In the 1940s and 50s, there seemed to be a small store on every-other street corner in South Baltimore, and the densely populated neighborhood of tiny row homes provided plenty of customers to keep them busy. (One friend of mine, a successful comic strip artist, grew up in a 1,500 square foot home with his parents and six siblings.) These days we’d call the neighborhood shops “convenience stores” — the 7-Elevens” of that era — and among scores of items, they also sold my favorite snack food, called “Coddies,” or codfish cakes, made daily and served on salty crackers with mustard; if I remember correctly, they cost ten cents each.
The basic day-to-day supplies people needed were just steps away from their front doors, and anything else could be found at the end of a slightly longer walk to the full-service shopping areas on Light and Charles Streets, and in Cross Street Market. Meanwhile, most of the booming wartime labor force, including my father and older half-sisters, walked to their jobs at the dry docks and factories lining the harbor. Few families could afford a car, and none that I knew of had more than one, so there were no parking problems. Today there are much smaller families, but at least two cars for each home.
The photographs I’ve used here are from the late 1970s, but I took them because they reminded me of what I had seen as a boy growing up in South Baltimore 25 or 30 years before. My only regret is that I could have photographed more of the still-remaining corner stores then, and the unintentional beauty of their cluttered window displays.