Tag Archives: Worcester

The Quality Inn in Worcester would make terrific permanent housing … and the Friendly House celebrates

Thanksgiving 2022 at the Friendly House

By Jim Coughlin

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Jim🌲🌲🌲

Grafton Hill’s Friendly House Community Center on Wall Street was the scene on the three days preceding Thanksgiving for their annual “Turkey Giveaway Program” that dates back to the 1960’s.

In an interview with Mike Moreshead, the Assistant Director, he said that the program initially serves about 500 families whom Friendly House serves on a regular basis, year – round.

On Monday, November 21st, the Turkey Giveaway had three members of the Worcester Railers Hockey Team on hand to pass out turkeys to the Friendly House families.

Moreshead said that the drive this year had been organized by Josephine Delef who oversaw approximately 60 volunteers who gave of their time to make it a successful event.

He said that the turkeys initially come frozen and by the time they are eventually handed over to the families which he estimated takes about four days, altogether, the turkeys are ready to be be cooked.

In addition to the turkeys, they also provide onions, squash, potatoes, stuffing along with cranberry sauce.

Moreshead said that in addition to the turkeys and “all the fixins,” Friendly House also handed out “a gift bag of non- perishable canned vegetables for the next day.”

He estimated that Friendly House recieved about $7,000 in financial donations this year for the Turkey Giveaway.

Moreshead said the first two days were reserved for the Friendly House families and Wednesday was reserved for others in the community whom he said, “may have fallen short in their Thanksgiving grocer⁷:: shopping,”

“There were 150 gift cards for local grocery stores, valued at $20 that were made possible by local businesses,” Moreshead said.

Among the many busisnesses contributing to the Turkey Giveaway were the Worcester County Food Bank, The Wagner Auto Group, TJK, the Willows Retirement Home, and others.

He described the Turkey Giveaway as ” a community effort, with lots of donors.”

“We also partner with churches,” he said.

He said that Friendly House recieved so many donations and he apologized to This Reporter “if he left any businesses out.”

In addition, Masterman’s Manufacturing Company in Auburn donated 50 pies.

” I am honored and humbled to do this job, year-round,” Moreshead said.

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THE QUALITY INN ON ORIOL STREET – THE PERFECT PLACE!

By Rosalie Tirella

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The Quality Inn. photos: R.T.

It will be a shame if the NIMBY crowd – homeowners in the Burncoat/upper Lincoln Street area – apply pressure to our weak-kneed politicians and the pols cave and nix the apartments that COMMUNITY HOUSING RESOURCES plans to build for the homeless in the Quality Inn suites/hotel on Oriol Street. Worcester city councilors and planning board members need to drive to the hotel AND SEE THAT THE HOTEL IS AWAY FROM HOMES AND CONDOS – that it is at the top of a street with a methadone clinic and a medical building. IT IS NOT LOCATED IN A RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD! What’s more, the Quality Inn is already operating as a huge, quasi-homeless shelter for Worcester. It’s staffed by the hotel’s terrific hospitality professionals who are ANGELS with the regular guests and homeless guests – the struggling kind. I spent, in total, a month+ at the Quality Inn on Oriol Street. The young Jamaican guy at the front desk was wonderful with me and all the guests – home owners from out of town and homeless folks from Worcester and area towns. Assistant manager Dana is a wonderful person – she should be made director of the new housing complex! Community Housing Resources should hire these two smart, sensitive young people to run their new endeavor! And keep the housekeeping staff, too!

You wanna know a secret? Our Worcester city councilors already know the Quality Inn is a kind of homeless shelter. A few City workers have told me: Homeless folks sleep in the bushes outside the motel, Rose. Yes, they do! It’s safe and quiet. When I stayed at the Quality Inn and took my two dogs out to pee late at night before I went to bed, friends of friends who had rooms at the Inn would sneak in for shelter. A night out of the cold or the rain. Rooms were shared by fiancees and cousins twice removed! Everyone looked exhausted and grubby – it’s no fun being homeless – but I never had a problem with anyone there. Not once.

The revamped Quality Inn that will be converted to apartments and studios for the homeless will no longer be a quasi-Worcester homeless shelter – it will be HOME. Home to folks in need. One-bedrooms. Studios. Bathrooms. A community room. It will be an IMPROVEMENT, an ASSET to the city. Fewer people sleeping on the sidewalks of the Canal District!

According to CHR, the reimagined and renovated QI will be supportive housing, meaning there will be staff on the premises 24/7 … to support the residents – to help with job searches…to counsel…to refer folks to other social service agencies that can help. Residents must pay a portion of their rent. There will be security cameras galore, I bet, plus security folks.

RIGHT NOW THE QUALITY INN is excellent but a bit of a free for all. The Worcester Fire Department’s fire trucks are always there – for silly stuff – and for real stuff, including health emergencies.

