Tag Archives: Cambridge Street

Valentine’s Day at Four Corners

By Ronald L. O’Clair

Growing up around the old “Four Corners,” neighborhood (the intersection of Cambridge and Southbridge Streets), there was only one place to go to buy a Valentine’s Day card, and that would have been the College Square Pharmacy, located right there on one of the Four Corners.
Mr. Morris Hurowitz, the proprietor of the establishment, sold many different things, and greeting cards were among them. He had a soda fountain behind the counter that had not been in use for some time before I ever walked through the door for the first time sometime in late 1969.

I may have been there before that, as my brother and I stayed briefly on Caro Street earlier that year and used to walk down to the old A & P Supermarket located diagonally across from the harmacy, I know this because one of those times we walked down to the A & P, made our purchases, walked back under the I-290 overpass under construction, and were just about to turn onto Caro Street, when the overpass fell onto several cars and an Oil Tanker, resulting in one heck of an explosion and fire.

We were very fortunate not to have been under it at the time it collapsed.

We were living there on Caro Street, just the two of us, with either a social worker, or I believe now it must have been a foster parent, for a short time while my parents were getting divorced, and my mother was hospitalized at the time. I’d be interested to know the exact date of the tragic overpass collapse, as it would help me to put a chronological order to the memories I have of my childhood during that most eventful time.

I know that my brother Donald and I were shuffled around quite a bit, we stayed on a farm somewhere for a time that butchered a bull that I had come to know. We were served him for dinner one night. I found it difficult to eat the meat from the bull I considered my friend.

We stayed together in our separation from the rest of the family, even spent most of the school year up in Maine with my Aunt Edna, where I watched spellbound as man walked on the moon on the 20th of July, 1969.

After the divorce, we were returned to the custody of our mother, Evelyn, who had an apartment at 28 Princeton Street, just a short distance from the Four Corners. The neighborhood of the Four Corners was a vibrant place, with all sorts of businesses grouped around the intersection on both sides of Southbridge Street. We attended Cambridge Street Elementary School. When they decided to widen Southbridge Street, they tore the heart out of the neighborhood in the name of progress. They demolished all the businesses on the other side of the street from the pharmacy.

I may even have gone there with one or both of my parents when they were still married and had owned a house at 30 Lewis Street some years before we had moved to Oak Pond Avenue in Millbury, the last address that our family shared as a complete unit.

But I do remember going in the pharmacy to browse through the greeting cards looking for that special card for my Valentine. There were many different ones, and I agonized over the choices for quite some time, as I wanted it to be the most perfect Valentine ever for my Valentine.

Having been separated from our mother for quite some time, living with foster families, and our Aunt Edna, when we finally came back to our fractured home, I felt awkward at first, hardly recognizing my own mother. But her love for me broke through all the barriers, and I once again felt the intensity of her love for her children, which I gladly reciprocated in kind.

That year, my Valentine was my mother, and I was happy to have her back in my life.

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.