Anna Potter Jones, 84, longtime factory worker

August 09, 1996|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

Anna Potter Jones, whose life epitomized the grueling factory labor and simple pleasures of East Baltimore's immigrant communities, died of a heart attack Tuesday in the same Canton house where she was born. She was a week short of her 85th birthday.

The daughter of Polish immigrants who landed in Baltimore at the turn of the century, Mrs. Jones worked for decades in the packing houses and garment factories that were part of the city's old industrial fabric.

As a young mother during the Depression, she brought her children to her job at Roberts' Packing House on Binney Street. ** "She set me in a bushel basket next to her and snipped beans and skinned tomatoes," said her daughter, Gloria T. Alvarez of Linthicum Heights.

During World War II, she sewed sand bags from burlap for the military for Continental Bag Co., dusty labor that was hard on hands and lungs. In peacetime, she fashioned slipcovers for the Comfy Manufacturing Co. on Pulaski Street in West Baltimore, where she retired in 1971.

"She came up the hard way," Mrs. Alvarez said. "That's why she lasted so long."

When feminism championed the return to work of homemakers in the 1970s, Mrs. Jones was puzzled at the fuss, said her grandson, Rafael Alvarez, a reporter for The Sun who chronicled her cannery work in an article in the Sun Magazine in 1992.

"She didn't know what the big deal was," he said. "All she had known all her life was hard work that went directly to support a family."

But her grandchildren also came to appreciate Mrs. Jones' off-duty personality. Every Easter morning for many years, her extended family gathered at her house on Dillon Street for a breakfast feast of her homemade Polish sausages. And her greatest pleasure was to lead a troop of kids downtown aboard the buses she knew so well and treat them to a movie and a meal in the tea rooms of the Howard Street department stores.

"She liked the old love movies -- Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, Clark Gable," said her son, William J. Jones of Ocean City. "She could put up with the children better than their own parents. Her favorite saying was, 'You got to change with the times.' "

In retirement, she and neighbors -- many of them also veterans of Baltimore canneries -- liked to carry their rockers to the Dillon Street sidewalk and chat.

"She had the body of an 85-year-old and the mind of a 16-year-old," said Mrs. Alvarez.

Born Anna Potter in 1911 -- Potter was Anglicized from the Polish surname "Poter" -- she left school in third grade, after her mother died of cancer, to help an older sister care for three younger siblings. Her father was killed when she was in her 20s in an explosion on his job at the Standard Oil plant on Boston Street.

She was married in 1927 to William Michael Jones, who died in 1971.

All her life, Mrs. Jones attended St. Casimir's Catholic Church in Canton and was a member of the Polish Sodality.

Viewing will be at the Skarda funeral establishment, at 2829 Hudson St. in Canton, today from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Casimir's.

In addition to Mr. Jones and Mrs. Alvarez, Mrs. Jones is survived by a sister, Hilda Lockwood, who lives across Dillon Street from Mrs. Jones; another daughter, Sylvia C. Carrozza of Middle River; 10 grandchildren; and 21 great-grandchildren.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the American Heart Association.

Pub Date: 8/09/96

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