We were lucky to have beautiful, sunny day with temperatures near 60 degree for our first trip to the Baybrook community on Saturday, February 22. Eighteen American Studies and Art students came along for our first time “hitting the streets” as a group.
I made a Google map of the tour for students who were unable to attend.
We began at the Filbert Street Community Garden (1317 Filbert St.) at 10:30am for an excellent tour and history from director Jason Reed. Students got to see the complexity of running and sustaining a community garden firsthand and to ask Jason questions. Next we went and toured the Polish Home Hall (Fairhaven and Filbert Streets), which was built circa 1905 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Next we went to check out the historic St. Athanasius Catholic Church (4708 Prudence St), which was built in 1891. Then we walked up to the highest point of the Farring-Baybrook Park for a group picture before jumping into our vehicles to head to the industrial peninsula.
We all meet up at the edge of the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant (3501 Asiatic Ave.) and looked at the industrial wasteland where the Wagner’s Point neighborhood once stood. We then headed to the corner of Brady Ave. and Fairfield St. where Rev. John Widgeon opened the First Baptist Church of Fairfield in 1908. As I discussed the history of Fairfield, I pointed out that we had just passed one of the massive auto terminals, where cars enter the U.S. from production abroad, and that behind us was the Baltimore Scrap Corp. where those cars go to die in the massive crushers. You can see the birth and death of American cars all within a few blocks—the cycle of American car culture and consumerism.
Shifting from heavy industry to “green” space, we headed to 1000 Frankfurst Ave. where the Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center is located. We went inside to see the historical documents donated by Horton McCormick and the LEED certified building where children were just ending an educational session. We left the Cove and headed left on Hanover Street and made another left on Patapsco Ave. to cruise down Brooklyn’s main street, which was recently part of the Baltimore Main Streets program. However, the Main Street banners are now sadly gone.
We arrived at Fred and Margie’s for a nice lunch before all going our separate ways. I barely made it home before my Zipcar expired at 3pm, but I did it. No late fees! Exhausted I took a catnap in preparation for Saturday’s next event, a reading of Sparrows Point steelworker stories at the Windup Space on North Avenue.
The reading was the first in the New Mercury Readings series for 2014, a series organized by Deborah Rudacille (author of Roots of Steel) and John Barry. Two students (D’Arcy and Bonnie) made it to BOTH the tour of Baybrook and the reading… they both happen to be the only two students in both my AMST 422 course and Michelle Stefano’s AMST 403 course. Both of our courses focus on documenting the voices of workers/residents from industrial communities in the Baltimore region—mine on Baybrook and Michelle’s on the Sparrows Point (Dundalk and Turner Station) communities. See Mill Stories to learn more about the collaboration of Professors Stefano and Bill Shrewbridge. D’Arcy and Bonnie gain street cred for being hardcopy students of the city as classroom (double duty on a Saturday!). While I was tired from the morning/afternoon tour, the readings were wonderful windows into the steelworker experience at Sparrows Point. The stories expressed sadness, pride, and honesty about the effects of deindustrialization on people and their communities.
After the reading, Dr. Stefano and I caught the Charm City Circulator back towards my house in search of food. She let me borrow some of her 1920s attire to wear to the Bootleggers Bash, a fundraiser for the Young Defenders of the Maryland Historical Society. I headed there around 9pm for my final Saturday event. See history can also be fun and festive.
Once I returned from my third “history” event of the weekend, I was quite exhausted and took Sunday off to rest, relax, and read the newspaper. When I woke up Monday morning I started my research into the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant. All the AMST 422/680 students have their first cultural documentation project due on Thursday. Since no one signed up for the sewage treatment plant, which actually has a fascinating history, I took it on as my assignment. I have spent five-hours of my Monday workday reading all my sources, put them into Zotero, and started an outline for my write-up.
Zotero is a great way to organize your research. It can be downloaded for free here.
I want to write the blogs and complete the assignments I give students this semester because I am better able to teach something if I am actually doing it. Though I an not saying students must spend five hours reading about their topic (though it would be wonderful if they did!). I only have one-page to write it all up and list my main sources… not all 47 sources I put into Zotero this morning. It’s all about analysis, interpretation, and editing once you find your sources. I will tell a good sewage story. Even sewage can have a fascinating story. Sewage can be interesting… are you convinced?
Alas, Saturday I “hit the streets” and Monday I “hit the books” to get ready for Tuesday’s class where we will discuss the t-shirts, committees for our fundraiser, and RESEARCH, of course. It was a nice break to write my blog… but now I must get back to the sewage. THE SEWAGE NEEDS ME TO TELL ITS STORY!