Let’s stop the suffering. This holiday season let’s get the homeless out of the woods and provide them with home …real homes for the working poor and very poor with little kids. Families. To see little girls and boys homeless, crying outside the Quality Inn as a dad or mom tries to comfort them is soul crushing. I often went to the Dollar Store when I stayed at the Quality Inn to buy the little kids coloring books and crayons, stuffed animals, etc … and I got other toys and books donated. Remember Edith Morgan’s big blessing bag last winter? Pens, pencils, notebooks for school – I tried to help. A heartbreaking sight: a Worcester Public Schools yellow school bus pulling into the Quality Inn … seeing the three our four little children clambering aboard the school bus, with parents looking tentative and hopeful. Doing the right thing for their children, under duress. This is America?! … I’d leave all donations/ school supplies with Dana or another front desk staffer and knew they’d distribute the stuff wisely. And my “pup” Lilac was always so happy to see the kiddos, giving them sloppy kisses whenever their paths crossed! One mom said, You made my daughter’s day! She loves dogs! This was after her daughter patted Jett and Lilac’s old heads and gave Lilac a hug as we walked about outdoors, outside the Quality Inn, our temporary home – we hoped.

Why must innocent children suffer?

Why traumatize little ones in a city whose coffers are full?

Worcester is undergoing gentrification – city-wide! Not just in the Canal District! So many of us have had to find our new homes in the towns outside of Worcester because our city is so expensive to live in. For young families with children in the Worcester Public Schools or the working poor who have jobs in Worcester but no car … they need to live in Worcester! Remain in their hometown! The new Quality Inn could be an answer to their prayers …

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Former WSC member and retired WPS principal and teacher John Monfredo makes a donation to the kids of QI …

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Mr. Monfredo donated a box filled with books and magic markers to the children staying at the Quality Inn.

Retired Worcester Public Schools principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo made a blessings box for the little kids at the Quality Inn on Oriol Street. I delivered the box a few days ago to a gracious Javan – the Jamaican front desk manager I told you about. Javan was being Javan – impeccably dressed, professional, polite … coming out of the kitchen area with a huge covered tray. . For the community room. A homemade frosted Bundt cake was already on the buffet table. It was around 3 p.m. I bet Javan and the hotel’s staff created a wonderful Thanksgiving feast for all the Quality Inn guests: out of towners visiting family, those displaced by fire or some other domestic catastrophe … and the homeless! The place settings were beautiful, so festive looking! Javan looked like a prince walking out with the platter … When I gave him the big box containing new/just like new children’s books, crayons and magic markers and told him I was no longer homeless – that I had a beautiful apartment – he smiled. HAPPY THANKSGIVING! we said to each other! The Quality people at the Quality Inn – a hotel that people love to malign because they don’t know any better …

– Rosalie

🦃What does “Turkey Day” mean to you?

By Ingrid Newkirk

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So many turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving each year — about 46 million in America alone — that some Americans refer to the holiday as “Turkey Day.” They fixate on the taste of turkey flesh and place the bird’s basted corpse at the center of the table, as if the mass slaughter of an animal were integral to the celebration. Most of us agree that we should treat other sentient beings with compassion, yet for many, Thanksgiving tends to revolve around eating a slaughtered bird. This is classic cognitive dissonance — when our actions are inconsistent with our beliefs.

I get it. Like many people, I, too, “loved” animals but ate them and thought nothing of it for years. I was a meat-eater’s meat-eater, following my gourmand father’s dietary path: I was wild for liver and onions and raw oysters, balking only at tongue (because it was so obvious what it was) and calf’s brains on toast, one of his favorite dishes.

But things changed for me, thanks to a book I picked up on a vacation: Ruth Harrison’s eye-opening ANIMAL MACHINES. It laid out the horrors endured by those living beings we call “animals,” a word that often casually excludes humans as if we were in some other category of life, perhaps mini-gods.

Regardless of all that’s been written and filmed since 1980, when PETA came into existence hell-bent on exposing what turkeys go through before their drumsticks reach the table, many members of our species remain unmoved, even when they hear that their fellow animals (for we, too, are animals) are petrified when they’re grabbed in the factory-farm sheds, stuffed into crates, trucked through all weather extremes, and then hung upside-down by their legs in the slaughterhouse just before their throats are slit. Yet Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he wrote that “however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”

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Turkeys on factory farms suffer, suffer, suffer …

I still haven’t nailed the perfect strategy that will change hearts, minds and old habits of convenience and let the other animals simply live. Some people go vegan for their health, some for the environment, others because they’re swayed by images of the unspeakable things we do to animals to get sausages, nuggets, omelets, cheese and turkey flesh on the table.

May I suggest that this year, we observe “Turkey Day” by focusing on turkeys’ many admirable qualities rather than on the taste of their flesh? They are caring parents and spirited explorers who enjoy moving along to music, having their feathers stroked, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and spending time with their friends. One retired poultry scientist describes turkeys as “smart animals with personality and character, and keen awareness of their surroundings.”

And like all other animals, including humans, turkeys feel pain, grief, love and joy. Why not give them a break this November and celebrate ThanksVegan, PETA’s fresh new take on the Thanksgiving holiday? Anyone wishing to take a step or even a leap into vegan living will find free downloadable vegan starter kits, recipes, tips and much more on PETA’s website – PETA.ORG.

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REMEMBER, THIS HOLIDAY SEASON: OFFICE PARTY SECRET SANTA GOODIES, STOCKING STUFFERS, TEACHER APPRECIATION PRESENTS … ALL THESE CHRISTMAS GIFTS CAN BE “CRUELTY-FREE,” low-cost – AND CONVENIENTLY BOUGHT AT YOUR LOCAL CVS, WALGREENS, TARGET, TRADER JOE’S AND THE DOLLAR TREE. Here are 15 cruelty-free companies – meaning they don’t test their products – soaps, hand creams, body lotions, shampoos, cosmetics – on animals, primarily white bunnies! Also, there are no animal-derived ingredients in their personal care products. I would add DOVE and SUAVE to this list. Recently, I bought their deodorants – they’ve got THE PETA’S BUNNY LOGO AND CRUELTY-FREE STAMP OF APPROVAL! 🐇- Rose T.
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🍁LET’S LOOK AT THE TRUE MEANING OF THANKSGIVING🍂🍁

By John Monfredo, retired Worcester Public Schools principal and teacher and former Worcester School Committee member

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Mr. Monfredo, this summer. photo: R.T.

