Reflections on Liberty Heights

November 18, 1999

DIRECTOR BARRY Levinson's movie "Liberty Heights" opens nationwide tomorrow, giving the world a slice of Baltimore, circa 1954. The movie looks at race, class and religion through the eyes of a Jewish family.

Mr. Levinson incorporated stories from across Northwest Baltimore for this nostalgic look at his hometown during a time of rapid social change.

We asked some people who used to live there and some who live there now to reflect on life along the Liberty Heights Avenue corridor.

FOR THE RECORD - An article on this page last Thursday about the Liberty Heights Avenue corridor incorrectly reported that a home at 3708 Dennlyn Road had been broken up into apartments and was in disrepair. In fact, it is a single-family home in fine condition. The Sun regrets the error.

Linda Becker Michel, lived at 2534 White Chapel Road in Ashburton. At Garrison Junior High School, she was the homecoming queen to Barry Levinson's homecoming king.

Our whole life -- our world -- revolved around Forest Park High School and Liberty Heights Avenue. My parents lived there until 1960 when I graduated from high school. The guys hung out at the diner and the girls went to Mandel's, a big deli across the street where everybody went after dates. We had a neighborhood reunion a few years ago and my old street still looks wonderful.

Samuel M. Parham, a retired Dunbar High School business teacher, has lived in the 3600 block of Sequoia Ave. since 1980.

I'm from North Carolina and the property and the backyard suits me. It's usually nice and quiet here, off the beaten path, about three blocks off Liberty Heights.

Most of my neighbors are homeowners and professionals. I'm in a pocket of Spanish-style houses. But I would like to see the city keep the streets in better order and fix the sidewalks. We keep our part clean, but the city needs to do more.

Benjamin L. Cardin, 3rd District congressional representative, grew up at 3606 Sequoia Ave.

I lived there from the time I was born until I went away to college in 1961. My mother sold the house in 1968; we stayed longer than most. She was very attached to the house and the memories. I drive by for nostalgia about every week or so, and even though I remember those houses being huge, they're a lot smaller.

Evening dinner was a sacred event back then. I don't think we realized how special our community was. It was the only thing we knew -- it was where we lived, we prayed and were educated. You don't see that duplicated in newer communities and that's why I think our cities are coming back.

Gail Hiller lived at 3407 Calloway Ave.

I was 6 when we moved there from lower Park Heights in 1951. We lived there until I was 16 and I have wonderful memories. Everything was in walking distance and all the kids hung out at Shur's pharmacy and drank chocolate Cokes.

Between regular school and Hebrew school, we went to Cooper's for coddies [cod cakes]. There were tons of kids, you always had people to play with. We'd hop the No. 32 streetcar and go downtown to Hutzler's, you could get chicken chow mein in the basement for 60 cents. I haven't been by the old house in about six years. It looked OK, but you can't bring back an era that has passed.

Marcus Moore, an engineering student at Morgan State University, lives in the Forest Park apartments, 3631 Liberty Heights Ave. He was raised nearby in the 5300 block of Belleville Ave.

I live here because I want to be close to my family and I know the people around here. The neighborhood is OK, but it could be cleaner. There's a lot of broken glass, broken wine bottles. Most of my parents neighbors are homeowners. They pull together. The only people you see hanging on corners are little kids playing. The bad corners are further up at Gwynn Oak and Liberty Heights. If I buy a house, it'll probably be in the county.

Henry Holzman lived at 4205 Chatham Road, across from Forest Park High School.

My father had a bakery on Dolfield Avenue. He tried to teach me the business. I couldn't bake but I was great at icing things up. I was born in 1952 and my parents bought the house in 1950. I graduated Forest Park with Barry [Levinson] in 1960.

All of my immediate neighbors were Catholic because of [the nearby] All Saints church, but the area was predominantly Jewish. I drive by my old house quite a lot and it looks very small. I think the people there now are trying their best. There's not much you can do except strive for decent schools and committed citizens.

Judy Nathanson Elbaum lived at 3411 Forest Park Ave.

I drive by it all the time when I go to Mondawmin. Our white picket fence is down and the patio my father laid is overgrown, but I still see it through the eyes of my childhood. I had a dream one night that all the old houses were all renovated and everybody moved back. You could sit on your front porch and watch the world walk by and you knew every person.

Everything was in walking distance -- everything that made me feel safe and happy was there. We'd go to Cooper's to get a hot dog and an Almond Smash and walk up to the A&P with my mother to shop. We'd walk home with the perishables and the rest was left in boxes with our name on it and my father would pick it up on his way home from work.

Stan Dorman lived at 3406 Ellamont Road.

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