Thursday, February 28, 2008

No Bags

I spent about seven years of my youth living on Edgewater Avenue in Shrewsbury across the street from Spag's. I realize now looking back on it that this is where my thirst for urban living comes from. Urban living in Shrewsbury you ask? Damn right.

I spent whole summers rarely leaving that neighborhood as a kid. It was really really great. I had a huge paper route delivering the Evening Gazette. Two newspapers. The Telegram can't even support one newspaper and they had two then. The neighborhood was chock full of kids and we had no shortage of things to keep ourselves occupied with. If we weren't spending our time playing street hockey or riding our bikes around Jordan Pond we were going to White City Pizza (actually still there) or Orlando's Meat Market for lunch or going to Frosty's for ice cream or Joe White's for soda and candy. I remember going to see Gremlins and Goonies and Pee Wee's Big Adventure with my friends at the White City Cinema. I remember going to MacDuff's and looking at all the guitars and drums that added fuel to the dreams of a kid already obsessed with rock'n'roll. I remember that wierd little opening that connected Iandoli's and Bradlees. I remember Child World. I remember my Dad buying me a copy of Bill Cosby's "Why Is There Air?" on vinyl at the Shrewsbury location of Album's. One of my most vivid memories is going to Spag's with a couple of my friends on busy summer Saturdays and racing from the front doors to the back because Spag's was so absolutely mobbed with people that the race was actually a challenge and you had to know the store well and know what aisles you could use for shortcuts. An independent Worcester business being so crowded with people that you could barely move. Imagine that.

As I got older and wanted to give up the paper route and make a little more money I still didn't need to leave the neighborhood to find a job as Burger King, Bradlees and CVS all took me on as an employee. My parents would eventually buy a house in Oxford and although I only attended school there for 3 years versus the 7 in Shrewsbury I still consider Oxford the town I grew up in. I still have very very good friends that I met in Oxford and I still have a soft spot for Carl's Oxford Diner, N+J Donuts, the French River and Buffumville Dam.

As I look back though I realize that while Oxford is still the town I grew up in, Shrewsbury is an emense part of my personal history. Shrewsbury is where my appreciation for urban living, tight communities, and easy walkable access to whatever you need came from. I don't know what the culture is like in that neighborhood anymore though. Maybe everyone that lives there shops at Walmart and eats at Subway. I don't know.

What is with this sudden surge of nostalgia? I was searching around the net for information about the history of Lake Quinsigamond. I was inspired by a comment left by Ms. Crystal about the lack of water in Worcester being one of the causes of Worcester being the way it is. I have always wondered what would have happened if Worcester's downtown didn't end up being where it is but was centered around the lake. What if the canal didn't come in where it came in but came up from the Blackstone and then up the Quinsigamond River into the lake and created a nice little harbor in our otherwise landlocked city. How would that have affected how the region developed over the next 100 years or so?

What really made me wax nostalgic today though was when I found this website about Spag's.

Now I know that to a lot of people Spag's has a very negative connotation. The "Spag's mentality" is something you hear alot about as something that kept alot of high end shopping out of Central Massachusetts due to folks used to being able to get good merchandise at cheap prices for so long. I don't know much about that. I do know that if they do tear that building down I will most likely shed a tear. That's a huge huge huge part of my youth that is going to bite the dust right there.

Maybe it's a good thing though. Maybe it's a good thing to forget that this city and Central Massachusetts were once great areas and Worcester was a center of commerce and had a culture of it's own. That it meant something to be from here. That Worcester was an important American city and not just the joke that all of us have allowed it to become. Maybe it's a good thing to forget and move on. I know that when the day comes that they swing that wrecking ball into the side of the big ol' white warehouse on route 9 will not be a happy day for me. It's too bad. Spag's really was one of a kind.


jacob said...

gabe, you'll be happy to know that HBML now proudly features "NO BAGS". in an effort to pass the savings onto you, and respect the legacy of spag's, we no longer offer our shoppers the option of a plastic bag.

Brendan said...

You're damn right Worcester was a center of commerce, this region was a HUGE deal, as is made obvious in this National Geographic from 1955 with the cover story "Cities Like Worcester Make America".

We were on the verge of becoming the working model for post industrial America. And then the local industrialists who had everything to loose, decided it was best to keep the city mostly isolated so they would not risk loosing their labor class. Now here we are 50 years later with an urban population that is anything but.
In any other community that 'Spags mentality' would be referred to as a 'company store mentality'. And perfectly represents the sort of isolated, dependent society we have cultivated.

Ms.Crystal said...

Spags....I grew up right over the line in Connecticut but we would drive up to Spags almost every weekend when I was a tote. I miss going to the "school house" and buying art supplies and when I was going into high school you could get cheap VANS @ Spags. What a shame...

punky said...

I spent many nights running around Spags while my dad looked at tools. I bought my first backpack, ice skates, telephone and fishing poll there. And in high school I even dated a kid that worked in the toy department...ahh Spags.

Anonymous said...

God, I miss Spag's. I used to buy all of my school supplies there and also Nancy Drew books for 99 cents. (I'm totally dating myself, but that's okay) That place rocked. Half the fun of going there was searching for a box to put all of your stuff in ... thinking about it now, Spag's was green before being green was cool!!