Editor’s Note: My Internet and e-mail friend, Jake Jakubuwski, who has contributed several memory pieces about South Baltimore to DoodleMeister.com, herewith allows me to publish a delightful snapshot taken during a family get-together at Fort McHenry in 1929. As he mentions in his note below, he and I share a history in the area — we both spent a memorable part of our childhood here. (We’re talking late 1940s to early 1950’s, folks, a full sixty years ago! Damn.) The historic fort and Baltimore harbor is within easy walking distance of the densely populated nearby neighborhoods, where I still live, having returned in 2003. In those golden “olden” days, though (and in some cases even up to the more-or-less gentrified present), bread winners worked in local factories and at the port. Of course it is somewhat different today — a good mix of white-collar and working class folks, many of whom walk to their offices up town — but if you love the bustle and beauty of the area as I do, it all feels very much the same.
By Jake Jakubuwski
Jim, we have often discussed the similarities of our younger years in South Baltimore. Sometimes, the twists and turns of our childhood experiences seem uncannily connected. As close in age as we are, I would not be surprised to find we even crossed paths on occasion. After all, I think we both went to the same public elementary school and sold newspapers down at Cross Street Market about the same time. Of course, you were about a year ahead of me but I’d be willing to bet from time to time we both made the same Saturday double feature at the McHenry theater on Light Street!
My roots in South Baltimore go back long before I was born. My grandparents lived near Ft. McHenry during the mid-to-late twenties. “Pop,” a U.S. Customs agent, had bought a house on Andre Street when he retired from the Navy. My grandmother often told me stories of the family picnicking at Fort McHenry on Sunday afternoons. I thought you would enjoy the attached photograph, which shows my mother, Margaret Anna Elaine Doerr (“Peggy”) and my uncle, Norbert Francis Doerr (“Bud”) during a family outing at the fort. The year was 1929 and Mother would have been about eight and Uncle Bud was a year or two younger.
By the time I started visiting Fort McHenry, we had lived on Battery Avenue and later on South Light Street. If I recall our exchanges correctly, while we lived on Battery Avenue, during the late 40’s and early 50’s, your family lived on Williams Street. We also lived on Hamburg Street, South Light Street, Randall Street and Battery Avenue. Yeah, we moved a lot, but we always stayed in South Baltimore. That could be a whole post all by itself!
Yet, I well remember selling papers at “The Market,” working for the “Arabbers” on their horse-drawn wagons, and “hauling” groceries from the A&P Store on Fort Avenue for customers who were willing to tip a nickel or a dime. My wagon was a National Beer crate that rolled smoothly on four baby carriage wheels. It was held together by a couple of bolts, some nails, and was tugged along by a length of rope. I know my wagon might sound like strange contraption to some folks today, but there just weren’t any new, shiny, red Radio Flyers under my Christmas tree. Like most kids in the area, if I was to have any spending money I had to earn it. Otherwise, how could I watch Red Ryder, Hopalong Cassidy, Rocket Man, Bat Man and all those Looney Tune cartoons at a local cinema — and some days even have enough left over for popcorn?
Anyway, Jim, even if we missed meeting in South Baltimore as kids, we’ve managed to connect more than six decades later through Doodlemeister. These days, with the Internet, it really is a small world, isn’t it?
Jake Jakubuwski spent nearly two decades as an active locksmith and door service technician. He has been writing physical security related articles since 1991. Seventeen years ago, Jake wrote his first article for the National Locksmith Magazine and has been their technical editor for fifteen years. Pure Jake Learning Seminars©, his nationally conducted classes, are designed for locksmiths and professional door and hardware installers. For more information, click the “Pure Jake” link in the sidebar blogroll and under the “business” label. To locate more of Jake’s short pieces about growing up in the South Baltimore area, copy and paste—or type—his name into the sidebar search window and tap “search.”