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Culture & Artsby Rafael Alvarez5:27 pmJun 18, 20100

An obit for Uncle Al

all photos courtesy of Valerie Jacobs

When Albert Lockwood was a kid growing up in Pine Bush, N.Y. at the close of the Roaring 20s, he would hunt wild animals, skin the catch and mail the pelts off to Sears Roebuck & Co.

“He had a rifle and would go squirrel and rabbit hunting,” said his son Ronnie Lockwood, the noted WKHS-FM doo-wop disc jockey. “And he’d trap muskrats. He said Sears gave him 50 cents to a dollar for every pelt he sent in.”

The son of a stone mason, young Albert once trapped a mink and made five bucks.

From a rural childhood in a hamlet north of Long Island to World War II combat in the Far East followed by family life and a long, independent old age in Baltimore, Albert Francis Lockwood enjoyed a remarkable life during which nothing ever seemed to bother him.

“I never saw him disturbed,” said Ronnie, 67. “Never saw him get worked up or worry. And every night he slept like a log.”

My great-uncle Albert – a stoic, Protestant Yankee who married into a somewhat chaotic clan of working class Polish Catholics on the old Baltimore waterfront — was the last surviving member of my grandmother’s generation on my mother’s side.

He died of heart failure at age 91 on May 12, 2010 while visiting his daughter Valerie in Anaheim Hills, California.

Up until the last year of his life, Lockwood lived at 2702 Dillon Street near the American Can building where he and his wife — the late Mathilda Potter Lockwood — raised their family: the artist of the American west — Francis “Jackie” Woodahl [1938-to-1984]; Ronnie, of Dundalk; and Valerie Lockwood Jacobs, who moved to California in 1967 after graduating from Patterson High School.

Lockwood joined the Army in 1936 and arrived in Maryland before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was stationed at the Edgewood Arsenal, serving as first sergeant of Company G Second Chemical Warfare Service Training Battalion.

While serving at Edgewood, Lockwood met “Hilda” Potter [1919-to-1997], my grandmother Anna’s youngest sibling.

Family lore holds that Albert and Hilda met at a dance for servicemen in Patterson Park. The were married on November 22, 1941 and lived in several rowhouse apartments near St. Casimir church before buying the Dillon Street house in 1955. They often went with friends and relatives — all of them neighbors in old Polish Canton — to swim and picnic at Breezy Point.

Albert Lockwood in his Army uniform. Inset: Hilda Lockwood.

My mother’s brother — Bill Jones, now 80 and living in Berlin, Md. — said that when he was a boy, he and his cousin — Stanley Mack, son of the third Potter sister, Frances, who lived next door — spent a lot of time with Uncle Al and Aunt Hilda at army housing in Edgewood.

“My earliest memory of Uncle Al is when he was dating Aunt Hilda and he’d come by the neighborhood in his sergeant’s uniform – he was a good looking, compassionate man. Quiet as a mouse,” said Jones. “And when I was 12 or 13 me and Stanley would spend the summers at Edgewood.”

Remembering his father over a plate of chili dogs and French fries with gravy at the G&A diner on Eastern Avenue, Ronnie said: “He trained troops at Edgewood in chemical warfare and would accompany a cadre on the train to San Francisco and then come back and train another class. Eventually they needed more men and they shipped him overseas with one of the units.”

Seeing combat in the Philippines, Lockwood was awarded the Bronze Star along with the Philippine Liberation Ribbon before his discharge not long after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945.

Returning to Baltimore, he took a job with my grandfather – Willie Zamenski Jones — at the long-defunct Federal Yeast company, just over the city line near Broening Highway in the Colgate section of Dundalk.

“Everyday they would make some bread to test the yeast,” said my mother, Gloria Jones Alvarez. “And my father would bring home the test bread for us to eat.”

On payday at Federal Yeast, Ronnie would take the No. 26 streetcar with his father — who enjoyed working the night shift so he could be around the house during the day — to pick up his check.

“We’d get off at the city line near [General Motors] and then walk over the railroad trestle across the creek so we wouldn’t have to pay the transfer fee if the streetcar went into the county,” said Ronnie, about eight-years-old at the time.

When the yeast works closed up, Willie Jones landed at the National Brewery at Dillon and Conkling Streets Street and brought Albert along with him. At the brewery, Lockwood did maintenance on production equipment.

He retired in 1982 and — on long walks that took him from Canton to South Broadway and back with strolls through Patterson Park — enjoyed dropping in on his fellow veterans at the Sergeant Henry Gunther post of the VFW on South Kenwood Avenue.

Though he wasn’t much of a drinker by the standards of his working-class neighborhood, Lockwood did enjoy a cold one now and again.

“He looked after everybody,” said my cousin, Beth Ann Jones. “Uncle Al was dependable.”

While Lockwood worked at the yeast company and the brewery, his wife made extra money working with her sisters at a neighborhood canning factory – Roberts Packing House, Dillon and Binney streets, now a cinderblock warehouse – and later as a cashier at Silber’s bakery in the Eastpoint Mall.

Hilda was working at Silber’s in 1964 when Kennedy half-dollars (90 percent silver in the year after JFK’s assassination) were released and when customers paid for baked goods with one of the new coins, she swapped it out for a couple of quarters and would give them away to the kids of my generation at Easter.

The young couple at Breezy Point Swim Club.

It wasn’t until after his wife’s death in 1997, that Albert converted to Catholicism, believing it would assist in a reunion in the afterlife.

“I can’t say Dad was religious,” said his daughter Valerie. “But he believed in God.”

– o –

Albert Lockwood – who kept Yoo-Hoo in the fridge for youngsters like my brother Victor and grandson Aaron (a Golden State boy disheartened that he couldn’t get the chocolate drink in California) — was a man of routine and habit.

Saturday was homemade soup day, augmented by a pot of chili when the weather was cold.

At Christmas and Easter, Lockwood made homemade kielbasa, pushing spiced, ground pork through a steer’s horn and into casing. He ate the way country folk ate in the old days, the way people don’t eat anymore.

“He liked tripe and hog’s head cheese,” said Ronnie. “When he boiled [beef] kidneys for kidney stew the whole house smelled like urine. For pot pie, he made his own dough.”

Those meals tended to be special occasions, like duck blood stew – a Polish specialty known as czarnina – which Hilda made according to her family recipe.

Most of Uncle Al’s days were more methodical and less exotic.

“Breakfast was always oatmeal with four prunes and black coffee,” said Ronnie. “Twelve o’clock was lunch time. Lunch was either a sandwich or soup, never both. Then at four o’clock he’d start making dinner and eat at five on the nose.

“He didn’t go by his stomach,” said Ronnie. “He went by the clock.”

In return, the clock favored Albert Lockwood.

“He outlived everybody of his generation,” said Ronnie. “And then he started outliving everybody in the next generation.”


 

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