Saturday, May 19, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER NINE


That summer I spent doing yard chores such as painting the fence and mowing the lawn. I built a town under a large tree next door. It was close to the highway and had roots that came up out of the ground. Between the roots I built neighborhoods. I made streets and driveways with little pebbles to outline the roads and driveways. I had a lot of little cars. In the dime store across the highway they had little plastic cars and trucks. Some of the dump trucks I removed the dump and used balsam wood to make stake bed trucks and other type trucks.
This was something Marshall and I could do together. He was 8 or 9 years old then. One time Beverly was mad at us about something and with her shoes she kicked our town into oblivion. That just gave us an excuse to reconstruct it and make it better!
The people who lived next door to us were Mr. and Mrs. Lucas, and their son and daughters. The boy’s name was Jack. I don’t remember how old he was. I think he was younger than Marshall. The daughter was several years older than me. We didn’t have too much interaction with them except on two occasions that I remember. One afternoon the girl came to the door and asked to speak to our mother. Mom invited her inside. She was crying. In her arms she was clutching a bag.  “Mrs. Pritt, please put these away someplace and keep them for me. They are records and my mother said she is going to smash them to pieces. She says they are indecent.” Mom agreed to keep them for her if she wouldn’t tell her mother who was keeping them. Almost a year later the girl was moving out, maybe to go to college. She came to collect the records. One of them was “Drinking Rum and Coca-Cola”, others were “Beer Barrel Polka” and “The House of the Rising Sun.”
They had another daughter who was retarded. We rarely saw her.
The Lucases bought a used car. Mrs. Lucas asked Dad to teach her to drive. Dad agreed. Sometimes he would come back from a lesson cussing and other times laughing. She eventually went for her driving test and passed it. I don’t remember if Mr. Lucas could drive.
I was still too young for a work permit. A man whose first name was Ray and was a member of the church sometimes took me on Saturdays as a helper. He was a mechanic and was certified to work on several brands of fork lift trucks. Once we went to a fertilizer factory. There were a half dozen fork lifts that would not run. He soon determined that the air filters were clogged with fertilizer dust and that fertilizer has eaten through some of the wiring. While I was replacing the air filters, he was replacing the wires.
Another place we went was a brick yard. They had a World War 2 bomb loader which they were using as a fork lift truck. Bomb loaders were heavy duty fork lift trucks built to carry loads of five hundred pound bombs from the bunkers at the end of the runways to the planes they were to be loaded on. They could reach speeds of 50 mph.
They had loaded a freight car with bricks. They wanted to push it down the track and couple it to the other cars. It wouldn’t move. They tried pushing it and pulling it with a heavy duty truck used to haul bricks. It wouldn’t move. Some knucklehead had the idea to lift one end of the boxcar with the bomb loader and let it push the car. When he tried to lift the car filled with bricks, the stacks (on which the forks ride up and down) were bent and twisted and one of the hydraulic hoses burst. The bomb loader couldn’t be fixed.
Ray had converted his car to operate on propane gas. He estimated the engine would last 200,000 miles or more. He got very good mileage on that fuel. However, there was no way to pay highway tax so it was illegal.
I no longer had my bicycle but I walked all over Armistead Gardens. I would sometimes stop to talk to Margie and Nancy Eisinger. They were both older than I was. Margie was president of our youth group. Nancy was a couple years ahead of me in school. I never went into the house, just stood at the door talking. Like many of the youth in our church group and like my own parents, their parents did not attend church. Another girl from our group lived almost at the end of Wright Avenue. I usually just waved at her, but one day she had her record player on the porch and it was playing “Earth Angel.” I had never heard music like that.
Another friend whom I would stop to talk with was Al Sterner. Al’s father was very religious and spent a lot of time reading the Bible. I don’t know what church he attended, if any. He didn’t work. He made Al and his brother quit school and work at jobs such as selling newspapers on the buses and streets. Al did not seem resentful and was a happy person. He didn’t attend our youth group but attended the Youth For Christ meetings in Baltimore. I think they were monthly.
Beverly had four special friends who lived near us, Nancy Corey, Donna Corey, Joan Germer, and Andrea Flood. Donna was my age. I asked her to go to the movies with me and she turned me down. She was the first girl I ever asked on a date.
I didn’t always walk. A fad which went through the project like a tornado was orange crate scooters. They were simplicity itself to make and nearly all the boys had one. Sometimes there were so many going up and down a street that it was hard for cars or the city bus to get through. I got one of my sister’s old skates and took it apart. I nailed one piece to one end of a piece of 2”x4” lumber (from the junk pile across the highway) and the other piece of skate to the other end. Then I scavenged a discarded orange crate from behind the Acme Market. I nailed it on the front end of the 2”x4”. On top the crate I fastened two pieces of wood to hold on to. With one foot on the 2”x4” and the other foot pumping, I could make the orange crate scooter fly down the street. With no brakes, they were wonderfully scary and dangerous going down a hill.
My father had three jobs. He was a machinist in the Mt. Clare Shops of the B&O Railroad. He was in charge of two huge turret lathes that could turn the driving wheels of steam passenger engines. Every one of the machinist apprentices had to spend six weeks or longer learning to operate these giant lathes. They did most of the work and had to clean the machines at the beginning and end of each shift.
