The Outdoors, Community, and the Law

Robert J Carson "Bob" - well respected attorney in Havre de Grace, MD

Robert Carson, “Bob”, is a well respected lawyer in our community. He’s also a hunting and fishing enthusiast. In our interview he tells of years ago when 50-100 boats would be off our shores fishing for shad, herring and rockfish.

He shares a few stories of being a kid in Havre de Grace including 17 cent movies and summers spent on and in the water in Charlestown, MD. He remembers some of the effects of WWII on a young student, the joy of fishing, and memories of downtown, including 17 cent movies!

Bob well remembers segregation and the Brown vs Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954. He also shares his thoughts on the need for citizens to be involved in their communities.

Since I’ve known Bob mostly as a professional, it was delightful to enjoy a laugh or two during the interview while enjoying his stories of years gone by and learning of some of his interests ‘outside the law.’

(c)2017 Thriving Owl Publ., Ellie Mencer, 343 Green St., Havre de Grace, MD


Robert (Bob) Carson

Born:  12/16/1935  in Havre de Grace, MD   Interviewed:  2/3/2017 w/Ellie

This is Bob Carson talking to Ellie Mencer. I was born in a house that was located where Harford Memorial Hospital is now. A picture of that house is on the first floor of the hospital today – two pictures. And that’s where I was born on December 16, 1935.

(Are your parents from here?)

My mother was born in Carson’s Run in 1908. She was a twin. My mother’s name is Ella Catherine Carson; her twin sister Nora Elizabeth Smith. Her twin sister preceded my mother in death, and died around 1978. My mother passed away around 2,000. She was 93 years old at that time.

(You have strong genes in your family!) mmhhhmm

My father, Omer L Carson – everybody called him ‘Jack’, he was born in Olney, Illinois, in Richland County, Illinois. His father remarried following my father’s mother’s death and moved to a small town called Selma, California, which is south of Fresno. That’s where my grandfather lived. He remarried and his second wife was named Ethel and was my grandmother’s sister, as I recall.

(So how did your parents meet?) I don’t really know. (laughter) They were married in 1934, about a year before I was born.

(How did they end up in Havre de Grace?)

My father had moved here and he was working for the Havre de Grace Republican, now known as the Havre de Grace Record, and he was selling copy for that newspaper. He later went into dry cleaning and had a number of dry cleaning plants. Then he went into real estate and insurance. He had a real estate business called The Maryland Company, which had its address in later years at 301 St. John Street here in Havre de Grace.   His partners in the Maryland Company were a local attorney G. Arnold Pfaffenbach and Senator Millard Tydings.

(Do you have siblings?)

I have one sister; her name is Emily Elizabeth Carson. Everybody calls her Betty. She presently lives in Annapolis. I do not have any substantial contact with her. I may talk with her or see her once or twice a year.

(What are your earliest memories of your own childhood?)

Well, when I grew up we lived at 567 Congress Avenue, which was a row house that was owned and managed by Mr. and Mrs. Burns. They lived on the end unit towards St. Patrick’s. This row of row houses was just to the east of St. Patrick’s. I remember living there. It was a relatively small row house. We had only two bedrooms as I recall on the second floor. When my sister was born, my aunt and I, my Aunt Libby, lived with us in later years from about 1941 on. We shared a bedroom upstairs on the third floor, in the attic. My recollection, it was so much colder.

We moved to 812 South Union Avenue when It would have been 1947-48 when I was in 5th or 6th grade.

(Since you lived on for quite a while, do you remember what you did as a child, playing, going to school?)

Well, I remember going to the elementary school, which was right down the street. The elementary school then was across the street from the high school and is where there is a big auditorium today.  That’s where the elementary school was that I went to. My class was the first graduating class that had 12 grades. Up until then, we had only 11 grades.

There were a number of people I went to school with whom I remember.  And a number of whom I have contact with today. Allen Fair for example shared a double desk with me in the 4th or 5th grade, which I recall quite clearly. Joe Correri, who has passed away, whose parents owned the Correri Food Market, his brother John Paul Correri was mayor a couple of terms and on the city council. And Joe, Monty Silverstein, whose father owned  Joseph’s Department Store, Capt. Harry Jobes,all those were I think in my class. If not, they were within a grade of me.

