent. For years. And Keefe is in the position to fund it! Yet it hasn’t been open to its inner-city neighborhood since Mary used it as her political spring board. No director there. No outreach worker. No after school program. No referral services. Nothing, thanks to state rep Mary Keefe who, when she leaves an inner-city neighborhood center closed for several years – just a 7-minute walk from her Crown Hill home – shows us all how oblivious she is. Shows us all she doesn’t care about the people of Piedmont, many poor, most folks brown and Black. Residents who could have used support during COVID, school closures, now the affordable housing crisis and inflation. Neighborhood people who could have availed themselves of the services of a vital, STAFFED neighborhood center!

Not on Mary’s radar.

Entrance to the neighborhood center. Photos: R.T.

The neighborhood center used to house, years back, several of Mary’s pals! – many thought they were her political pals who used a city neighborhood center to run Mary’s political campaigns. Once, at night, I popped in to the center …the lights were on. Was it staffed again? Nope. I saw community/political organizer and Mary Keefe ally Kevin Ksen in the back office tapping away on an office desk top computer. He said, Rose, I’m not working on Mary’s campaign.


Dante and Kevin’s hang out!

That night Kevin was being “supported by” pals Dante Comparetto and his gal pal. The two were slumped over each other, seated together on a lumpy sofa in the front room of the center. They looked stoned out of their minds. Supporting Mary Keefe’s run for political office, too. Wimpy, former one term Worcester School Committee member Dante Comparetto. He promised so much and did nothing but wilt under what little backlash he got from colleagues and voters. Wimpsville. And his girlfriend, now wife (both living in DC, last we heard) also helping run Keefe’s political campaign out of a City neighborhood center.

Then the center went quiet. It’s still closed.

So when I saw Mary Keefe a few days ago, leaving the Highland Street Price Chopper with her groceries, I yelled: HEY, MARY! WHEN IS THE PLEASANT STREET NEIGHBORHOOD CENTER OPENING UP AGAIN?

The neighborhood center is located in Piedmont, a Worcester inner-city neighborhood that’s seen its fair share of struggles…

She said: WE’RE HIRING A NEW DIRECTOR SOON! and hurried to her silver car and zipped out of the Price Chopper parking lot.


Mary’s silver vehicle zipping out of the Highland Street Price Chopper parking lot.

Baby rabbit and kind printer

By Rosalie Tirella

Lilac, after the fact … pics: R.T.

I drove to Providence to get the rest of my CECELIAs. While the printer guy was loading my car trunk with my newspapers, I brought my dogs out to pee. Lilac, who was on her lead, as was Jett, pulled me to a stack of pallets, shoved her strong neck under the tall stack of wood and pulled out a baby rabbit. It was in her mouth a bit of blood where Lilac’s teeth had sunk in … the soft middle. I gasped. But whispered to Lilac: DROP IT! DROP IT!! Lilac dropped the rabbit. She knew I was upset. The little rabbit – very young – went into shock and didn’t move, though sometimes they play dead when caught by a predator. I’ve owned dogs for 32 years…it’s all instinct. Not angry but firm, I led Lilac and Jett back to my car and commanded INSIDE and they both jumped into the back seat, Lilac looking a bit sheepish.

The young rabbit was hiding under the stack of pallets

I walked back to the baby rabbit, lying on its side, on the grass in the hot sun and saw the big puncture wounds that Lilac’s canines had left in its slim body.

Fatally wounded …

I said to the loading dock guy: Fred, I sound brutal but it’s suffering. Lilac can finish the job quickly. It’s instinct. It’s fast. Over in a minute. The baby won’t suffer for the next five hours before he dies.

Fred, got upset: NO! LEAVE IT, ROSE! JUST LEAVE IT ALONE!! It might just be hurt.

He threw me an accusatory look. I didn’t see the little rabbit under the stack of pallets! Lilac made no excited noise as she grabbed at the little rabbit, and the babe made no noise as Lilac bit into it.

If Fred hadn’t been there, pissed off at me, I would have put the rabbit out of it’s misery …and let Lilac finish the job – and then pulled her off. She and Lilac have all their vaccines … But Fred stood watching me, reading my mind …

I said to myself: Lilac’s teeth are big even though she’s a medium-sized dog – and she clamped down on the baby’s middle. IT’S SUFFERING!

