Monday, August 27, 2012

Am I Blue? Worcester Airport tries again

When I was growing up, a frequent destination for the ‘spins’ my father was always taking us on was Worcester Airport, where we went to see – in my father’s words – “the Piper Cubs come in.”

Even in its heyday, my hometown’s airport was not exactly a transpo hub.

I do believe I flew into Worcester Airport on one occasion, but I have no recall of it.

After my grandfather died, my parents – with their four year old and almost two year old in tow - went out to Chicago for his funeral. I have no idea how they/we got there – unless my sister Kath remembers, I’ll have to consult with my Aunt Mary – but my father may have driven pell-mell out old Route 9 (this was before the construction of the interstate highway system). Or they/we may have taken the train. Or they/we could have somehow flown there from Worcester Airport. This would have been highly unusual. We went to Chicago every other year for vacation – on the off-years, some delegation of Chicago came to us – but it was always by car or train.

I do, however, know that after the funeral my father had to get back to work, while my mother stayed on with her family. And I do know that, when she did head home to Worcester, she flew.

One of my mother’s classic stories was being at LaGuardia Airport, and having to take a bus to Idlewild*that would be JFK to those of you who don’t remember where you were when JFK was shot –to catch her flight to Worcester. The bus stop was apparently not very convenient to the terminal, and she had quite the struggle getting two little ones,and a couple of heavy 1950’s suitcases – no roller-bags or lightweights in that era, when a piece of luggage outweighed its contents – across some heavily trafficked roadway to reach it. (All of this compounded, of course, by her just having lost her father, who died quite suddenly while still in his early fifties. And, oh, yeah, she was pregnant with my brother Tom, too.) Fortunately, some nice man – our hero – came to her rescue, schlepping the bags while my mother schlepped the kids. And we made it home to Worcester.

That trip was, in fact, the only time I was ever on an airplane until 1973, when I flew from Logan to Heathrow. (Never all that mechanical, I couldn’t figure out how to use the seat belt.)

Anyway, over the years, Worcester’s Airport remained kind of a pokey little puppy. Airlines – think Piedmont – occasionally flew in and out. My mother made occasional forays in and out of Worcester via plane. But it never seemed to make all that much sense for the Heart of the Commonwealth to have all that much of an airport. Anyone who wanted get out of town – and, admittedly, there are plenty of them - could fly out of Boston, Providence, Manchester, or Hartford. That Worcester Airport is not close to any highway – it’s nestled in a combo wooded-residential area – plus was on a hill that’s fog-shrouded half the time, didn’t exactly lend itself to Worcester’s becoming an air hub.

One of the wooded, residential areas the airport was nestled in, by the way, was the one I grew up in. Our ‘hood was curious in that it was very densely packed and urban if you looked in one direction, and complete country if you looked in the other. No gradual suburban drop off for us. Turn left out the door and there’s Morris Market, Sol’s Maincrest Pharmacy, Vic the blind barber, the Paree Beauty Salon, Teddy the tailor, and all the other little commercial outfits (including the double-wide three decker that sold cemetery monuments from its front yard). But if you turned right, ah, wilderness: Hendy’s (Henderson’s Pond), the crazy old lady farm, and The Airport Woods. Woods that stretched from our backyard, right up to the runway. We’d sometimes take walks: destination Worcester Airport, where we would get a soda (which we would have called a tonic) or a candy bar from the hoppin’ vending machine.

A while back, there was a movement to run a connector from the turnpike to the airport that would have cut right through my old neighborhood. I’m sure that “they” thought this would be easy-peasy, since the neighborhood isn’t at all posh, and the houses that would have been torn down weren’t worth all that much.

Of course, “they” didn’t know who they were f-ing with: a bunch of Main South, “Holy Angels” pig-heads who had always lived on Grand View (which was neither grand, nor had a view), and who planned to always live on Grand View. So there.

Anyway, Worcester Airport has languished for years.

A few years ago, The Banshees (sister-cousin girl gang) had a winter weekend getaway to Worcester. Since there was no place to shop, we drove up to Worcester Airport. Talk about a ghost town. There was a young woman manning a rental car desk, and that was about it. (It was so desolate, I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen an axe-murderer swing through.) Not even a Piper Cub in sight.

But every once in a while, some half-baked airline sets up some service. The last one, I believe, went bankrupt, and Worcester has been without commercial service since last winter.

But last week I saw this bit of news:

The chief executive of JetBlue Airways is paying another visit to Worcester Wednesday, as the city of Worcester and the Massachusetts Port Authority continue to woo the low-cost carrier, hoping to convince the airline to serve Worcester Regional Airport.  (Source:

Well, there’s nothing half baked about Jet Blue. And Worcester, which never, ever, ever lacks for boosterism – surely, you’ve heard that “we’ve” been an All American City. More than once. So there. – held a luncheon for David Barger, attended by the local poobahs:

…Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray…Worcester mayor Joseph Petty, Kevin O’Sullivan, the president of Worcester-based Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives, and other college administrators, business executives, and civic leaders from Central Massachusetts.

Worcester not having commercial flights is just such an itch that “our” poohbahs just have to keep scratching.

I hope they get Jet Blue, or someone, anyone, to fly there. If only because I have now decided to add flying in or out of Worcester to my bucket list. That trip back from my grandfather’s funeral in Chicago just doesn’t count. I want to look out the window and see Our Lady of the Angels, Hendy’s, and the place that sells the grave markers.

Hope for a fog-free day.

*Or vice-versa.

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