Thursday, August 29, 2013

Streetcars, Buses and Independence

"Eutaw and Howard" oil on canvas (22" x 20") 2011
The Baltimore Transit Company's streetcars and buses offered independence to many local pre-teens like myself who could travel downtown with just her best friend (Charlotte) for the day.  On Saturday morning there were the obligatory piano lessons at the Peabody but sometimes  they were rewarded with a grilled hamburger at the Rexall lunch counter on the corner of Charles and Centre Streets.  After a  quick tour of the mummies at the Walter’s Art Gallery we walked to the Joke Shop on Park Avenue near Lexington Street.  There we discovered rubber vomit, fake dog-do, peppery-hot trick chewing gum and the adult joke section. Numbingly mild by today’s standards we spent hours supressing giggles at the assortment of dirty jokes.
We varied our shopping habits some weekends by browsing in the four major department stores (Hutzler's, Hochschild's, Stewarts and Hecht's) that served as the hub of that downtown Baltimore universe. Afterwards, we found the time to wander east on Lexington Street to explore McCrory's for pierced earrings, Read's Drug Store for a tuna salad, pickle and chips, Brager Gutman's for bargains on clothing and Kresge's for the newest resident in the pet department. If our time and weekly allowance had not yet run out then we stopped at the Hot Peanuts store on the corner of Liberty Street for a late afternoon snack.
We chose to wait for our ride home at the Fayette Street stop across from the the Town Movie Theatre.  It was fun to speculate about the movie titles advertised on the marquee. We also anxiously read the destinations on the front of each car hoping to see Number 8 Catonsville to board for home.
"Fayette and Eutaw" oil on canvas (30" x 48") 2007
"Fayette and Liberty" oil on canvas (30" x 48") 2007


  1. Charlene, love your paintings, especially the streetcar ones, and your trips down memory lane. My trips downtown almost always included a visit to Lexington Market for a bag of hot Utz's chips, and sometimes a quick stop at Neddick's for an orange juice.

    1. Thanks Frank. I remember that Utz counter at the market. We loved Mrs. Ihries because we were from the west side where the chips were made.
      I enjoy your photography immensely. It is sensitive and makes me use my imagination about the previous lives of your subject matter.