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” – Catherine Pulsifer

The above quote is a reminder to all of us about the true meaning of Thanksgiving Day. This day is more than a special dinner, watching parades and traditional football games. It’s a day to call for action! Thanksgiving is composed of two words … Thanks and Giving!

Let’s face it, we all live in a negative society! All you have to do is listen to the news or just tune into a political campaign or watch a meeting. As an educator I would encourage schools to step up and address the problem.

Many teachers in the past have changed the world every day in their teachings, by the actions they take and by establishing projects within their communities. Let’s do it again, if we are to show our students the meaning of compassion, empathy, understanding and respect. Let’s tie it into the true meaning of Thanksgiving!

Since coming back from the pandemic many schools have seen a rise in bullying and a general lack of respect for others. What if during this holiday season the true meaning of Thanksgiving takes place? What if kindness and compassion are taught in our schools? Could this be a step in the right direction? Remember: adult modeling is essential! We would do well to remember this little poem:

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence,

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world!

In the past, many schools stepped up and had, as part of their school philosophies and goals, volunteerism … having students “doing acts of kindness.” Many schools still enact this policy, giving students credit for good manners or doing a simple act of goodness, like holding the door for someone or just thoughtfully giving your seat on the bus to a senior citizen. Look at Andy’s Attic at South High, established years ago by former WPS School Superintendent Maureen Binienda when she was principal at South. The program still exists, and clothing and goods are given not only to the students but to local organizations in need. Also, many Worcester schools have opened food pantry kitchens for students in need of food for themselves – and their families. Let’s also bring back this year, through the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, the policy that each WPS secondary school select a service project for the year and work on making a difference in our community.

Wouldn’t it be great if the “act of giving” could take place at Thanksgiving time and be part of the overall philosophy of all American schools?

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Every year Mr. Monfredo and his wife, Annemarie, collect thousands of books for the kids of Worcester County – a volunteer project they began about 20 years ago! Photo submitted

Several years ago, I remember reading a quote from Maurice Elias, a professor at the Rutgers University Psychology Department, when he was addressing the topic of teaching kindness in our schools:

“As a citizen, grandparent, father, and professional, it is clear to me that the mission of schools must include teaching kindness. Without it, communities, families, schools and classrooms become places of incivility where lasting learning is unlikely to take place … Kindness can be taught, and it is a defining aspect of civilized human life. It belongs in every home, school, neighborhood and society.”

As Thanksgiving approaches let’s think about actions you can take and schools can take to bring to the classroom something that fully expresses the giving and kindness of the upcoming holiday.

Here are some actions for the student and the adult to consider:

* Donating food and clothing to non-profit organizations …

* With a smile, hold a door open for someone …

* Read a story with a child …

* Give a sincere compliment …

* Tell someone they mean a lot to you …

* Make someone laugh …

* Treat a loved one to breakfast in bed …

* Give a friend a hug …

* Say you’re sorry (you know to whom) …

* Take time to really listen to someone …

* Visit a sick friend, relative or neighbor …

* Make someone new feel welcome …

* Do a chore that you don’t normally do …

* Call up a talk show with good news!

* Assist an older adult with a yard project …

* Assist a friend with a school project …

* Pay for someone’s coffee that is in line with you …

* Donate clothes to the needy

* Make someone a home-cooked meal …

* Send a TEXT message to someone on their Birthday …

As you sit down for dinner or discuss Thanksgiving with others, spend a few moments giving thanks and share with others what good, kind actions you will take in the next year.

Love to hear what your thoughts are or what you have done to make our community a better place! Write to me, monfredoj@gmail.com

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Congressman Jim McGovern’s efforts to make sure our hungry have enough food entail volunteerism, too! Watch for Jim’s walk for the hungry this Thanksgiving!

Edith🌲☕⛄

By Rosalie Tirella

This morning Cece has taken over.

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❤️ photos: R.T.

Lilac looks old (she’s around 8 yrs). I look old (I’m 61). Rough 17 months, in the rear view mirror but not forgotten: my two dogs and I as homeless as the original family in the original Christmas story! Go away! You’re too poor! No room in our Inn for you! Take a hike, Joseph and Mary – we don’t care if Mary’s pregnant (with Jesus). Good luck, Rose! Try and stay warm!

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Last winter … Worcester’s homeless… Millbury Street.

Me…In my car, last year, Christmas time, seeing in the dead of a Worcester winter night all the homeless folks sleeping on the sidewalks in the Canal District, Vernon Hill and Downtown Worcester. Unwanted. Shunned. Treated like refuse. Driving around my city and seeing the suffering. I remember shedding a few tears as I thought of their situation and our situation: Rose, Jett and Lilac in Rose’s car. Rose addressing her Christmas cards in her car, in a parking lot at night, the December snow falling down and looking pretty against the street light. The Star of Bethlehem?

