Tag Archives: shopping

Shopping – Green Island style!

By Rosalie Tirella

When I was a little girl growing up in Green Island we were too poor to shop for kids clothing at Kiddy Castle/the Deb Shop, the upscale, beautiful kids/teens clothing shop right next door to the dry cleaners where my mom worked on Millbury Street. Though hidden in Green Island the store drew comfortably middle class families from Worcester’s West Side, not the immediate neighborhood. My mom – a single working mom – worked at the dry cleaners for minimum wage and didn’t have the money to buy the shop’s beautiful, well made children’s clothing and outerwear for her three little girls. The best we could do was enjoy the wonderful window displays that Sam, the owner of the Kiddy Castle (that’s what everyone called his shop), put up every winter, fall, spring and summer. For Christmas: Big, lifelike reindeers with sleigh bell-decorated belts on their backs and plastic flakes for snow sprinkled on their noses. And Santa’s elves (life-sized, too) standing next to them, about to load gaily wrapped Christmas gifts onto a wooden sleigh. Sometimes the elves twisted at the waist or raised an arm to say hello to you! In autumn: Big vinyl orange and red autumn leaves were pressed onto the big display windows. For spring: Pink and yellow plastic flowers bloomed among the pink and yellow Easter dresses the store maniquens wore – slim plexiglass girls painted a soothing beige and about the same height as me and my sisters. The store was a huge cottage with a sign that read DEB SHOP written in cursive on the top half (the Deb Shop was upstairs) and the KIDDY CASTLE sign, written in blocky, primary-colored letters, on the first level (the Castle was on the first floor). A sight to behold! A tease to the neighborhood’s poor kids and parents who walked, ran and trudged by it in all kinds of weather – but never entered, unless they were selling raffle tickets for a school field trip.

After a while the desire to enter this magical place faded for me and I was content to enjoy the creative window displays – just another cool facet of my densely packed, urban neighborhood that I treated like my own personal carnival ride because there were so many adults, kids, small businesses, institutions, dogs, cats, small biz owners, eateries, ideologies and feelings to experience!

Back to shopping! We Green Island families – the families who lived on Lafayette Street, Ellsworth Street, Sigel Street, Lodi Street, Grosvenor Street and Bigelow Street (we lived on Lafayette) – tuned out the Kiddy Castle and set our sights and change purses on the always bustling Mart, a kind of blue collar general store on Worcester’s Main Street, the gateway to the then-dicey Main South neighborhood. My mom shopped at the Mart for all our undies, play clothes and school clothes. For herself she bought: canvas tennis shoes, cotton aprons, bobby pins to curl her hair, cans of aerosol hair spray to hold her curled hair, pots, pans, cans of Ajax, dish towels and big white cotton panties that, when out of their package, looked as if they could hold two 5-pound bags of flour. My mother – about 43 at the time – wasn’t big – today I’d maybe even call her petite – but she wore big underwear. This puzzled me when I was a little girl: little lady, huge bloomers! Today I think Ma did this out of sadness and utilitarianism: Her husband, our father, was MIA AGAIN and we didn’t know when he’d come home again. Forget the sex – and a second paycheck! So Mom’s undies were the opposite of fun and seductive – they were no-nonsense, durable, easy to wear and care for – made of 100% cotton, a material which “breathes” as Ma reminded us, perfect for … working 60 hours a week at the dry cleaners (20 under the table), raising three little girls, cooking dinner, cleaning house and caring for her elderly, feisty, opinionated Polish immigrant mother – our grandmother, “Bapy,” who lived with us. You could’t live my mom’s life in thongs or even colorful bikini bottoms, the fashion back then.

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Bapy, at the head of the kitchen table, holding baby Rosalie!

Bapy alone would have sent most women to bloomersville: she lived with us and was another full-time job for Ma. Bapy had to be bathed, her long, gray hair combed out each morning and braided and wrapped in a bun at the back of her head, held in place with bobby pins. She needed her cups of Sanka decaf coffee warmed up in pans of hot water we boiled for her on the stove every few hours. She needed to sit at the head of the kitchen table – the hub of our big three decker tenenent – and pontificate in Polish, with a few choice Polish swear words to underscore a point – my father’s uselessness being the main one. She had opinions on everything and never kept them to herself. She expounded on God, grapes, our aunties, our plumbing, the kitchen table, the beef stew on the kitchen table, the downstairs neighbors, the Gomer Pyle USMC tv show, geraniums, birthday cake, gold fish and my dolls, which she’d dress in her old, smelly knee socks.

