Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

The Capitol, the Rectory …

By Rosalie Tirella

Today, I am thinking about my late mom and the workers at our Capitol. I see my pretty mom during the Great Depression, just 14 years old, a housekeeper/cook/maid at the Bishop of Springfield’s rectory – a huge sprawling building with grounds and many rooms and mahogany furniture and a huge kitchen with swinging doors and real silver silverware and special China for guests. She and her two big sisters kept that special place humming …

My mom was “just” a housekeeper in the rectory, a cleaner of cubbards, a scrubber of pots and pans – and toilets. A server to the Bishop. But Mom considered herself blessed, a lucky person. She was working in a hallowed place – fulfilling God’s words and mission and breathing life into the dreams of thousands of Catholics in Springfield. A vision made real through her polished hardwood floors, shining silverware, sparkling chandeliers, dusted banisters, scrubbed bathrooms – her and her two sisters’ hard work.

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Rose’s mom, in Springfield at the Bishop’s house, with one of her pups.

Mundane work to many but to them an honor. Their Depression era job was more than just a boon to my Polish immigrant grandparents back in Worcester – money coming in when most Americans were out of work. Good food, warmth, safety for their three girls … My Bapy and Jaju were so proud of their daughters: TRUSTED TO WORK IN THE BISHOP’S HOUSE!

Today I see my mom and I see the Capitol workers: the house keepers, the cleaners, painters, wood workers, pourers of coffee and tea …doing just “regular” work – no college degree required, just a lot of elbow grease. But it’s not regular work to them because they see themselves making a special place SPECIAL. Maintaining SPECIALNESS. The Catholic faith: Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. The Capitol: America’s sacred space – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. … Bending to scrub, paint, polish floors, stairwells and walls – just like my late mother did. To create MAGIC. BEAUTY. Every day, for all to admire. And love, too.

I never see photos of my late mom disheveled or unhappy at the Bishop’s house/rectory. I never see her in dirty rooms, dusty spaces. I see her amid elegant tea pots, heavy ornate desks, pretty paintings on walls – my mom dressed demurely but perfectly. I see the deference – and quiet pride – in her eyes. Just as I see the Capitol’s help seriousness, work ethic, perfectionism – and pride on my TV screen. Cleaning out the blood and dirt. Polishing Nancy Pelosi’s lectern once again. Vacuuming the nightmare up … Like my mom, they are RADICAL!! Radical in proving to the world that the regular peeps, the uneducated, the kids of immigrants can save a sacred space – keep and create a beautiful public dream made brick and mortar: a rectory, our Capitol, Supreme Court, White House.

Even as Donald Trump refused to call the National Guard in last week to help the regular workers at the Capitol who struggled against gun-toting monsters, monsters who trashed their world – their gorgeous work space – the just peeps did not quit their jobs. Within hours these cleaners and worker bees were scrubbing and cleaning and polishing and disinfecting … our Capitol, our symbol of Democracy, young, only since 1776. Even as Trump lied 4 years ago – said the White House was a “dump” – the “help” knew the TRUTH and still served the odious Trump his coffee and meals with respect and deference. They still polished the White House’s silver, still kept its mirrors sparkling. Out of love for their building, their special work space, our American Dream writ LARGE AND LOVELY. A song in stone and wood and metal to American democracy and its people. The White House – built by slaves! Home to museum quality paintings and statues and furniture. Repository of our History. Our aspirations. JFK. FDR. LINCOLN lived and loved here! The regular working guys and gals keep our American story alive!

Last week our Capitol was breached and its stairwells, walls, desks, chairs, floors, windows, carpeting dirtied, nicked, smashed, trashed. My mom – just a kid at 14 but a hard worker and super responsible – would have felt the acute pain of the Capitol’s “Help” – just average working women and men, like her. Many of them Black and brown: the painters, cooks, house keepers of the Capitol keeping it all humming. My mother would have seen all their hard work, their perfectionism disrespected – and she would have been angry – and she would have shed a tear or two. But she would have been eager to see the clean up, the repairs being done by the pros!

I see my mom now – it’s the Great Depression and she’s just 14 years old, farmed out by her parents to be, along with her two older sisters, a housekeeper/cook/maid at the Bishop’s rectory in Springfield. To keep herself warm and fed during hard times and to send money home to her parents, my Polish immigrant grandparents, so they could pay bills and eat during hard times. She took the bus, leaving downtown Worcester, already missing her feisty, dumpling shaped mom, but happy to be working with her big sisters. She was smart but was pulled out of school – Worcester’s Girls Trade School – to show the Bishop, the world what she learned at Fanning/Girls Trade: how to poach an egg and fish, cook white sauce, make a perfect bed, iron a man’s suit and draperies with complex pleats … My aunt – also a Girls Trade student – could make a man’s suit on Bapt’s push pedal Singer! Auntie used to make, sew my mom winter coats!! – complete with pretty linings! Auntie could cook a perfect tender roast beef or souffle. She had my mom serve the Bishop his shrimp cocktail, from his left … quiet as a mouse.

Special rooms filled with special people. Today I remember my mom and all the Capitol’s – White House, Supreme Court, too – maids, housekeepers, janitors and cooks.
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Rose’s Auntie visiting Bapy in Green Island during hard times. Auntie could make coats and dresses on her Singer.

❄New!!: EDITH and ROSE’S NEW YEAR’S EVE COLUMNS🍷🍸🍸🍓

HOPE: A Four-letter Word

By Edith Morgan

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Edith!

We have lots of four-letter words at our disposal – and sometimes we misuse or overuse some of them. But my favorite is HOPE, and it can not be overdone! There should always be HOPE! As we enter a new year, we need hope more than ever: there is so much to do, to fix, to change, and to innovate …

Many of the greeting cards I get, and many of those I send out, express the HOPE that there will be peace and joy, presumably throughout the world, not just at home. And as we face probably several more months of mask-wearing, hand-washing, and social distancing, our hopes are high now that there are two vaccines becoming available, and many more are being tested – giving us HOPE that there may soon be one that requires only one shot and no special refrigeration.

And can we hope that there will be, sometime in the not-so-distant future, some way to immunize us all against the evil relatives of the coronavirus and its mutations? We can surely hope, and meanwhile we can pin our hopes on the scientists who spend a lifetime studying these questions. And we can back up our hopes with support and funding so that their work can be continued uninterrupted and with the equipment they need.

