Bubble Gum – Game of War – Spot Towers
Jeanne Hawtin shares childhood stories of waiting in line for bubble gum, finding her first dollar bill – yes, the race track is open,seeing Betty Grable – did you know she had pink hair, formal balls, chasing the milkman, playing WAR, ice skating to Perryville, and joining her mom in the Spot Tower! Listen in..
Born: 3/30/1935 at Fountain St, Havre de Grace interview: 6/22/2016
(Let’s start with your name.)
Jeanne – J E A N N E – my father and mother chose to make it a real long spelling, if I was a boy I would have been Gene, too – I don’t know, maybe because of Gene Autry or something – Jeanne Preston Hawtin. Born here on Fountain Street on 3/30/1935. I was born at home in the apartment house across from the church. We used to call it the Lower Episcopal Church. The High Episcopal Church was St. John’s. The Lower Episcopal Church was on Fountain Street and it was Mr. Rattenbush’s (?) Church we called it. It’s Grace Reformed now.
Washington Street. My earliest memories are Washington Street. I was so lucky because across the street, down the corner, was a candy store. I can remember the first time walking to the candy store, standing in line to get Double Bubblegum. It was WWII and for some reason it was hard to get – not rationed but for some reason it was hard to get. It had the comics in it. W would stand in line for that. There’s a house there now. (Pennington Funeral Home?)
It is one, two, the third block from the drug store. John Schaffer (?) bought the house across the street that’s on the corner – a black house, and they redid it. Across the street was this lady that had the candy store. Then if you went another block, going towards the park, the Lefflers (?) had a store with a lot of steps, I remember. They sold more than candy. This would be around 1940 because the war had started. And I was allowed to go across the street to go to the store on my own. That was my big jump!
That’s when I found and owned my first dollar bill. The race track people were in town. I found in lying on the curb. I ran home to show it to my father and he knew right away that the race track people were in town. Only the race track people would drop a dollar!
We moved that year off S. Washington Street, around the corner to 417 Fountain Street. We had an extra spare bedroom upstairs which I always thought was for my grandmother. But every year we had the same trainer that boarded with us during the races. All my neighbors, it seemed to me, had people staying with them. My Uncle “Doc”, who was the pharmacist, had asked if he could stay there. He bought prescriptions at my uncle’s drug store and they had been friends for years. All my neighbors, if they had extra rooms, would rent out during the races.
They would come in a week early to get set-up. I think originally they raced for two weeks. Then later it got cut down to one. But you’d have to check with someone a little older. I was pretty young to remember this.
And because I was in 6th grade – older, at this time all of us kids walked everywhere. Concord Cove hadn’t been built. All the Girl Scouts had camped out there. We went out there and we climbed over the fence to the racetrack. The stables were there. They had tilted roofs like…whatever. We would climb up there and lay on the roofs to watch. We saw Betty Grable and her husband, Harry James. And she had pink hair. They had horses that raced at Havre de Grace.
One time we got chased. But for a couple years, we didn’t. The race track was good. A lot of my friends when they were like 13-14 and older, the boys got jobs parking cars – directed the cars. A lot of the boys looked forward to it; the rich people would come and give them tips and such. The girls always were very jealous.
It was really neat. Everybody got dressed up to go to the races. My mother had spectator shoes, white shoes with the brown leather toe and heel. I don’t know why they called them back… maybe because they were ‘spectating!’ Everyone dressed to go. The race track was everything. Talk about tourism. That was our first tourist event.
As I recall, we had a two week session twice a year. Then it was cut to one. It was very sad when it closed down.
We used to have balls – formal balls, dances – there when I was older, a teenager. We would walk up the long steps. I just remember the steps. I can clearly see the steps we had to go up. The Elks Club in Havre de Grace had the Charity Ball out there, a fundraiser of some sort. Other clubs would have events there. Eddie Dwyer (?) had his band and play out there. The ones that I went to were formal. The rest I can’t quite remember. There was something about milk. I’m not sure what that was all about. I don’t know if it (the dance) was for poor people? I don’t know, I know we got our milk from Mt. Ararat.
The milk – that’s another thing. Mr. Colburn (?) who lived up Route 155 on the left, he had a farm and raised goats. He sold goat milk, too. He was known as the ice man. Everybody had ice boxes. You put a sign in the window and he’d come by and put ice in the bottom of the icebox. We followed him around town. We followed him. That was the hardest ice ever. When he would chop the ice, there was a sliver that was triangle shaped. He would give it to us. That was the biggest treat! We’d hold it and suck it. It was the summer time of course. To follow the ice man was a big deal. We’d follow him, four or five of us, waiting for him to chop ice.