Dad sold hot dogs and coffee. The man in charge of the Shops heartily approved of it. He sent workers in to put in heavy duty electric receptacles and to run a water line. Dad was there beside his machines, watching the apprentices, making coffee, boiling hot dogs. The men poured their own coffee, fixed their own hot dogs, and dropped ten cents in a can for each hot dog or each cup of coffee. Dad said that he made as much money from the coffee and hot dogs as he did as a machinist.
There were many new houses being built in Baltimore and Baltimore County. Dad met up with a man from Elkins who had his own company installing aluminum storm windows and doors. Later he added aluminum window awnings. Dad would go out in the evenings and on Saturdays to these new housing developments. For the first several years or more, Dad could sell storm windows and doors or awnings and FHA or VA would just add it to the mortgage of a new house. I don’t know how much he made from selling, but I’m sure it was a lot.
One day a strange thing happened at our church. A young man was driving past the church on his way to work and his car stopped. Nothing he tried would start it. He went to the door to the pastor’s study to ask to use the phone to call his sister. The pastor was on his knees praying at the time. The young man was taken aback. He started talking to our minister and when he walked out, he had accepted Christ as Savior. When he got into the car, it started immediately!
His name was Tony York. He started attending church regularly and in time became a member. Though he was older than most of us he came to the youth group. After she graduated from high school, he began dating Nancy Eisinger. I lost touch with them after we moved from Armistead Gardens. They married. He was a Presbyterian minister for a while then became a professor of literature at University of Cleveland. Nancy became the owner of an investment bank in Cleveland, Ohio.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER EIGHT


That fall, I was transferred to Clifton Park Junior High School. It was in an attractive setting. It was on the southern end of Clifton Park, The Park ran alongside the eastern edge of Harford Road. In Clifton Park there were a band stand, a golf course, and tennis courts. At the northern end of the Park, City College, an all-male high school, sat up on a high hill. Diagonally across Harford Road from the end of Clifton Park was Lake Montebello which had a paved walk and wrought iron fence all around the lake.
I don’t remember much about Clifton Park Junior High School. According to my report card from there I attended September 1952 to February 1953. Then I was promoted to Grade 9A in the Poly A Course. Sometime between September 1952 and February 1953 I had a recurrence of rheumatic fever.   
This time I remained in bed except to go to the toilet. This time I found many things to do while remaining in bed. The teachers at Clifton Park sent assignments for me to do. A young lady, Charlotte Ickes, brought the work from school and carried my completed work back to school a couple times a week. I hardly ever saw her because she would come to the door and make the exchange with my mother.
I had the radio and sometimes I even listened to ball games. I built airplanes from kits using balsam wood and tissue paper. My Dad would hang them from the ceiling with black thread. A breeze blowing through the room would move them like they were really flying. There were at least a dozen hanging from the ceiling over my bed.
I saved the balsam wood scraps from the model airplanes and I began to build models of houses. I used either photographs of the houses of family or pictures of houses from magazines. I cut out the walls and roofs of the houses from corrugated cardboard. I cut out where there were windows or doors. Dad bought pieces of paper printed with brick, stucco, wood siding, etc. from a hobby shop. I would glue this onto the cardboard walls and cut out where the windows and doors were. Next, I used the scraps of balsam to make window frames, doors, shutters. Where windows were located I glued cellophane from cigarette packs on the back side of the cardboard. I assembled the walls, put on the roof, glued emery paper or sandpaper on the roof and finally affixed the chimney.
I also began a correspondence with Margaret Denman, a distant cousin my age. My Grandmother Stalnaker connected us. Margaret’s family had lived in Elkins. Her father committed suicide and her mother and the children moved to Hopewell to be near the mother of Margaret’s mother. Margaret and I began to write long letters to each other. This continued all the time that I was bedridden. After that the letters were only occasional.
During that time, I learned about Reichardt Taylor, a Presbyterian missionary in Brazil. He might have been a brother to Margaret’s mother and Virginia Taylor. I wrote about a half dozen letters to him. He responded with very long letters describing in one letter how he would drive as far as he could go in a car, borrow a donkey or horse and go as far as it could take him, then hike through jungle to get to an isolated home. He said there would always be a Singer sewing machine that he could use as his pulpit. In his career he established forty-five churches.  
When I was in the tenth grade, Billy Graham came to Richmond, Virginia. Margaret invited me to come to hear him. My father got me a pass on the train from Baltimore to Richmond and back. Virginia Taylor, Margaret’s aunt picked me up at the train station and took me to the meeting that night. Margaret was with us. We had supper at Virginia’s before the meeting. Virginia took us to the meeting, took Margaret home afterward, and I stayed overnight at Virginia’s. Miss Taylor had a real nice home, but Margaret lived in a really dilapidated cottage. I think she had some brothers.
When I was twenty, I drove to Richmond to meet Reichardt who was home on furlough. He and his family were staying in one of the missionary homes on the campus of Presbyterian School of Christian Education. I met Margaret some place in Richmond and she showed me the way to where Reichardt was staying. We visited with him for several hours. He made espresso coffee for us and tried to teach us some words and phrases in Portugese. Afterward I took Margaret to Grandmother Stalnaker’s apartment in Washington, DC. We visited with her for an hour or so. I took Margaret to wherever she was going in Washington. That was the last time I saw her.
