Growing up in Canton: The Avenue

Written by on October 3, 2012 in Baltimore Voices, Blogs - No comments

Growing up in Canton meant that when it came time to go shopping, you went up on The Avenue—Eastern Avenue.

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You did not have to go downtown to the big department stores. You had Epstein’s, Irvin’s, Thom McCann shoes, Hanover Shoes, and Miles Shoes. You can’t forget Levy’s shoe store, because when you were inside, you were afraid that the stacks and stacks of boxes were going to come down on you.

Our mother would take us on The Avenue two major times per year, just before school around Labor Day, and then for the George Washington’s Birthday sales. We had clothes that we wore to school and clothes that we wore to play, and you had better not let Mom catch you playing outside in your school clothes!

Yeager’s Music was the place to go not only if you could afford to buy an instrument, but if you needed to have the latest 45 record release—and, they had listening booths. Today’s big box stores just have headsets and key pads.

Fine dining? You could walk to one of the best restaurants in Baltimore—Haussners—and, wow, what an art collection, especially in the bar.

Home-style dining? You found White Coffee Pots plus G & A. We didn’t know how good we had it, did we?

If you wanted to dress like Beau Brummel, you could go to A & G Clothiers or Tru-Fit Clothes, or even Lee’s, for top-or-the-line, up-to-the-minute fashions. Believe me, I would spend lots of time looking in Tru-Fit’s window, planning my future wardrobe.

There were no dollar stores, but places like Goldenberg’s came pretty close. It was Shockett’s, however, that was way ahead of the curve on low-budget bargains.

Louis J. Smith’s had everything you needed in the line of sporting goods. In fact, I still have a baseball glove and an old tennis racket from there.

For models/hobbies, it was Gammerman’s—it was sad when they had that fire. I’ll always remember how kids brought their best model cars to be displayed in the showroom.

For the finest of jewelry, it was S. & N. Katz, with their huge display all along Conkling St.

For furniture for the well-to-do, it was Weiland’s, and for us poor folks, it was the fourth floor of Epstein’s in the back.

Speaking of Epstein’s, I must point out that they had a large lunch counter that you could access through the Bank St. entrance. But it was Woolworth’s that had the most popular meal deal.

We were so busy up on The Avenue that we had two Read’s drug stores, and they were always packed with customers and products. They too had a good lunch counter, especially for ice cream dishes, plus the booth-by-booth jukebox machines.

Pep Boys and Western Auto competed head to head on Conkling St.. It always proved beneficial to everyone in Canton and Highlandtown.

Also on the corner of Bank and Conkling was and IS probably the best family-owned bakery in all of East Baltimore, Hoehn’s. They are open once Wednesday through Saturday, and sell out everyday. I’m in there once a week.

You could pay your BG&E bill and buy appliances on the same avenue, but they have long since gone, and in its place for the past 40-plus years is the Eastern House Restaurant—one of the best kept secrets of Cantonites.

The Avenue has changed and still keeps changing, but, speaking as a native of Canton, it was our mall, our downtown, and our Main Street.


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