For awhile now the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters has unfurled an attractive—and very bold—banner to respectively protest some of the hiring practices of Under Armour. You can see the banner most work-day mornings at the company’s global headquarters on Key Highway Extended, in Locust Point. While you’re there, you may want to have a chat with the workers, and pick up one of the flyers with more details about the disbute. Or, you can simply click on the copy of the flyer at the end of this post; it’s well-designed, very short, and to the point.
This photograph enchants me, and I know practically nothing about it. To begin with, who is the young lady? Back in the mid-1970’s, a friend gave me the picture because her mother was about to throw it out. At first it was the Art Deco frame that drew me. My friend told me that her mother “hated” the frame, and that the woman in the picture was her (the mother’s) great-aunt, and that she was a professional “acrobatic dancer.” That was it, that’s all my friend got from her mother. Now I was really hooked. The fact that there was a mystery attached to such a beautiful frame and such an interesting-looking—lovely-in-her-own-way—costumed woman, only made the package that much more intriguing.
So I did a bit of research. I checked out Google Images under “acrobatic dancer” for the 1920’s and 30’s, and came up with some notes that I may develop later for an essay. For instance, the images I found ranged from vaudeville and circus acts to strippers to deformed people who toured theatrically at the time and were exploited as “freaks.” Show biz people of every stripe, in other words, many of whom were social outcasts then. Which of course could also explain my friend’s mothers’ dismissive attitude.
But I don’t care. I think this athletic-appearing young lady’s story deserves more development. If you have clues to her identity, her career, or just helpful research ideas, please get in touch . . .
Copyright © 2014, Jim Sizemore.
By Jim Sizemore
For several years, I’ve observed a homeless man in my neighborhood walking back and forth in front of my house each day, morning and afternoon. I live in the city, next door to a bar, and the sidewalk we share is just two red brick steps down from my front door. The homeless man has a flushed complexion and I suppose he could be a heavy drinker. But on the other hand, I’ve never seen him go into the bar next door, or into any of the many other bars along my street, which is a main drag with plenty of such places to quench a thirst.
The homeless man comes from somewhere west of my house—I have no idea from how far away—and he always walks to a shopping center, which is little more than a half-mile east. On the way back from the shopping center, he always carries two small paper bags, one with a cola beverage of some sort in a plastic bottle—I can see the screw-off cap peeking out from the bag. Since there are no bars in or near the shopping center, I have good reason to assume that the drink is non-alcoholic. The other bag, I surmise, holds his lunch, and perhaps even his dinner.
There have been long periods when I’ve seen the homeless man walking and holding his pants up with his left hand, appearing to have lost his belt. That condition usually goes on for a while—weeks, even months—and then he somehow comes into possession of another belt—or finds his old belt—because he no longer has to hold up his trousers. With both of his hands free again, he walks pretty much like you or me. That is, he walks like you or me except in the shopping center parking lot, where he avoids the sidewalk and claims the middle of a car lane. While strolling in the car lane, he does not look left or right, or behind him, or give way to the cars, so those of us who drive have to be careful to avoid hitting him.
One day about two years ago, the homeless man appeared on crutches, one leg in a cast that began below his knee and extended to, but did not cover, his toes. I don’t remember which leg it was, but what I do remember is that this was around the time that he and I began to make eye contact. After seeing each other up close a few times, we began to smile and nod at each other. That kept up a while, and before long we’d smile and nod and say “good morning” or “good afternoon,” just like regular people. But I noticed that when I carried my grocery bags to my car and we happened to pass each other in the car lane, we did not make eye contact or speak. I’m pretty sure that must have been his choice. If it had been up to me, we would have continued to smile and nod and speak. This is a very friendly neighborhood, and anyway, that’s just how I am.