The crumby motel rooms. The pleasant motel rooms. Organizing the stuff in my car trunk – like I was organizing my personal stuff in this bedroom! My family snubbing us. Friends sympathetic but unwilling to open their doors. Unlike the Blessed Mary or Saint Joseph, I reacted in a very human way – my heart has hardened. I see people bustling with their trees and mistletoe and flat screen TVs and they’re dead to me. They clutch their Play Stations and Apple computer watches and fancy sneakers and Christmas feels far away …

It’s about needing love, needing community…not avarice. The human race usually falls short.

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Edith!☃️🌲☕

This holiday season I look back at my homeless “journey” – and remember the only person who personified Christmas for me, the only person who opened her home to me, gave me respite in her “inn”: Edith Morgan, CECELIA contributing writer for several years (p.4), former Worcester School Committee member, former foster parent and retired reading teacher (the Shrewsbury public schools). Edith isn’t a dog person, so I had to board my pups, but she was the only person who made a little bed for me in a spare room in her home and said, Stay a week or two. Two or three times. She was the only person who gave me a pillow for my head and sore neck and blankets for warmth and night gown. I hadn’t slept in a night gown in weeks! And she gave me bedroom slippers! Edith lectured me … a bit too often and severely, in my opinion, but she also taught me how to use a French press to make my morning coffee. I could open her refrigerator door whenever I wanted to and nosh on the cheese and grapes in her fridge. I could eat bowls of her bran flakes and pour real cream into my cups of coffee and watch the Rachel Maddow show with Edith at night in her living room. The radio in Edith’s living room was tuned to a classical music station all day, and it soothed my soul and provided the background music to Edith’s daily life: writing stories on her computer upstairs, getting ready to go out to various local political meetings, unpacking bags of groceries after going out shopping with her late husband, Guy – a real sweetie. Edith trusted me with her house, her stuff, her gifts, her dishware, her records, her family photos, her Christmas candy, everything. Decades ago, a dad in her neighborhood had thrown his unruly son out of his house. Goodbye! You’re too much for this family! … Edith let the teen live with her. Gave him a bed, meals, guidance …

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Edith in her garden.

It is hard to open up your personal space to a non-relative, a “stranger.” I know I couldn’t do it! To have another human – an interloper – in my path! No way! And I was homeless! Edith transcends the stupid prejudices, is bigger than stuff and safeguarding stuff. For her, it’s about experiencing life, learning, teaching, meeting people, supporting kids, celebrating community. She’s a cool old hippie in her mid-90s! She still digs and hoes in her urban garden outside her house. She still cooks and watches her weight. She has a best friend that she’s known for more than a half a century. She eats an apple a day She writes beautifully and is thoughtful about everything.

So this Christmas I’ll never forget Edith Morgan and her understanding and goodness.

Oh, Holy Night!

Look at the big picture this World Vegan Month

By Heather Moore

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This World Vegan Month (November) is a good time to reflect on all the reasons to go vegan. While many compassionate folks go vegan to protect animals from suffering, environmentally conscious individuals may do so primarily because the production and consumption of beef, chicken, pork and other animal-derived foods contribute to the climate catastrophe and other environmental problems. Health-conscious people tend to avoid meat, eggs and dairy mostly because they’re high in cholesterol and saturated fat and devoid of important nutrients. Other benefits, including affordability, also motivate people to go vegan. Although one aspect of vegan living may resonate with you more than others, all are valid concerns that trump every possible excuse for eating animal-based foods.

When you look at the big picture and consider all the reasons, individually and combined, for going vegan, you’ll understand why it’s a sensible choice. Simply going vegetarian, as I did a couple of years before I went vegan, isn’t enough.

Animals suffer in the egg and dairy industries. Hens used for their eggs are confined to filthy, extremely crowded cages. Farmers cut off part of each bird’s sensitive beak with a hot blade—using no painkillers. Male chicks are useless to the egg industry since they don’t produce eggs, and they aren’t bred to have the excessive flesh desired by the meat industry, so they’re either suffocated or tossed into a grinder while they’re still alive. When hens’ exhausted bodies can no longer produce enough eggs, they, too, are killed.

Cows produce milk for the same reason humans do: to feed their babies. But on dairy farms, they’re forcibly impregnated over and over again and their calves are taken from them soon after they’re born. Many male calves are crammed inside crates and ultimately killed for veal. When their mothers are “spent” and can no longer produce much milk, they’re sent to slaughter.

Going vegan helps humans, too, as it can lower the risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer and other health problems and can help keep weight down. What’s more, eating vegan foods can help you save money, since vegan staples like pasta, rice, tofu and beans are much cheaper than meat.

And raising and killing animals for food takes a catastrophic toll on the planet. Animal agriculture generates huge quantities of greenhouse gases. And forests, which absorb those gases, are cut down to grow crops to feed farmed animals. A recent report commissioned by World Animal Protection shows that growing, processing and transporting feed crops accounts for about 60% and 40% of the emissions from farming chickens and pigs, respectively. In the countries with the most factory farming—Brazil, China, the Netherlands and the U.S.—the carbon footprint of factory-farming chickens is akin to keeping 29 million cars on the road for a year and the emissions from factory-farming pigs are equivalent to those from 74 million cars every year.

