Helping lawyers on Lawyers Hill

Work: Franklin Cager's mother was a cook for three families, `the way a lot of people made their living.'

150 Years of Howard History

May 15, 2001

Elkridge resident Franklin Cager, 88, and his nephew William were interviewed by folklorist Alison Kahn on June 21, 1999, as part of an oral history project coordinated by Friends of Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway Inc. This is the second of two installments from that interview.

Franklin Cager: See, that's where my mother worked at [Lawyers Hill]. ... She was a cook ... [for the] Dobbins. Yeah, Dobbins and Murrays and Bowdens. ... used to call them the blue bloods. Now all them, you know, all them people is gone, but Lawyers Hill is still there, and they call that "Historic District."... And that's [the] way a lot of our people made their living. Especially if they, you know, the females. Oh, Lord, you were, lot of times ... you were somebody if you worked for them people. ... Them people ... up there, they would, it get too cold, they would move to Baltimore. ... Black family saying you always have some hogs, you know, to get yourself set for the winter. ...

But like I said ... I didn't fool, I just, when I got the job ... in Baltimore, I didn't have to worry too much because I was making enough money, could buy what I want then. I don't say buy what I want, but I was living better. ... Oh, they used to, if you was ... from out here ... back in them days, they called you country, you know. ...

William Cager: They could tell, they could tell the country folk. ... The way you dress, the way you walk. ... You wore different clothes ... and you hung together. ... I marry a woman in Baltimore. And she still say, still I was a country boy to her. ...

FC: You got them homemade haircuts. ... Yeah, your family cut your hair. ... Terrible, terrible. ... Sometimes you put a bowl on your head. ...

WC: We knowed our place, where you could and couldn't go. ... And we didn't have no trouble. You know, where my uncle used to chauffeur downtown, all them nice apartments ... we knowed that we could not go in there. And some places had said "colored only." Some of the stores down there that a woman could not try on hats. ... Well look, where me and him worked at, we drove trucks in St. Mary's County and Calvert County - all that had signs that said, "white only."

FC: Bathrooms and things like that. ... You couldn't get to them.

WC: And we, you had to go around in back.

FC: And no, and no restaurant you could go and eat either. ...

WC: Now you catch the Greyhound bus from Baltimore to Washington, when you got to Washington going south, you had to sit in the back. And just like he said, if people came from Virginia, they was in the back. ...

FC: [My] great-grandmother, she came from Solomons Island, down in Calvert County. And Calvert County wasn't as good as was up here. ... But I say, that's one place I'll never forget because the first time we went down there, we had to catch the steamboat. And we got off at a little place called Government Run. And we walked over to where they lived at. ... And they lived in a cabin down there. And I know I'll never forget that cabin because it had a dirt floor. It had a old fireplace ... where, I guess ... [they] cooked. ... And while we was down there, that's the first place I ever seen an ox cart. ... My mama left away from there because a lot of people, you know ... the first chance they get, they would come over here, you know. ... Used to cut tobacco down, a lot of those people. ... And Calvert County back in them days was one of the poorest counties in the state. ... [I] used to drive a trailer and tractor down there. ...

WC: We used to run routes from South Baltimore to all them counties down there. ...

FC: [The Ku Klux Klan] they was around here, yeah. ... Well I was nothing but a kid then, and my father talking about it, but the first time I got scared by them, I was working then. And I was coming up from Southern Maryland ... I looked and I seen all this white things in the light. They was dancing around like ... I didn't know. ... And they burn the cross. ... That's the first time ever I seen them like that. ... Coming up [U.S.] 301, see, and ... right up on this hill ... you could see it from the road, see. And you could see that far up there, and you could see these white things. I didn't know what it was at first. I thought it was [a] ghost or whatever. You know, it scared me. ...

I used to, when I was a young man, I used to run [to] Ellicott City, you know, courting and all like that. All up on those hills and now there was ... a whole lot of cabins up there. ... I started going up in Ellicott City was 1929, and liquor and stuff hadn't come back. See a lot of them bars open up there and you could go to little a bootleg place and things like that. ... I never forget, I was, went over delivering freight ... and so this fellow was talking. ... So he said that, "Well, if I get laid off ... I'm going in the woods." So I didn't understand what he meant. So they explained it to me - they'd go and make some liquor.

But like I said, Ellicott City ... used to go up there every Saturday ... you know, go up and meet the girls and have a nice time. ... Tell you, Ellicott City remind you of more like some place in Europe. ... And it was a lot of homes all up on the rocks and things. So that, that's the way ... that was.

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