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.