A Locust Point Memory: 'Stay Out of Their Alley!' - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

A Locust Point Memory: ‘Stay Out of Their Alley!’

I was ten years old in 1947, and one of my fondest memories was how the business agent for the International Longshoremen’s Association, (ILA), Local 829, Pete Rossbach, would bark through a loudspeaker the work orders for the stevedores just after daybreak. His blast went something like this: “Gassie & 21 men for Pier 3, Locust Point; Iggy & 20 men for Canton, Pier 1; and Swankie and 21 men for Davison Chemical, Curtis Bay.”

This process was known as the “shape-up” on the Baltimore docks, a day when men showed up for unknown assignments, if any. This pre-dated its wider notoriety in the 1954 movie, “On the Waterfront,” that made the actor Marlon Brando a household name. Little did I know then, waking up in the back room of our house that faced an alley, that in eight short years, I myself would become a member of that fabled ILA local. (It was later superseded by ILA Local 333.)

The union hall was located in Locust Point in the 1200 block of Hull Street, directly across the street from Buck Krepp’s Saloon, nka “The Hull Street Blues Cafe.”  Buck’s wife, Marie, was a Krueger and a sister of my uncle, Herman “The German” Krueger. At that time, my family was residing at 1237 Haubert Street, in a two-story row house.

The centerpiece of this commentary is a long alleyway that separated Haubert from Hull Street (see photo). Beason Street was at the southern end of the alley, only a few blocks west of the then B&O R/R’s Grain Elevator, nka “Silo Point,” and about a mile or so from historic Fort McHenry. Marriott Street, which had a railroad track running through the middle of it, was the alley’s northern boundary. The Locust Point (formerly Whetstone Point) neighborhood was itself surrounded by the rail tracks of the legendary B&O Railroad. (It was replaced by the CSX Railroad.)

I’m pleased to note that we never had any significant rat problems in our alley. But, you couldn’t say the same for the alleys near the Grain Elevator. They had rats there the size of a full-grown cat! If you spotted one while walking home with half-a-load on, you would sober up in a hurry.

In those early days, each home’s toilet was located in the back yard, enclosed in a crude wooden shed. Just imagine going to the “head” in the middle of snowy January night!

I remember my father, Richard “Dick” Hughes, who was a boss on the waterfront for the Alcoa Steamship Company, going outside to use the toilet one wintery night. We found out later, that he had made his way over to Krepp’s saloon to have a few beers. It had a back door entrance, which faced the alley. When dad came home much later that night, we were in bed, but I could hear my Irish mother reading him the riot act. There were seven kids in our family one of whom was my fraternal twin brother–Jim.

Before air conditioning, the doors and windows for the saloons – there seemed to be one on every block in Locust Point – would be left wide open during the dog days of summer. I recall once listening to a neighbor, Eddie King, a natural talent and fine tenor, belting out a ballad in Krepp’s saloon.

Day and night, the sounds from the coal-burning engines on the freight trains; the ocean-going vessels, assisted by the tug boats, whistles blaring away, entering and leaving the harbor; and the loud-banging noise from the cargo, especially the steel pipes made locally at the Bethlehem Steel’s Sparrows Point plant, as they were loaded onto the ships, reverberated up our alley. It was like a symphony, orchestrated not by a Mozart, but by a then-vibrant nation showing off its immense industrial might.

Next to us on Haubert St., at 1235, was the Bloom family. The father, Thomas, was Jewish, and the mother, Mary McHale, was of Irish stock. I think they had seven kids!

Billy Bloom, one of their children, was one of my main childhood buddies. We learned how to swim in the harbor together at the foot of Hull Street. His nickname was “Porky.” He had a problem, however: wetting the bed! His older brother Jerry would enjoy breaking his chops about it by bellowing out for all the world to hear: “Listen, the pig’s a-pissing!” Sometimes, it wasn’t easy being a kid.

Later, our family made a mini-move up the alley and over to 1238 Hull Street – a three-story row house. Joe Presti’s barbershop was on one side of us, and the home of Joe Wojciechowski, a stevedore foreman, was on the other.

