Tuesday, June 12, 2018

ARMISTEAD GARDENS - CHAPTER ELEVEN


When I went to Patterson Park High School, I was given an IQ test and I scored very high on it. I don’t remember the score but when the guidance counselor told me what it was, she also lectured me on how a high IQ meant nothing unless it was accompanied with hard work. She took the credits that I had from Poly and worked out a schedule of courses so that I could begin the eleventh grade instead of going into the second semester of the tenth grade.
Patterson Park High School was located a block from Patterson Park which was a large park that had been a military fort during the War of 1812. The grassy slopes going down into the park had once been fortifications. The school itself was enclosed on all four sides by city streets. The playground was the roof of the building enclosed by chain-link fence topped by barbed wire. During the year that I was there, a boy scaled the fence and leaped to his death on the sidewalk below. I don’t remember how many floors there were to the building, but it seemed like every class change there were flights of steps to climb.
The teachers were all interesting and stimulating. I had both physics and biology. The physics teacher was a man who wore black horn rimmed glasses and looked like an actor who played in comedy films. He would take a mouthful of helium and talk with a squeaky voice, hold a very high voltage wire so that his hair stood out straight. All the time he was teaching principles of physics. It was impossible not to learn whatever lesson he was teaching that day.
His wife taught biology. She had long blonde hair, was smartly dressed and was absolutely beautiful. We had lab tables and a lab partner. Whether it was leaves, seeds, flowers, frogs or seeds the teaching was always hands on. The reading and writing was done at home with lots of homework. In class we had a lab notebook in which we had to draw as well as take notes about what we were handling.
Our math teacher was old. Her hair was gray and she was bald at the crown of her head. I learned more math from her in one year than I would have believed was possible. On the face of it, I was repeating what I had in the ninth grade at Poly. She opened my understanding to what I thought I already knew. There was one girl who was very bright in math. The teacher had her come to the board and show the class how she had worked a problem. The girl’s last name sounded familiar. Then I realized it was on the trucks that came to Armistead Gardens with fuel oil. I found out that her father owned the company.
Several blocks from Patterson was Haussner’s, a unique restaurant with a German cuisine. All around the dining room, every wall from the wainscoting to the ceiling there were oil paintings mounted so close together that there was no wall showing. In the bar the wall which the customers faced was covered solidly with nude paintings. The bar sold postcard replicas of the paintings for 79 cents.
Haussner’s was an emblem of the influence of German culture in Baltimore. In school, if the teacher was of German upbringing, the class had to remain standing until the teacher entered the room, stood behind his/her desk and motioned for the class to be seated.
In downtown Baltimore there was a very large building with an imposing fa├žade. Until about 1940 there was a giant Nazi flag draped over the entrance. The German Bundt held rallies there until it was disbanded by the government. When I was courting Lorraine I met her for lunch several times and we ate in a marvelous German restaurant in the basement of that building which was close to the building where Lorraine worked.
I was still going to Youth For Christ once a month. At one of the rallies the speaker challenged us to carry our Bible on the top of our books at school. I started doing that. At first I thought I would be made fun of, but I wasn’t. The other young people accepted that it was part of who I was. It was so much different going to Patterson. I really enjoyed going to school.
At Baltimore School of the Bible I heard about Port Mission. I started going there on Sunday afternoon and evenings. My parents never did like it because I was no longer going with the family of Sunday drives or out to Darld and Ginny’s.
At Port Mission we went out on street meetings in the afternoon until the weather turned cold. We went to inner city neighborhoods. We would go to the same location for six Sundays in a row, then another location for another six weeks. When we reached a location we mounted a loudspeaker on top the car and began by singing a couple hymns. Then we had special music. The young ladirs would round up the children in the neighborhood and sit them in groups of about six or eight on doorsteps.
One of the young men would come to the microphone and begin preaching a Gospel message. The rest of the young men would go through the neighborhood placing a Gospel tract under each door. The girls would teach a short Bible story for which they had a picture card for each of the children. Then they had a Bible memory verse shortened to five words. They called these “finger verses” and taught the children to memorize them using a finger for each word. If they had time they taught the children a song. As the preacher was concluding his message, he gave an invitation for anyone to accept Christ as Savior. Then he offered a Gospel of John for anyone. The young men were back from distributing tracts and they carried a Gospel to anyone who signaled that they wanted one. The service concluded with the girls bringing the children to the microphone to recite the verse they had learned and sometime sing the song they learned.
In the winter there was Sunday School. I was in the class with high school, college and career age young people. Our teacher was Mr. Herman Wollenweber. There were about twenty in the class and we sat in a giant circle. There were many denominations represented. At least half were Presbyterians. Mr. Wollenweber was Lutheran. There were Evangelical & Reformed, Baptists. One was a Grace Brethren. We had some spirited discussions.
After Sunday School there was a supper prepared the ladies. It was always delicious. While we were on street meetings or Sunday School, several of the men were visiting the ships in the harbor. They took rolls of magazines which they distributed to the merchant sailors. Most of the sailors were foreign and not many could speak English very well. The magazines in the rolls were the sort with lots of pictures. The men would invite any of the seamen who would like to come back to the Mission for supper. They would bring them into the supper and invite them to stay for the evening service.