The Brickyard: The Life, Death, and Legend of an Urban Neighbourhood

Lynn waterfront dioramaThe diorama at the Lynn museum http://lynnmuseum.org/ memorializes urban life, neighbourhood, and a waterfront destroyed by the progress of urban renewal. Of course, one can now drive the Lynnway without a care for the past. The empty lots and greenspace can also make one wonder.

If your thoughts tend to the later, read “The Brickyard: The Life, Death, and Legend of an Urban Neighborhood.” by Kathryn Grover. The museum published it in 2004. Major sources are oral histories done in 1982 and between 1999 and 2001. Newspaper articles and planning reports provide additional perspectives. Elderly, former residents fondly recall shared family values; playing in the streets; and commerce carried out by peddlars and small business.

As expected, their reflections tend towards the nostalgia of youthful good times experienced and bad times weathered in common with neighbours. Petty crimes are controlled or punished by police who know everyone’s parents. Tensions around race are glossed over with memories of everyone getting along.

Lynn was a premier US manufacturer of shoes. The Brickyard was home to many craftsmen and close to factories. Italians, Jews and Poles settled there because of it. Over time the work left, buildings and yards once tidy became neglected. Post war suburbs and malls beckoned. The cars that took them there needed fast roads. Capitalism had wrung out the value of people, land and buildings and now pushed governments to acquire, demolish, pave over and re-develop.

In 1970 I started working as a Relocation Interviewer for the Springfield Redevelopment Authority. Eminent domain is cruel. Fortunately, our project abandoned wholesale demolition. In its place we had limited acquisition, extensive rehabilitation, road improvements and social services. Buildings run down by owners and those in the way of new roads were taken. Residents, often elderly who’d lived in the neighbourhood for much of their lives had to move – often out of the area. Earlier, I’d made a short film illustrating the destruction of Springfield’s North End and the visible priorities of public spending – https://mielniczuk.wordpress.com/2019/01/14/springfield-1969-public-choices/

In Lynn as in many other 1960’s urban renewal projects, the planning and public debate contributed to uncertainty, decline and the flight of residents from the area. It was no longer the cherished neighbourhood they idealized. The suburbs offered a better life. If not better, at least one where families were better hidden.

One of the attention grabbing illustrations in this book is the re-creation of a hand drawn map done by a resident. The details literally map out many of the references and relationships in the oral histories. Personal and newspaper photos enliven characters, street life and other places of community activity. Like a complex, multi-character novel, the book contains cross-references that challenge memory. The extensive index by person, company or organization is a welcome feature.

While driving around I found a small corner of the Brickyard remains – its presence announced on a railway bridge.

Brickyard Railway Bridge

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Indigo (Lori) Holley 1961- 2019

Poster during her Oct 3, 2019 pot luck remembrance.

Last month, 200 attended the celebration of Indigo’s life at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Last night, several Conservation Co-op members together with children, gathered to share memories and food in honour of Indigo. We lost her unexpectedly. Long time and newer members remembered her as the ‘first person I met after moving here’. Not many dry eyes as one by one we recalled her spirit, her consistent positive outlook, her voice on behalf of others.

One of the young persons present recalled Indigo leading the ‘Walking School Bus’ to Lord Viscount School, and more importantly her daily words of support and encouragement.

Co-op, community and mother earth were at the heart of her life. As one member said, ‘The Co-op principles on the wall are Indigo.’ She served on the Board of CHASEO (Co-op Housing Assoc. of East. ON) and on many social action and environment groups. Even her death was handled be a co-operative. One member recalled being with Indigo at Womens’ Circle meetings more than 30 years ago, before Conservation Co-op was built. Indigo moved to Conservation Co-op in April, 2004. Just last year, a new member recalled Indigo introducing herself at the door and welcoming her to the Co-op. Recently here at home, Indigo organized a memorial for another long time resident, Tim, who’d died at home. Along with others, Indigo organized the message boards after our lobby and hallway painting. At meetings she always spoke for what she believed was right or wrong. As one person said, ‘She kept us on our toes.’

7 Principles of Co-operatives

We learned that Indigo died soon after enjoying a group sing along of the Beatles, ‘Hey Jude’. As we passed the talking stick taking turns with our memories, Indigo smiled from a large poster found rolled up in her unit. Our table cloth came from a member whose sister also died unexpectedly a year ago.

