Margaret R. Adams, a lifelong Turners Station resident whose recollections of life in the eastern Baltimore County African-American community became part of a published oral history, died at her home there Sunday of a heart attack. She was 85.
She was born Margaret Ruth Adams. Her father, Irvin C. Adams, and her mother, Emma M.S. Adams, had moved from Dillwin, Va., in 1909, after he took a job at the nearby Bethlehem Steel Corp. plant in Sparrows Point.
In the published oral history, recorded by Louis S. Diggs, a Baltimore County historian, Ms. Adams recalled her early years growing up there with three brothers in what was called the Meadow.
"I recall that my parents were residing in a normal type of home a tenant would have in the Meadow; back then our house had no water, no bathroom facilities. I remember having to take our baths in an old tin tub," she told Mr. Diggs in 2002. "The pump for the water was not too far from the house. My brothers would have to bring buckets of water for my mother when it was time to do the laundry."
Ms. Adams, who had attended elementary school on Sollers Point Road, had to take an examination to see if she qualified for education beyond the seventh grade.
"Back in those days, Baltimore County made us take this examination before they paid for our continued education," she said.
Ms. Adams, who rode the old No. 26 streetcar line to Baltimore back and forth from Turners Station, attended Booker T. Washington Junior High School and Douglass High School, from which she graduated in 1937.
Entertainment in her youth meant trolley trips to Baltimore to attend performances at the Royal Theater or movies at the Regent and Harlem theaters. There were also trips to Edgewater Beach, owned by an African-American, where she and her friends would go swimming and listen to bands.
"It was a truly nice amusement park," recalled Ms. Adams.
Her father, who disliked working in the hot and dangerous steel mill, saved enough money to buy a small building in the early 1920s on Balnew Avenue, where he established a grocery store.
Turners Station was one of the few places in Baltimore County at the time where African-Americans could buy property, family members said.
After repeal of Prohibition in 1933, he opened a bar, Adams' Cocktail Lounge, next to his Balnew Avenue home. He later remodeled the facility that eventually included a large bar, and public and private dining rooms.
Ms. Adams worked in her father's bar and later took a job during World War II at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River, where she was an assembly line worker until retiring in the 1960s.
Adams' Cocktail Lounge was a popular after-hours destination for many of the entertainers who played the Royal Theater and nightclubs on Pennsylvania Avenue, which was then the entertainment mecca for black Baltimoreans. Irvin Adams operated the bar until his death in 1970.
"It was beautiful. It really carried a crowd. Everybody knew Adams' Cocktail Lounge," Ms. Adams told the Dundalk Eagle in a 2001 interview.
"She recalled meeting Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, the Ink Spots, Count Basie, Chick Webb and many other entertainers who came to the bar to work or to drink and eat after they had played `The Avenue,'" said a nephew, Michael R. Adams, a Sun editor. "Early in Pearl Bailey's career, she was a regular singer at the bar."
Bailey was one of Ms. Adams favorite performers and became a personal friend.
"I remember Pearl Bailey as a true down-to-earth person. I went with her on a Western tour, and she was really strict with me," she said in the oral history.
The cocktail lounge, which later became a disco and package goods store, was operated by her brothers until their deaths. It closed in 1986 and was torn down in 1996.
Ms. Adams, whose marriage to Astor Cover ended in divorce, had no children. However, she helped to raise three generations of children of family and friends.
"Turners Station has always been in my heart. I still reside in Turners Station because there is no other place that I would like to live," she said in the oral history. "There has never been any problems with our white neighbors. They have always been friends and cordial, and we have been likewise to them."
She was a longtime communicant of the now-closed Christ the King Roman Catholic Church in Dundalk.
Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. today at the March Funeral Home, 1101 E. North Ave.
Ms. Adams is survived by nieces and nephews.