(I was going to say a ‘double desk’ with A.J. that sounds like brewing for trouble. (Laughter!) Do you remember what you did for play?)

Well, I remember I played baseball or softball when I was in elementary school. They had a ball diamond adjacent to the school, on the Huber side of the school. I remember that I had friends who lived with me at home and we played at home also. We played marbles and played ball.

I started fishing when I was in elementary school and later continued that in high school. And I went duck hunting in high school.

(So you’ve been an enthusiast for the outdoors pretty early on.)

Yes, and we lived in the summer, starting about 1945-46, in a house in Charlestown across the river in Cecil County which my father bought. Indeed he later bought a number of houses that were adjacent to where we lived. We lived there, in the summer, for four or five years at least and I had a couple small boats and outboard motors. I ran those boats. My father was not much of a navigator. He let me take care of the boats.

I remember that Madison Mitchell carved decoys back then. When I went duck hunting with Senator Tydings, the first I ever went duck hunting I went with him. He had a number of Madison Mitchell decoys. I don’t know whatever happened to them. He kept them in a shed out at Oakington, which is where he and his wife Eleanor lived and his son Joe.

Later when I went duck hunting with Donald Mergler, who’s much older than I was, he had Madison Mitchell decoys. His daughter may have those, I don’t know. Donald lived to be 100 years old. I remember going to an anniversary with him and his wife, I think it was their 70th anniversary. That was a wonderful occasion many years later.

(And you went to high school here, as well?)

I did not. I went to McDonough. It’s a Military School. I graduated from McDonough in 1953.

(Do you remember what downtown was like when you were a youngster?) YES!

It was like it is today. Washington and St. John Streets essentially have the same buildings that they have today. Ownership has changed on most of the buildings, but the physical buildings themselves are virtually the same as they were back in 1940-41 which is my earliest recollection.

For example I recall Lyons Pharmacy back in that time. It’s the same as it is today. I recall Goll’s Bakery then; I recall Josephs Dept. Store. He always called it ‘dollar ninety-eight’, (chuckle) he had a sign “$1.98 Joe’s Cut Rate.” I don’t recall Dominick’s Barber Shop, but it goes back to 1934 also. I started going to Dominick’s later, in the late 1940s and knew him. Of course he is passed away. His son Donato, Don, who is 80 years old, still goes to the barber shop every day except Wednesday.

(Now do you remember a social life? Dances or going downtown with friends on a Friday night or going to the movies?)

I don’t recall any dances but I remember going to the movies on Saturday and it cost 17 cents! (Laughter) For a while when I was very young, my father paid another young man to take me to the movies every Saturday, which was near my father’s real estate office. We’d go in there and get the money to go to the movies. Foley’s Drug Store was across the street from where my father’s real estate business was on the same side of the street as Dominick’s Barber Shop.

There was also a Green’s Pharmacy which was on Washington Street; it’s up next to where LaCucina’s is now.

(Anything about segregation and things like that?)

Well the schools were segregated. I never went to school with a black person until I went to Cornell in 1953. There were a few black students there. When I went to Havre de Grace, they were all white. There was a black Consolidated School over on Stokes Street. The school building still exists there. I knew that that was for black students.

Then when I was in McDonough that was also segregated. In Brown vs Topeka Board of Education was decided in 1954. At the time I thought it was wrongly decided. I changed my mind in a very short time thereafter. I think it was an absolutely a correct decision by Justice Warren and the other members of the Supreme Court. I think it was one of the major decisions the Supreme Court has ever readed.

(Do you remember any moments when there was a new technology that had an effect: TV, phones…)

Oh, certainly! When we first went to live in Charlestown in the summer, we used an outhouse. (chuckle) My father put in indoor plumbing in about a year. I don’t think I ever had to use an outhouse again except when I went hunting, usually out of state.

