Wondrous places


IF YOU grew up in Baltimore city, you grew up in a neighborhood and probably spent a good deal of time in the neighborhood pharmacy -- be it in Hamilton, Govans, Park Heights or Highlandtown. And if you grew up black in the neighborhood around Druid Hill Avenue and Presstman Street (sometimes called Sugar Hill) you will remember Weaver's Pharmacy.

Weaver's was one of only four black-owned pharmacies at mid-century. The others were Green's at McCulloh and Laurens streets, Young's at Druid Hill Avenue at Dolphin Street and Kerr's at Fremont and Lafayette avenues. All are gone now.

Weaver's was owned by Maybelle L. B. Weaver, a pharmacist and physician, and Jesse B. Weaver, a dentist. In its day, it was the center of neighborhood life, frequented by many prominent and soon-to-be-prominent people: Truly Hatchett, one of the first blacks to serve in the General Assembly; Councilman Walter Dixon; lawyers Harry Cole and Robert Watts (soon to become judges); E. Everett Lane, first black police court magistrate; Sarah Diggs, dean of women at Morgan. And a young man who would later become director of public relations of the NAACP, James D. Williams.

Williams recalls: "Weaver's Pharmacy was, for us boys growing up around Druid Hill Avenue and Presstman Street, a clubhouse, a town hall and a center for learning all those things not taught in the classroom . . . We all attended either Douglass or Carver. We measured our universe by the radius of a few blocks. Weaver's was the center of that universe."

Williams remembers Weaver's as a wondrous place, full of heavy scents -- medicines (Brown's Mixture, Dobell's Solution), spirits of ammonia, rich syrups oozing over ice cream, loose tobacco.

Not all history is made up of epochal events -- Brown vs. Board of Education, public accommodations bills, black breakthroughs in the professions, academia, business, industry and government. History, to hear alumni of Weaver's tell it, is also made up of what young people learned in the corner drugstore.


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