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.