Video Contest!

Here is something to think about during the holidays, especially if Santa brings you a new video camera or cool new smartphone!


The City of Lowell invites submissions for short films that tell the Lowell story

Deadline, January 18th, 2013

LOWELL, MA — The City of Lowell has issued a Call for Work to filmmakers to create a 15 second promotional film showcasing what it is that makes the City a great place to live, work and create.  Inspired by the growing vibrancy of the local filmmaking community, the contest is part of a program to partner with locals to define the way the City is promoted outside its borders. Only individuals who live, work or attend school in the City are eligible to apply.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm, January 18th, 2013 and the winner will be announced in February.  A $1,000.00 cash prize will be awarded to the winning submission.  Complete guidelines for the contest can be found at and  All entries will be reviewed by the City’s marketing team: City Manager Bernie Lynch, Assistant City Manager Adam Baacke, Director of Economic Development Theresa Park, Economic Development Assistant Erin Findlen, Director of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Susan Halter and an additional guest judge.


Candlelight Vigil in Lowell Sunday Night

ribbonGrief. Anger. Empathy. Confusion. Christmas presents that will never be opened.

No one can understand why the horror experienced by the students,  teachers and staff at Sandy Hook Elementary occurred Friday morning. That horror continues for the family and friends of those killed.

Those of us across the country and around the world watching the story unfold are helpless. It is not like a hurricane, flood or fire; we cannot donate money, send clothes or give blood to help make the situation better. The only thing we can do is grieve and let those in Connecticut now we are thinking of them.

Lowell resident Gail Hovey Cassidy has organized a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the massacre. It will be held at 6 p.m. on Sunday at Tyler Park off of Westford Street in the city’s Highlands neighborhood. Bring your own candle and extras if you have them.

From Gail:

“I was on my way to do some Christmas shopping (stressing of course) when the news came on the radio. At first it didn’t register, at all. I listened and I froze to be honest. I pulled the car over and strangely in was right in front on a Daycare Center in Chelmsford where a little boy I was “Nanny” for two years was in. I just sat there and stared at the big A B C’s on the building and cried, thinking this horrific tragedy could have been here, or anywhere that our children or grandchildren were brought in the morning to play, to be safe!

I didn’t go shopping, it felt irrelevant. I came home, drove down my street thinking of all the kids that I know and love that are usually out and about playing and thought of the babies and the teacher’s who would never have the opportunity to do so again, never.

I didn’t know what to do so I asked for some spiritual guidance and it just came to me. If we could bring together our friends, neighbors, anyone who was feeling the same for a short amount of time and show our love and support to those who died and their families then we could also find strength from one another. I wish we knew their names and their faces. Sadly, in a matter of time we will and those sweet little angel’s will be the same faces we send off everyday with a hug and kiss and a dream.”

Mayor’s Food Drive — A Ton of Success (literally)

Food 007A mountain of pasta, chicken noodle soup, black beans, rice, apple juice, popcorn and everything in between has taken over the conference table and a large portion of the floor in the Mayor’s Office.

Mayor Patrick Murphy’s two-week long food drive to benefit the Merrimack Valley Food Bank netted 1,800 pounds of food by the end of the Mayor’s Holiday Reception Thursday night . . . and Friday morning the food kept coming, bringing the total to more than 2,000 pounds.

Thank you to all who donated! The big donors included City of Lowell Sanitary Code Inspector and Acre neighborhood leader Dave Ouellette (413 pounds); Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee member Ray Boutin (215 pounds); the City of Lowell Law Department (211 pounds), with 77 of those pounds coming from Principal Clerk Marti Pietroforte; City Councilor John Leahy (163 pounds); City Councilor Rodney Elliott (133 pounds); City Councilor Marty Lorrey (128 pounds); City Manager Bernie Lynch (60 pounds).

For every pound of food donated, the donor received a raffle ticket for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the December 30 Patriots/Dolphins game. The big winner was City Councilor John Leahy.

“At a time when so many families are in need, I’m proud of all the caring city residents, workers and officials who stepped up to help meet it,” said Mayor Patrick Murphy.

The food bank supplies 3 million pounds of food annually to 80 shelters, pantries and meals programs in 25 area communities.

Earlier this year, a two-week competition within City Hall organized by Treasurer Liz Craveiro, resulted in a collection of 2,500 pounds of food for the food bank.

“We appreciate the continuing support from Mayor Murphy, the City Council, School committee and Manager Lynch of the Food Bank,” said MVFB Executive Director Amy Pessia. “The food drive was made even more exciting with the chance to win Patriots tickets, and the competitive nature of our City leaders and employees was fun to watch. Our supporters throughout the City know that when they donate to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, they are helping people of all ages, cultures and walks of life right here in our community. We are honored and blessed by this generous outpouring of donations!”

Mayor Murphy’s Holiday Reception

Holiday Reception 164Mayor Patrick Murphy held his first Holiday Reception Thursday night. The party, open to all, was a blast.