Apparently, I returned to Clifton Park Junior High School and completed the first semester of the eighth grade in February 1953. Then a strange thing happened. I was called to the office and interviewed by several men who asked if I would like to enroll in the Poly A Course.
There were two all-male high schools in Baltimore, City College and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. There were also two all-female high schools, Eastern High School and Western High School. All four of these high schools had an A course. The A course was four years long. Any student who completed four years of the A course would be accepted at almost any college or university as a sophomore. To remain in the A course you had to keep your grades at a B level.
I jumped at the chance. I assumed that I would begin the following September. Instead of being promoted from 8A to 8B, I was promoted to 9A in the Poly A course.
Whereas Clifton Park Junior High was located at the end of a beautiful park, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a beautiful old building built like the buildings in ancient Greece, faced a wide noisy street, North Avenue. The neighborhood surrounding the school was shabby and not altogether safe.
The first semester I had Algebra, Geometry, History, French, English, Mechanical Drawing, Shop, and Gym. My grades for the first semester were in the high eighties or the nineties except for English, Gym, and Shop.
Whenever they had assembly for the whole school, everyone had to remain standing until the principal entered and he would shout “Freedom!” The assembly would respond, “Responsibility!”  He would never be satisfied the first time or the second. He would call out “Freedom!” and the assembled students would sound off “Responsibility!” Finally, on the third attempt the principal was usually satisfied and would motion for us to be seated.
I did not fit in with the other students. I wasn’t invited into their conversations in the hallways or at lunch. If I had been, I would not have had anything to add. They belonged to clubs and organizations I knew nothing about. They went to parties, to the country clubs. They played golf and tennis. They dressed in chinos and shirts with button down collars. My shirts were ripped out in the elbows. My trousers were hand me downs from the church. My shoes had holes in the soles. I constantly felt inwardly embarrassed.
I went to the office after the first semester and begged to be transferred to Patterson High School the next year. That is where most of the young people from Armistead Gardens were going. They refused.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER SEVEN


There has not been much interest in ARMISTEAD GARDENS. Therefore, I am not going to post any more fictional chapters. I will just post the factual chapters until I come to the time we moved from Armistead Gardens.

I’m not sure when Dad bought the first car we owned in Baltimore. I think it was when I was thirteen. It was a green 1940 Chevrolet. What I remember most about that car was Dad working on it. He put new brake shoes and a clutch in it and maybe other parts. While he was working on it, I had to stay right with him. He wanted me to learn to work on cars. He would ask me to hand him tools. I didn’t know the names of the tools and that would frustrate him. If he was under the car working, my mind would wander. I wasn’t paying attention to him. Sometimes I would leave and go back into the house to a book I had been reading.
When he was changing the clutch, somehow the pressure plate came out. It had a lot of springs and Dad didn’t know how to put it back. He was in a foul mood and then a worried mood, probably thinking he would have to have it towed to a garage to have a mechanic repair it. He couldn’t afford a towing bill or a mechanic. Eventually he found a man who lived in the new section who had a 1947 Chevrolet. He came to where Dad had the car jacked up on the street outside our house and showed Dad how to put the pressure plate and clutch into the car.
In about a year Dad traded for a 1947 Chevrolet. It was a beautiful deep red car. On our first trip to West Virginia in the car something happened to the generator. After pulling off the road and trying to fix it in the dead of the night, Dad decided to try to make it into Elkins on just battery power. By the mercies of God, we made it. The first thing the next morning, he and Uncle Don were working on the car. I think it was on that trip that on the way home we met a family whose car had run out of gas. Dad asked if they has a clean container into which he could siphon some gas. With tears in her eyes, the mother emptied a jar of home-canned green beans and handed him the jar.
The next car he traded for was a 1950 Ford Crestliner. It was Hawaiian Bronze and Chocolate Brown with a vinyl roof. Dad extended the rear bumper and mounted a spare tire from off a Ford in the ‘30s. He painted it Chocolate Brown. The car looked very sporty.
By 1954 he bought his first new car, a 1954 Ford four door sedan. It was metallic blue.
While I was thirteen, I joined the Boy Scouts for a brief period of time. The Scoutmaster was Mr. Crumbaker. I remember one time I had to memorize Psalm 23. I remember standing outside his door reciting it. He had two boys and a girl. One of the boys Alan was crippled. He had a great personality and had a lot of friends. He went a lot of places with the young people, and rode the city buses.
The Boy Scouts were going on an overnight camping trip to Herring Run Park. I didn’t have a knapsack and couldn’t afford to buy one. My mother gave me one of my sister’s old, full skirts. It was cotton, a red, white, and blue design. Without any sort of pattern, I cut out pieces and sewed together a capacious knapsack with a flap and thick shoulder straps.
We went in cars to a camping area in Herring Run Park. Mr. Crumbaker wanted the boys to set up tents right away. After being crammed together in a couple cars for two hours or more, they all ran off in different directions. I walked by myself trying to orient myself. The other boys had probably been there on other occasions. It started getting dark and raining about the same time. I turned around and headed back to where the cars were parked. They were gone!
Evidently, when it began raining, the decision was made to forget about camping and go back home. I had been left. I walked down the access road to Belair Road and started walking south. Someone saw me walking, offered me a lift, and took me to where the city bus which ran along Belair Road had its terminus. He was even kind enough to give me enough change for bus fare. I rode the city bus on Belair Road and disembarked at Sinclair Lane. Then I had more than a mile to walk along Sinclair Lane to Armistead Gardens and home.
