Reclaiming a street Initiative: Realizing it might be days before the county could get there, North Symington Avenue residents cleared their quarter-mile of snow.

January 09, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

The neighbors of Catonsville's North Symington Avenue reclaimed their street yesterday, scooping at least 20,000 shovel-loads of snow in what took on the air of a spontaneous winter street festival.

You'd have to say it was worth it. They have a clean, drivable street, something that was perhaps days away if they had waited for Baltimore County snowplows.

"I don't get paid when I'm off -- that makes the bills tough," said Clinton Howard of the 100 block of N. Symington, one of yesterday's more prolific shovelers, who was hoping to drive to his job in a computer parts company today.

Mr. Howard summed up the attitude of many residents all along this quarter-mile block of about 70 rowhouses just southwest of the Baltimore line. Many literally could not afford to wait for the plows that were busy clearing the county's major roads.

Instead, more than 50 people joined in the shovel brigade. They laughed. They pushed each other's cars. They compared shovels.

Those not shoveling served hot chocolate and brownies. Dogs jumped through the snow.

"This kind of brings people together," said Dan Voeltner, an accountant. "We're all in the same boat."

Mr. Voeltner technically was not losing money by taking the day off. But he has financial reports due tomorrow and needs to get to work today. Looking down at his wood and plastic shovel, Mr. Voeltner called it "probably the best six bucks I ever spent."

His scoop broke in half a few minutes later. But he pressed on, using half a shovel or borrowing neighbors' equipment.

The residents had good reason not to wait for a plow. Even if one were available, there was the question of whether it would fit down the narrow street. Also, because cars parallel park on both sides of the street, a plow would have buried the vehicles.

Based on the heavy snow and the dimensions of the street -- 23 feet wide and nearly a quarter-mile long -- residents probably moved more than 20,000 cubic feet of snow. And that doesn't include porches, steps and sidewalks.

Today, residents can drive down their newly cleared street to Frederick Road, which was cleared as of yesterday.

Helen Stevens, who is 77 and has arthritis, didn't even know the three men she saw shoveling her walk and the street in front of her rowhouse. "I told them I'd pay them, and they said no, Mrs. Stevens said.

Ken Green, 32, a nursing student at Catonsville Community College, has lived on the block for 27 years.

He was all over the street yesterday, scooping the area in front of his house and in front of his mother's house. He also dug out his girlfriend's car.

Mr. Green said his girlfriend is from Wyoming and was complaining recently that it never really snows here. This storm impressed her, he said.

Block resident Richard Hollins, fitness director of a local health club, said he felt he was getting a good workout.

"You get your legs, back, shoulders, arms, and -- depending on if you're shoveling correctly -- you can even get your abdominals," he said.

Taking a decidedly more casual approach down the street were Fred and Andy Brent. They found that 6-foot snow mounds made perfect holders for their bottles of Red Dog beer.

"Just jab them in," Fred Brent said. "Can't beat the refrigeration."

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