"I felt so comfortable here that I never moved," explained Mildred Zeller, whose parents were original owners of a house in Rodgers Forge.
Her parents moved to Dunkirk Road (second group of homes built by Keelty) in 1937 or 1938 and she was born a few years later. As you can imagine, the houses sold for a great deal less than they do today. Houses were $5,000 and only required a $250 down payment. Mildred said it only cost $500 to finish off the third floor with heat, hardwood floors and a cedar closet. "A lot different than today" she laughed.
Mildred loved reminiscing and painted a warm picture of a bygone era. "There were no backyard fences. The houses were divided by hedges so we could run from one to the other and I had several friends in the block. Every year we would have a carnival between the two big houses on the corner. My father would buy candy which we would sell. My maternal grandfather, who lived with us, had a lovely garden and would make potted plants for us to sell. We also had a "zoo" with all of our stuffed animals. We gave the money to the March of Dimes and got our names in the paper! It was great fun."
After school, Mildred said, she and her friends would play in the back, as everyone did – because there were very few cars to bother them.
"When I tell people that the streets were both ways then, they look at me," Mildred said. "But in those days not everyone had cars and they parked them in their garages, which I still do. Today, the garages are often used for storage and the cars are parked in the street."
Mildred went on to say that she was in the first graduating class at Rodgers Forge Elementary. The school wasn't built until she was in the sixth grade so she spent the first five years at Stoneleigh. In those days, seventh and eighth grades were called Junior High and she spent them at the old Towson High School, which is now the BYKOTA Center. Mildred graduated from the present day Towson High School.
Mildred recalled those early Santa visits that took place on the open lots next to York Road, as there was no Tot Lot. Later, the Tot Lot hosted Santa visits and Halloween parties and costume contests. "I remember one year, I wore my mother's high heels and I could hardly walk. My father had to come down and carry me home!"
Speaking of parties, the Forge was so small then that the community association held Christmas parties for the adults at the Country Club of Maryland.
When we asked Mildred if she felt that the neighborhood had changed, she quickly replied that "her neighborhood" has remained pretty static. "Many of my neighbors have been here for 30-40 years and we even have some second generations – like me. You don't see them all the time but they are always there for you." She added that, although it was a tragic event, she was delighted to see Rodgers Forge express such an esprit de corps following the shooting incident on Murdock Road.
Mildred is an avid community volunteer. She is vice-president of the Salvation Army Auxiliary, a member of the Good Samaritan Hospital Auxiliary and many other organizations.
A staunch supporter of Rodgers Forge, Mildred couldn't praise the community enough. No wonder she never left! And we are so glad that she didn't!!
One thing for certain that hasn't changed in Rodgers Forge is its warmth. Forgers' caring for others is legendary and recently it has bubbled over. Dante Stephens' untimely death and Tom Blanks' horrific accident have brought the kind hearts of Rodgers Forge to the fore. Neighbors and friends, near and far, have wrapped both families in their loving arms. Karen Rodriguez spearheaded a very well received campaign for donations of food for Dante's family. Meals and family help for the Blanks are being coordinated by Jessica Brown-Strott. The response has been tremendous and you may contribute by going to Forge Flyer and scrolling down to the July 31entry for information on how you can help.
Congratulations to Gaywood's Lucy Ozonoff, who swam on the Meadowbrook Tomatoes winning team for girls 13-14 200 meter free relay. Daughter of Francie and Will Ozonoff, Lucy's team was one of many Tomatoes teams placing first in the Straehle Invitational Championship Meet on July 24.
Till we meet again —Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun