Category Archives: Rosalie’s Blog

Togetherness

A month ago I wrote our 20th anniversary column; so let’s not waste time … let’s dive into a new column!

TOGETHERNESS

By Rosalie Tirella

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Ma

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Daddy holding Rose’s two kid sisters

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island we were very poor, and my father, “Daddy,” was tough and abusive. So going to the other side of town to visit my Uncle Mark, the elementary school principal, and his wife, my mom’s sister, Mary – Aunt Mary to me – in their adorable cottage with huge backyard and our three fun kid cousins was like applying a cool, soothing balm to our raw and crushed spirits: my mom’s, my two younger sisters’ and mine. Daddy never went on any of these family jaunts – in fact, that’s when he stuck around around the flat. He’d have our apartment all to himself to make his cryptic phone calls in Italian … and then leave promptly on our return!

Meanwhile, Uncle Mark would pick us up in his long gold Elektra, always happy and full of corny jokes for us kids and, decades later, when I look back, a real sensitivity to my mom and her plight. My Aunt Mary was a classic 1950s Eisenhower stay-at-home wife and had “the life” (I thought): she never worked at a job outside the house, stayed put in their adorable little home and cleaned, cooked and baked and planted flowers in the garden for her family. For their delight. To their delight. She was chubby and had rosy cheeks and gave the best hugs. She always smelled like Widoff’s unseeded rye bread – lightly toasted and buttered! In the afternoons she’d watch LET’S MAKE A DEAL on TV and pine for the newest models of all the refrigerators and stoves and living room sets behind all those big wrapped boxes/stage sets that game show host Monty Hall showcased with such flair. You had to have a really funny costume for Monty to pick you – but you could furnish your own Eisenhower little house if you won big.

Travel 20 or so miles down Worcester’s battered streets and there was Ma toiling away at the dry cleaners on Millbury Street for minimum wage, then walking home to Lafayette Street in rain sleet or snow to do the mommy things for her three girls like cook supper, set out new clean clothes for the next school day, throw our dirty clothes into the old pink wicker laundry basket and care for her aging and high maintenance Polish immigrant mother Bapy who lived with us and was feisty, opinionated, loathed my father, fed my pet hamster Joy birthday cake and liked to think she ran the show. Which she did. In Polish.

Uncle Mark was an ex-college football player from Fordham and almost went pro – he was talking and thick – built like a brick outhouse with his square shoulders that were so wide they filled our Green Island doorway. He was there for my mom to drive us all for our pediatrician appointments…if they bought a new coffee table, we got their old one …During their cookouts Mom always got the second hamburger off the round domed BBQ – after Aunt Mary’s got her burger first.

But once in awhile we were reminded of our secondhandedness at Aunt Mary’s. By our beloved Uncle Mark. After a successful cookout or after a scrumptious Thanksgiving dinner with all of us around him, he’d stride over to Aunt Mary throw his thick beefy arms around her fleshy put pretty shoulder and shout: TOGETHERNESS! For the whole world to hear, it seemed to me. This made Ma and me …uncomfortable. My father NEVER did that – would do that – to Ma. Drape his arms around and shout to the heavens: TOGETHERNESS! It was the opposite! AWAY-NESS! … I could see my pretty mother, in her late 30s, and still pretty look away, grow serious. It was as if Uncle Mark was bragging … and had forgotten that my mom was …alone.

Fast forward four or five decades: I am in trouble. My late mom, Cecelia, her ashes in her urn – a blue biscotti jar I bought at the old Building 19 – has been rolling around in the trunk of my car for two months. I do not have the heart to stick her in storage – nor do (did) I think to reach out to anyone for advice about the matter.

Until one day. I had been on the road, delivering the new issue of CECELIA, when, with all the new newspapers in the trunk, all the riding on all our bumpy Worcester roads …the lid came off mom’s urn and her ashes – dark, granular, heavy – spilled out onto CECELIA the newspaper! And in my car trunk! THIS FREAKED ME OUT. I was repelled by the sight, devastated by the situation my late mom was in …I was showing no respect for the dead who must lie in peace – not all over Worcester County.

I did what any Catholic who had not been to church in 40 years did: drove to the Chancery, the primo headquarters of the Catholic Diocese in Worcester, circled the big Elm Street parking lot and when a fat little priest came out the door, cheerful, ruddy-complexioned ran to him with my mother in her urn and said: “FATHER! PLEASE HELP ME! THIS IS MY MOM. I CAN’T HAVE HER IN MY TRUNK! PLEASE GIVE THIS TO FATHER REIDY. HE AND SHE WERE FRIENDS. Maybe he can hold her until I get settled …on a book shelf …

The fat little priest looked down at the blue biscotti jar I had shoved into his arms and reading my business card I had tucked into its lid, said: “Cecelia.” Then he smiled at me. Yes, he said, he’d deliver Ma to Father Reidy, an important vicar …

“Thank you, Father!” I said and drove away, flustered but grateful.

The next day I got a phone call from Father Reidy. He left me two voice-mails. He sounded stern and …adamant even though he’s slightly built and has a quiet, gentle voice. … “Rosalie, it’s Father Reidy. Please call me.”