When I arrived at home my parents were surprised to see me. They thought I was having a miserable night sleeping on the ground with rain possibly dripping through the canvas of a tent. When I told them what had happened my father was furious. It is a good thing that he had already gone to work when the Assistant Scoutmaster came to our house the next morning to find out if I had got home all right and to apologize. He said it was partly my fault because I had wandered away from the group. That was the end of my Boy Scout experience.
Alricks Way was the northern boundary of the project. One of my friends, Kenny Sherman, lived on Alricks Way. At first Kenny played guitar. Later, he graduated to a five-string banjo. By the time we were in high school he had his own blue grass band. Beverly’s first serious boy friend was the guitarist in Kenny’s band. Kenny played at church and school and at other places where they were invited. Kenny had a younger brother and a sister who was a musical prodigy. When she was about four years old, maybe younger, if she heard a piece of music on the radio, she would climb up on the piano bench and play the music exactly as it had been played on the radio.
The summer I was thirteen I had a terrifying experience on Alricks Way. I was walking along and two houses from the Sherman’s house a white spitz dog came running from off its porch, jumped over the chain link fence and clamped onto my left leg halfway above the knee. It hung onto me, the whole weight of the dog hanging on my leg. Someone ran out of the house yelling at the dog and hitting it with something. The dog let go and ran off. The person was more interested in catching the runaway dog than in finding out if I was all right. I had several blocks to walk home. I was blind with pain.
Mom cleaned up the wound and bandaged it up the best that she could. She sent me to the doctor whose office was on the corner of Harper Way and Wright Avenue. I don’t remember what all he did. I do remember that he said that if the dog could not be captured and tested that I would have to have a series of rabies shots in my belly. I think it took some police involvement, but the dog was tested and it was negative for rabies.
That summer our church had a week of evangelistic meetings. The preacher for the week took me with him several afternoons when he was going door-to-door inviting people to the meetings and asking what their standing was with God.
Mrs. Himes took me with her visiting sometimes. I remember one time when she went to a house where neighbors had reported children crying. The door was unlocked so we went inside. There was a baby in a crib that was listless and it had not had its diaper changed in a long time. She did what she could. There was not any useable food in the refrigerator. She started cleaning the children as best as she could and sent me to find a neighbor with a phone to call the police and have them send an ambulance. She told me to try to bum some bread and jelly sandwiches and some milk.
The Lord was using experiences like that to point me to the ministry.
One of the women who attended the Wednesday evening prayer and Bible study meeting was an immigrant from the Netherlands. She had gone through the War with Nazi occupation of Holland. She had heard about the Baltimore School of the Bible and said that she was going to start that fall. She invited anyone who wanted to accompany her. I told her that I was interested. When it began, we went to the classes they had on Monday nights.
About this time Rev. Charles Browning departed and was replaced by Rev. Robert A. Chamberlain, Ph.D. Dr. Chamberlain was a graduate of Columbia University and the Union Seminary in New York. He had a time becoming acclimated to a working class, Southern Presbyterian church. His wife was also from Holland. Unlike the woman I mentioned above, Mrs. Chamberlain had a thick accent. I remember one year Dr. Chamberlain preached on all the kings of Israel one at a time.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER SIX


Chapter Six is a continuation of Chapter Five. I thought it best not to break them up with a fictional chapter in between.

All of my thirteenth summer, I went once a week with my mother to a clinic at Johns Hopkin Hospital. The walls of the hallways were painted dark brown. We sat on hard wooden benches waiting to be called. A nurse would take a large syringe of my blood, and would take it to the lab. Then we would wait for a long time again. I think a doctor talked to Mom sometimes. The conclusion of our visit was that I would get a shot of penicillin in my rear end.
That fall, I went to P.S.83 expecting to be put into the second half of the sixth grade which I had missed by being sick. I found out that Christ Child Farm had sent a report card for the classes I attended there. P.S.83 accepted it and promoted me to the seventh grade. I was told to go to P.S.40, Fortview Junior High School.
The school was in Canton. I think that I had to take two buses to go to Highlandtown. Then I had four or five blocks to walk to get to the school. The first two blocks were up a steep hill. I can still remember that walk in the winter with bitter cold wind blowing in off the harbor.
The school was named Fortview, because from windows on one side of the building and even from the playground on that side, you could see Fort McHenry across the harbor. Whereas the playground at P.S.83 had been concrete, the playground at Fortview was macadam.
The classes were excellent. The teachers were all good instructors.  The only teacher who was unpleasant was the gym teacher. He didn’t like it that I was excused from gym. He would make me change into gym clothes, sit in the bleachers while the other boys were doing the running and playing he had planned, and then shower and change back into street clothes along with the rest of the boys.
There was a heroin problem in that school. I heard that the drug peddlers would tell the girls that if they took a shot of heroin that they would have a vision of the Virgin Mary. One day they took us in groups of boys or groups of girls to the nurse’s office. There we had to take off all our clothes except our underpants. The nurse examined us closely for needle marks. I had many needle marks from my weekly visits to the clinic. I was taken with several other boys to the police station. I explained to the nurse and the police about going to the clinic. My parents didn’t have a telephone and I didn’t know the phone number of any neighbors. They called the clinic. Someone there promised to call back. It was several hours before someone called back to verify that I was a patient and had blood tests taken every week.
