Couple reflect on 57 years of living in Rodgers Forge

WAY BACK WHEN

Back Story

October 06, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Harry Truman was president, trolley cars were running on York Road and hemlines were not what they are today, when Larry and Eileen Taylor first turned the front door key of their Regester Avenue home in Rodgers Forge on a cool November day in 1950.

"We paid $11,500 for an end-of-group home and were its first occupants. It was already completed, but the houses across the street were still being built when we moved in," said Eileen Bohli Taylor, 87, who has been married to her husband, Larry, also 87, for 62 years.

Larry, a retired broadcast engineer who worked for WMAR-TV until retiring in 1985, was born and raised in Waverly, as was his future wife, whom he first met at St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church.

"She said `no' to me for seven years until finally agreeing to marry me in 1945," Larry said with a laugh.

"I was working as a secretary at Martin's [the old Glenn L. Martin Co.], and I just loved engineers, and the reason I waited so long was to make sure that I loved Larry," Eileen said.

Larry began his broadcasting career in the late 1930s as an engineer for WCBM-Radio --"It was a peanut whistle of a station then," he said -- and helped build the transmitter for WMAR-TV, Maryland's pioneering television station that first went on the air in 1947.

"TV was so new then that I didn't even know how to spell the word," Larry said with his characteristic good humor. "So I read a book about TV and became an engineer."

The couple began their married life in an apartment in the 2600 block of Kirk Ave., and after the birth of their son, Larry, needed more space. They later had a second child, daughter Mary.

"When I was single, I used to come out to Rodgers Forge for parties and always liked it here and Larry liked it, too," Eileen said.

"We looked at the house three times, and Eileen finally won," Larry said.

In 1934, builder James Keelty began developing Rodgers Forge, and over the next 22 years constructed 1,777 homes in the community that still has a reputation of being a North Baltimore cribbery.

"Everyone who lived there at the time was young, many were World War II veterans, and they all had babies. Our first neighbors next door raised seven kids in their house," Eileen said.

The Taylors' end-of-group brick home, still painted the traditional Rodgers Forge white trim, had three bedrooms, a bathroom in the basement club cellar, a dining room and kitchen, and a front living room.

"When we moved in, we were the first to have a telephone in the neighborhood. WMAR put it in case they needed to get a hold of me because I took care of the transmitter," Larry said. "All of the neighbors used to come over to borrow it."

"There were always parties between the houses, and twice a year we held a Rodgers Forge dance in the American Legion hall near the Ma and Pa [the old Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad] tracks," Eileen said.

"It was a lot of fun, and of course, all the music was from the 1940s, good big-band stuff," Larry said.

When the Taylors moved in, houses' backyards were separated by privet hedges and not today's chain-link and picket fences. Many of the hedges were later removed because of a problem with rats, the Taylors said.

In those early years, the Taylors and other neighbors shared in the work running a communal garden that was planted on a vacant lot on Dumbarton Road.

"I guess my plot was 15 feet wide and 50 feet long, and we had [the] best corn, green beans, tomatoes and peppers," Larry said.

Larry said he could lie in bed at night and hear the No. 8 streetcar whizzing along York Road, and his wife remembered when Baltimore Transit Co. buses circulated through the neighborhood on Pinehurst Road.

"That finally stopped because people started buying cars, and if they didn't park right, the bus was stalled and couldn't get through," Eileen said.

But now the time has come to move. Their son, who now lives in West Chester, Pa., and their daughter, who lives in Lutherville, have been helping them go through and pack up the possessions and memories from 57 years of living in "The Forge," as residents call their neighborhood.

They've enjoyed summer nights in the backyard with their children and grandchildren, eating crabs and drinking beer while telling the old stories one more time, with accompanying laughter punctuating the humid stillness.

There are so many memories, Eileen said, of parties after midnight Mass on Christmas Eve with neighbors while their children were tucked away safely upstairs waited for Santa Claus.

"By the time we got to bed, the kids wanted to get up," Eileen said, laughing. "Life was good here."

The Taylors, who sold their beloved home in one day, will move to Oak Crest Village in Parkville on Monday.

The Taylors have friends living in the retirement community.

"There are four families from the 100 block [of] Regester Ave. already there -- the Connollys, Hennigans, Schultzes and Chlans -- and we'll be the fifth," Eileen said.

"Guess what? We all moved [to Rodgers Forge] at the same time, and now we'll be together again," she said.

fred.rasmussen @baltsun.com

Find previous columns at baltimoresun.com/backstory.

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