It’s a Small World

| March 1, 2010 | 3 Comments

Editor’s Note: This column is the first from a long time south county resident who has seen many changes. Butch will be writing for us periodically and recounting the tales of yesteryear and comparing them to today.

Hi, my name is Butch. I am retired now and  have lived in “the other” Anne Arundel County for many years. Where is “the other” county? Well, it begins at the South River bridges–South County. My family has very deep roots in South County and I plan to share some perspective of that forgotten area. Anne Arundel is not all about BWI, Ft. Meade, Glen Burnie, and Annapolis. We have a lot to offer and I intend to demonstrate it. I welcome your comments and suggestions. If you have a question about South County–ask away!

But first, a little more detailed background on me. Our father died when my sister was 5 years old and I was only 3 1/2. So, suddenly our mother was left with two small children and a mortgage. She was faced with having to raise us on a young elementary school teacher’s salary and after a while it became clear that this would be too much to bear, even with the help of her mother, 8 siblings, and in-laws. Since our grandad had passed away during the war years and all the kids were now living on their own, it became necessary for our small family to rent our home and move in with our grandmother. Now to why this article is titled  “It’s a Small World.”

During the 1950’s and until the late 1960’s Wilmington, Delaware was a small city mostly populated by African & Italian Americans many of whom worked at the local auto plants, the port of Wilmington or for the DuPont Corporation. We lived on the west side of town with many Protestant & Catholic churches; but they were surrounded by mostly black and Italian  neighborhoods. We were one of two black families that lived in a predominately Italian community where you knew everyone on your block. As best I can recollect we all got along great! Ms. Minnie was my grandmother’s next door neighbor and they were both widowed and loved to talk and cook. They would often trade recipes and meals across the fence. Boy, did I look forward to Ms. Minnie’s pasta dishes.

Ms. Minnie had a daughter and her son living with her after she (daughter) left her husband. Ms. Minnie’s grandson, Billy, was a teenager; yet my sister and I were still quite young. Billy was a typical teenage boy and he loved to read books while sitting on his grandmother’s front porch. Eventually, he became our unofficial baby sitter and would talk with us across the fence and make sure we didn’t leave the front yard. My sister & I grew to love Billy and considered him an older cousin. Well, as fate would have it, our mother was diagnosed with a very serious heart disease and it was becoming too much for her to care for us. Her doctor suggested that we live with family members until she recovered from open heart surgery. Billy’s mom reconciled with her ex-husband and they moved away. Shortly after that, my sister went to live with some Wilmington area relatives who lived locally and I came to live with my mom’s oldest sister and her husband right here in southern Anne Arundel county.

If we fast forward eight years, it is the the first day of sophomore year in high school. I found my homeroom class and entered before most of my classmates and found a seat near the back of the room. When the kids had all come to class, the teacher introduced himself by using his last name.  He appeared to be in his 20’s with long hair and a thick beard–par for the course in the 60s. Our eyes met once or twice during class and he appeared familiar to me and I felt he sensed the same thing. The bell rang and we began to head to our next class.  I was one of the last to leave and as I’m leaving the teacher tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to stay behind. I guess you know where I’m going with this don’t you? He asked me if my nickname was “Butch” an I said ,”yes,” and then it suddenly hit me.  I asked him if he was “Billy” and he also said yes. We shook hands then embraced before I left for my next class. However, before leaving we explained how both of us came to be in this high school well over 100 miles from our home town.

I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my aunt whom had known Billy since he was a baby. Throughout the semester,  Billy and his fiance had dinner at our home a handful of times.  Late in the year, he informed us that they were moving to Ohio to get married and settle down. Billy would not be returning back to teach after the Christmas break. I never saw Billy again.

Anne Arundel County seems to have a knack for bringing people together. If you dig deep enough, there is a good chance that someone in your past, or someone in your future, may indeed have a connection to the area. Strange, but true. It really is a small world.

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