The next year, I was transferred to Clifton Park Junior High School. Sometime during the year, I contracted rheumatic fever a second time. This time I didn’t go to the hospital or Christ Child Farm. I stayed in bed and tried to get better. I found several activities to occupy myself.
The school sent homework to me by way of a girl who lived in Armistead Gardens and was in my classes, Charlotte Ickes.
My Grandmother Stalnaker worked as head of about forty secretaries and stenographers for the Alien Property Custodian in Washington, DC. During World War 2 the federal government seized all the assets of citizens of Germany, Italy, Japan, and other Axis countries. Now that the War was over, the government had the responsibility of determining rightful owners and returning the property and assets. One of my grandmother’s bosses was a stamp collector. He suggested to her that since I was restricted to sedentary activities I might be interested in stamp collecting. He gave her an old album that he was finished with. Thereafter she asked the secretaries to give her the envelopes they received from foreign countries or to tear off the section where the stamp was affixed. Soon she was sending me envelopes bulging with stamps.
These stamps were not only a hobby but they broadened my intellectual world. I often did a good bit of research just to find out what country a stamp was from. I was learning what a large number of countries there were. I was stimulated to find out a little bit about each of the countries whose stamps I was mounting in the album.
For Christmas that year I asked for a new stamp album because the stamp album I had been given didn’t have any post-War stamps of the various countries. My parents bought my sister a table model radio with a bakelite case. They bought me the stamp album I requested. Coming home Dad slipped on the ice and dropped the radio. The bakelite case cracked all around the bottom. He used some type of cement to put it back together. They decided Beverly would never accept it in that condition. They gave me the radio and Beverly the stamp album. Grandmother now had to divide the stamps into two envelopes – one for me and one for Beverly.
I was becoming active in the youth group at church and it was there that I made friends with Duane Dearth. We were best friends for the remainder of the time I lived in Armistead Gardens.
My Grandmother also put me in touch with a distant cousin. Margaret Denman and I had a lot in common. We wrote back and forth about every other day while I was bedridden. Then the letter writing faded. I did meet up with her again when Billy Graham held a Cusade in Richmond, Virginia. My father got a free pass on the train for me. A distant aunt, whom we called “Jidge” and who was a close relative of Margaret, picked me up at the train, fixed supper for me. Maybe we went to the Crusade that evening. Margaret was at Jidge’s and the three of us went to the Crusade together. She took Margaret home after the Crusade. The next day after breakfast we picked Margaret up at her home and they took me on a tour of Hopewell, Virginia where they both lived. Jidge lived in a fine brick home. I couldn’t believe how rundown was the wood house in which Margaret lived. After the tour of Hopewell, they took me to the train.
One Saturday, I was listening to a country music program sponsored by Johnny’s Used Cars. Johnny had lived in Armistead Gardens a long time and now had a successful used car business in the center of the city. There was an announcement of a Youth For Christ rally in the Odd Fellows’ Hall in downtown Baltimore. That evening they would have Percy Crawford as the speaker and a quartet from Kings College, Briarcliff Manor, New York.
I was intrigued and went all through the project to the houses of  members of the church youth group. Quite a few of them agreed to go with me. We had to ride the city bus to downtown Baltimore. The Odd Fellows’ Hall was a large old building. The auditorium was very large. There must have been several hundred young people or more. The rally began with a lot of singing of hymns and gospel songs. The pianist was extraordinary. She made the notes sparkle. The quartet was good and they kept up a lively banter with Percy Crawford, the President of Kings’ College and his wife.
Rev. Crawford was an outstanding evangelist. In his message that evening he made it clear what it meant to be a sinner, what the consequences were of remaining a sinner, what the good news of salvation meant. I had joined the church when I was twelve years old. That night when the invitation was given to accept Christ, be born again, and become a Christian I went forward without any hesitation. I know that I was born again that evening

Thursday, March 15, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER FIVE


The chapters which are numerical are factual. The chapters which are alphabetical are fiction, though in some instances the fiction modestly drapes what is factual. I will post one chapter a week, alternating factual and fiction.

I was twelve years old. It was December and cold. I had spent most of Saturday outside the Acme Market with my wagon. Along with a half dozen other boys with wagons, I wanted to haul groceries for people who had been shopping. Otherwise, they would have to carry their groceries to their home while walking in the slush and patches of ice. Some of the boys had regular patrons who looked for “their boy” every week. Other boys were more aggressive than I was in asking to haul the person’s groceries even before they went into the store.
I think that I only had two or three persons for whom I hauled bags of groceries that day. It was very cold and windy. We huddled up against the wall outside the store trying to keep warm. The previous store manager had allowed us to stand inside the store where the grocery carts were lined up. The current manager would not allow us to come inside. He didn’t want us to “bother” the customers.
The next day, I was sick and in the days following, I was sicker. My throat was red and swollen, I was running high temperatures. I had strep throat. After that, my joints became inflamed. My father was furloughed from work and my parents had no money for a doctor or medicine.
Someone told my parents about a Jewish doctor, Dr. Moses, who they were sure would come to the house and see me. He did. He prescribed sulphur drugs at first and gave my mother the medicine. His tentative diagnosis was rheumatic fever. My symptoms differed from the usual. My joints were red and inflamed but they were not swollen. For that reason, he wanted me to be admitted to the hospital.