During this global pandemic, we have found out that our healthcare system is inadequate, that we do not have a unified plan for meeting the challenge of the next one or two – or who knows how many are out there? So we need to back up our hopes with planning and organizing and funding.

Being hopeful is a life habit for me – but hoping is never enough: it lights the way to the needed action, and keeps me going. Hope is the carrot dangling before us, but we have to do the chasing and the running!

Meanwhile, I am heartened by all the wonderful and kind and thoughtful activities that are arising all around us, filling the gaps our systems have left. But these generous and well meaning acts, especially triggered by the season, are not enough, and will not be sustainable for the entire year. The efforts of all, from the single five-year old to the centenarian, from the small groups to the major organizations – they cannot keep up the effort all year in addition to their regular functions.

So I look to our elected representatives who, after all, are our paid servants – to put our money to work for all of us over the long haul. There will always be those who fall between the cracks (the neighbors, friends, relatives, who need us) … There will never be a time when kindness and caring will not be needed – and I continue to hope that we all create a “caring zone” around us, wherever we are, and share our hopes with those near and dear to us.

Remember: “Hope springs eternal in the human heart!”

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MY ALLEN FLETCHER DREAM

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose, December 2020

I fell asleep last night while reading … and woke up this morning remembering the weirdest dream: It was about ALLEN FLETCHER, the big cahoona behind Worcester Publishing, the son of the old T and G’s papa, and, finally, the $$$$ – dare I say visionary? – behind the Canal District, my old neighborhood of Green Island/Kelley Square. My childhood dream/night scape❤.

In my dream, Allen and I were, of course, in the Canal District. We were eating at some cheapo Chinese restaurant on New Year’s Eve! The Chinese restaurant looked exactly like the Chinese restaurant in the Billy Wilder film THE APARTMENT, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley McClaine and Fred McMurray. Fred takes Shirley to the Chinese restaurant, on New Year’s Eve (I think), in the movie. Terrific looking scene: paper lanterns strung from the ceiling, dancers on the dance floor, silly hats with confetti splashed on them atop neatly coiffed heads … the works!

In my dream, Allen and I are laughing together, old pals: We are interviewing each other for each other’s podcasts! Simultaneously!! So it is all very confusing – and silly. We are talking about EVERYTHING! Our conversation is wide-ranging, eclectic … literary, but not in the boozy sense. I don’t know if we touch on urban renewal, Jane Jacobs or even the Canal District! But we’re sipping fancy drinks with paper umbrellas in them and buzzed. A mutual admiration society!!! After all these years of … acrimony, weird stares on Millbury Street, sour pusses and my photos of the homeless a block away from Allen’s digs on Ash Street.

Then, all of a sudden, Allen gets up out of our booth and absentmindedly – like he used to at WoMag where I worked for him 25 years ago – just walks off. I stare at him, wondering …hmmm. Bathroom break? A visit to friends he’s seen at another booth? Allen is a such a social butterfly, flitting and flirting about … I wait … and wait…and wait…but Allen never returns to our booth.

No matter! I am ok. I sit happily in my booth in the Chinese restaurant of the Billy Wilder film, in the Canal District, nursing my fancy cocktail with the paper umbrella in it.

Happy New Years Eve, Worcester!

GREEN ISLAND = CHRISTMAS!🌲❄⛄🐧❄

By Rosalie Tirella

I just made some apple crumble and cooked up a yam/?sweet potato. (Are they the same root veggie?)

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The sweet potato is so orange and yummy. So tasty I don’t even sprinkle sugar/cinnamon on it. Fresh from the good earth.

These simple pleasures remind me of a few of the small Green Island winter wonders of my childhood: Hoodsies!! – which we kids used to get at Lamartine Street School, the day before Christmas, as we watched a fun winter Disney movie in the yellow-walled auditorium of Lamartine Street School. Mr. Chickarian, Mr. Gilman and grade 5 teachers coordinated it all – the teachers leaning against the side wall, chatting and joking with each other. We kids – all poor from the Green Island neighborhood – thrilled to be at “the movies”! A Christmas treat just for us! The movie was the same as last year’s, an old Disney movie; the metal folding chairs uncomfortable, but the otters sliding down the snowy slopes in the Disney movie made us kids – grades 4, 5 and 6 – laugh like crazy. Best of all there was no penmanship or phonics class. And we could eat – with that classic small flat little wooden spoon – our HOODSIES: teeny cups of Hoods vanilla and chocolate icecream – split right down the middle. Half the Hoodsie was chocolate, the other half vanilla! Delicious but so small, Mr. Chickarian (a great teacher whose daughter was my classmate at Burncoat High years later) gave the older boys in his sixth grade class two Hoodsies! No matter! We younger kids savored our treats: some at the chocolate side of their Hoodsie first, some dipped into chocolate and then vanilla (like me). At the end, you had a soupy chocolate shake at brought your Hoodsie to your lips to drink off the last bit of your ice cream treat.

We were so grateful! We – or many of us – came from broken homes, with an abusive (usually) dad or boyfriend. Ben’s Cafe was down the street, but even the snow on its sign and roof couldn’t cover up all the alcoholics or pi*sy smalls that emanated from it … Across from Lamartine the WPD still gad its minny jail – every year we Lamartine kids were taken to the jailhouse only yards away from school to tour a cell. To show us that this is where we’d land if we screwed up, broke the laws … I wonder if the students at Flagg Street School got such tours … The small upright sink, the toilet, the thick metal bars, the darkness…so anti-Christmas to little kids who long for Christmas every day!

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circa 1965, Rose’s cousin and Jaju!

