Baltimore: Growing Up in the Age of the 'Hons' - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Baltimore: Growing Up in the Age of the ‘Hons’

(Photo of HonFest when crowds were allowed.)

In an earlier life, I was a “Hon!” (I’ll explain later.)

One of my first girlfriends, let’s call her Susie, was also one.

Here’s the backstory: I was working on the waterfront in South Baltimore, then as a longshoreman out of ILA Local 829 on Hull Street. I liked to cruise around town during that era, showing off in my brand new 1957, blue Chevy Bel Air. It was, indeed, a heady time.

 

I had bought my pride and joy from Fox Chevrolet on Hanover St. To make it even more attractive, I added those long white fins to it. (Thank you for the inspiration, Elvis!)

At that, time, I was, literally, at the top of my game!

My main squeeze, Susie, was a ‘Hon” from Highlandtown, in East Baltimore. I was from South Baltimore across the harbor – in Locust Point. It was the making of a Hon of a merger. She loved my ’57 Chevy, too.

Locust Point was then a bastion of the working class. Some bars even had photos of labor leaders, such as the great John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers, hanging on their walls. My hood was also a Democratic Party stronghold. The boss was our popular City Councilman, Michael “Iron Mike” McHale, who also worked on the docks.

Many of the gals back then wore short skirts and had teased-up hair-do’s. They also loved to rock and roll to the music of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally,” Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock,” and Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes.” Elvis was King for the Hons and his reign was supreme.

My Hon, Susie, was a very good dancer. I wasn’t bad. If it was a slow dance, then just about any blues rhythm tune would do us. For a cha-cha, “O Diana,” by Paul Anka, was preferred.

While I was dating my Hon, I had a massive brainstorm! As the fates would have it, it turned out to be one of my best. (I have had some bad ones, too, over the years, but we won’t go there.)

I decided to take my Hon to an NFL pro football game in New York City! This was before pro football became so widely trendy with the masses. Here was the setting: the Baltimore Colts versus the New York Giants: Yankee Stadium, in the Bronx, the “House that George Herman “Babe” Ruth” built.

The date was Dec. 28, 1958. It cost $10 for a game ticket. It was only about $20 each for the train ride one way to the Big Apple. It was all so exciting. Even in the recalling of it, I get a charge.

Taking the subway over to the Bronx from Penn Station and coming up from that underground and seeing that fabled stadium, rising phoenix-like, was a moment never to forget.

The match itself turned out to be legendary. The Colts won what came to be called the “greatest game” in sudden-death overtime by a score of 23 to 17, thanks to the heroics of John Unitas & company.

As it turned out, December 28, 1958, was one of the most fun days my Hon, Susie, and I, ever had. Who knew?

Sadly, my relationship with Susie didn’t last. Somehow, we both survived the painful split, but barely.

Shifting gears. One of my favorite cousins, Shirley Stevens Doda, bless her memory, owned the only funeral parlor in Locust Point, and knew everybody in our neighborhood. She enjoyed calling everyone “Hon.” Her mother was a Hughes, a cousin of my dad, Dick “The Senator” Hughes.

Shirley became a big fan of a rising political star, William Donald Schaefer. In the early days, she even called him, “Hon.”

William Donald Schaefer

I think Schaefer, later the mayor of Baltimore and Maryland’s governor and state comptroller, liked the tag, Hon, rather than those other nasty names that some of his political enemies regularly used against him. (I can’t repeat them here because this is a family-oriented publication.)

Shirley Stevens Doda evolved into one of Schaefer’s No. 1 Fan Club members even after he moved into the State House in Annapolis. It was a mutual-admiration Hon pact.

Getting back to Locust Point: there were about 20 taverns then in the neighborhood. I knew this, since I was barred, at times – unfairly, of course – from of a few of them!

All the barmaids were “Hons!” Anybody who stepped up to the counter to order a drink, whether it was in “Pinky” Bannan’s, Phil Klemkowski’s or “Ikey” Cegelski’s tavern, or any other establishment, was met by this question from the smiling barmaid: “What can I getcha, Hon?” In other words, the Hon tag worked both ways!

Many of us enjoyed the Hon tradition, but like anything else, it had its downside. The word “Hon” should never be considered as private property or worse – the subject of a government-approved “trademark” stamp! Never!

A few years ago, a misguided attempt was made to “privatize” the word “Hon.” Mercifully, the party who was pushing that movement, eventually, backed off after being met by a tsunami of verbal and printed, opposition.

In the end, good common sense prevailed. Everybody, in unison, pro and con, breathed a sigh of relief. The Hon tradition, I’m happy to say, continues today – with the emphasis here and there, particularly in East, South, and parts of Southwest Baltimore, and, of course, in Hampden, (Hon), too.

John Waters

 

It’s clear to me that the word “Hon,” like other endearing names/places connected to our city, such as Fort McHenry, John Unitas, Edgar Allan Poe, and yes, John Waters, (with his classic flicks, “Hairspray” and “Pecker”), is another proud keepsake of many Baltimoreans!

Ain’t that right, Hon?


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.amazon.com/William-Hughes/e/B00N7MGPXO/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1 Contact the author.
COMMENT POLICY

One Comment

  1. Bonnie says:

    Many big hearted big haired hons have united as The Baltimore HonHive to socialize on the second Thursday of each month at 6:30. We meet on Facebook, at Cafe Hon or have a ZOOMingle. We tell stories, swap cheap jewelry and nice clothes, find ways to give back to our city and have a good time doin’ it!

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