Many people understand why it’s important to give up meat, but let’s not overlook the damage done when we consume eggs and dairy. If you’re serious about ending cruelty to animals, getting healthier and saving the planet, World Vegan Month is a fitting time to stop eating animal-based foods and opt instead for foods that are humane, wholesome and environmentally friendly.

BABKA BREAD❤️⛄🎄

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose’s ROOTS table. photos: R.T.

I just got in and plopped my just bought Babka bread on my ROOTS-table – the place in my new apartment where I’ve displayed photos and memorobilia of deceased dear ones, so I see them every day, so they’re a part of my daily life, inspirations for good living – and hopefully good columns! I plopped the Babka bread, a tall, round, Eastern European sweet bread, next to the big picture of my Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, seated with her eldest daughter, my Aunt Mary, and it landed with a thud. I smiled.

Babka bread is my favorite bread, and it was Bapy’s favorite bread. She could eat it every day of the week – plain, without butter – and never tire of its light texture and light, sweet taste. Bapy had no teeth and never wore her dentures, so she would “chew” away on her soft hunk of Babka, tearing pieces off and putting them into her small, shriveled mouth. She chewed all her food in a kind of yammering manner – her egg sandwiches, her slices of pound cake, her mashed potatoes, her mashed turnip, her cooked canned spinach – always looking a bit pained, but she wasn’t in pain – she just had to work a little harder at masticating. And she was in heaven during Christmas and she was feasting on Babka bread! Ma always served her a nice thick hunk of Babka on a pretty saucer, and she placed it right next to Bapy’s cup of Sanka, always brown with coffee stains and covered with bits of bread crumbs or egg yolks from the day’s meals.

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Rose’s Babka.

Babka is soft and sweet and practically melts in your mouth. There’s plain and raisin and raisin with rye seeds. Babies – as well as toothless Bapies – can eat plain Babka bread. I always loved the one made with raisins and rye seeds. Real peasant food: the rye seeds got stuck between your teeth but they gave the bread a hearty flavor, and the raisins were never added that special something, and you still tasted the egg and vanilla paste …

My big hunk of heaven was on sale at Price Chopper today for $7, so I grabbed it: a Polish girl’s childhood Christmas treat! I remember diving into so many “loaves” as a kid growing up in Green Island. Water, Green and Millbury streets – the neighborhood’s commercial streets – still had that Eastern European flavor, still reflected the delicacies and dreams of the Polish, Jewish and Lithuanian immigrants that once lived and worked in the neighborhood – my Jaju and Bapy from Poland, then Ma and her siblings, Bapy and Jaju’s kids. You could buy an ok Babka bread at the bakery on Millbury Street – and maybe pick up a pretty good one – not baked on the premises – at Bueler Brothers Market down the street – the famous sausage place. You could buy your Babka to go with the guys’ fresh made kibasa and jars of pigs knuckles. But cross Kelley Square, and the bakeries on Water Street were where the best Babkas in Worcester were sold. Every holiday season Worcesterites from the West Side, East Side, South Side, Main South, Downtown and Green Island converged on Widoffs and Lederman’s to buy the breads for their holiday dinner tables. Thousands of bulkies, tucked into thousands of brown paper bags, were sold. Hundreds upon hundreds of rye – marbled with pumpernickel, seedless, seeded – flew out the doors. Customers entered the bakeries, grabbed a number from the red ticket machines and stood shoulder to shoulder, smooshed up against the bakeries’ display cases for what seemed like eternity, waiting, waiting , waiting for their number to be called. “I’LL HAVE TWO DOZEN BULKIES! … AND A BABKA!” went the mantra. Our little family was so poor! But never felt poor on our street – Water Street! The bulkies were cheap, we bought them every Sunday morning after mass, along with hundreds of Worcester folks. The Babka was a bit pricey…but it was Christmas time, and Ma had her small Christmas bonus from the dry cleaners, so she could treat us and Bapy to a fancy bread. Bapy lived with us on the third floor of an old Lafayette Street three decker – she was old and crippled and never left our tenement, but when she was young and raising her children she – and Jaju – shopped in Water Street. In the early part of the 20th century, the street had more of a market place feel to it – Jaju said the shop keepers sold live chickens and rabbits for stew and he’d tease the little monkey wearing a hat and dancing for the customers’ pennies. The monkey’s best trick – sticking his rear end out to customers – and patting it. He was saying: Kiss my ass! Jaju always got a kick out this. Then he bought his bread and walked home.

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Bapy and Jaju in their tenement in The Block on Bigelow Street in Green Island, mid-1940s.

Years later Ma’s customers at the dry cleaners in Millbury Street gave her boxes of candy or Christmas cards with $20 bills in them as holiday gifts. Ma was a great counter girl – neat, polite, well spoken, excellent with numbers, never making mistakes on the cash register. She was well loved by lots of her customers – even the East Side goodfellas, toughs who’d bring in their long camel haired coats to be dry cleaned for Christmas. For church. Once Ma showed me the lining of one such fella’s coat – a few long, extra pockets sewn inside, large rectangles that no one could see. “That’s for his guns,” she told me, her eyes looking into mine. I was a little kid – and knew no better – so I was fascinated. Probably as fascinated as Ma was. I liked “Tom” – he chatted so amiably with my mother over the counter at the dry cleaners whenever he came to pick up his suits or coats. And he was always so nice to me and my two kid sisters. We were never afraid of him – he was right up there with the politicians and Holy Cross priests who came in with their dry cleaning! And Christmas time he always gave Ma a big tip.

