A rejuvenated downtown Worcester – always in style!

The holidays are upon us!!!!     pics: R.T.


FRIDAY – Dec 2!

5 p.m. to 9 p.m.




🎵🎵 MUSIC!!!!!!!!



☕☕☕☕HOT COCOA!!!!!!!


FREE TO ALL! Yipee!!!!

Be there!

The Woo Holiday Festival – 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On the Worcester Common, behind City Hall, 455 Main St.

Rose and Christmas balls

Yummy! Back when ice skating was FREE FOR ALL in Worcester!

The Worcester Historical Museum

30 Elm St., Worcester

for more information, visit www.worcesterhistory.org


From the Worcester Historical Museum:

Ice skating comes to Worcester!

University Park Circa 1920 ( 2007.27.11)
Main South’s University Park, circa 1920

When a wave of enthusiasm for group sports swept America in late 1850s, ice skating became instantly popular.

It was the first recreational activity for both men and women to be promoted commercially and civically, and it was accessible to a broad sector of the population.

The [Worcester] Commission of Public Grounds began allocating funds for preparing lakes and parks to support this “exhilarating and healthy exercise” and also hosted skating parties.

The exhilarating pastime was made possible from December 20th to February 15th, at Worcester’s Elm, Green Hill, North, University, East, Crompton and Greenwood parks, by removing the snow with horses and large scrapers.

Elm Park (1912) OVS
Elm Park, 1912

The surfaces were kept in a smooth condition by using an ice planer throughout the day and sprinkling with water after 9 o’clock pm.

It is a conservative estimate that 108,000 availed themselves of this pleasure. – John H. Hemingway, Report of the Park Commissioners, 1908

Skating parties!

Worcester and surrounding towns hosted many skating parties attended by thousands.

Newspapers announced dates, times, train schedules, and ticket prices.

Train ticket prices varied depending on location, but averaged between 15 and 25 cents round trip.

Extra trains ran as needed.

Crowds included people from all ranks and races.

Vernon Hill Playground - c.1920 (2007.27.9)
Skating at Vernon Hill park, circa 1920
Two trains, numbering twenty one cars were required to convey the party … again was the pleasant sight of all classes, occupations, and colors, uniting heartily in a common recreation.
Daily Spy, February 13, 1858

The skaters had a merry time last night on Salisbury Pond, both sexes were largely represented there. If there had only been a moon, those present wouldn’t have complained if the thermometer had gone from 14 degrees down to zero.
– Daily Spy, December 14, 1859
Worcester businesses noticed the extreme popularity of ice skating and soon tried to capitalize.

Winslow Ad  1877
Winslow ad, 1877

Samuel E. Winslow Ice Skating Company To test the market.

Worcester residents and brothers Seth and Samuel Winslow made 25 pairs of skates as a sideline to their machine jobbing business in 1857. They sold 19.

The next year they sold 2,500 pairs!
After Seth died in 1871, Samuel bought his interests, moved from the Merrifield Building to a new factory on Mulberry Street, added roller skates to the line, and expanded sales to Europe and India.

He incorporated as Samuel Winslow Skate Manufacturing Company in 1886.

By 1889, its 200 employees turned out 1,200 pairs of skates daily — 40 styles of ice skates and 15 styles of roller skates ranging in price from 15 cents to $10.

In 1894, Samuel’s son, “Colonel” Samuel Winslow, took over. At the onset of the Great Depression, but Matthew Manufacturing Company bought it and continued production until 1959.

– R.T.

I write this every year and I’ll write it again! Free the Worcester Common Ice Oval

The usually almost-empty Worcester Ice Oval, on a weekend night. pic: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

Every year we rail against the Worcester Common Ice Oval – that is its skate rental fee ($100 cash if you don’t have a credit card; $3 per pair of skates PLUS $25 refundable rental fee per pair of skates) and admission price of 2 bucks a person, older than 6. It’s as if former Worcester City Manager Mike O’Brien – the Ice Oval was his brainchild after he solicited ZERO COMMUNITY INPUT – was saying to the mostly poor Latino families who live in the downtown area, a stone’s throw from the Ice Oval (in Piedmont and Main South): GO AWAY, YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE. THIS PLACE IS FOR WHITE KIDS FROM OXFORD OR WHITE, COLLEGE STUDENTS FROM HOLY CROSS. There will be some free, special ice skating afternoons and nights for you, but that’s CHARITY, the City of Worcester making CHARITY CASES out of you! Only during these special times can you call the Worcester Common your own. And skate your little hearts out…

How soul-crushing!