Once a week or so, mainly in the spring and summer months, an “Arabber,” pronounced “A-rabber,” would show up in our alley. This was the name given to the street merchant, who would ride a horse-drawn cart from which he would hawk his fruits and vegetables. Mostly all of the vendors were native to South Baltimore. You could tell he was headed down the alley because he would give a loud holler-out about what fruits he was peddling that day.

On the love-your-neighbor front, I remember once, around age five, getting into a fight with a boy, who lived up the alley from us. He hit me with his toy gun over the meaty part of my right eye. It caused a bloody mess. My mother came out into the alley, as did the mother of the gunslinger, who angrily blamed me for starting the fight. My mother responded: “I don’t give a damn if he started it on not, your son had no right to hit him with that gun. And if you don’t get back into your house, I’ll sweep this alley up with your hillbilly ass!”  “Mom!,” I blurted out as I looked up at her in shock and awe. Score one for the Irish! The hillbillies retreated.

My father worked non-stop on the docks during those WWII and post-war years. Mostly, I was referred to by him as “one of the twins.” When he was feeling out of sorts, he would growl at me – “Hey, YOU!” My mostly overwhelmed mother would sometimes lament in my direction: “You’re WORSE than all the rest put together!” Ouch!

We lived only blocks from Pier 9, Locust Point, where my father worked, so he could walk to his job and come home for lunch. Dad never owned a car. (Years later, I would work for him on the docks after I joined the ILA union.)

Seamus Clarke and his wife (both Irish born) lived right across the alley from us. They were an older couple. My twin brother Jim and I were often invited into their small kitchen when we were around age four or five. The ritual went like this: Mr. Clarke would make a big deal about measuring us. He would get a ruler out, place us up against a wall and mark a spot at the top of our heads, and then exclaim, with a surprise: “Oh, you’ve grown taller, for sure!” We were delighted to hear the news. Then, Mrs. Clarke, bless her heart, would give us some candy as a reward. We were on top of the world!

Fort McHenry

 

Down the alley, on that same side as the Clarkes was the grocery store we used–“Sticky Buns” Baumann. Charley ran the business with his brother George. They were famous for their sticky buns and jelly donuts. On Sundays, George played the organ at the German Lutheran Church on Beason Street. On the side, he gave piano lessons. Charley’s only son Wilbert, and his brother, John, a lawyer, ran the Hull Street Building & Loan Association.

Next to “Sticky Buns” was a dry goods store owned by the Silverbergs. One of their children grew up to be a City Councilwoman – Rikki Spector. When I saw her recently at a public event, Rikki remembered fondly more people from the old hood than I did. She attended PS #76 on Fort Avenue.

“Red Line,” a hide and seek game, was the favorite kids’ group activity while growing up. At the north end of the alley, fronting on Hull Street, was a lineup of about 10 garages. I liked to hide on top of them with “Porky” Bloom during the game. Rarely, if ever, did we get “caught.”

The Radomskis lived further up the alley on the Hull Street side. Behind them was a dirt lot, which backed up to a garage and Martin Beswick’s Bar. Dirt on not, Mrs. Radomski, who couldn’t speak a word of English, repeatedly swept that lot clean with her broom as if it was the main ballroom at “The Belvedere,” getting ready for a big gig.

One of her sons, “The General,” liked to race pigeons as a hobby. Of course, the pigeons might not come back in if we kids were all playing loudly out on the lot. This led to my brother, Jim and I extracting a little bribe out of “The General.” He’d give us ten cents each to get lost until the pigeons came back safely to his back yard coop. This was usually early on a Sunday evening.

When Jim and I were really young–around three or four–my mom would walk us down to end of our block on Haubert Street to Marriott Street. A B&O R/R’s freight train came through it mostly every night around 6 PM to deliver and pick-up cargo from the huge Procter & Gamble plant. This was long before TV crashed the culture. We would sit on the curb and wait for train to come “cho-choing” by.

The train would blow its whistle as it approached Haubert Street. We didn’t find out till later that one of the reasons the train stopped at Haubert Street wasn’t primarily because of the street traffic, but because “Hudson’s Tavern” was located on the opposite corner! Some of the railroad crew would regularly belt one or two drinks down inside the bar before continuing on their way into the plant. Who knew?