The Old World Water Street. I miss it.

TONY ON VETERANS DAY🇺🇲

By Rosalie Tirella

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Tony. photos: R.T.

I visited my old pal Tony Hmura this afternoon. He has been dead for several years now, living longer than most old people – eating very little for years because he read somewhere that being very underweight increased your longevity. Swore by fresh cherries and cod liver oil as cures for his arthritis. Voted Republican every election cycle to save his hard earned cash but let all the Democrats running for office in Worcester stick their political signs all over his property… He delved into weird conspiracy theories about who and what wanted to take over America. A little scary. … Despite all that, Tony Hmura was my good friend. Sometimes a great one – for 15+ years. Tony had a lot of common sense and was easy to talk to and didn’t try to change you. When the going got rough, I found myself at Breens bar on Cambridge Street gulping down spoonfuls of their delicious homemade soup or munching on a grilled cheese sandwich – bowl of soup and sandwich courtesy of Tony, who sat at the bar with me and nursed a beer.

Worcester County is a quieter, less controversial and less fun city (for me, at least) now that my pal is no longer walking – with a bit of a hitch – this earth. Canterbury and Cambridge streets were Tony’s world. He loved his sign shop, Leader Sign, located on Canterbury Street, and he loved going to Breens after work or the Webster House. He loved getting all kinds of visitors – feral cats, which he fed… drug addicts, whom he always gave a fiver to … women on the cusp, whom he took under his wing and gave $20 bills to…at his shop. He took one neighborhood lady to his grandson’s birthday party in the suburbs one summer. With 30 guests milling around, she still managed to steal $500 bucks. Tony’s sons were livid. Tony felt she wouldn’t have stolen the cash if she didn’t need it. Tony felt bad for the women who prostituted themselves for drug money. Once he told me about the woman across the street from his sign shop who gave a guy a blow job on his porch…They’re sitting on his porch, afterwards, watching the pigeons. She says, “Pigeons are such dirty birds.” The guy cracks a beer bottle over her head.

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Tony’s sign shop.

Tony saw the ugliness of city life, but he went back at trying to make things better in Worcester every single morning. He was at his sign shop by 8 a.m., Monday thru Saturday, even when he was in his 90s. Tony talked with everyone, heard and reacted to their hard luck stories. A social worker without the degree but following his misguided heart. He felt addicts would always be addicts – so why lecture them? Just give them the dough. For their booze or their drugs. Tony had a line of alcoholics and more waiting for him at Leader Sign every morning. After he died, they all went away.

Tony was born on Lafayette Street in Green Island and, because his Polish immigrant dad had a nervous breakdown and became incapacitated (was in his bedroom all day) when Tony was very young, Tony never had the dad he had hoped for. Tony began working to support the family when he was 7. He started an earthworm business and went around Green Island selling earthworms out of his little red wagon to guys who were going fishing. Tony got a full-time factory job while still in junior high school. He gave his money to his mother for bills – and saved the rest. He was the sole provider for his mother, father, two sisters and brother. They were very poor, but Tony was growing his bank account. Tony got very tough – boxing, running – and cynical – his life was pretty crumby – and at such an early age. He deflowered many a neighborhood girl who needed money during the Great Depression. He had no problem paying them. He even worked for a veterinarian as a vet tech – no anesthesia for the dogs they castrated!

After the war, Tony became a Worcester sign maker and owned his own shop on Canterbury Street for decades. A proud Polish American – first generation – Tony fell for the glamor of America in a big way: he loved Hollywood movies, Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, pop songs, JFK, FREEDOM. Tony was obsessed with freedom – freedom from nagging wives, freedom from his own kids, even. He loved going out and driving and being unencumbered by family and responsibilities of the heart … he loved the ladies, night life, clubs and restaurants … and money. Like most Americans, Tony believed that with the right amount of cash, he could get exactly what he wanted – fancy wrist watches and suits, fancy trips to Florida, fancy ladies … yet he never seemed happy.

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The Polish Santa!

There was his lovable side: Every Christmas, year after year, Tony dressed up as the anonymous “Polish Santa,” giving out little gifts to neighborhood kids or classrooms of kids at St. Mary’s elementary school on Richland Street. He would give waitresses at various dives $50 bills – and be happy with their hugs of thanks. Occasionally, his good deeds went … punished, like the time he bought 30 Christmas turkeys and tried to give them to a local social service agency – and they didn’t want Tony’s turkeys. And Tony didn’t know what to do with them. Or the time Tony went to a City of Worcester elementary school as the Polish Santa with his sack of toys for a classroom of students, many underprivileged – and the school rejected the Polish Santa’s presents for the kids because two students in the classroom were Johovah Witnesses. This enraged Tony! Every Christmas he’d tell me the story and wonder what America was coming to. A stupid, Christmas-loathing country, that’s what! “Drill holes in their heads! Sawdust will pour out!” he’d say to me of his fellow Americans.

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Tony’s final sign: his tombstone. Tony picked it out, paid for it, designed it, had it erected several years before he died. Here’s his WW II bomber plane – Tony was a gunner.