How classist!

How illegal?!?

After all, the Ice Oval is built on our city common – public space belonging to us, THE PUBLIC. We don’t have to pay money to enter the nearby Worcester City Hall or to eat lunch on one of the benches behind Worcester City Hall. And let’s remember the history of this special space! The Worcester Common is COMMON GROUND where, for more than a couple of centuries, Worcesterites gathered to speak of what was deepest in their hearts: We want to be free!, We want the vote!, Bless our soldiers!, Hallow this ground!

The Worcester Common is a square of land in the hub (or what used to be the hub) of our town, then city, Worcester. It’s historic – dirt and stone upon which a few centuries ago Worcesterites heard abolitionists speak out against slavery, where Worcester rabble rousers marched and protested during the Vietnam War and where pamphlets and petitions are still shoved before the sometimes unsuspecting eyes of the uninitiated, the unaffiliated, the un-moved!

And so, sadly, it’s the tenor of the times – Today Worcester city fathers and mothers demand cold hard cash to do a pirouette on a hunk of ice behind our City Hall, speed skate on a gated, frozen space yards away from the monuments to men and women who were on FIRE years and years ago (and just this past summer!) when they preached against the evils of slavery … and homophobia …

Hot cocoa at the Ice Oval refreshment shack cost extra!

That so many great and historic ideas and ideals were birthed on the Worcester Common make no difference to our civic bean counters today; in 2016 you have to buy access to a piece of Worcester. It’s all about the dough rae me, and if you don’t have the dough rae me, forget about lacing up those skates! STAY OFF! STAY AWAY! A piece of your city is unavailable to you.

No wonder why former City Manager O’Brien shoved off and now lives in a Metro West town with about 15 Latinos and 10 poor people: Worcester community activists, neighborhood boosters, the folks at the grassroots said SHOVE OFF, Mike! GO AWAY! YOU DON’T GIVE VOICE TO THE TRUE WORCESTER SPIRIT. Not in words, mind you, but in stopping his agenda in its tracks. So it was Bye, bye, Mikey! See ya in the funny papers!

Time to shine a new light on the Ice Oval!

Remember this past Christmas-time when the Ice Oval was open to ALL and the City of Worcester made it free for the evening, complete with free music by WPS school kids, free hot cocoa and an abundance of good cheer (free, of course!)?

Why, there were hundreds of folks skating on our Ice Oval! A few thousand congregating in front of and in back of City Hall! It was a sight to behold! All those Worcester Public School chorus kids, children of the world, children of all colors and creeds, with round, smooth black, brown, latte and freckled faces … bundled up and singing to the heavens! On the Worcester Common Ice Oval the rainbow of colors shone so brightly! Black kids, Latino kids, white kids, many of them poor, holding their dads’ or moms’ hands as they skated in big circles on the WORCESTER Ice Oval to music! And the music pumping through the sound system gave them the notes on which to hang their dreams! For that one night! For that one magical night when downtown Worcester was actually bustling! VIBRANT. A TRUE REFLECTION of its populace!

And how much did it all cost?

Not a whole lot.

Yet, here go our city leaders, trying to lure everybody but the real Worcester to the Worcester Common Ice Oval. For fees, for $$ hot chocolate.

If skating on the Worcester Common Ice Oval didn’t cost money, they say, the experience wouldn’t have value.

Bull shit.

Let the poor families who live around the area make their own winter magic, city leaders seem to be saying. It’s all about keeping the coveted (white, middle class, millennial?) people in and the undesirables (poor, brown, black?) out. In a polite way, of course!

The Worcester Way!