Monday, May 12, 2008

Memories Of An Uncertain Past

Sometimes the past haunts you. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in all sorts of ways. You only get one childhood in your lifetime........unfortunately, when you are a child, not too many of the adults that surround you at that time are even thinking straight or even considering the various repercussions that will result for events that took place. This is not so much a complaint......think of it as simply a reflection. I have to sit here and hope that I have succeeded where others had failed before me. Failures in life are probably a necessary evil. It is what people do after a failed event that will be important to any child later in their lives. You wanna remember when the adults stepped up to the plate and made things right for you. Sadly, sometimes a ship sinks and not always do the captains survive and either make it to shore or get themselves a better boat.

Such is the story of my childhood, I suppose.

Without getting into sordid details, I shall share a bit of my childhood. No..........this is not going to hurt, it is not going to be hilarious, nor will it be like any epic tale..........whaddya expect?........this is just a blog entry......hehehe.

As it was, I was driving around about a week ago, and I decided to revisit one of the many old neighborhoods that I had lived in as a child. In particular, I drove through what is known as Waltherson.............but when I lived there it was called Gardenville. Go figure........it is one of those areas where community boundaries are very questionable. To me........it is Gardenville. Some of this neighborhood is the same as it was when I was a kid but with a few changes here and there. Of course, crime is a problem here now, yet not nearly as bad as other communities in Baltimore. Driving through, I am taken back to when I was a kid........I remember going "trick or treat" on all of these streets.........I remember walking.......I remember the other kids and wonder where they are now..........sometimes you would love to hear what others may have went through in life so that you have something to compare to. Surely, 99% of the families that once lived here have moved on.......and some have passed away. There is a part of me that wonders if any of them even remember the kids from 5009 Oaklyn Avenue.

This is how the house looks today. It is still the same except for a few things. Vinyl siding has replaced the old shingles.........different door.........the two large bushes that were at the beginning of the walkway are long gone..............a bay window was put in place. The living room was on the left...........my parent's bedroom was on the right. There was a fairly large tree that was in the middle of the grass on the left. I do not remember the bush that you can see further back.....maybe it was a very small bush some 42 years ago. On the right side of the front yard was a mimosa tree which I used to climb and play on..........it too is long gone. The azalea bush to the left of the front door is still there.........it has grown nicely and beautiful as ever.

Ahhhhhhh........I zoom in with my camera.........picture a kid in an Oriole shirt sitting on a pony right there in front of that window and azalea bush..........can you picture it? Back in the day......particularly the mid 1960's.......milk was delivered in glass bottles, Rice's Bakery delivered bread and doughnuts and cakes, topsoil vendors would come by and sell fresh dirt (hmmmm......what is stale dirt?), and the Good Humor Man came down the street once a day........and it just so happened that one day a truck came down Oaklyn Avenue with a horse trailer. A man got out of the truck and went to each door selling pony portraits. So you grab a kid, set him on the pony, the man takes the picture and they send them to you in the mail. Fantastic.........this kind of thing is sorely needed today. Most of today's kids never see a horse unless they go to the horse. 1965 and the horse comes to your home..........fantastic!.............and I, of course, just had to get on that pony!...........Can you see it? Can you picture a young Signtopia on a pony?.............sure you can............

.....and there I was. I was thrilled!..............this city boy was on a real horse! A moment in time that will last as long as I breathe.............gee..........I bet the photographer had no idea just how important he was in children's lives..........and I bet he didn't even make more than three or four dollars per picture.........probably less.

My bedroom was on the right at the back of the house. The bathroom was where that smaller window is. My sisters had the two rooms on the second floor. I remember a time when they had a sleepover and my dad took two poles and taped them together and strapped a doll to the end of the poles and raised it up to the second floor window...........hehehe...........my dad...........years later, I would do a variation of this trick on my own kids..........I would tie some jingle bells to a pole and lift them up outside the kids bedroom window and add to their Christmas fervor.....hehehe.
It's a shame that mimosa tree is gone...................it all seems so small now. I suppose the older you get, the smaller the world gets around you.

It was right there............that piece of roadway...........I fell off of my bike......hit a rock on the street, the front tire twists to the left and down I went. Face first into the cement street. Blood everywhere.......my oldest sister carries me into the house.........this was a "trauma" situation! We didn't have a car, so my uncle had to come and take us to the hospital. A lot of time went by recuperating from that accident.......no broken bones.......just some nasty road burn over a large portion of my face. I can still smell the Phisohex that the doctors wanted my mom to keep putting on my face. Oh well............I suppose I recovered okay and did not get scarred to badly........after all, I did grow up and marry Supernurse.......hehehe.

