Alexander Bostick, age 105

Former S.C. sharecropper moved to Baltimore in 1939 and later worked at the old Goetze plant as a meat cutter

May 25, 2010|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun

Alexander Bostick, a retired meat cutter who lived to be nearly 106 and spent his early years sharecropping in South Carolina, died of heart disease May 19 at Maryland General Hospital. He lived on Eden Street in East Baltimore.

Known as "Buddy," he was born in Dillon County, S.C., on Aug. 5, 1904. His parents farmed a small piece of land they did not own.

"They picked cotton, raised chickens, cured tobacco and plowed the land with the help of a mule and a hand plow," said his son, Hilton O. Bostick of Des Moines, Iowa. He said the family also raised hogs and built smoke houses on the land. They made sausage and scrapple, using every part of the pig.

Mr. Bostick's formal education was limited. "His early experience as a farmer, sharecropper and meat cutter served him well. He learned how to make a life," his son said. "He was paid only twice a year, and he and his family lived on fresh vegetables from the farm, chicken, pigs and fruits and nuts from trees on the farm. They worked from sunup to sundown."

He would harvest his tobacco or cotton in late September at the time of the harvest moon and sell whatever else he had grown.

Mr. Bostick and members of his family were part of what historians call the Great Migration, when millions of African-Americans left the Old South for industrial cities further north.

"My father arrived in Baltimore on a train with a shoebox lunch in January 1939," his son said. Mr. Bostick roomed with his sister-in-law in East Baltimore and worked in construction and at Maryland Shipbuilding and Drydock. He later became a master meat cutter at the Albert F. Goetze Inc. meatpacking plant, which closed in the 1970s.

"Goetze's sold a commercial version of all the cuts of meat my father had learned down on the farm," his son said.

Mr. Bostick eventually moved his wife to Baltimore. She was the former Cora Lee McNeill, a descendent of slaves owned by a Scottish family on a North Carolina plantation. In time, he also brought his parents to East Baltimore.

"He could not have relaxed in his own home in Baltimore, with running water and a supply of coal, if his parents were still living in a one-room shack, gathering their own firewood and cooking on a pot-bellied stove," his son said.

Mr. Bostick remained a "country boy at heart." He never had a credit card.

"My father was paying off two mortgages regularly, a car note, church tithes, NAACP dues and was never in debt," his son said. "He said, 'If I didn't have it in my pocket, I couldn't afford it.'"

He kept up with his country ties in other ways. On a trip home, Mr. Bostick found a rooster and brought it back to Baltimore. It lived in his backyard and shared quarters with the family cocker spaniel.

After retiring, Mr. Bostick continued to rise at 5 a.m. and decided to reclaim a vacant rowhouse-size lot across the street. He cleared it of trash and weeds and planted rows of corn, peas and tomatoes.

Over the years he owned several cars, including a Chevrolet and later a Buick. He drove his son to visit relatives in Washington each July Fourth, and on the way home they would buy fireworks. Mr. Bostick also took his wife and children to Carr's Beach near Annapolis.

His wife of more than 60 years died in 2004. Mr. Bostick lived independently until a year later.

He was a member of Southern Baptist Church, 1701 N. Chester St., where a funeral is being planned.

In addition to his son, survivors include two grandchildren. Another son, Alexander T. Bostick, died in 2005.

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