Kind Grandfather Reveals The Delights Of Downtown


April 02, 1993|By JACQUES KELLY

One morning when I was 5, my grandfather put his shaving brush down and told me it was time he unlocked for me the secrets of downtown Baltimore.

Edward Jacques "Pop" Monaghan Sr. was a transplanted Pennsylvanian who often cursed Baltimore and its inhabitants. But he loved to chaperon his 5-year-old grandson on an outing to Calvert and Baltimore streets.

Pop believed that when you went to town, you looked the part. He wore suits, often brown or dark grayish green. A vest was essential to hold his watch chain and Hamilton pocket watch. He was about 70 years old when he began the first of these expeditions.

Pop had two gold-filled Hamiltons, and depending upon which one he selected to wear, you could gauge what kind of day he'd outlined.

He used his best watch for important business -- banking, high Mass or a luncheon of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick. His everyday watch was slightly different. He called it his Lusitania model because he bought it on Pratt Street the day the liner went down in 1915. He hated men's wrist watches and considered them effeminate, modern and generally worthless.

Pop never hailed cabs, took buses or drove cars downtown. He was strictly a streetcar man, No. 8 only. He didn't trust buses and did without a Maryland driver's license. He drove, illegally, but his enthusiasm cooled when one of his touring car's wheels broke loose and shot through an Eastern Shore corn field.

Pop's trips downtown never took him to the department store world of Howard and Lexington streets. He was a career civil engineer and about the only time he made a mention of a department store was to comment on the way the old May Company survived its 1947 fire and the fact its escalators were well installed.

He thrived in the commercial world of downtown along Baltimore Street. There, he visited cigar stores, stationery houses, banks, his stock broker and his beloved Horn and Horn restaurant, where he was on a first-name basis with many of the waitresses, porters and cashiers. The staff behind the steam tables at the Oriole cafeterias smiled widely when the Irishman arrived.

There was, however, one aspect of Howard Street that Pop did acknowledge. It was the theaters. He liked to take in the shows, especially if there was a good comedian on the bill. He was a devotee of vaudeville and burlesque and also liked a good musical comedy.

Once we went to the Stanley for a movie. As the house lights

went up, he looked down at the brass rail around the orchestra pit that hadn't seen a live musical ensemble for many years. His eyes surveyed the stage and he started reminiscing about Groucho Marx, Bobby Clark and W.C. Fields, whom he always referred to as Will Fields. I soon real ized that he wasn't talking about old movies, but the stars' actual live appearances before the footlights in Baltimore many years earlier.

Pop was a man who made friends easily. When he went in a shop, he was immediately hailed as Ed or Mister Monaghan. He always had a new story, tall tale or extra cigar for the proprietor. Business came to a pleasant stop for the aging gentleman and the little boy alongside.

The old man loved to talk and hold court. One day, a motorist on Fayette Street stopped us and asked for directions to New York. Pop could not resist the opportunity to make a new friend.

Before we knew it, the pair of us were bound for Manhattan. My grandmother got a long-distance phone call not to wait dinner. Pop had pressing business showing me the Empire State Building, the Staten Island Ferry and the Statue of Liberty.

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