Indigo’s spirit continued in the Pot Luck shared after the remembrances.

To read what others have said about Indigo Holey, see

“Indigo (Lori) passed away suddenly on Saturday, September 7, 2019. Beloved daughter of Mari Joy Trigo. She will be missed by her daughter Brooke (Michael) Holdsworth and fondly remember by her grandsons Dawson, Dorian and Gavin. She is also survived by her sisters Donna Lee and Jennifer and her brother Chris and was predeceased by her sister Margo. A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, September 13, 2019 at 12 o’clock at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ottawa, 400 McArthur Avenue. Please wear bright colours in memory of Indigo. If friends so desire memorial tributes may be made to the Wabanno Health Center.”

https://www.fco-cfo.coop/en/death-notices/indigo-lori-holley-168813/ and

https://ottawacitizen.remembering.ca/obituary/indigo-holley-1077041816#guestbook (both retrieved Oct. 4, 2019)

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Springfield 1969 – Public choices

Spring 1969 I had one major project to complete my BA in Sociology at American International College in Springfield Massachusetts. My initial proposal to do a photo-essay based on C.Wright Mills book, White Collar: The American Middle Classes was shot down not by the Professor but by Mass Mutual where I proposed to wander the work areas (under supervision if necessary) to capture images that illustrated Mills ideas regarding hierarchy, bureaucracy and alienation! Still delight at their polite reaction.

That idea and the one accepted was heavily influenced by Montreals Expo 67. One could capture ideas in still and moving images with sound and commentary. I would document the hierarchy of public priorities and analyze the choices illustrated by urban renewal in Springfields North End, public housing, and other publicly supported initiatives and spaces.

The presentation of the movie and photos took place in my student apartment. The Professor was unimpressed. He said I’d have to write a paper to complete the course.

The original 8 mm part of the presentation surfaced during a move in 2015. The digitized 6.5 mins, without audio, are now on Youtube.

The opening, shot from top of the Holiday Inn, give a panorama of the Springfield North End renewal area. It includes the Rt. 291 right of way and construction which obliterated homes and communities; the then new Seniors public housing towers which have the Springfield Housing Authority head office.

At 1:24 the scene shifts to Court Square and its traditional institutions of court, church, and the symphony/music hall all watched over by the statue of Miles Morgan, town founder.

At 2:35 we see people enjoying a variety of public spaces. Some streets and parks are well used and maintained; others not.

At 3:27 we see the Riverview Housing Project high rises and town houses across the Connecticut River. The largely abandoned first floor units contrast with new Student dorms aided by Federal Funds. Low income residents live in deteriorated housing in the North End while others enjoy low rise public housing built for returning WWII veterans

At 5:02 we see the neighbourhood being changed by urban renewal. Seniors continue to have attention and priority over the needs of families.

Posted in Brightwood, Community Mapping, Learning Systems, Riverview | 1 Comment

Christmas newsletter 2018

Each year you grow more important to us. A Twitter summary (280 chars) of this year would be: Kyle & Christine wed; summer with family / friends; Sue tick bite yr 2; Simon retired > work; son Simon race trophies; Lisa ‘young, female superstars’; grandkids Owen, run champ; Cole, hockey star; Charlie, e-wiz; Rowan, drummer; Olivia, independent 6; SFHS alums & co-op success.

The family highlight for many was the June wedding of Kyle Matthews to Christine Gargano. Three years earlier I’d officiated at his sister Kailee’s marriage to David Angle. This summer they were in the wedding party while their son Dylan watched under the care of Auntie Sue and I, again, officiated. For the first time in our almost 50 years together, Sue and I could spend quality and quantity time with friends and family. Cheri was particularly generous with hosting. Chris and I ate in the path of Bourdain. We celebrated with Donnie on his birthday and had several wonderful poolside get togethers with Ralph and Judy. Sue and I also spent a wonderful week in Cape Cod. We visited with friends Linda (Foo) and Sr. Paulette.

