Thursday, February 22, 2018


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.   

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