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Growing Up in the Shadow of Bayview/Baltimore City Hospitals during World War II

 

  Trish grew up in the 400 block Anglesea Street just before and during World War 11. Anglesea is the first of the A-B-C streets which run north of Eastern Avenue, just east of the hospital formerly and presently called Bayview. East of Anglesea are Bonsal, Cornwall, Drew. Elrino Streets,etc.Walking up Anglesea, you could once walk past some beautiful azaleas, walk under an arch, and arrive at the hospital's main entrance. Sometime around the l980's "hospital" seemed to devolve into a nasty word. City Hospitals became "Francis Scott Key Medical Center." Everywhere, hospitals  morphed into "medical centers." Johns Hopkins eventually took over the facility and restored its original name: Bayview.  Anglesea abutted the old Nurses' Residence building  (Many years later this building was killed by a planned implosion.)    .
   Trish and her sisters trudged down Eastern Avenue to P. S. #228 at Foster Avenue and Rappolla Streets. Rappolla is one of another series of alphabet streets just past the Eastern Avenue viaduct which separates Highlandtown proper from "Greektown." (Rappolla, Savage, Tolna, Umbra Street, etc.).These streets run directly opposite what was once the sprawling green spaces of the hospital grounds. These grounds once served as a neighborhood park, a place to exercise dogs, a hill to sleigh ride in a snowy winter.  School #228 was Europe in a microcosm, with children or their parents who hailed from Poland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Sweden, France. Teachers tried to get this melting pot to actually melt by holding "Celebration Days." Parents, if they could, would provide food dishes from their country of origin.

 On Halloween, children were encouraged to dress in ethnic clothes rather than to appear as cats, fairies, devils. Two teachers whom Trish remembers were Mrs. Busick and Mrs. Fairley.

The first television set appeared at the fire station on Eastern Avenue (the current site of S.W. Police District). A playground was nearby. The firemen were friendly. Sometimes they would let their neighbors come to the fire station and watch their wondrous magic box.

  Although Trish breezed through P. S. 228, Patterson High School,and a year of nursing school, she did have one huge childhood failure. Catholic children from public school had to attend after-school religion classes at Sacred Heart Church. Trish already had two strikes against her. First, she attended a public school. Second, she was the product of a "mixed" marriage-- of no marriage at all, actually, because her Catholic Father and Lutheran mother had been joined in Holy Matrimony by a Justice of the Peace!

At catechism class, Trish asked too many questions. She had many girlfriends who were-- not Hindu, not Islamic, not Jewish--but garden variety Protestant! In this sad period for Catholicism, children were often told that all non-Catholics were evil, already captives of a Satan "...who prowled around the world seeking the ruination of souls." Trish took such talk to heart, wanted to know how and why her friends were evil. She once tried to attend a catechism class with her best friend, a Greek Orthodox child, telling the Orthodox priest that she was Greek. He recognized Trish for an interloper and phoned her mother. On this occasion, Trish was one of the unlucky children whose parents owned a telephone. (These were the days of close community. kids could not get away with anything because, whatever they did, the parents would find out about it before the kid got home. When a child misbehaved, the parent did not get defensive and take the child's side like now.)

One day Father Baumgartner from Sacred Heart stood on Trish's doorstep. He demanded that Trish' s parents remarry! A family conference was hastily assembled. The church attendee in the family was not the Catholic father but the Lutheran mother. Henceforth, Trish would be a Lutheran. At a young age she was officially excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church. Today, at a "senior" age, she remains a church-attending Lutheran, a vibrant, energetic person whom any church would value.

The area that today's real estate agents advertise as Brewer's Hill claims the boundaries of Haven, Conkling and Fleet Sts. When Trish lived nearby, the neighborhood actually had Brewers!  Boh, American and Gunther beers were the most-drunk in Baltimore. I don't know when the last brewer pulled up roots from the area, but as recently as the 70's, especially on a day with low cloud cover,one could smell the pungent scent of hops. The scent pervaded the ABC streets. Trish and her sisters got strict orders never to venture too far down Conkling Street, as they were apt to run into sailors (presumably drunken ones?) and, much worse, prostitutes!  A very memorable part of Trish' childhood, however,  was another event that pervaded all aspects of life: World War II.

Of course, Baltimore was vulnerable because of its harbor. Trish recalls the blackouts and brownouts; the year 1943 when pennies were minted a blue zinc; blue and red tokens; the rationing. Meats, shoeleather, sugar and butter were scarce.  The city quickly found out that it could not rely on residents to pull the blackout shades all the way down. The only solution was to shut off the power supply.  Wardens patrolled the streets. Trish could not show her fear of the dark because she had younger sisters.  I do not know how the hospital,  Anglesea Street's constant backdrop, could be blacked out, but hospitals might not have been the same beehive of 24-7 activity in the 1940's. The hospital was a self-sufficient farm in those days, growing its own crops, having its own dairy replete with cows. Emergency rooms, operating rooms, would be inner rooms without windows.
  Many of us remember the magnificent "D" building, the building nearest :Ponca Street. We might also remember that it had a fascinating fish pond in front of it. This fish pond was once illuminated by brightly colored lights. The war put an end to the lights. A wire fence also surrounded this building, to keep residents in and to keep intruders out. The fence came down because the war effort needed its materials.

The most thought-provoking part of Trish's story to me, and possibly to many people from "these days" with memories of "those days" was the special thrill of going to the movie theaters. This thrill is lost in these days of Movies-on-Demand,  movies from Red Box, Netflix movies through the mail,  Home Box Office, Showtime and the flood of movie TV channels (and the huge home TV screens where people can view their flix). OTOH,  the cost of taking your family to the movies these days is like taking yourself to the cleaners. Folks in the 1940's  tried to get the the Grand or Patterson before 6 p.m. when prices jumped to as much as 35 cents. Candy and popcorn at the theater was priced about the same as at Read's drugstore on Eastern Avenue. The Nurses' Residence next to Trish's home often screened free movies in its auditorium.  Local children could also enter if there was room, if there was a promise of silence.

One night during World War II, Trish lingered too long at the P:atterson Theater.  As she rode home on the #26 streetcar, the blackout siren wailed. The car stopped dead on its track. It was jammed with men on their way to work at Sparrows Point.  People waited.  A Black man stood up and offered Trish his seat. Trish ;protested. The man replied, "Please take the seat, as I hope that some day, someone will get up and offer their seat to my daughter." We sincerely hope that "some day" arrived.