 

CSX Train on Nicholson Street

Next to that dirt lot on the Haubert Street side, lived Bobby Undutch. His mother, Catherine, was a Clarke and a daughter of Seamus. Jim and I would frequently play marbles with him when we were around age five or six. He was a bit of a bully. Every time he lost, he would take “our” marbles. I told Jim, “The next time he does that we should both jump him.”

Sure enough, it happened. Bobby lost and snatched our marbles. When Jim got in his face about it, I whacked Bobby from the side. Jim then gave him a good punch to the head. I hit Bobby again hard with a right fist to the ear. And before we knew it, he quit the fight, dropped the marbles, and ran down the alley crying aloud about how we had both hit him!

After that incident, the word went out: Don’t mess with Bill and Jim – or they will “double-team your ass,” and, if you’re really smart – “stay out of their alley!”





About the author

Bill Hughes

Bill Hughes is an attorney, author, actor and photographer. His latest book is “Byline Baltimore.” It can be found at: https://www.iuniverse.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001196414&fbclid=IwAR03ZtJUDcRHVjcF3DUSQUbKKrv-2VLWo0zDya5lqIm4eCQL2at-GV2QhfY Contact the author.
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26 Comments

  1. Nicole Langville says:

    Marty Beswick was my grandfather, his son Thomas Beswick was/is my dad. We would have such great family get togethers at the bar.

    Reply
  2. Jon ballwanz says:

    My father reese , uncle karl, uncle willie and brother Roland were all steve a . i never got the chance because there was no work at the time. We lived on woodall street.

    Reply
  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi I just read your post. Loved Thank you for this. I was born in 1947. Lived on Montgomery st. My dad owned a small confectionery store on William and Montgomery sts. We lived 1 block down from federal hill park. Thank you for your story.

    Reply
  4. Linda Anderson Macken says:

    Actually my husband’s grandfathers name was Jerome and nickname was romey

    Reply
  5. Linda Anderson Macken says:

    My husbands mother was a Undutch. Her name was
    Dotsy her brother was Jerome (moe). His grandfathers name was Adam Undutch but his nickname was
    Romie
    Great story I have lived on Decatur Street for over 35 years
    Great history of the neighborhood. Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Bill Hughes
    Bill Hughes says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments. Glad my piece could bring back so many fond memories for each of you. Now, that is priceless. No one can ever take that away from you.

    Reply
  7. Patti Ballwanz says:

    Great story, I really enjoyed it, thanks for sharing. I’m married to a retired Longshoremen Roland Ballwanz Jr. his father Roland Ballwanz Sr. aka “ Reese”, his father Anton Ballwanz aka “ Tony “, his father Karl Ballwanz, along with many other relatives worked the docks. It made a good living working on the waterfront.

    Reply
  8. Amy Thompson says:

    Only thing missing is a Wagners in the pharmacy at Ford Avenue and hull st

    Reply
    • John King says:

      The pharmacy / drug store back than was on the corner, Wagner’s store was separated by a tiny alley between the drug store and wagner’s Store on hull street than ran from hull street behind the drug store a few houses one of which the Steven of Stevens funeral home lived and the fire house exiting on to Hubert street.

      Reply
  9. Amy Thompson says:

    I lived at 1318 hull st and is Exactly how point was growing up playing red line in the summer thing going in when the lights came on and The older neighbors Outdoor chairs Folding

    Reply
  10. Al Winters says:

    Well I will have to say. I really enjoyed reading you post.. I was born and raised on 1945 haubert street.Before we lived there my grandmother and grandfather Agnes and Philip Feldman lived there my aunt Phyllis. My mother was Wilma my dad he work on the waterfront also. Al Winters. I will have to say as I was reading it had my really thinking. Lol. Because I remember the lot I remember bill wick lived next to the lot when I was growing up.i remember. Mrs molly Mrs summer I was born in 1958 and my sister Barbara was born 1954.so as I was reading I couldn’t believe how many people moved from the time you were talking of. Till the days I grew up in.. one thing that got my laughing was when you talked about the old outhouse in the yard. I was in my yard one day when I ask my dad what was thing I keep tripping over my dad told me it was the outhouse pipe.. for years I never believed him.lol well I guess I do now. Oh! Yes I also have great memories of good old haubert street. It’s a shame. How things change as we grow older. Some of the kids I grown up with sadly are no longer with us. They left us way to soon..with them they made growing up as a kid so much fun..yes we played the same games that you talked about. Sweet memories.. I will say thanks for the great memories.. I enjoyed reading.. thanks Al Winters