Fred loaded my car trunk with CECELIAs. I splashed some water by the rabbit’s snout making a teeny puddle and cut out the bottom of my McDonald’s lemonade takeout cup to create a very small low water dish. I filled the with an inch or two of water so if the baby recovered (doubtful) and needed to drink fresh water to revive itself, he could.

The bunny’s home – a patch of woods just yards away …

Then we left. Drove off. Once on the road I cried, pissed at Fred for thinking the rabbit would be ok. The baby did wiggle one of its big brown ears after a few minutes and its long lanky legs, they pushed feebly into the summer air as as if to hop away to safety …but he couldn’t.

Still crying, I called the Seekonk police department and told them about the suffering bunny. The female dispatcher was unmoved, said the town’s animal control officer does not deal with wildlife. She gave me two phone numbers to call – one to a rude vet assistant who said NO! WE CAN’T HELP! He told me about a wildlife sanctuary an hour away and said I would have to drive the rabbit there if I wanted the rangers there to examine the rabbit.

I said: I’ve GOT A CAR FILLED WITH NEWSPAPERS AND TWO DOGS, BOTH HUNTERS!!! Plus I’m 60 and stressed!!! And there’s no ac in my car! … I hung up, angry.

I was shaken – not upset with at Lilac, a good dog with Shepherd and Hound roots… serious, smart, a hunter. I was certainly not mad at the bunny, all sweet innocence, like Lilac, also following instinct: not dashing into the little patch of woods less than 10 yards away from where we stood, staying out, in hiding with two dogs and a human walking about. It hid ever so quietly under the stack of pallets …

On the highway I called the printing press’ co-owner, a good guy. I had wiped the tears from my eyes. I said: I’M SORRY, BOB!! I’M SO SORRY!!! I LOVE ANIMALS!

“Rose, Rose, Rose,” Bob said in his gentle tone of voice. “Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes things just happen. We’ll take care of him.”

Bob’s words soothed me. They always make peace, they’re always wise, in that quiet way. Bob’s voice is a bit thick, gruff, older. But it is always a balm …

I drove down the highway, back to Worcester …

Driving CECELIAs back home.


By Rosalie Tirella

Worcester’s, America’s First Responders see, experience so much trauma. How do they “process”? photo: R.T.

I know, it’s FOX, but I want to talk about a photo – a video frame, frozen in time, courtesy of Fox News TV. It’s on my Face Book page. It’s after the Highland, Illinois, mass murder. At the left, in the photo, you see the local police officer, walking away, his hands covering his face. An American First Responder in agony. A human with an all too human response – his hands covering the agony – his human “response” to immense suffering, sorrow and death. This cop is not wielding his gun. He’s not channeling Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger, chest out, running into flames and gun smoke, all macho man. He’s just a guy. A youngish man not wanting to share his feelings with the TV cameras or TV pundits or news crews … not wanting to talk at all, to anybody.

What did this Illinois First Responder, first on the crime scene, first in this latest American war zone, see? What did he hear? What did he touch? What did he smell? … Maybe this first responder is a man with his own little boy or girl, a child who was at the parade or who was watching the festivities on the local cable station before all hell broke loose in this wealthy Illinois suburb, an IT-COULD-NEVER-HAPPEN-HERE, LEAVE-IT-TO-BEAVER kind of American suburb. He’s a man, just a man, exiting his local war zone! …where he saw – maybe he was the first to see – the dead child with legs blown off; a father, dead, too, his body thrown over his little toddler as he, in his last moments of life, wanted to save his boy, give the gift of LIFE in a war zone. Nearby, his wife dead. … Did the First Responder see all this…the bloodbath, the father’s heroism?

The child will face this day for seemingly eternity: as a grade schooler, as a teenager heading to the prom, as a college student graduating from college, as a young adult just starting out … as an old person close to dying.

Did the police officer think of this as he “responded” to the murderer?

