Memories of July Fourths PastThe scars on the back of his...


June 29, 1992

Memories of July Fourths Past

The scars on the back of his neck were indeed a silent but questionable tribute to the time my brother John exploded a fire cracker in a quart milk bottle, but turned quickly away, likely a millisecond from blindness.

Later on that Fourth of July in 1920 we were all assembled in the north end of Patterson Park, too early and uncomfortable on straightback folding chairs, and too hot and impatient for the festivities to begin.

In those days when my father, Theodore Henry Rohde (but always called "Hen"), was president of the East End Improvement Association that sponsored the celebration, he was also head of the Rohde Shipbuilding Enterprises with drydocks at Clinton and Third streets and the Marine Engine Works at Boston and Hudson streets.

Carpenters from the shipyards were assigned to erect the structures to support the fireworks which, for those days, were quite sizable. In addition to the "land mines" and rockets, the display included all manner of pinwheels, sparklers and Roman candles, which continued for as long as 30 minutes.

All of us looked forward to the "finale," which year after year included the American flag of burning colors and the face of George Washington, whose colors are no longer etched in my memory.

During or soon after, we all enjoyed ice cream treats until it was time to stroll back across the park to our homes. This was not accomplished quickly because church and business friends and acquaintances continued to greet and chat with our mother and father until our younger ones became so tired and cranky that it was apparent the day was over.

Not, however, for the late teen-agers and dating couples, because there would be a dance until about 11 o'clock at the band shell in the Mansion House near the intersection of Baltimore Street and Patterson Park Avenue.

Also it was on one of those Fourth of Julys that Jack Dempsey defeated Jess Willard to take over the heavyweight championship of the world. That was in 1919, and in ensuing years, as we recall, the Fourth of July became a favorite date on which to hold championship bouts.

Memories . . . . pleasant, but with continuing concern about safety and fireworks.

Paul A. Rohde


Timely Series

Your series on the Baltimore City public schools came on th heels of the school staffing consortium. It was extremely timely.

As a member of the group of 100 or so who received contracts for employment on the final day, your articles not only helped make my decision but also caused me to wonder about several other issues as well.

For instance, how did the city manage to attract what appeared to be over 400 people from as far away as Michigan, Ohio and New York for the weekend? If that many people are interested in employment in Baltimore schools from outside the state, maybe we should begin to compare the city schools with the nation as a whole rather than the relatively wealthy surrounding counties.

I think it is wonderful that so many people have contacted your paper to contribute money to the ailing city schools, but I think it is a problem which has existed nationwide for longer than most people care to admit and Baltimore City is only the tip of the iceberg.

I was also disappointed in the section devoted to teachers within the system. After spending three days reporting on the conditions under which these individuals must perform, it seemed like a witch hunt. The difficulty involved in removing an inadequate teacher is familiar in all school systems and is not any more unique to Baltimore than lack of supplies and dilapidated building are. I was frustrated that there was not a profile of a teacher who manages to perform small miracles despite the conditions. I am sure such an individual exists.

Perhaps the articles were meant to open eyes and cause a stir in order to bring home to outsiders exactly what sort of shape the city schools are in. It occurs to me that the city may have even cooperated in order to lend credibility to its impending law suit against the state.

Either way, my own decision is made not to pursue employment within that system and subdue my "missionary zeal" in the face of what I now feel is certain defeat.

Stacie A. Boughn


Old Pop Groups

Pop music critic J. D. Considine (June 14) unfortunately fail to realize, despite his personal feelings, that those groups he thinks "should just go away" are still around because the people must be somewhat satisfied by their continued success.

Perhaps a more stimulating criticism would question why these groups are surviving with continued popularity. One possibility might be that their music contains an appealing form and substance that the article denouncing them lacks.

Please, attempt to neutralize personal opinions from good criticisms. Maybe the people just enjoy this music.

Or, thinking about it, maybe J.D. Considine "should just go away."

Kim Alan Musser


Westside School

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