I remember just waisting some time and digging into the ground next to the large tree that once sat in the front yard. I had a small stick in my hand and I just kept digging a small hole......and then I hit something!........At first I had thought it was a root........but I kept digging and poking around it and I struck gold!..........well..........it wasn't gold......but it was BRONZE! I found about three or four old coins........and I remember looking at them and seeing how odd they were.....they were rather large for pennies.........about the size of a half dollar. Turned out that they were British Pennies with King George on them.........WOW! I wonder how they got there in the ground on that spot.

We used to think this was a steep hill.........hehehe. The sledding in the winter was fun.

We used to think that Oaklyn Avenue was wide and long, too. I remember that we would always take a popsicle stick and go sit in the street and pop the bubbles in the tar seams. Picture large cement road sections joined together with a bead of tar. In the hot sun, the tar would form bubbles and when you dragged a popsicle stick over those bubbles, they would pop. We didn't have no computer games back them.............so we had popsicle sticks.......hehehe. We would play games............Fifty Scatters, SPUD, Handball, Curb-ball, Dodge, Hide & Seek, Red Light.........every kid on the street would play. Me and Jimmy Cline would play "Army" and we both had our own GI JOE's. I remember the Blizzard of '66.......snow, snow and more snow! I remember the one day that the Good Humor Man stopped for us and Debbie Jones' parents were not home and she thought that someone was in the house. She told the Good Humor Man and he grabbed this large metal hook that he kept with him so that he could reach deep into the ice box and grab boxes of ice cream..........and he took that hook and went into her house and looked around to see if anyone was in there. It turned out that nobody was in her house and he went back to the ice cream truck and began to dispense with the ice cream as each one of us kids would climb up into the front seat and ring the jingle bells. It was a big deal.

Our time here on Oaklyn Avenue was too short yet for a child it seemed much longer. That it still remains in my heart, makes that time an eternity.

Oaklyn Avenue intesects with Biddison Lane and above that, it intersects with Forrester Avenue. At that intersection, in the very middle of the intersection, is a cemetery. It is the Biddison Family Cemetery. It is still there after all these years and sadly, nobody has ever taken care of it. Tombstones are knocked over and the weeds and brush are overgrown. If you or I let our own property go like that, we would face some serious consequences. I have no idea why this has been let go as long as it has. It dishonors those whose remains are buried there. I remember the huge walnut trees and the hundreds of walnuts that would be on the street surrounding the cemetery. Today, walnuts have been replaced by trash, bottles, and used needles.

Surely, the Biddison family still has living people in it. Where are they and when are they going to do something about this? And if they have all passed.......the City Of Baltimore should cherish its history and honor the Biddisons by cleaning up this cemetery. From what I have read, the Biddison's once owned all of this land in this area.

On Biddison Lane, at the intersection with Eugene Avenue, sits what once was the Vitak family home and business. They had a grocery store here. They even had fresh meat, Mr Vitak was a butcher. I would go to this store very often. Mrs Vitak was a nice a lady as it gets. I would get candy here. I wonder what ever happened to them. Surely, they have passed away.

John's Bar.......as it looks today...........is on Belair Road on the corner of Bellwood. Every Saturday, me and my father would walk to the A&P Grocery Store and my dad would stop in here for a beer or two. Often there would be an Orioles game on the tv above the bar......I remember that it was a color tv except that the predominant color was green for some reason. John, the bartender, had really bad arthritis and his hands were distorted and he must have struggled to serve glasses of Natty Boh. Me?........I would have a Coke and my dad would give me some change for the nut machines.......and there were two of them......one had pistachios and one had cashews. My dad would knock down a couple of beers and we would go grocery shopping.......of course, after we were finished, we would cross the street and stop back in at John's Bar. After a few more beers, we would walk the rest of the way home with our groceries. Sometimes my dad hand carried four grocery bags.........that is until we got a two wheeled folding grocery cart. Then he would overload it with stuff until the tires would practically flatten. My dad really enjoyed grocery shopping..........but he enjoyed his Natty Boh a bit too much.