I did not. I was afraid to. I knew I had done something…unconventional and desperate. Father Reidy called the next day:”Rosalie, it’s Father Reidy. PLEASE CALL ME.”

As Catholic…I knew the Catholic church …how stern and unforgiving priests could be. How annoyed the nuns could get if you answered the question wrong during CCD class on Monday nights. That’s why I left the church. Yiu were never good enough. I knew I had to call the Padre. I knew he’d make me feel bad. Guilt-ridden!!! But I steeled myself against all the mean things I thought Father Reidy would say to me and called him about a week later:

Hi, Father, it’s Rose. …

To make a long story short: Father Reidy was so nice! Didn’t scold. Understood. And honored my late mother: Ma is being interred with DADDY!!! at St. John’s Cemetery on Cambridge Street. She’ll be given, with me there, a proper Catholic burial. She will rest peacefully – for the first time ever – next to Daddy in a beautiful, tree-filled space, green and lush…a little urban forest dotted with gravestones. Nature. Flowers. A place where my sisters can visit her. A place where I can plant pretty pink flowers.

I don’t know exactly where in St . John’s Daddy is buried. I brought a huge Jesus statue for his grave two years ago – but couldn’t find him. So I dumped the statue at some old Irish guy’s tomb…and wrote about my illusive father. Again.

But Father Reidy said he’d help me find the grave site…and I could plant flowers and have a place to visit both my parents.

Ma and Daddy, together! TOGETHERNESS.

How strange …

The Girls Club

By Rosalie Tirella

Love💙 Executive Director Gordon and the Friendly House Staff and Kids! Here’s to a fun summer 2021 to all the Worcester kids who participate in the Friendly House sports, arts and crafts, day trips, games, contests and meals – all up and running! Hundreds of city children and teens celebrating the return (pretty much) to pre-pandemic life and rituals. Yippee!!

☀️My family has some history with this iconic Wall Street social service agency. When we were kids, my younger sister loved sports: she ran in the Friendly House road races and played basketball in the FH gym. … Years later my late mom Cecelia made mini-donations of new blankets for the neighborhood families.

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Rose and her kid sisters: at primo age for THE GIRLS CLUB!

☀️We were from Green Island, so our kiddo summers were spent closer to home (5 days a week, 8:30 a to 3 p) at the Winthrop House Girls Club on Vernon Hill (now Girls Inc.) From kindergarten (the gingerbread house) until the end of junior high, we were proud Girls Club girls. Our mom walked us up Vernon Street to the Club in the morning and picked us up in a cabin the afternoon. When we were older we walked or got a ride from our Uncle Mark (our cousin Mary went to the Club, too). The best times!!! The same staff returned – summer after summer – with Director Mrs. Miller running the show year after year after year. She was tall and leaned forward to talk to the little kids. She had dark hair and wore glasses and white Keds. She kept the club immaculate even with hundreds of girls having fun – no running in the hallways of the three story building and no loitering – you had to find an activity to go to – they were printed on pink and red and yellow and green construction paper balloons that were pinned to the big Girls Club bulletin board in the lobby – every week day had a bunch of balloons and you chose your activity. All the staff was female … some of the gal teachers were pretty nursing students from the St. Vincent’s nursing school (all female) across the street. Everyone who worked there seemed young, talented and cool.

Very empowering! A total Girls zone! No boys to hog the attention – or boss us around. Women ran a beautiful facility that served hundreds of Worcester girls and their families. I have terrific memories of my young summers there – memories that many would snicker at today. It was all so pre-feminist: sewing class, knitting class, cooking, yoga, put-on-a-musical like SOUTH PACIFIC. SING SONGS! One songs lyrics went in a round: “MAKE NEW FRIENDS BUT KEEP THE OLD/ ONE IS SILVER AND THE OTHER GOLD!

Sure, we were encouraged to excel at school – and many of us did – but summer at the Girls Club was sitting in our Clubhouse “BEAUTY PARLOR” painting our finger-nails with that pale pink polish or pretending to dry our hair underneath the big, non-working helmets of those old donated beauty parlor hair dryers … or roller-skating in the gym to the Rolling Stones’ I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION blasting over the intercom speakers. You chose the albums and put them on the record player yourself … or baking, from scratch, those delicious peanut butter cookies using USDA ration peanutbutter – the cookie balls you flattened and crisscrossed with fork tines before you put them into the oven to bake. The smell of those cookies cooking was intoxicating! Those HUGE silver cans of peanut butter – nondescript. JUST USDA
PEANUT BUTTER STAMPED ON THE BIG CAN. Perfection.

Today it’s all different. My Girls Club is now Girls Inc. Like a corporation. It is co-ed. The place seems to have quite the p.r. maven as its executive director – but who really gives a sh*t? I see few girls in Girls Inc – even in the newspaper articles. We had hundreds, the place and its yard and back lot was swarming with girls. Today Girls Inc offers girls serious stuff: date rape awareness class, STEM studies class, computer class, career exploration. All important – even life-saving! But … really…bleh. It’s summertime…girls just wanna have fun. Especially poor inner-city girls like the Rosalie of 1971! Afternoons at The Girls Club in the 1960s and 1970s, up on Providence Street, were sweet – but frivolous compared to what goes on up there these days.

