THIS WAS the first September when Julia Hoopper could not make a big deal of someone in my family going off for a first day at school. She was our longtime Guilford Avenue neighbor and died in June, leaving characteristic instructions that there was to be no send-off, just a Druid Ridge graveside service. That was her way.
Were she living, Julia would have sent a package to my sister's twin girls, who entered the first grade this week.
Julia was our next-door friend on Guilford Avenue from 1925 to 1994, when she elected to give up her family's house for a retirement home. Although she never married and had no children, she overlooked no event of importance to us. (A brick wall nominally separated the two households.)
Julia was a librarian and teacher who spent many years at Montebello Elementary School opposite Clifton Park at Harford and 32nd. Over the years, I've heard from her former students, who recalled her exacting ways, but all testified she was probably one of the more memorable people in their academic careers.
Given to rigorous note-keeping, she was precise, orderly, predictable, uncompromising and yet modest and charming in the best manner of quaint, old-fashioned Baltimoreans.
She was certainly a faithful neighbor, if something of a true original. She and her parents did not give parties, nor were they socializers in the bridge club-cocktail party set. In fact, few people outside their immediate circle entered the house. They vacationed at the Marlborough Blenheim in Atlantic City, traveled in sensible cars (used Packards, I believe) and were faithful members of Lovely Lane United Methodist Church.
Perhaps teetotalers, they nevertheless possessed an amazing wine cellar. Stewart Hoopper, Julia's accountant father, made delicious dandelion wine in his basement. I can recall enjoying a glass of his 1922 output, still potent and tasty 50 years later.
They discarded nothing; the clean, unaltered 1920s interior of their home should have been transported to a museum of the domestic arts.
They always thought the best of us, no matter how much noise we generated. We were a household of 12, with vocal opinions on everything, and windows wide open in the summer. There was never a holiday or birthday Julia forgot. Greeting cards and small gifts (never costly) continued throughout my life.
Julia, her father and mother observed all our joys and sadnesses. They were as much with us when a new baby came home as they were when the undertaker arrived.
Julia, ever the teacher, noted the rituals of the school year. I recall a maroon book bag with buckles I got for the first day of first grade.
Weeks before I went off to Loyola High School in 1964, she motored out on the sly to its Blakefield campus, located the Jesuit brother who ran the bookstore, bought the place out, then presented me with official blue-and-gold duffel bags, stickers and composition books.