I remember television coming in, in the mid-1940s, 46-47, with black and white. I remember people like Milton Berle who were on television. Pretty awful but he had quite a following at that time. And Ed Sullivan had a show. He was pretty awful, but he had quite a following also.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the fishing around Havre de Grace. When I was growing up, there were great runs of shad and herring that came up the bay and up the Susquehanna River and were caught by net and by hook and line by fishermen. I later had some very nice days fishing for shad off of Garrett Island and around Garrett Island. There were wonderful fish to catch and there were a lot of people fishing. There might have been 50 to 100 boats out there.

Rockfish also came up. I recall fishing for them between Havre de Grace and Perry Point and down below here, and also up the river between Lapidum and Port Deposit. These were wonderful fish to catch and even better to eat.

One of the few times my father and I liked to go fishing, we went sometimes with Johnny Hines, who was a local painter and had a boat. Also ? Simpers (?) who had a boat and took people out on. Later I had my own larger boat and caught fish off of that. In recent years I’ve always had a fishing boat. I have one now down at Tidewater Marina. I represent Tidewater Marina also and fished with Gary Pensell, who used to own and had a majority interest in Tidewater, and I’ve fished with his son, Garrett Pensell.

But the Rock fishing in recent years has tailed off and is not near as good today, except some days in the spring, I had a couple days – more than a couple – a few days last spring with my son Dan, we did very well catching and releasing Rockfish off of Perry Point.

(Do you remember going to the race track at all?)

Yes. Well, I only went to the races once or twice out at the Havre de Grace track.  I remember being taken one time when there was a ‘walkover.’ Coaltown won the race. A walkover is when there’s no other horse, just one horse running around the track. Coaltown was a well-known horse; he won that race as I recall. I also remember being at the track at least one other occasion.

(Do you remember any stories specific to World War II?)

I remember when WWII started. My father and mother had gone to California by car to visit my grandfather Carson. The day they came back was Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941. They had stopped at my aunt’s house up in Darlington, her name was Edith Monroe and was my father’s oldest sister. When they got back to town, they told me or my Aunt Libby told me about WWII beginning. I knew about it because of that. My Aunt Libby had kept me while my parents were away in California.

(Do you remember any experiences from school? For instance, when I was in school I remember hiding under our desks for air raid drills.)

Well, I remember that in high school they put tape on the windows – in elementary school – to make sure the windows didn’t crack and break. This was because of the tremendous amount of explosions that took place at Aberdeen Proving Ground where they were testing munitions for the Army and for the Armed Services. You could hear those from the Proving Grounds. They were quite common; I’d say probably an everyday occurrence.

When the first Iranian War began, I remember that they were again testing a lot of munitions. Gary Pensell and I were fishing right off the Proving Grounds. We were stopped by an Aberdeen Proving Ground, Army vessel and boarded us to make sure we weren’t terrorists. We were told to get out of that area!

(Sneakin’ around where you’re not ‘sposed to be, huh! In your upbringing, in your long life, what words of wisdom might you have to pass on.)

Well, that’s hard to say. I think it’s very important for young people to get a good education. My granddaughter’s now going to Towson University. She’s in her third year. She was at Harford Community before and was on the Dean’s list. She was continuously Dean’s List at John Carroll and I’m sure she will be at Towson University. I think that’s extremely important.

My daughter June is a graduate from Virginia Tech in Forestry and Wildlife. She does antiques. My son Warren had a degree from Towson, I think in Psychology. He did roofing. My son Warren passed away twenty years ago; he had a problem with drug addiction. My son Danny only has a Harford Community College degree, but he’s done very well in real estate. My son Duke has a degree from Gettysburg in Religion, and he’s presently not employed.

I think it’s very important for young people to get an education, as good an education as they can. I think that’s important.

And I think it’s important to be involved in community affairs. Most people are not. But I think it’s extremely important. With the national scene the way it is, my daughter, I know, is involving herself with political matters and trying to be involved with groups who will support what she thinks to be a correct view of the world.

It’s very important that they be involved politically also.

©2017 Thriving Owl Publ., Ellie Mencer, 343 Green St., Havre de Grace, MD
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