Still… maybe making toilette paper roll firecrackers for the 4th of July (filled with popcorn), covered in red blue and white crepe paper, in the arts and crafts/game room with Ms. Bousquet… or taking swimming lessons or a dip in the Girls Club lap pool (always impressive to me) … or sitting on the bench in the Club Library by the window looking into the Kodak View Finder, pointing the little “camera” out the window into the summer sunlight and seeing, as I snapped away as, as if close up, each individual small “slides” of a wild animal of Africa or touristy photos of Rome … new worlds on those round disks no bigger than a DVD!!, well it was fun and frivolous. But it was also self-discovery and empowering, too.

BRING BACK THE GIRLS CLUB!

Movie Review: PSYCHO!!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Norman Bates

These past few months have been wicked macabre. Yeah, we’re talking my personal life, but today we’re also talking about the ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE MARATHON ON TCM. MARNIE. THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY. THE BIRDS. DIAL M FOR MURDER. REAR WINDOW. 24 consecutive Hitchcock movies! Heaven. I love Hitchcock! Every frame of every film. Like with Orson Welles, a Hitchcock film can be muted – you can turn the sound off for the entire film – and still get the plot, characters…the feelings. Always real. Always human with “Hitch.”

Hitchcock was a director with obsessions: beautiful, cool, willowy blondes … Catholicism and Catholic
guilt, thanks to his Jesuit upbringing and schooling. … I have watched most of his movies … since I was in my early 20s I’ve seen them at college Halloween film festivals and on teeny smart phone screens. No matter the screen size – they pull you in. This weekend I feasted on three of my favorite HITCHCOCK films: North by Northwest, Vertigo and now: PSYCHO. Cary Grant in NOTORIOUS is my #1 guy in my absolute ideal HITCHCOCK flick, but North by Northwest (also starring Grant) is a close #2. VERTIGO is a sexy gorgeous tale of a man making a woman in his image of her. Twice. Love, lust…the feelings are complexly portrayed in these films thanks to Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant. But PSYCHO, based on a true story, is a great horror movie. Seeing it for the first time, a Pycho virgin, …ah to be young again! But once you see the film and know its ending, it’s still great entertainment. A lot of fun to re-watch.

Anthony Perkins is the conflicted wounded trapped Norman Bates. Janet Leigh is the gal he desires – slashed to smithereens in his creaky old motel’s shower – pretty early in the film but it’s not a premature thing. For the next half of the film you are riveted by the riveting Anthony Perkins as innkeeper/ bird taxidermist Norman Bates. The last guy on the planet who should be in the hospitality biz. He’s as frozen in time and space as the dead displayed specimens in his motel sitting room. You don’t give a hoot about the other characters, but you become obsessed with the boyish scary charm of Norman Bates…his gentle, wounded ways attract …

The film opens in a seedy motel. Janet Leigh as Marion Crane is on her lunch break and in bed with her married lover. She wants him to break free from his wife, and so does he. It’s all a bit too tawdry and gets tawdrier when she’s sent by her boss to the bank to deposit a ton of company money and decides to keep the cash, ditch her vehicle for another and then drive away with the $40,000 so she and her boyfriend can live happily ever after.

But as Marion drives through “slashing” rain she has second thoughts …decides to turn back and return the money in the morning. She’ll spend the night at the Bates Motel and deposit the money in the bank and pretend nothing weird happened. At the motel – all cabins empty because the highway didn’t come through – Norman greets her in his folksy corduroy suit jacket and gives her room #1 – the one with the peep hole so he can watch Marion undress. Then he offers her sandwiches and milk – with him. Why should she drive to the diner in the rain for supper?

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Marion Crane

Right away there’s a fight between Norman and his Mother when he walks up to the house to get the milk and sandwiches. Mother starts screaming, tells her son Marion is a slut – GET RID OF HER.

Norman brings the tray with sandwiches and they sup in the back parlor with all Norman’s stuffed birds. He tells Marion: “I bet you never had a dull moment.” Then as if guilty: “A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
Norman seems unhappy. He tells Marion: “We’re all in our private traps and none of us can get out. We claw … but we’re trapped. … but I’m used to it.”

Then this classic line: “A son is a poor substitute for a lover.”

By now Marion is a little creeped out…begs off…must retire…she needs to get up so so soooo early. …
She leaves Norman to his stuffed owls and blackbirds and own haunted, maladjusted mind. In her room, Marion removes her slip and bra and gets into her silk robe to shower. Norman sees all this through the peephole and becomes agitated. Hitchcock homes in on the ogling eyeball twitching excitedly. Turned on? Agitated?? Tall and angular the good-looking Perkins sits at the little table chewing his gum determinedly. Trapped.

Marion gets into the tub naked, turns on the shower faucet, adjust the water temp …and showers. Not for long. A tall lanky figure, a lady, buxom, her hair pinned up in a bun, enters the bathroom with a huge turkey carving knife, rips open the plastic shower curtain and mechanically stabs stabs and slashes away at Marion….The film is in black and white. No lurid red blood or blue veiny guts spurting everywhere….just the gurgling circular flow of a grey riverlet her blood of going down the tub drain. The smudge the blood makes on the shower tiles as the stunned Leigh slides down down into the tub …her head against the tiles. She is still beautiful. Her face unscathed. Her lovely eyes open and upturned eyelashes layered with mascara – which has not run. Which unlike her blood did not even trickle down. Hitchcock was amazing – everything ghoulish and terrible about this slaying. …you are rattled! But it is all so artfully staged, our heroine still so beautiful, pristine almost. But “dead as a door nail.”

