Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun Yarns
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

To Buy or not to Buy

My father, Charles Fredrick Pollard, known to all as Fred, had in the late fall of 1947gone down to the Local Chrysler- Plymouth dealer to find out why he had not received his new Plymouth. He had placed his name on a list for a new car, which was what had to be done at the time. After waiting almost a year for a car that was to be delivered with temporary wooden bumpers, as there was no chrome anywhere to be had, he had grown tired of seeing other names move ahead of his on the list.
We stood admiring the brand new Plymouth that set in the middle of the show room floor.

Sure is shiny,” I said.
This was the second year that they built automobiles after World War Two. The previous year they were the same as the 1942 models which were the last ones built at the start of the war. These new models were radical in design and seen by all as the way of the future and they really were shiny.

When, after a lot of laughing back patting and two handed hand shaking a very happy customer left the sales desk, my father and I walked over and sat down across the desk from the dealerships owner.
“Hello, Mr. Eiler,” my father said somewhat stiffly.
“Hi, Fred. Still working on the house?” he asked as the two men shook hands.
“No, it’s about finished unless Ruby comes up with something she wants to change. But I’m not here to talk about my house, or my wife. I’m here about that new car I ordered nearly a year ago now.”
Mr. Eiler, owner of the dealership and friend of many years, sat across his desk with a white handkerchief clenched between his teeth. The man suffered from hay fever and used the handkerchief as a filter to breath through. With watery eyes, he studied my father intently.
Finally he said, almost under his breath, “Fred, I know that you don’t work in the automobile industry so I’m sure you don’t know. It’s not good enough to just put your name on a list and put up a little money. That’s just not the way automobiles are bought today. With the war over and everyone wanting a new car there aren’t enough to go around. The government sets the price on the new cars, as I’m sure you know. The trouble is, the price is so low it’s hard to make any money. So everybody in the business is taking a few hundred dollars as incentive to expedite your new vehicle’s delivery. For three hundred dollars I can get your name to the head of the list.”
I sat in awe, studying the glistening highlights on that shiny showroom model between myself and the huge front window.
My father stood up silently, with a look of complete disbelief.

Are you telling me, Chris, that the good faith money I put up and the order I placed only entitles me to stand at the back of the line indefinitely? I shove three hundred dollars under the table you’ll move my name up on the list and then order a car for me? I’ll then have the privilege of waiting for it to come in? Seems kind of like paying ten cents to stand in line at a nickel crapper house. Now I see why you breath through that handkerchief. The air you do business in could leave a bad taste in your mouth. Couldn’t it?”

I suppose the sun went behind a cloud because I was sure the glistening highlights had disappeared off that new Plymouth’s sheen.
Well, Fred, I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s just the way things are done now that the war’s over,” he said shaking his head side to side as though denying his own words.
“Ok, Chris. The war’s over all right and that’s not all that’s over. I’ve bought near about all my gas from you and you’ve done all my automobile work that I didn’t do myself from the day you opened your doors here. Don’t ever expect to see me come through those doors again,” he said, holding his hand out for the return of his money.
“Fred, wait a minute. Don’t be that way. This is the only way I can make any money on these cars. Set your self down and lets talk about this,” he said. He was visibly shaken, he surly did not want to make an enemy of a man so well thought of in the community.
“My money,” Fred Pollard demanded, his eyes steady on the other man unblinking. The two men, now standing, glared at each other as though each expected the other to back down.
I sure hoped it would be my father.
I knew him as a man who was kind and considerate of others feelings and whole-heartedly lived his life by the golden rule. I had never seen this hard angry side of him.
I wondered if paint had chrome in it. Maybe that’s why that new showroom model didn’t have any shine they probably didn’t have any chromium to put in the paint.
In a moment Mr.Eiler took his handkerchief out of his mouth as he returned with my dad’s money and said, “Fred, I feel bad about all this and I want to make it right. Tell you what I’ll do, I’ll let you have my show room model , that gray one right there. It has a couple things on it you didn’t order but I’ll throw them in anyway. It won’t cost you a cent more just so there won’t be any hard feelings. Now how’s that.”
Suddenly that car glistened like a diamond star in the black of night.. I started for our new car but was grabbed by the shoulder and and held still.

