By Glenn Parker, Special Contributor
Westborough – Glenn Parker is a former member of the Westborough Historical Commission and the author of “A Cornfield Meet -? A history of the trolleys of Westborough.” He is also the former Westborough Chief of Police, retiring from active duty in 2012 after 42 years with the department.
Over the last few months, Parker has been sharing stories of important and interesting people and events from Westborough’s past.
Here, he describes, in his own words, how his love for local history began:
As a teen in the early 60s, I had the opportunity to work the summers for my dad who established a greenhouse painting business, the Glenrich Company. At first his business was limited to the communities in this area, but as the demand grew for his services, he soon began traveling throughout Massachusetts. Being the boss’s kid, I was introduced to all the greenhouse owners and florists. Getting to travel around the state, I also learned where the best diners and lunch carts were. Naturally, the Dinette and Chet’s were my favorites.
But I was not enamored with the painting business; I wanted to be a police officer. That day came when Sgt. Dan Campion approached me while he was walking the square and offered me a special officer position. I joined the force in 1968 when the transition years of the Turnpike were in progress. Corporate America and land developers were discovering Westborough and taking advantage of the prime location, great access and available land.
While on active police patrol from 1970, I witnessed the farms being abandoned and the fields going fallow. The greenhouses were being bulldozed, and the tourist cabins locked and shuttered, waiting for developers to clear the land and to begin the redevelopment.
The Lyman School was in its final years of operation and was in a state of turmoil. Not a weekend went by that a boy wanting to spend some time at home merely walked away. He would steal a car and return on Sunday night, leaving another stolen car near the school. The staff had difficulty maintaining order and frequently called the local police to help regain control. By 1972 it was over, and the school closed after 87 years.
The Forbush Tavern was waiting for a new location and restoration, but I watched that dream go up in smoke. In August of 1974 I watched a little known rock band called Aerosmith perform at the Speedway, then in 1983 the Gregg Allman Band, and two years later the final laps were taken at the Westboro Speedway ending an era of auto racing on this very popular oval track.
The landscape of the road dramatically changed before my eyes, and by the end of the 20th century, with a few exceptions, the road had evolved from a farmer’s road dotted with family owned and operated businesses to malls, mega housing, and big box retail, non-descript office buildings and chain stores. In hindsight I wish that I had photographed every building on Route 9, but I didn’s and now I have to rely on what’s available.
I took a particular interest in the immigrants who worked and settled along the Turnpike. Who knew Westborough had such a diverse cultural history? From Westborough’s early beginning there were the English and Scots immigrants who settled the wilderness area. There was immigrant Armenians fleeing from genocide who farmed the Turnpike for over 75 years, Italian rail workers who built the numerous trolley systems throughout the area, the Irish who built the Boston & Worcester Railroad and settled Vintonville and Greeks escaping a civil war. Swedes and Nationalist Chinese all put their fingerprints on the history of the Turnpike.
So, before the memories fade away and we hear “Remember When,” and before the pictures and postcards get tossed out with Grandpa’s stuff, I needed to put this in writing before it was too late, and there will be no one to tell the whole story of the Worcester Turnpike and other Westborough history. Otherwise, this collection of facts and photos and personal experiences will remain untold or scattered throughout the many reference books in the history room or someone’s photo card collection, never to be seen in a single presentation by the public.