There's Gil's Pizza. Gil's originally was further down Belair Road up across from the Woodlea Bakery near the Earle Theater. Today, it is located just south of Biddison Lane in a place that was once a record shop. John's Bar was in the next block and my dad and I would have to walk right past the record shop every Saturday............twice! The importance of this little tidbit of information is that my life changed because of that record shop. Each time we passed by that record shop, I would look at the displays in the front window. There they were. Four half silhouetted faces on cardboard with a record half pulled out from it..........on display.....right there in that window. Oh the torture! The pain. The agony. I had to have one of them. I needed one of those. "Dad?........Look at that!"

After a few weeks of "Dad?.......Can I.......?".............he said "Yes!" Oh man........I was in heaven.
We went in and I became the proud owner of my first Beatles album. I wanted to be a Beatle. Oh yeah.....yeah.....yeah. It was beyond magical. The music was getting into my head.........it was an escape. Now, when times would get difficult, I could escape with the music. My dad got that record for me because he loved me.......no other reason. I don't know if he ever knew what that meant to me. Maybe I didn't even realize at that time what it would come to mean to me. Life continued on after that day. Life changed drastically. All that is left is the memories and perhaps that is the way it should be. Nobody can blemish or mar or trash those memories. Memories cannot go unkept, unless you have Alzheimer's. Good memories are never buried in an abandoned cemetery.

Interestingly, as I began my visit to the old neighborhood, I drove past Saint Anthony's Church on Frankford Avenue. It was where I recieved my first holy communion. The sign in front had a marquee on which it said "YOU CAN VISIT THE PAST BUT YOU CANNOT STAY".

Amazing, huh?

12 comments:

  1. Buddy Ol' Pal1:47 PM

    This is by far one of myfavorite entries.

    #2 son.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi big brodder!!

    I just love your blogs period. But I do have to say that I really enjoyed the Oaklyn Ave tour. The pics are great too! I printed it for Mom to see. She just loved it. It's like a visit.
    Love & miss youuuu!!!!
    Ebcbebr :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. OMG ... the memories of youth. I moved away from 5105 Benton Heights Ave back in 1962...We moved to Colorado due to my mothers health.

    My father drank at John's Bar every Sat. morning. I bet him and your father had more than Natty Boh (National Bohemian)... the picture of the pony. I have the same on, I even think it is the same pony.

    I want thank you for sharing your pass. I know it sure brought back so many memories of the old neighbor. the carnivals at St Anthony's every summer. The Sat mornings at the Earle theater and the Arundal ice cream parlor next door. Playing hand ball on the corner of Bellewood Ave and Benton Heights and all the kids I played with. So many things I had forgotten about.

    I was sorry to hear about the Biddison Cemetery. My great-great grandfather. John Shrimm Biddison is buried there. I hope that someone will take the time to correct the problems and make it beautiful again.

    Again thank you for the walk down memory lane. I really enjoyed it.

    Bonnie Ferguson

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bonnie,

      I appreciate your comment about my post about the old neighborhood. Thanks for putting a name on the bar "John's"......YES! that is what it was called. I am planning to take a morning to go visit the old neighborhood again and take some more pictures. I also plan on getting some pictures of the cemetery as well.....will look for the gravesite of your relative. I will write about it soon here on the blog.

      Stay Tuned!

      Delete
  4. Thank you. my niece took a few pictures for me. she is doing a family tree. as far I have found my relative as far back as Meshack Biddison born around 1765. My great grandparents the Rev Thomas W. Brown and his wife Mary Helen Biddison are buried there. Plus there parents. Thank you again so much you really helped to fill in the gaps.
    Bonnie

    question do you remember Faulkner Motors on Belair Road. my father worked there in the early 50's.