For as long as the homeless man was on crutches, throughout the winter, he struggled to manage his little paper bags in all kinds of weather. After many months, he was finally off the crutches and walking with just the aid of a cane. This was in the spring, and around that time he also appeared to lose another belt, and throughout the summer I watched him wrestle with his cane and his bags in one hand, the other hand grasping the top of his pants. I don’t know what happened, or when it happened, but at some point I began to realize that things between us had changed dramatically. Now, no matter what the situation or location—or the weather, or the time of year—the homeless man and I no longer made eye contact or spoke.
So what happens on the day after Thanksgiving, comes as a big surprise. For the first time in months, I’ve decided to clean the very dirty plexiglass on my front storm door. This is a big deal because I hate to do windows of any kind. In fact, none of the glass in my house, except the front storm door, has been cleaned since I moved in some eleven years ago. So there I am standing on my little brick stoop, busy spraying and wiping down the storm door, and the homeless man comes by. He has long-since healed from his leg injury. And it seems to me that he makes a point to not look at me. But I won’t let this opportunity go by, and say, “Good morning, sir. How are you doing?” Without a beat, and without smiling or looking up, he replies, “Who can say?” and he continues on his way.
© Copyright 2013, Jim Sizemore.
My Long Journey to Korea
By Floyd Douglas Sizemore
On November 3rd, 1948, less than two months after my 17th birthday, I enlisted in the “new peacetime Army” at Fort Holabird, in Baltimore, Maryland. That “peacetime” part sounded pretty good. Being just a kid, I had no idea where Korea was—I doubt I’d even heard of it, and at the time I’m sure I couldn’t have quickly pointed to it on a world map—so it was not something to which I gave any thought, and I sure didn’t see a war coming around the corner.
The army, though, was exciting to me from the start. I grew up poor—my family never had much of anything—but right off the bat the military supplied me with all these new clothes: shirts, pants, shorts, t-shirts, boots—everything—even a pair of shiny black dress shoes. I also liked the food (my favorite was the creamed chipped beef on toast, a.k.a. “SOS”), but didn’t manage to gain weight, at least at first. During basic training we ran everywhere, so I actually lost weight, down from my enlistment weight of 110 pounds to 95. But after basic I quickly packed it all back on, and then some.
After finishing the eight weeks of basic training at Camp Pickett, Virginia, in January 1949, I was assigned to the 11th, AAA BN, at Fort Bliss, Texas, where I was trained on M19 Twin 40s mounted on a light tank, and the M16 Quad 50s mounted on a halftrack. In November 1949, the 11th AAA, and me with it, was relocated to Fort Lewis, Washington, to continue training. Up until then, my impression of military service had been formed, for the most part, from watching B-movies at neighborhood movie theaters, where I guess I got the idea that if you were smart enough, you could get away with a lot of stuff—like not saluting officers. I tested that theory several times and found myself walking extra guard duty around the Fort Lewis prison.
After a 15-day leave in January 1950, I was put on orders for Japan. Then, six months later, I was told to report to Camp Stoneman, California. I remember thinking that since I had already served over a year in the army, any tour of duty in Japan would be a short one. So I was in a pretty good mood when our Sergeant marched us to the front gate of Fort Lewis and used a lantern to flag down a passing train. I was surprised when the train actually stopped right outside the gate to pick us up. It was an overnight ride from Ft. Lewis, WA to Camp Stoneman, and I reported there on June 23. Then came the big surprise—North Korea invaded South Korea. Suddenly, things didn’t look so good, and to make matters worse, I would soon learn that Korea was just across the narrowest part of the Sea of Japan.
In early July 1950, we boarded a ship and sailed out of San Francisco Bay headed for Japan, or at least that’s what they told us. But instead, a few days later, we sailed into Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington. Later, we found out that they needed our ship to transport the 2nd Division directly to Korea, so we spent a week at sea making a huge circle—or was it an oval? Talk about “hurry up and wait.” In Seattle, they put us up in a naval barracks on Pier 91 for several days, organizing us into something that the army called “packets.” I was in packet 13.