Chris,” Fred said, ”I would sorely hate to see you loose money by selling me that car. Besides that it wouldn’t hardly be fair to move my name to the front of the list after all those folks paid three hundred dollars to be first. With fifty people all first, you shouldn’t have any problem finding someone to buy that pretty new car. I’ll take my money now.”
Will a check be all right?” Mr. Eiler asked.
Did I give you a Check?” Fred asked. “No,” he said answering his own question
Cash will be fine.”
I sat slouched in my seat staring past the automobile at the rivulets of rain running down the showroom window. Surly so close after the war they didn’t have any paint either; because that new rattletrap was coated in the dullest of gray primer. Who would want such an ugly thing?
Fred Pollard never owned a new car that I remember, although my mother said he had a new model T Ford when they were young.

I’ll beat your brown if that isn’t a shame. He wants one, too,” my mother said, "and he ought to have it.”
I sure can’t understand any of this. Dad wants a car, Mr. Eiler wants him to have one, that’s for sure, and mom wants him to have one too. And there’s nobody wants him to have one more’n me. Shoot, I’ll bet everybody in the family wants him to have one. Why not?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Of Chainsaws and little women: read the oldest posts first

Needed a little break from Dundalkers so here's a little story to reveal my weakness where the manly power of noise gasoline and smoke are concerned

    In my yard stands a majestic old pecan tree. She , and I say she
because she bears pecans and I'm told the male tree doesn't, spreads out
over a large part of our yard. Much taller than our two story house her
branches a foot in diameter extend 50 feet, each weighing a least ton when
laden with leaves and even more when bearing nuts.
The other night a storm came through and one of those branches
broke at the trunk and hung there right over top my pickup truck.
I moved the truck holding my breath and then made a trip to Walmart
to buy a chainsaw figuring this will not be the last branch to come
down and the wood needs to be cut up and the mess cleared away.
I was standing in the store studying the different chainsaws.
A little old lady with a blue vest on walked over and said,
"That's the one you ought to have," pointing to an electric chainsaw.
"My husband has one and he loves it," she said. "Starts every time,
doesn't stink, its quiet and so light you can attach it to a pole and reach
way up in the tree to prune it, and Cheap too!" Thinking all this
certainly sounded reasonable. I picked up the little electric chainsaw
and put it in my shopping cart.
Just then a manager type walked up and said, "This sir is what you need,big,
engine long blade anti kick back feature. Now that saw will do a mans
work." I looked at the little lady she turned her head to side and winked
at me.
Then I drew myself up to the full length of my suspenders and said,
“I think not sir," my heart sinking, as I shook the little plastic saw
with my hand. "This one will do just fine. It's quiet, starts every time
and it won't smell up the place."
The man studied me a few seconds and said, "OK but when you chamge
your mind just bring it back and get this one." He looked at me, made a
face and his glasses slid down his nose. Looking over them he turned and
walked away.
I had been dismissed.
I couldn't help feeling a little remorse as I looked longingly at a the
18 inch gasoline saw all painted in camouflage. I would never hear its
angry roar as it tore into the white virgin pecan wood ripping it into pieces
The little old lady, very pretty by the way, Stood watching me and asked, "
You going home and work on that tree young man?"
Young man being the magic word here, at age seventy it does the trick
every time.
"Yes mam”, I answered, perhaps a little dejected and still eyeing the saw
with its powerful gasoline engine.
"I know something about you," she said softly.
" What's that mam?" I questioned, studying this tiny figure standing
squarely in front of me, with increasing dread.
You've got confidence.
"I do?" I asked , now beginning to recognize the true
wisdom confronting me.
"Any man that is willing to use an electric chainsaw in broad
daylight is truly a big man.
I took my saw home and whacked the branches up into fire wood and
the little saw was truly a magical thing. It quietly and efficiently made
short work of the job at hand.
This morning I got up and made my morning walk to the local
restaurant for coffee. I dreaded the howls of laughter and jokes that were
soon to be hurled at me from the somewhat red necky sorts that are my
friends and neighbors I could already hear it.
I Walked in and sat down. The waitress had brought my coffee as I
came in the door. "Good morning honey', " she cooed as she did to
"Been running," someone asked me.
"Nope! why?"
"Your face is red."
We sat pretty much in silence, as is our way. Only an occasional
comment and short answer here and there.
Slowly having finished their coffee each got up and left me setting
alone. I was feeling a little disappointed now. The saw is so quiet
no one had even heard it running. They didn't even know I had a chainsaw.
Then immortal big box words echoed in my ears "If not satisfied
with your purchase for any reason return it for an exchange or your money
I cleaned up and returned the wonderfully quiet and efficient little
saw and bought the heavy, noisy, clumsy and foul smelling, gasoline saw.
I walked proudly toward the cash registers then I saw her, standing in
the isle, that formidable little old sales lady. I slipped down a side isle.
In the most cowardly manner I slinked through ladies longerie and past
the lunch counter heading for the check out counter. All this while
looking over my shoulder half expecting to see a smidgen of a woman come
charging out from behind some display. She would surely
drag me and my beloved prize back to the tool department.
After paying what was due at the check out I emerged
from the swinging doors to safty, freedom and glee at having escaped.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

