Harry E. Fields, 81, tavern owner, veteran

January 31, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Harry E. Fields, whose Fields Old Trail Tavern in Govans was a popular destination for the thirsty for 70 years, died of heart failure Tuesday at Franklin Square Hospital Center. He was 81 and lived in Northeast Baltimore.

Mr. Fields was born in Baltimore, the son of John Fields, a roofer, and was raised on McCabe Avenue. His father became a full-time bootlegger and ran a speakeasy after a fall ended his roofing career. After the end of Prohibition in 1933, the elder Mr. Fields established Fields Old Trail Tavern in the 5700 block of York Road the next year. It was moved across the street to its current location in 1972.

Many of the tavern's regulars were from surrounding neighborhoods, while others arrived by streetcar.

"It was always Fields without an apostrophe," said Linda T. Fields, a daughter-in-law of Harry Fields. "The bar took its name from the days when York Road was called an old trail. It was also a stag bar in those days, with no ladies' entrance. His mother was there to make sure that no ladies went in there. Since 1972, they have been welcome."

FOR THE RECORD - Harry E. Fields:
In an obituary published for Harry E. Fields in yesterday's editions of The Sun, the name of a survivor was inadvertently omitted. He is survived by a daughter, Barbara F. Noppenberger of Carney.
The Sun regrets the error.

Mr. Fields was a student at Polytechnic Institute, but left in 1940 to join the Navy. He served as a gunner's mate 2nd class aboard destroyers assigned to convoy duty in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The lack of a high school diploma bothered Mr. Fields. When he tried to continue his education while stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, he was told, "No, you're in the Navy now," he told The Sun in an interview in 2002.

That year, Mr. Fields and other World War II veterans whose education was interrupted by the call to duty were given their diplomas in a ceremony at Poly. In recognition of his achievement, his family had a Poly Class of 1942 ring made for Mr. Fields, who wore it until his death.

After the end of World War II, Mr. Fields returned to Baltimore and joined his father at the bar, eventually taking it over in 1972 and moving the operation across the street. A jukebox provided entertainment, while a man performed light piano music, family members said.

On Christmas Eve, Mr. Fields would dress up as Santa Claus, and patrons would take their children for a visit.

"He worked there day and night for more than 50 years, until he retired in 1987," Mrs. Fields said. His son, Edward J. Fields, took over.

She said her father-in-law "was the kind of man who would give anybody anything."

"If someone walked in without a dime or a hard luck story, he'd give them what he could -- and he wasn't a rich man," Mrs. Fields said. "He was extremely kind and generous."

Mr. Fields was a longtime Colts fan and season ticket-holder. He also was an avid golfer, as well as an usher at St. Mary of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church, 5500 York Road, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday.

Besides his son, Mr. Fields is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Doris Smith; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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