Growing up in Canton: Whatever happened to the good old days?

Written by on March 5, 2014 in Growing Up In Canton - No comments

Rowhomes will always be rowhomes, but things have changed in Canton. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

“Oh, you wouldn’t recognize the place these days.”

That is so true today in my Canton.

For the most part, it’s what I don’t see. There are no kids beyond infants in strollers. I don’t see elementary school kids on the playgrounds. Since we have no longer have any rec centers to speak of, I don’t see teens in groups playing pick-up games.

Canton is still here, but the neighborhood is gone.

Blocks and blocks of rowhomes, once crowded with families, are now populated with empty nesters, retirees or yuppies. Those young folks who are married and have children simply stay until the babies are almost school age, and they are gone. Remember, the engine that drives migration is the quality of the school system.

My Canton is now a bedroom community for Washington, D.C. In my travels, I have found that it is simply cheaper to find a rowhome in Canton than in the D.C. suburbs. The I-95 commute, exiting onto O’Donnell St., is almost like a daily therapy drive—out of the rat race and into Canton.

And Canton is where to find all the good “pubs,” as they call them today. My father used to go to the corner bar, and like in “Cheers,” everybody knew his name.

O’Donnell Square used to have a wading pool and a pavilion. Both are gone, but the pubs have grown. The firehouse is now a coffee shop.

Obviously, the corner grocery stores—Sam’s, Friday’s, Helminac’s, Eddie’s—are gone. And only the folks at Hoehn’s, up on Bank St., are still baking their hearts out.

And do you know what else? It won’t be long before they rip down all the formstone in Canton. Was it really that ugly?

Next goes the white marble steps and the Tiffany-style glass with the house numbers seen in front door transoms.

With almost every house having central air and shut up tight, you rarely see people sitting out front in the evenings.

You don’t hear church bells. You don’t see clothes on clotheslines. Nobody washes and waxes their cars in the street.

Occasionally, you might hear the ice cream truck, but where do you go for a good snowball in Canton?

Maybe this new wave of immigrants will restart the neighborhood family cycle. Canton will once again be the charm in Charm City.

by Roland Moskal
Special to the Baltimore Guide

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