Tag Archives: youth

Worcester’s outlaw-angels!

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

You see them racing the thunder clouds down Worcester’s beat-up inner-city streets …


No yellow lines, median strips, or threats from our City Manager can hold them back! So why paint their roads full of rules? They’ll only break them!

Pop that wheely!!

With the sweetest smiles – they are shy when you stop them to talk – they pose for photos, even if their bikes don’t have license plates and they are infact “illegal” on our streets. I promise them: no names in my story, no mention of missing plates. I admire their bikes – the spirit it takes to get from point A to B when you’re young and poor. They know I’m on their side – even the guy with this crazy little motorized number!

It takes him where he needs to go!

With something bigger you can get around the entire city …


The Worcester police and the Worcester City Council treat this urban phenom like the bubonic plague. It’s not! It’s the trend…it’s poor kids trying to make it in the city during summer time. I was once who they are: in my Lafayette Street bedroom hot, restless, feeling hemmed in by my mother, our religion, our poverty, the close, opressive violence of my world, smothering me when I wanted to BE FREE, RUN FREE, SEE THE WORLD, CLIMB ALL MOUNTAINS . But I couldn’t do much, even take a summer vacation, like some of my school chums from Burncoat Senior High School. One classmate, the daughter of a lawyer, would be in Nantucket with her family. Another friend in D.C. touring the White House, where the President of the United States lived! She told me about the cherry blossoms in Washington in springtime…

If someone had given me a cute little motor bike on which to tool around the neighborhood, on which to ride for fun! or to zip to places for fun – up to the Girls Club on Providence Street in the neighborhood next to mine – Vernon Hill –  or  down to a gal pal’s house on Siegel Street, I would have turned somersaults in glee!

The attractions are obvious, as stated by this older rider! He has two cool bikes:

Bike #1

Bike #2

I like Bike #1 pic better! The Al Pacino tee shirt! The I love my dog decal! The NY Yankees sticker! … all so colorful … and autobiographical! You can learn alot about this guy by looking at his bike!

So, What’s the attraction for you (old man!), I ask him, smiling.

Well, Mama,  he says, smiling back, It doesn’t need a lot of gas. It’s cheap to run. I can get around the city. Plus, a lot of beautiful girls come up to you, wanting to talk about your bike. Like you! Like this!

Playful as a tree house in the backyard in summer time!

And yet Worcester’s kid bikers can cause havoc in our city: zip though Vernon Hill, Green Island, Piedmont and Main South on their gerryrigged motor bikes at night, no headlights attached to alert oncoming vehicles. In the daytime,  big fat wheels, small skinny wheels grind against city traffic and city drivers’ nerves. Some follow the rules of the road …


Others don’t. They’re kids!. They want to be as free as they can be … on Endicott or Suffield streets.


They want to look cool, sexy, independent …   The Latina girls with their dark wavy hair whipping around under their helmets are something to see! Their tattoos are about love … and death.


See the electrical tape wrapped around the seat of this guy’s bike? It’s to mend a tear or gash because a new  bike seat costs too much $$$. I was once a poor city kid  – my 10 dollar bill feeling like $100. My first car (15 years old!) feeling like a yacht, and I didn’t buy my first car until I was 25!

The bikers don’t have cars either, and they need wheels! They improvise, ingeniously creating their own transportation  –  with the frame from this place, the wheels from that shop. They work on their bikes or motorized scooters in church parking lots. …Wire, spray paint, motor, decals, black electrical tape – the pieces of the puzzle float together in some mystical city cloud. Some bikes are beautiful, many are otherworldly, perfect for science fiction dystopias – and Chandler Street!


But the new city ordinances have been passed! The Worcester City Council has voted to ban the riding of these gerryrigged, outside-the-law bikes. City officials say many are stolen. They label some of them All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) because of their huge wheels – tricycle style. The ATVs chew up and spit out the mowed grass when driven through our city parks! This pisses many people off. The Worcester police are serious and have made arrests. Some city leaders are apoplectic! Some are sympathetic: they’re calling for the setting aside of city parkland for the city bikers – creating a  special space for them to roam free.

But can you roam free in a bike park?


To take a kid whose world is circumscribed by poverty, a kid who is facing a  city summer, a kid who is just waking up to adulthood and maybe understanding the hard truth for the first time: the game’s been rigged for people with money. So … on his own terms, through his and his friends’ creativity and sweat, he creates his own chariot of fire, his own inner-city Pegasus on which to ride … to his friend’s house, to his sister’s place three neighborhoods away….To be able to travel with friends on their bikes, to suck up serious city space with the group: a calvalcade of city kids on souped up, wild eyed motorized bikes. Today’s mods and rockers, today’s drag racers. American Graffiti … Worcester style.


… It’s all been done before. In hot rods. On motorcycles. The racing.  The glamour of youth! Kids have always had cool wheels and taken them and themselves to the cusp.

High above Worcester …


… over its buildings and mewling skyline …


.. into the sunset …


… Worcester’s inner-city youth ride! Don’t hate them! Work to understand them!

Be there!



And don’t forget! This Sunday!


“… And Justice For All …”

The NAACP Worcester Branch wants you!

Join us at our next Community meeting!

Monday, May 23

6:30 pm

At the YWCA, Salem Sq. 

Since 2013, the Worcester NAACP has focused our work on voter education, voter registration, candidate forums, youth safety workshops, education forums, housing forums, and advocating for those who have been discriminated against. 

It is now time for us to reflect and check in with the community to make sure we are working on issues that matter most to our community.

We want your ideas on what direction you feel the NAACP should go to address the challenges in our community!

We want your commitment and passion to fight for social justice!