I know I did! I SAW ALL THE MAGICAL GREEN ISLAND things, like all kids, even in the depths of February. For instance, Jimmy, the boy I had a crush on at Lamartine, lived on Winter Street. Off Green Street – now part of the chi chi Canal District. Back then it was lined with rundown three deckers, but I did not know that. I lived a ways on Lafayette Street. Jimmy was sooo cute – looked like the cartoon race-car driver in SPEED RACER! He had that jet black hair over his blue eyes – the Irish can have that beautiful look – and was so smart in class. A great reader, a fave with the teachers: yet tough as diamonds – walked to school, across Kelley Square, every day in all weather, with his big brother Pat. Jimmy rolled up his sleeves high up around his biceps. He had biceps! I never saw his parents – I think his big brother Pat – godlike in Jimmy’s eyes – brought him up. So, Jimmy was Winter Street as in magical, cute, precious street – Christmas. When my mother and my two kid sisters and I walked up Green Street to get to Downtown Woo, we’d walk by Winter Street and I’d feel toasty and warm – Jimmy’s street – and it would be Christmas. I imagined big snowflakes with 100 points, no one like the other: like my Lamartine Street School kids. The girl in grade 5…the very poor girl with red hair and freckles who showed us her big knife in the school yard. She had a pet guinea pig she brought to school once – and a boyfriend! Wow! Coolio! Special like Christmas, we kids thought!!

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Baby Rose and her mother, Cecelia.

Or the big big Santa next door to the drycleaners where my mother worked: Kiddie Castle (for rich kids) had the best Christmas display window – a 7-foot tall Santa waving to all passersby. Beneath him, girls and boys hats, scarves and mittens and wrapped gifts. By his side an animated Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with a real red light bulb nose. The light bulb was small – Rudy’s nose!!! Visiting our mother at the cleaners, we’d stop before the great big plate glass window and watch Santa, wearing a red luxurious red velvet and white fur trimmed suit, wave to us kids. And Rudolph was so cute – the size of a large dog (my wish for many a Christmases until Ma caved in and got us a puppy years later when we no longer believed in Chris Kringle).

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Rose, center, when she loved her latke and pigs knuckles! Her two kid sisters, pictured, were neutral!

Or the canned latke Ma would buy at Buelher Brothers Market up Millbury Street. More for Hanukkah, but Water and Green streets were still ethnic Jewish, many Poles like my mother and even some of the younger moms and dads crossed over and experimented with different Eastern European foods. The latke were easy to make: Ma just opened the can and slid out the white pasty latke roo and cut it into 1/4 inch slices and fried them in butter in her frying pan. Ma loved her latke, so did I. My kid sisters were neutral, often passing on this Cecelia Christmas treat. Sometimes Ma bought a jar of pigs knuckles – and ate them out of the jar, a delicacy. I’d eat one, too, paying no mind that they looked like little pigs feet…Pre-WOKE/PETA days!

Sometimes I’d just be walking home from school in winter, books in my knapsack, and feel Christmas-y. I was 9 and just starting to write little essays for the Telegram and Gazette’s HAPPY TIMES page. On Sunday, next to the “funnies,” you could read Worcester city kids’ best essays – and win new books for points (I think). Writing made me happy! What gifts would be under this little writer’s tree? Ma read all my essays – first out of kindness, then because she liked the stories I was telling her. Stories about my pet mouse Gigi, about my Polish grandmother Bapy, about books and trees and wolves howling outside my secret Prince, Jimmy’s, house on Winter Street. About the stamp collection Ma kept when she was 12 1/2 years old and went to work in Springfield with her sisters during the Great Depression. For a Bishop! They had cats and kittens and two beautiful Doberman pinschers – Rocky and Bridgette. And when my auntie played Christmas carols at the piano, Bridgette would sit by the piano and howl. It was Christmas!
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Bridgette❤❤❤❤

My Mom’s Christmas notebook

By Rosalie Tirella

I have been leafing through my late mom’s “Christmas notepad.” …

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I bought it for her at the Christmas Tree Shop in Shrewsbury, 15 or so years ago, when I learned she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 81 – and had just been diagnosed … She became ill after she had chosen to stay in her little studio apartment by the Holden line during that horrific ice/snow storm that turned all of Worcester County into a white, crystal castle – with no electricity for a third of our residents. Telephone wires dripped with iridescent, five feet long icicles, people snow shoed to their neighbors house down the street. It was all mystical and gorgeous to look at, but treacherous to survive in … brutal to drive through … scores of thick black lines down. And NATIONAL GRID WAS SO SLOW in fixing things. I am convinced they were the cause of many old timers’ deaths …

My mom was probably one of the hundreds of Worcester County folks who got very sick/died because of that ice storm. No power at her complex!! No heat! No hot water! No electricity to run her oven/stove or refrigerator! … All the seniors at my mom’s complex chose to go to shelter with relatives or live, for a few days, in the gym at Doherty High School, the City of Worcester makeshift shelter for West Siders. My mother was the outlier – my strong-willed mother and her two Greek pals. They decided to tough it out. They were the healthiest of the 62 old folks at their seniors housing complex, so they were confidant … Four days later, four days of living in what amounted to a dark, freezing meat locker … the electricity was back on. My boyfriend at the time and I visited her twice a day – we pressed her to go to his house. He had gas heat. She was adamant: NO! THIS IS MY HOME!

… Health complications for the Three Amigos after the storm: Jane got blood clots and died four months later. Maria had to move in with relatives. And I assume my mom had something happen with blood clots, too, because she stopped being the smartest person in the room. She began asking me the same questions over and over again. Annoying! But when I found a chicken carcass in her stove’s broiler and not in the waste can by the kitchen sink, I called her doctor and made an appointment for her for a physical. Ma had a full medical work up: lungs, heart, mammogram, blood, urine, calcium level tests. Her doc told me: Cecelia has the early stages of dementia. Keep her as healthy and strong as you can – and call Elder Services of Worcester for visiting nurses aides, home health aides and MORE SUPPORT SERVICES so she can continue to live in her apartment for as long as possible. I did just that. I’d visit my mother every night to make sure all the cogs in this new machine rolled on …

And they did – for four years! And then Ma went into a nursing home where they over medicated her, killing her. Years later, I consider those four years of caring for Ma my noblest years! Some of my finest hours! It was so HARD – but I did it all: hugs and kisses, new dusters from Building 19, cute nighties for bed, McDonald’s take out coffee, fish and chips, the Turner Classic Movies cable TV channel … and those excellent home health aides and homemakers. Angels. They showered Ma, made her her farmer’s breakfasts, vacuumed her wall to wall carpet and more … My mother grew very attached to one young homemaker – buying her kids birthday, First Holy Communion and Christmas gifts. A beautiful friendship – until Ma’s dementia became MODERATE and she got more and more forgetful and hid her big porcelain dolls – standing on her TV set – in the closets and peed her pants more often than walk to her cute little bathroom to urinate. Even wearing Depends and me doing extra, and the help growing weary I knew it was time. When Ma fell over her cat April and landed in rehab, the docs recommended a nursing home …