At McChord airbase in Pierce County, Washington, we boarded C54s for Japan by way of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. We landed in Yokohama about three days later. After about a week, most of the men were assigned to the 24th and 25th Divisions in Korea. Some of us were sent to northern Honshu, Japan. We took a civilian-packed train overnight. After arriving at Camp Hargen around the first of August, I was assigned to B Battery, 865th AAA BN, located at Misawa airbase. I spent the remainder of 1950 in routine training.
I was beginning to like Japan, thinking that my tour of duty would soon be up and I’d be on my way back to the States for discharge. Then came June 1951, and our outfit was put on alert for Korea. Our equipment was upgraded, and on July 19, 1951, around midnight, we were loaded on an LST manned by a Japanese crew. There were crazy tides in the Sea of Japan, which accounted for using local crews who knew the area, and we spent six days on the water. We had to stand up to eat at a long metal table. Breakfast was hard-boiled eggs and we slept on cots on in hammocks. One night we hit some really rough weather with 30-40 mph winds. The next morning the seas were still choppy, and I remember watching a hard-boiled egg roll down one of those metal tables. Strange, the images that stick in your mind.
We arrived in Inchon, Korea on July 25, 1951, and the next day at Kimpo airbase, northwest of Seoul, to relieve the 50th AAA AW BN. All positions were occupied and by 0800 we went on alert. Our job at K14 was defense of the airfield. At first, we were issued live small arms ammo, but our commanding officer in B Battery took it away, saying, “I don’t want you guys acting like you think you’re John Wayne.” Each evening, around sunset, we were harassed by a pesky PO2 reconnaissance aircraft. Some clever guy gave the pilot the name, “Bed Check Charlie.” In August, “Operation Rat Trap,” an attempt to shoot Charlie down, was put into place. But as far as I know it never worked. By the time we scrambled and got to our gun positions, he was on his way back up North.
Once again, my mouth got me in a bit trouble when I complained about how ineffective operation “Rat Trap” turned out to be. The commanding officer, a captain, called me into his office and remarked on what he termed my “bad attitude.” As I recall, our little chat went something like this:
HE: Sizemore, you don’t like the way I run this outfit, do you?
ME: No sir.
HE: Well, would you prefer to go to the front instead?
ME: No Sir. I’m too close as it is. Send me to Pusan. (Pusan is in the southern part of Korea, close to Japan, and at that time was far from any of the action.)
HE: I’m sending you to D Battery. (That was on the other side of the airfield, still at Kimpo.)
In September 1951, I heard through the military grapevine that my brother Lee was in Korea, somewhere around Seoul, and I asked my sergeant for permission to go visit him. I failed to mention that I had no idea exactly where Lee was, and that I’d just have to trust to luck that I would find him. “Take off,” the sergeant said, “we’ll cover for you. All we’re doing is just setting around waiting for something to happen.” So I hitchhiked both ways, and asked around, but no luck. I told some of the guys if they ran into him, to let him know I was looking for him.
Two days later, back in D Battery, I was sitting on my gun position when I spotted a guy walking up the road toward me, and something in his gait looked familiar. Sure enough, it was brother Lee. We had a great reunion, including a lunch that I remember featured—of all things—“snowflake” potatoes. After lunch, as he was leaving, Lee told me he was scheduled to rotate home soon, and that he’d see me back in Baltimore. Then, only a few days later, he showed up again—this time with a surprise birthday gift (I turned 20 on September 13, 1951).
“I thought you were going home,” I said. Lee smiled. “I brought you a little present.” Then he pulled a 38-caliber revolver from the waistband under his shirt, and handed it to me. It was absolutely beautiful, with pearl handles, just like the one General Patton carried in WWII. I patted my 40mm and protested that I didn’t need a pistol, but he insisted. “For when you’re walking guard duty,” he said. “Just a little extra protection. You never know.” When we parted company that day, Lee’s last words to me were, “Take care of yourself.”