First Responders – our local police officers, state police and EMT kids (they’re often in their 20s!) – see all the horrific, unfathomable carnage. They hear the final moans, maybe prayers to God or some saint … or a loved one. They must wonder, like me, WHEN WILL THIS MADNESS END?

How do these First Responders, our local men and women, out on the job every day, sometimes not getting the respect they deserve, “process” this kind of crime scene? A scene our soldiers saw during WW II or the Ukranians experience daily as Putin pounds their country to dust? How do regular local guys and gals, our neighbors, go home … and go on living? They’re not superficial, chatty TV personalities maybe making a career out of a murder, blabbing the same cliches over and over again into mics. They’re just our local cops and “staties” – they’re not “word people.” They’re America’s first responders!

A housekeeper at a Connecticut motel spoke to me a while ago – three or four American mass murderers ago! … She was older, overworked and underpaid. She was sad over this last mass shooting in our country, shaking her head over her big rolling cart of towels, hand soap, bathroom tissue … She said she was friends with a local state trooper who was the first to respond to a local murder scene – a real nice guy – who “killed himself.” She said all the trauma was too much for him, it’s cumulative for these guys and gals. Her heart ached for her First Responder friend who chose not to “respond” any more.

🇺🇲Fourth of July, Green Island style!🗽

Here’s a Fourth of July column I wrote years ago, tweaked this morning:


By Rosalie Tirella

Happy Fourth of July, Worcester! photo: R.T.

I’ve celebrated the Fourth of July on a blanket in Boston listening to the Boston Pops and guest vocalist Johnny Cash. I’ve celebrated the Fourth at East Park here in Worcester. Always a lovely time. Last night I was thinking about my Green Island Fourth of July’s – the years when I was a kid and lived with my mother, father, sisters and Polish immigrant grandmother in “the Island”…

I am a little kid – about 9 years old – and I am standing on our three decker’s back porch. Third floor. It is the afternoon and the sun is shining sweetly. I am looking at “Val,” the buxom, brassy, red-lip-stick-wearing middle-aged woman who lives across the way from our rickety three decker. Val’s in her rickety, six-unit tenement building, on the corner of Bigelow and Elsworth streets. She’s on her third-floor porch. A big, weed-choked, empty lot lies between our buildings but that is all. The wild weeds and vegetation haven’t kept Val from inserting herself into ours – everyone in the neighborhood’s – lives.

Val is wearing a hot red negligee today – for the Fourth of July. I can see it from my back porch, which I am standing on, bring a curious little kid. Val is on her back porch talking loudly, with curse words sprinkled liberally throughout her conversation to herself. I swear I can see her bright red lips from my third floor porch! In 10 years or so I will have learned the word “slatternly” from my reading the classics, and the word will remind me of my old neighbor, Val. But today I am a little kid so Val is just … Val.

Val is drunk on this national holiday – in a happy, friendly way. She can be a nasty drunk, but the Fourth of July makes her woozily playful. She is talking with anyone who walks by her building, her ta ta’s damn near falling out of her negligee as she leans over her porch railing to chat up passersby who always talk back – a few folks out of fear. They have seen Val fight on the street outside her building, they have heard her vitriol … They will kiss up.

I am standing on my porch, quiet as a mouse, smiling knowingly because I know Val can be scary sometimes. On a few occasions she has verbally battled with my 80-year-old Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy. Val had called Bapy, also feisty, a DP. “Dumb Polack.” It was a common ethnic slur a half century ago, and Val had spewed it at Bapy during one of their shouting matches – held across their back porches for the whole neighborhood to hear. DP, my mom tells me, really stands for “Displaced Persons,” what they sometimes called Eastern European immigrants who chose to build lives in Worcester. Val is being mean when she yells DP at my granny, who doesn’t miss a beat and yells back to Val: KISS MY ASSY! KISS MY ASSY!! and Bapy turns her plump little dumpling shaped butt to Val – while standing on our back porch – and tap, tap, taps it. Her bum is covered in those sweet flannel nighties with little pink rose buds on them that Ma buys for Bapy at the Mart in downtown Worcester. Bapy wore those flannel nighties year ’round – even in the summer.

Rosalie, before her mother’s sandwich-making station. Yum … Wonder Bread!

