December 04, 1991|By Barbara H. Smith and Ellen Uzelac


Remembers South Baltimore

"This was a real neighborhood then--eight groceries, three funeral homes, a few bars and a candy store, a fish market, a laundry. You knew your neighbors. It was predominantly black. My family's been in the house where I live for three generations, but most of the places have turned over. No one talks to anybody anymore. In 1941, this was an exciting place to be. I was only 9 then, and I guess at 9 everything is exciting. The first time I really felt what it was like to be black in Baltimore was when I went to high school. I wanted to go to Southern High. I wanted to be a Southern High Bulldog. I wanted one of those Bulldog jackets more than anything. But because we were black, I caught the old No. 2 streetcar uptown to Frederick Douglass High. That's OK. I got a football scholarship that sent me to college. I'll never forget those Bulldog jackets, though." -- Mr. Brown, a retired Department of Housing and Urban Development employee, lives on West Montgomery Street in what is now called Otterbein but which he refuses to call anything other than its traditional name, South Baltimore. "As a teen-ager I guess you could say I was hooked on Jesus as a role model. At 24, when I signed up for the draft, it was as a conscientious objector. I could not imagine the Prince of Peace picking up a gun and could never picture him wearing a soldier's uniform. After being drafted in 1941, I spent four years in Civilian Public Service camps around the United States. My first camp and job was in Buck Creek, N.C., building the Blue Ridge Parkway and at times fighting forest fires. I went to three other camps. There was such deep disappointment when Pearl Harbor was bombed. I believed that violence breeds violence, and in the camps we hoped that part of our jobs and training would be to build up the world. After the war started, this idealism seemed like it just wasn't going to work." -- Mr. Legg was one of 12,000 conscientious objectors who were drafted in World War II. A retired professor, he lives in the Broadmeade community of Baltimore County. "My dad had started building in the 1920s and then, of course, people lost everything in the Depression. By 1937, he was building in the Dundalk area. In 1941, the first week of December, we were quite busy with the Gray Manor project [the name given the homes for Glenn L. Martin defense workers], waiting out approval of special FHA financing and land approval. The project was completed at the end of 1943. The homes were built with no basements. We had a lot of mountain folks come to the city for defense jobs, and they brought their chickens with the idea of keeping them in the cellars. There were some real dandies that rented those homes. Many came from such rural areas, they had never had indoor plumbing before coming to Baltimore." -- Mr. Requard was 22 in 1941 when he worked with his father, Julius, and his uncle, Louis, building defense housing in Middle River. He now lives in North Baltimore; his father and uncle are dead.

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