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Ohhhh!

Norman is freaked out. Mops up the blood in his terry cloth bedroom slippers, wraps Marion ever so delicately in the see-thru plastic shower curtain, drags her corpse across the floor and places her into the trunk of his car …and rolls the car into the bottom of a swamp.

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Clean-up time

Marion Crane is missing – so is the $40,000 she took from work. Martin Balsam is the detective on the case: he’s very 1950s to Perkins’ 1960s sensibility. You can see Hitchcock straddle both styles … Norman answers the questions – but he’s a wreck. The detective wants to look at, check out, all 12 motel cabins. The detective intimates that Norman might be being used by a pretty thief. Norman explodes. “She might have fooled me, but she didn’t fool my mother!” he says. His jaw is strained with tension. Hitchcock shows it from underneath, all in shadows. Detective Abernathy decides to call on Mama Bates at the main house, but she stabs him to death too, as he climbs the stairs to her bedroom, her little bun firmly affixed to her bony head …

The great Vera Miles – Leigh’s sister in the movie – goes to the sheriff with Marion’s lover, Sam. He sets them straight: Norman’s mother’s been dead for 10 year’s. Norman’s a hermit. He’s chewing gum…waiting for the other shoe to drop. He goes up to her room and tells his Ma: I’m carrying you to the dark, dank fruit cellar.

You see him carrying an old lady down the stairs. I won’t give away the ending, just in case you haven’t seen the film. But it’s a doozy of a denouement.

Reposting this GIG column for Father’s Day …

I wrote this column about 14 years ago, right after my father died. – Rose

On Seeing My Father

By Rosalie Tirella

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Country Boy. Rose’s father as a teen with his dog, Pal. He always owned dogs – loved them! Later he became obsessed with German Shepherd Dogs. Rose inherited her father’s love of canines! Today: Lilac at her feet. Below, Jett by the stove, waiting patiently for scraps. pics: R.T.

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Ever since my father died (about two months ago), I’ve been seeing him every where. When he was alive, he made about 1,000 entrances in my family’s life. Married with kids but not wanting to be married with kids, my father lived with my mother, two sisters and me some months and was Missing in Action (MIA) during others. He was as tentative as the junk yard dogs he loved so much (and owned).

Some of his entrances were comical – like the time he waltzed into our Lafayette Street apartment with some Frank Sinatra LPs and sang “I Did it My Way” to me. My mother had sent him out for a loaf of bread!

But most of his entrances were cruel, small, mean. He made my sisters, my mother and me cry and succeeded at that so well that we eventually learned to … simply dismiss him — cut him out of our world the way you cut the bruise out of an apple. We went on with our lives, worked around our peripatetic “Daddy.” My mother held down a 60-hr-week job to pay the bills, we kids went to school, held after-school jobs, applied to colleges. My father popped in – for weeks or months.

Very confusing.

Then, after all these years, my father died in the nursing home two months ago. And Bingo! He’s now larger than life for me – omnipresent, so to speak.

As I drive around Worcester selling ads for my newspaper, InCity Times, with the radio blaring and paperwork to the side of me, I see him. I’m eight years old; my sisters are six. It’s Easter afternoon and my father strides into our Green Island flat, chomping on a big cigar. My mom has my two sisters and me sitting in our three little kiddie rocking chairs waiting for her to get dressed. We’re going to Easter Mass! We wear new pastel dresses with butterflies embroidered on them. My mother “set” our hair the night before, and now our straight brown hair bounces happily around our faces in “baloney curls.” In my father strides, enraged. We had not seen him for almost … forever. We did not know from which land he strode – not the sweet and holy world that my mother and grandmother had created in our apartment, a world filled with prayers to the saints, rosary beads, homework papers, rules and pet hamsters! Was my father going to hurt anybody this time, I asked myself?

No! He was going to have his picture taken with the Easter Bunny! God love my wonderful, hopeful, dreamy mother, she had my father sit in the grownup rocking chair in the kitchen. She would put the big, vinyl Easter Bunny she had bought at the five and ten and blown up (to our merriment) near the rocking chair where he sat. Then she told us little kids to “sit on Daddy’s lap.” We would all say “cheese” on the count of three! It would make a great Easter photograph!

I was only eight but thought my mother mad. No, I would not get on Daddy’s lap! No, I would not be in the Easter Bunny picture. My sisters – twins and safe in their look-a-likeness – happily clambered atop my father. Then my mother lifted her little Brownie camera, peered through the little viewer and said, “One two! Say Cheese!” and snapped the picture.

Today I look at the square little photo from the ’60s and see two little gangly girls in pretty dresses in baloney curls looking exactly alike and smiling widely. Each one straddles one of my father’s legs. The bottoms of their dresses fan out over my father’s lap. And there’s my 30-something father; he’s wearing a striped muscle shirt. His hands are on my sisters’ knobby knees and he stares into the camera, looking … trapped. His rugged handsomeness blows me away! When I was a little girl he seemed the ugliest person in the world!