Granny is not battling Val today. Granny is inside, sitting in her easy chair we have set up for her in our kitchen (Bapy lives with us). Bapy sits at the head of the kitchen table, a place from which she can drink her cup of coffee, eat her boiled egg sandwich and see and comment on all the household happenings. She has been sitting there my whole life! She drives me and my kid sisters crazy, but we love her with all our hearts!

But I digress. Val is out on her porch today in her red negligee because it is the Fourth of July, a special day for America – and for Val. Val has turned and walked back into her apartment, a flat that is also home to her quiet-as-a-mouse boyfriend, her gorgeous, blond 18 year old daughter, the child of another guy, and two huge attack dogs: a German Shepherd and Doberman pinscher. Both dogs are fierce. Both having chased me up a nearby fence more than a few times. Val doesn’t believe in walking her dogs to do poop or to pee. She just lets them out of her apartment. The huge dogs rush down the three flights of stairs like a couple of moose in heat and poop and pee in Val’s little front yard. Then they rush back upstairs. Val’s boyfriend picks up the poop later – Val has everybody trained to a tee.

Bapy lived with us. Here we all are, hanging on poor Bapy as she sits in her old easy chair at the head of our kitchen table.

Now Val has come back out of her apartment – this time she is carrying her beige portable record player and sets it on a folding chair and plugs it into an extension cord she’s run outside the apartment. I am watching her preparations from my back porch – not saying a word … just waiting. Val goes back into her house, then comes out with an lp, a vinyl record – a big one, the kind with many songs on it. I am guessing it is the same record Val played last year and the year before – the songs the whole neighborhood must listen to every Fourth of July: patriotic tunes. Souza. Irving Berlin. Some sung by Kate Smith. Some belted out by Ethel Merman. Most instrumentals – the kind of songs you can – like Val – march around to on your Green Island porch. Tubas and drums. And trumpets.

Val puts on her record and cranks up the volume of her portable record player! Da da de dum da! Dum de da da da da de da da! La da da da de da da! Boy, this music is good! Up beat! I love hearing Val’s concert every year. I am tapping my feet! I look across the way and see Val crack open another beer and take a sloppy swig. She begins to sing. Loudly. Then she marches around her old porch – then she dizzily lies down on her long beach chair, still drinking. I can see her through the slats on her porch through the slats on my porch …

The music is great! So LOUD AND PATRIOTIC! An hour later Val is up again and singing to the entire neighborhood once again. She’s turned the record over several times, playing both sides – A and B. The folks on Lafayette, Elsworth and Sigel streets are getting ramped up! They’re coming out of their three deckers. They are carrying rugs, tires, old wooden chairs, a beat up sofa… They’re throwing their chairs and sofa and old tires into a big pile in the empty lot a few lots down from Val’s place, diagonally across the way from our three decker. I go in doors and yell to my mother: GETTING READY FOR THE BIG BONFIRE, MA!


Iconic American film actor Jimmy Cagney dancing to YANKEE DOODLE DANDY! Val danced on her Green Island porch to this cheeky American tune every July 4th.

My mother, careworn, grimaces from the stack of soapy dishes in her kitchen sink. She’s washing dishes. She doesn’t say a word. Ma never voices her disapproval of Val, but I know she is not thrilled with her. Sometimes Ma is the one who calls the Worcester Fire department when the flames of the bonfire grow too huge and lap up the July night air and orange sparks fill our Green Island night. The fire has never spread because the neighborhood kids and adults have kept it in check with big poles that they use to poke it into submission. But the flames still worry my mother …

But the night has just begun! I so want to be a part of the celebration and throw some of Bapy’s rags onto the bonfire! My grandmother has so many rags that she wraps around her withered arms to ease her arthritis. Old country ways/cures die hard in Green Island!Bapy never really changes her clothes. Just gives herself sporadic sponge baths and peels off her old rags and puts on new ones. She always smells fecund.

Rose’s Polish immigrant grandfather, Jaju, and cousin Mary. Jaju rolled his own unfiltered cigarettes. He always smelled like Camels …

These days I miss my Bapy’s smell! If only we could re-conjure the odors of all the people and pets we have loved over the years. The men I have been with, sweaty and grunty; my late mom who held me to her big, perfumed breasts – Heaven Scent … my Bapy’s cabbage-y, eggy odor … my long-gone dog Bailey’s gamey scent.

