Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hutzler's Parking Garage

The Hutzler's book by Michael J. Lisicky has to be one of my most treasured gifts left under the Christmas tree. I feel like it was written just for me. I was carried back to a splendid part of my youth as I poured over the text and photos. Mr. Lisicky does an excellent job telling the stories about this family-owned department store rooted in Baltimore. I adore the contributions by Jacques Kelly, too. The book made me remember how our trips to the Howard Street Palace started and finished in the Hutzler's Parking Garage on W. Mulberry Street. I recall having to wear my organdy dress, crinolines and patent leather shoes before we piled into the green Studebaker for a day of downtown shopping. The garage entrance on Mulberry St. was where my excitement interspersed with a bit of boredom started. Sometimes the line of cars approaching the garage was so long that we were backed-up down Mulberry. Finally when it became our turn to pull inside, a man waved for us to drive up the circular concrete ramp so that we could hand-off the car to another attendant and begin our shopping. The first stop was the toy department but strictly for browsing.

The return to the garage at the end of the day brought lots of waiting. Children stood outside the glass enclosed office while weary mothers queued up behind the wooden counter to pay for parking and retrieve their purchases. (One of Hutzler's many thoughtful services included the salespersons sending your purchases to the garage.) While wishing there was a place to sit down, there was lots of time to ponder the mysteries of this dark echoing cavern which seemed to have a nonstop stream of cars being returned to customers. The valets paraded the cars down the ramp and then disappeared before reappearing with another car. Where did they go? Well I found out eventually that the attendants rode a continuously moving lift which was described to me as a big vertical chain with large bolts for steps on which the men grabbed a footing and then rode up to get your car. At final departure, as we were seated in the car, my mother was instructed to blow her horn as she rounded a blind curve to exit the garage. Of course I always wanted to press the horn for her. HONK HONK !

If you want to buy the book Greetings and Readings has it here.

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