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Rosalie has owned this doll since she was 1! Bapy used to dress this doll up!

She’d take one of my dolls, often the one I was holding, take one of her socks, cut off the toe end with a pair of small old scissors and make a little crew hat, which she put on my doll’s head. Then she’d slip the doll’s plastic body into the rest of the old sock to make a long tube dress for the doll. Bapy made all my dolls look like mummies! I always watched her work, flattered she took an interest in me, annoyed that my dolls looked dead.

Sometimes Bapy would take one of her long socks and just make a cap for one of my dolls and put the rest of the sock – the tube end – on her arm, from her wrist to her elbow. That was to warm her arthritic bones. Often she layered the arm socks for extra relief. She’d walk around the tenement with both her arms covered in old socks of many hues – browns, navy blue, white, black. Bapy looked like a walking quilt with her decorated arms, flowered flannel night gown, flowered apron over the flowered night gown, three pairs of knit booties on her old feet … She smelled … fecund.

Bapy baby-sat us when our mother was working at the dry cleaners we’d tell everyone, but actually it was the other way around, with we kids heating her coffee on the stove and getting her the hardboiled egg sandwiches that she munched on from dawn to dusk.

In short, my mother’s life (and ours) was more Army Surplus than Victoria’s Secret, and Ma dressed appropriately for her tasks.

We never owned a car when I was growing up, so we walked pretty much everywhere – my mother, two kid sisters and I. We walked to the Mart often – a fun excursion for us that we’d cap off with a stop at Woolworth’s on Front Street – specifically the luncheonette section – hamburgers, french fries and Cokes for us kids, a cheese Western omelette and regular cup of coffee for Ma. While at the Mart, my mom would buy her wretched panties, my kids sisters and I would run off to the toy section where I always picked up the little package of REAL SEA MONKEYS to give to my mother so she could buy them for me. On the package there was an illustration of a happy cute Sea Monkey family sitting on their sofa watching TV. My mom would take one look at the package, frown and wave me off with: “They’re slimey!”

My favorite part of the walk to the Mart – just before you reached its front doors was the entrance to the Aurora Hotel, a flop house where various and sundry alcoholics and Worcester chatacters lived. The glossy granite entranceway always seemed so elegant to me! There, etched onto one of the smooth granite pillars that framed the entranceway to the flophouse, in exquisite deatail, floated “the mermaid lady” – a slender, lovely lady with long tresses and dressed in a long flowing toga. She was as tall as me and seemed to come straight out of my school book on Greek gods and goddesses. I never called her Aurora, after the hotel, or even tried to name her despite my family’s frequent walk-bys. The mermaid lady seemed too cold and distant for naming, her face turned to one side, in profile, as if always looking away from the gritty, gray, working class downtown she found herself floating in.

My mother bought our “slacks,” as she called them, socks, undies, shirts and short sets at the Mart. She never bought their kids shoes. She believed in good, quality sturdy leather kids shoes for her girls so we would not walk “pigeon toed” and our “arches didn’t drop.” This was all mysterious science to my kid sisters and me – ages 7 and 8 1/2 years old – but Ma must have done something right cuz I’ve logged thousands of miles on my footsies and to this day I have high arches that look ballerina-dancer cool when pointed!

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Rosalie’s foot – 4/9/2016

So it was off to Lisbon’s Shoe Store on Millbury Street – just 10 or so stores down from the dry cleaners where my mom worked – to see Mr. Lisbon. Like many of the small business that lined Millbury Street years ago the owners usually “waited on” their customers. They were at their shops, very hands on. You got to know them and their families in a peripheral way. If you went to White’s Five and Ten down the street Mr. White was running the store and ringing out customers on their big beige cash register. Mrs. White, tall and elegant in her knock off Channel suits and high, sculpted jet-black bouffant and black high heels – her natural tallness and accessorizing made her about 6 feet tall! – neatened up the housecoat and cotton vests section. If you went to Commercial Fruit, a few stores down, the owners and later their kids, were the ones who bagged your produce and weighed it on their big porcelain scales. The tailor’s shop, also on Millbury Street, a few stores down from the drycleaners, was always home to the tailor and his 25 canaries who kept him company in a big cage that he kept on a stand by his sewing machine. They were in complete, stifling darkness except for the little goose neck lamp that shone on the clothes the little tailor was mending. When my mom and I visited I ran straight to his yellow and orange canaries, my heart swelling with love. I always hoped the little tailor would give me a bird to take home and keep near our sunny kitchen window. He never did.