Sue had a particularly difficult time with the second year of her tick bite. After dermatology grand rounds, the recommended steroid treatment put her into anaphylactic shock and the emergency room. Subsequent testing confirmed a very rare allergy condition. A consult with a leading US Lyme Disease expert identified that she does not have Lyme Disease. He said her reaction to the bite was an outlier but seen previously. Time will heal; and the skin reaction is slowly diminishing.

While still pursuing data analytics, work is no longer my main focus. We are fortunate to spend time and assist with the care of our Ottawa grand-kids. And we cherish the never enough visits from son Simon and family.

Sue, I and his sister Lisa are particularly proud of Simon. His sailing crew has more trophy wins than home can handle. Lisa was publicly quoted as being, “…proud of my brother for always following his passion”. That same publication identified her as, “…one of the Departments young, female superstars”.

The grandkids pursue their passions. Charlie is our e-wizard and source of info on all things digital. He’s also preparing a piano solo for the Christmas family gathering. For Rowan its drums. Progress is evident from lesson to lesson. Consistently placing higher and running faster, Owen competes in all-city running events on the St. Johns Team. Brother Cole has progressed from purely recreational to competitive hockey. For a Montreal Dziadziu seeing MIELNICZUK across his jersey is almost too much. Olivia, the only girl, grows both more independent and more helpful. Unicorns are real.

Sue and I also enjoyed visits with John and Mary Macmillan in Toronto. John and I attended the St. Francis High School Alumni Memorial Mass this past March, as we have for the past dozen years. This year I also enjoyed time with classmates Bob Dassel, John Przbylowicz, and Jim Reynolds. Hopefully, we can organize a 55th reunion next year.

Conservation Co-operative grows with us. We enjoy visits and movie nights with our neighbour, Diane. This summer, I was re-elected to the Board. With the help of Louis Pierre Gregoire and the team at Gowling WLG, we secured a very acceptable settlement to a long standing lawsuit. It eliminates our co-op deficit and provides needed capital.

Neither tweets nor newsletters sufficiently provide the words which describe what is important. Together with you we look forward to 2019. You enrich our lives with your love and friendship. Thank you. A Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for a Happy New Year.

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St. Francis Alumni Mass – 2018

‘This looks like the first Memorial Mass in three years without a classmates name on the list.’ It has become an annual ritual to attend this Alumni event with my Toronto friend, John Macmillan. Thursday several of us linked through social media receive a message that Ron Dabelle has died in Providence. After sharing the news, I receive messages from Ron Michnik, Sam Santarosa, Ed Curran, Larry Cieslica, and Ray Garnsey. They recalled spending time with him and his passion for painting. Ron was a rarity – a professional artist who lived by his art.

His work appears in public and private murals and painting throughout Rhode Island and the New England area. His work also hangs in the home of several classmates, myself included. When notifying SFHS about his death, Paul Bartell tells me he is looking at a painting of Assisi that Ron donated to the school. An artist colleague has created a public Facebook page of Ron’s works at https://www.facebook.com/ron.dabelle.5

Looking through the list of those remembered, I comment to Fr. Michael that during the past two years there seems to be several very recent graduates appearing among the list of those remembered. He responds that, ‘What happens in the world, happens in here too.’

The too young join the list of the expected, graduates from the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. The choir is particularly good. Their sound fills the chapel and joins the receding sound waves of choirs from the past 90 years, including years of broadcasts by the Fr. Justin Rosary Hour.

After Mass we join Tony Rudnicki, spouse Lynn, together with Al and Dick with spouse Marilyn. Two graduates from the class of ’54. They refer to me as ‘the youngster’. Al taught Physiology at UB Medical and Dick ran his own plumbing business. Tony is a retired educator and author of “Bipolar Buffalo”. White tablecloths and a wide choice of breakfast offerings have set a new standard for the cafeteria we all remember. Classrooms, labs, gyms, study halls – all have moved around and changed over the years. Chapel and cafeteria keep bringing us together for laughs, memories, stories and updates.

This may be the 12th time that John has come with me for this event. To round out his SFHS experience, I take him on a tour of the tunnel and the gym. We recall the Cold War and the Fall Out Shelter status of this tunnel.