At that time Johns Hopkin Hospital was conducting clinical trials of a drug (?ACTH?) to treat rheumatic fever patients. He told my parents about it and let them make the decision, but he advised against it. Some years later, persons who had been treated with that drug developed serious complications. Instead, he arranged for me to be  admitted to Sinai Hospital.
I was in a children’s ward with at least twenty children in the ward. It was one of their charity wards. Children whose parents could afford it were in semi-private rooms on the same floor.
Electrocardiagrams were new technology. Every day a technician would roll the EKG machine up to my bed. It was in a wooden cabinet like a fine radio. She would attach a dozen or more wires to various parts of my chest. When she started the machine, a strip of paper would roll out. After she was finished, a doctor would look at the paper and put marks on it with his pen.
There was a machine which required the patient to swallow barium while the doctor was watching a life–size screen. The nurse mixed chocolate syrup with the barium which made it taste like a chocolate flavored mud pie.
Every day or so a doctor would come to my bed with a dozen or more medical students standing around. He would rapidly give a summary of the symptoms which led to my hospitalization. He would pass around some of the EKG strips and explain the places he marked. He would always pull up my gown and point out that although my joints were red and hot to the touch they were not swollen.
Christmas was near. The younger children wondered if Santa would be able to find them. They wanted to know why there was no Christmas tree. One boy, who was a know-it-all, said, “You dummies. There ain’t no Christmas tree because this is a Jewish hospital and Jews don’t have no Christmas.”
Were we ever in for a surprise. The day before Christmas, we were taken into the large room next to the ward where sometimes there were meetings for the doctors and nurses. In the room there was a piano, a floor to ceiling Christmas tree, and enough tables and chairs for all the children. The children from the semi-private rooms were also brought in.
One of the doctors sat down at the piano and began playing and leading us in singing Christmas carols. A lot of others doctors and nurses were there singing. One of them read the Christmas story from Luke’s Gospel and another read “T’was the night before Christmas.”
After that Santa Claus came. His bag couldn’t hold all the presents. His elves followed carrying more bags. The presents were all really nice. I’m sure that none of us children on the charity ward would ever expect to receive even one present so fine. The dolls the girls received were large, in boxes and with exquisite clothes. Every child received three presents. After that there were refreshments. The nurses made sure that each child only received food their charts allowed, but they did it so unobtrusively that no child was embarrassed.
Several hours after the party, my parents came for me. I was discharged and went home.
I was on orders to stay in bed. I found out months later that the rheumatic fever had left a hole in my heart and bed rest was the only treatment they knew for it. With rest the heart might heal itself. I was supposed to stay in bed and only get up to go to the toilet. My mother  brought my meals to me. She tried to keep me in bed, but I was always jumping up to get something, or to torment my sister when she was home.
It was driving my mother crazy trying to keep me in bed, much less, resting. My maternal grandmother Stalnaker lived and worked in Washington, DC. She told my mother about Christ Child Farm in Rockville, Maryland, a convalescent home for children. A woman who lived down the street had a phone and allowed my mother to use it to call Christ Child Farm. She had an automobile and offered to drive us there when they told my mother they would admit me.
Christ Child Farm was out in the country. (I think it has now been engulfed by Rockville, MD.) It was probably a two hour drive from Armistead Gardens. It was a huge wood frame two story house surrounded by a large lawn and a farm. It had been established by an elderly woman so crippled with arthritis that she seemed almost in a ball. I saw her twice when she came to visit. She lived in the house and managed the farm until she became invalided. She was a devout Catholic and was said to be very wealthy.
On the first floor of this huge house were offices, a kitchen, a dining room, and the classroom. Upstairs were three dormitory rooms, a doctor’s office, toilets, bathtubs, and sinks. I was in the boys’ dormitory. There were about ten beds on either side of the large room and there were windows along one wall and one window on the end. I was in the last bed on the right. Across from me in the last bed on the left was a boy about my age who had one lung collapsed. He was quiet and agreeable. His name was Donald. During the day, he always wore “farmer jakes.”
A woman doctor came about once a week. Shetold me that I had a hole in my heart caused by the rheumatic fever. She said the best treatment was strict bed rest so that the heart could heal itself. For a couple months I was in bed or on my bed all the time except to go to the toilet or to wash up and brush my teeth in the morning. I think once a week I took a bath. Instead of tooth paste, at each sink there was a dish with baking soda and salt mixed.
Once, there was a priest who visited us from one of the eastern European countries. I think it was Romania. He gave each of us children a rosary. He told about the poor women of the village who strung these rosaries to earn a few cents to feed their children. Donald and I were twirling the rosary we were given around on our fingers. Mine hit the metal footboard of my bed. The rosary broke and beads went flying all over the room. I’ll never forget the sight of that old priest weeping and crawling around on the floor picking up those sacred beads.
After a couple months, I was allowed to go downstairs for meals and for school. I could walk down the stairs slowly, one step at a time. Going up the stairs I had to sit on the step, count to ten, then lift myself up to the next step, count to ten, etc.
Meals were in a large dining room with several large tables. School was in one room with all grades in the same room, although the younger children must have had school at a different time or place. As I remember, there were only the older children in my class. The teacher was a nun but she wore a suit and blouse, instead of a habit. She taught us well. I skipped a half grade when I returned to public school.