When I’m on the road, I look out of my car window and think I catch my father’s eyes. But it’s just some old man.

“He’s dead!” I tell myself angrily and shake my head as if to shake out the images of him. Then four or so hours later I see my father walking down Shrewsbury Street (his favorite street) and I have to remind myself all over again.

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, he was not living with my mother and us. Mom had stopped giving him second and third chances a decade ago. My sisters and I had moved out of the apartment in pursuit of higher education/careers. So it was a shock to see him walking past the fish and chips joint on Grafton Street, red-faced, his nylon jacket unzipped, billowing out behind him. He wore no shirt that raw, autumn day and he looked dazed. Then there was his neck: as big as a basketball. The lymphoma had set in.

And yet my father went walking around Worcester – his hometown that he seldom traveled outside of –as if nothing unusual had happened. It was one of my aunt’s – his sister – who had found him in his mother’s old house, lying in the darkness, and said: “Bill, you’ve got to go the hospital.” And then he did – quietly and with some grace – because he knew he was dying.

Sometimes I look out my car window and see my father after the cancer ravaged him. I see a helpless old man – my father after the chemo-therapy, the radiation, the blood transfusions. The chemo treatment took all his curly thick hair away and left him with silver, wispy locks my aunt would cut in a bowl shape. Gone was all his wild, curly red hair that rode high above his already high forehead in some grand pompadour, the wild “do” that lead my feisty old Grandma (she was my mother’s mom and lived with us and loathed my father) to nickname him: “The Red Devil.”

Run, devil, run! There you are standing outside the Commerce Building on Main Street, waiting for the bus. There you are walking out of the Millbury Street fruit store, eating a juicy plum and throwing the pit into the gutter. There you are eating the same juicy plum over our Lafayette Street kitchen sink, my sweet mother looking absolutely smitten by you. You have no time for dishes, meals served on plates. Family sit-down meals are not part of your universe. “Gotta get outta here!” you used to say. “Here” being: our Green Island flat, poverty, a wife, three kids, responsibility.

You want to leave – I can tell. But I just can’t let you go, Daddy!

Downtown Worcester! Today!

By Rosalie Tirella

New day. Jett thanks “Auntie Lee” for the comforter – even though he likes to be on the bed with mommie. It’s good to have good people in my life! …

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❤Jett. Pics: R.T.

⚘Yesterday I worked on our 20th ICT/CECELIA anniversary issue and tried to buy a ladies wrist watch in our spiffed up, street-scaped, flower-pretty, benches-galore downtown. Ah! Great Expectations! Good luck with that! How naive was I?! Not a woman’s Timex to be found in our great urban renewed downtown – Main Middle or North – unless you wanted to go to the pawn shop in the heart of Downtown Worcester.

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Downtown Worcester…yesterday.

Remember when you could buy the necessities in our downtown, in any downtown in America, like a basic ladies Timex – or even, for Worcester folks, a better and fancier wrist watch at Denholms or Shacks (for men)? Those days have evaporated like the foam off your mocha caramel latte! Seems you can get all the high priced high falutin’ coffee you need in our downtown, but you can’t buy a da*ned Timex. Or a package of new Fruit of the Loom men’s cotton briefs. Or socks. Or kids school or “church” shoes.

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Remember when our downtown was built for and around the Worcester worker bee? We had Woolworths. The Mart. Lerners. American Supply. … Furniture and ladies bras and mens underwear for the Woo masses. My mom loved to shop in our downtown. We kids loved to shop with her. It was all just a 25-minute walk away from our Lafayette Street tenement! … 25 mins until we saw and mingled with hundreds of Worcester folks buying their goods like us, enjoying their hot fudge sundaes at the Woolworths lunch counter on Front Street. Magic time. The American Dream made visible, tangible … edible!

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Today’s new Downtown Worcester has been marketed to, built to, accommodate the moneyed Millennial (via their parents who foot the bill$$) or deluded old upper-income empty nester (“if I hang with the young, I’m young!”): We’ve got fancy, over-priced restaurants and bakeries and coffee shops made for people on the move. Entertainment districts. Beer gardens. But no Timex ladies watches! No sports coats for Uncle Walter! No neckties or tie clips for dad … or new ottoman for the living room to match your new Lazy Boy that sits in front of the Zenith 19-inch, color TV. All made in America. For sale in Downtown Worcester.

Sigh …

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Crompton Park

By Rosalie Tirella

Crompton Park Skatepark is gonna be built. Watch the video, below. Wowza. Big plans augmenting what’s already there: the park’s new basketball courts look great. The new playground looks wonderful. The swimming pool, relatively new, built on former City Manager Mike O’Brien’s watch, is still fantastic. All these amenities for the families of Green Island! Impressive!

I grew up in the neighborhood decades ago and remember swimming in the humble “mud hole” at Crompton and sledding down the nondescript little hill by the Harding Street side of the park with our English setter Belle. Both features gone to make way for better and more better. Still, I had a ton of fun and have wonderful memories of my neighborhood park. Those many afternoons spent at Crompton added sparkle to my impoverished childhood. And by impoverished I mean financially – never spiritually. I had my mom Cecelia and my Polish Bapy waiting for me on Lafayette Street!

