Shorty Long and Willie Lump Lump
Looking back at my childhood years, I have often said that there were more characters in that little S.W. Baltimore neighborhood than anywhere else. These individuals were not noteworthy in the sense of accomplishment or what the world would consider people of importance but to many of us growing up during that time they acquired a bit of status in the sense that most in the neighborhood recognized them instantly by the name. While the origin of the names attached to them weren’t usually known, for some reason they stuck, and while most have since passed on, many of us growing up during that time instantly know by the mention of a name who we are talking about. So, in that sense these guys and girls acquired a bit of immortality, even if to just some of us who lived in Southwest Baltimore during those years.
One of the guys who lived in the neighborhood back then was a guy that some called ‘Shorty Long’. Shorty was a guy who stood about 5 foot tall and always wore these cowboy boots that were about two sizes too big and came up practically to his knees. On the occasions when I or several of us would talk to him, it was always difficult to understand what he was saying as he talked with a sort of ‘Mush Mouth’ similar to the character of ‘Deputy Dog’ of the cartoon series. Another noteworthy thing about Shorty was that he was extremely bowlegged and always walked as if he had just gotten off of a horse, of course in Shorty’s case it would have had to have been a Miniature Pony. Shorty was married to a woman that was a head taller and about 100 pounds heavier than Shorty. Unfortunately for Shorty, she would go to work on him from time to time either from his shenanigans’ or just because she could, but in any event, Shorty would taking a lickin from time to time dissed out by his wife.
Another character from that time who was born and grow up in the neighborhood was a guy that many people affectionally called ‘Willy Lump Lump’. Willy was a guy with some distinguishing characteristics. One of them was that Willy walked with one of his feet turned outwards, sort of like how a penguin would walk. I would see Willy walking slowly down to the bus stop on Frederick Avenue in the morning to go downtown to his job where he worked for many years. Willy also had a striking resemblance to the movie character known as ‘Peter Lorre’. Like most of the people who lived during that time, Willy was a rather typical man for those times, as two of his main interests were sports and drinking beer up at the neighborhood taverns. One year Willy had made a bet with one of the neighborhood guys that if a Canadian team in this case the Toronto BlueJays won the World Series, he would stand out on the corner at Pinky’s Tavern with microphone in hand and sing the Canadian National Anthem. Well, as fate would have it, the BlueJays won the World Series that year, and Willy sheepishly stood out on the corner and did a somewhat incoherent version of the anthem. Willy stayed single most of his life up until his later years. While Willy as a married man tried to change his ways, he had been single for too long and being set in his ways, he pretty much continued on as he had before marriage, watching sports and spending time at the corner saloons.
Perhaps it was just me as I was a very shy and insecure boy growing up and I tended to take notice of most everything, but I can recall practically all of the people that lived in the neighborhood back then, and while most were simple people living uneventful lives, they still left a mark on many of us, and while most wouldn’t recognize them as being remarkable in any way, they did indeed leave their mark that exists to this day.