When warm weather came, I was allowed to go outside. I wasn’t allowed to run. I could swing if I didn’t jump off of it. My parents weren’t able to come and see me often because of the distance. Once one of my uncles who lived in Washington brought them to see me. Another time Uncle Don and Aunt Delania brought my parents and grandparents to see me.
About June or July, the doctor said that my heart had healed enough that I could go home if I would rest and not be running around. When my parents brought me home, there was a surprise to help me take it easy. They had bought a Muntz 16 inch, black and white television!


Thursday, March 1, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER D



The chapters which are numerical are factual. The chapters which are alphabetical are fiction, though in some instances the fiction modestly drapes what is factual. I will post one chapter a week, alternating factual and fiction.

Mr. William Fitch was an elder in the Presbyterian Church and a Freemason. He worked as a foreman at Hill-Chase Steel which was only a couple miles from Armistead Gardens. He had a son and a daughter. He had named the son John Calvin Fitch. His wife, a former Methodist named the daughter Susannah in honor of Susannah Wesley. The daughter was a diligent student, was faithful in attending Sunday School and Church, and had high moral standards. The son was in the last year of high school, but it was questionable whether he would graduate. He had not been to Church in years and was only interested in having a good time.
John Calvin owned a 1938 Buick. It was pretty shabby and rusty when he got it, but he worked hard sanding off the rust and cleaning it up. He had much mechanical work to do, but he had a lot of help from his friends. When all the rust had been sanded and the body wiped down, he painted it with a rag and a can of outdoor oil paint.
John Calvin was forming a gang. The car took them to a place of crime they had already chosen, and it carried them away when the mischief was complete. On occasion they would go to a festival in one of the ethnic neighborhoods. One boy would snatch a handbag, pass it off to another gang member who would put it in a shopping bag and walk the other way. The “snatcher” didn’t run away but stood there while all around him were yelling and looking around. Working in pairs, they would only take four purses before leaving and going to some other place where there was a crowd. Back home they took the money from the purses, then put the purses in a burn barrel, poured a cup of fuel oil on them, and burned them .
On other occasions they would all go into a store. All but one would go into the back of the store and create a commotion so as to draw the clerk away from the cash register. The one who was alone and near the register would open the register, grab the money and stroll out of the store. If anything, such as someone entering the store, would hinder him from opening the register and taking the money without being observed, he left the store. When he left the store, whether with the money or without it, that was the signal to stop the commotion and leave the store.
There were a half dozen or more other well planned schemes used by these thieves.  Since they were petty thefts and did not follow the same pattern each time, they did not draw much attention from the police.
In January most of the men in Armistead Gardens had been furloughed since mid-December and did not expect to be called back to work until March. The fuel oil barrels were empty and nearly every house was damp and chilly. As usual the oil barrels of the Freemasons, including Mr. Fitch and most of the other elders, were filled up by some oil company that usually did not service Armistead Gardens customers.
John decided to find a way to thumb his nose at the Church and the Freemasons. It was time for a Robbing Hood escapade. He took the members of his gang to several fuel oil companies and had them observe the daily routine. They noted that the trucks’ oil tanks were filled at the end of each day. The next day they scouted several other companies. They then waited for Sunday to carry out a carefully planned oil heist.
They found two oil companies whose trucks were not kept inside chain link fences. In the early hours of a Sabbath morning they went to these two companies, hot-wired several trucks at each location and drove them to Armistead Gardens. Each truck took one of the streets in the old section and went down the street filling every oil drum on the street. If anyone awoke and asked questions, they were told the oil was a gift from the Salvation Army. The trucks all finished their benevolence runs about the same time.
When the people arrived at the Presbyterian Church for Sunday School there was a lot of fussing. There was no place to park. Six fuel oil trucks were parked on the street in front and along the side of the church.
 About the time that church was over, the street was jammed with police cars and pickup trucks bearing the same logos as the oil trucks parked around the Church. The police dusted the trucks for fingerprints. There were none since John’s men had all worn work gloves, just like all the legitimate drivers of these trucks. It was mid-afternoon before drivers were found and the trucks were returned to where they belonged.
There were many homes in the old section of Armistead Gardens warm as toast in the following weeks thanks to the Robbing Hood merry men.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER FOUR


The chapters which are numerical are factual. The chapters which are alphabetical are fiction, though in some instances the fiction modestly drapes what is factual. I will post one chapter a week, alternating factual and fiction.

The main thoroughfare in the new section was Wright Avenue. On the eastern end of Wright Avenue there was a large plot of land. One corner of it was designated for the rental and maintenance office buildings. About half of it was designated for a school. By the time my little brother started school there was an Armistead Gardens Elementary School.
About the same time the school building was begun, the Presbyterian Church gained the right to build a church on the ground which was designated for a church. Potomac Presbytery donated money for the building as did Glenn L. Martin, Bethlehem Steel, and the American Stores (which was owned by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians). Of course, the people of the church had a building fund. I remember the cornerstone laying ceremony. There was a huge crowd there. A Masonic Lodge had charge of the ceremony.