So here are some pages from that time, Ma’s notebook, the early years, written in her straight, un-pretty penmanship … list, after mini list … I see so clearly my mother’s hard life in those thin note pages. Ma’s life: a series of to do lists so she, a single mim with three girls, could keep us all on track. Lists so she could get the right groceries to keep her girls healthy and strong. My mother was obsessive about the weather when we were young because we had no car and walked to school, church, work in the rain, snow, sleet, hail. We had to dress appropriately for the weather! I got awards at Lamartine Street School for “perfect attendance”! All seen today, again, in the palm of my hand: My mother a small woman swimming against grinding poverty, saved by her Catholic faith – and a will of steel … ans her daily to do lists, like what I see today:

“Lungs clear, blood pressure perfect … BUY MILK, ORANGE JUICE … Need qts for laundry … Buy eggs, cheese … Pay rent on 3rd … ”

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And at the end of those years, as Ma struggled against dementia and tried to hide it from me and the world, in her little Christmas notebook, she wrote desperate questions to herself: “Do I have money in the bank? … My telephone # [blank]” … or “today is Tuesday.”

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Missing my sweet, strong and loving mother this Christmas Eve!

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LOVER COME BACK!!!!

By Rosalie Tirella

I’m watching what the film critics tout as the quintessential Rock Hudson-Doris Day romantic comedy: LOVER COME BACK. For me, PILLOW TALK is #1 – this Day-Hudson classic is like a John Ford cowboy film without the cowboys, guns and Monument Valley: perfect, as in not one superfluous line of dialogue, one flat joke, gesture, kiss. Resolves beautifully. Lovely to look at.

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Rock Hudson gets a free ride from the ladies!

LOVER COME BACK is still lots of fun!: filled with glitter, swanky night clubs, kisses, two sexy stars … rife with double entendres, witty repartee and a showcase for cool 1960s Manhattan apartments, offices, sky lines … and hokey tourists. And it’s got Tony Randall – a third wheel who’s anything but!

Doris Day is Carol Templeton, a very early 1960s career gal working in advertising high up in a gorgeous NYC skyscraper. …

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Carol at work❤

Carol is hard-charging and ambitious – she pretty much has the job that actor Jon Hamm had in the cable TV classic MAD MEN: creating advertising campaigns for all kinds of products and dealing with the creepy guys behind the products. And managing an unruly love life on the side. They work to make cans of wax fun! They mold America’s tastes and desires!

Whereas the MAD MAD TV series was wonderful but always pretty dark and foreboding, LOVER COME BACK is wonderful but always light and fun. Both look a lot alike: linen sheath dresses for the gals; starched white dress shirts for the guys; clean-lined, mid-20th century furniture; deep, saturated colors all over the place. … Both TV series and movie depict the advertising game realistically: sex sells (Hudson’s character, Jerry Webster, says, “Give me a well stacked dame and I’ll sell after-shave lotion to Beatniks!”); they take their boorish male clients out to strip clubs and ply them with drinks; they learn everything they can about the product – and their clients. LOVER COMES BACK opens with a voice over, This is the Manhattan advertising world where Americans are taught: this is what you must eat, drink … smell like!

Then we meet Carol and Jerry. The narrator continues: “THIS IS A WORKER” and Carol (Day), in a gorgeous white dress with stunning black hat, struts out of her cab. The narrator narrates: “AND THIS IS A DRONE,” and we are introduced to Jerry (Hudson): chauffeured by a lovely brunette still in her lovely sea-foam-green evening gown driving her matching gorgeous sea foam green convertible. …
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Jerry at work❤

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Two yokel local tourists are behind the couple. They’re in a big cab with a regular old cabbie – they ogle Jerry and his date as they French kiss GOOD MORNING! These two fat, balding middle-aged guys from fly over country are the film’s Greek chorus: at various points in the film they see Rock at “the mercy” of yet another beautiful woman. How does he do it? they ask each other. And marvel at their super man …

The movie takes shape when a canned wax mogul from the South is in New York City looking for a new ad agency to represent his canned wax company. Jerry and Carol, working for two competing ad agencies, right across the street from each other, vie for the account. Jerry wins after he takes the guy to a night club to show him some better “cans”! …
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Carol is enraged! Jerry Webster is an unethical hack! She drags his bunny with the great can – “Rebel” – in front of the Ad Council for justice. Rebel, is supposed to rat out Jerry, but she only sings his praises – after Jerry promises her (a few days earlier) that she will be the TV face behind a brand new product: VIP.

The problem is THERE IS NO VIP! Jerry made it all up to get Rebel to say nice things about him during her hearing before the Ad Council. He saw the word “VIPs” as in “Very Important Persons” in a newspaper headline when he was at Rebel’s smothering her with kisses to … kiss up … and get her to lie before the Ad Council. His kisses didn’t take, but his promising her that she will be the ONE AND ONLY VIP GIRL – ON TV!! – did.

And so begins the Rebel TV advertising campaign of VIP – a product that doesn’t exist. All of America wants to buy VIP!! But what is it? And where can they buy it? The problem seems daunting until Dr. Linus Tyler steps in – Jerry visits this misanthropic quack in his Greenwich Village basement lab and bribes him with $5,000 to get back into the research game, to develop a VIP. Carol hears of this, and determined to steal the VIP account, tracks Dr. Tyler down in his lab. Only it’s Jerry in a lab apron washing some beakers – the real Dr. Tyler stepped out for a minute. Smitten by the pretty Carol, Jerry doesn’t tell her the doc has stepped out, but plays along. Meet the new Dr. Tyler. THE DOCTOR IS IN!

And so, a la PILLOW TALK, this beautiful play boy dupes Carol (a little too gullible, in my opinion) into believing he’s someone he’s not: the naive, innocent, VIRGINAL Dr. Linus Tyler. They date and smooch and date some more and smooch some more … and fall in love.

