Greg Bassett: New installment of ‘When I was a kid …’

My son and daughter truly hate when I do this, but readers keep asking me for: Another installment of “When I was a kid in Salisbury …”

  • The last traffic light leaving Salisbury eastbound was at Route 50 and East Main Street; the next light was just west of Berlin at Routes 113 and 50, just past the railroad tracks (there’s an overpass there now).
  • There was an old LCM 3 Landing Craft wrecked on the Wicomico River shoreline just north of Oak Hill Townhouses. We would re-enact the D-Day landing for hours at a time, especially when the tide was out and we could walk all through the decrepit, smelly boat.
  • There were railroad tracks, with railcars routinely being pulled on them, from Salisbury to all the way to Ocean City. Between Salisbury and Berlin, the tracks ran parallel to the north of Old Ocean City Road, crossed over at Walston Switch, and crossed back over passed Parsonsburg.
  • In fact, every town had either a railroad station or platform: Hebron, Salisbury, Delmar, Walston, Parsonsburg, Pittsville, Willards — even Whaleyville.
  • There were only two tennis courts in the City Park and there was no YMCA complex at all, but there was Harmon Field.
  • Everyone went to Wicomico Lanes, Cherokee Lanes and Skateland all of the time.
  • In the winter, the wind used to blow through the glass panels at the Civic Center strong enough to make your hair wave.
  • The Salisbury Zoo had a baby elephant and a myna bird that you could hear talking from anywhere on the entire property.
  • Banana splits at the new Baskin Robbins store were 85 cents; Banana splits at Woolworth’s Downtown were 69 cents. I guess Baskin Robbins had more flavors to choose from and could charge more?
  • We played Minor League Baseball at Prince Street Elementary, Pony League Baseball at Pony League Park and Colt League at Wi-Hi.
  • Before the annual basketball matchups with Bennett, we’d crawl on the ground from College Avenue to the front of Bennett in the winter cold to spray paint their anchor Wi-Hi blue and gold.
  • We’d go to the Downtown bus station (across from Burnett White) and look at the weird people waiting for buses to Baltimore, New York, Norfolk and Philadelphia. (It was the closest thing we had to watching the weird people on the Boardwalk in Ocean City.)
  • We swam almost every day and all summer in Leonard’s Mill Pond and Johnson Lake. We thought the beaches at both sites were even better than Ocean City.
  • Wicomico Middle was a rather aged Junior High School building with one-way halls, one-way staircases, a locker room called The Cage and principal who once yelled at me for “acting countrified.”
  • A man who was a crop duster by trade worked as a relief pilot for Allegheny Airlines, and he flew the Beech 99’s just like you’d expect a crop duster would.
  • Eastern Shore Dives was houses; Beaglin Park Drive was woods.
  • A billboard on Route 50 near Pittsville declared the Salisbury Mall “America’s Most Beautiful Mall,” and we believed that to be fact.
  • There were baby alligators in the fountains at the Salisbury Mall. If you tried to touch them, they’d bite you. I swear I’m not making this us.
  • Pretty much everyone ate at least twice a month at the English’s Cafeteria in the Salisbury Mall. Everyone.
  • Whenever a new restaurant would open, everyone in Salisbury would go eat there once during the first three weeks it was open. Then they’d all go back to eating at Johnny’s and Sammy’s, and the new establishment would have to close.
  • All of the banks were built to look like fortresses so no one would try to break in and rob them and everyone thought their money was safe inside.
  • We would dress up at Easter, at Christmas, and anytime we got to travel on an airliner.
  • The elevator at Benjamin’s Department store had an elevator operator at the controls, a scissors-gate, and maybe four people could squeeze into what was literally a box on cables.
  • Peninsula General Hospital was a single brick building in the middle of a neighborhood.
  • The Courthouse seemed like the hub of all activity Downtown.
  • On Saturday mornings, we’d leave the house on our bicycles, ride all over Salisbury, return home at dark, and no one’s parent even bothered to ask where we’d been. We all knew that if we did anything to cause trouble, it would be reported back to our parents.




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