Saturday, May 2, 2009

In the Beginning.....

My dad, John W. Barker, was born and raised in Baltimore in a section of the city called "Pigtown". They weren't referring to the local girls' reputations, but to an event that happened with regularity in that area. His house was located between the railroad yard and the Esskay (Schludelburg and Kurdel) meat processing plant. The livestock cars would offload pigs who would be hearded through the street to the Esskay plant. His mom's name was Gertrude and his dad's was John. Gertrude got married very young to escape her alcoholic father, Richard Harding. Her husband John worked at various jobs: streetcar driver, etc. They had very little and lived in one of Baltimore's narrow rowhouses. My Dad was the oldest of four kids (3 boys and one girl). He wanted to be a physician, but his mom put the kaboosh on that because she told him he had to go to work as soon as he was old enough to leave school (16). He would hand over his paycheck to his mother every week and she would give him a very small allowance. After he married my mom, he joined the Army and served in Okinawa. My brother was born while he was in the Army. I was born after his discharge. He went to work for Glenn L. Martin as a tool planner for about 20 years. He was laid off when I was in college and went to work for Bethlehem Steel until he retired. After retiring he was a volunteer driver for the Red Cross. He developed Alzheimers and then Parkinson's disease before passing away.

My mom was the second generation of a family of German immigrants named Arndt. Her dad was Julius Arndt and her mom was Irene Bentz Arndt. They lived on Sunnyside Avenue in Reistertown, MD. She was the oldest of four children....three girls and one boy. Her dad was basically a farmer. He sold flowers at a stall in the Cross Street Market in Baltimore. My mom helped at the stall. My grandmother was famous for canning. There was once an article in the Baltimore Sun newspaper about the nearly 1,000 jars of goods she had canned and stored in her basement. They had a little little vinyard in their backyard and she used to make grape juice. It was a hard life. At some point my grandfather was hit by a Greyhound bus and was disabled.

After mom and dad married, they bought a rowhouse in the Ednor Gardens subdivision in Baltimore City. We lived at 3928 Rexmere Rd. I think they paid around $8,000 for it. It was a neighborhood filled with Post WWII couples raising their kids.....a good place to grow up.