Holy Cross and South Worcester

By Rosalie Tirella

A month or so ago, before all the hoopla at Holy Cross, I met with a South Worcester community leader. He has worked in South Worcester for gosh, I would say, more than two decades – and he has known the good people of South Worcester and the players of Holy Cross for just as long. He told me he sees Holy Cross in a sunnier light than I do (note: this man does NOT live in Worcester – he WORKS in South Worcester)

This South Worcester community leader said up until eight or nine years ago, the College of the Holy Cross didn’t know Cambridge Street or Hacker Street existed – the college was a world unto itself, sealed off from the gritty environs at its gates. Then HC President Father Brooks – a nice  guy according to my mom who “waited on” him years ago as a counter girl at Osacar’s Cleaners  – did zippo for the South Worcester neighborhood. Years and years went by with nothing from “The Cross.” The blue collar folks of South Worcester worked their blue collar jobs, lived in their three deckers, lost jobs, retired, had kids and grand kids, and not one of them had ever had any kind of interaction with Holy Cross, the institution. Yet Holy Cross college dominated the politics of this city – whether  grooming future Wormtown political leaders or in the 1950s getting the state to build the new highway, Interstate 290, around its football stadium, rather than through it – as the state did when it came to nearby Green Island (basically bisecting the poor neighborhood with the new multi-lane highway).

Except for the HC students who boozed it up all the time and raised hell in South Worcester, no “ordinary” person had any dealilngs with the Cross. When I first began my paper, InCity Times, I got an earful of those dealings. One of the first “issues” people in the ‘hood carped about was the party-hearty Holy Cross students who had been, for generations, wreaking boozy havoc in their neighborhood. One man, who had lived near Holy Cross for years, told me he sold his house years ago in disgust and moved to Auburn. He said he was sick of eating breakfast with his wife and seeing Holy Cross kids use his front yard as a short cut to class. Every morning. Plus: the noise, the beer, the disrespect during party nights – it was just too much for him. He and his wife left the city they loved.

One woman wrote me and told me of a Holy Cross couple who were actually coupling in the hallway of the apartment building where she lived – and where she was trying to raise her daughter. Yes, hallway sex, that’s a way to ingratiate yourself with people who are annoyed by you.

InCity Times reported these headaches, began clamoring for a PILOT program and things changed … .

According to this South Worcester leader, Holy Cross began to step up and do the right thing – in teeny ways. He told me of the students’ South Worcester internships and marketing studies, etc. Still, all of this paled to what Clark University has done for Worcester over the years – or even the Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences recently.

But this guy is an optomist. His latest idea, re: the neighborhoods and HC: Get Holy Cross to fund a branch library in South Worcester or Green Island. (All of Worcester’s were closed – except two – years ago) Take the big, freshly painted room in the South Worcester Neighborhood Center and fill it with books, chairs, tables and some older computers and/or laptops. 

I thought this was a great idea – and certainly affordable for HC. The same can be down in the Green Island Neighborhood Center at Crompton Park, I said. They have the space.

So why not, Father McFarland, take lemons and make some lemonade for HC and Worcester – specifiacally the poor neighborhood in which Holy Cross collge is located? My South Worcester friend said kids from Hacker Street or Cambridge Street don’t go to the main library on Salem Square – it’s just not part of their world. (Years ago their was a great city branch library on Southbridge Street – now the big building, across from Wendies, is a condo complex) So let’s have the Holy Cross/Caro Street Kids, put the beer bottles down, and start creating something special for South Worcester kids – a couple of branch libraries.

InCity Times/our volunteers will be glad to help. We can work on getting books, that’s for sure, thanks to Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo. Holy Cross will have to come up with the computers and laptops – and maybe some kids to man it during the hours its open. The branch libraries will be in rooms in the neighborhood centers, so the HC students will never be alone.

After we talked – this South Worcester booster and Holy Cross believer – well, his eyes widened, he seemed pumped. Even I grew hopeful.

For a few seconds.

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