Hard Times in My Old Spencer Town
By Rosalie Tirella
SPENCER during this Election Season: I’m thinking of the sweet people I used to live next to in the poor part of this town: Elm, Mechanic, Main streets. Old row houses built for the factory workers – Spencer was once a French town known for its sheet metal workers, blue collar thru and thru. Then the SAAD factories, the mills down the road in Dudley and Douglas closed, like all our factories and mills here in Worcester, then 1, 2, 3! Spencer became poor. Spencer in many places looks like my part of Blackstone River Road …
But except for one creepy neighbor – like the creeps here who CREEP me out! – I liked the people of Spencer. The poorer folks in this big, sprawling Central Massachusetts town – my Elm and Maple street neighbors, tenants living in the long row houses, were unfailingly polite, modest … a quiet friendliness suffused their “hello”‘s, “have a nice day”‘s. And everyone was a builder/crafter: they fixed their porches, weaved beautiful fake flower wreaths for their front doors, added bits and pieces of wood to their little garden fences …
I saw their poverty and, unlike the hustlers here in my buildings, they did lots of improvisation when it came to surviving poverty: the old guys carved their own crooked walking canes, the ladies had shopping carts just like my late Mom did when we lived in Green Island, and they pulled their shopping wagons up the hill to the supermarket to grocery shop – and pulled it home. In all kinds of weather. Sometimes I’d offer an old woman a ride – proud and quietly determined, she always declined. I was nice but I wasn’t a Spencer girl. New in town.
Often I’d go to Spencer Town Hall, pictured here, to talk with Laura the Town Clerk and try to make an appointment with the Town Manager (ha!). Laura was polite but, my advocacy for the poor people fell on deaf ears. Laura, I’d say, WHY NOT HAVE A TOWN COMMUNITY GARDEN IN THAT BIG TOWN LOT NEAR MY HOUSE? The people need free fresh veggies and … What about a FOOD HUB like they have in Northern Worcester County?
My suggestions were met with a Laura smile, condescending, stubborn as a mule …
So WHEN I SAW ALL THESE POOR SPENCER FOLKS WALKING IN THE SLUSH, A WET SNOW FALLING ON A DARK NOVEMBER NIGHT TO TOWN HALL – ELECTION NIGHT IN SPENCER – I WAS APPALLED. Some folks were in their motorized wheelchairs driving along with traffic! Most were drenched, a few weren’t wearing boots …
The old Republican middle classers of Spencer had their big old Caddies and Buicks parked in the town hall parking lot and voted with ease. They came out in droves to re-validate old ways, the same old same old pols …
I voted – and asked a poll worker: IS THIS THE ONLY PLACE TO VOTE? TOWN HALL? WHY NOT A POLLING SITE AT THE PUBLIC HOUSING, IN THE COMMUNITY ROOM, OVER WHERE I LIVE? Why have the poor from my area walk in snowstorms and the cold?
The old woman poll worker replied: WE DON’T EVEN HAVE ONE IN OUR SENIOR HOUSING! WE NEED ONE THERE!
Laura and all the Spencer movers and shakers were practicing their own version of voter suppression. With their small town smiles… So many people/voters living on Elm, Mechanic, Maple, Main streets and more probably looked out their windows on that election night and …left their canes by their doors…and stayed home that Election Night.
Next day I drove down to Congressman McGovern’s office off of Shrewsbury Street – Spencer is part of his Congressional District. He is supposed to represent the people of Spencer. Upset I told Chief of Staff Gladys Rodriguez Parker and other McGovern staffers what I witnessed the night before. WE NEED MORE POLLING SITES! IT’S NOT FAIR!!!
Comfy cats. Entitled cats. They gave me the same look that the Spencer movers and shakers had given me!! …and did nothing.
❤Love to all my Spencer neighbors who vote despite the voter disenfranchisement in Spencer, courtesy of Congressman Jim McGovern, oblivious Town Clerk Laura, the Boneheaded Spencer selectmen and pointless Spencer town administrator.