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Rose and her two kid sisters at Rocky Point – a bit more fun than Crompton!!

Sadly, there were lots more people at Crompton Park when I was a kid and it was just another ol’ city park. Rough around the edges. No bells and whistles. Yeah, we were the Baby Boom generation – Green Island kids and their dogs traveled in packs back then, the old three deckers bursting at the seams with us all … but it seems to me people just got out more and really enjoyed sharing public spaces. There was no razzle or dazzle or state of the art anything. You made your own razzle. Endeavored to dazzle the cute boy in your 6th grade class – Mr. Chickarian’s class – at Lamartine Street School by your wit and charm …and for some girls and boys …fisticuffs.

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Belle❤

Today … Despite the City’s efforts to uplift and beautify, two teens were shot recently at Crompton Park. About 10 years ago, our city’s senseless youth killings began at Crompton: A teen was shot dead in the middle of the park in the middle of the afternoon. Yellow tape was stretched out over the murder scene by the police. I remember driving by my old park, staring at that yellow crime tape, horrified. Now it all feels routine.

Will a brandy new skate-park save us?

I certainly hope so!

https://youtu.be/y6JT4X346yE

Movie review …

SHALL WE DANCE

By Rosalie Tirella

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Fred Astaire

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👣👣👣

When the going gets rough, I’ll always have Jett and Lilac … and Fred Astarie and Ginger Rogers. Now watching the black and white classic SHALL WE DANCE, dancing courtesy of Ginger and Fred, music a gift from the Girshwin Brothers. Astaire singing THEY CAN’T TAKE THAT AWAY FROM ME to Ginger – so heartbreakingly beautiful. … Astaire was no Sinatra – he could carry a tune the way your favorite uncle might – but he’s effective. And his face – kinda homely, definitely goofy … feels American. Wouldn’t it be too too much – too perfect – if Astaire looked like Cary Grant AND danced like a god? We’d all jump ship! … Astaire never liked his hands – complained that his hands were way too big for the dance, which is why there are all these hand flourishes worked into his dance numbers. Fred’s trying to hide his big old inelegant hands. I love them …

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All that jazz …

The plot is thin as broth – the flimsiest excuse for all those gorgeous dance scenes. Our stars are on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean during the Great Depression. Fred’s a ballet dancer who yearns to tap dance, but that’s scandalous: tap dancing and jazz belong to the Black world. The swinging Black jazz band that Fred hooks up with to dance free and unfettered toils in the art deco bowels of the cruise ship … Dance company owner Jerry berates Fred, his primo ballerino, for wanting to ditch ballet to “shimmy.” No matter. Fred and Ginger may be awash in tuxedos and top hats; spanking, spangled evening gowns; scintillating repartee … white phones, white baby grands and white supremacy, but they are Yanks on the move – dancing to jazz, ditching (almost) the Russian ballet of the upper classes for tap dancing and a new kind of American swing – music for the masses. And they fall in love. Ginger rebuffs Fred at first, but he’s cute and pushy …AND HE’S A DREAM TO DANCE WITH ON THE BALLROOM FLOOR …

Love the scene where all the rich people are walking their pooches on the deck, and Fred rents a Great Dane to bump into Ginger as she walks her teeny bichon mix. Fred’s cheeky style … a hustler in top hat … he aspires to Ginger – who’s pretty but not beautiful the way the WASP-y Katharine Hepburn was – the girl you’d see behind the notions counter at Woolworths – wins the day.

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Puppy love …

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And this bon bon of a movie ends in another lavish dance … as another American turns the street corner and enters another Hooverville …

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The losing game …

By Rosalie Tirella

This Memorial Day I’m wistful for my loved ones who’ve died. The older you get, the more loved ones you lose! A sad fact of aging you’re never told about in the ladies beauty magazines, during the Botox commercials on TV or in the WARNINGS printed on the millions and millions of tubes and small bottles (all so beautifully packaged!) of anti-wrinkle creams and serums you buy. You’re in your 40s and surrounded by your crazy posse – all that love!!! – and you think it’ll last forever. So you home in on what the media tricks you into believing about aging: saggy breasts and jowls, crows feet above your eyes, lines across your forehead and down your cheeks. Aging means age spots on your face and hands, the commercials tell us! OH, NO!!!! WE CAN LIGHTEN, ERASE … FIX IT ALL FOR YOU!

The advertisers never tell you aging means losing your posse! One by one, sometimes in clusters, THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE YOU FEEL ALIVE – YOUNG! These losses will make you feel like a jaded and tired survivor. A warrior whose steed’s gone awol. OLD. And all the tubs of cold cream in CVS, or even MACY’S, won’t smoothen away the wrinkles on your heart.

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Nope. pics: R.T.

You’re not “gone” (yet!) but a big chunk of you is! The nurturing side of you (Ma), the salty/punky side of you (Tony Hmura), the fearless side of you (Auntie Mae), the wild child in you (Bapy). Especially today it feels lonely out here in the universe, looking into the stars at night and wishing on them, missing my late mother’s gravelly, sexy voice and veiny hands. Tony Hmura’s short stature and little hitch in his walk, left side. My little Polish tough! Auntie Mae’s LOVE YA! LOVE YA, Rosalie! and her big hug and sloppy, jowly smooch before and after each encounter – from childhood right through to my late 40s. My Auntie was the only girl in her family who learned to drive and owned a car – a long brown Elektra, black hardtop. She drove her big, bada*s car right foot on the gas pedal, left foot on the brake pedal. A sight to behold!

