Growing up in Canton did not always mean that we stayed in Canton. Going up to Eastern Ave. and catching the bus opened up a world of new experiences—and sometimes dangers—that we had really never thought about.
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In the summer, with sandwiches packed and a thermos filled with Bennet’s Fix-a-Drink root beer, we would hop on the Number 10 Bus and head for Meadowbrook Swimming Pool. This meant that the bus would travel through Highlandtown and Fell’s Point, out Lombard St. past the Jewish delicatessens, all the way through downtown and past the big department stores, and on up Howard St. and Falls Rd.
Finally, after making what seemed like 500 stops, we got off the bus in what was known as Mt. Washington. We would go down lots of steps under the bridge and then there it was—Meadowbrook.
We couldn’t wait to hit the water. The admission fee was a few dollars; we went through the bath house and out to the pool. It was huge. We would look for a shady spot to put our thermos, towel and sandwiches, and then the big cannonball splash.
The pool had the tallest sliding board I remember, and you had to crank your own water up to the top of the slide, or else the dry metal would rip your skin off on the way down. As I recall, the deep end of the pool had four diving boards. The lifeguards kept a sharp eye on everything that was going on.
We would stop for lunch and those miserable baloney sandwiches and not-quite-cold, root-beer-flavored water were the absolute best—what did we know?
Yes, we waited the obligatory half hour before jumping back in to avoid the paralyzing cramps that would surely strike, sinking us to the bottom of the pool and our deaths. The worst part of it all is the embarrassment our mothers would have felt if we ended up in the hospital with dirty drawers on—you all remember that story!
By the end of the day, we were drained of all energy, sun-toasted, and hungry and thirsty. Making sure we had the fare to get back to Canton, we would head back up the bridge and wait for the Number 10. Sometimes we slept all the way home; thank God one of us usually woke up somewhere before our Eastern Ave. stop.
No matter what dinner was, it was always a favorite after a visit to the pool. Another plus was no baths—the chlorine really sterilized us and we were set for the next two days.
Looking back, it was a wonder that we used to go the pool at all, given the time-consuming trips out and back. But it was an adventure and a learning experience that none of us forgot. And just think—this was the same pool in which Michael Phelps learned how to become an Olympic champion.
by ROLAND MOSKAL
SPECIAL TO THE BALTIMORE GUIDE
Roland Moskal, as the reader may have surmised, grew up in Canton. Periodically, the Guide publishes his written recollections of his childhood in Canton and beyond. Roland would love to hear from anyone else with memories of the old neighborhoods. He can be reached at email@example.com.