Throughout the day the theme of challenges to values and their expression in today’s context emerges in our discussions. Most of us grew up in a time of organization, explicit and understood rules and expectations. I still recall during our 50th reunion how classmates who entered the military mentioned they could not understand the anxieties of other new recruits because of the SFHS boarding school background. As Fr. Mike’s comment acknowledges, that world has changed. Values remain. Now each one of us has to choose, accept and follow the ones we believe in or accept with God’s grace.

Later John and I join Fr. Romulus Rosolowski for lunch at the Pho Kim Chi, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the former Daisies Cafe location – https://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-kim-chi-lackawanna. Less than a month old, it is receiving well deserved praised. This year’s breakfast is at Peg’s Place where we enjoy a counter conversation with a local whose daughter attends Guelph U.

Fr. Romulus and I were in St. Hyacinth’s College and Seminary together. He stayed to serve in Rome, Ghana, and many parishes. Now he’s the Vicar at Our Lady of Victory. Another fellow former Franciscan, John Neysmith was prevented from joining us because of flu. Romulus and John were both in ‘The Singing Friars’, a folk group. There is talk of a reunion. We cover a wide range of memories, opinions and ideas over our 3 hr lunch.

After a bit of shopping and car touring, John and I have supper at Buzzy’s in Niagara Falls. We return with pizza and wings leftovers and enjoy more conversation with Mary. My Monday morning subway ride to the train station reminds me of the Walking Dead. Many looking very tired. Many hunched over sleeping. Snow cover returns as the train gets closer to Ottawa.

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Ottawa Rooming House Report Card

Plenty of rooming houses in the neighbourhood of Somerset West CHC, where I’m currently assisting with analytics and the health records system.

They exist in every community. Some are run by responsible people looking to help both themselves and the tenant in need. Others are a way to get as much out of the situation while providing almost nothing in return.

Recent findings for Ottawa are here – https://swchc.on.ca/news-events/news/rooming-houses-west-central-ottawa-receive-failing-grade-again-2017

Project staff should be very proud of making it possible for everyone to digest it through one poster. Follow the link to see it all.

Improving_Health_Housing_in_Ottawa_-_Update_on_Rooming_Houses_in_West-Central_Ottawa_2017

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Thanks for a very good 2 years

Will miss wringing the most out of the systems and your data collection efforts. This was my last day at Sandy Hill CHC. Two years ago I’d accepted a contract to help make NOD work for you. It was / is a necessarily complex and unnecessarily ugly system that gets in the way of good practice more than many other electronic health record (EHR) systems. I’d been impressed during a peek at NOD V10. Getting the bugs worked out and contributing to a far better user experience was going to be a nice assignment. All that changed when Telus bought it out. Nothing but the absolute minimum was going to be done for a system with a marked life span. Having worked in commercial software development and system replacement projects, I know the vendor strategy is to listen, talk nice and do as little as possible. Some may have wished I’d done the same.

I prefer honesty and transparency. I believe that more eyes make for better results. The wiki and the intranet are crucial to sharing information across departmental and other silos.

The records SHCHC creates about the people, groups and communities it works with capture the details which are the evidence of professionals exercising their best judgement and the organization living up to the reasons which gave it life. Within them lies a treasure trove of observations which could lead to better results, new approaches and stimulating perspectives. The lives of the people they represent also deserve digital accuracy and validity. There is no current profession or job that will not be touched by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Those records will feed these trends. Miscues will not wait for sampled file reviews.

I would have liked to meet with each Super User to get a more personal perspective on what you and I could have done differently to make both NOD and the transition period easier. If you have thoughts to share, please contact me. Also I live in the neighbourhood; happy to meet and chat.

Two years ago I came to Sandy Hill to find a doctor. Instead, I found a job. It’s been largely very enjoyable. Particularly missed are Darren and John who manage one of the most stable systems I’ve encountered in 37 yrs. Lynne and Tyler could always be counted on to pick up tickets, to answer the many things I did not know, and to commiserate on the impossible. Working with Kyle to improve on/off boarding processes using the intranet and on privacy also made for enjoyable solutions to organizational needs. Last but not least are the many NOD users who took the time to record and report the details when it did not work. Resolution of many was beyond Sandy Hill or AOHC. Keep submitting what does not work and what you would like in the new system. The ticket system is the repository of your efforts. Some of it will make a difference.

Hopefully, I was able to do the same. Anybody need a hand with data wrangling or system taming?

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