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Rose’s Mom (left) and Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, World War II.

Here I am, in the infinitely dark and mysterious universe, in old
Worcester, without all that love, all my great people. Now they’re stowaways in my heart! Forever! Strong-willed immigrant voices who taught me, entertained me, inspired me. Daily. Their personalities and values embedded in the mundane stuff: talking on the telephone with Auntie; sitting at Bapy’s feet when I was a little girl, watching Ma braid her long, fine silver hair in our Green Island kitchen; popping over at Ma’s for a cup of coffee and “sweet”; meeting Tony at Breen’s Cafe on Cambridge Street for a bowl of cheap but excellent home-made soup.

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Tony Hmura at a birthday party.

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Tony as Leader Sign’s Polish Santa: on Canterbury Street loading up his “sleigh” with Christmas toys for kids at a local elementary school.

Missing Tony Hmura, my World War II vet/ace gunner and his old bomber jacket – the one with his WW II plane painted on the back. He wore it fall, winter, spring and even summer. It grew smelly of Tony’s b.o. – miss that smell! I picked up some fake posies for my old friend’s grave site at Notre Dame Cemetery …

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… but never got around to sticking them in the grass by his humongous, big, gold-lettered, front-row head-stone. All his egotistical choice! Tony had picked out the massive stone and designed its engraving (his World War II fighter plane with him in it, poking his head and machine gun out its rear window). Tony chose his gravesite (first row, right in front, practically on Webster Street!) He chose where his gravestone was to be erected and its in-your-face font: HMURA painted big and bold and with real gold leaf. Old Tony – full of himself even in death! He showed the gravestone and site – all ready for his little corpse – to me when he was alive, five or so years before he died. Standing with him at that grassy spot, sun shining on us, I listened as Tony bragged that he paid thousands of dollars for the whole package and that everyone who drove by into Auburn could see it. He asked me to write a column on him and his gravestone. He wanted me to take a photo of him standing next to his big monument to himself. I said: NO, TONY! THIS IS TOO MORBID! LET’S GO TO BREENS! I didn’t understand that to Tony, my old sign maker (Leader Signs, Canterbury Street), his tombstone – designed by him – was the last cool “sign” he’d make!

Miss you, Tony! Love you, Ma, Bapy and Auntie!
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Rose’s favorite aunt, on the roof of The Block, Bigelow Street, Green Island, many years ago …

MOVIE REVIEW: HIS GIRL FRIDAY

By Rosalie Tirella

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Old school. ICT file photo: R.T.

Walter: “Is he as good as people say?”
Hildy: “He’s better!”
Walter: “Then what does he want with you?”

And so begins the classic Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell/Ralph Bellamy screwball comedy, HIS GIRL FRIDAY. Walter Burns (Cary Grant) is editor of a big NYC daily. He’s losing his star reporter and ex-wife Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) – whom he still loves – to Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy), a sweet but drippy insurance salesman from Albany. You already know how this terrific flick is gonna end, who wins Hildy … but it’s a great yarn anyways, unfolding in a newsroom when newsrooms RULED. 1930s America. Yellow journalism. Crusading journalism. Unions. Communists. Unsanitary meat packing plants, the Great Depression. FDR. A time when American reporters were considered working class stiffs: hardboiled and street smart, social outcasts, small town mama’s boys. “What’s the story?” Walter barks at Hildy during a time when reporters had more in common with the milkman than the college educated or the politicians they chased down. America hung on every word of Lippmann and other star scribes. The newsroom was a white man’s world, too – this movie is a remake of THE FRONT PAGE, an excellent film made years earlier and starring Pat O’Brian as the reporter trying to escape his too demanding editor/job.

The jaunty way Grant wears his hat, the wonderful Underwood typewriters – no back spacing and deleting. Great writers just banged it all out first draft. Rewrite men. Reporters covered the story and called in their notes to the real writers … Hildy is a great reporter AND Walter’s best writer.

Which is another reason why Walter can’t let his beautiful ex-wife go. Which is another reason why Hildy is running away from him- into the arms of a man totally “beneath” her. Hildy’s way too smart, fast, funny and jaded for the nice, naive Bruce. Hildy is a female Walter Burns!

Still, Hildy and Bruce are getting married tomorrow; Hildy visits the newsroom one last time to say good bye to Walter and to beg him to let go: “STOP CALLING ME 10 TIMES A DAY!” she shouts over Walter’s rants, who shouts over hers. She begs him: Don’t hire another airplane to write in the sky: “HILDY,
DON’T BE HASTY! REMEMBER MY DIMPLE! Walter!”

Walter is an unstoppable locomotive … so when an alleged murderer escapes jail and is loose on the streets of their city, and election time is right around the corner, and the mayor is corrupt and the cops can be bought and the judge is a patsy … well, this is a story – the scoop – of a lifetime!

