Ernest L. Ross, former Pennsylvania Avenue haberdasher

A snappy dresser and longtime jazz aficionado who loved to dance

April 12, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen |

Ernest L. "Scribbles" Ross, a former Pennsylvania Avenue haberdasher who enjoyed dancing and listening to jazz, died of a heart attack April 2 at Maryland General Hospital. A Baltimore resident, he was 66.

"He got the name 'Scribbles' when he was a child. He was always scribbling, and the name just stuck," said a sister, Clarice M. Day, who lives in Northwest Baltimore.

He attended St. Peter Claver parochial school and Baltimore public schools.

As a youth, when school closed for the summer, Mr. Ross traveled to Ocean City where he worked in restaurants, starting out as a dishwasher.

"He eventually became a waiter and then a cook," Mrs. Day said.

In 1961, Mr. Ross embarked on his life's work when he took a job as a clothing salesman at Barry's Pipe Rack Clothes in the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Ave.

Because Mr. Ross was a stylish dresser, working at the clothing store was a dream job.

"Oh, Lord have mercy, was he a snappy dresser. He loved clothes and he loved to dress, which he did very well, and while working at the Pipe Rack, he met many singers, movie stars and other performers who came to Baltimore," Mrs. Day said.

"During his years working at the store, many entertainers who performed at the Royal Theater came to the Pipe Rack to purchase clothing," she said. "There were such groups as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Temptations, Wilson Pickett and many others."

Mr. Ross continued working at the store until it closed, in 1982.

"He retired that year and then cared for our mother, who had cancer," Mrs. Day said.

Mr. Ross, an accomplished dancer, enjoyed going to parties and dancing the night away, his sister said.

He was a particular fan of The Madison, the popular line dance craze that swept Baltimore after Alphonso "Al" Brown and the Tune Toppers recorded "The Madison," and the new dance became a fixture on the "Buddy Deane Show."

"He incorporated a few steps of his own into it and called it 'The Scribbles Special,' " his sister said. "He loved to dance, and whenever he went to an affair, he spent the whole time on the dance floor. He would go from lady to lady."

Mr. Ross was also a longtime jazz aficionado and for more than 30 years, he regularly attended the Hampton Jazz Festival in Hampton, Va.

"Me and my husband would go with Scribbles as well as an entourage of his friends," Mrs. Day recalled.

Mr. Ross was a fan of Frank Sinatra, jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum and Frankie Beverly and Maze, a rhythm and blues group, his sister said.

He also liked taking road trips to New York, Philadelphia and New Jersey in his yellow Corvette.

At holidays, Mr. Ross, who lived on West Mount Royal Avenue, followed a regular routine of delivering a rose to relatives and friends.

"Every holiday, he made sure that the women in his life, both relatives and friends, had flowers," his sister said. "He went to each person's house and hand-delivered a red rose, and if they weren't home, he left it at their door, and you knew that Scribbles had been there."

The last time Mrs. Day saw her brother was Holy Thursday.

"The last thing he said was, 'I love you, darling. I'm going to see about the flowers for the ladies.' "

Mr. Ross was a communicant of St. Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church.

Services for Mr. Ross will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Brown's Memorial Baptist Church, 3215 W. Belvedere Ave.

Also surviving are a daughter, Linda Cuba of Mays Landing, N.J.; a brother, Walter Ross of Baltimore; a stepbrother, Larry Caster of Baltimore; another sister, Sandra Rogers-Robinson of Northwood; his stepmother, Phyllis Ross of Ashburton; and three grandsons. A son, Jeffrey Ross, died in 2008. His marriage to the former Faye Fulton ended in divorce.

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