I vaguely remember our family moving from downtown southeast Baltimore, Eden and Baltimore Streets, to further uptown northeast Baltimore to Boone Street, near Greenmount and North Avenues, when I was a little kid.
We kids played, laughed, and cried. We ran to the Goldman’s corner store daily for two-for-a-penny treats. I remember sweltering summer nights when the carousel sound of the ice cream truck sent kids scurrying for change. And, we kids could stay up late because there was no school the next day.
We used to be a neighborhood. We participated in the Afro-American Newspaper Clean Block every year. We kids had to keep those white marble steps and curb gutters clean. Our parents worked at places like Steel & Tin Can Company, Bethlehem Steel, and the Ward’s and Bond’s baking companies.
The riots of the 60’s made the first changes to our neighborhood. Goldman’s store, owned by Jewish merchants who brought in our meats, fresh fruit and vegetables, was burned out.
Some working class neighbors married and moved to what was then considered the suburbs, Baltimore County, like I did in the mid-70’s. To have a home of one’s own with land around it was my dream. Some working class people still live in our old neighborhood with their elderly parents or in the houses their deceased parents left them as a legacy. They waited for a “trickle down” that never came.
Drug-experimenting parties had to have a source for their drugs, so a new custom, “tea time”, started in our old neighborhood where spunky young outside entrepreneurs recruited our sons, brothers, uncles, fathers, and a few daughters to help feed poison to our kin. Drug dealing gradually and insidiously decimated my old neighborhood–the final blow! Neither was Baltimore County safe from the devastation. The cycle continues into the suburbs.
My old neighborhood is a ghost town now with very young grandchildren, parents, and very old grandparents who send the young out to get what they need. Empty lots stand where whole blocks of row-houses used to exist.
The usual gentrification of a neighborhood, when artists or hospital professionals move in, is on its way to happening in many parts of Baltimore City. The urban blight is helped along by legislators who know what is planned for the area they stopped caring about long ago.
Rosa L. Griffin