At one point, the wolfish Jerry is on the cusp of bedding down the chaste Carol – in the maid’s room in her apartment – when the telephone rings. It’s Carol’s boss and he enlightens Carol. SHE WAS DUPED! Carol is enraged! For spite, she lures Jerry out of bed to the beach 30 miles away where they first kissed … It’s time for a midnight skinny dip … but she does not take so much as her lipstick off and drives away with all of Jerry’s clothes. “GOOD NIGHT, MR. WEBSTER!” Carol yells from behind the car steering wheel as she zooms off. I won’t give away the ending of this terrific flick because it’s the funniest scene in the movie (to me!). But no one should ever write off Rock Hudson’s comedy chops or dismiss Doris Day as a sexless 1950s movie actress – Eisenhower’s girl but never JFK’s. Well, Day was sexy! She was more than a bridge to Jane Fonda and the American actresses of the 1960s and ’70s! Yes, she turned down the Mrs. Robinson role in THE GRADUATE, but did Ann Bancroft love and support Rock Hudson when he was dying of the then mysterious and taboo disease called AIDS? Doris Day was there for Rock. Sweet as sugar. Tough as nails.

❤PILLOW TALK TALK!!❤

By Rosalie Tirella

Life has sent me running into the arms of PILLOW TALK, the Doris Day-Rock Hudson movie-gem that is a fluffy puff pastry of Jackie O. elegance, intelligence, wit, cheeky double entendres and great beautiful apartments with butter yellow bedroom walls and views of the Manhattan skyline.

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Doris and Rock: Lover come back!

Doris Day is the late 1950s movie career gal – a chaste interior decorator who loves her creative work, huge color-saturated apartment, wealthy beaus and the fancy restaurants to which they chauffeur her. But, man oh man, does she hate the guy on the other end of her party line – the gorgeous Rock Hudson/Brad Allen, who hogs their shared land line to no end – a lothario songwriter who sings the same smarmy love song he wrote to every one of his girlfriends, switching out their first names as he flatters and woos each gullible girl. Doris hears this song every time she picks up her telephone receiver to make a phone call – and it annoys her to no end!

Doris/Jan bickers with Brad over the phone several times a day. Brad is always intrigued but they never see each other. Rich goofball Tony Randall/Jonathon – Rock’s best friend – is infatuated with the pretty Jan, promising her “I’ll smother you in private lines!!” if she marries him, but their chaste first kiss leaves Jan cold. He’s not her man.

Only when Brad sees Jan dancing with a client’s son at a night club, mesmerized by her cute bum snug in a low-back white dress, does he realize “so that’s the other end of my party line!” When her date, the kiddo, passes out dead drunk in the middle of the dance floor, Rock rushes in to help (himself).


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But how to start dating a woman you’ve bickered with for months over the phone – a woman who knows your name and the sound of your voice? Change your name and your voice, of course! Brad cops a silly yokel Texas accent and calls himself Rex Stetson. Jan, of course, is so smitten by this “marvelous looking man” she’s completely drawn in …

And that’s when the fun begins – for Brad. He wallows in his two identities – calling up Doris as Rex and butting in on their flirty phone call as Brad. He can barely suppress his laughter! and has to cup his hand over the telephone receiver so Jan doesn’t hear his laughter (remember doing that on your pink telephone?!). The director makes such clever use of split screens here – you see the two lovers talking to each other over the phone: in bed, in the bathtub … separate but together. Love the thought bubbles and the chemistry between these two fine actors!

The party is over, however, when Jonathon, still stuck on Jan, has her followed by a gum shoe – and learns she’s dating his best friend! He pounces on Brad in the middle of a date with Jan …


❤❤❤❤

… at the Hidden Door club (Jan has gone to the powder room) and tells him to go to his house in Connecticut to finish writing the songs for a Broadway show he is producing. Too cocky for his own good, Brad defies Jonathon and ropes Jan into going away for the weekend to Connecticut. To Jonathon’s place! The country house in Connecticut is rustic, the fireplace roars … Doris is ripe for the pickin’. The wolfy Rock goes out side to get more firewood for the fire, Doris finds some sheet music in his coat that she’s thrown over her shoulder, goes to the piano to play the tune …and as she plinks plinks the piano keys, the melody of that notorious love song that Brad sang over their party line to each of his conquests comes though … DORIS IS FLOORED! ENRAGED! SHE WAS DUPED BY THE CREEP AT THE OTHER END OF HER PARTY LINE!!! But … SHE’S IN LOVE WITH HIM NOW.

This is a wonderful, classic Doris Day-Rock Hudson flick (they made 3 or 4 of these lovely cinematic confections together) – so the ending is hilarious. And happy!

Fruit Cocktail❤

Text and pics by Rosalie Tirella

Yesterday was a sheltering-in-place kind of Thanksgiving. Made all the veggies and sides – but ate no turkey, for love of the bird❤. …

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Then, I found this culinary talisman, a can of fruit cocktail and burst into tears:

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❤😪

I called the old beau and sobbed to him: “I MISS MY MOM”! He knew Cecelia, too, and loved her, too – more than me at the end. When Ma was dying, he raced from a work site to the nursing home to say goodbye to her. He was in his painters pants and covered in white paint strokes. He looked exhausted – but went to my mom’s bedside to “just visit.” Not a huggy guy, he said, formally: “How are you?”

Ma said: “Fine! You’re looking good, ‘John’!

Both lousy liars. Ma died several hours later. John went back to his worksite, then helped me remove Ma’s stuff from her half of the nursing home bedroom the next day.

But I digress. Back to the can of fruit cocktail. …

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When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island, fruit cocktail – the sweetened kind – was a staple in our Lafayette Street flat. Ma loved it, used it almost every day: as an appetizer served in a little bowl, for all of our father’s steak dinners – when Daddy was around. She poured it over her Corn Flakes for breakfast. She urged us to eat it too – over our Corn Flakes or as a stand alone dinner staple, to be savored before supper. Or for dessert.

Right before our birthdays – Ma would walk to Supreme Market on Millbury Street and buy her Cecelia Kiddie Birthday Party Bonanza for me, my sisters and our party guests, Uncle Mark, Aunt Mary and their three kids, our cousins: three big cans of fruit cocktail, a box of Duncan Hines Cherry Supreme cake, eggs, Betty Crocker canned chocolate frosting and a jar of red cherries.

Then she’d go to White’s Five and Ten across the street for paper cups and plates, a plastic table cloth, paper party hats, party favors, a small box of pink candles and a Pin the Tail on the Donkey wall game – and Scotch Tape to keep it all together.