Mr. Lisbon, the shoe store owner, was always so nice to my mom and my two kid sisters and me. He always made me and my sisters stand up and put our stockinged feet on his foot measuring machine and then he’d slide the measuring stick to get your exact perfect shoe size. He would put your shoes on, lace them up and have you walk around the store to get the feel of them, all the while explaining things to our mother, who listened carefully and nodded her head. She’d buy our no-nonsense shoes and make us put them on to walk home in.

We’d walk down Millbury Street, tired but content – we loved each other, we were together. At the corner of Millbury and Lafayette streets stood McGovern’s Package store. We kids knew before we took that right onto Lafayette Street Ma would go into McGoverns and buy each of us a little bag of salted cashews – a treat! I’d want to eat my little bag of cashews during the walk home but Ma always insisted that I wait until we got home. She was always right: It was more fun eating my cashews with my kid sisters and telling Bapy in broken Polish all about our shopping trip to Millbury Street!

Today we’ll be shopping cruelty-free at the Auburn Mall

Like you, I got some gift cards for Christmas.  I’ll be at the Auburn Mall today “cashing my chips in,” but I’ll be patronizing  CRUELTY-FREE STORES or looking for cruelty-free goodies in shops. For example, I adore FOREVER 21! Pretty jewelry, clothing, etc for DIRT CHEAP. And no animals are killed to make many of their purses, belts, etc. Check the tags, please!

Here, from PETA, are other mall stores, most at the Auburn Mall and, I’ll bet, at the mall in your ‘hood, that DO THE RIGHT THING AND SELL CRUELTY-FREE PRODUCTS.

The world, thankfully, is changing. Global retailers are not the enemy. Many global retailers are educating themselves … learning to support the environment and their workers, to shun the brutal fur and leather industry … . Sure, they wanna jump on a cool trend and make a lot of dough, but they, I believe, want to do the good thing, too.  Because of new minimum wage laws in America/Massachusetts and workers movements like FIGHTING FOR FIFTEEN, wages are going up. This is a GREAT thing for our economy. More dough for workers = more spending = more robust American economy, which is pretty much driven by the good ol’ American consumer!

Support companies that are ringing in the New Year RIGHT – respecting workers and leaving tortured, dead rabbits, cows, snakes, dogs, outa the picture!    – R. Tirella

From PETA .ORG …

The Body Shop

This company’s products are 100 percent vegetarian (watch out for nonvegan ingredients) and are not tested on animals.

Body Shop Mist

Shea Body Mist

Loofah mitt Body Shop

Smooth and Renew Body Loofah Mitt

Paul Mitchell

Almost every product of this company is vegan, with a few exceptions.

Paul Mitchell Collection kit

Pink Out Loud! Collection Kit

Paul Mitchell Wash

Lemon Sage Energizing Body Wash

Aveda

Aveda is a cruelty-free company and offers many vegan options. You can find Aveda’s nonvegan products listed here.

Aveda

 CLICK HERE to see all the other stores and products!

Worcester’s downtown

By Sue Moynagh

         Recently, I was watching a local news program covering property values in downtown Worcester. As the camera focused on a section of storefronts along Main Street, I could not help but notice the low number of pedestrians making their way to and from these establishments. This is nothing new: Worcester’s downtown is like downtowns in most old industrial cities. Businesses have moved out to the suburbs leaving a pathetic remnant of what was once a thriving heart of the city. Now we are all hoping that City Square will accomplish what the Galleria and Fashion Outlet malls could not, create a bustling revitalized downtown for Worcester.

         The groundbreaking ceremony for Phase I of City Square took place in September 2010. Eventually, about 20 acres of mixed- use development will transform a portion of downtown Worcester. There will be medical and life science facilities, office and retail space. There will also be residential units and entertainment venues, such as clubs and restaurants. The goal is to revitalize downtown by bringing people in to live, work, shop and dine. More people mean more business and thus more needed revenue for the city.

