Groblewski Brothers' Shadow Box Displays  
Thursday, December 19, 2002




THURSDAY, DEC. 19 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
So I've Heard Column


They earned their livelihood as partners in Taylorcraft Co., a dry-cleaning business, but brothers Francis and James Groblewski had an eye for aesthetics.
They were the town's leading decorators for decades, starting shortly after World War II, at least at Christmas time. Fran and Jim had several display accounts, but they were mostly the artistic side of a long standing Chamber of Commerce Holiday Decorating Committee. There might have been some faint praise in this, but there wasn't any money.
I remembered the Groblewski brothers, both World War II veterans and both deceased, Friday while inspecting shadow box displays at Webster's Winter Carnival.
Some 25 or more frames--8 foot by 4 foot by a foot deep--built around 1959 and raised on eye-level standards, were central to town Christmas displays that year. Recall brought me to the night Jim Groblewski advanced the idea at a meeting of C. of C. directors.
Different groups, clubs, scouts, schools could decorate the boxes. Chamber officers didn't seem that excited with the plan, at least initially, but they bought into its longterm economies. The boxes could be decorated over and over. They'd stand like giant Christmas cards, enthused Jimmy Groblewski.
The displays were built in a section to the Waterhouse Co. (now Ethan Allen) factory, Helen D. Groblewski, Fran's widow, said Saturday, confirming my recollection of the process. Some of the boxes were subsequently repaired, even replaced, according to Ms. Groblewski.
Still, no one, not even the Groblewski brothers, thought their late 50s concept would still be in vogue-- decorated by people not then born, like the Brownies in troop 104; by groups not then organized, like Webster's Pride; and by businesses not then formed, like the Ultimate Touch salon--43 years later.
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Richard Tracey, who keeps the freezer section in Webster's Price Chopper filled and in fine order, got an early Christmas present.
A customer gave him a blue sweatshirt inscribed "Freezer Man." It even has his name, spelled Tracy, without an "e," like the fictional detective.
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When the Boston Red Sox named Theo Epstein their new general manager Nov. 25, T/G sports columnist Phil O'Neill reviewed history of the office.
Long time owner Tom Yawkey created the Boston GM post in 1933, appointing Hall of Famer Eddie Collins, according to Mr. O'Neill. This led me to a bit of research. Mr. Collins was married to Webster native Mabel Doane, and knew quite a bit about the town.
In 1936, when "The Boys from Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg" sent a telegram to broadcaster Fred Hoey, declaring, "We are rooting for Gene Desautels" (a Dudley native and then a catcher with the Red Sox), the Boston radio voice was quoted: "That name is too much for me, but there's a man right here who won't have any difficulty with it."
Mr. Hoey disclosed the Collins to Webster connection and the GM pronounced the long Indian name for Webster Lake without any difficulty. This is from an old scrapbook given to me years ago by Armand B. Remie.
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"I've wanted to show you this for a long time," Robert G. Miller said on a recent afternoon, removing a black and white photograph from a glove compartment in his automobile.
"This was taken in August 1949, the day before 'Red' (John Connors) and I left for the service," said Mr. Miller. "Father Charlie (Rev. Charles J. Chwalek, then an assistant at St. Joseph Church) gave me a wallet."
Mr. Miller played that season for the St. Joseph Boys Club baseball team. The presentation was at home plate in Marcustry Park, now the Webster Little League complex.
"This is why I wanted you to see it," said Mr. Miller, removing his hand from the right side of the print. The photograph shows a fledging photographer (me) taking a picture of Mr. Miller and th
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