Old Time Balamerese

By: Steve Ashe, Parkton, Md.

I been libemn in Balamer (or nearby) my whole life, so far. When I wez born, we were libemn on the 600 hunert blocka Edgewood St., along with Hizzoner Donald, who my Mom played with, when they were jis kids. I wanted to add some of what I know and believe to know, concernin Balamerese:

Since the days of the Balamer Riots of March 1861, Balamer has had the name of "Mob Town". Most corners had at least one bar. Beer was the preferred drink. My Grandad, Harry Louis Joynes, was a druggist, since before WWI. Joyne's Store, was in the cellar of 701 Linnard St. zone 29.(store phone number, which was the same for the house above, was "Wilkens 5141"). He made a fortune off of selling beer on a route that he created.

Harry noticed that late in the week, beer sales fell off. This, he concluded, was a direct result of the working class being broke and waiting for payday. He told all of his regulars, that rather than them coming in to buy beer, he'd deliver what they required, leave same in the airyway/cellar steps and they could pay him on their payday. Needless to say, he soon had two trucks with full time drivers, delivering beer. He said that he does not remember getting stiffed for any beer. Harry opened at 6:00AM to catch guys goin' to work. He took a nap in the afternoon.

Lucy Hannah Yaste Joynes, his wife and my dear "Nannie" ran the store while Harry rested. After his nap, he again took up the reins and kept the store open to 10 or 11 at night (this depended on whether he had customers or not). During the Flu epidemic around WWI, he stayed open 24 hours a day, filling prescriptions. Harry had a bad case of varicose veins. His socks would be soaked with blood from this malady, but he stayed on the job, filling prescriptions, until the epidemic passed. He said that families came walking down Harlem Avenue, carrying home made caskets, containing their departed loved ones, who had succombed to the Flu. The undertakers were too busy to get to everyone who required their services.

There was a big glass case full of penny candy in the store. Kids would come in with a nickel and do the:"One of those and one of those and one of those and aaaaaaa, no put that back, I want one of those instead!" Through all of this decision making, Harry was bent over, with his head stuck into the case. Finally he would have had enough and would LOUDLY declare:"Hurry up kid! All the blood is running to my head!"

Harry had many friends who were also business people in Balamer. Mr. Hendler, of ice cream fame, was one that I remember. They would get together and talk "bidness". Somebody told Harry to sell all of his stocks, right before the great crash of 1929. He always crowed of how he had gotten out, just in time.

A neighbor kid once bought a cap pistol and a supply of caps from Joyne's Store. The kid started shootin' off the caps outside of the store. Harry went out and told the kid to scram, as he was disturbing Harry's customers. The kid's mother came back with the kid and berated Harry, by saying:"Harry, my kid bought the caps here, why can't he shoot the caps here?" "Lady!" sez Harry, "I sell toilet paper too!"

In 1908, when Harry was 16, he inherited $2000, from his grandfather. This, a princely sum in 1908. He bought a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle and set off for Canada. Three months later, he had to sell the Harley, in order to get money to get home. Arriving at home, appearing to have been rode hard and put away wet, he was confronted by his mother: "Harry! Do you relize what your grandad did to earn that money?" "Well," sez Harry, "if he had as much fun earning it, as I had spending it, he had a Hellova good time!"

When Harry lay in his bed, dying at the age of 92, his next door neighbor shot himself, right outside of Harry's window. Harry, almost blind, called for help, at hearing the shot. One of the family went to see if Harry was okay. "Oh Harry! It's terrible! The man next door just shoot himself!" The ever irrasible Harry responded with: "Is that what that damned racket was? Didn't that dumb son of a bitch know that he could have hit me!"

Ever since I can remember, we were told:"Keep your mouth shut and you'll stay outa trouble." Part of the reason that Balamerese sounds as it does, is because, we grew up trying to keep our mouths shut. How many times, did you hear:"I can go into any bar in Town and have a beer and nobody bothers me, as long as I keep my mouth shout!" When we were forced into speaking, we still attempted to keep our mouths shut and move our lips and tongue as little as possible. This over the years, helped create some of what became Balamerese. Think about it, it takes a lot of mouth/tongue/lip action to say words such as: bullets, sheppard, police, Germany, Italy, Europe, BelAir, hundred, alley, good one(as in:"Have a good one!"). In Balamerese, these become:bu-wits, sha-pert, pu-weis, Germ-nee, It-lee, Yorpe, Blair, hunnert, al-wee, and goo-win(as in:"Have a goo-win!").

Balamer parents must, I'm convinced, go to secret classes, where they learned the stuff to say to us in certain circumstances. No one was ever blinded as a child, they "has an eye put out", as in, "HEY! Don't run done the payment wit dat stick! You could fall and hit your head on the curbstone and put an eye out!" Then, there was the terrible things that were intimated *would* occur, "when you father gets home". "You think you're bein' funny now, doncha? Well, you jest wait 'til your father gets home!" How about the famous one: "If that ball comes over here one more time, I'm keepin' it!"

Saint Mary's Industrial School was the scariest place in the whole world. Even though I only saw it while riding by, it struck fear in my 6 year old heart, when I heard, "If you do that one more time, I'm gonna send you to St. Mary's!" After I saw William Bendix as Babe Ruth, I lost some of my fear of St. Mary's.

Maybe you know some of the answers to these questions concerning Balamerese: Why do they say: ice-ning and sentnence? From where did the extra "Ns" come?

All big dogs were from a breed known as, Germn pu-weis! Pu-weis cars were, Radio cars, as in, "If you kids don't get offa those garage rufs, Ah'm calling the Radio car!"

I rambled for longer than I had intended. I wanted to let you know, that the show, to which you were a part, evoked many memories of Balamer and my days growing up there.

Mr. Ashe operates Roy's Never Stop Clock Shop in Hampstead, Md.

Return to Baltimore MD Comments for Mr Ashe Baltimore Memories

Layout and Design Copyright © 1997 by Hon
All Rights Reserved

This document was last modified on: