Howard 'Bubby' Johnson, 88, waiter at House of Welsh

November 25, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Howard "Bubby" Johnson was, by most accounts, as smooth as satin. As a waiter at the House of Welsh restaurant downtown, he charmed his customers in high style that often resulted in a generous tip.

After work he was pure silk. That's when he'd dress in his finest clothes -- complete with derby and spats -- and gather a certain swagger to his stride as he headed to the nightspots on The Avenue -- Pennsylvania Avenue.

"He worked hard all day waitering, but he worked even harder at night having a good time and playing the town," said Robert Cummings, a longtime friend. "He had a way with people, but he had a special way with the ladies more so."

Mr. Johnson, 88, who died Saturday from a stroke at St. Agnes Hospital, seldom missed a day of work in more than 30 years at the House of Welsh.

A West Baltimore resident, he worked at the restaurant from the 1930s to the early 1970s. "He just took this business very seriously, because his demeanor and appearance reflected on the restaurant, which was his source of income," said Brenda Sharan, a friend and former co-worker.

Mr. Johnson once received a $20 tip from two men he served at lunch. Not knowing the money was for him and seeing it on the table, he feared the men had forgotten their change and raced up Saratoga Street to find them.

"When he caught them he told them he had their money," Ms. Sharan said. "When they said it was for him because he was such a good waiter, he said, 'Well come on back in and let me buy you a drink.' Knowing him, he probably would have expected another tip after he served them."

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Johnson was educated in the city public schools. In his later years, he daily attended the St. Ann's Adult Day Care Center.

He began work at the House of Welsh following in the footsteps of his father, who was a waiter there.

And he reveled in the night life when Pennsylvania Avenue was not only Baltimore's entertainment hub, but a major hot spot on the East Coast. Friends said he'd stay at the clubs until sunrise, then go home and get a few hours of sleep before heading to the Guilford Avenue restaurant.

"Bubby just loved life and loved being around people. He was a fun person," said a niece, Lena Jenkins of Baltimore.

"His lifestyle was as fast as you can imagine: never home, always looking good," said Mr. Cummings. "I'll bet he never had a bad day at the restaurant. Never. At least he never let it show."

Services will be at 6: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Nutter Funeral Home, 2501 Gwynns Falls Parkway.

Mr. Johnson also is survived by three other nieces: Mildred Garner, Hortense Bethea and Barbara Nelson, all of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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