You can see him spraying bullets at the enemy in this detail:
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🇺🇲🇺🇲🇺🇲

Tony proudly fought for America during World War II – not so much hating Hitler as wanting to prove his manhood, his toughness…to be a HERO. He was about 18 when he enlisted and was up for the adventure of a lifetime. Turned out it wasn’t that way at all – Tony’s plane was shot down a few times, and he thought he was going to die. Some of his pals died – crying for their mothers. After a bombing raid they’d be cigs laid out on the guys’ cots – and shots of hard liquor. Guys’ hands would be shaking as they put their cigarettes to their mouths, Tony used to tell me. But Tony refrained – he felt smoking and drinking were signs of weakness. Years later, I believed Tony suffered from PTSD, from the war. Once a week, without fail, he’d go to a local support group for vets. He never told me what anybody talked about – but I know this support group made Tony feel better.

During the war, Tony and bomber plane mates were led by Hollywood film actor James Stewart. Tony liked Stewart – “He was a regular guy” … “He told us Ginger Rogers was the best piece of ass he ever had.” I loved the Clark Gable stories too… loved the photo of Jimmy Stewart and his crew – Tony included – standing in front of one of their bomber planes, some wearing bomber jackets, Stewart looking like a movie star, all of them young and a bit cocky. All of them smiling easy-going smiles, their jaws relaxed, their arms casually draped over each other’s shoulders. Tony isn’t hugging anybody and you can see the fearlessness in his eyes – he was a loner even back then. But you can tell he’s glad to be with his mates, a Green Island kid fighting for his country. America!

Stop by Leader Sign and see this terrific photo that Tony framed and hung on the wall in his sign shop so many years ago. His son, Bryan, still works there, part-time. He’d be glad to show it to you.

They still die, piece by piece

By Daniel Paden

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Make your Christmas stocking stuffers CRUELTY-FREE! art: PETA

Two decades after an article in The Washington Post, titled “They Die Piece by Piece,” detailed the horrors animals faced in slaughterhouses and exposed federal officials’ paltry enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), little has changed. The meat industry and the agency entrusted with regulating it continue to fail animals miserably. Clearly, the best way to prevent farmed animals from suffering is to leave meat off our plates.

The article’s headline quotes a slaughterhouse worker’s description of how still-conscious cattle were butchered in 2001. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) own reports recount how cows and other animals still endure agonizing deaths.

In Minnesota last December, workers shot a conscious cow in the head three times, slit her throat, cut into her and injected a chemical into the wounds. The cow clenched her teeth in pain until a rifle shot finally ended her suffering.

In Illinois in August 2021, a pig hanging upside down on the slaughter line was crying out after being put through a carcass-washing cabinet. A worker cut the conscious pig’s throat. Then the pig was plunged into a tank of scalding-hot water and thrashed and screamed before finally being shot.

Both slaughterhouses were allowed to resume killing animals a day after these incidents, having submitted some paperwork to the USDA to get its stamp of approval.

Meanwhile, the more than 9 billion chickens, turkeys and other birds slaughtered annually in the U.S. are not protected by the HMSA. No law requires that they even be stunned before their throats are cut. Birds are routinely drowned in scalding tanks.

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Inhumane treatment of turkeys!

At one slaughterhouse, workers left 25,867 chickens overnight on trailers in an open shed as the windchill plummeted to minus 32 degrees. More than 9,000 of the birds died, and many were frozen to metal cages. At another facility, more than 30,000 chickens were denied food and water for more than 24 hours, killing more than 1,600 birds.

But USDA leadership took no enforcement action in their behalf.

What The Washington Post reported three presidencies ago remains true: The USDA makes rare use of the serious sanctions at its disposal. Since 1978, HMSA violations have been punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, the USDA has evidently never filed criminal charges against a licensed slaughterhouse.

As a result, one slaughterhouse in Pennsylvania continues to operate despite 20 violations of law since February 2018. In June 2019, workers there shot a conscious cow three times in the head. In January 2020, a cow who had been shot three times and was hanging on the slaughter line was crying out loudly and looking around. A worker ignored that and cut her throat.

In August 2020, another cow at the same facility endured three rifle shots to the head. Three months later, yet another cow was still standing and looking around after two blasts to the skull. In June 2021, the victim was a pig who remained standing after being shot between the eyes.

Business continues as usual at that slaughterhouse — with the USDA’s blessing — and at others where animals suffer and die in violation of the HMSA. Former USDA Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer Lester Friedlander said in 2001 that violations were “out of control.” They still are. And chronic violators, emboldened by the agency’s toothless responses, have no reason to expect significant consequences.

Any hope that “humane slaughter” might be something other than an oxymoron should fade given the USDA’s abysmal failure to enforce the HMSA in meaningful ways. If you don’t want sensitive, intelligent animals to keep dying “piece by piece,” please stop eating them.

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This Thanksgiving try a holiday roll … skip the turkey!

Luis Sanchez movie review🎬🍿🎟️📽️

Andor Premiere Review

By Luis Sanchez

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Luis!

The Star Wars franchise seeks to redeem itself after its most recent installment of The Book of Boba Fett. After a disappointing show, Star Wars has taken the decision to raise the stakes and become a more mature universe for its audience. Andor is exactly what a new Star Wars universe envisions. Andor is a science-fiction series made for Disney+ created by Tony Gilroy. Diego Luna reprises his role from Star Wars: Rogue One as Cassian Andor. It is a prequel to Star Wars: Rogue One, and the entire series plans to lead up to that movie’s events. There are many new characters portrayed by Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, Joplin Sibtain and others. What captured a lot of people’s attention was how the first three episodes were released on the same day. As I mentioned previously, Star Wars wants to renew itself. I think this is a great way to do so.

