A Different View Of DowntownEditor: Jacques Kelly's words...


June 16, 1996

A Different View Of Downtown

Editor: Jacques Kelly's words always inspire a stroll down memory lane. I especially enjoyed his Easter column ["Easter Saturday Excitement," April 7]. I am almost 56 years old and his vivid description of downtown Baltimore at Easter time brought back many pleasant memories. I had almost forgotten that live baby chicks were sold on the street. We purchased live chicks on a long-ago Easter Saturday and two weeks was about the extent of their little lives.

In addition to the Easter chicks and Julius Gutman's Easter bonnets, I, too, recall the marvelous window displays at Christmastime. Perhaps Mr. Kelly and I were in downtown Baltimore during the same era.

However, I am willing to bet a hundred dollars that I have some memories of downtown Baltimore that Mr. Kelly never experienced. In fact, I doubt that he even knew of the situation that existed during that time.

My experiences as a little "colored" girl in downtown Baltimore have left some painful scars that I have not, or, apparently, cannot forget. I can recall the Mr. Peanut who refused to drop a scoop of peanuts in my upturned hand no matter how long I stood there. Other people stopped briefly, were given a spoonful of peanuts, then went on their way. I would stand there totally ignored. My mother would then usher me into the Planter's store and purchase a 1/4-pound or 1/2-pound bag of peanuts.

When I was a little girl I used to fantasize about the inside of Hutzler's, Stewart's and Hochschild-Kohn because their window displays were so magical. Colored folks were not allowed to shop at these stores. I used to beg my mother to take me inside, but she always had a reason why we had to be satisfied with window watching. In retrospect, I suppose she wanted to protect me from the ugly truth.

On the other hand, we could shop at the Hecht-May Co., Julius Gutman, Brager's and Epstein's.

My most painful memory of downtown Baltimore is of not being allowed to sit down at the lunch counters of 5 & 10 cent stores. Imagine an 8-year-old whose legs are tired and who longs to sit down. Once again my mother had the most feeble of excuses. None of it made any sense to my child's mind.

My question for Mr. Kelly is, did he know? Did he ever ask questions concerning the matter? What was he told if he did notice enough to ask about it?

Elaine B. Forte


Editor's note: Jacques Kelly responds to the above letter in this week's column, which can be found on Page 14.

Fanning the Flames Of Fire Memories

Editor: Thank you for Jacques Kelly's article "A Fast Break to Fire Scenes" [April 14]. My family has its own fire fan. It's nice to know this, too, must be a Baltimore tradition.

My grandfather, James Burke, was born and raised in Baltimore. The only time he left was World War II. I don't know quite how long his fascination with fires has gone on, but my mother can remember his running out of the house in the middle of the night when she was young. I can remember fire radios all over the house and his hip-wader boots by the door after a big one.

This former sergeant major from the Fifth Regiment Armory may not make it to all the big ones now but he and other of his former military buddies still burn up the phones lines reviewing a particularly juicy fire.

Tell Mr. Kelly "thank you" for me and my family. [His column] brought back fond memories from a time of 3 a.m. dashes out the door and seeing fires live, and not on WBAL or CNN.

It's nice to know that we're not the only ones who talk about a big fire as if it were Cal Ripken's Streak. Baltimoreans are truly a unique lot.

Kimberly Siegert


Negative Spin On Positive Program

Editor: I read with great interest the Sun Magazine's cover story of May 19 on the Sophie Kerr Prize at Washington College. I was disappointed at the negative undertones, as I believe Washington College recognizes and supports literary arts more than any other undergraduate college we researched this year for our college-bound daughter.

The definition of a great writer is not ultimately, or even necessarily, based on the number of books she/he has sold!

Peggy Kolodny

Owings Mills

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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