Today’s Building Blocks looks at the west side of the 3400 block of Garrison Boulevard, in Baltimore, Maryland in 1954.
In 1954 I could have a pretzel stick, with mustard!, and a Coke at the soda fountain that once stood on the corner of Garrison Boulevard and Forest Park Avenue. A coke was 5¢ at the counter. However, the real treat was a fresh Baltimore coddie. Baltimore coddies, not to be confused with codfish cakes, are hand-formed, slightly flattened potato cakes flavored with salt and other seasonings, and then deep-fried. They are traditionally served at room temperature, sandwiched between two saltine crackers , with a dollop of yellow mustard. This uniquely Baltimore food could be found at neighborhood soda fountains and delis all over town beginning in the early 1920s.
Next-door was the Shell gasoline station where my parents and neighbors bought gas. The station had 6¢ a bottle Cokes from a vending machine; of course one had to have a penny and a nickel, as the machines did not give change. During the fixed price era of Coca-Cola, from 1886 to 1959 in the United States, the price of a 6.5 oz. Coca-Cola fluctuated very little. And, by the way, the first Coke cans were introduced in 1955.
On the other side of the gas station was the Forest Theater. In 1954 I could see a movie and have popcorn and a candy bar for less than 40¢. In June 1954 I saw my first horror movie at the Forest Theater, Them (see Building Blocks ‘eerie memories make for good stories’). The theatre opened on December 22, 1919, and closed on May 13, 1961. The building now houses a church.
Next to the Forest was a Toddle House. My father really liked their lunch/dinner stew; while I enjoyed their omelets. By the 1950s Toddle House had more than 200 locations in about 90 cities. In 1962 Toddle House was purchased by Dobbs Houses, a competitor that operated Steak ‘n Egg Kitchen, and the names of the Toddle House restaurants were changed. While the Toddle House is long gone, the 3308 Garrison Boulevard building still houses a restaurant.
Crossing an alley you came to a long, two-story, hook and ladder, fire house; located at the corner of Garrison Boulevard and Liberty Heights Avenue. Thankfully, the engine did not siren’nade us during the movie Them. The building now houses several tenets; too include a laundry.
As writers we must keep in mind how city blocks change over time. The west and east sides of the 3400 block of Garrison Boulevard has transformed dramatically since 1954; buildings have been removed, and the tenants have changed.
Think about your ‘building blocks’; we can not write without them.