         I am one of the long- time city residents who can remember Worcester’s downtown as a beehive of activity. People did live, work, shop and dine in our city’s center. My earliest memories from the late Fifties and throughout the Sixties are of throngs of people strolling along the sidewalks, patronizing the numerous businesses, entertainment spots and restaurants. Downtown was the primary destination for shopping and entertainment for Worcester, and there were connections to the neighborhoods and other business areas such as Shrewsbury, Pleasant, Green, Highland and Water Streets. Parking was not really an issue because most people walked or took buses.

       Everything was available downtown to meet your needs. Department stores such as Woolworth, Kresge, Grants, Denholm and J.J. Newberry provided everything for consumers from clothing to cutlery. There were specialty shops for stationary, uniforms, athletic goods, hats and shoes. If you collected stamps or coins, you could find them downtown. Books, houseplants, art supplies and toys were readily available. You could pay bills downtown, buy pets and pet supplies, visit the beauty parlor, and even buy furniture.

        For many families, weekends meant going to the Warner, Loew’s Poli or Capitol theaters for a good show. You paid your admission and sat there half of the day. I remember going down to see the classic Disney films with my mother, aunt and cousins. We sat entranced through “Sound of Music,” “The Birds,” and “The Ten Commandments.” There was even a bowling alley where older kids used to go for fun. The Science and Art Museums were nearby. My cousins and I would get roasted peanuts or a bag of hot, buttered popcorn from one of the vendors and walk over to see the exhibits. There were great restaurants such as the Eden, but we also enjoyed a good meal at one of the five and ten counters. When we were older, there were dance spots such as the Comic Strip.

        Things have changed over the years. Quite a few of the schools such as North High, Commerce, Classical and the trade schools are long gone or have moved far from downtown Worcester. I went to Ascension Catholic High School on Vernon Street and many of us used to walk down to see a film or shop for the latest clothes, records, and cosmetics. Many of these teenagers got their first jobs in downtown establishments. Others took driving lessons at schools located on Main Street. These kids brought vitality to downtown.

        There were many locally run banks in Worcester at that time; Worcester County National, Worcester Five Cents Savings Bank, Mechanics National Bank to name a few. Workers on breaks thronged throughout the stores and restaurants. People were encouraged to patronize these banks. Remember the free gifts if you opened an account? They also had Christmas and Vacation Savings Clubs that encouraged young people to save.

       The Galleria, opened in July 1971, was an attempt to revitalize Worcester. All shopping done under one roof! I thought it was a great place to shop. The stores served a variety of customer needs. I spent most of my time in the pet store, the bookshop and in the Weathervane. Next came the upscale Worcester Common Fashion Outlet store in 1994. Parking was a big issue. Why pay for parking downtown when you can drive to any other mall and park for free? Now we have to pin our hopes on City Square.

        The plans for this project sound promising. If people live and work downtown, they will need places to shop and entertain themselves. There are other good developments within Worcester, such as the northern Gateway Project and the Canal District revitalization. Efforts to draw in people to downtown such as the festivals, farmers’ market, and music on the common series are successful. I hope that more positive steps will be taken to develop outside of the City Square site.

         There are several opportunities that are being opened up at present. The Telegram & Gazette building on Front Street has received a grant to do asbestos cleanup at the site. The Worcester Public Library parking lot is being suggested as a site for a skating rink. Notre Dame Church, a magnificent building, is no longer used for worship. I hope the decision makers in Worcester think carefully about future uses for these sites. Here are some things they should consider. How can we best serve as many people as possible? Worcester has a diverse population of all ages and income levels. I would like to see wealthy people come in to live, invest, work and enjoy Worcester, but don’t forget the rest of us. Please consider how developments will connect the neighborhoods to downtown. We also need free and safe parking, and bus service that covers weekends and later evening hours. Please don’t forget our youth. They brought vitality into downtown in years past, and can do so again. Most important of all, do what you can to create jobs for as many people as possible, with all levels of education and skills.

          Worcester’s downtown thrived throughout most of its history, and I hope it can do so again. I know we can’t go back in time. It won’t be the same as the downtown of my youth, but it can still come back as a place that attracts and welcomes people who see this as the destination in our City. I see positive signs with the City Square project. Let’s hope this serves as the catalyst to bring our downtown back to life.