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.