Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns
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Thursday, December 7, 2006

What was to do in Dundalk

Being a young man or a young women in Dundalk must have been a fine time. There was plenty to do if you were over twenty-one. There were night clubs all around town but none in town. There was plenty of drinking to be sure but dancing was really what it was all about. This was the time of the big band and every night club in the Dundalk area of any size had a six to nine piece band. Some smaller places had a three piece group. Even the smallest joint in town had a piano and a player. There was good music and large crowds at Dovies night club at the corner of Stansbury and Merritt Avenue. John Deluca's Place in St Helena packed them in. Down Dundalk Ave. was Peanut Hall. Peanuts were free and the shells went on the floor till they were several inches thick. Right around the corner from there was the Woodland Inn,. Friday, Saturday and Wednesday nights were all a big time. When people went out back then, they were dressed to the nines as the saying goes.

A fellow would say “What'ya wanna do tonight baby,” and the answer was sure to be “Lets go dancing.”

You could drive out to Josenhans corner in Essex and they had free steamed crabs all you could eat. All you had to do was buy beer. Crabs were so cheap you couldn't buy less than a bushel I think about 25 cents was the price.
So getting back to Dundalk, what did us little kids do? Well out on Robinwood Rd. we often walked to Dundalk with our mothers, down Midland Rd. to Sollers Point Rd. and across the Railroad tracks to Dunman Way, past Dundalk Elementary and the junior high school on Play field St., on across the park, past the Bandstand and over to the Community Department Store.

Mr. Sax the owner was a wise man. He knew the taste of most of his customers. I remember him saying to my Mom, “Mrs. Pollard, look at the sewing in that dress I know that won't measure up to your needs.” “Now look at this it's the kind of thing you like and look how it is stitched.”

He would open the dress so the seems could be seen. My mother would touch the threads and say, “Yes, I believe your right Mr Sax, but the price....”

“Mrs. Pollard, consider this, I and some other shop owners in the city bought a case of these so you won't have to walk down the street and see yourself coming.” 'There is only one of these in Dundalk and because we bought a case, I can let you have it at $ 2.39.'

She could squeeze a dollar until the Eagle hollered but sometimes she bought it.

About all my clothes came from there as well as my “Poll Parrot” shoes. When after a time they were relegated to being play shoes my father would rivet harness leather on the toes. Because I was prone to kicking tin cans as I walked and would ruin my shoes in a short time.

If my father needed a pair of pants or a shirt we all went in the car. Sometimes he and I would go off and leave the women, He would go into Lillac's Pharmacy to buy cigarettes they sold them loose two for a penny. Dad would buy three. He made them last, he would take a few puffs and butt it sticking it in his shirt pocket. His shirt pockets were all black inside showing through where the ashes had stained the inside. He also kept a corn cob pipe at work and he would smoke the buts in that.

Dr. Lillac always had a older teenage girl or boy working at the soda fountain. If the father or mother of a house hold came in to buy at the fountain he always came out to talk. Teenage boys and girls setting in the booths drank Vanilla, Chocolate, or phosphate Cokes. Mr. Lillac liked talking to the kids and would lean against the booths like a kid while talking. Whether he was friendly or not the kids behaved in his store.
Sometimes Dad would give me a few pennies to go to McKevers delicatessen where I could get two pieces of candy for a penny. Then I'd put another penny on the counter and fish around in the pickle barrel for the biggest pickle I could find. It's hard to say how many hairy arms had been in that barrel up to the elbow in saltbrine, before all the pickles were gone? I saved the other penny to put toward a “Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring” even though I couldn't spell yet. While I was at McKevers, Dad would be in Sheff's Stag Bar having a beer.
My brother Charlie almost never went with us. He was in high school and I'm sure was loathe to be seen with his Mother and Father. Besides he was an ice man and that kept him plenty busy in the summer. They also moved furniture during the winter using the ice trucks to haul it around. A fellow could build up a muscle or two doing that.
We always went to Knoop's Hardware and Dad would buy some needed thing. I liked that place. Mr. Knoop bought nails that us kids pulled out of boards and straightened with a hammer and then he resold them at half the price of new ones. My first batch of nails was rejected by Mr Knoop. I took them home and worked on them some more. He found them strait enough to sell and I had a nickel. That was a pretty fair income for a boy that hadn't even started to school yet. The boy that could get his nails straightest had a certain amount of respect from the rest of us. A few were darn near perfect. I think they might have had a roller to straighten them with.
There were a lot of other store's there along Shipping Place. There was a bank, a shoe shop, a couple dress shops and the Strand Bakery. The Police Station was there along with the Fire Department.. The place got to be a local hangout and there were a few cracks made toward women shoppers passing by that started a scandal. Somehow it was all worked out to everybody's satisfaction and life went on.
The big thing in town was the Strand Theater and it was the only one for a long time. Sunday night with standing room only the balcony and side isles full the temperature would skyrocket. Air conditioning had yet to arrive.