Anyways, the bonfire was being readied for the big night, but my mom would never let me join in the terrific mayhem! It was all too wild for us good Conservative Catholic girls. My mom, the perfect mom who worked so hard at the dry cleaners and went to church with us every Sunday, wouldn’t allow it! My mom knew everyone in the neighborhood and was always polite and talked with folks – she was not a snob. But, she liked to us, she would never sit down and have a cup of coffee with the ladies of the ‘hood. Green Island women enjoyed visiting each other in each other’s tenements, gossiping, bitching about their husbands and boyfriends, smoking their cigs…Val smoked little cigars!

Our mother was busy raising her girls, making sure we went to school every day and did all our homework and got all As and went to bed early and ate well. She had no time to wallow in our poverty – or her husband’s wild ways. She – we – transcended the shit. We girls were all going to college some day!

So, there I was, stuck on our Lafayette Street tenement third-floor porch. Just an observer. My sisters would be home from Crompton Park soon. They loved this spectacle, too! Not as much as I did, but they would hang out on the porch, eating Freeze Pops, their lips ice blue from the sugared ice treat – and they’d watch Val and the bonfire.

My father, Daddy, would disappear for the day. Celebrate the Fourth of July in his own fashion, cheating on Ma. He was as crooked and violent as some of the guys in the ‘hood, but he played out his deviltry in other parts of Worcester. I suspect the East Side. What my mom and we kids didn’t know wouldn’t hurt us …

It was dark out now, and Val was still singing up a storm and marching around her porch. La di da di da!!! Bang bang!! went her steel pot covers – her cymbals! Someone had lit the bonfire and everyone was gathered around it! Except for me and my sisters. We were on our back porch eating our Freeze Pops, mesmerized by the flames. They must have been two stories high! The folks in the neighborhood had out done themselves this year! It was all like something you would see in an old Western movie on TV – perfect for roasting a buffalo or dancing around. People’s faces were orange from the glow of the flames.

“Come out here, Ma!” I yelled to my mother. “You gotta see the bonfire!”

“Ma” and baby …

My mother was indoors getting our clothes ready for the Fourth of July cook out we would be having at our Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary’s house the next day. Our relatives, my mother’s sister, lived in a a cute pink ranch house in the Burncoat area – a nicer part of town. My mom liked this part of the Fourth of July holiday best of all. A day off from the Millbury Street dry cleaners! A day off when she could be with her favorite sister in her sister’s big back yard, my Uncle Mark grilling hamburgers and hot dogs on his big, three legged grill filled with those black coals. They made the hamburgers and hotdogs yummy! Earlier in the week my uncle had driven to the Nissan bakery by Crompton Park to buy hamburger buns and white bread and drove to Iandolli’s to buy potato chips, soda, Cheez-Its, the typical American BBQ junk food of the 1960s. Heaven!

Ma would have none of Val’s antics or the bonfire show. She was busy making sandwiches for the cook out at Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary’s. She wanted us in bed early for tomorrow.

We kids would have none of it. The bonfire’s flames were roaring! Some jerk threw too many old tires on the bonfire, so now the air smelled awful! Like burning rubber. The sky was thick with black smoke. We kids started coughing. Ma came out and took a look at the mess. Her mouth fell open. She looked at her three girls and frowned and snapped: GET IN THE HOUSE. I knew what was coming next. Ma was in the parlor, standing over our heavy olive green telephone and dialing 911.

In a matter of minutes the Worcester Fire Department firetruck had rolled in. The fireman were hosing down the bonfire with their big hoses…the water from hoses looked like waterfalls. The flames were doused out! Smoke everywhere.

BOO! BOO! BOO! shouted all the kids and adults at the firemen.

You could hear their laughs, too!

“Boo, Boo! Boo!!!” my sisters and I yelled from our back porch, laughing. “BOO! BOO!”

It had been, as usual, a fab Fourth of July! Green Island style!

Rosalie, middle, and her two cute kid sisters