Holiday Reception 065The food, including cold roasted shrimp, hummus and olives, tomatoes and blue cheese dip, brie with apricot preserves and candied pecans and a variety of roasted vegetables, was catered by the United Teen Equality Center’s Fresh Roots Program.

Entertainment was provided by the Lowell High School Holiday Horns and Henri the Magnificent (who by day doubles as City Manager Bernie Lynch’s assistant).

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We even scored a visit from Santa!

Holiday Reception 159Holiday Reception 167Holiday Reception 169Holiday Reception 175Holiday Reception 176Holiday Reception 178Holiday Reception 184City Health Inspector and Acre neighborhood leader Dave Ouellette made an amazing gingerbread replica of the Whiting Street Community Garden . . . oh, and he also brought 413 pounds of non-perishable food to the Mayor’s office Thursday morning as part of the Mayor’s food drive.

Holiday Reception 081Holiday Reception 084 - CopyThank you to all who came to the party. For those who were unable to make it this year, we look forward to seeing you next year!

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Merry Christmas!

Lowell’s Young Cobblers and the Belgian Refugees

Remember sixth grade? The long division, the environmental science, the field trip to Canobie Lake . . . . the cobbling. What? You don’t remember the shoe repair component of sixth grade?

If you were a sixth-grade boy at the Varnum School in Lowell’s Centralville neighborhood in the early 1900’s you certainly would.

The year was 1908. Varnum School teacher Rose Dowd was troubled. She noticed many of the school’s students did not have proper footwear; their shoes were worn, torn, or broken; some stayed home because they did not have shoes.

She came up with a brilliant solution. Rather than giving the students shoes, she would teach them how to repair them — a variation of the old “teach a man to fish” principle.

The class of 25 boys made their own aprons. Ms. Dowd, who lived on Tenth Street, became the “cobbleress,” the boss of the shop.

Photo: Lowell Sun April 4, 1918

Photo: Lowell Sun April 4, 1918

The boys worked one hour a week in the cobbling shop, masterfully repairing the soles and heels of their shoes, the shoes of their families and neighbors.

Word began to spread and the work proved to have unintended positive consequences.

“The teachers say that the manual training makes better students, that the students study better after an hour or a half hour working at the bench with their hands,” the Nashua Telegraph reported on January 8, 1910. “Many a pupil who was considered rather dull became self-confident, better able to express himself, for he can compete with his more brilliant classmate when it is a work with the fingers and in many case the pupils best brain capacity gains expression because it is being reached by the fingers.”

At the time, the Nashaway Woman’s Club was exploring a plan to add manual training to the Nashua Public Schools’ curriculum. It was felt it would benefit the students to learn a trade given that fewer than 20 percent of Nashua students entered high school.

The looked to Lowell for guidance; as did Lawrence eight years later. And in the summer of 1909 Dowd taught a summer cobbling class in Wincester at the bequest of the Wincester School Department.

“In the public schools of Lowell the very best demonstration of manual training is given,” reported the Telegraph.

In addition to cobbling, the Varnum School also offered sewing for the girls and cane seating.

In October 1910, the Lowell Sun reported three graduates of the cobbling class has gone into the cobbling business for themselves and had found a good amount of success.

Rose Dowd’s young cobblers met their greatest challenge in early 1918 – they were put into service to complete an important war contract.

The one-hour a week work rule was shattered, with the boys populating the shop during recess, after school and whenever they could get in there. Their mission: fix up worn-down and broken shoes for the Red Cross to ship overseas for the Belgian refugees of the Great War.

“Now that war conditions have brought a greater demand for the finished product there has been overtime galore and not a kick from the youthful cobblers,” the Sun reported on April 4, 1918. “They more than welcomed the introduction of the new daylight savings law in that it gave them an opportunity to do a little more Red Cross work and thus perhaps furnish some poor Belgian refugee with covering for his or her feet.”

All of the leather used was old belting donated by W.A. Mitchell of the Massachusetts Mills.

In two weeks of work the tiny shoe repairmen had sent 142 pairs of good-as-new finely crafted shoes to the Belgians.

And they were not slowing down. The Sun reported two weeks into the work “every hammer was going at full blast.”

While one may have seen many things in Europe in 1918, a Belgian refugee with rubber-soled shoes was not one of those things.

The Red Cross shipped no shoes with rubber soles because the Germans were running short of rubber and were quite desirous of obtaining more, any way they could.

Shoes with rubber soles and heels were given to the Salvation Army for domestic distribution.

It is unclear when the last shoe was re-heeled at the Varnum School, but Rose Dowd died on May 29, 1930, having taught at the school for 46 years.

Her obituary noted that if it had not been for her ingenuity, many children “would have suffered during the winter months for lack of proper footwear.”

varnThe Varnum School was closed in June 2008, 151 years after it was built, a victim of budget cuts.

Last week, the Lowell City Council approved the sale of the building for $285,000 to Underwood Property Management and Development, of Lowell.

Thomas and Richard Underwood plan to convert the school into 22 two-and-three bedroom rental apartments, marketed to veterans. The proposed plan earned the endorsement of the Centralville Neighborhood Action Group.