Ma would bake her instant cake – and give me the bowl to lick (never got sick!). When the two pink layers were baked, Ma frosted them and then cracked open her little jar of red maraschino cherries, cut all of them in half and decorated her cake with them. I hung out with Ma at the kitchen table, watching her, admiring her artistry, hoping she’d hand me a few sweet cherries. She did.

But for Ma, the big event was pouring all those cans of fruit cocktail into a special, BEAUTIFUL, glass punch bowl, gingerly placing a clear plastic ladle in it, then pulling the tiny glass bowls out of the china closet and setting it all up on our big laundry wash tubs in our kitchen – now covered with a lid and a plastic table cloth. Cake and fruit cocktail front and center; sandwich meat from Buehler Brothers Meat Market on Millbury Street, State Line potato chips, Cheetos and Wonder Bread flanking the heart of the spread. Ma made a ritual of serving everyone their fruit cocktail, ladling it in the tiny bowls…serving us kids from the left. Very classy. Very Eisenhower 1950s wife and mom.

Ma had learned all this in Springfield during the Great Depression, when she was a maid/assistant cook to her sister for the Bishop of Springfield. The pious bishop ate like a hog: roast beef, steak, salmon, shrimp cocktail, homemade desserts every night. And fruit cocktail.

My mother, a young Catholic girl …
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Cecelia, left, in Springfield, with one of her big sisters, Aunt Mary.

… working away from home, Worcester, to send money home to her Polish immigrant parents, was proud to be working for the CATHOLIC CHURCH. Almost Royalty! Practically Presidential! Beautiful china. The best cuts of meat! Linen napkins. Silver tableware. Cream for your coffee. And FRUIT COCKTAIL!!! … Thirty years later available at Supreme Market on Millbury Street! For cheap!

Holding that tiny fruit cocktail tin yesterday, I realized the fruit cocktail we were swimming in at Lafayette Street when I was a little girl, was, for our sweet mother, a reminder of holy, halcyon days: days sans a face-slapping, screaming, red-faced Daddy; a big, cold tenement to heat with just a gas stove, with gas log, in the kitchen in winter time, and two small electric heaters in the kids’ bedrooms. Poverty 24/7: 60-hour work weeks at the dry cleaners, walking all over our gritty neighborhood to work, shop, work, work, work … Spring, summer, autumn, winter …

Putting can opener to a big can of fruit cocktail brought Ma to a better place: memories of the Bishop’s big Victorian House, with radiators for warmth, her two big sisters for company, mass and Holy Communion every morning – and her two beloved Doberman pinschers, Rocky and Bridgette. And their cat who had adorable kittens twice a year.

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Cecelia in Springfield, with Dobbie Bridgette.

Then here in Worcester the sweetened bits of pears, peaches and grapes conjured up beautiful kiddie birthday parties with pin the tail on the donkey games! And dressing up her three little girls wicked cute!:

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Rosalie, center, with her two little sisters.

Beef loaf from Bueller Brothers, maybe a jar of pigs knuckles, too (not bad)! Singing HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! …a sweetener for Corn Flakes, meals, snacks … her hardscrabble life.

That’s why I cried yesterday.

********

Thankful!😌❤

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Have a grateful THANKSgiving, Worcester! I am grateful for my life, my choices: almost 20 years of InCity Times/CECELIA newspaper, 12 years of incitytimesworcester.org

Today I am recalling some of Worcester’s great ones, thankful for having known them:

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ROBERTA OF THE LONG GONE BUT NEVER FORGOTTEN Java Hut at Webster Sq. – 20 years ago, there she was standing behind her coffee-house’s counter making me java!

An ICT advertiser and beautiful lady to all in the city, Roberta was ahead of her time, the Java Hut the cool precursor to all future Woo coffeehouses, terrific sandwiches, artisan coffee, poetry readings and gangly folk music players. …
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Roberta!!

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Buddy!❤❤

❤Buddy Brouseau, executive director of the long gone PIP wet shelter in Main South (above, standing at the PIP’s client coffee bar). In recovery, Buddy called the men and women of the PIP – most drunk, many strung out on heroin – “my brothers and sisters” AND HUGGED THEM, FED THEM, LOVED THEM.

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The late great Polish Santa (Tony Hmura)

...🎅The late great Polish Santa (aka the late Tony Hmura) pictured here loading up his trunk/sleigh on Canterbury Street with toys for Worcester’s inner-city kids:

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On Dasher, on Dancer … on Dodge!

I spent many a Christmas handing toys out with the Polish Santa!
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❤🎅🎅🎅🇺🇸

❤G’s Cuttin’ Up’s BEST BARBER – I called him Pops to myself. A true father figure in Piedmont to all the young men and boys – doing the fades, cutting the locks, showing Black boys love, talent, a work ethic, hope:
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Miss the hugs, my dear friend! …

❤Q-Village Angels …

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The ❤ of QVCC Food Pantry!

…❤ The lovely old couple who ran the old Quinsigamond Village Neighborhood Village food pantry. They were in their late 70s and yet they drove all over Worcester to pick up donations, stocked the shelves, kept their list/records and manned it – 20+ hours a week! The husband, pictured above, was adorable! His wife of decades nice – but firm! They were on our InCity Times cover years ago – beautiful!

… 🌸St. Mary’s Elementary School …

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A procession to shrine and church! photos submitted.

👬👭… – here, its last nun-principal, a nice lady whose name I’ve forgotten:
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🌸🌸🌸🌸

… St. Mary’s Elementary School – closed forever in the spring. Gone are the student processions to their little Polish church on Ward Street – the beloved church of my childhood! They are marching almost!! … across the street, in uniforms, neat and well scrubbed AND RESPECTFUL – the teacher proudly carrying the American flag. Today, I am so GRATEFUL FOR THIS GRAND COUNTRY, OUR America!!! And dear friends …❤

Looking for that ol’ snow plowing picture of the ol’ beau, outside of the long gone, much loved, Tweeds on Grove Street …

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Rosalie, November 2020. Thankful!!

