Genevieve Jones, 99, ran baking business from her home

January 30, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Genevieve Jones, known as the "Roll Lady" in her Southwest Baltimore neighborhood for more than a decade because of the baked delicacies she sold to help support her family, died Tuesday of pneumonia at Sinai Hospital.

Mrs. Jones, 99, sold rolls from the kitchen of the Bruce Street house she and her family rented after her husband lost his job in the 1930s. She saved the money from her business and was able to buy the house, and later an adjoining house.

"There was nothing better than coming home and smelling those rolls," said her son Earl Jones of Baltimore. "They made the whole neighborhood smell good. On a windy day you'd really smell them."

Her baking business, which began about 1936, was a family affair, with three of her sons using wagons and skateboards to deliver pans of rolls to neighbors. Customers found her mostly through word of mouth -- or from the rolls' aroma.

Mrs. Jones was the business' only baker, rising early, kneading the dough and baking about 10 large pans of big, fluffy rolls a day in an old cast-iron, wood-burning kitchen stove, relatives said.

"The kitchen was large, and she always had it in control, it was never messy," her son said. "She always knew what was happening."

Raised in Ellicott City, Genevieve Jones (her maiden name was also Jones) married Clarence Jones in the 1920s. The couple had nine children, including a son who predeceased her, and lived in Howard County until 1936, when they moved to Baltimore so their children could attend public schools.

"She liked living there, but there were no public schools for African-American children and they couldn't pay for private school," said her daughter Genevieve Matthews of Baltimore.

At the time, the only school for black youngsters in Howard County was Ellicott City Colored School, a one-room structure with no plumbing or electricity where students were taught through the eighth grade. The school closed in 1953.

In the 1940s, her husband began a commercial hauling business, and she became his business manager. She continued to bake rolls, but on a smaller scale.

Her husband died in 1978 and, soon after, Mrs. Jones moved in with a daughter in Northwest Baltimore. She moved into Augusburg Nursing Home in Lochearn about three years ago.

Longtime residents of her old Southwest Baltimore community remember the "Roll Lady."

"The rolls she made were special because they tasted liked she was just making one batch for you and you only," said Jerome Spradley, a longtime resident of the Bruce Street community.

"She was always well-remembered around here. A nice lady who happened to make good rolls. That's her."

Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at First Apostolic Faith Church, 27 S. Caroline St. in East Baltimore.

In addition to Earl Jones and Genevieve Matthews, she is survived by three other sons, Curtis Jones and Joseph Jones, both of Baltimore, and Elmer Jones of New York; three other daughters, Gladys Clash of Turners Station, and Lilly May Brown and Carol Lee McCroery, both of Baltimore; about 31 grandchildren; "no end to the number of great-grandchildren" and "many, many" great-great-grandchildren, Mr. Jones said.

Pub Date: 1/30/98

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