'Hood lives in memory, in the heart.


Byline: Clive McFarlane

COLUMN: Clive McFarlane

Do you remember Clayton, Arch and Carroll streets?

Or better yet, do you remember Harpetts Corner, The Wall, Twin Brothers Tailor/Cleaners, Mr. Lonnie's Fish Market, Buster & Agnes' Fish & Chips, Mr. Klunk's Store, Bronstiens Market, Tom's Market, Clayton Bathhouse, Buddy's Barbershop, Squirrel's Barbershop, Charlie Carlos' Pool Room, the Golden Nugget or Embassy Diner?

Do you remember Thomas Street School schoolyard, and for those who have a long memory, the Saxtrum Club?

These questions are part of a flier announcing this year's Laurel/Clayton East Side, West Side reunion, scheduled to tip off at 8 tonight with a dance at the Worcester Lodge of Elks at 233 Mill St., and followed by a picnic at Beaver Brook Park, beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow.

There are many lenses through which to view this reunion, which marks the displacement of 225 Laurel/Clayton neighborhood households by the construction of the $15.5 million Plumley Village housing project in 1971.

You can get a feel for this displacement through a stark numerical description, as outlined by this paper just over a year after Plumley Village was completed.

"The Laurel/Clayton population was 51 percent white and 49 percent black. Plumley Village (when it opened) is 52.5 percent white, 33 percent black, 12 percent Hispanic and 2 percent other ethnic groups," the paper wrote.

"Less than 10 percent of the 225 Laurel Clayton households had annual incomes above $9,000. More than half earned less than $5,000 a year. The average annual income in Plumley Village was $9,000.

"Of Laurel Clayton's 225 households, 75 moved into the Plumley Village apartments. Six percent of the Laurel Clayton residents moved outside of Worcester. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of those who came to Plumley Village moved from suburban communities."

But this reunion (the sixth since 1992) is being felt in the hearts of former residents, where the rhythm of a community long gone still beats.

I spoke with some former residents Wednesday evening, at the Quinsigamond Elks Lodge at 200 Chandler St., while they were finalizing the details of the reunion.

The venue was not coincidental. The Elks Lodge, which used to be located on Summer Street and then at the corner of Laurel and Clayton, is both a spiritual and a physical connection to the old neighborhood.

Barbara Anderson recalled dancing to the juke box and dishing out hamburgers at a Laurel/Clayton joint called the Sugar...

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