As the sweet Bruce and his dyspeptic mother are hoodwinked by Hildy and Walter – who “pays” Hildy by buying a huge life insurance policy from Bruce and making Hildy the sole beneficiary – Walter and Hildy fall deeper and deeper into the story…and love. The killer – wimpy Earl Williams – ends up in the city room hiding under a roll top desk, and his gal pal Molly Molloy leaps out of a window. Bruce ends up in jail after a friendly hooker pal of Walter’s seduces him … Bruce’s mother faints and is carried out of the newsroom by a good fella … Mayhem rules … All the better for the story. The story is everything.

I love this movie. It is glamorous but rough and true to city room rhythms: Cary Grant asks Rosalind Russell to read him her lead. The paper is first mentioned in paragraph 2 of her story. Walter scolds his pretty protégé. THE PAPER SHOULD BE IN THE FIRST GRAPH! What was she thinking?!

The old phones. The big manual typewriters. The roll top desks. The notepads. The lame jokes. Smoking in the newsroom. Drinks at lunch. The
competition. The wonderment at scintillating writing, raw talent …the adrenaline rush that comes with reporting a great story under deadline… newsroom fireworks, CARY GRANT!!! How can Hildy ever leave all this crazy magic to marry an insurance salesman from Albany?

Grant hovers over, almost pushes and pursues Russell in his newsroom, his kingdom. STAY FOR THE STORY!he yells to Hildy. What he means is: STAY FOR ME.

She does.

They kiss just once. Walter pretends to want to send Hildy to Albany with Bruce. She cries over the fact. I THOUGHT YOU DIDN’T LOVE ME! Hildy says.

DON’T BE A CHUMP! Walter says.

True love in a true newsroom.

https://youtu.be/Eom_iOkd0-I

20 YEARS!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose’s Lilac helping deliver CECELIA. File photos: R.T.

20 years of CECELIA/INCITYTIMESWORCESTER.ORG/INCITY TIMES. Wowza. Our 20th anniversary issue comes out first week in July. I remember issue #1 of InCity Times: ace art director Nancy (Davis) Crockett, stellar printer Boston Phoenix-owned Mass Web Printers, photo lab: the CVS photo dept, Webster Square; the first cover story written by me on the Green Island/Kelley Square businesses I loved. Now gone. … I especially miss Green Street Market and owners Charlie and Izzie Golub who were so sweet and fun to visit. Prifti’s Candies was a gem, too. The old Worcester: chit chat, neighborhood and political gossip, a free sub or candy, along with advice. You spent a half hour soaking up urban eccentricity. You learned to be true to yourself. You heard the immigrant success stories – and the horror stories. … A slower time. No one seemed as obsessed with money and stuff the way people are now. It was: WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY??? WHAT DO YOU THINK???

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CECELIA fans!

A few issues later Jack Hoffman jumped into the fray and became our p. 4 columnist for several years. We took photos on old school cameras, websites weren’t around, social media was for kids inside Harvard Yard. PEOPLE READ NEWSPAPERS! You saw your competition at the mini mart down the block – a handful of rags. All locally owned and run. Not a million FB pages and Instagram posts to contend with. Real stories written by real people, Worcester reporters with deep roots in Worcester County. And, yes, sometimes we sounded provincial, but that’s because we were head over heels in love with our gritty ol’ city.

InCity Times was 10 to 15 years ahead of the curve on: veganism, circus animal rights, banning circuses from the city, the evils of factory farming, cruelty-free clothing and accessories/shoes, hiring minority teachers in the WPS, keeping our city pools open, embracing our transgender brothers and sisters … People laughed at us. We held firm. We knew we had staked out high moral ground: God’s territory. Today, we feel the same about the necessary transfiguration of Worcester’s abusive/racist police force and our city’s inequitable public schools led by a school commitee with NO district representation: THINGS NEED TO CHANGE. 20 years and the city’s power structure still hasn’t shifted much let alone toppled over: the Timmy Murray brigade is still the fattest hog at the municipal trough – giving each other and their pals/family members the best jobs, the best deals, the most treasure – all way low below the radar. All done with a sunny smile. Because they think we’re stupid.

We’re not.

This past year was a brutal year. The global pandemic, George Floyd murder, cop brutality, BLM, the storming of our Capitol, the vitriolic Trump and his lies … And the ineffectual city council and city manager of Worcester – all oblivious. I give the City an A on COVID but a D on most other fronts. The SEISMIC AMERICAN CHANGES … A ONCE IN A CENTURY CHANCE TO TRANSFORM OUR COUNTRY, OUR CITY. DEMOCRACY FOR ALL. … Instead our Worcester cops still bully and kill, our city manager placates us with eloquent speeches but does crap. City Manager Ed Augustus and the Worcester City Council still enable abusive cops, perpetuate a racist public school system…gladly give the green light to a two-tier city – the Canal District gentrification yahoos vs the struggling, straggling blue collar neighborhoods where half the city lives. Most people pretty poor. If our mayor lived for a month on Ward Street, Blackstone River Road or Canterbury Street he’d see the poverty and the ignorance that Donald Trump tapped into and exploited. Roughly half the country is on Trump’s side! But that’s ok with Worcester leaders: we have a shiny new baseball stadium and Kelley Square is a peanut.