Child’s Play, Snake-in-the-house, the Fiesta
Susan Page Carroll Asher, though not born and raised in Havre de Grace, is certainly very much a part of our community. She and her late husband, Art Asher, did raise their children here.
Sue shares some really great stories of her childhood and some funny ones related to raising her own children, including a scary snake story!
Sue talks about joining VISTA, the domestic Peace Corps (with more in her full-length interview).
She mentions a couple interesting items like her dad being the first to ‘ride in the nose cone of a missile’, a bit of history regarding the warehouse (beer distribution) on St. John St. and their building on the corner of N. Washington and Congress (where Asher’s Paint Store was),plus an interesting insight about the relationship between Art and the Dutch Boy (paints). Can you guess?
And did you know that she and Art once owned a skipjack, the FIESTA? Listen to the podcast and follow along with the transcript if you like.
In the full-length interview, she talks about family ties to Carroll’s and Lilly’s, shares her school experiences and a bit more about her Vista job, tells a few fun stories in her marriage to Art, talks about her 35 years with the Board of Education, and even discusses Havre de Grace – the Sin City!!!
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Susan Page Carroll Asher
Born: 11/27/1946 in Baltimore Interviewed: 11/11/2016 w/Ellie
I was born in 1946 in Baltimore. We didn’t have to get Social Security cards until I was in high school. With all these things from Arthur (husband’s recent death), I found out my citizenship was in question. Come to find out, I’d not put a parent’s name or a city of birth. My citizenship is no longer in question. We lived in Towson, in Banesville really, until I was fourteen.
And it was a great life. There were like thirty kids in the neighborhood. We used to run the streets. As they say, you knew it was time to come home when the street lights came on. Your mother didn’t call you on your cell phone, she screamed your name like a fishwife! We used to camp out in the backyard.
During floods and hard rains, we used to swim in the gutters because the water would come down the gutters. Today that would be horrible. (Were the roads paved then?) Yes! But in winter, they would close all our roads and we could sleigh ride because the hill was so steep. They were early on. It was fun. I had a great childhood.
(Do you remember what kinds of things you played and did?)
We played dodge ball and that kind of thing like everyone else does. Oh yes, hide and seek, too. My father would play with us, too. I remember we used to build houses out of blankets in our backyard. We had a bathroom, and bedrooms and living room. My father got up at 6 o’clock in the morning and cook us breakfast out on the grill. I remember he had built a concrete grill in our backyard. He’d come out and make us bacon and eggs and toast right on the grill. He was a cool dad.
No. Well, yes and no. My uncle was raised with me. He was twelve years older than I. But we always had somebody living with us from day one! I remember one time my father was a little put out with my uncle, I think I was a pre-teen. My uncle said, “You’re not my father.” He said, “What!” And he went after him. My uncle ran up the steps and got his belt caught on the bathroom door and was swinging. That was pretty good!
I called him ‘Alley” from Alley Oops (cartoon character). He hated it. So I called him that all the time. I was just a rotten kid in the house.
(Tell me a little about your parents.)
My father was a tool and die maker who finally went into explosive ordnance. He was the first man to ever ride in the nose cone of a missile. They needed ballast to take it from one building to another. So he got in because he was just the right weight for the ballast. He was going from A building to B building. Somewhere there’s a picture of this. I’ve got to find it. So he was the first man to ride in the nose cone of a missile.
Mother was in catering. She was the manager of Warr-Bach Catering in Baltimore. They did fine catering. I got most of my recipes from that. The chef always knocked all the recipes for 400 down to recipes for 4. That’s my Crab Imperial to this day. Floyd Warriner was the president. When I was 8, I’d go into work with my mother in summer. He’d pay me. I got a half-dollar or a silver dollar every week. I thought I was the richest kid in town.
Next door there was a man who had a monkey and I used to play with that. ( A live monkey?) Yes.
Then I’d go down to the commissary with all the cooks. I got to peel the potatoes. They were hot. They steamed the potatoes with the skin on and I had to peel them.
(Any other events…)
No. I was happy and healthy. We lived in the country. We were only one of four houses in the area and the rest was farms. The farmers would bring us baskets of fruits and vegetables and leave it on our porch, ring the bell and run. They were afraid of us. They got to know us and we got along really good. But we were interlopers.
My father always wanted to live on a hill. So my father bought this property and built a house on the hill. I was 14. I loved it. I didn’t like living that far out of Bel Air. I rode the bus 13 miles to school. So for a while I couldn’t do anything after school. But when I got my license we could do more. I talked my mother out of the car all the time. I graduated in 1964 and went to Harford Community. I was the first class in the new building – the new study.
But I wasn’t that fond of school. I liked to play. So one of my teachers talked me into joining the domestic Peace Corps. So I joined Vista for a year. We called it “Very Insurgent Socialists Terrorizing America.” (chuckles) It was a year. You could sign up for another year, but I didn’t want to. I worked in Florida with the migrant farm laborers. That was an eye opener.
