Christmas Spent At Home, At Work

December 26, 1993|By Staff Reports Staff writers Arthur Hirsch, Ivan Penn, Norris West and Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this article.

The line at the Blockbuster video store in Severna Park trailed back toward "New Releases" and David Gosper waited, holding much of what remained of the day: tapes of "Dave," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Rising Sun."

The Gosper family had opened the gifts in the morning, and now the two boys were off to their own activities. Mr. Gosper and his wife would see friends that evening, but something had to be done to fill in this Christmas Day gap, said Mr. Gosper, who drove about 20 minutes to the store from Kent Island.

"Plus, there's tomorrow," he said, and those annoying lulls before or after football games. Something had to be done.

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Except for pilgrimages to church and the corner store to satisfy ++ last-minute Lotto fever, most Baltimoreans spent a quiet Christmas at home with family and friends.

But as the holiday morning glow wore off, the streets and sidewalks began to fill with those seeking relief from being cooped up, or simply looking for batteries for those new presents. And there were those who worked the holiday, either by choice or by chance.

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In East Baltimore, amid swirling snow flurries, Jim Long huddled on the corner of Eastern Avenue and South Chester Street with his wife and two teen-age sons. He was waiting for a bus to take him to his job as a security guard in Dundalk.

"We wanted to spend as much time as possible together," said his wife, Joyce. Behind her, 16-year-old Jimmy Jr., who dreams ++ of being a firefighter, held his new portable fire radio scanner to his ear. His brother, Mike, 14, cradled a Sega Genesis game in his hands.

"I always work on Saturdays," Mr. Long explained. But Christmas dinner was kind of rushed, he acknowledged, and his wife had yet to eat.

"At least he's got a job," she said.

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Not far away, in Patterson Park, Prissy Lee got a push from her mother, Michelle, as she tried out her favorite Christmas present, a purple Huffy 10-speed bicycle.

Her little sister, Randi, and baby brother, Joe, tooled around the park on new wheels as well. "Nice" was all Prissy had to say as she wobbled up and down the park's paths.

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Don't ask, Matt Young was saying, as he picked a snack cake off a rack in the High's store on Ritchie Highway in Severna Park. It hasn't been a very festive holiday season, he was saying.

He held in his right hand his hope for a better day: $14 worth of Lotto bets as the six-digit jackpot prize climbed to $18 million. He'd like to "pay all my bills, pay all my wife's bills, buy a house in Florida, help my brother buy the condo he wants."

For now, though, the security guard from Severna Park would pay for the tickets, the snack cake and a soft drink and head out into a blustery afternoon, looking forward to working the night shift at the Glen Burnie courthouse.

*

It's a practical matter. You want $68 for blue contact lenses, you make sacrifices. You volunteer to work Christmas Day.

It was that simple for Shanna Swarthout of Glen Burnie, who was putting in an eight-hour shift as a server at the International House of Pancakes on Ritchie Highway, one of the few places open on the commercial strip serving food that did not come wrapped in plastic.

It wasn't so bad, she said.

"The people are in a Christmas mood," she said, "I haven't had any complaints today."

*

Clear-eyed, warm-hearted volunteers helped to boost spirits by serving the homeless at soup kitchens throughout the area.

It was business as usual downtown at Our Daily Bread, despite two break-ins in the past week. Burglars took a microwave oven, coffeepots, telephones and 16 cases of canned vegetables.

"We could have fed 4,000 to 5,000 people with that," said Sister Gwynette Proctor, the kitchen's director.

"Anything they took we would have gladly given them if they had a need.

"What we want back most are our jackets," she said. The yellow Daily Bread jackets are normally worn by the charity's security staff, but Sister Gwynette said she fears they may be used by someone to panhandle. A $100 reward is being offered for their return, "no questions asked."

Donations quickly made up for the lost food, and volunteers and staff served the kitchen's usual fare of casseroles to 778 people. That is about 200 fewer than normal, but attendance was probably down because other places offered Christmas turkey dinners to the homeless, Sister Gwynette said.

Steev Zupan traveled all the way from Cleveland to help serve dinner at Our Daily Bread.

Mr. Zupan, who is visiting family in Glen Burnie, says he has worked in soup kitchens and homeless shelters in Ohio on holidays and weekends for the past eight years, and he wanted to continue the tradition.

*

Some paused to remember loved ones of Christmases past.

Cassandra Patterson of Edmondson Village visited her mother's grave at the Western Cemetery in West Baltimore. She said she was accustomed to spending Christmas with her mother, MaryEllen Ogburn, until her mother's death in January 1992.

"It's the second year without my mother," she said. "I've always been with her, so I want to remember."

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