Moss the Mom (part two)

Because Baltimore was a Port City (not so much anymore because it takes so long to navigate down the long Bay to the port area) there was diversity.  There were immigrants from many countries and curiously enough other States as well.  Baltimore was a place one could get work. The neighborhood was filled with children of all ages.

Sounds emitted from each of all those homes that were unique and part of my milieu.  It is still comforting to remember those sounds. There was the Jewish home from which floated  the romantic and yes, poignant  melodic sounds that only a violin can produce.  Then the Irish home out of which came the mesmerizing clarity of the beautiful girl who sang in the Coloratura range and quality.  She had a younger brother whom your mom dated for a while.  He was an extraordinary pianist.  I used to watch from across the street through the window  where their piano was placed.   The movement of his arms  gave clues to the tempo of whatever he was playing. The Italian family used the entire basement for their kitchen.  The sound from this house was  loud and quite expressive.  They, the Italians, always gave me huge navel oranges.

The German neighbors next door were kind but strict and insisted that we all do our part in keeping the white marble steps lily white.  White marble steps have been the hall mark of Baltimore for many years.  I do not know what that neighborhood is like now.  At night, most of the neighbors sat on those steps at dusk and beyond to….to what?…just .to be, to socialize, to watch the children playing tag as they swung around the lamp posts with one arm.  It was my neighborhood. from North Avenue to Fells Point..

Ah! but there were sub neighborhoods close enough to touch..  Let me explain what it looked like.  On the front streets, and there were many fine streets in those days lived the white people.  No deviation (while in itself it was a moral deviation).  It was the order of the day in the 30’s and 40’s.  Just across the street from our house was a narrow street.  Behind our house from our fenced in back yard was another narrow street.  These were the streets  where  (we used the word colored people then) lived.  While we were on a N S Street , these small streets were E W. so that we had a full view down those streets.

Across the street and on the corner, the Zoot Suiters, would come out  with pinned stripe suites and gold fobs that hung way down that were often twirled.  They, our colored neighbors ,would just and stand, shuffle, laugh  and talk on that corner Summer  nights.   Somehow that was an important image of an era.

My bedroom window was in the back of the house so I could see down that narrow street behind us. I remember the alley cats (yes real cats) sitting on the fences at night.  They would wine and howl so much that I would get the hose from the tub and connect it to the sink and hose those noisy alley cats down to shut them up.  Now, I think of the song “Midnight”  and I cry.

Guess what!  I remember seeing… crap games being played in the alley behind our house.  The fellows, white and black, sat on the ground in a round circle and rolled their dice. That group would enlist a “watcher” to give a warning whistle if they saw a cop coming.  I know this because my brothers told me so and also I witnessed it from my back bedroom window.  So,  black and white lived together with demarcation rules in tact.  Later would come riots.  How did this happen.   I share a bit of social history;  The blacks, and rightly so, would hire what was called, block busters (at least that is what the whites called them).  Certain Realtors would get a financially flawless  black couple who was willing to put themselves in an uncomfortable situation  would be a block buster.  This plan was executed overtime with firm resolve  This worked in breaking up the  white block  Whites were prejudiced and they fled to the suburbs more.  The plan worked.  Soon there were no blacks in the neighborhood. This was a sociological and defining transition. This was moral and civil rights victory for the blacks but not a moral one for the whites.  .  Did anyone change their values system or their prejudices back then?  Maybe a few did.  That is okay because the blacks got their rights and the bigger houses on the beautiful front street

I always felt safe because my Dad was never afraid.  If Dad had to walk the dog after dark and there was a black mob under the bridge down the street Dad walked the dog (the bridge that President Roosevelt went over in his coffin).  Anyway,  Dad with objections from Mom, put the leash on the dong and walked slowing down the middle of Broadway and continued under the bridge where the large mob of black neighbors opened their ranks for Dad to walk the dog through..  After Dad passed through the mob closed ranks again and Dad wished them a good night.. My Dad, your grandfather was a well read and gentle individual. We simply went to bed with an image to remember for a lifetime.  It made us who we are.

Grade school was a few blocks away.  We always walked, rain or shine.  I remember those Irish Nuns as if it were yesterday. Can you hear their clear Irish brogue saying as they stared with steely gaze, “Don’t get me ire up.”  My brothers always walked me to school and back.  Upon arriving home  Mom had tea and (oh my gosh- what a treat) Tasty -Cakes.  For some reason, those treats simply do not taste the same.  You see taste buds decide about their memories too.

Dad’s income improved and we got Mother back to her  beloved suburbs.  It was from these suburbs that Mom and I donned the white gloves and nifty dresses to take the trolley to downtown Baltimore where so many up-scale department stores where. one could get lost for an entire day.  Exposure to life is a grand thing.


to be con’t


~ by mosswood on June 27, 2012.

One Response to “Moss the Mom (part two)”

  1. looking forward to “to be con’t”

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