A personal recollection of Cambridge past

MD-Carlton Nabb on the good old days

Dorchester Banner/Mary Nabb
Carlton, Ted and Kissee, show their version of a “reverse Oreo cookie.”

Now that fall work on the farm has slowed down and the Friendship Church Bazaar has passed, I hope to be able again to write about our community and its events. Not events of the future but of times gone by — past history is set in facts while the future is set in uncertainty, coming at us from different angles.

Several weeks ago Paul Clipper, editor of the Dorchester Banner, and the Mayor of Cambridge, Victoria Stanley, took a walk down the main streets of Cambridge and discussed what had passed and hopefully what the town may see in the future. Some of the comments that Mrs. Stanley made left the impression on me that the lady had her head on right and really cares about her town. Her views of the town’s future are indeed noble and I hope the city can move forward.

But now comes the time that I might step on some people’s toes, but so be it. I’m too old to not call it as I see it. First, the 50s and 60s were in my opinion the best time to grow up here. There was hard work — little money but everyone was in the same boat. The boys at the factories in town brought home 40 or 50 dollars at the end of a good week. The tomato factories, crab houses, oyster houses, pickle plants were running full force in season.
Albert Kirwan brought busloads of watermen and their families to town and the sidewalks were full. Uptown was a solid mass of humanity on the weekends and traffic was always heavy on Race and Pine streets. I would stand on the sidewalk with my uncle, Lt. Randall Dayton of the Cambridge Police force, near the Leggett department store, and he would be busy stopping traffic to let the people cross the street.

He always liked to see me when I could get off the farm on a weekend night. Besides talking about his rabbit dogs there was a small alley beside Leggett where he kept a bottle of Old Setter that he would get me to fetch every now and then. By the end of the night it was a good thing that the traffic was not as thick or he would have been run over.

Race Street was nothing compared to Pine Street. Some of the biggest names in show business appeared at the clubs, and it was let the good times roll. If I did not get to Lee Jones’ restaurant early, his bowls of soup and homemade flatcake bread for 25¢ was long gone.

Capt. Ralph Jackson told me a story about him and Clinton Young, who worked for Ralph for 40 years. Ralph asked Clinton one time why he always wanted to stop work on Saturdays before dark. Clinton turned to Capt. Ralph and said that if Ralph was a black man on Pine Street on Saturday night he never would want to be a white man again. Clinton did not say “black.”

It all went up in smoke after the civil unrest that set Pine Street on fire. The town took its last breath of an era that saw segregation imbedded in the nation.

Now was when all kids should have gotten the best education possible. It was time that if a man was qualified for a job, his color should have had no bearing on if he got the job. It was a time that if a family wanted to get a meal at a restaurant, if they had the money, they got the food. Equal-equal-equal; that was the name of the game and anyone with common sense knew that the period of change had arrived.

However, had the time arrived that a student, black or white, could disrespect a teacher or even physically attack the teacher? Had the time arrived that school buses were battle zones instead of transportation to school? Had the time arrived that if you didn’t want to work, a government check was on the way? Had the time come that if you wanted to have a litter of babies that, again, the government check was on the way because Daddy could not or would not pay? Way, pay — that rhymes, but there is nothing poetic about the fact that so few have got to take care of so many in present day entitlements.

But I’m an old country boy who has lived in Dorchester County all my life and hopefully will die here too. I’ve worked in the fields and bent elbows with all my neighbors, regardless of color. When the governor of Maryland shut down the sale of alcohol, the bootleggers made hay. I remember one night during the unrest that I went down to the end of Maple Dam and Green Briar Swamp Roads to an old store that was well known in the area. The pickups and cars were parked on the road in each direction. I believe every nationality in Dorchester County was having a drink together, and having a big time.

I will always believe that the people of Dorchester County, especially the older folks, got along okay. Even today when I go into town to get a couple of the men who have helped me on the farm for years, the guys at the Pine Street Elks Club say there goes the Oreo cookie truck. I’m driving and Kissee, who is an albino and whiter than I am, sits next to the passenger door. In the middle is Ted, who is black, and although the white should be in the middle of the cookie we can’t change our color.

I know that I look at the problems of our town, county and country in a too simplistic fashion. But there is one thing for certain — when our men were in the jungles of Vietnam and both men and women were dug in the sands of the Middle East, it was an American who was watching the others’ back, and the color of their skin was not a factor in survival.

Now, on a more personal note…

I have been having serious thoughts about my physical body after I die. I hope that my wife Mary places me in a nice piece of ground, maybe next to Mom and Dad, leaving room for her later if she so desires.

I really don’t want to be cremated, like my brother George was, for several reasons. First of all there is the process of intense flames and heat. That sounds like a hell of a way to go. Another factor is what might happen if she spreads my ashes across North Yarmouth, like my brother’s sons did to him.

Now, I love the farm, but I keep thinking what might happen to me. Just suppose that I fertilized one of the corn fields and my grandsons picked me as an ear of corn. They then ground me up for feed for their cows or hogs. After I slid out of my animal host I would be put in a shovel, then a manure spreader, then put back on the ground to grow another crop of corn. This could happen year after year. I would never get any rest and some of me might even make it to the Transquaking River. I don’t want to pollute the water.

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