We want to work together to make Worcester a place of opportunity and equality for all!

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you all this Monday!

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.

Meet the wonderful Boa Newgate: leader in Worcester’s Vietnamese community!

Go, Boa Newgate, go!!!

By Joey Cancelmo

I met Boa Newgate years ago when he first started a Worcester inner-city kids program to give back to the community.  I said to myself, “That’s great but it will wear off.” I was wrong, very wrong. Boa has built an entire community out of selfless volunteering, gaining unsolicited awards for his unbelievable kindness and generosity. Visiting the the South East Asian Coalition in downtown Worcester this past Christmas I saw hundreds of Toys for Tots bags all with family names on them with age appropriate toys all wrapped and ready to go to the families in need, many refugees, many new to Christmas. This is one of Boa’s many ways of sharing across cultures, which is now his life’s mission.  

He has 3 key points to focus on “Awareness, to keep traditions alive for future generations, Education to know your surroundings and excel in life, and health, not just physical but mental and volunteering to give it back.”
Today his programs are what he calls a “wrap around program.” Boa states: “We nurture and take these kids in and point them in the right direction, they go to school, then to college, and when they graduate they come back to the center to volunteer. Keeping it real and alive and constantly keeping it fresh is the key to making it work.”
Honoring your roots…

Working towards a brighter future – the kids volunteering at a South Worcester neighborhood clean up.

Boa points out the picture collages he puts together every year to show the progress of the teams and how far they have come.  He has a program of Asian line dances, with the dragon heads traditionally done once a year for New Year’s, he does fourca year with competitions and practice, because doing so makes every kid want to win.  Boa told me that “Every move means something, when the head turns, or bows, or when the eye’s move, and they are very heavy and have many parts to operate, eyes, ears, mouths etc.”

They have several dragons at the organization, each one costing between $800 and $1000 each.  All donated.


Boa himself is no stranger to needing help. Born of Cambodian and Vietnamese parents his family lived in a refugee camp before Boa, his parents and three siblings moved to America. The United States was new territory and a whole new culture to absorb.

Boa and his family in the refugee camp – he’s the baby in photo! Final destination, America!

Boa integrated, mixed with with his classmates in school and started to learn boxing. His life as a child was sort of parentless, as his folks worked around the clock, nonstop, to get established in this country.  

Growing up this way he sought out other Vietnamese kids and learned they all had the same predicament. So he started a club!They had a small space on Chandler Street where he took other inner city kids and taught them boxing. They were young, lean and getting stronger and happier, because let’s face it endorphins are the best smile producers out there! These kids had a purpose, and it grew and it grew.
Boa used his resources and made an arrangement with the Boys and Girls Club around 2007 to use space to continue his mission. Which now expanded to swimming as well. It was only for Vietnamese kids at first, but then there were other Asian kids that wanted in, Chinese, Cambodian, and Burmese etc. So with more kids came more issues, like transportation.

What did Boa do? He worked and worked and got donations to buy, repair and register and insure a school bus, all on his own, basically using it as his car, and transported kids to and from the center. 

Now this was turning into a curiosity shop of sorts because parents wanted to know what this center was about.

So in 2011 he procured space in the Denholm’s building and started his mission with new classes, including music, art, acrobatics, dancing, anything that involved culture. I had the pleasure of cooking for his first Thanksgiving party, I brought the traditional turkey, stuffing, potatoes and vegetables, others brought Asian treats, and one friend Kris brought a buffalo dip that is now a staple to the event.  There were 30 or so kids at the first party, now there are 100’s.  One turkey does not cut it anymore.

Five years ago Boa started to introduce Asian LGBT issues at the Asian Festival, it didn’t go over well.  He is an advocate for equality, and he says “unfortunately in the Asian Community, gay is a stigma and it is shameful to the family.  They honestly think you catch it from a hand shake or a cough”  The result of this stigma is suicide, he told me “Asians have the highest rate of suicide because they are not accepted by their family, never mind the society and I want to stop that and make people aware”.  I had no idea and was floored. He still is an advocate for them and they are welcome to the center, where they get to mingle with new generations and family’s coming in. All while keeping Asian traditions alive and well to newborn kids that would not get that anymore, and it is working.  

When you go to the center the kids actually want to perform, or show you their project, last year I played a game with salt and a hard-boiled egg, it was fun, frustrating and challenging and it didn’t come with a box.  Basically you make a small mountain of salt, place the egg on top and blow the sand away without tipping the egg over, I never laughed so hard!

Boa’s group gives back to the community … a part of Worcester, Boston, America …

This year alone Boa and his organization has been honored with four awards, forced to speak by his director at such places as Harvard, this shy quiet behind the scenes guy does not like public speaking and hi will be the first to tell you he can’t. What he says is his story, from his hear, and what the kids are doing as if they were his own, and that’s when the audience tears up.  His most recent Award was in October from the YWCA, the “Great Guy Award” to “end violence against women”.  You can’t get better than that, the Commonwealth honored them with an award of Excellence, a Humanitarian Award, and an award for being a model Non-Profit organization. All these were in a box until he recently had the courage to build shelves and display them with his awesome collages.  

Boa raises money for his group by participating in various fundraising events …

By the way, Boa only started receiving a pay check a couple years ago when a Board of Directors was formed. Just saying.

So in closing, this is what I feel is the true spirit of America. The organization still needs donations; funds are always needed for the programs – any donation is appreciated, even if it is just your time. Worcester’s college students from WPI, Clark, MPCHS and others all volunteer to tutor the kids – it’s a beautiful thing.  

Check Boa and his group out at www.seacma.org or email Boa at boa@seama.org to learn more. The agency is located in the former Denholm’s building 484 Main St., suite 400.