A Funeral in Dundalk Of Sorts

I was planning on starting a story here but realized I had not told these little pieces of history so I'll get these out of the way first. Picture this as you read it.

Don't know the years for sure but I think it was 1942. There was an article in The Baltimore news post that there would be a train coming through Baltimore to Sparrows point. There would be a brand new diesel locomotive pulling a line of old steam engines to be scrapped for the war effort. They were to be cut apart and melted down. The implication was that it was the end of the era of steam. There was a lot of sentiment attached to these old engines. The numbers of each was listed in the article and one of them was an engine that had run down Dundalk avenue early on an had run the line through Fort Holabird, Dundalk ,across Sollers Point Road and down across the Railroad bridge on Bear creek to Bethlehem Steel Co. for many years.

My father said, “That must be old number 404 (I think that was the number) You could tell her apart from the other engines from the sound of her driving rods clanking. That's a shame she has been running these lines for 30 years. they only built a few of those engines so she is almost one of a kind. We have to go and watch tomorrow. When those old engines all are gone there won't be any more because they will never build them again.

The Next day we went to the rail crossing at Sollers point road to wait.. Almost everyone in our neighborhood was there. A hundred more stood on the other side of the tracks. Most lived along Dunmanway, Yorkway and Admiral boulevard I suspect . We all stood and waited and in about an hour we saw the trains headlight way off in the distance coming slowly about 15 miles per hour as befitted a funeral prepossession. By the time it got to the intersection there was probably 500 people standing and watching. Cars were backed up in all directions and people got out and walked to the tracks.

When the procession got close, it was plain to see the numbers , bells and all the brass gear had been removed and the windows, number boards and across the cow catchers was covered with Black crepe.. The driving rods had been removed so the engines rolled along in complete silence except for the noisy clatter of the diesel Engine.

The whole crowd stood in silence, and no one and I mean no one speaking at all. There was very few dry eyes in the bunch. At the time it all seemed quite natural that people would feel that way. Today it seems strange, we are now in a time when the only thing we have that lasts long enough to become attached to is buildings and Aircraft carriers. Maybe a little bit the family car.

The newspapers said that, “Thousands had gathered along the route to watch the procession.”

I guess for years after I heard and said myself, “I sure do miss the sound of those old steam locomotives.” I also remember some women saying, “Well I don't miss'em with all that soot they belched out all over my clean cloths.”

About two years later there was a similar kind of thing on the number twenty six street car line up on Dundalk Ave.. It again, was in the newspapers that the Black Maria would be coming through Dundalk The Black Maria was a black streetcar that belonged to Bethlehem Steel co. I was a funeral streetcar that hadn't been used in a lot of years. It was a funeral hearse used by Sparrows Point residents to carry the funeral with coffin and corpse to the grave yard. Way back the family rode with the coffin and then returned to Sparrows point after the funeral. I guess there was no Graveyard in Sparrows Point. The old streetcar had been sold to the Baltimore Transit co and was on it's way to the cow barn as it was called in Highland town. The cow barn was where they worked on the cars when they broke down.

