Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns
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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Building Houses the Hard Way

This is the story of one family that came to Dundalk in 1932 To me it seems inconceivable that they would undertake building a home with Mr. Pollard only having two days a week of work at his regular job. He was able to pay the rent for the house they lived in by doing carpentry work on the houses in the group of houses where they lived on Parnell ave.. They were not the only ones that built homes around Dundalk under these circumstances. There are many families that could tell the same story. I guess if you have five days a week off from work you might as well build a house especially if you can find free materials and your willing to learn how.

Fred took his family to Baltimore from Waycross Ga. where he went to work for Bethlehem Steel Co. at Sparrows Point. He was a machinist and he worked at maintaining rail cars and steam locomotives for the steel co. They lived in a company house close to blast furnaces and railroad tracks running in every direction. Soot settled onto and into every thing they owned cloths soon took on a rusty look. There was constant noise day and night.

The company paid off in chits that had to be spent in the company store or cashed in at the company bank for less than face value. The rent was deducted from his pay. They could hardly wait to get away from there and in less than a year he landed a very good job with Western Electric in Baltimore.

They rented a house in a little Italian immigrant neighbor hood on the edge of Baltimore named St. Helena. The rent was cheap and they were able to save a little money. The depression struck and Fred lived in fear of loosing his job. With a little savings and by cashing in an insurance policy, they bought an acre of land near the little town of Dudalk across the streetcar tracks on Robinwood Rd. Dad was one of the lucky ones he was able to work one or two days a week during the worst of it.

There was a grocery store near that was owned by a Jewish couple by the name of Karsh. Fred said they would not have been nearly so well of had Mr. Karsh not extended him credit. Fred told me once when he worried over the amount of money he was beginning to owe he went to talk to the man. and He said, Mr. Karsh told him not to worry that the depression would not last forever. Dad said he paid interest on the money but not an unreasonable amount and that had it been double he would have had to pay it. The Pollards had a lot of respect for the Karshes and they bought groceries from them until long after the war when the couple retired and move away. They were a very small store and Mrs Pollard could have bought groceries a lot cheaper at the A&P store, but they stayed loyal.

Dundalk parachutist dies 1939

Dundalk aside for a moment: I got a chimney on the wood stove in my boat shed yesterday. So when there is six inches of snow on the ground I will be snug and warm as I skive shavings off of one boat part or another. Come spring I hope to be able to go for a sail in my 20 ft canoe yawl, Kate II on the bay. I started building her over a year ago and she now looks like a boat. If there is anything better than the smell of fresh cut boat frames and the scrap wood burning in a stove, its the smell of salt air blowing off a Chesapeake salt marsh. Heaven's Ta Betsy living is sweet.

Now; Back to Dundalk.

Sometime in the late 30's they moved the parade to Liberty Parkway and the parade became a huge production. People came from Baltimore to come to the event. It was a big thing and a lot of it was because of how the people felt about their country back then . They were patriotic, the stars and stripes were truly sacred. A flag burning?

Now that would have been something to see. A guy dumb enough to do that would have found himself bounced all the way to Eastern avenue.

After the parade there was a big time to be had. There was marching competition on the school grounds by bands from all over the state. All day long there were double header baseball games, tennis tournaments and jump rope contests. Fire works and hot dog stands all over the place. We all wanted firecrackers but it was hard to decide on them above ice cream. Hendlers must have had a dozen Pink ice cream trucks in Dundalk each with its cherubs setting on it's corners.

Seems like everyone joined into the festivities. Three legged races by married couples, sisters and brothers girlfriends and boyfriends. There were fifty yard dashes and mile runs around the 1/8 mile clay track that was on the school grounds. At about age eight I won a bronze metal for the fifty yard dash. Must have meant a lot to me, sixty four years later I still have it. Lost about everything else from back then but hung onto that metal.

A big wood pavilion was set up and a band played dance music all afternoon and evening until midnight and on some years way beyond. People danced their legs off.

There were always stunt planes over the grounds and we all stood looking up ooh, and awing. One year there was to be a parachutist jump from a plane. He jumped with fan fare and grand announcements and fell straight to the ground. He hit the ground flat, with a sickening bounce. He hit right in the middle of hundreds of people who rushed their children away..

Now here is the odd thing about this happening, our next door neighbor was telling me about it years later when I was still a kid. Since then I have been told it never happened. So, now days, I'm not so sure I didn't picture it happening when I was told about it and all these years later, that is what I remember. Up until about twenty years ago I would have argued all day long that it happened. If any one knows, let me know.

One year the boys scouts had their jamboree there on the grounds. There was the usual bond fire only this year the logs were piled thirty feet high. There were hundreds of boys scouts and maybe two thousand spectators and we all joined into a sing along We sang patriotic songs and some sentimental old favorites. My mother pointed out that the fire light was reflecting off of many tear filled eyes across the fire light.

The fire works started and that was the last event of the evening except for the dancing and that went on till way late at night.

The summer of 1942 the forth was mixed with sadness and a huge patriotism. Our older brothers had gone into the service. Some were in training and many were on their way across oceans. High school kids were chomping at the bit to join up and parents knew it. No person there that year wasn't sure that we weren't standing in the next years battle ground. People were scared but they were also made as hell and spoiling for a fight.

Our German neighbors were afraid to attend. Some were certain that they would be thrown into concentration camps.

Unlike today and the last few wars when we are fighting people we who were not our traditional enemies there was a lot of old hatred for Germany and it wasn't that old. We fought Prussian troops in 1776. World war one had only been over twenty years. We hated the Germans. Baltimore was full of Amputees, blind and gassed veterans. They set on every street corner with their hats out for money. I don't know about others but my parents seldom passed one with out leaving at least some money. My father cursed the Germans every time and I'm sure the feelings were the same in Germany. Oddly he did not blame the German immigrants that we knew and was very good friends with some and considered them highly honorable people.

One good friend, a German either signed over his property to my father or he wanted to. My father was to hold it until after the war. Either way it was drastic That's how sure he was that he would be sent to a concentration camp and his property confiscated. Considering what happened to the Japanese it could have happened.