Watching all three episodes at once had its positives and negatives. The negative part was how I can’t exactly recall what happened in each episode besides the important points, of course. The positive was that it felt almost like a movie: a beginning, middle and end. If one episode was released weekly, then Andor would have released a different message to its fans. All three episodes worked harmoniously as it ignited my enthusiasm for the show. What I found most intriguing, is how I am not eager to want more – I am already satisfied. Although it may sound ridiculous, it has its reasoning. Take The Mandalorian, for example. Following the ending of an episode I would be ecstatic to find out what happens next, and I would want more, perhaps to even have the episode released the next day. In Andor, the three-part premiere provided a conclusive idea not to the show, but to its beginning. Now we know the exposition, we know the characters, and we are ready to follow Cassian in his adventure.

The episodes also provided an emphasis on maturity and what Star Wars aims to do next. I can recall at least one part in each episode that made me forget we were in the Star Wars universe. It would leave the room still. What I appreciate even more is how fleshed out the characters are now. We are no longer in the “Anakin Skywalker: farmer boy is the chosen one and becomes the big bad” era. We have characters that are three dimensional, that have complex feelings, that we see are having battles within themselves and battling the exterior war. There is nothing better than a character whom the audience can believe is real. Perhaps we could even say this premiere was solely for the purpose of providing context towards what will happen next. Either way, it worked great.

There is a lot to look forward to in this series. Soon enough we might see the rebirth of Star Wars. Will all of the fans agree? Perhaps not, but I can say that I’m excited for what’s in store. Star Wars seems to be taking a leap, and I am nothing short of proud of what they are doing for their fans.

Boots👢

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose’s boots. photos: R.T.

Winter’s coming on, and I’ll be delivering thousands of CECELIAs/ICTs in the snow, sleet and mush – like I have been doing for the past 21 years. I’ve traipsed through so many miles of snow, gone through so many pairs of boots … all in the name of a good local read. My moxie was inherited from my late mom and Bapy, but the boots were courtesy of gal pal Dorrie. Thank God for my former vintage store owner friend – she knows her product, she knows what size my feet are, she knows what styles will suit my needs and fashion sense. Dorrie’s kept me in warm, cute, walkable boots for years! I’ve been able to run my newspaper, deliver InCity Times or CECELIA with dispatch and in style, in all her winter boots: black ones, fringed ones, hippie style ones, booties…beige and faux fur lined! But last year I was so dispirited about my situation that as soon as the ground began to thaw I dumped my perfectly fine UGG knock-offs Dorrie had gifted me to survive homelessness – and promptly forgot about them. I had worn them continuously all last winter while homeless. Without socks they were so warm. I even wore them to sleep; they covered my calves and were fake fur lined. They kept me warm in the snowy fields, as my dogs loped through the snow, excited and so happy. Which made me happy. Me, my dogs, my boots … They were in good condition when I let them go, still, I didn’t want to own them anymore, see them, be reminded of the hard winter I had spent. In a car! At age 60!!!! So one warm March morning, I just drove up to a Dumpster outside a restaurant, brushed my boots clean and gingerly, strategically, placed them next to the Dumpster. For the next homeless person to find – and hopefully wear. They looked ok.

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Rose’s cool, dog-walking boots.

Last winter I also owned a pair of cute, almost-new, grey, ankle boots. Kept them under the passenger’s seat. But my ankles were swollen from mostly sitting in my vehicle – not having a bed to sleep in, an apartment to walk around in – so they didn’t fit right. Way too tight around my ankles! I gave them to another gal pal to keep – or to give away to a young person who might have needed them. They were that cool – and in excellent condition.

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This year Dorrie gave Rose a pair of real UGGs!

This year is a celebratory year – we are HOME!!!! I have all my Dorrie boots lined up on a shelf IN MY HUGE, WALK-IN CLOSET! To reflect the daily weather – and my fashion whims. Yes! I can be fashion conscious, have fun with clothes again! I can slog through the snow looking good. I can slip and slide on black ice with panache in this pair of black UGGs Dorrie gave me just a few weeks ago (pictured). “They’re UGGs!” Dorrie said with pride. … Or I can pull down and pull on the multi-colored beauties she gave me three years ago – my Quinsigamond Village Jett and Lilac walking boots. Or I can take the Dorrie black booties that were a staple of so many winter days, looking just fine with skirt and leggings.

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Poetry in motion!

See these fringed boots? Well, about four years ago I was walking to my car in a Worcester shopping plaza parking lot, when a youngish guy stopped driving, jumped out of his red truck and handed me a $10 bill! Wow! That never happened to me! Before I could thank the guy, he had already jumped back into his truck and was taking off. He had just admired the poetry of those fringed boots in action (pictured here). They do have a rhythm of their own – the fringes bobbing up and down, some of the strands catching the wind and flying in all directions… I told my then CECELIA art director about the incident – happy. I appreciated the compliment – and needed the 10 bucks. A former gal pal, she was appalled: “Rose! You didn’t take the money!”

I said: “You bet I did, Ruthie! I didn’t do anything! I just walked across a parking lot in these great pair of boots!”

Sometimes gals who aren’t your real pals can make you feel like a whore.

But like blue eye shadow and shiny gray locks, every old lady needs a pair of calf-hugging, fringed boots – to channel her inner-Janis Joplin! To feel young again!!!