Old Man Grill
Three doors down from our house on Dulany Street lived a man that we called ‘Old Man Grill’. Now I don’t know if his name was actually Grill but that’s what everyone called him and he was in fact pretty old, probably in his seventies at the time. He lived in an old wooden shingled house that was probably built long before the row houses on the street were built, as it, and the house connected to it were distinct from the rest of the row houses on that side of the street. Old Man Grill never bothered anyone, just liked to sit out back and smoke his pipe and have a little conversation with some of the adults now and again. Unfortunately, we kids and even a couple of adults harassed him from time to time with him bearing the brunt of our fun.
Most of the things that we kids did was pretty harmless but nonetheless caused the old man grief; things like taking dog poop, putting it in a bag, and lighting it on fire at his front door, and banging on the door, and of course when he opened the door he saw the bag and his natural reaction was to stomp on it, and you had well, a pretty shitty situation. Another thing that we would do to harass Old Man Grill was that he liked to sit in his house at night watching ‘Hee Haw’ and other shows and you could see him sitting there on the couch laughing and having a good time when we would suddenly be at the window with our candles, going….”oooooohhh, oooooohhh” trying to imitate the sounds of a ghost. He would see us, and would usually say something like, “you better go ahead boys” in his gruff voice and usually the next step would be for him to turn out the lights and you knew that he was coming out the back door, and better scram.
Another incident that I recall involving Old Man Grill was sort of a ’40 Yards to the Outhouse by Willy Make It’? Now the house was constructed so that the bathroom on the first floor was sort of like an outhouse that was inside of the house itself. It sat at the end of the building and had an exhaust pipe that came out from the house. Well, one day, someone decided to reach up and put a ‘hammerhead’ down the pipe and when it exploded Grill came busting out the side door with his pants half down, and cussing and fussing. There were numerous other incidents involving him that I might bring up but the thing is, the poor old guy really took a lot of abuse from some of the neighborhood crew. While it provided us with a lot of laughs at the time, seeing it with much older eyes, I regret being a part of it.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that Old Man Grill had an arm on him like a 30 year old, he could throw a rock about as hard as Jim Palmer in his heyday, and there are several neighborhood kids like Donny Nida who could attest to that fact. I remember Donny sticking his head around a bush at the end of the alley to see where Grill was, and wham, right in the head. Grill would wind up and let loose and if you were on the receiving end of one of his fastballs, you were hurting.
Old Man Grill was a character from the neighborhood that was the innocent victim of our hi jinks, I hope that Old Man Grill is now in some happy place, smoking his pipe and laughing at some of the incidents from back then.
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