Dundalk book prompts flood of fond memories

The Baltimore Sun

My column last week regarding author Bob Staab's book, Growing up in Dundalk: Precious Memories, brought a flood of e-mails, phone calls and inquiries from Dundalkians past and present.

They came from Florida, upstate New York and as far away as Minnesota, where Bob Bayne, wrote, "As [a former] Dundalkian now living in Minnesota, I would LOVE this book."

It seems that the miles and years have not diminished the fondness people feel for Dundalk, its people and its way of life.

Kaye Kourkoules wants to give a copy of the book to several Dundalk relatives so they can "share their memories," she said.

Kourkoules shared one of her own in an e-mail: "I visited [the relatives] every Sunday on the No. 26 streetcar with my grandmother, and we rode all the way there from Forest Park."

In a subsequent telephone interview, she said that her aunt and uncle lived on Gray Manor Road. "We didn't have a car then, and that streetcar trip in the late 1940s took at least three transfers, and when we got to Dundalk and Holabird avenues, we had to wait for my uncle to come pick us up."

She added: "Dundalk was a special place, and for fun, because there wasn't a whole lot going on there, my uncle would take me and my cousin Jim, who was and is a train buff, to watch trains."

In an e-mail, retired Baltimore County District Judge John F. Fader II recalled when he worked for Don Fedder, owner of Fedder's Pharmacy on Wise Avenue, while attending law school in the mid-1960s.

"Accounts receivable ran $200-$300 per month at the most. It was Dundalk, and everyone paid cash. A steel strike happened, and everyone was out of work for a couple of months, and the account receivables went up over $15,000," Fader wrote.

"I remember saying to Don something to the effect that I guessed that he was concerned about that. That was a lot of money in the '60s. He said, no, it was Dundalk, he had been through it before and the bills would be paid," Fader wrote.

Within 90 days after the strike was settled, accounts receivable went back down to $200, according to Fader.

"The people in Dundalk are the salt of the earth. Where else would that happen? Of all the places I worked as a pharmacist, they were the most polite, caring and honest people of all," he wrote.

"When I was assigned to the District Court in Dundalk in the late '70s, they were the same great people as before. It was a pleasure to be in the neighborhood. The rest of the State could learn a lot about how to live and enjoy life from the people of Dundalk," wrote Fader, who never misses the Dundalk Heritage Festival on the Fourth of July.

From frozen Minnesota, Bob Bayne, a third-generation Dundalkian, wrote: "I felt very privileged to have grown up in Dundalk and my love of home runs deep."

And he has plenty of happy memories to prove it, including swimming at Merritt Beach while the latest 1950s and 1960s pop tunes wailed from a beachside jukebox and fishing for perch as minnows nibbled his toes.

He recalled the ever-present red glow from the blast furnaces that lit up the night sky, and the "dust from the steel mill which would leave red dots on my Mom's wash, which never came out."

"Dundalk had the greatest food on the planet! Captain Harvey's Submarine Steaks. Over three pounds of meat and whatever you wanted on it for $2.50. Squire's Pizza, still the best in the world!" he wrote.

"Neptune's Seafood, bushels of crabs came home from there every summer. Herman's Bakery, every birthday cake and strawberry shortcake I had until I was 20, came from there," he wrote. "I remember the Sparrows Point Country Club pool, where I first became aware that girls were in fact -- interesting."

Margaret Altvater Hughes was in the first graduating class, in 1965, at Patapsco High School. A music student, she helped write the school's song.

"So, our influence is still felt whenever the song is performed," she wrote, "and I was fortunate to win the first music pin in my senior year."

When Bonnie Kerr Robbins called Staab's home to inquire about purchasing a copy of his book, she spoke with Benetta Staab, his wife, and discovered that she had been in the Dundalk Woman's Club with her mother.

"We reminisced a bit. Small world. You'll find that as large as Dundalk was then, it was much like a small town," Robbins wrote.

Move over, Laura Lippman, David Simon and Barry Levinson. Author Sarah Maury Swan wrote to say that the novel she is writing is set in Dundalk.

Don Snyder is a third-generation Dundalk native who lived there from 1945 to 1953, when he moved with his family to a house his parents built in Jarrettsville. And even though they moved, visits to Dundalk were frequent.

Snyder, who now lives in Woodstock, N.Y., and graduated from St. Paul's School and Middlebury College, is proud of his Dundalk roots, and said earlier generations of his family owned farmland in Dundalk, while his grandfather and father were property managers there.

"I remember those Fourth of July parades -- I think they were the largest in the state -- with the Mummers and many marching bands," he recalled. "I have quite warm memories of sitting in the Strand Theatre on Saturdays watching Hopalong Cassidy movies and Westerns for 50 cents."

Growing up in Dundalk: Precious Memories is not sold in bookstores. Copies may be obtained from the author at 1930 Robinwood Road, Dundalk 21222. The $27.50 price per copy includes taxes and a $3 donation to the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society.


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