Northwood Memories

By Ralph Lohmann <>

     The BTC buses were yellow with gray trim when we moved to Northbourne Road from faraway Silver Spring in September of 1953. (I was struck when I saw Barry Levinson's "Liberty Heights" by his painstaking reconstruction of mid-1950s Baltimore. His research failed him only in providing for green buses. If I recall correctly, the buses didn't turn green until the early 1960s.)

     The route of the #3 bus was anchored at Charles & Baltimore, but had one northern terminus in "Northwood" (the bridge on Loch Raven Boulevard over Chinquapin Run), another at Loch Raven & Northern Parkway, and a third in Baynesville. To this day I have no idea how the oracles on Washington Boulevard decided the mix of routes.

     Northwood, as the world was organized at that time, extended from Argonne Drive to Belvedere Avenue and from The Alameda to Hillen Road/Perring Parkway . (Now it seems for whatever reason to have been balkanized. There's reportedly an "Original Northwood" in the extreme southwest corner, a "New Northwood" announced by a sign in the median strip at Loch Raven and Hillen, and apparently many other geographical entities. Northbourne Road—Johnny and Dorothy Unitas lived for a few years in the 1500 block, one block west of us—is evidently now no longer in Northwood, but in "Perring Loch," which sounds like something Bob Irsay would think up. The Northwood Elementary School at Loch Raven and Winford is no longer in Northwood, either.)

     My parents being seriously Catholic, I had been enrolled at St. Matthew's, where, one day, Sister Mary Merciless accused me of talking in class. "ButSstr," I said, "I wasn't talking." ( I hadn't been, but "Sstr" had made up her mind, so I was ordered to stand beside my desk until I admitted my crime or the school day was over four hours later. I stood.)

     The Northwood Shopping Center was a lively place. Read's Drugstore was where we sat on the floor in the Magazine Section and read the comics. (In hindsight, Read's management was uncommonly tolerant.) I remember seeing Tony Curtis in "The Great Houdini" at the Northwood Theater, with its marquee in front of and at a 90º angle to it, in September or October of 1953.

     In the fall or early winter of 1954, the Theater shocked the world by showing "The Moon is Blue," a movie rated "C" ("condemned") by the Legion of Decency. All of the seventh- and eighth-graders at St. Matthews were thereupon mobilized to carry picket signs in front of the Northwood in protest. I "forgot" to go, but I understand that a lot of other kids did, too. In any event, "Sstr" never mentioned it again.

     Hecht's Northwood had an elaborate grand opening in 1954 or 1955. The "Rooftop Restaurant" was a minor wonder of the world. I believe one of the radio stations (WFBR?) carried the opening ceremonies live.

     In 1954 I began studying piano in the Preparatory Department of the Peabody Conservatory. Riding the #3 between Northwood and Mt. Vernon Place, I watched them build Memorial Stadium. When the structure was complete, the workmen mounted a scaffold against the front and attached, one at a time, a number of aluminum letters to the façade. When they finished—the process took at least a week—they had created a long inscription ending with the words "Time will not dim the glory of their deeds."

     By 1955, George Zuverink was pitching, Gus Triandos was catching, Tommy D'Alesandro was handing out "walking-around money," and all was right with the world.

     I graduated from St. Matthew's in 1955, from Calvert Hall in 1959, and from Johns Hopkins in 1963.

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