Memorable Columbus Day spent with Grandpop

October 10, 1994|By JACQUES KELLY

It didn't take much to get my grandfather to announce, "I think we better get the flag out."

Columbus Day was one of his favorite holiday-excuses for running up the national colors.

It would have been too simple for us to have a permanent !B bracket mounted on the front porch. No, Edward Jacques Monaghan Sr. liked to rig the stone porch with ropes, then attach the flag across the front of the house, with the field to the north.

His favorite banner was very large and I believe was a gift from Congressman George H. Fallon. It had papers to prove it had once flown over the Capitol. Every so often he had my grandmother iron it. It was one of his treasures.

Once Pop had the flag just the way he wanted it, he then had the rest of the day to enjoy the holiday. He liked nothing better than to chaperon his grandson on an outing to the corners of downtown Baltimore he knew best.

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.

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 -- say banking, long sessions at a 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 down an Eastern Shore corn field.

Pop's trips never took him to the department store world of Howard and Lexington streets. He was a career civil engineer. About the only time he ever 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 side of downtown centered along )) Baltimore Street. There he dipped into 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 stage. He liked to take in the shows, especially if there was a good comedian. He was a devotee of vaudeville and burlesque and liked a good musical comedy.

Toward the end of his life the film "Jumbo" played the old Stanley. Pop didn't take too much notice of Doris Day and Stephen Boyd, but he roared at Martha Raye and Jimmy Durante, who were both in the cast.

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. He started reminiscing about Groucho Marx, Bobby Clark and W.C. Fields, whom he always referred to as Will Fields. I soon realized that he wasn't talking about old movies, but the stars' actual live appearances before Baltimore's footlights many years earlier.

Pop was a man who believed in live appearances. He seemed to know people instantly on the street. If 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 passing Fayette Street motorist stopped us and asked for directions to New York.

Pop could not resist. 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, the Statue of Liberty and, of course, the statue in Columbus Circle.

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