    you might want to check this link out regarding the cemetery

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    Grave Search Results
    Records 41 to 54 (of 54 total matches)
    Records 1 - 40
    Name Cemetery
    Find Your Ancestors at GenealogyBank
    Henkel, Susannah B 26414417
    b. Jun. 6, 1835 d. Jul. 5, 1911 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Hoey, Alice L 26414314
    b. Aug. 29, 1842 d. Dec. 24, 1926 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Hoey, Allen M 87235416
    b. unknown d. Apr. 1, 1918 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Hoey, Carroll S 26414389
    b. Sep. 18, 1870 d. Feb. 5, 1919 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Hoey, Henry 87235445
    b. 1844 d. Jun. 6, 1930 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Hollingsworth, Fannie 20101821
    b. Nov. 22, 1868 d. Feb. 3, 1888 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Kauffman, Lloyd O 26414192
    b. Dec. 22, 1883 d. Jun. 21, 1910 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    McCauley, Fannie 20101654
    b. Sep. 25, 1838 d. Jun. 25, 1914 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    McCauley, George E 20101680
    b. Oct. 18, 1837 d. Mar. 12, 1899 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    McCauley, W S 26413974
    b. Feb. 21, 1834 d. Jul. 6, 1871 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Mehr, Herbert T 55303186
    b. 1887 d. Aug. 26, 1889 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Norris, Elizabeth Gardner McCauley 20101750
    b. Apr. 10, 1813 d. May 28, 1883 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Shock, Masha Biddison 71923762
    b. Feb. 14, 1801 d. Jun. 18, 1849 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Taylor, Kerrenhappuck Biddison 71946350
    b. Aug. 17, 1816 d. Sep. 15, 1914 Biddison Family Cemetery
    Baltimore
    Baltimore City
    Maryland, USA
    Find Your Ancestors at GenealogyBank
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    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Fergie!

    By the way, I recall there being at least three very large homes that was said to have belonged to the Biddison family. There was one on Biddison Lane and is no longer there......it burnt to the ground sometime back in the late 60s. Another sits at the intersection of Frankford Ave, Corse Ave, and Echodale Ave. Rumor had it that all three of the homes had tunnels which led to the graveyard. It made for scary stories and as far as I know there has been no truth to such a tale. And Yes! I remember car lot. Also, this name ought to send you back......."Middlestat Machine Company"......there was a baseball field there too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous5:29 PM

    Hi,
    I just loved your story. Even though I grew up in Los Angeles, I could identify with nearly every aspect. We didn't get to have the "pony man" though. What a delight that would have been for us city kids too.

    You have a wonderful way with words and hope you continue to write. These stories that describe well and compare are SO good for young people to read. Without our stories to relay the history and identity of surnames in an area a sense of continuity is lost for the families who remain. There is great need for local stories to be told and even so there needs to be a deeper understanding of what our ancestors did to give it to us. Great job!

    Also, I am a Biddison who has been very big into the family research and have fretted over the condition of the cemetery as well. One problem is that we all live in other states, save just a handful and only a few live in the area. Also, most are older folk now. However, it had been mentioned that we could pool money together and pay for an initial clean up and future mowings. When we started contemplated this the gate hadn't yet been stolen and things were much better. Perhaps we can communicate and get things moving on this once and for all. You can find me on FB and we can share phone numbers, etc.

    Also, there is a poem written by Julia Biddison about the view from the Biddison house down to the cemetery and the people buied there. It is beautifully written. I had intended to cover a copy with plexi glass and attach it to the gate (before it was stolen). As soon as I locate the poem I will gladly share it.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Brought tears to my eyes!

    Sincerely,
    Joy Biddison

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, I live in the area, and have a home on Biddison Avenue off of Frankford Avenue. Thanks for sharing such a rich history. I stumbled across your blog after checking out the Biddison Cemetery and how bad of shape it was in and this was on the front page. Glad that I read it because it gave some history on the neighborhood.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am delighted that you enjoyed what I wrote. For some, it is just another neighborhood. For me, it is "sacred ground" and there are so many memories of my time spent there, both good and bad. When you walk down Biddison you might now be able to "see" or at least know that it has a history and was an important part of someone's existence.......and still is.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous8:00 AM

    We lived in the caretaker's house next to the Biddison house. It was a 2-acre parcel of land with these two houses (since demolished for the apartment buildings). Went to Gardenville E.S. for kintergarden. Remeber the little store, 25-cent haircuts and the graveyard. Currently live in Richmond, Virginia and go to church with a Biddison family somehow connected to the land.

    Regarding the mysterious tunnel. It ran from the big house to the caretaker's house that we lived in. I understood it was for moonshining or other such effort. Not sure. The portal was bricked in when we lived there, but I remember it!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Third attempt to comment on this wonderful story, I'm tired now, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ciao!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I would ride my bike all the way from Holder Ave. to the secrete graveyard place, then venture to the little store and spend my allowance. The last time I visited Baltimore, I searched for it but could not find it again Thank you for the story!!

    ReplyDelete