Baltimore in the 50's

Baltimore in the late 40s and 50s was a great place to grow up. In that time before airconditioning, doors and windows were almost always open during the hot summer months. As the temperatures rose, activities moved into the shade during the day but outside as evening came on.

Except on Saturdays.

Saturday was the day that the steps got washed.

Washing the Marble Steps

Saturday was a time for iced tea from a sweating pitcher in tall glasses but never until the steps were washed.

The street lamps were gas and there was a lamp lighter who actually came around to tend them. He had a small ladder that was narrow at the top and hooked over the arms of the lamp. He'd climb up and wash the glass and trim the mantle and then light the lamp. We'd follow along for a few blocks and hand him the bucket of water, or run inside and refill it when it was low.

One wonderful thing during those pre-airconditioning days were the screen paintings. People would paint landscapes and cityscapes and seascapes on the screens. During the day they were visible and acted as a privacy feature as well as reflecting light back outside, and when you looked at a house the windows might show flowers or forest or cows in a field, things that were seldom seen in town.

Painted Window Screen

Painted Screen Door

Life moved with the temperatures, in winter coffee helped hold off the bitter cold that was most of the house except when standing on the grate in the floor that let the warmer air rise from downstairs, and in summer iced tea was available all day long.

My grandparents still had a real icebox. When the ice man came around we'd gather around his truck and he'd give us chips of ice, long spears we could suck on forever.

He'd pull a long block of ice to the back of the van then with rapid punches score a line across the block about a foot from the end. One smack and the section broke free. He'd grab it with a pair of tongs and walk up the few steps to the door where Gmom would be waiting. Down the narrow hall he'd go and lift that block of ice into the wooden box that sat atop the 'ice box'.

We had an electric refrigerator with the aluminum trays. It wasn't as neat as what Gmom had.