If you go up the hill, up 155, on the left hand side there used to be a hill and grass and a farm. There were no houses on the hill then. (Where Mt. Felix is now?) No. No. No. Right under the bridge on your left. They used to call it Knob Hill. There used to be a laundromat there. There was a house and a hill. That was Mr. Colburn. He raised goats too. I was allergic to cow’s milk so I had goats milk. Right now there’s a water pump with flowers on it. If you see that, you’d see Mr. Colburn’s hill. Somebody bought all that and now there are lots of houses there.
In my neighborhood there were lots of… well, Pennington’s Funeral Home was right there. We’d all try to look in the windows and try to see a dead body. We played all day. My kids laugh, being stuck on computers constantly. We played a card game called War. This is so funny. It would last a really long time – like a couple of days this War game would last. My kids laugh. But a whole bunch of us would sit under the tree behind where Bobby Goll lived playing War games. Actually, at the end of the day – we had to be home when the street lights came on – we would take our hand home. And I actually put my War cards under my pillow. I don’t know who I thought was going to creep in my house and get my cards. (laughter)
And Sonny Smith, his father was married to Rosanna Pennington, it was his backyard we played in all the time. I mean, we could walk anywhere. I mean in first grade, we walked to school. Now I see the kids being driven everywhere or take the school bus.
And the library was in the first floor of the Opera House. On a Saturday morning I would run up the street. I’d try to get to the library early, before Nena did, because we both liked the same books. Nancy Drew we read. There’d be a new Nancy Drew and we’d race to get it.
It was so much fun being a kid then. I mean, we ice skated.
We ice skated at the Park. We would get on the ice at the Park (Tydings) and we skated to Perryville – across the river! The channel part of the river out there…. In fact, that’s another thing. My uncle Doc (Green), the pharmacist, had a heart attack that day. My cousin Doc-y and I were skating to Perryville from the park. We turned around and it looked like my father was coming across the ice. His father had had a massive heart attack and they wanted Doc-y there.
But out where the channel was out there, the ice was sort of dark green and it had bubbles – ice bubbles – foamy ice bubbles. If you chipped the ice bubble with the toe of your skate, it would break the bubble and there would be a hole. So you had to learn very quickly to avoid the ice bubbles.
Down at the park we’d sit on the pier and our feet would be on the ice and we would put our skates on. Then we’d go. The men in Havre de Grace – the men in town skated and played hockey right in front of John Carriere’s house – you know where that is. There was a cove there. They’d have up to three barrels down there and jump the barrels. The older people would skate in the cove and play hockey there.
You know the island at the park. We could skate over there and we could actually build a fire on the edge of the ice by the island and we could go there to warm up. The ice was so thick; we could put wood on it and build a fire.
And then – this is the part that’s really wild. Anybody that lived here and skated would tell you this is true. We’d skate for hours. Then we’d have to go as far out on the left or right of the island and skate really, really fast so we could hop up on our stomachs to the pier because the tide would go out and we’d have to jump up to get on the pier. I remember hurting my stomach lots of times trying to jump up on the pier.
Yes, you could skate to Perryville.
It was exciting. During the war there was a spot tower on the hill here. There’s one on your left over in Perryville. There’s a spot tower. It’s a real tall, tall tower with steps up to a little building at the top. They used them to spot German planes during the war.
My mom – and I still have her buttons and stuff – was on spot tower. This was really early. There were two people always. All volunteer. Mr. Mitchell, Madison Mitchell, was the chairman in charge and scheduled everybody. He was the head of it.
My mom would take my doll, crayons and coloring books and we would go up these steps – looked like fire escape steps. To this day I don’t like steps where I can see through. We would go up. And I would just lay on the floor up there and color while my mom and whoever she was with, would watch for planes that didn’t have U.S. markings. They had this phone and if they saw a plane, if it didn’t have U.S. on it or whatever, they had to call whoever.
(So was there one here in Havre de Grace?) Yes, do you know where St. Patrick’s Cemetery is. There was one there.
My mother was the Warden for Washington-Fountain St block. We had those green shades, dark green blinds, that blocked the light. (Blackout Curtains or Blackout Blinds)
My mom, and sometimes my dad and I, would walk with her. She had a uniform and hat. I think Mr. Mitchell was in charge of that, too. She had that block – Fountain and Washington and Bourbon and Union – and would go around and make sure everyone had their blinds down to make it completely dark. Everybody had a block. Supposedly we had a German submarine that came up into Bush River. Close enough.
But the spot tower, there’s one left that I know of. Cecil County uses the spot tower in Perryville – Fire Tower Road – during dry season to watch for fires. But it was originally built as a Spot Tower.