My sister and I and a lot of other people who had the same morbid curiosity had, stood waiting for the streetcar. When it came up the tracks there was a sudden murmur among the crowd. My sister broke out crying. One lady screamed out,”Oh My god Jesus,” spun on one heel and ran away. The black car was again dressed in black crepe. I don't remember being frightened of it and I sure did think it was neat.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Billy Mitchell: Read oldest posts first

Hey folks here's a twist, I got an e-mail from a fellow that says that the picture of the guy standing beside the By Plane is the World War I Hero and father of the air force, Billy Mitchell. That's the picture on the post " Goin' over Dundalk posted December 5th. He said Mitchell landed at Logan field in Dundalk back in the 30's. I went to the web site below where there is a picture and I guess It could be the same Person. I doubt though the timing and the age of the guy in the picture is right to have been Billy Mitchell. Who Knows? Go take a look.


Monday, January 1, 2007

Some Dundalk Happenings

There were some things that occurred around Dundalk and east Baltimore when I was growing up. I'll talk about them a little and then Tuesday or Wednesday we will start a book. I have about one Paragraph written and we'll make up the rest from there. I have no Idea what I'll write after that paragraph. Thats the way I usually write. Some say it takes courage to do that well maybe but all thats lost is a little time if nothing comes of it. Besides I have put away the start of a story and the story came to me a year later, funny thing is these are some of the better things I've written.

One year Standard Oil company burned down. There was a huge column of smoke and it headed to Dundalk. Every one sat out on their porches, people wondered all over town and watched. There were some who stayed out most of the night. We were all to far away from the fire for there to be but so much excitement, but every now and then one of those huge storage tanks would go off and flames would shoot high in the sky and you could hear and feel the explosion. One fellow in Dundalk decided to drive in town to see the fire. That was a mistake the because fire department for one reason or another commandeered his car. They used it for whatever purpose and parked it on Conklin Street in Highland town.. He couldn't find it for several days and the fire department didn't know anything about it. Boy O Boy did he take a kidding.

My Brother took a young lady out on a date and they were riding along when they started listening to War of the Worlds on the radio. It Scared the daylights out of both of them and he headed for her house. When they got there he shoved her through the front door and took off for home. He had run his model A ford coupe so hard the engine wouldn't shut off and it set in the driveway with the exhaust pipe glowing the engine popping and crackling but running.. We were listening to Charlie Mc Carthy on the radio and my brother burst through the front door and started telling my father about it. Dad said to my mother grab us some cloths where going to new Jersey to see this. Charlie and my father headed for the car and my mother caught them as they were getting ready to pull out of the Driveway and told them there was announcement on the radio that it was a fiction story. Well the story got out around Dundalk and my brother was Nick named Buck Rodgers and was forever after called Buck.

Wally Stevens beat up five Scottish seamen one night in the middle of the streetcar tracks on Dundalk avenue and the Red rocket had to wait until he finished.

Otts Mc Clelland built a 42 ft cabin cruiser in his back yard and hauled it to Owens yacht company and they put it in the water for him.

My father built an Air breathing jet engine in 1940 when there weren't any, he hung it under the floor timbers of the house aimed it out an open basement window and fired it up. It made such a racket the neighbors all came running and they had to stamp the burning grass out. They liked it so much they asked him to do it again and he did. They all walked away shaking their heads and one said that Fred Pollard is crazy, What the heck good is a thing like that? Fred took his drawings to Washington to show to the Government. They told him what he was messing with was a secret. They took his drawings and his working model and then investigated him. The neighbors probably told them he was a crackpot.

At the End of the war Otts Mc Clelland got a set of plans out of a popular Mechanics magazined, built a little camping trailer and the whole family went to Alaska by way of the Alcan highway. Otts said it was a terrible trip most of the road was gravel and they blew up the engine in their 1939 Hudson and nine tires in all..

Owens yacht company built landing Barges.

Some of us boys went to shoot sparrows with our BB rifles behind the brewery in the poplar trees growing next to it. We shot out a window by accident and then sucked some liqueur out of a keg. Some how we wound up at Jimmy Marks Bowling Alley and I made a pass or a crack, not sure which, at a pretty good sized Italian boys girlfriend. Well I got beat all around the lobby and the front side walk the only thing after that I remember was walking down Dunmanway. Learned a thing or two about getting drunk and being mouthy. Never did find the BB gun.

Caught a good friend sneaking down a half dark alley one night with the ugliest girl I ever saw. I teased him regularly until he threatened to beat the tar out of me.

We'll start a story tomorrow.