    Reply
  11. Margaret Silver says:

    Wow!! That’s an awesome story Mr. Bill. My dad was a srevadore too. Everybody called him Bandylegs. He always hung out at Iky’s across from the union hall.

    Reply
  12. mike vogel says:

    Eddie King was father. And i loved when he sang. He sang at my wedding.

    Reply
  13. Amy David says:

    Hi Mr Bill! Thank you for the memories! I am Timmy Bloom’s ( son of Thomas and Mary Bloom) great granddaughter, Porky would have been my great uncle, he passed before i was born. My grandfather was 1 of 11( story said you thought 7… they were a good Catholic family lol) Merry Christmas!

    Reply
  14. My dad worked for local 333 mostly down the Ore Pier for 25 years. My grandmother, Josephine Kotowski, lived on Hull St. She was the only house that had a real garden in her yard and live ducks and chickens. She also was married to a longshoreman, Benjamin Kotowski, he was a nasty drunk. As my dad, Walter Kotowski was growing up he was not allowed to sneeze at the dinner table because Benjamin would send him to bed without dinner. Come to find out later in years when my dad, also known as Votz, being the baby of five children needed a kidney transplant back in the 1960’s because of testing his siblings and no one matched it was because of Adolf Makowski being my dad’s real father. That’s why Benjamin treated my dad like trash because he knew. When my dad found out it did not bother him one bit. Did not bother any of us as well and my dad had four of us with my mom Mary Smith from Clement St. We grew up on Richardson St. 1443 and as a child I loved hosing down the alley from our house out to Clement St. I could go on and on. I believe we all have a story. I absolutely loved reading yours Mr. Hughes brings back some fond memories. Thank you!

    Reply
  15. Anonymous says:

    Eddie King was / is my grandfather yes he had a great voice. Great story. Thank you.

    Reply
  16. Darlene Gollar says:

    What wonderful memories! My family lives in what is now called Federal Hill, on E. Wheeling street. My grandmother was the “Horseradish Lady ” in Cross Street Market. I have so many memories like yours, but with boats bringing produce and other merchandise into the harbor. Thank you so much for sharing yours ❤️

    Reply
  17. Patti Petroff says:

    Now that was the most phenomenal Locust Point Story I have ever read on Facebook Social Media. Thank you so much for sharing this Mr. Bill. Many stories were so familiar. My mon & Dad told me some similar stories. Nothing like going down memory lane. Thanks again and Merry Christmas 🎁🎄

    Reply
  18. Bill Hughes
    Bill Hughes says:

    Thanks for all of the feedback. It is appreciated.

    Reply
  19. Bee alkire says:

    Really enjoyed reading about the family’s and history of the point..

    Reply
  20. Anna White says:

    Wow that’s awesome about the point.

    Reply
  21. Michele says:

    Herman the German was my grandmother’s brother. Marty Beswick, my dad’s a Godfather.

    Reply
  22. Christi Cronin says:

    Wow!! Thank you for such a good read! Herman the German was your uncle?! I have been away from The Point for 3 decades now, but he still crosses my mind every now and again. I remember him coming into Hawk’s each evening as an old man to buy a Neapolitan ice cream sandwich. Whenever I saw him on the street, he’d always make me smile. Thanks for the memory.

    Reply
  23. Marie l potter says:

    Mr. Bill I really enjoyed your story. I will have to show my mom. Catherine Schreiner. she loves old memories of Locust Point

    Reply
    • Bill Hughes
      Bill Hughes says:

      Hey Marie: Your mom’s brother Joe, one of your uncles, was in my class at OLGC and a schoolmate and buddy up and till the 8th grade.

      Reply

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