A stroll to the market becomes a rich walk down memory lane

Reminiscing

August 05, 2006|By JACQUES KELLY

Often on a summer Saturday morning, as I make my way to the Waverly Farmers' Market, I'll glance eastward and imagine an egg-yolk yellow Baltimore Transit Co. streetcar sailing down Greenmount Avenue. It's been more than four decades since the youth fare was 10 cents, but the neighborhood looks so much the same; the connections with the past become the continuations of 2006.

And there's nothing better than a couple of stands of heavily blooming crepe myrtle bushes to be reconnected with a 1950s summer involving the reflected glow of the elevated lights at Memorial Stadium and a root beer snowball at Ernie Bentz's confectionary store.

As you went out the back door of the old Guilford Avenue home, just across 29th Street was a leafy alley, properly called Vineyard Lane, that served as a neighborhood shortcut from Charles Village to the oldest parts of Waverly. It was our route, just poorly paved enough to assure a rocking ride on the wicker baby carriage that carried Kellys as well as A&P bags.

These days I find myself retracing that Vineyard Lane route, through the Barclay Elementary School play yard and picking up a surviving stretch of it by the Free Books building, where my neighbors are industriously disposing of or enlarging their libraries over a weekend.

I often observe the deterioration/restoration of some vintage homes along the Lane. Some were falling in when I was a child; most endure. Certainly some of the clumps of purple phlox are the same.

The other day, when I decided it was time for a real summer cut, I thought of my Greenmount Avenue barber shop and Johnnie DeVos, a kindly gentleman who had trimmed my great-grandfather's hair. I pass the marble steps where his shop stood and think of a summer day when a breeze would catch the flimsy curtain that separated the front hair-cutting studio from Johnnie's family dining room. If the DeVos family were having cabbage for dinner, you knew it.

The space where Normal's Books is today was Minor's radio and phonograph shop. I'll observe customers devote a morning to their book selection and think how my mother would drop in and ask to audition "The Third Man Theme" before investing in a shellac 78-rpm record. She would not have shot as much time at the store as today's dilatory customers.

Along Greenmount's main shopping stem, merchants from around the world now operate Waverly's myriad of variety shops. I'm reminded of the first and second-generation European immigrants who did business here 50 years ago.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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