By Rosalie Tirella
Love💙 Executive Director Gordon and the Friendly House Staff and Kids! Here’s to a fun summer 2021 to all the Worcester kids who participate in the Friendly House sports, arts and crafts, day trips, games, contests and meals – all up and running! Hundreds of city children and teens celebrating the return (pretty much) to pre-pandemic life and rituals. Yippee!!
☀️My family has some history with this iconic Wall Street social service agency. When we were kids, my younger sister loved sports: she ran in the Friendly House road races and played basketball in the FH gym. … Years later my late mom Cecelia made mini-donations of new blankets for the neighborhood families.
☀️We were from Green Island, so our kiddo summers were spent closer to home (5 days a week, 8:30 a to 3 p) at the Winthrop House Girls Club on Vernon Hill (now Girls Inc.) From kindergarten (the gingerbread house) until the end of junior high, we were proud Girls Club girls. Our mom walked us up Vernon Street to the Club in the morning and picked us up in a cabin the afternoon. When we were older we walked or got a ride from our Uncle Mark (our cousin Mary went to the Club, too). The best times!!! The same staff returned – summer after summer – with Director Mrs. Miller running the show year after year after year. She was tall and leaned forward to talk to the little kids. She had dark hair and wore glasses and white Keds. She kept the club immaculate even with hundreds of girls having fun – no running in the hallways of the three story building and no loitering – you had to find an activity to go to – they were printed on pink and red and yellow and green construction paper balloons that were pinned to the big Girls Club bulletin board in the lobby – every week day had a bunch of balloons and you chose your activity. All the staff was female … some of the gal teachers were pretty nursing students from the St. Vincent’s nursing school (all female) across the street. Everyone who worked there seemed young, talented and cool.
Very empowering! A total Girls zone! No boys to hog the attention – or boss us around. Women ran a beautiful facility that served hundreds of Worcester girls and their families. I have terrific memories of my young summers there – memories that many would snicker at today. It was all so pre-feminist: sewing class, knitting class, cooking, yoga, put-on-a-musical like SOUTH PACIFIC. SING SONGS! One songs lyrics went in a round: “MAKE NEW FRIENDS BUT KEEP THE OLD/ ONE IS SILVER AND THE OTHER GOLD!
Sure, we were encouraged to excel at school – and many of us did – but summer at the Girls Club was sitting in our Clubhouse “BEAUTY PARLOR” painting our finger-nails with that pale pink polish or pretending to dry our hair underneath the big, non-working helmets of those old donated beauty parlor hair dryers … or roller-skating in the gym to the Rolling Stones’ I CAN’T GET NO SATISFACTION blasting over the intercom speakers. You chose the albums and put them on the record player yourself … or baking, from scratch, those delicious peanut butter cookies using USDA ration peanutbutter – the cookie balls you flattened and crisscrossed with fork tines before you put them into the oven to bake. The smell of those cookies cooking was intoxicating! Those HUGE silver cans of peanut butter – nondescript. JUST USDA
PEANUT BUTTER STAMPED ON THE BIG CAN. Perfection.
Today it’s all different. My Girls Club is now Girls Inc. Like a corporation. It is co-ed. The place seems to have quite the p.r. maven as its executive director – but who really gives a sh*t? I see few girls in Girls Inc – even in the newspaper articles. We had hundreds, the place and its yard and back lot was swarming with girls. Today Girls Inc offers girls serious stuff: date rape awareness class, STEM studies class, computer class, career exploration. All important – even life-saving! But … really…bleh. It’s summertime…girls just wanna have fun. Especially poor inner-city girls like the Rosalie of 1971! Afternoons at The Girls Club in the 1960s and 1970s, up on Providence Street, were sweet – but frivolous compared to what goes on up there these days.
Still… maybe making toilette paper roll firecrackers for the 4th of July (filled with popcorn), covered in red blue and white crepe paper, in the arts and crafts/game room with Ms. Bousquet… or taking swimming lessons or a dip in the Girls Club lap pool (always impressive to me) … or sitting on the bench in the Club Library by the window looking into the Kodak View Finder, pointing the little “camera” out the window into the summer sunlight and seeing, as I snapped away as, as if close up, each individual small “slides” of a wild animal of Africa or touristy photos of Rome … new worlds on those round disks no bigger than a DVD!!, well it was fun and frivolous. But it was also self-discovery and empowering, too.
BRING BACK THE GIRLS CLUB!