In early December 1951, our gun crew was moved to Outpost #4, nine miles northwest of Kimpo, on the Han River. We had a Marine artillery crew to our right. Our orders were to fire at anything that could be used as an observation post—houses, barns, even humps of high ground on the bank of the river. After about a week, we had turned the landscape and the village below our gun position into rubble. Then our outfit was relieved and we pulled back to Kimpo. Later, we had a great Christmas dinner, and then our biggest show came on New Years’ Day 1952, soon after we were again put on alert. Every gun position from Kimpo to Seoul was ordered to lay down blanketing fire for ten minutes in an attempt to “open up” the surrounding areas. It looked like the 4th of July, but it also seemed to me that the fireworks were called off almost as soon as they started. They never told us the results of all that firepower, if any.
In March 1952 I was assigned to the 1st Platoon Command Post and promoted to the rank of Corporal. After one year in Japan and eleven months in Korea, I had accumulated enough “points” to return to the States. In June 1952 I took a 14-day sea cruise—this time directly back home to Baltimore.
Copyright © 2013, Floyd Douglas Sizemore
Warren and Me
By Bob Fleishman
Walking up Madison Avenue in November of 1972, I spied what had to be two of the so-called “beautiful people” one often sees in New York City, standing on the corner just outside Georgio Armani’s. Both were wearing full-length fur coats and were disengaging themselves from what appeared to be a prolonged clinch. The woman could have just stepped out of a Vogue Magazine ad — beautifully coiffured black hair, perfectly formed features and bright red lipstick. The man also had beautifully coiffured black hair and perfectly formed features, but no lipstick.
It was Warren Beatty!
Stunned at first by coming upon such a sight, I quickly recovered and, not wanting to interfere with the couple’s sad parting, I continued toward my destination some blocks away. While waiting for the light to change at Madison Avenue and 58th streets, I happened to glance at the gentleman standing beside me. That’s right, once again it was Warren himself.
I realized that since this was just before the Presidential Election of 1972, and I was a supporter of the Democratic nominee, I had to say something to this Hollywood Idol who was known for his intense political involvement. To my own surprise, considering how excited I was, I came up with something timely — and I thought, rather clever. “Where’s your McGovern button?” I said, proudly pointing to the round plastic McGovern badge featured prominently on my comparatively drab brown jacket. “Right here,” he quickly responded, opening his fur coat to reveal a solid gold McGovern button. Feeling that I was on a roll and could do no wrong, I came back just as fast, if not as strong. “That’s quite impressive,” I said. “You got me there.”
The light still hadn’t changed, so I gave it another shot. “I saw you on the Dick Cavett show last week. I thought you handled his questions very well.” (Cavett, the host of a popular TV talk show, had tried to pursue Beatty’s love life while Warren was attempting to steer the conversation to the issues of the campaign). The light finally turned green, and I expected Warren to just mumble something like “Thank you very much” or another glib response and move on. But much to my surprise, he said, “Oh, really! Well, I didn’t think I did well at all. He just wouldn’t let me talk about what was important”
Incredibly, our talk about the campaign continued for another four or five blocks. But soon, because I had initiated the encounter, I felt compelled to be the one to end it. I picked my spot and said, “It was great chatting with you. Then — rather lamely I now think — my hoped-for big ending came out as, “Keep the faith!” Warren just nodded and smiled that mysterious smile of non-commitment that made women all over the world swoon. “Nice meeting you,” he replied, and was gone.
In my daze during the experience I had actually walked three blocks farther than intended, so engrossed in our conversation that I never noticed. And for the last forty-plus years, I’ve tried to think of a better punch line with which to end a conversation with Warren Beatty — just in case I do run into him again. Recently, in one of my daydreams, I’m at some social function and, sure enough, there he is across the crowded room. I saunter over and say, “So, Mr. B, we meet again!!!”
Copyright © 2013 Bob Fleishman.
Bob Fleishman is a retired General Dentist who is using his newly found extra time in more creative pursuits. He has written two plays, The Man Who Makes You Laugh and The Session and is currently writing a book about growing up in his old neighborhood in Northwest Baltimore. In addition, he is a professional videographer currently working on a film for Baltimore City College’s 175th Anniversary.
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