When I was in training, I lived in a migrant camp. You could see through the walls to the outside. It was unbelievable the way these poor people had to live. I had a family that had nine children, with another on the way. Thank God for the Salvation Army. They gave us all the food. We taught her how to cook chicken and rice. We taught a few people how to write their names because they didn’t write.
I came back to college for another year. And then I met Art. He had gotten his draft notice, so he joined the Air Force. So we got married in 1967. He was in Air Intelligence in Nam. That was rough. He said it was safe. But I saw bomb craters next to him in the pictures he brought home!
We had fun. We used to sit in the back yard a lot with the kids. There were four houses and the yards were all wide open. The kids would run all four yards, like a huge playground. Of course, we all left our backdoors open so they could go in and get toys out of the playroom. Never worried.
One day we heard a noise in one of our neighbor’s houses. We thought it was the kids in there. The next morning the neighbor came over and she said, “You’ll never believe this. Remember that noise we heard last night.” Well, we woke up about 3 in the morning and saw this black belt hanging over the lamp shade. Then he realized, “I don’t have a black belt.” It was a snake – a big fat black snake – and it had come from the outside and up into their bedroom. He threw it on the floor and knocked it out. That was scary. We did not leave the doors open after that! That was a good laugh for a long time.
When the kids got older, they’d get home from school about half an hour before I did. Paige was twelve I guess. They were in the stage of “I hate you” years to each other. I got home and the house was unusually clean. I thought, uh huh, something’s up. I said, “What have you been doing?” “Nothin’!” “Do you want to help me cook dinner?” “Oh yes,” Just as sweet as they could be.
I looked out in the backyard and there was a door broken in half. One or the other had locked themselves in the bedroom. The other one was bound and determined to get to them and they actually knocked the door in half. Twenty -five years later, my grandchildren did the same thing to my daughter. (chuckle) She called me and couldn’t correct them she was laughing so hard. They didn’t quite knock the door in half, but broke the molding and such. That was funny.
(What did Art do after the military.)
Art went to work for Kathryn in the beer business, managed the office and went on sales calls and things. After the beer distribution closed, he went to work for his dad at the paint store.
The warehouse was all used for the beer distributorship at one time. One of the rooms was for the drivers to settle up. Then of course the large part had refrigeration and kegs of beer, etc. The office was two-tiered. They distributed in Harford and Cecil County. Then Kathryn got in her mind to sell it but wouldn’t sell it to Art and Donald.
Where Les Petits Bisous is now was at one time a butcher shop. Before the paint store that section was, I believe, a grocery store. Yes, it was, Asher’s Grocery. I have a picture somewhere of their delivery truck. He didn’t have the paint store until 1947-48 or somewhere around there. I have a picture of Art dressed as the Dutch Boy. (Dutch Boy Paints)
When Art took over the store after his father passed, that’s why he wore the Captain’s hat and blue shirt and jeans, the Dutch Boy. (I thought he was into something seaworthy …) NO! Well, he and his father did buy a skipjack, the Fiesta. Art refurbished it completely. We took it out on the water a few times. But we soon realized we were not sailors. We almost took out the marina! Very scary. It was just too big a boat for us! The Fiesta was a fun thing to have and it took Art about a year to refurbish it. It was probably late 80s or early 90s. In fact, the calendar the county used to put out, it was in that. It was originally built in 1959 as a pleasure craft for somebody down in western Maryland. We found all the paperwork.
They never oystered with it. It was a pleasure boat. But when the sails were up, it was a majestic thing.
Let’s see, the butcher shop became an ice cream shop. I can’t remember the name. it was before Sweet Williams. There was an optical shop in that spot for about eight years. Then Steph (Stephanie Anderson with the Havre de Grace Ritz) finally came. She was desserts and ice cream for a while before going into food!
(Do you remember your first microwave….)
I remember my first computer with a modem. I had to send stuff to the State Department and it was scary. No one was allowed to be in my area. You couldn’t get near my computer. Then they started with regular computers, desktop computers. We just all learned by doing! They had a few courses for us, but that was it. You just jumped in and did it. I know a lot of people didn’t want to do it. I know a lot of people wanted to quit. I’d laugh at ‘em and tell them it was going to be fun, easier. They’d say, “I like my typewriter.” I’d say, “Well, I don’t.”
I remember one time, Paige called me. My daughter called me from home to tell me the building was on fire and they can’t find David. I made it from Forest Hill to here in 15 minutes! I finally found him. The firemen were there and the fire marshal told me where David was.
(That takes years off your life!)
I hope not, I want to live to be 106. I want to live long enough to make the kids crazy. Alzheimer runs in my family so I won’t know anything about it anyway. If I‘m still with it, I want to live a long life.
© 2016 Thriving Owl Publ. Ellie Mencer, 343 Green St, Havre de Grace, MD http://hdgstories.com