The building was large. A sanctuary that seated 200 people, two Sunday School rooms, a choir room (which was also used as the Session meeting room) and the pastor’s study were on the first floor. In the basement there were a fellowship hall which had a stage with curtains, a kitchen, and three additional Sunday School rooms. The building was made of concrete blocks with stucco on the outside and plastered inside walls. The sanctuary was Colonial style painted white with red maple trim. The chancel was divided with a pulpit on one side and a lectern on the other.
It was a very active church. The sanctuary was full every Sunday morning. At least once a year the church had a week of evangelistic services. During that week, members of the church would go out into the various streets in the project going door to door inviting the residents to come to the meetings. Several times, when I was in my teens, I was invited to visit homes with the evangelist.
In addition to the Sunday School, there were youth groups, an evening service, and a midweek prayer and Bible Study meeting. I joined the church when I was 12 years old. For young persons to join the church, they attended classes on the Westminster Shorter Catechism conducted by the pastor. After a year of classes, they were examined by the Session. An elder could ask a young person anything, but they mostly asked questions from the Catechism. The next Sunday the young people were asked the questions for membership from the Book of Order and then were admitted as members of the church. Those who had not been baptized as infants were baptized.
During the summer, there were tent meetings in the suburbs of Baltimore. Our boys’ Sunday School teacher, Mr. Loudermilk, would sometimes take several of us boys and his son to a tent meeting. It was a different type of service and a different form of preaching than what we were used to in the Presbyterian Church.
When we started going to church in the community building the minister was Rev. Charles Browning. He was a mild-mannered person. I don’t think he was married.
While the church was still in the community building, the church acquired a parish visitor, Miss Hazel Himes. Her mother lived with her. My parents did not attend church, but they always made sure that we children attended Sunday School. After the services moved into the new church building, my sister and I began attending the morning worship services also.
Miss Himes was from Pennsylvania and was not a Presbyterian. She was a United Brethren. My mother was United Brethren. When we lived in Elkins we were sent to the Presbyterian Sunday School one Sunday, then the United Brethren Sunday School the next Sunday. The United Brethren won out on baptism. My sister and I were baptized in the United Brethren Church. When World War 2 broke out, the church changed its services from German to English. The elderly former pastor who had preached in German sat in one of the pulpit chairs in every service. He still performed the baptisms in German.
In the spring and summer Dad did a lot to fix up the outside of the house. One thing he did every year was build a lattice work across about half of the house. It had a lot of strings running up to the roof. He would plant castor beans. He had to cut into each one or it wouldn’t sprout. They came up quickly and grew rapidly. Soon there was a blanket of leaves stretching from the ground to the roof. In the hot Baltimore summers they did a lot to keep the house cooler.
Mom planted flowers. She planted hollyhocks on either side of the front door. After they bloomed, Beverly and her friends often amused themselves making dolls from the buds and the blooms. On the sidewalk leading to the street Mom planted a border of rose moss every year. Rose moss is a short plant with spike-like leaves and delicate flowers of many colors.
Baltimore was tearing down old row houses in a slum clearance endeavor. The bricks from these demolished houses were soon in demand for new houses. When these bricks of many hues, some blackened from fire or colored from painted graffiti were mixed up they made an attractive brick wall of many hues and colors.
Across Pulaski Highway on vacant lots beside and behind the row of shops, the unsalable refuse of these demolitions was being dumped. My father began taking me over there to retrieve the lath that was discarded. Lath from old houses is very rough wood about an inch wide and ¼ inch thick. We kept hauling the lath to our yard until there were piles of it.
Dad then began building a fence with posts about every six feet and runners. Then he began cutting pickets from pieces of lath. Each piece was pointed on top. The work of sawing hundreds of pickets is hard for me to understand as an adult. Once he began sawing, the task of salvaging lath fell upon me. I had to hustle to keep up with him. I started work after school. He had already worked eight hours at a lathe before he started sawing.
Dad not only built a picket fence but a gate and an archway. We couldn’t afford paint for the fence, so Dad bought a bag of lime. Like Tom  Sawyer I whitewashed the fence. The lath was thirsty after decades holding up plaster in the old houses. Sometimes it took two coats of whitewash before it was white.
My father’s father loved roses. He had well over a hundred bushes in his back yard. He would take cuttings from rose bushes he liked, put the cutting in sand with a canning jar over it. In about a month he could plant it in the yard. Dad learned a lot about roses from his father. After we had a fence, he planted a half dozen or more rose bushes which he also grew from cuttings.
Dad also made some Adirondack lawn chairs from wood he salvaged. For several years he made lawn ornaments – a little girl watering flowers, a momma duck with ducklings trailing behind her, etc. He would cut out the figures and paint the background color. Then Mom painted in the detail.
My sister took tap dancing lessons at the Fox Mansion. She made a number of good friends of girls who lived in our neighborhood. Some of them she continues to have as friends seventy years later.
I wanted to join the Cub Scouts. My father decided that I would have to memorize the multiplication table before he would sign the paper. I walked all over Armistead Gardens holding a composition notebook in front of me. It had the multiplication table printed on the back. I would think I had memorized it perfectly. He would ask me several problems, I’d make a mistake and have to go back to memorizing. When I had memorized the table perfectly, he signed the papers for me to join the Cub Scouts. I don’t remember anything from the Cub Scouts, but knowing the answer to the multiplication of two numbers, and knowing the factors in a large sum made algebra and trigonometry so much easier for me than for most of my fellow students.