Holiday stories for you!🌲❄🎅⛄

Christmas Dolls

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose, November 2020

When I was a kid growing up in Green Island, Christmas used to mean getting that ONE SPECIAL DOLL from Santa Claus – aka Ma and Whites Five and Ten on Millbury Street – on Christmas morn – and always being disappointed after the wrapping paper was torn off. Santa (Ma) had refused to follow – just like the year before – the latest doll trends, watch the latest doll TV commercials, or even bother to learn about Barbie’s new Malibu Barbie beach house!! She always bought my two sisters and me the same old big, nondescript plastic dolls sitting high atop the dusty ol’ shelves of dusty ol’ Whites. The out-of-date dolls that Mrs. White, a towering “doll” in her own right, attired impeccably in navy blue dress and jacket, nylons, black pumps, with her jet-black dyed hair puffed up high into a towering bouffant – gently foisted on her. Mrs. White was a more interesting “doll” than the dolls she sold in her store! I loved to look at her – her foot-high bouffant, her ample bosom stuffed neatly into her dress, the heavy beige makeup caked on her not very pretty face, her classic red lipstick, the elegant way she walked through the shade and curtain section of Whites Five and Ten.

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Cecelia – Rose’s mom’s – work vest (one of three) she wore at the Green Island drycleaners she worked at for decades. She bought this vest for herself 40+ years ago at White’s Five and Ten! Now it hangs on Rose’s bedroom wall, in honor of Cecelia’s life of integrity and love.

My sisters, pictured below, were always satisfied, happy with their Christmas dolls:

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They let Ma put them in the special rocking chair in our Green Island kitchen to snap one of her famous Ma photos – same rocking chair, same Brownie camera every Christmas, Easter and Birthday. “Say Cheese!!” our sweet mother would gush as she pushed the camera button – photographing her own little dolls holding their own little dolls. Us – the gifts she loved most in her world – “my three girls” she would boast to anyone within ear shot! No TV commercials needed to sell our mother on motherhood. She loved it all. Here she is holding me!:

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Cecelia❤ and baby Rose

But I wanted more. Was ambitious for my dollies. Ma was too poor to be trendy. In a time in America – the late 1960s – when fashion was king, and pop culture ruled, Ma was still stuck in Whites Five and Ten. She was oblivious to walking, talking, hair-growing, pop-song singing dolls. And STILL happy! Ma stuck to the basics at Christmas time: pretty plastic dolls in pretty dresses with curly hair – sort of like the perms Ma sported – bought at Whites, in our neighborhood. Dolls that we could hold and hug and kiss and put in our doll carriage and wheel around our big tenement – BUT DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

“Ma!” I’d say, “Please! Can Santa bring me an Easy Bake Oven!” Christmas morn I’d get that tiny plastic dish and pot set I’d seen at Whites. Months ago. Or: “Ma! Can Santa bring me talking Barbie and Ken? Pull the string in their necks and they REALLY REALLY TALK, Ma!!” She’d smile her beautiful smile, but Christmas morn I’d get a boring plastic knock-off Barbie with crumby wardrobe from Whites Five and Ten! She didn’t even have bendable knees like the REAL Barbies you saw on TV!

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Rose’s ancient Christmas stocking! Bought for her by mom Cecelia many Christmas days past – at White’s! Cecelia bought three stockings – one for each of her daughters. On Christmas eve she stuffed each one with an orange, walnuts in their shells, a little prayer card, plastic rosary and small plastic doll. On Christmas morn, we’d find our stockings lying by our bed pillows.

Every Christmas was a bust. But there was more, something beyond dollsville: church and all the beautiful organ music and singing Christmas hymns together with all the people at St. Mary’s. There was the visit to Uncle Mark’s family on the other side of Worcester the day after Christmas – turkey dinner, ice cream cones for dessert, Ma kicking her shoes off, wearing the cute pink fuzzy slippers Aunt Mary gave her to put on … All of us kids playing Monopoly on the living room carpet in that cozy cottage with the tv on and Ma and Aunt Mary sitting in their Lazy Boys sipping their coffee and enjoying a danish from Widoffs Bakery on Water Street. Uncle Mark made the special trip – and the bulkies were still fragrant and soft at dinner time! Uncle Mark was an elementary school principal, owned a home and car – our cousins had all the beautiful TV dolls and battery powered Tonka Trucks. And boy! was it great to try them out!

Yet there was something about Ma in those fuzzy pink slippers, laughing with Aunt Mary, eating her danish, enjoying her day off from the dry cleaners, looking so pretty in Aunt Mary’s little living room brimming with kids, toys and their big white Christmas tree … I just wanted to cuddle up at Ma’s feet and bask in her joy, her love, my own Christmas doll!:
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Cecelia, on the Worcester Common, circa 1962

❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

BOOKENDS

By Rosalie Tirella

Last night I spoke to an old beau over the phone. We talk on the phone often these days – “just friends” these days. He had been scheduled for a “procedure” at UMass hospital: a stent was to be inserted into his aorta. But a day before he was to go into the hospital, he blacked out (symptom of a blocked, clogged aorta) and tumbled down three flights of stairs, and collapsed on a first-floor landing, unconscious, bruising his ribs, his back, his arm.

He was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance inside which, he quietly told me, the EMTs were rough and uncaring. He felt alone. The aorta procedure was postponed and he was checked out by nurses and doctors and brought home.

Now, recuperating in his big bed, the antique bed his grandmother Anna willed to him decades ago, he acknowledges in that sexy voice of his that he’s the antique now – and “still happy. I am old but I am happy,” he says, quoting a fave Cat Stevens tune (“Father and Son”):


His big German Shepherd Dog is old, too, lying heavily by his side, her big head on his stomach, the loyal old dog, a “rescue” on which he spent thousands of dollars to bring back from her brink: preventing blindness, joint pain, crippling of her back. Anna, named after his beloved late granny, the only adult in his childhood and youth who was kind to him. Both his parents were nightmares. …

His transistor radio is on, softly playing on his night table (yes! he still has his radio from his youth!) … the FM radio station is playing “oldies” in the background. It felt like years ago when we first met and loved – and we would chat on the phone for an hour or so – the same little radio playing classic rock and pop. When we were both younger, more ambitious – and had landlines! Now me, almost 60, he, now in his early 70s, are just bookends … to a period in our lives that we shared: concerts every weekend, all over New England!; plowing the Worcester snow in winter, for hours, our city silent and beautiful, sleeping beneath her blanket of downy innocence … listening to music playing on his truck’s radio and kissing at all the red lights … eating a late-night meal at the now long gone Tweeds on Grove Street, while the snowflakes still came down in sheets of pettiness.

Late last night, it felt intimate and real and true again: We talked of America, our dogs, music … and our youth, now a dream – “a time of innocence, a time of confidences” just like in this Simon and Garfunkel tune, below. We talked of dice being tumbled and how bad luck – awful bad luck, like the death of his spouse at 48 from cancer, years ago – does irreparable damage to a man. You cannot recover – ever – you can only coast, numb yourself to the pain and listen to your radio playing softly in the November night …


❤❄❤❄

The movie SHANE belongs to Alan Ladd!

By Rosalie Tirella

After THE SEARCHERS, SHANE is my fave Western. And no, the movie is not directed by John Ford! George Stevens is the auteur – just as brilliant as Ford, maybe more modern … I love Stevens’ other famous films, too: GIANT and A PLACE IN THE SUN.

Stevens made a different kind of movie: the currents of race, class, gender as they played out in our country – and still play out – run strong through his films. In SHANE not so much – though there are no gratuitous gun fights, people seem to try to think their problems through and discuss them thoughtfully with friends and foes alike. And, best of all, Shane, as played by the terrific actor Alan Ladd (in a performance of a lifetime!), is the ex-gun fighter-hero who, though lean and still lethal, is unafraid of his feelings. Wallows in them, so to speak. Is, in fact, haunted by them!


Ladd, physically speaking, is no John Wayne. But he’s “in touch” with his emotions in a way the strong silent Wayne could never be. Ladd’s not tall, his shoulders are just merely average in width, and his waist is slim. Wayne was pure POWER on screen – just his mere presence in a film scene spoke volumes, blotted out every other cowboy in the saloon! Ladd is the opposite in SHANE. He rides into the immigrant settlement, so pretty in the Wyoming sun, in a buckskin outfit, with fringes!, looking gorgeous – not like a “sod- buster.” His blond hair is combed back to showcase a tanned, sensitive, handsome face that nonetheless seems clouded by regret, remorse, alienation, aloneness. The perennial outsider. Small in stature, Shane is big in tragedy.

Like I said, Shane is big on feelings: gentle with Little Joey, willing to take the time out to teach him how to shoot, share little life lessons, “race” the boy to the farmhouse – his horse and Joey’s galloping through green fields … A great father figure, role model. Little Joey is smitten with his new hero.

But Shane is very much in love with Joey’s mom, Marion, played by the 1930s and ’40s screwball comedy actress, Jean Arthur. Of course, Shane can’t and won’t act on his feelings for Marion – he respects her husband too much. But more important, his gunfighter past constrains him … death for hire has a way of killing the killer. So Shane worships Marion from afar, telling her the dinner in her log cabin kitchen set against the Wyoming mountains is “elegant”; standing out in the rain, soaked to the bone, his cowboy hat soggy but too mesmerized by Marion to stop looking into her kitchen where she stands with Joey. Marion opens the window and the chemistry between her and Shane … wow. So sexy! And everyone’s got their top collar buttons buttoned!!

Intuitive like all children, Lil’ Joey, picks up on the couple’s attraction. However, his dad Joe (the excellent Van Heflin) is unaware of the simmering feelings. He sees ALL the possibilities loud and clear when Shane and Marion (dressed in her satin wedding gown) dance together during the settlement’s Independence Day celebration. And Joe and Marion’s wedding anniversary! The look on Joe’s face … There’s no fighting over the woman in this film – Joe knows Shane and Marion live by a higher moral code. He maybe once alludes to Shane’s violent past.


There are so many layers of feelings to this film – love of nature, love between wife and husband, love of justice, love of absolution and renewal. The children’s world shines through beautifully: a little girl innocently waves at the now dead Torry, slung over his horse’s saddle like a sack of flour, being carried home to his now widow. Or the same girl and Lil’ Joey running to play with a feisty little pony during Torry’s funeral. The mountains of Wyoming make a dark, foreboding and beautiful backdrop, the small group of ragtag homesteaders say the Our Father all the way through…but the kiddies are bored! They run to the adorable pony to pat him – and the pony does nip at Little Joey! His playmate giggles in delight.


Jack Palance as hired gun Jack Wilson paid by cattle king Russ Ryker to kill Joe and any homesteader interfering with cattle kingdom is frightening. A killing machine with zero feelings. Wilson is paid by Ryker to preserve a way of life that is fast fading from the American West: the open range. Going, going gone will be Ryker’s days – days of running thousands of cattle over hundreds of square miles of American land. All yours. For free. Now, thanks to the Homestead Act, civilization – farms, churches, schools, government – encroaches. Ryker wants to stop it in its tracks in a hailstorm of bullets. Shane – semi-retired hired gun – can’t be part of this new America, just like Ryker, “the difference is I know it” he says to the dusty, brutish Ryker.

What happens when you kill 10 men? 20? Or even one? “You’re branded,” Shane quietly tells Little Joey. “There’s no coming back from a killing.” And his face grows sullen as he acquiesces to his fate. His inescapable fate. Shane bows his head in shame at the realization and the consequences: he can never have the life he now covets – domestic bliss. A young son who idolizes him, a wife who is lovely and wants only him. Peace and love. No more blood and watching men die writhing in the mud (like Torry at the hands of Wilson). Nope. Just pure, unending love. When Marion cleans the wounds on his forehead after the fight at Grafton’s, Shane watches her with tenderness…can’t keep his eyes off Marion. He is so grateful for the painting of turpentine! It is like a caress. He’s known so little of it, the desperado “under the eaves”!

Shane is a tragic figure – as he enters one last gun battle to save Marion, Joe and Joey and the home, settlement they love so dearly, he knows its the end. But he knows he, the professional gun slinger, is the only one who can kill fellow professional killer Wilson, Ryker’s hired gun. Joe is tough and brave but no match for Wilson – “he’s quick on the draw” Shane tells the settlers when they ask: WHO IS THIS TALL MAN IN THE BLACK HAT?

Like the black and white hats worn in this movie, there is something black and white about life in this Old West, in this movie. But there is no nostalgia here for the Good Old Days. Just people making life decisions every minute of the day – most life-altering. But we don’t realize it until it’s too late. The cards have been dealt.